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Title: Leonora
Author: Edgeworth, Maria, 1767-1849
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: --It was long past midnight,--she had a heap of Mr.
L----'s old letters beside her. She denied that she was in tears.]



  LEONORA

  BY

  MARIA EDGEWORTH

  [Illustration]

  "O lady Leonora! lady Leonora is ill!" exclaimed
  every voice. The consternation was wonderful.

  LONDON
  J.M. DENT & Co. ALDINE HOUSE
  69, GREAT EASTERN STREET, E.C.
  1893



[Illustration]

  NOTE.


Leonora, though not published until 1806, was commenced three years
before that date: the circumstances under which it was written were to a
certain extent unique in Maria Edgeworth's life; for we are told that
throughout the time occupied in writing the story, she had in mind the
offer of marriage made to her by Monsieur Edelcrantz, a Swedish
gentleman of good position, "of superior understanding and mild
manners," as she told her aunt in a letter partly written before the
proposal and finished afterwards. This seems, from the biographies, to
have been the only time this truly good and sensible woman was ever
sought in marriage by any man; and it shows some of the good qualities
she possessed, that though she refused him, yet from the respect she
bore him and the esteem in which she held him, this story was written to
a large extent with a view to his approbation, though we are told that
she never knew whether or no he had read it.

On the next page is appended a list of the principal editions of this
volume.

Leonora, by Maria Edgeworth, 2 vols., London, 1806.

---- Another edition, with _Letters on Several Subjects_, and
    _An Essay on Self-Justification_ (forming Vol. IV. of _Tales
    and Miscellaneous Pieces_, by Maria Edgeworth, 14 vols.), London,
    1825.

---- Another edition (Vol. XIII. of _Novels and Tales_ of Maria
    Edgeworth, 18 vols.), London, 1832-33.

Many reprints from the stereotype plates of this edition have been
    issued in various forms and with varying arrangement of the stories.

Translated into French in 1807, and another edition in 1812.

        F. J. S.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

  LEONORA.


  Letter i.

  _Lady Olivia to Lady Leonora L----._


What a misfortune it is to be born a woman! In vain, dear Leonora, would
you reconcile me to my doom. Condemned to incessant hypocrisy, or
everlasting misery, woman is the slave or the outcast of society.
Confidence in our fellow-creatures, or in ourselves, alike forbidden us,
to what purpose have we understandings, which we may not use? hearts,
which we may not trust? To our unhappy sex genius and sensibility are
the most treacherous gifts of Heaven. Why should we cultivate talents
merely to gratify the caprice of tyrants? Why seek for knowledge, which
can prove only that our wretchedness is irremediable? If a ray of light
break in upon us, it is but to make darkness more visible; to show us
the narrow limits, the Gothic structure, the impenetrable barriers of
our prison. Forgive me if on this subject I cannot speak--if I cannot
think--with patience. Is it not fabled, that the gods, to punish some
refractory mortal of the male kind, doomed his soul to inhabit upon
earth a female form? A punishment more degrading, or more difficult to
endure, could scarcely be devised by cruelty omnipotent. What dangers,
what sorrows, what persecutions, what nameless evils awaits the woman
who dares to rise above the prejudices of her sex!

  "Ah! happy they, the happiest of their kind!"

who, without a struggle, submit their reason to be swathed by all the
absurd bandages of custom. What, though they cripple or distort their
minds; are not these deformities beauties in the eyes of fashion? and
are not these people the favoured nurslings of the _World_, secure of
her smiles, her caresses, her fostering praise, her partial protection,
through all the dangers of youth and all the dotage of age?

  "Ah! happy they, the happiest of their kind!"

who learn to speak, and think, and act by rote; who have a phrase, or a
maxim, or a formula ready for every occasion; who follow--

  "All the nurse and all the priest have taught."

And is it possible that Olivia can envy these _tideless-blooded_ souls
their happiness--their apathy? Is her high spirit so broken by
adversity? Not such the promise of her early years, not such the
language of her unsophisticated heart! Alas! I scarcely know, I scarcely
recollect, that proud self, which was wont to defy the voice of opinion,
and to set at nought the decrees of prejudice. The events of my life
shall be related, or rather the history of my sensations; for in a life
like mine sensations become events--a metamorphosis which you will see
in every page of my history. I feel an irresistible impulse to open my
whole heart to you, my dear Leonora. I ought to be awed by the
superiority of your understanding and of your character; yet there is
an indulgence in your nature, a softness in your temper, that dissipates
fear, and irresistibly attracts confidence.

You have generously refused to be prejudiced against me by busy,
malignant rumour; you have resolved to judge of me for yourself.
Nothing, then, shall be concealed. In such circumstances I cannot seek
to extenuate any of my faults or follies. I am ready to acknowledge them
all with self-humiliation more poignant than the sarcasms of my
bitterest enemies. But I must pause till I have summoned courage for my
confession. Dear Leonora, adieu!

  Olivia.



  Letter ij.

  _Olivia to Leonora._


Full of life and spirits, with a heart formed for all the enthusiasm,
for all the delicacy of love, I married early, in the fond expectation
of meeting a heart suited to my own. Cruelly disappointed, I
found--merely a husband. My heart recoiled upon itself; true to my own
principles of virtue, I scorned dissimulation. I candidly confessed to
my husband, that my love was extinguished. I proved to him, alas! too
clearly, that we were not born for each other. The attractive moment of
illusion was past--never more to return; the repulsive reality remained.
The living was chained to the dead, and, by the inexorable tyranny of
English laws, that chain, eternally galling to innocence, can be severed
only by the desperation of vice. Divorce, according to our barbarous
institutions, cannot be obtained without guilt. Appalled at the thought,
I saw no hope but in submission. Yet to submit to live with the man I
could not love was, to a mind like mine, impossible. My principles and
my feelings equally revolted from this legal prostitution. We separated.
I sought for balm to my wounded heart in foreign climes.

To the beauties of nature I was ever feelingly alive. Amidst the sublime
scenes of Switzerland, and on the consecrated borders of her classic
lakes, I sometimes forgot myself to happiness. Felicity, how
transient!--transient as the day-dreams that played upon my fancy in the
bright morning of love. Alas! not all creation's charms could soothe me
to repose. I wandered in search of that which change of place cannot
afford. There was an aching void in my heart--an indescribable sadness
over my spirits. Sometimes I had recourse to books; but how few were in
unison with my feelings, or touched the trembling chords of my
disordered mind! Commonplace morality I could not endure. History
presented nothing but a mass of crimes. Metaphysics promised some
relief, and I bewildered myself in their not inelegant labyrinth. But to
the bold genius and exquisite pathos of some German novelists I hold
myself indebted for my largest portion of ideal bliss; for those rapt
moments, when sympathy with kindred souls transported me into better
worlds, and consigned vulgar realities to oblivion.

I am well aware, my Leonora, that you approve not of these my favourite
writers: but yours is the morality of one who has never known sorrow. I
also would interdict such cordials to the happy. But would you forbid
those to taste felicity in dreams who feel only misery when awake? Would
you dash the cup of Lethe from lips to which no other beverage is
salubrious or sweet?

By the use of these opiates my soul gradually settled into a sort of
pleasing pensive melancholy. Has it not been said, that melancholy is a
characteristic of genius? I make no pretensions to genius: but I am
persuaded that melancholy is the habitual, perhaps the natural state of
those who have the misfortune to feel with delicacy.

You, my dear Leonora, will class this notion amongst what you once
called my refined errors. Indeed I must confess, that I see in you an
exception so striking as almost to compel me to relinquish my theory.
But again let me remind you, that your lot in life has been different
from mine. Alas! how different! Why had not I such a friend, such a
mother as yours, early to direct my uncertain steps, and to educate me
to happiness? I might have been----. But no matter what I might have
been----. I must tell you what I have been.

Separated from my husband, without a guide, without a friend at the most
perilous period of my life, I was left to that most insidious of
counsellors--my own heart--my own weak heart. When I was least prepared
to resist the impression, it was my misfortune to meet with a man of a
soul congenial to my own. Before I felt my danger, I was entangled
beyond the possibility of escape. The net was thrown over my heart; its
struggles were to no purpose but to exhaust my strength. Virtue
commanded me to be miserable--and I was miserable. But do I dare to
expect your pity, Leonora, for such an attachment? It excites your
indignation, perhaps your horror. Blame, despise, detest me; all this
would I rather bear than deceive you into fancying me better than I
really am.

Do not, however, think me worse. If my views had been less pure, if I
had felt less reliance on the firmness of my own principles, and less
repugnance to artifice, I might easily have avoided some appearances,
which have injured me in the eyes of the world. With real contrition I
confess, that a fatal mixture of masculine independence of spirit, and
of female tenderness of heart, has betrayed me into many imprudences;
but of vice, and of that meanest species of vice, hypocrisy, I thank
Heaven, my conscience can acquit me. All I have now to hope is, that
you, my indulgent, my generous Leonora, will not utterly condemn me.
Truth and gratitude are my only claims to your friendship--to a
friendship, which would be to me the first of earthly blessings, which
might make me amends for all I have lost. Consider this before, unworthy
as I am, you reject me from your esteem. Counsel, guide, save me!
Without vanity, but with confidence I say it, I have a heart that will
repay you for affection. You will find me easily moved, easily governed
by kindness. Yours has already sunk deep into my soul, and your power is
unlimited over the affections and over the understanding of

  Your obliged
  Olivia.



  Letter iij.

  _From Lady Leonora L---- to her mother, the Duchess of ----,
     enclosing the preceding letters._


I am permitted to send you, my dear mother, the enclosed letters. Mixed
with what you may not approve, you will, I think, find in them proofs of
an affectionate heart and superior abilities. Lady Olivia is just
returned to England. Scandal, imported from the continent, has had such
an effect in prejudicing many of her former friends and acquaintance
against her, that she is in danger of being excluded from that society
of which she was once the ornament and the favourite; but I am
determined to support her cause, and to do everything in my power to
counteract the effects of malignity. I cannot sufficiently express the
indignation that I feel against the mischievous spirit of scandal,
which destroys happiness at every breath, and which delights in the
meanest of all malignant feelings--the triumph over the errors of
superior characters. Olivia has been much blamed, because she has been
much envied.

Indeed, my dear mother, you have been prejudiced against her by false
reports. Do not imagine that her fascinating manners have blinded my
judgment: I assure you that I have discerned, or rather that she has
revealed to me, all her faults: and ought not this candour to make a
strong impression upon my mind in her favour? Consider how young, how
beautiful she was at her first entrance into fashionable life; how much
exposed to temptation, surrounded by flatterers, and without a single
friend. I am persuaded that she would have escaped all censure, and
would have avoided all the errors with which she now reproaches herself,
if she had been blessed with a mother such as mine.

  Leonora L----



  Letter iv.

  _The Duchess of ---- to her daughter._


    My dearest Child,

I must answer your last before I sleep--before I can sleep in peace. I
have just finished reading the rhapsody which it enclosed; and whilst my
mind is full and warm upon the subject, let me write, for I can write to
my own satisfaction at no other time. I admire and love you, my child,
for the generous indignation you express against those who trample upon
the fallen, or who meanly triumph over the errors of superior genius;
and if I seem more cold, or more severe, than you wish me to be,
attribute this to my anxiety for your happiness, and to that caution
which is perhaps the infirmity of age.

In the course of my long life I have, alas! seen vice and folly dressed
in so many different fashions, that I can find no difficulty in
detecting them under any disguise; but your unpractised eyes are almost
as easily deceived as when you were five years old, and when you could
not believe that your pasteboard nun was the same person in her various
changes of attire.

Nothing would tempt you to associate with those who have avowed
themselves regardless of right and wrong; but I must warn you against
another, and a far more dangerous class, who, professing the most
refined delicacy of sentiment, and boasting of invulnerable virtue,
exhibit themselves in the most improper and hazardous situations; and
who, because they are without fear, expect to be deemed free from
reproach. Either from miraculous good fortune, or from a singularity of
temper, these adventurous heroines may possibly escape with what they
call perfect innocence. So much the worse for society. Their example
tempts others, who fall a sacrifice to their weakness and folly. I would
punish the tempters in this case more than the victims, and for them the
most effectual species of punishment is contempt. Neglect is death to
these female lovers of notoriety. The moment they are out of fashion
their power to work mischief ceases. Those who from their character and
rank have influence over public opinion are bound to consider these
things in the choice of their associates. This is peculiarly necessary
in days when attempts are made to level all distinctions. You have
sometimes hinted to me, my dear daughter, with all proper delicacy, that
I am too strict in my notions, and that, unknown to myself, my pride
mixes with morality. Be it so: the pride of family, and the pride of
virtue, should reciprocally support each other. Were I asked what I
think the best guard to a nobility in this or in any other country, I
should answer, VIRTUE. I admire that simple epitaph in Westminster Abbey
on the Duchess of Newcastle:--"Her name was Margaret Lucas, youngest
sister to the Lord Lucas of Colchester;--a noble family, for all the
brothers were valiant and all the sisters virtuous."

I look to the temper of the times in forming rules for conduct. Of late
years we have seen wonderful changes in female manners. I may be like
the old marquis in Gil Blas, who contended that even the peaches of
modern days had deteriorated; but I fear that my complaints of the
degeneracy of human kind are better founded than his fears for the
vegetable creation. A taste for the elegant profligacy of French
gallantry was, I remember, introduced into this country before the
destruction of the French monarchy. Since that time, some sentimental
writers and pretended philosophers of our own and foreign countries have
endeavoured to confound all our ideas of morality. To every rule of
right they have found exceptions, and on these they have fixed the
public attention by adorning them with all the splendid decorations of
eloquence; so that the rule is despised or forgotten, and the exception
triumphantly established in its stead. These orators seem as if they had
been employed by Satan to plead the cause of vice; and, as if possessed
by the evil spirit, they speak with a vehemence which carries away their
auditors, or with a subtlety which deludes their better judgment. They
put extreme cases, in which virtue may become vice, or vice virtue: they
exhibit criminal passions in constant connexion with the most exalted,
the most amiable virtues; thus making use of the best feelings of human
nature for the worst purposes, they engage pity or admiration
perpetually on the side of guilt. Eternally talking of philosophy and
philanthropy, they borrow the terms only to perplex the ignorant and
seduce the imagination. They have their systems and their theories, and
in theory they pretend that the general good of society is their sole
immutable rule of morality, and in practice they make the variable
feelings of each individual the judges of this general good. Their
systems disdain all the vulgar virtues, intent upon some _beau ideal_ of
perfection or perfectibility. They set common sense and common honesty
at defiance. No matter: their doctrine, so convenient to the passions
and soporific to the conscience, can never want partisans; especially by
weak and enthusiastic women it is adopted and propagated with eagerness;
then they become personages of importance, and zealots in support of
their sublime opinions; and they can read--and they can write--and they
can talk--and they can _effect a revolution in public opinion_! I am
afraid, indeed, that they can; for of late years we have heard more of
sentiment than of principles; more of the rights of woman than of her
duties. We have seen talents disgraced by the conduct of their
possessors, and perverted in the vain attempt to defend what is
unjustifiable.

Where must all this end? Where the abuse of reason inevitably ends--in
the ultimate law of force. If in this age of reason women make a bad use
of that power which they have obtained by the cultivation of their
understanding, they will degrade and enslave themselves beyond
redemption; they will reduce their sex to a situation worse than it ever
experienced even in the ages of ignorance and superstition. If men find
that the virtue of women diminishes in proportion as intellectual
cultivation increases, they will connect, fatally for the freedom and
happiness of our sex, the ideas of female ignorance and female
innocence; they will decide that one is the effect of the other. They
will not pause to distinguish between the use and the abuse of reason;
they will not stand by to see further experiments tried at their
expense, but they will prohibit knowledge altogether as a pernicious
commodity, and will exert the superior power which nature and society
place in their hands, to enforce their decrees. Opinion obtained freedom
for women; by opinion they may be again enslaved. It is therefore the
interest of the female world, and of society, that women should be
deterred by the dread of shame from passing the bounds of discretion. No
false lenity, no partiality in favour of amusing talents or agreeable
manners, should admit of exceptions which become dangerous examples of
impunity. The rank and superior understanding of a _delinquent_ ought
not to be considered in mitigation, but as aggravating circumstances.
Rank makes ill conduct more conspicuous: talents make it more dangerous.
Women of abilities, if they err, usually employ all their powers to
justify rather than to amend their faults.

I am afraid, my dear daughter, that my general arguments are closing
round your Olivia; but I must bid you a good night, for my poor eyes
will serve me no longer. God bless you, my dear child.



  Letter v.

  _Leonora to her mother._


I agree with you, my dear mother, that in these times especially, it is
incumbent upon all persons, whose rank or reputation may influence
public opinion, to be particularly careful to support the cause of
female honour, of virtue, and religion. With the same object in view, we
may however differ in the choice of means for its attainment. Pleasure
as well as pain acts upon human creatures; and therefore, in governing
them, may not reward be full as efficacious as punishment? Our sex are
sufficiently apprised of the fatal consequences of ill conduct; the
advantages of well-earned reputation should be at least as great, as
certain, and as permanent.

In former times, a single finger pointed at the scutcheon of a knight
challenged him to defend his fame; but the defiance was open, the
defence was public; and if the charge proved groundless, it injured none
but the malicious accuser. In our days female reputation, which is of a
nature more delicate than the honour of any knight, may be destroyed by
the finger of private malice. The whisper of secret scandal, which
admits of no fair or public answer, is too often sufficient to dishonour
a life of spotless fame. This is the height, not only of injustice, but
of impolicy. Women will become indifferent to reputation, which it is so
difficult, even by the prudence of years, to acquire, and which it is so
easy to lose in a moment, by the malice or thoughtlessness of those who
invent or who repeat scandal. Those who call themselves the world often
judge without listening to evidence, and proceed upon suspicion with as
much promptitude and severity as if they had the most convincing proofs.
But because Cæsar, nearly two thousand years ago, said, that his wife
ought not even to be suspected, and divorced her upon the strength of
this sentiment, shall we make it a general maxim, that suspicion
justifies punishment? We might as well applaud those, who when their
friends are barely suspected to be tainted with the plague, drive them
from all human comfort and assistance.

Even where women, from the thoughtless gaiety of youth, or the impulse
of inexperienced enthusiasm, may have given some slight cause for
censure, I would not have virtue put on all her gorgon terrors, nor
appear circled by the vengeful band of prudes; her chastening hand will
be more beneficially felt if she wear her more benign form. To place the
imprudent in the same class with the vicious is injustice and impolicy;
were the same punishment and the same disgrace to be affixed to small
and to great offences, the number of _capital_ offenders would certainly
increase. Those who were disposed to yield to their passions would, when
they had once failed in exact decorum, see no motive, no fear to
restrain them; and there would be no pause, no interval between error
and profligacy. Amongst females who have been imprudent, there are many
things to be considered which ought to recommend them to mercy. The
judge, when he is obliged to pronounce the immutable sentence of the
law, often, with tears, wishes that it were in his power to mitigate the
punishment: the decisions of opinion may and must vary with
circumstances, else the degree of reprobation which they inflict cannot
be proportioned to the offence, or calculated for the good of society.
Among the mitigating circumstances I should be inclined to name even
those which you bring in aggravation. Talents, and what is called
genius, in our sex are often connected with a warmth of heart, an
enthusiasm of temper, which expose to dangers from which the coldness of
mediocrity is safe. In the illuminated palace of ice, the lights which
render the spectacle splendid, and which raise the admiration of the
beholders, endanger the fabric and tend to its destruction.

But you will tell me, dear mother, that allusion is not argument--and I
am almost afraid to proceed, lest you should think me an advocate for
vice. I would not shut the gates of mercy, inexorably and
indiscriminately, upon all those of my own sex, who have even been _more
than imprudent_.

  "He taught them shame, the sudden sense of ill--
   Shame, Nature's hasty conscience, which forbids
   Weak inclination ere it grows to will,
   Or stays rash will before it grows to deeds."

Whilst a woman is alive to shame, she cannot be dead to virtue. But by
injudicious or incessant reproach, this principle, even where it is most
exquisite, may be most easily destroyed. The mimosa, when too long
exposed to each rude touch, loses its retractile sensibility. It ought
surely to be the care of the wise and benevolent to cherish that
principle, implanted in our nature as the guard of virtue, that
principle upon which legislators rest the force of punishment, and all
the grand interests of society.

My dear mother, perhaps you will be surprised at the style in which I
have been writing, and you will smile at hearing your Leonora discuss
the duties of legislators, and the grand interests of society. She has
not done so from presumption, or from affectation. She was alarmed by
your supposing that her judgment was deluded by fascinating manners, and
she determined to produce _general_ arguments, to convince you that she
is not actuated by particular prepossession. You see that I have at
least some show of reason on my side. I have forborne to mention
Olivia's name: but now that I have obviated, I hope by reasoning, the
imputation of partiality, I may observe that all my arguments are
strongly in her favour. She had been attacked by slander; _the world_
has condemned her upon suspicion merely. She has been imprudent; but I
repeat, in the strongest terms, that I am _convinced of her innocence_;
and that I should bitterly regret that a woman with such an affectionate
heart, such uncommon candour, and such superior abilities, should be
lost to society.

Tell me, my dear mother, that you are no longer in anxiety about the
consequences of my attachment to Olivia.

  Your affectionate daughter,
  Leonora.



  Letter vi.

  _The Duchess of ---- to her daughter._


You lament, my dear child, that such an affectionate heart, such great
abilities as Olivia's should be lost to society. Before I sympathise in
your pity, my judgment must be convinced that it is reasonable.

What proofs has Lady Olivia given of her affectionate heart? She is at
variance with both her parents; she is separated from her husband; and
she leaves her child in a foreign country, to be educated by strangers.
Am I to understand, that her ladyship's neglecting to perform the duties
of a daughter, a wife, and a mother, are proofs of an affectionate
heart? As to her superior talents, do they contribute to her own
happiness, or to the happiness of others? Evidently not to her own; for
by her account of herself, she is one of the most miserable wretches
alive! She tells you that "_she went to foreign climes in search of balm
for a wounded heart, and wandered from place to place, looking for what
no place could afford_." She talks of "_indescribable sadness--an aching
void--an impenetrable prison--darkness visible--dead bodies chained to
living ones_;" and she exhibits all the disordered furniture of a
"diseased mind." But you say, that though her powers are thus
insufficient to make herself happy, they may amuse or instruct the
world; and of this I am to judge by the letters which you have sent me.
You admire fine writing; so do I. I class eloquence high amongst the
fine arts. But by eloquence I mean something more than Dr Johnson
defines it to be, "the art of speaking with fluency and elegance." This
is an art which is now possessed to a certain degree by every
boarding-school miss. Every scribbling young lady can now string
sentences and sentiments together, and can turn a period harmoniously.
Upon the strength of these accomplishments they commence heroines, and
claim the privileges of the order; privileges which go to an indefinite
and most alarming extent. Every heroine may have her own code of
morality for her private use, and she is to be tried by no other; she
may rail as loudly as she pleases "at the barbarous institutions of
society," and may deplore "_the inexorable tyranny of the English
laws_." If she find herself involved in delicate entanglements of
crossing duties, she may break through any one, or all of them, to
extricate herself with a noble contempt of prejudice.

I have promised to reason calmly; but I cannot repress the terror which
I feel at the idea of my daughter's becoming the friend of one of these
women. Olivia's letters are, I think, in the true heroine style; and
they might make a brilliant figure in a certain class of novels. She
begins with a bold exclamation on "the misfortune of being born a
woman!--_the slave or the outcast of society, condemned to incessant
hypocrisy!_" Does she mean modesty? Her manly soul feels it "_the most
degrading punishment that omnipotent cruelty could devise, to be
imprisoned in a female form_." From such a masculine spirit some
fortitude and magnanimity might be expected; but presently she begs to
be pitied, for a broken spirit, and more than female tenderness of
heart. I have observed that the ladies who wish to be men are usually
those who have not sufficient strength of mind to be women.

Olivia proceeds in an ironical strain to envy, as "_the happiest of
their sex, those who submit to be swathed by custom_." These persons she
stigmatizes with the epithet of _tideless-blooded_. It is the common
trick of unprincipled women to affect to despise those who conduct
themselves with propriety. Prudence they term _coldness_; fortitude,
_insensibility_; and regard to the rights of others, _prejudice_. By
this perversion of terms they would laugh or sneer virtue out of
countenance; and, by robbing her of all praise, they would deprive her
of all immediate motive. Conscious of their own degradation, they would
lower everything, and everybody, to their own standard: they would make
you believe, that those who have not yielded to their passions are
destitute of sensibility; that the love which is not blazoned forth in
glaring colours is not entitled to our sympathy. The sacrifice of the
strongest feelings of the human heart to a sense of duty is to be called
mean, or absurd; but the shameless phrensy of passion, exposing itself
to public gaze, is to be an object of admiration. These heroines talk of
strength of mind; but they forget that strength of mind is to be shown
in resisting their passions, not in yielding to them. Without being
absolutely of an opinion, which I have heard maintained, that all virtue
is sacrifice, I am convinced that the essential characteristic of virtue
is to bear and forbear. These sentimentalists can do neither. They talk
of sacrifices and generosity; but they are the veriest egotists--the
most selfish creatures alive.

Open your eyes, my dear Leonora, and see things as they really are. Lady
Olivia thinks it a sufficient excuse for abandoning her husband, to say,
that she found "_his soul was not in unison with hers_." She thinks it
an adequate apology for a criminal attachment, to tell you that "_the
net was thrown over her heart before she felt her danger: that all its
struggles were to no purpose, but to exhaust her strength_."

If she did not feel her danger, she prepared it. The course of reading
which her ladyship followed was the certain preparation for her
consequent conduct. She tells us that she could not endure "_the
commonplace of morality, but metaphysics promised her some relief_." In
these days a heroine need not be a moralist, but she must be a
metaphysician. She must "_wander in the not inelegant labyrinth_;" and
if in the midst of it she comes unawares upon the monster vice, she must
not start, though she have no clue to secure her retreat.

From metaphysics Lady Olivia went on to German novels. "_For her largest
portions of bliss, for those rapt moments which consigned vulgar
realities to oblivion_," she owns herself indebted to those writers, who
promise an ideal world of pleasure, which, like the _mirage_ in the
desert, bewilders the feverish imagination. I always suspected the
imagination of these _women of feeling_ to be more susceptible than
their hearts. They want excitation for their morbid sensibility, and
they care not at what expense it is procured. If they could make all the
pleasures of life into one cordial they would swallow it at a draught in
a fit of sentimental spleen. The mental intemperance that they indulge
in promiscuous novel-reading destroys all vigour and clearness of
judgment; everything dances in the varying medium of their imagination.
Sophistry passes for reasoning; nothing appears profound but what is
obscure; nothing sublime but what is beyond the reach of mortal
comprehension. To their vitiated taste the simple pathos, which
o'ersteps not the modesty of nature, appears cold, tame, and insipid;
they must have _scènes_ and a _coup de théâtre_; and ranting, and
raving, and stabbing, and drowning, and poisoning; for with them there
is no love without murder. Love, in their representations, is indeed a
distorted, ridiculous, horrid monster, from whom common sense, taste,
decency, and nature recoil.

But I will be calm.--You say, my dear Leonora, that your judgment has
not been blinded by Lady Olivia's fascinating manners; but that you are
strongly influenced in her favour by that candour, with which she has
revealed to you all her faults. The value of candour in individuals
should be measured by their sensibility to shame. When a woman throws
off all restraint, and then desires me to admire her candour, I am
astonished only at her assurance. Do not be the dupe of such candour.
Lady Olivia avows a criminal passion, yet you say that you have no
doubts of her innocence. The persuasion of your unsuspecting heart is no
argument: when you give me any proofs in her favour, I shall pay them
all due attention. In the meantime I have given you my opinion of those
ladies who place themselves in the most perilous situations, and then
expect you to believe them safe.

Olivia's professions of regard for you are indeed enthusiastic. She
tells you, that "_your power is unlimited over her heart and
understanding, that your friendship would be to her one of the greatest
of earthly blessings_." May be so--but I cannot wish you to be her
friend. With whatever confidence she makes the assertion, do not believe
that she has a heart capable of feeling the value of yours. These
sentimental, unprincipled women make the worst friends in the world. We
are often told that, "poor creatures! they do nobody any harm but
themselves;" but in society it is scarcely possible for a woman to do
harm to herself without doing harm to others; all her connexions must
be involved in the consequences of her imprudence. Besides, what
confidence can you repose in them? If you should happen to be an
obstacle in the way of any of their fancies, do you think that they will
respect you or your interest, when they have not scrupled to sacrifice
their own to the gratification of their passions? Do you think that the
gossamer of sentiment will restrain those whom the strong chains of
prudence could not hold?

O! my dearest child, forcibly as these arguments carry conviction to my
mind, I dread lest your compassionate, generous temper should prevent
their reaching your understanding. Then let me conjure you, by all the
respect which you have ever shown for your mother's opinions, by all
that you hold dear or sacred, beware of forming an intimacy with an
unprincipled woman. Believe me to be

  Your truly affectionate mother,



  Letter vij.

  _Leonora to her mother._


No daughter ever felt more respect for the opinions of a parent than I
do for yours, my dearest mother; but you have never, even from
childhood, required from me a blind submission--you have always
encouraged me to desire conviction. And now, when the happiness of
another is at stake, you will forgive me if I am less disposed to yield
than I should be, I hope, if my own interest or taste were alone
concerned.

You ask me what proofs I have of Lady Olivia's innocence. Believe me, I
have such as are convincing to my unbiassed judgment, and such as would
be sufficient to satisfy all your doubts, were I at liberty to lay the
whole truth before you. But even to exculpate herself, Olivia will not
ruin in your opinion her husband, of whom you imagine that she has no
reason to complain. I, who know how anxious she is to obtain your
esteem, can appreciate the sacrifice that she makes; and in this
instance, as in many others, I admire her magnanimity; it is equal to
her candour, for which she is entitled to praise even by your own
principles, dear mother: since, far from having _thrown off all
restraint_, she is exquisitely susceptible of shame.

As to her understanding--have no persons of great talents ever been
unfortunate? Frequently we see that they have not been able, by all
their efforts and all their powers, to remedy the defects in the
characters and tempers of those with whom they have unhappily been
connected. Olivia married very young, and was unfortunately mistaken in
her choice of a husband: on that subject I can only deplore her error
and its consequences: but as to her disagreements with her own family, I
do not think her to blame. For the mistakes we make in the choice of
lovers or friends we may be answerable, but we cannot be responsible for
the faults of the relations who are given to us by nature. If we do not
please them, it may be our misfortune; it is not necessarily our fault.
I cannot be more explicit, without betraying Lady Olivia's confidence,
and implicating others in defending her.

With respect to that attachment of which you speak with so much just
severity, she has given me the strongest assurances that she will do
everything in her power to conquer it. Absence, you know, is the first
and the most difficult step, and this she has taken. Her course of
reading displeases you: I cannot defend it: but I am persuaded that it
is not a proof of her taste being vitiated. Many people read ordinary
novels as others take snuff, merely from habit, from the want of petty
excitation; and not, as you suppose, from the want of exorbitant or
improper stimulus. Those who are unhappy have recourse to any trifling
amusement that can change the course of their thoughts. I do not justify
Olivia for having chosen such _comforters_ as certain novels, but I pity
her and impute this choice to want of fortitude, not to depravity of
taste. Before she married, a strict injunction was laid upon her not to
read any book that was called a novel: this raised in her mind a sort of
perverse curiosity. By making any books or opinions contraband, the
desire to read and circulate them is increased; bad principles are
consequently smuggled into families, and being kept secret, can never be
subject to fair examination. I think it must be advantageous to the
right side of any question, that all which can be said against it should
be openly heard, that it may be answered. I do not

  "Hate when vice can bolt her arguments;"

for I know that virtue has a tongue to answer her. The more vice repeats
her assertions, the better; because when familiarized, their boldness
will not astound the understanding, and the charm of novelty will not be
mistaken for the power of truth. We may observe, that the admiration for
the class of writers to whom you allude, though violent in its
commencement, has abated since they have been more known; and numbers,
who began with rapture, have ended with disgust. Person of vivacious
imaginations, like Olivia, may be caught at first view by whatever has
the appearance of grandeur or sublimity; but if time be allowed for
examination, they will infallibly detect the disproportions, and these
will ever afterwards shock their taste: if you will not allow leisure
for comparison--if you say, do not look at such strange objects, the
obedient eyes may turn aside, but the rebel imagination pictures
something a thousand times more wonderful and charming than the reality.
I will venture to predict, that Olivia will soon be tired of the species
of novels which she now admires, and that, once surfeited with these
books, and convinced of their pernicious effects, she will never relapse
into the practice of novel reading.

As to her taste for metaphysical books----Dear mother, I am very daring
to differ with you in so many points; but permit me to say, that I do
not agree with you in detesting metaphysics. People may lose themselves
in that labyrinth; but why should they meet with vice in the midst of
it? The characters of a moralist, a practical moralist, and a
metaphysician, are not incompatible, as we may see in many amiable and
illustrious examples. To examine human motives, and the nature of the
human mind, is not to destroy the power of virtue, or to increase the
influence of vice. The chemist, after analysing certain substances, and
after discovering their constituent parts, can lay aside all that is
heterogeneous, and recompound the substance in a purer state. From
analogy we might infer, that the motives of metaphysicians ought to be
purer than those of the vulgar and ignorant. To discover the art of
converting base into noble passions, or to obtain a universal remedy for
all mental diseases, is perhaps beyond the power of metaphysicians; but
in the pursuit useful discoveries may be made.

As to Olivia's letters--I am sorry I sent them to you; for I see that
they have lowered, instead of raising her in your opinion. But if you
criticise letters, written in openness and confidence of heart to a
private friend, as if they were set before the tribunal of the public,
you are--may I say it?--not only severe, but unjust; for you try and
condemn the subjects of one country by the laws of another.

Dearest mother, be half as indulgent to Olivia as you are to me: indeed
you are prejudiced against her, and because you see some faults, you
think her whole character vicious. But would you cut down a fine tree
because a leaf is withered, or because the canker-worm has eaten into
the bud? Even if a main branch were decayed, are there not remedies
which, skilfully applied, can save the tree from destruction, and
perhaps restore it to its pristine beauty?

And now, having exhausted all my allusions, all my arguments, and all my
little stock of eloquence, I must come to a plain matter of fact--

Before I received your letter I had invited Lady Olivia to spend some
time at L---- Castle. I fear that you will blame my precipitation, and I
reproach myself for it, because I know it will give you pain. However,
though you will think me imprudent, I am certain you would rather that I
were imprudent than unjust. I have defended Olivia from what I believe
to be unmerited censure; I have invited her to my house; she has
accepted my proffered kindness; to withdraw it afterwards would be doing
her irreparable injury: it would confirm all that the world can suspect:
it would be saying to the censorious--I am convinced that you are right,
and I deliver your victim up to you.

Thus I should betray the person whom I undertook to defend: her
confidence in me, her having but for a moment accepted my protection,
would be her ruin. I could not act in so base a manner.

Fear nothing for me, my best, but too anxious friend. I may do Lady
Olivia some good; she can do me no harm. She may learn the principles
which you have taught me; I can never catch from her any tastes or
habits which you would disapprove. As to the rest, I hazard little or
nothing. The hereditary credit which I enjoy in my maternal right
enables me to assist others without injuring myself.

  Your affectionate daughter,
  Leonora.



  Letter viij.

  _The Duchess of ---- to her daughter._


    My dearest Child,

I hope that you are in the right, and that I am in the wrong.

  Your affectionate mother,



  Letter ix.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


Prepare yourself, my ever dear and charming Gabrielle, for all the
torments of jealousy. Know, that since I came to England I have formed a
new friendship with a woman who is interesting in the extreme, who has
charmed me by the simplicity of her manners and the generous sensibility
of her heart. Her character is certainly too reserved: yet even this
defect has perhaps increased her power over my imagination, and
consequently over my affections. I know not by what magic she has
obtained it, but she has already an ascendency over me, which would
quite astonish _you_, who know my wayward fancies and independent
spirit.

Alas! I confess my heart is weak indeed; and I fear that all the power
of friendship and philosophy combined will never strengthen it
sufficiently. O, Gabrielle! how can I hope to obliterate from my soul
that attachment which has marked the colour of my destiny for years? Yet
such courage, such cruel courage is required of me, and of such I have
boasted myself capable. Lady Leonora L----, my new friend, has, by all
the English eloquence of virtue, obtained from me a promise, which, I
fear, I shall not have the fortitude to keep--but I must make the
attempt----Forbid R*** to write to me----Yes! I have written the
words----Forbid R*** to write to me----Forbid him to think of me----I
will do more--if possible I will forbid myself henceforward to think of
him--to think of love--Adieu, my Gabrielle----All the illusions of life
are over, and a dreary blank of future existence lies before me,
terminated only by the grave. To-morrow I go to L---- Castle, with
feelings which I can compare only to those of the unfortunate la
Vallière when she renounced her lover, and resolved to bury herself in a
cloister.--Alas! why have not I the resource of devotion?

  Your unhappy
  Olivia.



  Letter x.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


Publish my travels!--Not I, my dear friend. The world shall never have
the pleasure of laughing at General B----'s trip to Paris. Before a man
sets about to inform others, he should have seen, not only the surface
but the bottom of things; he should have had, not only a _vue d'oiseau_,
but (to use a celebrated naval commander's expression) a _vue de
poisson_ of his subject. By this time you must have heard enough of the
Louvre and the Tuilleries, and Versailles, and la petit Trianon, and St
Cloud--and you have had enough of pictures and statues; and you know all
that can be known of Bonaparté, by seeing him at a review or a levee;
and the fashionable beauties and _celebrated characters_ of the hour
have all passed and repassed through the magic lantern. A fresh showman
might make his figures a little more correct, or a little more in
laughable caricature, but he could produce nothing new. Alas! there is
nothing new under the sun. Nothing remains for the moderns, but to
practise the oldest follies and newest ways. Would you, for the sake of
your female friends, know the fashionable dress of a Parisian
_elegante_, see Seneca on the transparent vestments of the Roman ladies,
who, like these modern belles, were generous in the display of their
charms to the public. No doubt these French republicanists act upon the
true Spartan principle of modesty: they take the most efficacious method
to prevent their influence from being too great over the imaginations of
men, by renouncing all that insidious reserve which alone can render
even beauty permanently dangerous.

Of the cruelties of the revolution I can tell you nothing new. The
public have been steeped up to the lips in blood, and have surely had
their fill of horrors.

But, my dear friend, you say that I must be able to give a just view of
the present state of French society, and of the best parts of it,
because I have not, like some of my countrymen, hurried about Paris from
one _spectacle_ to another, seen the opera, and the play-houses, and the
masked balls, and the gaming-houses, and the women of the Palais Royale,
and the lions of all sorts; gone through the usual routine of
presentation and public dinners, drunk French wine, damned French
cookery, and "come home content." I have certainly endeavoured to employ
my time better, and have had the good fortune to be admitted into the
best _private societies_ in Paris. These were composed of the remains of
the French nobility, of men of letters and science, and of families,
who, without interfering in politics, devote themselves to domestic
duties, to literary and social pleasures. The happy hours I have passed
in this society can never be forgotten, and the kindness I have received
has made its full impression upon an honest English heart. I will never
disgrace the confidence of my friends by drawing their characters for
the public.

Cæsar, in all his glory, and all his despotism, could not, with
impunity, force a Roman knight[1] to go upon the stage: but modern
anecdote-mongers, more cruel and insolent than Cæsar, force their
friends of all ages and sexes to appear, and speak, and act, for the
amusement or derision of the public.

My dear friend, is not my resolution, never to favour the world with my
tour, well grounded? I hope that I have proved to your satisfaction,
that I could tell people nothing but what I do not understand, or what
is not worth telling them, or what has been told them a hundred times,
or what, as a gentleman, I am bound not to publish.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.

[Footnote 1: Laberius.]



  Letter xi.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  L---- Castle.

Friendship, my amiable and interesting Gabrielle, is more an affair of
the heart than of the head, more the instinct of taste than the choice
of reason. With me the heart is no longer touched, when the imagination
ceases to be charmed. Explain to me this metaphysical phenomenon of my
nature, and, for your reward, I will quiet your jealousy, by confessing
without compunction what now weighs on my conscience terribly. I begin
to feel that I can never love this English friend as I ought. She is
_too English_--far too English for one who has known the charms of
French ease, vivacity, and sentiment; for one who has seen the
bewitching Gabrielle's infinite variety.

Leonora has just the figure and face that you would picture to yourself
for _une belle Angloise_; and if our Milton comes into your memory, you
might repeat, for the quotation is not too trite for a foreigner--

  "Grace is in all her steps, heaven in her eye,
   In every gesture dignity and love."

But then it is grace which says nothing, a heaven only for a husband,
the dignity more of a matron than of a heroine, and love that might have
suited Eve before she had seen this world. Leonora is certainly a
beauty; but then a beauty who does not know her power, and who,
consequently, can make no one else feel its full extent. She is not
unlike your beautiful Polish princess, but she has none of the charming
Anastasia's irresistible transitions from soft, silent languor, to
brilliant, eloquent enthusiasm. All the gestures and attitudes of
Anastasia are those of taste and sentiment, Leonora's are simply those
of nature. _La belle nature_, but not _le beau idéal_. With a figure
that would grace any court, or shine upon any stage, she usually enters
a room without producing, or thinking of producing, any sensation; she
moves often without seeming to have any other intention than to change
her place; and her fine eyes generally look as if they were made only to
see with. At times she certainly has a most expressive and intelligent
countenance. I have seen her face enlightened by the fire of genius,
and shaded by the exquisite touches of sensibility; but all this is
merely called forth by the occasion, and vanishes before it is noticed
by half the company. Indeed, the full radiance of her beauty or of her
wit seldom shines upon any one but her husband. The audience and
spectators are forgotten. Heavens! what a difference between the effect
which Leonora and Gabrielle produce! But, to do her justice, much of
this arises from the different _organization_ of French and English
society. In Paris the insipid details of domestic life are judiciously
kept behind the scenes, and women appear as heroines upon the stage,
with all the advantages of decoration, to listen to the language of
love, and to receive the homage of public admiration. In England,
gallantry is not yet _systematised_, and our sex look more to their
families than to what is called society for the happiness of existence.
And yet the affection of mothers for their children does not appear to
be so strong in the hearts of English as of French women. In England
ladies do not talk of the _sentiment of maternity_ with that elegance
and sensibility with which you expatiate upon it continually in
conversation. They literally are _des bonnes mères de famille_, not from
the impulse of sentiment, but merely from an early instilled sense of
duty, for which they deserve little credit. However, they devote their
lives to their children, and those who have the misfortune to be their
intimate friends are doomed to see them half the day, or all day long,
go through the part of the good mother in all its diurnal monotony of
lessons and caresses. All this may be vastly right--it is a pity it is
so tiresome. For my part I cannot conceive how persons of superior taste
and talents can submit to it, unless it be to make themselves a
reputation, and that you know is done by writing and talking on the
general principles, not by submitting to the minute details of
education. The great painter sketches the outline, and touches the
principal features, but leaves the subordinate drudgery of filling up
the parts, finishing the drapery, &c., to inferior hands.

Upon recollection, in my favourite "Sorrows of Werter," the heroine is
represented cutting bread and butter for a group of children: I admire
this simplicity in Goethe; 'tis one of the secrets by which he touches
the heart. Simplicity is delightful by way of variety, but always
simplicity is worse than _toujours perdrix_. Children in a novel or a
drama are charming little creatures: but in real life they are often
insufferable plagues. What becomes of them in Paris I know not; but I am
sure that they are never in the way of one's conversations or reveries;
and it would be a blessing to society if English children were as
inaudible and invisible. These things strike me sensibly upon my return
to England, after so long an absence. Surely, by means of the machinery
of masters, and governesses, and schools, the manufacture of education
might be carried on without incommoding those who desire to see only the
finished production. Here I find the daughter of an English duke, a
woman in the first bloom of youth, of the highest pretensions in point
of rank, beauty, fashion, accomplishments, and talents, devoting herself
to the education of two children, orphans, left to her care by an elder
sister. To take charge of orphans is a good and fine action; as such it
touches me sensibly; but then where is the necessity of sacrificing
one's friends, and one's pleasures, day after day, and hour after hour,
to mere children? Leonora can persevere only from a notion of duty. Now,
in my opinion, when generosity becomes duty it ceases to be virtue.
Virtue requires free-will: duty implies constraint. Virtue acts from the
impulse of the moment, and never tires or is tired; duty drudges on in
consequence of reflection, and, weary herself, wearies all beholders.
Duty, always laborious, never can be graceful; and what is not graceful
in woman cannot be amiable--can it, my amiable Gabrielle? But I reproach
myself for all I have written. Leonora is my friend--besides, I am
really obliged to her, and for the universe would I not hint a thought
to her disadvantage. Indeed she is a most excellent, a faultless
character, and it is the misfortune of your Olivia not to love
perfection as she ought.

My charming and interesting Gabrielle, I am more out of humour with
myself than you can conceive; for in spite of all that reason and
gratitude urge, I fear I cannot prefer the insipid virtues of Leonora to
the lively graces of Gabrielle.

As to the cold husband, Mr L----, I neither know nor wish to know
anything of him; but I live in hopes of an agreeable and interesting
accession to our society to-day, from the arrival of Leonora's intimate
friend, a young widow, whose husband I understand was a man of a harsh
temper: she has gone through severe trials with surprising fortitude;
and though I do not know her history, I am persuaded it must be
interesting. Assuredly this husband could never have been the man of her
choice, and of course she must have had some secret unhappy attachment,
which doubtless preyed upon her spirits. Probably the object of her
affection, in despair at her marriage, plighted his faith unfortunately,
or possibly may have fallen a sacrifice to his constancy. I am all
impatience to see her. Her husband's name was so ruggedly English, that
I am sure you would never be able to pronounce it, especially if you
only saw it written; therefore I shall always to you call her Helen, a
name which is more pleasing to the ear, and more promising to the
imagination. I have not been able to prevail upon Leonora to describe
her friend to me exactly; she says only, that she loves Helen too well
to over-praise her beforehand. My busy fancy has, however, bodied forth
her form, and painted her in the most amiable and enchanting colours.
Hark! she is just arrived. Adieu.

  Olivia.



  Letter xij.

  _From Mrs C---- to Miss B----._

    *    *    *    *    *    *

Having now had the honour of spending nearly a week in the society of
the celebrated enchantress, Lady Olivia, you will naturally expect that
I should be much improved in the art of love: but before I come to my
improvements I must tell you, what will be rather more interesting, that
Leonora is perfectly well and happy, and that I have the dear delight of
exclaiming ten times an hour, "Ay, just as I thought it would be!--Just
such a wife, just such a mistress of a family I knew she would make."

"_Not to admire_" is an art or a precept which I have not been able to
practise much since I came here. Some philosophers tell us that
admiration is not only a silly but a fatiguing state of mind; and I
suppose that nothing could have preserved my mind from being tired to
death but the quantity of bodily exercise which I have taken. I could if
I pleased give you a plan and elevation of this castle. Nay, I doubt not
but I could stand an examination in the catalogue of the pictures, or
the inventory of the furniture.

You, Helen!--you who could not remember the colour of Lady N----'s
_new_ curtains after you had seen them at least a hundred times!

Lady N---- was indifferent to me, and how could I hang up her curtains
in my memory? By what could they hold? Do you not know, Margaret. . . .
all the fine things that I could say, and that quartos have said before
me, about the association of ideas and sensations, &c.? Those we love
impart to uninteresting objects the power of pleasing, as the magnet can
communicate to inert metal its attractive influence.

Till Mr L---- was Leonora's lover I never liked him much. I do not mean
to call him inert. I always knew that he had many excellent qualities;
but there was nothing in his temper peculiarly agreeable to me, and
there was something in his character that I did not thoroughly
understand; yet since he is become Leonora's husband I find my
understanding much improved, and I dare say it will soon be so far
enlarged, that I shall comprehend him perfectly.

Leonora has almost persuaded me to like Lady Olivia. Not to laugh at her
would be impossible. I wish you could see the way in which we go on
together. Our first setting out would have diverted you. Enter Lady
Olivia breathless, with an air of theatric expectation--advances to
embrace Helen, who is laughing with Leonora--her back turned towards the
side of the stage at which Olivia enters--Olivia pauses suddenly, and
measures Helen _with a long look_. What passes in Lady Olivia's mind at
this moment I do not know, but I guess that she was disappointed wofully
by my appearance. After some time she was recovered, by Leonora's
assistance, from her reverie, and presently began to admire my vivacity,
and to find out that I was Clarissa's Miss Howe--no, I was Lady G.--no,
I was Heloise's Clara: but I, choosing to be myself, and insisting upon
being an _original_, sunk again visibly and rapidly in Olivia's opinion,
till I was in imminent danger of being _nobody_. Leonora again kindly
interposed to save me from annihilation; and after an interval of an
hour or two dedicated to letter-writing, Lady Olivia returned and seated
herself beside me, resolved to decide what manner of woman I was.
Certain novels are the touchstones of feeling and _intellect_ with
certain ladies. Unluckily I was not well read in these; and in the
questions put to me from these sentimental statute-books, I gave strange
judgments, often for the husband or parents against the heroine. I did
not even admit the plea of destiny, irresistible passion, or
_entraînement_, as in all cases sufficient excuse for all errors and
crimes. Moreover, I excited astonishment by calling things by obsolete
names. I called a married woman's having a lover _a crime_! Then I was
no judge of virtues, for I thought a wife's making an intimate friend of
her husband's mistress was scandalous and mean; but this I was told is
the height of delicacy and generosity. I could not perceive the
propriety of a man's liking two women at the same time, or a woman's
having a platonic attachment for half a dozen lovers; and I owned that I
did not wish divorce could be as easily obtained in England as in
France. All which proved that I have never been out of England--a great
misfortune! I dare say it will soon be discovered that women as well as
madeira cannot be good for anything till they have crossed the line. But
beside the obloquy of having lived only in the best company in England,
I was further disgraced by the discovery, that I am deplorably ignorant
of metaphysics, and have never been enlightened by any philanthropic
transcendental foreign professor of humanity. Profoundly humiliated, and
not having yet taken the first step towards knowledge, the knowing that
I was ignorant, I was pondering upon my sad fate, when Lady Olivia,
putting her hand upon my shoulder, summoned me into the court of love,
there in my own proper person to answer such questions as it should
please her ladyship to ask. For instance:--"Were you ever in love?--How
often?--When?--Where?--And with whom?"

Never having stood a cross-examination in public upon these points, I
was not quite prepared to reply; and I was accused of giving evasive
answers, and convicted of blushing. Mr L----, who was present at this
examination, enjoyed, in his grave way, my astonishment and confusion,
but said not one word. I rallied my spirits and my wits, and gave some
answers which gained the smile of the court on my side.

From these specimens you may guess, my dear Margaret, how well this lady
and I are likely to agree. I shall divert myself with her absurdities
without scruple. Yet notwithstanding the flagrancy of these, Leonora
persuades me to think well of Olivia; indeed I am so happy here, that it
would be a difficult matter at present to make me think ill of anybody.
The good qualities which Leonora sees in her are not yet visible to my
eyes; but Leonora's visual orb is so cleared with charity and love, that
she can discern what is not revealed to vulgar sight. Even in the very
germ she discovers the minute form of the perfect flower. _The Olivia_
will, I hope, in time blow out in full perfection.

  Yours affectionately,
  Helen C----.



  Letter xiij.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  Monday.

O my Gabrielle! this Helen is not precisely the person that I expected.
Instead of being a dejected beauty, she is all life and gaiety.

I own I should like her better if she were a little more pensive; a
tinge of melancholy would, in her situation, be so becoming and natural.
My imagination was quite disappointed when I beheld the quickness of her
eyes and frequency of her smiles. Even her mode of showing affection to
Leonora was not such as could please me. This is the first visit, I
understand, that she has paid Leonora since her marriage:--these friends
have been separated for many months.--I was not present at their
meeting; but I came into the room a few minutes after _Helen's_ arrival,
and I should have thought that they had seen one another but yesterday.
This _dear Helen_ was quite at ease and at home in a few moments, and
seemed as if she had been living with us for years. I make allowance for
the ease of well-bred people. Helen has lived much in the world, and has
polished manners. But the heart--the heart is superior to politeness;
and even ease, in some situations, shows a want of the delicate _tact_
of sentiment. In a similar situation I should have been silent,
entranced, absorbed, in my sensations--overcome by them,
perhaps--dissolved in tears. But in Helen there appeared no symptoms of
real sensibility--nothing characteristic--nothing profound--nothing
concentrated: it was all superficial, and evaporated in the common way.
I was provoked to see Leonora satisfied. She assures me that Helen has
uncommonly strong affections, and that her character rather exceeds than
is deficient in enthusiasm. Possibly; but I am certain that Helen is in
no danger of becoming romantic. Far from being abstracted, I never saw
any one seem more interested and eager about every present
occurrence--pleased, even to childishness, with every passing trifle. I
confess that she is too much of this world for me. But I will if
possible suspend my judgment, and study her a few hours longer before I
give you my definitive opinion.


       *     *     *     *     *

  Thursday.

Well, my Gabrielle, my _definitive opinion_ is that I can never love
this friend of Leonora. I said that she had lived much in the world--but
only in the English world: she has never seen any other; therefore,
though quite in a different style from Leonora, she shocks me with the
same nationality. All her ideas are exclusively English: she has what is
called English good sense, and English humour, and English prejudices of
_all sorts_, both masculine and feminine. She takes fire in defence of
her country and of her sex; nay, sometimes blushes even to awkwardness,
which one would not expect in the midst of her good breeding and
vivacity. What a difference between her vivacity and that of my charming
Gabrielle! as great as between the enlargement of your mind and the
limited nature of her understanding. I tried her on various subjects,
but found her intrenched in her own contracted notions. All new, or
liberal, or sublime ideas in morality or metaphysics she either cannot
seize, or seizes only to place in a ridiculous point of view: a certain
sign of mediocrity. Adieu, my Gabrielle. I must send you the pictures,
whether engaging or forbidding, of those with whom your Olivia is
destined to pass her time. When I have no events to relate, still I must
write to convey to you my sentiments. Alas! how imperfectly!--for I have
interdicted myself the expression of those most interesting to my
heart. Leonora, calmly prudent, coolly virtuous, knows not what it costs
me to be faithful to this cruel promise. Write to me, my sympathizing,
my tender friend!

  Your ever unhappy
  Olivia.



  Letter xiv.

  _Mrs C---- to Miss B----._


  July 10th.

Some very good people, like some very fine pictures, are best at a
distance. But Leonora is not one of these: the nearer you approach the
better you like her, as in arabesque-work you may admire the beauty of
the design even at a distance, but you cannot appreciate the delicacy of
the execution till you examine it closely, and discover that every line
is formed of grains of gold almost imperceptibly fine. I am glad that
the "small sweet courtesies of life" have been hailed by one sentimental
writer at least. The minor virtues are not to be despised even in
comparison with the most exalted. The common rose, I have often thought,
need not be ashamed of itself even in company with the finest exotics in
a hothouse; and I remember, that your brother, in one of his letters,
observed, that the common cock makes a very respectable figure even in
the grand Parisian assembly of all the stuffed birds and beasts in the
universe. It is a glorious thing to have a friend who will jump into a
river, or down a precipice, to save one's life: but as I do not intend
to tumble down precipices, or to throw myself into the water above half
a dozen times, I would rather have for my friends persons who would not
reserve their kindness wholly for these grand occasions, but who could
condescend to make me happy every day, and all day long, even by
actions not sufficiently sublime to be recorded in history or romance.

Do not infer from this that I think Leonora would hesitate to make
_great_ sacrifices. I have had sufficient experience of her fortitude
and active courage of mind in the most trying circumstances, whilst many
who talked more stoutly shrunk from _committing_ themselves by actions.

Some maxim-maker says, that past misfortunes are good for nothing but to
be forgotten. I am not of his opinion: I think that they are good to
make us know our winter from our summer friends, and to make us feel for
those who have sustained us in adversity that most pleasurable sensation
of human mind--gratitude.

But I am straying unawares into the province of sentiment, where I am
such a stranger that I shall inevitably lose my way, especially as I am
too proud to take a guide. Lady Olivia **** may perhaps be very fond of
Leonora: and as she has every possible cause to be so, it is but
reasonable and charitable to suppose that she is: but I should never
guess it by her manner. She speaks of her friendship sometimes in the
most romantic style, but often makes observations upon _the enviable
coolness and imperturbability of Leonora's disposition_, which convinces
me that she does not understand it in the least. Those who do not really
feel always pitch their expressions too high or too low, as deaf people
bellow or speak in a whisper. But I may be mistaken in my suspicions of
Olivia; for _to do the lady justice_, as Mrs Candour would say, she is
so affected that it is difficult to know what she really feels. Those
who put on rouge occasionally are suspected of wearing it constantly,
and never have any credit for their natural colour; presently they
become so accustomed to common rouge, that mistaking scarlet for pale
pink, they persist in laying on more and more, till they are like
nothing human.

  Yours affectionately,
  Helen C----.



  Letter xv.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


I have found it! I have found it! dear Gabrielle, rejoice with me! I
have solved the metaphysical problem, which perplexed me so cruelly, and
now I am once more at peace with myself. I have discovered the reason
why I cannot love Leonora as she merits to be loved--she has obliged me;
and the nature of obligation is such, that it supposes superiority on
one side, and consequently destroys the equality, the freedom, the ease,
the charm of friendship. Gratitude weighs upon one's heart in proportion
to the delicacy of its feelings. To minds of an ordinary sort it may be
pleasurable, for with them it is sufficiently feeble to be calm; but in
souls of a superior cast, it is a poignant, painful sensation, because
it is too strong ever to be tranquil. In short--

  "'Tis bliss but to a certain bound--
    Beyond, 'tis agony."

For my own part, the very dread that I shall not be thought to express
enough deprives me of the power to speak, or even to feel. Fear, you
know, extinguishes affection; and of all fears the dread of not being
sufficiently grateful operates the most powerfully. Thus sensibility
destroys itself.--Gracious Heaven! teach me to moderate mine.

In the nature of the obligation with which Leonora has oppressed my
heart, there is something peculiarly humiliating. Upon my return to this
country I found the malignant genius of scandal bent upon destroying my
reputation. You have no idea of the miserable force of prejudice which
still prevails here. There are some women who emancipate themselves, but
then unluckily they are not in sufficient numbers to keep each other in
countenance in public. One would not choose to be confined to the
society of people who cannot go to court, though sometimes they take the
lead elsewhere. We are full half a century behind you in civilization;
and your revolution has, I find, afforded all our stiffened moralists
_incontrovertible_ arguments against liberty of opinion or conduct in
either sex.

I was thunderstruck when I saw the grave and repulsive faces of all my
female acquaintance. At first I attributed everything that was strange
and disagreeable to English reserve, of which I had retained a
sufficiently formidable idea: but I presently found that there was some
other cause which kept all these nice consciences at a distance from my
atmosphere.

Would you believe it, I saw myself upon the point of being quite
excluded from good society. Leonora saved me from this imminent danger.
Voluntarily, and I must say nobly, if not gracefully, Leonora came
forward in my defence. Vanquishing her natural English timidity, she
braved the eyes, and tongues, and advice of all the prudes and old
dowagers my enemies, amongst whom I may count the superannuated duchess
her mother, the proudest dowager now living. When I appeared in public
with a personage of Leonora's unblemished reputation, scandal, much
against her will, was forced to be silent, and it was to be taken for
granted that I was, in the language of prudery, perfectly innocent.
Leonora, to be consistent in goodness, or to complete her triumph in the
face of the world, invited me to accompany her to the country.----I have
now been some weeks at this superb castle. Heaven is my witness that I
came with a heart overflowing with affection; but the painful, the
agonizing sense of humiliation mixed with my tenderest sentiments, and
all became bitterness insufferable. O Gabrielle! you, and perhaps you
alone upon earth, can understand my feelings. Adieu!--pity me--I must
not ask you a single question about----I must not write the name for
ever dear--What am I saying? where are my promises?--Adieu!--Adieu!

  Your unhappy
  Olivia.



  Letter xvi.

  _Mrs C---- to Miss B----._


  July 16th.

As I have never thought it my duty in this mortal life to mourn for the
absurdities of my fellow-creatures, I should now enjoy the pleasure of
laughing at Lady Olivia, if my propensity were not checked by a serious
apprehension that she will injure Leonora's happiness. From the most
generous motives dear Leonora is continually anxious to soothe her mind,
to persuade and reason her into common sense, to re-establish her in
public opinion, and to make her happy. But I am convinced that Lady
Olivia never will have common sense, and consequently never can be
happy. Twenty times a day I wish her at the antipodes, for I dread lest
Leonora should be implicated in her affairs, and involved in her misery.

Last night this foolish woman, who unluckily is graced with all the
power of words, poured forth a fine declamation in favour of divorce. In
vain Leonora reasoned, expostulated, blushed. Lady Olivia cannot blush
for herself; and though both Mr L---- and I were present, she persisted
with that vehemence which betrays personal interest in an argument. I
suspect that she is going to try to obtain a divorce from her husband,
that she may marry her lover. Consider the consequences of this for
Leonora.--Leonora to be the friend of a woman who will brave the infamy
of a trial at Doctors' Commons! But Leonora says I am mistaken, and that
all this is only Olivia's way of talking. I wish then, that, if she does
not intend to act like a fool, she would not talk like one. I agree with
the gentleman who said that a woman who begins by playing the fool,
always ends by playing the devil. Even before me, though I certainly
never solicit her confidence, Lady Olivia talks with the most imprudent
openness of her love affairs; not, I think, from ingenuousness, but from
inability to restrain herself. Begin what subject of conversation I
will, as far from Cupid as possible, she will bring me back again to him
before I know where I am. She has no ideas but on this one subject.
Leonora, dear kind-hearted Leonora, attributes this to the temporary
influence of a violent passion, which she assures me Olivia will
conquer, and that then all her great and good qualities will, as if
freed from enchantment, re-assume their natural vigour.
_Natural!_--there is nothing natural about this sophisticated lady. I
wish Leonora would think more of herself and less of other people. As to
Lady Olivia's excessive sensibility, I have no faith in it. I do not
think either the lover or the passion so much to be feared for her, as
the want of a lover and the habit of thinking that it is necessary to be
in love. * * * * * * * * *

  Yours affectionately,
  _Helen C----._



  Letter xvij.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


  Paris, Hôtel de Courlande.

    My dear L----,

When you ask a countryman in England the way to the next town, he
replies, "Where do you come from, master?" and till you have answered
this question, no information can you obtain from him. You ask me what I
know of Lady Olivia ----. What is your reason for asking? Till you have
answered this question, hope for no information from me. Seriously, Lady
Olivia had left Paris before I arrived, therefore you cannot have my
judgment of her ladyship, which I presume is all you could depend upon.
If you will take hearsay evidence, and if you wish me to speak to
general character, I can readily satisfy you. Common repute is loud and
unanimous in favour of her talents, beauty, and fashion: there is no
resisting, I am told, the fascination of her manners and conversation;
_but_ her opinions are fashionably liberal, and her practice as liberal
as her theories. Since her separation from her husband, her lover is
publicly named. Some English friends plead in her favour platonic
attachment: this, like benefit of clergy, is claimed of course for a
first offence: but Lady Olivia's Parisian acquaintance are not so
scrupulous or so old-fashioned as to think it an offence; they call it
an _arrangement_, and to this there can be no objection. As a French
gentleman said to me the other day, with an unanswerable shrug, "Tout le
monde sait que R*** est son amant; d'ailleurs, c'est la femme la plus
aimable du monde."

As to Lady Olivia's friend, Mad. de P----, she sees a great deal of
company: her house is the resort of people of various descriptions;
ministers, foreigners, coquettes, and generals; in short, of all those
who wish without scandal or suspicion to intrigue either in love or
politics. Her assemblies are also frequented by a few of _l'ancien
régime_, who wish to be in favour with the present government. Mad. de
P----, of a noble family herself, and formerly much at court, has
managed matters so as to have regained all her husband's confiscated
property, and to have acquired much influence with some of the leading
men of the day. In her manners and conversation there is an odd mixture
of frivolity and address, of the airs of coquetry and the jargon of
sentiment. She has the politeness of a French countess, with _exquisite_
knowledge of the world and of _les convenances_, joined to that freedom
of opinion which marks the present times. In the midst of all these
inconsistencies, it is difficult to guess what her real character may
be. At first sight, I should pronounce her to be a silly woman, governed
by vanity and the whim of the moment: but those who know her better than
I do believe her to be a woman of considerable talents, inordinately
fond of power, and uniformly intent upon her own interest, using
coquetry only as a means to govern our sex, and frivolity as a mask for
her ambition. In short, Mad. de P---- is a perfect specimen of the
combination of an _intrigante_ and an _élégante_, a combination often
found in Paris. Here women mingle politics and gallantry--men mix
politics and epicurism--which is the better mixture?

I have business of importance to my country to transact to-day,
_therefore_ I am going to dine with the modern Apicius. Excuse me, my
dear friend, if I cannot stay at present to answer your questions about
divorce. I must be punctual. What sort of a negociator can he make who
is too late at a minister's dinner? Five minutes might change the face
of Europe.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter xviij.

  _Madame de P---- to Olivia._


  Paris.

My incomparable Olivia! your letters are absolutely divine. I am
_maussade_, I _vegetate_. I cannot be said to live the days when I do
not hear from you. Last Thursday I was disappointed of one of these dear
letters, and _Brave-et-tendre_ told me frankly that I was so little
amiable he should not have known me.--As to the rest, pardon me for not
writing punctually: I have been really in a chaos of business and
pleasure, and I do not know which fatigues most. But I am obliged to
attend the ministers every day, for the sake of my friends.

A thousand and a thousand thanks for your pictures of your English
friends: sketches by a masterly hand must be valuable, whatever the
subject. I would rather have the pictures than the realities. Your Helen
and your Lady Leonora are too good for me, and I pity you from my soul
for being shut up in that old castle. I suppose it is like an old castle
in Dauphiny, where I once spent a week, and where I was nearly
frightened to death by the flapping of the old tapestry behind my bed,
and by the bats which flew in through the broken windows. They say,
however, that our _châteaux_ and yours are something different. Of this
I have no clear conception.

I send you three comforters in your prison--a billet-doux, a new novel,
and a pattern of my sandal: a billet-doux from R*** says everything for
itself; but I must say something for the new novel. Zenobie, which I now
send you, is the declared rival of Seraphine. Parties have run high on
both sides, and applications were made and inuendoes discovered, and wit
and sentiment came to close combat; and, as usual, people talked till
they did not understand themselves. For a fortnight, wherever one went
the first words to be heard on entering every _salon_ were Seraphine and
Zenobie.--Peace or war.--Mlle. Georges and Mlle. Duchesnois were
nothing to Seraphine and Zenobie. For Heaven's sake tell me which you
prefer! But I fear they will be no more talked of before I have your
answer. To say the truth, I am tired of both heroines, for a fortnight
is too long to talk or think of any one thing.

I flatter myself you will like my sandals: they are my own invention,
and my foot really shows them to advantage. You know I might say, as Du
P*** said of himself, "J'ai un pied dont la petitesse échappe à la
vitesse de la pensée." I thought my poor friend Mad. Dumarais would have
died with envy, the other day, when I appeared in them at her ball,
which, by the by, was in all its decorations as absurd and in as bad
taste as usual. For the most part these _nouveaux riches_ lavish money,
but can never purchase taste or a sense of propriety. All is gold: but
that is not enough; or rather that is too much.--In spite of all that
both the Indies, China, Arabia, Egypt, and even Paris can do for them,
they will be ever out of place, in the midst of their magnificence: they
will never even know how to ruin themselves nobly. They must live and
die as they were born, ridiculous. Now I would rather not exist than
feel myself ridiculous. But I believe no one living, not even le petit
d'Heronville, knows himself to be an object of ridicule. There are no
looking-glasses for the mind, and I question whether we should use them
if there were. D'Heronville is just as you left him, and as much my
amusement as he used to be yours. He goes on with an eternal galimatias
of patriotism, with such a self-sufficient air and decided tone! never
suspecting that he says only what other people make him say, and that he
is listened to, only to find out what _some people_ think. Many will say
before fools what they would not hazard before wise men; not considering
that fools can repeat as well as parrots. I once heard a great man
remark that the only spies fit to be trusted are those who do not know
themselves to be such, who have no salary but what their vanity pays
them, and who are employed without being accredited.

But trève de politique!--My charming Olivia, I know, abhors politics as
much as I detest metaphysics, from all lips or pens but hers. Now I must
tell you something of your friends here.

O---- talks nonsense as agreeably as ever, and dances as divinely. 'Tis
a pity he cannot always dance, for then he would not ruin himself at
play. He wants me to get him a regiment--as if I had any power!--or as
if I would use it for this purpose, when I know that my interesting
friend Mad. Q---- would break her poor little heart if he were to quit
her.

_Mon Coeur_ is as pretty as ever; but she is now in affliction. She has
lost her dear little dog Corisonde. He died suddenly; almost in her
arms! She will erect a monument to him in her charming _jardin Anglois_.
This will occupy her, and then "Time, the comforter"--Inimitable
Voltaire!

Our dear _Brillante_ has just had a superb _hommage_ from her lover the
commissary--a necklace and bracelets of the finest pearls: but she
cannot wear them yet: her brother having died last week, she is in deep
mourning. This brother was not upon good terms with her. He never
forgave the divorce. He thought it a disgrace to have a sister _une
divorcée_; but he was full of prejudice, poor man, and he is dead, and
we need think no more of him or of his faults.

Our ci-devant chanoine, who married that little Meudon, is as miserable
as possible, and as ridiculous: for he is jealous of his young wife, and
she is a _franche-coquette_. The poor man looks as if he repented
sincerely of his errors. What a penitent a coquette can make of a
husband! Bourdaloue and Massillon would have tried their powers on this
man's heart in vain.

Did I tell you that Mad. G---- is a second time divorced? But this time
it is her husband's doing, not hers. This handsome husband has spent all
the immense fortune she brought him, and now procures a divorce for
_incompatibility of temper_, and is going to marry another lady, richer
than Mad. G----, and as great a fool. This system of divorce, though
convenient, is not always advantageous to women. However, in one point
of view, I wonder that the rigid moralists do not defend it, as the only
means of making a man in love with his own wife. A man divorces; the law
does not permit him to marry the same woman afterwards; of course this
prohibition makes him fall in love with her. Of this we have many
edifying examples besides Fanchette, who, though she was so beautiful,
and a tolerable actress, would never have drawn all Paris to the
Vaudeville if she had not been a _divorcée_, and if it had not been
known that her husband, who played the lover of the piece, was dying to
marry her again. Apropos, Mad. St Germain is acting one of her own
romances, in the high sublime style, and threatens to poison herself for
love of her perjured inconstant--but it will not do.

Madame _la Grande_ was near having a sad accident the other night: in
crossing the Pont-neuf her horses took fright; for there was a crowd and
_embarras_, a man having just drowned himself--not for love, but for
hunger. How many men, women, and children, do you think, drowned
themselves in the Seine last year? Upwards of two hundred. This is
really shocking, and a stop should be put to it by authority. It
absolutely makes me shudder and reflect; but _après nous le déluge_ was
La Pompadour's maxim, and should be ours.

Mad. Folard _se coiffe en cheveux_, and Mad. Rocroix crowns herself with
roses, whilst all the world knows that either of them is old enough to
be my mother. In former days a woman could not wear flowers after
thirty, and was _bel esprit_ or _dévote_ at forty, for it was thought
bad taste to do otherwise. But now everybody may be as young as they
please, or as ridiculous. Women have certainly gained by the new order
of things.

Our poor friend _Vermeille_ se meurt de la poitrine--a victim to tea and
late hours. She is an interesting creature, and my heart bleeds for her:
she will never last till winter.

Do you know, it is said, we shall soon have no wood to burn. What can
have become of all our forests? People should inquire after them. The
Venus de Medicis has at last found her way down the Seine. It is not
determined yet where to place her: but she is at Paris, and that is a
great point gained for her. You complained that the Apollo stands with
his back so near the wall, that there is no seeing half the beauties of
his shoulders. If I have any influence, Venus shall not be so served. I
have been to see her. She is certainly divine--but not French. I do not
despair of seeing her surpassed by our artists.

Adieu, my adorable Olivia. I should have finished my letter yesterday;
but when I came home in the morning, expecting to have a moment sacred
to you and friendship, who should I find established in an arm-chair in
my cabinet but our old countess _Ci-devant_. There was no retreat for
me. In the midst of my concentrated rage I was obliged to advance and
embrace her, and there was an end of happiness for the day. The pitiless
woman kept me till it was even too late to dress, talking over her
family misfortunes; as if they were anything to me. She wants to get her
son employed, but her pride will not let her pay her court properly, and
she wants me to do it for her. Not I, truly. I should shut my doors
against her but for the sake of her nephew _le roué_, who is really a
pretty young man. My angel, I embrace you tenderly.

  Gabrielle de P----.



  Letter xix.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


How melancholy to a feeling heart is the moment when illusion vanishes,
whether that illusion has been created by the magic of love or of
friendship! How many such moments, Gabrielle, has your unfortunate
friend been doomed to endure! Alas! when will treacherous fancy cease to
throw a deceitful brilliancy upon each new object!

Perhaps I am too delicate--but R***'s note, enclosed in your last, my
Gabrielle, was unlike his former letters. It was not passionate, it was
only reasonable. A man who can reason is no longer in love. The manner
in which he speaks of divorce shocked me beyond expression. Is it for
him to talk of scruples when upon this subject I have none? I own to you
that my pride and my tenderness are sensibly wounded. Is it for him to
convince me that I am in the wrong? I shall not be at ease till I hear
from you again, my amiable friend: for my residence here becomes
insupportable. But a few short weeks are past since I fancied Leonora an
angel, and now she falls below the ordinary standard of mortals. But a
few short weeks are past since, in the full confidence of finding in
Leonora a second self, a second Gabrielle, I eagerly developed to her my
inmost soul; yet now my heart closes, I fear never more to open. The sad
conviction, that we have but few ideas, and no feelings in common, stops
my tongue when I attempt to speak, chills my heart when I begin to
listen.

Do you know, my Gabrielle, I have discovered that Leonora is
inordinately selfish? For all other faults I have charity; but
selfishness, which has none to give, must expect none. O divine
sensibility, defend me from this isolation of the heart! All thy
nameless sorrows, all thy heart-rending tortures, would I a thousand
times rather endure. Leonora's selfishness breaks out perpetually; and,
alas! it is of the most inveterate, incurable kind: everything that is
immediately or remotely connected with self she loves, and loves with
the most provoking pertinacity. Her mother, her husband, she adores,
because they are her own; and even her sister's children, because she
considers them, she says, as her own. All and every possible portion of
self she cherishes with the most sordid partiality. All that touches
these relations touches her; and everything which is theirs, or, in
other words, which is hers, she deems excellent and sacred. Last night I
just hazarded a word of ridicule upon some of the obsolete prejudices of
that august personage, that duchess of old tapestry, her still living
ancestor. I wish, Gabrielle, you had seen Leonora's countenance. Her
colour rose up to her temples, her eyes lightened with indignation, and
her whole person assumed a dignity, which might have killed a
presumptuous lover, or, better far, might have enslaved him for life.
What folly to waste all this upon such an occasion. But selfishness is
ever blind to its real interests. Leonora is so bigoted to this old
woman, that she is already in mind an old woman herself. She fancies
that she traces a resemblance to her mother, and of course to dear self,
in her infant, and she looks upon it with such doting eyes, and talks to
it with such exquisite tones of fondness, as are to me, who know the
source from which they proceed, quite ridiculous and disgusting. An
infant, who has no imaginable merit, and, to impartial eyes, no charms,
she can love to this excess from no motive but pure _egotism_. Then her
husband--but this subject I must reserve for another letter. I am
summoned to walk with him this moment.

Adieu, charming Gabrielle.

  Olivia.



  Letter xx.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


  Paris, 180--.

    My dear L----,

Enclosed I send you, according to your earnest desire, Cambaceres'
reflections upon the intended new law of divorce. Give me leave to ask
why you are so violently interested upon this occasion? Do you envy
France this blessing? Do you wish that English husbands and wives should
have the power of divorcing each other at pleasure for _incompatibility
of temper_? And have you calculated the admirable effect this would
produce upon the temper both of the weaker and the stronger sex? To bear
and forbear would then be no longer necessary. Every happy pair might
quarrel and part at a moment's notice--at a year's notice at most. And
their children? The wisdom of Solomon would be necessary to settle the
just division of the children. I have this morning been attending a
court of law to hear a famous trial between two husbands: the abdicated
lord a ci-devant noble, and the reigning husband a ci-devant
grand-vicaire, who has _reformed_. Each party claimed a right to the
children by the first marriage, for the children were minors entitled to
large fortunes. The _reformed_ grand-vicaire pleaded his own cause with
astonishing assurance, amidst the discountenancing looks, murmurs, and
almost amidst the groans of disapprobation from the majority of the
auditors. His powers of impudence, however, failed him at last. I sat on
the bench behind him, and saw that his ears had the grace to blush.
After another hearing, this cause, which had lasted four years, was
decided: and the first husband and real father was permitted to have the
guardianship of his own children. During the four years' litigation, the
friends of the parties, from the grandmother downwards, were all at
irreconcileable variance. What became of the children all this time?
Their mother was represented during the trial as she deserved to be, as
a wretch void of shame and gratitude. The father was universally pitied,
though his rival painted him as a coward, who during the revolution had
left his children to save himself by flight; and as a fool, who had left
his wife to the care of a profligate grand-vicaire. Divorce is not
countenanced by opinion in Paris, though permitted by law. With a few
exceptions in extraordinary cases, I have observed that _les divorcées_
are not received into good society.

To satiate your curiosity, I send you all the papers that have been
written lately on this subject, of which you will find that of
Cambaceres the best. The wits say that he is an impartial judge. I
presume you want these pamphlets for some foolish friend; for yourself
you can never want them, blessed as you are with such a wife as Lady
Leonora L----. I am not surprised that profligate men should wish for
freedom of divorce, because it would save them damages in Doctors'
Commons: but you rather astonish me--if a wise man should be astonished
at anything in these days--by assuring me that you have lately heard
this system eloquently defended by a female philosopher. What can women
expect from it but contempt? Next to polygamy, it would prove the most
certain method of destroying the domestic happiness of the sex, as well
as their influence and respectability in society. But some of the dear
creatures love to talk of what they do not understand, and usually show
their eloquence to the greatest advantage, by taking the wrong side of a
question.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter xxi.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  L---- Castle.

From selfishness to jealousy there is but one step, or rather there is
none; for jealousy of a certain sort is but selfishness in another form.
How different this passion as I have felt it, and as I see it shown! In
some characters it is the symptom of amiable and exquisite sensibility;
in others of odious coldness and contraction of heart. In some of our
sex it is, you know, my Gabrielle, a delicate fear, a tender anxiety, a
proof of ardent passion; in others it is a mere love of power, a
disgusting struggle for the property of a heart, an absurd assertion of
rights and prerogatives. Surely no prejudice of education or institution
can be more barbarous than that which teaches a wife that she has an
indefeasible and exclusive right both to the affections and the fidelity
of her husband. I am astonished to hear it avowed by any woman who has
the slightest pretensions to delicacy of sentiment, or liberality of
mind. I should expect to find this vulgar prejudice only among the
downright dames, who talk of _my good man_, and lay a particular
emphasis on the possessive pronoun _my_; who understand literally, and
expect that their spouses should adhere punctually to every coarse
article of our strange marriage vow.

In certain points of view, my Gabrielle, jealousy is undoubtedly the
strongest proof of an indelicate mind. Yet, if I mistake not, the
delicate, the divine Leonora, is liable to this terrestrial passion.
Yesterday evening, as I was returning from a _stroll_ in the park with
Mr L----, we met Leonora; and methought she looked embarrassed at
meeting us. Heaven knows there was not the slightest occasion for
embarrassment, and I could not avoid being surprised at such weakness, I
had almost said folly, in a woman of Leonora's sense, especially as she
knows how my heart is attached. In the first moments of our intimacy my
confidence was unbounded, as it ever is in those I love. Aware as I was
of the light in which the prejudices of her education and her country
make her view such connexions, yet I scrupled not, with the utmost
candour, to confess the unfortunate attachment which had ruled my
destiny. After this confidence, do not suspicion and jealousy on her
part appear strange? Were Mr L---- and I shut up for life in the same
prison, were we left together upon a desert island, were we alone in the
universe, I could never think of him. And Leonora does not see this! How
the passions obscure and degrade the finest understandings. But perhaps
I do her injustice, and she felt nothing of what her countenance
expressed. It is certain, however, that she was silent for some moments
after she joined us, from what cause she knows best--so was Mr L----, I
suppose from English awkwardness--so was I, from pure astonishment. At
length, in pity of Leonora, I broke the silence. I had recourse to the
beauties of nature.

"What a heavenly evening!" said I. "We have been listening to the song
of the birds, enjoying this fresh breeze of nature's perfumes." Leonora
said something about the superiority of nature's perfumes to those of
art; and observed, "how much more agreeable the smell of flowers appears
in the open air than in confined rooms." Whilst she spoke she looked at
her husband, as she continually does, for assent and approbation. He
assented, but apparently without knowing what he was saying; and only by
one of his English monosyllables. I alone was at ease.

"Can anything be more beautiful," continued I, looking back, "than the
soft mellow foliage of those woods, and the exquisite tints of their
rich colouring? What delicious melancholy such an evening spreads over
the heart!--what reflections!--what recollections!--O Leonora, look at
the lights upon that mountain, and the deep shadows upon the lake below.
Just such scenes have I admired, by such have I been entranced in
Switzerland."

Leonora put her arm within mine--she seemed to have no objection to my
thoughts going back to Switzerland--I sighed--she pressed my hand
affectionately--I wiped the starting tear from my eye. Mr L---- looked
at me with something like surprise whilst I repeated involuntarily--

  "I mourn, but, ye woodlands, I mourn not for you,
   For morn is approaching your charms to restore,
   Perfum'd with fresh fragrance, and glitt'ring with dew."

I paused, recollecting myself, struck with _the ridicule_ of repeating
verses, and of indulging feelings in which no one perhaps sympathized.

"Those are beautiful lines," said Leonora: "that poem has always been a
favourite of mine."

"And of mine, also," said Mr L----.

"I prefer Beattie's Hermit to all other hermits," said Leonora.

I was not in a mood calmly to discuss with her a point of criticism--I
walked on in reverie: but in this I was not allowed to indulge. Mr L----
asked if I could not recollect some more of the Hermit--I pleaded the
worst memory in the world--a memory that can never recollect any poem
perfectly by rote, only the touches of genius or sensibility that strike
me--and those are so few!

"But in this poem there are so many," said Leonora. I am sure she
insisted only to please her husband, and pleaded against her real
feelings purposely to conceal them. He persisted in his request, with
more warmth than usual. I was compelled to rouse myself from my reverie,
and to call back my distant thoughts. I repeated all that I could
recollect of the poem. Mr L---- paid me a profusion of compliments upon
the sweetness of my voice, and my taste in reciting. He was pleased to
find that my manner and tones gave an Italian expression to English
poetry, which to him was a peculiar charm. It reminded him of some
signora, whom he had known at Florence. This was the first time I had
learned that he had been abroad. I was going to explore the foreign
field of conversation which he thus opened; but just at that moment
Leonora withdrew her arm from mine, and I fancied that she coloured.
This might be only my fancy, or the natural effect of her stooping to
gather a flower. We were now within sight of the castle. I pointed to
one of the turrets over a Gothic window, upon which the gleams of the
setting sun produced a picturesque effect; my glove happened to be off,
and Leonora unluckily saw that her husband's eyes were fixed upon my
arm, instead of the turret to which I was pointing. 'Twas a trifle which
I never should have noticed, had she not forced it upon my attention.
She actually turned pale. I had the presence of mind not to put on my
glove.

I must observe more accurately; I must decide whether this angelic
Leonora is or is not susceptible of the mortal passion ycleped jealousy.
I confess my curiosity is awakened.

Adieu, my ever amiable Gabrielle.

  Olivia.



  Letter xxij.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


When the passions are asleep we are apt to fancy they are dead. I verily
thought that curiosity was dead within me, it had lain so long dormant
while stronger and tenderer sentiments waked in full activity; but now
that absence and distance from their object lull them to temporary
repose, the vulgar subordinate passions are roused, and take their turn
to reign. My curiosity was so strongly excited upon the subject of
Leonora's jealousy, that I could not rest, without attempting to obtain
satisfaction. Blame me not, dearest Gabrielle, for in my situation you
would inevitably have done the same, only that you would have done it
with more address; with that peculiar, inimitable address, which I envy
above all your accomplishments. But address is a delicate native of
France, and though it may now and then exist as a stranger, I doubt
whether it can ever be naturalized in our rude climate. All the attempts
I have made are, however, encouraging enough--you shall judge. My object
was, to ascertain the existence or non-existence of Leonora's jealousy.
I set about it with a tolerably careless assurance, and followed up the
hint, which accident had thrown out for my ingenuity to work upon. You
remember, or at least I remember, that Leonora withdrew her arm from
mine, and stooped to gather a flower at the moment when her husband
mentioned Florence, and the resemblance of my voice to that of some
Italian charmer. The next day I happened to play some of my sweetest
Italian airs, and to accompany them with my voice. The music-room opens
into the great hall: Leonora and her husband were in the hall, talking
to some visitors. The voices were soon hushed, as I expected, by the
magic sounds, but, what I did not expect, Leonora was the first who led
the way into the music-room. Was this affectation? These _simple_
characters sometimes baffle all the art of the decipherer. I should have
been clear that it was affectation, had Leonora been prodigal of
compliments on my performance; but she seemed only to listen for her own
pleasure, and left it to Mr L---- to applaud. Whilst I was preparing to
play over again the air which pleased him most, the two little nephews
came running to beg Leonora would follow them to look at some trifle,
some coloured shadow, upon the garden-wall, I think they said: she let
them lead her off, leaving _us_ together. This did not seem like
jealousy. I was more at a loss than ever, and determined to make fresh
and more decisive experiments. Curiosity, you know, is heightened by
doubt. To cure myself of curiosity it is necessary therefore to put my
mind out of doubt. Admire the practical application of metaphysics! But
metaphysics always make you yawn. Adieu for to-day.

  Olivia.



  Letter xxiij.

  _Mrs C---- to Miss B----._


  L---- Castle.

Dear Margaret, an uncle of mine, who ever since I can remember seemed to
me cut out for an old bachelor, writes me word that he is just going to
be married, and that I must grace his nuptials. I cannot refuse, for he
has always been very kind to me, and we have no right to cut people out
for old bachelors. That I am sorry to leave Leonora it is superfluous to
tell you; but this is the melancholy part of the business, on which I
make it a principle to dwell as little as possible.

Lady Olivia must be heartily glad that I am going, for I have been
terribly troublesome to her by my gaiety and my _simplicity_. I shall
lose all the pleasure I had promised myself in seeing the _dénouement_
of the comedy of _The Sentimental Coquette_, or, _The Heroine Unmasked_.

I made Leonora almost angry with me this morning, by a hint or two I
gave upon this subject. She looked so very grave, that I was afraid of
my own thoughts, and I dared not explain myself farther. Intimate as I
am with her, there are points on which I am sure that she would never
make me her confidante. I think that she has not been in her usual good
spirits lately; and though she treats Olivia with uniform kindness, and
betrays not, even to my watchful eyes, the slightest symptom of
jealousy, yet I suspect that she sees what is going forward, and she
suffers in secret. Now if she would let me explain myself, I could set
her heart at ease, by the assurance that Mr L---- is only acting a part.
If her affection for her husband did not almost blind her, she would
have as much penetration as I have--which you will allow, my dear
Margaret, is saying a great deal.

  Yours affectionately,
  Helen C----.



  Letter xxiv.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  L---- Castle.

Congratulate me, my charming Gabrielle, upon being delivered from the
unfeeling gaiety of that friend of Leonora, that Helen of whom I
formerly sent you a too flattering portrait. Her departure relieves me
from many painful sensations. Dissonance to a musical ear is not more
horrid than want of harmony between characters to the soul of
sensibility. Between Helen and me there was a perpetual discord of ideas
and sentiments, which fatigued me inexpressibly. Besides, I began to
consider her as a spy upon my actions. But there, I believe, I did her
injustice, for she was too much occupied with her own trifling thoughts
to have any alarming powers of observation.

Since her departure we have been very gay. Yesterday we had a large
company at dinner; some of the neighbouring families, whom I expected to
find mere country visitors, that were come a dozen miles to show their
antediluvian finery, retire half an hour after dinner, spoil coffee with
cream, say nothing, but at their appointed hours rise, ring for their
superb carriages, and go home by moonlight. However, to my astonishment,
I found myself in a society of well-bred, well-informed persons; the
women ready to converse, and the men, even after dinner, not impatient
to get rid of them. Two or three of the company had travelled, and I was
glad to talk to them of Italy, Switzerland, and France. Mr L---- I knew
would join in this conversation. I discovered that he came to Florence
just as I was leaving it. I was to have been at our ambassador's one
evening when he was there; but a headache prevented me. These little
coincidences, you know, my Gabrielle, draw people closer together. I
remember to have heard of a Mr L---- at Florence, who was a passionate
admirer of our sex. He was then unmarried. I little thought that this
was the same person. Beneath a cold exterior these Englishmen often
conceal a wondrous quantity of enthusiasm--volcanoes under snow.
Curiosity, dear indefatigable curiosity, supported me through the labour
of clearing away the snow, and I came to indubitable traces of
unextinguished and unextinguishable fire. The character of L---- is
quite different from what I had imagined it to be. It is _an excellent
study_. We had a long and interesting conversation upon national
manners, especially upon those of the females of all nations. He
concluded by quoting the words of your friend M. le Vicomte de Segur,
"If I were permitted to choose, I should prefer a French woman for my
friend, an English woman for my wife, and a Polish lady for my
mistress."

From this, it seems, that I am mistaken about the Italian signora, or
else Mr L---- has an enlarged charity for the graces of all
nations.--More subject for curiosity.

In the evening, before the company separated, we were standing on the
steps of the great hall, looking at a fine effect of moonlight, and I
pointed out the shadow of the arches of a bridge. From moonlight we went
on to lamplight, and many pretty things were said about art and nature.
A gentleman, who had just returned from Paris, talked of the reflection
of the lamps in the Seine, which one sees in crossing the Pont-Royal,
and which, as he said, appear like a colonnade of fire. As soon as he
had finished _prosing_ about his colonnade, I turned to Mr L----, and
asked if he remembered the account which Coxe the traveller gives of
the Polish princess Czartoryski's charming _fête champêtre_ and the
illuminated rustic bridge of one arch, the reflection of which in the
water was so strong as to deceive the eye, and to give the whole the
appearance of a brilliant circle suspended in the air. Mr L---- seemed
enchanted with my description, and eagerly said that he would some night
have a bridge in his improvements illuminated, that _we_ (half-gallant
Englishman!) might see the effect. I carelessly replied, that probably
it would have a good effect: I would then have talked on other subjects
to the lady next me: but an Englishman cannot suddenly change the course
of his conversation. Mr L---- still persisted in asking a variety of
questions about this Polish fête. I excused myself: for if you satisfy
curiosity you are no longer sublime; besides it is so pedantic to
remember _accurately_ anything one meets with in books. I assured him
that I had forgotten the particulars.

My countrymen are wondrous persevering, when once roused. This morning,
when I came down to breakfast, I found Mr L---- with a volume of Coxe's
travels in his hand. He read aloud to Leonora the whole description of
the illuminated gardens, and of a Turkish tent of curious workmanship,
and of a pavilion supported by pillars ornamented with wreaths of
flowers. Leonora's birthday is some time in the next month; and her
husband, probably to prevent any disagreeable little feelings, proposed
that the _fête champêtre_ he designed to give should be on that day. She
seemed rather to discourage the thing. Now to what should this
indifference be attributed? To jealousy I should positively decide, but
that two reasons oppose this idea, and keep me in doubt. She was not
within hearing at the moonlight conference, and knew nothing of my
having mentioned the Polish fête, or of her husband's having proposed to
illuminate the bridge for me. Besides, I remember the other day when
she was reading the new French novel you sent me, she expressed great
dislike to the sentimental fêtes which the lover prepares for his
mistress. I would give more than I dare tell you, my dear Gabrielle, to
be able to decide whether she is jealous of me or not. But where was
I?--Mr L----, who had set his heart upon the _fête champêtre_,
persisted, and combatted her antipathy by reason. Foolish man! he should
have tried compliments, or caresses--if I had not been present.

"My dear Leonora," said he, "I think you carry your dislike to these
things too far. They are more according to the French than to the
English taste, I know; but we should not be influenced by national
prejudice. I detest the ostentation and the affectation of sentiment as
much as you can; but where the real feeling exists, every mode of
showing kindness is agreeable. You must let us have this little fête on
your birthday. Besides the pleasure it will give me, I really think it
is useful to mix ideas of affection with amusement."

She smiled most graciously, and replied, that she would with pleasure
accept of kindness in any form from him. In short, she was willing to
have the fête, when it was clearly explained that she was to be the
object of it. Is not this proof positive of jealousy? And yet my
curiosity is not thoroughly satisfied. I must go on; for Leonora's sake
I must go on. When I have been assured of the truth, I shall know how to
conduct myself; and you, who know my heart, will do me the justice to
believe, that when I am convinced of my friend's weakness, I shall spare
it with the most delicate caution: but till I am convinced, I am in
perpetual danger of blundering by my careless, inadvertent innocence.
You smile, Gabrielle; dear malicious Gabrielle, even in your malice you
are charming! Adieu! Pray for the speedy extinction of my curiosity.

  Olivia.



  Letter xxv.

  _Leonora to her mother._


You say, my dearest mother, that of late my letters have been more
constrained and less cheerful than usual, and you conjure me not to
conceal from you anything which may concern my happiness. I have ever
found you my best and most indulgent friend, and there is not a thought
or feeling of my mind, however weak or foolish, that I desire to conceal
from you. No one in this world is more--is so much interested in my
happiness; and in every doubtful situation I have always been accustomed
to apply to your unerring judgment for assistance. Your strength of
mind, your enlightened affection, would support and direct me, would at
once show me how I ought to act, and inspire me with courage and
fortitude sufficient to be worthy of your esteem, and of my own. At no
period of my life, not even when my heart first felt the confused
sensations of a passion that was new to it, did I ever want or wish for
a friend so much as at this instant: and yet I hesitate whether I ought
to ask even your advice, whether I ought to indulge myself in speaking
of my feelings even to my mother. I refrained from giving the slightest
intimation of them to my dear Helen, though she often led to this
subject, and seemed vexed by my reserve. I thought it not right to
accept of her sympathy. From her kindness I had every consolation to
expect, but no assistance from her counsels, because she does not
understand Mr L----'s character, and I could plainly perceive that she
had an erroneous idea so fixed in her fancy, as to prevent her seeing
things in their true light. I am afraid of imputing blame where I most
wish to avoid it: I fear to excite unjust suspicions; I dread that if I
say the whole you will imagine that I mean much more than I say.

I have not been quite well lately, and my mind probably is more apt to
be alarmed than it would be if my health were stronger. All that I
apprehend may exist merely in my own distempered imagination. Do not
then suppose others are to blame, when perhaps I only am in fault. I
have for some time past been dissatisfied with myself, and have had
reason to be so; I do not say this from any false humility; I despise
that affectation; but I say it with a sincere desire, that you may
assist me to cure myself of a weakness, which, if it were to grow upon
my mind, must render me miserable, and might destroy the happiness of
the person I love best upon earth. You know that I am not naturally or
habitually of a suspicious temper, but I am conscious of having lately
felt a disposition to jealousy. I have been spoiled by the excessive
attention which my husband paid to me in the first year of our marriage.

You warned me not to fancy that he could continue always a lover. I did
not, at least I tried not to expect such an impossibility. I was
prepared for the change, at least I thought I was: yet now the time, the
inevitable time is come, and I have not the fortitude to bear it as I
ought. If I had never known what it was to possess his love, I might
perhaps be content with his friendship. If I could feel only friendship
for him, I should now, possibly, be happy. I know that I have the first
place in his esteem: I do believe--I should be miserable indeed if I
did not believe--that I have the first place in his affection. But this
affection is certainly different from what it once was. I wish I could
forget the difference. No: I retract that wish; however painful the
comparison, the recollection of times that are past is delightful to my
heart. Yet, my dear mother, if such times are never to return, it would
be better for me to forget that they have ever been. It would be wiser
not to let my imagination recur to the past, which could then tend only
to render me discontented with the present and with the future. The
FUTURE! how melancholy that word sounds to me! What a dreary length of
prospect it brings to my view! How young I am, how many years may I have
to live, and how little motive have I left in life! Those which used to
act most forcibly upon me, have now scarcely power to move my mind. The
sense of duty, it is true, raises me to some degree of exertion; I hope
that I do not neglect the education of the two children whom my poor
sister bequeathed to my care. When my mind was at ease, they were my
delight; but now I feel that I am rather interrupted than interested by
their childish gaiety and amusements.

I am afraid that I am growing selfish, and I am sure that I have become
shamefully indolent. I go on with certain occupations every day from
habit, not from choice; my mind is not in them. I used to flatter myself
that I did many things, from a sense of duty and of general benevolence,
which I am convinced were done merely from a particular wish to please,
and to make myself more and more beloved by the object of my fondest
affection. Disappointed in this hope, I sink into indolence, from which
the desire to entertain my friends is not sufficient to rouse me. Helen
has been summoned away; but I believe I told you that Mr and Mrs F**,
whose company is peculiarly agreeable to my taste, and Lady M***** and
her amiable daughters, and your witty friend *****, are with us. In such
society, I am ashamed of being stupid; yet I cannot contribute to the
amusement of the company, and I feel surprised at their animation and
sprightliness. It seems as if I was looking on at dances without hearing
any music. Sometimes I fear that my silence should be observed, and then
I begin to talk without well knowing what I am saying. I confine myself
to the most commonplace subjects, and hesitate, from the dread of saying
something quite foreign to the purpose. What must Mr L---- think of my
stupidity? But he does not, I believe, perceive it: he is so much
occupied with--with other objects. I am glad that he does not see all
that passes in my mind, for he might despise me if he knew that I am so
miserable. I did not mean to use so strong an expression; but now it is
written, I will not blot it out, lest you should fancy something worse
than the reality. I am not, however, yet so weak as to be seriously
_miserable_ when I have no real cause to be so. The truth is----. Now
you know this phrase is a tacit confession that all that has been said
before is false. The real truth is----. By my prefacing so long you may
be sure that I have reason to be ashamed of this real truth's coming
out. The real truth is, that I have been so long accustomed to be the
first and _only_ object of Mr L----'s thoughts, that I cannot bear to
see him think of anything else. Yes, _things_ I can bear, but not
_persons_--female persons; and there is one person here who is so much
more agreeable and entertaining than I am, that she engrosses very
naturally almost all his attention. I am not _envious_, I am sure; for I
could once admire all Lady Olivia's talents and accomplishments, and no
one could be more charmed than I was with her fascinating manners and
irresistible powers of pleasing; but when those irresistible powers may
rob me of the heart of my beloved husband--of the whole happiness of my
life--how can I admire them? All I can promise is to preserve my mind
from the meanness of suspicion. I can do my rival justice. I can
believe, and entreat you to believe, that she does not wish to be my
rival: that she is perfectly innocent of all design to injure me, and
that she is not aware of the impression she has made. I, who know every
change of Mr L----'s countenance, every inflexion of his voice, every
turn of his mind, can see too plainly what she cannot discern. I should
indeed have thought, that no woman, whom he distinguished or preferred
in any degree, could avoid perceiving it, his manner is so expressive,
so flattering; but perhaps this appears so only to me--a woman who does
not love him may see things very differently. Lady Olivia can be in no
danger, because her heart, fortunately for me, is prepossessed in favour
of another; and a woman whose heart is occupied by one object is
absolutely blind, as I well know, to all others. With this security I
ought to be satisfied; for I believe no one inspires a lasting passion
without sharing it.

I am summoned to give my opinion about certain illuminations and
decoration for a _fête champêtre_ which Mr L---- is so kind as to give
in honour of my birthday--just at the time I am complaining of his
neglect!----No, dear mother, I hope I have not complained of _him_, but
of _myself_:--and it is your business to teach your daughter to be more
reasonable. Write soon and fully to

  Your affectionate
  Leonora.



  Letter xxvi.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


This fine fête champêtre is over.--Expect no description of it from me,
Gabrielle, for I am horribly out of humour. The whole pleasure of the
evening was destroyed by the most foolish circumstance imaginable.
Leonora's jealousy is now evident to more eyes than mine. No farther
doubt upon the subject can remain. My curiosity is satisfied; but I am
now left to reproach myself for having gone so far to ascertain what I
ought to have taken for granted. All these good English wives are
jealous; so jealous, that no one, who has any pretensions to beauty,
wit, or _amiability_, can live with them. They can have no _society_ in
our sense of the word; of course they must live shut up in their own
dismal houses with their own stupid families, the faithful husband and
wife sitting opposite to each other in their own chimney corners,
yawning models of constancy. And this they call virtue! How the meanest
vices usurp the name of virtue! Leonora's is a jealousy of the most
illiberal and degrading species; a jealousy of the temper, not of the
heart. She is too cold to feel the passion of love.--She never could be
in love; of that I am certain. She is too reasonable, too prudish.
Besides, to imagine that she could be in love with her own husband, and
after eighteen months' marriage--the thing is absurd! the thing is
impossible! No, she deceives herself or him, or both, if she pretends
that her jealousy arises from love, from what you and I, Gabrielle,
understand by the word. Passion, and passion only, can plead a just
excuse for its own excesses. Were Leonora in love, I could pardon her
jealousy. But now I despise it. Yes, with all her high reputation, and
_imposing_ qualities, I must think of her with contempt. And now that I
have given vent to my feelings with that freedom in which I ever indulge
myself in writing to you, my amiable Gabrielle, chosen friend of my
heart, I will compose myself, and give you a rational account of things.

You know that I am said to have some taste. Leonora makes no pretensions
to any. Wishing, I suppose, that her fête should be as elegant as
possible, she consulted me about all the arrangements and decorations.
It was I that did everything. My skill and taste were admired by the
whole company, and especially by Mr L----. He was in remarkably good
spirits at the commencement of the evening; quite gay and gallant: he
certainly paid me a great deal of attention, and it was natural he
should; for besides being his guest, I was undoubtedly the most elegant
woman present. My fame had gone abroad; I found that I was the object of
general attention. To this I have been tolerably well accustomed all my
life; enough at least to prevent me from giving any visible sign of
being moved by admiration in whatever form it comes; whether in the
polite foreign glance, or the broad English stare. The starers enjoyed
their pleasure, and I mine: I moved and talked, I smiled or was pensive,
as though I saw them not; nevertheless the homage of their gaze was not
lost upon me. You know, my charming Gabrielle, one likes to observe the
_sensation_ one produces amongst new people. The incense that I
perceived in the surrounding atmosphere was just powerful enough to
affect my nerves agreeably: that languor which you have so often
reproached me for indulging in the company of what we call
_indifferents_ gradually dissipated; and, as poor R*** used to say of
me, I came from behind my cloud like the sun in all its glory. I was
such as you have seen me, Gabrielle, in my best days, in my best
moments, in my very best style. I wonder what would excite me to such a
waste of powers. L---- seemed inspired too: he really was quite
agreeable, and showed me off almost as well as R*** himself could have
done. I had no idea that he had this species of talent. You will never
know of what my countrymen are capable, for you are out of patience with
the statues the first half hour: now it takes an amazing time to animate
them; but they can be waked into life, and I have a pride in conquering
difficulties.--There were more men this night in proportion to the women
than one usually sees in English company, consequently it was more
agreeable. I was surrounded by an admiring audience, and my conversation
of course was sufficiently general to please all, and sufficiently
particular to distinguish the man whom I wished to animate. In all this
you will say there was nothing to put one out of humour, nothing very
mortifying:--but stay, my fair philosopher, do not judge of the day till
you see its end.--Leonora was so hid from my view by the crowd of
adorers, that I really did not discern her, or suspect her jealousy. I
was quite natural; I thought only of myself; I declined all invitations
to dance, declaring that it was so long since I had tried an English
country dance, that I dared not expose my awkwardness. French country
dances were mentioned, but I preferred conversation. At last L----
persecuted me to try a Polish dance with him--a multitude of voices
overpowered me. I have not the talent which some of my countrywomen
possess in such perfection, of being obstinate about trifles. When I can
refuse with grace, 'tis well; but when that is no longer possible, it is
my principle, or my weakness, to yield. I was surprised to find that
L---- danced admirably. I became animated. You know how dancing animates
me, when I have a partner who _can_ dance--a thing not very common in
this country. We ended by _waltzing_, first in the Polish, and
afterwards in the Parisian manner. I certainly surpassed myself--I flew,
I was borne upon the wings of the wind, I floated on the notes of the
music. Animated or languid in every gradation of grace and sentiment, I
abandoned myself to the inspiration of the moment; I was all soul, and
the spectators were all admiration. To you, my Gabrielle, I may speak
thus of myself without vanity: you know the sensation I was accustomed
to produce at Paris; you may guess then what the effect must be here,
where such a style of dancing has all the captivation of novelty. Had I
doubted that my _success_ was complete, I should have been assured of it
by the faces of some prudes among the matrons, who affected to think
that the waltz was _too much_. As L---- was leading, or rather
supporting me to my seat, for I was quite exhausted, I overheard a
gentleman, who was at no great distance from the place where Leonora was
standing, whisper to his neighbour, "Le Valse extrême est la volupté
permise." I fancy Leonora overheard these words, as well as myself, for
my eyes met hers at this instant, and she coloured, and directly looked
another way. L---- neither heard nor saw anything of all this: he was
intent upon procuring me a seat; and an Englishman can never see or
think of two things at a time. A few minutes afterwards, whilst he was
fanning me, a young awkward peasant girl, quite a stranger in this
country, came up to me, and dropping her novice curtsy, said, "Here's a
ring, my lady, I found on the grass; they tell me it is yours, my lady!"

"No, my good girl, it is not mine," said I.

"It is Lady Leonora's," said Mr L----.

At the sound of her name Leonora came forward.

The girl looked alternately at us.

"Can you doubt," cried Colonel A----, "which of these ladies is Mr
L----'s wife?"

"O no, sir; this is she, _to be sure_," said the girl, pointing to me.

What there was in the girl's accent, or in L----'s look, when she
pronounced the words, or in mine, or in all three together, I cannot
exactly describe; but Leonora felt it. She turned as pale as death. I
looked as unconscious as I could. L---- went on fanning me, without
seeing his wife's change of countenance. Leonora--would you believe
it?--sank upon a bench behind us, and fainted. How her husband started,
when he felt her catch by his arm as she fell! He threw down the fan,
left me, ran for water--"O, Lady Leonora! Lady Leonora is ill!"
exclaimed every voice. The consternation was wonderful. They carried her
ladyship to a spot where she could have free air. I was absolutely in an
instant left alone, and seemingly as much forgotten as if I had never
existed! I was indeed so much astonished, that I could not stir from the
place where I stood; till recollecting myself, I pushed my way through
the crowd, and came in view of Leonora just as she opened her eyes. As
soon as she came to herself, she made an effort to stand, saying that
she was quite well again, but that she would go into the house and
repose herself for a few minutes. As she rose, a hundred arms were
offered at once to her assistance. She stepped forward; and to my
surprise, and I believe to the surprise of everybody else, took mine,
made a sign to her husband not to follow us, and walked quickly towards
the house. Her woman, with a face of terror, met us, as we were going
into Lady Leonora's apartment, with salts and hartshorn, and I know not
what in her hands.

"I am quite well, quite well again; I do not want anything; I do not
want anything. I do not want you, Mason," said Leonora. "Lady Olivia is
so good as to assist me. I am come in only to rest for a few minutes."

The woman gave me an evil look, and left the room. Never did I wish
anything more than that she should have staid. I was absolutely so
embarrassed, so distressed, when I found myself alone with Leonora, that
I knew not what to say. I believe I began with a sentence about the
night air, that was very little to the purpose. The sight of some
baby-linen which the maid had been making suggested to me something
which I thought more appropriate.

"My dear creature!" said I, "why will you fatigue yourself so terribly,
and stand so much and so long in your situation?"

Leonora neither accepted nor rejected my interpretation of what had
passed. She made no reply; but fixed her eyes upon me as if she would
have read my very soul. Never did I see or feel eyes so expressive or so
powerful as hers were at this moment. Mine absolutely fell beneath them.
What deprived me of presence of mind I know not; but I was utterly
without common sense. I am sure I changed colour, and Leonora must have
seen it through my rouge, for I had only the slightest tinge upon my
cheeks. The consciousness that she saw me blush disconcerted me beyond
recovery; it is really quite unaccountable: I trembled all over as I
stood before her; I was forced to have recourse to the hartshorn and
water, which stood upon the table. Leonora rose and threw open the
window to give me fresh air. She pressed my hand, but rather with an air
of forgiveness than of affection; I was mortified and vexed; but my
pride revived me.

"We had better return to the company as soon as possible, I believe,"
said she, looking down at the moving crowd below.

"I am ready to attend you, my dear," said I coldly, "whenever you feel
yourself sufficiently rested and composed."

She left the room, and I followed. You have no idea of the solicitude
with which the people hoped she was _better_--and _well_--and _quite
well_, &c. What amazing importance a fainting fit can sometimes bestow!
Her husband seemed no longer to have any eyes or soul but for her. At
supper, and during the rest of the night, she occupied the whole
attention of everybody present. Can you conceive anything so provoking?
But L---- must be an absolute fool!--Did he never see a woman faint
before?--He cannot pretend to be in love with his wife--I do not
understand it.--But this I know, that he has been totally different in
his manner towards me these three days past.

And now that my curiosity is satisfied about Leonora's jealousy, I shall
absolutely perish with ennui in this stupid place. Adieu, dearest
Gabrielle! How I envy you! The void of my heart is insupportable. I must
have some passion to keep me alive. Forward any letters from poor R***,
if he has written under cover to you.

  Olivia.



  Letter xxvij.

  _The Duchess of ---- to her daughter._


Take courage, my beloved daughter; take courage. Have a just confidence
in yourself and in your husband. For a moment he may be fascinated by
the arts of an unprincipled woman; for a moment she may triumph over his
senses, and his imagination; but of his esteem, his affection, his
heart, she cannot rob you. These have been, ought to be, will be yours.
Trust to your mother's prophecy, my child. You may trust to it securely:
for, well as she loves you--and no mother ever loved a daughter
better--she does not soothe you with mere words of doting fondness; she
speaks to you the language of reason and of truth.

I know what such a man as Mr L---- must esteem and love; I know of what
such a woman as my daughter is capable, when her whole happiness, and
the happiness of all that is dear to her, are at stake. The loss of
temporary admiration and power, the transient preference shown to a
despicable rival, will not provoke you to imprudent reproach, nor sink
you to helpless despair. The arts of an Olivia might continue to deceive
your husband, if he were a fool; or to please him, if he were a
libertine: but he has a heart formed for love, he cannot therefore be a
libertine: he is a man of superior abilities, and knows women too well
to be a dupe. With a penetrating and discriminative judgment of
character, he is a nice observer of female manners; his taste is
delicate even to excess; under a cold exterior he has a vivid
imagination and strong sensibility; he has little vanity, but a
superabundance of pride; he wishes to be ardently loved, but this he
conceals; it is difficult to convince him that he is beloved, and
scarcely possible to satisfy him by any common proofs of attachment. A
coquette will never attach Mr L----. The admiration which others might
express for her charms and accomplishments would never pique him to
competition: far from seeking "to win her praise whom all admire," he
would disdain to enter the lists with the vulgar multitude: a heart in
which he had a probability of holding only divided empire would not
appear to him worth the winning. As a coquette whatever may be her
talents, graces, accomplishments, and address, you have nothing
seriously to fear from Lady Olivia.

But, my dear, Mr L----'s mind may be in a situation to require
amusement. That species of apathy which succeeds to passion is not, as
the inexperienced imagine, the death of love, but the necessary and
salutary repose from which it awakens refreshed and revived. Mr L----'s
passion for you has been not only tender, but violent, and the calm
which inevitably succeeds should not alarm you.

When a man feels that his fondness for a wife is suspended, he is uneasy
in her company, not only from the sense of decreased pleasure, but from
the fear of her observation and detection. If she reproach him, affairs
become worse; he blames himself, he fears to give pain whenever he is in
her presence: if he attempt to conceal his feelings, and to appear what
he is no longer--a lover, his attempts are awkward; he becomes more and
more dissatisfied with himself; and the person who compels him to this
hypocrisy, who thus degrades him in his own eyes, must certainly be in
danger of becoming an object of aversion. A wife, who has sense enough
to abstain from all reproaches, direct or indirect, by word or look, may
reclaim her husband's affections: the bird escapes from his cage, but
returns to his nest.

I am glad that you have agreeable company at your house; they will amuse
Mr L----, and relieve you from the necessity of taking a share in any
conversation that you dislike. Our witty friend ***** will supply your
share of conversation; and as to your silence, remember that witty
people are always content with those who _act audience_.

I rejoice that you persist in your daily occupations. To a mind like
yours, the sense of performing your duty will, next to religion, be the
firmest support upon which you can rely.

Perhaps, my dear, even when you read this, you will still be inclined to
justify Lady Olivia, and to conceal from your heart the suspicions which
her conduct excites. I am not surprised that you should find it
difficult to believe that one to whom you have behaved so generously
should treat you with treachery and ingratitude. I am not surprised,
that you who feel what it is to love, should think that a woman whose
heart is occupied by attachment to one object must be incapable of
thinking of any other. But love in such a heart as yours is totally
different from what it is in the fancy of these heroines. In their
imagination the objects are as fleeting as the pictures in the clouds
chased by the wind.

From Lady Olivia expect nothing; depend only on yourself. When you
become, as you soon must, completely convinced that the woman in whom
your unsuspecting soul confided is utterly unworthy of your esteem,
refrain from all imprudent expressions of indignation. I despise--you
will soon hate--your rival; but in the moment of detection think of what
is due to yourself, and act as calmly as if you had never loved her. She
will suffer no pain from the loss of your friendship: she has not a
heart that can value it. Probably she is envious of you. All these women
desire to mortify those whom they cannot degrade to their own level: and
I am inclined to suspect that this malevolent feeling, joined to the
want of occupation, may be the cause of her present conduct. Her
manoeuvres will not ultimately succeed. She will be deserted by Mr
L----, disappointed and disgraced, and your husband will be more yours
than ever. When this happy moment comes, my Leonora; when your husband
returns, preferring yours to all other society, then will be the time to
exert all your talents, all your charms, to prove your superiority in
everything, but most in love. The soothings of female tenderness, in
certain situations, have power not only to calm the feelings of
self-reproach, but to diffuse delight over the soul of man. The oil,
which the skilful mariner throws upon the sea, not only smooths the
waves in the storm, but when the sun shines, spreads the most beautiful
colours over the surface of the waters.

My dear daughter, though your mother writes seemingly at her ease, you
must not fancy that she does not feel for you. Do not imagine, that in
the coldness of extinguished passions, and in the pride of counselling
age, your mother expects to charm agony with words. No, my child, I am
not so absurd, so cruel. Your letter forced tears from eyes, which are
not used like sentimental eyes to weep upon every trifling occasion. My
first wish was to set out immediately to see you; but whatever
consolation or pleasure my company might afford, I believe it might be
disadvantageous to you in your present circumstances. I could not be an
hour in the room with this Lady Olivia, without showing some portion of
the indignation and contempt that I feel for her conduct. This warmth of
mine might injure you in your husband's opinion. Though you would have
too strong a sense of propriety, and too much dignity of mind, to make
complaints of your husband to me, or to any one living; yet it might be
supposed that your mother was your confidante in secret, and your
partisan in public: this might destroy your domestic happiness. No
husband can or ought to endure the idea of his wife's caballing against
him. I admire and shall respect your dignified silence.

And now fare you well, my dearest child. May God bless you! If a
mother's prayers could avail, you would be the happiest of human beings.
I do, without partiality, believe you to be one of the best and most
amiable of women.



  Letter xxviij.

  _Leonora to her mother._


Had your letter, my dearest mother, reached me a few hours sooner, I
should not have exposed myself as I have done.

Yesterday, at our _fête champêtre_, you would have been ashamed of me. I
am ashamed of myself. I did the very reverse of what I ought, of what I
would have done, if I had been fortified by your counsel. Instead of
being calm and dignified, I was agitated beyond all power of control. I
lost all presence of mind, all common sense, all recollection.

I know your contempt for swooning heroines. What will you say, when you
hear that your daughter fainted--fainted in public? I believe, however,
that, as soon as I recovered, I had sufficient command over myself to
prevent the accident from being attributed to--to--to the real cause,
and I hope that the very moment I came to my recollection, my manner
towards Lady Olivia was such as to preclude all possibility of her being
blamed or even suspected. From living much abroad, she has acquired a
certain freedom of manner, and latitude of thinking, which expose her to
suspicion; but of all serious intention to injure me, or to pass the
bounds of propriety, I totally acquit her. She is not to blame for the
admiration she excites, nor is she to be the sufferer for my weakness
of mind or of health.

Great and unreasonable folly I am sure I showed--but I shall do so no
more.

The particular circumstances I need not explain: you may be assured,
that wherever I think it right to be silent, nothing shall tempt me to
speak: but I understood, by the conclusion of your letter, that you
expect me to preserve an absolute silence upon this subject in future:
this I will not promise. I cannot conceive that I, who do not mean to
injure any human being, ought, because I am unhappy, and when I am most
in want of a friend, to be precluded from the indulgence of speaking of
what is nearest my heart to that dear, safe, most enlightened, and
honourable of friends, who has loved, guided, instructed, and encouraged
me in everything that is right from my infancy. Why should I be refused
all claim to sympathy? why must my thoughts and feelings be shut up in
my own breast? and why must I be an isolated being, prescribed from
commerce with my own family, with my beloved mother, to whom I have been
accustomed to tell every feeling and idea as they rose? No; to all that
is honourable I will strictly conform; but by the superstition of
prudence I do not hold myself bound.

Nothing could be kinder than my husband's conduct to me the evening
after I was taken ill. He left home early this morning; he is gone to
meet his friend, General B----, who has just returned from abroad. I
hope that Mr L---- will be absent only a few days; for it would be fatal
to my happiness if he should find amusement at a distance from home. His
home at all events shall never be made a cage to him; when he returns I
will exert myself to the utmost to make it agreeable. This I hope can be
done without obtruding my company upon him, or putting myself in
competition with any person. I could wish that some fortunate accident
might induce Lady Olivia to leave us before Mr L----'s return. Had I the
same high opinion of her generosity that I once formed, had I the same
perfect confidence in her integrity and in her friendship for me, I
would go this moment and tell her all that passes in my heart: no
humiliation of my vanity would cost me anything if it could serve the
interests of my love; no mean pride could stand in my mind against the
force of affection. But there is a species of pride which I cannot, will
not renounce--believing, as I do, that it is the companion, the friend,
the support of virtue. This pride, I trust, will never desert me: it has
grown with my growth; it was implanted in my character by the education
which my dear mother gave me; and now, even by her it cannot be
eradicated. Surely I have misunderstood one passage in your letter: you
cannot advise your daughter to restrain just indignation against vice
from any motive of policy or personal interest. You say to me, "In the
moment of detection think of what is due to yourself, and act as calmly
as if you had never loved her." If I _could_, I would not do this.
Contempt shown by virtue is the just punishment of vice, a punishment
which no selfish consideration should mitigate. If I were convinced that
Lady Olivia were guilty, would you have me behave to her as if I
believed her to be innocent? My countenance, my voice, my principles,
would revolt from such mean and pernicious hypocrisy, degrading to the
individual, and destructive to society.

May I never more see the smile of love on the lips of my husband, nor
its expression in his eyes, if I do so degrade myself in my own opinion
and in his! Yes, in his; for would not he, would not any man of sense
or delicacy, recur to that idea so common with his sex, and so just,
that if a woman will sacrifice her sense of honour to her passions in
one instance, she may in another? Would he not argue, "If she will do
this for me because she is in love with me, why not for a new favourite,
if time or accident should make me less an object of passion?" No; I may
lose his love--this would be my misfortune: but to forfeit his esteem
would be my fault; and, under the remorse which I should then have to
endure, I am persuaded that no power of art or nature could sustain my
existence.

So much for myself. As to the general good of society, that, I confess,
is not at this moment the uppermost consideration in my mind; but I will
add a few words on that subject, lest you should imagine me to be
hurried away by my own feelings. Public justice and reason are, I think,
on my side. What would become of the good order of society or the
decency of families, if every politic wife were to receive or invite, or
permit her husband's mistress to reside in her house? What would become
of conjugal virtue in either sex, if the wife were in this manner not
only to connive at the infidelity of her husband, but to encourage and
provide for his inconsistency? If she enters into bonds of amity and
articles of partnership with her rival, with that person by whom she has
been most injured, instead of being the dignified sufferer, she becomes
an object of contempt.

My dearest mother, my most respected friend, my sentiments on this
subject cannot essentially differ from yours. I must have mistaken your
meaning. Pray write quickly, and tell me so; and forgive, if you cannot
approve of, the warmth with which I have spoken.

  I am your truly affectionate
  And grateful daughter,
  Leonora L----.



  Letter xxix.

  _Olivia to Madame P----._


My amiable Gabrielle, I must be faithful to my promise of writing to you
every week, though this place affords nothing new either in events or
sentiment. Mr L----'s absence made this castle insupportably dull. A few
days ago he returned home, and met me with an easy kind of indifference,
provoking enough to a woman who has been accustomed to excite some
sensation. However, I was rejoiced at this upon Leonora's account. She
was evidently delighted, and her spirits and affections seemed to
overflow involuntarily upon all around her; even to me her manner became
quite frank and cordial, almost caressing. She is really handsome when
she is animated, and her conversation this evening quite surprised me. I
saw something of that playfulness, those light touches, that versatility
of expression, those words that mean more than meet the ear; everything,
in short, that could charm in the most polished foreign society. Leonora
seemed to be inspired with all the art of conversation by the simple
instinct of affection. What astonished me most was the grace with which
she introduced some profound philosophical remarks. "Such pearls," said
Mr L----, "come from the deep."

With all these talents, what might not Leonora be in proper hands! But
now she is nothing except to her husband and a few intimate friends.
However, this is not my affair. Let me go on to what concerns myself.
You may believe, my dear Gabrielle, that I piqued myself upon showing at
least as much easy indifference as was shown to me: freedom encourages
freedom. As there was no danger of my being too amiable, I did not think
myself bound in honour or sentiment to keep myself in the shade; but I
could not be as brilliant as you have seen me at your _soirées_: the
magic circle of adorers, the inspiring power of numbers, the éclat of
public _representation_, were wanting. I retired to my own apartment at
night, quite out of humour with myself; and Josephine, as she undressed
me, put me still further out of patience by an ill-timed history of a
dispute she has had with Leonora's Swiss servant. The Swiss and
Josephine, it seems, came to high words in defence of their mistresses'
charms. Josephine provoked the Swiss by saying, that his lady might
possibly be handsome if she were dressed in the French taste; _mais
qu'elle étoit bien Angloise_, and would be quite another thing if she
had been at Paris. The Swiss retorted by observing, that Josephine's
lady had indeed learnt in perfection at Paris _the art of making herself
up_, which was quite necessary to a beauty _un peu passée_. The words
were not more agreeable to me than they had been to Josephine. I wonder
at her assurance in repeating them--"Un peu passée!" Many a woman in
England, ten, fifteen years older than I am, has inspired a violent
passion; and it has been observed, that power is retained by these
mature charmers, longer than conquest can be preserved by inexperienced
beauties. There are women who have learnt to combine, for their own
advantage, and for that of their captives, all the pleasure and
_conveniences_ of society, all that a thorough knowledge of the world
can give--women who have a sufficient attention to appearances, joined
to a real contempt of all prejudices, especially that of
constancy--women who possess that knowledge of the human heart, which
well compensates transient bloom; who add the expression of sentiment to
beautiful features, and who employ

  "Gay smiles to comfort, April showers to move,
   And all the nature, all the art of Love."

--"Un peu passée!" The Swiss is impertinent, and knows nothing of the
matter. His master knows but little more. He would, however, know
infinitely more if I could take the trouble to instruct him; to which I
am almost tempted for want of something better to do. Adieu, my
Gabrielle. R***'s silence is perfectly incomprehensible.

  Olivia.



  Letter xxx.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


So, my amiable Gabrielle, you are really interested in my letters,
_though written during my English exile_, and you are curious to know
whether any of my _potent spells_ can wake into life this man of marble.
I candidly confess you would inspire me with an ambition to raise my
poor countrymen in your opinion, if I were not restrained by the sacred
sentiment of friendship, which forbids me to rival Leonora _even_ in a
husband's opinion.

However, Josephine, who feels herself a party concerned ever since her
battle with the Swiss, has piqued herself upon dressing me with
exquisite taste. I am every day _mise à ravir_!--and with such
perfection of art, that no art appears--all is negligent simplicity. I
let Josephine please herself; for you know I am not bound to be
frightful because I have a friend whose husband may chance to turn his
eye upon my figure, when he is tired of admiring hers. I rallied
L----the other day upon his having no eyes or ears but for his wife. Be
assured I did it in such a manner, that he could not be angry. Then I
went on to a comparison between the _facility_ of French and English
society. He admitted that there was some truth and more wit in my
observations. I was satisfied. With these reasonable men, the grand
point for a woman is to amuse them--they can have logic from their own
sex. But, my Gabrielle, I am summoned to the _salon_, and must finish my
  Letter another day.

       *     *     *     *     *

Heaven! can it be a fortnight since I wrote a line to my
Gabrielle!--Where was I?--"With these reasonable men the grand point for
a woman is to amuse them." True--most true! L----, believing himself
only amused with my lively nonsense, indulged himself with it
continually. I was to believe only what he believed. Presently he could
not do without my conversation for more than two hours together. What
was I to do, my Gabrielle? I walked out to avoid him. He found me in the
woods--rallied me on my taste for solitude, and quoted Voltaire.

This led to a metaphysical conversation, half playful, half
serious:--the distinction which a man sometimes makes to his conscience
between thinking a woman entertaining, and feeling her interesting,
vanishes more easily, and more rapidly, than he is aware of--at least in
certain situations. This was not an observation I could make to my
companion in the woods, and he certainly did not make it for himself. It
would have been vanity in me to have broken off our conversation, lest
he should fall in love with me--it would have been blindness not to have
seen that he was in some danger. I thought of Leonora--and sighed--and
did all that was in my power to put him upon his guard. By way of
preservative, I frankly made him a confession of my attachment to R***.
This I imagined would put things upon a right footing for ever; but, on
the contrary, by convincing him of my innocence, and of my having no
designs on his heart, this candour has, I fear, endangered him still
more; yet I know not what to think--his manner is so variable towards
me--I must be convinced of what his sentiments are before I can decide
what my conduct ought to be. Adieu, my amiable Gabrielle; I wait for
something decisive with an inexpressible degree of anxiety--I will not
now call it curiosity.--Apropos, does R*** wish that I should forget
that he exists? What is this business that detains him? But why do I
condescend to inquire?

  Olivia.



  Letter xxxi.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


  London.

    My dear L----,

I send you the horse to which you took a fancy. He has killed one of his
grooms, and lamed two; but you will be his master, and I hope he will
know it.

I have a word to say to you on a more serious subject. Pardon me if I
tell you that I think you are a happy man, and excuse me if I add, that
if you do not keep yourself so I shall not think you a wise one. A good
wife is better than a good-for-nothing mistress.--A self-evident
proposition!--A stupid truism! Yes; but if every man who knows a
self-evident proposition when he sees it on paper always acted as if he
knew it, this would be a very wise and a very happy world; and I should
not have occasion to write this letter.

You say that you are only amusing yourself at the expense of a finished
coquette; take care that she does not presently divert herself at
yours.----"_You are proof against French coquetry and German
sentiment._"----Granted--but a fine woman?--and your own vanity?--But
you have no vanity.----You call it pride then, I suppose. I will not
quarrel with you for a name. Pride, properly managed, will do your
business as well as vanity. And no doubt Lady Olivia knows this as well
as I do. I hope you may never know it better.

  I am, my dear friend,
  Truly yours,
  J. B.



  Letter xxxij.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  L---- Castle.

Advise me, dearest Gabrielle; I am in a delicate situation; and on your
judgment and purity of heart I have the most perfect reliance. Know,
then, that I begin to believe that Leonora's jealousy was not so
absolutely absurd as I at first supposed. She understood her husband
better than I did. I begin to fear that I have made a serious impression
whilst I meant only to amuse myself. Heaven is my witness, I simply
intended to satisfy my curiosity, and that once gratified, it was my
determination to respect the weakness I discovered. To love Leonora, as
once I imagined I could, is out of my power; but to disturb her peace,
to destroy her happiness, to make use of the confidence she has reposed
in me, the kindness she has shown by making me an inmate of her
house--my soul shudders at these ideas. No--if her husband really loves
me I will fly. Leonora shall see that Olivia is incapable of
treachery--that Olivia has a soul generous and delicate as her own,
though free from the prejudices by which she is fettered. To Leonora a
husband is a lover--I shall consider him as such, and respect her
_property_. You are so little used, my dear Gabrielle, to consider a
husband in this point of view, that you will scarcely enter into my
feelings: but put yourself in my situation, allow for nationality of
principle, and I am persuaded you would act as I shall. Spare me your
raillery; seriously, if Leonora's husband is in love with me, would you
not advise me, my dearest friend, to fly him, "far as pole from pole?"
Write to me, I conjure you, my Gabrielle--write instantly, and tell me
whether R*** is now at Paris. I will return thither immediately if you
advise it. My mind is in such confusion, I have no power to decide; I
will be guided by your advice.

  Olivia.



  Letter xxxiij.

  _Madame de P---- to Olivia._


  Paris.

Advice! my charming Olivia! do you ask me for advice? I never gave or
took advice in my life, except for _les vapeurs noirs_. And your
understanding is so far superior to mine, and you comprehend the
characters of these English so much better than I do, that I cannot
pretend to counsel you. This Lady Leonora is inconceivable with her
passion for her own husband; but how ridiculous to let it be suspected!
If her heart is so tender, cannot she, with all her charms, find a lover
on whom to bestow it, without tormenting that poor Mr L----. Evidently
he is tired of her: and I am sure I should be worn to death were I in
his place. Nothing so tiresome as love without mystery and without
obstacles. And this must ever be the case with conjugal love. Eighteen
months married, I think you say, and Lady Leonora expects her husband to
be still at her feet! And she wishes it! Truly she is the most
unreasonable woman upon earth--and the most extraordinary: but I am
tired of thinking of what I cannot comprehend.

Let us pass on to Mr L----. By your last letters I should judge that he
might be an agreeable man if his wife were out of the question.
Matrimonial jealousy is a new idea to me; I can judge of it only by
analogy. In affairs of gallantry I have sometimes seen one of the
parties continue to love when the other has become indifferent, and then
they go on tormenting one another and being miserable, because they have
not the sense to see that a fire cannot be made of ashes. Sometimes I
have found romantic young people persuade themselves that they can love
no more because they can love one another no longer; but if they had
sufficient courage to say--I am tired--and I cannot help it--they would
come to a right understanding immediately, and part on the best terms
possible; each eager to make a new choice, and to be again in love and
happy. All this to be done with decency, of course. And if there be no
scandal, where is the harm? Can it signify to the universe whether Mons.
Un-tel likes Mad. Une-telle or Mad. Une-autre? Provided there is love
enough, all the world is in good humour, and that is the essential
point; for without good humour, what becomes of the pleasures of
society? As to the rest, I think of inconstancy, or _infidelity_ as it
is called, much as our good La Fontaine did--"Quand on le sait c'est peu
de chose--quand on ne le sait pas ce n'est rien."

To promise to love one person eternally! What a terrible engagement! It
freezes my heart even to think of it. I am persuaded, that if I were
bound to love him for life, I should detest the most amiable man upon
earth in ten minutes--a husband more especially. Good Heavens! how I
should abhor M. de P---- if I saw him in this point of view. On the
contrary, now I love him infinitely--that is to say, as one loves a
husband. I have his interest at heart, and his glory. When I thought he
was going to prison I was in despair. I was at home to no one but
_Brave-et-Tendre_, and to him only to consult on the means of obtaining
my husband's pardon. M. de P---- is sensible of this, and on my part I
have no reason to complain of his liberality. We are perfectly happy,
though we meet perhaps but for a few minutes in the day; and is not this
better than tiring one another for four-and-twenty hours? When I grow
old--if ever I do--he will be my best friend. In the meantime I support
his credit with all my influence. This very morning I concluded an
affair for him, which never could have succeeded, if the intimate friend
of the minister had not been also my lover. Now, why cannot your Lady
Leonora and her Mr L---- live on the same sort of terms? But if English
manners will not permit of this, I have nothing more to say. Above all
things a woman must respect opinion, else she cannot be well received in
the world. I conclude this is the secret of Lady Leonora's conduct. But
then jealousy!--no woman, I suppose, is bound, even in England, to be
jealous in order to show her love for her husband. I lose myself again
in trying to understand what is incomprehensible.

As to you, my dear Olivia, you also amaze me by talking of _crimes_ and
_horror_, and _flying from pole to pole_ to avoid a man because you have
made him at last find out that he has a heart! You have done him the
greatest possible service: it may preserve him perhaps from hanging
himself next November--that month in which, according to Voltaire's
philosophical calendar, Englishmen always hang themselves, because the
atmosphere is so thick and their ennui so heavy. Lady Leonora, if she
really loves her husband, ought to be infinitely obliged to you for
averting this danger. As to the rest, your heart is not concerned, so
you can have nothing to fear; and as for a platonic attachment on the
part of Mr L----, his wife, even according to her own rigid principles,
cannot blame you.

Adieu, my charming friend! Instead of laughing at your fit of prudery, I
ought to encourage your scruples, that I might profit by them. If they
should bring you to Paris immediately, with what joy should I embrace my
Olivia, and how much gratitude should I owe to the jealousy of Lady
Leonora L----!

R*** is not yet returned. When I have any news to give you of him,
depend upon it you shall hear from me again. Accept, my interesting
Olivia, the vows of my most tender and eternal friendship.

  Gabrielle de P----.



  Letter xxxiv.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  L---- Castle, Tuesday.

Your charming letter, my Gabrielle, has at once revived my spirits and
dissipated all my scruples; you mistake, however, in supposing that
Leonora is in love with her husband: more and more reason have I every
hour to be convinced that Leonora has never known the passion of love;
consequently her jealousy was, as I at first pronounced it to be, the
selfish jealousy of matrimonial power and property. Else why does it
subside, why does it vanish, when, if it were a jealousy of the heart,
it has now more provocation, infinitely more than when it appeared in
full force? Leonora could see that her husband distinguished me at a
_fête champêtre_; she could see what the eyes of others showed her; she
could hear what envy whispered, or what scandal hinted; she was
mortified, she was alarmed even to fainting by a public preference, by a
silly country girl's mistaking me for _the wife_, and doing homage to me
as to the lady of the manor; but Leonora cannot perceive in the object
of her affection the symptoms that mark the rise and progress of _a real
love_. Leonora feels not the little strokes, which would be fatal blows
to the peace of a truly delicate mind; she heeds not "the trifles light
as air," which would be confirmation strong to a soul of genuine
sensibility. My influence over the mind of L---- increases rapidly, and
I shall let it rise to its acmè before I seem to notice it. Leonora,
reassured, I suppose, by a few flattering words, and more perhaps by an
exalted opinion of her own merit, has lately appeared quite at her ease,
and blind to all that passes before her eyes. It is not for me to
dissipate this illusion prematurely--it is not for me to weaken this
confidence in her husband. To an English wife this would be death. Let
her foolish security then last as long as possible. After all, how much
anguish of heart, how many pangs of conscience, how much of the torture
of pity, am I spared by this callous temper in my friend! I may indulge
in a little harmless coquetry without danger to her peace, and without
scruple enjoy the dear possession of power.

       *     *     *     *     *

"Say, for you know," charming Gabrielle, what is the delight of
obtaining power over the human heart? Let the lords of the creation
boast of their power to govern all things; to charm these governors be
ours. Let the logicians of the earth boast their power to regulate the
world by reason; be it ours, Gabrielle, to intoxicate and humble proud
reason to the dust beneath our feet.--And who shall blame in us this
ardour for universal dominion? If they are men, I call them tyrants--if
they are women, I call them hypocrites--and the two vices which I most
detest are tyranny and hypocrisy. Frankly I confess, that I feel in all
its restless activity the passion for general admiration. I cannot
conceive--can you, Gabrielle?--a pleasure more transporting than the
perception of extended and extending dominion. The struggle of the rebel
heart for freedom makes the war more tempting, the victory more
glorious, the triumph more splendid. Secure of your sympathy, ma belle
Gabrielle, I shall not fear to tire you by my commentaries.

       *     *     *     *     *

Male coquetry justifies female retaliation to any imaginable extent.
Upon this principle, on which I have seen you act so often, and so
successfully, I shall now intrepidly proceed. This man makes a show of
resistance; be it at his own peril: he thinks that he is gaining power
over my heart, whilst I am preparing torments for his; he fancies that
he is throwing chains round me, whilst I am rivetting fetters from which
he will in vain attempt to escape. He is proud, and has the insanity of
desiring to be exclusively beloved, yet affects to set no value upon the
preference that is shown to him; appears satisfied with his own
approbation, and stoically all-sufficient to his own happiness. Leonora
does not know how to manage his temper, but I do. The suspense, however,
in which he keeps me is tantalizing: he shall pay for it hereafter: I
had no idea, till lately, that he had so much self-command. At times he
has actually made me doubt my own power. At certain moments I have been
half tempted to believe that I had made no serious impression, that he
had been only amusing himself at my expense, and for Leonora's
gratification: but upon careful and cool observation I am convinced that
his indifference is affected, that all his stoicism will prove vain. The
arrow is lodged in his heart, and he must fall, whether he turns upon
the enemy in anger, or flies in dismay.

       *     *     *     *     *

My pride is exasperated. I am not accustomed to such obstinate
resistance. I really almost hate this invincible man, and--strange
inconsistency of the human heart!--almost love him. Heaven and pride
preserve me from such a weakness! But there is certainly something that
piques and stimulates one's feelings in this species of male coquetry.
L----understands the business better than I thought he could. One moment
my knowledge of the arts of his sex puts me on my guard; the next my
sensibility exposes me in the most terrible manner. Experience ought to
protect me, but it only shows me the peril and my inability to escape.
Ah! Gabrielle, without a heart how safe we should be, how dangerous to
our lovers! But cursed with sensibility, we must, alas! submit to our
fate. The habit of loving, _le besoin d'aimer_, is more powerful than
all sense of the folly and the danger. Nor is the tempest of the
passions so dreadful as the dead calm of the soul. Why did R*** suffer
my soul to sink into this ominous calm? The fault is his; let him abide
the consequence. Why did he not follow me to England? Why did he not
write to me? or when he did write, why were his letters so cold, so
spiritless? When I spoke of divorce, why did he hesitate? Why did he
reason when he should have only felt? Tell him, my tender, my delicate
friend, these are questions which the heart asks, and which the heart
only can answer. Adieu.

  Olivia.



  Letter xxxv.

  _Madame de P---- to Olivia._


  Paris.

Je suis excedée! mon coeur. Alive, and but just alive, after such a day
of fatigues! All morning from one minister to another! then home to my
toilette! then a great dinner with a number of foreigners, each to be
distinguished--then au Feydeau, where I was obliged to go to support
poor S----'s play. It would be really insupportable, if it were not for
the finest music in the world, which, after all, the French music
certainly is. There was a violent party against the piece; and we were
so late, that it was just on the point of perishing. My ears have not
yet recovered from the horrid noise. In the midst of the tumult I
happily, by a master-stroke, turned the fortune of the night. I spied
the shawl of an English woman hanging over the box. This, you know, like
scarlet to the bull, is sufficient to enrage the Parisian pit. To the
shawl I directed the fury of the mob of critics. Luckily for us, the
lady was attended only by an Englishman, who of course chose to assert
his right not to understand the customs of any country, or submit to any
will but his own. He would not permit the shawl to be stirred. A bas! à
bas: resounded from below. The uproar was inconceivable. You would have
thought that the house must have come down. In the meantime the piece
went on, and the shawl covered all its defects. Admire my generalship.
T---- tells me I was born for a general; yet I rather think my forte is
negociation.

But I have not yet come to your affairs, for which alone I could undergo
the fatigue of writing at this moment. Guess, my Olivia, what apparition
I met at the door of my box to-night. But the enclosed note will save
you the trouble of guessing. I could not avoid permitting him to slide
his billet doux into my hand as he put on my shawl. Adieu. I must refuse
myself the pleasure of conversing longer with my sweet friend. Fresh
toils await me. Mad. la Grande will never forgive me if I do not appear
for a moment at her soirée: and la petite Q---- will be jealous beyond
recovery if I do not give her a moment: and it is Mad. R----'s night.
There I must be; for all the ambassadors, as usual, will be there; and
as some of them, I have reason to believe, go on purpose to meet me, I
cannot disappoint their excellencies. My friends would never forgive it.
I am positively quite weary of this life of eternal bustle; but once in
the eddy, one is carried round and round; there is no stopping. Adieu,
adieu. I write under the hands of Victoire. O that she had your taste to
guide her, and to decide my too vacillating judgment: we should then
have no occasion to dread even the elegant simplicity of Mad. R----'s
toilette.

  Gabrielle de P----.



  Letter xxxvi.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


My Gabrielle, I have read R***'s note enclosed in your charming
sprightly letter. What a contrast! So cold! so formal! A thousand times
rather would I not have heard from him, than have received a letter so
little in unison with my feelings. He talks to me of business. Business!
What business ought to detain a man a moment from the woman he loves?
The interests of his ambition are nothing to me. What are all these to
love? Is he so mean as to hesitate between them? then I despise him! and
Olivia can never love the being she despises!

Does R*** flatter himself that his power over my heart is omnipotent?
Does he imagine that Olivia is to be slighted with impunity? Does R***
think that a woman who has even nominally the honour to reign over his
heart cannot meditate new conquests? O credulous vanity of man! He
fancies perhaps that he is secure of the maturer age of one who fondly
devoted to him her inexperienced youth. "Security is the curse of
fools." Does he in his wisdom deem a woman's age a sufficient pledge for
her constancy? He might every day see examples enough to convince him of
his error. In fact, the age of women has nothing to do with the number
of their years. Possibly, however, the gallant gentleman may be of
opinion with Leonora's Swiss, that Lady Olivia is _un peu passée_.
Adieu, my dear friend; you, who always understand and sympathize in my
feelings, you will express them for me in the best manner possible. I
shall not write to R***. You will see him; and Olivia commits to you
what to a woman of delicacy is more dear than her love--her just
resentment.

  Olivia.



  Letter xxxvij.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  L---- Castle.

Pity me, dearest Gabrielle, for I am in need of all the pity which your
susceptible heart can bestow. Never was woman in such a terrible
situation! Yes, Gabrielle, this provoking, this incomprehensible, this
too amiable man, has entangled your poor friend past recovery. Her
sentiments and sensations must henceforward be in eternal opposition to
each other. Friendship, gratitude, honour, virtue, all in tremendous
array, forbid her to think of love; but love, imperious love, will not
be so defied: he seizes upon his victim, and now, as in all the past,
will be the ruler, the tyrant of Olivia's destiny. Never was confusion,
amazement, terror, remorse, equal to mine, Gabrielle, when I first
discovered that I loved him. Who could have foreseen, who could have
imagined it? I meant but to satisfy an innocent curiosity, to indulge
harmless coquetry, to gratify the natural love of admiration, and to
enjoy the possession of power. Alas! I felt not that whilst I was
acquiring ascendancy over the heart of another I was beguiled of all
command over my own. I flattered myself that when honour should bid me
stop, I could pause without hesitation, without effort: I promised
myself, that the moment I should discover that I was loved by the
husband of my friend I should fly from him for ever. Alas! it is no
longer time--to fly from him is no longer in my power. O Gabrielle! I
love him: he knows that I love him. Never did woman suffer more than I
have done since I wrote to you last. The conflict was too violent for my
feeble frame. I have been ill--very ill: a nervous fever brought me
nearly to the grave. Why did I not die? I should have escaped the deep
humiliation, the endless self-reproach to which my future existence is
doomed.--Leonora!--Why do I start at that name? Oh! there is horror in
the sound! Even now perhaps she knows and triumphs in my weakness. Even
now perhaps her calm insensible soul blesses itself for not being made
like mine. Even now perhaps her husband doubts whether he shall accept
Olivia's love, or sacrifice your wretched friend to Leonora's pride. O
Gabrielle, no words can describe what I suffer! But I must be calm, and
explain the progress of this fatal passion. Explain--Heavens! how shall
I explain what I cannot recollect without heart-rending anguish and
confusion! O Gabrielle! pity

  Your distracted
  Olivia.



  Letter xxxviij.

  _Madame de P---- to Olivia._


  Monday.

My dear romantic Olivia! you must have a furious passion for tormenting
yourself, when you can find matter for despair in your present
situation. In your place I should rejoice to find that in the moment an
old passion had consumed itself, a new one, fresh and vigorous, springs
from its ashes. My charming friend, understand your own interests, and
do not be the dupe of those fine phrases that we are obliged to employ
to deceive others. Rail at Cupid as much as you please to the men in
public, _par façon_; but always remember for your private use, that love
is essential to our existence in society. What is a woman when she
neither loves nor is loved? a mere _personage muet_ in the drama of
life. Is it not from our lovers that we derive our consequence? Even a
beauty without lovers is but a queen without subjects. A woman who
renounces love is an abdicated sovereign, always longing to resume her
empire when it is too late; continually forgetting herself, like the
pseudo-philosophic Christina, talking and acting as though she had still
the power of life and death in her hands; a tyrant without guards or
slaves; a most awkward, pitiable, and ridiculous personage. No, my fair
Olivia, let us never abjure love: even when the reign of beauty passes
away, that of grace and sentiment remains. As much delicacy as you
please: without delicacy there is no grace, and without a veil beauty
loses her most captivating charms. I pity you, my dear, for having let
your veil be blown aside _malheureusement_. But such accidents will
happen. Who can control the passions or the winds? After all, _l'erreur
d'un moment_ is not irretrievable, and you reproach yourself too
bitterly, my sweet friend, for your involuntary injustice to Lady
Leonora. Assuredly it could not be your intention to sacrifice your
repose to Mr L----. You loved him against your will, did you not? And it
is, you know, by the intention that we must judge of actions: the
positive harm done to the world in general is in all cases the only just
measure of criminality. Now what harm is done to the universe, and what
injury can accrue to any individual, provided you keep your own counsel?
As long as your friend is deceived, she is happy; it therefore becomes
your duty, your virtue, to dissemble. I am no great casuist, but all
this appears to me self-evident; and these I always thought were your
principles of philosophy. My dear Olivia, I have drawn out my whole
store of metaphysics with some difficulty for your service; I flatter
myself I have set your poor distracted head to rights. One word
more--for I like to go to the bottom of a subject, when I can do so in
two minutes: virtue is desirable because it makes us happy;
consequently, to make ourselves happy is to be truly virtuous. Methinks
this is sound logic.

To tell you the truth, my dear Olivia, I do not well conceive how you
have contrived to fall in love with this half-frozen Englishman. 'Tis
done, however--there is no arguing against facts; and this is only one
proof more of what I have always maintained, that destiny is inevitable
and love irresistible. Voltaire's charming inscription on the statue of
Cupid is worth all the volumes of reasoning and morality that ever were
or ever will be written. Banish melancholy thoughts, my dear friend;
they serve no manner of purpose but to increase your passion. Repentance
softens the heart; and everybody knows, that what softens the heart
disposes it more to love: for which reason I never abandon myself to
this dangerous luxury of repentance. Mon Dieu! why will people never
profit by experience? And to what purpose do they read history? Was not
La Valliere ever penitent and ever transgressing? ever in transports or
in tears? You, at all events, my Olivia, can never become a Carmelite or
a Magdalen. You have emancipated yourself from superstition: but whilst
you ridicule all religious orders, do not inflict upon yourself their
penances. The habit of some of the orders has been thought becoming. The
modest costume of a nun is indeed one of the prettiest dresses one can
wear at a masquerade ball, and it might even be worn without a mask, if
it were fashionable: but nothing that is not fashionable can be
becoming.

Adieu, my adorable Olivia: I will send you by the first opportunity your
Lyons gown, which is really charming.

  Gabrielle de P----.



  Letter xxxix.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  Nov. 30th, --

Your truly philosophical letter, my infinitely various Gabrielle,
infused a portion of its charming spirit into my soul. My mind was
fortified and elevated by your eloquence. Who could think that a woman
of such a lively genius could be so profound? and who could expect from
a woman, who has passed her life in the world, such original and deep
reflections? You see you were mistaken when you thought that you had no
genius for philosophic subjects.

After all that has been said by metaphysicians about the existence and
seat of the moral sense, I think I can solve every difficulty by a new
theory. You know some philosophers suppose the moral sense to be
intuitive and inherent in man: others who deny the doctrine of innate
ideas, treat this notion of innate sentiments as equally absurd. There
they certainly are wrong, for sentiments are widely different from
ideas, and I have that within me which convinces my understanding that
sentiments must be innate, and proportioned to the delicacy of our
sensibility; no person of common sense or feeling can doubt this. But
there are other points which I own puzzled me till yesterday: some
metaphysicians would seat the moral sense inherently in the heart,
others would place it intuitively in the brain, all would confine it to
the soul; now in my opinion it resides primarily and principally in the
nerves, and varies with their variations. Hence the difficulty of making
the moral sense a universal guide of action, since it not only differs
in many individuals, but in the same persons, at different periods of
their existence, or (as I have often experienced) at different hours of
the day. All this must depend upon the mobility of the nervous system;
upon this may _hinge_ the great difficulties which have puzzled
metaphysicians respecting consciousness, identity, &c. If they had
attended less to the nature of the soul, and more to the system of the
nerves, they would have avoided innumerable errors, and probably would
have made incalculably important discoveries. Nothing is wanting but
some great German genius to bring this idea of a moral sense in the
nerves into fashion. Indeed, if our friend Mad. *** would mention it in
the notes to her new novel, it would introduce it in the most
satisfactory manner possible to all the fashionable world abroad; and we
take our notions in this country implicitly from the Continent. As for
you, my dear Gabrielle, I know you cut the gordian knot at once, by
referring, with your favourite moralist, every principle of human nature
to self-love. This does not quite accord with my ideas; there is
something harsh in it, that is repugnant to my sensibility; but you have
a stronger mind than I have, and perhaps your theory is right.

"You tell me I contradict myself continually," says the acute and witty
Duke de la Rochefoucault: "No, but the human heart, of which I treat, is
in perpetual contradiction to itself." Permit me to avail myself of this
answer, dear Gabrielle, if you should accuse me of contradicting in this
  Letter all that I said to you in my last. A few hours after I had
despatched it the state of my nerves changed; I saw things of course in
a new light, and repented having exposed myself to your raillery by
writing in such a Magdalen strain. My nerves were more in fault than I.
When one's mind or one's nerves grow weak, the early associations and
old prejudices of the nursery recur, and tyrannize over one's reason:
from this evil your liberal education and enviable temperament have
preserved you; but have charity for my feminine weakness of frame, which
too often counteracts the masculine strength of my soul. Now that I have
deprecated your ridicule for my last nervous nonsense, I will go on in
a more rational manner. However my better judgment might have been
clouded for a moment, I have recovered strength of mind enough to see
that I am in no way to blame for anything that has happened. If a man is
amiable, and if I have taste and sensibility, I must see and feel it.
"To love," as I remember your friend G****** once finely observed to
you, "to love is a crime only in the eyes of demons, or of priests, who
resemble demons." This is a general proposition, to which none but the
prejudiced can refuse their assent: and what is true in general must be
true in particular. The _accident_, I use the term philosophically, not
popularly, the accident of a man's being married, or, in other words,
having entered imprudently into a barbarous and absurd civil contract,
cannot alter the nature of things. The essence of truth cannot be
affected by the variation of external circumstances. Now the proper
application of metaphysics frees the mind from vulgar prejudices, and
dissipates the baby terrors of an ill-educated conscience. To fall in
love with a married man, and the husband of your intimate friend! How
dreadful the sounds to some ears! even mine were startled at first, till
I called reason to my assistance. Then I had another difficulty to
combat--to own, and own unasked, a passion to the object of it, would
shock the false delicacy of those who are governed by common forms, and
who are slaves to vulgar prejudices: but a little philosophy liberates
our sex from the tyranny of custom, teaches us to disdain hypocrisy, and
to glory in the simplicity of truth.

Josephine had been perfuming my hair, and I was sitting reading at my
toilette; the door of my dressing-room happened to be half open; L----
was crossing the gallery, and as he passed I suppose his eye was caught
by my hair, or perhaps he paused a moment, I am not certain how it
was--my eyes were on my book.

"Ah! vous avez raison, monsieur, c'est la plus belle chevelure! Mais
entrez donc, monsieur," cried Josephine, whom I can never teach to
comprehend or respect English customs, "Eh! entrez, entrez, monsieur;
madame est à sa toilette."

As I looked up I could not forbear smiling at the extreme ease and
decision of Josephine's manner, and the excessive doubt and anxiety in
the gentleman's appearance. My smile, which, Heaven knows, meant no
encouragement, decided him; timidity instantly gave way to joy; he
entered. What was to be done? I could not turn him out again; I was not
answerable for any foolish conclusions he might draw from what he ought
in politeness to have considered as a thing of course. All I could do
was to blame Josephine for being a French woman. To defend her, and
flatter me, was the gentleman's part; and, for an Englishman, he really
acquitted himself with tolerable grace. Josephine at least was pleased,
and she found such a perpetual employment for monsieur, and his advice
was so necessary, that there was no chance of his departure: so we
talked of French _toilettes_, &c. &c., in French for Josephine's
edification: L---- paid me some compliments upon the recovery of my
looks after my illness--I thought I looked terribly languid--but he
assured me that this languor, in his eyes, was an additional grace; I
could not understand this: he fancied that must be because he did not
express himself well in French; he explained himself more clearly in
English, which Josephine, you know, does not understand, so that she was
now forced to be silent, and I was compelled to take my share in the
conversation. L---- made me comprehend that languor indicating
sensibility of heart was to him the most touching of female charms; I
sighed, and took up the book I had been reading; it was the new novel
which you sent me, dear Gabrielle; I talked of it, in hopes of changing
the course of the conversation; alas! this led to one far more
dangerous: he looked at the passage I had been reading. This brought us
back to sensibility again--to sentiments and descriptions so terribly
apposite! we found such a similarity in our tastes! Yet L---- spoke only
in general, and he preserved a command over himself, which provoked me,
though I knew it to be coquetry; I saw the struggle in his mind, and was
determined to force him to be candid, and to enjoy my triumph. With
these views I went farther than I had intended. The charm of sensibility
he had told me was to him irresistible. Alas! I let him perceive all the
weakness of my heart.--Sensibility is the worst timekeeper in the world.
We were neither of us aware of its progressive motion. The Swiss--my
evil genius--the Swiss knocked at the door to let me know dinner was
served. Dinner! on what vulgar incidents the happiness of life depends!
Dinner came between the discovery of my sentiments and that declaration
of passion which I now must hear--or die.

"Le diner! mon Dieu!" cried Josephine. "Mais--finissons donc--la
toilette de madame."

I heard the impertinent Swiss at the other end of the gallery at his
master's door, wondering in broken English where his master could be,
and conjecturing forty absurdities about his boots, and his being out
riding, &c. &c. To sally forth in conscious innocence upon the enemy's
spies, and to terminate the adventure as it was begun, _à la Françoise_,
was my resolution. L---- and Josephine understood me perfectly.

"Eh! Monsieur de Vaud," said Josephine to the Swiss, whom we met on the
landing-place of the stairs, "madame n'est elle pas coeffée à ravir
aujourd'hui? C'est que monsieur vient d'assister à la toilette de
madame." The Swiss bowed, and said nothing. The bow was to his master,
not to me, and it was a bow of duty, not of inclination. I never saw a
man look so like a machine; he did not even raise his eyes upon me or my
_coëffure_ as we passed.

Bah! cried Josephine, with an inexpressible accent of mingled
indignation and contempt. She ran downstairs, leaving the Swiss to his
stupidity. I was more afraid of his penetration. But I entered the
dining-room as if nothing extraordinary had happened; and after all, you
know, my dear Gabrielle, nothing extraordinary had befallen us. A
gentleman had assisted at a lady's toilette. Nothing more simple,
nothing more proper in the meridian of Paris; and does propriety change
with meridians? There was company at dinner, and the conversation was
general and uninteresting; L---- endeavoured to support his part with
vivacity; but he had fits of absence and silence, which might have
alarmed Leonora, if she had any suspicion. But she is now perfectly
secure, and absolutely blind: therefore you see there can be no danger
for her happiness in my remaining where I am. For no earthly
consideration would I disturb her peace of mind; there is no sacrifice I
would hesitate for a moment to make to friendship or virtue, but I
cannot surely be called upon to _plant a dagger in my own heart_, to
destroy, for ever to destroy my own felicity without advantage to my
friend. My attachment to L----, as you say, is involuntary, and my love
as pure as it is fervent. I have reason to believe that his sentiments
are the same for me; but of this I am not yet certain. There is the
danger, and the only real danger for Leonora's happiness; for whilst
this uncertainty and his consequent fits of absence and imprudence last,
there is hazard every moment of her being alarmed. But when L---- once
decides, everything arranges itself, you know, Gabrielle, and prudence
becomes a duty to ourselves and to Leonora. No word, or look, or
coquetry could then escape us; we should be unpardonable if we did not
conduct ourselves with the most scrupulous delicacy and attention to her
feelings. I am amazed that L----, who has really a good understanding,
does not make these reflections, and is not determined by this
calculation. For his, for my own, but most for Leonora's sake, I wish
that this cruel suspense were at an end. Adieu, dear and amiable
Gabrielle.--These things are managed better in France.

  Olivia.



  Letter xl.

  _Mrs C---- to Miss B----._


  L---- Castle.

    Dear Margaret,

I arrived here late yesterday evening in high spirits, and high hopes of
surprising and delighting all the world by my unexpected appearance; but
my pride was checked, and my tone changed the moment I saw Leonora.
Never was any human being so altered in her looks in so short a time. I
had just, and but just presence of mind enough not to say so. I am
astonished that it does not strike Mr L----. As soon as she left the
room, I asked him if Lady Leonora had been ill? No; perfectly well!
perfectly well!--Did not he perceive that she looked extremely ill? No;
she might be paler than usual: that was all that Mr L---- had observed.
Lady Olivia, after a pause, added, that Leonora certainly had not
appeared well lately, but this was nothing extraordinary in her
_situation_. _Situation!_ nonsense! Lady Olivia went on with sentimental
hypocrisy of look and tone, saying fine things, to which I paid little
attention. Virtue in words, and vice in actions! thought I. People of
certain pretensions in the court of sentiment think that they can pass
false virtues upon the world for real, as some ladies, entitled by their
rank to wear jewels, appear in false stones, believing that it will be
taken for granted they would wear nothing but diamonds. Not one eye in a
hundred detects the difference at first, but in time the hundredth eye
comes, and then they must for ever hide their diminished rays. Beware!
Lady Olivia, beware!

Leonora is ill, or unhappy, or both; but she will not allow that she is
either. On one subject she is impenetrable: a hundred, a thousand
different ways within these four-and-twenty hours have I led to it, with
all the ingenuity and all the delicacy of which I am mistress; but all
to no purpose. Neither by provocation, persuasion, laughing, teasing,
questioning, cross, or round about, pushing, squeezing, encompassing,
taking for granted, wondering, or blundering, could I gain my point.
Every look guarded--every syllable measured--yet unequivocal--

  "She said no more than just the thing she ought."

Because I could find no fault I was half angry. I respect the motive of
this reserve; but towards me it is misplaced, and ill-judged, and it
must not exist. I have often declared that I would never condescend to
play the part of a confidante to any princess or heroine upon earth. But
Leonora is neither princess nor heroine, and I would be her confidante,
but she will not let me. Now I am punished for my pride. If she would
only trust me, if she would only tell me what has passed since I went,
and all that now weighs upon her mind, I could certainly be of some use.
I could and would say everything that she might scruple to hint to Lady
Olivia, and I will answer for it I would make her raise the siege. But I
cannot believe Mr L---- to be such a madman as to think of attaching
himself seriously to a woman like Olivia, when he has such a wife as
Leonora. That he was amusing himself with Olivia I saw, or thought I
saw, some time ago, and I rather wondered that Leonora was uneasy: for
all husbands will flirt, and all wives must bear it, thought I. When
such a coquette as this fell in his way, and made advances, he would
have been more than man if he had receded. Of course, I thought, he must
despise and laugh at her all the time he was flattering and gallanting
her ladyship. This would have been fair play, and comic; but the comedy
should have ended by this time. I am now really afraid it will turn into
a tragedy. I, even I! am alarmed. I must prevail upon Leonora to speak
to me without reserve. I see her suffer, and I must share her grief.
Have not I always done so from the time we were children? and now, when
she most wants a friend, am not I worthy to share her confidence? Can
she mistake friendship for impertinent curiosity? Does not she know that
I would not be burthened with the secrets of anybody whom I did not
love? If she thinks otherwise, she does me injustice, and I will tell
her so before I sleep. She does not know how well I love her.

       *     *     *     *     *

My dear Margaret, Leonora and I have had a quarrel--the first serious
quarrel we ever had in our lives; and the end of it is, that she is an
angel, and I am a fool. Just as I laid down my pen after writing to you,
though it was long past midnight, I marched into Leonora's apartment,
resolved to surprise or to force her confidence. I found her awake, as I
expected, and up and dressed, as I did not expect, sitting in her
dressing-room, her head leaning upon her hand. I knew what she was
thinking of; she had a heap of Mr L----'s old letters beside her. She
denied that she was in tears, and I will not swear to the tears, but I
think I saw signs of them notwithstanding. I spoke out;--but in
vain--all in vain. At last I flew into a passion, and reproached her
bitterly. She answered me with that air of dignified tenderness which is
peculiar to her--"If you believe me to be unhappy, my dear Helen, is
this a time to reproach me unjustly?" I was brought to reason and to
tears, and after asking pardon, like a foolish naughty child, was kissed
and forgiven, upon a promise never to do so any more; a promise, which I
hope Heaven will grant me grace and strength of mind enough to keep. I
was certainly wrong to attempt to force her secret from her. Leonora's
confidence is always given, never yielded; and in her, openness is a
virtue, not a weakness. But I wish she would not contrive to be always
in the right. In all our quarrels, in all the variations of my humour, I
am obliged to end by doing homage to her reason, as the Chinese
mariners, in every change of weather, burn incense before the needle.

  Your affectionate
  Helen C----.



  Letter xli.

  _Mr L---- to General B----._


  L---- Castle, Friday.

    My dear General,

I hoped that you would have favoured us with a passing visit in your way
from town, but I know you will tell me that friendship must not
interfere with the interests of the service. I have reason to curse
those interests; they are for ever at variance with mine. I had a
particular desire to speak to you upon a subject, on which it is not
agreeable to me to write. Lady Leonora also wished extremely and
disinterestedly for your company. She does not know how much she is
obliged to you. The laconic advice you gave me some time ago influenced
my conduct longer than counsel which is in opposition to our passions
usually does, and it has haunted my imagination perpetually:--"My dear
L----, do not end by being the dupe of a _Frenchified_ coquette."

My dear friend, of that there is no danger. No man upon earth despises
or detests coquettes more than I do, be they French or English. I think,
however, that a foreign-born, or foreign-bred coquette, has more of the
ease of _practice_, and less of the awkwardness of conscience, than a
home-bred flirt, and is in reality less blamable, for she breaks no
restraints of custom or education; she does only what she has seen her
mother do before her, and what is authorized by the example of most of
the fashionable ladies of her acquaintance. But let us put flirts and
coquettes quite out of the question. My dear general, you know that I am
used to women, and take it upon my word, that the lady to whom I allude
is more tender and passionate than vain. Every woman has, or has had, a
tincture of vanity; but there are a few, and those are to me the most
amiable of the sex, who

  "Feel every vanity in fondness lost."

You know that I am delicate, even fastidious, in my taste for female
manners. Nothing can in my opinion make amends for any offence against
propriety, except it be sensibility--genuine, generous sensibility. This
can, in my mind, cover a multitude of faults. There is so much of
selfishness, of hypocrisy, of coldness, in what is usually called female
virtue, that I often turn with distaste from those to whom I am
compelled to do homage for the sake of the general good of society. I am
not _charlatan_ enough to pretend upon all occasions to prefer the
public advantage to my own. I confess, that let a woman be ever so fair,
or good, or wise--

  "Be she with that goodness blest
   Which may merit name of best,
   If she be not such to me,
   What care I how good she be?"

And I will further acknowledge, that I am not easily satisfied with the
manner in which a woman is kind to me: if it be duty-work kindness, I
would not give thanks for it: it is done for her reputation, not for me,
and let the world thank her. To _the best of wives_ I should make the
worst of husbands. No--I should, I hope, pay her in her own coin, with
all due observances, attentions, and respect, but without one grain of
love. Love is only to be had for love; and without it, nothing a woman
can give appears to me worth having. I do not desire to be loved well
enough to satisfy fathers and mothers, and uncles and aunts; well enough
to decide a woman to marry me rather than disoblige her friends, or run
the chance of having _many a worse offer_, and living perhaps to be an
old maid. I do not desire to be loved well enough to keep a woman true
and faithful to me "_till death us do part_:" in short, I do not desire
to be loved well enough for a husband; I desire to be loved sufficiently
for a lover; not only above all other persons, but above all other
things, all other considerations--to be the first and last object in
the heart of the woman to whom I am attached: I wish to feel that I
sustain and fill the whole of her heart. I must be certain that I am
everything to her, as she is everything to me; that there is no
imaginable situation in which she would not live with me, in which she
would not be happy to live with me; no possible sacrifice that she would
not make for me; or rather, that nothing she could do should appear a
sacrifice. Are these exorbitant expectations? I am capable of all this,
and more, for a woman I love; and it is my pride or my misfortune to be
able to love upon no other terms. Such proofs of attachment it may be
difficult to obtain, and even to give; more difficult, I am sensible,
for a wife than for a mistress. A young lady who is married _secundum
artem_, with licence and consent of friends, can give no extraordinary
instances of affection. I should not consider it as an indisputable
proof of love, that she does me the honour to give me her hand in a
church, or that she condescends to bespeak my liveries, or to be handed
into her own coach with all the blushing honours of a bride; all the
paraphernalia of a wife secured, all the prudent and necessary provision
made both for matrimonial love and hatred, dower, pin-money, and
separate maintenance on the one hand, and on the other, lands,
tenements, and hereditaments for the future son and heir, and sums
without end for younger children to the tenth and twentieth possibility,
_as the case may be, nothing herein contained to the contrary in anywise
notwithstanding_. Such a jargon Cupid does not understand. A woman may
love this most convenient personage, her lawful husband; but I should
think it difficult for the delicacy of female passion to survive the
cool preparations for hymeneal felicity. At all events, you will allow
the lady makes no sacrifice, she shows no great generosity, and she
may, or she may not, be touched at the altar by the divine flame. My
good general, when you are a husband you will feel these things as I do;
till then, it is very easy to talk as you do, and to admire other men's
wives, and to wish Heaven had blessed you with such a treasure. For my
part, the single idea, that a woman thinks it her duty to be fond of me,
would deprive me of all pleasure in her love. No man can be more
sensible than I am of the amiable and estimable qualities of Lady
Leonora L----; I should be a brute and a liar if I hesitated to give the
fullest testimony in her praise; but such is the infirmity of my nature,
that I could pardon some faults more easily than I could like some
virtues. The virtues which leave me in doubt of a woman's love I can
esteem, but that is all. Lady Leonora is calm, serene, perfectly
sweet-tempered, without jealousy and without suspicion; in one word,
without love. If she loved me, she never could have been the wife she
has been for some months past. You will laugh at my being angry with a
wife for not being jealous. But so it is. Certain defects of temper I
could bear, if I considered them as symptoms of strong affection. When I
for a moment believed that Leonora suffered, when I attributed her
fainting at our fête champêtre to jealousy, I was so much alarmed and
touched, that I absolutely forgot her rival. I did more; to prevent her
feeling uneasiness, to destroy the suspicions which I imagined had been
awakened in her mind, I hesitated not to sacrifice all the pleasure and
all the vanity which a man of my age might reasonably be supposed to
feel in the prospect of a new and not inglorious conquest; I left home
immediately, and went to meet you, my dear friend, on your return from
abroad. This visit I do not set down to your account, but to that of
honour--foolish, unnecessary honour. You half-persuaded me, that your
hearsay Parisian evidence was more to be trusted than my own judgment,
and I returned home with the resolution not to be the dupe of a
coquette. Leonora's reception of me was delightful; I never saw her in
such spirits, or so amiable. But I could not help wishing to ascertain
whether I had attributed her fainting to the real cause. This proof I
tempted to my cost. Instead of showing any tender alarm at the renewal
of my obvious attentions to her rival, she was perfectly calm and
collected, went on with her usual occupations, fulfilled all her duties,
never reproached me by word or look, never for one moment betrayed
impatience, ill-humour, suspicion, or jealousy; in short, I found that I
had been fool enough to attribute to excess of affection an accident
which proceeded merely from the situation of her health. If anxiety of
mind had been the cause of her fainting at the fête champêtre, she would
since have felt and shown agitation on a thousand occasions, where she
has been perfectly tranquil. Her friend Mrs C----, who returned here a
few days ago, seems to imagine that Leonora looks ill; but I shall not
again be led to mistake bodily indisposition for mental suffering.
Leonora's conduct argues great insensibility of soul, or great command;
great insensibility, I think: for I cannot imagine such command of
temper possible to any but a woman who feels indifference for the
offender. Yet, even now that I have steeled myself with this conviction,
I am scarcely bold enough to hazard the chance of giving her pain.
Absurd weakness! It has been clearly proved to my understanding, that my
irresolution, my scruples of conscience, my combats between love and
esteem, are more likely to betray the real state of my mind than any
decision that I could make. I decide, then--I determine to be happy
with a woman who has a soul capable of feeling, not merely what is
called conjugal affection, but the passion of love; who is capable of
sacrificing everything to love; who has given me proofs of candour and
greatness of mind, which I value far above all her wit, grace, and
beauty. My dear general, I know all that you can tell, all that you can
hint concerning her history abroad. I know it from her own lips. It was
told to me in a manner that made her my admiration. It was told to me as
a preservative against the danger of loving her. It was told to me with
the generous design of protecting Leonora's happiness; and all this at
the moment when I was beloved, tenderly beloved. She is above
dissimulation: she scorns the arts, the fears of her sex. She knows you
are her enemy, and yet she esteems you; she urged me to speak to you
with the utmost openness: "Let me never," said she, "be the cause of
your feeling less confidence or less affection for the best of friends."

R*** is sacrificed to me; that R***, with whose cursed name you
tormented me. My dear friend, she will force your admiration, as she has
won my love.

  Yours sincerely,
  F. L----.



  Letter xlij.

  _Mrs C---- to Miss B._


  L---- Castle.

As I am not trusted with the secret, I may, my dear Margaret, use my own
eyes and ears as I please to find it out; and I know Leonora's
countenance so well, that I see everything that passes in her mind just
as clearly as if she had told it to me in words.

It grieves me more than I can express, to see her suffering as she
does. I am now convinced that she has reason to be unhappy; and, what is
worse, I do not see what course she can follow to recover her happiness.
All her forbearance, all her patience, all her sweet temper, I perceive,
are useless, or worse than useless, injurious to her in her strange
husband's opinion. I never liked him thoroughly, and now I detest him.
He thinks her cold, insensible! She insensible!--Brute! Idiot.
Everything that she says or does displeases him. The merest trifles
excite the most cruel suspicions. He totally misunderstands her
character, and sees everything about her in a false light. In short, he
is under the dominion of an artful fiend, who works as she pleases upon
his passions--upon his pride, which is his ruling passion.

This evening Lady Olivia began confessing that she had too much
sensibility, that she was of an excessively susceptible temper, and that
she should be terribly jealous of the affections of any person she
loved. She did not know how love _could_ exist without jealousy. Mr
L---- was present, and listening eagerly. Leonora's lips were silent;
not so her countenance. I was in hopes Mr L---- would have remarked its
beautiful touching expression; but his eyes were fixed upon Olivia. I
could have . . . but let me go on. Lady Olivia had the malice suddenly
to appeal to Leonora, and asked, whether she was never jealous of her
husband? Leonora, astonished by her assurance, paused for an instant,
and then replied, "It would be difficult to convince me that I had any
reason to be jealous of Mr L----, I esteem him so much."--"I wish to
Heaven!" exclaimed Lady Olivia, her eyes turned upwards with a fine St
Cecilia expression, whilst Mr L----'s attention was fixed upon her,
"would to Heaven I was blessed with such a _reasonable_ temper!"--"When
you are wishing to Heaven, Lady Olivia," said I, "had not you better ask
for _all you want_ at once; not only such a reasonable temper, but such
a feeling heart?"

Some of the company smiled. Lady Olivia, practised as she is, looked
disconcerted; Mr L---- grave and impenetrable; Leonora, blushing, turned
away to the pianoforte. Mr L---- remained talking with Lady Olivia, and
he neither saw nor heard her. If Leonora had sung like an angel, it
would have made no impression. She turned over the leaves of her music
quickly, to a lively air, and played it immediately, to prevent my
perceiving how much she felt. Poor Leonora! you are but a bad
dissembler, and it is in vain to try to conceal yourself from me.

I was so sorry for her, and so incensed with Olivia this night, that I
could not restrain myself, and I made matters worse. At supper I came
almost to open war with her ladyship. I cannot remember exactly what I
said, but I know that I threw out the most severe inuendoes which
politeness could permit: and what _was_ the consequence? Mr L---- pitied
Olivia and hated me; Leonora was in misery the whole time; and her
husband probably thought that she was the instigator, though she was
perfectly innocent. My dear Margaret, where will all this end? and how
much more mischief shall I do with the best intentions possible?

  Yours affectionately,
  Helen C----.



  Letter xliij.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


Your letter has travelled after me God knows where, my dear L----, and
has caught me at last with my foot in the stirrup. I have just had time
to look it over. I find, in short, that you are in love. I give you joy!
But be in love like a madman, not like a fool. Call a demirep an angel,
and welcome; but remember that such angels are to be had any day in the
year; and such a wife as yours is not to be had for the mines of
Golconda. Coin your heart, and drop your blood for it, and you will
never be loved by any other woman so well as you are by Lady Leonora
L----.

As to your jealous hypochondriacism, more of that when I have more
leisure. In the meantime I wish it well cured.

  I am, my dear friend,
  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter xliv.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  L---- Castle.

I triumph! dear Gabrielle, give me joy! Never was triumph more complete.
L---- loves me! That I knew long ago; but I have at last forced from his
proud heart the avowal of his passion. Love and Olivia are victorious
over scruples, prejudice, pride, and superstition!

Leonora feels not--sees not: she requires, she excites no pity. Long may
her delusion last! But even were it this moment to dissipate, what cause
have I for remorse? "Who is most to blame, he who ceases to love, or she
who ceases to please?" Leonora perhaps thinks that she loves her
husband; and no doubt she does so in a conjugal sort of a way: he _has_
loved his wife; but be it mine to prove that his heart is suited to far
other raptures; and if Olivia be called upon for sacrifices, _Olivia_
can make them.

  "Let wealth, let honour wait the wedded dame,
   August her deed, and sacred be her fame;
   Before true passion all those views remove,
   Fame, wealth, and honour, what are you to love?"

These lines, though quoted perpetually by the tender and passionate, can
never become stale and vulgar; they will always recur in certain
situations to persons of delicate sensibility, for they at once express
all that can be said, and justify all that can be felt. My amiable
Gabrielle, adieu. Pardon me if to-day I have no soul even for
friendship. This day is all for love.

  Olivia.



  Letter xlv.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


What the devil would you have of your wife, my dear L----? You would be
loved above all earthly considerations; honour, duty, virtue and
religion inclusive, would you? and you would have a wife with her head
in the clouds, would you? I wish you were married to one of the
all-for-love heroines, who would treat you with bowl and dagger every
day of your life. In your opinion sensibility covers a multitude of
faults--you would have said _sins_: so it had need, for it produces a
multitude. Pray what brings hundreds and thousands of women to the
Piazzas of Covent Garden but sensibility? What does the colonel's, and
the captain's, and the ensign's mistress talk of but _sensibility_? And
are you, my dear friend, to be duped by this hackneyed word? And should
you really think it an indisputable proof of a lady's love, that she
would jump out of a two pair of stairs window into your arms? Now I
should think myself sure of such a woman's love only just whilst I held
her, and scarcely then; for I, who in my own way am jealous as well as
yourself, should in this case be jealous of wickedness, and should
strongly suspect that she would love the first devil that she saw better
than me.

You are always raving about sacrifices. Your Cupid must be a very
vindictive little god. Mine is a good-humoured, rosy little fellow, who
desires no better than to see me laugh and be happy. But to every man
his own Cupid. If you cannot believe in love without sacrifices, you
must have them, to be sure. And now, in sober sadness, what do you think
your heroine would sacrifice for you? Her reputation? that, pardon me,
is out of her power. Her virtue? I have no doubt she would. But before I
can estimate the value of this sacrifice, I must know whether she makes
it to you or to her pleasure. Would she give up in any instance her
pleasure for your happiness? This is not an easy matter to ascertain
with respect to a mistress: but your wife has put it beyond a doubt,
that she prefers your happiness not only to her pleasure, but to her
pride, and to everything that the sex usually prefer to a husband. You
have been wounded by a poisoned arrow; but you have a faithful wife who
can extract the poison. Lady Leonora's affection is not a mere fit of
goodness and generosity, such as I have seen in many women, but it is a
steadiness of attachment in the hour of trial, which I have seen in few.
For several months past you have, by your own account, put her temper
and her love to the most severe tests, yet she has never failed for one
moment, never reproached you by word or look.--But may be she has no
feeling.--No feeling! you can have none, if you say so: no penetration,
if you think so. Would not you think me a tyrant if I put a poor fellow
on the picket, and told you, when he bore it without a groan, that it
was because he could not feel? You do worse, you torture the soul of the
woman who loves you; she endures, she is calm, she smiles upon you even
in agony; and you tell me she cannot feel! she cannot feel like an
Olivia! No; and so much the better for her husband, for she will then
have only feeling enough for him, she will not extend her charity to all
his sex. But Olivia has such candour and magnanimity, that I must admire
her! I humbly thank her for offering to make me her confidant, for
offering to tell me what I know already, and what she is certain that I
know. These were good moves, but I understand the game as well as her
ladyship does. As to her making a friend of me; if she means an enemy to
Lady Leonora L----, I would sooner see her--in heaven: but if she would
do me the favour to think no more of your heart, which is too good for
her, and to accept of my--my--what shall I say?--my devoirs, I am at her
command. She shall drive my curricle, &c. &c. She would suit me vastly
well for a month or two, and by that time poor R*** would make his
appearance, or somebody in his stead: at the worst, I should have a
chance of some blessed metaphysical quirk, which would prove that
inconstancy was a virtue, or that a new love is better than an old one.
When it came to that, I should make my best bow, put on my most
disconsolate face, and retire.

You will read all this in a very different spirit from that in which it
is written. If you are angry--no matter: I am cool. I tell you
beforehand that I will not fight you for anything I have said in this
letter, or that I ever may say about your Olivia. Therefore, my dear
L----, save yourself the trouble of challenging me. I thank God I have
reputation enough to be able to dispense with the glory of blowing out
your brains.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter xlvi.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


We have been very gay here the last few days: the gallant and
accomplished Prince ---- has been here. H****, the witty H****, who is
his favourite companion, introduced him; and he seems so much charmed
with the old castle, its towers and battlements, and with its
_cynosure_, that I know not when he will be able to prevail upon himself
to depart. To-morrow, he says; but so he has said these ten days: he
cannot resist the entreaties of his kind host and hostess to stay
another day. The soft accent of the beautiful Leonora will certainly
detain him _one day more_, and her gracious smile will bereave him of
rest for months to come. He has evidently fallen desperately in love
with her. Now we shall see virtue in danger.

I have always been of opinion with St Evremond and Ninon de l'Enclos,
that no female virtue can stand every species of test; fortunately it is
not always exposed to trial. Reputation may be preserved by certain
persons in certain situations, upon very easy terms. Leonora, for
instance, is armed so strong in character, that no common mortal will
venture to attack her. It would be presumption little short of high
treason to imagine the fall of the Lady Leonora L----, the daughter of
the Duchess of ***, who, with a long line of immaculate baronesses in
their own right, each in her armour of stiff stays, stands frowning
defiance upon the adventurous knights. More alarming still to the modern
seducer appears a judge in his long wig, and a jury with their long
faces, ready to bring in their verdict, and to award damages
proportionate to the rank and fortune of the parties. Then the former
reputation of the lady is talked of, and the irreparable injury
sustained by the disconsolate husband from the loss of the solace and
affection of this paragon of wives. And it is proved that she lived in
the most perfect harmony with him till the vile seducer appeared; who,
in aggravation of damages, was a confidential friend of the husband's,
&c. &c. &c. &c. &c.

Brave, indeed, and desperately in love must be the man, who could dare
all these to deserve the fair. But princes are, it is said, naturally
brave, and ambitious of conquering difficulties.

I have insinuated these reflections in a general way to L----, who
applies them so as to plague himself sufficiently. Heaven is my witness,
that I mean no injury to Lady Leonora; yet I fear that there are
moments, when my respect for her superiority, joined to the
consciousness of my own weakness, overpowers me, and I almost envy her
the right she retains to the esteem of the man I love. This is a
blamable weakness--I know it--I reproach myself bitterly; but all I can
do is to confess it candidly. L---- sees my conflicts, and knows how to
value the sensibility of my fond heart. Adieu, my Gabrielle. When shall
I be happy? since even love has its torments, and I am thus doomed to be
ever a victim to the tenderness of my soul.

  Olivia.



  Letter xlvij.

  _Mrs C---- to Miss B----._


I do not know whether I pity, love, or admire Leonora most. Just when
her mind was deeply wounded by her husband's neglect, and when her
jealousy was worked to the highest pitch by his passion for her
dangerous rival, the Prince ---- arrives here, and struck by Leonora's
charms of mind and person, falls passionately in love with her. Probably
his highness's friend H---- had given him a hint of the existing
circumstances, and he thought a more propitious moment could scarcely be
found for making an impression upon a female mind. He judged of Leonora
by other women. And I, like a simpleton, judged of her by myself. With
shame I confess to you, my dear Margaret, that notwithstanding all my
past experience, I did expect that she would have done as I am afraid I
should have done in her situation. I think that I could not have
resisted the temptation of coquetting a little--a very little--just to
revive the passion of the man whom I really loved. This expedient
succeeds so often with that wise sex, who never rightly know the value
of a heart, except when they have just won it, or at the moment when
they are on the point of losing it. In Leonora's place and in such an
emergency, I should certainly have employed that frightful monster
jealousy to waken sleeping love; since he, and only he, can do it
expeditiously and effectually. This I have hinted to Leonora, talking
always _in generals_; for, since my total overthrow, I have never dared
to come to particulars: but by putting cases and _confessing myself_, I
contrived to make my thoughts understood. I then boasted of the extreme
facility of the means I would adopt to recover a heart. Leonora answered
in the words of a celebrated great man:--"C'est facile de se servir de
pareils moyens; c'est difficile de s'y résoudre."

"But if no other means would succeed," said I, "would not you sacrifice
your pride to your love?"

"My pride, willingly; but not my sense of what is right," said she, with
an indescribable mixture of tenderness and firmness in her manner.

"Can a little coquetry in a good cause be such a heinous offence?"
persisted I. I knew that I was wrong all the time; but I delighted in
seeing how right she was.

No--she would not allow her mind to be cheated by female sophistry; nor
yet by the male casuistry of, "The end sanctifies the means."

"If you had the misfortune to lose the affections of the man you love,
and if you were quite certain of regaining them by following my recipe?"
said I.

Never shall I forget the look with which Leonora left me, and the accent
with which she said, "My dear Helen, if it were ever to be my misfortune
to lose my husband's love, I would not, even if I were certain of
success, attempt to regain it by any unworthy arts. How could I wish to
regain his love at the hazard of losing his esteem, and the certainty of
forfeiting my own!"

I said no more--I had nothing more to say: I saw that I had given pain,
and I have never touched upon the subject since. But her practice is
even beyond her theory. Never, by deed, or look, or word, or thought
(for I see all her thoughts in her eloquent countenance), has she
swerved from her principles. No prudery--no coquetry--no
mock-humility--no triumph. Never for an instant did she, by a proud air,
say to her husband--See what others think of me! Never did a resentful
look say to him--Inconstant!--revenge is in my power! Never even did a
reproachful sigh express--I am injured, yet I do not retaliate.

Mr L---- is blind; he is infatuated; he is absolutely bereaved of
judgment by a perfidious, ungrateful, and cruel wretch. Let me vent my
indignation to you, dear Margaret, or it will explode, perhaps, when it
may do Leonora mischief.

  Yours affectionately,
  Helen C----.



  Letter xlviij.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  L---- Castle.

This Lady Leonora, in her simplicity, never dreamed of love till the
prince's passion was too visible and audible to be misunderstood: and
then she changed her tone, and checked her simplicity, and was so
reserved, and so dignified, and so _proper_, it was quite edifying,
especially to a poor sinner of a coquette like me; nothing _piquante_;
nothing _agaçante_; nothing _demi-voilée_; no retiring to be pursued;
not a single manoeuvre of coquetry did she practise. This convinces me
that she cares not in the least for her husband; because, if she really
loved him, and wished to reclaim his heart, what so natural or so simple
as to excite his jealousy, and thus revive his love? After neglecting
this golden opportunity, she can never convince me that she is really
anxious about her husband's heart. This I hinted to L----, and his own
susceptibility had hinted it to him efficaciously before I spoke.

Though Leonora has been so correct hitherto, and so cold to the prince
in her husband's presence, I have my suspicions, that if in his absence
proper means were taken, if her pride were roused by apt suggestions, if
it were delicately pointed out to her that she is shamefully neglected,
that she is a cipher in her own house, that her husband presumes too
much upon her sweetness of temper, that his inconstancy is wondered at
by all who have eyes, and that a little retaliation might become her
ladyship, I would not answer for her forbearance, that is to say, if all
this were done by a dexterous man, a lover, and a prince! I shall take
care my opinions shall be known; for I cannot endure to have the esteem
of the man I love monopolized. Exposed to temptation as I have been, and
with as ardent affections, Leonora, or I am much mistaken, would not
have been more estimable. Adieu, my dearest Gabrielle. Nous verrons!
nous verrons!

  Olivia.

       *     *     *     *     *

  Sunday evening.

P.S.--I open my letter to tell you that the prince is actually gone.
Doubtless he will return at a more auspicious moment.

Lady M---- and all the troop of friends are to depart on Monday; all but
_the_ bosom friend, _l'amie intime_, that insupportable Helen, who is
ever at daggers-drawing with me. So much the better! L---- sees her
cabals with his wife; she is a partisan without the art to be so to any
purpose, and her manoeuvres tend only to increase his partiality for his
Olivia.



  Letter xlix.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  L---- Castle.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *
*    *    *    *    *    In short, Leonora has discovered all that she
might have seen months ago between her husband and me. What will be the
consequence? I long, yet almost fear, to meet her again. She is now in
her own apartment, writing, I presume, to her mother for advice.



  Letter l.

  _Leonora to Olivia._


    [Left on Lady Olivia's dressing-table.]

O you, whom no kindness can touch, whom no honour can bind, whom no
faith can hold, enjoy the torments you have inflicted on me! enjoy the
triumph of having betrayed a confiding friend! Friend no more--affect,
presume no longer to call me friend! I am under no necessity to
dissemble, and dissimulation is foreign to my habits, and abhorrent to
my nature! I know you to be my enemy, and I say so--my most cruel enemy;
one who could, without reluctance or temptation, rob me of all I hold
most dear. Yes, without temptation; for you do not love my husband,
Olivia. On this point I cannot be mistaken; I know too well what it is
to love him. Had you been struck by his great or good and amiable
qualities, charmed by his engaging manners, or seduced by the violence
of his passion; and had I seen you honourably endeavour to repress that
passion; had I seen in you the slightest disposition to sacrifice your
pleasure or your vanity to friendship or to duty, I think I could have
forgiven, I am sure I should have pitied you. But you felt no pity for
me, no shame for yourself; you made no attempt to avoid, you invited
the danger. Mr L---- was not the deceiver, but the deceived. By every
art and every charm in your power--and you have many--you won upon his
senses and worked upon his imagination; you saw, and made it your pride
to conquer the scruples of that affection he once felt for his wife, and
that wife was your friend. By passing bounds, which he could not
conceive that any woman could pass, except in the delirium of passion,
you made him believe that your love for him exceeds all that I feel. How
he will find himself deceived! If you had loved him as I do, you could
not so easily have forfeited all claim to his esteem. Had you loved him
so much, you would have loved honour more.

It is possible that Mr L---- may taste some pleasure with you whilst his
delusion lasts, whilst his imagination paints you, as mine once did, in
false colours, possessed of generous virtues, and the victim of
excessive sensibility: but when he sees you such as you are, he will
recoil from you with aversion, he will reject you with contempt.

Knowing my opinion of you, Lady Olivia, you will not choose to remain in
this house; nor can I desire for my guest one whom I can no longer, in
private or in public, make my companion. Adieu.

  Leonora L----.



  Letter li.

  _Olivia to Mr L----._


  L---- Castle, Midnight.

Farewell for ever!--it must be so--Farewell for ever! Would to Heaven I
had summoned courage sooner to pronounce these fatal, necessary,
irrevocable words: then had I parted from you without remorse, without
the obloquy to which I am now exposed. Oh, my dearest L----! Mine, do I
still dare to call you? Yes, mine for the last time, I must call you,
mine I must fancy you, though for the impious thought the Furies
themselves were to haunt me to madness. My dearest L----, never more
must we meet in this world! Think not that my weak voice alone forbids
it: no, a stronger voice than mine is heard--an injured wife reclaims
you. What a letter have I just received . . .!--from . . . Leonora! She
tells me that she no longer desires for her guest one whom she cannot,
in public or private, make her companion--O Leonora, it was sufficient
to banish me from your heart! She tells me not only that I have for ever
forfeited her confidence, her esteem, her affection; but that I shall
soon be your aversion and contempt. O cruel, cruel words! But I
submit--I have deserved it all--I have robbed her of a heart above all
price. Leonora, why did you not reproach me more bitterly? I desire, I
implore to be crushed, to be annihilated by your vengeance! Most
admirable, most virtuous, most estimable of women, best of wives, I have
with sacrilegious love profaned a soul consecrated to you and conjugal
virtue. I acknowledge my crime; trample upon me as you will, I am
humbled in the dust. More than all your bitterest reproaches do I feel
the remorse of having for a moment interrupted such serenity of
happiness.

Oh, why did you persuade me, L----, and why did I believe that Leonora
was calm and free from all suspicion? How could I believe that any
woman whom you had ever loved, could remain blind to your inconstancy,
or feel secure indifference? Happy woman! in you to love is not a crime;
you may glory in your passion, whilst I must hide mine from every human
eye, drop in shameful secrecy the burning tear, stifle the struggling
sigh, blush at the conflicts of virtue and sensibility, and carry shame
and remorse with me to the grave. Happy Leonora! happy even when most
injured, you have a right to complain to him you love;--he is yours--you
are his wife--his esteem, his affection are yours. On Olivia he has
bestowed but a transient thought, and eternal ignominy must be her
portion. So let it be--so I wish it to be. Would to Heaven I may thus
atone for the past, and secure your future felicity. Fly to her, my
dearest L----, I conjure you! throw yourself at her feet, entreat,
implore, obtain her forgiveness. She cannot refuse it to your tears, to
your caresses. To withstand them she must be more or less than woman.
No, she cannot resist your voice when it speaks words of peace and love;
she will press you with transport to her heart, and Olivia, poor Olivia,
will be for ever forgotten; yet she will rejoice in your felicity;
absolved perhaps in the eye of Heaven, though banished from your
society, she will die content.

Full well am I aware of the consequences of quitting thus precipitately
the house of Lady Leonora L----; but nothing that concerns myself alone
can for a moment make me hesitate to do that which the sentiment of
virtue dictates, and which is yet more strongly urged by regard for the
happiness of one, who once allowed me to call her friend. I know my
reputation is irrecoverably sacrificed; but it is to one for whom I
would lay down my life. Can a woman who feels as I do deem any earthly
good a sacrifice for him she loves? Dear L----, adieu for ever!

  Olivia.



  Letter lij.

  _Leonora to the Duchess of ----._


    Dearest Mother,


It is all over--my husband is gone--gone perhaps for ever--all is in
vain--all is lost!

Without saying more to you than I ought, I may tell you, that in
consequence of an indignant letter which I wrote last night to Lady
Olivia, she left my house this morning early, before any of the family
were up. Mr L---- heard of her departure before I did. He has, I will
not say followed her, for of that I am not certain; but he has quitted
home, and without giving me one kind look at parting, without even
noticing a letter which I left last night upon his table. At what slight
things we catch to save us from despair! How obstinate, how vain is
hope! I fondly hoped, even to the last moment, that this letter, this
foolish letter, would work a sudden change in my husband's heart, would
operate miracles, would restore me to happiness. I fancied, absurdly
fancied, that laying open my whole soul to him would have an effect upon
his mind. Alas! has not my whole soul been always open to him? Could
this letter tell him anything but what he knows already or what he will
never know--how well I love him! I was weak to expect so much from it;
yet as it expressed without complaint the anguish of disappointed
affection, it deserved at least some acknowledgment. Could not he have
said, "My dear Leonora, I thank you for your letter"?--or more coldly
still--"Leonora, I have received your letter"? Even that would have been
some relief to me: but now all is despair. I saw him just when he was
going away, but for a moment; till the last instant he was not to be
seen; then, in spite of all his command of countenance, I discerned
strong marks of agitation; but towards me an air of resentment, more
than any disposition to kinder thoughts. I fancy that he scarcely knew
what he said, nor, I am sure, did I. He talked, I remember, of having
immediate business in town, and I endeavoured to believe him. Contrary
to his usual composed manner, he was in such haste to be gone, that I
was obliged to send his watch and purse after him, which he had left on
his dressing-table. How melancholy his room looked to me! His clothes
just as he had left them--a rose which Lady Olivia gave him yesterday
was in water on his table. My letter was not there; so he has it,
probably unread. He will read it some time or other, perhaps--and some
time or other, perhaps, when I am dead and gone, he will believe I loved
him. Could he have known what I felt at the moment when he turned from
me, he would have pitied me; for his nature, his character, cannot be
quite altered in a few months, though he has ceased to love Leonora.
From the window of his own room I watched for the last glimpse of
him--heard him call to the postilions, and bid them "drive
fast--faster." This was the last sound I heard of his voice. When shall
I hear that voice again? I think that I shall certainly hear from him
the day after to-morrow--and I wish to-day and to-morrow were gone.

I am afraid that you will think me very weak; but, my dear mother, I
have no motive for fortitude now; and perhaps it might have been better
for me, if I had not exerted so much. I begin to fear that all my
fortitude is mistaken for indifference. Something Mr L---- said the
other day about sensibility and sacrifices gave me this idea.
Sensibility!--It has been my hard task for some months past to repress
mine, that it might not give pain or disgust. I have done all that my
reason and my dearest mother counselled; surely I cannot have done
wrong. How apt we are to mistake the opinion or the taste of the man we
love for the rule of right! Sacrifices! What sacrifices can I make?--All
that I have, is it not his?--My whole heart, is it not his?--Myself, all
that I am, all that I _can_ be? Have I not left with him of late,
without recalling to his mind the idea that I suffer by his neglect?
Have I not lived his heart at liberty, and can I make a greater
sacrifice? I really do not understand what he means by sacrifices. A
woman who loves her husband is part of him; whatever she does for him is
for herself. I wish he would explain to me what he can mean by
sacrifices--but when will he ever again explain his thoughts and
feelings to me?

My dearest mother, it has been a relief to my mind to write all this to
you; if there is no sense in it, you will forgive and encourage me by
your affection and strength of mind, which, in all situations, have such
power to soothe and support your daughter.

The Prince ----, who spent a fortnight here, paid me particular
attention.

The prince talked of soon paying us another visit. If he should, I will
not receive him in Mr L----'s absence. This may seem like vanity or
prudery; but no matter what it appears, if it is right.

Well might you, my best friend, bid me beware of forming an intimacy
with an unprincipled woman. I have suffered severely for neglecting your
counsels; how much I have still to endure is yet to be tried: but I can
never be entirely miserable whilst I possess, and whilst I hope that I
deserve, the affection of such a mother.

  Leonora L----.



  Letter liij.

  _The Duchess of ---- to her daughter._


If my approbation and affection can sustain you in this trying
situation, your fortitude will not forsake you, my beloved daughter.
Great minds rise in adversity; they are always equal to the trial, and
superior to injustice: betrayed and deserted, they feel their own force,
and they rely upon themselves. Be yourself, my Leonora! Persevere as you
have begun, and, trust me, you will be happy. I abide by my first
opinion, I repeat my prophecy--your husband's esteem, affection, love,
will be permanently yours. Change of circumstances, however alarming,
cannot shake the fixed judgment of my understanding. Character, as you
justly observe, cannot utterly change in a few months. Your husband is
deceived, he is now as one in the delirium of a fever: he will recover
his senses, and see Lady Olivia and you such as you are.

You do not explain, and I take it for granted you have good reasons for
not explaining to me more fully, the immediate cause of your letter to
Lady Olivia. I am sorry that any cause should have thrown her upon the
protection of Mr L----; for a man of honour and generosity feels himself
bound to treat with tenderness a woman who appears to sacrifice
everything for his sake. Consider this in another point of view, and it
will afford you subject of consolation; for it is always a consolation
to good minds to think those whom they love less to blame than they
appear to be. You will be more calm and patient when you reflect that
your husband's absence may be prolonged by a mistaken sense of honour.
From the nature of his connexion with Lady Olivia it cannot last long.
Had she saved appearances, and engaged him in a sentimental affair, it
might have been far more dangerous to your happiness.

I entirely approve of your conduct with respect to the prince: it is
worthy of my child, and just what I should have expected from her. The
artifices of coquettes, and all the _art_ of love is beneath her; she
has far other powers and resources, and need not strive to maintain her
dignity by vengeance. I admire your magnanimity, and I still more admire
your good sense; for high spirit is more common in our sex than good
sense. Few know how and when they should sacrifice small considerations
to great ones. You say that you will not receive the prince in your
husband's absence, though this may be attributed to prudery or vanity,
&c. &c. You are quite right. How many silly women sacrifice the
happiness of their lives to the idea of what women or men, as silly as
themselves, will say or think of their motives. How many absurd heroines
of romance, and of those who imitate them in real life, do we see, who
can never act with common sense or presence of mind: if a man's carriage
breaks down, or his horse is tired at the end of their avenues, or for
some such ridiculous reason, they must do the very reverse of all they
know to be prudent. Perpetually exposed, by a fatal concurrence of
circumstances, to excite the jealousy of their lovers and husbands, they
create the necessity to which they fall a victim. I rejoice that I
cannot feel any apprehension of my daughter's conducting herself like
one of these novel-bred ladies.

I am sorry, my dear, that Lady M---- and your friends have left you:
yet even in this there may be good. Your affairs will be made less
public, and you will be less the subject of impertinent curiosity. I
advise you, however, to mix as much as usual with your neighbours in the
country: your presence, and the dignity of your manners, will impose
silence upon idle tongues. No wife of real spirit solicits the world for
compassion: she who does not court popularity ensures respect.

Adieu, my dearest child: the time will come when your husband will feel
the full merit of your fortitude; when he will know how to distinguish
between true and false sensibility; between the love of an Olivia and of
a Leonora.



  Letter liv.

  _Mrs C---- to Miss B----._


  Jan. 26.

    My dear Margaret,

I shall never forgive myself. I fear I have done Leonora irreparable
injury; and, dear magnanimous sufferer, she has never reproached me! In
a fit of indignation and imprudent zeal I made a discovery, which has
produced a total breach between Leonora and Lady Olivia, and in
consequence of this Mr L---- has gone off with her ladyship * * * * * *
* * * * * * We have heard nothing from Mr L---- since his departure, and
Leonora is more unhappy than ever, and my imprudence is the cause of
this. Yet she continues to love me. She is an angel! I have promised her
not to mention her affairs in future even in any of my letters to you,
dear Margaret. Pray quiet any reports you may hear, and stop idle
tongues.

  Yours affectionately,
  Helen C----.



  Letter lv.

  _Mr L---- to General B----._


  Richmond.

    My dear Friend,

I do not think I could have borne with temper from any other man
breathing the last letter which I received from you. I am sensible that
it was written with the best intentions for my happiness; but I must now
inform you, that the lady in question has accepted of my protection, and
consequently no man who esteems me can treat her with disrespect.

It is no longer a question, what she will sacrifice for me; she has
shown the greatest generosity and tenderness of soul; and I should
despise myself, if I did not exert every power to make her happy.--We
are at Richmond: but if you write, direct to me at my house in town.

  Yours sincerely,
  F. L----.



  Letter lvi.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


Dream your dream out, my dear L----. Since you are angry with me, as
Solander was with Sir Joseph Banks for awakening him, I shall not take
the liberty of shaking you any more. I believe I shook you rather too
roughly: but I assure you it was for your good, as people always tell
their friends when they do the most disagreeable things imaginable.
Forgive me, and I will let you dream in peace. You will however allow
me to watch by you whilst you sleep; and, my dear somnambulist, I may
just take care that you do not knock your head against a post, or fall
into a well.

I hope you will not have any objection to my paying my respects to Lady
Olivia when I come to town, which, I flatter myself, I shall be able to
do shortly. The fortifications here are almost completed.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter lvij.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  Richmond, ----.

Happy!--No, my dear Gabrielle, nor shall I ever be happy, whilst I have
not exclusive possession of the heart of the man I love. I have
sacrificed everything to him; I have a right to expect that he should
sacrifice at least a wife for me--a wife whom he only esteems. But L----
has not sufficient strength of mind to liberate himself from the cobwebs
which restrain those who talk of conscience, and who, in fact, are only
superstitious. I see with indignation, that his soul is continually
struggling between passion for me and a something, I know not what to
call it, that he feels for this wife. His thoughts are turning towards
home. I believe that to an Englishman's ears there is some magic in the
words _home_ and _wife_. I used to think foreigners ridiculous for
associating the ideas of milord Anglois with roast beef and pudding; but
I begin to see that they are quite right, and that an Englishman has a
certain set of inveterate _homely_ prejudices, which are necessary to
his well-being, and almost to his existence. You may entice him into the
land of sentiment, and for a time keep him there; but refine and polish
and enlighten him as you will, he recurs to his own plain sense, as he
terms it, on the first convenient opportunity. In short, it is lost
labour to civilize him, for sooner or later he will _hottentot_ again.
Pray introduce that term, Gabrielle--_you_ can translate it. For my
part, I can introduce nothing here; my manière d'être is really
insupportable; my talents are lost; I, who am accustomed to shine in
society, see nobody; I might, as Josephine every day observes, as well
be buried alive. Retirement and love are charming; but then it must be
perfect love--not the equivocating sort that L----feels for me, which
keeps the word of promise only to the ear. I bear every sort of
désagrément for him; I make myself a figure for the finger of scorn to
point at, and he insults me with esteem for a wife. Can you conceive
this, my amiable Gabrielle?--No, there are ridiculous points in the
characters of my countrymen which you will never be able to comprehend.
And what is still more incomprehensible, it is my fate to love this man;
yes, passionately to love him!--But he must give me proof of reciprocal
passion. I have too much spirit to sacrifice everything for him, who
will sacrifice nothing for me. Besides, I have another motive. To you,
my faithful Gabrielle, I open my whole heart.--Pride inspires me as well
as love. I am resolved that Leonora, the haughty Leonora, shall live to
repent of having insulted and exasperated Olivia. In some situations
contempt can be answered only by vengeance; and when the malice of a
contracted and illiberal mind provokes it, revenge is virtue. Leonora
has called me her enemy, and consequently has made me such. 'Tis she has
declared the war! 'tis for me to decide the victory!

L----, I know, has the offer of an embassy to Petersburg.--He shall
accept it.--I will accompany him thither. Lady Leonora may, in his
absence, console herself with her august counsellor and mother:--that
proudest of earthly paragons is yet to be taught the extent of Olivia's
power. Adieu, my charming Gabrielle! I will carry your tenderest
remembrances to our brilliant Russian princess. She has often invited
me, you know, to pay her a visit, and this will be the ostensible object
of my journey. A horrible journey, to be sure!!!--But what will not love
undertake and accomplish, especially when goaded by pride, and
inspirited by great revenge?

  Olivia.



  Letter lviij.

  _Olivia to Mr L----._


Victim to the delusions of passion, too well I know my danger, and now,
even now foresee my miserable fate. Too well I know that the delicious
poison which spreads through my frame exalts, entrances, but to destroy.
Too well I know that the meteor fire, which shines so bright on my path,
entices me forward but to plunge me in the depths of infamy. The long
warnings of recorded time teach me, that perjured man triumphs,
disdains, and abandons. Too well, alas! I know these fatal truths; too
well I feel my approaching doom. Yet, infatuated as I am, prescience
avails not; the voice of prudence warns, the hand of Heaven beckons me
in vain.

My friend! my more than friend, my lover! beloved beyond expression! you
to whom I immolate myself, you for whom I sacrifice more than life, O
whisper words of peace! for you, and you alone, can tranquillize this
agitated bosom. Assure me, L----, if with truth you can assure me, that
I have no rival in your affections. O tell me that the name of wife
does not invalidate the claims of love! Repeat for me, a thousand times
repeat, that I am sole possessor of your heart!

The moment you quit me I am overpowered with melancholy forebodings.
Scarcely are you out of my sight, before I dread that I should never see
you more, or that some fatality should deprive me of your love. When
shall the sails of love waft us from this dangerous shore? O! when shall
I dare to call you mine? Heavens! how many things may intervene. . . .
Let nothing detain you from Richmond this evening; but come not at
all--come no more, unless to reassure my trembling heart, and to
convince me that love and Olivia have banished every other image.

  Olivia.



  Letter lix.

  _Mr L---- to General B----._


    My dear General,

I am come to a resolution to accept of that embassy to Russia which I
lately refused. My mind has been in such constant anxiety for some time
past, that my health has suffered, and change of air and place are
necessary to me. You will say, that the climate of Russia is a strange
choice for an invalid: I could indeed have wished for a milder; but in
this world we must be content with the least of two evils. I wish to
have some ostensible reason for going abroad, and this embassy is the
only one that presents itself in an unquestionable shape. Anything is
better than staying where I am, and _as_ I am. My motives are not so
entirely personal and selfish as I have stated them. A man who has a
grain of feeling cannot endure to see the woman whom he loves, whose
only failing is her love, living in a state of dereliction, exposed to
the silent scorn of her equals and inferiors, if not to open insult. All
her fine talents, every advantage of nature and education sacrificed,
and her sensibility to shame a perpetual source of misery. A man must be
a brute if he do not feel for a woman whose affection for him has
reduced her to this situation. My delicacy as to female manners, and the
high value I set upon public opinion in all that concerns the sex, make
me peculiarly susceptible and wretched in my present circumstances. To
raise the drooping spirits, and support the self-approbation of a woman,
who is conscious that she has forfeited her claim to respect--to make
love supply the place of all she has sacrificed to love, is a difficult
and exquisitely painful task. My feelings render hers more acute, and
the very precautions which I take, however delicate, alarm and wound her
pride, by reminding her of all she wishes to forget. In this country no
woman, who is not lost to shame, can bear to live without
reputation.----I pass over a great many intermediate ideas, my dear
general; your sense and feeling will supply them. You see the
expediency, the necessity of my accepting this embassy. Olivia urges,
how can I refuse it? She wishes to accompany me. She made this offer
with such decision of spirit, with such passionate tenderness, as
touched me to the very soul. A woman who really loves absolutely devotes
herself, and becomes insensible to every difficulty and danger; to her
all parts of the world are like; all she fears is to be separated from
the object of her affections.

But the very excess of certain passions proves them to be genuine. Even
whilst we blame the rashness of those who act from the enthusiasm of
their natures, whilst we foresee all the perils to which they seem
blind, we tremble at their danger, we grow more and more interested for
them every moment, we admire their courage, we long to snatch them from
their fate, we are irresistibly hurried along with them down the
precipice.

But why do I say all this to you, my dear general? To no man upon earth
could it be more ineffectually addressed. Let me see you, however,
before we leave England. It would be painful to me to quit this country
without taking leave of you, notwithstanding all that you have lately
done to thwart my inclinations, and notwithstanding all I may expect you
to say when we meet. Probably I shall be detained here some weeks, as I
must wait for instructions from our court. I write this day to Lady
Leonora, to inform her that I am appointed ambassador to Russia. She
shall have all the honours of war; she shall be treated with all the
respect to which she is so well entitled. I suppose she will wish to
reside with her mother during my absence. She cannot do better: she will
then be in the most eligible situation, and I shall be relieved from all
anxiety upon her account. She will be perfectly happy with her mother. I
have often thought that she was much happier before she married me than
she has been since our union.

I have some curiosity to know whether she will see the prince when I am
gone. Do not mistake me; I am not jealous: I have too little love, and
too much esteem for Leonora, to feel the slightest jealousy. I have no
doubt, that if I were to stay in Russia for ten years, and if all the
princes and potentates in Europe were to be at her feet, my wife would
conduct herself with the most edifying propriety: but I am a little
curious to know how far vanity or pride can console a virtuous woman for
the absence of love.

  Yours truly,
  F. L----.



  Letter lx.

  _Madame de P---- to Olivia._


  Paris.

You are really decided then to go to Russia, my amiable friend, and you
will absolutely undertake this horrible voyage! And you are not
intimidated by the idea of the immense distance between Petersburg and
Paris! Alas! I had hoped soon to see you again. The journey from my
convent to Paris was the longest and most formidable that I ever
undertook, and at this moment it appears to me terrible; you may
conceive therefore my admiration of your courage and strength of mind,
my dear Olivia, who are going to brave the ocean, turning your back on
Paris, and every moment receding from our polished centre of attraction,
to perish perhaps among mountains of ice. Mon Dieu! it makes me shudder
to think of it. But if it pleases Heaven that you should once arrive at
Petersburg, you will crown your tresses with diamonds, you will envelop
yourself with those superb furs of the north, and smiling at all the
dangers you have passed, you will be yourself a thousand times more
dangerous than they. You, who have lived so long at Paris, who speak our
language in all its shades of elegance; you, who have divined all our
secrets of pleasing, who have caught our very air,

  "Et la grace, encore plus belle que la beauté;"

you, who are absolutely a French woman, and a Parisian, what a sensation
you will produce at Petersburg!--Quels succès vous attendent!--Quels
hommages!

You will have the goodness to offer my tenderest sentiments, and the
assurances of my perfect respect, to our dear princess; you will also
find the proper moment to remind her of the promise she made to send me
specimens of the fine ermines and sables of her country. For my part, I
used to be, I confess, in a great error with respect to furs: I always
acknowledged them to be rich, but avoided them as heavy; I considered
them as fitter for the stiff magnificence of an empress of all the
Russias than for the light elegance of a Parisian beauty; but our
charming princess convinced me that this is a heresy in taste. When I
beheld the grace with which she wore her ermine, and the art with which
she knew how to vary its serpent folds as she moved, or as she spoke;
the variety it gave to her costume and attitudes; the development it
afforded to a fine hand and arm, the resource in the pauses of
conversation, and that soft and attractive air which it seemed to impart
even to the play of her wit, I could no longer refuse my homage to
ermine. Such is the despotism of beauty over all the objects of taste
and fashion; and so it is, that a woman of sense, address, and
sentiment, let her be born or thrown by fate where she may, will always
know how to avail herself of every possible advantage of nature and art.
Nothing will be too trifling or too vast for her genius.

I must make you understand me, my dear Olivia; your Gabrielle is not so
frivolous as simpletons imagine. Frivolity is an excellent, because an
unsuspected mask, under which serious and important designs may be
safely concealed. I would explain myself further, but must now go to the
opera to see the new ballet. Let me know, my interesting, my sublime
Olivia, when you are positively determined on your voyage to Petersburg;
and then you shall become acquainted with your friend as a politician.
Her friendship for you will not be confined to a mere intercourse of
sentiment, but will, if you have courage to second her views, give you a
secret yet decisive weight and consequence, of which you have hitherto
never dreamed.--Adieu.--These gentlemen are so impatient, I must go.
Burn the last page of this letter, and the whole of my next as soon as
you have read it, I conjure you, my dear.

  Gabrielle de P----.



  Letter lxi.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


    Dear L----.

I have time but to write one line to satisfy that philosophical
curiosity, which, according to your injunctions, I will not denominate
jealousy--except when I talk to myself.

You have a philosophical curiosity to know whether your wife will see
the prince in your absence. I saw his favourite yesterday, who
complained to me, that his highness had been absolutely refused
admittance at your castle, notwithstanding he had made many ingenious
and some bold attempts to see Lady Leonora L---- in the absence of her
faithless husband.

As to your scheme of going to Russia, you will be obliged, luckily, to
wait for some time for instruction, and in the interval, it is to be
hoped you will recover your senses. I shall see you as soon as possible.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter lxij.

  _Madame de P---- to Lady Olivia._


  Paris.

As our vanity always endeavours to establish a balance between our own
perfections and those of our friends, I must flatter myself, my dear
Olivia, that in compensation for that courage and ardent imagination in
which you are so much my superior, I possess some little advantages over
you in my scientific, hereditary knowledge of court intrigue, and of the
arts of representation; all which will be necessary to you in your
character of ambassadress: you will in fact deserve this title, for of
course you will govern the English ambassador, whom you honour with your
love. And of course you will appear with splendour, and you will be
particularly careful to have your _traineau_ well appointed. Pray
remember that one of your horses must gallop, whilst the other trots, or
you are nobody. It will also be absolutely necessary to have a numerous
retinue of servants, because this suits the Russian idea of
magnificence. You must have, as the Russian nobles always had in Paris,
four servants constantly to attend your equipage; one to carry the
flambeau, another to open the door, and a couple to carry you into and
out of your carriage. I beseech you to bear in mind perpetually, that
you are to be as helpless as possible. A Frenchman of my acquaintance,
who spent nine years in Russia, told me, that in his first setting out
at Petersburg, he was put on his guard in this particular by a speech of
his Russian valet de chambre:--"Sir, the Englishman you visited to-day
cannot be worthy of your acquaintance; he cannot be a gentleman. Son
valet me dit qu'il se déshabille seul!!!"

I suppose you take Josephine with you; she will be an inestimable
treasure; and I shall make it my business to send you the first advices
of Paris fashions, which her talents will not fail to comprehend and
execute. My charming Olivia! you will be the model of taste and
elegance! Do not suspect that dress is carrying me away from politics.
I assure you I know what I am about, and am going straight to my object.
The art of attending to trifles is the art of governing the world, as
all historians know, who have gone to the bottom of affairs. Was not the
face of Europe changed by a dish of tea thrown on Mrs Masham's gown, as
Voltaire with penetrating genius remarks? Women, without a doubt,
understand the importance of trifles better than men do, and
consequently always move in secret the slight springs of that vast
machine, the civilized world. Is not your ambition roused, my Olivia?
You must, however, lay aside a little of your romance, and not approach
the political machine whilst you are intoxicated with love, else you
will blunder infallibly, and do infinite and irreparable mischief to
yourself and your friends.

Permit me to tell you, that you have been a little spoiled by
sentimental novels, which are good only to talk of when one must show
sensibility, but destructive as rules of action. By the false lights
which these writers, who know nothing of the world, have thrown upon
objects, you have been deluded; you have been led to mistake the means
for the end. Love has been with you the sole end of love; whereas it
ought to be the beginning of power. No matter for the past: the future
is yours: at our age this future must be dexterously managed. A woman of
spirit, and, what is better, of sense, must always take care that in her
heart the age of love is not prolonged beyond the age of being beloved.
In these times a woman has no choice at a certain period but politics,
or bel esprit; for devotion, which used to be a resource, is no longer
in fashion. We must all take a part, my dear; I assure you I have taken
mine decidedly, and I predict that you will take yours with brilliant
success. How often must one cry in the ears of lovers--Love must die!
must die! must die! But you, my dear Olivia, will not be deaf to the
warning voice of common sense. Your own experience has on former
occasions convinced you, that passion cannot be eternal; and at present,
if I mistake not, there is in your love a certain mixture of other
feelings, a certain alloy, which will make it happily ductile and
manageable. When your triumph over the wife is complete, passion for the
husband will insensibly decay; and this will be fortunate for you,
because assuredly your ambassador would not choose to remain all the
rest of his days in love and in exile at Petersburg. All these English
are afflicted with the maladie du pays; and, as you observe so well, the
words home and wife have ridiculous but unconquerable power over their
minds. What will become of you, my friend, when this Mr L----chooses to
return to England to his castle, &c.? You could not accompany him. You
must provide in time against this catastrophe, or you will be a
deserted, disgraced, undone woman, my dear friend.

No one should begin to act a romance who has not well considered the
dénouement. It is a charming thing to mount with a friend in a balloon,
amid crowds of spectators, who admire the fine spectacle, and applaud
the courage of the aërostats; the losing sight of this earth, and the
being in or above the clouds, must also be delightful: but the moment
will come when the travellers descend, and then begins the danger; then
they differ about throwing out the ballast, the balloon is rent in the
quarrel, it sinks with frightful rapidity, and they run the hazard, like
the poor Marquis d'Arlande, of being spitted upon the spire of the
Invalides, or of being entangled among woods and briers--at last,
alighting upon the earth, our adventurers, fatigued and bruised, and
disappointed, come out of their shattered triumphal car, exposed to the
derision of the changeable multitude.

Everything in this world is judged of by success. Your voyage to
Petersburg, my dear Olivia, must not be a mere adventure of romance; as
a party of pleasure it would be ridiculous; we must make something more
of it. Enclosed is a letter to a Russian nobleman, an old lover of mine,
who I understand is in favour. He will certainly be at your command. He
is a man possessed by the desire of having reputation among foreigners,
vain of the preference of our sex, generous even to prodigality. By his
means you will be immediately placed on an easy footing with all the
leading persons of the Russian court. You will go on from one step to
another, till you are at the height which I have in view. Now for my
grand object.--No, not now--for I have forty little notes about nothings
to write this morning. Great things hang upon these nothings, so they
should not be neglected. I must leave you, my amiable Olivia, and defer
my grand object till to-morrow.

  Gabrielle de P----.



  Letter lxiij.

  _Leonora to the Duchess of ----._


    Dear Mother,

This moment I have received a letter from Mr L----. He has accepted of
an embassy to Petersburg. I cannot guess by the few lines he has
written, whether or not he wishes that I should accompany him. Most
ardently I wish it; but if my offer should be refused, or if it should
be accepted only because it could not be well refused; if I should be a
burthen, a restraint upon him, I should wish myself dead.

Perhaps he accepts of this embassy on purpose that he may leave me and
take another person with him: or perhaps, dearest mother (I hardly dare
to hope it)--perhaps he wishes to break off that connexion, and goes to
Russia to leave temptation behind him. I know that this embassy was
offered to him some weeks ago, and he had then no thoughts of accepting
it.--O that I could see into his heart--that heart which used to be
always open to me! If I could discover what his wishes are, I should
know what mine ought to be. I have thoughts of going to town immediately
to see him; at least I may take leave of him. Do you approve of it?
Write the moment you receive this: but I need not say that, for I am
sure you will do so. Dearest mother, you have prophesied that his heart
will return to me, and on this hope I live.

  Your ever affectionate daughter,
  Leonora L----.



  Letter lxiv.

  _The Duchess of ---- to Leonora._


Yes, my dear, I advise you by all means to go to town, and to see your
husband. Your desire to accompany him to Russia he will know before you
see him, for I have just written and despatched an express to him with
your last letter, and with all those which I have received from you
within these last six months. Leave Mr L---- time to read them before he
sees you; and do not hurry or fatigue yourself unnecessarily. You know
that an embassy cannot be arranged in two days; therefore travel by easy
journeys: you cannot do otherwise without hazard. Your courage in
offering to undertake this long voyage with your husband is worthy of
you, my beloved daughter. God bless and preserve you! If you go to
Petersburg, let me know in time, that I may see you before you leave
England. I will be at any moment at any place you appoint.

  Your affectionate mother,



  Letter lxv.

  _The Duchess of ---- to Mr L----._


Perhaps this letter may find you at the feet of your mistress. Spare me,
sir, a few moments from your pleasures. You may perhaps expect
reproaches from the mother of your wife; but let me assure you, that you
have none to apprehend. For my daughter's sake, if not for yours, I
would forbear. Never was departing love recalled by the voice of
reproach; you shall not hear it from me, you have not heard it from
Leonora. But mistake not the cause of her forbearance; let it not be
attributed to pusillanimity of temper, or insensibility of heart.

Enclosed I send you all the letters which my daughter has written to me
from the first day of her acquaintance with Lady Olivia to this hour.
From these you will be enabled to judge of what she has felt for some
months past, and of the actual state of her heart; you will see all the
tenderness and all the strength of her soul.

It has ever been my fixed opinion, that a wife who loves her husband,
and who has possessed his affections, may reclaim them from the lure of
the most artful of her sex, by persevering kindness, temper, and good
sense, unless indeed her husband be a fool or a libertine. I have
prophesied that my daughter will regain your heart; and upon this
prophecy, to use her own expression, she lives. And even now, when its
accomplishment is far removed, I am so steady in my opinion of her and
of you; so convinced of the uniform result of certain conduct upon the
human mind, that undismayed I repeat my prophecy.

Were you to remain in this kingdom, I should leave things to their
natural course; I should not interfere so far even as to send you
Leonora's letters: but as you may be separated for years, I think it
necessary now to put into your hands incontrovertible proofs of what she
is, and what she has been. Do not imagine that I am so weak as to expect
that the perusal of these letters will work a sudden change: but it is
fit, that before you leave England you should know that Leonora is not a
cold, sullen, or offended wife; but one who loves you most tenderly,
most generously; who, concealing the agony of her heart, waits with
resignation for the time when she will be your refuge, and the permanent
blessing of your life.



  Letter lxvi.

  _Madame de P---- to Olivia._


  Paris.

And now, my charming Olivia, raise your fine eyes as high as ambition
can look, and you will perhaps discover my grand object. You do not see
it yet. Look again.--Do you not see the Emperor of Russia? What would
you think of him for a lover? If it were only for novelty's sake, it
would really be pleasant to have a czar at one's feet. Reign in his
heart, and you in fact seat yourself invisibly on the throne of all the
Russias: thence what a commanding prospect you have of the affairs of
Europe! and how we should govern the world at our ease! The project is
bold, but not impracticable. The ancients represent Cupid riding the
Numidian lion; and why should he not tame the Russian bear? It would
make a pretty design for a vignette. I can engrave as well as La
Pompadour could at least, and anticipating your victory, my charming
Olivia, I will engrave Cupid leading the bear in a chain of flowers.
This shall be my seal. Mon cachet de faveur.

Courage, my fair politician! You have a difficult task; but the glory is
in proportion to the labour; and those who value power properly are paid
by its acquisition for all possible fatigue and hardships. With your
knowledge of our modes, you will be at Petersburg the arbitress of
delights. You have a charming taste and invention for fêtes and
spectacles. Teach these people to vary their pleasures. Their monarch
must adore you, if you banish from his presence that most dreadful enemy
of kings, and most obstinate resident of courts, _ennui_. Trust, my
Olivia, neither to your wit, nor your beauty, nor your accomplishments,
but employ your "various arts of trifling prettily," and, take my word
for it, you will succeed.

As I may not have an opportunity of sending you another private letter,
and as lemon-juice, goulard, and all those sympathetic inks, are subject
to unlucky accidents, I must send you all my secret instructions by the
present safe conveyance.

You must absolutely sacrifice, my dear child, all your romantic notions,
and all your taste for love, to the grand object. The czar must not have
the slightest cause for jealousy. These czars make nothing, you know, of
cutting off their mistresses' pretty heads upon the bare suspicion of an
intrigue. But you must do what is still more difficult than to be
constant, you must yield your will, and, what is more, you must never
let this czar guess that his will is not always your pleasure. Your
humour, your tastes, your wishes, must be incessantly and with alacrity
sacrificed to his. You must submit to the constraint of eternal court
ceremony and court dissimulation. You must bear to be surrounded with
masks, instead of the human face divine; and instead of
fellow-creatures, you must content yourself with puppets. You will have
the amusement of pulling the wires: but remember that you must wear a
mask perpetually as well as others, and never attempt to speak, and
never expect to hear the language of truth or of the heart. You must not
be the dupe of attachment in those who call themselves friends, or
zealous and affectionate servants, &c. &c. You must have sufficient
strength of character to bear continually in mind that all these
professions are mere words, that all these people are alike false, and
actuated but by one motive, self-interest. To secure yourself from
secret and open enemies, you must farther have sufficient courage to
live without a friend or a confidante, for such persons at court are
only spies, traitors in the worst forms. All this is melancholy and
provoking, to be sure; but all this you must see without feeling, or at
least without showing a spark of indignation. A sentimental
misanthropist, male or female, is quite out of place at court. You must
see all that is odious and despicable in human nature in a comic point
of view; and you must consider your fellow-creatures as objects to be
laughed at, not to be hated. Laughter, besides being good for the
health, and consequently for the complexion, always implies superiority.
Without this gratification to our vanity there would be no possibility
of enduring that eternal penance of hypocrisy, and that solitary state
of suspicion, to which the ambitious condemn themselves. I fear, my
romantic Olivia, that you, who are a person used to yield to first
impressions, and not quite accustomed to subdue your passions to your
interest, will think that politics require too much from you, almost as
much as constancy or religion. But consider the difference! for Heaven's
sake, my dear, consider the greatness of our object! Would to God that I
had the eloquence of Bossuet, and I would make you a convert from love
and a proselyte to glory. Dare, my Olivia, to be a martyr to
ambition!--See! already high in air she holds a crown over your head--it
is almost within your grasp--stretch out your white arm and seize
it--fear not the thorns!--every crown has thorns--but who upon that
account ever yet refused one? My dear empress, I have the honour to kiss
your powerful hands.

  Gabrielle de P----.



  Letter lxvij.

  _Mr L---- to General B----._


    My dear Friend,

You need not hurry yourself to come to town on my account, for by this
change of ministry my embassy will be delayed some weeks.

A few days ago this delay would have been a terrible disappointment to
me; yet now I feel it a respite. A respite! you will exclaim. Yes, my
dear friend--so it is. Such is the heart of man!--so changeable, so
contradictory, so much at variance with itself from day to day, from
hour to hour. I believe, from what I now feel, that every man under the
dominion of passion is reduced to a most absurd and miserable
condition.--I have just been reading some letters from Leonora, which
have wrung my heart; letters addressed to her mother, laying open every
feeling of her mind for some months. My dear friend, what injustice
have I done to this admirable woman! With what tenderness, with what
delicacy has she loved me! while I, mistaking modesty for coldness,
fortitude for indifference, have neglected, injured, and abandoned her!
With what sweetness of temper, with what persevering goodness has she
borne with me, while, intoxicated with passion, I saw everything in a
false point of view! How often have I satisfied myself with the
persuasion, that she scarcely observed my attachment to Olivia, or
beheld it unconcerned, secure by the absence of love from the pangs of
jealousy! How often have I accused her of insensibility, whilst her
heart was in tortures! Olivia was deceived also, and confirmed me in
this cruel error. And all that time Leonora was defending her rival, and
pleading her cause! With what generosity, with what magnanimity she
speaks of Olivia in those letters! Her confidence was unbounded, her
soul above suspicion; to the very last she doubted and blamed
herself--dear amiable woman! blamed herself for our faults, for feeling
that jealousy, which no wife who loved as she did could possibly subdue.
She never betrayed it by a single word or look of reproach. Even though
she fainted at that cursed fête champêtre, yet the moment she came to
her senses, she managed so that none of the spectators could suspect she
thought Olivia was her rival. My dear general, you will forgive me--as
long as I praise Leonora you will understand me. At last you will
acknowledge that I do justice to the merits of my wife. Justice! no--I
am unworthy of her. I have no heart like hers to offer in return for
such love. She wishes to go with me to Petersburg; she has forborne to
make this offer directly to me; but I know it from her last letter to
her mother, which now lies before me. How can I refuse?--and how can I
accept? My soul is torn with violence different ways. How can I leave
Leonora; and how can I tear myself from Olivia!--even if her charms had
no power over my heart, how could I with honour desert the woman who has
sacrificed everything for me! I will not shield myself from you, my
friend, behind the word honour. See me as you have always seen me,
without disguise, and now without defence. I respect, I love
Leonora--but, alas! I am in love with Olivia!

  Yours ever,
  F. L----.



  Letter lxviij.

  _Mr L---- to Olivia._


Triumphant as you are over my heart, dear enchanting Olivia! you cannot
make me false. I cannot, even to appease your anger, deny this morning
what I said last night. It is inconsistent with all your professions,
with your character, with your generous disposition, to desire me to
"_abjure Leonora for ever_!" it would be to render myself for ever
unworthy of Olivia. I am convinced, that had you read the letters of
which I spoke, you would have been touched, you would have been struck
by them as I was: instead of being hurt and displeased by the impression
that they made upon me, you would have sympathized in my feelings, you
would have been indignant if I had not admired, you would have detested
and despised me if I could have been insensible to "_so much goodness
and generosity_." I repeat my words: I will not "_retract_," I cannot
"_repent of them_." My dear Olivia! when you reflect upon what is past,
I am persuaded you will acknowledge that your sensibility made you
unjust. Indeed, my love, you did not show your usual candour; I had
just read all that Leonora had written of you, all that she had urged
against her mother in your defence; even when she had most cause to be
irritated against us, I could not avoid being shocked by the different
manner in which you spoke of her. Perhaps I told you so too abruptly: if
I had loved you less, I should have been more cautious and more calm--if
I had esteemed you less, calmer still. I could then, possibly, have
borne to hear you speak in a manner unbecoming yourself. Forgive me the
pain I gave you--the pain I now give you, my dearest Olivia! My
sincerity is the best security you can have for my future love. Banish
therefore this unjust, this causeless jealousy: moderate this excessive
sensibility for both our sakes, and depend upon the power you have over
my heart. You cannot conceive how much I have felt from this
misunderstanding--the first we have ever had. Let it be the last. I have
spent a sleepless night. I am detained in town by provoking, tiresome,
but necessary business. Meet me in the evening with smiles, my Olivia:
let me behold in those fascinating eyes their wonted expression, and
hear from your voice its usual, its natural tone of tenderness and love.

  Ever devotedly yours,
  F. L----.



  Letter lxix.

  _Olivia to Mr L----._


You have spoken daggers to me! Come not to Richmond this evening! I
cannot--will not see you! Not for the universe would I see you with my
present feelings!

Write to me more letters like that which I have just received. Dip your
pen in gall; find words more bitter than those which you have already
used. Accuse me of want of candour, want of generosity, want of every
amiable, every estimable quality. Upbraid me with the loss of all of
which you have bereft me. Recollect every sacrifice that I have made,
and, if you can, imagine every sacrifice that I would still make for
you--peace of mind, friends, country, fortune, fame, virtue; name them
all, and triumph--and disdain your triumph! Remind me how low I am
fallen--sink me lower still--insult, debase, humble me to the dust.
Exalt my rival, unroll to my aching eyes the emblazoned catalogue of her
merits, her claims to your esteem, your affection; number them over,
dwell upon those that I have forfeited, those which can never be
regained; tell me that such merits are above all price; assure me that
beyond all her sex you respect, you admire, you love your wife; say it
with enthusiasm, with fire in your eyes, with all the energy of passion
in your voice; then bid me sympathize in your feelings--bid me banish
jealousy--wonder at my alarm--call my sorrow anger--conjure me to
restrain my sensibility! Restrain my sensibility! Unhappy Olivia! he is
tired of your love. Let him then at once tell me the dreadful truth, and
I will bear it. Any evil is better than uncertainty, than lingering
hope. Drive all hope from my mind. Bid me despair and die--but do not
stretch me on the rack of jealousy!--Yet if such be your cruel pleasure,
enjoy it.--Determine how much I can endure and live. Stop just at the
point when human nature sinks, that you may not lose your victim, that
she may linger on from day to day, your sport and your derision.

  Olivia.



  Letter lxx.

  _Mr L---- to General B----._


    My dear General,

You will rejoice to hear that Olivia and I have been in a state of
warfare for some days past, and you will be still more pleased when you
learn the cause of our quarrel. On the day that I had been reading
Leonora's letters I was rather later at Richmond than usual. Olivia,
offended, insisted upon knowing by what I could possibly have been
detained. Her anger knew no bounds when she heard the truth. She made
use of some expressions, in speaking of my wife, which I could not, I
hope, have borne at any time, but which shocked me beyond measure at
that moment. I defended Leonora with warmth. Olivia, in a scornful tone,
talked of my wife's coldness of disposition, and bid me compare Lady
Leonora's love with hers. It was a comparison I had it more in my power
to make than Olivia was aware of; it was the most disadvantageous moment
for her in which that comparison could be made. She saw or suspected my
feelings, and perceived that all she had said of my Leonora's
_incapability of loving_ produced an effect directly contrary to her
expectations. Transported by jealousy, she then threw out hints
respecting the prince. I spoke as I felt, indignantly. I know not
precisely what I said, but Olivia and I parted in anger. I have since
received a passionately fond note from her. But I feel unhappy. Dear
general, when will you come to town?

  Yours truly,
  F. L----.



  Letter lxxi.

  _Mrs C---- to the Duchess of ----._


    My dear Madam,

Your grace's cautions and entreaties to Lady Leonora not to over-exert
and fatigue herself were, alas! as ineffectual as mine. From the time
she heard that Mr L---- had accepted this embassy to Petersburg, she was
so eager to set out on her journey to town, and so impatient to see him,
that neither her mind nor her body had one moment's tranquillity. She
waited with indescribable anxiety for your grace's answer to her letter;
and the instant she was secure of your approbation, her carriage was
ordered to the door. I saw that she was ill; but she would not listen to
my fears; she repeated with triumph, that her mother made no objection
to her journey, and that she had no apprehensions for herself. However,
she was obliged at last to yield. The carriage was actually at the door,
when she was forced to submit to be carried to her bed. For several
hours she was in such danger, that I never expected she could live till
this day. Thank God! she is now safe. Her infant, to her great delight,
is a boy: she was extremely anxious to have a son, because Mr
L----formerly wished for one so much. She forbids me to write to Mr
L----, lest I should communicate the account of her _sudden illness_ too
abruptly.

She particularly requests that your grace will mention to him this
_accident_ in the least alarming manner possible. I shall write again
next post. Lady Leonora has now fallen asleep, and seems to sleep
quietly. Who should sleep in peace if she cannot! I never saw her
equal.

  My dear madam,
  I am,
  With respect and attachment,
  Your grace's
  Sincerely affectionate,
  Helen C----.

It is with extreme concern I am forced to add, that since I wrote this
  Letter the child has been so ill that I have fears for his life.--His
poor mother!



  Letter lxxij.

  _Mr L---- to General B----._


    My dear General,

All is upon velvet again. Poor Olivia was excessively hurt by my letter:
she was ill for two days--seriously ill. Yesterday I at length obtained
admittance. Olivia was all softness, all candour: she acknowledged that
she had been wrong, and in so sweet a voice! She blamed herself till I
could no longer think her blameable. She seemed so much humbled and
depressed, such a tender melancholy appeared in her bewitching eyes,
that I could not resist the fascination. I certainly gave her some cause
for displeasure that unfortunate evening; for as Olivia has strong
passions and exquisite sensibility, I should not have been so abrupt. A
fit of jealousy may seize the best and most generous mind, and may
prompt to what it would be incapable of saying or thinking in
dispassionate moments. I am sure that Olivia has, upon reflection, felt
more pain from this affair than I have. My Russian embassy is still in
_abeyance_. Ministers seem to know their own minds as little as I know
mine. Ambition has its quarrels and follies as well as love. At all
events, I shall not leave England till next month; and I shall not go
down to L---- Castle till I have received my last instructions from our
court, and till the day for my sailing is fixed. The parting with
Leonora will be a dreadful difficulty. I cannot think of it steadily.
But as she herself says, "Is it not better that she should lose a year
of my affections than a life?" The duchess is mistaken in imagining it
possible that any woman, let her influence be ever so great over my
heart, could prejudice me against my amiable, my admirable wife. What
has just passed between Olivia and me convinces me that it is
impossible. She has too much knowledge of my character to hazard in
future a similar attempt. No, my dear friend, be assured I would not
suffer it. I have not yet lost all title to your esteem or to my own.
This enchantress may intoxicate me with her cup, but shall never degrade
me; and I should feel myself less degraded even by losing the human form
than by forfeiting that principle of honour and virtue, which more nobly
distinguishes man from brute.

  Yours most sincerely,
  F. L----.



  Letter lxxiij.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


    My dear Friend,

It is well that I did not answer your letter of Saturday before I
received that of Monday. My congratulations upon your quarrel with your
fair one might have come just as you were kissing hands upon a
reconciliation.

I have often found a great convenience in writing a bad hand; my letters
are so little like what they are intended for, and have among them such
equality of unintelligibility, that each seems either; and with the
slightest alteration, each will stand and serve for the other. My _m_,
_n_, and _u_, are convertible letters; so are the terms and propositions
of your present mode of reasoning, my dear L----, and I perceive that
you find your account in it. Upon this I congratulate you; and I
congratulate Lady Leonora upon your being detained some weeks longer in
England. Those who have a just cause need never pray for victory; they
need only ask the gods for time. Time always brings victory to truth,
and shame to falsehood. But you are not worthy of such fine apophthegms.
At present "you are not fit to hear yourself convinced." I will wait for
a better opportunity, and have patience with you, if I can.

You seem to plume yourself mightily upon your resolve to do justice to
the merits of your wife, and upon the courage you have shown in stuffing
cotton into your ears to prevent your listening to the voice of the
siren: but pray take the cotton out, and hear all she can say or sing.
Lady Leonora cannot be hurt by anything Olivia can say, but her own
malice may destroy herself.

In the meantime, as you tell me that you are upon velvet again, I am to
presume that you are perfectly at ease; and I should be obliged to you,
if, as often as you can find leisure, you would send me bulletins of
your happiness. I have never yet been in love with one of these
high-flown heroines, and I am really curious to know what degree of
felicity they can bestow upon a man of common sense. I should be glad
to profit by the experience of a friend.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter lxxiv.

  _Olivia to Madame de P----._


  Richmond.

Accept my sincere thanks, inimitable Gabrielle! for having taken off my
hands a lover, who really has half-wearied me to death. If you had dealt
more frankly with me, I could, however, have saved you much superfluous
trouble and artifice. I now perfectly comprehend the cause of poor
R***'s strange silence some months ago; he was then under the influence
of your charms, and it was your pleasure to deceive me even when there
was no necessity for dissimulation. You knew the secret of my growing
attachment to L----, and must have foreseen that R*** would be
burthensome to me. You needed therefore only to have treated me with
candour, and you would have gained a lover without losing a friend: but
Mad. de P---- is too accomplished a politician to go the simple straight
road to her object. I now perfectly comprehend why she took such pains
to persuade me that an imperial lover was alone worthy of my charms. She
was alarmed by an imaginary danger. Believe me, I am incapable of
disputing with any one _les restes d'un coeur_.

Permit me to assure you, madam, that your incomparable talents for
explanation will be utterly thrown away on me in future. I am in
possession of the whole truth, from a person whose information I cannot
doubt: I know the precise date of the commencement of your connexion
with R***, so that you must perceive it will be impracticable to make me
believe that you have not betrayed my easy confidence.

I cannot, however, without those pangs of sentiment which your heart
will never experience, reflect upon the treachery, the perfidy of one
who has been my bosom friend.--Return my letters, Gabrielle.--With this
you will receive certain _souvenirs_, at which I could never
henceforward look without sighing. I return you that ring I have so long
worn with delight, the picture of that treacherous eye,[2] which you
know so well how to use. Adieu, Gabrielle.--The illusion is over.--How
many of the illusions of my fond heart have been dispelled by time and
treachery!

  Olivia.

[Footnote 2: Certain ladies at this time carried pictures of the eyes of
their favourites.]



  Letter lxxv.

  _Madame de P---- to Monsieur R***._


  Paris, -- 18, --.

I have just received the most extravagant letter imaginable from your
Olivia. Really you may congratulate yourself, my dear friend, upon
having recovered your liberty. 'Twere better to be a galley slave at
once than to be bound to please a woman for life, who knows not what she
would have either in love or friendship. Can you conceive anything so
absurd as her upbraiding me with treachery, because I know the value of
a heart of which she tells me she was more than half tired? as if I were
to blame for her falling in love with Mr L----, and as if I did not know
the whole progress of her inconstancy. Her letters to me give a new
history of the birth and education of Love. Here we see Love born of
Envy, nursed by _Ennui_, and dandled in turn by all the Vices.

And this Lady Olivia fancies that she is a perfect Frenchwoman! There is
nothing we Parisians abhor and ridicule so much as these foreign, and
always awkward, caricatures of our manners. With us there are many who,
according to a delicate distinction, lose their virtue without losing
their taste for virtue; but I flatter myself there are few who resemble
Olivia entirely--who have neither the virtues of a man nor of a woman.
One cannot even say that "her head is the dupe of her heart," since she
has no heart. But enough of such a tiresome and incomprehensible
subject.

How I overvalued that head, when I thought it could ever be fit for
politics! 'Tis well we did not commit ourselves. You see how prudent I
am, my dear R***, and how much those are mistaken who think that we
women are not fit to be trusted with secrets of state. Love and politics
make the best mixture in the world. Adieu. Victoire summons me to my
toilette.

  Gabrielle de P----.



  Letter lxxvi.

  _Madame de P---- to Lady Olivia._


  Paris, -- 18, --.

Really, my dear Olivia, this is too childish. What! make a complaint in
form against me for taking a lover off your hands when you did not know
what to do with him! Do you quarrel in England every time you change
partners in a country dance? But I must be serious; for the
high-sounding words _treachery_ and _perfidy_ are surely sufficient to
make anybody grave. Seriously, then, if you are resolved to be tragical,
_et de me faire une scène_, I must submit--console myself, and, above
all things, take care not to be ridiculous.

Your letters, as you desire it so earnestly, and with so much reason,
shall be returned by the first safe conveyance; but excuse me if I
forbear to restore your _souvenirs_. With us Parisians this returning of
keepsakes has been out of fashion since the days of Molière and _Le
dépit amoureux_.

Adieu, my charming Olivia! I embrace you tenderly, I was going to say;
but I believe, according to your English etiquette, I must now conclude
with

  I have the honour to be,
  Madam,
  Your most obedient,
  Humble servant,
  Gabrielle de P----.



  Letter lxxvij.

  _From Olivia to Mr L----._


  Tuesday morning.

Come not to Richmond to-day; I am not in spirits to see you, my dearest
L----. Allow me to indulge my melancholy retired from every human eye.

  Olivia.



  Letter lxxviij.

  _From Lady Olivia to Mr L----._


  Tuesday evening.

"Explain to you the cause of my melancholy"--Vain request!--cruel as
vain! Your ignorance of the cause too well justifies my sad
presentiments. Were our feelings in unison, as once they were, would not
every chord of your heart vibrate responsively to mine?

With me love is an absorbing vortex of the soul, into which all other
thoughts, feelings, and ideas are irresistibly impelled; with you it is
but as the stranger stream that crosses the peaceful lake, and as it
flows wakens only the surface of the slumbering waters, communicating to
them but a temporary agitation. With you, my dear, but too
tranquil-minded friend, love is but one amid the vulgar crowd of
pleasures; it concentrates not your ideas, it entrances not your
faculties; it is not, as in my heart, the supreme delight, which renders
all others tasteless, the only blessing which can make life supportable;
the sole, sufficient object of existence. Alas! how cruelly different is
the feeble attachment that I have inspired from that all-powerful
sentiment to which I live a victim! Countless symptoms, by you unheeded,
mark to my love-watchful eye the decline of passion. How often am I
secretly shocked by the cold carelessness of your words and manner! How
often does the sigh burst from my bosom, the tear fall from my eye, when
you have left me at leisure to recall, by memory's torturing power,
instances of your increasing indifference! Seek not to calm my too
well-founded fears. Professions, with all their unmeaning, inanimate
formality, but irritate my anguish. Permit me to indulge, to feed upon
my grief in silence. Ask me no more to explain to you the cause of my
melancholy. Too plainly, alas! I feel it is beyond my utmost power to
endure it. Amiable Werter--divine St Preux--you would sympathize in my
feelings! Sublime Goethe--all-eloquent Rousseau--you alone could feel as
I do, and you alone could paint my anguish.

  The miserable
  Olivia.



  Letter lxxix.

  _Mr L---- to General B----._


Expect no bulletin of happiness from me, my friend. I find it impossible
to make Olivia happy. She has superior talents, accomplishments, beauty,
grace, all that can attract and fascinate the human heart--that could
triumph over every feeling, every principle that opposed her power: she
lives with the man she loves, and yet she is miserable.

Rousseau, it has been said, never really loved any woman but his own
Julie; I have lately been tempted to think that Olivia never really
loved any man but St Preux. Werter, perhaps, and some other German
heroes, might dispute her heart even with St Preux; but as for me, I
begin to be aware that I am loved only as a feeble resemblance of those
divine originals (to whom, however, my character bears not the slightest
similarity), and I am often indirectly, and sometimes directly,
reproached with my inferiority to imaginary models. But how can a plain
Englishman hope to reach

  "The high sublime of deep absurd"?

I am continually reviled for not using a romantic language, which I have
never learned; and which, as far as I can judge, is foreign to all
natural feeling. I wish to make Olivia happy. There is nothing I would
not do to satisfy her of my sincerity; but nothing I can do will
suffice. She has a sort of morbid sensibility, which is more alive to
pain than pleasure, more susceptible of jealousy than of love. No terms
are sufficiently strong to convince her of my affection, but an
unguarded word makes her miserable for hours. She requires to be
agitated by violent emotions, though they exhaust her mind, and leave
her spiritless and discontented. In this alternation of rapture and
despair all her time passes. As she says of herself, she has no soul but
for love! she seems to think it a crime against sentiment to admit of
relief from common occupations or indifferent subjects; with a sort of
superstitious zeal she excludes all thoughts but those which relate to
one object, and in this spirit of amorous mysticism she actually makes a
penance even of love. I am astonished that her heart can endure this
variety of self-inflicted torments. What will become of Olivia when she
ceases to love and be loved? And what passion can be durable which is so
violent as hers, and to which no respite is allowed? No affection can
sustain these hourly trials of suspicion and reproach.

Jealousy of Leonora has taken such possession of Olivia's imagination,
that she misinterprets all my words and actions. By restraining my
thoughts, by throwing obstacles in the way of my affection for my wife,
she stimulates and increases it: she forces upon me continually those
comparisons which she dreads. Till I knew Olivia more intimately than
the common forms of a first acquaintance, or the illusions of a
treacherous passion permitted, her defects did not appear; but now that
I suffer, and that I see her suffer daily, I deplore them bitterly. Her
happiness rests and weighs heavily on my honour. I feel myself bound to
consider and to provide for the happiness of the woman who has
sacrificed to me all independent means of felicity. A man without honour
or humanity may perhaps finish an intrigue as easily as he can begin it,
but this is not exactly the case of your imprudent friend,

  F. L----.



  Letter lxxx.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


  Wednesday.

Ay, ay! just as I thought it would be. This is all the comfort, my dear
friend, that I can give you; all the comfort that wise people usually
afford their friends in distress. Provided things happen just as they
predicted, they care but little what is suffered in the accomplishment
of their prophecies. But seriously, my dear L----, I am not sorry that
you are in a course of vexation. The more you see of your charmer the
better. She will allay your intoxication by gentle degrees, and send you
sober home. Pray keep in the course you have begun, and preserve your
patience as long as possible. I should be sorry that you and Olivia
quarrelled violently, and parted in a passion: such quarrels of lovers
are proverbially the renewal of love.

  "Il faut délier l'amitié, il faut couper l'amour."

In some cases this maxim may be just, but not in the present instance. I
would rather wait till the knot is untied than cut it; for when once you
see the art with which it was woven, a similar knot can never again
perplex you.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter lxxxi.

  _From Olivia to Mr L----._


  Richmond, Saturday.

You presume too much upon your power over my heart, and upon the
softness of my nature. Know that I have spirit as well as tenderness--a
spirit that will neither be injured nor insulted with impunity. You were
amazed, you say, by the violence which I showed yesterday. Why did you
provoke that violence, by opposing the warmest wish of my heart? and
with a calmness that excited my tenfold indignation! Imagine not that I
am a tame, subjugated female, to be treated with neglect if I
remonstrate, and caressed as the price of obedience. Fancy not that I am
one of your chimney-corner, household goddesses, doomed to the dull
uniformity of domestic worship, destined to be adored, to be hung with
garlands, or undeified or degraded with indignity! I have been
accustomed to a different species of worship; and the fondness of my
weak heart has not yet sunk me so low, and rendered me so abject, that I
cannot assert my rights. You tell me that you are unconscious of giving
me any just cause of offence. Just cause!--How I hate the cold accuracy
of your words! This single expression is sufficient offence to a heart
like mine. You entreat me to be reasonable. Reasonable!--Did ever man
talk of reason to a woman he loved? When once a man has recourse to
reason and precision, there is an end of love. No just cause of
offence!--What, have I no cause to be indignant, when I find you thus
trifle with my feelings, postpone from week to week, and month to month,
our departure from this hateful country--

  "Bid me hope on from day to day,
   And wish and wish my soul away!"

Yes, you know it to be the most ardent wish of my soul to leave England;
you know that I cannot enjoy a moment's peace of mind whilst I am here;
yet in this racking suspense it is your pleasure to detain me. No, it
shall not be--this shall not go on! It is in vain you tell me that the
delay originates not with you, that you must wait for instructions and I
know not what--paltry diplomatic excuses!

  Olivia.



  Letter lxxxij.

_Mr L---- to General B----._


  Richmond.

Amuse yourself, my good general, at my expence; I know that you are
seriously interested for my happiness; but the way is not quite so clear
before me as you imagine. It is extremely easy to be philosophic for our
friends; but difficult to be so for ourselves when our passions are
concerned. Indeed, this would be a contradiction in terms; you might as
well talk of a cold sun, or of hot ice, as of a philosopher falling in
love, or of a man in love being a philosopher. You say that Olivia will
wear out my passion, and that her defects will undo the work of her
charms. I acknowledge that she sometimes ravels the web she has woven;
but she is miraculously expeditious and skilful in repairing the
mischief: the magical tissue again appears firm as ever, glowing with
brighter colours, and exhibiting finer forms.

In plain prose, my dear friend--for as you are not in love, you will
find it difficult to follow my poetic flights--in plain prose, I must
confess that Olivia has the power to charm and touch my heart even after
she has provoked me to the utmost verge of human patience. She knows her
power, and I am afraid this tempts her to abuse it. Her temper, which
formerly appeared to me all feminine gentleness, is now irritable and
violent; but I am persuaded that this is not her natural disposition; it
is the effect of her present unhappy state of mind. Tortured by remorse
and jealousy, if in the height of their paroxysms Olivia make me suffer
from their fury, is it for me to complain? I, who caused, should at
least endure the evil.

Everything is arranged for my embassy, and the day is fixed for our
leaving England. I go down to L----Castle next week.

  Your faithful
  F. L----.



  Letter lxxxiij.

  _Josephine to Victoire, Mad. de P----'s woman._


  Richmond.

I am in despair, dear Victoire; and unless your genius can assist me,
absolutely undone! Here is this romantic lady of mine determined upon a
journey to Russia with her new English lover. What whims ladies take
into their heads, and how impossible it is to make them understand
reason! I have been labouring in vain to convince my Lady Olivia that
this is the most absurd scheme imaginable: and I have repeated to her
all I learnt from Lady F----'s women, who are just returned from
Petersburg, and whom I met at a party last night, all declaring they
would rather die a thousand deaths than go through again what they have
endured. Such seas of ice! such going in sledges! such barbarians! such
beds! and scarcely a looking-glass! And nothing fit to wear but what one
carries with one, and God knows how long we may stay. At Petersburg the
coachmen's ears are frozen off every night on their boxes waiting for
their ladies. And there are bears and wild beasts, I am told, howling
with their mouths wide open night and day in the forests which we are to
pass through; and even in the towns the men, I hear, are little better,
for it is the law of the country for the men to beat their wives, and
many wear long beards. How horrid!--My Lady F----'s woman, who is a
Parisian born, and very pretty, if her eyes were not so small, and
better dressed than her lady always, except diamonds, assures me upon
her honour, she never had a civil thing said to her whilst she was in
Russia, except by one or two Frenchmen in the suite of the ambassadors.

These Russians think of nothing but drinking brandy, and they put pepper
into it! Mon Dieu, what savages! Put pepper into brandy! But that is
inconceivable! Positively, I will never go to Petersburg. And yet if my
lady goes, what will become of me? for you know my sentiments for
Brunel, and he is decided to accompany my lady, so I cannot stay behind.

But absolutely I am shocked at this intrigue with Mr L----, and my
conscience reproaches me terribly with being a party concerned in it;
for in this country an affair of gallantry between married people is not
so light a thing as with us. Here wives sometimes love their husbands
seriously, as if they were their lovers; and my Lady Leonora L---- is
one of this sort of wives. She is very unhappy, I am told. One day at
L---- Castle, I assure you my heart quite bled for her, when she gave me
a beautiful gown of English muslin, little suspecting me then to be her
enemy. She is certainly very unsuspicious, and very amiable, and I wish
to Heaven her husband would think as I do, and take her with him to
Petersburg, instead of carrying off my Lady Olivia and me! Adieu, mon
chou! Embrace everybody I know tenderly for me.

  Josephine.



  Letter lxxxiv.

  _Mrs C---- to the Duchess of ----._


    My dear Madam,

I believe, when I wrote last to your grace, I said, that I had no hopes
of the child's life. From the moment of his birth there was but little
probability of his being anything but a source of misery to his mother.
I cannot, on her account, regret that the struggle is over. He expired
this morning. My poor friend had hopes to the last, though I had none;
and it was most painful and alarming to see the feverish anxiety with
which she watched over her little boy, frequently repeating, "Mr L----
used to wish so much for a son.--I hope the boy will live to see his
father."

Last night, partly by persuasion, partly by compulsion, I prevailed with
her to let the child be taken out of her room. This morning, as soon as
it was light, I heard her bell ring; the poor little thing was at that
moment in convulsions; and knowing that Lady Leonora rang to inquire for
it, I went to prepare her mind for what I knew must be the event. The
moment I came into the room she looked eagerly in my face, but did not
ask me any questions about the child. I sat down by the side of her bed;
but without listening to what I said about her own health, she rang her
bell again more violently than before. Susan came in. "Susan!--without
my child!"--said she, starting up. Susan hesitated, but I saw by her
countenance that it was all over--so did Lady Leonora. She said not a
word, but drawing her curtain suddenly, she lay down, and never spoke or
stirred for three hours. The first words she said afterwards were to me:

"You need not move so softly, my dear Helen; I am not asleep. Have you
my mother's last letter? I think my mother says that she will be here
to-morrow? She is very kind to come to me. Will you be so good as to
write to her immediately, and send a servant with your letter as soon as
you can to meet her on the road, that she may not be _surprised_ when
she arrives?"

Lady Leonora is now more composed and more like herself than she has
been for some time past. I rejoice that your grace will so soon be here,
because you will be her best possible consolation; and I do not know any
other person in the world who could have sufficient influence to prevent
her from attempting to set out upon a journey before she can travel with
safety. To do her justice, she has not hinted that such were her
intentions; but still I know her mind so well, that I am certain what
her thoughts are, and what her actions would be. Most ladies talk more
than they act, but Leonora acts more decidedly than she talks.

  Believe me, dear madam,
  With much respect,
  Your grace's
  Sincerely affectionate
  Helen C----.



  Letter lxxxv.

  _Mr L---- to General B----._


I thank you, my excellent friend, for the kindness of your last
letter,[3] which came to me at the time I wanted it most. In the whole
course of my life I never felt so much self-reproach as I have done
since I heard of the illness of Leonora and the loss of my son. From
this blow my mind will not easily recover. Of all torments self-reproach
is the worst. And even now I cannot follow the dictates of my own heart
and of my better judgment.

In Olivia's company I am compelled to repress my feelings; she cannot
sympathize in them; they offend her: she is dissatisfied even with my
silence, and complains of my being out of spirits. Out of spirits!--How
can I be otherwise at present? Has Olivia no touch of pity for a woman
who was once her friend, who always treated her with generous kindness?
But perhaps I am a little unreasonable, and expect too much from female
nature.

At all events, I wish that Olivia would spare me at this moment her
sentimental metaphysics. She is for ever attempting to prove to me that
I cannot love so well as she can. I admit that I cannot talk of love so
finely. I hope all this will not go on when we arrive at Petersburg.

The ministry at last know their own minds. I saw ---- to-day, and
everything will be quickly arranged; therefore, my dear friend, do not
delay coming to town, to

  Your obliged
  F. L----.

[Footnote 3: This letter does not appear.]



  Letter lxxxvi.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


Perhaps you are a _little_ unreasonable! Indeed, my dear friend, I do
not think you a _little_ unreasonable, but very nearly stark mad. What!
quarrel with your mistress because she is not sorry that your wife is
ill, and because she cannot sympathize in your grief for the loss of
your son! Where, except perhaps in absurd novels, did you ever meet with
these paragons of mistresses, who were so magnanimous and so generous as
to sacrifice their own reputations, and then be satisfied to share the
only possible good remaining to them in life, the heart of their lover,
with a rival more estimable, more amiable than themselves, and who has
the advantage of being a wife? This sharing of hearts, this union of
souls with this opposition of interests--this metaphysical gallantry is
absolute nonsense, and all who try it in real life will find it so to
their cost. Why should you, my dear L----, expect such superlative
excellence from your Olivia? Do you think that a woman by losing one
virtue increases the strength of those that remain, as it is said that
the loss of one of our senses renders all the others more acute? Do you
think that a lady, by yielding to love, and by proving that she has not
sufficient resolution or forbearance to preserve the honour of her sex,
gives the best possible demonstration of her having sufficient strength
of character to rise superior to all the other weaknesses incident to
human, and more especially to female nature--envy and jealousy for
instance?

No, no, my good friend, you have common sense, though you lately have
been sparing of it in action. You had a wife, and a good wife, and you
had some chance of being happy; but with a wife and a mistress, granting
them to be both the best of their kind, the probabilities are rather
against you. I speak only as a man of the world: morality, you know, is
now merely an affair of calculation. According to the most approved
tables of happiness, you have made a bad bargain. But be just, at any
rate, and do not blame your Olivia for the inconveniences and evils
inseparable from the species of connexion that you have been pleased to
form. Do you expect the whole course of society and the nature of the
human heart to change for your special accommodation? Do you believe in
truth by wholesale, and yet in detail expect a happy exception in your
own favour?--Seriously, my dear friend, you must either break off this
connexion or bear it. I shall see you in a few days.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter lxxxvij.

  _Mrs C---- to Miss B----._


  L---- Castle.

Leonora has recovered her strength surprisingly. She was so determined
to be well, that her body dared not contradict her mind. Her excellent
mother has been of the greatest possible service to us, for she has had
sufficient influence to prevent her daughter from exerting herself too
much. Her grace had a letter from Mr L---- to-day--very short--but very
kind--at least all that I heard read of it. He has set my heart somewhat
more at ease by the comfortable assurance, that he will not leave
England without seeing Lady Leonora. I have the greatest hopes from this
interview! I have not felt so happy for many months--but I will not be
too sanguine. Mr L---- talks of being here the latter end of this month.
The duchess, with her usual prudence, intends to leave her daughter
before that time, lest Mr L---- should be constrained by her presence,
or should imagine that Leonora acts from any impulse but that of her own
heart. I also, though much against my inclinations, shall decamp; for he
might perhaps consider me as an adviser, caballer, confidante, or at
least a troublesome spectator. All reconciliation scenes should be
without spectators. Men do not like to be seen on their knees: they are
at a loss, like Sir Walter Raleigh in "The Critic;" they cannot get off
gracefully.

  I am, dear Margaret,
  Yours affectionately,
  Helen C----.



  Letter lxxxviij.

  _General B---- to Mr L----._


  Friday.

    My dear L----,

Ask yourself, in the name of common sense, why you should go to
Petersburg with this sentimental coquette, this romantic termagant, of
whom I see you are already more than half tired. As to your being bound
to her in honour, I cannot see how. Why should you make honour, justice,
humanity, and gratitude, plead so finely all on one side, and that the
wrong side of the question? Have none of these one word to whisper in
favour of anybody in this world but of a worthless mistress, who makes
you miserable? I think you have learned from your heroine to be so
expert in sentimental logic, that you can change virtues into vices, and
vices into virtues, till at last you do not know them asunder. Else why
should you make it a point of conscience to abandon your wife--just at
the moment, too, when you are thoroughly convinced of her love for you,
when you are touched to the soul by her generous conduct, and when your
heart longs to return to her?

Please to remember that this Lady Olivia's reputation was not
unimpeached before her acquaintance with you, and do not take more glory
or more blame to yourself than properly falls to your share. Do not
forget that _poor_ R*** was your predecessor, and do not let this
delicate lady rest all the weight of her shame upon you, as certain
Chinese culprits rest their portable pillories on the shoulders of
their friends.

In two days I shall follow this letter, and repeat in person all the
interrogatories I have just put to you, my dear friend. Prepare yourself
to answer me sincerely such questions as I shall ask.

  Yours truly,
  J. B.



  Letter lxxxix.

  _From Olivia to Mr L----._


  Monday, 12 o'clock.

For a few days did you say? To _bid adieu_? Oh! if once more you return
to that fatal castle, that enchanted home, Olivia for ever loses all
power over your heart. Bid her die, stab her to the heart, and she will
call it mercy, and she will bless you with her dying lips; but talk not
of leaving your Olivia! On her knees she writes this, her face all
bathed in tears. And must she in her turn implore and supplicate? Must
she abase herself even to the dust? Yes--love like hers vanquishes even
the stubborn potency of female pride.

  Your too fond
  Olivia.



  Letter xc.

_From Olivia to Mr L----._

    [Dated a few hours after the preceding.]


  Monday, half-past three.

Oh! this equivocating answer to my fond heart! Passion makes and admits
of no compromise. Be mine, and wholly mine--or never, never will I
survive your desertion! I can be happy only whilst I love; I can love
only whilst I am beloved with fervency equal to my own; and when I cease
to love, I cease to exist! No coward fears restrain my soul. The word
suicide shocks not my ear, appals not my understanding. Death I consider
but as the eternal rest of the wretched--the sweet, the sole refuge of
despair.

  Your resolute
  Olivia.



  Letter xci.


  _From Olivia to Mr L----._


  Tuesday.

Return! return! on the wings of love return to the calm, the prudent,
the happy, the transcendently happy Leonora! Return--but not to bid her
adieu--return to be hers for ever, and only hers. I give you back your
faith--I _give_ you back your promises--you have _taken_ back your
heart.

But if you should desire once more to see Olivia, if you should have any
lingering wish to bid her a last adieu, it must be this evening.
To-morrow's sun rises not for Olivia. For her but a few short hours
remain. Love, let them be all thy own! Intoxicate thy victim, mingle
pleasure in the cup of death, and bid her fearless quaff it to the
dregs!----



  Letter xcij.

  _Mr L---- to General B----._


  Thursday.

    My dear Friend,

You have by argument and raillery, and by every means that kindness and
goodness could devise, endeavoured to expel from my mind a passion which
you justly foresaw would be destructive of my happiness, and of the
peace of a most estimable and amiable woman. With all the skill that a
thorough knowledge of human nature in general, and of my peculiar
character and foibles, could bestow, you have employed those

  ----"Words and spells which can control,
  Between the fits, the fever of the soul."

Circumstances have operated in conjunction with your skill to "medicine
me to repose." The fits have gradually become weaker and weaker, the
fever is now gone, but I am still to suffer for the extravagancies
committed during its delirium. I have entered into engagements which
must be fulfilled; I have involved myself in difficulties from which I
see no method of extricating myself honourably. Notwithstanding all the
latitude which the system of modern gallantry allows to the conscience
of our sex, and in spite of the convenient maxim, which maintains that
all arts are allowable in love and war, I think that a man cannot break
a promise, whether made in words or by tacit implication, on the faith
of which a woman sacrifices her reputation and happiness. Lady Olivia
has thrown herself upon my protection. I am as sensible as you can be,
my dear general, that scandal had attacked her reputation before our
acquaintance commenced; but though the world had suspicions, they had no
proofs: now there can be no longer any defence made for her character,
there is no possibility of her returning to that rank in society to
which she was entitled by her birth, and which she adorned with all the
brilliant charms of wit and beauty; no happiness, no chance of happiness
remains for her but from my constancy. Of naturally violent passions,
unused to the control of authority, habit, reason, or religion, and at
this time impelled by love and jealousy, Olivia is on the brink of
despair. I am not apt to believe that women die in modern times for
love, nor am I easily disposed to think that I could inspire a dangerous
degree of enthusiasm; yet I am persuaded that Olivia's passion,
compounded as it is of various sentiments beside love, has taken such
possession of her imagination, and is, as she fancies, so necessary to
her existence, that if I were to abandon her, she would destroy that
life, which she has already attempted, I thank God! ineffectually. What
a spectacle is a woman in a paroxysm of rage!--a woman we love, or whom
we have loved!

       *     *     *     *     *

Excuse me, my dear friend, if I wrote incoherently, for I have been
interrupted many times since I began this letter. I am this day
overwhelmed by a multiplicity of affairs, which, in consequence of
Olivia's urgency to leave England immediately, must be settled with an
expedition for which my head is not at present well qualified. I do not
feel well: I can command my attention but on one subject, and on that
all my thoughts are to no purpose. Whichever way I now act, I must
endure and inflict misery. I must either part from a wife who has given
me the most tender, the most touching proofs of affection--a wife who is
all that a man can esteem, admire, and love; or I must abandon a
mistress, who loves me with all the desperation of passion to which she
would fall a sacrifice. But why do I talk as if I were still at liberty
to make a choice?--My head is certainly very confused. I forgot that I
am bound by a solemn promise, and this is the evil which distracts me. I
will give you, if I can, a clear narrative.

Last night I had a terrible scene with Olivia. I foresaw that she would
be alarmed by my intended visit to L---- Castle, even though it was but
to take leave of my Leonora. I abstained from seeing Olivia to avoid
altercation, and with all the delicacy in my power I wrote to her,
assuring her that my resolution was fixed. Note after note came from
her, with pathetic and passionate appeals to my heart; but I was still
resolute. At length, the day before that on which I was to set out for
L---- Castle, she wrote to warn me, that if I wished to take a last
farewell, I must see her that evening: her note concluded with,
"To-morrow's sun will not rise for Olivia." This threat, and many
strange hints of her opinions concerning suicide, I at the time
disregarded, as only thrown out to intimidate a lover. However, knowing
the violence of Olivia's temper, I was punctual to the appointed hour,
fully determined by my firmness to convince her that these female wiles
were vain.

My dear friend, I would not advise the wisest man and the most
courageous upon earth to brave such dangers, confident in his strength.
Even a victory may cost him too dear.

I found Olivia reclining on a sofa, her beautiful tresses unbound, her
dress the perfection of elegant negligence. I half suspected that it was
studied negligence; yet I could not help pausing, as I entered, to
contemplate a figure. She never looked more beautiful--more fascinating.
Holding out her hand to me, she said, with her languid smile and tender
expression of voice and manner, "You _are_ come then to bid me farewell.
I doubted whether . . . But I will not upbraid--mine be all the pain of
this last adieu. During the few minutes we have to pass together,

  'Between us two let there be peace.'"

I sat down beside her, rather agitated, I confess, but commanding myself
so that my emotion could not be visible. In a composed tone I asked, why
she spoke of a last adieu? and observed that we should meet again in a
few days.

"Never!" replied Olivia. "Weak woman as I am, love inspires me with
sufficient force to make and to keep this resolution."

As she spoke, she took from her bosom a rose, and presenting it to me in
a solemn manner, "Put this rose into water to-night," continued she;
"to-morrow it will be alive!"

Her look, her expressive eyes, seemed to say, This flower will be alive,
but Olivia will be dead. I am ashamed to confess that I was silent,
because I could not just then speak.

"I have used some precaution," resumed Olivia, "to spare you, my dearest
L----, unnecessary pain.--Look around you."

The room, I now for the first time observed, was ornamented with
flowers.

"This apartment, I hope," continued she, "has not the air of the chamber
of death. I have endeavoured to give it a festive appearance, that the
remembrance of your last interview with your once loved Olivia may be at
least unmixed with horror."

At this instant, my dear general, a confused recollection of Rousseau's
Heloise, the dying scene, and her room ornamented with flowers, came
into my imagination, and destroying the idea of reality, changed
suddenly the whole course of my feelings.

In a tone of raillery I represented to Olivia her resemblance to Julie,
and observed that it was a pity she had not a lover whose temper was
more similar than mine to that of the divine St Preux. Stung to the
heart by my ill-timed raillery, Olivia started up from the sofa, broke
from my arms with sudden force, snatched from the table a penknife, and
plunged it into her side.

She was about to repeat the blow, but I caught her arm--she
struggled--"Promise me, then," cried she, "that you will never more see
my hated rival."

"I cannot make such a promise, Olivia," said I, holding her uplifted arm
forcibly. "I will not."

The words "hated rival," which showed me that Olivia was actuated more
by the spirit of hatred than love, made me reply in as decided a tone as
even you could have spoken, my dear general. But I was shocked, and
reproached myself with cruelty, when I saw the blood flow from her side;
she was terrified. I took the knife from her powerless hand, and she
fainted in my arms. I had sufficient presence of mind to reflect that
what had happened should be kept as secret as possible; therefore,
without summoning Josephine, whose attachment to her mistress I have
reason to suspect, I threw open the windows, gave Olivia air and water,
and her senses returned: then I despatched my Swiss for a surgeon. I
need not speak of my own feelings--no suspense could be more dreadful
than that which I endured between the sending for the surgeon and the
moment when he gave his opinion. He relieved me at once, by pronouncing
it to be a slight flesh wound, that would be of no manner of
consequence. Olivia, however, whether from alarm or pain, or from the
sight of the blood, fainted three times during the dressing of her side;
and though the surgeon assured her that it would be perfectly well in a
few days, she was evidently apprehensive that we concealed from her the
real danger. At the idea of the approach of death, which now took
possession of her imagination, all courage forsook her, and for some
time my efforts to support her spirits were ineffectual. She could not
dispense with the services of Josephine; and from the moment this French
woman entered the room, there was nothing to be heard but exclamations
the most violent and noisy. As to assistance, she could give none. At
last her exaggerated demonstrations of horror and grief ended
with--"Dieu merci! au moins nous voilà delivrés de ce voyage affreux.
Apparemment qu'il ne sera plus question de ce vilain Petersburg pour
madame."

A new train of thoughts was roused by these words in Olivia's mind; and
looking at me, she eagerly inquired why the journey to Petersburg was to
be given up, if she was in no danger? I assured her that Josephine spoke
at random, that my intentions with regard to the embassy to Russia were
unaltered.

"Seulement retardé un peu," said Josephine, who was intent only upon her
own selfish object.--"Sûrement, madame ne voyagera pas dans cet etat!"

Olivia started up, and looking at me with terrific wildness in her eyes,
"Swear to me," said she, "swear that you will not deceive me, or I will
this instant tear open this wound, and never more suffer it to be
closed."

"Deceive you, Olivia!" cried I, "what deceit can you fear from me?--What
is it you require of me?"

"I require from you a promise, a solemn promise, that you will go with
_me_ to Russia!"

"I solemnly promise that I will," said I: "now be tranquil, Olivia, I
beseech you."

The surgeon represented the necessity of keeping herself quiet, and
declared that he would not answer for the cure of his patient on any
other terms. Satisfied by the solemnity of my promise, Olivia now
suffered me to depart. This morning she sends me word that in a few days
she shall be ready to leave England. Can you meet me, my dear friend, at
L---- Castle? I go down there to-day, to bid adieu to Leonora. From
thence I shall proceed to Yarmouth, and embark immediately. Olivia will
follow me.

  Your obliged
  F. L----.



  Letter xciij.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  L---- Castle.

    Dearest Mother,

My husband is here! at home with me, with your happy Leonora--and his
heart is with her. His looks, his voice, his manner tell me so, and by
them I never was deceived. No, he is incapable of deceit. Whatever have
been his errors, he never stooped to dissimulation. He is again my own,
still capable of loving me, still worthy of all my affection. I knew
that the delusion could not last long, or rather you told me so, my best
friend, and I believed you; you did him justice. He was indeed
deceived--who might not have been deceived by Olivia? His passions were
under the power of an enchantress; but now he has triumphed over her
arts. He sees her such as she is, and her influence ceases.

I am not absolutely certain of all this; but I believe, because I hope
it! yet he is evidently embarrassed, and seems unhappy: what can be the
meaning of this? Perhaps he does not yet know his Leonora sufficiently
to be secure of her forgiveness. How I long to set his heart at ease,
and to say to him, let the past be forgotten for ever! How easy it is
to the happy to forgive! There have been moments when I could not, I
fear, have been just, when I am sure that I could not have been
generous. I shall immediately offer to accompany Mr L----to Russia; I
can have no farther hesitation, for I see that he wishes it; indeed,
just now he almost said so. His baggage is already embarked at
Yarmouth--he sails in a few days--and in a few hours your daughter's
fate, your daughter's happiness, will be decided. It is decided, for I
am sure he loves me; I see, I hear, I feel it. Dearest mother, I write
to you in the first moment of joy.--I hear his foot upon the stairs.

  Your happy
  Leonora L----.



  Letter xciv.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  L---- Castle.

    My dear Mother,

My hopes are all vain. Your prophecies will never be accomplished. We
have both been mistaken in Mr L----'s character, and henceforward your
daughter must not depend upon him for any portion of her happiness. I
once thought it impossible that my love for him could be diminished: he
has changed my opinion. Mine is not that species of weak or abject
affection which can exist under the sense of ill treatment and
injustice, much less can my love survive esteem for its object.

I told you, my dear mother, and I believed, that his affections had
returned to me; but I was mistaken. He has not sufficient strength or
generosity of soul to love me, or to do justice to my love. I offered
to go with him to Russia: he answered, "That is
impossible."--Impossible!--Is it then impossible for him to do that
which is just or honourable? or seeing what is right, must he follow
what is wrong? or can his heart never more be touched by virtuous
affections? Is his taste so changed, so depraved, that he can now be
pleased and charmed only by what is despicable and profligate in our
sex? Then I should rejoice that we are to be separated--separated for
ever. May years and years pass away and wear out, if possible, the
memory of all he has been to me! I think I could better, much better
bear the total loss, the death of him I have loved, than endure to feel
that he had survived both my affection and esteem; to see the person the
same, but the soul changed; to feel every day, every hour, that I must
despise what I have so admired and loved.

Mr L---- is gone from hence. He leaves England the day after to-morrow.
Lady Olivia is to _follow_ him. I am glad that public decency is not to
be outraged by their embarking together. My dearest mother, be assured
that at this moment your daughter's feelings are worthy of you.
Indignation and the pride of virtue support her spirit.

  Leonora L----.



  Letter xcv.

  _General B---- to Lady Leonora L----._


  Yarmouth.

Had I not the highest confidence in Lady Leonora L----'s fortitude, I
should not venture to write to her at this moment, knowing as I do that
she is but just recovered from a dangerous illness.

Mr L---- had requested me to meet him at L----Castle previous to his
leaving England, but it was out of my power. I met him however on the
road to Yarmouth, and as we travelled together I had full opportunity of
seeing the state of his mind. Permit me--the urgency of the case
requires it--to speak without reserve, with the freedom of an old
friend. I imagine that your ladyship parted from Mr L----with feelings
of indignation, at which I cannot be surprised: but if you had seen him
as I saw him, indignation would have given way to pity. Loving you,
madam, as you deserve to be loved, most ardently, most tenderly; touched
to his inmost soul by the proofs of affection he had seen in your
letters, in your whole conduct, even to the last moment of parting; my
unhappy friend felt himself bound to resist the temptation of staying
with you, or of accepting your generous offer to accompany him to
Petersburg. He thought himself bound in honour by a promise extorted
from him to save from suicide one whom he thinks he has injured, one who
has thrown herself upon his protection. Of the conflict in his mind at
parting with your ladyship I can judge from what he suffered afterwards.
I met Mr L---- with feelings of extreme indignation, but before I had
been an hour in his company, I never pitied any man so much in my life,
for I never yet saw any one so truly wretched, and so thoroughly
convinced that he deserved to be so. You know that he is not one who
often gives way to his emotions, not one who expresses them much in
words--but he could not command his feelings.

The struggle was too violent. I have no doubt that it was the real cause
of his present illness. As the moment approached when he was to leave
England, he became more and more agitated. Towards evening he sunk into
a sort of apathy and gloomy silence, from which he suddenly broke into
delirious raving. At twelve o'clock last night, the night he was to
have sailed, he was seized with a violent and infectious fever. As to
the degree of immediate danger, the physicians here cannot yet
pronounce. I have sent to town for Dr *****. Your ladyship may be
certain that I shall not quit my friend, and that he shall have every
possible assistance and attendance.

  I am, with the truest esteem,
  Your ladyship's faithful servant,
  J. B.



  Letter xcvi.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  L---- Castle.

    Dear Mother,

This moment an express from General B----. Mr L---- is dangerously ill
at Yarmouth--a fever brought on by the agitation of his mind. How unjust
I have been! Forget all I said in my last. I write in the utmost
haste--just setting out for Yarmouth. I hope to be there to-morrow.

  Your affectionate
  Leonora L----.

I open this to enclose the general's letter, which will explain
everything.



  Letter xcvij.

  _General B---- to the Duchess of ----._


  Yarmouth.

    My dear Madam,

Your grace, I find, is apprised of Lady Leonora L----'s journey hither:
I fear that you rely upon my prudence for preventing her exposing
herself to the danger of catching this dreadful fever. But that has been
beyond my power. Her ladyship arrived late last night. I had foreseen
the probability of her coming, but not the possibility of her coming so
soon. I had taken no precautions, and she was in the house and upon the
stairs in an instant. No entreaties, no arguments could stop her; I
assured her that Mr L----'s fever was pronounced by all the physicians
to be of the most infectious kind. Dr ***** joined me in representing
that she would expose her life to almost certain danger if she persisted
in her determination to see her husband; but she pressed forward,
regardless of all that could be said. To the physicians she made no
answer; to me she replied, "You are Mr L----'s friend, but I am his
wife: you have not feared to hazard your life for him, and do you think
I can hesitate?" I urged that there was no necessity for more than one
person's running this hazard; and that since it had fallen to my lot to
be with my friend when he was first taken ill----She interrupted me--"Is
not this taking a cruel advantage of me, general? You know that I, too,
would have been with Mr L---- if--if it had been possible." Her manner,
her pathetic emphasis, and the force of her implied meaning, struck me
so much, that I was silent, and suffered her to pass on; but again the
idea of her danger rushing upon my mind, I sprang before her to the door
of Mr L----'s apartment, and opposed her entrance. "Then, general," said
she calmly, "perhaps you mistake me--perhaps you have heard repeated
some unguarded words of mine in the moment of indignation . . . unjust . . .
you best know how unjust indignation!--and you infer from these that
my affection for my husband is extinguished. I deserve this--but do not
punish me too severely."

I still kept my hand upon the lock of the door, expostulating with Lady
Leonora in your grace's name, and in Mr L----'s assuring her that if he
were conscious of what was passing, and able to speak, he would order me
to prevent her seeing him in his present situation.

"And you, too, general!" said she, bursting into tears: "I thought you
were my friend--would you prevent me from seeing him? And is not he
conscious of what is passing? And is not he able to speak? Sir, I must
be admitted! You have done your duty--now let me do mine. Consider, my
right is superior to yours. No power on earth should or can prevent a
wife from seeing her husband when he is . . . Dear, dear general!" said
she, clasping her raised hands, and falling suddenly at my feet, "let me
see him but for one minute, and I will be grateful to you for ever!"

I could resist no longer--I tremble for the consequences. I know your
grace sufficiently to be aware that you ought to be told the whole
truth. I have but little hopes of my poor friend's life.

  With much respect,
  Your grace's faithful servant,
  J. B.



  Letter xcviij.

  _Olivia to Mr L----._


  Richmond.

A mist hung over my eyes, and "my ears with hollow murmurs rung," when
the dreadful tidings of your alarming illness were announced by your
cruel messenger. My dearest L----! why does inexorable destiny doom me
to be absent from you at such a crisis? Oh! this fatal wound of mine! It
would, I fear, certainly open again if I were to travel. So this
corporeal being must be imprisoned here, while my anxious soul, my
viewless spirit, hovers near you, longing to minister each tender
consolation, each nameless comfort that love alone can, with fond
prescience and magic speed, summon round the couch of pain.

"O that I had the wings of a dove, that I might fly to you!" Why must I
resign the sweetly-painful task of soothing you in the hour of sickness?
And shall others, with officious zeal,

  "Guess the faint wish, explain the asking eye"?

Alas! it must be so--even were I to fly to him, my sensibility could not
support the scene. To behold him stretched on the bed of
disease--perhaps of death--would be agony past endurance. Let firmer
nerves than Olivia's, and hearts more callous, assume the offices from
which they shrink not. 'Tis the fate, the hard fate of all endued with
exquisite sensibility, to be palsied by the excess of their feelings,
and to become imbecile at the moment their exertions are most necessary.

  Your too tenderly sympathizing
  Olivia.



  Letter xcix.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  Yarmouth.

My husband is alive, and that is all. Never did I see, nor could I have
conceived, such a change, and in so short a time! When I opened the
door, his eyes turned upon me with unmeaning eagerness: he did not know
me. The good general thought my voice might have some effect. I spoke,
but could obtain no answer, no sign of intelligence. In vain I called
upon him by every name that used to reach his heart. I kneeled beside
him, and took one of his burning hands in mine. I kissed it, and
suddenly he started up, exclaiming, "Olivia! Olivia!" with dreadful
vehemence. In his delirium he raved about Olivia's stabbing herself, and
called upon us to hold her arm, looking wildly towards the foot of the
bed, as if the figure were actually before him. Then he sunk back, as if
quite exhausted, and gave a deep sigh. Some of my tears fell upon his
hand; he felt them before I perceived that they had fallen, and looked
so earnestly in my face, that I was in hopes his recollection was
returning; but he only said, "Olivia, I believe that you love me;" then
sighed more deeply than before, drew his hand away from me, and, as well
as I could distinguish, said something about Leonora.

But why should I give you the pain of hearing all these circumstances,
my dear mother? It is enough to say, that he passed a dreadful night.
This morning the physicians say, that if he passes this night--if----my
dear mother, what a terrible suspense!

  Leonora L----.



  Letter c.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  Yarmouth.

Morning is at last come, and my husband is still alive: so there is yet
hope. When I said I thought I could bear to survive him, how little I
knew of myself, and how little, how very little I expected to be so soon
tried! All evils are remediable but one, that one which I dare not name.

The physicians assure me that he is better. His friend, to whose
judgment I trust more, thinks as they do. I know not what to believe. I
dread to flatter myself and to be disappointed. I will write again,
dearest mother, to-morrow.

  Your ever affectionate
  Leonora L----.



  Letter ci.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  Wednesday.

No material change since yesterday, my dear mother. This morning, as I
was searching for some medicine, I saw on the chimney-piece a note from
Lady Olivia ----. It might have been there yesterday, and ever since my
arrival, but I did not see it. At any other time it would have excited
my indignation, but my mind is now too much weakened by sorrow. My fears
for my husband's life absorb all other feelings.



  Letter cij.

  _Olivia to Mr L----._


  Richmond.

Words cannot express what I have suffered since I wrote last! Oh! why do
I not hear that the danger is over!--Long since would I have been with
you, all that my soul holds dear, could I have escaped from these
tyrants, these medical despots, who detain me by absolute force, and
watch over me with unrelenting vigilance. I have consulted Dr ***, who
assures me that my fears of my wound opening, were I to take so long a
journey, are too well-founded; that in the present feverish state of my
mind he would not answer for the consequences. I heed him not--life I
value not.--Most joyfully would I sacrifice myself for the man I love.
But even could I escape from my persecutors, too well I know that to see
you would be a vain attempt--too well I know that I should not be
admitted. Your love, your fears for Olivia would barbarously banish her
and forbid her your dear, your dangerous atmosphere. Too justly would
you urge that my rashness might prove our mutual ruin--that in the
moment of crisis or of convalescence, anxiety for me might defeat the
kind purpose of nature. And even were I secure of your recovery, the
delay, I speak not of the danger of my catching the disease, would,
circumstanced as we are, be death to our hopes. We should be compelled
to part. The winds would waft you from me. The waves would bear you to
another region, far--oh, far from your

  Olivia.



  Letter ciij.

  _General B---- to the Duchess of ----_


  Yarmouth, Thursday, --.

    My dear Madam,

Mr L---- has had a relapse, and is now more alarmingly ill than I have
yet seen him: he does not know his situation, for his delirium has
returned. The physicians give him over. Dr H---- says that we must
prepare for the worst.

I have but one word of comfort for your grace--that your admirable
daughter's health has not yet suffered.

  Your grace's faithful servant,
  J. B.



  Letter civ.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  Yarmouth.

    My dearest Mother,

The delirium has subsided. A few minutes ago, as I was kneeling beside
him, offering up an almost hopeless prayer for his recovery, his eyes
opened, and I perceived that he knew me. He closed his eyes again
without speaking, opened them once more, and then looking at me fixedly,
exclaimed: "It is not a dream! You are Leonora!--_my_ Leonora!"

What exquisite pleasure I felt at the sound of these words, at the tone
in which they were pronounced! My husband folded me in his arms; and,
till I felt his burning lips, I forgot that he was ill.

When he came thoroughly to his recollection, and when the idea that his
fever might be infectious occurred to him, he endeavoured to prevail
upon me to leave the room. But what danger can there be for me _now_? My
whole soul, my whole frame is inspired with new life. If he recover,
your daughter may still be happy.



  Letter cv.

  _General B---- to the Duchess of ----._


    My dear Madam,

A few hours ago my friend became perfectly sensible of his danger, and
calling me to his bedside, told me that he was eager to make use of the
little time which he might have to live. He was quite calm and
collected. He employed me to write his last wishes and bequests; and I
must do him the justice to declare, that the strongest idea and feeling
in his mind evidently was the desire to show his entire confidence in
his wife, and to give her, in his last moments, proofs of his esteem and
affection. When he had settled his affairs, he begged to be left alone
for some time. Between twelve and one his bell rang, and he desired to
see Lady Leonora and me. He spoke to me with that warmth of friendship
which he has ever felt from our childhood. Then turning to his wife, his
voice utterly failed, and he could only press to his lips that hand
which was held out to him in speechless agony.

"Excellent woman!" he articulated at last; then collecting his mind, he
exclaimed, "My beloved Leonora, I will not die without expressing my
feelings for you; I know yours for me. I do not ask for that forgiveness
which your generous heart granted long before I deserved it. Your
affection for me has been shown by actions, at the hazard of your life;
I can only thank you with weak words. You possess my whole heart, my
esteem, my admiration, my gratitude."

Lady Leonora, at the word _gratitude_, made an effort to speak, and laid
her hand upon her husband's lips. He added, in a more enthusiastic tone,
"You have my undivided love. Believe in the truth of these
words--perhaps they are the last I may ever speak."

My friend sunk back exhausted, and I carried Lady Leonora out of the
room.

I returned half an hour ago, and found everything silent: Mr L---- is
lying with his eyes closed--quite still--I hope asleep. This may be a
favourable crisis. I cannot delay this letter longer.

  Your grace's faithful servant,
  J. B.



  Letter cvi.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  Yarmouth.

    Dearest Mother,

He has slept several hours.--Dr H----, the most skilful of all his
physicians, says that we may now expect his recovery. Adieu. The good
general will add a line to assure you that I am not deceived, nor too
sanguine.

  Yours most affectionately,
  Leonora L----.

  _Postscript by General B----._

I have some hopes--that is all I can venture to say to your grace.



  Letter cvij.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  Yarmouth.

    Dearest Mother,

Excellent news for you to-day!--Mr L---- is pronounced out of danger. He
seems excessively touched by my coming here, and so grateful for the
little kindness I have been able to show him during his illness! But,
alas! that fatal promise! the recollection of it comes across my mind
like a spectre. Mr L---- has never touched upon this subject--I do all
in my power to divert his thoughts to indifferent objects.

This morning, when I went into his room, I found him tearing to pieces
that note which I mentioned to you a few days ago. He seemed much
agitated, and desired to see General B----. They are now together, and
were talking so loud in the next room to me, that I was obliged to
retire, lest I should overhear secrets. Mr L---- this moment sends for
me. If I should not have time to add more, this short letter will
satisfy you for to-day.

  Leonora L----.

I open my letter to say, that I am not so happy as I was when I began
it. I have heard all the circumstances relative to this terrible affair.
Mr L---- will go to Russia. I am as far from happiness as ever.



  Letter cviij.

  _Olivia to Mr L----._


  Richmond.

  "Say, is not absence death to those that love?"

How just, how beautiful a sentiment! yet cold and callous is that heart
which knows not that there is a pang more dreadful than absence--far as
the death of lingering torture exceeds, in corporeal sufferance, the
soft slumber of expiring nature. Suspense! suspense! compared with thy
racking agony, even absence is but the blessed euthanasia of love.

My dearest L----, why this torturing silence? one line, one word, I
beseech you, from _your own hand_; say but _I live and love you, my
Olivia_. Hour after hour, and day after day, have I waited and waited,
and hoped, and feared to hear from you. O, this intolerable agonizing
suspense! Yet hope clings to my fond heart--hope! sweet treacherous
hope!

  "Non so si la Speranza
   Va con l'inganno unita;
   So che mantiene in vita
   Qualche infelici almen."

  Olivia.



  Letter cix.

  _Mr L---- to Olivia._


  Yarmouth.

    My dear Olivia,

This is the first line I have written since my illness. I could not
sooner relieve you from suspense, for during most of this time I have
been delirious, and never till now able to write. My physicians have
this morning pronounced me out of danger; and as soon as my strength is
sufficient to bear the voyage, I shall sail, according to my promise.

Your prudence, or that of your physician, has saved me much
anxiety--perhaps saved my life: for had you been so rash as to come
hither, beside my fears for your safety, I should have been exposed, in
the moment of my returning reason, to a conflict of passions which I
could not have borne.

Leonora is with me; she arrived the night after I was taken ill, and
forced her way to me, when my fever was at the highest, and while I was
in a state of delirium.

Lady Leonora will stay with me till the moment I sail, which I expect to
do in about ten days. I cannot say positively, for I am still very weak,
and may not be able to keep my word to a day. Adieu. I hope your mind
will now be at ease. I am glad to hear from the surgeon that your wound
is quite closed. I will write again, and more fully, when I am better
able. Believe me, Olivia, I am most anxious to secure your happiness:
allow me to believe that this will be in the power of

  Yours sincerely,
  F. L----.



  Letter cx.

  _Olivia to Mr L----._


  Richmond.

Barbarous man! with what cold cruelty you plunge a dagger into my heart!
Leonora is with you!--Leonora! Then I am undone. Yes, she will--she has
resumed all her power, her rights, her habitual empire over your heart.
Wretched Olivia!--But you say it is your wish to secure my happiness,
you bid me allow you to believe it is in your power. What phrases!--You
will sail, _according to your promise_.--Then nothing but your honour
binds you to Olivia. And even now, at this guilty instant, in your
secret soul, you wish, you expect from my offended pride, from my
disgusted delicacy, a renunciation of this promise, a release from all
the ties that bind you to me. You are right: this is what I ought to do;
what I would do, if love had not so weakened my soul, so prostrated my
spirit, rendered me so abject a creature, that _I cannot_ what _I
would_.

I must love on--female pride and resentment call upon me in vain. I
cannot hate you. Even by the feeble tie, which I see you long to break,
I must hold, rather than let you go for ever. I will not renounce your
promise. I claim it. I adjure you, by all which a man of honour holds
most sacred, to quit England the moment your health will allow you to
sail. No equivocating with your conscience!--I hold you to your word.
Oh, my dearest L----! to feel myself reduced to use such language to
you, to find myself clinging to that last resource of shipwrecked love,
_a promise_! It is with unspeakable agony I feel all this; lower I
cannot sink in misery. Raise me, if indeed you wish my happiness--raise
me! it is yet in your power. Tell me, that my too susceptible heart has
mistaken phantoms for realities--tell me, that your last was not colder
than usual; yes, I am ready to be deceived. Tell me that it was only the
languor of disease; assure me that my rival forced her way only to your
presence, that she has not won her easy way back to your heart--assure
me that you are impatient once more to see your own

  Olivia.



  Letter cxi.

  _Leonora to her mother._


  Yarmouth.

    My dearest Mother,

Can you believe or imagine that I am actually unwilling to say or to
think that Mr L---- is quite well? yet this is the fact. Such is the
inconsistency and weakness of our natures--of my nature, I should say.
But a short time ago I thought that no evil could be so great as his
danger; now that danger is past, I dread to hear him say that he is
perfectly recovered. The moment he is able he goes to Russia; that is
decided irrevocably. The promise has been claimed and repeated. A solemn
promise cannot be broken for any human consideration. I should despise
him if he broke it; but can I love him for keeping it? His mind is at
this instant agitated as much as mine is--more it cannot. Yet I ought to
be better able to part with him now than when we parted before, because
I have now at least the consolation of knowing that he leaves me against
his will--that his heart will not go from me. This time I cannot be
deceived; I have had the most explicit assurances of his _undivided_
love. And indeed I was never deceived. All the appearances of regret at
parting with me were genuine. The general witnessed the consequent
struggle in Mr L----'s mind, and this fever followed.

I will endeavour to calm and content myself with the possession of his
love, and with the assurance that he will return to me as soon as
possible. As soon as possible! but what a vague hope! He sails with the
first fair wind. What a dreadful certainty! Perhaps to-morrow! Oh, my
dearest mother, perhaps to-night!

  Leonora L----.



  Letter cxij.

  _General B---- to the Duchess of ----._


  Yarmouth.

    My dear Madam,

To-day Mr L----, finding himself sufficiently recovered, gave orders to
all his suite to embark, and the wind being fair, determined to go on
board immediately. In the midst of the bustle of the preparations for
his departure, Lady Leonora, exhausted by her former activity, and
unable to take any part in what was passing, sat silent, pale and
motionless, opposite to a window, which looked out upon the sea; the
vessel in which her husband was to sail lay in sight, and her eyes were
fixed upon the streamers, watching their motion in the wind.

Mr L---- was in his own apartment writing letters. An express arrived;
and among other letters for the English ambassador to Russia, there was
a large packet directed to Lady Leonora L----. Upon opening it the
crimson colour flew into her face, and she exclaimed, "Olivia's
letters!--Lady Olivia ----'s letters to Mad. de P----. Who could send
these to me?"

"I give you joy with all my heart!" cried I; "no matter how they
come--they come in the most fortunate moment possible. I would stake my
life upon it they will unmask Olivia at once. Where is Mr L----? He must
read them this moment."

I was hurrying out of the room to call my friend, but Lady Leonora
stopped my career, and checked the transport of my joy.

"You do not think, my dear general," said she, "that I would for any
consideration do so dishonourable an action as to read these letters?"

"Only let Mr L---- read them," interrupted I, "that is all I ask of your
ladyship. Give them to me. For the soul of me I can see nothing
dishonourable in this. Let Lady Olivia be judged by her own words. Your
ladyship shall not be troubled with her trash, but give the letters to
me, I beseech you."

"No, I cannot," said Lady Leonora steadily. "It is a great temptation;
but I ought not to yield." She deliberately folded them up in a blank
cover, directed them to Lady Olivia, and sealed them; whilst I, half in
admiration and half in anger, went on expostulating.

"Good God! this is being too generous! But, my dear Lady Leonora, why
will you sacrifice yourself? This is misplaced delicacy! Show those
letters, and I'll lay my life Mr L---- never goes to Russia."

"My dear friend," said she, looking up with tears in her eyes, "do not
tempt me beyond my power to resist. Say no more." At this instant Mr
L---- came into the room; and I am ashamed to confess to your grace, I
really was so little master of myself, that I was upon the point of
seizing Olivia's letters, and putting them into his hands. "L----," said
I, "here is your admirable wife absurdly, yes, I must say it, absurdly
standing upon a point of honour with one who has none! That packet which
she has before her----"

Lady Leonora imposed silence upon me by one of those looks which no man
can resist.

"My dear Leonora, you are right," said Mr L----; "and you are almost
right, my dear general: I know what that packet contains; and without
doing anything dishonourable, I hold myself absolved from my promise; I
shall not go to Russia, my dearest wife!" He flew into her arms--and I
left them. I question whether they either of them felt much more than I
did.

For some minutes I was content with knowing that these things had really
happened, that I had heard Mr L---- say he was absolved from all
promises, and that he would not go to Russia; but how did all this
happen so suddenly?--How did he know the contents of Olivia's letters,
and without doing anything dishonourable? There are some people who
cannot be perfectly happy till they know the _rationale_ of their
happiness. I am one of these. I did not feel "a sober certainty of
waking bliss," till I read a letter which Mr L----received by the same
express that brought Olivia's letters, and which he read while we were
debating. I beg your grace's pardon if I am too minute in explanation;
but I do as I would be done by. The letter was from one of the private
secretaries, who is, I understand, a relation and friend of Lady Leonora
L----. As the original goes this night to Lady Olivia, I send your grace
a copy. You will give me credit for copying, and at such a time as this!
I congratulate your grace, and

  I have the honour to be, &c.,
  J. B.



  Letter cxiij.

  _To Mr L----._


    [Private.]

  London, St James's-street.

    My dear Sir,

In the same moment you receive this, your lady, for whom I have the
highest regard, will receive from me a valuable present, a packet of
Lady Olivia ----'s letters to one of her French friends. These letters
were lately found in a French frigate, taken by one of our cruisers;
and, as _intercepted correspondence_ is the order of the day, these,
with all the despatches on board, were transmitted to our office to be
examined, in hopes of making reprisals of state secrets. Some letters
about the court and Emperor of Russia led us to suppose that we should
find some political manoeuvres, and we examined farther. The examination
fortunately fell to my lot, as private secretary. After looking them all
over, however, I found that these papers contain only family secrets: I
obtained permission to send them to Lady Leonora L----, to ensure the
triumph of virtue over vice--to put it into her ladyship's power
completely to unmask her unworthy rival. These letters will show you by
what arts you have been deceived. You will find yourself ridiculed as _a
cold awkward Englishman_; one who will _hottentot again, whatever pains
may be taken to civilise him; a man of ice_, to be taken as a lover from
_pure charity_, or _pure curiosity_, or the pure _besoin d'aimer_. Here
are many pure motives, of which you will, my dear sir, take your choice.
You will farther observe in one of her letters, that Lady Olivia
premeditated the design of prevailing with you to carry her to Russia,
that she might show her power _to that proudest of earthly prudes_, the
Duchess of ***, and that she might _gratify her great revenge against
Lady Leonora L----_.

Sincerely hoping, my dear sir, that these letters may open your eyes,
and restore you and my amiable relation to domestic happiness, I make no
apology for the liberty I take, and cannot regret the momentary pain I
may inflict. You are at liberty to make what use you think proper of
this letter.

I have it in command from my Lord ---- to add, that if your health, or
any other circumstances, should render this embassy to Russia less
desirable to you than it appeared some time ago, other arrangements can
be made, and another friend of Government is ready to supply your place.

  I am, my dear sir,
  Yours, &c.

       *     *     *     *     *

  _To F. L----, Esq., &c._



  Letter cxiv.

  _From Lady Leonora L---- to the Duchess of ----._


  Yarmouth.

Joy, dearest mother! Come and share your daughter's happiness!

  _Continued by General B----._

       *     *     *     *     *

Lady Olivia, thus unmasked by her own hand, has fled to the Continent,
declaring that she will never more return to England. There she is
right--England is not a country fit for such women.--But I will never
waste another word or thought upon her.

Mr L--- has given up the Russian embassy, and returns with Lady Leonora
to L---- Castle to-morrow. He has invited me to accompany them. Lady
Leonora is now the happiest of wives, and your grace the happiest of
mothers.

  I have the honour and the pleasure to be
  Your grace's sincerely attached,
  J. B.



  Letter cxv.

  _The Duchess of ---- to Lady Leonora L----._


My beloved daughter, pride and delight of your happy mother's heart, I
give you joy! Your temper, fortitude, and persevering affection, have
now their just reward. Enjoy your happiness, heightened as it must be by
the sense of self-approbation, and the sympathy of all who know you. And
now let me indulge the vanity of a mother; let me exult in the
accomplishment of my prophecies, and let me be listened to with due
humility, when I prophesy again. With as much certainty as I foretold
what is now present, I foresee, my child, your future destiny, and I
predict that you will preserve while you live your husband's fondest
affections. Your prudence will prevent you from indulging too far your
taste for retirement, or for the exclusive society of your intimate
friends. Spend your winters in London: your rank, your fortune, and I
may be permitted to add, your character, manners, and abilities, give
you the power of drawing round you persons of the best information and
of the highest talents. Your husband will find, in such society,
everything that can attach him to his home; and in you his most rational
friend and his most charming companion, who will excite him to every
generous and noble exertion.

For the good and wise there is in love a power unknown to the ignorant
and the vicious, a power of communicating fresh energy to all the
faculties of the soul, of exalting them to the highest state of
perfection. The friendship which in later life succeeds to such love is
perhaps the greatest, and certainly the most permanent blessing of life.

An admirable German writer--you see, my dear, that I have no prejudices
against good German writers--an admirable German writer says, that "Love
is like the morning shadows, which diminish as the day advances; but
friendship is like the shadows of the evening, which increase even till
the setting of the sun."


  THE END.


  =Transcriber's Notes:=
  hyphenation, spelling and grammar have been preserved as in the original
  Page 61, out of doubt, Admire ==> out of doubt. Admire
  Page 88, the eclat of public ==> the éclat of public
  Page 124, grave and inpenetrable ==> grave and impenetrable





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