LETTER 115: MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ

Friday, April 14. 

Never did I hear of such a parcel of foolish toads as these Harlowes! —Why, Belford, the Lady must fall, if every hair of her head were a guardian angel, unless they were to make a visible appearance for her, or, snatching her from me at unawares, would draw her after them into the starry regions.

 

All I had to apprehend, was, that a daughter so reluctantly carried off, would offer terms to her father, and would be accepted upon a mutualconcedence; They to give up Solmes; She to give up me : And so I was contriving to do all I could to guard against the latter. But they seem resolved to perfect the work they have begun.

 

What stupid creatures there are in the world! Cunning whelp the brother! not to know, that he who would be bribed to undertake a base thing by one, would be over -bribed to retort the baseness: —Especially when he could be put into the way to serve himself by both! —Thou, Jack, wilt never know one half of my contrivances.

 

He here relates the conversation between him and the Lady, (upon the subject of the noise and exclamations his agent made at the garden-door) to the same effect as in Letter XX. and proceeds exulting:

What a capacity for glorious mischief has thy friend! —Yet how near the truth all of it! The only deviation, my asserting, that the fellow made the noises by mistake, and thro’ fright, and not by previous direction: Had she known the precise truth, her pride (to be so taken in) would never have let her forgive me.

 

Had I been a hero, I should have made gunpowder useless; for I should have blown up all my adversaries by dint of stratagem, turning their own devices upon them.

 

But these fathers and mothers—Lord help ’em! — Were not the powers of nature stronger than those of discretion, and were not that busy Dea Bona to afford her genial aids, till tardy prudence qualified parents to manage their future offspring, how few people would have children!

 

James and Arabella may have their motives; but what can be said for a father acting as this father has acted? What for a mother? What for an aunt? What for uncles? —Who can have patience with such fellows and fellows-esses?

 

Soon will the fair-one hear how high their foolish resentments run against her: And then she’ll have a little more confidence in me, I hope. Then will I be jealous that she loves me not with the preference my heart builds upon: Then will I bring her to confessions of grateful love: And then will I kiss her when I please; and not stand trembling, as now, like an hungry hound, who sees a delicious morsel within his reach (the froth hanging about his vermilion jaws) yet dare not leap at it for his life.

 

But I was originally a bashful whelp—Bashful still, with regard to this Lady! —Bashful, yet know the sex so well! —But that indeed is the reason that I know it so well: —For, Jack, I have had abundant cause, when I have I looked into myself, by way of comparison with the other sex, to conclude, that a bashful man has a good deal of the soul of a woman; and so, like Tiresias, can tell what they think, and what they drive at, as well as themselves.

 

The modest ones and I, particularly, are pretty much upon a par. The difference between us is only, What They think, I act . But the immodest ones out-do the worst of us by a bar’s length, both in thinking and acting.

 

One argument let me plead in proof of my assertion; That even we rakes love modesty in a woman; while the modest women, as they are accounted, that is to say, the slyest, love, and generally prefer, an impudent man. Whence can this be, but from a likeness in nature? And this made the poet say, That every woman is a rake in her heart. It concerns them, by their actions, to prove the contrary, if they can.

 

Thus have I read in some of the philosophers, That no wickedness is comparable to the wickedness of a woman ( a ) . Canst thou tell me, Jack, who says this? Was it Socrates? for he had the devil of a wife? — Or who? Or is it Solomon? — King Solomon— Thou remembrest to have read of such a king, dost thou not? Solomon, I learned, when an infant [My mother was a good woman] to answer, when asked, Who was the wisest man ? —But my indulgent questioner never asked me, How he came by the uninspired part of his wisdom.

 

Come, come, Jack, you and I are not so very bad, could we but stop where we are.

 

He then gives the particulars of what passed between him and the Lady on his menaces relating to her brother and Mr. Solmes, and of his design to punish Betty Barnes and Joseph Leman. 

 

NOTES

  1. Back ^ 1[a] (a) Mr. Lovelace is as much out in his conjecture of Solomon, as of Socrates. The passage is in Ecclesiasticus, chap. XXV.
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