But now I have cleared myself of any intentional levity on occasion of my beloved’s meditation; which, as thou observest, is finely suited to her case (that is to say, as she and you have drawn her case); I cannot help expressing my pleasure, that by one or two verses of it (the arrow, Jack, and what she feared being come upon her !) I am encouraged to hope, what it will be very surprising to me if it do not happen: That is, in plain English, that the dear creature is in the way to be a mamma.
This cursed arrest, because of the ill effects the terror might have had upon her, in that hoped-for circumstance, has concerned me more than on any other account. It would be the pride of my life to prove, in this charming frost-piece, the triumph of nature over principle, and to have a young Lovelace by such an angel: And then, for its sake, I am confident she will live, and will legitimate it. And what a meritorious little cherub would it be, that should lay an obligation upon both parents before it was born, which neither of them would be able to repay! —Could I be sure it is so, I should be out of all pain for her recovery: Pain, I say; since, were she to die —( Die ! abominable word! how I hate it!) I verily think I should be the most miserable man in the world.
As for the earnestness she expresses for death, she has found the words ready to her hand in honest Job; else she would not have delivered herself with such strength and vehemence.
Her innate piety (as I have more than once observed) will not permit her to shorten her own life, either by violence or neglect. She has a mind too noble for that; and would have done it before now, had she designed any such thing: For, to do it, like the Roman matron, when the mischief is over, and it can serve no end; and when the man, however a Tarquin, as some may think him, in this action, is not a Tarquin in power, so that no national point can be made of it; is what she has too much good sense to think of.
Then, as I observed in a like case, a little while ago, the distress, when this was written, was strong upon her; and she saw no end of it: But all was darkness and apprehension before her. Moreover, has she it not in her power to disappoint, as much as she has been disappointed ? Revenge, Jack, has induced many a woman to cherish a life, which grief and despair would otherwise have put an end to.
And, after all, death is no such eligible thing, as Job in his calamities, makes it. And a death desired merely from wordly disappointment shews not a right mind, let me tell this lady, whatever she may think of it ( a ) . You and I, Jack, altho’ not afraid in the height of passion or resentment to rush into those dangers which might be followed by a sudden and violent death, whenever a point of honour calls upon us, would shudder at his cool and deliberate approach in a lingering sickness, which had debilitated the spirits.
So we read of a French general, in the reign of Harry the IVth (I forget his name, if it were not Mareschal Biron) who, having faced with intrepidity the ghastly varlet on an hundred occasions in the field, was the most dejected of wretches, when, having forfeited his life for treason, he was led with all the cruel parade of preparation, and surrounding guards, to the scaffold.
The poet says well:
‘Tis not the Stoic lesson, got by rote,
The pomp of words, and pedant dissertation,
That can support us in the hour of terror.
Books have taught cowards to talk nobly of it:
But when the trial comes, they start, and stand aghast.
Very true: For then it is the old man in the fable, with his bundle of sticks.
The lady is well read in Shakespeare, our English pride and glory; and must sometimes reason with herself in his words, so greatly expressed, that the subject, affecting as it is, cannot produce any thing more so.
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible, warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice:
To be imprison’d in the viewless winds,
Or blown, with restless violence, about
The pendent worlds; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and uncertain thought
Imagines howling: ‘Tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loaded worldly life,
That pain, age, penury, and imprisonment,
Can lay on nature, is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
I find, by one of thy three letters, that my beloved had some account from Hickman of my interview with Miss Howe, at Col. Ambrose’s. I had a very agreeable time of it there; altho’ severely raillied by several of the assemblée. It concerns me, however, not a little, to find our affair so generally known among the Flippanti of both sexes. It is all her own fault. There never, surely, was such an odd little soul as this. —Not to keep her own secret, when the revealing of it could answer no possible good end; and when she wants not (one would think) to raise to herself either pity or friends, or to me enemies, by the proclamation! —Why, Jack, must not all her own sex laugh in their sleeves at her weakness! What would become of the peace of the world, if all women should take it into their heads to follow her example? What a fine time of it would the heads of families have? Their wives always filling their ears with their confessions; their daughters with theirs: Sisters would be every day setting their brothers about cutting of throats, if they had at heart the honour of their families, as it is called; and the whole world would either be a scene of confusion, or cuckoldom must be as much the fashion as it is in Lithuania ( a ) 326 .
I am glad, however, that Miss Howe, as much as she hates me, kept her word with my cousins on their visit to her, and with me at the Colonel’s, to endeavour to persuade her friend to make up all matters by matrimony; which, no doubt, is the best, nay, the only method she can take, for her own honour, and that of her family.
I had once thoughts of revenging myself on that little vixen, and, particularly, as thou mayst ( b ) 327 remember, had planned something to this purpose on the journey she is going to take, which had been talked of some time. But, I think—Let me see—Yes, I think, I will let this Hickman have her safe and intire, as thou believest the fellow to be a tolerable sort of a mortal, and that I had made the worst of him: And I am glad, for his own sake, he has not launched out too virulently against me to thee.
And thus, if I pay thee not in quality, I do in quantity (and yet leave a multitude of things unobserved upon): For I begin not to know what to do with myself here— Tired with Lord M. who, in his recovery, has play’d upon me the fable of the nurse, the crying child, and the wolf— Tired with my cousins Montague, tho’ charming girls, were they not so near of kin—Tired with Mowbray and Tourville, and their everlasting identity—Tired with the country—Tired of myself: Longing for what I have not; I must go to town; and there have an interview with the charmer of my soul: For desperate diseases must have desperate remedies; and I only wait to know my doom from Miss Howe; and then, if it be rejection, I will try my fate, and receive my sentence at her feet. —But I will apprise thee of it before-hand, as I told thee, that thou mayst keep thy parole with the lady, in the best manner thou canst.