M. Hall, Monday May 15.
If any man in the world has power over my nephew, it is you. I therefore write this, to beg you to interfere in the affair depending between him and the most accomplished of women, as every one says; and what every one says, must be true .
I don’t know that he has any bad designs upon her; but I know his temper too well, not to be apprehensive upon such long delays: And the ladies here have been for some time in fear for her; my sister Sadleir, in particular, who (you know) is a wise woman, says, that these delays, in the present case, must be from him, rather than from the lady. He had always indeed a strong antipathy to marriage; and may think of playing his dog’s tricks by her, as he has by so many others. If there’s any danger of this, ’tis best to prevent it in time: For, when a thing is done, advice comes too late .
He has always had the folly and impertinence to make a jest of me for using proverbs: But as they are the wisdom of whole nations and ages, collected into a small compass, I am not to be shamed out of sentences, that often contain more wisdom in them, than the tedious harangues of most of our parsons and moralists. Let him laugh at them, if he pleases: You and I know better things, Mr. Belford. — Tho’ you have kept company with a wolf, you have not learnt to howl of him .
But nevertheless, you must not let him know, that I have written to you on this subject. I am ashamed to say it; but he has ever treated me, as if I were a man of very common understanding. And would perhaps think never the better of the best advice in the world, for coming from me.
I am sure, he has no reason to slight me as he does. He may and will be the better for me, if he outlives me; tho’ he once told me to my face, That I might do as I would with my estate; for that he, for his part, loved his liberty as much as he despised money. He thought, I suppose, that I could not cover him with my wings, without pecking at him with my bill ; tho’ I never used to be pecking at him, without very great occasion: And, God knows, he might have my very heart, if he would but endeavour to oblige me, by
studying his own good; for that is all I desire of him. Indeed, it was his poor mother that first spoil’d him; and I have been but too indulgent to him since. —A fine grateful disposition, you’ll say, to return evil for good ! But that was always his way.
This match, however, as the lady has such an extraordinary share of wisdom and goodness, might set all to rights: and if you can forward it, I would enable him to make whatever settlements he could wish; and should not be unwilling to put him in possession of another pretty estate besides: For what do I live for (as I have often said), but to see him and my two nieces well married and settled? May heaven settle him down to a better mind, and turn his heart to more of goodness and consideration!
If the delays are on his side, I tremble for the lady; and, if on hers (as he tells my niece Charlotte), I could wish the young lady were apprized, thatDelays are dangerous . Excellent as she is, I can tell her, she ought not to depend on her merits with such a changeable fellow, and such a professed marriage-hater, as he has been. I know you are very good at giving kind hints. A word to the wise is enough.
I wish you would try what you can do with him; for I have warned him so often of his wicked practices, that I begin to despair of my words having any effect upon him. But let him remember, that Vengeance, tho’ it comes with leaden feet, strikes with iron hands . If he behaves ill in this case, he may find it so. What a pity it is, that a man of his talents and learning should be so vile a rake! Alas! alas! Um poignée de bonne vie vaut mieux que plein muy de clergé ; A handful of good life is better than a whole bushel of learning.
You may throw in, too, as his friend, that, should he provoke me, it may not be too late for me to marry. My old friend Wycherly did so, when he was older than I am, on purpose to plague his nephew:
And, in spite of this gout, I might have a child or two still. And have not been without some thoughts that way, when he has angered me more than ordinary: But these thoughts have gone off again hitherto, upon my considering, that the children of very young and very old men [tho’ I am not so very old neither] last not long ; and that old men, when they marry young women, are said to make much of death : Yet who knows but that matrimony might be good against the gouty humours I am troubled with?
The sentences, that I have purposely wove into my discourse, may be of some service to you in talking to him; but use them sparingly, that he may not discover, that you borrow your darts from my quiver .
May your good counsels, Mr. Belford, founded upon the hints I have given, pierce his heart, and incite him to do what will be so happy for himself, and so necessary for the honour of that admirable lady whom I long to see his wife; and, if I may, I will not think of one for myself.
Should he abuse the confidence she has plac’d in him, I myself shall pray, that vengeance may fall upon his head. — Raro—Raro —(I quite forget all my Latin! but I think it is)— Raro antecedentem scelestum deseruit pede poena claudo : Where vice goes before, vengeance (sooner or later) will follow.
I shall make no apologies to you for this trouble. I know how well you love him and me; and there is nothing in which you could serve us both more importantly, than in forwarding this match to the utmost of your power. When it is done, how shall I rejoice to see you at M. Hall! Mean time, I shall long to hear, that you are likely to be successful; and am,
Your most faithful friend and servant,