LETTER 117: MR LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ

Friday, April 14. 

 

Thou hast often reproached me, Jack, with my vanity, without distinguishing the humorous turn that accompanies it; and for which, at the same time that thou robbest me of the merit of it, thou admirest me highly. Envy gives thee the indistinction : Nature inspires the admiration : Unknown to thyself it inspires it. But thou art too clumsy and too short-sighted a mortal, to know how to account even for the impulses by which thou thyself art moved.

 

Well, but this acquits thee not of my charge of vanity, Lovelace, methinks thou sayst:

 

And true thou sayst: For I have indeed a confounded parcel of it. But, if men of parts may not be allowed to be vain, who should? And yet, upon second thoughts, men of parts have the least occasion of any to be vain; since the world [so few of them are there in it] are ready to find them out, and extol them. If a fool can be made sensible, that there is a man who has more understanding than himself, he is ready enough to conclude, that such a man must be a very extraordinary creature.
And what, at this rate, is the general conclusion to be drawn from the premises? —Is it not, That no man ought to be vain? But what if a man can’t help it? — This, perhaps, may be my case. But there is nothing on which I value myself so much as upon my inventions . And, for the soul of me, I cannot help letting it be seen, that I do . Yet this vanity may be a means, perhaps, to overthrow me with this sagacious lady.

 

She is very apprehensive of me, I see. I have studied before her and Miss Howe, as often as I have been with them, to pass for a giddy thoughtless fellow. What a folly then to be so expatiatingly sincere, in my answer to her home Put, upon the noises within the garden? —But such success having attended that contrivance [Success, Jack, has blown many a man up!], my cursed vanity got uppermost, and kept down my caution. The menace to have secreted Solmes, and that other, that I had thoughts to run away with her foolish brother, and of my project to revenge her upon the two servants, so much terrified my beloved, that I was forced to sit down to muse how to retrieve myself with her.

 

Some favourable incidents, at the time, tumbled in from my agent in her family; at least such as I was determined to make favourable: And therefore I desired admittance; and this before she could resolve any thing against me; that is to say, while her admiration of my intrepidity kept resolution in suspense.

 

Accordingly, I prepared myself to be all gentleness, all obligingness, all serenity; and as I have now-and-then, and always had, more or less, good motions pop up in my mind, I encouraged and collected every thing of this sort that I had ever had from novicehood to maturity, [not long in recollecting, Jack!] in order to bring the dear creature into good humour with me: And who knows, thought I, if I can hold it, and proceed, but I may be able to lay a foundation fit to build my grand scheme upon? — Love, thought I, is not naturally a doubter: Fear is: I will try to banish the latter: Nothing then but Love will remain. Credulity is the God of Love’s prime minister; and they never are asunder.

 

He then acquaints his friend with what passed between him and the Lady, in relation to his advices from Harlowe-Place, and to his proposal about lodgings, pretty much to the same purpose as in hers preceding. When he comes to mention his proposal of the Windsor lodgings, thus he expresses himself. 

 

Now, Belford, can it enter into thy leaden head, what I meant by this proposal? —I know it cannot. And so I’ll tell thee.

 

To leave her for a day or two, with a view to serve her by my absence, would, as I thought, look like confiding in her favour. —I could not think of leaving her, thou knowest, while I had reason to believe her friends would pursue us; and I began to apprehend, that she would suspect, that I made a pretence of that intentional pursuit, to keep about her, and with her. But now that they had declared against it, and that they would not receive her, if she came back again [a declaration she had better hear first from me, than from Miss Howe, or any other]; what should hinder me from giving her this mark of my obedience; especially as I could leave Will, who is a clever fellow, and can do any thing but write and spell, and my uncle’s Jonas [not as guards, to be sure, but as attendants only]; the latter to be dispatch’d to me occasionally by the former, whom I could acquaint with my motions?

 

Then I wanted to inform myself, why I had not congratulatory letters from my aunts, and from my cousins Montague, to whom I had written, glorying in my beloved’s escape; which letters, as they should be worded, might possibly be made necessary to shew, as matters proceed.

 

As to Windsor, I had no design to carry her particularly thither: But somewhere it was proper to name, as she condescended to ask my advice about it. London, I durst not; but very cautiously; and so as to make it her own option: For I must tell thee, that there is such a perverseness in the sex, that, when they ask your advice, they do it only to know your opinion, that they may oppose it; tho’, had not the thing in question been your choice, perhaps it had been theirs .

 

I could easily give reasons against Windsor, after I had pretended to be there; and this would have looked the better, as it was a place of my own nomination; and shewn her, that I had no fixed scheme. —Never was there in woman such a sagacious, such an all-alive apprehension, as in this. —Yet it is a grievous thing to an honest man to be suspected.

 

Then, in my going or return, I can call upon Mrs. Greme. She and my beloved had a great deal of talk together. If I knew what it was about; and thatEither, upon their first acquaintance, was for benefiting herself by the Other, I might contrive to serve them both, without hurting myself : For these are the most prudent ways of doing friendships, and what are not followed by regrets, tho’ the serve-ed should prove ingrateful. Then Mrs. Greme corresponds by pen and ink with her farmer sister, where we are: Something may possibly arise that way, either of a convenient nature, which I may pursue; or an inconvenient, which I may avoid.

 

Always be careful of back-doors, is a maxim with me in all my exploits. Whoever knows me, knows that I am no proud man. I can talk as familiarly to servants as to principals, when I have a mind to make it worth their while to oblige me in any thing. —Then servants are but as the common soldiers in an army: They do all the mischief; frequently without malice, and merely, good souls! for mischief-sake.

 

I am most apprehensive about Miss Howe. She has a confounded deal of wit, and wants only a subject, to shew as much roguery: And should I be out-witted, with all my sententious, boasting conceit of my own nostrum-mongership —[I love to plague thee, who art a pretender to accuracy, and a surface-skimmer in learning, with out-of-the-way words and phrases] I should certainly hang, drown, or shoot myself.

 

Poor Hickman! —I pity him for the prospect lie has with such a virago! —But the fellow’s a fool, God wot! And now I think of it, it is absolutely necessary for complete happiness in the marry’d state, that one should be a fool; an argument I once held with this very Miss Howe. —But then the fool should know that he is so, else the obstinate one will disappoint the wise one.

 

But my agent Joseph has help’d me to secure this quarter.

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