LETTER 535: MR. LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.

Lintz, Nov. 28.
Dec. 9.

I am now on my way to Trent, in order to meet Colonel Morden, in pursuance of his answer to my letter inclosed in my last. I had been at Presburgh, and had intended to visit some other cities of Hungary: But having obliged myself to return first to Vienna, I there met with his letter: Which follows.

Munich, Nov. 21.
Dec. 2.

Sir,
Your 
letter was at Florence four days before I arrived there.

That I might not appear unworthy of your favour, I set out for this city the very next morning. I knew not but that the politeness of this court might have engaged, beyond his intention, a gentleman who has only his pleasures to pursue.

But being disappointed in my hope of finding you here, it becomes me to acquaint you, that I have such a desire to stand well in the opinion of aman of your spirit, that I cannot hesitate a moment upon the option, which I am sure Mr. Lovelace in my situation (thus called upon) would make.

I own, Sir, that I have, on all occasions, spoken of your treatment of my ever-dear cousin as it deserved. It would have been very surprising if I had not. And it behoves me (now you have given me so noble an opportunity of explaining myself) to convince you, that no words fell from my lips, ofyou, merely because you were absent. I acquaint you, therefore, that I will attend your appointment; and would, were it to the farthest part of theglobe.

I shall stay some days at this court; and if you please to direct for me at M. Klienfurt’s in this city, whether I remain here or not, your commands will come safely and speedily to the hands of, Sir,

Your most humble Servant,
Wm. Morden .

So you see, Belford, that the Colonel, by his ready, his even eagerly expressed acceptance of the offered interview, was determined . And is it not much better to bring such a point as this to an issue, than to give pain to friends for my safety, or continue in a suspense myself; as I must do, if I imagined that another had aught against me?

This was my reply:

Vienna, Nov. 25.
Dec. 6.

Sir,
I have 
this moment the favour of yours. I will suspend a tour I was going to take into Hungary, and instantly set out for Munich: And, if I find you not there, will proceed to Trent. This city being on the confines of Italy, will be most convenient, as I presume, to you, in your return to Tuscany; and I shall hope to meet you in it on the 1 ¾ of December.

I shall bring with me only a French valet and an English footman. Other particulars may be adjusted when I have the honour to see you. Till when I am, Sir,

Your most obedient Servant,
R. Lovelace .

Now, Jack, I have no manner of apprehension of the event of this meeting. And I think I may say, He seeks me; not I him. And so let him take theconsequence. What is infinitely nearer to my heart, is, my ingratitude to the most excellent of women—My premeditated ingratitude! —Yet all the while enabled to distinguish and to adore her excellencies, in spite of the mean opinion of the Sex which I had imbibed from early manhood.

But this Lady has asserted the worthiness of her Sex, and most gloriously has she exalted it with me now. Yet, surely, as I have said and written an hundred times, there cannot be such another woman.

But while my loss in her is the greatest of any man’s, and while she was nearer to me, than to any other person in the world, and once she herself wished to be so, what an insolence in any man breathing to pretend to avenge her on me ! —Happy! happy! thrice happy! had I known how to value, as I ought to have valued, the glory of such a preference!

I will aggravate to myself this aggravation of the Colonel’s pretending to call me to account for my treatment of a lady so much my own, lest, in theapproaching interview, my heart should relent for one so nearly related to her, and who means honour and justice to her memory; and I should thereby give him advantages which otherwise he cannot have. For I know that I shall be inclined to trust to my skill, to save a man who was so much and so justly valued by her; and shall be loth to give way to my resentment, as a threatened man. And in this respect only am I sorry for his skill, and his courage, lest I should be obliged, in my own defence, to add a chalk to a score that is already too long.

 

Indeed, indeed, Belford, I am, and shall be, to my latest hour, the most miserable of beings. Such exalted generosity! —Why didst thou put into my craving hands the copy of her Will? Why sentest thou to me the posthumous Letter? —What tho’ I was earnest to see the Will? Thou knewest what they both were ( I did not); and that it would be cruel to oblige me.

The meeting of twenty Colonel Mordens, were there twenty to meet in turn, would be nothing to me; would not give me a moment’s concern, as to my own safety:

But my reflections upon my vile ingratitude to so superior an excellence will ever be my curse.

Had she been a Miss Howe to me, and treated me as if I were an Hickman, I had had a call for revenge; and policy (when I had intended to be an husband) might have justified my attempts to humble her. But a meek and gentle temper was hers, tho’ a true heroine, whenever honour or virtue called for an exertion of spirit.

Nothing but my cursed devices stood in the way of my happiness. Remembrest thou not, how repeatedly, from the first, I poured cold water upon her rising flame, by meanly and ingratefully turning upon her the injunctions, which virgin delicacy, and filial duty, induced her to lay me under, before I got her into my power ( a ) ?

Did she not tell me, and did I not know it, if she had not told me, that she could not be guilty of affectation or tyranny to the man whom she intended to marry ( b ) 418 ? I knew, as she once upbraided me, that from the time I had got her from her father’s house, I had a plain path before me ( c ) 419 . True did she say, and I triumphed in the discovery, that from that time I had held her soul in suspense an hundred times ( d ) 420 . My Ipecacuanha trial alone was enough to convince an infidel, that she had a mind in which love and tenderness would have presided, had I permitted the charming buds to put forth and blow ( e ) 421 .

She would have had no reserves, as once she told me, had I not given her cause of doubt ( f ) 422 . And did she not own to thee, that once she could have loved me; and, could she have made me good, would have made me happy ( g ) 423 ? O Belford! here was Love; a Love of the noblest kind! — A Love, as she hints in her posthumous Letter ( h ) 424 that extended to the Soul; and which she not only avowed in her dying hours, but contrived to let me know it after death, in that Letter filled with warnings and exhortations, which had for their sole end my eternal welfare!

The cursed women, indeed, endeavoured to excite my vengeance, and my pride, by preaching to me eternally her doubts, her want of love, and her contempt of me. And my pride was, at times, too much excited by their vile insinuations. But had it even been as they said; well might she, who had been used to be courted and admired by every desiring eye, and worshiped by every respectful heart—Well might such a woman be allowed to draw back, when she found herself kept in suspense, as to the great question of all, by a designing and intriguing spirit; pretending awe and distance, as reasons for reining-in a fervor, which, if real, cannot be reined-in. —Divine creature! Her very doubts, her reserves (so justly doubting) would have been my assurance, and my glory! —And what other trial needed her virtue? What other needed a purity so angelic (blessed with such a command of her passions in the bloom of youth) had I not been a villain— and a wanton, a conceited, a proud fool, as well as a villain?

These reflections sharpened, rather than their edge by time rebated, accompany me in whatever I do, and wherever I go; and mingle with all my diversions and amusements. And yet I go into gay and splendid company. I have made new acquaintance in the different courts I have visited. I am both esteemed, and sought after, by persons of rank and merit. I visit the colleges, the churches, the palaces. I frequent the theatre: Am present at every public exhibition; and see all that is worth seeing, that I had not seen before, in the cabinets of the curious: Am sometimes admitted to thetoilette of an eminent toast, and make one with distinction at the assemblées of others— Yet can think of nothing, nor of any-body, with delight, but of my Clarissa . Nor have I seen one woman with advantage to herself, but as she resembles in stature, air, complexion, voice, or in some feature, that charmer, that only charmer, of my soul.

What greater punishment, than to have these astonishing perfections, which she was mistress of, strike my remembrance with such force, when I have nothing left me but the remorse of having deprived myself and the world of such a blessing? Now-and-then, indeed, am I capable of a gleam of comfort, arising (not ungenerously) from the moral certainty which I have of her everlasting happiness, in spite of all the machinations and devices which I set on foot to insnare her virtue, and to bring down so pure a mind to my own level.


For can I be, at worst (Avert that worst,
O Thou Supreme, who only canst avert it!)
So much a wretch, so very far abandon’d,
But that I must, ev’n in the horrid’st gloom,
Reap intervenient joy, at least some respite
From pain and anguish, in her bliss—For why?
This very soul must suffer—Not another .
It can’t be mine, if it could envy her,
Or at her happiness repine— 

 

If I find myself thus miserable abroad, I will soon return to England, and follow your example, I think— turn hermit, or some plaguy thing or other, and see what a constant course of penitence and mortification will do for me. There is no living at this rate—D—n me if there be!

If any mishap should befal me, you’ll have the particulars of it from De la Tour. He indeed knows not a word of English: But every modern tongue is yours. He is a trusty and ingenious fellow: And, if any thing happen, will have some other papers, which I shall have ready sealed up, for you to transmit to Lord M. And since thou art so expert, and so ready at Executorships, pr’ythee, Belford, accept of the office for Me, as well as for my Clarissa — Clarissa Lovelace let me call her.

By all that’s good, I am bewitched to her memory. Her very name, with mine joined to it, ravishes my soul, and is more delightful to me than thesweetest music.

Had I carried her (I must still recriminate) to any other place, than to that accursed woman’s—For the potion was her invention and mixture; and all the persisted-in violence was at her instigation, and at that of her wretched daughters, who have now amply revenged upon me their own ruin, which they lay at my door .

But this looks so like the confession of a thief at the gallows, that possibly thou wilt be apt to think, I am intimidated in prospect of the approaching interview. But far otherwise. On the contrary, most chearfully do I go to meet the Colonel; and I would tear my heart out of my breast with my own hands, were it capable of fear or concern on that account.

Thus much only I know, that if I should kill him (which I will not do, if I can help it) I shall be far from being easy in my mind: That shall I never be more. But as the meeting is evidently of his own seeking, against an option fairly given to the contrary, and I cannot avoid it, I’ll think of that hereafter. It is but repenting and mortifying for all at once: For I am as sure of victory, as I am that I now live, let him be as skilful a swordsman as he will: Since, besides that I am no unfleshed novice, this is a sport, that, when provoked to it, I love as well as my food. And, moreover, I shall be ascalm and undisturbed as the Bishop at his prayers: While he, as is evident by his letter, must be actuated by revenge and passion.

Doubt not, therefore, Jack, that I shall give a good account of this affair. Mean time, I remain

Yours most affectionately, &c.
Lovelace .

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