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´╗┐Title: Maria; Or, The Wrongs of Woman
Author: Wollstonecraft, Mary
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Maria; Or, The Wrongs of Woman" ***

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MARIA

or

The Wrongs of Woman


by MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT

(1759-1797)

After the edition of 1798


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     Original Etext Editor\x92s Note:

     In editing the electronic text I have put footnotes at the
     bottom of the paragraph to which they refer.  This sometimes
     means that I have moved the text of the footnote to maintain
     proximity to the text to which it refers.

     Spellings as in the original are retained; only obvious
     typographical errors have been corrected.
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CONTENTS

Preface by William S. Godwin

Author\x92s Preface

Maria



MARIA

or

The Wrongs of Woman



PREFACE

THE PUBLIC are here presented with the last literary attempt of an
author, whose fame has been uncommonly extensive, and whose talents have
probably been most admired, by the persons by whom talents are estimated
with the greatest accuracy and discrimination. There are few, to whom
her writings could in any case have given pleasure, that would have
wished that this fragment should have been suppressed, because it is
a fragment. There is a sentiment, very dear to minds of taste and
imagination, that finds a melancholy delight in contemplating these
unfinished productions of genius, these sketches of what, if they had
been filled up in a manner adequate to the writer\x92s conception, would
perhaps have given a new impulse to the manners of a world.

The purpose and structure of the following work, had long formed a
favourite subject of meditation with its author, and she judged them
capable of producing an important effect. The composition had been in
progress for a period of twelve months. She was anxious to do justice
to her conception, and recommenced and revised the manuscript several
different times. So much of it as is here given to the public, she was
far from considering as finished, and, in a letter to a friend directly
written on this subject, she says, \x93I am perfectly aware that some of
the incidents ought to be transposed, and heightened by more harmonious
shading; and I wished in some degree to avail myself of criticism,
before I began to adjust my events into a story, the outline of which
I had sketched in my mind.\x94 * The only friends to whom the author
communicated her manuscript, were Mr. Dyson, the translator of the
Sorcerer, and the present editor; and it was impossible for the most
inexperienced author to display a stronger desire of profiting by the
censures and sentiments that might be suggested.**

     * A more copious extract of this letter is subjoined to the
     author\x92s preface.

     ** The part communicated consisted of the first fourteen
     chapters.

In revising these sheets for the press, it was necessary for the editor,
in some places, to connect the more finished parts with the pages of an
older copy, and a line or two in addition sometimes appeared requisite
for that purpose. Wherever such a liberty has been taken, the additional
phrases will be found inclosed in brackets; it being the editor\x92s most
earnest desire to intrude nothing of himself into the work, but to give
to the public the words, as well as ideas, of the real author.

What follows in the ensuing pages, is not a preface regularly drawn
out by the author, but merely hints for a preface, which, though never
filled up in the manner the writer intended, appeared to be worth
preserving.

W. GODWIN.



AUTHOR\x92S PREFACE

THE WRONGS OF WOMAN, like the wrongs of the oppressed part of mankind,
may be deemed necessary by their oppressors: but surely there are a few,
who will dare to advance before the improvement of the age, and grant
that my sketches are not the abortion of a distempered fancy, or the
strong delineations of a wounded heart.

In writing this novel, I have rather endeavoured to pourtray passions
than manners.

In many instances I could have made the incidents more dramatic, would I
have sacrificed my main object, the desire of exhibiting the misery and
oppression, peculiar to women, that arise out of the partial laws and
customs of society.

In the invention of the story, this view restrained my fancy; and
the history ought rather to be considered, as of woman, than of an
individual.

The sentiments I have embodied.

In many works of this species, the hero is allowed to be mortal, and
to become wise and virtuous as well as happy, by a train of events and
circumstances. The heroines, on the contrary, are to be born immaculate,
and to act like goddesses of wisdom, just come forth highly finished
Minervas from the head of Jove.

[The following is an extract of a letter from the author to a friend, to
whom she communicated her manuscript.]

For my part, I cannot suppose any situation more distressing, than for a
woman of sensibility, with an improving mind, to be bound to such a man
as I have described for life; obliged to renounce all the humanizing
affections, and to avoid cultivating her taste, lest her perception of
grace and refinement of sentiment, should sharpen to agony the pangs of
disappointment. Love, in which the imagination mingles its bewitching
colouring, must be fostered by delicacy. I should despise, or rather
call her an ordinary woman, who could endure such a husband as I have
sketched.

These appear to me (matrimonial despotism of heart and conduct) to be
the peculiar Wrongs of Woman, because they degrade the mind. What are
termed great misfortunes, may more forcibly impress the mind of common
readers; they have more of what may justly be termed stage-effect;
but it is the delineation of finer sensations, which, in my opinion,
constitutes the merit of our best novels. This is what I have in
view; and to show the wrongs of different classes of women, equally
oppressive, though, from the difference of education, necessarily
various.



CHAPTER 1


ABODES OF HORROR have frequently been described, and castles, filled
with spectres and chimeras, conjured up by the magic spell of genius
to harrow the soul, and absorb the wondering mind. But, formed of such
stuff as dreams are made of, what were they to the mansion of despair,
in one corner of which Maria sat, endeavouring to recall her scattered
thoughts!

Surprise, astonishment, that bordered on distraction, seemed to have
suspended her faculties, till, waking by degrees to a keen sense of
anguish, a whirlwind of rage and indignation roused her torpid pulse.
One recollection with frightful velocity following another, threatened
to fire her brain, and make her a fit companion for the terrific
inhabitants, whose groans and shrieks were no unsubstantial sounds of
whistling winds, or startled birds, modulated by a romantic fancy, which
amuse while they affright; but such tones of misery as carry a dreadful
certainty directly to the heart. What effect must they then have
produced on one, true to the touch of sympathy, and tortured by maternal
apprehension!

Her infant\x92s image was continually floating on Maria\x92s sight, and the
first smile of intelligence remembered, as none but a mother, an unhappy
mother, can conceive. She heard her half speaking half cooing, and felt
the little twinkling fingers on her burning bosom--a bosom bursting
with the nutriment for which this cherished child might now be pining
in vain. From a stranger she could indeed receive the maternal aliment,
Maria was grieved at the thought--but who would watch her with a
mother\x92s tenderness, a mother\x92s self-denial?

The retreating shadows of former sorrows rushed back in a gloomy train,
and seemed to be pictured on the walls of her prison, magnified by
the state of mind in which they were viewed--Still she mourned for her
child, lamented she was a daughter, and anticipated the aggravated ills
of life that her sex rendered almost inevitable, even while dreading she
was no more. To think that she was blotted out of existence was agony,
when the imagination had been long employed to expand her faculties;
yet to suppose her turned adrift on an unknown sea, was scarcely less
afflicting.

After being two days the prey of impetuous, varying emotions, Maria
began to reflect more calmly on her present situation, for she had
actually been rendered incapable of sober reflection, by the discovery
of the act of atrocity of which she was the victim. She could not
have imagined, that, in all the fermentation of civilized depravity, a
similar plot could have entered a human mind. She had been stunned by
an unexpected blow; yet life, however joyless, was not to be indolently
resigned, or misery endured without exertion, and proudly termed
patience. She had hitherto meditated only to point the dart of anguish,
and suppressed the heart heavings of indignant nature merely by the
force of contempt. Now she endeavoured to brace her mind to fortitude,
and to ask herself what was to be her employment in her dreary cell? Was
it not to effect her escape, to fly to the succour of her child, and to
baffle the selfish schemes of her tyrant--her husband?

These thoughts roused her sleeping spirit, and the self-possession
returned, that seemed to have abandoned her in the infernal solitude
into which she had been precipitated. The first emotions of overwhelming
impatience began to subside, and resentment gave place to tenderness,
and more tranquil meditation; though anger once more stopt the calm
current of reflection when she attempted to move her manacled arms. But
this was an outrage that could only excite momentary feelings of scorn,
which evaporated in a faint smile; for Maria was far from thinking
a personal insult the most difficult to endure with magnanimous
indifference.

She approached the small grated window of her chamber, and for a
considerable time only regarded the blue expanse; though it commanded
a view of a desolate garden, and of part of a huge pile of buildings,
that, after having been suffered, for half a century, to fall to decay,
had undergone some clumsy repairs, merely to render it habitable. The
ivy had been torn off the turrets, and the stones not wanted to patch up
the breaches of time, and exclude the warring elements, left in heaps
in the disordered court. Maria contemplated this scene she knew not how
long; or rather gazed on the walls, and pondered on her situation.
To the master of this most horrid of prisons, she had, soon after her
entrance, raved of injustice, in accents that would have justified his
treatment, had not a malignant smile, when she appealed to his judgment,
with a dreadful conviction stifled her remonstrating complaints. By
force, or openly, what could be done? But surely some expedient might
occur to an active mind, without any other employment, and possessed of
sufficient resolution to put the risk of life into the balance with the
chance of freedom.

A woman entered in the midst of these reflections, with a firm,
deliberate step, strongly marked features, and large black eyes, which
she fixed steadily on Maria\x92s, as if she designed to intimidate her,
saying at the same time \x93You had better sit down and eat your dinner,
than look at the clouds.\x94

\x93I have no appetite,\x94 replied Maria, who had previously determined to
speak mildly; \x93why then should I eat?\x94

\x93But, in spite of that, you must and shall eat something. I have had
many ladies under my care, who have resolved to starve themselves;
but, soon or late, they gave up their intent, as they recovered their
senses.\x94

\x93Do you really think me mad?\x94 asked Maria, meeting the searching glance
of her eye.

\x93Not just now. But what does that prove?--Only that you must be the more
carefully watched, for appearing at times so reasonable. You have
not touched a morsel since you entered the house.\x94--Maria sighed
intelligibly.--\x93Could any thing but madness produce such a disgust for
food?\x94

\x93Yes, grief; you would not ask the question if you knew what it was.\x94
 The attendant shook her head; and a ghastly smile of desperate fortitude
served as a forcible reply, and made Maria pause, before she added--\x93Yet
I will take some refreshment: I mean not to die.--No; I will preserve
my senses; and convince even you, sooner than you are aware of, that my
intellects have never been disturbed, though the exertion of them may
have been suspended by some infernal drug.\x94

Doubt gathered still thicker on the brow of her guard, as she attempted
to convict her of mistake.

\x93Have patience!\x94 exclaimed Maria, with a solemnity that inspired awe.
\x93My God! how have I been schooled into the practice!\x94 A suffocation of
voice betrayed the agonizing emotions she was labouring to keep down;
and conquering a qualm of disgust, she calmly endeavoured to eat enough
to prove her docility, perpetually turning to the suspicious female,
whose observation she courted, while she was making the bed and
adjusting the room.

\x93Come to me often,\x94 said Maria, with a tone of persuasion, in
consequence of a vague plan that she had hastily adopted, when, after
surveying this woman\x92s form and features, she felt convinced that she
had an understanding above the common standard, \x93and believe me mad,
till you are obliged to acknowledge the contrary.\x94 The woman was no
fool, that is, she was superior to her class; nor had misery quite
petrified the life\x92s-blood of humanity, to which reflections on our own
misfortunes only give a more orderly course. The manner, rather than the
expostulations, of Maria made a slight suspicion dart into her mind with
corresponding sympathy, which various other avocations, and the habit
of banishing compunction, prevented her, for the present, from examining
more minutely.

But when she was told that no person, excepting the physician appointed
by her family, was to be permitted to see the lady at the end of the
gallery, she opened her keen eyes still wider, and uttered a--\x93hem!\x94
 before she enquired--\x93Why?\x94 She was briefly told, in reply, that the
malady was hereditary, and the fits not occurring but at very long and
irregular intervals, she must be carefully watched; for the length
of these lucid periods only rendered her more mischievous, when any
vexation or caprice brought on the paroxysm of phrensy.

Had her master trusted her, it is probable that neither pity nor
curiosity would have made her swerve from the straight line of her
interest; for she had suffered too much in her intercourse with
mankind, not to determine to look for support, rather to humouring
their passions, than courting their approbation by the integrity of her
conduct. A deadly blight had met her at the very threshold of existence;
and the wretchedness of her mother seemed a heavy weight fastened on her
innocent neck, to drag her down to perdition. She could not heroically
determine to succour an unfortunate; but, offended at the bare
supposition that she could be deceived with the same ease as a common
servant, she no longer curbed her curiosity; and, though she never
seriously fathomed her own intentions, she would sit, every moment she
could steal from observation, listening to the tale, which Maria was
eager to relate with all the persuasive eloquence of grief.

It is so cheering to see a human face, even if little of the divinity
of virtue beam in it, that Maria anxiously expected the return of
the attendant, as of a gleam of light to break the gloom of idleness.
Indulged sorrow, she perceived, must blunt or sharpen the faculties to
the two opposite extremes; producing stupidity, the moping melancholy of
indolence; or the restless activity of a disturbed imagination. She
sunk into one state, after being fatigued by the other: till the want
of occupation became even more painful than the actual pressure or
apprehension of sorrow; and the confinement that froze her into a
nook of existence, with an unvaried prospect before her, the most
insupportable of evils. The lamp of life seemed to be spending itself
to chase the vapours of a dungeon which no art could dissipate.--And
to what purpose did she rally all her energy?--Was not the world a vast
prison, and women born slaves?

Though she failed immediately to rouse a lively sense of injustice
in the mind of her guard, because it had been sophisticated into
misanthropy, she touched her heart. Jemima (she had only a claim to a
Christian name, which had not procured her any Christian privileges)
could patiently hear of Maria\x92s confinement on false pretences; she had
felt the crushing hand of power, hardened by the exercise of injustice,
and ceased to wonder at the perversions of the understanding, which
systematize oppression; but, when told that her child, only four
months old, had been torn from her, even while she was discharging the
tenderest maternal office, the woman awoke in a bosom long estranged
from feminine emotions, and Jemima determined to alleviate all in her
power, without hazarding the loss of her place, the sufferings of a
wretched mother, apparently injured, and certainly unhappy. A sense of
right seems to result from the simplest act of reason, and to preside
over the faculties of the mind, like the master-sense of feeling, to
rectify the rest; but (for the comparison may be carried still farther)
how often is the exquisite sensibility of both weakened or destroyed by
the vulgar occupations, and ignoble pleasures of life?

The preserving her situation was, indeed, an important object to Jemima,
who had been hunted from hole to hole, as if she had been a beast of
prey, or infected with a moral plague. The wages she received, the
greater part of which she hoarded, as her only chance for independence,
were much more considerable than she could reckon on obtaining any
where else, were it possible that she, an outcast from society, could
be permitted to earn a subsistence in a reputable family. Hearing Maria
perpetually complain of listlessness, and the not being able to beguile
grief by resuming her customary pursuits, she was easily prevailed on,
by compassion, and that involuntary respect for abilities, which those
who possess them can never eradicate, to bring her some books and
implements for writing. Maria\x92s conversation had amused and interested
her, and the natural consequence was a desire, scarcely observed
by herself, of obtaining the esteem of a person she admired. The
remembrance of better days was rendered more lively; and the sentiments
then acquired appearing less romantic than they had for a long period, a
spark of hope roused her mind to new activity.

How grateful was her attention to Maria! Oppressed by a dead weight of
existence, or preyed on by the gnawing worm of discontent, with what
eagerness did she endeavour to shorten the long days, which left no
traces behind! She seemed to be sailing on the vast ocean of life,
without seeing any land-mark to indicate the progress of time; to find
employment was then to find variety, the animating principle of nature.



CHAPTER 2


EARNESTLY as Maria endeavoured to soothe, by reading, the anguish of her
wounded mind, her thoughts would often wander from the subject she was
led to discuss, and tears of maternal tenderness obscured the reasoning
page. She descanted on \x93the ills which flesh is heir to,\x94 with
bitterness, when the recollection of her babe was revived by a tale
of fictitious woe, that bore any resemblance to her own; and her
imagination was continually employed, to conjure up and embody the
various phantoms of misery, which folly and vice had let loose on the
world. The loss of her babe was the tender string; against other cruel
remembrances she laboured to steel her bosom; and even a ray of hope,
in the midst of her gloomy reveries, would sometimes gleam on the dark
horizon of futurity, while persuading herself that she ought to cease
to hope, since happiness was no where to be found.--But of her child,
debilitated by the grief with which its mother had been assailed before
it saw the light, she could not think without an impatient struggle.

\x93I, alone, by my active tenderness, could have saved,\x94 she would
exclaim, \x93from an early blight, this sweet blossom; and, cherishing it,
I should have had something still to love.\x94

In proportion as other expectations were torn from her, this tender one
had been fondly clung to, and knit into her heart.

The books she had obtained, were soon devoured, by one who had no
other resource to escape from sorrow, and the feverish dreams of
ideal wretchedness or felicity, which equally weaken the intoxicated
sensibility. Writing was then the only alternative, and she wrote some
rhapsodies descriptive of the state of her mind; but the events of her
past life pressing on her, she resolved circumstantially to relate them,
with the sentiments that experience, and more matured reason, would
naturally suggest. They might perhaps instruct her daughter, and shield
her from the misery, the tyranny, her mother knew not how to avoid.

This thought gave life to her diction, her soul flowed into it, and she
soon found the task of recollecting almost obliterated impressions
very interesting. She lived again in the revived emotions of youth,
and forgot her present in the retrospect of sorrows that had assumed an
unalterable character.

Though this employment lightened the weight of time, yet, never losing
sight of her main object, Maria did not allow any opportunity to slip
of winning on the affections of Jemima; for she discovered in her a
strength of mind, that excited her esteem, clouded as it was by the
misanthropy of despair.

An insulated being, from the misfortune of her birth, she despised and
preyed on the society by which she had been oppressed, and loved not her
fellow-creatures, because she had never been beloved. No mother had ever
fondled her, no father or brother had protected her from outrage; and
the man who had plunged her into infamy, and deserted her when she stood
in greatest need of support, deigned not to smooth with kindness the
road to ruin. Thus degraded, was she let loose on the world; and
virtue, never nurtured by affection, assumed the stern aspect of selfish
independence.

This general view of her life, Maria gathered from her exclamations and
dry remarks. Jemima indeed displayed a strange mixture of interest
and suspicion; for she would listen to her with earnestness, and then
suddenly interrupt the conversation, as if afraid of resigning, by
giving way to her sympathy, her dear-bought knowledge of the world.

Maria alluded to the possibility of an escape, and mentioned a
compensation, or reward; but the style in which she was repulsed made
her cautious, and determine not to renew the subject, till she knew
more of the character she had to work on. Jemima\x92s countenance, and
dark hints, seemed to say, \x93You are an extraordinary woman; but let me
consider, this may only be one of your lucid intervals.\x94 Nay, the very
energy of Maria\x92s character, made her suspect that the extraordinary
animation she perceived might be the effect of madness. \x93Should her
husband then substantiate his charge, and get possession of her estate,
from whence would come the promised annuity, or more desired protection?
Besides, might not a woman, anxious to escape, conceal some of the
circumstances which made against her? Was truth to be expected from one
who had been entrapped, kidnapped, in the most fraudulent manner?\x94

In this train Jemima continued to argue, the moment after compassion
and respect seemed to make her swerve; and she still resolved not to be
wrought on to do more than soften the rigour of confinement, till she
could advance on surer ground.

Maria was not permitted to walk in the garden; but sometimes, from her
window, she turned her eyes from the gloomy walls, in which she pined
life away, on the poor wretches who strayed along the walks, and
contemplated the most terrific of ruins--that of a human soul. What
is the view of the fallen column, the mouldering arch, of the most
exquisite workmanship, when compared with this living memento of the
fragility, the instability, of reason, and the wild luxuriancy of
noxious passions? Enthusiasm turned adrift, like some rich stream
overflowing its banks, rushes forward with destructive velocity,
inspiring a sublime concentration of thought. Thus thought Maria--These
are the ravages over which humanity must ever mournfully ponder, with a
degree of anguish not excited by crumbling marble, or cankering brass,
unfaithful to the trust of monumental fame. It is not over the decaying
productions of the mind, embodied with the happiest art, we grieve most
bitterly. The view of what has been done by man, produces a melancholy,
yet aggrandizing, sense of what remains to be achieved by human
intellect; but a mental convulsion, which, like the devastation of an
earthquake, throws all the elements of thought and imagination into
confusion, makes contemplation giddy, and we fearfully ask on what
ground we ourselves stand.

Melancholy and imbecility marked the features of the wretches allowed to
breathe at large; for the frantic, those who in a strong imagination
had lost a sense of woe, were closely confined. The playful tricks and
mischievous devices of their disturbed fancy, that suddenly broke out,
could not be guarded against, when they were permitted to enjoy any
portion of freedom; for, so active was their imagination, that every new
object which accidentally struck their senses, awoke to phrenzy their
restless passions; as Maria learned from the burden of their incessant
ravings.

Sometimes, with a strict injunction of silence, Jemima would allow
Maria, at the close of evening, to stray along the narrow avenues that
separated the dungeon-like apartments, leaning on her arm. What a change
of scene! Maria wished to pass the threshold of her prison, yet, when
by chance she met the eye of rage glaring on her, yet unfaithful to its
office, she shrunk back with more horror and affright, than if she had
stumbled over a mangled corpse. Her busy fancy pictured the misery of
a fond heart, watching over a friend thus estranged, absent, though
present--over a poor wretch lost to reason and the social joys of
existence; and losing all consciousness of misery in its excess. What
a task, to watch the light of reason quivering in the eye, or with
agonizing expectation to catch the beam of recollection; tantalized by
hope, only to feel despair more keenly, at finding a much loved face
or voice, suddenly remembered, or pathetically implored, only to be
immediately forgotten, or viewed with indifference or abhorrence!

The heart-rending sigh of melancholy sunk into her soul; and when she
retired to rest, the petrified figures she had encountered, the only
human forms she was doomed to observe, haunting her dreams with tales of
mysterious wrongs, made her wish to sleep to dream no more.

Day after day rolled away, and tedious as the present moment appeared,
they passed in such an unvaried tenor, Maria was surprised to find that
she had already been six weeks buried alive, and yet had such faint
hopes of effecting her enlargement. She was, earnestly as she had sought
for employment, now angry with herself for having been amused by writing
her narrative; and grieved to think that she had for an instant thought
of any thing, but contriving to escape.

Jemima had evidently pleasure in her society: still, though she often
left her with a glow of kindness, she returned with the same chilling
air; and, when her heart appeared for a moment to open, some suggestion
of reason forcibly closed it, before she could give utterance to the
confidence Maria\x92s conversation inspired.

Discouraged by these changes, Maria relapsed into despondency, when she
was cheered by the alacrity with which Jemima brought her a fresh parcel
of books; assuring her, that she had taken some pains to obtain them
from one of the keepers, who attended a gentleman confined in the
opposite corner of the gallery.

Maria took up the books with emotion. \x93They come,\x94 said she, \x93perhaps,
from a wretch condemned, like me, to reason on the nature of madness,
by having wrecked minds continually under his eye; and almost to wish
himself--as I do--mad, to escape from the contemplation of it.\x94 Her
heart throbbed with sympathetic alarm; and she turned over the leaves
with awe, as if they had become sacred from passing through the hands of
an unfortunate being, oppressed by a similar fate.

Dryden\x92s Fables, Milton\x92s Paradise Lost, with several modern
productions, composed the collection. It was a mine of treasure. Some
marginal notes, in Dryden\x92s Fables, caught her attention: they were
written with force and taste; and, in one of the modern pamphlets, there
was a fragment left, containing various observations on the present
state of society and government, with a comparative view of the politics
of Europe and America. These remarks were written with a degree of
generous warmth, when alluding to the enslaved state of the labouring
majority, perfectly in unison with Maria\x92s mode of thinking.

She read them over and over again; and fancy, treacherous fancy, began
to sketch a character, congenial with her own, from these shadowy
outlines.--\x93Was he mad?\x94 She reperused the marginal notes, and
they seemed the production of an animated, but not of a disturbed
imagination. Confined to this speculation, every time she re-read them,
some fresh refinement of sentiment, or acuteness of thought impressed
her, which she was astonished at herself for not having before observed.

What a creative power has an affectionate heart! There are beings who
cannot live without loving, as poets love; and who feel the electric
spark of genius, wherever it awakens sentiment or grace. Maria had often
thought, when disciplining her wayward heart, \x93that to charm, was to be
virtuous.\x94 \x93They who make me wish to appear the most amiable and good
in their eyes, must possess in a degree,\x94 she would exclaim, \x93the graces
and virtues they call into action.\x94

She took up a book on the powers of the human mind; but, her attention
strayed from cold arguments on the nature of what she felt, while she
was feeling, and she snapt the chain of the theory to read Dryden\x92s
Guiscard and Sigismunda.

Maria, in the course of the ensuing day, returned some of the books,
with the hope of getting others--and more marginal notes. Thus shut out
from human intercourse, and compelled to view nothing but the prison of
vexed spirits, to meet a wretch in the same situation, was more surely
to find a friend, than to imagine a countryman one, in a strange land,
where the human voice conveys no information to the eager ear.

\x93Did you ever see the unfortunate being to whom these books belong?\x94
 asked Maria, when Jemima brought her slipper. \x93Yes. He sometimes
walks out, between five and six, before the family is stirring, in the
morning, with two keepers; but even then his hands are confined.\x94

\x93What! is he so unruly?\x94 enquired Maria, with an accent of
disappointment.

\x93No, not that I perceive,\x94 replied Jemima; \x93but he has an untamed look,
a vehemence of eye, that excites apprehension. Were his hands free,
he looks as if he could soon manage both his guards: yet he appears
tranquil.\x94

\x93If he be so strong, he must be young,\x94 observed Maria.

\x93Three or four and thirty, I suppose; but there is no judging of a
person in his situation.\x94

\x93Are you sure that he is mad?\x94 interrupted Maria with eagerness. Jemima
quitted the room, without replying.

\x93No, no, he certainly is not!\x94 exclaimed Maria, answering herself;
\x93the man who could write those observations was not disordered in his
intellects.\x94

She sat musing, gazing at the moon, and watching its motion as it seemed
to glide under the clouds. Then, preparing for bed, she thought, \x93Of
what use could I be to him, or he to me, if it be true that he is
unjustly confined?--Could he aid me to escape, who is himself more
closely watched?--Still I should like to see him.\x94 She went to bed,
dreamed of her child, yet woke exactly at half after five o\x92clock, and
starting up, only wrapped a gown around her, and ran to the window. The
morning was chill, it was the latter end of September; yet she did not
retire to warm herself and think in bed, till the sound of the servants,
moving about the house, convinced her that the unknown would not walk
in the garden that morning. She was ashamed at feeling disappointed; and
began to reflect, as an excuse to herself, on the little objects which
attract attention when there is nothing to divert the mind; and how
difficult it was for women to avoid growing romantic, who have no active
duties or pursuits.

At breakfast, Jemima enquired whether she understood French? for, unless
she did, the stranger\x92s stock of books was exhausted. Maria replied in
the affirmative; but forbore to ask any more questions respecting the
person to whom they belonged. And Jemima gave her a new subject for
contemplation, by describing the person of a lovely maniac, just brought
into an adjoining chamber. She was singing the pathetic ballad of
old Rob* with the most heart-melting falls and pauses. Jemima had
half-opened the door, when she distinguished her voice, and Maria stood
close to it, scarcely daring to respire, lest a modulation should escape
her, so exquisitely sweet, so passionately wild. She began with sympathy
to pourtray to herself another victim, when the lovely warbler flew, as
it were, from the spray, and a torrent of unconnected exclamations and
questions burst from her, interrupted by fits of laughter, so
horrid, that Maria shut the door, and, turning her eyes up to heaven,
exclaimed--\x93Gracious God!\x94

     * A blank space about ten characters in length occurs here
     in the original edition [Publisher\x92s note].

Several minutes elapsed before Maria could enquire respecting the rumour
of the house (for this poor wretch was obviously not confined without a
cause); and then Jemima could only tell her, that it was said, \x93she
had been married, against her inclination, to a rich old man, extremely
jealous (no wonder, for she was a charming creature); and that, in
consequence of his treatment, or something which hung on her mind, she
had, during her first lying-in, lost her senses.\x94

What a subject of meditation--even to the very confines of madness.

\x93Woman, fragile flower! why were you suffered to adorn a world exposed
to the inroad of such stormy elements?\x94 thought Maria, while the poor
maniac\x92s strain was still breathing on her ear, and sinking into her
very soul.

Towards the evening, Jemima brought her Rousseau\x92s Heloise; and she sat
reading with eyes and heart, till the return of her guard to extinguish
the light. One instance of her kindness was, the permitting Maria to
have one, till her own hour of retiring to rest. She had read this work
long since; but now it seemed to open a new world to her--the only
one worth inhabiting. Sleep was not to be wooed; yet, far from being
fatigued by the restless rotation of thought, she rose and opened her
window, just as the thin watery clouds of twilight made the long
silent shadows visible. The air swept across her face with a voluptuous
freshness that thrilled to her heart, awakening indefinable emotions;
and the sound of a waving branch, or the twittering of a startled bird,
alone broke the stillness of reposing nature. Absorbed by the sublime
sensibility which renders the consciousness of existence felicity, Maria
was happy, till an autumnal scent, wafted by the breeze of morn from the
fallen leaves of the adjacent wood, made her recollect that the season
had changed since her confinement; yet life afforded no variety to
solace an afflicted heart. She returned dispirited to her couch, and
thought of her child till the broad glare of day again invited her to
the window. She looked not for the unknown, still how great was her
vexation at perceiving the back of a man, certainly he, with his two
attendants, as he turned into a side-path which led to the house!
A confused recollection of having seen somebody who resembled
him, immediately occurred, to puzzle and torment her with endless
conjectures. Five minutes sooner, and she should have seen his face, and
been out of suspense--was ever any thing so unlucky! His steady, bold
step, and the whole air of his person, bursting as it were from a
cloud, pleased her, and gave an outline to the imagination to sketch the
individual form she wished to recognize.

Feeling the disappointment more severely than she was willing to
believe, she flew to Rousseau, as her only refuge from the idea of him,
who might prove a friend, could she but find a way to interest him in
her fate; still the personification of Saint Preux, or of an ideal lover
far superior, was after this imperfect model, of which merely a glance
had been caught, even to the minutiae of the coat and hat of the
stranger. But if she lent St. Preux, or the demi-god of her fancy,
his form, she richly repaid him by the donation of all St. Preux\x92s
sentiments and feelings, culled to gratify her own, to which he
seemed to have an undoubted right, when she read on the margin of an
impassioned letter, written in the well-known hand--\x93Rousseau alone, the
true Prometheus of sentiment, possessed the fire of genius necessary to
pourtray the passion, the truth of which goes so directly to the heart.\x94

Maria was again true to the hour, yet had finished Rousseau, and begun
to transcribe some selected passages; unable to quit either the author
or the window, before she had a glimpse of the countenance she daily
longed to see; and, when seen, it conveyed no distinct idea to her
mind where she had seen it before. He must have been a transient
acquaintance; but to discover an acquaintance was fortunate, could she
contrive to attract his attention, and excite his sympathy.

Every glance afforded colouring for the picture she was delineating on
her heart; and once, when the window was half open, the sound of his
voice reached her. Conviction flashed on her; she had certainly, in
a moment of distress, heard the same accents. They were manly, and
characteristic of a noble mind; nay, even sweet--or sweet they seemed to
her attentive ear.

She started back, trembling, alarmed at the emotion a strange
coincidence of circumstances inspired, and wondering why she thought so
much of a stranger, obliged as she had been by his timely interference;
[for she recollected, by degrees all the circumstances of their former
meeting.] She found however that she could think of nothing else; or, if
she thought of her daughter, it was to wish that she had a father whom
her mother could respect and love.



CHAPTER 3


WHEN PERUSING the first parcel of books, Maria had, with her pencil,
written in one of them a few exclamations, expressive of compassion and
sympathy, which she scarcely remembered, till turning over the leaves of
one of the volumes, lately brought to her, a slip of paper dropped out,
which Jemima hastily snatched up.

\x93Let me see it,\x94 demanded Maria impatiently, \x93You surely are not afraid
of trusting me with the effusions of a madman?\x94 \x93I must consider,\x94
 replied Jemima; and withdrew, with the paper in her hand.

In a life of such seclusion, the passions gain undue force; Maria
therefore felt a great degree of resentment and vexation, which she had
not time to subdue, before Jemima, returning, delivered the paper.

     \x93Whoever you are, who partake of my fate,
     accept my sincere commiseration--I would have said
     protection; but the privilege of man is denied me.

     \x93My own situation forces a dreadful suspicion on
     my mind--I may not always languish in vain for freedom--
     say are you--I cannot ask the question; yet I will
     remember you when my remembrance can be of any use.
     I will enquire, why you are so mysteriously detained--
     and I will have an answer.

     \x93HENRY DARNFORD.\x94

By the most pressing intreaties, Maria prevailed on Jemima to permit her
to write a reply to this note. Another and another succeeded, in which
explanations were not allowed relative to their present situation; but
Maria, with sufficient explicitness, alluded to a former obligation;
and they insensibly entered on an interchange of sentiments on the most
important subjects. To write these letters was the business of the day,
and to receive them the moment of sunshine. By some means, Darnford
having discovered Maria\x92s window, when she next appeared at it, he made
her, behind his keepers, a profound bow of respect and recognition.

Two or three weeks glided away in this kind of intercourse, during
which period Jemima, to whom Maria had given the necessary information
respecting her family, had evidently gained some intelligence, which
increased her desire of pleasing her charge, though she could not yet
determine to liberate her. Maria took advantage of this favourable
charge, without too minutely enquiring into the cause; and such was her
eagerness to hold human converse, and to see her former protector, still
a stranger to her, that she incessantly requested her guard to gratify
her more than curiosity.

Writing to Darnford, she was led from the sad objects before her, and
frequently rendered insensible to the horrid noises around her, which
previously had continually employed her feverish fancy. Thinking it
selfish to dwell on her own sufferings, when in the midst of wretches,
who had not only lost all that endears life, but their very selves, her
imagination was occupied with melancholy earnestness to trace the mazes
of misery, through which so many wretches must have passed to this
gloomy receptacle of disjointed souls, to the grand source of human
corruption. Often at midnight was she waked by the dismal shrieks of
demoniac rage, or of excruciating despair, uttered in such wild tones of
indescribable anguish as proved the total absence of reason, and roused
phantoms of horror in her mind, far more terrific than all that dreaming
superstition ever drew. Besides, there was frequently something so
inconceivably picturesque in the varying gestures of unrestrained
passion, so irresistibly comic in their sallies, or so heart-piercingly
pathetic in the little airs they would sing, frequently bursting out
after an awful silence, as to fascinate the attention, and amuse the
fancy, while torturing the soul. It was the uproar of the passions which
she was compelled to observe; and to mark the lucid beam of reason,
like a light trembling in a socket, or like the flash which divides the
threatening clouds of angry heaven only to display the horrors which
darkness shrouded.

Jemima would labour to beguile the tedious evenings, by describing the
persons and manners of the unfortunate beings, whose figures or voices
awoke sympathetic sorrow in Maria\x92s bosom; and the stories she told
were the more interesting, for perpetually leaving room to conjecture
something extraordinary. Still Maria, accustomed to generalize her
observations, was led to conclude from all she heard, that it was a
vulgar error to suppose that people of abilities were the most apt to
lose the command of reason. On the contrary, from most of the instances
she could investigate, she thought it resulted, that the passions only
appeared strong and disproportioned, because the judgment was weak and
unexercised; and that they gained strength by the decay of reason, as
the shadows lengthen during the sun\x92s decline.

Maria impatiently wished to see her fellow-sufferer; but Darnford was
still more earnest to obtain an interview. Accustomed to submit to every
impulse of passion, and never taught, like women, to restrain the most
natural, and acquire, instead of the bewitching frankness of nature, a
factitious propriety of behaviour, every desire became a torrent that
bore down all opposition.

His travelling trunk, which contained the books lent to Maria, had been
sent to him, and with a part of its contents he bribed his principal
keeper; who, after receiving the most solemn promise that he would
return to his apartment without attempting to explore any part of the
house, conducted him, in the dusk of the evening, to Maria\x92s room.

Jemima had apprized her charge of the visit, and she expected with
trembling impatience, inspired by a vague hope that he might again prove
her deliverer, to see a man who had before rescued her from oppression.
He entered with an animation of countenance, formed to captivate an
enthusiast; and, hastily turned his eyes from her to the apartment,
which he surveyed with apparent emotions of compassionate indignation.
Sympathy illuminated his eye, and, taking her hand, he respectfully
bowed on it, exclaiming--\x93This is extraordinary!--again to meet you,
and in such circumstances!\x94 Still, impressive as was the coincidence of
events which brought them once more together, their full hearts did not
overflow.--*

     * The copy which had received the author\x92s last corrections
     breaks off in this place, and the pages which follow, to the
     end of Chap.  IV, are printed from a copy in a less finished
     state. [Godwin\x92s note]

[And though, after this first visit, they were permitted frequently to
repeat their interviews, they were for some time employed in] a reserved
conversation, to which all the world might have listened; excepting,
when discussing some literary subject, flashes of sentiment, inforced
by each relaxing feature, seemed to remind them that their minds were
already acquainted.

[By degrees, Darnford entered into the particulars of his story.] In a
few words, he informed her that he had been a thoughtless, extravagant
young man; yet, as he described his faults, they appeared to be the
generous luxuriancy of a noble mind. Nothing like meanness tarnished
the lustre of his youth, nor had the worm of selfishness lurked in the
unfolding bud, even while he had been the dupe of others. Yet he
tardily acquired the experience necessary to guard him against future
imposition.

\x93I shall weary you,\x94 continued he, \x93by my egotism; and did not powerful
emotions draw me to you,\x94--his eyes glistened as he spoke, and a
trembling seemed to run through his manly frame,--\x93I would not waste
these precious moments in talking of myself.

\x93My father and mother were people of fashion; married by their parents.
He was fond of the turf, she of the card-table. I, and two or three
other children since dead, were kept at home till we became intolerable.
My father and mother had a visible dislike to each other, continually
displayed; the servants were of the depraved kind usually found in the
houses of people of fortune. My brothers and parents all dying, I was
left to the care of guardians; and sent to Eton. I never knew the sweets
of domestic affection, but I felt the want of indulgence and frivolous
respect at school. I will not disgust you with a recital of the vices of
my youth, which can scarcely be comprehended by female delicacy. I was
taught to love by a creature I am ashamed to mention; and the other
women with whom I afterwards became intimate, were of a class of which
you can have no knowledge. I formed my acquaintance with them at the
theaters; and, when vivacity danced in their eyes, I was not easily
disgusted by the vulgarity which flowed from their lips. Having spent,
a few years after I was of age, [the whole of] a considerable patrimony,
excepting a few hundreds, I had no resource but to purchase a commission
in a new-raised regiment, destined to subjugate America. The regret
I felt to renounce a life of pleasure, was counter-balanced by the
curiosity I had to see America, or rather to travel; [nor had any
of those circumstances occurred to my youth, which might have been
calculated] to bind my country to my heart. I shall not trouble you with
the details of a military life. My blood was still kept in motion; till,
towards the close of the contest, I was wounded and taken prisoner.

\x93Confined to my bed, or chair, by a lingering cure, my only refuge from
the preying activity of my mind, was books, which I read with great
avidity, profiting by the conversation of my host, a man of sound
understanding. My political sentiments now underwent a total change;
and, dazzled by the hospitality of the Americans, I determined to take
up my abode with freedom. I, therefore, with my usual impetuosity, sold
my commission, and travelled into the interior parts of the country, to
lay out my money to advantage. Added to this, I did not much like the
puritanical manners of the large towns. Inequality of condition was
there most disgustingly galling. The only pleasure wealth afforded, was
to make an ostentatious display of it; for the cultivation of the fine
arts, or literature, had not introduced into the first circles that
polish of manners which renders the rich so essentially superior to the
poor in Europe. Added to this, an influx of vices had been let in by
the Revolution, and the most rigid principles of religion shaken to the
centre, before the understanding could be gradually emancipated from the
prejudices which led their ancestors undauntedly to seek an inhospitable
clime and unbroken soil. The resolution, that led them, in pursuit
of independence, to embark on rivers like seas, to search for unknown
shores, and to sleep under the hovering mists of endless forests,
whose baleful damps agued their limbs, was now turned into commercial
speculations, till the national character exhibited a phenomenon in the
history of the human mind--a head enthusiastically enterprising,
with cold selfishness of heart. And woman, lovely woman!--they charm
everywhere--still there is a degree of prudery, and a want of taste and
ease in the manners of the American women, that renders them, in spite
of their roses and lilies, far inferior to our European charmers. In the
country, they have often a bewitching simplicity of character; but, in
the cities, they have all the airs and ignorance of the ladies who give
the tone to the circles of the large trading towns in England. They are
fond of their ornaments, merely because they are good, and not because
they embellish their persons; and are more gratified to inspire the
women with jealousy of these exterior advantages, than the men with
love. All the frivolity which often (excuse me, Madam) renders the
society of modest women so stupid in England, here seemed to throw still
more leaden fetters on their charms. Not being an adept in gallantry,
I found that I could only keep myself awake in their company by making
downright love to them.

\x93But, not to intrude on your patience, I retired to the track of land
which I had purchased in the country, and my time passed pleasantly
enough while I cut down the trees, built my house, and planted my
different crops. But winter and idleness came, and I longed for more
elegant society, to hear what was passing in the world, and to do
something better than vegetate with the animals that made a very
considerable part of my household. Consequently, I determined to travel.
Motion was a substitute for variety of objects; and, passing over
immense tracks of country, I exhausted my exuberant spirits, without
obtaining much experience. I every where saw industry the fore-runner
and not the consequence, of luxury; but this country, everything being
on an ample scale, did not afford those picturesque views, which a
certain degree of cultivation is necessary gradually to produce. The eye
wandered without an object to fix upon over immeasureable plains, and
lakes that seemed replenished by the ocean, whilst eternal forests
of small clustering trees, obstructed the circulation of air, and
embarrassed the path, without gratifying the eye of taste. No cottage
smiling in the waste, no travellers hailed us, to give life to silent
nature; or, if perchance we saw the print of a footstep in our path, it
was a dreadful warning to turn aside; and the head ached as if assailed
by the scalping knife. The Indians who hovered on the skirts of the
European settlements had only learned of their neighbours to plunder,
and they stole their guns from them to do it with more safety.

\x93From the woods and back settlements, I returned to the towns, and
learned to eat and drink most valiantly; but without entering into
commerce (and I detested commerce) I found I could not live there; and,
growing heartily weary of the land of liberty and vulgar aristocracy,
seated on her bags of dollars, I resolved once more to visit Europe. I
wrote to a distant relation in England, with whom I had been educated,
mentioning the vessel in which I intended to sail. Arriving in London,
my senses were intoxicated. I ran from street to street, from theater
to theater, and the women of the town (again I must beg pardon for my
habitual frankness) appeared to me like angels.

\x93A week was spent in this thoughtless manner, when, returning very late
to the hotel in which I had lodged ever since my arrival, I was knocked
down in a private street, and hurried, in a state of insensibility, into
a coach, which brought me hither, and I only recovered my senses to
be treated like one who had lost them. My keepers are deaf to my
remonstrances and enquiries, yet assure me that my confinement shall not
last long. Still I cannot guess, though I weary myself with conjectures,
why I am confined, or in what part of England this house is situated. I
imagine sometimes that I hear the sea roar, and wished myself again on
the Atlantic, till I had a glimpse of you.\x94 *

A few moments were only allowed to Maria to comment on this narrative,
when Darnford left her to her own thoughts, to the \x93never ending, still
beginning,\x94 task of weighing his words, recollecting his tones of voice,
and feeling them reverberate on her heart.

     * The introduction of Darnford as the deliverer of Maria in
     a former instance, appears to have been an after-thought of
     the author.  This has occasioned the omission of any
     allusion to that circumstance in the preceding narration.
     EDITOR. [Godwin\x92s note]



CHAPTER 4


PITY, and the forlorn seriousness of adversity, have both been
considered as dispositions favourable to love, while satirical writers
have attributed the propensity to the relaxing effect of idleness; what
chance then had Maria of escaping, when pity, sorrow, and solitude all
conspired to soften her mind, and nourish romantic wishes, and, from a
natural progress, romantic expectations?

Maria was six-and-twenty. But, such was the native soundness of her
constitution, that time had only given to her countenance the character
of her mind. Revolving thought, and exercised affections had banished
some of the playful graces of innocence, producing insensibly that
irregularity of features which the struggles of the understanding to
trace or govern the strong emotions of the heart, are wont to imprint on
the yielding mass. Grief and care had mellowed, without obscuring, the
bright tints of youth, and the thoughtfulness which resided on her brow
did not take from the feminine softness of her features; nay, such
was the sensibility which often mantled over it, that she frequently
appeared, like a large proportion of her sex, only born to feel; and the
activity of her well-proportioned, and even almost voluptuous figure,
inspired the idea of strength of mind, rather than of body. There was a
simplicity sometimes indeed in her manner, which bordered on infantine
ingenuousness, that led people of common discernment to underrate her
talents, and smile at the flights of her imagination. But those who
could not comprehend the delicacy of her sentiments, were attached
by her unfailing sympathy, so that she was very generally beloved by
characters of very different descriptions; still, she was too much under
the influence of an ardent imagination to adhere to common rules.

There are mistakes of conduct which at five-and-twenty prove the
strength of the mind, that, ten or fifteen years after, would
demonstrate its weakness, its incapacity to acquire a sane judgment. The
youths who are satisfied with the ordinary pleasures of life, and do not
sigh after ideal phantoms of love and friendship, will never arrive at
great maturity of understanding; but if these reveries are cherished,
as is too frequently the case with women, when experience ought to have
taught them in what human happiness consists, they become as useless as
they are wretched. Besides, their pains and pleasures are so dependent
on outward circumstances, on the objects of their affections, that they
seldom act from the impulse of a nerved mind, able to choose its own
pursuit.

Having had to struggle incessantly with the vices of mankind, Maria\x92s
imagination found repose in pourtraying the possible virtues the
world might contain. Pygmalion formed an ivory maid, and longed for an
informing soul. She, on the contrary, combined all the qualities of a
hero\x92s mind, and fate presented a statue in which she might enshrine
them.

We mean not to trace the progress of this passion, or recount how often
Darnford and Maria were obliged to part in the midst of an interesting
conversation. Jemima ever watched on the tip-toe of fear, and frequently
separated them on a false alarm, when they would have given worlds to
remain a little longer together.

A magic lamp now seemed to be suspended in Maria\x92s prison, and fairy
landscapes flitted round the gloomy walls, late so blank. Rushing from
the depth of despair, on the seraph wing of hope, she found herself
happy.--She was beloved, and every emotion was rapturous.

To Darnford she had not shown a decided affection; the fear of
outrunning his, a sure proof of love, made her often assume a coldness
and indifference foreign from her character; and, even when giving way
to the playful emotions of a heart just loosened from the frozen bond of
grief, there was a delicacy in her manner of expressing her sensibility,
which made him doubt whether it was the effect of love.

One evening, when Jemima left them, to listen to the sound of a distant
footstep, which seemed cautiously to approach, he seized Maria\x92s
hand--it was not withdrawn. They conversed with earnestness of their
situation; and, during the conversation, he once or twice gently drew
her towards him. He felt the fragrance of her breath, and longed, yet
feared, to touch the lips from which it issued; spirits of purity seemed
to guard them, while all the enchanting graces of love sported on her
cheeks, and languished in her eyes.

Jemima entering, he reflected on his diffidence with poignant regret,
and, she once more taking alarm, he ventured, as Maria stood near his
chair, to approach her lips with a declaration of love. She drew back
with solemnity, he hung down his head abashed; but lifting his eyes
timidly, they met her\x92s; she had determined, during that instant, and
suffered their rays to mingle. He took, with more ardour, reassured, a
half-consenting, half-reluctant kiss, reluctant only from modesty; and
there was a sacredness in her dignified manner of reclining her glowing
face on his shoulder, that powerfully impressed him. Desire was lost in
more ineffable emotions, and to protect her from insult and sorrow--to
make her happy, seemed not only the first wish of his heart, but the
most noble duty of his life. Such angelic confidence demanded the
fidelity of honour; but could he, feeling her in every pulsation, could
he ever change, could he be a villain? The emotion with which she, for
a moment, allowed herself to be pressed to his bosom, the tear of
rapturous sympathy, mingled with a soft melancholy sentiment of
recollected disappointment, said--more of truth and faithfulness, than
the tongue could have given utterance to in hours! They were silent--yet
discoursed, how eloquently? till, after a moment\x92s reflection, Maria
drew her chair by the side of his, and, with a composed sweetness of
voice, and supernatural benignity of countenance, said, \x93I must open my
whole heart to you; you must be told who I am, why I am here, and why,
telling you I am a wife, I blush not to\x94--the blush spoke the rest.

Jemima was again at her elbow, and the restraint of her presence did not
prevent an animated conversation, in which love, sly urchin, was ever at
bo-peep.

So much of heaven did they enjoy, that paradise bloomed around them; or
they, by a powerful spell, had been transported into Armida\x92s garden.
Love, the grand enchanter, \x93lapt them in Elysium,\x94 and every sense was
harmonized to joy and social extacy. So animated, indeed, were their
accents of tenderness, in discussing what, in other circumstances, would
have been commonplace subjects, that Jemima felt, with surprise, a tear
of pleasure trickling down her rugged cheeks. She wiped it away, half
ashamed; and when Maria kindly enquired the cause, with all the
eager solicitude of a happy being wishing to impart to all nature its
overflowing felicity, Jemima owned that it was the first tear that
social enjoyment had ever drawn from her. She seemed indeed to breathe
more freely; the cloud of suspicion cleared away from her brow; she felt
herself, for once in her life, treated like a fellow-creature.

Imagination! who can paint thy power; or reflect the evanescent tints
of hope fostered by thee? A despondent gloom had long obscured Maria\x92s
horizon--now the sun broke forth, the rainbow appeared, and every
prospect was fair. Horror still reigned in the darkened cells, suspicion
lurked in the passages, and whispered along the walls. The yells of
men possessed, sometimes, made them pause, and wonder that they felt
so happy, in a tomb of living death. They even chid themselves for such
apparent insensibility; still the world contained not three happier
beings. And Jemima, after again patrolling the passage, was so softened
by the air of confidence which breathed around her, that she voluntarily
began an account of herself.



CHAPTER 5


\x93MY FATHER,\x94 said Jemima, \x93seduced my mother, a pretty girl, with whom
he lived fellow-servant; and she no sooner perceived the natural, the
dreaded consequence, than the terrible conviction flashed on her--that
she was ruined. Honesty, and a regard for her reputation, had been the
only principles inculcated by her mother; and they had been so forcibly
impressed, that she feared shame, more than the poverty to which it
would lead. Her incessant importunities to prevail upon my father to
screen her from reproach by marrying her, as he had promised in the
fervour of seduction, estranged him from her so completely, that her
very person became distasteful to him; and he began to hate, as well as
despise me, before I was born.

\x93My mother, grieved to the soul by his neglect, and unkind treatment,
actually resolved to famish herself; and injured her health by the
attempt; though she had not sufficient resolution to adhere to her
project, or renounce it entirely. Death came not at her call; yet
sorrow, and the methods she adopted to conceal her condition, still
doing the work of a house-maid, had such an effect on her constitution,
that she died in the wretched garret, where her virtuous mistress had
forced her to take refuge in the very pangs of labour, though my father,
after a slight reproof, was allowed to remain in his place--allowed by
the mother of six children, who, scarcely permitting a footstep to be
heard, during her month\x92s indulgence, felt no sympathy for the poor
wretch, denied every comfort required by her situation.

\x93The day my mother, died, the ninth after my birth, I was consigned to
the care of the cheapest nurse my father could find; who suckled her own
child at the same time, and lodged as many more as she could get, in two
cellar-like apartments.

\x93Poverty, and the habit of seeing children die off her hands, had so
hardened her heart, that the office of a mother did not awaken the
tenderness of a woman; nor were the feminine caresses which seem a part
of the rearing of a child, ever bestowed on me. The chicken has a wing
to shelter under; but I had no bosom to nestle in, no kindred warmth to
foster me. Left in dirt, to cry with cold and hunger till I was weary,
and sleep without ever being prepared by exercise, or lulled by kindness
to rest; could I be expected to become any thing but a weak and rickety
babe? Still, in spite of neglect, I continued to exist, to learn to
curse existence, [her countenance grew ferocious as she spoke,] and
the treatment that rendered me miserable, seemed to sharpen my wits.
Confined then in a damp hovel, to rock the cradle of the succeeding
tribe, I looked like a little old woman, or a hag shrivelling into
nothing. The furrows of reflection and care contracted the youthful
cheek, and gave a sort of supernatural wildness to the ever watchful
eye. During this period, my father had married another fellow-servant,
who loved him less, and knew better how to manage his passion, than my
mother. She likewise proving with child, they agreed to keep a shop: my
step-mother, if, being an illegitimate offspring, I may venture thus
to characterize her, having obtained a sum of a rich relation, for that
purpose.

\x93Soon after her lying-in, she prevailed on my father to take me home, to
save the expense of maintaining me, and of hiring a girl to assist
her in the care of the child. I was young, it was true, but appeared a
knowing little thing, and might be made handy. Accordingly I was brought
to her house; but not to a home--for a home I never knew. Of this
child, a daughter, she was extravagantly fond; and it was a part of
my employment, to assist to spoil her, by humouring all her whims, and
bearing all her caprices. Feeling her own consequence, before she could
speak, she had learned the art of tormenting me, and if I ever dared to
resist, I received blows, laid on with no compunctious hand, or was sent
to bed dinnerless, as well as supperless. I said that it was a part of
my daily labour to attend this child, with the servility of a slave;
still it was but a part. I was sent out in all seasons, and from place
to place, to carry burdens far above my strength, without being allowed
to draw near the fire, or ever being cheered by encouragement or
kindness. No wonder then, treated like a creature of another species,
that I began to envy, and at length to hate, the darling of the
house. Yet, I perfectly remember, that it was the caresses, and
kind expressions of my step-mother, which first excited my jealous
discontent. Once, I cannot forget it, when she was calling in vain
her wayward child to kiss her, I ran to her, saying, \x91I will kiss you,
ma\x92am!\x92 and how did my heart, which was in my mouth, sink, what was
my debasement of soul, when pushed away with--\x91I do not want you,
pert thing!\x92 Another day, when a new gown had excited the highest good
humour, and she uttered the appropriate dear, addressed unexpectedly to
me, I thought I could never do enough to please her; I was all alacrity,
and rose proportionably in my own estimation.

\x93As her daughter grew up, she was pampered with cakes and fruit, while
I was, literally speaking, fed with the refuse of the table, with her
leavings. A liquorish tooth is, I believe, common to children, and I
used to steal any thing sweet, that I could catch up with a chance of
concealment. When detected, she was not content to chastize me herself
at the moment, but, on my father\x92s return in the evening (he was
a shopman), the principal discourse was to recount my faults, and
attribute them to the wicked disposition which I had brought into the
world with me, inherited from my mother. He did not fail to leave the
marks of his resentment on my body, and then solaced himself by playing
with my sister.--I could have murdered her at those moments. To save
myself from these unmerciful corrections, I resorted to falshood, and
the untruths which I sturdily maintained, were brought in judgment
against me, to support my tyrant\x92s inhuman charge of my natural
propensity to vice. Seeing me treated with contempt, and always being
fed and dressed better, my sister conceived a contemptuous opinion of
me, that proved an obstacle to all affection; and my father, hearing
continually of my faults, began to consider me as a curse entailed
on him for his sins: he was therefore easily prevailed on to bind me
apprentice to one of my step-mother\x92s friends, who kept a slop-shop in
Wapping. I was represented (as it was said) in my true colours; but she,
\x91warranted,\x92 snapping her fingers, \x91that she should break my spirit or
heart.\x92

\x93My mother replied, with a whine, \x91that if any body could make me
better, it was such a clever woman as herself; though, for her own part,
she had tried in vain; but good-nature was her fault.\x92

\x93I shudder with horror, when I recollect the treatment I had now to
endure. Not only under the lash of my task-mistress, but the drudge
of the maid, apprentices and children, I never had a taste of human
kindness to soften the rigour of perpetual labour. I had been introduced
as an object of abhorrence into the family; as a creature of whom my
step-mother, though she had been kind enough to let me live in the house
with her own child, could make nothing. I was described as a wretch,
whose nose must be kept to the grinding stone--and it was held there
with an iron grasp. It seemed indeed the privilege of their superior
nature to kick me about, like the dog or cat. If I were attentive, I
was called fawning, if refractory, an obstinate mule, and like a mule
I received their censure on my loaded back. Often has my mistress, for
some instance of forgetfulness, thrown me from one side of the kitchen
to the other, knocked my head against the wall, spit in my face, with
various refinements on barbarity that I forbear to enumerate, though
they were all acted over again by the servant, with additional insults,
to which the appellation of bastard, was commonly added, with taunts
or sneers. But I will not attempt to give you an adequate idea of my
situation, lest you, who probably have never been drenched with the
dregs of human misery, should think I exaggerate.

\x93I stole now, from absolute necessity,--bread; yet whatever else was
taken, which I had it not in my power to take, was ascribed to me. I was
the filching cat, the ravenous dog, the dumb brute, who must bear all;
for if I endeavoured to exculpate myself, I was silenced, without any
enquiries being made, with \x91Hold your tongue, you never tell truth.\x92
Even the very air I breathed was tainted with scorn; for I was sent
to the neighbouring shops with Glutton, Liar, or Thief, written on my
forehead. This was, at first, the most bitter punishment; but sullen
pride, or a kind of stupid desperation, made me, at length, almost
regardless of the contempt, which had wrung from me so many solitary
tears at the only moments when I was allowed to rest.

\x93Thus was I the mark of cruelty till my sixteenth year; and then I have
only to point out a change of misery; for a period I never knew.
Allow me first to make one observation. Now I look back, I cannot help
attributing the greater part of my misery, to the misfortune of having
been thrown into the world without the grand support of life--a mother\x92s
affection. I had no one to love me; or to make me respected, to enable
me to acquire respect. I was an egg dropped on the sand; a pauper by
nature, hunted from family to family, who belonged to nobody--and nobody
cared for me. I was despised from my birth, and denied the chance of
obtaining a footing for myself in society. Yes; I had not even the
chance of being considered as a fellow-creature--yet all the people with
whom I lived, brutalized as they were by the low cunning of trade, and
the despicable shifts of poverty, were not without bowels, though they
never yearned for me. I was, in fact, born a slave, and chained by
infamy to slavery during the whole of existence, without having any
companions to alleviate it by sympathy, or teach me how to rise above it
by their example. But, to resume the thread of my tale--

\x93At sixteen, I suddenly grew tall, and something like comeliness
appeared on a Sunday, when I had time to wash my face, and put on clean
clothes. My master had once or twice caught hold of me in the passage;
but I instinctively avoided his disgusting caresses. One day however,
when the family were at a methodist meeting, he contrived to be alone in
the house with me, and by blows--yes; blows and menaces, compelled me to
submit to his ferocious desire; and, to avoid my mistress\x92s fury, I was
obliged in future to comply, and skulk to my loft at his command, in
spite of increasing loathing.

\x93The anguish which was now pent up in my bosom, seemed to open a new
world to me: I began to extend my thoughts beyond myself, and grieve for
human misery, till I discovered, with horror--ah! what horror!--that I
was with child. I know not why I felt a mixed sensation of despair and
tenderness, excepting that, ever called a bastard, a bastard appeared to
me an object of the greatest compassion in creation.

\x93I communicated this dreadful circumstance to my master, who was almost
equally alarmed at the intelligence; for he feared his wife, and public
censure at the meeting. After some weeks of deliberation had elapsed, I
in continual fear that my altered shape would be noticed, my master
gave me a medicine in a phial, which he desired me to take, telling me,
without any circumlocution, for what purpose it was designed. I burst
into tears, I thought it was killing myself--yet was such a self as
I worth preserving? He cursed me for a fool, and left me to my own
reflections. I could not resolve to take this infernal potion; but I
wrapped it up in an old gown, and hid it in a corner of my box.

\x93Nobody yet suspected me, because they had been accustomed to view me as
a creature of another species. But the threatening storm at last broke
over my devoted head--never shall I forget it! One Sunday evening when
I was left, as usual, to take care of the house, my master came home
intoxicated, and I became the prey of his brutal appetite. His extreme
intoxication made him forget his customary caution, and my mistress
entered and found us in a situation that could not have been more
hateful to her than me. Her husband was \x91pot-valiant,\x92 he feared her not
at the moment, nor had he then much reason, for she instantly turned the
whole force of her anger another way. She tore off my cap, scratched,
kicked, and buffetted me, till she had exhausted her strength,
declaring, as she rested her arm, \x91that I had wheedled her husband from
her.--But, could any thing better be expected from a wretch, whom she
had taken into her house out of pure charity?\x92 What a torrent of abuse
rushed out? till, almost breathless, she concluded with saying, \x91that I
was born a strumpet; it ran in my blood, and nothing good could come to
those who harboured me.\x92

\x93My situation was, of course, discovered, and she declared that I should
not stay another night under the same roof with an honest family. I was
therefore pushed out of doors, and my trumpery thrown after me, when
it had been contemptuously examined in the passage, lest I should have
stolen any thing.

\x93Behold me then in the street, utterly destitute! Whither could I creep
for shelter? To my father\x92s roof I had no claim, when not pursued
by shame--now I shrunk back as from death, from my mother\x92s cruel
reproaches, my father\x92s execrations. I could not endure to hear him
curse the day I was born, though life had been a curse to me. Of death
I thought, but with a confused emotion of terror, as I stood leaning
my head on a post, and starting at every footstep, lest it should be
my mistress coming to tear my heart out. One of the boys of the shop
passing by, heard my tale, and immediately repaired to his master,
to give him a description of my situation; and he touched the right
key--the scandal it would give rise to, if I were left to repeat my
tale to every enquirer. This plea came home to his reason, who had been
sobered by his wife\x92s rage, the fury of which fell on him when I was out
of her reach, and he sent the boy to me with half-a-guinea, desiring him
to conduct me to a house, where beggars, and other wretches, the refuse
of society, nightly lodged.

\x93This night was spent in a state of stupefaction, or desperation. I
detested mankind, and abhorred myself.

\x93In the morning I ventured out, to throw myself in my master\x92s way, at
his usual hour of going abroad. I approached him, he \x91damned me for a
b----, declared I had disturbed the peace of the family, and that he
had sworn to his wife, never to take any more notice of me.\x92 He left me;
but, instantly returning, he told me that he should speak to his friend,
a parish-officer, to get a nurse for the brat I laid to him; and advised
me, if I wished to keep out of the house of correction, not to make free
with his name.

\x93I hurried back to my hole, and, rage giving place to despair, sought
for the potion that was to procure abortion, and swallowed it, with
a wish that it might destroy me, at the same time that it stopped the
sensations of new-born life, which I felt with indescribable emotion. My
head turned round, my heart grew sick, and in the horrors of approaching
dissolution, mental anguish was swallowed up. The effect of the medicine
was violent, and I was confined to my bed several days; but, youth and
a strong constitution prevailing, I once more crawled out, to ask myself
the cruel question, \x91Whither I should go?\x92 I had but two shillings left
in my pocket, the rest had been expended, by a poor woman who slept in
the same room, to pay for my lodging, and purchase the necessaries of
which she partook.

\x93With this wretch I went into the neighbouring streets to beg, and my
disconsolate appearance drew a few pence from the idle, enabling me
still to command a bed; till, recovering from my illness, and taught
to put on my rags to the best advantage, I was accosted from different
motives, and yielded to the desire of the brutes I met, with the same
detestation that I had felt for my still more brutal master. I have
since read in novels of the blandishments of seduction, but I had not
even the pleasure of being enticed into vice.

\x93I shall not,\x94 interrupted Jemima, \x93lead your imagination into all the
scenes of wretchedness and depravity, which I was condemned to view; or
mark the different stages of my debasing misery. Fate dragged me through
the very kennels of society: I was still a slave, a bastard, a common
property. Become familiar with vice, for I wish to conceal nothing from
you, I picked the pockets of the drunkards who abused me; and proved by
my conduct, that I deserved the epithets, with which they loaded me at
moments when distrust ought to cease.

\x93Detesting my nightly occupation, though valuing, if I may so use the
word, my independence, which only consisted in choosing the street in
which I should wander, or the roof, when I had money, in which I should
hide my head, I was some time before I could prevail on myself to accept
of a place in a house of ill fame, to which a girl, with whom I had
accidentally conversed in the street, had recommended me. I had been
hunted almost into a fever, by the watchmen of the quarter of the town I
frequented; one, whom I had unwittingly offended, giving the word to
the whole pack. You can scarcely conceive the tyranny exercised by these
wretches: considering themselves as the instruments of the very laws
they violate, the pretext which steels their conscience, hardens their
heart. Not content with receiving from us, outlaws of society (let
other women talk of favours) a brutal gratification gratuitously as a
privilege of office, they extort a tithe of prostitution, and harrass
with threats the poor creatures whose occupation affords not the means
to silence the growl of avarice. To escape from this persecution, I once
more entered into servitude.

\x93A life of comparative regularity restored my health; and--do not
start--my manners were improved, in a situation where vice sought to
render itself alluring, and taste was cultivated to fashion the person,
if not to refine the mind. Besides, the common civility of speech,
contrasted with the gross vulgarity to which I had been accustomed, was
something like the polish of civilization. I was not shut out from all
intercourse of humanity. Still I was galled by the yoke of service, and
my mistress often flying into violent fits of passion, made me dread
a sudden dismission, which I understood was always the case. I was
therefore prevailed on, though I felt a horror of men, to accept the
offer of a gentleman, rather in the decline of years, to keep his house,
pleasantly situated in a little village near Hampstead.

\x93He was a man of great talents, and of brilliant wit; but, a worn-out
votary of voluptuousness, his desires became fastidious in proportion as
they grew weak, and the native tenderness of his heart was undermined by
a vitiated imagination. A thoughtless career of libertinism and social
enjoyment, had injured his health to such a degree, that, whatever
pleasure his conversation afforded me (and my esteem was ensured by
proofs of the generous humanity of his disposition), the being his
mistress was purchasing it at a very dear rate. With such a keen
perception of the delicacies of sentiment, with an imagination
invigorated by the exercise of genius, how could he sink into the
grossness of sensuality!

\x93But, to pass over a subject which I recollect with pain, I must remark
to you, as an answer to your often-repeated question, \x91Why my sentiments
and language were superior to my station?\x92 that I now began to read,
to beguile the tediousness of solitude, and to gratify an inquisitive,
active mind. I had often, in my childhood, followed a ballad-singer,
to hear the sequel of a dismal story, though sure of being severely
punished for delaying to return with whatever I was sent to purchase.
I could just spell and put a sentence together, and I listened to the
various arguments, though often mingled with obscenity, which occurred
at the table where I was allowed to preside: for a literary friend or
two frequently came home with my master, to dine and pass the night.
Having lost the privileged respect of my sex, my presence, instead of
restraining, perhaps gave the reins to their tongues; still I had the
advantage of hearing discussions, from which, in the common course of
life, women are excluded.

\x93You may easily imagine, that it was only by degrees that I could
comprehend some of the subjects they investigated, or acquire from their
reasoning what might be termed a moral sense. But my fondness of reading
increasing, and my master occasionally shutting himself up in this
retreat, for weeks together, to write, I had many opportunities of
improvement. At first, considering money (I was right!\x94 exclaimed
Jemima, altering her tone of voice) \x93as the only means, after my loss of
reputation, of obtaining respect, or even the toleration of humanity, I
had not the least scruple to secrete a part of the sums intrusted to
me, and to screen myself from detection by a system of falshood. But,
acquiring new principles, I began to have the ambition of returning
to the respectable part of society, and was weak enough to suppose it
possible. The attention of my unassuming instructor, who, without being
ignorant of his own powers, possessed great simplicity of manners,
strengthened the illusion. Having sometimes caught up hints for thought,
from my untutored remarks, he often led me to discuss the subjects he
was treating, and would read to me his productions, previous to their
publication, wishing to profit by the criticism of unsophisticated
feeling. The aim of his writings was to touch the simple springs of
the heart; for he despised the would-be oracles, the self-elected
philosophers, who fright away fancy, while sifting each grain of thought
to prove that slowness of comprehension is wisdom.

\x93I should have distinguished this as a moment of sunshine, a happy
period in my life, had not the repugnance the disgusting libertinism of
my protector inspired, daily become more painful.--And, indeed, I soon
did recollect it as such with agony, when his sudden death (for he had
recourse to the most exhilarating cordials to keep up the convivial tone
of his spirits) again threw me into the desert of human society. Had he
had any time for reflection, I am certain he would have left the little
property in his power to me: but, attacked by the fatal apoplexy in
town, his heir, a man of rigid morals, brought his wife with him to take
possession of the house and effects, before I was even informed of his
death,--\x91to prevent,\x92 as she took care indirectly to tell me, \x91such a
creature as she supposed me to be, from purloining any of them, had I
been apprized of the event in time.\x92

\x93The grief I felt at the sudden shock the information gave me, which at
first had nothing selfish in it, was treated with contempt, and I was
ordered to pack up my clothes; and a few trinkets and books, given me by
the generous deceased, were contested, while they piously hoped, with a
reprobating shake of the head, \x91that God would have mercy on his
sinful soul!\x92 With some difficulty, I obtained my arrears of wages;
but asking--such is the spirit-grinding consequence of poverty and
infamy--for a character for honesty and economy, which God knows I
merited, I was told by this--why must I call her woman?--\x91that it would
go against her conscience to recommend a kept mistress.\x92 Tears started
in my eyes, burning tears; for there are situations in which a wretch is
humbled by the contempt they are conscious they do not deserve.

\x93I returned to the metropolis; but the solitude of a poor lodging was
inconceivably dreary, after the society I had enjoyed. To be cut off
from human converse, now I had been taught to relish it, was to wander a
ghost among the living. Besides, I foresaw, to aggravate the severity of
my fate, that my little pittance would soon melt away. I endeavoured to
obtain needlework; but, not having been taught early, and my hands
being rendered clumsy by hard work, I did not sufficiently excel to
be employed by the ready-made linen shops, when so many women, better
qualified, were suing for it. The want of a character prevented my
getting a place; for, irksome as servitude would have been to me,
I should have made another trial, had it been feasible. Not that I
disliked employment, but the inequality of condition to which I must
have submitted. I had acquired a taste for literature, during the five
years I had lived with a literary man, occasionally conversing with
men of the first abilities of the age; and now to descend to the lowest
vulgarity, was a degree of wretchedness not to be imagined unfelt. I had
not, it is true, tasted the charms of affection, but I had been familiar
with the graces of humanity.

\x93One of the gentlemen, whom I had frequently dined in company with,
while I was treated like a companion, met me in the street, and enquired
after my health. I seized the occasion, and began to describe my
situation; but he was in haste to join, at dinner, a select party of
choice spirits; therefore, without waiting to hear me, he impatiently
put a guinea into my hand, saying, \x91It was a pity such a sensible woman
should be in distress--he wished me well from his soul.\x92

\x93To another I wrote, stating my case, and requesting advice. He was
an advocate for unequivocal sincerity; and had often, in my presence,
descanted on the evils which arise in society from the despotism of rank
and riches.

\x93In reply, I received a long essay on the energy of the human mind, with
continual allusions to his own force of character. He added, \x91That the
woman who could write such a letter as I had sent him, could never be in
want of resources, were she to look into herself, and exert her powers;
misery was the consequence of indolence, and, as to my being shut out
from society, it was the lot of man to submit to certain privations.\x92

\x93How often have I heard,\x94 said Jemima, interrupting her narrative, \x93in
conversation, and read in books, that every person willing to work may
find employment? It is the vague assertion, I believe, of insensible
indolence, when it relates to men; but, with respect to women, I am
sure of its fallacy, unless they will submit to the most menial bodily
labour; and even to be employed at hard labour is out of the reach of
many, whose reputation misfortune or folly has tainted.

\x93How writers, professing to be friends to freedom, and the improvement
of morals, can assert that poverty is no evil, I cannot imagine.\x94

\x93No more can I,\x94 interrupted Maria, \x93yet they even expatiate on
the peculiar happiness of indigence, though in what it can consist,
excepting in brutal rest, when a man can barely earn a subsistence, I
cannot imagine. The mind is necessarily imprisoned in its own little
tenement; and, fully occupied by keeping it in repair, has not time to
rove abroad for improvement. The book of knowledge is closely clasped,
against those who must fulfil their daily task of severe manual labour
or die; and curiosity, rarely excited by thought or information, seldom
moves on the stagnate lake of ignorance.\x94

\x93As far as I have been able to observe,\x94 replied Jemima, \x93prejudices,
caught up by chance, are obstinately maintained by the poor, to the
exclusion of improvement; they have not time to reason or reflect to
any extent, or minds sufficiently exercised to adopt the principles
of action, which form perhaps the only basis of contentment in every
station.\x94 *

     * The copy which appears to have received the author\x92s
     last corrections, ends at this place. [Godwin\x92s note]

\x93And independence,\x94 said Darnford, \x93they are necessarily strangers to,
even the independence of despising their persecutors. If the poor are
happy, or can be happy, _things_ _are_ _very_ _well_ _as_ _they_ _are_.
And I cannot conceive on what principle those writers contend for a
change of system, who support this opinion. The authors on the other
side of the question are much more consistent, who grant the fact; yet,
insisting that it is the lot of the majority to be oppressed in this
life, kindly turn them over to another, to rectify the false weights
and measures of this, as the only way to justify the dispensations of
Providence. I have not,\x94 continued Darnford, \x93an opinion more firmly
fixed by observation in my mind, than that, though riches may fail to
produce proportionate happiness, poverty most commonly excludes it, by
shutting up all the avenues to improvement.\x94

\x93And as for the affections,\x94 added Maria, with a sigh, \x93how gross, and
even tormenting do they become, unless regulated by an improving mind!
The culture of the heart ever, I believe, keeps pace with that of the
mind. But pray go on,\x94 addressing Jemima, \x93though your narrative gives
rise to the most painful reflections on the present state of society.\x94

\x93Not to trouble you,\x94 continued she, \x93with a detailed description of all
the painful feelings of unavailing exertion, I have only to tell you,
that at last I got recommended to wash in a few families, who did me the
favour to admit me into their houses, without the most strict enquiry,
to wash from one in the morning till eight at night, for eighteen or
twenty-pence a day. On the happiness to be enjoyed over a washing-tub
I need not comment; yet you will allow me to observe, that this was
a wretchedness of situation peculiar to my sex. A man with half my
industry, and, I may say, abilities, could have procured a decent
livelihood, and discharged some of the duties which knit mankind
together; whilst I, who had acquired a taste for the rational, nay, in
honest pride let me assert it, the virtuous enjoyments of life, was cast
aside as the filth of society. Condemned to labour, like a machine, only
to earn bread, and scarcely that, I became melancholy and desperate.

\x93I have now to mention a circumstance which fills me with remorse, and
fear it will entirely deprive me of your esteem. A tradesman became
attached to me, and visited me frequently,--and I at last obtained
such a power over him, that he offered to take me home to his
house.--Consider, dear madam, I was famishing: wonder not that I became
a wolf!--The only reason for not taking me home immediately, was the
having a girl in the house, with child by him--and this girl--I advised
him--yes, I did! would I could forget it!--to turn out of doors: and one
night he determined to follow my advice. Poor wretch! She fell upon her
knees, reminded him that he had promised to marry her, that her parents
were honest!--What did it avail?--She was turned out.

\x93She approached her father\x92s door, in the skirts of London,--listened at
the shutters,--but could not knock. A watchman had observed her go and
return several times--Poor wretch!--[The remorse Jemima spoke of, seemed
to be stinging her to the soul, as she proceeded.]

\x93She left it, and, approaching a tub where horses were watered, she
sat down in it, and, with desperate resolution, remained in that
attitude--till resolution was no longer necessary!

\x93I happened that morning to be going out to wash, anticipating the
moment when I should escape from such hard labour. I passed by, just
as some men, going to work, drew out the stiff, cold corpse--Let me not
recall the horrid moment!--I recognized her pale visage; I listened to
the tale told by the spectators, and my heart did not burst. I thought
of my own state, and wondered how I could be such a monster!--I worked
hard; and, returning home, I was attacked by a fever. I suffered both in
body and mind. I determined not to live with the wretch. But he did not
try me; he left the neighbourhood. I once more returned to the wash-tub.

\x93Still this state, miserable as it was, admitted of aggravation. Lifting
one day a heavy load, a tub fell against my shin, and gave me great
pain. I did not pay much attention to the hurt, till it became a serious
wound; being obliged to work as usual, or starve. But, finding myself
at length unable to stand for any time, I thought of getting into an
hospital. Hospitals, it should seem (for they are comfortless abodes for
the sick) were expressly endowed for the reception of the friendless;
yet I, who had on that plea a right to assistance, wanted the
recommendation of the rich and respectable, and was several weeks
languishing for admittance; fees were demanded on entering; and, what
was still more unreasonable, security for burying me, that expence
not coming into the letter of the charity. A guinea was the stipulated
sum--I could as soon have raised a million; and I was afraid to apply
to the parish for an order, lest they should have passed me, I knew
not whither. The poor woman at whose house I lodged, compassionating
my state, got me into the hospital; and the family where I received the
hurt, sent me five shillings, three and six-pence of which I gave at my
admittance--I know not for what.

\x93My leg grew quickly better; but I was dismissed before my cure was
completed, because I could not afford to have my linen washed to
appear decently, as the virago of a nurse said, when the gentlemen (the
surgeons) came. I cannot give you an adequate idea of the wretchedness
of an hospital; every thing is left to the care of people intent on
gain. The attendants seem to have lost all feeling of compassion in the
bustling discharge of their offices; death is so familiar to them,
that they are not anxious to ward it off. Every thing appeared to be
conducted for the accommodation of the medical men and their pupils, who
came to make experiments on the poor, for the benefit of the rich. One
of the physicians, I must not forget to mention, gave me half-a-crown,
and ordered me some wine, when I was at the lowest ebb. I thought
of making my case known to the lady-like matron; but her forbidding
countenance prevented me. She condescended to look on the patients, and
make general enquiries, two or three times a week; but the nurses knew
the hour when the visit of ceremony would commence, and every thing was
as it should be.

\x93After my dismission, I was more at a loss than ever for a subsistence,
and, not to weary you with a repetition of the same unavailing attempts,
unable to stand at the washing-tub, I began to consider the rich and
poor as natural enemies, and became a thief from principle. I could
not now cease to reason, but I hated mankind. I despised myself, yet I
justified my conduct. I was taken, tried, and condemned to six months\x92
imprisonment in a house of correction. My soul recoils with horror
from the remembrance of the insults I had to endure, till, branded with
shame, I was turned loose in the street, pennyless. I wandered from
street to street, till, exhausted by hunger and fatigue, I sunk down
senseless at a door, where I had vainly demanded a morsel of bread. I
was sent by the inhabitant to the work-house, to which he had surlily
bid me go, saying, he \x91paid enough in conscience to the poor,\x92 when,
with parched tongue, I implored his charity. If those well-meaning
people who exclaim against beggars, were acquainted with the treatment
the poor receive in many of these wretched asylums, they would not
stifle so easily involuntary sympathy, by saying that they have all
parishes to go to, or wonder that the poor dread to enter the gloomy
walls. What are the common run of workhouses, but prisons, in which many
respectable old people, worn out by immoderate labour, sink into the
grave in sorrow, to which they are carried like dogs!\x94

Alarmed by some indistinct noise, Jemima rose hastily to listen, and
Maria, turning to Darnford, said, \x93I have indeed been shocked beyond
expression when I have met a pauper\x92s funeral. A coffin carried on the
shoulders of three or four ill-looking wretches, whom the imagination
might easily convert into a band of assassins, hastening to conceal the
corpse, and quarrelling about the prey on their way. I know it is of
little consequence how we are consigned to the earth; but I am led by
this brutal insensibility, to what even the animal creation appears
forcibly to feel, to advert to the wretched, deserted manner in which
they died.\x94

\x93True,\x94 rejoined Darnford, \x93and, till the rich will give more than a
part of their wealth, till they will give time and attention to the
wants of the distressed, never let them boast of charity. Let them
open their hearts, and not their purses, and employ their minds in
the service, if they are really actuated by humanity; or charitable
institutions will always be the prey of the lowest order of knaves.\x94

Jemima returning, seemed in haste to finish her tale. \x93The overseer
farmed the poor of different parishes, and out of the bowels of poverty
was wrung the money with which he purchased this dwelling, as a private
receptacle for madness. He had been a keeper at a house of the same
description, and conceived that he could make money much more readily
in his old occupation. He is a shrewd--shall I say it?--villain. He
observed something resolute in my manner, and offered to take me with
him, and instruct me how to treat the disturbed minds he meant to
intrust to my care. The offer of forty pounds a year, and to quit a
workhouse, was not to be despised, though the condition of shutting my
eyes and hardening my heart was annexed to it.

\x93I agreed to accompany him; and four years have I been attendant on many
wretches, and\x94--she lowered her voice,--\x93the witness of many enormities.
In solitude my mind seemed to recover its force, and many of the
sentiments which I imbibed in the only tolerable period of my life,
returned with their full force. Still what should induce me to be the
champion for suffering humanity?--Who ever risked any thing for me?--Who
ever acknowledged me to be a fellow-creature?\x94--

Maria took her hand, and Jemima, more overcome by kindness than she had
ever been by cruelty, hastened out of the room to conceal her emotions.

Darnford soon after heard his summons, and, taking leave of him, Maria
promised to gratify his curiosity, with respect to herself, the first
opportunity.



CHAPTER 6


ACTIVE as love was in the heart of Maria, the story she had just heard
made her thoughts take a wider range. The opening buds of hope closed,
as if they had put forth too early, and the the happiest day of her life
was overcast by the most melancholy reflections. Thinking of Jemima\x92s
peculiar fate and her own, she was led to consider the oppressed state
of women, and to lament that she had given birth to a daughter.
Sleep fled from her eyelids, while she dwelt on the wretchedness of
unprotected infancy, till sympathy with Jemima changed to agony, when
it seemed probable that her own babe might even now be in the very state
she so forcibly described.

Maria thought, and thought again. Jemima\x92s humanity had rather been
benumbed than killed, by the keen frost she had to brave at her entrance
into life; an appeal then to her feelings, on this tender point, surely
would not be fruitless; and Maria began to anticipate the delight it
would afford her to gain intelligence of her child. This project was now
the only subject of reflection; and she watched impatiently for the dawn
of day, with that determinate purpose which generally insures success.

At the usual hour, Jemima brought her breakfast, and a tender note from
Darnford. She ran her eye hastily over it, and her heart calmly hoarded
up the rapture a fresh assurance of affection, affection such as she
wished to inspire, gave her, without diverting her mind a moment from
its design. While Jemima waited to take away the breakfast, Maria
alluded to the reflections, that had haunted her during the night to
the exclusion of sleep. She spoke with energy of Jemima\x92s unmerited
sufferings, and of the fate of a number of deserted females, placed
within the sweep of a whirlwind, from which it was next to impossible
to escape. Perceiving the effect her conversation produced on the
countenance of her guard, she grasped the arm of Jemima with that
irresistible warmth which defies repulse, exclaiming--\x93With your heart,
and such dreadful experience, can you lend your aid to deprive my babe
of a mother\x92s tenderness, a mother\x92s care? In the name of God, assist me
to snatch her from destruction! Let me but give her an education--let me
but prepare her body and mind to encounter the ills which await her sex,
and I will teach her to consider you as her second mother, and herself
as the prop of your age. Yes, Jemima, look at me--observe me closely,
and read my very soul; you merit a better fate;\x94 she held out her hand
with a firm gesture of assurance; \x93and I will procure it for you, as a
testimony of my esteem, as well as of my gratitude.\x94

Jemima had not power to resist this persuasive torrent; and, owning that
the house in which she was confined, was situated on the banks of the
Thames, only a few miles from London, and not on the sea-coast, as
Darnford had supposed, she promised to invent some excuse for her
absence, and go herself to trace the situation, and enquire concerning
the health, of this abandoned daughter. Her manner implied an intention
to do something more, but she seemed unwilling to impart her design; and
Maria, glad to have obtained the main point, thought it best to leave
her to the workings of her own mind; convinced that she had the power of
interesting her still more in favour of herself and child, by a simple
recital of facts.

In the evening, Jemima informed the impatient mother, that on the morrow
she should hasten to town before the family hour of rising, and received
all the information necessary, as a clue to her search. The \x93Good
night!\x94 Maria uttered was peculiarly solemn and affectionate. Glad
expectation sparkled in her eye; and, for the first time since her
detention, she pronounced the name of her child with pleasureable
fondness; and, with all the garrulity of a nurse, described her first
smile when she recognized her mother. Recollecting herself, a still
kinder \x93Adieu!\x94 with a \x93God bless you!\x94--that seemed to include a
maternal benediction, dismissed Jemima.

The dreary solitude of the ensuing day, lengthened by impatiently
dwelling on the same idea, was intolerably wearisome. She listened
for the sound of a particular clock, which some directions of the wind
allowed her to hear distinctly. She marked the shadow gaining on
the wall; and, twilight thickening into darkness, her breath seemed
oppressed while she anxiously counted nine.--The last sound was a stroke
of despair on her heart; for she expected every moment, without seeing
Jemima, to have her light extinguished by the savage female who supplied
her place. She was even obliged to prepare for bed, restless as she was,
not to disoblige her new attendant. She had been cautioned not to speak
too freely to her; but the caution was needless, her countenance would
still more emphatically have made her shrink back. Such was the ferocity
of manner, conspicuous in every word and gesture of this hag, that Maria
was afraid to enquire, why Jemima, who had faithfully promised to see
her before her door was shut for the night, came not?--and, when the key
turned in the lock, to consign her to a night of suspence, she felt a
degree of anguish which the circumstances scarcely justified.

Continually on the watch, the shutting of a door, or the sound of a
foot-step, made her start and tremble with apprehension, something like
what she felt, when, at her entrance, dragged along the gallery, she
began to doubt whether she were not surrounded by demons?

Fatigued by an endless rotation of thought and wild alarms, she looked
like a spectre, when Jemima entered in the morning; especially as her
eyes darted out of her head, to read in Jemima\x92s countenance, almost
as pallid, the intelligence she dared not trust her tongue to demand.
Jemima put down the tea-things, and appeared very busy in arranging the
table. Maria took up a cup with trembling hand, then forcibly recovering
her fortitude, and restraining the convulsive movement which agitated
the muscles of her mouth, she said, \x93Spare yourself the pain of
preparing me for your information, I adjure you!--My child is dead!\x94
 Jemima solemnly answered, \x93Yes;\x94 with a look expressive of compassion
and angry emotions. \x93Leave me,\x94 added Maria, making a fresh effort to
govern her feelings, and hiding her face in her handkerchief, to conceal
her anguish--\x93It is enough--I know that my babe is no more--I will hear
the particulars when I am\x94--calmer, she could not utter; and Jemima,
without importuning her by idle attempts to console her, left the room.

Plunged in the deepest melancholy, she would not admit Darnford\x92s
visits; and such is the force of early associations even on strong
minds, that, for a while, she indulged the superstitious notion that she
was justly punished by the death of her child, for having for an instant
ceased to regret her loss. Two or three letters from Darnford, full
of soothing, manly tenderness, only added poignancy to these accusing
emotions; yet the passionate style in which he expressed, what he termed
the first and fondest wish of his heart, \x93that his affection might make
her some amends for the cruelty and injustice she had endured,\x94 inspired
a sentiment of gratitude to heaven; and her eyes filled with delicious
tears, when, at the conclusion of his letter, wishing to supply the
place of her unworthy relations, whose want of principle he execrated,
he assured her, calling her his dearest girl, \x93that it should henceforth
be the business of his life to make her happy.\x94

He begged, in a note sent the following morning, to be permitted to
see her, when his presence would be no intrusion on her grief, and so
earnestly intreated to be allowed, according to promise, to beguile the
tedious moments of absence, by dwelling on the events of her past life,
that she sent him the memoirs which had been written for her daughter,
promising Jemima the perusal as soon as he returned them.



CHAPTER 7


\x93ADDRESSING these memoirs to you, my child, uncertain whether I shall
ever have an opportunity of instructing you, many observations will
probably flow from my heart, which only a mother--a mother schooled in
misery, could make.

\x93The tenderness of a father who knew the world, might be great; but
could it equal that of a mother--of a mother, labouring under a portion
of the misery, which the constitution of society seems to have entailed
on all her kind? It is, my child, my dearest daughter, only such a
mother, who will dare to break through all restraint to provide for
your happiness--who will voluntarily brave censure herself, to ward off
sorrow from your bosom. From my narrative, my dear girl, you may gather
the instruction, the counsel, which is meant rather to exercise than
influence your mind.--Death may snatch me from you, before you can weigh
my advice, or enter into my reasoning: I would then, with fond anxiety,
lead you very early in life to form your grand principle of action, to
save you from the vain regret of having, through irresolution, let
the spring-tide of existence pass away, unimproved, unenjoyed.--Gain
experience--ah! gain it--while experience is worth having, and acquire
sufficient fortitude to pursue your own happiness; it includes your
utility, by a direct path. What is wisdom too often, but the owl of the
goddess, who sits moping in a desolated heart; around me she shrieks,
but I would invite all the gay warblers of spring to nestle in your
blooming bosom.--Had I not wasted years in deliberating, after I
ceased to doubt, how I ought to have acted--I might now be useful and
happy.--For my sake, warned by my example, always appear what you are,
and you will not pass through existence without enjoying its genuine
blessings, love and respect.

\x93Born in one of the most romantic parts of England, an enthusiastic
fondness for the varying charms of nature is the first sentiment I
recollect; or rather it was the first consciousness of pleasure that
employed and formed my imagination.

\x93My father had been a captain of a man of war; but, disgusted with the
service, on account of the preferment of men whose chief merit was their
family connections or borough interest, he retired into the country;
and, not knowing what to do with himself--married. In his family, to
regain his lost consequence, he determined to keep up the same passive
obedience, as in the vessels in which he had commanded. His orders were
not to be disputed; and the whole house was expected to fly, at the word
of command, as if to man the shrouds, or mount aloft in an elemental
strife, big with life or death. He was to be instantaneously obeyed,
especially by my mother, whom he very benevolently married for love;
but took care to remind her of the obligation, when she dared, in
the slightest instance, to question his absolute authority. My eldest
brother, it is true, as he grew up, was treated with more respect by
my father; and became in due form the deputy-tyrant of the house. The
representative of my father, a being privileged by nature--a boy, and
the darling of my mother, he did not fail to act like an heir apparent.
Such indeed was my mother\x92s extravagant partiality, that, in comparison
with her affection for him, she might be said not to love the rest
of her children. Yet none of the children seemed to have so little
affection for her. Extreme indulgence had rendered him so selfish, that
he only thought of himself; and from tormenting insects and animals, he
became the despot of his brothers, and still more of his sisters.

\x93It is perhaps difficult to give you an idea of the petty cares which
obscured the morning of my life; continual restraint in the most trivial
matters; unconditional submission to orders, which, as a mere child,
I soon discovered to be unreasonable, because inconsistent and
contradictory. Thus are we destined to experience a mixture of
bitterness, with the recollection of our most innocent enjoyments.

\x93The circumstances which, during my childhood, occurred to fashion my
mind, were various; yet, as it would probably afford me more pleasure
to revive the fading remembrance of newborn delight, than you, my child,
could feel in the perusal, I will not entice you to stray with me
into the verdant meadow, to search for the flowers that youthful hopes
scatter in every path; though, as I write, I almost scent the fresh
green of spring--of that spring which never returns!

\x93I had two sisters, and one brother, younger than myself, my brother
Robert was two years older, and might truly be termed the idol of his
parents, and the torment of the rest of the family. Such indeed is the
force of prejudice, that what was called spirit and wit in him, was
cruelly repressed as forwardness in me.

\x93My mother had an indolence of character, which prevented her from
paying much attention to our education. But the healthy breeze of a
neighbouring heath, on which we bounded at pleasure, volatilized the
humours that improper food might have generated. And to enjoy open
air and freedom, was paradise, after the unnatural restraint of our
fireside, where we were often obliged to sit three or four hours
together, without daring to utter a word, when my father was out
of humour, from want of employment, or of a variety of boisterous
amusement. I had however one advantage, an instructor, the brother of my
father, who, intended for the church, had of course received a liberal
education. But, becoming attached to a young lady of great beauty and
large fortune, and acquiring in the world some opinions not consonant
with the profession for which he was designed, he accepted, with the
most sanguine expectations of success, the offer of a nobleman to
accompany him to India, as his confidential secretary.

\x93A correspondence was regularly kept up with the object of his
affection; and the intricacies of business, peculiarly wearisome to a
man of a romantic turn of mind, contributed, with a forced absence,
to increase his attachment. Every other passion was lost in this
master-one, and only served to swell the torrent. Her relations, such
were his waking dreams, who had despised him, would court in their turn
his alliance, and all the blandishments of taste would grace the triumph
of love.--While he basked in the warm sunshine of love, friendship also
promised to shed its dewy freshness; for a friend, whom he loved next to
his mistress, was the confident, who forwarded the letters from one to
the other, to elude the observation of prying relations. A friend false
in similar circumstances, is, my dearest girl, an old tale; yet, let not
this example, or the frigid caution of coldblooded moralists, make you
endeavour to stifle hopes, which are the buds that naturally unfold
themselves during the spring of life! Whilst your own heart is sincere,
always expect to meet one glowing with the same sentiments; for to fly
from pleasure, is not to avoid pain!

\x93My uncle realized, by good luck, rather than management, a handsome
fortune; and returning on the wings of love, lost in the most enchanting
reveries, to England, to share it with his mistress and his friend, he
found them--united.

\x93There were some circumstances, not necessary for me to recite, which
aggravated the guilt of the friend beyond measure, and the deception,
that had been carried on to the last moment, was so base, it produced
the most violent effect on my uncle\x92s health and spirits. His native
country, the world! lately a garden of blooming sweets, blasted by
treachery, seemed changed into a parched desert, the abode of hissing
serpents. Disappointment rankled in his heart; and, brooding over his
wrongs, he was attacked by a raging fever, followed by a derangement of
mind, which only gave place to habitual melancholy, as he recovered more
strength of body.

\x93Declaring an intention never to marry, his relations were ever
clustering about him, paying the grossest adulation to a man, who,
disgusted with mankind, received them with scorn, or bitter sarcasms.
Something in my countenance pleased him, when I began to prattle. Since
his return, he appeared dead to affection; but I soon, by showing him
innocent fondness, became a favourite; and endeavouring to enlarge and
strengthen my mind, I grew dear to him in proportion as I imbibed his
sentiments. He had a forcible manner of speaking, rendered more so by
a certain impressive wildness of look and gesture, calculated to engage
the attention of a young and ardent mind. It is not then surprising that
I quickly adopted his opinions in preference, and reverenced him as
one of a superior order of beings. He inculcated, with great warmth,
self-respect, and a lofty consciousness of acting right, independent of
the censure or applause of the world; nay, he almost taught me to brave,
and even despise its censure, when convinced of the rectitude of my own
intentions.

\x93Endeavouring to prove to me that nothing which deserved the name of
love or friendship, existed in the world, he drew such animated pictures
of his own feelings, rendered permanent by disappointment, as imprinted
the sentiments strongly on my heart, and animated my imagination. These
remarks are necessary to elucidate some peculiarities in my character,
which by the world are indefinitely termed romantic.

\x93My uncle\x92s increasing affection led him to visit me often. Still,
unable to rest in any place, he did not remain long in the country to
soften domestic tyranny; but he brought me books, for which I had a
passion, and they conspired with his conversation, to make me form an
ideal picture of life. I shall pass over the tyranny of my father, much
as I suffered from it; but it is necessary to notice, that it undermined
my mother\x92s health; and that her temper, continually irritated by
domestic bickering, became intolerably peevish.

\x93My eldest brother was articled to a neighbouring attorney, the
shrewdest, and, I may add, the most unprincipled man in that part of the
country. As my brother generally came home every Saturday, to astonish
my mother by exhibiting his attainments, he gradually assumed a right of
directing the whole family, not excepting my father. He seemed to take a
peculiar pleasure in tormenting and humbling me; and if I ever ventured
to complain of this treatment to either my father or mother, I was
rudely rebuffed for presuming to judge of the conduct of my eldest
brother.

\x93About this period a merchant\x92s family came to settle in our
neighbourhood. A mansion-house in the village, lately purchased, had
been preparing the whole spring, and the sight of the costly furniture,
sent from London, had excited my mother\x92s envy, and roused my father\x92s
pride. My sensations were very different, and all of a pleasurable kind.
I longed to see new characters, to break the tedious monotony of my
life; and to find a friend, such as fancy had pourtrayed. I cannot then
describe the emotion I felt, the Sunday they made their appearance at
church. My eyes were rivetted on the pillar round which I expected
first to catch a glimpse of them, and darted forth to meet a servant who
hastily preceded a group of ladies, whose white robes and waving plumes,
seemed to stream along the gloomy aisle, diffusing the light, by which I
contemplated their figures.

\x93We visited them in form; and I quickly selected the eldest daughter
for my friend. The second son, George, paid me particular attention, and
finding his attainments and manners superior to those of the young men
of the village, I began to imagine him superior to the rest of mankind.
Had my home been more comfortable, or my previous acquaintance more
numerous, I should not probably have been so eager to open my heart to
new affections.

\x93Mr. Venables, the merchant, had acquired a large fortune by unremitting
attention to business; but his health declining rapidly, he was obliged
to retire, before his son, George, had acquired sufficient experience,
to enable him to conduct their affairs on the same prudential plan, his
father had invariably pursued. Indeed, he had laboured to throw off his
authority, having despised his narrow plans and cautious speculation.
The eldest son could not be prevailed on to enter the firm; and, to
oblige his wife, and have peace in the house, Mr. Venables had purchased
a commission for him in the guards.

\x93I am now alluding to circumstances which came to my knowledge long
after; but it is necessary, my dearest child, that you should know the
character of your father, to prevent your despising your mother; the
only parent inclined to discharge a parent\x92s duty. In London, George had
acquired habits of libertinism, which he carefully concealed from his
father and his commercial connections. The mask he wore, was so complete
a covering of his real visage, that the praise his father lavished on
his conduct, and, poor mistaken man! on his principles, contrasted with
his brother\x92s, rendered the notice he took of me peculiarly flattering.
Without any fixed design, as I am now convinced, he continued to single
me out at the dance, press my hand at parting, and utter expressions of
unmeaning passion, to which I gave a meaning naturally suggested by the
romantic turn of my thoughts. His stay in the country was short; his
manners did not entirely please me; but, when he left us, the colouring
of my picture became more vivid--Whither did not my imagination lead me?
In short, I fancied myself in love--in love with the disinterestedness,
fortitude, generosity, dignity, and humanity, with which I had invested
the hero I dubbed. A circumstance which soon after occurred, rendered
all these virtues palpable. [The incident is perhaps worth relating on
other accounts, and therefore I shall describe it distinctly.]

\x93I had a great affection for my nurse, old Mary, for whom I used often
to work, to spare her eyes. Mary had a younger sister, married to a
sailor, while she was suckling me; for my mother only suckled my eldest
brother, which might be the cause of her extraordinary partiality.
Peggy, Mary\x92s sister, lived with her, till her husband, becoming a mate
in a West-Indian trader, got a little before-hand in the world. He
wrote to his wife from the first port in the Channel, after his most
successful voyage, to request her to come to London to meet him; he even
wished her to determine on living there for the future, to save him
the trouble of coming to her the moment he came on shore; and to turn a
penny by keeping a green-stall. It was too much to set out on a journey
the moment he had finished a voyage, and fifty miles by land, was worse
than a thousand leagues by sea.

\x93She packed up her alls, and came to London--but did not meet honest
Daniel. A common misfortune prevented her, and the poor are bound to
suffer for the good of their country--he was pressed in the river--and
never came on shore.

\x93Peggy was miserable in London, not knowing, as she said, \x91the face
of any living soul.\x92 Besides, her imagination had been employed,
anticipating a month or six weeks\x92 happiness with her husband. Daniel
was to have gone with her to Sadler\x92s Wells, and Westminster Abbey, and
to many sights, which he knew she never heard of in the country. Peggy
too was thrifty, and how could she manage to put his plan in execution
alone? He had acquaintance; but she did not know the very name of their
places of abode. His letters were made up of--How do you does, and God
bless yous,--information was reserved for the hour of meeting.

\x93She too had her portion of information, near at heart. Molly and Jacky
were grown such little darlings, she was almost angry that daddy did not
see their tricks. She had not half the pleasure she should have had from
their prattle, could she have recounted to him each night the pretty
speeches of the day. Some stories, however, were stored up--and Jacky
could say papa with such a sweet voice, it must delight his heart. Yet
when she came, and found no Daniel to greet her, when Jacky called papa,
she wept, bidding \x91God bless his innocent soul, that did not know what
sorrow was.\x92--But more sorrow was in store for Peggy, innocent as she
was.--Daniel was killed in the first engagement, and then the papa was
agony, sounding to the heart.

\x93She had lived sparingly on his wages, while there was any hope of
his return; but, that gone, she returned with a breaking heart to the
country, to a little market town, nearly three miles from our village.
She did not like to go to service, to be snubbed about, after being her
own mistress. To put her children out to nurse was impossible: how far
would her wages go? and to send them to her husband\x92s parish, a distant
one, was to lose her husband twice over.

\x93I had heard all from Mary, and made my uncle furnish a little cottage
for her, to enable her to sell--so sacred was poor Daniel\x92s advice, now
he was dead and gone a little fruit, toys and cakes. The minding of the
shop did not require her whole time, nor even the keeping her children
clean, and she loved to see them clean; so she took in washing, and
altogether made a shift to earn bread for her children, still weeping
for Daniel, when Jacky\x92s arch looks made her think of his father.--It
was pleasant to work for her children.--\x91Yes; from morning till night,
could she have had a kiss from their father, God rest his soul! Yes; had
it pleased Providence to have let him come back without a leg or an
arm, it would have been the same thing to her--for she did not love him
because he maintained them--no; she had hands of her own.\x92

\x93The country people were honest, and Peggy left her linen out to dry
very late. A recruiting party, as she supposed, passing through, made
free with a large wash; for it was all swept away, including her own and
her children\x92s little stock.

\x93This was a dreadful blow; two dozen of shirts, stocks and
handkerchiefs. She gave the money which she had laid by for half a
year\x92s rent, and promised to pay two shillings a week till all was
cleared; so she did not lose her employment. This two shillings a week,
and the buying a few necessaries for the children, drove her so hard,
that she had not a penny to pay her rent with, when a twelvemonth\x92s
became due.

\x93She was now with Mary, and had just told her tale, which Mary instantly
repeated--it was intended for my ear. Many houses in this town,
producing a borough-interest, were included in the estate purchased by
Mr. Venables, and the attorney with whom my brother lived, was appointed
his agent, to collect and raise the rents.

\x93He demanded Peggy\x92s, and, in spite of her intreaties, her poor goods
had been seized and sold. So that she had not, and what was worse her
children, \x91for she had known sorrow enough,\x92 a bed to lie on. She knew
that I was good-natured--right charitable, yet not liking to ask for
more than needs must, she scorned to petition while people could any how
be made to wait. But now, should she be turned out of doors, she must
expect nothing less than to lose all her customers, and then she must
beg or starve--and what would become of her children?--\x91had Daniel not
been pressed--but God knows best--all this could not have happened.\x92

\x93I had two mattresses on my bed; what did I want with two, when such a
worthy creature must lie on the ground? My mother would be angry, but I
could conceal it till my uncle came down; and then I would tell him all
the whole truth, and if he absolved me, heaven would.

\x93I begged the house-maid to come up stairs with me (servants always feel
for the distresses of poverty, and so would the rich if they knew what
it was). She assisted me to tie up the mattrass; I discovering, at the
same time, that one blanket would serve me till winter, could I persuade
my sister, who slept with me, to keep my secret. She entering in the
midst of the package, I gave her some new feathers, to silence her.
We got the mattrass down the back stairs, unperceived, and I helped to
carry it, taking with me all the money I had, and what I could borrow
from my sister.

\x93When I got to the cottage, Peggy declared that she would not take what
I had brought secretly; but, when, with all the eager eloquence inspired
by a decided purpose, I grasped her hand with weeping eyes, assuring her
that my uncle would screen me from blame, when he was once more in the
country, describing, at the same time, what she would suffer in parting
with her children, after keeping them so long from being thrown on the
parish, she reluctantly consented.

\x93My project of usefulness ended not here; I determined to speak to
the attorney; he frequently paid me compliments. His character did not
intimidate me; but, imagining that Peggy must be mistaken, and that
no man could turn a deaf ear to such a tale of complicated distress, I
determined to walk to the town with Mary the next morning, and request
him to wait for the rent, and keep my secret, till my uncle\x92s return.

\x93My repose was sweet; and, waking with the first dawn of day, I bounded
to Mary\x92s cottage. What charms do not a light heart spread over nature!
Every bird that twittered in a bush, every flower that enlivened the
hedge, seemed placed there to awaken me to rapture--yes; to rapture.
The present moment was full fraught with happiness; and on futurity
I bestowed not a thought, excepting to anticipate my success with the
attorney.

\x93This man of the world, with rosy face and simpering features, received
me politely, nay kindly; listened with complacency to my remonstrances,
though he scarcely heeded Mary\x92s tears. I did not then suspect, that my
eloquence was in my complexion, the blush of seventeen, or that, in
a world where humanity to women is the characteristic of advancing
civilization, the beauty of a young girl was so much more interesting
than the distress of an old one. Pressing my hand, he promised to let
Peggy remain in the house as long as I wished.--I more than returned
the pressure--I was so grateful and so happy. Emboldened by my innocent
warmth, he then kissed me--and I did not draw back--I took it for a kiss
of charity.

\x93Gay as a lark, I went to dine at Mr. Venables\x92. I had previously
obtained five shillings from my father, towards re-clothing the poor
children of my care, and prevailed on my mother to take one of the girls
into the house, whom I determined to teach to work and read.

\x93After dinner, when the younger part of the circle retired to the music
room, I recounted with energy my tale; that is, I mentioned Peggy\x92s
distress, without hinting at the steps I had taken to relieve her. Miss
Venables gave me half-a-crown; the heir five shillings; but George sat
unmoved. I was cruelly distressed by the disappointment--I scarcely
could remain on my chair; and, could I have got out of the room
unperceived, I should have flown home, as if to run away from myself.
After several vain attempts to rise, I leaned my head against the marble
chimney-piece, and gazing on the evergreens that filled the fire-place,
moralized on the vanity of human expectations; regardless of the
company. I was roused by a gentle tap on my shoulder from behind
Charlotte\x92s chair. I turned my head, and George slid a guinea into my
hand, putting his finger to his mouth, to enjoin me silence.

\x93What a revolution took place, not only in my train of thoughts, but
feelings! I trembled with emotion--now, indeed, I was in love. Such
delicacy too, to enhance his benevolence! I felt in my pocket every five
minutes, only to feel the guinea; and its magic touch invested my hero
with more than mortal beauty. My fancy had found a basis to erect its
model of perfection on; and quickly went to work, with all the happy
credulity of youth, to consider that heart as devoted to virtue, which
had only obeyed a virtuous impulse. The bitter experience was yet to
come, that has taught me how very distinct are the principles of virtue,
from the casual feelings from which they germinate.\x94



CHAPTER 8


\x93I HAVE perhaps dwelt too long on a circumstance, which is only of
importance as it marks the progress of a deception that has been so
fatal to my peace; and introduces to your notice a poor girl, whom,
intending to serve, I led to ruin. Still it is probable that I was
not entirely the victim of mistake; and that your father, gradually
fashioned by the world, did not quickly become what I hesitate to call
him--out of respect to my daughter.

\x93But, to hasten to the more busy scenes of my life. Mr. Venables and my
mother died the same summer; and, wholly engrossed by my attention to
her, I thought of little else. The neglect of her darling, my brother
Robert, had a violent effect on her weakened mind; for, though boys may
be reckoned the pillars of the house without doors, girls are often
the only comfort within. They but too frequently waste their health
and spirits attending a dying parent, who leaves them in comparative
poverty. After closing, with filial piety, a father\x92s eyes, they are
chased from the paternal roof, to make room for the first-born, the
son, who is to carry the empty family-name down to posterity; though,
occupied with his own pleasures, he scarcely thought of discharging, in
the decline of his parent\x92s life, the debt contracted in his childhood.
My mother\x92s conduct led me to make these reflections. Great as was the
fatigue I endured, and the affection my unceasing solicitude evinced, of
which my mother seemed perfectly sensible, still, when my brother, whom
I could hardly persuade to remain a quarter of an hour in her chamber,
was with her alone, a short time before her death, she gave him a little
hoard, which she had been some years accumulating.

\x93During my mother\x92s illness, I was obliged to manage my father\x92s temper,
who, from the lingering nature of her malady, began to imagine that
it was merely fancy. At this period, an artful kind of upper servant
attracted my father\x92s attention, and the neighbours made many remarks
on the finery, not honestly got, exhibited at evening service. But I was
too much occupied with my mother to observe any change in her dress or
behaviour, or to listen to the whisper of scandal.

\x93I shall not dwell on the death-bed scene, lively as is the remembrance,
or on the emotion produced by the last grasp of my mother\x92s cold hand;
when blessing me, she added, \x91A little patience, and all will be over!\x92
Ah! my child, how often have those words rung mournfully in my ears--and
I have exclaimed--\x91A little more patience, and I too shall be at rest!\x92

\x93My father was violently affected by her death, recollected instances of
his unkindness, and wept like a child.

\x93My mother had solemnly recommended my sisters to my care, and bid me
be a mother to them. They, indeed, became more dear to me as they became
more forlorn; for, during my mother\x92s illness, I discovered the ruined
state of my father\x92s circumstances, and that he had only been able to
keep up appearances, by the sums which he borrowed of my uncle.

\x93My father\x92s grief, and consequent tenderness to his children, quickly
abated, the house grew still more gloomy or riotous; and my refuge from
care was again at Mr. Venables\x92; the young \x91squire having taken his
father\x92s place, and allowing, for the present, his sister to preside at
his table. George, though dissatisfied with his portion of the fortune,
which had till lately been all in trade, visited the family as usual.
He was now full of speculations in trade, and his brow became clouded by
care. He seemed to relax in his attention to me, when the presence of
my uncle gave a new turn to his behaviour. I was too unsuspecting, too
disinterested, to trace these changes to their source.

\x93My home every day became more and more disagreeable to me; my liberty
was unnecessarily abridged, and my books, on the pretext that they made
me idle, taken from me. My father\x92s mistress was with child, and he,
doating on her, allowed or overlooked her vulgar manner of tyrannizing
over us. I was indignant, especially when I saw her endeavouring to
attract, shall I say seduce? my younger brother. By allowing women but
one way of rising in the world, the fostering the libertinism of men,
society makes monsters of them, and then their ignoble vices are brought
forward as a proof of inferiority of intellect.

\x93The wearisomeness of my situation can scarcely be described. Though
my life had not passed in the most even tenour with my mother, it was
paradise to that I was destined to endure with my father\x92s mistress,
jealous of her illegitimate authority. My father\x92s former occasional
tenderness, in spite of his violence of temper, had been soothing to
me; but now he only met me with reproofs or portentous frowns. The
house-keeper, as she was now termed, was the vulgar despot of the
family; and assuming the new character of a fine lady, she could never
forgive the contempt which was sometimes visible in my countenance, when
she uttered with pomposity her bad English, or affected to be well bred.

\x93To my uncle I ventured to open my heart; and he, with his wonted
benevolence, began to consider in what manner he could extricate me out
of my present irksome situation. In spite of his own disappointment,
or, most probably, actuated by the feelings that had been petrified, not
cooled, in all their sanguine fervour, like a boiling torrent of
lava suddenly dash ing into the sea, he thought a marriage of mutual
inclination (would envious stars permit it) the only chance for
happiness in this disastrous world. George Venables had the reputation
of being attentive to business, and my father\x92s example gave great
weight to this circumstance; for habits of order in business would, he
conceived, extend to the regulation of the affections in domestic life.
George seldom spoke in my uncle\x92s company, except to utter a short,
judicious question, or to make a pertinent remark, with all due
deference to his superior judgment; so that my uncle seldom left his
company without observing, that the young man had more in him than
people supposed.

\x93In this opinion he was not singular; yet, believe me, and I am not
swayed by resentment, these speeches so justly poized, this silent
deference, when the animal spirits of other young people were throwing
off youthful ebullitions, were not the effect of thought or humility,
but sheer barrenness of mind, and want of imagination. A colt of mettle
will curvet and shew his paces. Yes; my dear girl, these prudent young
men want all the fire necessary to ferment their faculties, and are
characterized as wise, only because they are not foolish. It is true,
that George was by no means so great a favourite of mine as during the
first year of our acquaintance; still, as he often coincided in
opinion with me, and echoed my sentiments; and having myself no other
attachment, I heard with pleasure my uncle\x92s proposal; but thought more
of obtaining my freedom, than of my lover. But, when George, seemingly
anxious for my happiness, pressed me to quit my present painful
situation, my heart swelled with gratitude--I knew not that my uncle had
promised him five thousand pounds.

\x93Had this truly generous man mentioned his intention to me, I should
have insisted on a thousand pounds being settled on each of my sisters;
George would have contested; I should have seen his selfish soul;
and--gracious God! have been spared the misery of discovering, when
too late, that I was united to a heartless, unprincipled wretch. All my
schemes of usefulness would not then have been blasted. The tenderness
of my heart would not have heated my imagination with visions of the
ineffable delight of happy love; nor would the sweet duty of a mother
have been so cruelly interrupted.

\x93But I must not suffer the fortitude I have so hardly acquired, to be
undermined by unavailing regret. Let me hasten forward to describe the
turbid stream in which I had to wade--but let me exultingly declare
that it is passed--my soul holds fellowship with him no more. He cut
the Gordian knot, which my principles, mistaken ones, respected; he
dissolved the tie, the fetters rather, that ate into my very vitals--and
I should rejoice, conscious that my mind is freed, though confined in
hell itself, the only place that even fancy can imagine more dreadful
than my present abode.

\x93These varying emotions will not allow me to proceed. I heave sigh after
sigh; yet my heart is still oppressed. For what am I reserved? Why was I
not born a man, or why was I born at all?\x94



CHAPTER 9


\x93I RESUME my pen to fly from thought. I was married; and we hastened to
London. I had purposed taking one of my sisters with me; for a strong
motive for marrying, was the desire of having a home at which I could
receive them, now their own grew so uncomfortable, as not to deserve the
cheering appellation. An objection was made to her accompanying me,
that appeared plausible; and I reluctantly acquiesced. I was however
willingly allowed to take with me Molly, poor Peggy\x92s daughter. London
and preferment, are ideas commonly associated in the country; and, as
blooming as May, she bade adieu to Peggy with weeping eyes. I did not
even feel hurt at the refusal in relation to my sister, till hearing
what my uncle had done for me, I had the simplicity to request, speaking
with warmth of their situation, that he would give them a thousand
pounds a-piece, which seemed to me but justice. He asked me, giving me
a kiss, \x91If I had lost my senses?\x92 I started back, as if I had found
a wasp in a rose-bush. I expostulated. He sneered: and the demon of
discord entered our paradise, to poison with his pestiferous breath
every opening joy.

\x93I had sometimes observed defects in my husband\x92s understanding; but,
led astray by a prevailing opinion, that goodness of disposition is of
the first importance in the relative situations of life, in proportion
as I perceived the narrowness of his understanding, fancy enlarged the
boundary of his heart. Fatal error! How quickly is the so much vaunted
milkiness of nature turned into gall, by an intercourse with the world,
if more generous juices do not sustain the vital source of virtue!

\x93One trait in my character was extreme credulity; but, when my eyes
were once opened, I saw but too clearly all I had before overlooked. My
husband was sunk in my esteem; still there are youthful emotions, which,
for a while, fill up the chasm of love and friendship. Besides, it
required some time to enable me to see his whole character in a just
light, or rather to allow it to become fixed. While circumstances were
ripening my faculties, and cultivating my taste, commerce and gross
relaxations were shutting his against any possibility of improvement,
till, by stifling every spark of virtue in himself, he began to imagine
that it no where existed.

\x93Do not let me lead you astray, my child, I do not mean to assert, that
any human being is entirely incapable of feeling the generous emotions,
which are the foundation of every true principle of virtue; but they are
frequently, I fear, so feeble, that, like the inflammable quality which
more or less lurks in all bodies, they often lie for ever dormant; the
circumstances never occurring, necessary to call them into action.

\x93I discovered however by chance, that, in consequence of some losses in
trade, the natural effect of his gambling desire to start suddenly into
riches, the five thousand pounds given me by my uncle, had been
paid very opportunely. This discovery, strange as you may think the
assertion, gave me pleasure; my husband\x92s embarrassments endeared him to
me. I was glad to find an excuse for his conduct to my sisters, and my
mind became calmer.

\x93My uncle introduced me to some literary society; and the theatres were
a never-failing source of amusement to me. My delighted eye followed
Mrs. Siddons, when, with dignified delicacy, she played Califta; and
I involuntarily repeated after her, in the same tone, and with a
long-drawn sigh,

\x91Hearts like our\x92s were pair\x92d--not match\x92d.\x92

\x93These were, at first, spontaneous emotions, though, becoming acquainted
with men of wit and polished manners, I could not sometimes help
regretting my early marriage; and that, in my haste to escape from a
temporary dependence, and expand my newly fledged wings, in an unknown
sky, I had been caught in a trap, and caged for life. Still the novelty
of London, and the attentive fondness of my husband, for he had some
personal regard for me, made several months glide away. Yet, not
forgetting the situation of my sisters, who were still very young, I
prevailed on my uncle to settle a thousand pounds on each; and to place
them in a school near town, where I could frequently visit, as well as
have them at home with me.

\x93I now tried to improve my husband\x92s taste, but we had few subjects in
common; indeed he soon appeared to have little relish for my society,
unless he was hinting to me the use he could make of my uncle\x92s wealth.
When we had company, I was disgusted by an ostentatious display of
riches, and I have often quitted the room, to avoid listening to
exaggerated tales of money obtained by lucky hits.

\x93With all my attention and affectionate interest, I perceived that I
could not become the friend or confident of my husband. Every thing I
learned relative to his affairs I gathered up by accident; and I vainly
endeavoured to establish, at our fire-side, that social converse,
which often renders people of different characters dear to each other.
Returning from the theatre, or any amusing party, I frequently began to
relate what I had seen and highly relished; but with sullen taciturnity
he soon silenced me. I seemed therefore gradually to lose, in his
society, the soul, the energies of which had just been in action. To
such a degree, in fact, did his cold, reserved manner affect me, that,
after spending some days with him alone, I have imagined myself the most
stupid creature in the world, till the abilities of some casual visitor
convinced me that I had some dormant animation, and sentiments above the
dust in which I had been groveling. The very countenance of my husband
changed; his complexion became sallow, and all the charms of youth were
vanishing with its vivacity.

\x93I give you one view of the subject; but these experiments and
alterations took up the space of five years; during which period, I
had most reluctantly extorted several sums from my uncle, to save my
husband, to use his own words, from destruction. At first it was to
prevent bills being noted, to the injury of his credit; then to bail
him; and afterwards to prevent an execution from entering the house. I
began at last to conclude, that he would have made more exertions of his
own to extricate himself, had he not relied on mine, cruel as was the
task he imposed on me; and I firmly determined that I would make use of
no more pretexts.

\x93From the moment I pronounced this determination, indifference on his
part was changed into rudeness, or something worse.

\x93He now seldom dined at home, and continually returned at a late hour,
drunk, to bed. I retired to another apartment; I was glad, I own, to
escape from his; for personal intimacy without affection, seemed, to me
the most degrading, as well as the most painful state in which a
woman of any taste, not to speak of the peculiar delicacy of fostered
sensibility, could be placed. But my husband\x92s fondness for women was of
the grossest kind, and imagination was so wholly out of the question, as
to render his indulgences of this sort entirely promiscuous, and of the
most brutal nature. My health suffered, before my heart was entirely
estranged by the loathsome information; could I then have returned to
his sullied arms, but as a victim to the prejudices of mankind, who have
made women the property of their husbands? I discovered even, by his
conversation, when intoxicated that his favourites were wantons of the
lowest class, who could by their vulgar, indecent mirth, which he called
nature, rouse his sluggish spirits. Meretricious ornaments and manners
were necessary to attract his attention. He seldom looked twice at a
modest woman, and sat silent in their company; and the charms of youth
and beauty had not the slightest effect on his senses, unless the
possessors were initiated in vice. His intimacy with profligate women,
and his habits of thinking, gave him a contempt for female endowments;
and he would repeat, when wine had loosed his tongue, most of the
common-place sarcasms levelled at them, by men who do not allow them to
have minds, because mind would be an impediment to gross enjoyment.
Men who are inferior to their fellow men, are always most anxious to
establish their superiority over women. But where are these reflections
leading me?

\x93Women who have lost their husband\x92s affection, are justly reproved for
neglecting their persons, and not taking the same pains to keep, as to
gain a heart; but who thinks of giving the same advice to men, though
women are continually stigmatized for being attached to fops; and from
the nature of their education, are more susceptible of disgust? Yet why
a woman should be expected to endure a sloven, with more patience than
a man, and magnanimously to govern herself, I cannot conceive; unless
it be supposed arrogant in her to look for respect as well as a
maintenance. It is not easy to be pleased, because, after promising to
love, in different circumstances, we are told that it is our duty.
I cannot, I am sure (though, when attending the sick, I never felt
disgust) forget my own sensations, when rising with health and spirit,
and after scenting the sweet morning, I have met my husband at the
breakfast table. The active attention I had been giving to domestic
regulations, which were generally settled before he rose, or a walk,
gave a glow to my countenance, that contrasted with his squallid
appearance. The squeamishness of stomach alone, produced by the last
night\x92s intemperance, which he took no pains to conceal, destroyed my
appetite. I think I now see him lolling in an arm-chair, in a dirty
powdering gown, soiled linen, ungartered stockings, and tangled hair,
yawning and stretching himself. The newspaper was immediately called
for, if not brought in on the tea-board, from which he would scarcely
lift his eyes while I poured out the tea, excepting to ask for some
brandy to put into it, or to declare that he could not eat. In answer
to any question, in his best humour, it was a drawling \x91What do you say,
child?\x92 But if I demanded money for the house expences, which I put off
till the last moment, his customary reply, often prefaced with an oath,
was, \x91Do you think me, madam, made of money?\x92--The butcher, the baker,
must wait; and, what was worse, I was often obliged to witness his surly
dismission of tradesmen, who were in want of their money, and whom I
sometimes paid with the presents my uncle gave me for my own use.

\x93At this juncture my father\x92s mistress, by terrifying his conscience,
prevailed on him to marry her; he was already become a methodist; and
my brother, who now practised for himself, had discovered a flaw in
the settlement made on my mother\x92s children, which set it aside, and he
allowed my father, whose distress made him submit to any thing, a tithe
of his own, or rather our fortune.

\x93My sisters had left school, but were unable to endure home, which my
father\x92s wife rendered as disagreeable as possible, to get rid of girls
whom she regarded as spies on her conduct. They were accomplished, yet
you can (may you never be reduced to the same destitute state!)
scarcely conceive the trouble I had to place them in the situation of
governesses, the only one in which even a well-educated woman, with more
than ordinary talents, can struggle for a subsistence; and even this is
a dependence next to menial. Is it then surprising, that so many forlorn
women, with human passions and feelings, take refuge in infamy? Alone
in large mansions, I say alone, because they had no companions with whom
they could converse on equal terms, or from whom they could expect the
endearments of affection, they grew melancholy, and the sound of joy
made them sad; and the youngest, having a more delicate frame, fell into
a decline. It was with great difficulty that I, who now almost supported
the house by loans from my uncle, could prevail on the _master_ of it,
to allow her a room to die in. I watched her sick bed for some months,
and then closed her eyes, gentle spirit! for ever. She was pretty, with
very engaging manners; yet had never an opportunity to marry, excepting
to a very old man. She had abilities sufficient to have shone in any
profession, had there been any professions for women, though she shrunk
at the name of milliner or mantua-maker as degrading to a gentlewoman.
I would not term this feeling false pride to any one but you, my child,
whom I fondly hope to see (yes; I will indulge the hope for a moment!)
possessed of that energy of character which gives dignity to any
station; and with that clear, firm spirit that will enable you to choose
a situation for yourself, or submit to be classed in the lowest, if it
be the only one in which you can be the mistress of your own actions.

\x93Soon after the death of my sister, an incident occurred, to prove to
me that the heart of a libertine is dead to natural affection; and to
convince me, that the being who has appeared all tenderness, to gratify
a selfish passion, is as regardless of the innocent fruit of it, as
of the object, when the fit is over. I had casually observed an old,
meanlooking woman, who called on my husband every two or three months
to receive some money. One day entering the passage of his little
counting-house, as she was going out, I heard her say, \x91The child is
very weak; she cannot live long, she will soon die out of your way, so
you need not grudge her a little physic.\x92

\x93\x91So much the better,\x92 he replied,\x92 and pray mind your own business,
good woman.\x92

\x93I was struck by his unfeeling, inhuman tone of voice, and drew back,
determined when the woman came again, to try to speak to her, not out
of curiosity, I had heard enough, but with the hope of being useful to a
poor, outcast girl.

\x93A month or two elapsed before I saw this woman again; and then she had
a child in her hand that tottered along, scarcely able to sustain her
own weight. They were going away, to return at the hour Mr. Venables
was expected; he was now from home. I desired the woman to walk into
the parlour. She hesitated, yet obeyed. I assured her that I should not
mention to my husband (the word seemed to weigh on my respiration), that
I had seen her, or his child. The woman stared at me with astonishment;
and I turned my eyes on the squalid object [that accompanied her.] She
could hardly support herself, her complexion was sallow, and her eyes
inflamed, with an indescribable look of cunning, mixed with the wrinkles
produced by the peevishness of pain.

\x93Poor child!\x92 I exclaimed. \x91Ah! you may well say poor child,\x92 replied
the woman. \x91I brought her here to see whether he would have the heart
to look at her, and not get some advice. I do not know what they deserve
who nursed her. Why, her legs bent under her like a bow when she came to
me, and she has never been well since; but, if they were no better paid
than I am, it is not to be wondered at, sure enough.\x92

\x93On further enquiry I was informed, that this miserable spectacle was
the daughter of a servant, a country girl, who caught Mr. Venables\x92 eye,
and whom he seduced. On his marriage he sent her away, her situation
being too visible. After her delivery, she was thrown on the town;
and died in an hospital within the year. The babe was sent to a
parish-nurse, and afterwards to this woman, who did not seem much
better; but what was to be expected from such a close bargain? She was
only paid three shillings a week for board and washing.

\x93The woman begged me to give her some old clothes for the child,
assuring me, that she was almost afraid to ask master for money to buy
even a pair of shoes.

\x93I grew sick at heart. And, fearing Mr. Venables might enter, and
oblige me to express my abhorrence, I hastily enquired where she lived,
promised to pay her two shillings a week more, and to call on her in
a day or two; putting a trifle into her hand as a proof of my good
intention.

\x93If the state of this child affected me, what were my feelings at a
discovery I made respecting Peggy--?\x94 *

     * The manuscript is imperfect here.  An episode seems to
     have been intended, which was never committed to paper.
     EDITOR. [Godwin\x92s note]



CHAPTER 10



\x93MY FATHER\x92S situation was now so distressing, that I prevailed on my
uncle to accompany me to visit him; and to lend me his assistance, to
prevent the whole property of the family from becoming the prey of
my brother\x92s rapacity; for, to extricate himself out of present
difficulties, my father was totally regardless of futurity. I took down
with me some presents for my step-mother; it did not require an effort
for me to treat her with civility, or to forget the past.

\x93This was the first time I had visited my native village, since my
marriage. But with what different emotions did I return from the busy
world, with a heavy weight of experience benumbing my imagination, to
scenes, that whispered recollections of joy and hope most eloquently to
my heart! The first scent of the wild flowers from the heath, thrilled
through my veins, awakening every sense to pleasure. The icy hand
of despair seemed to be removed from my bosom; and--forgetting my
husband--the nurtured visions of a romantic mind, bursting on me with
all their original wildness and gay exuberance, were again hailed as
sweet realities. I forgot, with equal facility, that I ever felt sorrow,
or knew care in the country; while a transient rainbow stole athwart
the cloudy sky of despondency. The picturesque form of several favourite
trees, and the porches of rude cottages, with their smiling hedges, were
recognized with the gladsome playfulness of childish vivacity. I could
have kissed the chickens that pecked on the common; and longed to pat
the cows, and frolic with the dogs that sported on it. I gazed with
delight on the windmill, and thought it lucky that it should be in
motion, at the moment I passed by; and entering the dear green lane,
which led directly to the village, the sound of the well-known rookery
gave that sentimental tinge to the varying sensations of my active soul,
which only served to heighten the lustre of the luxuriant scenery. But,
spying, as I advanced, the spire, peeping over the withered tops of the
aged elms that composed the rookery, my thoughts flew immediately to
the churchyard, and tears of affection, such was the effect of my
imagination, bedewed my mother\x92s grave! Sorrow gave place to devotional
feelings. I wandered through the church in fancy, as I used sometimes
to do on a Saturday evening. I recollected with what fervour I addressed
the God of my youth: and once more with rapturous love looked above
my sorrows to the Father of nature. I pause--feeling forcibly all the
emotions I am describing; and (reminded, as I register my sorrows, of
the sublime calm I have felt, when in some tremendous solitude, my soul
rested on itself, and seemed to fill the universe) I insensibly breathe
soft, hushing every wayward emotion, as if fearing to sully with a sigh,
a contentment so extatic.

\x93Having settled my father\x92s affairs, and, by my exertions in his favour,
made my brother my sworn foe, I returned to London. My husband\x92s conduct
was now changed; I had during my absence, received several affectionate,
penitential letters from him; and he seemed on my arrival, to wish by
his behaviour to prove his sincerity. I could not then conceive why he
acted thus; and, when the suspicion darted into my head, that it might
arise from observing my increasing influence with my uncle, I almost
despised myself for imagining that such a degree of debasing selfishness
could exist.

\x93He became, unaccountable as was the change, tender and attentive; and,
attacking my weak side, made a confession of his follies, and lamented
the embarrassments in which I, who merited a far different fate, might
be involved. He besought me to aid him with my counsel, praised my
understanding, and appealed to the tenderness of my heart.

\x93This conduct only inspired me with compassion. I wished to be his
friend; but love had spread his rosy pinions and fled far, far away;
and had not (like some exquisite perfumes, the fine spirit of which
is continually mingling with the air) left a fragrance behind, to mark
where he had shook his wings. My husband\x92s renewed caresses then became
hateful to me; his brutality was tolerable, compared to his distasteful
fondness. Still, compassion, and the fear of insulting his supposed
feelings, by a want of sympathy, made me dissemble, and do violence to
my delicacy. What a task!

\x93Those who support a system of what I term false refinement, and will
not allow great part of love in the female, as well as male breast, to
spring in some respects involuntarily, may not admit that charms are
as necessary to feed the passion, as virtues to convert the mellowing
spirit into friendship. To such observers I have nothing to say, any
more than to the moralists, who insist that women ought to, and can love
their husbands, because it is their duty. To you, my child, I may
add, with a heart tremblingly alive to your future conduct, some
observations, dictated by my present feelings, on calmly reviewing this
period of my life. When novelists or moralists praise as a virtue, a
woman\x92s coldness of constitution, and want of passion; and make her
yield to the ardour of her lover out of sheer compassion, or to promote
a frigid plan of future comfort, I am disgusted. They may be good women,
in the ordinary acceptation of the phrase, and do no harm; but they
appear to me not to have those \x91finely fashioned nerves,\x92 which render
the senses exquisite. They may possess tenderness; but they want that
fire of the imagination, which produces _active_ sensibility, and
_positive_ _virtue_. How does the woman deserve to be characterized, who
marries one man, with a heart and imagination devoted to another? Is she
not an object of pity or contempt, when thus sacrilegiously violating
the purity of her own feelings? Nay, it is as indelicate, when she is
indifferent, unless she be constitutionally insensible; then indeed it
is a mere affair of barter; and I have nothing to do with the secrets of
trade. Yes; eagerly as I wish you to possess true rectitude of mind,
and purity of affection, I must insist that a heartless conduct is the
contrary of virtuous. Truth is the only basis of virtue; and we cannot,
without depraving our minds, endeavour to please a lover or husband, but
in proportion as he pleases us. Men, more effectually to enslave us, may
inculcate this partial morality, and lose sight of virtue in subdividing
it into the duties of particular stations; but let us not blush for
nature without a cause!

\x93After these remarks, I am ashamed to own, that I was pregnant. The
greatest sacrifice of my principles in my whole life, was the allowing
my husband again to be familiar with my person, though to this cruel act
of self-denial, when I wished the earth to open and swallow me, you owe
your birth; and I the unutterable pleasure of being a mother. There was
something of delicacy in my husband\x92s bridal attentions; but now
his tainted breath, pimpled face, and blood-shot eyes, were not more
repugnant to my senses, than his gross manners, and loveless familiarity
to my taste.

\x93A man would only be expected to maintain; yes, barely grant a
subsistence, to a woman rendered odious by habitual intoxication; but
who would expect him, or think it possible to love her? And unless
\x91youth, and genial years were flown,\x92 it would be thought equally
unreasonable to insist, [under penalty of] forfeiting almost every
thing reckoned valuable in life, that he should not love another:
whilst woman, weak in reason, impotent in will, is required to moralize,
sentimentalize herself to stone, and pine her life away, labouring
to reform her embruted mate. He may even spend in dissipation, and
intemperance, the very intemperance which renders him so hateful, her
property, and by stinting her expences, not permit her to beguile in
society, a wearisome, joyless life; for over their mutual fortune she
has no power, it must all pass through his hand. And if she be a mother,
and in the present state of women, it is a great misfortune to be
prevented from discharging the duties, and cultivating the affections of
one, what has she not to endure?--But I have suffered the tenderness
of one to lead me into reflections that I did not think of making, to
interrupt my narrative--yet the full heart will overflow.

\x93Mr. Venables\x92 embarrassments did not now endear him to me; still,
anxious to befriend him, I endeavoured to prevail on him to retrench his
expences; but he had always some plausible excuse to give, to justify
his not following my advice. Humanity, compassion, and the interest
produced by a habit of living together, made me try to relieve, and
sympathize with him; but, when I recollected that I was bound to live
with such a being for ever--my heart died within me; my desire of
improvement became languid, and baleful, corroding melancholy took
possession of my soul. Marriage had bastilled me for life. I discovered
in myself a capacity for the enjoyment of the various pleasures
existence affords; yet, fettered by the partial laws of society, this
fair globe was to me an universal blank.

\x93When I exhorted my husband to economy, I referred to himself. I was
obliged to practise the most rigid, or contract debts, which I had
too much reason to fear would never be paid. I despised this paltry
privilege of a wife, which can only be of use to the vicious or
inconsiderate, and determined not to increase the torrent that was
bearing him down. I was then ignorant of the extent of his fraudulent
speculations, whom I was bound to honour and obey.

\x93A woman neglected by her husband, or whose manners form a striking
contrast with his, will always have men on the watch to soothe and
flatter her. Besides, the forlorn state of a neglected woman, not
destitute of personal charms, is particularly interesting, and rouses
that species of pity, which is so near akin, it easily slides into love.
A man of feeling thinks not of seducing, he is himself seduced by
all the noblest emotions of his soul. He figures to himself all the
sacrifices a woman of sensibility must make, and every situation in
which his imagination places her, touches his heart, and fires his
passions. Longing to take to his bosom the shorn lamb, and bid the
drooping buds of hope revive, benevolence changes into passion: and
should he then discover that he is beloved, honour binds him fast,
though foreseeing that he may afterwards be obliged to pay severe
damages to the man, who never appeared to value his wife\x92s society, till
he found that there was a chance of his being indemnified for the loss
of it.

\x93Such are the partial laws enacted by men; for, only to lay a stress
on the dependent state of a woman in the grand question of the comforts
arising from the possession of property, she is [even in this article]
much more injured by the loss of the husband\x92s affection, than he by
that of his wife; yet where is she, condemned to the solitude of a
deserted home, to look for a compensation from the woman, who seduces
him from her? She cannot drive an unfaithful husband from his house, nor
separate, or tear, his children from him, however culpable he may be;
and he, still the master of his own fate, enjoys the smiles of a world,
that would brand her with infamy, did she, seeking consolation, venture
to retaliate.

\x93These remarks are not dictated by experience; but merely by the
compassion I feel for many amiable women, the _outlaws_ of the world.
For myself, never encouraging any of the advances that were made to me,
my lovers dropped off like the untimely shoots of spring. I did not
even coquet with them; because I found, on examining myself, I could not
coquet with a man without loving him a little; and I perceived that I
should not be able to stop at the line of what are termed _innocent_
_freedoms_, did I suffer any. My reserve was then the consequence of
delicacy. Freedom of conduct has emancipated many women\x92s minds; but
my conduct has most rigidly been governed by my principles, till the
improvement of my understanding has enabled me to discern the fallacy of
prejudices at war with nature and reason.

\x93Shortly after the change I have mentioned in my husband\x92s conduct, my
uncle was compelled by his declining health, to seek the succour of a
milder climate, and embark for Lisbon. He left his will in the hands of
a friend, an eminent solicitor; he had previously questioned me relative
to my situation and state of mind, and declared very freely, that he
could place no reliance on the stability of my husband\x92s professions. He
had been deceived in the unfolding of his character; he now thought
it fixed in a train of actions that would inevitably lead to ruin and
disgrace.

\x93The evening before his departure, which we spent alone together,
he folded me to his heart, uttering the endearing appellation of
\x91child.\x92--My more than father! why was I not permitted to perform the
last duties of one, and smooth the pillow of death? He seemed by his
manner to be convinced that he should never see me more; yet requested
me, most earnestly, to come to him, should I be obliged to leave my
husband. He had before expressed his sorrow at hearing of my pregnancy,
having determined to prevail on me to accompany him, till I informed him
of that circumstance. He expressed himself unfeignedly sorry that
any new tie should bind me to a man whom he thought so incapable of
estimating my value; such was the kind language of affection.

\x93I must repeat his own words; they made an indelible impression on my
mind:

\x93\x91The marriage state is certainly that in which women, generally
speaking, can be most useful; but I am far from thinking that a
woman, once married, ought to consider the engagement as indissoluble
(especially if there be no children to reward her for sacrificing her
feelings) in case her husband merits neither her love, nor esteem.
Esteem will often supply the place of love; and prevent a woman from
being wretched, though it may not make her happy. The magnitude of a
sacrifice ought always to bear some proportion to the utility in view;
and for a woman to live with a man, for whom she can cherish neither
affection nor esteem, or even be of any use to him, excepting in the
light of a house-keeper, is an abjectness of condition, the enduring of
which no concurrence of circumstances can ever make a duty in the sight
of God or just men. If indeed she submits to it merely to be maintained
in idleness, she has no right to complain bitterly of her fate; or to
act, as a person of independent character might, as if she had a title
to disregard general rules.

\x93But the misfortune is, that many women only submit in appearance, and
forfeit their own respect to secure their reputation in the world. The
situation of a woman separated from her husband, is undoubtedly very
different from that of a man who has left his wife. He, with lordly
dignity, has shaken of a clog; and the allowing her food and raiment, is
thought sufficient to secure his reputation from taint. And, should she
have been inconsiderate, he will be celebrated for his generosity and
forbearance. Such is the respect paid to the master-key of property! A
woman, on the contrary, resigning what is termed her natural protector
(though he never was so, but in name) is despised and shunned, for
asserting the independence of mind distinctive of a rational being, and
spurning at slavery.\x92

\x93During the remainder of the evening, my uncle\x92s tenderness led him
frequently to revert to the subject, and utter, with increasing warmth,
sentiments to the same purport. At length it was necessary to say
\x91Farewell!\x92--and we parted--gracious God! to meet no more.\x94



CHAPTER 11


\x93A GENTLEMAN of large fortune and of polished manners, had lately
visited very frequently at our house, and treated me, if possible,
with more respect than Mr. Venables paid him; my pregnancy was not yet
visible, his society was a great relief to me, as I had for some time
past, to avoid expence, confined myself very much at home. I ever
disdained unnecessary, perhaps even prudent concealments; and my
husband, with great ease, discovered the amount of my uncle\x92s parting
present. A copy of a writ was the stale pretext to extort it from me;
and I had soon reason to believe that it was fabricated for the purpose.
I acknowledge my folly in thus suffering myself to be continually
imposed on. I had adhered to my resolution not to apply to my uncle,
on the part of my husband, any more; yet, when I had received a sum
sufficient to supply my own wants, and to enable me to pursue a plan I
had in view, to settle my younger brother in a respectable employment,
I allowed myself to be duped by Mr. Venables\x92 shallow pretences, and
hypocritical professions.

\x93Thus did he pillage me and my family, thus frustrate all my plans of
usefulness. Yet this was the man I was bound to respect and esteem: as
if respect and esteem depended on an arbitrary will of our own! But a
wife being as much a man\x92s property as his horse, or his ass, she has
nothing she can call her own. He may use any means to get at what the
law considers as his, the moment his wife is in possession of it, even
to the forcing of a lock, as Mr. Venables did, to search for notes in
my writing-desk--and all this is done with a show of equity, because,
forsooth, he is responsible for her maintenance.

\x93The tender mother cannot _lawfully_ snatch from the gripe of the
gambling spendthrift, or beastly drunkard, unmindful of his offspring,
the fortune which falls to her by chance; or (so flagrant is the
injustice) what she earns by her own exertions. No; he can rob her with
impunity, even to waste publicly on a courtezan; and the laws of her
country--if women have a country--afford her no protection or redress
from the oppressor, unless she have the plea of bodily fear; yet how
many ways are there of goading the soul almost to madness, equally
unmanly, though not so mean? When such laws were framed, should
not impartial lawgivers have first decreed, in the style of a great
assembly, who recognized the existence of an _etre_ _supreme_, to fix
the national belief, that the husband should always be wiser and more
virtuous than his wife, in order to entitle him, with a show of justice,
to keep this idiot, or perpetual minor, for ever in bondage. But I must
have done--on this subject, my indignation continually runs away with
me.

\x93The company of the gentleman I have already mentioned, who had a
general acquaintance with literature and subjects of taste, was grateful
to me; my countenance brightened up as he approached, and I unaffectedly
expressed the pleasure I felt. The amusement his conversation afforded
me, made it easy to comply with my husband\x92s request, to endeavour to
render our house agreeable to him.

\x93His attentions became more pointed; but, as I was not of the number
of women, whose virtue, as it is termed, immediately takes alarm, I
endeavoured, rather by raillery than serious expostulation, to give a
different turn to his conversation. He assumed a new mode of attack, and
I was, for a while, the dupe of his pretended friendship.

\x93I had, merely in the style of _badinage_, boasted of my conquest, and
repeated his lover-like compliments to my husband. But he begged me,
for God\x92s sake, not to affront his friend, or I should destroy all his
projects, and be his ruin. Had I had more affection for my husband, I
should have expressed my contempt of this time-serving politeness: now
I imagined that I only felt pity; yet it would have puzzled a casuist to
point out in what the exact difference consisted.

\x93This friend began now, in confidence, to discover to me the real state
of my husband\x92s affairs. \x91Necessity,\x92 said Mr. S----; why should I
reveal his name? for he affected to palliate the conduct he could not
excuse, \x91had led him to take such steps, by accommodation bills, buying
goods on credit, to sell them for ready money, and similar transactions,
that his character in the commercial world was gone. He was considered,\x92
he added, lowering his voice, \x91on \x91Change as a swindler.\x92

\x93I felt at that moment the first maternal pang. Aware of the evils my
sex have to struggle with, I still wished, for my own consolation, to be
the mother of a daughter; and I could not bear to think, that the _sins_
of her father\x92s entailed disgrace, should be added to the ills to which
woman is heir.

\x93So completely was I deceived by these shows of friendship (nay, I
believe, according to his interpretation, Mr. S---- really was my
friend) that I began to consult him respecting the best mode of
retrieving my husband\x92s character: it is the good name of a woman only
that sets to rise no more. I knew not that he had been drawn into a
whirlpool, out of which he had not the energy to attempt to escape. He
seemed indeed destitute of the power of employing his faculties in any
regular pursuit. His principles of action were so loose, and his mind so
uncultivated, that every thing like order appeared to him in the shape
of restraint; and, like men in the savage state, he required the strong
stimulus of hope or fear, produced by wild speculations, in which the
interests of others went for nothing, to keep his spirits awake. He one
time professed patriotism, but he knew not what it was to feel honest
indignation; and pretended to be an advocate for liberty, when, with as
little affection for the human race as for individuals, he thought of
nothing but his own gratification. He was just such a citizen, as a
father. The sums he adroitly obtained by a violation of the laws of
his country, as well as those of humanity, he would allow a mistress to
squander; though she was, with the same _sang_ _froid_, consigned, as
were his children, to poverty, when another proved more attractive.

\x93On various pretences, his friend continued to visit me; and, observing
my want of money, he tried to induce me to accept of pecuniary aid; but
this offer I absolutely rejected, though it was made with such delicacy,
I could not be displeased.

\x93One day he came, as I thought accidentally, to dinner. My husband was
very much engaged in business, and quitted the room soon after the cloth
was removed. We conversed as usual, till confidential advice led again
to love. I was extremely mortified. I had a sincere regard for him, and
hoped that he had an equal friendship for me. I therefore began
mildly to expostulate with him. This gentleness he mistook for coy
encouragement; and he would not be diverted from the subject. Perceiving
his mistake, I seriously asked him how, using such language to me, he
could profess to be my husband\x92s friend? A significant sneer excited my
curiosity, and he, supposing this to be my only scruple, took a letter
deliberately out of his pocket, saying, \x91Your husband\x92s honour is not
inflexible. How could you, with your discernment, think it so? Why,
he left the room this very day on purpose to give me an opportunity to
explain myself; _he_ thought me too timid--too tardy.

\x93I snatched the letter with indescribable emotion. The purport of it was
to invite him to dinner, and to ridicule his chivalrous respect for
me. He assured him, \x91that every woman had her price, and, with gross
indecency, hinted, that he should be glad to have the duty of a husband
taken off his hands. These he termed _liberal_ _sentiments_. He advised
him not to shock my romantic notions, but to attack my credulous
generosity, and weak pity; and concluded with requesting him to lend him
five hundred pounds for a month or six weeks.\x92 I read this letter twice
over; and the firm purpose it inspired, calmed the rising tumult of my
soul. I rose deliberately, requested Mr. S---- to wait a moment, and
instantly going into the counting-house, desired Mr. Venables to return
with me to the dining-parlour.

\x93He laid down his pen, and entered with me, without observing any change
in my countenance. I shut the door, and, giving him the letter, simply
asked, \x91whether he wrote it, or was it a forgery?\x92

\x93Nothing could equal his confusion. His friend\x92s eye met his, and
he muttered something about a joke--But I interrupted him--\x91It is
sufficient--We part for ever.\x92

\x93I continued, with solemnity, \x91I have borne with your tyranny and
infidelities. I disdain to utter what I have borne with. I thought you
unprincipled, but not so decidedly vicious. I formed a tie, in the sight
of heaven--I have held it sacred; even when men, more conformable to my
taste, have made me feel--I despise all subterfuge!--that I was not
dead to love. Neglected by you, I have resolutely stifled the enticing
emotions, and respected the plighted faith you outraged. And you dare
now to insult me, by selling me to prostitution!--Yes--equally lost to
delicacy and principle--you dared sacrilegiously to barter the honour of
the mother of your child.\x92

\x93Then, turning to Mr. S----, I added, \x91I call on you, Sir, to witness,\x92
and I lifted my hands and eyes to heaven, \x91that, as solemnly as I took
his name, I now abjure it,\x92 I pulled off my ring, and put it on the
table; \x91and that I mean immediately to quit his house, never to enter it
more. I will provide for myself and child. I leave him as free as I am
determined to be myself--he shall be answerable for no debts of mine.\x92

\x93Astonishment closed their lips, till Mr. Venables, gently pushing
his friend, with a forced smile, out of the room, nature for a moment
prevailed, and, appearing like himself, he turned round, burning with
rage, to me: but there was no terror in the frown, excepting when
contrasted with the malignant smile which preceded it. He bade me
\x91leave the house at my peril; told me he despised my threats; I had no
resource; I could not swear the peace against him!--I was not afraid of
my life!--he had never struck me!\x92

\x93He threw the letter in the fire, which I had incautiously left in his
hands; and, quitting the room, locked the door on me.

\x93When left alone, I was a moment or two before I could recollect
myself--One scene had succeeded another with such rapidity, I almost
doubted whether I was reflecting on a real event. \x91Was it possible? Was
I, indeed, free?\x92--Yes; free I termed myself, when I decidedly perceived
the conduct I ought to adopt. How had I panted for liberty--liberty,
that I would have purchased at any price, but that of my own esteem! I
rose, and shook myself; opened the window, and methought the air never
smelled so sweet. The face of heaven grew fairer as I viewed it, and the
clouds seemed to flit away obedient to my wishes, to give my soul room
to expand. I was all soul, and (wild as it may appear) felt as if I
could have dissolved in the soft balmy gale that kissed my cheek,
or have glided below the horizon on the glowing, descending beams. A
seraphic satisfaction animated, without agitating my spirits; and my
imagination collected, in visions sublimely terrible, or soothingly
beautiful, an immense variety of the endless images, which nature
affords, and fancy combines, of the grand and fair. The lustre of these
bright picturesque sketches faded with the setting sun; but I was still
alive to the calm delight they had diffused through my heart.

\x93There may be advocates for matrimonial obedience, who, making a
distinction between the duty of a wife and of a human being, may blame
my conduct.--To them I write not--my feelings are not for them
to analyze; and may you, my child, never be able to ascertain, by
heart-rending experience, what your mother felt before the present
emancipation of her mind!

\x93I began to write a letter to my father, after closing one to my
uncle; not to ask advice, but to signify my determination; when I was
interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Venables. His manner was changed. His
views on my uncle\x92s fortune made him averse to my quitting his house,
or he would, I am convinced, have been glad to have shaken off even the
slight restraint my presence imposed on him; the restraint of showing
me some respect. So far from having an affection for me, he really hated
me, because he was convinced that I must despise him.

\x93He told me, that \x91As I now had had time to cool and reflect, he did not
doubt but that my prudence, and nice sense of propriety, would lead me
to overlook what was passed.\x92

\x93\x91Reflection,\x92 I replied, \x91had only confirmed my purpose, and no power
on earth could divert me from it.\x92

\x93Endeavouring to assume a soothing voice and look, when he would
willingly have tortured me, to force me to feel his power, his
countenance had an infernal expression, when he desired me, \x91Not to
expose myself to the servants, by obliging him to confine me in my
apartment; if then I would give my promise not to quit the house
precipitately, I should be free--and--.\x92 I declared, interrupting him,
\x91that I would promise nothing. I had no measures to keep with him--I was
resolved, and would not condescend to subterfuge.\x92

\x93He muttered, \x91that I should soon repent of these preposterous airs;\x92
and, ordering tea to be carried into my little study, which had a
communication with my bed-chamber, he once more locked the door upon
me, and left me to my own meditations. I had passively followed him up
stairs, not wishing to fatigue myself with unavailing exertion.

\x93Nothing calms the mind like a fixed purpose. I felt as if I had heaved
a thousand weight from my heart; the atmosphere seemed lightened; and,
if I execrated the institutions of society, which thus enable men
to tyrannize over women, it was almost a disinterested sentiment. I
disregarded present inconveniences, when my mind had done struggling
with itself,--when reason and inclination had shaken hands and were at
peace. I had no longer the cruel task before me, in endless perspective,
aye, during the tedious for ever of life, of labouring to overcome my
repugnance--of labouring to extinguish the hopes, the maybes of a lively
imagination. Death I had hailed as my only chance for deliverance; but,
while existence had still so many charms, and life promised happiness, I
shrunk from the icy arms of an unknown tyrant, though far more inviting
than those of the man, to whom I supposed myself bound without any other
alternative; and was content to linger a little longer, waiting for I
knew not what, rather than leave \x91the warm precincts of the cheerful
day,\x92 and all the unenjoyed affection of my nature.

\x93My present situation gave a new turn to my reflection; and I wondered
(now the film seemed to be withdrawn, that obscured the piercing
sight of reason) how I could, previously to the deciding outrage, have
considered myself as everlastingly united to vice and folly! \x91Had an
evil genius cast a spell at my birth; or a demon stalked out of
chaos, to perplex my understanding, and enchain my will, with delusive
prejudices?\x92

\x93I pursued this train of thinking; it led me out of myself, to expatiate
on the misery peculiar to my sex. \x91Are not,\x92 I thought, \x91the despots for
ever stigmatized, who, in the wantonness of power, commanded even the
most atrocious criminals to be chained to dead bodies? though surely
those laws are much more inhuman, which forge adamantine fetters to bind
minds together, that never can mingle in social communion! What
indeed can equal the wretchedness of that state, in which there is no
alternative, but to extinguish the affections, or encounter infamy?\x92\x94



CHAPTER 12


\x93TOWARDS midnight Mr. Venables entered my chamber; and, with calm
audacity preparing to go to bed, he bade me make haste, \x91for that was
the best place for husbands and wives to end their differences. He had
been drinking plentifully to aid his courage.

\x93I did not at first deign to reply. But perceiving that he affected to
take my silence for consent, I told him that, \x91If he would not go to
another bed, or allow me, I should sit up in my study all night.\x92 He
attempted to pull me into the chamber, half joking. But I resisted; and,
as he had determined not to give me any reason for saying that he used
violence, after a few more efforts, he retired, cursing my obstinacy, to
bed.

\x93I sat musing some time longer; then, throwing my cloak around me,
prepared for sleep on a sopha. And, so fortunate seemed my deliverance,
so sacred the pleasure of being thus wrapped up in myself, that I slept
profoundly, and woke with a mind composed to encounter the struggles of
the day. Mr. Venables did not wake till some hours after; and then he
came to me half-dressed, yawning and stretching, with haggard eyes, as
if he scarcely recollected what had passed the preceding evening. He
fixed his eyes on me for a moment, then, calling me a fool, asked \x91How
long I intended to continue this pretty farce? For his part, he was
devilish sick of it; but this was the plague of marrying women who
pretended to know something.\x92

\x93I made no other reply to this harangue, than to say, \x91That he ought to
be glad to get rid of a woman so unfit to be his companion--and that any
change in my conduct would be mean dissimulation; for maturer reflection
only gave the sacred seal of reason to my first resolution.\x92

\x93He looked as if he could have stamped with impatience, at being obliged
to stifle his rage; but, conquering his anger (for weak people, whose
passions seem the most ungovernable, restrain them with the greatest
ease, when they have a sufficient motive), he exclaimed, \x91Very pretty,
upon my soul! very pretty, theatrical flourishes! Pray, fair Roxana,
stoop from your altitudes, and remember that you are acting a part in
real life.\x92

\x93He uttered this speech with a self-satisfied air, and went down stairs
to dress.

\x93In about an hour he came to me again; and in the same tone said, \x91That
he came as my gentleman-usher to hand me down to breakfast.

\x93\x91Of the black rod?\x92 asked I.

\x93This question, and the tone in which I asked it, a little disconcerted
him. To say the truth, I now felt no resentment; my firm resolution to
free myself from my ignoble thraldom, had absorbed the various emotions
which, during six years, had racked my soul. The duty pointed out by my
principles seemed clear; and not one tender feeling intruded to make
me swerve: The dislike which my husband had inspired was strong; but it
only led me to wish to avoid, to wish to let him drop out of my memory;
there was no misery, no torture that I would not deliberately have
chosen, rather than renew my lease of servitude.

\x93During the breakfast, he attempted to reason with me on the folly of
romantic sentiments; for this was the indiscriminate epithet he gave
to every mode of conduct or thinking superior to his own. He asserted,
\x91that all the world were governed by their own interest; those who
pretended to be actuated by different motives, were only deeper knaves,
or fools crazed by books, who took for gospel all the rodomantade
nonsense written by men who knew nothing of the world. For his part,
he thanked God, he was no hypocrite; and, if he stretched a point
sometimes, it was always with an intention of paying every man his own.\x92

\x93He then artfully insinuated, \x91that he daily expected a vessel to
arrive, a successful speculation, that would make him easy for the
present, and that he had several other schemes actually depending, that
could not fail. He had no doubt of becoming rich in a few years, though
he had been thrown back by some unlucky adventures at the setting out.\x92

\x93I mildly replied, \x91That I wished he might not involve himself still
deeper.\x92

\x93He had no notion that I was governed by a decision of judgment, not to
be compared with a mere spurt of resentment. He knew not what it was to
feel indignation against vice, and often boasted of his placable temper,
and readiness to forgive injuries. True; for he only considered the
being deceived, as an effort of skill he had not guarded against; and
then, with a cant of candour, would observe, \x91that he did not know how
he might himself have been tempted to act in the same circumstances.\x92
And, as his heart never opened to friendship, it never was wounded by
disappointment. Every new acquaintance he protested, it is true, was
\x91the cleverest fellow in the world; and he really thought so; till the
novelty of his conversation or manners ceased to have any effect on his
sluggish spirits. His respect for rank or fortune was more permanent,
though he chanced to have no design of availing himself of the influence
of either to promote his own views.

\x93After a prefatory conversation,--my blood (I thought it had been
cooler) flushed over my whole countenance as he spoke--he alluded to my
situation. He desired me to reflect--\x91and act like a prudent woman,
as the best proof of my superior understanding; for he must own I had
sense, did I know how to use it. I was not,\x92 he laid a stress on his
words, \x91without my passions; and a husband was a convenient cloke.--He
was liberal in his way of thinking; and why might not we, like many
other married people, who were above vulgar prejudices, tacitly consent
to let each other follow their own inclination?--He meant nothing more,
in the letter I made the ground of complaint; and the pleasure which I
seemed to take in Mr. S.\x92s company, led him to conclude, that he was not
disagreeable to me.\x92

\x93A clerk brought in the letters of the day, and I, as I often did, while
he was discussing subjects of business, went to the _piano_ _forte_, and
began to play a favourite air to restore myself, as it were, to nature,
and drive the sophisticated sentiments I had just been obliged to listen
to, out of my soul.

\x93They had excited sensations similar to those I have felt, in viewing
the squalid inhabitants of some of the lanes and back streets of
the metropolis, mortified at being compelled to consider them as my
fellow-creatures, as if an ape had claimed kindred with me. Or, as when
surrounded by a mephitical fog, I have wished to have a volley of cannon
fired, to clear the incumbered atmosphere, and give me room to breathe
and move.

\x93My spirits were all in arms, and I played a kind of extemporary
prelude. The cadence was probably wild and impassioned, while, lost in
thought, I made the sounds a kind of echo to my train of thinking.

\x93Pausing for a moment, I met Mr. Venables\x92 eyes. He was observing me
with an air of conceited satisfaction, as much as to say--\x91My last
insinuation has done the business--she begins to know her own interest.\x92
Then gathering up his letters, he said, \x91That he hoped he should hear
no more romantic stuff, well enough in a miss just come from boarding
school;\x92 and went, as was his custom, to the counting-house. I still
continued playing; and, turning to a sprightly lesson, I executed it
with uncommon vivacity. I heard footsteps approach the door, and was
soon convinced that Mr. Venables was listening; the consciousness only
gave more animation to my fingers. He went down into the kitchen, and
the cook, probably by his desire, came to me, to know what I would
please to order for dinner. Mr. Venables came into the parlour again,
with apparent carelessness. I perceived that the cunning man was
overreaching himself; and I gave my directions as usual, and left the
room.

\x93While I was making some alteration in my dress, Mr. Venables peeped in,
and, begging my pardon for interrupting me, disappeared. I took up some
work (I could not read), and two or three messages were sent to me,
probably for no other purpose, but to enable Mr. Venables to ascertain
what I was about.

\x93I listened whenever I heard the street-door open; at last I imagined I
could distinguish Mr. Venables\x92 step, going out. I laid aside my work;
my heart palpitated; still I was afraid hastily to enquire; and I waited
a long half hour, before I ventured to ask the boy whether his master
was in the counting-house?

\x93Being answered in the negative, I bade him call me a coach, and
collecting a few necessaries hastily together, with a little parcel
of letters and papers which I had collected the preceding evening, I
hurried into it, desiring the coachman to drive to a distant part of the
town.

\x93I almost feared that the coach would break down before I got out of the
street; and, when I turned the corner, I seemed to breathe a freer air.
I was ready to imagine that I was rising above the thick atmosphere of
earth; or I felt, as wearied souls might be supposed to feel on entering
another state of existence.

\x93I stopped at one or two stands of coaches to elude pursuit, and then
drove round the skirts of the town to seek for an obscure lodging, where
I wished to remain concealed, till I could avail myself of my uncle\x92s
protection. I had resolved to assume my own name immediately, and openly
to avow my determination, without any formal vindication, the moment
I had found a home, in which I could rest free from the daily alarm of
expecting to see Mr. Venables enter.

\x93I looked at several lodgings; but finding that I could not, without
a reference to some acquaintance, who might inform my tyrant, get
admittance into a decent apartment--men have not all this trouble--I
thought of a woman whom I had assisted to furnish a little haberdasher\x92s
shop, and who I knew had a first floor to let.

\x93I went to her, and though I could not persuade her, that the quarrel
between me and Mr. Venables would never be made up, still she agreed to
conceal me for the present; yet assuring me at the same time, shaking
her head, that, when a woman was once married, she must bear every
thing. Her pale face, on which appeared a thousand haggard lines and
delving wrinkles, produced by what is emphatically termed fretting,
inforced her remark; and I had afterwards an opportunity of observing
the treatment she had to endure, which grizzled her into patience. She
toiled from morning till night; yet her husband would rob the till,
and take away the money reserved for paying bills; and, returning home
drunk, he would beat her if she chanced to offend him, though she had a
child at the breast.

\x93These scenes awoke me at night; and, in the morning, I heard her, as
usual, talk to her dear Johnny--he, forsooth, was her master; no slave
in the West Indies had one more despotic; but fortunately she was of the
true Russian breed of wives.

\x93My mind, during the few past days, seemed, as it were, disengaged from
my body; but, now the struggle was over, I felt very forcibly the effect
which perturbation of spirits produces on a woman in my situation.

\x93The apprehension of a miscarriage, obliged me to confine myself to my
apartment near a fortnight; but I wrote to my uncle\x92s friend for money,
promising \x91to call on him, and explain my situation, when I was well
enough to go out; mean time I earnestly intreated him, not to mention
my place of abode to any one, lest my husband--such the law considered
him--should disturb the mind he could not conquer. I mentioned my
intention of setting out for Lisbon, to claim my uncle\x92s protection, the
moment my health would permit.\x92

\x93The tranquillity however, which I was recovering, was soon interrupted.
My landlady came up to me one day, with eyes swollen with weeping,
unable to utter what she was commanded to say. She declared, \x91That she
was never so miserable in her life; that she must appear an ungrateful
monster; and that she would readily go down on her knees to me, to
intreat me to forgive her, as she had done to her husband to spare her
the cruel task.\x92 Sobs prevented her from proceeding, or answering my
impatient enquiries, to know what she meant.

\x93When she became a little more composed, she took a newspaper out of
her pocket, declaring, \x91that her heart smote her, but what could she
do?--she must obey her husband.\x92 I snatched the paper from her. An
advertisement quickly met my eye, purporting, that \x91Maria Venables had,
without any assignable cause, absconded from her husband; and any person
harbouring her, was menaced with the utmost severity of the law.\x92

\x93Perfectly acquainted with Mr. Venables\x92 meanness of soul, this step
did not excite my surprise, and scarcely my contempt. Resentment in my
breast, never survived love. I bade the poor woman, in a kind tone, wipe
her eyes, and request her husband to come up, and speak to me himself.

\x93My manner awed him. He respected a lady, though not a woman; and began
to mutter out an apology.

\x93\x91Mr. Venables was a rich gentleman; he wished to oblige me, but he had
suffered enough by the law already, to tremble at the thought; besides,
for certain, we should come together again, and then even I should not
thank him for being accessary to keeping us asunder.--A husband and wife
were, God knows, just as one,--and all would come round at last.\x92 He
uttered a drawling \x91Hem!\x92 and then with an arch look, added--\x91Master
might have had his little frolics--but--Lord bless your heart!--men
would be men while the world stands.\x92

\x93To argue with this privileged first-born of reason, I perceived, would
be vain. I therefore only requested him to let me remain another day at
his house, while I sought for a lodging; and not to inform Mr. Venables
that I had ever been sheltered there.

\x93He consented, because he had not the courage to refuse a person for
whom he had an habitual respect; but I heard the pent-up choler burst
forth in curses, when he met his wife, who was waiting impatiently at
the foot of the stairs, to know what effect my expostulations would have
on him.

\x93Without wasting any time in the fruitless indulgence of vexation, I
once more set out in search of an abode in which I could hide myself for
a few weeks.

\x93Agreeing to pay an exorbitant price, I hired an apartment, without any
reference being required relative to my character: indeed, a glance at
my shape seemed to say, that my motive for concealment was sufficiently
obvious. Thus was I obliged to shroud my head in infamy.

\x93To avoid all danger of detection--I use the appropriate word, my child,
for I was hunted out like a felon--I determined to take possession of my
new lodgings that very evening.

\x93I did not inform my landlady where I was going. I knew that she had a
sincere affection for me, and would willingly have run any risk to show
her gratitude; yet I was fully convinced, that a few kind words from
Johnny would have found the woman in her, and her dear benefactress,
as she termed me in an agony of tears, would have been sacrificed, to
recompense her tyrant for condescending to treat her like an equal. He
could be kind-hearted, as she expressed it, when he pleased. And this
thawed sternness, contrasted with his habitual brutality, was the more
acceptable, and could not be purchased at too dear a rate.

\x93The sight of the advertisement made me desirous of taking refuge with
my uncle, let what would be the consequence; and I repaired in a hackney
coach (afraid of meeting some person who might chance to know me, had I
walked) to the chambers of my uncle\x92s friend.

\x93He received me with great politeness (my uncle had already prepossessed
him in my favour), and listened, with interest, to my explanation of the
motives which had induced me to fly from home, and skulk in obscurity,
with all the timidity of fear that ought only to be the companion of
guilt. He lamented, with rather more gallantry than, in my situation,
I thought delicate, that such a woman should be thrown away on a man
insensible to the charms of beauty or grace. He seemed at a loss what to
advise me to do, to evade my husband\x92s search, without hastening to my
uncle, whom, he hesitating said, I might not find alive. He uttered this
intelligence with visible regret; requested me, at least, to wait for
the arrival of the next packet; offered me what money I wanted, and
promised to visit me.

\x93He kept his word; still no letter arrived to put an end to my painful
state of suspense. I procured some books and music, to beguile the
tedious solitary days.

     \x91Come, ever smiling Liberty,
     \x91And with thee bring thy jocund train:\x92

I sung--and sung till, saddened by the strain of joy, I bitterly
lamented the fate that deprived me of all social pleasure. Comparative
liberty indeed I had possessed myself of; but the jocund train lagged
far behind!\x94



CHAPTER 13


\x93BY WATCHING my only visitor, my uncle\x92s friend, or by some other means,
Mr. Venables discovered my residence, and came to enquire for me. The
maid-servant assured him there was no such person in the house. A bustle
ensued--I caught the alarm--listened--distinguished his voice, and
immediately locked the door. They suddenly grew still; and I waited
near a quarter of an hour, before I heard him open the parlour door,
and mount the stairs with the mistress of the house, who obsequiously
declared that she knew nothing of me.

\x93Finding my door locked, she requested me to open it, and prepare to go
home with my husband, poor gentleman! to whom I had already occasioned
sufficient vexation.\x92 I made no reply. Mr. Venables then, in an assumed
tone of softness, intreated me, \x91to consider what he suffered, and my
own reputation, and get the better of childish resentment.\x92 He ran on
in the same strain, pretending to address me, but evidently adapting his
discourse to the capacity of the landlady; who, at every pause, uttered
an exclamation of pity; or \x91Yes, to be sure--Very true, sir.\x92

\x93Sick of the farce, and perceiving that I could not avoid the hated
interview, I opened the door, and he entered. Advancing with easy
assurance to take my hand, I shrunk from his touch, with an involuntary
start, as I should have done from a noisome reptile, with more disgust
than terror. His conductress was retiring, to give us, as she said, an
opportunity to accommodate matters. But I bade her come in, or I would
go out; and curiosity impelled her to obey me.

\x93Mr. Venables began to expostulate; and this woman, proud of his
confidence, to second him. But I calmly silenced her, in the midst of a
vulgar harangue, and turning to him, asked, \x91Why he vainly tormented me?
declaring that no power on earth should force me back to his house.\x92

\x93After a long altercation, the particulars of which, it would be to
no purpose to repeat, he left the room. Some time was spent in loud
conversation in the parlour below, and I discovered that he had brought
his friend, an attorney, with him.*

     * In the original edition the paragraph following is
     preceded by three lines of asterisks [Publisher\x92s note].

\x93The tumult on the landing place, brought out a gentleman, who had
recently taken apartments in the house; he enquired why I was thus
assailed?* The voluble attorney instantly repeated the trite tale. The
stranger turned to me, observing, with the most soothing politeness and
manly interest, that \x91my countenance told a very different story.\x92 He
added, \x91that I should not be insulted, or forced out of the house, by
any body.\x92

     * The introduction of Darnford as the deliverer of Maria, in
     an early stage of the history, is already stated (Chap.
     III.) to have been an after-thought of the author. This has
     probably caused the imperfectness of the manuscript in the
     above passage; though, at the same time, it must be
     acknowledged to be somewhat uncertain, whether Darnford is
     the stranger intended in this place.  It appears from Chap.
     XVII, that an interference of a more decisive nature was
     designed to be attributed to him.  EDITOR. [Godwin\x92s note]

\x93\x91Not by her husband?\x92 asked the attorney.

\x93\x91No, sir, not by her husband.\x92 Mr. Venables advanced towards him--But
there was a decision in his attitude, that so well seconded that of his
voice, * They left the house: at the same time protesting, that any one
that should dare to protect me, should be prosecuted with the utmost
rigour.

     * Two and a half lines of asterisks appear here in the
     original [Publisher\x92s note].

\x93They were scarcely out of the house, when my landlady came up to me
again, and begged my pardon, in a very different tone. For, though Mr.
Venables had bid her, at her peril, harbour me, he had not attended,
I found, to her broad hints, to discharge the lodging. I instantly
promised to pay her, and make her a present to compensate for my abrupt
departure, if she would procure me another lodging, at a sufficient
distance; and she, in return, repeating Mr. Venables\x92 plausible tale, I
raised her indignation, and excited her sympathy, by telling her briefly
the truth.

\x93She expressed her commiseration with such honest warmth, that I felt
soothed; for I have none of that fastidious sensitiveness, which a
vulgar accent or gesture can alarm to the disregard of real kindness. I
was ever glad to perceive in others the humane feelings I delighted
to exercise; and the recollection of some ridiculous characteristic
circumstances, which have occurred in a moment of emotion, has convulsed
me with laughter, though at the instant I should have thought it
sacrilegious to have smiled. Your improvement, my dearest girl, being
ever present to me while I write, I note these feelings, because women,
more accustomed to observe manners than actions, are too much alive to
ridicule. So much so, that their boasted sensibility is often stifled by
false delicacy. True sensibility, the sensibility which is the auxiliary
of virtue, and the soul of genius, is in society so occupied with the
feelings of others, as scarcely to regard its own sensations. With what
reverence have I looked up at my uncle, the dear parent of my mind! when
I have seen the sense of his own sufferings, of mind and body, absorbed
in a desire to comfort those, whose misfortunes were comparatively
trivial. He would have been ashamed of being as indulgent to himself,
as he was to others. \x91Genuine fortitude,\x92 he would assert, \x91consisted in
governing our own emotions, and making allowance for the weaknesses in
our friends, that we would not tolerate in ourselves.\x92 But where is my
fond regret leading me!

\x93\x91Women must be submissive,\x92 said my landlady. \x91Indeed what could most
women do? Who had they to maintain them, but their husbands? Every
woman, and especially a lady, could not go through rough and smooth, as
she had done, to earn a little bread.\x92

\x93She was in a talking mood, and proceeded to inform me how she had been
used in the world. \x91She knew what it was to have a bad husband, or
she did not know who should.\x92 I perceived that she would be very much
mortified, were I not to attend to her tale, and I did not attempt to
interrupt her, though I wished her, as soon as possible, to go out in
search of a new abode for me, where I could once more hide my head.

\x93She began by telling me, \x91That she had saved a little money in service;
and was over-persuaded (we must all be in love once in our lives) to
marry a likely man, a footman in the family, not worth a groat. My
plan,\x92 she continued, \x91was to take a house, and let out lodgings; and
all went on well, till my husband got acquainted with an impudent slut,
who chose to live on other people\x92s means--and then all went to rack and
ruin. He ran in debt to buy her fine clothes, such clothes as I never
thought of wearing myself, and--would you believe it?--he signed an
execution on my very goods, bought with the money I worked so hard to
get; and they came and took my bed from under me, before I heard a word
of the matter. Aye, madam, these are misfortunes that you gentlefolks
know nothing of,--but sorrow is sorrow, let it come which way it will.

\x93\x91I sought for a service again--very hard, after having a house of my
own!--but he used to follow me, and kick up such a riot when he was
drunk, that I could not keep a place; nay, he even stole my clothes, and
pawned them; and when I went to the pawnbroker\x92s, and offered to take my
oath that they were not bought with a farthing of his money, they said,
\x91It was all as one, my husband had a right to whatever I had.\x92

\x93\x91At last he listed for a soldier, and I took a house, making an
agreement to pay for the furniture by degrees; and I almost starved
myself, till I once more got before-hand in the world.

\x93\x91After an absence of six years (God forgive me! I thought he was dead)
my husband returned; found me out, and came with such a penitent face,
I forgave him, and clothed him from head to foot. But he had not been
a week in the house, before some of his creditors arrested him; and, he
selling my goods, I found myself once more reduced to beggary; for I
was not as well able to work, go to bed late, and rise early, as when I
quitted service; and then I thought it hard enough. He was soon tired of
me, when there was nothing more to be had, and left me again.

\x93I will not tell you how I was buffeted about, till, hearing for certain
that he had died in an hospital abroad, I once more returned to my old
occupation; but have not yet been able to get my head above water: so,
madam, you must not be angry if I am afraid to run any risk, when I know
so well, that women have always the worst of it, when law is to decide.\x92

\x93After uttering a few more complaints, I prevailed on my landlady to go
out in quest of a lodging; and, to be more secure, I condescended to the
mean shift of changing my name.

\x93But why should I dwell on similar incidents!--I was hunted, like an
infected beast, from three different apartments, and should not have
been allowed to rest in any, had not Mr. Venables, informed of my
uncle\x92s dangerous state of health, been inspired with the fear of
hurrying me out of the world as I advanced in my pregnancy, by thus
tormenting and obliging me to take sudden journeys to avoid him; and
then his speculations on my uncle\x92s fortune must prove abortive.

\x93One day, when he had pursued me to an inn, I fainted, hurrying from
him; and, falling down, the sight of my blood alarmed him, and obtained
a respite for me. It is strange that he should have retained any hope,
after observing my unwavering determination; but, from the mildness of
my behaviour, when I found all my endeavours to change his disposition
unavailing, he formed an erroneous opinion of my character, imagining
that, were we once more together, I should part with the money he
could not legally force from me, with the same facility as formerly.
My forbearance and occasional sympathy he had mistaken for weakness
of character; and, because he perceived that I disliked resistance,
he thought my indulgence and compassion mere selfishness, and never
discovered that the fear of being unjust, or of unnecessarily wounding
the feelings of another, was much more painful to me, than any thing I
could have to endure myself. Perhaps it was pride which made me imagine,
that I could bear what I dreaded to inflict; and that it was often
easier to suffer, than to see the sufferings of others.

\x93I forgot to mention that, during this persecution, I received a letter
from my uncle, informing me, \x91that he only found relief from continual
change of air; and that he intended to return when the spring was a
little more advanced (it was now the middle of February), and then we
would plan a journey to Italy, leaving the fogs and cares of England
far behind.\x92 He approved of my conduct, promised to adopt my child,
and seemed to have no doubt of obliging Mr. Venables to hear reason.
He wrote to his friend, by the same post, desiring him to call on
Mr. Venables in his name; and, in consequence of the remonstrances he
dictated, I was permitted to lie-in tranquilly.

\x93The two or three weeks previous, I had been allowed to rest in peace;
but, so accustomed was I to pursuit and alarm, that I seldom closed my
eyes without being haunted by Mr. Venables\x92 image, who seemed to assume
terrific or hateful forms to torment me, wherever I turned.--Sometimes
a wild cat, a roaring bull, or hideous assassin, whom I vainly attempted
to fly; at others he was a demon, hurrying me to the brink of a
precipice, plunging me into dark waves, or horrid gulfs; and I woke, in
violent fits of trembling anxiety, to assure myself that it was all
a dream, and to endeavour to lure my waking thoughts to wander to the
delightful Italian vales, I hoped soon to visit; or to picture some
august ruins, where I reclined in fancy on a mouldering column,
and escaped, in the contemplation of the heart-enlarging virtues of
antiquity, from the turmoil of cares that had depressed all the daring
purposes of my soul. But I was not long allowed to calm my mind by
the exercise of my imagination; for the third day after your birth, my
child, I was surprised by a visit from my elder brother; who came in the
most abrupt manner, to inform me of the death of my uncle. He had left
the greater part of his fortune to my child, appointing me its guardian;
in short, every step was taken to enable me to be mistress of his
fortune, without putting any part of it in Mr. Venables\x92 power. My
brother came to vent his rage on me, for having, as he expressed
himself, \x91deprived him, my uncle\x92s eldest nephew, of his inheritance;\x92
though my uncle\x92s property, the fruit of his own exertion, being all in
the funds, or on landed securities, there was not a shadow of justice in
the charge.

\x93As I sincerely loved my uncle, this intelligence brought on a fever,
which I struggled to conquer with all the energy of my mind; for, in my
desolate state, I had it very much at heart to suckle you, my poor
babe. You seemed my only tie to life, a cherub, to whom I wished to be
a father, as well as a mother; and the double duty appeared to me to
produce a proportionate increase of affection. But the pleasure I felt,
while sustaining you, snatched from the wreck of hope, was cruelly
damped by melancholy reflections on my widowed state--widowed by the
death of my uncle. Of Mr. Venables I thought not, even when I thought of
the felicity of loving your father, and how a mother\x92s pleasure might
be exalted, and her care softened by a husband\x92s tenderness.--\x91Ought to
be!\x92 I exclaimed; and I endeavoured to drive away the tenderness that
suffocated me; but my spirits were weak, and the unbidden tears would
flow. \x91Why was I,\x92 I would ask thee, but thou didst not heed me,--\x91cut
off from the participation of the sweetest pleasure of life?\x92 I imagined
with what extacy, after the pains of child-bed, I should have presented
my little stranger, whom I had so long wished to view, to a respectable
father, and with what maternal fondness I should have pressed them both
to my heart!--Now I kissed her with less delight, though with the most
endearing compassion, poor helpless one! when I perceived a slight
resemblance of him, to whom she owed her existence; or, if any gesture
reminded me of him, even in his best days, my heart heaved, and I
pressed the innocent to my bosom, as if to purify it--yes, I blushed to
think that its purity had been sullied, by allowing such a man to be its
father.

\x93After my recovery, I began to think of taking a house in the country,
or of making an excursion on the continent, to avoid Mr. Venables; and
to open my heart to new pleasures and affection. The spring was melting
into summer, and you, my little companion, began to smile--that smile
made hope bud out afresh, assuring me the world was not a desert. Your
gestures were ever present to my fancy; and I dwelt on the joy I should
feel when you would begin to walk and lisp. Watching your wakening mind,
and shielding from every rude blast my tender blossom, I recovered my
spirits--I dreamed not of the frost--\x91the killing frost,\x92 to which you
were destined to be exposed.--But I lose all patience--and execrate the
injustice of the world--folly! ignorance!--I should rather call it; but,
shut up from a free circulation of thought, and always pondering on the
same griefs, I writhe under the torturing apprehensions, which ought to
excite only honest indignation, or active compassion; and would, could
I view them as the natural consequence of things. But, born a woman--and
born to suffer, in endeavouring to repress my own emotions, I feel more
acutely the various ills my sex are fated to bear--I feel that the evils
they are subject to endure, degrade them so far below their oppressors,
as almost to justify their tyranny; leading at the same time superficial
reasoners to term that weakness the cause, which is only the consequence
of short-sighted despotism.\x94



CHAPTER 14


\x93AS MY MIND grew calmer, the visions of Italy again returned with their
former glow of colouring; and I resolved on quitting the kingdom for
a time, in search of the cheerfulness, that naturally results from a
change of scene, unless we carry the barbed arrow with us, and only see
what we feel.

\x93During the period necessary to prepare for a long absence, I sent a
supply to pay my father\x92s debts, and settled my brothers in eligible
situations; but my attention was not wholly engrossed by my family,
though I do not think it necessary to enumerate the common exertions of
humanity. The manner in which my uncle\x92s property was settled, prevented
me from making the addition to the fortune of my surviving sister, that
I could have wished; but I had prevailed on him to bequeath her two
thousand pounds, and she determined to marry a lover, to whom she had
been some time attached. Had it not been for this engagement, I should
have invited her to accompany me in my tour; and I might have escaped
the pit, so artfully dug in my path, when I was the least aware of
danger.

\x93I had thought of remaining in England, till I weaned my child; but this
state of freedom was too peaceful to last, and I had soon reason to wish
to hasten my departure. A friend of Mr. Venables, the same attorney
who had accompanied him in several excursions to hunt me from my hiding
places, waited on me to propose a reconciliation. On my refusal, he
indirectly advised me to make over to my husband--for husband he would
term him--the greater part of the property I had at command, menacing
me with continual persecution unless I complied, and that, as a last
resort, he would claim the child. I did not, though intimidated by the
last insinuation, scruple to declare, that I would not allow him to
squander the money left to me for far different purposes, but offered
him five hundred pounds, if he would sign a bond not to torment me any
more. My maternal anxiety made me thus appear to waver from my first
determination, and probably suggested to him, or his diabolical agent,
the infernal plot, which has succeeded but too well.

\x93The bond was executed; still I was impatient to leave England. Mischief
hung in the air when we breathed the same; I wanted seas to divide us,
and waters to roll between, till he had forgotten that I had the means
of helping him through a new scheme. Disturbed by the late occurrences,
I instantly prepared for my departure. My only delay was waiting for a
maid-servant, who spoke French fluently, and had been warmly recommended
to me. A valet I was advised to hire, when I fixed on my place of
residence for any time.

\x93My God, with what a light heart did I set out for Dover!--It was not
my country, but my cares, that I was leaving behind. My heart seemed
to bound with the wheels, or rather appeared the centre on which
they twirled. I clasped you to my bosom, exclaiming \x91And you will be
safe--quite safe--when--we are once on board the packet.--Would we were
there!\x92 I smiled at my idle fears, as the natural effect of continual
alarm; and I scarcely owned to myself that I dreaded Mr. Venables\x92s
cunning, or was conscious of the horrid delight he would feel, at
forming stratagem after stratagem to circumvent me. I was already in
the snare--I never reached the packet--I never saw thee more.--I grow
breathless. I have scarcely patience to write down the details. The
maid--the plausible woman I had hired--put, doubtless, some stupefying
potion in what I ate or drank, the morning I left town. All I know is,
that she must have quitted the chaise, shameless wretch! and taken (from
my breast) my babe with her. How could a creature in a female form
see me caress thee, and steal thee from my arms! I must stop, stop to
repress a mother\x92s anguish; lest, in bitterness of soul, I imprecate the
wrath of heaven on this tiger, who tore my only comfort from me.

\x93How long I slept I know not; certainly many hours, for I woke at the
close of day, in a strange confusion of thought. I was probably roused
to recollection by some one thundering at a huge, unwieldy gate.
Attempting to ask where I was, my voice died away, and I tried to
raise it in vain, as I have done in a dream. I looked for my babe
with affright; feared that it had fallen out of my lap, while I had so
strangely forgotten her; and, such was the vague intoxication, I can
give it no other name, in which I was plunged, I could not recollect
when or where I last saw you; but I sighed, as if my heart wanted room
to clear my head.

\x93The gates opened heavily, and the sullen sound of many locks and
bolts drawn back, grated on my very soul, before I was appalled by the
creeking of the dismal hinges, as they closed after me. The gloomy pile
was before me, half in ruins; some of the aged trees of the avenue were
cut down, and left to rot where they fell; and as we approached some
mouldering steps, a monstrous dog darted forwards to the length of his
chain, and barked and growled infernally.

\x93The door was opened slowly, and a murderous visage peeped out, with a
lantern. \x91Hush!\x92 he uttered, in a threatning tone, and the affrighted
animal stole back to his kennel. The door of the chaise flew back, the
stranger put down the lantern, and clasped his dreadful arms around me.
It was certainly the effect of the soporific draught, for, instead of
exerting my strength, I sunk without motion, though not without sense,
on his shoulder, my limbs refusing to obey my will. I was carried up the
steps into a close-shut hall. A candle flaring in the socket, scarcely
dispersed the darkness, though it displayed to me the ferocious
countenance of the wretch who held me.

\x93He mounted a wide staircase. Large figures painted on the walls seemed
to start on me, and glaring eyes to meet me at every turn. Entering a
long gallery, a dismal shriek made me spring out of my conductor\x92s arms,
with I know not what mysterious emotion of terror; but I fell on the
floor, unable to sustain myself.

\x93A strange-looking female started out of one of the recesses, and
observed me with more curiosity than interest; till, sternly bid
retire, she flitted back like a shadow. Other faces, strongly marked,
or distorted, peeped through the half-opened doors, and I heard some
incoherent sounds. I had no distinct idea where I could be--I looked on
all sides, and almost doubted whether I was alive or dead.

\x93Thrown on a bed, I immediately sunk into insensibility again; and
next day, gradually recovering the use of reason, I began, starting
affrighted from the conviction, to discover where I was confined--I
insisted on seeing the master of the mansion--I saw him--and perceived
that I was buried alive.--

\x93Such, my child, are the events of thy mother\x92s life to this dreadful
moment--Should she ever escape from the fangs of her enemies, she will
add the secrets of her prison-house--and--\x94

Some lines were here crossed out, and the memoirs broke off abruptly
with the names of Jemima and Darnford.



APPENDIX

ADVERTISEMENT*



THE performance, with a fragment of which the reader has now been
presented, was designed to consist of three parts. The preceding sheets
were considered as constituting one of those parts. Those persons who in
the perusal of the chapters, already written and in some degree finished
by the author, have felt their hearts awakened, and their curiosity
excited as to the sequel of the story, will, of course, gladly accept
even of the broken paragraphs and half-finished sentences, which have
been found committed to paper, as materials for the remainder. The
fastidious and cold-hearted critic may perhaps feel himself repelled
by the incoherent form in which they are presented. But an inquisitive
temper willingly accepts the most imperfect and mutilated information,
where better is not to be had: and readers, who in any degree resemble
the author in her quick apprehension of sentiment, and of the pleasures
and pains of imagination, will, I believe, find gratification, in
contemplating sketches, which were designed in a short time to have
received the finishing touches of her genius; but which must now for
ever remain a mark to record the triumphs of mortality, over schemes of
usefulness, and projects of public interest.

     * Presumed to have been written by Godwin [Publisher\x92s note].



CHAPTER 15


DARNFORD returned the memoirs to Maria, with a most affectionate letter,
in which he reasoned on \x93the absurdity of the laws respecting matrimony,
which, till divorces could be more easily obtained, was,\x94 he declared,
\x93the most insufferable bondage.\x94 Ties of this nature could not bind minds
governed by superior principles; and such beings were privileged to act
above the dictates of laws they had no voice in framing, if they had
sufficient strength of mind to endure the natural consequence. In her
case, to talk of duty, was a farce, excepting what was due to herself.
Delicacy, as well as reason, forbade her ever to think of returning to
her husband: was she then to restrain her charming sensibility through
mere prejudice? These arguments were not absolutely impartial, for he
disdained to conceal, that, when he appealed to her reason, he felt
that he had some interest in her heart.--The conviction was not more
transporting, than sacred--a thousand times a day, he asked himself how
he had merited such happiness?--and as often he determined to purify the
heart she deigned to inhabit--He intreated to be again admitted to her
presence.

He was; and the tear which glistened in his eye, when he respectfully
pressed her to his bosom, rendered him peculiarly dear to the
unfortunate mother. Grief had stilled the transports of love, only to
render their mutual tenderness more touching. In former interviews,
Darnford had contrived, by a hundred little pretexts, to sit near
her, to take her hand, or to meet her eyes--now it was all soothing
affection, and esteem seemed to have rivalled love. He adverted to her
narrative, and spoke with warmth of the oppression she had endured.--His
eyes, glowing with a lambent flame, told her how much he wished to
restore her to liberty and love; but he kissed her hand, as if it had
been that of a saint; and spoke of the loss of her child, as if it had
been his own.--What could have been more flattering to Maria?--Every
instance of self-denial was registered in her heart, and she loved him,
for loving her too well to give way to the transports of passion.

They met again and again; and Darnford declared, while passion suffused
his cheeks, that he never before knew what it was to love.--

One morning Jemima informed Maria, that her master intended to wait on
her, and speak to her without witnesses. He came, and brought a letter
with him, pretending that he was ignorant of its contents, though he
insisted on having it returned to him. It was from the attorney already
mentioned, who informed her of the death of her child, and hinted, \x93that
she could not now have a legitimate heir, and that, would she make over
the half of her fortune during life, she should be conveyed to Dover,
and permitted to pursue her plan of travelling.\x94

Maria answered with warmth, \x93That she had no terms to make with the
murderer of her babe, nor would she purchase liberty at the price of her
own respect.\x94

She began to expostulate with her jailor; but he sternly bade her \x93Be
silent--he had not gone so far, not to go further.\x94

Darnford came in the evening. Jemima was obliged to be absent, and
she, as usual, locked the door on them, to prevent interruption or
discovery.--The lovers were, at first, embarrassed; but fell insensibly
into confidential discourse. Darnford represented, \x93that they might
soon be parted,\x94 and wished her \x93to put it out of the power of fate to
separate them.\x94

As her husband she now received him, and he solemnly pledged himself as
her protector--and eternal friend.--

There was one peculiarity in Maria\x92s mind: she was more anxious not to
deceive, than to guard against deception; and had rather trust without
sufficient reason, than be for ever the prey of doubt. Besides, what
are we, when the mind has, from reflection, a certain kind of elevation,
which exalts the contemplation above the little concerns of prudence! We
see what we wish, and make a world of our own--and, though reality may
sometimes open a door to misery, yet the moments of happiness procured
by the imagination, may, without a paradox, be reckoned among the solid
comforts of life. Maria now, imagining that she had found a being of
celestial mould--was happy,--nor was she deceived.--He was then plastic
in her impassioned hand--and reflected all the sentiments which animated
and warmed her.*

     * Two and a half lines of dashes follow here in the original
     [Publisher\x92s note].



CHAPTER 16


ONE morning confusion seemed to reign in the house, and Jemima came
in terror, to inform Maria, \x93that her master had left it, with a
determination, she was assured (and too many circumstances corroborated
the opinion, to leave a doubt of its truth) of never returning. I am
prepared then,\x94 said Jemima, \x93to accompany you in your flight.\x94

Maria started up, her eyes darting towards the door, as if afraid that
some one should fasten it on her for ever.

Jemima continued, \x93I have perhaps no right now to expect the performance
of your promise; but on you it depends to reconcile me with the human
race.\x94

\x93But Darnford!\x94--exclaimed Maria, mournfully--sitting down again, and
crossing her arms--\x93I have no child to go to, and liberty has lost its
sweets.\x94

\x93I am much mistaken, if Darnford is not the cause of my master\x92s
flight--his keepers assure me, that they have promised to confine him
two days longer, and then he will be free--you cannot see him; but they
will give a letter to him the moment he is free.--In that inform
him where he may find you in London; fix on some hotel. Give me your
clothes; I will send them out of the house with mine, and we will
slip out at the garden-gate. Write your letter while I make these
arrangements, but lose no time!\x94

In an agitation of spirit, not to be calmed, Maria began to write to
Darnford. She called him by the sacred name of \x93husband,\x94 and bade him
\x93hasten to her, to share her fortune, or she would return to him.\x94--An
hotel in the Adelphi was the place of rendezvous.

The letter was sealed and given in charge; and with light footsteps, yet
terrified at the sound of them, she descended, scarcely breathing, and
with an indistinct fear that she should never get out at the garden
gate. Jemima went first.

A being, with a visage that would have suited one possessed by a devil,
crossed the path, and seized Maria by the arm. Maria had no fear but of
being detained--\x93Who are you? what are you?\x94 for the form was scarcely
human. \x93If you are made of flesh and blood,\x94 his ghastly eyes glared on
her, \x93do not stop me!\x94

\x93Woman,\x94 interrupted a sepulchral voice, \x93what have I to do with
thee?\x94--Still he grasped her hand, muttering a curse.

\x93No, no; you have nothing to do with me,\x94 she exclaimed, \x93this is a
moment of life and death!\x94--

With supernatural force she broke from him, and, throwing her arms round
Jemima, cried, \x93Save me!\x94 The being, from whose grasp she had loosed
herself, took up a stone as they opened the door, and with a kind of
hellish sport threw it after them. They were out of his reach.

When Maria arrived in town, she drove to the hotel already fixed on. But
she could not sit still--her child was ever before her; and all that had
passed during her confinement, appeared to be a dream. She went to the
house in the suburbs, where, as she now discovered, her babe had been
sent. The moment she entered, her heart grew sick; but she wondered not
that it had proved its grave. She made the necessary enquiries, and the
church-yard was pointed out, in which it rested under a turf. A little
frock which the nurse\x92s child wore (Maria had made it herself) caught
her eye. The nurse was glad to sell it for half-a-guinea, and Maria
hastened away with the relic, and, reentering the hackney-coach which
waited for her, gazed on it, till she reached her hotel.

She then waited on the attorney who had made her uncle\x92s will, and
explained to him her situation. He readily advanced her some of the
money which still remained in his hands, and promised to take the whole
of the case into consideration. Maria only wished to be permitted to
remain in quiet--She found that several bills, apparently with her
signature, had been presented to her agent, nor was she for a moment
at a loss to guess by whom they had been forged; yet, equally averse to
threaten or intreat, she requested her friend [the solicitor] to call on
Mr. Venables. He was not to be found at home; but at length his agent,
the attorney, offered a conditional promise to Maria, to leave her in
peace, as long as she behaved with propriety, if she would give up the
notes. Maria inconsiderately consented--Darnford was arrived, and she
wished to be only alive to love; she wished to forget the anguish she
felt whenever she thought of her child.

They took a ready furnished lodging together, for she was above
disguise; Jemima insisting on being considered as her house-keeper, and
to receive the customary stipend. On no other terms would she remain
with her friend.

Darnford was indefatigable in tracing the mysterious circumstances of
his confinement. The cause was simply, that a relation, a very distant
one, to whom he was heir, had died intestate, leaving a considerable
fortune. On the news of Darnford\x92s arrival [in England, a person,
intrusted with the management of the property, and who had the writings
in his possession, determining, by one bold stroke, to strip Darnford
of the succession,] had planned his confinement; and [as soon as he had
taken the measures he judged most conducive to his object, this ruffian,
together with his instrument,] the keeper of the private mad-house,
left the kingdom. Darnford, who still pursued his enquiries, at last
discovered that they had fixed their place of refuge at Paris.

Maria and he determined therefore, with the faithful Jemima, to visit
that metropolis, and accordingly were preparing for the journey, when
they were informed that Mr. Venables had commenced an action against
Darnford for seduction and adultery. The indignation Maria felt cannot
be explained; she repented of the forbearance she had exercised in
giving up the notes. Darnford could not put off his journey, without
risking the loss of his property: Maria therefore furnished him with
money for his expedition; and determined to remain in London till the
termination of this affair.

She visited some ladies with whom she had formerly been intimate, but
was refused admittance; and at the opera, or Ranelagh, they could not
recollect her. Among these ladies there were some, not her most intimate
acquaintance, who were generally supposed to avail themselves of the
cloke of marriage, to conceal a mode of conduct, that would for ever
have damned their fame, had they been innocent, seduced girls. These
particularly stood aloof.--Had she remained with her husband, practicing
insincerity, and neglecting her child to manage an intrigue, she would
still have been visited and respected. If, instead of openly living
with her lover, she could have condescended to call into play a thousand
arts, which, degrading her own mind, might have allowed the people who
were not deceived, to pretend to be so, she would have been caressed and
treated like an honourable woman. \x93And Brutus* is an honourable man!\x94
 said Mark-Antony with equal sincerity.

     * The name in the manuscript is by mistake written Caesar.
     EDITOR. [Godwin\x92s note]

With Darnford she did not taste uninterrupted felicity; there was a
volatility in his manner which often distressed her; but love gladdened
the scene; besides, he was the most tender, sympathizing creature in the
world. A fondness for the sex often gives an appearance of humanity to
the behaviour of men, who have small pretensions to the reality;
and they seem to love others, when they are only pursuing their own
gratification. Darnford appeared ever willing to avail himself of her
taste and acquirements, while she endeavoured to profit by his decision
of character, and to eradicate some of the romantic notions, which had
taken root in her mind, while in adversity she had brooded over visions
of unattainable bliss.

The real affections of life, when they are allowed to burst forth, are
buds pregnant with joy and all the sweet emotions of the soul; yet they
branch out with wild ease, unlike the artificial forms of felicity,
sketched by an imagination painful alive. The substantial happiness,
which enlarges and civilizes the mind, may be compared to the pleasure
experienced in roving through nature at large, inhaling the sweet gale
natural to the clime; while the reveries of a feverish imagination
continually sport themselves in gardens full of aromatic shrubs, which
cloy while they delight, and weaken the sense of pleasure they gratify.
The heaven of fancy, below or beyond the stars, in this life, or in
those ever-smiling regions surrounded by the unmarked ocean of futurity,
have an insipid uniformity which palls. Poets have imagined scenes of
bliss; but, sencing out sorrow, all the extatic emotions of the Soul,
and even its grandeur, seem to be equally excluded. We dose over the
unruffled lake, and long to scale the rocks which fence the happy valley
of contentment, though serpents hiss in the pathless desert, and danger
lurks in the unexplored wiles. Maria found herself more indulgent as
she was happier, and discovered virtues, in characters she had before
disregarded, while chasing the phantoms of elegance and excellence,
which sported in the meteors that exhale in the marshes of misfortune.
The heart is often shut by romance against social pleasure; and,
fostering a sickly sensibility, grows callous to the soft touches of
humanity.

To part with Darnford was indeed cruel.--It was to feel most painfully
alone; but she rejoiced to think, that she should spare him the care and
perplexity of the suit, and meet him again, all his own. Marriage, as
at present constituted, she considered as leading to immorality--yet,
as the odium of society impedes usefulness, she wished to avow her
affection to Darnford, by becoming his wife according to established
rules; not to be confounded with women who act from very different
motives, though her conduct would be just the same without the ceremony
as with it, and her expectations from him not less firm. The being
summoned to defend herself from a charge which she was determined to
plead guilty to, was still galling, as it roused bitter reflections on
the situation of women in society.



CHAPTER 17


SUCH was her state of mind when the dogs of law were let loose on her.
Maria took the task of conducting Darnford\x92s defence upon herself. She
instructed his counsel to plead guilty to the charge of adultery; but to
deny that of seduction.

The counsel for the plaintiff opened the cause, by observing, \x93that his
client had ever been an indulgent husband, and had borne with several
defects of temper, while he had nothing criminal to lay to the charge
of his wife. But that she left his house without assigning any cause. He
could not assert that she was then acquainted with the defendant; yet,
when he was once endeavouring to bring her back to her home, this man
put the peace-officers to flight, and took her he knew not whither.
After the birth of her child, her conduct was so strange, and a
melancholy malady having afflicted one of the family, which delicacy
forbade the dwelling on, it was necessary to confine her. By some
means the defendant enabled her to make her escape, and they had lived
together, in despite of all sense of order and decorum. The adultery was
allowed, it was not necessary to bring any witnesses to prove it; but
the seduction, though highly probable from the circumstances which he
had the honour to state, could not be so clearly proved.--It was of the
most atrocious kind, as decency was set at defiance, and respect for
reputation, which shows internal compunction, utterly disregarded.\x94

A strong sense of injustice had silenced every motion, which a mixture
of true and false delicacy might otherwise have excited in Maria\x92s
bosom. She only felt in earnest to insist on the privilege of her
nature. The sarcasms of society, and the condemnations of a mistaken
world, were nothing to her, compared with acting contrary to those
feelings which were the foundation of her principles. [She therefore
eagerly put herself forward, instead of desiring to be absent, on this
memorable occasion.]

Convinced that the subterfuges of the law were disgraceful, she wrote a
paper, which she expressly desired might be read in court:

\x93Married when scarcely able to distinguish the nature of the engagement,
I yet submitted to the rigid laws which enslave women, and obeyed the
man whom I could no longer love. Whether the duties of the state are
reciprocal, I mean not to discuss; but I can prove repeated infidelities
which I overlooked or pardoned. Witnesses are not wanting to establish
these facts. I at present maintain the child of a maid servant, sworn
to him, and born after our marriage. I am ready to allow, that education
and circumstances lead men to think and act with less delicacy, than the
preservation of order in society demands from women; but surely I may
without assumption declare, that, though I could excuse the birth, I
could not the desertion of this unfortunate babe:--and, while I
despised the man, it was not easy to venerate the husband. With proper
restrictions however, I revere the institution which fraternizes the
world. I exclaim against the laws which throw the whole weight of
the yoke on the weaker shoulders, and force women, when they claim
protectorship as mothers, to sign a contract, which renders them
dependent on the caprice of the tyrant, whom choice or necessity has
appointed to reign over them. Various are the cases, in which a woman
ought to separate herself from her husband; and mine, I may be allowed
emphatically to insist, comes under the description of the most
aggravated.

\x93I will not enlarge on those provocations which only the individual can
estimate; but will bring forward such charges only, the truth of which
is an insult upon humanity. In order to promote certain destructive
speculations, Mr. Venables prevailed on me to borrow certain sums of a
wealthy relation; and, when I refused further compliance, he thought of
bartering my person; and not only allowed opportunities to, but urged,
a friend from whom he borrowed money, to seduce me. On the discovery of
this act of atrocity, I determined to leave him, and in the most
decided manner, for ever. I consider all obligations as made void by his
conduct; and hold, that schisms which proceed from want of principles,
can never be healed.

\x93He received a fortune with me to the amount of five thousand pounds.
On the death of my uncle, convinced that I could provide for my child, I
destroyed the settlement of that fortune. I required none of my property
to be returned to me, nor shall enumerate the sums extorted from me
during six years that we lived together.

\x93After leaving, what the law considers as my home, I was hunted like a
criminal from place to place, though I contracted no debts, and demanded
no maintenance--yet, as the laws sanction such proceeding, and make
women the property of their husbands, I forbear to animadvert. After
the birth of my daughter, and the death of my uncle, who left a
very considerable property to myself and child, I was exposed to new
persecution; and, because I had, before arriving at what is termed years
of discretion, pledged my faith, I was treated by the world, as bound
for ever to a man whose vices were notorious. Yet what are the vices
generally known, to the various miseries that a woman may be subject to,
which, though deeply felt, eating into the soul, elude description, and
may be glossed over! A false morality is even established, which
makes all the virtue of women consist in chastity, submission, and the
forgiveness of injuries.

\x93I pardon my oppressor--bitterly as I lament the loss of my child, torn
from me in the most violent manner. But nature revolts, and my soul
sickens at the bare supposition, that it could ever be a duty to pretend
affection, when a separation is necessary to prevent my feeling hourly
aversion.

\x93To force me to give my fortune, I was imprisoned--yes; in a private
mad-house.--There, in the heart of misery, I met the man charged with
seducing me. We became attached--I deemed, and ever shall deem, myself
free. The death of my babe dissolved the only tie which subsisted
between me and my, what is termed, lawful husband.

\x93To this person, thus encountered, I voluntarily gave myself, never
considering myself as any more bound to transgress the laws of moral
purity, because the will of my husband might be pleaded in my excuse,
than to transgress those laws to which [the policy of artificial society
has] annexed [positive] punishments.--While no command of a husband can
prevent a woman from suffering for certain crimes, she must be allowed
to consult her conscience, and regulate her conduct, in some degree, by
her own sense of right. The respect I owe to myself, demanded my strict
adherence to my determination of never viewing Mr. Venables in the light
of a husband, nor could it forbid me from encouraging another. If I am
unfortunately united to an unprincipled man, am I for ever to be shut
out from fulfilling the duties of a wife and mother?--I wish my country
to approve of my conduct; but, if laws exist, made by the strong to
oppress the weak, I appeal to my own sense of justice, and declare
that I will not live with the individual, who has violated every moral
obligation which binds man to man.

\x93I protest equally against any charge being brought to criminate the
man, whom I consider as my husband. I was six-and-twenty when I left
Mr. Venables\x92 roof; if ever I am to be supposed to arrive at an age to
direct my own actions, I must by that time have arrived at it.--I acted
with deliberation.--Mr. Darnford found me a forlorn and oppressed
woman, and promised the protection women in the present state of society
want.--But the man who now claims me--was he deprived of my society by
this conduct? The question is an insult to common sense, considering
where Mr. Darnford met me.--Mr. Venables\x92 door was indeed open to
me--nay, threats and intreaties were used to induce me to return; but
why? Was affection or honour the motive?--I cannot, it is true, dive
into the recesses of the human heart--yet I presume to assert,
[borne out as I am by a variety of circumstances,] that he was merely
influenced by the most rapacious avarice.

\x93I claim then a divorce, and the liberty of enjoying, free from
molestation, the fortune left to me by a relation, who was well aware
of the character of the man with whom I had to contend.--I appeal to the
justice and humanity of the jury--a body of men, whose private judgment
must be allowed to modify laws, that must be unjust, because definite
rules can never apply to indefinite circumstances--and I deprecate
punishment upon the man of my choice, freeing him, as I solemnly do,
from the charge of seduction.

\x93I did not put myself into a situation to justify a charge of adultery,
till I had, from conviction, shaken off the fetters which bound me to
Mr. Venables.--While I lived with him, I defy the voice of calumny to
sully what is termed the fair fame of woman.--Neglected by my husband,
I never encouraged a lover; and preserved with scrupulous care, what is
termed my honour, at the expence of my peace, till he, who should have
been its guardian, laid traps to ensnare me. From that moment I believed
myself, in the sight of heaven, free--and no power on earth shall force
me to renounce my resolution.\x94

The judge, in summing up the evidence, alluded to \x93the fallacy of
letting women plead their feelings, as an excuse for the violation of
the marriage-vow. For his part, he had always determined to oppose all
innovation, and the newfangled notions which incroached on the good old
rules of conduct. We did not want French principles in public or private
life--and, if women were allowed to plead their feelings, as an excuse
or palliation of infidelity, it was opening a flood-gate for immorality.
What virtuous woman thought of her feelings?--It was her duty to love
and obey the man chosen by her parents and relations, who were qualified
by their experience to judge better for her, than she could for
herself. As to the charges brought against the husband, they were vague,
supported by no witnesses, excepting that of imprisonment in a private
madhouse. The proofs of an insanity in the family, might render that
however a prudent measure; and indeed the conduct of the lady did not
appear that of a person of sane mind. Still such a mode of proceeding
could not be justified, and might perhaps entitle the lady [in another
court] to a sentence of separation from bed and board, during the joint
lives of the parties; but he hoped that no Englishman would legalize
adultery, by enabling the adulteress to enrich her seducer. Too many
restrictions could not be thrown in the way of divorces, if we wished to
maintain the sanctity of marriage; and, though they might bear a little
hard on a few, very few individuals, it was evidently for the good of
the whole.\x94



CONCLUSION

BY THE EDITOR *

     * i.e., Godwin [Publisher\x92s note].

VERY FEW hints exist respecting the plan of the remainder of the work.
I find only two detached sentences, and some scattered heads for the
continuation of the story. I transcribe the whole.

I. \x93Darnford\x92s letters were affectionate; but circumstances occasioned
delays, and the miscarriage of some letters rendered the reception of
wished-for answers doubtful: his return was necessary to calm Maria\x92s
mind.\x94

II. \x93As Darnford had informed her that his business was settled, his
delaying to return seemed extraordinary; but love to excess, excludes
fear or suspicion.\x94

The scattered heads for the continuation of the story, are as follow. *

     * To understand these minutes, it is necessary the reader
     should consider each of them as setting out from the same
     point in the story, viz. the point to which it is brought
     down in the preceding chapter. [Godwin\x92s note]

I. \x93Trial for adultery--Maria defends herself--A separation from bed and
board is the consequence--Her fortune is thrown into chancery--Darnford
obtains a part of his property--Maria goes into the country.\x94

II. \x93A prosecution for adultery commenced--Trial--Darnford sets out
for France--Letters--Once more pregnant--He returns--Mysterious
behaviour--Visit--Expectation--Discovery--Interview--Consequence.\x94

III. \x93Sued by her husband--Damages awarded to him--Separation from bed
and board--Darnford goes abroad--Maria into the country--Provides for
her father--Is shunned--Returns to London--Expects to see her lover--The
rack of expectation--Finds herself again with child--Delighted--A
discovery--A visit--A miscarriage--Conclusion.\x94

IV. \x93Divorced by her husband--Her lover
unfaithful--Pregnancy--Miscarriage--Suicide.\x94



[The following passage appears in some respects to deviate from the
preceding hints. It is superscribed] \x93THE END.

\x93She swallowed the laudanum; her soul was calm--the tempest had
subsided--and nothing remained but an eager longing to forget
herself--to fly from the anguish she endured to escape from
thought--from this hell of disappointment.

\x93Still her eyes closed not--one remembrance with frightful velocity
followed another--All the incidents of her life were in arms, embodied
to assail her, and prevent her sinking into the sleep of death.--Her
murdered child again appeared to her, mourning for the babe of which she
was the tomb.--\x91And could it have a nobler?--Surely it is better to
die with me, than to enter on life without a mother\x92s care!--I
cannot live!--but could I have deserted my child the moment it was
born?--thrown it on the troubled wave of life, without a hand to support
it?\x92--She looked up: \x91What have I not suffered!--may I find a father
where I am going!--Her head turned; a stupor ensued; a faintness--\x91Have
a little patience,\x92 said Maria, holding her swimming head (she thought
of her mother), \x91this cannot last long; and what is a little bodily pain
to the pangs I have endured?\x92

\x93A new vision swam before her. Jemima seemed to enter--leading a little
creature, that, with tottering footsteps, approached the bed. The voice
of Jemima sounding as at a distance, called her--she tried to listen, to
speak, to look!

\x93\x91Behold your child!\x92 exclaimed Jemima. Maria started off the bed, and
fainted.--Violent vomiting followed.

\x93When she was restored to life, Jemima addressed her with great
solemnity: \x91----- led me to suspect, that your husband and brother
had deceived you, and secreted the child. I would not torment you with
doubtful hopes, and I left you (at a fatal moment) to search for the
child!--I snatched her from misery--and (now she is alive again) would
you leave her alone in the world, to endure what I have endured?\x92

\x93Maria gazed wildly at her, her whole frame was convulsed with emotion;
when the child, whom Jemima had been tutoring all the journey, uttered
the word \x91Mamma!\x92 She caught her to her bosom, and burst into a passion
of tears--then, resting the child gently on the bed, as if afraid of
killing it,--she put her hand to her eyes, to conceal as it were the
agonizing struggle of her soul. She remained silent for five minutes,
crossing her arms over her bosom, and reclining her head,--then
exclaimed: \x91The conflict is over!--I will live for my child!\x92\x94


A few readers perhaps, in looking over these hints, will wonder how it
could have been practicable, without tediousness, or remitting in any
degree the interest of the story, to have filled, from these slight
sketches, a number of pages, more considerable than those which have
been already presented. But, in reality, these hints, simple as they
are, are pregnant with passion and distress. It is the refuge of barren
authors only, to crowd their fictions with so great a number of events,
as to suffer no one of them to sink into the reader\x92s mind. It is
the province of true genius to develop events, to discover their
capabilities, to ascertain the different passions and sentiments with
which they are fraught, and to diversify them with incidents, that give
reality to the picture, and take a hold upon the mind of a reader of
taste, from which they can never be loosened. It was particularly
the design of the author, in the present instance, to make her story
subordinate to a great moral purpose, that \x93of exhibiting the misery and
oppression, peculiar to women, that arise out of the partial laws and
customs of society.--This view restrained her fancy.\x94 * It was necessary
for her, to place in a striking point of view, evils that are too
frequently overlooked, and to drag into light those details of
oppression, of which the grosser and more insensible part of mankind
make little account.

     * See author\x92s preface. [Godwin\x92s note]

THE END.





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