LETTER: 170 MR LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.

Wednesday, May 3

WHEN I have already taken pains to acquaint thee in full with my views, designs and resolutions, with regard to this admirable creature, it is very extraordinary that thou shouldst vapour as thou dost in her behalf, when I have made no trial, no attempt: and yet givest it as thy opinion in a former letter, that advantage may be taken of the situation she is in; and that she may be overcome.

 

Most of thy reflections, particularly that which respects the difference as to the joys to be given by the virtuous and the libertine of the sex, are fitter to come in as after-reflections, than as antecedencies .

 

I own with thee, and with the poet, that sweet are the joys that come with willingness —but is it to be expected that a woman of education, and a lover of
forms, will yield before she is attacked?—And have I so much as summoned this to surrender?—I doubt not but I shall meet with difficulty. I must therefore make my first effort by surprise. There may possibly be some cruelty necessary. But there may be consent in struggle; there may be yielding in resistance. But the first conflict over, whether the following may not be weaker and weaker, till willingness follow, is the point to be tried. I will illustrate what I have said by the simile of a bird new caught. We begin with birds as boys, and as men go on to ladies; and both perhaps, in turns, experience our sportive cruelty.

 

Hast thou not observed the charming gradations by which the ensnared volatile has been brought to bear with its new condition? How at first, refusing all sustenance, it beats and bruises itself against its wires, till it makes its gay plumage fly about, and overspread its well-secured cage. Now it gets out its head; sticking only at its beautiful shoulders: then, with difficulty, drawing back its head, it gasps for breath, and erectedly perched, with meditating eyes, first surveys, and then attempts, its wired canopy. As it gets breath, with renewed rage it beats and bruises again its pretty head and sides, bites the wires, and pecks at the fingers of its delighted tamer. Till at last, finding its efforts ineffectual, quite tired and breathless, it lays itself down and pants at the bottom of the cage, seeming to bemoan its cruel fate and forfeited liberty. And after a few days, its struggles to escape still diminishing, as it finds it to no purpose to attempt it, its new habitation becomes familiar; and it hops about from perch to perch, resumes its wonted cheerfulness, and every day sings a song to amuse itself, and reward its keeper.

 

Now let me tell thee that I have known a bird actually starve itself, and die with grief, at its being caught and caged—But never did I meet with a lady who was so silly. Yet have I heard the dear souls most vehemently threaten their own lives on such an occasion. But it is saying nothing in a woman’s favour, if we do not allow her to have more sense than a bird. And yet we must all own that it is more difficult to catch a bird than a lady.

 

And now, Belford, were I to go no further, how shall I know whether this sweet bird may not be brought to sing me a fine song, and in time to be as well contented with her condition as I have brought other birds to be; some of them very shy ones?

 

But I guess at thy principal motive in this thy earnestness in behalf of this charming creature. I know that thou correspondes with Lord M. who is impatient, and long has been desirous, to see me shackled. And thou wantest to build up a merit with that noble podagra-man, with a view to one of his nieces. But knowest thou not that my consent will be wanting to complete it?—And what a commendation will it be of thee to such a girl as Charlotte, when I shall acquaint her with the affront thou puttest upon the whole sex, by asking whether I think my reward, when I have subdued the most charming woman in the world, will be equal to my trouble?—Which, thinkest thou, a woman of spirit will soonest forgive, the undervaluing varlet who can put such a question; or him who prefers the pursuit and conquest of a fine woman to all the joys of life?—Have I not known even a virtuous woman, as she would be thought, vow everlasting antipathy to a man who gave out that she was too old for him to attempt?

 

But another word or two, as to thy objection relating to my trouble and my reward.

 

Does not the keen foxhunter endanger his neck and his bones in pursuit of a vermin which, when killed, is neither fit food for men nor dogs?

Do not the hunters of the nobler game value the venison less than the sport?

 

Why then should I be reflected upon, and the sex affronted, for my patience and perseverance in the most noble of all chases; and for not being a poacher in love, as thy question may be made to imply?

 

Learn of thy master, for the future, to treat more respectfully a sex that yields us our principal diversions and delights.

 

Proceed anon.

This entry was posted in from Robert Lovelace, to John Belford and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *