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Title: Italian Letters, Vols. I and II - The History of the Count de St. Julian
Author: Godwin, William, 1756-1836
Language: English
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ITALIAN LETTERS

Or

The History of the Count de St. Julian

By

WILLIAM GODWIN

Edited and with an Introduction by BURTON R. POLLIN [Blank Page]
_Italian Letters_

_Volume I_



Letter I


_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_

_Palermo_

My dear lord,

It is not in conformity to those modes which fashion prescribes, that I
am desirous to express to you my most sincere condolence upon the death
of your worthy father. I know too well the temper of my Rinaldo to
imagine, that his accession to a splendid fortune and a venerable title
can fill his heart with levity, or make him forget the obligations he
owed to so generous and indulgent a parent. It is not the form of sorrow
that clouds his countenance. I see the honest tear of unaffected grief
starting from his eye. It is not the voice of flattery, that can render
him callous to the most virtuous and respectable feelings that can
inform the human breast.

I remember, my lord, with the most unmingled pleasure, how fondly
you used to dwell upon those instances of paternal kindness that you
experienced almost before you knew yourself. I have heard you describe
with how benevolent an anxiety the instructions of a father were always
communicated, and with what rapture he dwelt upon the early discoveries
of that elevated and generous character, by which my friend is so
eminently distinguished. Never did the noble marquis refuse a single
request of this son, or frustrate one of the wishes of his heart. His
last prayers were offered for your prosperity, and the only thing that
made him regret the stroke of death, was the anguish he felt at parting
with a beloved child, upon whom all his hopes were built, and in whom
all his wishes centred.

Forgive me, my friend, that I employ the liberty of that intimacy with
which you have honoured me, in reminding you of circumstances, which I
am not less sure that you revolve with a melancholy pleasure, than I am
desirous that they should live for ever in your remembrance. That
sweet susceptibility of soul which is cultivated by these affectionate
recollections, is the very soil in which virtue delights to spring.
Forgive me, if I sometimes assume the character of a Mentor. I would not
be so grave, if the love I bear you could dispense with less.

The breast of my Rinaldo swells with a thousand virtuous sentiments. I
am conscious of this, and I will not disgrace the confidence I ought to
place in you. But your friend cannot but be also sensible, that you are
full of the ardour of youth, that you are generous and unsuspecting, and
that the happy gaiety of your disposition sometimes engages you with
associates, that would abuse your confidence and betray your honour.

Remember, my dear lord, that you have the reputation of a long list of
ancestors to sustain. Your house has been the support of the throne,
and the boast of Italy. You are not placed in an obscure station,
where little would be expected from you, and little would be the
disappointment, though you should act in an imprudent or a vicious
manner. The antiquity of your house fixes the eyes of your countrymen
upon you. Your accession at so early a period to its honours and its
emoluments, renders your situation particularly critical.

But if your situation be critical, you have also many advantages, to
balance the temptations you may be called to encounter. Heaven has
blessed you with an understanding solid, judicious, and penetrating. You
cannot long be made the dupe of artifice, you are not to be misled by
the sophistry of vice. But you have received from the hands of the
munificent creator a much more valuable gift than even this, a manly and
a generous mind. I have been witness to many such benevolent acts of my
Rinaldo as have made my fond heart overflow with rapture. I have traced
his goodness to its hiding place. I have discovered instances of his
tenderness and charity, that were intended to be invisible to every
human eye.

I am fully satisfied that the marquis of Pescara can never rank among
the votaries of vice and folly. It is not against the greater instances
of criminality that I wish to guard you. I am not apprehensive of a
sudden and a total degeneracy. But remember, my lord, you will, from
your situation, be inevitably surrounded with flatterers. You are
naturally fond of commendation. Do not let this generous instinct be the
means of disgracing you. You will have many servile parasites, who will
endeavour, by inuring you to scenes of luxury and dissipation, to divert
your charity from its noblest and its truest ends, into the means of
supporting them in their fawning dependence. Naples is not destitute of
a set of young noblemen, the disgrace of the titles they wear, who would
be too happy to seduce the representative of the marquisses of Pescara
into an imitation of their vices, and to screen their follies under so
brilliant and conspicuous an example.

My lord, there is no misfortune that I more sincerely regret than the
loss of your society. I know not how it is, and I would willingly
attribute it to the improper fastidiousness of my disposition, that
I can find few characters in the university of Palermo, capable of
interesting my heart. With my Rinaldo I was early, and have been long
united; and I trust, that no force, but that of death, will be able to
dissolve the ties that bind us. Wherever you are, the heart of your St.
Julian is with you. Wherever you go, his best wishes accompany you. If
in this letter, I have assumed an unbecoming austerity, your lordship
will believe that it is the genuine effusion of anxiety and friendship,
and will pardon me. It is not that I am more exempt from youthful folly
than others. Born with a heart too susceptible for my peace, I am
continually guilty of irregularities, that I immediately wish, but am
unable to retract. But friendship, in however frail a bosom she resides,
cannot permit her own follies to dispense her from guarding those she
loves against committing their characters.



Letter II

_The Answer_

_Naples_

It is not necessary for me to assure my St. Julian, that I really felt
those sentiments of filial sorrow which he ascribes to me. Never did any
son sustain the loss of so indulgent a father. I have nothing by which
to remember him, but acts of goodness and favour; not one hour of
peevishness, not one instance of severity. Over all my youthful follies
he cast the veil of kindness. All my imaginary wants received a prompt
supply. Every promise of spirit and sensibility I was supposed to
discover, was cherished with an anxious and unremitting care.

But such as he was to me, he was, in a less degree, to all his
domestics, and all his dependents. You can scarcely imagine what a
moving picture my palace--and must I call it mine? presented, upon my
first arrival. The old steward, and the grey-headed lacqueys endeavoured
to assume a look of complacency, but their recent grief appeared through
their unpractised hypocrisy. "Health to our young master! Long life,"
cried they, with a broken and tremulous accent, "to the marquis of
Pescara!" You will readily believe, that I made haste to free them from
their restraint, and to assure them that the more they lamented my ever
honoured father, the more they would endear themselves to me. Their
looks thanked me, they clasped their hands with delight, and were
silent.

The next morning as soon as I appeared, I perceived, as I passed along,
a whole crowd of people plainly, but decently habited, in the hall.
"Who are they?" said I. "I endeavoured to keep them off," said the old
steward, "but they would not be hindered. They said they were sure that
the young marquis would not bely the bounty of their old master, upon
which they had so long depended for the conveniences and comfort of
life." "And they shall not be kept off," said I; and advancing towards
them, I endeavoured to convince them, that, however unworthy of his
succession, I would endeavour to keep alive the spirit of their
benefactor, and would leave them as little reason as possible to regret
his loss. Oh! my St. Julian, who but must mourn so excellent a parent,
so amiable, so incomparable a man!

But you talked to me of the flattering change in my situation. And shall
I confess to you the truth? I find nothing in it that flatters, nothing
that pleases me. I am told my revenues are more extensive. But what is
that to me? They were before sufficiently ample, and I had but to wish
at any time, in order to have them increased. But I am removed to the
metropolis of the kingdom, to the city in which the court of my master
resides, to the seat of elegance and pleasure. And yet, amidst all that
it offers, I sigh for the rural haunts of Palermo, its pleasant hills,
its fruitful vales, its simplicity and innocence. I sit down to a more
sumptuous table, I am surrounded with a more numerous train of servants
and dependents. But this comes not home to the heart of your Rinaldo.
I look in vain through all the circle for an equal and a friend. It is
true, when I repair to the levee of my prince, I behold many equals; but
they are strangers to me, their faces are dressed in studied smiles,
they appear all suppleness, complaisance and courtliness. A countenance,
fraught with art, and that carries nothing of the soul in it, is
uninteresting, and even forbidding in my eye.

Oh! how long shall I be separated from my St. Julian? I am almost angry
with you for apologizing for your kind monitions and generous advice. If
my breast glows with any noble sentiments, it is to your friendship I
ascribe them. If I have avoided any of the rocks upon which heedless
youth is apt to split, yours is all the honour, though mine be the
advantage. More than one instance do I recollect with unfeigned
gratitude, in which I had passed the threshold of error, in which I had
already set my foot upon the edge of the precipice, and was reclaimed by
your care. But what temptations could the simple Palermo offer, compared
with the rich, the luxurious, and dissipated court of Naples?

And upon this scene I am cast without a friend. My honoured father
indeed could not have been my companion, but his advice might have been
useful to me in a thousand instances. My St. Julian is at a distance
that my heart yearns to think of. Volcanos burn, and cataracts roar
between us. With caution then will I endeavour to tread the giddy
circle. Since I must, however unprepared, be my own master, I will
endeavour to be collected, sober, and determined.

One expedient I have thought of, which I hope will be of service to me
in the new scene upon which I am to enter. I will think how my friend
would have acted, I will think that his eye is upon me, and I will make
it a law to myself to confess all my faults and follies to you. As you
have indulged me with your correspondence, you will allow me, I doubt
not, in this liberty, and will favour me from time to time with those
honest and unbiassed remarks upon my conduct, which it is consonant with
your character to make.



Letter III

_The Same to the Same_

_Naples_

Since I wrote last to my dear count, I have been somewhat more in
public, and have engaged a little in the societies of this city. You can
scarcely imagine, my friend, how different the young gentlemen of Naples
are from my former associates in the university. You would hardly
suppose them of the same species. In Palermo, almost every man was cold,
uncivil and inattentive; and seemed to have no other purpose in view
than his own pleasure and accommodation. At Naples they are all good
nature and friendship. Your wishes, before you have time to express
them, are forestalled by the politeness of your companions, and each
seems to prefer the convenience and happiness of another to his own.

With one young nobleman I am particularly pleased, and have chosen him
from the rest as my most intimate associate. It is the marquis of San
Severino. I shall endeavour by his friendship, as well as I can, to
make up to myself the loss of my St. Julian, of whose society I am
irremediably deprived. He does not indeed possess your abilities, he
has not the same masculine understanding, and the same delightful
imagination. But he supplies the place of these by an uninterrupted flow
of good humour. All his passions seem to be disinterested, and it would
do violence to every sentiment of his heart to be the author of a
moment's pain to another.

Do not however imagine, my dear count, that my partiality to this
amiable young nobleman renders me insensible to the defects of his
character. Though his temper be all sweetness and gentleness, his views
are not the most extensive. He considers much more the present ease of
those about him, than their future happiness. He has not harshness, he
has not firmness enough in his character, shall I call it? to refuse
almost any request, however injudicious. He is therefore often led into
improper situations, and his reputation frequently suffers in a manner
that I am persuaded his heart does not deserve.

The person of San Severino is tall, elegant and graceful. His manners
are singularly polite, and uniformly unembarassed. His voice is
melodious, and he is eminently endowed by nature with the gift of
eloquence. A person of your penetration will therefore readily imagine,
that his society is courted by the fair. His propensity to the tender
passion appears to have been very great, and he of consequence lays
himself out in a gallantry that I can by no means approve.

Such, my dear count, appears to me to be the genuine and impartial
character of my new friend. His good nature, his benevolence, and the
pliableness of his disposition may surely be allowed to compensate for
many defects. He can indeed by no means supply the place of my St.
Julian. I cannot look up to him as a guide, and I believe I shall never
be weak enough to ask his advice in the conduct of my life.

But do not imagine, my dear lord, that I shall be in much danger of
being misled by him into criminal irregularities. I feel a firmness of
resolution, and an ardour in the cause of virtue, that will, I trust,
be abundantly sufficient to set these poor temptations at defiance.
The world, before I entered it, appeared to me more formidable than it
really is. I had filled it with the bugbears of a wild imagination.
I had supposed that mankind made it their business to prey upon each
other. Pardon me, my amiable friend, if I take the liberty to say, that
my St. Julian was more suspicious than he needed to have been, when he
supposed that Naples could deprive me of the simplicity and innocence
that grew up in my breast under his fostering hand at Palermo.



Letter IV

_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_

_Palermo_

I rejoice with you sincerely upon the pleasures you begin to find in the
city of Naples. May all the days of my Rinaldo be happy, and all his
paths be strewed with flowers! It would have been truly to be lamented,
that melancholy should have preyed upon a person so young and so
distinguished by fortune, or that you should have sighed amidst all the
magnificence of Naples for the uncultivated plainness of Palermo. So
long as I reside here, your absence will constantly make me feel an
uneasy void, but it is my earnest wish that not a particle of that
uneasiness may reach my friend.

Surely, my dear marquis, there are few correspondents so young as
myself, and who address a personage so distinguished as you, that deal
with so much honest simplicity, and devote so large a share of their
communications to the forbidding seriousness of advice. But you have
accepted the first effort of my friendship with generosity and candour,
and you will, I doubt not, continue to behold my sincerity with a
favourable eye.

Shall I venture to say that I am sorry you have commenced so intimate a
connexion with the marquis of San Severino? Even the character of him
with which you have favoured me, represents him to my wary sight as too
agreeable not to be dangerous. But I have heard of him from others, a
much more unpleasing account.

Alas, my friend, under how fair an outside are the most pernicious
principles often concealed! Your honest heart would not suspect, that an
appearance of politeness frequently covers the most rooted selfishness.
The man who is all gentleness and compliance abroad, is often a tyrant
among his domestics. The attendants upon a court put on their faces
as they put on their clothes. And it is only after a very long
acquaintance, after having observed them in their most unguarded hours,
that you can make the smallest discovery of their real characters.
Remember, my dear Rinaldo, the maxim of the incomparable philosopher of
Geneva: "Man is not naturally amiable." If the human character shews
less pleasing and attractive in the obscurity of retreat, and among the
unfinished personages of a college, believe me, the natives of a court
are not a whit more disinterested, or have more of the reality of
friendship. The true difference is, that the one wears a disguise, and
the other appear as they are.

I do not mean however to impute all the faults I have mentioned to the
marquis of San Severino. He is probably in the vulgar sense of the word
good-natured. As you have already expressed it, he knows not how to
refuse the requests, or contradict the present inclinations of those
with whom he is connected. You say rightly that his gallantries are such
as you can by no means approve. He is, if I am not greatly misinformed,
in the utmost degree loose and debauched in his principles. The greater
part of his time is spent in the haunts of intemperance, and under the
roofs of the courtezan. I am afraid indeed he has gone farther than
this, and that he has not scrupled to ruin innocence, and practise all
the arts of seduction.

There is, my dear Rinaldo, a species of careless and youthful vice, that
assumes the appearance of gentleness, and wears the garb of generosity.
It even pretends to the name of virtue. But it casts down all the sacred
barriers of religion. It laughs to scorn that suspicious vigilance, that
trembling sensibility, that is the very characteristic of virtue. It
represents those faults of which a man may be guilty without
malignity, as innocent. And it endeavours to appropriate to itself
all comprehensiveness of view, all true fortitude, and all liberal
generosity.

Believe me, my friend, this is the enemy from which you have most to
fear. It is not barefaced degeneracy that can seduce you. She must
be introduced under a specious name, she must disguise herself like
something that nature taught us to approve, and she must steal away the
heart at unawares.



Letter V


_The Answer_

_Naples_

I can never sufficiently acknowledge the friendship that appears in
every line of your obliging epistles. Even where your attachment is
rouzed without a sufficient cause, it is only upon that account the more
conspicuous.

I took the liberty, my dear count, immediately after receiving your
last, to come to an explanation with San Severino. I mentioned to him
the circumstances in your letter, as affairs that had been casually
hinted to me. I told him, that I was persuaded he would excuse my
freedom, as I was certain there was some misinformation, and I could not
omit the opportunity of putting it in his power to justify himself. The
marquis expressed the utmost astonishment, and vowed by all that was
sacred, that he was innocent of the most important part of the charge.
He told me, that it was his ill fortune, and he supposed he was not
singular, to have enemies, that made it their business to misrepresent
every circumstance of his conduct. He had been calumniated, cruelly
calumniated, and could he discover the author of the aspersion, he would
vindicate his honour with his sword. In fine, he explained the whole
business in such a manner, as, though I could not entirely approve, yet
evinced it to be by no means subversive of the general amiableness of
his character. How deplorable is the situation in which we are placed,
when even the generous and candid temper of my St. Julian, can be
induced to think of a young nobleman in a light he does not deserve, and
to impute to him basenesses from which his heart is free!

Soon after this interview I was introduced by my new friend into a
society of a more mixed and equivocal kind than I had yet seen. Do not
however impute to the marquis a surprize of which he was not guilty. He
fairly stated to me of what persons the company was to be composed; and
idle curiosity, and perhaps a particular gaiety of humour, under the
influence of which I then was, induced me to accept of his invitation.
If I did wrong, my dear count, blame me, and blame me without reserve.
But if I may judge from the disposition in which I left this house, I
only derived a new reinforcement to those resolutions, with which your
conversation and example first inspired me.

It was in the evening, after the opera. The company was composed of
several of our young nobility, and an equal number of female performers
and other ladies of the same reputation. They almost immediately broke
into _tête-à-têtes_, and of consequence one of the ladies addressed
herself particularly to me. The vulgar familiarity of her manners,
and the undisguised libidinousness of her conversation, I must own,
disgusted me. Though I do not pretend to be devoid of the passions
incident to my age, I was not at all pleased with the addresses of this
female. As my companions were more active in the choice of an associate,
it may perhaps be only candid to own, that she was not the most pleasing
in the circle. The consciousness of the eyes of the whole party
embarrassed me. And the aukward attempts I made to detach myself from
my enamorata, as they proved unsuccessful, so they served to excite a
general smile. San Severino however presently perceived my situation,
and observing that I was by no means satisfied with my fortune, he with
the utmost politeness broke away from the company, and attended me home.

How is it my dear friend that vice, whose property it should seem to
be, to hesitate and to tremble, should be able to assume this air of
confidence and composure? How is it that innocence, that surely should
always triumph, is thus liable to all the confusion and perplexity of
guilt? Why is virtue chosen, but because she is the parent of honour,
because she enables a man to look in the face the aspersions of calumny,
and to remain firm and undejected, amidst whatever fortune has of
adverse and capricious? And are these advantages merely imaginary? Are
composure and self-approbation common to the upright and the wicked? Or
do those who are most hardened, really possess the superiority; and can
conscious guilt bid defiance to shame, while rectitude is continually
liable to hide her head in confusion?



Letter VI

_The Same to the Same_


_Naples_

You will recollect, my St. Julian, that I promised to confess to you my
faults and my follies, and to take you for the umpire and director of
my conduct. Perhaps I have done wrong. Perhaps, though unconscious of
error, I am some how or other misled, and need your faithful hand to
lead me back again to the road of integrity.

Why is it that I feel a reluctance to state to you the whole of my
conduct? It is a sensation to which I have hitherto been a stranger, and
in spite of me, it obliges me to mistrust myself. But I have discovered
the reason. It is, that educated in solitude, and immured in the walls
of a college, we had not learned to make allowances for the situations
and the passions of mankind. You and I, my dear count, have long agreed,
that the morality of priests is to be distrusted: that it is too often
founded upon sinister views and private interest: that it has none
of that comprehension of thought, that manly enthusiasm, which is
characteristic of the genuine moral philosopher. What have penances and
pilgrimages, what have beads and crosses, vows made in opposition to
every instinct of nature, and an obedience subversive of the original
independency of the human mind, to do with virtue?

Thus far, my amiable friend, you advanced, but yet I am afraid you have
not advanced far enough. I am told there is an honesty and an honour,
that preserves a man's character free from impeachment, which is
perfectly separate from that sublime goodness that you and I have always
admired. But to this sentiment I am by no means reconciled. To speak
more immediately to the subject I intended.

What can be more justifiable, or reasonable, than a conformity to the
original propensities of our nature? It is true, these propensities may
by an undue cultivation be so much increased, as to be productive of
the most extensive mischief. The man who, for the sake of indulging
his corporeal appetites, neglects every valuable pursuit, and every
important avocation, cannot be too warmly censured. But it is no less
true, that the passion of the sexes for each other, exists in the most
innocent and uncorrupted heart. Can it then be reasonable to condemn
such a moderate indulgence of this passion, as interrupts no employment,
and impedes no pursuit? This indulgence, in the present civilized
state of society, requires no infringement of order, no depravation of
character. The legislators of every country, whose wisdom may surely
be considered as somewhat greater than that of its priests, have
judiciously overlooked this imagined irregularity, and amongst all the
penalties which they have ambitiously, and too often without either
sentiment or humanity, heaped together against the offences of society,
have suffered this to pass unnoticed. Why should we be more harsh and
rigorous than they? It is inconsistent with all logic and all candour,
to argue against the use of any thing from its abuse. Of what mischief
can the moderate gratification of this appetite be the source? It does
not indeed romantically seek to reclaim a class of women, whom every
sober man acknowledges to be irreclaimable. But with that benevolence
that is congenial to a comprehensive mind, it pities them with all their
errors, and it contributes to preserve them from misery, distress, and
famine.

From what I have now said, I believe you will have already suspected of
what nature are those particulars in my conduct, which I set out with
an intention of confessing. Whatever may be my merit or demerit in this
instance, I will not hide from you that the marquis of San Severino was
the original cause of what I have done. You are already sufficiently
acquainted with the freedom of his sentiments upon this subject. He is a
professed devotee of the sex, and he suffers this passion to engross a
much larger share of his time than I can by any means approve. Incited
by his exhortations, I have in some measure imitated his conduct, at the
same time that I have endeavoured not to fall into the same excesses.

But I believe that I shall treat you more regularly in the manner of a
confessor, and render you more master of the subject, by relating to you
the steps by which I have been led to act and to justify, that which I
formerly used to condemn. I have already told you, how aukward I felt my
situation in the first society of the gayer kind, into which my friend
introduced me. Though he politely freed me from my present embarassment,
he could not help rallying me upon the rustic appearance I made. He
apologized for the ill fortune I had experienced, and promised to
introduce me to a mistress beautiful as the day, and sprightly and
ingenious as Sappho herself.

What could I do? I was unwilling to break with the most amiable
companion I had found in the city of Naples. I was staggered with his
reasonings and his eloquence. Shall I acknowledge the truth? I was
mortified at the singular and uncouth figure I had made. I felt myself
actuated with a social sympathy, that made me wish to resemble those of
my own rank and age, in any thing that was not seriously criminal. I was
involuntarily incited by the warm description San Severino gave me of
the beauty and attractions of the lady he recommended. Must we not
confess, my St. Julian, setting the nature of the business quite out
of the question, that there was something highly disinterested in the
behaviour of the marquis upon this occasion? He left his companions and
his pleasures, to accommodate himself to my weakness. He managed his own
character so little, as to undertake to recommend to me a female friend.
And he seems to have neglected the interest of his own pleasures
entirely, in order to introduce me to a woman, inferior in
accomplishments to none of her sex.



Letter VII


_The Same to the Same_

_Naples_

Could I ever have imagined, my dear count, that in so short a time the
correspondence between us would have been so much neglected? I have
yet received no answer to my last letter, upon a subject particularly
interesting, and in which I had some reason to fear your disapprobation.
My St. Julian lives in the obscurity of retreat, and in the solitude
most favourable to literary pursuits. What avocations can have called
off his attention from the interests of his friend? May I be permitted
however to draw one conclusion from your silence, that you do not
consider my situation as critical and alarming? That although you join
the prudent severity of a monitor with the candid partiality of a
friend, you yet view my faults in a venial light, and are disposed to
draw over them the veil of indulgence?

I might perhaps deduce a fairer apology for the silence on my part from
my new situation, the avocations incident to my rank and fortune, and
the pleasures that abound in a city and a court so celebrated as that
of Naples. But I will not attempt an apology. The novelty of these
circumstances have diverted my attention more than they ought from the
companion of my studies and the friend of my youth, but I trust I shall
never forget him. I have met with companions more gay, and consorts more
obsequious, but I have never found a character so worthy, and a friend
so sincere.

Since I last addressed my St. Julian, I have been engaged in various
scenes both of a pleasurable and a serious kind. I think I am guilty of
no undue partiality to my own conduct when I assure you, that I have
embarked in the lighter pursuits of associates of my own age without
having at any time forgotten what was due to the lustre of my ancestry,
and the favour of my sovereign. I have not injured my reputation. I
have mingled business and pleasure, so as not to sacrifice that which
occupies the first place, to that which holds only the second.

I trust that my St. Julian knows me too well, to suppose that I would
separate philosophy and practice, reason and action from each other. It
was by the instructions of my friend, that I learned to rise superior
to the power of prejudice, to reject no truth because it was novel, to
refuse my ear to no arguments because they were not backed by pompous
and venerable names. In pursuance of this system, I have ventured in
my last to suggest some reasons in favour of a moderate indulgence of
youthful pleasures. Perhaps however my dear count will think, that I am
going beyond what even these reasons would authorize in the instance I
am about to relate.

You are not probably to be informed that there are a certain kind of
necessary people, dependents upon such young noblemen as San Severino
and his friends, upon whom the world has bestowed the denomination
of pimps. One of these gentlemen seemed of late to feel a particular
partiality to myself. He endeavoured by several little instances of
officiousness to become useful to me. At length he told me of a young
person extremely beautiful and innocent, whose first favours he believed
he could engage to procure in my behalf.

At that idea I started. "And do you think, my good friend," said I,
"because you are acquainted with my having indulged to some of those
pleasures inseparable from my age, that I would presume to ruin
innocence, and be the means of bringing upon a young person so much
remorse and such an unhappy way of life, as must be the inevitable
consequence of a step of this kind?" "My lord," replied the parasite, "I
do not pretend to be any great casuist in these matters. His honour of
San Severino does I know seldom give way to scruples of this kind. But
in the instance I have mentioned there are several things to be said.
The mother of the lady, who formerly moved in a higher sphere than she
does at present, never maintained a very formidable character. This
daughter is the fruit of her indiscriminate amours, and though I am
perfectly satisfied she has not yet been blown upon by the breath of
a mortal, her education has been such as to prepare her to follow the
venerable example of her mother. Your lordship therefore sees that in
this case, you will wrong no parent, and seduce no child, that you will
merely gather an harvest already ripe, and which will be infallibly
reaped by the first comer."

Though the reasons of my convenient gentleman made me hesitate, they
by no means determined me to the execution of the plan he proposed. He
immediately perceived the situation of my mind, and hinted that he
might at least have the honour of placing me in a certain church, that
afternoon at vespers, where I might have an opportunity of seeing, and
perhaps conversing a little with the lady. To this scheme I assented.

She appeared not more than sixteen years of age. Her person was small,
but her form was delicate. Her auburn tresses hung about her neck
in great profusion. Her eyes sparkled with vivacity, and even with
intelligence. Her dress was elegant and graceful, but not gaudy. It
was impossible that such a figure should not have had some tendency to
captivate me. Having contemplated her sufficiently at a distance, I
approached nearer.

The little gipsey turned up her eyes askance, and endeavoured to take a
sly survey of me as I advanced. I accosted her. Her behaviour was full
of that charming hesitation which is uniformly the offspring of youth
and inexperience. She received me with a pretty complaisance, but at
the same time blushed and appeared fluttered she knew not why. I
involuntarily advanced my hand towards her, and she gave me hers with a
kind of unreflecting frankness. There was a good sense and a simplicity
united in her appearance, and the few words she uttered, that pleased
and even affected me.

Such, my dear friend, is the present state of my amour. I confess I have
frequently considered seduction in an odious light. But here I think few
or none of the objections against it have place. The mellow fruit is
ready to drop from the tree, and seems to solicit some friendly hand to
gather it.



Letter VIII


_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_

_Palermo_

My dear lord,

Avocations of no agreeable kind, and with which it probably will not
be long before you are sufficiently acquainted, have of late entirely
engrossed me. You will readily believe, that they were concerns of no
small importance, that hindered me from a proper acknowledgment and
attention to the communications of my friend. But I will dismiss my own
affairs for the present, and make a few of the observations to which you
invite me upon the contents of your letters.

Alas! my Rinaldo is so entirely changed since we used to wander together
among the groves and vallies, and along the banks of that stream which I
now see from my window, that I scarcely know him for the same. Where
is that simplicity, where that undisguised attachment to virtue and
integrity, where that unaccommodating system of moral truth, that used
to live in the bosom of my friend? All the lines of his character seem
to suffer an incessant decay. Shall I fear that the time is hastening
when that sublime and generous spirit shall no longer be distinguished
from the San Severinos, the men of gaiety and pleasure of the age? And
can I look back upon this alteration, and apprehensions thus excited,
and say, "all this has taken place in six poor months?"

Do not imagine, my dear lord, that I am that severe monitor, that rigid
censor, that would give up his friend for every fault, that knows not
how to make any allowance for the heedless levity of youth. I can
readily suppose a man with the purest heart and most untainted
principles, drawn aside into temporary error. Occasion, opportunity,
example, an accidental dissipation of mind are inlets to vice, against
which perhaps it is not in humanity to be always guarded.

Confidence, my dear friend, unsuspicious confidence, is the first source
of error. In favour of the presumptuous man, who wantonly incurs danger
and braves temptation, heaven will not interest itself. There can be
no mistake more destitute of foundation, than that which supposes man
exempt from frailty.

Had not my Rinaldo, trusting too much to his own strength, laid himself
open to dangerous associates, he would now have contemplated those
actions he has been taught to excuse, with disgust and horror. His own
heart would never have taught him that commodious morality he has been
induced to patronize. But he feared them not. He felt, as he assured me,
that firmness of resolution, and ardour of virtue, that might set
these temptations at defiance. Be ingenuous, my friend. Look back, and
acknowledge your mistake. Look back, and acknowledge, that to the purest
and most blameless mind indiscriminate communications are dangerous.

I had much rather my dear marquis had once deviated from that line of
conduct he had marked out to himself, than that he had undertaken to
defend the deviation, and exerted himself to unlearn principles that did
him honour. You profess to believe that indulgences of this sort are
unavoidable, and the temptations to them irresistible. And is man then
reduced to a par with the brutes? Is there a single passion of the soul,
that does not then cease to be blameless, when it is no longer directed
and restrained by the dictates of reason? A thousand considerations of
health, of interest, of character, respecting ourselves; and of benefit
and inconvenience to society, will be taken into the estimate by the
wise and the good man.

But these considerations are superseded by that which cannot be
counteracted. And does not the reciprocal power of motives depend upon
the strength and vivacity with which they are exhibited to the mind? The
presence of a superior would at any time restrain us from an unbecoming
action. The sense of a decided interest, the apprehension of a certain,
and very considerable detriment, would deprive the most flattering
temptation of all its blandishments. And are not this sense and this
apprehension in a great degree in the power of every man?

Tell me, my friend; Shall that action which in a woman is the utter
extinction of all honour, be in a man entirely faultless and innocent?
But the world is not quite so unjust. Such a conduct even in our sex
tends to the diminution of character, is considered in the circle of the
venerable and the virtuous as a subject of shame and concealment, and
if persisted in, causes a person universally to be considered, as alike
unfit for every arduous pursuit, and every sublime undertaking.

Is it possible indeed, that the society of persons in the lowest state
of profligacy, can be desirable for a man of family, for one who
pretends to honour and integrity? Is it possible that they should not
have some tendency to pollute his ideas, to debase his sentiments, and
to reduce him to the same rank with themselves? If the women you have
described irreclaimable, let it at least be remembered that your
conduct tends to shut up against them the door of reformation and
return, and forces upon them a mode of subsistence which they might not
voluntarily have chosen.

Thus much for your first letter. Your second calls me to a subject
of greater seriousness and magnitude. My Rinaldo makes hasty strides
indeed! Scarcely embarked in licentious and libertine principles,
he seems to look forward to the last consummation of the debauchee.
Seduction, my dear lord, is an action that will yield in horror to no
crime that ever sprang up in the degenerate breast.

But it seems, the action you propose to yourself is divested of some
of the aggravations of seduction. I will acknowledge it. Had my friend
received this crime into his bosom in all its deformity, dear as he is
to me, I would have thrown him from my heart with detestation. Yes, I am
firmly persuaded, that the man who perpetrates it, however specious he
may appear, was never conscious to one generous sentiment, never knew
the meaning of rectitude and integrity, but was at all times wrapped up
in that narrow selfishness, that torpid insensibility, that would not
disgrace a fiend.

He undermines innocence surrounded with all her guard of ingenuous
feelings and virtuous principles. He forces from her station a
defenceless woman, who, without his malignant interposition, might have
filled it with honour and happiness. He heaps up disgrace and misery
upon a family that never gave him provocation, and perhaps brings down
the grey hairs of the heads of it to the grave with calamity.

Of all hypocrites this man is the most consummate and the most odious.
He dresses his countenance in smiles, while his invention teems with
havoc and ruin. He pretends the sincerest good will without feeling one
sentiment of disinterested and honest affection. He feigns the warmest
attachment that he may the more securely destroy.

This, my friend, is not the crime of an instant, an action into which
he is hurried by unexpected temptation, and the momentary violence of
passion. He goes about it with deliberation. He lays his plans with all
the subtlety of a Machiavel, and all the flagitiousness of a Borgia.
He executes them gradually from day to day, and from week to week. And
during all this time he dwells upon the luxurious idea, he riots in the
misery he hopes to create. He will tell you he loves. Yes, he loves, as
the hawk loves the harmless dove, as the tyger loves the trembling kid.
And is this the man in whose favour I should ever have been weak enough
to entertain a partiality? I would tear him from my bosom like an adder.
I would crush him like a serpent.

But your case has not the same aggravations. Here is no father who
prizes the honour of his family more than life, and whose heart is bound
up in the virtue of his only child. Here is no mother a stranger to
disgrace, and who with unremitted vigilance had fought to guard every
avenue to the destruction of her daughter. Even the victim herself has
never learned the beauty of virgin purity, and does not know the value
of that she is about to lose.

And yet, my Rinaldo, after all these deductions, there is something in
the story of this uninstructed little innocent, even as stated by him
who is ready to destroy her, that greatly interests my wishes in her
favour. She does not know it seems all the calamity of the fate that is
impending over her. She is blindfolded for destruction. She plays with
her ruin, and views with a thoughtless and a partial eye the murderer of
her virtue and her happiness.

  _And, oh, poor helpless nightingale, thought I,
  How sweet thou sing'st, how near the deadly snare!_

But if you do not accept the proposal that is made you, it is but too
probable what her fate will be, and how soon the event will take
place. And is this an excuse for my friend to offer? Thousands are the
iniquities that are now upon the verge of action. An imagination the
most fertile in horror can scarcely conceive the crimes that will
probably be committed. And shall I therefore with malignant industry
forestal the villain in all his black designs? You do not mean it.

Permit me yet to suggest one motive more. A connection like that you
have proposed to yourself, might probably make you a father. Of all
the charities incident to the human character, those of a parent are
abundantly the most exquisite and venerable. And can a man of the
smallest sensibility think with calmness, of bringing children into the
world to be the heirs of shame? When he gives them life he entails upon
them dishonour. The father that should look upon them with joy, as a
benefit conferred upon society, and the support of his declining age,
regards them with coldness and alienation. The mother who should
consider them as her boast and her honour, cannot behold them without
opening anew all the sluices of remorse, cannot own them without a
blush.

This, my Rinaldo, is what you might do, and in doing it you would
perpetrate an action that would occasion to an ingenuous mind an eternal
regret. But there is another thing also that you might do, and that a
mind, indefatigable in the pursuit of rectitude, as was once that of my
friend, would not need to have suggested to it by another. Instead
of treasuring up remorse, instead of preparing for an innocent and
unsuspecting victim a life of misery and shame, you might redeem her
from impending destruction. You might obtain for her an honest and
industrious partner, and enable her to acquire the character of a
virtuous matron, and a respectable mother of a family.

Reflect for a moment, my dear marquis, on this proposal, which I hope
is yet in your power. Think you, that conscious rectitude, that the
exultation of your heart when you recollect the temptation you have
escaped, and the noble turn you have given it, will not infinitely
overbalance the sordid and fleeting pleasure you are able to attain?
Imagine to yourself that you see her offspring growing up under the care
of a blameless mother, and coming forward to thank you for the benefit
you bestowed upon them before they had a being. Is not this an object
over which a heart susceptible to one manly feeling may reasonably
triumph?



Letter IX

_The Count de St. Julian to Signor Hippolito Borelli_

_Messina_

You, my dear Hippolito, were the only one of my fellow-collegians, to
whom I communicated all the circumstances of that unfortunate situation
which obliged me to take a final leave of the university. The death of
a father, though not endeared by the highest reciprocations of mutual
kindness, must always make some impressions upon a susceptible mind. The
wound was scarcely healed that had been made by the loss of a mother, a
fond mother, who by her assiduous attentions had supplied every want,
and filled up every neglect, to which I might otherwise have been
exposed.

When I quitted Palermo, I resolved before I determined upon any thing,
to proceed to the residence of my family at Leontini. My reception
was, as I expected, cold and formal. My brother related to me the
circumstances of the death of my father, over which he affected to shed
tears. He then produced his testament for my inspection, pretended to
blame me that though I were the elder, I had so little ingratiated
myself in his favour, and added, that he could not think of being guilty
of so undutiful a conduct, as to contravene the last dispositions of his
father. If however he could be of any use to me in my future plans of
life, he would exert himself to serve me.

The next morning I quitted Leontini. My reflexions upon the present
posture of my affairs, could not but be melancholy. I was become as it
were a native of the world, discarded from every family, cut off from
every country. Born to a respectable rank and a splendid fortune, I
was precluded in a moment from expectations so reasonable, and an
inheritance which I might have hoped at this time to reap. Many there
are, I doubt not, who have no faculties by which to comprehend the
extent of this misfortune. The loss of possessions sufficiently ample,
and of the power and dignity annexed to his character, who is the
supporter of an ancient name, they would confess was to be regretted.
But I had many resources left. My brother would probably have received
me into his family, and I might have been preserved from the sensations
of exigency and want. And could I think of being obliged for this to
a brother, who had always beheld me with aversion, who was not of
a character to render the benefits he conferred insensible to the
receiver, and who, it was scarcely to be supposed, had not made use of
sinister and ungenerous arts to deprive me of my inheritance? But the
houses of the great were still open. My character was untainted, my
education had been such as to enable me to be useful in a thousand
ways. Ah, my Hippolito, the great are not always possessed of the most
capacious minds. There are innumerable little slights and offences that
shrink from description, but which are sufficient to keep alive the most
mortifying sense of dependency, and to make a man of sensibility, and
proud honour constantly unhappy. And must I, who had hoped to be
the ornament and boast of my country, thus become a burden to my
acquaintance, and a burden to myself?

Such were the melancholy reflexions in which I was engaged. I had left
Leontini urged by the sentiments of miscarriage and resentment. I fled
from the formality of condolence, and the useless parade of friendship.
I would willingly have hid myself from every face I had hitherto known.
I would willingly have retired to a desart. My thoughts were all in
arms. I revolved a thousand vigorous resolutions without fixing upon
one.

I had now proceeded somewhat more than two leagues upon my journey,
and had gained the centre of that vast and intricate forest which you
remember to be situated at no great distance from Leontini. In this
place there advanced upon me in a moment four of those bravoes, for
which this place is particularly infamous, and who are noted for their
daring and hazardous atchievements. Myself and my servant defended
ourselves against them for some time. One of them was wounded in the
beginning of the encounter. But it was impossible that we could have
resisted long. My servant was hurt in several places, and I had received
a wound in my arm. In this critical moment a cavalier, accompanied by
several attendants, and who appeared to be armed, advanced at no great
distance. The villains immediately took up their disabled companion,
and retired with precipitation into the thickest part of the wood. My
deliverer now ordered some of his attendants to pursue them, while
himself with one servant remained to assist us.

Imagine, my dear friend, what were my emotions, when I discovered in my
preserver, the marquis of Pescara! I recollected in a moment all our
former intimacy, and in what manner it had so lately been broken off.
Little did I think that I should almost ever have seen him again. Much
less did I think that I should ever have owed him the most important
obligations.

The expression of the countenance of both of us upon this sudden
recognition was complicated. Amidst all the surprize and gratitude, that
it was impossible not to testify, my eyes I am convinced had something
in them of the reproach of violated friendship. I thought I could trace,
and by what followed I could not be mistaken, in the air of my Rinaldo,
a confession of wrong, united with a kind of triumph, that he had been
enabled so unexpectedly and completely to regain that moral equilibrium
which he had before lost.

It was not long before his servants returned from an unsuccessful
pursuit, and we set forward for a village about a quarter of a league
further upon the road from Leontini. It was there that I learned from my
friend the occasion and subject of his journey. He had heard at Naples a
confused report of the death of my father, and the unexpected succession
of my brother. The idea of this misfortune involuntarily afflicted him.
At the thought of my distress all his tenderness revived. "And was it,"
it was thus that he described the progress of his reflections, "in
the moment of so unexpected a blow, that my St. Julian neglected the
circumstances of his own situation, to write to me that letter,
the freedom of whose remonstrances, and the earnestness of whose
exhortations so greatly offended me? How much does this consideration
enhance the purity and disinterestedness of his friendship? And is it
possible that I should have taken umbrage at that which was prompted
only by tenderness and attachment? And did I ever speak of his
interference in those harsh and reproachful terms which I so well
knew would be conveyed to him again? Could I have been so blinded by
groundless resentment, as to have painted him in all the colours of an
inflexible dictator, and a presumptuous censor? Could I have imputed his
conduct to motives of pride, affectation, and arrogance? How happy had I
been, had his advice arrived sooner, and been more regarded?"

But it was not with self-blame and reproach only, that the recovery
of my Rinaldo was contented. The idea of the situation of his friend
incessantly haunted him. No pursuit, no avocation, could withdraw his
attention, or banish the recollection from his mind. He determined to
quit Naples in search of me. He left all those engagements, and all
those pleasures of which he had of late been so much enamoured, and
crossing the sea he came into Sicily. Learning that I had quitted
Palermo, he resolved to pursue his search of me to Leontini. He had
fixed his determination not to quit the generous business upon which he
had entered, without discovering me in my remotest retreat, atoning for
the groundless resentment he had harboured, and contributing every thing
in his power to repair the injustice I had suffered from those of my
own family. And in pursuance of these ideas he has made me the most
disinterested and liberal proposals of friendship and assistance.

How is it, my Hippolito, that the same man shall be alternately governed
by the meanest and most exalted motives: that he shall now appear an
essence celestial and divine, and now debase himself by a conduct the
most indefensible and unworthy? But such I am afraid is man. Mixed
in all his qualities, and inconsistent in all his purposes. The most
virtuous and most venerable of us all are too often guilty of things
weak, sordid, and disgraceful. And it is to be hoped on the other hand,
that there are few so base and degenerate, as not sometimes to perform
actions of the most undoubted utility, and to feel sentiments dignified
and benevolent. It is in vain that the philosopher fits in his airy
eminence, and seeks to reduce the shapeless mass into form, and
endeavours to lay down rules for so variable and inconstant a system.
Nature mocks his efforts, and the pertinacity of events belies his
imaginary hypotheses.

But I am guilty of injustice to my friend. An action which he has so
sincerely regretted, and so greatly atoned, ought not to be considered
with so much severity. I trust I am not misled by the personal
interest I may appear to have in his present conduct. I think I should
contemplate it with the same admiration, and allow it the same weight,
if its benevolence entirely regarded another. Indeed I am still in the
greatest uncertainty how to determine. I am still inclined to prefer my
former plan, of entering resolutely upon new scenes and new pursuits,
to that of taking up any durable residence in the palace of my friend.
There is something misbecoming a man in the bloom of youth, and
labouring under no natural disadvantages and infirmities, in the
subsisting in any manner upon the bounty of another. The pride of my
heart, a pride that I do not seek to extinguish, leads me to prefer an
honest independence, in however mean a station, to the most splendid,
and the most silken bondage.

Why should not he that is born a nobleman be also born a man? A man is a
character superior to all those that civilization has invented. To be a
man is the profession of a citizen of the world. A man of rank is a poor
shivering, exotic plant, that cannot subsist out of his native soil. If
the imaginary barriers of society were thrown down, if we were reduced
back again to a state of nature, the nobleman would appear a shiftless
and a helpless being; he only who knew how to be a man would show like
the creature of God, a being sent into the world with the capacities of
subsistence and enjoyment. The nobleman, an artificial and fantastic
creation, would then lose all that homage in which he plumed himself, he
would be seen without disguise, and be despised by all.

Oh, my Hippolito, in spite of all this parade of firmness and
resolution, I cannot quit my native country but with the sincerest
regret. I had one tie, why do I mention it? Never did I commit this
confidence to any mortal. It was the dream of a poetical imagination. It
was a vision drawn in the fantastic and airy colours that flow from the
pencil of youth. Fondly I once entertained a hope. I lived upon it. But
it is vanished for ever.

I shall go from hence with the marquis of Pescara to Naples. I shall
there probably make a residence of several weeks. In that time I
shall have fixed my plans, and immediately after shall enter upon the
execution of them.



Letter X

_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_

_Cosenza_

My dear lord,

Every thing that has happened to me for some time past, appears so
fortunate and extraordinary that I can scarcely persuade myself that
it is not a dream. Is it possible that I should not have been born to
uninterrupted misfortune? The outcast of my father almost as soon as I
had a being, I was never sensible to the solace of paternal kindness, I
could never open my heart, and pour forth all my thoughts into the bosom
of him to whom I owed my existence. Why was I created with a mind so
delicate as to be susceptible of a thousand feelings, and ruffled by a
thousand crosses, that glide unheeded over the breasts of the majority
of mankind? What filial duty did I neglect, what instance of obedience
did I ever refuse, that should have made me be considered with a regard
so rigorous and austere? And was it not punishment enough to be debarred
of all the solace I might have hoped to derive from the cares of a
guardian and a protector? How did I deserve to be deprived of that
patrimony which was my natural claim, to be sent forth, after having
formed so reasonable expectancies, after having received an education
suitable to my rank, unassisted and unprovided, upon the theatre of the
world?

I had pictured that world to myself as cold, selfish, and unfeeling.
I expected to find the countenances of my fellow-creatures around me
smiling and unconcerned, whatever were my struggles, and whatever were
my disappointments. Philosophy had deprived me of those gay and romantic
prospects, which often fill the bosom of youth. A temper too sensible
and fastidious had taught me not to look for any great degree of
sympathy and disinterested ardour among the bulk of my fellow-creatures.

I have now found that avoiding one extreme I encountered the other. As
most men, induced by their self-importance, expect that their feelings
should interest, and their situations arrest the attention of those
that surround them; so I having detected their error counted upon less
benevolence and looked for less friendship than I have found. My Rinaldo
demanded to be pardoned for having neglected my advice, and misconstrued
the motives of it. I had not less reason to intreat his forgiveness in
my turn, for having weighed his character with so little detail, and so
hastily decided to his disadvantage.

My friend will not suspect me of interested flattery, when I say, that I
sincerely rejoice in a conduct so honourable to human nature as his has
been respecting me. He had no motive of vanity, for who was there that
interested himself in the fate of so obscure an individual; who in all
the polite circles and _conversazioni_ of Naples, would give him credit
for his friendship, to a person so unlike themselves? He superseded
all the feelings of resentment, he counted no distance, he passed over
mountains and seas in pursuit of his exalted design.

But my Rinaldo, generous as he is, is not the only protector that
fortune has raised to the forlorn and deserted St. Julian. You are
acquainted with the liberal and friendly invitation I received from the
duke of Benevento at Messina. His reception was still more cordial and
soothing. He embraced me with warmth, and even wept over me. He could
not refrain from imprecations upon the memory of my father, and he
declared with energy, that the son of Leonora della Colonna should never
suffer from the arbitrary and capricious tyranny of a Sicilian count.
He assured me in the strongest terms that his whole fortune was at
my disposal. Then telling me that his dear and only child had been
impatient for my arrival, he took me by the hand, and led me to the
amiable Matilda.

A change like this could not but be in the highest degree consolatory
and grateful to my wounded heart. The balm of friendship and affection
is at all times sweet and refreshing. To be freed at once from the
prospect of banishment, and the dread of dependence, to be received with
unbounded friendship and overflowing generosity by a relation of my
mother, and one who places the pride of his family in supporting and
distinguishing me, was an alteration in my circumstances which I could
not have hoped. I am not insensible to kindness. My heart is not shut
against sensations of pleasure. My spirits were exhilarated; my hours
passed in those little gratifications and compliances, by which I might
best manifest my attachment to my benefactor; and I had free recourse
to the society of his lovely daughter, whose conversation animated with
guileless sallies of wit, and graced with the most engaging modesty,
afforded me an entertainment, sweet to my breast, and congenial to my
temper.

But alas, my dear marquis, it is still true what I have often observed,
that I was not born for happiness. In the midst of a scene from which
it might best be suspected to spring, I am uneasy. My heart is corroded
with anguish, and I have a secret grief, that palls and discolours every
enjoyment, and that, by being carefully shut up in my own bosom, is so
much the more afflicting and irksome. Yes, my Rinaldo, this it was that
gave a sting to the thought of removing to a foreign country. This
was that source of disquiet, which has constantly given me an air of
pensiveness and melancholy. In no intercourse of familiarity, in no hour
of unrestricted friendship, was it ever disclosed. It is not, my friend,
the dream of speculative philosophy, it has been verified in innumerable
facts, it is the subject of the sober experience of every man, that
communication and confidence alleviate every uneasiness. But ah, if it
were before disquiet and melancholy, now it burns, it rages, I am no
longer master of myself.

You remember, my dear Rinaldo, that once in the course of my residence
at the university, I paid a visit to the duke of Benevento at Cosenza.
It was then that I first saw the amiable Matilda. She appeared to me the
most charming of her sex. Her cheeks had the freshness of the peach, and
her lips were roses. Her neck was alabaster, and her eyes sparkled with
animation, chastened with the most unrivalled gentleness and delicacy.
Her stature, her forehead, her mouth--but ah, impious wretch, how canst
thou pretend to trace her from charm to charm! Who can dissect unbounded
excellence? Who can coolly and deliberately gaze upon the brightness
of the meridian sun? I will say in one word, that her whole figure was
enchanting, that all her gestures were dignity, and every motion was
grace.

Young and unexperienced I drank without suspicion of the poison of love.
I gazed upon her with extacy. I hung upon every accent of her voice. In
her society I appeared mute and absent. But it was not the silence of an
uninterested person: it was not the distraction of philosophic thought.
I was entirely engaged, my mind was full of the contemplations of her
excellence even to bursting. I felt no vacancy, I was conscious to no
want, I was full of contentment and happiness.

As soon however as she withdrew, I felt myself melancholy and dejected.
I fled from company. I sought the most impervious solitude. I wasted the
live-long morn in the depth of umbrageous woods, amidst hills and meads,
where I could perceive no trace of a human footstep. I longed to be
alone with the object of my admiration. I thought I had much to say to
her, but I knew not what. I had no plan, my very wishes were not reduced
into a system. It was only, that full of a new and unexperienced
passion, it sought incessantly to break forth. It urged me to disburden
my labouring heart.

Once I remember I obtained the opportunity I had so long wished. It came
upon me unexpectedly, and I was overwhelmed by it. My limbs trembled,
my eyes lost their wonted faculty. The objects before them swam along
indistinctly. I essayed to speak, my very tongue refused its office. I
felt that I perspired at every pore. I rose to retire, I sat down again
irresolute and confounded.

Matilda perceived my disorder and coming towards me, enquired with a
tender and anxious voice, whether I felt myself ill. The plaintive and
interesting tone in which she delivered herself completed my confusion.
She rang the bell for assistance, and the scene was concluded. When I
returned to Palermo, I imagined that by being removed from the cause of
my passion, I should insensibly lose the passion itself. Rinaldo, you
know that I am not of that weak and effeminate temper to throw the reins
upon the neck of desire, to permit her a clear and undisputed reign. I
summoned all my reason and all my firmness to my aid. I considered the
superiority of her to whom my affections were attached, in rank, in
expectations, in fortune. I felt that my passion could not naturally be
crowned with success. "And shall I be the poor and feeble slave of love?
Animated as I am with ambition, aspiring to the greatest heights of
knowledge and distinction, shall I degenerate into an amorous and
languishing boy; shall I wilfully prepare for myself a long vista of
disappointment? Shall I by one froward and unreasonable desire, stain
all my future prospects, and discolour all those sources of enjoyment,
that fate may have reserved for me?" Alas, little did I then apprehend
that loss of fortune that was about to place me still more below the
object of my wishes!

But my efforts were vain. I turned my attention indeed to a variety of
pursuits. I imagined that the flame which had sprung up at Cosenza was
entirely extinguished. I seemed to retain from it nothing but a kind of
soft melancholy and a sober cast of thought, that made me neither less
contented with myself, nor less agreeable to those whose partiality I
was desirous to engage.

But I no sooner learned that reverse of fortune which disclosed itself
upon the death of my father, than I felt how much I had been deceived. I
had only drawn a slight cover over the embers of passion, and the fire
now broke out with twice its former violence. I had nourished it
unknown to myself with the distant ray of hope, I had still cheated my
imagination with an uncertain prospect of success. When every prospect
vanished, when all hopes were at an end, it burst every barrier, it
would no longer be concealed. My temper was in the utmost degree
unsuitable to a state of dependence, but it was this thought that made
it additionally harsh and dreadful to my mind. I loved my country with
the sincerest affection, but it was this that made banishment worse than
ten thousand deaths. The world appeared to me a frightful solitude, with
not one object that could interest all my attention, and fill up all the
wishes of my heart.

From these apprehensions, and this dejection, I have been unexpectedly
delivered. But, oh, my dear marquis, what is the exchange I have made? I
reside under the same roof with the adorable Matilda. I see every day,
I converse without restraint with her, whom I can never hope to call
my own. Can I thus go on to cherish a passion, that can make me no
promises, that can suggest to me no hopes? Can I expect always to
conceal this passion from the most penetrating eyes? How do I know that
I am not at this moment discovered, that the next will not lay my heart
naked in the sight of the most amiable of women?

Cosenza! thou shalt not long be my abode. I will not live for ever in
unavailing struggles. Concealment shall not always be the business of
the simplest and most undisguised of all dispositions. I will not
watch with momentary anxiety, I will not tremble with distracting
apprehensions. Matilda, thy honest and unsuspecting heart by me shall
never be led astray. If the fond wishes of a father are reserved for
cruel disappointment, I will not be the instrument. My secret shall lie
for ever buried in this faithful breast. It shall die with me. I will
fly to some distant land. I will retire to some country desolated by
ever burning suns, or buried beneath eternal snows. There I can love
at liberty. There I can breathe my sighs without one tell-tale wind to
carry them to the ears, with them to disturb the peace of those whom
beyond all mankind I venerate and adore. I may be miserable, I may be
given up to ever-during despair. But my patron and his spotless daughter
shall be happy.

Alas, this is but the paroxysm of a lover's rage. I have no resolution,
I am lost in perplexity. I have essayed in vain, I cannot summon
together my scattered thoughts. Oh, my friend, never did I stand so much
in need of a friend as now. Advise me, instruct me. To the honesty of
your advice, and the sincerity of your friendship I can confide. Tell me
but what to do, and though you send me to the most distant parts of the
globe, I will not hesitate.



Letter XI


_The Same to the Same_

_Cosenza_

My most dear lord,

Expect me in ten days from the date of this at your palace at Naples. My
mind is now become more quiet and serene than when I last wrote to you.
I have considered of the whole subject of that letter with perfect
deliberation. And I have now come to an unchangeable resolution.

It is this which has restored a comparative tranquility to my thoughts.
Yes, my friend, there is a triumph in fortitude, an exultation in
heroical resolve, which for a moment at least, sets a man above the most
abject and distressing circumstances. Since I have felt my own dignity
and strength, the tumultuous hurry of my mind is stilled. I look upon
the objects around me with a calm and manly despair. I have not yet
disclosed my intentions to the duke, and I may perhaps find some
difficulty in inducing him to acquiesce in them. But I will never change
them.

You will perceive from what I have said, that my design in coming to
Naples is to prepare for a voyage. I do not doubt of the friendship and
generous assistance of the duke of Benevento. I shall therefore enter
upon my new scheme of life with a more digested plan, and better
prospects.--But why do I talk of prospects!

I have attempted, and with a degree of success, to dissipate my mind
within a few days past, by superintending the alterations about which
you spoke to me, in your gardens at this place. You will readily
perceive how unavoidably I am called off from an employment, which
derives a new pleasure from the sentiments of friendship it is
calculated to awaken, by the perverse and unfortunate events of my life.



Letter XII


_The Same to the Same_


_Cosenza_

Why is it, my dear marquis, that the history of my life is so
party-coloured and extraordinary, that I am unable to foresee at the
smallest distance what is the destiny reserved for me? Happiness and
misery, success and disappointment so take their turns, that in the one
I have not time for despair, and in the other I dare not permit to my
heart a sincere and unmingled joy.

The day after I dispatched my last letter the duke of Benevento, whose
age is so much advanced, was seized with a slight paralytic stroke.
He was for a short time deprived of all sensation. The trouble of his
family, every individual of which regards him with the profoundest
veneration, was inexpressible. Matilda, the virtuous Matilda, could not
be separated from the couch of her father. She hung over him with the
most anxious affection. She watched every symptom of his disorder, and
every variation of his countenance.

I am convinced, my dear Rinaldo, that there is no object so beautiful
and engaging as this. A woman in all the pride of grace, and fulness of
her charms, tending with unwearied care a feeble and decrepid parent;
all her features informed with melting anxiety and filial tenderness,
yet suppressing the emotions of her heart and the wilder expressions of
sorrow; subduing even the stronger sentiments of nature, that she may
not by an useless and inconsiderate grief supersede the kind care, and
watchful attention, that it is her first ambition to yield. It is a
trite observation, that beauty never appears so attractive as when
unconscious of itself; and I am sure, that no self-forgetfulness can be
so amiable, as that which is founded in the emotions of a tender and
gentle heart. The disorder of the duke however was neither violent nor
lasting. In somewhat less than an hour, the favourable symptoms began to
appear, and he gradually recovered. In the mean time a certain lassitude
and feebleness remained from the shock he received, which has not yet
subsided.

But what language shall I find to describe to my Rinaldo the scene to
which this event furnished the occasion?

The next day the duke sent for his daughter and myself into his chamber.
As soon as we were alone he began to describe, in terms that affected us
both, the declining state of his health. "I feel," said he, "that
this poor worn-out body totters to its fall. The grave awaits me. The
summonses of death are such as cannot but be heard.

"Death however inspires me with no terror. I have lived long and
happily. I have endeavoured so to discharge every duty in this world as
not to be afraid to meet the supreme source of excellence in another.
The greatness of him that made us is not calculated to inspire terror
but to the guilty. Power and exalted station, though increased to an
infinite degree, cannot make a just and virtuous being tremble.

"Heaven has blessed me with a daughter, the most virtuous of her sex.
Her education has been adequate to the qualities which nature bestowed
upon her. I may without vanity assert, that Italy cannot produce her
parragon.--The first families of my country might be proud to receive
her into their bosom, princes might sue for her alliance. But I had
rather my Matilda should be happy than great.

"Come near, my dear count. I will number you also among the precious
gifts of favouring heaven. Your reputation stands high in the world, and
is without a blemish. From earliest youth your praises were music to my
ears. But great as they were, till lately I knew not half your worth.
Had I known it sooner, I would sooner have studied how to reward it. I
should then perhaps have been too happy.

"Believe me, my St. Julian, I have had much experience. In successive
campaigns, I have encountered hardships and danger. I have frequented
courts, and know their arts. Do not imagine then, young and unsuspecting
as you are, that you have been able to hide from me one wish of your
heart. I know that you love my daughter. I have beheld your growing
attachment with complacency. My Matilda, if I read her sentiments
aright, sees you with a favourable eye. Pursue her, my son, and win her.
If you can gain her approbation, doubt not that I will give my warmest
benedictions to the auspicious union."

You will readily believe, that my first care was to return my most
ardent thanks to my protector and father. Immediately however I cast an
anxious and enquiring eye upon the mistress of my heart. Her face was
covered with blushes. I beheld in her a timidity and confusion that made
me tremble. But my suspence was not long. I have since drawn from her
the most favourable and transporting confession. Oh, my friend, she
acknowledges that from the first moment she saw me, she contemplated me
with partiality. She confesses, that her father by the declaration he
has made, so far from thwarting her ambition and disappointing her
wishes, has conferred upon her the highest obligation. How much, my dear
Rinaldo, is the colour of my fortune changed. It was upon this day,
at this very hour, I had determined to leave Cosenza for ever. I had
consigned myself over to despair. I was about to enter upon a world
where every face I beheld would have been a stranger to me. The scene
would have been uniform and desolate. I should have left all the
attachments of my youth, I should have left the very centre of my
existence behind me. I should have ceased to live. I should only have
drawn along a miserable train of perceptions from year to year, without
one bright day, without one gay prospect, to illuminate the gloomy
scene, and tell me that I was.

Is it possible then that every expectation, and the whole colour of my
future life, can be so completely altered? Instead of despair, felicity.
Instead of one dark, unvaried scene, a prospect of still increasing
pleasure. Instead of standing alone, a monument of misfortune, an object
to awaken compassion in the most obdurate, shall I stand alone, the
happiest of mortals? Yes, I will never hereafter complain that nature
denied me a father, I have found a more than father. I will never
complain of calamity and affliction, in my Matilda I receive an
over-balance for them all.



Letter XIII

_The Same to the Same_


_Cosenza_

Alas, my friend, the greatest sublunary happiness is not untinged with
misfortune. I have no right however to exclaim. The misfortune to which
I am subject, however nearly it may affect me, makes no alteration in
the substance of my destiny. I still trust that I shall call my Matilda
mine. I still trust to have long successive years of happiness. And can
a mortal blessed as I, dare to complain? Can I give way to lamentation
and sorrow? Yes, my Rinaldo. The cloud will quickly vanish, but such is
the fate of mortals. The events, which, when sunk in the distant past,
affect us only with a calm regret, in the moment in which they overtake
us, overwhelm us with sorrow.

I mentioned in my last, that the disorder of the duke of Benevento was
succeeded by a feebleness and languor that did not at first greatly
alarm us. It however increased daily, and was attended with a kind of
listlessness and insensibility that his physicians regarded as a very
dangerous symptom. Almost the only marks he discovered of perception and
pleasure, were in the attendance of the adorable Matilda. Repeatedly
at intervals he seized her trembling hand, and pressed it to his dying
lips.

As the symptoms of feebleness increased upon him incessantly, he was
soon obliged to confine himself to his chamber. After an interval of
near ten days he became more clear and sensible. He called several of
his servants into the room, and gave them directions which were to be
executed after his decease. He then sent to desire that I would attend
him. His daughter was constantly in his chamber. He took both our hands
and joining them together, bowed over them his venerable head, and
poured forth a thousand prayers for our mutual felicity. We were
ourselves too much affected to be able to thank him for all his
tenderness and attention.

By these exertions, and the affection with which they were mingled,
the spirits and strength of the duke were much exhausted. He almost
immediately fell into a profound sleep. But as morning approached, he
grew restless and disturbed. Every unfavourable symptom appeared. A
stroke still more violent than the preceding seized him, and he expired
in about two hours.

Thus terminated a life which had been in the highest degree exemplary
and virtuous. In the former part of it, this excellent man distinguished
himself much in the service of his country, and engaged the affection
and attachment of his prince. He was respected by his equals, and adored
by the soldiery. His humanity was equally conspicuous with his courage.
When he left the public service for his retirement at this place, he did
not forget his former engagements, and his connexion with the army.
It is not perhaps easy for a government to make a complete and ample
provision for those poor men whose most vigorous years were spent in
defending their standard. Certain it is that few governments attend to
this duty in the degree in which they ought, and a wide field is left
for the benevolence of individuals. This benevolence was never more
largely and assiduously exhibited than by the duke of Benevento. He
provided for many of those persons of whose fidelity and bravery he had
been an eyewitness, in the most respectable offices in his family, and
among his retinue. Those for whom he could not find room in these
ways he gratified with pensions. He afforded such as were not yet
incapacitated for labour, the best spur to an honest industry, the
best solace under fatigue and toil, that of being assured that their
decrepitude should never stand in need of the simple means of comfort
and subsistence.

It may naturally be supposed that the close of a life crowded with deeds
of beneficence, the exit of a man whose humanity was his principal
feature, was succeeded by a very general sorrow. Among his domestics
there appeared an universal gloom and dejection. His peasants and his
labourers lamented him as the best of masters, and the kindest of
benefactors. His pensionaries wept aloud, and were inconsolable for the
loss of him, in whom they seemed to place all their hopes of comfort and
content.

You might form some idea of the sorrow of the lovely Matilda amidst this
troop of mourners, if I had been able to convey to you a better idea of
the softness and gentleness of her character. As the family had been
for some years composed only of his grace and herself, her circle of
acquaintance has never been extensive. Her father was all the world to
her. The duke had no enjoyment but in the present felicity and future
hopes of his daughter. The pleasures of Matilda were centered in the
ability she possessed of soothing the infirmities, and beguiling the
tedious hours of her aged parent.

There is no virtue that adds so noble a charm to the finest traits of
beauty, as that which exerts itself in watching over the tranquility of
an aged parent. There are no tears that give so noble a lustre to the
cheek of innocence, as the tears of filial sorrow. Oh, my Rinaldo! I
would not exchange them for all the pearls of Arabia, I would not barter
them for the mines of Golconda. No, amiable Matilda, I will not check
thy chaste and tender grief. I prize it as the pledge of my future
happiness. I esteem it as that which raises thee to a level with angelic
goodness. Hence, thou gross and vulgar passion! that wouldst tempt me
to kiss away the tears from her glowing cheeks. I will not soil their
spotless purity. I will not seek to mix a thought of me with a sentiment
not unworthy of incorporeal essences.

I shall continue at this place to regulate the business of the funeral.
I shall endeavour to put all the affairs of the lovely heiress into a
proper train. I will then wait upon my dear marquis at his palace in
Naples. For a few weeks, a few tedious weeks, I will quit the daily
sight and delightful society of my amiable charmer. At the expiration of
that term I shall hope to set out with my Rinaldo for his villa at
this place. Every thing is now in considerable forwardness, and will
doubtless by that time be prepared for your reception.



Letter XIV


_The Count de St. Julian to Matilda della Colonna_

_Naples_

I will thank you a thousand times for the generous permission you gave
me, to write to you from this place. I have waited an age, lovely
Matilda, that I might not intrude upon your hours of solitude and
affliction, and violate the feelings I so greatly respect. You must not
now be harsh and scrupulous. You must not cavil at the honest expression
of those sentiments you inspire. Can dissimulation ever be a virtue?
Can it ever be a duty to conceal those emotions of the soul upon which
honour has set her seal, and studiously to turn our discourse to
subjects uninteresting and distant to the heart?

How happy am I in a passion which received the sanction of him, who
alone could claim a voice in the disposal of you! There are innumerable
lovers, filled with the most ardent passion, aiming at the purest
gratifications, whose happiness is traversed by the cold dictates of
artificial prudence, by the impotent distinctions of rank and family.
Unfeeling parents rise to thwart their wishes. The despotic hand
of authority tears asunder hearts united by the softest ties, and
sacrifices the prospect of felicity to ridiculous and unmeaning
prejudices. Let us, my Matilda, pity those whose fate is thus
unpropitious, but let us not voluntarily subject ourselves to their
misfortune. No voice is raised to forbid our union. Heaven and earth
command us to be happy.

Alas, I am sufficiently unfortunate, that the arbitrary decorums of
society have banished me from your presence. In vain Naples holds out to
me all her pleasures and her luxury. Ill indeed do they pay me for the
exchange. Its court, its theatres, its assemblies, and its magnificence,
have no attractions for me. I had rather dwell in a cottage with her I
love, than be master of the proudest palace this city has to boast.

In compliance with the obliging intreaties of the marquis of Pescara, I
have entered repeatedly into the scene of her entertainments. But I was
distracted and absent. A variety of topics were started of literature,
philosophy, news, and fashion. The man of humour told his pleasant tale,
and the wit flashed with his lively repartee. But I heard them not.
Their subjects were in my eye tedious and uninteresting. They talked
not of the natural progress of the passions. They did not dissect the
characters of the friend and the lover. My heart was at Cosenza.

Fatigued with the crowded assembly and the fluttering parterre, I sought
relief in solitude. Never was solitude so grateful to me. I indulged
in a thousand reveries. Gay hope exhibited all her airy visions to
my fancy. I formed innumerable prospects of felicity, and each more
ravishing than the last. The joys painted by my imagination were surely
too pure, too tranquil to last for ever. Oh how sweet is an untasted
happiness! But ours, Matilda, shall be great, beyond what expectation
can suggest. Ours shall teem with ever fresh delights, refined by
sentiment, sanctified by virtue. Nothing but inevitable fate shall
change it. May that fate be distant as I wish it!

But alas, capricious and unbounded fancy has sometimes exhibited a
different scene. A heart, enamoured, rivetted to its object like mine,
cannot but have intervals of solicitude and anxiety. If it have no real
subject of uncertainty and fear, it will create to itself imaginary
ones. But I have no need of these. I am placed at a distance from the
mistress of my heart, which may seem little to a cold and speculative
apprehension, but which my soul yearns to think of. My fate has not yet
received that public sanction which can alone put the finishing stroke
to my felicity. I cannot suspect, even in my most lawless flights,
the most innocent and artless of her sex of inconstancy. But how
many unexpected accidents may come between me and my happiness? How
comfortless is the thought that I can at no time say, "Now the amiable
Matilda is in health; now she dwells in peace and safety?" I receive an
account of her health, a paquet reaches me from Cosenza. Alas, it is two
tedious days from the date of the information. Into two tedious days how
many frightful events may be crowded by tyrant fancy!



Letter XV


_The Same to the Same_

_Naples_

I have waited, charming Matilda, with the most longing impatience in
hopes of receiving a letter from your own hand. Every post has agitated
me with suspense. My expectation has been continually raised, and as
often defeated. Many a cold and unanimated epistle has intruded
itself into my hands, when I thought to have found some token full of
gentleness and tenderness, which might have taught my heart to overflow
with rapture. If you knew, fair excellence, how much pain and uneasiness
your silence has given me, you could not surely have been so cruel. The
most rigid decorum could not have been offended by one scanty billet
that might just have informed me, I still retained a tender place in
your recollection. One solitary line would have raised me to a state of
happiness that princes might envy.

A jealous and contracted mind placed in my situation, might fear to
undergo the imputation of selfishness and interest. He would represent
to himself, how brilliant was your station, how exalted your rank, how
splendid your revenues, and what a poor, deserted, and contemptible
figure I made in the eyes of the world, when your father first honoured
me with his attention. My Matilda were a match for princes. Her external
situation in the highest degree magnificent. Her person lovely and
engaging beyond all the beauty that Italy has to boast. Her mind
informed with the most refined judgment, the most elegant taste, the
most generous sentiments. When the dictates of prudence and virtue flow
from her beauteous lips, philosophers might listen with rapture, sages
might learn wisdom. And is it possible that this all-accomplished
woman can stoop from the dignity of her rank and the greatness of her
pretensions, to a person so obscure, so slenderly qualified as I am?

But no, my Matilda, I am a stranger to these fears, my breast is
unvisited by the demon of suspicion. I employ no precaution. I do not
seek to constrain my passion. I lay my heart naked before you. I shall
ever maintain the most grateful sense of the benevolent friendship
of your venerable father, of your own unexampled and ravishing
condescension. But love, my amiable Matilda, knows no distinction of
rank. We cannot love without building our ardour upon the sense of a
kind of equality. All obligations must here in a manner cease but those
which are mutual. Those hearts that are sensible to the distance of
benefactor and client, are strangers to the sweetest emotions of this
amiable passion.

But who is there that is perfectly master of his own character? Who
is there that can certainly foretel what will be his feelings and
sentiments in circumstances yet untried? Do not then, fairest, gentlest,
of thy sex, torture the lover that adores you. Do not persist in cold
and unexpressive silence. A thousand times have those lips made the
chaste confession of my happiness. A thousand times upon that hand have
I sealed my gratitude. Yet do I stand in need of fresh assurances.
Mutual attachment subsists not but in communication and sympathy. I
count the tedious moments. My wayward fancy paints in turn all the
events that are within the region of possibility. Too many of them there
are, against the apprehension of which no precaution can secure me. Do
not, my lovely Matilda, do not voluntarily increase them. Is not the
comfortless distance to which I am banished a sufficient punishment,
without adding to it those uneasinesses it is so much in your power to
remove?



Letter XVI

_Matilda della Colonna to the Count de St. Julian_

_Cosenza_

Is it possible you can put an unfavourable construction upon my silence?
You are not to be informed that it was nothing more than the simplest
dictates of modesty and decency required. I cannot believe, that if I
had offended against those dictates, it would not have sunk me a little
in your esteem. Your sex indeed is indulged with a large and extensive
licence. But in ours, my dear friend, propriety and decorum cannot be
too assiduously preserved. Our reputation is at the disposal of every
calumniator. The minutest offence can cast a shade upon it. A long and
uninterrupted course of the most spotless virtue can never restore it to
its first unsullied brightness. Many and various indeed are the steps by
which it may be tarnished, short of the sacrifice of chastity, and the
total dereliction of character.

There is no test of gentleness and integrity of heart more obvious,
than the discharge of the filial duties. A truly mild and susceptible
disposition will sympathize in the concerns of a parent with the most
ardent affection, will be melted by his sufferings into the tenderest
sorrow. The child whose heart feels not with peculiar anguish the
distresses of him, from whom he derived his existence, to whom he owes
the most important obligations, and with whom he has been in habits
of unbounded confidence from earliest infancy, must be of a character
harsh, savage, and detestable. How can he be expected to melt over the
tale of a stranger? How can his hand be open to relief and munificence?
How can he discharge aright the offices of a family, and the duties of a
citizen?

Recollect, my friend, never had any child a parent more gentle and
affectionate than mine. I was all his care and all his pride. He knew no
happiness but that of gratifying my desires, and outrunning my wishes.
He was my all. I have for several years, and even before I was able
properly to understand her value, lost a tender mother. In my surviving
parent then all my attachments centered. He was my protector and my
guide, he was my friend and my companion. All other connexions were
momentary and superficial. And till I knew my St. Julian, my warmest
affections never strayed from my father's roof.

Do not however imagine, that in the moment of my sincerest sorrow, I
scarcely for one hour forget you. My sentiments have ever been the same.
They are the dictates of an upright and uncorrupted heart, and I do not
blush to own them.

Undissipated in an extensive circle of acquaintance, untaught by the
prejudices of my education to look with a favourable eye upon the
majority of the young nobility of the present age, I saw you with a
heart unexperienced and unworn with the knowledge and corruptions of
the world. I saw you in your character totally different from the young
persons of your own rank. And the differences I discovered, were all
of them such, as recommended you to my esteem. My unguarded heart had
received impressions, even before the voice of my father had given a
sanction to my inclinations, that would not easily have been effaced.
When he gave me to you, he gave you a willing hand. Your birth is
noble and ancient as my own. Fortune has no charms for me. I have no
attachment to the brilliant circle, and the gaiety of public life. My
disposition, naturally grave and thoughtful, demands but few associates,
beside those whose hearts are in some degree in unison with my own. I
had rather live in a narrow circle united with a man, distinguished by
feeling, virtue, and truth, than be the ornament of courts, and the envy
of kingdoms.

Previous to my closing this letter, I sent to enquire of the _maître
d'hôtel_ of the villa of the marquis, in what forwardness were his
preparations for the intended visit of his master. He informs me that
they will be finished in two days at farthest. I suppose it will not be
long from that time, before his lordship will set out from Naples. You
of course are inseparable from him.


END OF VOLUME I _Italian Letters_



VOLUME II



Letter I

_The Marquis of Pescara to the Marquis of San Severino_


_Cosenza_

My dear lord,

I need not tell you that this place is celebrated for one of the most
beautiful spots of the habitable globe. Every thing now flourishes.
Nature puts on her gayest colours, and displays all her charms. The
walks among the more cultivated scenes of my own grounds, and amidst the
wilder objects of this favoured region are inexpressibly agreeable. The
society of my pensive and sentimental friend is particularly congenial
with the scenery around me. Do not imagine that I am so devoid of taste
as not to derive exquisite pleasure from these sources. Yet believe me,
there are times in which I regret the vivacity of your conversation, and
the amusements of Naples.

Is this, my dear Ferdinand, an argument of a corrupted taste, or an
argument of sound and valuable improvement? Much may be said on both
sides. Of the mind justly polished, without verging to the squeamish and
effeminate, nature exhibits the most delightful sources of enjoyment. He
that turns aside from the simplicity of her compositions with disgust,
for the sake of the over curious and laboured entertainments of which
art is the inventor, may justly be pronounced unreasonably nice, and
ridiculously fastidious.

But then on the other hand, the finest taste is of all others the most
easily offended. The mind most delicate and refined, requires the
greatest variety of pleasures. So much for logic. Let me tell you,
however, be it wisdom or be it folly, I owe it entirely to you. It is a
revolution in my humour, to which I was totally a stranger when I left
Palermo.

I have not yet seen this rich and celebrated heiress of whom you told me
so much. It is several years since I remember to have been in company
where she was, and it is more than probable that I should not even know
her. If however I were to give full credit to the rhapsodies of my good
friend the count, whose description of her, by the way, has something
in it of romantic and dignified, which pleases me better than yours, as
luscious as it is, I should imagine her a perfect angel, beautiful
as Venus, chaste as Diana, majestic as the mother of the gods, and
enchanting as the graces. I know not why, but since I have studied the
persons of the fair under your tuition, I have felt the most impatient
desire to be acquainted with this _nonpareil_.

No person however has yet been admitted into the sanctuary of the
goddess, except the person destined by the late duke to be her husband.
He himself has seen her but for a second time. It should seem, that as
many ceremonies were necessary in approaching her, as in being presented
to his holiness; and that she were as invisible as the emperor
of Ispahan. I am however differently affected by the perpetual
conversations of St. Julian upon the subject, than I am apt to think you
would be. You would probably first laugh at his extravagance, and then
be fatigued to death with his perseverance. For my part, I am agreeably
entertained with the romance of his sentiments, and highly charmed with
their disinterestedness and their virtue.

Yes, my dear marquis, you may talk as you please of the wildness and
impracticability of the sentiments of my amiable solitaire, they are at
least in the highest degree amusing and beautiful. There is a voice
in every breast, whose feelings have not yet been entirely warped by
selfishness, responsive to them. It is in vain that the man of gaiety
and pleasure pronounces them impracticable, the generous heart gives the
lie to his assertions. He must be under the power of the poorest and
most despicable prejudices, who would reduce all human characters to a
level, who would deny the reality of all those virtues that the world
has idolized through revolving ages. Nothing can be disputed with
less plausibility, than that there are in the world certain noble and
elevated spirits, that rise above the vulgar notions and the narrow
conduct of the bulk of mankind, that soar to the sublimest heights of
rectitude, and from time to time realize those virtues, of which the
interested and illiberal deny the possibility.

I can no more doubt, than I do of the truth of these apothegms, that the
count de St. Julian is one of these honourable characters. He treads
without the airy circle of dissipation. He is invulnerable to the
temptations of folly; he is unshaken by the examples of profligacy.
They are such characters as his that were formed to rescue mankind from
slavery, to prop the pillars of a declining state, and to arrest Astraea
in her re-ascent to heaven. They are such characters whose virtues
surprize astonished mortals, and avert the vengeance of offended heaven.

Matilda della Colonna is, at least in the apprehension of her admirer, a
character quite as singular in her own sex as his can possibly appear to
me. They were made for each other. She is the only adequate reward that
can be bestowed upon his exalted virtues. Oh, my Ferdinand, there must
be a happiness reserved for such as these, which must make all other
felicity comparatively weak and despicable. It is the accord of the
purest sentiments. It is the union of guiltless souls. Its nature is
totally different from that of the casual encounter of the sexes, or
the prudent conjunctions in which the heart has no share. In the
considerations upon which it is founded, corporeal fitnesses occupy but
a narrow and subordinate rank, personal advantages and interest are
admitted for no share. It is the sympathy of hearts, it is the most
exalted species of social intercourse.



Letter II

_The Count de St. Julian to Signor Hippolito Borelli_


_Cosenza_

My dear Hippolito,

I have already acquainted you as they occurred, with those
circumstances, which have introduced so incredible an alteration in my
prospects and my fortune. From being an outcast of the world, a young
man without protectors, a nobleman without property, a lover despairing
ever to possess the object of his vows, I am become the most favoured
of mortals, the happiest of mankind. There is no character that I envy,
there is no situation for which I would exchange my own. My felicity is
of the colour of my mind; my prospects are those, for the fruition of
which heaven created me. What have I done to deserve so singular a
blessing? Is it possible that no wayward fate, no unforeseen and
tremendous disaster should come between me and my happiness?

My Matilda is the most amiable of women. Every day she improves upon
me. Every day I discover new attractions in this inexhaustible mine of
excellence. Never was a character so simple, artless and undisguised.
Never was a heart so full of every tender sensibility. How does her
filial sorrow adorn, and exalt her? How ravishing is that beauty, that
is embellished with melancholy, and impearled with tears?

Even when I suffer most from the unrivalled delicacy of her sentiments,
I cannot but admire. Ah, cruel Matilda, and will not one banishment
satisfy the inflexibility of thy temper, will not all my past sufferings
suffice to glut thy severity? Is it still necessary that the happiness
of months must be sacrificed to the inexorable laws of decorum? Must I
seek in distant climes a mitigation of my fate? Yes, too amiable tyrant,
thou shalt be obeyed. It will be less punishment to be separated from
thee by mountains crowned with snow, by impassable gulphs, by boundless
oceans, than to reside in the same city, or even under the same roof,
and not be permitted to see those ravishing beauties, to hear that sweet
expressive voice.

You know, my dear Hippolito, the unspeakable obligations I have received
from my amiable friend, the marquis of Pescara. Though these obligations
can never be fully discharged, yet I am happy to have met with an
opportunity of demonstrating the gratitude that will ever burn in my
heart. My Rinaldo even rates the service I have undertaken to perform
for him beyond its true value. Would it were in my power to serve him as
greatly, as essentially as I wish!

The estate of the house of Pescara in Castile is very considerable.
Though it has been in the possession of the noble ancestors of my friend
for near two centuries, yet, by the most singular fortune, there has
lately arisen a claimant to more than one half of it. His pleas, though
destitute of the smallest plausibility, are rendered formidable by the
possession he is said to have of the patronage and favour of the first
minister. In a word, it is become absolutely necessary for his lordship
in person, or some friend upon whose integrity and discretion he can
place the firmest dependence, to solicit his cause in the court of
Madrid. The marquis himself is much disinclined to the voyage, and
though he had too much delicacy in his own temper, and attachment to my
interest, to propose it himself, I can perceive that he is not a little
pleased at my having voluntarily undertaken it.

My disposition is by nature that of an insatiable curiosity. I was not
born to be confined within the narrow limits of one island, or one
petty kingdom. My heart is large and capacious. It rises above local
prejudices; it forms to itself a philosophy equally suited to all the
climates of the earth; it embraces the whole human race. The majority
of my countrymen entertain the most violent aversion for the Spanish
nation. For my own part I can perceive in them many venerable and
excellent qualities. Their friendship is inviolable, their politeness
and hospitality of the most disinterested nature. Their honour is
unimpeached, and their veracity without example. Even from those traits
in their character, that appear the most absurd, or that are too often
productive of the most fatal consequences, I expect to derive amusement
and instruction. I doubt not, however pure be my flame for Matilda, that
the dissipation and variety of which this voyage will be productive,
will be friendly to my ease. I shall acquire wisdom and experience. I
shall be better prepared to fill up that most arduous of all characters,
the respectable and virtuous father of a family.

In spite however of all these considerations, with which I endeavour to
console myself in the chagrin that preys upon my mind, the approaching
separation cannot but be in the utmost degree painful to me. In spite of
the momentary fortitude, that tells me that any distance is better than
the being placed within the reach of the mistress of my soul without
being once permitted to see her, I cannot help revolving with the most
poignant melancholy, the various and infinitely diversified objects that
shall shortly divide us. Repeatedly have I surveyed with the extremest
anguish the chart of those seas that I am destined to pass. I have
measured for the twentieth time the course that is usually held in this
voyage. Every additional league appears to me a new barrier between me
and my wishes, that I fear to be able to surmount a second time.

And is it possible that I can leave my Matilda without a guardian to
protect her from unforeseen distress, without a monitor to whisper
to her in every future scene the constancy of her St. Julian? No, my
Hippolito, the objection would be insuperable. But thanks, eternal
thanks to propitious heaven! I have a friend in whom I can confide as my
own soul, whose happiness is dearer to me than my own. Yes, my Rinaldo,
whatever may be my destiny, in whatever scenes I may be hereafter
placed, I will recollect that my Matilda is under thy protection, and be
satisfied. I will recollect the obligations you have already conferred
upon me, and I will not hesitate to add to them that, which is greater
than them all.



Letter III

_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_

_Naples_

Best of friends,

Every thing is now prepared for my voyage. The ship will weigh anchor in
two days at farthest. This will be the last letter you will receive from
me before I bid adieu to Italy.

I have not yet shaken off the melancholy with which the affecting leave
I took of the amiable Matilda impressed me. Never will the recollection
be effaced from my memory. It was then, my Rinaldo, that she laid aside
that delicate reserve, that lovely timidity, which she had hitherto
exhibited. It was then that she poured forth, without restraint, all the
ravishing tenderness of her nature. How affecting were those tears? How
heart-rending the sighs that heaved her throbbing bosom? When will those
tender exclamations cease to vibrate in my ear? When will those piercing
cries give over their task, the torturing this constant breast? You, my
friend, were witness to the scene, and though a mere spectator, I am
mistaken if it did not greatly affect you.

Hear me, my Rinaldo, and let my words sink deep into your bosom. Into
your hands I commit the most precious jewel that was ever intrusted to
the custody of a friend. You are the arbiter of my fate. More, much more
than my life is in your disposal. If you should betray me, you will
commit a crime, that laughs to scorn the frivolity of all former
baseness. You will inflict upon me a torture, in comparison of which all
the laborious punishments that tyrants have invented, are couches of
luxury, are beds of roses.

Forgive me, my friend, the paroxysm of a lover's rage. I should deserve
all the punishments it would be in your power to inflict, if I harboured
the remotest suspicion of your fidelity. No, I swear by all that is
sacred, it is my richest treasure, it is my choicest consolation.
Wherever I am, I will bear it about with me. In every reverse of fortune
I will regard it as the surest pledge of my felicity. Mountains shall
be hurled from their eternal bases, lofty cities shall be crumbled into
dust, but my Rinaldo shall never be false.

It is this consideration that can only support me. The trials I undergo
are too great for the most perfect fortitude. I quit a treasure that the
globe in its inexhausted variety never equalled. I retire to a distance,
where months may intervene ere the only intelligence that can give
pleasure to my heart, shall reach me. I shall count however with the
most unshaken security upon my future happiness. Walls of brass, and
bars of iron could not give me that assured peace.



Letter IV

_Matilda della Colonna to the Count de St. Julian_

_Cosenza_

Why is it, my friend, that you are determined to fly to so immense
a distance? You call me cruel, you charge me with unfeelingness and
inflexibility, and yet to my prayers you are deaf, to my intreaties you
are inexorable.

I have satisfied all the claims of decorum. I have fulfilled with rigid
exactness the laws of decency. One advantage you at least gain by the
distance you are so desirous to place between us. My sentiments are less
guarded. Reputation and modesty have fewer claims upon a woman, who can
have no intercourse with her lover but by letter. My feelings are less
restrained. For the anxiety, which distance inspires, awakens all the
tenderness of my nature, and raises a tempest in my soul that will not
be controled.

Oh, my St. Julian, till this late and lasting separation, I did not know
all the affection I bore you. Ever since you were parted from my aching
eyes, I have not known the serenity of a moment. The image of my friend
has been the constant companion of my waking hours, and has visited me
again in my dreams. The unknown dangers of the ocean swell in my eyes to
ten times their natural magnitude. Fickle and inconstant enemy, how
much I dread thee! Oh wast the lord of all my wishes in safety to the
destined harbour! May all the winds be still! May the tempests forget
their wonted rage! May every guardian power protect his voyage! Open
not, oh ocean, thy relentless bosom to yield him a watery grave! For
once be gentle and auspicious! Listen and grant a lover's prayer!
Restore him to my presence! May the dear sight of him once more refresh
these longing eyes! You will find this letter accompanied with a small
parcel, in which I have inclosed the miniature of myself, which I
have often heard you praise as a much better likeness than the larger
pictures. It will probably afford you some gratification during that
absence of which you so feelingly complain. It will suggest to you those
thoughts upon the subject of our love that have most in them of the calm
and soothing. It will be no unpleasant companion of your reveries, and
may sometimes amuse and cheat your deluded fancy.



Letter V

_The Answer_

_Alicant_

I am just arrived at this place, after a tedious and disagreeable
voyage. As we passed along the coast of Barbary we came in sight of many
of the corsairs with which that part of the world is infested. One of
them in particular, of larger burden than the rest, gave us chace, and
for some time we thought ourselves in considerable danger. Our ship
however proved the faster sailer, and quickly carried us out of sight.
Having escaped this danger, and nearly reached the Baleares, we were
overtaken by a tremendous storm. For some days the ship was driven at
the mercy of the winds; and, as the coast of those islands is surrounded
with invisible rocks, our peril was considerable.

In the midst of danger however my thoughts were full of Matilda. Had the
ocean buried me in its capacious bosom, my last words would have been of
you, my last vows would have been made for your happiness. Had we been
taken by the enemy and carried into slavery, slavery would have had no
terrors, but those which consisted in the additional bars it would have
created between me and the mistress of my heart. It would have been of
little importance whether I had fallen to the lot of a despot, gentle or
severe. It would have separated us for years, perhaps for ever. Could I,
who have been so much afflicted by the separation of a few months, have
endured a punishment like this? That soft intercourse, that wafts the
thoughts of lovers to so vast a distance, that mimics so well an actual
converse, that cheats the weary heart of all its cares, would have been
dissolved for ever. Little then would have been the moment of a few
petty personal considerations; I should not long have survived.

I only wait at this place to refresh myself for a few days, from a
fatigue so perfectly new to me, and then shall set out with all speed
for Madrid. My Matilda will readily believe that that business which
detains me at so vast a distance from my happiness, will be dispatched
with as much expedition as its nature will admit. I will not sacrifice
to any selfish considerations the interest of my friend, I will not
neglect the minutest exertion by which it may be in my power to serve
his cause. But the moment I have discharged what I owe to him, no power
upon earth shall delay my return, no not for an hour.

I have seen little as yet of that people of whom I have entertained
so favourable ideas. But what I have seen has perfectly equalled my
expectation. Their carriage indeed is cold and formal, beyond what it is
possible for any man to have a conception of, who has not witnessed it.
But those persons to whom I had letters have received me with the utmost
attention and politeness. Sincerity is visible in all they do, and
constancy in all their modes of thinking. There is not a man among them,
who has once distinguished you, and whose favour it is possible for you
to forfeit without having deserved it. Will not an upright and honest
mind pardon many defects to a virtue like this?

Oh, my Matilda, shall I recommend to you to remember your St. Julian, to
carry the thoughts of him every where about with you? Shall I make to
you a thousand vows of unalterable attachment? No, best of women, I will
not thus insult the integrity of your heart. I will not thus profane
the purity of our loves. The world in all its treasure has not a second
Matilda, and if it had, my heart is fixed, all the tender sensibilities
of my soul are exhausted. Your St. Julian was not made to change with
every wind.



Letter VI

_Matilda della Colonna to the Count de St. Julian_

_Cosenza_

I begin this letter without having yet received any news from you since
you quitted the port of Naples. The time however that was requisite for
that purpose is already more than expired. Oh, my friend, if before
the commencement of this detested voyage, the dangers that attended it
appeared to me in so horrid colours, how think you that I support
them now? My imagination sickens, my poor heart is distracted at the
recollection of them. Why would you encounter so many unnecessary
perils? Why would you fly to so remote a climate? Many a friend could
have promoted equally well the interests of the marquis of Pescara, but
few lives are so valuable as thine. Many a friend could have solicited
this business in the court of Madrid, but believe me, there are few
that can boast that they possessed the heart of a Matilda. Simple and
sincere, I do not give myself away by halves. With a heart full of
tenderness and sensibility, I am affected more, much more than the
generality of my sex, with circumstances favourable or adverse. Ah
cruel, cruel St. Julian, was it for a lover to turn a deaf ear to the
intreaties of a mistress, that lived not but to honour his virtues, and
to sympathize in his felicity? Did I not for you lay aside that triple
delicacy and reserve, in which I prided myself? Were not my sighs and
tears visible and undisguised? Did not my cries pierce the lofty dome of
my paternal mansion, and move all hearts but yours?

They tell me, my St. Julian, that I am busy to torment myself, that I
invent a thousand imaginary misfortunes. And is this to torment myself
to address my friend in these poor lines? Is this to deceive myself with
unreal evils? Even while Matilda cherishes the fond idea of pouring
out her complaints before him, my St. Julian may be a lifeless corse.
Perhaps he now lies neglected and unburied in the beds of the ocean.
Perhaps he has fallen a prey to barbarous men, more deaf and merciless
than the warring elements. Distracting ideas! And does this head live to
conceive them? Is this hand dull and insensible enough to write them?

Believe me, my friend, my heart is tender and will easily break. It was
not formed to sustain a series of trials. It was not formed to encounter
a variety of distress. Oh, fly then, hasten to my arms. All those ideas
of form and decency, all the artificial decorums of society that I once
cherished, are dissolved before the darker reflections, the apprehensive
anxieties that your present situation has awakened. Yes, my St. Julian,
come to my arms. The moment you appear to claim me I am yours. Adieu to
the management of my sex. From this moment I commit all my concerns
to your direction. From this moment, your word shall be to me an
irrevocable law, which without reasoning, and without refinement, I will
implicitly obey.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have received your letter. The pleasure it affords me is exquisite in
proportion to my preceding anguish. From the confession of the bravest
of men it now appears that my apprehensions were not wholly unfounded.
And yet upon reviewing what I have written, I almost blush for my
weakness. But it shall not be effaced. Disguise is little becoming
between lovers at so immense a distance. No, my friend, you shall know
all the interest you possess in my heart. I will at least afford you
that consolation amidst the pangs of absence. May heaven be propitious
in what yet remains before you! I will even weary it with my prayers.
May it return you to my arms safe and unhurt, and no other calamity
shall wring from me a murmur, or a sigh!

One thing however it is necessary I should correct. I do not mean to
accuse you for the voyage you have undertaken, however it may distress
me. In my calmer moments I feel for the motives of it the warmest
approbation. It was the act of disinterested friendship. Every prejudice
of the heart pleaded against it. Love, that passion which reigns without
a rival in your breast, forbad the compliance. It was a virtue worthy
of you. There needed but this to convince me that you were infinitely
superior to the whole race of your fellow mortals.



Letter VII

_The Answer_

_Buen Retiro_

Ten thousand thanks to the most amiable of women for the letter that has
just fallen into my hands. Yes, Matilda, if my heart were pierced on
every side with darts, and my life's blood seemed ready to follow every
one of them, your enchanting epistle would be balm to all my wounds,
would sooth all my cares. Tenderest, gentlest of dispositions, where
ever burned a love whose flame was pure as thine? Where ever was truth
that could vie with the truth of Matilda? Hereafter when the worthless
and the profligate exclaim upon the artifices of thy sex, when the lover
disappointed, wrung with anguish, imprecates curses on the kind, name
but Matilda, and every murmur shall be hushed; name but Matilda, and
the universal voice of nature shall confess that the female form is the
proper residence, the genuine temple of angelic goodness.

I had upon the whole a most agreeable journey from Alicant to Madrid. It
would be superfluous to describe to a mind so well informed as yours,
the state of the country. You know how thin is its population, and how
indolent is the character of its inhabitants. Satisfied with possessing
the inexhaustible mines of Mexico and Peru, they imagine that the world
was made for them, that the rest of mankind were destined to labour that
they might be maintained in supineness and idleness. The experience of
more than two centuries has not been able to convince them of their
error, and amidst all their poverty, they still retain as much pride
as ever. The country however is naturally luxuriant and delicious; and
there are a considerable number of prospects in the provinces through
which I have passed that will scarcely yield to any that Italy has to
boast. As soon as I arrived at the metropolis I took up my residence at
this place, which is inexpressibly crowded with the residences of the
nobility and grandees. It is indeed one of the most beautiful spots in
nature, as it concentres at once the simplest rusticity with the utmost
elegance of refinement and society. My reception has been in the highest
degree flattering, and I please myself with the idea that I have already
made some progress in the business of the marquis of Pescara.

You are not insensible that my character, at least in some of its
traits, is not uncongenial to that of a Spaniard. Whether it be owing to
this or any other cause I know not, but I believe never was any man, so
obscure as myself, distinguished in so obliging a manner by the first
personages in the kingdom. In return I derive from their society the
utmost satisfaction. Their lofty notions of honour, their gravity, their
politeness, and their sentimental way of thinking, have something in
them that affords me infinite entertainment and pleasure. Oh, Matilda,
how much more amiable is that character, that carries the principles
of honour and magnanimity to a dangerous extreme, than that which
endeavours to level all distinctions of mankind, and would remove and
confound the eternal barriers of virtue and vice!

One of the most agreeable connexions I have made is with the duke of
Aranda. The four persons of whom his family is composed, his grace, the
duchess, their son and daughter, are all of them characters extremely
interesting and amiable. The lady Isabella is esteemed the first beauty
of the court of Madrid. The young count is tall, graceful, and manly,
with a fire and expression in his fine blue eyes beyond any thing I
ever saw. He has all the vivacity and enterprize of youth, without the
smallest tincture of libertinism and dissipation. I know not how it is,
but I find myself perfectly unable to describe his character without
running into paradox. He is at once serious and chearful. His
seriousness is so full of enthusiasm and originality, that it is the
most unlike in the world to the cold dogmatism of pedantry, or the
turgid and monotonous stile of the churchman. His chearfulness is not
the gaiety of humour, is not the brilliancy of wit, it is the result of
inexhaustible fancy and invincible spirit. In a word, I never met with
a character that interested me so much at first sight, and were it not
that I am bound by insuperable ties to my native soil, it would be the
first ambition of my heart to form with him the ties of an everlasting
friendship.

Once more, my Matilda, adieu. You are under the protection of the most
generous of men, and the best of friends. I owe to the marquis of
Pescara, a thousand obligations that can never be compensated. Let it be
thy care thou better half of myself to receive him with that attention
and politeness, which is due to the worth of his character, and the
immensity of his friendship. There is something too sweet and enchanting
in the mild benevolence of Matilda, not to contribute largely to
his happiness. It is in your power, best of women, by the slightest
exertions, to pay him more than I could do by a life of labour.



Letter VIII

_The Same to the Same_


_Buen Retiro_

I little thought during so distressing a period of absence, to have
written you a letter so gay and careless as my last. I confess indeed
the societies of this place afforded me so much entertainment, that in
the midst of generous friendship and unmerited kindness, I almost forgot
the anguish of a lover, and the pains of banishment.

Alas, how dearly am I destined to pay for the most short-lived
relaxation! Every pleasure is now vanished, and I can scarcely believe
that it ever existed. I enter into the same societies, I frequent the
same scenes, and I wonder what it was that once entertained me. Yes,
Matilda, the enchantment is dissolved. All the gay colours that anon
played upon the objects around me, are fled. Chaos is come again. The
world is become all dreary solitude and impenetrable darkness. I am like
the poor mariner, whose imagination was for a moment caught with the
lofty sound of the thunder, round whom the sheeted lightning gilded the
foaming waves, and who then sinks for ever in the abyss.

It is now four eternal months, and not one line from the hand of Matilda
has blessed these longing eyes, or cooled my burning brain. Opportunity
after opportunity has slipped away, one moment swelled with hope has
succeeded another, but to no purpose. The mail has not been more
constant to its place of destination than myself. But it was all
disappointment. It was in vain that I raged with unmeaning fury, and
demanded that with imprecation which was not to be found. Every calm was
misery to me. Every tempest tore my tortured heart a thousand ways. For
some time every favourable wind was balm to my soul, and nectar to my
burning frame. But it is over now--. How, how is it that I am to account
for this astonishing silence? Has nature changed her eternal laws, and
is Matilda false? Has she forgotten the poor St. Julian, upon whom she
once bestowed her tenderness with unstinted prodigality? Can that angel
form hide the foulest thoughts? Have those untasted lips abjured their
virgin vows? And has that hand been given to another? Hence green-eyed
jealousy, accursed fiend, with all thy train of black suspicions! No,
thou shall not find a moment's harbour in my breast. I will none of
thee. It were treason to the chastest of hearts, it were sacrilege to
the divinest form that ever visited this lower world, but to admit the
possibility of Matilda's infidelity.

And where, ah where, shall I take refuge from these horrid thoughts? To
entertain them were depravity were death. I fly from them, and where is
it that I find myself? Surrounded by a thousand furies. Oh, gracious and
immaculate providence, why hast thou opened so many doors to tremendous
mischief? Innumerable accidents of nature may tear her from me for ever.
All the wanton brutalities that history records, and that the minds of
unworthy men can harbour, start up in dreadful array before me.

Cruel and inflexible Matilda! thou once wert bounteous as the hand of
heaven, wert tender as the new born babe. What is it that has changed
thy disposition to the hard, the wanton, the obdurate? Behold a lover's
tears! Behold how low thou hast sunk him, whom thou once didst dignify
by the sweet and soothing name of _thy friend_! If ever the voice
of anguish found a passage to your heart, if those cheeks were ever
moistened with the drops of sacred pity, oh, hear me now! But I will
address myself to the rocks. I will invoke the knotted oaks and the
savage wolves of the forest. They will not refuse my cry, but Matilda is
deaf as the winds, inexorable as the gaping wave.

In the state of mind in which I am, you will naturally suppose that I
am full of doubt and irresolution. Twice have I resolved to quit the
kingdom of Spain without delay, and to leave the business of friendship
unfinished. But I thank God these thoughts were of no long duration. No,
Matilda, let me be set up as a mark for the finger of scorn, let me be
appointed by heaven as a victim upon which to exhaust all its arrows.
Let me be miserable, but let me never, never deserve to be so.
Affliction, thou mayest beat upon my heart in one eternal storm!
Trouble, thou mayest tear this frame like a whirlwind! But never shall
all thy terrors shake my constant mind, or teach me to swerve for a
moment from the path I have marked out to myself! All other consolation
may be taken from me, but from the bulwark of innocence and integrity I
will never be separated.



Letter IX

_The Marquis of Pescara to the Count de St. Julian_

_Cosenza_

I can never sufficiently thank you for the indefatigable friendship you
have displayed in the whole progress of my Spanish affairs. I have just
received a letter from the first minister of that court, by which I am
convinced that it cannot be long before they be terminated in the most
favourable manner. I scarcely know how, after all the obligations you
have conferred upon me, to intreat that you would complete them, by
paying a visit to Zamora before you quit the kingdom, and putting my
affairs there in some train, which from the negligence incident to a
disputed title, can scarcely fail to be in disorder.

Believe me there is nothing for which I have more ardently longed, than
to clasp you once again in my arms. The additional procrastination which
this new journey will create, cannot be more afflicting to you than it
is to me. Abridge then, I intreat you, as much as possible, those delays
which are in some degree inevitable, and let me have the agreeable
surprize of holding my St. Julian to my breast before I imagined I had
reason to expect his return.



Letter X

_The Answer_


_Zamora_

My dear lord,

It is with the utmost pleasure that I have it now in my power to assure
you that your affair is finally closed at the court of Madrid, in a
manner the most advantageous and honourable to your name and family. You
will perceive from the date of this letter that I had no need of the
request you have made in order to remind me of my duty to my friend.
I was no sooner able to quit the capital with propriety, than I
immediately repaired hither. The derangement however of your affairs at
this place is greater than either of us could have imagined, and it
will take a considerable time to reduce them to that order, which shall
render them most beneficial to the peasant, and most productive to the
lord.

The employment which I find at this place, serves in some degree to
dissipate the anguish of my mind. It is an employment embellished
by innocence, and consecrated by friendship. It is therefore of all
pursuits that which has the greatest tendency to lull the sense of
misery.

Rinaldo, I had drawn the pangs of absence with no flattering pencil. I
had expressed them in the most harsh and aggravated colours. But dark
and gloomy as were the prognostics I had formed to myself, they, alas,
were but shadows of what was reserved for me. The event laughs to scorn
the conceptions I had entertained. Explain to me, best, most faithful of
friends, for you only can, what dark and portentous meaning is concealed
beneath the silence of Matilda. So far from your present epistle
assisting the conjectures of my madding brain, it bewilders me more
than ever. My friend dates his letter from the very place in which she
resides, and yet by not a single word does he inform me how, and what
she is.

It is now six tedious months since a single line has reached me from her
hand. I have expostulated with the voice of apprehension, with the voice
of agony, but to no purpose. Had it not been for the tenfold obligation
in which I am bound to the best of friends, I had long, very long ere
this, deserted the kingdom of Spain for ever. The concerns of no man
upon earth, but those of my Rinaldo, could have detained me. Had they
related to myself alone, I had not wasted a thought on them. And yet
here I am at a greater distance from the centre of my solicitude than
ever.

You, my friend, know not the exquisite and inexpressible anguish of a
mind, in doubt about that in which he is most interested. I have not the
most solitary and slender clue to guide me through the labyrinth. All
the events, all the calamities that may have overtaken me, are alike
probable and improbable, and there is not one of them that I can invent,
which can possibly have escaped the knowledge of that friend, into whose
hands I committed my all. Sickness, infidelity, death itself, all the
misfortunes to which humanity is heir, are alike certain and palpable.

Oh, my Rinaldo, it was a most ill-judged and mistaken indulgence, that
led you to suppress the story of my disaster. Give me to know it. It may
be distressful, it may be tremendous. But be it as it will, there is
not a misfortune in the whole catalogue of human woes, the knowledge of
which would not be elysium to what I suffer. To be told the whole is
to know the worst. Time is the medicine of every anguish. There is no
malady incident to a conscious being, which if it does not annihilate
his existence, does not, after having attained a crisis, insensibly fall
away and dissolve. But apprehension, apprehension is hell itself. It
is infinite as the range of possibility. It is immortal as the mind
in which it takes up its residence. It gains ground every moment.
Compounded as it is of hope and fear, there is not a moment in which
it does not plume the wings of expectation. It prepares for itself
incessant, eternal disappointment. It grows for ever. At first it may
be trifling and insignificant, but anon it swells its giant limbs, and
hides its head among the clouds.

Lost as I am to the fate, the character, the present dispositions of
Matilda, I have now no prop to lean upon but you. Upon you I place an
unshaken confidence. In your fidelity I can never be deceived. I owe you
greater obligations than ever man received from man before. When I was
forlorn and deserted by all the world, it was then you flew to save me.
You left the blandishments that have most power over the unsuspecting
mind of youth, you left the down of luxury, to search me out. It was you
that saved my life in the forest of Leontini. They were your generous
offers that afforded me the first specimens of that benevolence and
friendship, which restored me from the annihilation into which I was
plunged, to an existence more pleasant and happy than I had yet known.

Rinaldo, I committed to your custody a jewel more precious than all the
treasures of the east. I have lost, I am deprived of her. Where shall I
seek her? In what situation, under what character shall I discover her?
Believe me, I have not in all the paroxysms of grief, entertained a
doubt of you. I have not for a moment suffered an expression of blame to
escape my lips. But may I not at least know from you, what it is that
has effected this strange alteration, to what am I to trust, and what is
the fate that I am to expect for the remainder of an existence of which
I am already weary?

Yes, my dear marquis, life is now a burden to me. There is nothing but
the dear business of friendship, and the employment of disinterested
affection that could make it supportable. Accept at least this last
exertion of your St. Julian. His last vows shall be breathed for your
happiness. Fate, do what thou wilt me, but shower down thy choicest
blessings on my friend! Whatever thou deniest to my sincere exertions in
the cause of rectitude, bestow a double portion upon that artless and
ingenuous youth, who, however misguided for a moment, has founded even
upon the basis of error, a generous return and an heroic resolution,
which the most permanent exertions of spotless virtue scarce can equal!



Letter XI

_Signor Hippolito Borelli to the Count de St. Julian_

_Palermo_

My dear lord,

I have often heard it repeated as an observation of sagacity and
experience, that when one friend has a piece of disagreeable
intelligence to disclose to another, it is better to describe it
directly, and in simple terms, than to introduce it with that kind of
periphrasis and circumlocution, which oftener tends to excite a vague
and impatient horror in the reader, than to prepare him to bear his
misfortune with decency and fortitude. There are however no rules of
this kind that do not admit of exceptions, and I am too apprehensive
that the subject of my present letter may be classed among those
exceptions. St. Julian, I have a tale of horror to unfold! Lay down the
fatal scrowl at this place, and collect all the dignity and resolution
of your mind. You will stand in need of it. Fertile and ingenious as
your imagination often is in tormenting itself, I will defy you to
conceive an event more big with horror, more baleful and tremendous in
all its consequences.

My friend, I have taken up my pen twenty times, and laid it down as
often again, uncertain in what manner to break my intelligence, and
where I ought to begin. I have been undetermined whether to write to you
at all, or to leave you to learn the disaster and your fate, as fortune
shall direct. It is an ungrateful and unpleasant task. Numbers would
exclaim upon it as imprudence and folly. I might at least suspend the
consummation of your affliction a little longer, and leave you a little
longer to the enjoyment of a deceitful repose.

But I am terrified at the apprehension of how this news may overtake you
at last. I have always considered the count de St. Julian as one of the
most amiable of mankind. I have looked up to him as a model of virtue,
and I have exulted that I had the honour to be of the same species with
so fair a fame, and so true a heart. I would willingly lighten to a
man so excellent the load of calamity. Why is it, that heaven in
the mysteriousness of its providence, so often visits with superior
affliction, the noblest of her sons? I should be truly sorry, that my
friend should act in a manner unworthy of the tenor of his conduct, and
the exaltation of his character. You are now, my lord at a distance. You
have time to revolve the various circumstances of your condition, and to
fix with the coolest and most mature deliberation the conduct you shall
determine to hold.

I remember in how pathetic a manner you complained, in the last letter
I received from you before you quitted Italy, of the horrors of
banishment. Little did my friend then know the additional horrors that
fate had in store for him. Two persons there were whom you loved above
all the world, in whom you placed the most unbounded confidence. My poor
friend would never have left Italy but to oblige his Rinaldo, would
never have quitted the daughter of the duke of Benevento, if he could
not have intrusted her to the custody of his Rinaldo. What then will be
his astonishment when he learns that two months have now elapsed since
the heiress of this illustrious house has assumed the title of the
marchioness of Pescara?

Since this extraordinary news first reached me, I have employed some
pains to discover the means by which an event so surprising has been
effected. I have hitherto however met with a very partial success. There
hangs over it all the darkness of mystery, and all the cowardice of
guilt. There cannot be any doubt that that friend, whom for so long a
time you cherished in your bosom, has proved the most detestable of
villains, the blot and the deformity of the human character. How far the
marchioness has been involved in his guilt, I am not able to ascertain.
Surely however the fickleness and inconstancy of her conduct cannot
be unstained with the pollution of depravity. After the most diligent
search I have learned a report, which was at that time faintly whispered
at Cosenza, that you were upon the point of marriage with the only
daughter of the duke of Aranda. Whether any inferences can be built upon
so trivial a foundation I am totally ignorant.

But might I be permitted to advise you, you ought to cast these base and
dishonourable characters from your heart for ever. The marquis is surely
unworthy of your sword. He ought not to die, but in a manner deeply
stamped with the infamy in which he has lived. I will not pretend to
alledge to a person so thoroughly master of every question of this
kind, how poor and inadequate is such a revenge: what a barbarous and
unmeaning custom it is, that thus puts the life of the innocent and
injured in the scale with that of the destroyer, and leaves the decision
of immutable differences to skill, to fortune, and a thousand trivial
and contemptible circumstances. You are not to be told how much more
there is of true heroism in refusing than in giving a challenge, in
bearing an injury with superiority and virtuous fortitude, than in
engaging in a Gothic and savage revenge.

It is not easy perhaps to find a woman, deserving enough to be united
for life to the fate of my friend. Certain I am, if I may be permitted
to deliver my sentiments, there is a levity and folly conspicuous in the
temper of her you have lost, that renders her unworthy of being lamented
by a man of discernment and sobriety. What to desert without management
and without regret, one to whom she had vowed eternal constancy, a man,
of whose amiable character, and glorious qualities she had so many
opportunities of being convinced? Oh, shame where is thy blush? If
iniquity like this, walks the world with impunity, where is the vice
that shall be branded with infamy, to deter the most daring and
profligate offender? Let us state the transaction in a light the most
favourable to the fair inconstant. What thin veil, what paltry arts
were employed by this mighty politician to confound and mislead an
understanding, clear and penetrating upon all other subjects, blind and
feeble only upon that in which the happiness of her life was involved?

My St. Julian, the exertion of that fortitude with which nature has so
richly endowed you, was never so completely called for in any other
instance. This is the crisis of your life. This is the very tide, which
accordingly as it is improved or neglected, will give a colour to all
your future story. Let not that amiable man, who has found the art of
introducing heroism into common life, and dignifying the most trivial
circumstances by the sublimity and refinedness of his sentiments, now,
in the most important affair, sink below the common level. Now is the
time to display the true greatness of your mind. Now is the time to
prove the consistency of your character.

A mind, destitute of resources, and unendowed with that elasticity which
is the badge of an immortal nature, when placed in your circumstances,
might probably sink into dereliction and despair. Here in the moral and
useful point of view would be placed the termination of their course.
What a different prospect does the future life of my St. Julian suggest
to me? I see him rising superior to misfortune. I see him refined
like silver from, the furnace. His affections and his thoughts, being
detached by calamity from all consideration of self, he lays out his
exertions in acts of benevolence. His life is one tissue of sympathy and
compassion. He is an extensive benefit to mankind. His influence, like
that of the sun, cheers the hopeless, and illuminates the desolate. How
necessary are such characters as these, to soften the rigour of the
sublunary scene, and to stamp an impression of dignity on the degeneracy
of the human character?



Letter XII [A]

_Matilda della Colonna to the Count de St. Julian_

_Cosenza_

I rise from a bed, which you have surrounded with the severest
misfortunes, to address myself to you in this billet. It is in vain,
that in conformity to the dull round of custom, I seek the couch of
repose, sleep is for ever fled from my eyes. I seek it on every side,
but on swift wings it flits far, very far, from me. It is now the
dead of night. All eyes are closed but mine. The senses of all other
creatures through the universe of God, are steeped in forgetfulness. Oh,
sweet, oblivious power, when wilt thou come to my assistance, when wilt
thou shed thy poppies upon this distracted head!

There was a time, when no human creature was so happy as the now forlorn
Matilda. My days were full of gaiety and innocence. My thoughts were
void of guile, and I imagined all around me artless as myself. I was by
nature indeed weak and timid, trembling at every leaf, shuddering with
apprehension of the lightest danger. But I had a protector generous
and brave, that spread his arms over me, like the wide branches of a
venerable oak, and round whom I clung, like ivy on the trunk. Why didst
thou come, like a cold and murderous blight, to blast all my hopes of
happiness, and to shatter my mellow hangings?

I have often told you that my heart was not tough and inflexible, to
be played upon with a thousand experiments, and encounter a thousand
trials. But you would not believe me. You could not think my frame
was so brittle and tender, and my heart so easily broken. Inexorable,
incredulous man! you shall not be long in doubt. You shall soon perceive
that I may not endure much more.

[Footnote A: This letter was written several months earlier than the
preceding, but was intercepted by the marquis of Pescara.]

How could you deceive me so entirely? I loved you with the sincerest
affection. I thought you artless as truth, as free from vice and folly
as etherial spirits. When your hypocrisy was the most consummate, your
countenance had then in my eye, most the air of innocence. Your visage
was clear and open as the day. But it was a cloak for the blackest
thoughts and the most complicated designs. You stole upon me unprepared,
you found all the avenues to my heart, and you made yourself the arbiter
of my happiness before I was aware.

You hear me, thou arch impostor! There are punishments reserved for
those, who undermine the peace of virtue, and steal away the tranquility
of innocence. This is thy day. Now thou laughest at all my calamity,
thou mockest all my anguish. But do not think that thy triumph shall be
for ever. That thought would be fond and false as mine have been. The
empire of rectitude shall one day be vindicated. Matilda shall one day
rise above thee.

But perhaps, St. Julian, it is not yet too late. The door is yet open to
thy return. My claim upon thy heart is prior, better every way than
that of donna Isabella. Leave her as you left me. It will cost you a
repentance less severe. The wounds you have inflicted may yet be healed.
The mischiefs you have caused are not yet irreparable. These fond arms
are open to receive you. To this unresentful bosom you may return in
safety. But remember, I intreat you, the opportunity will be of no long
duration. Every moment is winged with fate. A little more hesitation,
and the irrevocable knot is tied, and Spain will claim you for her own.
A little more delay, and this fond credulous heart, that yet exerts
itself in a few vain struggles, will rest in peace, will crumble into
dust, and no longer be sensible to the misery that devours it. Dear,
long expected moment, speed thy flight! To how many more calamitous days
must these eyes be witness? In how many more nights must they wander
through a material darkness, that is indeed meridian splendour, when
compared with the gloom in which my mind is involved?

Do not imagine that I have been easily persuaded of the truth of your
infidelity. I have not indulged to levity and credulity. I have heaped
evidence upon evidence. I have resisted the proofs that offered on
every side, till I have become liable to the character of stupid and
insensible. Would it were possible for me to be deceived! But no, the
delusion is vanished. I doubt, I hesitate, no longer. All without is
certainty, and all within is unmingled wretchedness.

       *       *       *       *       *

St. Julian, I once again resume my pen. I was willing you should be
acquainted with all the distress and softness of my heart. I was willing
to furnish you with every motive to redeem the character of a man,
before it were too late. Do not however think me incapable of a spirited
and a steady resolution. It were easy for me to address a letter to the
family of Aranda, I might describe to them all my wrong, and prevent
that dreaded union, the thought of which distresses me. My letter might
probably arrive before the mischief were irretrievable. It is not
likely that so illustrious a house, however they may have previously
condescended to the speciousness of your qualities, would persist in
their design in the face of so cogent objections. But I am not capable
of so weak and poor spirited a revenge.

Return, my lord, yet return to her you have deserted. Let your return be
voluntary, and it shall be welcome as the light of day to these sad and
weeping eyes, and it shall be dear and precious to my soul, as the ruddy
drops that warm my heart. But I will not force an unwilling victim. Such
a prize would be unworthy of the artless and constant spirit of Matilda.
Such a husband would be the bane of my peace, and the curse of my
hapless days. That he were the once loved St. Julian, would but
aggravate the distress, and rankle the arrow. It would continually
remind me of the dear prospects, and the fond expectations I had once
formed, without having the smallest tendency to gratify them.



Letter XIII

_The Marquis of Pescara to the Marquis of San Severino_

_Cosenza_

My dear lord,

Why is it that a heart feeble and unheroic as mine, should be destined
to encounter so many temptations? I might have passed through the
world honourable and immaculate, had circumstances been a little more
propitious. As it is, I shall probably descend to the grave with a
character, at least among the scrupulous and the honest, reproachful and
scandalous. Now this I can never account for. My heart is a stranger to
all the dark and malignant passions. I am not cursed with an unbounded
ambition. I am a stranger to inexorable hate and fell revenge. I aim at
happiness and gratification. But if it were in my power I would have all
my fellow-creatures happy as myself.

Why is the fair Matilda so incomparably beautiful and so inexpressibly
attractive? Had her temper been less sweet and undesigning, had her
understanding been less delicate and refined, had not the graces dwelt
upon those pouting lips, my heart had been sound and unhurt to this
very hour. But to see her every day, to converse with her at all
opportunities, to be regarded by her as her only friend and chosen
protector, tell me, ye gods, what heart, that was not perfectly
invulnerable, that was not totally impregnated with the waters of the
Styx, could have come off victorious from trials like these?

And yet, my dear Ferdinand, to see the distress of the lovely Matilda,
to see her bosom heave with anguish, and her eyes suffused with tears,
to hear the heart-rending sighs continually bursting from her, in spite
of the fancied resolution, and the sweet pride that fill her soul, how
callous, how void of feeling and sympathy ought the man to be, in whom
objects like these can call up no relentings? Ah, my lord, when I
observe how her tender frame is shaken with misfortune, I am sometimes
ready to apprehend that it totters to its fall, that it is impossible
she should survive the struggling, tumultuous passions that rage within
her. What a glorious prize would then be lost? What would then become
of all the deep contrivances, the mighty politics, that your friendship
suggested?

And yet, so wayward is my fate, those very objects which might be
expected to awaken the sincerest penitence and regret, now only serve to
give new strength to the passion that devours me, and to make my flame
surmount every obstacle that can oppose its progress. Yes, Matilda,
thou must be mine. Heaven and earth cannot now overturn the irrevocable
decree. It has been the incessant object of my attention to throw in
those artful baits which might best divert the current of her soul. I
have assiduously inflamed her resentment to the highest pitch, and I
flatter myself that I have made some progress towards the concluding
stroke.

There is no situation in which we stand in greater need of sympathy and
consolation, than in those moments of forlornness and desertion to which
the poor Matilda imagines herself reduced. At these times my friendship
has been most unwearied in its exertions. I have answered sigh with
sigh, and mingled my tears with those of the lovely mourner. Believe me,
Ferdinand, this has not been entirely affectation and hypocrisy. There
is a vein of sensibility in the human heart, that will not permit us to
behold an artless and an innocent distress, at least when surrounded
with all the charms of beauty, without feeling our souls involuntarily
dilated, and our eyes unexpectedly swimming in tears.

But I have another source of disquietude which is unaccompanied with any
alleviating circumstances. A letter from the count de St. Julian to his
Matilda has just been conveyed to my hands. It is filled with the most
affecting and tender complaints of her silence that can possibly be
imagined. He has too exalted a notion of the fair charmer to attribute
this to lightness and inconstancy. His inventive fancy conjures up a
thousand horrid phantoms, and surrounds the mistress of his soul with
I know not what imaginary calamities. But that passage of the whole
epistle that overwhelms me most, is one, in which, in spite of all the
anguish of his mind, in spite of appearances, he expresses the most
unsuspecting confidence in his false and treacherous friend. He still
recommends me to his Matilda as her best protector and surest guardian.
Ah, my St. Julian, how didst thou deserve to be cursed with an
associate, hollow and deceitful as Rinaldo?

Yes, marquis, in spite of all the arguments you have alledged to me upon
the subject, I still regard my first and youthful friend, as the most
exalted and the foremost of human beings. You may talk of pride, vanity,
and stoicism, the heart that listens to the imputation feels its
sophistry. It is not vanity, for his virtuous actions are rather
studiously hid from observation, than ostentatiously displayed. Is it
pride? It is a pride that constitutes the truest dignity. It is a pride
worthy of heroes and of gods. What analogy does it bear with the pride
of avarice, and the pride of rank; how is it similar to the haughty
meanness of patronage, and the insatiable cravings of ambition?

But I must not indulge to reflexions like these. It is to no purpose for
the disinterested tenderness, the unstoical affection of my St. Julian
to start up in array before me. Hence remorse, and all her kindred
passions! I am cruel, obdurate, and unrelenting. Yes, most amiable of
men, you might as well address your cries to the senseless rocks. You
might as well hope with your eloquent and soft complainings to persuade
the crocodile that was ready to devour you. I have passed the Rubicon.
I have taken the irrevocable step. It is too late, ah, much too late to
retreat!



Letter XIV

_The Marquis of San Severino to the Marquis of Pescara_

_Naples_

Joy, uninterrupted, immortal joy to my dear Rinaldo. May all your days
be winged with triumph, and all your nights be rapture. Believe me, I
feel the sincerest congratulation upon the desired event of your long
expected marriage. My lord, you have completed an action that deserves
to be recorded in eternal brass. Why should politics be confined to the
negotiations of ambassadors, and the cabinets of princes? I have often
revolved the question, and by all that is sacred I can see no reason for
it. Is it natural that the unanimating and phlegmatic transactions of
a court should engage a more unwearied attention, awaken a brighter
invention, or incite a more arduous pursuit than those of love? When
beauty solicits the appetite, when the most ravishing tenderness and
susceptibility attract the affections, it is then that the heart is most
distracted and regardless, and the head least fertile in artifice and
stratagem.

My joy is the more sincere, as I was compelled repeatedly to doubt of
your perseverance. What sense was there in that boyish remorse, and
those idle self-reproaches, in which you frequently employed yourself?
No, Rinaldo, a man ought never to enter upon an heroical and arduous
undertaking without being perfectly composed, and absolutely sure of
himself. What a pitiful figure would my friend have made, had he stopped
in the midway, and let go the angelic prize when it was already within
his grasp? If it had not been for my repeated exhortations, if I had
not watched over you like your guardian genius, would you have been now
flushed with success, and crowned with unfading laurel?



Letter XV

_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_


_Livorno_

My lord,

I hoped before this time to have presented before you the form of
that injured friend, which, if your heart is not yet callous to every
impression, must be more blasting to your sight, than all the chimeras
that can be conjured up by a terrified imagination, or a guilty
conscience. I no sooner received the accursed intelligence at Zamora,
than I flew with the speed of lightning. I permitted no consideration
upon earth to delay me till I arrived at Alicant. But the sea was less
favourable to the impatience of my spirit. I set sail in a boisterous
and unpromising season. I have been long tossed about at the mercy of
the ocean. I thank God, after having a thousand times despaired of it,
that I have at length set foot in a port of Italy. It is distant
indeed, but the ardour of my purpose were sufficient to cut short all
intermission.

My lord, I trusted you as my own soul. No consideration could have moved
me to entertain a moment's suspicion of your fidelity. I placed in your
hand the most important pledge it ever was my fortune to possess. I
employed no guard. I opened to you an unsuspecting bosom, and you have
stung me to the heart. I gave you the widest opportunity, and it is
through my weak and groundless confidence that you have reached me. You
have employed without scruple all those advantages it put into your
hands. You have undermined me at your ease. I left you to protect my
life's blood, my heart of heart, from every attack, to preserve the
singleness of her affections, and the constancy of her attachment. It
was yours to have breathed into her ear the sighs of St. Julian. It was
yours ambitiously to expatiate upon his amiable qualities. You were
every day to have added fuel to the flame. You were to have presented
Matilda to my arms, more beautiful, more tender, more kind, than she had
ever appeared. From this moment then, let the name of trust be a by-word
for the profligate to scoff at! Let the epithet of friend be a mildew to
the chaste and uncorrupted ear! Let mutual confidence be banished from
the earth, and men, more savage than the brute, devour each other!

Was it possible, my lord, that you should dream, that the benefits you
had formerly conferred upon me, could deprive my resentment of all its
sting under the present provocation! If you did, believe me, you were
most egregiously mistaken. It is true I owed you much, and heaven
has not cursed me with a heart of steel. What bounds did I set to my
gratitude? I left my natal shore, I braved all the dangers of the ocean,
I fought in foreign climes the power of requital. I fondly imagined that
I could never discharge so vast obligations. But the invention of your
lordship is more fertile than mine. You have found the means to blot
them in a moment. Yes, my lord, from henceforth all contract between
us is canceled. You have set us right upon our first foundations.
Friendship, affection, pity, I give you to the winds! Come to my bosom,
unmixed malignity, black-boiling revenge! You are now the only inmates
welcome to my heart.

Oh, Rinaldo, that character once so dear to me, that youth over whose
opening inclinations I watched with so unremitting care, is it you that
are the author of so severe a misfortune? I held you to my breast. I
poured upon your head all that magazine of affection and tenderness,
with which heaven had dowered me. Never did one man so ardently love
another. Never did one man interest himself so much in another's truth
and virtue, in another's peace and happiness. I formed you for heroism.
I cultivated those features in your character which might have made
you an ornament to your country and mankind. I strewed your path with
flowers, I made the couch beneath you violets and roses. Hear me, yet
hear me! Learn to perceive all the magnitude of your crime. You have
murdered your friend. You have wounded him in the tenderest part. You
have seduced the purest innocence and the most unexampled truth. For
is it possible that Matilda, erewhile the pattern of every spotless
excellence, could have been a party in the black design?

But it is no longer time for the mildness of censure and the sobriety of
reproach. I would utter myself in the fierce and unqualified language of
invective. You have sinned beyond redemption. I would speak daggers.
I would wring blood from your heart at every word. But no; I will not
waste myself in angry words. I will not indulge to the bitterness of
opprobrium. Nothing but the anguish of my soul should have wrung from
me these solitary lines. Nothing but the fear of not surviving to my
revenge, should have prevented me from forestalling them in person.--I
will meet thee at Cerenzo.



Letter XVI

_The Marquis of San Severino to the Marchioness of Pescara_

_Cerenzo_

Madam,

I am truly sorry that it falls to my lot to communicate to you the
distressing tidings with which it is perfectly necessary you should be
acquainted. The marquis, your husband, and my most dear friend, has
this morning fallen in a duel at this place. I am afraid it will be no
alleviation of the unfortunate intelligence, if I add, that the hand by
which he fell, was that of the count de St. Julian.

His lordship left Cosenza, I understand, with the declared intention of
honouring me with a visit at Naples. He accordingly arrived at my palace
in the evening of the second day after he left you. He there laid before
me a letter he had received from the count, from which it appeared that
the misunderstanding was owing to a rivalship of no recent date in the
affections of your ladyship. It is not my business to enter into the
merits of the dispute. You, madam, are doubtless too well acquainted
with the laws of modern honour, pernicious in many instances, and which
have proved so fatal to the valuable life of the marquis, not to know
that the intended rencounter, circumstanced as it was, could not
possibly have been prevented.

As we were informed that the count de St. Julian was detained by
sickness at Livorno, we continued two days longer at Naples before we
set out for our place of destination at Cerenzo. We arrived there on the
evening of the twenty-third, and the count de St. Julian the next day
at noon. We were soon after waited upon in form by signor Hippolito
Borelli, who had been a fellow student with each of these young noblemen
at the university of Palermo. He requested an interview with me, and
informing me that he attended the count in quality of second, we began
to adjust those minutiae, which are usually referred to the decision of
those who exercise that character.

The count and the marquis had fixed their quarters at the two principal
hotels of this place. Of consequence there was no sort of intercourse
between them during the remainder of the day. In the evening we were
attended by the baron of St. Angelo, who had heard by chance of our
arrival. We spent the remainder of the day in much gaiety, and I
never saw the marquis of Pescara exert himself more, or display more
collectedness and humour, than upon this occasion. After we separated,
however, he appeared melancholy and exhausted. He was fatigued with the
repeated journies he had performed, and after having walked up and down
the room, for some time, in profound thought, he retired pretty early to
his chamber.

The next day at six in the morning we repaired according to appointment
to the ramparts. We found the count de St. Julian and his friend arrived
before us. As we approached, the marquis made a slight congee to the
count, which was not returned by the other. "My lord," cried the
marquis,--"Stop," replied his antagonist, in a severe and impatient
tone. "This is no time for discussions. It was not that purpose that
brought me hither." My lord of Pescara appeared somewhat hurt at so
peremptory and unceremonious a rejoinder, but presently recovered
himself. Each party then took his ground, and they fired their pistols
without any other effect, than the shoulder of the count being somewhat
grazed by one of the balls.

Signor Borelli and myself now interposed, and endeavoured to compromise
the affair. Our attempt however presently appeared perfectly fruitless.
Both parties were determined to proceed to further action. The marquis,
who at first had been perfectly calm, was now too impatient and eager to
admit of a moment's delay. The count, who had then appeared agitated and
disturbed, now assumed a collected air, a ferociousness and intrepidity,
which, though it seemed to wait an opportunity of displaying itself, was
deaf as the winds, and immoveable as the roots of Vesuvius.

They now drew their swords. The passes of both were for some time
rendered ineffectual. But at length the marquis, from the ardour of his
temper seemed to lay aside his guard, and the count de St. Julian, by
a sudden thrust, run his antagonist through the body. The marquis
immediately fell, and having uttered one groan, he expired. The sword
entered at the left breast, and proceeded immediately to the heart.

The count, instead of appearing at all disturbed at this event, or
attempting to embrace the opportunity of flight, advanced immediately
towards the body, and bending over it, seemed to survey its traits with
the profoundest attention. The surgeon who had attended, came up at
this instant, but presently perceived that his art was become totally
useless. During however this short examination, the count de St. Julian
recovered from his reverie, and addressing himself to me, "My lord,"
said he, "I shall not attempt to fly from the laws of my country. I am
indeed the challenger, but I have done nothing, but upon the matures!
deliberation, and I shall at all times be ready to answer my conduct."
Though I considered this mode of proceeding as extremely singular I did
not however think it became me, as the friend of the marquis of Pescara,
to oppose his resolution. He has accordingly entered into a recognizance
before the gonfaloniere, to appear at a proper time to take his trial at
the city of Naples.

Madam, I thought it my duty to be thus minute in relating the
particulars of this unfortunate affair. I shall not descend to any
animadversions upon the conduct and language of the count de St. Julian.
They will come to be examined and decided upon in a proper place. In the
mean time permit me to offer my sincerest condolences upon the loss you
have sustained in the death of my amiable friend. If it be in my power
to be of service to your ladyship, with respect to the funeral, or any
other incidental affairs, you may believe that I shall account it my
greatest honour to alleviate in any degree the misfortune you have
suffered. With the sincerest wishes for the welfare of yourself and your
amiable son, I have the honour to be,

Madam,

Your most obedient and very faithful servant,

The marquis of San Severino.



Letter XVII

_The Answer_


_Cosenza_

My lord,

You were not mistaken when you supposed that the subject of your
letter would both afflict and surprize me in the extremest degree. The
unfortunate event to which it principally relates, is such as cannot but
affect me nearly. And separate from this, there is a veil of mystery
that hangs over the horrid tale, behind which I dare not pry, but with
the most trembling anxiety, but which will probably in a very short time
be totally removed.

Your lordship, I am afraid, is but too well acquainted with the history
of the correspondence between myself and my deceased lord. I was given
to understand that the count de St. Julian was married to the daughter
of the duke of Aranda. I thought I had but too decisive evidence of the
veracity of the story. And you, my lord, I remember, were one of the
witnesses by which it was confirmed. Yet how is this to be reconciled
with the present catastrophe? Can I suppose that the count, after being
settled in Spain, should have deserted these connexions, in order
to come over again to that country in which he had forfeited all
pretensions to character and reputation, and to commence a quarrel so
unjust and absurd, with the man to whom he was bound by so numerous
obligations?

My lord, I have revolved all the circumstances that are communicated
to me in your alarming letter. The oftener I peruse it, and the more
maturely I consider them, the more does it appear that the count de St.
Julian has all the manners of conscious innocence and injured truth. It
is impossible for an impostor to have acted throughout with an air so
intrepid and superior. Your lordship's account, so far as it relates to
the marquis, is probably the account of a friend, but it is impossible
not to perceive, that his behaviour derives no advantage from being
contrasted with that of his antagonist.

You will readily believe, that it has cost me many efforts to assemble
all these thoughts, and to deliver these reasonings in so connected a
manner. At first my prejudices against the poor and unprotected stranger
were so deeply rooted, that I had no suspicion of their injustice. I
regarded the whole as a dream; I considered every circumstance as beyond
the cognizance of reason, and founded entirely in madness and frenzy.
I painted to myself the count de St. Julian, whom I had known for a
character so tender and sincere, as urged along with all the stings of
guilt, and agitated with all the furies of remorse. I at once pitied his
sufferings, and lamented their mortal and destructive consequences. I
regarded yourself and every person concerned in the melancholy affair,
as actuated by the same irrational spirit, and united to overwhelm one
poor, trembling, and defenceless woman.

But the delusion was of no long continuance. I soon perceived that it
was impossible for a maniac to be suffered to proceed to so horrid
extremities. I perceived in every thing that related to the count,
a spirit very different from that of frenzy. It is thus that I have
plunged from uncertainty to uncertainty. From adopting a solution wild
and absurd, I am thrown back upon a darkness still more fearful, and am
lost in conjectures of the most tremendous nature.

And where is it that I am obliged to refer my timid enquiries? Alas, I
have no friend upon whose bosom to support myself, I have no relation to
interest in my cause. I am forlorn, forsaken and desolate. By nature
not formed for defence, not braced to encounter the storms of calamity,
where shall I hide my unprotected head? Forgive me, my lord, if I am
mistaken; pardon the ravings of a distracted mind. It is possible I am
obliged to recur to him from whom all my misfortunes took their source,
who has guided unseen all those movements to which this poor and broken
heart is the sacrifice. Perhaps the words that now flow from my pen,
are directed to the disturber of my peace, the interceptor of all that
happiness most congenial to my heart, the murderer of my husband!

Where, in the mean time, where is this countess, this dreaded rival?
You, my lord, have perhaps ere this time seen her. Tell me, what are
those ineffable charms that seduced a heart which was once so constant?
St. Julian was never mercenary, and I have a fortune that might have
filled out his most unbounded wishes. What is that strange fascination,
what that indescribable enchantment, that sunk a character so glorious,
that libertines venerated, and the friends of virtue adored, to a depth
so low and irretrievable? I have thought much of it, I have turned it
every way in my mind, but I can never understand it. The more I reflect
the further I am bewildered.

But whither am I wandering? What strange passion is it, that I so
carefully suppressed, over which I so loudly triumphed, that now bursts
its limits? How fatal and deplorable is that train of circumstances,
that brings a name, that was once inscribed on my heart, to my
remembrance, accompanied with attendants, that awaken all my tenderness,
and breathe new life into each forgotten endearment! Is it for me, a
wife, a mother, to entertain these guilty thoughts? And can they respect
him by whose fatal hand my husband fell? How low is the once spotless
Matilda della Colonna sunk!

But I will not give way to this dereliction and despair. I think my
heart is not made of impenetrable stuff. I think I cannot long survive
afflictions thus complicated, and trials thus severe. But so long as I
remain in this world of calamity, I will endeavour to act in a manner
not unworthy of myself. I will not disgrace the race from which I
sprung. Whatever others may do, I will not dishonour the family to which
I am united. I may be miserable, but I will not be guilty. I may be a
monument of anguish, but I will not be an example of degeneracy.

Gracious heaven! if I have been deceived, what a train of artifice and
fraud rushes upon my terrified recollection? How carefully have all my
passions, in the unguarded hour of anguish and misery, been wrought and
played upon? All the feelings of a simple and undissembling mind have
been roused by turns, to excite me to a deed, from which rectitude
starts back with horror, which integrity blushes to look on! And have I
been this poor and abject tool in the hand of villains? And are there
hearts cool and obdurate enough, to watch all the trembling starts of
wretchedness, to seduce the heart that has given itself up to despair?
Can they look on with frigid insensibility, can they behold distress
with no other eye but that of interest, with no other watch but that
which discovers how it may be disgraced for ever? Oh, wretched Matilda!
whither, whither hast thou been plunged!

My memory is up in arms. I cannot now imagine how I was induced to
so decisive and adventurous a step. But I was full of the anguish of
disappointment, and the resentment of despair. How assiduously was I
comforted? What sympathy, what angelic tenderness seemed to flow from
the lips of him, in whose heart perhaps there dwelt every dishonourable
and unsated passion? It was all a chaos. My heart was tumultuous hurry,
without leisure for retrospect, without a moment for deliberation. And
do I dare to excuse myself? Was I not guilty, unpardonably guilty? Oh,
a mind that knew St. Julian should have waited for ages, should have
revolved every circumstance a thousand times, should have disbelieved
even the evidence of sense, and the demonstration of eternal truth!
Accursed precipitation! Most wicked speed! No, I have not suffered half
what I have deserved. Heap horrors on me, thou dreadful dispenser of
avenging providence! I will not complain. I will expire in the midst of
agonies without a groan!

But these thoughts must be banished from my heart for ever. Wretched as
I am, I am not permitted the consolation of penitence, I am not free to
accuse and torment myself. No, that step has been taken which can never
be repealed. The marquis of Pescara was my husband, and whatever were
his true character, I will not crush his memory and his fame. I have,
I fear, unadvisedly entered into connexions, and entailed upon myself
duties. But these connexions shall now be sacred; these duties shall be
discharged to the minutest tittle. Oh, poor and unprotected orphan, thou
art cast upon the world without a friend! But thou shalt never want the
assiduity of a mother. Thou, at least, are guileless and innocent.
Thou shalt be my only companion. To watch over thee shall be the sole
amusement that Matilda will henceforth indulge herself. That thou wilt
remind me of my errors, that I shall trace in thee gradually as thy
years advance, the features of him to whom my unfortunate life owed all
its colour, will but make thee a more proper companion, an object more
congenial to the sorrows of my soul.



Letter XVIII

_The Count de St. Julian to the Marchioness of Pescara

Cerenzo_

Madam,

You may possibly before this letter comes to your hands have learned an
event that very nearly interests both you and me. If you have not, it is
not in my power at this time to collect together the circumstances, and
reduce them to the form of a narration. The design of my present letter
is of a very different kind. Shall I call that a design, which is the
consequence of an impulse urging me forward, without the consent of my
will, and without time for deliberation?

I write this letter with a hand dyed with the blood of your husband. Let
not the idea startle you. Matilda is advanced too far to be frightened
with bugbears. What, shall a mind inured to fickleness and levity,
a mind that deserted, without reason and without remorse, the most
constant of lovers, and that recked not the consequences, shall such a
mind be terrified at the sight of the purple blood, or be moved from its
horrid tranquility by all the tragedies that an universe can furnish?

Matilda, I have slain your husband, and I glory in the deed. I will
answer it in the face of day. I will defy that man to come forward,
and when he views the goary, lifeless corse, say to me with a tone of
firmness and conviction, "Thou hast done wrong."

And now I have but one business more with life. It is to arraign the
fair and traiterous author of all my misfortunes. Start not at the black
catalogue. Flinch not from the detail of infernal mischief. The mind
that knows how to perpetrate an action, should know how to hear the
story of it repeated, and to answer it in all its circumstances.

Matilda, I loved you. Alas, this is to say little! All my thoughts had
you for their centre. I was your slave. With you I could encounter
tenfold calamity, and call it happiness. Banished from you, the world
was a colourless and confused chaos. One moment of displeasure, one
interval of ambiguous silence crouded my imagination with every frantic
apprehension. One smile, one word of soft and soothing composition, fell
upon my soul like odoriferous balm, was a dulcet and harmonious sound,
that soothed my anguish into peace, that turned the tempest within me
to that still and lifeless calm, where not a breath disturbs the vast
serene.

And this is the passion you have violated. You have trampled upon a
lover, who would have sacrificed his life to save that tender and
enchanting frame from the impression of a thorn. And yet, Matilda, if
it had been only a common levity, I would have pardoned it. If you had
given your hand to the first chance comer, I would have drenched the cup
of woe in solitude and darkness. Not one complaint from me should have
reached your ear. If you could have found tranquility and contentment, I
would not have been the avenging angel to blast your prospects.

But there are provocations that the human heart cannot withstand. I did
not come from the hand of nature callous and intrepid, I was the stoic
of philosophy and reason. To lose my mistress and my friend at once. To
lose them!--Oh, ten thousand deaths would have been mercy to the loss!
Had they been tossed by tempests, had they been torn from my eyes by
whirlwinds, I would have viewed the scene with eye-balls of stiffened
horn. But to find all that upon which I had placed my confidence, upon
which I rested my weary heart, foul and false at once: to have those
bosoms, in which I fondly thought I reigned adored, combined in one
damned plot to overwhelm and ruin me--Indeed, Matilda, it was too much!

Well, well. Be at peace my soul. I have taken my revenge. But revenge is
not a passion congenial to the spirit of St. Julian. It was once soft
and tender as a babe. You might have bended and moulded it into what
form you pleased. But I know not how it is, it is now remorseless and
unfeeling as a rock. I have swam in horror, and I am not satiated.
I could hear tales of distress, and I could laugh at their fancied
miseries. I could view all the tragedies of battle, and walk up and down
amidst seas of blood with tranquility. It is well. I did not think I
could have done all this. But inexplicable and almighty providence
strengthens, indurates the heart for the scenes of detestation to which
it is destined.

And is it Rinaldo that I have slain? That friend that I held a thousand
times to my bosom, that friend over whose interests I have watched
without weariness? Many a time have I dropped the tear of oblivion over
his youthful wanderings. I exulted in the fruits of all my toil. Yes,
Matilda, I have seen the drops of sacred pity bedew his cheek. I have
seen his bosom heave with generous resentment, and heroic resolution.
Oh, there was a time, when the author of nature might have looked down
upon his work, and said, "This is a man." What benefits did not I
receive from his munificent character, and wide extended hand?

And who made me his judge and his avenger? What right had I to thrust my
sword into his heart? He now lies a lifeless corse. Upon his breast
I see the gaping and death-giving wound. The blood bursts forth in
continued streams. His hair is clotted with it. That cheek, that lately
glowed, is now pale and sallow. All his features are deformed. The fire
in his eye is extinguished for ever. Who has done this? What wanton and
sacrilegious hand has dared deface the work of God? It could not be his
preceptor, the man upon whom he heaped a thousand benefits? It could not
be his friend? Oh, Rinaldo, all thy errors lie buried in the damp and
chilly tomb, but thy blood shall for ever rise to accuse me!



Letter XIX

_The Marquis of San Severino to the Marchioness of Pescara

Naples_

Madam,

I have just received a letter from your ladyship which gives me the
utmost pain. I am sincerely afflicted at the unfortunate concern I have
had in the melancholy affairs that have caused you so much uneasiness. I
expected indeed that the sudden death of so accomplished and illustrious
a character as your late husband, must have produced in a breast
susceptible as yours, the extremest distress. But I did not imagine that
you would have been so overwhelmed with the event, as to have forgotten
the decorums of your station, and to have derogated from the dignity of
your character. Madam, I sincerely sympathize in the violence of
your affliction, and I earnestly wish that you may soon recover that
self-command, which rendered your behaviour upon all occasions a model
of elegance, propriety and honour.

Your ladyship proposes certain questions to me in your epistle of a very
singular nature. You will please to remember, that they will for the
most part be brought in a few days before a court of judicature. I must
therefore with all humility intreat you to excuse me from giving them a
direct answer. There would be an impropriety in a person, so illustrious
in rank, and whose voice is of considerable weight in the state,
forestalling the inferior courts upon these subjects. One thing however
I am at liberty to mention, and your ladyship may be assured, that in
any thing in my power I should place my highest felicity in gratifying
you. There was indeed some misinformation upon the subject; but I have
now the honour to inform you from authority upon which I depend, that
the count de St. Julian is now, and has always remained single. I
believe there never was any negociation of marriage between him and the
noble house of Aranda.

Madam, it gives me much uneasiness, that your ladyship should entertain
the smallest suspicion of any impropriety in my behaviour in these
affairs. I believe the conduct of no man has been more strictly
conformed, in all instances, to the laws of decorum than my own. Objects
of no small magnitude, have upon various occasions passed under my
inspection, and you will be so obliging as to believe that upon no
occasion has my veracity been questioned, or the integrity of my
character suffered the smallest imputation. The rectitude of my actions
is immaculate, and my honour has been repeatedly asserted with my sword.

Your ladyship will do me the favour to believe, that though I cannot
but regard your suspicions as equally cruel and unjust, I shall never
entertain the smallest resentment upon their account. I have the honour
to be, with all possible deference and esteem,

Madam,

Your ladyship's most faithful servant,

The marquis of San Severino.



Letter XX

_The Count de St. Julian to Signor Hippolito Borelli

Leontini_

My dear friend,

Travelling through the various countries of Europe, and expanding your
philosophical mind to embrace the interests of mankind, you still are
so obliging as to take the same concern in the transactions of your
youthful friend as ever. I shall therefore confine myself in the letter
which I now steal the leisure to write, to the relation of those events,
of which you are probably as yet uninformed. If I were to give scope to
the feelings of my heart, with what, alas, should I present you but a
circle of repetitions, which, however important they may appear to
me, could not but be dull and tedious to any person less immediately
interested?

As I pursued with greater minuteness the enquiries I had begun before
you quitted the kingdom of the two Sicilies, I found the arguments still
increasing upon me, which tended to persuade me of the innocence of
Matilda. Oh, my friend, what a letter did I address to her in the height
of my frenzy and despair? Every word spoke daggers, and that in a moment
when the tragical event of which I was the author, must naturally have
overwhelmed her with astonishment and agony. Yes, Hippolito, this action
must remain an eternal blot upon my character. Years of penitence could
not efface it, floods of tears could not wash it away.

But before I had satisfied my curiosity in this pursuit, the time
approached in which it was necessary for me to take a public trial at
Naples. This scene was to me a solemn one. The blood of my friend sat
heavy at my heart. It is true no provocation could have been more
complicated than that I had received. Take it from me, Hippolito, as my
most mature and serious determination, that a Gothic revenge is beneath
the dignity of a man. It did not become me, who had aimed at the
character of unaccommodating virtue, to appear in defence of an action
that my heart disallowed. To stand forward before the delegated power of
my country with the stain of blood upon me, was not a scene for a man of
sensibility to act in. But the decision of my judges was more indulgent
than the verdict of my own mind.

One of the persons who was most conspicuous upon this occasion, was the
marquis of San Severino. Hippolito, it is true, I have been hurried into
many actions that have caused me the severest regret. But I would not
for ten thousand worlds have that load of guilt upon my mind, that this
man has to answer for. And yet he bore his head aloft. He was placid and
serene. He was even disengaged and gay. He talked in as round a tone,
of honour and integrity, of veracity and virtue, as if his life were
spotless, and his heart immaculate. The circumstances however that
came out in the progress of the affair, were in the highest degree
disadvantageous to him. The general indignation and hatred seemed
gradually to swell against him, like the expansive surges of the ocean.
A murmur of disapprobation was heard from every side, proceeded from
every mouth. Even this accomplished villain at length hung his head.
When the court was dissolved, he was encountered with hisses and scorn
from the very lowest of the people. It was only by the most decisive
exertions of the guards of the palace, that he was saved from being torn
to pieces by the fury of the populace.

You will be surprized to perceive that this letter is dated at the
residence of my fathers. Fourteen days ago I was summoned hither by the
particular request of my brother, who had been seized with a violent
epidemical distemper. It was extremely sudden in its operation, and
before I arrived he was no more. He had confessed however to one of the
friends of our house, before he expired, that he had forged the will of
my father, instigated by the surprize and disappointment he had felt,
when he understood that that father, whom he had employed so many
unjustifiable means to prepossess, had left his whole estate, exclusive
of a very small annuity, to his eldest son. Since I have been here, I
have been much employed in arranging the affairs of the family, which,
from the irregular and extemporary manner in which my brother lived, I
found in considerable disorder.



Letter XXI

_The Count de St. Julian to the Marchioness of Pescara_


_Leontini_

Madam,

I have waited with patience for the expiration of twelve months, that
I might not knowingly be guilty of any indecorum, or intrude upon that
sorrow, which the tragical fate of the late marquis so justly claimed.
But how shall I introduce the subject upon which I am now to address
you? Where shall I begin this letter? Or with what arguments may I best
propitiate the anger I have so justly incensed, and obtain that boon
upon which the happiness of my future life is so entirely suspended?

Among all the offences of which I have been guilty, against the simplest
and gentlest mind that ever adorned this mortal stage, there is none
which I less pardon to myself, than that unjust and precipitate letter,
which I was so inconsiderate as to address to you immediately after I
had steeped my hand in the murder of your husband. Was it for me, who
had so much reason to be convinced of the innocence and disinterested
truth of Matilda, to harbour suspicions so black, or rather to affront
her with charges, the most hideous and infamous? What crime is
there more inexcusable, than that of attributing to virtue all the
concomitants of vice, of casting all those bitter taunts, all that
aggravated and triumphant opprobrium in the face of rectitude, that
ought to be reserved only for the most profligate of villains? Yes,
Matilda, I trampled at once upon the exemptions of your sex, upon
the sanctity of virtue, upon the most inoffensive and undesigning of
characters. And yet all this were little.

What a time was it that I chose for an injury so atrocious! A beautiful
and most amiable woman had just been deprived, by an unforeseen event,
of that husband, with whom but a little before she had entered into the
most sacred engagements. The state of a widow is always an afflictive
and unprotected one. Rank does not soften, frequently aggravates the
calamity. A tragedy had just been acted, that rendered the name of
Matilda the butt of common fame, the subject of universal discussion.
How painful and humiliating must this situation have been to that
anxious and trembling mind; a mind whose highest ambition coveted only
the tranquility that reigns in the shade of retreat, the silence and
obscurity that the wisest of philosophers have asserted to be the most
valuable reputation of her sex? Such was the affliction, in which I
might then have known that the mistress of my heart was involved.

But I have since learned a circumstance before which all other
aggravations of my inhumanity fade away. The moment that I chose for
wanton insult and groundless arraignment, was the very moment in which
Matilda discovered all the horrid train of hypocrisy and falsehood by
which she had been betrayed. What a shock must it have given to her
gentle and benevolent mind, that had never been conscious to one
vicious temptation, that had never indulged the most distant thought of
malignity, to have found herself surprized into a conduct, to the nature
of which she had been a stranger, and which her heart disavowed? Of all
the objects of compassion that the universe can furnish, there is none
more truly affecting, than that of an artless and unsuspecting mind
insnared by involuntary guilt. The astonishment with which it is
overwhelmed, is vast and unqualified. The remorse with which it
is tortured, are totally unprepared and unexpected, and have been
introduced by no previous gradation. It is true, the involuntarily
culpable may in some sense be pronounced wholly innocent. The guilty
mind is full of prompt excuses, and ready evasions, but the untainted
spirit, not inured to the sophistry of vice, cannot accommodate itself
with these subterfuges. If such be the state of vulgar minds involved
in this unfortunate situation, what must have been that of so soft and
inoffensive a spirit?

Oh, Matilda, if tears could expiate such a crime, ere this I had been
clear as the guileless infant. If incessant and bitter reproaches could
overweigh a guilt of the first magnitude, mine had been obliterated. But
no; the words I wrote were words of blood. Each of them was a barbed
arrow pointed at the heart. There was no management, there was no
qualification. And when we add to this the object against which all my
injuries were directed, what punishment can be discovered sufficiently
severe? The mind that invented it, must have been callous beyond all
common hardness. The hand that wrote it must be accursed for ever.

And yet, Matilda, it is not merely pardon that I seek. Even that would
be balm to my troubled spirit. It would somewhat soften the harsh
outlines, and the aggravated features of a crime, which I shall never,
never forgive to my own heart. But no, think, most amiable of women, of
the height of felicity I once had full in view, and excuse my present
presumption. While indeed my mind was guiltless, and my hand unstained
with blood, while I had not yet insulted the woman to whose affections I
aspired, nor awakened the anger of the gentlest nature, of a heart made
up of goodness, and tenderness and sympathy, I might have aspired with
somewhat less of arrogance. Neither your heart nor mine, Matilda, were
ever very susceptible to the capricious distinctions of fortune.

But, alas, how hard is it for a mind naturally ambitious to mould and to
level itself to a state of degradation. Believe me, I have put forth an
hundred efforts, I have endeavoured to blot your memory from a soul, in
which it yet does, and ever will reign unrivalled. No, it is to fight
with impassive air, it is to lash the foaming tempest into a calm. Time,
which effaces all other impressions, increases that which is indelibly
written upon my heart. A man whose countenance is pale and wan, and who
every day approaches with hasty and unremitted strides to the tomb, may
forget his situation, may call up a sickly smile upon his countenance,
and lull his mind to lethargy and insensibility. Such, Matilda, is all
the peace reserved for me, if yet I have no power in influencing the
determinations of your mind. Stupidity, thou must be my happiness!
Torpor, I will bestow upon thee all the endearing names, that common
mortals give to rapture!

And yet, Matilda, if I retain any of that acute sensibility to virtue
and to truth, in which I once prided myself, there can be no conduct
more proper to the heir of the illustrious house of Colonna, than that
which my heart demands. You have been misguided into folly. What is more
natural to an ingenuous heart, than to cast back the following scandal
upon the foul and detested authors, with whom the wrong originated. You
have done that, which if all your passions had been hushed into silence,
and the whole merits of the cause had lain before you, you would never
have done. What reparation, Matilda, does a clear and generous spirit
dictate, but that of honestly and fearlessly acknowledging the mistake,
treading back with readiness and haste the fatal path, and embracing
that line of conduct which a deliberate judgment, and an informed
understanding would always have dictated?

Is it not true,--tell me, thou mistress of my soul,--that upon your
determination in this one instance all your future reputation is
suspended? Accept the hand of him that adores you, and the truth will
shine forth in all its native splendour, and none but the blind can
mistake it. Refuse him, and vulgar souls will for ever confound you
with the unfortunate Rinaldo, and his detested seducer. Fame, beloved
charmer, is not an object that virtuous souls despise. To brave the
tongue of slander cannot be natural to the gentle and timid spirit of
Matilda.

But, oh, I dare not depend upon the precision of logic, and the
frigidity of argumentation. Let me endeavour to awaken the compassion
and humanity of your temper. Recollect all the innocent and ecstatic
endearments with which erewhile our hours were winged. Never was
sublunary happiness so pure and unmingled. It was tempered with the
mildest and most unbounded sympathy, it was refined and elevated with
all the sublimity of virtue. These happy, thrice happy days, you, and
only you, can recall. Speak but the word, and time shall reverse his
course, and a new order of things shall commence. Think how much virtue
depends upon your fiat. Satisfied with felicity ourselves, our hearts
will overflow with benevolence for the world. Never will misery pass us
unrelieved, never shall we remit the delightful task of seeking out the
modest and the oppressed in their obscure retreat. We will set mankind
an example of integrity and goodness. We will retrieve the original
honours of the wedded state. Methinks, I could rouze the most lethargic
and unanimated with my warning voice! Methinks, I could breathe a spirit
into the dead! Oh, Matilda, let me inspire ambition into your breast!
Let me teach that tender and right gentle heart, to glow with a mutual
enthusiasm!



Letter XXII


_The Answer_

_Cosenza_

My lord, It is now three weeks since I received that letter, in which
you renew the generous offer of your hand. Believe me, I am truly
sensible of the obligation, and it shall for ever live in my grateful
heart. I am not now the same Matilda you originally addressed. I have
acted towards you in an inexcusable manner. I have forfeited that
spotless character which was once my own. All this you knew, and all
this did not deter you. My lord, for this generosity and oblivion, once
again, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

But it is not only in these respects, that the marchioness of Pescara
differs from the daughter of the duke of Benevento. Those poor charms,
my lord, which were once ascribed to me, have long been no more. The
hand of grief is much more speedy and operative in its progress than the
icy hand of age. Its wrinkles are already visible in my brow. The floods
of tears I have shed have already furrowed my cheeks. But oh, my lord,
it is not grief; that is not the appellation it claims. They are the
pangs of remorse, they are the cries of never dying reproach with
which I am agitated. Think how this tarnishes the heart and blunts the
imagination. Think how this subdues all the aspirations of innocence,
and unnerves all the exertions of virtue. Perhaps I was, flattery and
friendship had at least taught me to think myself, something above the
common level. But indeed, my lord, I am now a gross and a vulgar soul.
All the nicer touches are fretted and worn away. All those little
distinctions, those minuter delicacies I might once possess are
obliterated. My heart is coarse and callous. Others, of the same
standard that I am now, may have the same confidence in themselves, the
same unconsciousness of a superior, as nature's most favoured children.
But I am continually humbled by the sense of what I was.

These things, my lord, I mention as considerations that have some
weight with me, and ought perfectly to reconcile you to my unalterable
determination. But these, I will ingenuously confess, are not the
considerations that absolutely decide me. You cannot but sufficiently
recollect the title I bear, and the situation in which I am placed. The
duties of the marchioness of Pescara are very different from those by
which I was formerly bound. Does it become a woman of rank and condition
to fling dishonour upon the memory of him to whom she gave her hand, or,
as you have expressed it, to cast back the scandal to which she may be
exposed upon the author with whom it originated? No, my lord: I must
remember the family into which I have entered, and I will never give
them cause to curse the day upon which Matilda della Colonna was
numbered among them. What, a wife, a widow, to proclaim with her own
mouth her husband for a villain? You cannot think it. It were almost
enough to call forth the mouldering ashes from the cincture of the tomb.

My lord, it would not become me to cast upon a name so virtuous and
venerable as yours, the whisper of a blame. I will not pretend to argue
with you the impropriety and offence of a Gothic revenge. But it is
necessary upon a subject so important as that which now employs my pen,
to be honest and explicit. It is not a time for compliment, it is not
a moment for disguise and fluctuation. Whatever were the merits of the
contest, I cannot forget that your hand is deformed with the blood of my
husband. My lord, you have my sincerest good wishes. I bear you none
of that ill will and covert revenge, that are equally the disgrace of
reason and Christianity. But you have placed an unsuperable barrier
between us. You have sunk a gulph, fathomless and immeasurable. For us
to meet, would not be more contrary to the factitious dignity of rank,
than shocking to the simple and unadulterated feelings of our nature.
The world, the general voice would cry shame upon it. Propriety,
decency, unchanged and eternal truth forbid it.

Yet once more. I have a son. He is all the consolation and comfort that
is left me. To watch over his infancy is my most delightful, and most
virtuous task. I have filled the character, neither of a mistress, nor a
wife, in the manner my ambition aimed at. I have yet one part left, and
that perhaps the most venerable of all, the part of a mother. Excellent,
and exalted name! thee I will never disgrace! Not for one moment will I
forget thee, not in one iota shalt thou be betrayed!

My lord, I write this letter in my favourite haunt, where indeed I pass
hour after hour in the only pleasure that is left me, the nursery of my
child. At this moment I cast my eyes upon him, and he answers me with
the most artless and unapprehensive smile in the world. No, beloved
infant! I will never injure thee! I will never be the author of thy
future anguish! He seems, St. Julian, to solicit, that I would love him
always, and behold him with an unaltered tenderness. Yes, my child, I
will be always thy mother. From that character I will never derogate.
That name shall never be lost in another, however splendid, or however
attractive. Were I to hear you, my lord, they would tear him from my
arms, and I should commend their justice. I should see him no more.
These eyes would no longer be refreshed with that artless and adorable
visage. I should no longer please myself with pouring the accents of
my sorrow into his unconscious ear. Obdurate, unfeeling, relentless,
unnatural mother! These would be the epithets by which I should best be
known. These would be the sentiments of every heart. This would be the
unbought voice, even of those vulgar souls, in which penury had most
narrowed the conceptions, and repressed the enthusiasm of virtue. It is
true, my lord, Matilda is sunk very low. The finger of scorn has pointed
at her, and the whisper of unfeeling curiosity respecting her, has run
from man to man. But yet it shall have its limits. My resolution is
unalterable. To this I will never come.

My lord, among those arguments which you so well know how to urge, you
have told me, that the cause you plead, is the cause of benevolence
and charity. You say, that felicity would open our hearts, and teach our
bosoms to overflow. But surely this is not the general progress of the
human character. I had been taught to believe, and I hope I have found
it true, that misfortune softens the disposition, and bids compassion
take a deeper root. It shall be ever my aim, to make this improvement of
those wasting sorrows, with which heaven has seen fit to visit me. For
you, I am not to learn what is your generous and god like disposition.
My lord, I will confess a circumstance, for which I know not whether
I ought to blush. Animated by that sympathetic concern, which I once
innocently took in all that related to you, I have made the most minute
enquiries respecting your retreat at Leontini. I shall never be afraid,
that the man, whose name dwells in the sweetest accents upon the lips of
the distressed, and is the consolation and the solace of the helpless
and the orphan, will degenerate into hardness. Go on, my lord! You are
in the path of virtue. You are in the line that heaven chalked out for
you. You will be the ornament of humanity, and your country's boast to
the latest posterity.

FINIS





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