LETTER 131: MR LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ

Thursday, April 20. 

He begins with communicating to him the letter he wrote to Mr. Doleman, to procure suitable lodgings in town, and which he sent away by the Lady’s approbation: And then gives him a copy of the answer to it (See p. 184): Upon which he thus expresses himself: 

 

Thou knowest the widow; thou knowest her nieces; thou knowest the lodgings: And didst thou ever read a letter more artfully couch’d, than this of Tom Doleman? Every possible objection anticipated! Every accident provided against! —Every little of it plot proof!

 

Who could forbear smiling, to see my charmer, like a farcical dean and chapter, choose what was before
chosen for her; and sagaciously (as they go in form to prayers, that God would direct their choice) pondering upon the different proposals, as if she would make me believe, she has a mind for some other? The dear sly rogue looking upon me, too, with a view to discover some emotion in me, that I can tell her, lay deeper than her eye could reach, tho’ it had been a sun-beam.

 

No confidence in me, fair-one! None at all, ’tis plain. Thou wilt not, if I were inclined to change my views, encourage me by a generous reliance on my honour! —And shall it be said, that I, a master of arts in love, shall be overmatch’d by so unpractised a novice?

 

But to see the charmer so far satisfy’d with my contrivance, as to borrow my friend’s letter, in order to satisfy Miss Howe likewise!

 

Silly little rogues! to walk out into by-paths on the strength of their own judgments! —When nothing but experience can teach them how to disappoint us, and learn them grandmother-wisdom! When they have it indeed, then may they sit down, like so many Cassandra’s, and preach caution to others; who will as little mind them, as they did their instructresses, whenever a fine handsome confident fellow, such a one as thou knowest who, comes cross them.

 

But, Belford, didst thou not mind that sly rogue Doleman’s naming Dover-street for the widow’s place of abode? —What dost think could be meant by that? —‘Tis impossible thou shouldst guess. So, not to puzzle thee about it—Suppose the widow Sinclair’s, in Dover-street, should be inquired after by some officious person, in order to come at characters [Miss Howe is as sly as the devil, and as busy to the full]; and neither such a name, nor such a house, can be found in that street, nor a house to answer the description then will not the keenest hunter in England be at a fault?

But how wilt thou do, methinks thou askest, to hinder the Lady from resenting the fallacy, and mistrusting thee the more on that account, when she finds it out to be in another street?

 

Pho! never mind that: Either I shall have a way for it, or we shall thoroughly understand one another by that time; or, if we don’t, she’ll know enough of me, not to wonder at such a peccadillo.

 

But how wilt thou hinder the Lady from apprising her friend of the real name?

 

She must first know it herself, monkey, must she not?

 

Well, but, how wilt thou do to hinder her from knowing the street, and her friend from directing letters thither; which will be the same thing, as if the name were known?

 

Let me alone for that too.

 

If thou further objectest, that Tom Doleman is too great a dunce to write such a letter in answer to mine; —Canst thou not imagine, that, in order to save honest Tom all this trouble, I, who know the town so well, could send him a copy of what he should write, and leave him nothing to do, but transcribe?

 

What now sayst thou to me, Belford?

 

And suppose I had design’d this task of inquiry for thee; and suppose the Lady excepted against thee, for no other reason in the world, but because of my value for thee? What sayst thou to the Lady, Jack?

 

This it is to have leisure upon my hands! —What a matchless plotter thy friend! Stand by, and let me swell! —I am already as big as an elephant; and ten times wiser! mightier too by far! Have I not reason to snuff the moon with my proboscis? —Lord help thee for a poor, for a very poor creature! —Wonder not, that I despise thee heartily—Since the man who is disposed immoderately to exalt himself, cannot do it but by despising every-body else in proportion.

 

I shall make good use of the Dolemanic hint of being marry’d. But I will not tell thee all at once. Nor, indeed, have I thoroughly digested that part of my plot. When a general must regulate himself by the motions of a watchful adversary, how can he say beforehand what he will, or what he will not, do?

 

Widow Sinclair ! —Didst thou not say, Lovelace?—

 

Ay, Sinclair, Jack! —Remember the name! Sinclair, I repeat. She has no other. And her features being broad, and full-blown, I will suppose her to be of Highland extraction; as her husband the colonel [mind that too] was a Scot, as brave, as honest.

 

I never forget the minutiæ in my contrivances. In all doubtable matters the minutiæ closely attended to, and provided for, are of more service than a thousand oaths, vows, and protestations made to supply the neglect of them, and when jealousy has actually got into the working mind.

 

Thou wouldst wonder if thou knewest one half of my providences . To give thee but one: I have already been so good as to send up a list of books to be procured for the Lady’s closet, mostly at second-hand . And thou knowest, that the women there are all well read. But I will not anticipate—Besides, it looks as if I were afraid of leaving anything to my old friend Chance ; which has many a time been an excellent second to me; and ought not to be affronted or despised; especially by one, who has the art of making unpromising incidents turn out in his favour.

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