LETTER 503: COLONEL MORDEN, (TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.)

Tuesday morning, Sept. 12.

 

The good Mrs. Norton is arrived, a little amended in her spirits: Owing to the very posthumous letters, as I may call them, which you, Mr. Belford, as well as I, apprehended would have had fatal effects upon her.

 

I cannot but attribute this to the right turn of her mind. It seems she has been inured to afflictions; and has lived in a constant hope of abetter life, and, having no acts of unkindness to the dear deceased to reproach herself with, is most considerately resolved to exert herutmost fortitude, in order to comfort the sorrowing Mother.

 

O Mr. Belford, how does the character of my dear departed cousin rise upon me from every mouth! —Had she been my own child, or my sister! —But do you think, that the man who occasioned this great, this extended ruin— But I forbear.

 

The Will is not to be looked into, till the funeral rites are performed. Preparations are making for the solemnity; and the servants, as well as principals, of all the branches of the family are put into deep mourning.

 

I have seen Mr. Melvill. He is a serious and sensible man. I have given him particulars to go upon in the discourse he is to pronounce at the funeral: But had the less need to do this, as I find he is extremely well acquainted with the whole unhappy story; and was a personal admirer of my dear cousin, and a sincere lamenter of her misfortunes and death. The reverend Dr. Lewen, who is but very lately dead, was his particular friend, and had once intended to recommend him to her favour.

 

 

 

I am just returned from attending the afflicted parents, in an effort they made to see the corpse of their beloved child. They had requested my company, and that of the good Mrs. Norton. A last leave, the Mother said, she must take.

 

An effort, however, it was, and no more. The moment they came in sight of the coffin, before the lid could be put aside, O my dear, said the Father, retreating, I cannot, I find I cannot, bear it! —Had I—Had I—Had I never been hard-hearted! —Then turning round to his Lady, he had but just time to catch her in his arms, and prevent her sinking on the floor. O my dearest life! said he, This is too much! —Too much indeed! —Let us, let us retire. Mrs. Norton, who (attracted by the awful
receptacle) had but just left the good Lady, hastened to her—Dear, dear woman, cried the unhappy Parent, flinging her arms about her neck, Bear me, bear me, hence! —O my child! my child! My own Clarissa Harlowe! Thou pride of my life so lately! —Never, never more, must I behold thee!

 

I supported the unhappy father, Mrs. Norton the sinking mother, into the next parlour. She threw herself on a settee there: He into an elbow-chair by her: The good woman at her feet, her arms clasped round her waist. The two Mothers, as I may call them, of my beloved cousin, thus tenderly engaged! —What a variety of distress in these woeful scenes!

 

The unhappy father, in endeavouring to comfort his lady, loaded himself. Would to God, my dear, said he, would to God, I had no more to charge myself with, than you have! — You relented! — You would have prevailed upon me to relent!

 

The greater my fault, said she, when I knew that displeasure was carried too high, to acquiesce, as I did! What a barbarous parent was I, to let two angry children make me forget that I was mother to a third— To such a third!—

 

Mrs. Norton used arguments and prayers to comfort her —O my dear Norton, answered the unhappy lady, You was the dear creature’smore natural Mother! —Would to heaven I had no more to answer for than you have !

 

Thus the unhappy pair unavailingly recriminated, till my cousin Hervey entered, and, with Mrs. Norton, conducted up to her own chamber the inconsolable Mother. The two Uncles, and Mr. Hervey, came in at the same time, and prevailed upon the afflicted Father to retire with them to his —Both giving up all thoughts of ever seeing more the child, whose death was so deservedly regretted by them.

 

Time only, Mr. Belford, can combat with advantage such a heavy deprivation as this. Advice will not do, while the loss is recent. Nature will have way given to it (and so it ought) till sorrow has in a manner exhausted itself; and then Reason and Religion will come in seasonably with their powerful aids, to raise the drooping heart.

 

I see here no face that is the same I saw at my first arrival. Proud and haughty every countenance then, unyielding to intreaty: Now, how greatly are they humbled! —The utmost distress is apparent in every protracted feature, and in every bursting muscle, of each disconsolate mourner. Their eyes, which so lately flashed anger and resentment, now are turned to every one that approaches them, as if imploring pity! — Could ever wilful hard-heartedness be more severely punished ?

 

The following lines of Juvenal are, upon the whole, applicable to this House and Family. I have revolved them many times since Sunday evening:


Humani generis mores tibi nôsse volenti 
Sufficit una domus: paucos consume dies, & 
Dicere te miserum, postquam illinc veneris, aude. 

 

Let me add, That Mrs. Norton has communicated to the family the posthumous letter sent her. This letter affords a foundation for futureconsolation to them; but at present it has new-pointed their grief, by making them reflect on their cruelty to so excellent a Daughter, Niece, and Sister ( a ) . I am, dear Sir,

 

Your faithful humble Servant,
Wm. Morden .

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