LETTER 140: MR LOVELACE TO JOSEPH LEMAN

 

April 17.

He tells him, That the affair of Miss Betterton was a youthful frolick: That there was no Rape in the case: —That he went not abroad on her account: That she loved him, and he loved her: Yet that she was but a tradesman’s daughter; the father grown rich, and aiming at a new line of gentry: That he never pretended marriage to her: That indeed they would have had her join to prosecute him: And that she owed her death to her friends barbarity, because she would not . The boy, he says, is a fine boy; no father need to be ashamed of him: That he had twice, unknown to the aunt who had the care of him, been to see him; and would have

 

provided for him, had there been occasion. But that the whole family were fond of the child, tho’ they were so wicked as to curse the father.

 

These, he says, were his rules in all his amours: To shun common women: To marry off a former mistress, before he took a new one: To set the mother above want, if her friends were cruel: To maintain a lady handsomely in her lying-in: To provide for the little one, according to the mother’s degree: And to go in mourning for her, if she dy’d in childbed:’ —He challenges Joseph to find out a man of more honour than himself in these respects. No wonder, he tells him, that the women love him as they do.

 

There is no room to fear for either his head or his neck, he tells him, from this affair: ‘A lady dying in childbed eighteen months ago; no process begun in her life-time; herself refusing to prosecute: Pretty circumstances, Joseph, to found an indictment for a Rape upon! —Again, I say, I loved her: She was taken from me by her brutal friends while our joys were young. —But enough of dear Miss Betterton. —Dear, I say—For death indears! —Rest to her worthy soul! —There, Joseph, off went a deep sigh to the memory of Miss Betterton!’

 

He encourages him in his jesting—‘Jesting, says he, better becomes a poor man than qualms. All we say, all we do, all we wish for, is a jest: He that makes it not so, is a sad fellow, and has the worst of it. —Whoever grudges a poor man joy, ought to have none himself.

 

He applauds him for his love to his young Lady: Professes his honourable designs by her: Values himself upon his word; and appeals to him on this head: You know, Joseph, says he, that I have gone beyond my promises to you . I do to every-body: And why? —Because it is the best way of shewing, that I have not a grudging or narrow spirit. A just

 

man will keep his promise: A generous man will go beyond it. That is my rule.’

He lays it wholly at the Lady’s door, that they are not marry’d; and laments the distance she keeps him at; which he attributes to Miss Howe, who, he says, is for ever putting her upon contrivances; which is the reason, he tells him, that has obliged him to play off the people at Harlowe-Place upon Mrs. Howe, by his assistance.

 

He then takes advantage of the hints Joseph gives him of Singleton and James Harlowe’s close conferences: —‘Since Singleton, says he, who has dependencies upon James Harlowe, is taught to have so good an opinion of you, Joseph, cannot you (still pretending an abhorrence of me, and of my contrivances) propose to Singleton to propose to James Harlowe (who so much thirsts for revenge upon me), to assist him with his whole ship’s crew, upon occasion, to carry off his sister, to Leith, where both have houses, or elsewhere?

 

‘You may tell them, that if this can be effected, it will make me raving mad; and bring your young Lady into all their measures. You can inform them, as from my servant, of the distance she keeps me at, in hopes of procuring her father’s forgiveness, by cruelly giving me up, if insisted upon. That as the only secret my servant has kept from you, is, the place we are in, you make no doubt, that a two guinea bribe will bring that out, and also an information when I shall be at distance from her, that the enterprize may be safely conducted. You may tell them (still as from my servant) that we are about removing from inconvenient lodgings to others more convenient (which is true); and that I must be often absent from her.

 

‘If they listen to your proposal, you will promote your interest with Betty, by telling it to her as a secret. Betty will tell Arabella of it. Arabella will

 

be overjoy’d at any thing that will help forward her revenge upon me; and will reveal it (if her brother do not) to her uncle Antony. He probably will whisper it to Mrs. Howe. She can keep nothing from her daughter, tho’ they are always jangling. Her daughter will acquaint my beloved with it. And if it will not, or if it will, come to my ears from some of those, you can write it to me, as in confidence, by way of preventing mischief, which is the study of us both. I can then shew it to my beloved. Then will she be for placing a greater confidence in me. That will convince me of her love, which now I am sometimes ready to doubt. She will be for hastening to the safer lodgings. I shall have a pretence to stay about her person, as a guard. She will be convinced, that there is no expectation of a reconciliation. You can give James and Singleton continual false scents, as I shall direct you; so that no mischief can possibly happen.

 

‘And what will be the happy, happy, thrice happy consequence? —The lady will be mine, in an honourable way. We shall all be friends in good time. The two guineas will be an agreeable addition to the many gratuities I have help’d you to, by like contrivances, from this stingy family. Your reputation, both for head and heart, will be heighten’d. The Blue Boar will also be yours. Nor shall you have the least difficulty about raising money to buy the stock, if it be worth your while to have it.

 

‘Betty will likewise then be yours. You have both saved money, it seems. The whole Harlowe family, whom you have so faithfully serv’d [‘Tis serving them surely, to prevent the mischief which their violent son would have brought upon them], will throw you in somewhat towards housekeeping. I will still add to your store. So nothing but happiness before you!

 

‘Crow, Joseph, crow! A dunghil of your own in view: Servants to snub at your pleasure: A wife to quarrel with, or to love, as your humour leads you:Landlord and Landlady at every word: To be paid, instead of paying, for your eating and drinking. —But not thus happy only in yourself— Happy in promoting peace and reconciliation between two good families, in the long run; without hurting any christian soul. —O Joseph, honest Joseph! what envy will you raise! —And who would be squeamish with such prospects before him!

 

‘This one labour crowns your work. If you can get but such a design entertained by them, whether they prosecute it or not, it will be equally to the purpose of

 

‘Your loving friend,
R. Lovelace .’

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