LETTER 410: MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.

Sunday, Aug. 13.

 

I don’t know what a devil ails me; but I never was so much indisposed in my life. At first, I thought some of my blessed relations here had got a dose administred to me, in order to get the whole house to themselves. But as I am the hopes of the family, I believe they would not be so wicked.

 

I must lay down my pen. I cannot write with any spirit at all. What a plague can be the matter with me!

 

Lord M. paid me just now a cursed gloomy visit, to ask how I do after bleeding. His sisters both drove away yesterday, God be thanked. But they asked not my leave; and hardly bid me good-bye. My Lord was more tender, and more dutiful than I expected. Men are less unforgiving than women. I have reason to say so, I am sure. For, besides implacable Miss Harlowe, and the old Ladies, the two Montague Apes han’t been near me yet.

 

Neither eat, drink, nor sleep! —A piteous case, Jack! If I should die like a fool now, people would say Miss Harlowe had broke my heart. —That she vexes me to the heart, is certain.

 

Confounded squeamish! I would fain write it off. But must lay down my pen again. It won’t do. Poor Lovelace! —What a devil ails thee?

 

Well, but now let’s try for’t—Hoy—Hoy—Hoy! Confound me for a gaping puppy, how I yawn! —Where shall I begin? At thy Executorship? —Thou shalt have a double office of it: For I really think thou mayst send me a coffin and a shroud. I shall be ready for them by the time they can come down.

 

What a little fool is this Miss Harlowe! I warrant she’ll now repent that she refused me. Such a lovely young widow —What a charming widow would she have made! How would she have adorned the weeds! To be a widow in the first twelvemonth is one of the greatest felicities that can befall a fine lady. Such pretty employment in new dismals, when she had hardly worn round her blazing joyfuls ! Such lights, and such shades! how would they set off one another, and be adorned by the wearer!—

 

Go to the devil! —I will write! —Can I do any-thing else?

 

They would not have me write, Belford. —I must be ill indeed, when I can’t write.—

 

But thou seemest nettled, Jack! Is it because I was stung? It is not for two friends, any more than for man and wife, to be out of patience at one time. —What must be the consequence, if they are? —I am in no fighting mood just now: But as patient and passive as the chickens that are brought me in broth —For I am come to that already.

 

But I can tell thee, for all this, be thy own man, if thou wilt, as to the Executorship, I will never suffer thee to expose my letters. They are too ingenuous by half to be seen. And I absolutely insist upon it, that, on receipt of this, thou burn them all.

 

I will never forgive thee that impudent and unfriendly reflection, of my cavaliering it here over half a dozen persons of distinction: Remember, too, thy poor helpless orphan —These reflections are too serious; and thou art also too serious, for me to let these things go off as jesting; notwithstanding the Roman stile is preserved; and, indeed, but just preserved. By my soul, Jack, if I had not been taken thus egregiously cropsick, I would have been up with thee, and the lady too, before now.

 

But write on, however: And send me copies, if thou canst, of all that passes between our Charlotte and Miss Harlowe. I’ll take no notice of what thou communicatest of that sort. I like not the people here the worse for their generous offer to the lady. But you see she is as proud as implacable. There’s no obliging her. She’d rather sell her cloaths, than be beholden to any-body, altho’ she would oblige by permitting the obligation.

 

Oh Lord! Oh Lord!—Mortal ill—Adieu, Jack!

 

I was forced to leave off, I was so ill, at this place. And what dost think? My uncle brought the parson of the parish to pray by me; for his chaplain is at Oxford. I was lain down in my night-gown over my waistcoat, and in a doze: And, when I open’d my eyes, who should I see, but the parson kneeling on one side the bed; Lord M. on the other; Mrs. Greme, who had been sent for to tend me, as they call it, at the feet: God be thanked, my Lord, said I, in an ecstasy! —Where’s Miss? —For I thought they were going to marry me.

 

They thought me delirious, at first, and pray’d louder and louder.

 

This roused me: Off the bed I started; slid my feet into my slippers; put my hand in my waistcoat pocket, and pulled out thy letter with my Beloved’s meditations in it: My Lord, Dr. Wright, Mrs. Greme, you have thought me a very wicked fellow: But, see! I can read you as good as you can read me.

 

They stared at one another. I gaped, and read, Poor mo-or-tals the cau-o-ause of their own—their own mis-ser-ry.

 

It is as suitable to my case, as to the lady’s, as thou’lt observe, if thou readest it again ( a ) . At the passage where it is said, That when a man is chastened for sin, his beauty consumes away, I stept to the glass: A poor figure, by Jupiter, cried I! —And they all praised and admired me; lifted up their hands and their eyes; and the Doctor said, He always thought it impossible, that a man of my sense could be so wild as the world said I was. My Lord chuckled for joy; congratulated me; and, thank my dear Miss Harlowe, I got high reputation among good, bad, and indifferent. In short, I have established myself for ever with all here. —But, O Belford, even this will not do! —I must leave off again.

 

A visit from the Montague sisters, led in by my hobling uncle, to congratulate my amendment and reformation both in one. What a lucky event this illness, with this meditation in my pocket; for we were all to pieces before! Thus, when a boy, have I joined with a croud coming out of church, and have been thought to have been there myself.

 

I am incensed at the insolence of the young Levite. Thou wilt highly oblige me, if thou’lt find him out, and send me his ears in the next letter.

 

My charmer mistakes me, if she thinks I proposed her writing to me, as an alternative that should dispense with my attendance upon her. That it shall not do, nor did I intend it should, unless she had pleased me better in the contents of it than she has done. Bid her read again. I gave no such hopes. I would have been with her in spite of you both, by to-morrow, at farthest, had I not been laid by the heels thus, like a helpless miscreant.

 

But I grow better and better every hour, I say: The Doctor says not: But I am sure I know best: And I will soon be in London, depend on’t. But say nothing of this to my dear, cruel, and implacable Miss Harlowe.

 

A-dieu-u, Ja-aack—What a gaping puppy (Yaw-n! yaw-n! yaw-n!)

Thy Lovelace .

( a ) See L 399.

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