Letters from Clara: or, the Effusions of the Heart
LETTERS FROM CLARA: OR, THE EFFUSIONS OF THE HEART. VOL. I.
LONDON: Printed for J. Wilkie, No. 71, in, St. Paul’s
Church Yard. 1771.
I shall say very little in praise of the letters I here offer to the world under the title of “Letters from Clara, or The Effusions of the Heart;” being well convinced their readers will do, as I should in such a case - that is, judge for themselves. Besides the partiality of sincere friendship may make me entertain a more favourable opinion of them and their author, than the rest of the world may be inclined to do. She sleeps in the cold grave, unheedful of their censure or their praise. A religious regard to a promise made to the unhappy Clara at the time ofher death, is the only motive that could have induced me ever to write a page for the inspection of the public.
I think it necessary to inform the reader, that these letters were written by a young lady, who really was possessed of every amiable quality, in as high a degree as most of her sex. She was gentle, amiable, and candid; severe only to herself, ever indulgent to the faults of others. She loved virtue better than anything on earth, except the base Philemon, and she died to atone for her deviation from it.
The story is simple, and, I fear, too common, except on the lady’s part. Many have fallen like her; but few, very few, have expiated their crime in the same manner. If her letters have any merit it is on account of their adherence to truth, a quality, I am afraid, too old-fashioned to recoinmend them to this polite age. Those who can only relish long narratives and wonderful incidents, had better not read the letters of Clara. In works of imagination you are at liberty to present, to your readers, whatever scenes and objects you please. But every such aid is denied us, when confined to simple facts. The smallest deviation from truth is a crime in an editor, where it serves to give actions a different colour from their original one.
If these letters please, the dead has the merit; if they displease, I shall submit to the censure of having offered an unacceptable entertainment to the public. I owe it little, but mean not to offend. If they advance the cause of virtue, or guard one female heart against the insidious arts of men, their original end is attained.
Ladies will read letters or novels (a name I am unwilling to give this petite auvre) when they will neither read nor listen to sermons. Clara’s letters are not much longer than a sermon. Besides, they contain a story and an intrigue; a story to me amazing, and which if they judge from common life, must be so to every reader. A beautiful and accomplished woman, admired and followed by crowds of lovers, acknowledged fair, wife, and virtuous by every one who knew her! - yet could not bear the consciousness of her fall, but fled to solitude, alas not to peace; “For peace, O virtue! Peace is all thy own.” How sweet are the pleasures and how bitter the pangs which sensibility confers or inflicts. Had Clara been endowed with less, she had still lived, and been as happy as common minds are capable of being.
I believe the reader, when he has perused these letters, will readily acknowledge I have not commended them more than they deserve; and if any one should guess at the lady who wrote all the letters signed Clara, even the women will confess, now she is no more, I have not been partial in her praise.
If this essay succeeds, I shall when better health and more leisure permits, copy some other works of the same lady’s, written in a calmer and happier season, but not designed for the public eye. I fear these letters are much injured by the copier. I was ill and perplexed by grief and disappointment, when I sat down to copy them. I had delayed it too long, but could not do it sooner.
Attached, as I was, by a long and unshaken friendship to their author, I could not copy them, till reason and reflection bade me cease to weep for one, who had, I think, forsworn happiness here, and is now, I hope, enjoying it in a better world.
But I shall tire my readers, as I have already done myself; so shall only add, that I wish them more pleasure from these letters than I have received, and am
Their very humble Servant, The EDITOR.
Dare I hope, my Amelia, that, even here in this solitude, I may have rest? No; it is impossible. Robbed, as I am, of the goods of fortune, by the treachery of those who called themselves my friends, and of what was still dearer to me than life, by the persidy of my lover. Ah! can I call a base betrayer by that name! No; he was an assassin, who, under the semblance of honour and virtue, deprived me of everything I held dear in this life, and makes me look forward to eternity with horror and despair. Shall we meet there? shall I again see the lovely, the perjured, the unfeeling Philemon? Will he then cast me from him? Will he insult me with the picture of my rival? Drive me first to madness, and then curse me?
This, oh ye fair, yet undeluded, is a true pidure of man; it is not the mere product of fancy. She who draws it, feels but too severely; wounds are yet green. Time may no - time never can heal them; they are past cure. “A wounded spirit,” says Solomon, “who can bear?” Hard, indeed, is the burden. But, alas! when the wound comes from an object beloved, one whom we could sooner die than accuse, it augments the torment; it makes grief turn to rage, to frenzy.
You, my friend, my sister, know the heart of your Clara. Was not my bosom the seat of every gentle, every social guest? Yet ‘tis now all anarchy and confusion; not one thought of peace or joy to administer comfort; - but, as a poor, forlorn traveller, who is benighted in a desart, looks round in vain for a single star, or some propitious light, to guide him on his journey; so do I look on every side, but no ray of hope appears; - it is all dark and dreary. I look back on the hours of love, - I recall the image, The conversation of my lover. Do I say I recall them? Alas! they obtrude themselves. Everything, every object, reminds me of him that has made me the most wretched of womankind. Fatal necessity tore him from me. Perhaps I might have born what was irremediable; but was there a necessity to use me harshly, to accuse me of srimes, of which, Heaven knows, I am utterly incapable.
I will endeavour to collect my scattered senses, and relate to my Amelia the history of my woes, and of my folly, for I will not disguise my frailty. You know I was addressed about the age of eighteen by Sir Charles Worthy. He won a heart, which many had sought the possession of in vain; that heart, which is now rejected by a villain; for though lovely, he is a perjured villain. But why will he intrude? Leave, ah leave me for a moment, thou base betrayer; give place to the shade of my truly amiable Worthy, my, would to God I could sat; my only, love.
My heart was, before Worthy’s approaches to it, a stranger to love, but not to sensibility. I melted with pity at every tale of woe, and never heard a sigh but I could answer it. Yet I was lively and volatile. You know, my dear Amelia, I was even a proverb, for my gaiety of heart, with those of my acquaintance. Worthy loved me as much for my vivacity as for my tenderness. He had the most humane, as well as the most courageous heart, that ever man possessed. Human nature never arrived at perfection. Worthy, incapable of deceit on every other occasion, was too much addicted to gallantry, and too fatally successful. Yet, to the honour of the fair sex, let it be told, that he gained their hearts by dignity of manners, not glare of dress; for he despised all superficials without being a sloven. He was elegant; but it was not ever owing to the richness, but the choice of his dress, which, though he did not seem totally to neglect, you might discover he did not study. He was far from what our sex call a beauty; but his figure was perfect symmetry. He shewed how beauty is outdone by manly grace and wisdom, which alone are truly fair.
His voice, in speaking to women, was perfect melody; and he could express, with his eyes, every sentiment he felt, or wished you to believe he felt: his fortune was just enough to enable him to live as a man of sense and taste would wish, without either penury or profusion. He had a taste for painting, and loved music, but was not a virtuoso; nor would he sacrifice his rational powers to gratify his sense of hearing; and often would he say, the most charming sounds in the world were those that proceeded from his dear Clara’s mouth, when she expresfed the finest sentiments in the most soothing, and sweetest accents: “it is then, my Clara, that angels may listen with pleasure to a mortal’s voice.”
Often has he told your Clara she was everything he could hope to find in woman. And when she has chid him for his too early prepossession in her favour; and that his esleem had not time to be well grounded, as he was not long enough acquainted to form a proper judgement of her; “yes, I have known you since I could form an idea of a woman. Such as you are I have long sought for among your sex, but was still disappointed. I have, at length, found, in Clara, the object realised, that I began to think only existed in my own imagination.” Too flattering were these praises from one equally esteemed by both sexes. Wonder not that they won the heart of your ever affectionate friend and sister, CLARA.
You bid me, my dear Amelia write of Worthy only, and forget Philemon. Perhaps that talk might have been possible, had I retained that innocence, never indeed my pride, but once my glory. But I am fallen - low as the vilest of my sex - robbed of that honour, which only exalt us above the brutes. Why did I fly from Sir Charles on a bare suspicion of his entertaining a sensual wish his too ardent joy to meet me after a separation, long indeed to sincere and passionate lovers? I flew from him, and from every joy in this life; for never, since that day, has the sun rose, but it rose to see the sorrows of Clara. Shall these eyes never cease to weep? No; they are now bound to expiate my guilt by tears. Can tears wash away dishonour? Can they restore my spotless fame? Not in this world, wretched victim of love! But trust, in the God of Nature. He shall behold with pity these agonising pains can wash away dishonour. Pity dwells with him, though man is destitute of it. Though Philemon casts you from his bosom, though he denies his vows, they are registered in Heaven, and there is rest for Clara in the bosom of her father and her God. Sure, my Amelia, some good angel, perhaps the spirit of my departed Worthy, whispered these lines to your almost distracted friend.
I will endeavour to compose my mind. Tomorrow I shall write you more of my melancholy narrative. It draws tears of blood from my heart; but I shall be better, after having unbosomed myself to so true, so dear a friend. I expect not pardon for my frailty; but pity I am sure of. Farewell, my truly beloved and esteemed sister. May you never feel the pangsthat rend the heart of your CLARA.
For seven months I had not a wish ungratified. My lover was tender, faithful and assiduous. Every rational, every elegant pleasure was procured, to win a heart already devoted to him from sentiment. In vain did Mrs. Fane and Mrs. Frugal advise me to prefer Mr. Blandish, on account of his immense fortune. Blandish was undoubtedly entitled to my gratitude and esteem; and he possessed both. He was handsome, well-bred, and had large possessions. He offered a settlement more than equal to Sir Charles’s whole estate; but Sir Charles possessed a soul of more value than all the wealth of India; and that he bestowed on Clara - too, too rich in the possession, but vile and unworthy now even to reflect that she was once so blessed. Often did he, with all the delicacy that our Situation required, urge a marriage. Men of fortune, who want delicacy, are often too precipitate on such occasions. A woman of birth and education must be wooed, and perhaps requires the more courtship, that accident has deprived her of what she had otherwise a right to expect.
Sir Charles knew the delicacy of my situation, and was the more cautious lest he should wound it. He was, however, relieved from this dilemnia by his rival Blandish, who came to - on purpose to make an offer of himself to me; and, as he vainly thought, to meet with no denial. He imputed all the little repulses I had given him to liveliness, and a little coquetry, which I had undoubtedly too much the appearance of, though without the least reality; for it ever pained me when a worthy man seemed to feel a passion for me, which I could not return. But I had been too much used to attention and unmeaning gallantry, and thought it favoured of vanity to understand before I was asked.
Blandish had been used to success, and, well assured my fortune was small, took it for granted I could not withstand a settlement of 2000l. a year, and a man of his appearance, when seriously offered in so honourable a manner. He made his first proposal in form to Mrs. Frugal, who did not at all discourage him. Mrs. Fane and she were, in a fashionable manner, very intimate. They pretended great affection when they met, but generally spoke very ill of each other when apart. They concurred, however, to wish me united to Blandish, and to disapprove of Sir Charles; the one through pique, the other through avarice and vanity: for Blandish had promised and made Mrs. Frugal many handsome presents. Mrs. Frugal communicated Mr. Blandish’s proposal to Mrs. Fane, who, she thought, had more interestlwith me than She could pretend to (though married to my relation.) Mrs. Fane took the first opportunity of opening the affair to me, as we were walking in one of the shady walks you have so often admired at —–.
Mrs. Fane had every talent to render her agreeable, could she have divested herself of affectation and cunning; I might add, a turn for scandal. Her principal pique against Sir Charles Worthy was, that he frequently shewed her the absurdity of giving way to these propensities, even when he pretended to fall in with her humour. But, as she was not a fool, she took the hints as designed; but instead of amending, hated the person who gave them. She had another reason: She loved admiration, and generally received it; for she was handsomc in person, elegant in her manners, and agreeable in her conversation, when any other subject occurred but the reputation of her acquaintance. Yet Sir Charles did not pay her the tribute she thought so justly her due. He was ever polite to the whole sex, but never particular to Mrs. Fane till he got acquainted with me and as that happened at her house, he was forced to pay her a closer attention; but she had quickness enough to see it was not for her own sake.
Sir Charles had, called at my lodgings just after Mrs. Fane and I had set out on our little walk; and was informed by my maid that we were gone to —–. He immediately followed; but, in the sweet intricacies of the place, he struck into a different walk, only divided from us by a close hedge; so that before he could join us, he over heard us in the midst of a very interesting conversation, in which his own name was frequently mentioned, as well as Mr. Blandish’s.
Mrs. Fane began, with her usual vivacity, to laugh at me for having, at once, two such accomplished lovers; but said, she thought I need have no difficulty in choosing. I assured her, if the cafe was as she alleged, I should not find the least; for, though, a stanger to love, I would undoubtedly give the preference to Sir Charles Worthy before any man I had ever yet seen; - that I beheld Mr. Blandish with an absolute indifference at present, any further than having; a sense of gratitude to him for his polite attention when in ——; and that I thought myself obliged to him for taking the trouble to come so many miles to see me, as he was pleased to declare it was his sole motive; but if he came with any view of love, he must undoubtedly meet with a disappointment.
Mrs. Fane seemed greatly surprized, and even offended, at this declaration; - said all the world must condemn me, as Mr. Blandish’s character was unexceptionable, his figure advantageous, and his fortune a very capital one. I told her, all she alleged I was very ready to acknowledge, and esteemed, myself too much obliged to him, if he entertained such sentiments for me as she seemed to think he did, ever to make himsSo bad a return as to give him my hand when I could not entirely devote my heart to him.
I need not tell my dear Amelia this was all called romantic studd, and that I was heartily laughed at by my companion. I expected it, and was not disappointed. She said it could proceed from nothing but a prepossession in favour of Sir Charles, and spoke many ill-natured things of him, which had the effect she expected. I resented them with warmth, and said I had rather beg with him than accept of Mr. Blandish with his immense fortune. But, ah, my God! was my surprie when I beheld Sir Chsrles on his knees at my feet, to thank me for this declaration! I was ready to fall down with surprize and confusion.
He found it necessary to quit that posture to support me, and turning in the most graceful manner to Mrs. Fane, thanked her, and astured her he should ever esteem her as the kindest of his friends, as to her he owed a blessing he durst scarcely have hoped to obtain, after a long and painful state of doubt and probation. Mrs. Fane only laughed at his compliment; for though possessed of that air effronte so common in high life, she was a little confounded, and but a little, at having spoken so freely.
It was in vain for me, after this, to deny the preference I had acknowledged for Sir Charles. I upbraided him with having listened to a private conversation not meant for his ear. He confessed he had not withdrawn when he heard his own name uttered in the sweetest sounds. And was it possible, my lovely Clara, I could withdraw when you deigned to make such a declaration? But I will not repeat it, lest I should take from its grace. No, I will live upon if all my future days, and, like a miser, keep it locked in my bosom, even from my Clara, if any thing there can be kept from her. Even the sentiments of esteem and gratitude, you profess for Mr. Blandish, enhance my love and your value. I cannot, I will not doubt, after what you have said - No, Madam, shew Mr. Blandish the distinction his merit deserves. He has shewn himself a man of taste and worth, by wishing to unite himself to all that is amiable and worthy in woman. I shall never count Mr. Blandish a weak man. He must have sense and taste who can distinguish them. Your beauty, great as it is, is your smallest attraction. The elegance of your make, the brilliancy of your complexion, or even the soft, yet radiant, lustre of your eyes, which speak the sentiments of your gentle soul; these, my Clara, and now let me hope only my Clara, these, nor the etherial beauties of your mouth, could never captivate a fool, or mere sensualist: The man who wishes to possess you - frown not, my Clara - must wish to possess your soul; - it speaks the language of angels in your features.
This conversation, too flattering as it was, passed as he attended me home. For Mrs. Fane, to get rid of her embarrassment, left us to make some visits, where probably she turned into ridicule a young woman, who preferred the most accomplished and sensible man of his age, with more than a competence, to a very deserving and amiable man, but not of equal sense or accomplishments, with a dazzling fortune. Yet I was doomed even in this choice, which virtue must approve, to misery. Ha! shall I say it was an overruling fate that doomed me to suffer every, species of woe? Or was it the will of Heaven to try me, to bring me to a sense of my weakness, and humble me lower than the dull? Reflection, how dreadful to a mind tortured by guilt! Yet who dare banish it? Will if not recur at a more dreadful hour? Adieu! While this heart vibrates, it shall be faithful to Amelia. Your’s, CLARA.
Whatever pain I suffered, from having made such a discovery of my affection, - a pain arising from modesty only, - was more, than compensated by the flattering attention of my lover, and his constant professions of regard and esteem. Yet he often accused me of coldness, and said I railed unnecessary delays to his happiness. Fatal delays indeed! for them I may look as to the source from whence sprung all my future woes.
But I will proceed as well as I am in my narrative. How cruel the talk you have assigned me I was for some time teased by the addresses; Mr. Blandish, and the persuasion of two female friends. I should not have regarded this little persecution, but they embittered it by every reflection they could possibly throw on the character Sir Charles, to whom I found myself now so entirely attached, that it hurt me sensibly. Yet delicacy forbade I to resent it. His character lay open to their malice on one side only; but I was a dreadful one to me, now become my own guardian, and he acquainted with my sentiments in his favour. In short, they alledged he addressed me only to deceive, and that even though he talked of marriage, he was insincere.
What could I do? Is there a woman living who could press a man on such a subject? If there is, it was not Clara. Indeed I could not even wish it. I was happy in his conversation, and the tenderest attention and assiduity. He talked of an union as the ultimate end of his wishes, but seemed fearful of offending, as I always really felt a confusion and uneasiness on the subject. There is something awful in changing or name and state of life, and putting one’s self entirely in the power of a man, however, highly you may esteem him.
But I had a still greater objection; I know not whether to impute it to pride or delicacy. I was, you know, entirely destitute of fortune; and though I esteemed Sir Charles, and knew his generous sentiments, yet I feared his friends might contemn me, tho’ upon an equality with them in point of birth and education. Indeed I was too well convinced some of them did so, though his behaviour was ever tender and highly respectful. And when I urged these objections, he constantly endeavoured to silence me, by saying, he should have no friends that were not his Clara’s, and that he should look upon himself as possessed of the greatest treasure of my man in England. Fortune only made us happy, as it enabled us to enjoy the goods of this life; and if his was sufficient to gratify his Clara’s wishes, he was rich enough; nor would he allow me to say I thought myself under any obligation, but would laughingly say he did it to oblige himself. Sometimes he would allege, I betrayed a narrowness of mind in attributing so much to fortune, and ask me how I should act were he in my place. He had too many powers of persuasion to leave me long in doubt of his sincerity; and I was too much interested the belief to remain long in doubt. Indeed had it been a deception, it was too flattering to wish to be undeceived.
But Sir Charles was above deceit. He was everything that I could have wished to find in mortal. He saw my delicacy struggled with my passion: He wished to obviate every uneasiness, and for that purpose proposed I should accompany him and Mrs. Fane, on a jaunt to S—–. Though he did not absolutely express his hopes from this little excursion, yet it was too plain he flattered himself I would not refuse to comply with his ardent wishes, when out of the hurry and bustle of —– as he knew there was not a little pain in the idea of being talked of and flared at in —–. Though I could not be ignorant of his wishes and hopes from the proposed jaunt, and though not quite determined to give him my hand, yet I was in that state of irresolution never unpropitious to a lover, and consented to go to S——. Indeed it was then impossible for me, long to hesitate on any request he made me; and if I refused immediately giving him my hand, modesly and irresolution only withheld it.
Yet I regretted not the delay. I was happy. I had not a wish beyond and possession of his heart. My passion was pure as that of angels. I do not disguise my feelings. With the same candour I now commend, I must presently accuse myseif. We are not virtuous, my dear Amelia, because we do not feel - Sans les passions ou feroit la vertu? - or as Mr. Prior says, “Who has essay’d no danger, gains no praise.”
No, it is only the amiable, the virtuous maid, who has a heart to feel, and strength of mind to conquer her passions, that shall wear the palm of victory. The woman incapable of love, is a monster. She who is its victim, must at least have susceptibility. But she only is truly virtuous, who has been tried, and comes off victorious - Yet let her glory not in the victory. It wounds both the heart and the honour in the opinion of the world, - an opinion not to be disregarded - ’Tis safer, however, and wiser not to try our strength. We are even bid to pray against temptation; to run into it is the height of presumption. But let not those who have happily escaped, or have proved victorious, boast too much, and despise the fallen, the unhappy fair, who, from stronger temptation, or weaker resistance, has become a prey to the arts of vile, ungrateful, seducing man. - She must, indeed, like a bruised reed, or some fair rose plucked from its genial bed by some rude hand, and then thrown by to wither - She must never hope again to flourish in the fun beam; but pine and die in solitude happy only in being unnoticed. Never in this world will her guilt be remitted, tho’ her undoer may laugh, and be gay. She must eat the bread of tears, and drink the waters of affliction, till the day when all hearts shall appear, and be tried by him that made them. Pardon, my dear Amelia, these digressions. They give ease to my heart, if anything can: indeed it must never hope for ease in this life. Adieu. CLARA.
When I consented, my dear Amelia, to accompany Sir Charles to S—–, it was in other words consenting to give him my hand. He had often said he should choose to be married there (if agreeable to the woman of his choice) as he had a great esteem for Doctor N—–, the person, of all others, he would wish to perform the sacred ceremony. You may wonder Mrs. Fane should be the person we chose to accompany us; but Sir Charles never resented the part she had acted, and said he owed her too much to be angry at her. Besides he allowed Mr. Blandish merit, nor was he Surprised, that persons who wished me well, should advise me to accept of so advantageous a settlement, with a man of his character.
Mrs. Fane was the only person acquainted with the true slate of my heart. Though I had never told her the extent of my affections for Sir Charles, yet she saw I preferred him to every other person, and that he devoted his whole time and attention to me. Even Mrs. Frugal confessed we should be too happy for mortals. But, alas! what is human happiness? If real, how short its duration? Mine was, indeed, so perfect, I thought it incapable of increase. Sir Charles used to chide me for saying so. He said we should, he flattered himself, be much happier, though he never was before half so much so. Yet he, as well as your Clara, had a foreboding of our fate; for though we now spent our time almost entirely together, except at the few hours allotted for rest - and very few would he allow himself - yet we never parted at twelve, or perhaps one in the morning, though to meet again at nine, but we were both dissolved in tears.
My health was impaired by too much tenderness, and Sir Charles’s anxiety totally deprived him of appetite. We were both assured of each other’s constancy, and though we feared some accident to prevent our union, we looked upon our situation as out of the power of chance or fortune, unless death should separate us. If I looked pale at anytime, Sir Charles was alarmed almost to distractions. His passion made him unhappy, it was to such excess. He felt all the anxiety of love, though undisturbed by doubts; for I dissembled not my affection, which was sincere and ardent, though pure. He often, indeed accused me of coldness, and said if I did not love him better he should be wretched. He was not content I felt all the esicem in the world for him, and preferred him to the rest of his sex. He wished me to feel an ardour equal to his own, and to confess it. If I felt it, I was unconscious of it. Yet I was never so happy as in his company. In that I was not singular. It was coveted by all that knew him, both men and women.
My judgement, even my vanity, was gratified by such a lover. To be the choice of a man approved by all, was too great a blessing, had fortune allowed of our union. But why do I say fortune? Heaven saw my unworthiness and punished my presumption. I was doomed to pass many years in misery and unavailing tears - years, which I had promised myself were to pass away in uninterrupted felicity. And is, felicity the lot of mortals? I think not. But we are not all doomed to equal misery. It is not what is inflicted, but what we feel, that renders our lot wretched here. Many suffer evils as great as mine, I suppose; but are not so truly miserable. My heart could bleed for others. I never could hurt even an infect. What I feel is riot to be described. Few, very few, can imagine it. The whole world seems an utter blank to me. I look on every side for comfort; but in vain. The object, whose idea formerly gave me so much pleasure, is now turned to a scorpion, or a fury, and drives me to despair. I dread the thoughts of death, in all other afflictions my resource, and consolation. Yet I cannot live. I fear not what I shall suffer; but I fear to be the accuser of my lover. No, he is not my lover. He disclaims me; he calls me from him. - He accuses me, of what? Even he can’t impute a crime to me, but one of which he was the author. But I loved him too well; despised, all the world for his, sake; despised for him even fame and honour. Thy ways, O my God, are just, but thy judgments are severe - me to submit, or remove this bitter cup.
Must I still write, my Amelia? If I must I will, but, alas! it cannot amuse you. Farawell: I am ever with affection, Your’s CLARA.
My dear sister, friend of my heart, with how much pleasure would I accompany you in your solitude? But, alas! I am not my own mistress, I wish you could prevail on yourself to come here. Indeed, my love, we should all he glad to see you. Accuse not yourself in the cruel manner you do. I am sure your heart is still as pure as that of an angel. Think not of that vile Philemon: I could find in my heart to poison him. Indeed you are too good and gentle for this world: I always told you so; I always thought so. If I could have taught you to be a little of the vixen, like myself, you would have been much happier. I would fain make you laught, but dare not attempt it. Indeed I have cried more than ever I did in my life, or than I thought myself capable of doing, since I received your first letter from N—–. But, indeed, you must come to us, and must forget that vile man, and not think so badly of yourself. I am sure nobody else in the world does think ill of you, and you must not talk nor think of dying. Indeed it will break my heart if you do.
Oh, my dear, how I do hate men! They are very vile creatures; but they are not all so bad as that most vile Philemon. - I dare scarce say, why did you refuse so many? but, my dear sister, it was, a pity: - you shall, however, still be happy. I am sure you will always be beloved by every one that knows you. I am glad Fidelia is with you; but She lets you cry too much. I think you had better have staid in L—–, and kept Company. It would in time have made you more chearful. I know you cannot forget anybody you love. I wish you could, though I could not allow you to forget me; but I will endeavour ever to deserve your love by the sincerity of my regard to you, as I am, with the greatest affection and truth, your’s AMERLIA.
P.S. I have had a long letter from Mrs. S—–, and she asks very kindly for you, and wishes you would come and stay with, her; but I know you would not like to be there, though she is very good-natured. Indeed, it would be best if I could go to you, and bring you here in April; and I will try if I can bring it about. This is a dull place, though I never found it so when you were here. But I will cry with you, if I cannot make you laugh.
It is imposiible, my dear Amelia, we can ever meet in this world. You must not think of coming to me, and I cannot go to you. It would not be proper. I have forfeited all claim to esteem from myself, and will not impose on the world, but will fly from it. “I would bide with the beasts of the chace: I would vanish from every eye.” - It is against my will Fidelia stays with me. She is, indeed, very good; but every objed in nature seems to reproach me, or tell me I am wretched.
Your kind expressions wound me to the soul, conscious as I am of not deserving them. - I am too ill just now to continue my narrative; but I will endeavour to finish it, if Heaven spares me life. I have kept copies, which makes me go on slower than I otherwise should do; but I have a reason for it.
Poor, amiable Fidelia spends her time dismally with me. She thinks I shall live: indeed I shall not; it is impossible. - Could I blot out of my, memory the last fifteen months of my life, I might. I knew grief before that period; but was a stranger to the horrors of despair. My mind is now estranged from every other idea. I dare not reproach the author of my being. He sees what is sit for his creatures, and they must submit; but it is hard, very hard. Adieu. I am with unalterable affection, Your’s, &c. CLARA.
My indisposition, my dear Amelia, prevented my continuing the talk you have allotted me; but I am now better, and will endeavour to obey you. I mentioned Sir Charles Worthy’s request, that I would accompany him and Mrs. Fane to S—–. I consented to it without reluctance, as I found his happiness, and I thought my own, depended on it. Need I tell my Amelia, that mine always did depend on that of the persons I professed to love and esteem?
Sir Charles begged I would name some day in the next week for our little excursion, nor did he seem displeased when I started, and said, ah, my God! next week! I perceived a glow onhis cheek, and a suppressed smile, which I resented. He threw himself at my feet, and embraced my knees, - “Indeed, my beloved Clara, it must be very soon, or your lover cannot support an existence, which your coldness renders too painful. Could you feel as I do the pain, which every separation, though but for an hour, inflicts, you would not deny me the small request of hastening our little journey to S—–. During the few day we shall remain there, you will never be a moment out of my sight. From that day, I hope vou will permit me to devote a whole life of gratitude to my, only not adored, Clara. Let your generosity set you above trifling delays and observances. Be assured the passion of your lover is above what is commonly called love, as much as your merit and beauty transcends that of every other woman I know. You will always, my dear Clara, meet with lovers. Your beauty and engaging manners will attract thousands; but very few are capable of loving you as you deserve. I think, if possible, I do. I know your heart. I see its inmost recesses. There is not a sentiment in it I could wish changed. What a person, who judged superficially, would call weakness, I admire, I adore. I see their source; they all grow out of virtue. Let me call all these excellencies mine. Let me learn to grow as good and gentle as your heart, by constantly studying it.”
It would have been a degree of dissimulation I was ever incapable of, to pretend not to see the intent of our journey to S—–; but he put me not to the pain of settling little matters relative to it, or listening to a conversation about settlements, eloaths, or other essentials to ordinary weddings.
He had by a stratagem, the most innnocent in the world, got me to choose the colour of the coach, and the street in which I should like a house. There were ten or twelve ladies in company, when he introduced a conversation on these matters, as if by accident. Everyone gave their opinion. To have withheld mine would have appeared particular and affected. But I had no sooner given it, than a gentleman present laughed, and said, his friend Charles was both artful and polite, in his manner of asking a lady to fix on these minutiae. I should have been rallied, but Sir Charles relieved me by giving the conversation another turn, and pretending to laugh at my extreme fondness for dogs, as I was just then carassing a large spaniel of General D—–’s.
How gladly would I forget my woes, and for that purpose strive to raise the dead, arrest the nimble foot of time, and bring back again the hours, the days, the months, the years, that saw me happy!” - But now they are gone, I sigh and grieve that I prized them no more. You bid me dwell on these fond ideas. I could for ever dwell on them, would no others obtrude. But, alas! grief and guilt are spectres, that will haunt the mind; and I will confess to you, what I would hide from myself, that I still love, though I cannot esteem, the ungrateful, the perjured Philemon. Perhaps, to a delicate mind, this is of all others the most acute, the most exquisite pain; and however strange it may appear, I cannot even wilh to part with it. I embrace the idea, that, scorpion like, stings me to death. Whenever he appears, (alas! he is ever present to my imagination) he banishes every aether object. Sometimes I see him at my feet, dissolved in tenderness. Sometimes I listen to his words, dictated by reason’s pure light. Sometimes I see him - ha! would my eye had been blasted first by lightning - I see him pale and trembling, frantic with his passion, act the madman, throw himself on the floor, and beat that bosom, which I thought the seat of every virtue, but found harboured nought but cruelty and persidy.
These, my Amelia, are the images, the visions, that haunt my solitude. With these is your Clara doomed to pass her future life. Is she now the envied fair one? Toujours tranquille? No; the criminal, extended on the rack, feels less pain than I. - It is impossible for me to proceed. Philemon has disturbed my peace. May this be undisturbed. Cannot it be so, while Clara lives? Die, wretched maid, if it will contribute to his peace. - Adiue! my friend, thou sweet bother of my woes.
Dear good Amelia,
A Week has elapsed since I sent you a letter. I wrote many but so incoherent, so full of a name you will not hear with patience, that I burned them, after having steeped them in my tears. Fidelia is gone to L—– for a few days. Indeed she wants amusement; but she is gone on business. Do you know I am glad of her absence; sensible and polite as she is, her company is now tedious and irksome; for she endeavours to amuse, and dispell sorrows, which will not admit even alleviation.
You, as well as Fidelia, think the recital of Sir Charles Worthy’s passion for me mitigates my remorse. Ah, how little do you know of the heart! It enhances my grief. It shows me how unworthy I ever was of the opinion my partial friends entertained of me. It plainly convinces me Heaven had doomed me to suffer; else why such a train of concurring circumstances to involve one poor wretch in misery? - Yet the sun shines as bright to every eye but mine, as when it seemed to rise but to light me to joy.
Such was my situation, such appeared every object in nature, after I had consented to accompany Sir Charles to S—–. Everything told me I was happy. Did all nature enter into a combination to deceive one wretched maid? The attention of my lover is not to be described. It can only be imagined by her, who, like Clara, was once the object of love and attention to the most amiable, sensible and resined of mankind; possessed of every art to please, and employing all those arts to render happy, the most lost and wretched now, but then the most supremely blest of woman kind.
The day for our journey was fixed for the Monday fortnight, after the conversation repeated in my last. It was then Wednesday. The hours seemed to roll away in bliss. Sir Charles upbraided them with slowness, but endeavoured to make them pass cheerfully and rationally by every agreeable amusement. We had players at —–. He made me frequent the theatre, accompanied by the beautiful Cleora, and Aspasia, and Mrs. Fane, who was my inseparable companion on all occasions.
We had a very fine concert, to which my love of music had induced me to subscribe, just before Sir Charles’s arrival. Though we partook of all these pleasures, and relished them, yet there was none of them any way equal to that I received from the conversation of my lover, ever sensible, ever soothing and agreeable. - He too confessed he was most happy, when, uninterrupted, he enjoyed the company of his mistress, and his friend, and often prevailed on me to be denied to all others. Good God! with what manly, sensible, yet soft and tender expressions of fondness did he entertain his Clara! What warm sentiments of esteem and gratitude did he express for her, and how highly, as he said, was he obliged to her for preferring him to all her other lovers.
“Never would he say, shall any conduct of mine designedly give you cause to repent, or regret the preference; it shall be my whole study to deserve it.” Too well did he, deserve every preference, every distinction; but I was doomed to everlasting regret.
The Saturday before our intended journey, Mrs. Fane came to me, and made many apologies that she could not accompany us on Monday, as the Earl and Countess of E—– were to dine with her. They had engaged themselves to Mr. Fane, and she could not postibly now deny them. As she knew not the design of our going to S—–, there was nothing in this which could give offence, nor was it meant to offend. - Yet, my dear Sir Charles seemed more chagrined than I had ever before seen him. He was melancholy for the whole day. He begged me to let off on Sunday evening, attended by my maid, or on Monday morning; for he dreaded something from this delay. “I am not superstitious, Clara, but indeed I have the melancholy forebodings.” As the delay was but for a day, I thought his uneasiness then unreasonable; I taxed him with impatience on such a trifling matter: but he was not to be reconciled to the delay on any account. He was even vexed at me for bearing it with more patience, and often said I did not love, I did not even pity him I should have resented this impatience more, but that I must see it proceed from a passion too ardent, which it was impossible for me to blame.
I at length prevailed on him to be, or at lead appear to be content with the delay, which was only till Tuesday; and we passed Sunday and Monday in the tenderest and most endearing manner, only to be imagined by those who have felt the force of a virtuous and ardent love. He said no time could ever change or lessen his sentiments of love and esteem, as he everyday discovered some new cause to increase them, and that his reason was even more my slave than his passion. Too true and too flattering I ever found his assurances. He never ceased to love me. But I must defer the event to another letter. Adieu. CLARA.
At length, my friend, the day arrived, which Sir Charles said would make him the happiest of human race. Vain words! Is it for mortals to expect happiness here? I too flattered myself I should have tasted of the cup of pure and unmixed felicity, by rendering the worthiest of his sex happy, as I was bound to do both by sentiment and gratitude. I thought I should have known no other care, but that of pleasing a person willing to be pleased, because he loved her who endeavoured to please him. How easy the talk! how delightful the study!
Sir Charles had, in imagination, lived over ages of refined delight with his Clara. He had given up the gay, licentious world, to which he was formerly but too much attached, for a scheme of pure and rational pleasure, not secluded from the world, but mingling with it in every innocent amusement; but not, like the generality of the gay and fashionable, seeking foreign joys and foreign pleasures, and shunning the only place where, true joy is to be found. He seemed, indeed, to think he should be so attached to his Clara, as to wish to give up all the world for her alone, and only feared I would not make the same sacrifice for him, With such flattering prospects was I deluded to the brink of a precipice, from which I fell, and dashed my hopes to pieces.
My dear, and ever dear Sir Charles came early on Tuesday morning to attend, to conduct his Clara to S—–, and, he hoped, to happiness. We had dined and spent the evening with Mrs. Fane. She promised to be punctual to her hour on Tuesday, and said Sir Charles resented her late disappointment so much, she believed he was going to S—– to be married. The colour on my cheeks told her too plainly she was not mistaken. She whispered Sir Charles, she could now, indeed, forgive his petulance, and would, for Mr. Fane’s sake be exact tomorrow, as she did not doubt but he would revenge it on him, as he could not well challenge her. Sir Charles suffered her to rally him as much as she pleased, and only prayed her not again to put his patience to so severe a trial. But, alas! his trial was not to come from that quarter.
The good Lady Worthy, his mother, had been long ill, and though the Doctors gave him hopes, he feared much she would not recover. His fears were too well grounded, and they proved to be so at a time, least dreaded, but most dreadful. For we were just ready to step into his coach, which waited for us, when a servant arrived with the news that she was speechless, and would probably be dead before he could reach D—–, though but a short mile distant.
Never was son more warmly attached, or with more reason, to a mother. Lady Worthy had passed through life with universal approbation, from all the sensible and discerning part of her acquaintance. She had performed all the social and relative duties of friend, wife, and mother, to say all in all, like a christian; and had been so happy as to perform them for persons deserving of her esteem, and who returned the favour with an equal portion of that respect and reverence so justly due to her. - Her health would not allow her to think of being present at Sir Charles’s nuptials; but they had the sanction of her approbation.
It is impossible for me to give any adequate description of the grief and despair of Sir Charles on this occasion. The loss of an amiable and worthy friend and mother, though long expected, must prove a severe shock to a delicate and susceptible mind. But to have the completion of his hopes delayed, as it necessarily must be from every regard to decency and punctilio, for considerable time, was a dreadful stroke to a man who could not brook the delay of a single day with tolerable patience. He must now even be deprived of the company and conversation of his Clara for some days, appropriated to mourning.
It would be a ridiculous affectation to say, I was not sensibly touched with the disappointment. I had none of those eager wishes Sir Charles expressed for our union; but it was imposiible, loving and esteeming him as I did, but I must feel severely for his apparent distress on this occasion. But why do I say apparent? It was real. He felt more than he was able to express. He saw I was touched with his unaffected sorrow, and begged of Mrs. Fane to amuse me during his absence. He intreated me to go to Springvale, to Mrs. Frugal, as the air, and absence from the place we conversed in together would probably mitigate the grief I could not, nor did not attempt to conceal for his affliction. He only staid to give this advice, and to entreat me (on his knees) to admit no change of sentiment, and to beg my promise never to be any other man’s, which I readily gave, and received his in the tendered and solemnest manner.
Mrs. Fane was affected even to the shedding of tears, and confessed we were formed for each other; and should any accident disunite us, it would destroy the fairest prospect of happiness to which two persons ever looked forward. It was only in prospect we were to enjoy it. Gay scenes were shewn to our sight, but we were not to call them our own. They were, indeed, shewn clearly; nay I was made to believe I was in possession of every good. But what is sublunary bliss? Less real than a dream. His a shadow, which we follow, till it leads us to destruction. Ye who look upon yourselves as arrived at the Summit of human felicity, who think the foundation of your happiness cannot be shaken or removed, beware of that fatal security, which only serves to embitter your misery. Know, vain mortal, that the summit of earthly bliss is situated on the brink of the precipice of despair. If we fall in the humble vale, we scarce perceive it; but if from the lofty tower we are dashed to atoms.
But Clara was not yet fallen into the abyss of despair. No, Ihe had scarce tasted of the bitter draught, which was to be her future sustenance.
I grieved for Lady Worthy. I regretted the absence of my lover, tho but for a week. I now began to find how necessary he was to my happiness. Could I then have foreseen an eternal separation! But can mortals see the dark records of fate? No; it is a page never yet opened to human eyes. Heaven, in pity to our misery and weakness, conceals that from us, which we can neither avoid nor remedy. Or perhaps - but shall I, the most fallen and frail of mortals, attempt to scrutinise or explain the inexplicable ways of Providence? Let me rather submit, and say
“Whatever is, is right.” -
Yet I have sometimes dared to think, that what we call fate or desliny depends more on ourselves than we at first perceives that, in the records of Heaven, it is decreed, if we act in such a manner, we shall incur such consequences. If this is not fate, where is our free-will So much boasted of? Yet I seemed to be doomed and destined to misery. - Could evil have been the consequence of Lady Worthy’s life, of her surviving our union?
“The ways of Heaven are dark and intricate; Puzzled in mazes and perplex’d with errors: Our understanding traces ‘em in vain; Lost and bewilder’d in the fruitless search: Nor sees with how much art the windings run, Nor where the regular confusion ends.” -
I have lengthened this letter beyond what my own strength, or your patience, will, I fear, bear with. It is painful to obey you, in endeavouring to suppress an idea ever presenting itself to my imagination. Why should I banish it? But I will not express my feelings. They hurt my Amelia. Let my own heart be a prey to its sufferings. Farewell. Your’s CLARA.
Our poor friend has been very ill for aome days. She seems more composed; but I do not like it. It is not the composure arising from a mind at ease; nature rather seems exhausted with affliction. I fear her grief will terminate in a settled melancholy. She neither eats, sleeps, nor speaks. What surprises me, she has not even mentioned Philemon for several days.
A persons of less vivacity would either have fallen into this state much sooner, or else have entirely forgot her griefs; but she had such a keen sensibility, such an ardent passion, I am sure it will end but with life. Indeed I think she cannot live any time. She was ever the most delicate of her sex in every respect; yet the most robust, one should think, could not have supported what she has endured.
I have more pain in feeing her thus insensible, than even in hearing her vent the most melancholy complaints: her tears are less painful than this silent sorrow. I shall carry her abroad, if possible, not into company - that I would not attempt, as I know it would hurt her - but to some little distance. I have tried these excursions before, and found she at least received, a momentary relief from them, I fear it is all we can hope for her in this world. She, who delighted every one, receives no delight or comfort from any object. I could (yet I am not of a revengeful or malignant disposition) yet I could curse that most inhuman villain. She writes often to him, but never sends one of her letters. - It seems to relieve her, but she has desisted for this week past. - I know not whether to attempt to disturb this calm; I know not whether it may be possible but, it sits so heavy on her! Heaven relieve her! I am sure no human means can.
I am, dear Madam,
Your sincere friend,
And obedient servant, FIDELIA.
I told my dear Amelia, that our journey was interrupted by the arrival of a messenger to inform Sir Charles of his mother’s being at the point of death. He found her speechless, and in her last moments; a melancholy reverse to a man, who hoped to be a bridegroom before the next sun should have run his course. He was now a prisoner in the house of death; the prisoner of decorum: for he could not restore that amiable worthy parent, or be of any service to her cold remains. But decency demanded it; and as he had paid her every proper attention when living, he would not desert her now till he had paid the last tribute. - Yet he did not neglect his Clara: he wrote every day, in the tendered manner, to inquire for her, and assure her of his regret at the cruel separation, and even once came incognito to pay his duty, as be called it, to his love. He had previously acquainted me with his intention, and begged I might be alone. You may believe I could not refuse him. We spent two hours in the most tender and rapturous manner, and renewed our vows of mutual constancy. Sir Charles could not, with any degree of propriety, mention the subjecy of our union and you may believe I did not. He thanked me a thousand times for the reception I gave him, but begged he might never again receive such a proof of my tenderness; for I melted into tears when we met.
There was something awful beyond description (at least it appeared so to me) in the presence of my lover. His melancholy spread a softness over his countenance, which gave it an ineffable sweetness; but he appeared to my eyes like an inhabitant of another world. Whether it was the gloom of melancholy, that like the jaundice, tinges every object, or whether it was my too prophetic spirit, certain it is, he appeared no longer my gay, my earthly lover. I had a reverential horror upon me at his approach. Yet still he was dear, he was amiable; more so, if postible, than ever. Grief softens and relaxes the mind: and it has ever been remarked by the wisest, that the extremes of prosperity and adversity are favourable to love.
I know I never loved Sir Charles so well as at that period, yet he was ever approved by my heart and my reason. Everything concurred to strengthen my attachment to him. And I regret not my folly more for any cause, than when I reflect on my ingratitude to his memory. Frailty! thy name is woman; else I had never suffered any object to supplant his image in my heart. But Philemon did not supplant it. I loved him for pretending to the virtues Sir Charles possessed. I thought I found a similarity of sentiments. He listened to my tale of sorrow. He pitied me. He admired - angels might have admired - the sentiments and expressions of Sir Charles.
My heart, prone to, or rather made up of tenderness. Seldom found an object to waste it on. Philemon was lovely; had all the arts of persuasion. He had wit. He could assume the characted of virtue; He could assume it to deceive. He had, indeed, the semblance of every virtue; and could impose upon the most wary; but alas the reality was wanting - I was deceived by the shadow - I had lost a gem of inestimable value: its counterpart was nowhere to be found. I thought to repair stand was cheated by a factitious one. Too late I discovered the fraud, and found myself a bankrupt, I had given up my all, for what? for a deception. - Yet I could not repent. I esteemed it as the most valuable treasure. I forgot every other consideration. I wasted whole days, whole months, in the contemplation of my fancied bliss, till I was awakened by his persidy. But I will shake off the fond, the weak, believing woman. I will invoke the spirits of my great forefathers, and call down vengeance on him. - Ha! on whom? On my loved, my almost adored Philemon? No; cover me first earth. Let me be in misery, but make him happy; happy with my rival, with one suited to his taste, perhaps his equal in deceit. - Like mind to like mind. - Could I but tear his image from my heart: Could I but wish to do it. Wish it, and it is done.
“E’re such a soul regain its peaceful slate, How often must it love, how often hate? How often hope, despair, resent, regret, Conceal, disdain - do all things but forget.”
In vain, indeed, do I strive to forget: it is impossible. While memory serves, it can only serve to tell me I am wretched. Shall the grave bring peace, bring comfort? They say that dreams infest the grave. Shall I dream of Philemon? Shall he again deceive, and I be happy? Then I will sleep in the grave. Condust me there, my kind, my only friend, my Fidelia. You who, despising a certfuring world, can fly to solitude with the friend of your youth, with her who had the heart, but never the power, to serve you. But you are goodness all and gentleness. You weep for Clara. Happy could she weep! And my Amelia weeps. I will wipe those drops from her bright eyes. Alas! I shall never more behold them. Mine shall soon set in endless night. Adio! Cara Sorrella. CLARA.
Poor, clear, amiable Clara! I feared this would be the care. I am to blame; yet what could I do? I feared a melancholy; the Doctor feared it. He advised exercise. I carried her to G—–r. She was ever docile; I carried her where I pleased. She seemed not amused, but compliant.
At her desire we went to the choir prayers. She was lifted up, and in an ecstasy. I hoped, idly indeed, that it would have given her mind another turn; but, strange to think, everything reminds her of her betrayer. She never saw him in this place; yet every object presents him to her imagination. She raved, and was quite frantic for some little time; but her frenzy subsided. She is again gentle, but disordered in her mind. She is bent on seeing him; but I cannot indulge her. I know it would be fatal to her. She feared, when in her reason, that shemight make this request, and charged me not to indulge her. She foresaw her own weakness, What, indeed, did she not foresee that ever befell her, except her deviation from virtue? And strongly urged, as she is there a human being could have withstood the temptation? In my mind she is still virtuous; more so than we, who have not been tempted. Her own heart, as well as her lover, in the conspiracy against her.
Ah! my dear Amelia, how many exult in the possession of virtue, who have not half so much as the self condemned Clara. She too might assume the semblance. Her lover durst not betray her secret. But her mind is above the appearance, where she thinks the reality exists not.
Sure all man and womankind owe her candour and pity. She was ever ready to extenuate all faults but her own. - Of these, indeed, she is a severe accuser. Sure, if to judge ourselves will mitigate our condemnation, Clara will meet with pardon hereafter. I have no doubt, but she will. I can scarce think her guilty: at least her amiableness hides all stains. There is subjoined to her idea that of purity. I cannot separate them. I never knew any that could. Her elegance and modesty always awed the licentious. How could that base Philemon? My heart abhors him. If he has a heart, what must he feel?
I remember when I used to wish for, I am afraid I used to envy, Clara’s attractions. How little do we know what is for our good? I would not feel what she does, to be empress of the world. What would it avail me, doomed to unremitted misery? Sir Charles Worthy was mistaken to think her fine feelings contributed to her happiness. With him, perhaps, they might; but in her present situation they are to her a source of exquisite torture.
It is kind and sisterly in you to wish to be near her. She loves you extremely; but I really do not think any thing can mitigate her sorrows. You may assure yourself I shall not forsake her, while I can be of any use. Could I see her restored to tranquility, I should be happy in her company. Till I do, I will use every means, to render her existence supportable. It is all we dare hope for, for some time. Could She divide her attention, but it is plain one idea engrosses it all. Were it my case I could hate him: so could you: but hate is so foreign to her she cannot hate anything: she cannot resent. She says he used to tell her so. Did he injure her for that reason, because he could do it with impunity? I have no patience with him; and, by all that is good, I could almost wish that Chamont was acquainted with it, that he might punish the vile betrayer.
It is So melancholy to think she can never be happy here, she so formed for happiness herself, and to promote the happiness of others. Yet we must never hope for that. She can only pine out a dull existence, should she live; and, indeed, I scarce hope it. My affection bids me not desire it; but my partiality contradicts that sentiment, though I know it is a generous and just one: for I think she must be happy hereafter. It is God, not man, absolves our frailties there - Clara has been composed to rest by a gentle opiate for some hours. I employed that time in writing to you. I find her better and more composed. It is only the. effect of the medicine. I dare not flatter myself it will be of long continuance. Nothing can remove her melancholy: it is fixed. Everything in my power shall be done for her relief and amusement.
I am, dear madam, Your sincerely affectionate friend, And humble Servant, FIDELIA.
Two or three letteres intervene, which are here left out, as they discover a disordered imagination and are no way essential to the history.
You would not believe it, my dear Amelia; Fidelia has injured me extremely. But I must not lead you into an error; she is incapable of doing it designedly. I fell into a profound pensiveness or melancholy. I was unable to speak. The good, amiable girl was alarmed. She would force me to go about, to raise my spirits. Indeed, they are not, to be raised now. I let her carry me where she would. She unfortunately chose G—–r. The sight of that place roused me almost to madness. She knew it not, but it was there I flew to forget Philemon. Had I staid there, it had been better. - I wrote to you from thence. I hope she did not send these letters. They were filled with such expressions, as too plainly evinced my disordered mind. I was conscious of it even at the time, but could not correct it. - Melancholy hurts me not; it is now my constitution: but these slights do most sadly. Indeed, I am most unhappy, and doubly so, that I give so much pain to such sweet friends. - Fidelia is all goodness. - I have not yet told her, I shall not tell her, that it was owing to her carrying me to G—–, that I was so ill. Why give her gentle heart pain? She feels too much already on my account. Indeed there is not a place or object but wounds me with the remembrance of Philemon.
I have many things to do, and a short time allotted to execute them in. I wish to leave you the story of my woes. I wish it for many reasons. The world will, after I am gone, blame and praise me where I deserve. I only give a true account of my actions, and their springs or motives. I can accuse myself where the world would, I am sure, acquit me, from not hnowing the extent of my guilt; but I will not accept of praises undeserved. If they caluminate without reason, forgive them here, and may God forgive them hereafter. Philemon knows my innocence, tho’, to extenuate his own guilt, he may accuse me. He has laid many things to my charge; but I was guilty of no crime to him, but excess of passion; against God, and myself, only, have I offended.
Fidelia watches me. Is my mind now disordered? No; I am calm, I am composed. I am not always so; How can I, when I think of his injurious, cruel treatment? It exceeds description. - Adieu. If I touch that string, I shall destroy the harmony of mind I so lately boasted. Yet it will vibrate untouched. Once more, adieu. Even madness, which robs me of myself, cannot make me forget my Amelia. CLARA.
Written a considerable time after the former.
My dear Amelia reminds me of my promise, and of the period at which I left Sir Charles Worthy, to digress for one whom she would have me forget. It were well if it were possible; but everything in nature forbids.it. - But I will proceed. As soon as Sir Charles had performed the last sad office to the best of women, he flew to his Clara. He did not appear gay. It had been out of character on such an occasion. But he was serene, and almost chearful.
He felt the coniciousness of having, performed every duty, and he hoped, from the universal tenor of Lady Worthy’s conduct, that she was now reaping the glorious reward of a well spent life. - Why should he repine? - Nature demanded a slight degree of melancholy, and he paid the tribute; but it was mixed with complacency, and, as I said above, almost with cheerfulness. His attention to me, far from being abated by security, was redoubled, if possible. He said the attention and assiduity of his whole life would be too little, to repay my condescending goodness in taking a part in his sorrows, and so generously endeavouring - successfully endeavouring - to alleviate them, by the charming assurance, that no time could change or lessen my regard for him.
A lover of a less generous way of thinking would have set little value on such a confession, at a time when I was ready to accompany him to the altar. But Sir Charles seemed to seek occasions of being grateful to his Clara, to make her forget how much she owed to him. That, indeed, was impossible; for while memory serves, it must serve to tell me of his worth, and my obligations.
He looked upon our union as a certain event, and Mrs. Fane made it a secret to few, if any of our acquaintance. HesStrove, as much as possible, to familiarize me to the idea, and used artfully to endeavour to lead me into conversations about our future life; but finding they embarrasfed me, he would desist. I saw I was observed and talked of, on account of our intended union; so secluded myself a good deal from public companies, though so gay and dissipated as you know I was at that time. Sir Charles did not regret this. He had more frequent opportunities of entertaining me with his passion, and did not fail to avail himself of them, determined never to let neglect damp the pasiion he had inspired. It was impossible it should cool, had he been less assiduous.
I thought it impossible any other image should ever succeed his. Fatal mistake! which has cost me more tears than any other event in the unfortunate life of your truly unfortunate CLARA.
The repetition of the assiduities, which gave me so much pleasure, would be dull and uninteresting to my dear Amelia, were it possible for me to repeat them without doing them injustice. But the pen of a Littleton cannot give an adequate idea of the numberless endearments of a tender, sensible, and virtuous lover. Yet sure, no man ever so sweetly described that elegant passion; happy in his choice, happy in the reciprocal regard of his amiable Lucy. But is there a breast so hard as not to melt at his sweet numbers? If there be, I pity its possessor. Alas! I should rather envy them. The unfeeling heart, if it is not supremely blessed, cannot be supremely wretched:
“For such the fates, severely kind, ordain A dull suspense from pleasure and from pain.”
Such cold, marble hearts cannot deviate from what the world calls virtue. They feel not the tender impulse, so fatal to minds of a different, of a more gentle make. Sweet, indeed, are the joys arising from sensibility; but how poignant are its sorrows! how past description its pains! Before ever my heart was pierced with the arrows of affliction, I have regretted my too great sensibility. It is a source of eternal disquiet to the happiest. We feel, indeed, the joys of those about us; but we too sensibly experience, likewise their griefs.
Sir Charles has often told me I would not part with it, if I could; or, if I did, I should be a great loser; as it enhanced the value of every pleasure that fell to my lot, and pain, he hoped, would never dare to approach the dwelling of one so good, so gentle, as his Clara.
You see, my Amelia, with all his wit and penetration, he could not foresee future events. I am sure he would have grieved to think the beloved of his soul, as he often called me, should have fallen from everything that was worthy of that love, and should he now the most despised of human beings. You will say I am not despised. By myself I am, and by him for whom I forfeited all pretensions to esteem. We must, indeed, deserve contempt when we entertain it for ourselves. You too must contemn me, though too kind to let me feel it. Had I never known nor deserved the reverse, perhaps I had felt its stings less severely.
About a month after Lady Worthy death, Sir Charles one morning
told me, he must make a request he feared, would offend me. It was, he said, indeed a presumptuous one; but his Clara was all goodness and forgiveness. She must pity his passion, the most ardent that ever glowed in the breast of man; and she must consider the cruel disappointment which had dashed his hopes, at a time when he thought himself out of the power of fate. Need I tell my dear Clara, continued he, that I revere and respect the memory of my mother; but must I sacrifice an age of happiness to a mere form imposed by the world? Would Lady Worthy desire it, could the dead have a knowledge of the actions of the living?
I am sure she would not; she ever wished me united to my Clara. I should have been too happy, had she lived to see me so blessed; but shall I, for a mere punctilio, put it in the power of fortune again to rob me of all I can conceive of happiness? Consent, my dear friend, and mistress of my heart, to make your lover the happiest of mortals. The world for a few months shall not know or envy our happiness. I will, like a miser, conceal from them my riches. Do not imagine I mean to seclude my angel from the world, or to suffer people, even for, a moment, to suppose her engaged, in an illicit amour. No; your honour is ten thousand times more dear to me than my life. Consent but to our immediate union; the world shall not know it, till the expiration of the time allotted for mourning. You will, by this compliance, avoid, what you seem to dread, the parade and observation attendant on such occasions. You, my love, can be free from any disagreeable consequences, by permitting me to conduct you to London. Few of your acquaintance, are in town at this season. Be generous, and sacrifice your time to your lover, and a chosen few, that we can entrust with the secret of our being blest as Heaven can make us.
I was silent; for he would not suffer me to interrupt or deny him, till he had urged everything to gain my consent. He said much more - that as he could not live without seeing me, and hoped I did not wish to deprive him of that happiness, it would be more for my honour to consent to tie the indissoluble knot, on our arrival in London, and that a few months - would convince the world of the ardour, and sincerity of his pasiion. He knew too well, that I had heard many things to his disadvantage respecting women, which made him the more earnest in this request. He had besides heard, that it was reported he only trifled with me, and some ladies affirmed it never would be a match. “He that had had so many affairs of gallantry with women, his equals at least, to be so taken with a little inexperienced girl, without guardians, almost her own protector, and of an uncertain, and some said no fortune! All the world would laugh at Sir Charles. He that might have had such matches! But it was absolutely impossible.”
Much of this had reached Sir Charles’s ears, though I was a stranger to it. He had constantly avowed his honourable intentions, and spoke in such a Strain as might have convinced the world of his sincerity. But malice is not easily convinced. I should rather say envy; malice they could not have from any other source? I was then, indeed, too justly entitled to their envy, but soon to be the object of universal pity. Cruel vicissitude! Fatal reverie of fortune! But it was my unhappy fate ever to be within view of happiness, and then to be deprived of it.
I was unable to answer Sir Charles for some time. He held my hand to his bosom, and begged my consent, or to let him interpret my silence as a consent to his proposal. I was obliged speak, lest he should, as he said, interpret my silence in his favour. I found it hard, indeed, to refuse him anything; but, at the same time, thought there was an impropriety in his request. I was convinced he thought so too by the many arguments he used to persuade me to it. I told him my opinion. He said, whatever impropriety there might be in his urging me to consent to a private marriage, it was to avoid more disagreeable circumstances, that might possibly attend delaying our union.
He said everything that his passion or his wit could suggest, and prevailed so far, that I promised him an answer in a few days, but insisted on his not pressing me any farther at that time on the subject. He, with his usual goodness and complaisance, desisted, as he saw it gave me pain, but begged I would remember my promise, and that the day might be soon, as he flattered himself the answer would be favoruable.
You see, my dear, what long letters I send you. I am hastening to a conclusion, lest I should not finish my task before my hour glass is run. I have many things else to do, and short space allowed me. That all the years and days, my dear Amelia, which misfortune cuts off from my life, may be added in happiness to yours, is the sincere wish of your,
Truly affectionate, CLARA.
I am hastening, my Amelia, to a period, which I once thought the most dreadful of my life. I idly imagined at that time, it was out of the power of fate to afflict me more severely, and that adverse fortune had emptied all her quivers in my bosom. Perhaps I am still to endure more exquisite woes. Perhaps the measure of my sufferings is not yet full. Shall I dare to say, what can he inflict? Presumptuous Clara! once, I fear, you said so. Were you not happy then, in comparison to what you now suffer??
Perhaps there are beings still more wretched. I can scarce think it possible. But it may yet be the will of him, who called me out of nothing into being, to make me confess I had but begun to taste of affliction. If this to be my lot, teach me, O my God, to submit, and let no misfortune make me forget to say, thy will be done, however repugnant to my weak nature.
It was difficult for me to refuse Sir Charles any request, but I looked on his, last as an unreasonable one. I thought he should have waited patiently the expiration of the time allotted for mourning, and determined within myself, though my heart smote me for the determination, to deny him. Conscious of his strength and my weakness, I resolved not to see hime when I denied him, but to write my answer, and use every argument to prove him in the wrong in pressing me to such a compliance. For this purpose I determined to leave —–, and to deny myself, what constituted the happiness of my life, the sight of Sir Charles, till the period, when I might, with decency and propriety, be his, should arrive. I determined to spend the intervening time with Lady S—–; and lest hesShould oppose, and dissuade me from this resolution, I kept my intentions a secret, even from my maid, to the very last, and only ordered her to pack op a few changes of linen, and two gowns, as I intended to go some miles out of town. These orders were not given till the evening before my departure. I did, however, take the precaution to pack up whatever more I thought necessary for myself, after she was gone to bed. But why do I dwell on these trifles? They were, indeed, fatal precautions to insure my own ruin.
As I mean not to disguise my feelings, or pretend to more heroism or virtue than I possess, I will tell you my Amelia, as nearly as I am able, not only my actions, but the source they sprung from. Sir Charles possessed every art to please, to engage, to seduce the heart. He had mine entirely. His professions, his actions, spoke the man of honour. But I feared an indelicacy in yielding to this precipitate proposal. I thought he looked on it in that light himself, and must have disapproved of a compliance, though made to gratify his repeated intreaties. I feared, if I refused this, and continued to converse freely with him, that the world might say things to my prejudice. But why will I still disguise my heart? I feared his passion and my own tenderness. I feared some unguarded hour. Yet loved virtue, nor had ever felt a sensual wish. Forgive me, ye who have more resolution. But I think the best and surest way is to avoid temptation; or if it attack us, to fly from it. There may be some who are above it. They are more than angels, or less than women.
I was unhappily formed with all my sex’s softness, all its weakness. While, conscious of my frailty, I was safe: when I thought myself strong, I found my weakness; weakness never to be atoned for, never to be forgiven. But I will bury in solitude and oblivion the fatal form, the vile attractions that occasioned my misery. The world can only forgive, when I am no more. It will then say, “be at peace, too wretched Clara!” Adieu. May my Amelia have peace here and to eternity. CLARA.
When I had ordered matters as I have related, I wrote to Sir Charles, assuring him of my unalterable affection, and my resolution never to give my hand to any other man; but requesting him not to urge me to take a step, he must, on cooler reflection, condemn. - That I must be liable to many censures from the scheme he had proposed, and that it was not sufficient to be innocent, but we owed it to the world to appear so. - That I was convinced it would hurt him, to have the person he professed so unmerited an esteem for, appear criminal, though was convinced she was otherwise. I then acquainted him with my resolution of leaving —–, till the time of mourning was elapsed, with my determination not to see him, but allowed him, if he pleased, to write to me, under cover to Sir William D—–, who would forward the letters; and assured him I should have the greatest pleasure in receiving and answering them. I concealed not my affection; I attempted not to conceal it. Art was ever a stranger to my breast; and think it not vanity in me, when I say, had not a sentiment for Sir Charles, which the severest virtue needs blush to own.
When I had finished my letter, I gave charge to Mrs. V—–, and desire it might not be delivered for some hours after my departure; as I feared with reason he would follow me, and persuade me to break a resolution, which I thought was absolutely necessary, as a deviation from it was inconsistent with decorum and propriety. But my heroism was of short duration. I thought the horses that drew me from —– flew. I looked out in hopes of seeing my lover in pursuit of me. I had not looked in vain, but that, stranger as he was to the route I had taken, and misled by the description of another Lady, who nearly resembled me, and was dressed as I usually was for travelling, he had followed her chaise instead of mine, and, as she had set out much earlier, did not overtake her till she had reached —–, which is between seventy and eighty miles from —–.
As she had no reason to avoid Sir Charles, when she saw him alight at the inn where she was to remain that night, she expressed her satisfication to the lady, who was her fellow traveller, and proposed sending an invitation to him to sup with them. But, before they could put their design in execution, Sir Charles had inquired if a lady, who answered such a description, was there, and desired to be conducted to her apartment. He flew up stairs with a resolution to upbraid his unkind Clara for flying from him; but judge of his surprize and disappointment, when he found he had been all this time eagerly following one who did not fly him, and for whom he entertained a most perfect indifference! It was too great to be concealed. Sir Charles started and exclaimed, is it not Clara? Is it you Miss M—–, I have been in pursuit of all day? Miss M—– was not less surprised than Sir Charles, but she Shared not in his disappointment, as she and every one at —— knew of his attachment to Clara. What surprised Miss M—– was, that I should fly from him, as every person looked upon our union as a thing, which was certainly to happen in a short time. And though many were ill-natured enough to say he meant it not, yet they scarce believed themselves, and were not believed by others, as Sir Charles’s words and actions contradicted their surmises; or if they were, they could scarcely have found a reason for my flight, as they believed me a dupe to his art, if they were really of opinion that he was insincere.
Miss M—– and her companion stood as much amazed as Sir Charles, and begged him to explain himself but he, sorry he had been transported to say so much, begged they would ask no explanation at that time, as he was obliged to pursue his journey, (he knew not whither to pursue it) but when they met next, he hoped she should be able to satisfy their enquiries. Politeness will not suffer you to teaze people, when you find them averse to your demands; but Sir Charles put it out of their power, by immediately taking leave, and ordering fresh horses, drove back, convinced I had not taken that route. But a stranger to which I had taken, in vain did he question Mrs. V—–, whom I lodged. She was as much a stranger to my motions, as he was. He applied himself to Mrs. Fane, but I knew her too well to entrust her with a Secret.
I meant not, indeed, to keep my abode, for any length of time, a secret from Sir Charles. I only feared his overtaking me, and prevailing on me to break my resolution. When arrived at Lady S—–’s, I should have had no objection to seeing him, and it cost me many tears, which I have since had more, occasion for, before I could resolve on flying from him for that short period.
I have an opportunity of sending this; so Shall conclude, by assuring you I am ever, with gratitude and affection,
End of the FIRST VOLUME.
Printed for J. Wilkie, No. 71, in, St. Paul’s
Church Yard. 1771.
I sad travelled slower than Sir Charles, but faster than my inclinations; for I thought every step the horses went deprived me of a part of my existence, or dragged me from myself. Yet the motion so exhilarated my spirits, that I did not give myself to grief, till I arrived at the inn where I was to sleep. On supper being served, my maid said innocently, she wished Sir Charles was with me, as it was very melancholy for me to sup alone. I burst into tears, and wished at that moment for a good excuse to return to —–. But pride would not let me; I will not call it discretion, though I dignified it with that name at the time. Happy! had I then yielded to the impulses of my heart; for, alas! I must accuse myself of such things, that the most rigid, while they condemn, must pity me.
Sir Charles ceased not to search for me, though hopeless of success in his researches. I would excuse my to my own heart, (to the world I am content to appear most guilty) by imputing my misfortunes, and the fatal event that followed my last step, to his impetuosity. I had promised to be his. What was a few months absence? He must have discovered, in a short time, where I was. But everything conspired to make me, if not guilty, at least wretched. He scarce staid to refresh himself, after his long journey to and from —–; but making all possible inquiries, in vain, began a fresh journey, as unsuccessful as the former. The fatigue of his body, and still more the agitation of his mind. - But, oh heavens! spare me the sequel! the dreadful, catastrophe! It makes me even forget my wrongs, and Philemon’s perjuries. What are all my other crimes to this? Was I not the murderer of my lover? Of the best, the most faithful, the most accomplished and amiable of his sex?
You have often flattered me, my Amelia, and said, I had nothing to accuse myself of, when I reflect Sir Charles Worthy’s memory. I have latterly given way to the delusion, and have taken comfort from it. How little comfort is there for Clara! Every action of my life, however well in tended, rises in judgement against me, and accuses me of some atrocious crime. I hesitate not to expose my guilt, but the pangs, that rend my heart on reflection, are too much for me to bear. Yet I will inflict them on myself, that Heaven may mitigate my punishment hereafter, if it be possible that anything can atone for crimes like mine.
The severe exercise both of mind and body, which Sir Charles had undergone in search of me, threw him into a violent and raging fever. He had wrote to me according to the direction I had given him, and was determined to have gone to Sir William’s to find out my abode, though convinced it was not at his house; but was prevented by the attack of the fever. He would have gone there at first, but fancied that direction was intended to amuse and deceive him; and hearing the description of Miss M—– immediately concluded it was his Clara, and followed her in, consequence of that belief.
His letter was filled with the tendereft reproaches for my unkind flight from one, whose every wish centered in my happiness. It was like every letter from him, filled with love; but unlike them in being forced to upbraid me.
I answered immediately, and gave him fresh assurances of my unalterable fidelity. I endeavoured to extenuate my fault - for I now thought and confessed myself guilty of one - by every argument I could use, but received no answer. I feared he would not pardon me. I then flattered myself was on his journey to Lady S—–’s feat, as I had no reason to doubt he would come, as soon as he received intelligence where I was; nor did I wish to avoid him there, as I knew Lady S—– would take every proper measure, and would convince him how nccestary it was to delay our union, till the time allotted for mourning was expired : or if she approved his proposal, her approbation would give a sanction to it. But I was not to be so happy. I was, on the contrary, doomed to suffer the most poignant grief, the most acute torments. For after expecting my lover for several days, or at least a letter from him, I received one from Mrs. Fane, giving me an account of his illness, and imputing it to the rash step I had taken.
I shall not attempt to describe, what no pen is equal to, my feelings on the receipt of this letter; but I was soon relieved by faintings, which at once deprived me of sense and of my anguish. Would to God they had for ever deprived me of both! For I, was only revived to be sensible of distress and misery. I was for setting off immediately for —–, but Lady S—–not suffer me. Indeed I was unable to go, but would have attempted it. It was not many days before I was in as bad a way as Sir Charles. My maid wrote constantly to Mrs. Fane, and, communicated her answer to me, I was once again flattered with hope. Sir Charles began to recover. My illness was kept a secret from him, but not my anxiety. Mr. Fane acquainted him with everything that could conduce to his recovery, but cautiously avoided mentioning aught that might retard it. As my fever proceeded wholly from anxiety on his account, the joy tidings of his recovery, like a precious balm, soon restored me to life a health - only to enable me to, under fresh torments.
I must conclude, or I shall not be able to suppress my complaints. I will indulge them in private. My Amelia must be tired of them. Adieu, most dear.
Your’s, &c. CLARA.
I must chide my dear, my beloved Clara for two things. You say you will suppress your complaints.
I begin where I should end. - Why will you suppress them. Can anything that affects you, be indifferent to your sister, your friend? Could I remove every cause of complaint, you should be the happiest woman in the world. As I cannot, do not deny me the satisfaslion to participate of your grief. I claim my share. It is due to my friendship. If you deny me, it wronging that.
Indeed I could scold you, as I once used to do - Ah, my Clara, shall those happy days ever return! - for accusing yourself in the manner you do. Had Sir Charles, dear Sir Charles, had he died of that fever, you could not, with any colour of justice, have accused yourself. Ah, my friend, how prejudiced and partial you can be! I shall only use your own weapons against you. How often have you argued, and proved your argument - indeed you always did that, for you argued from truth and reason - that there could be no crime, where there was no intention of guilt; There could not surely be alleged any in your conduct; but you have a mind to make yourself appear the worst creature in the world. And if I durst speak my sentiments, and those of every one that ever knew you, I would say it was a untruth, and that Clara was become a defamer of the worthy and innocent. Do you think any one would believe me? Yet you must confess it is true.
Indeed, my dear Clara, you would find an excuse for any one but yourself. Pray, endeavour to entertain a more just opinion of yourself. If you knew how happy it would make me to see yousSo, you would endeavour it, I am sure you would. Do, try, my dearest friend, to serve and oblige your truly affectionate
Friend and sister, AMELIA.
If flattery or soothing friendship, my Amelia, could heal a wounded conscience, you have applied it kindly and skillfully. To be praised by those love and esteem, is most pleasing, could we but enjoy, at the same time, that sweet consciousness, which exceeds all praise, that we deserve it. Rob us of that, and it turns to satire.
That you may not say I am too rigid a judge over myself, I will allow I was not guilty intentionally with regard to Sir Charles. It was my judgement that erred. I had died rather than injured him, and hope I am acquitted to Heaven. O nature! frail humanity! could thy faults find the same extenuation! Has not he, that gave us judgement, given us passions? Shall the judge be acquitted when he errs, be, his error never so fatal? And must the poor criminal suffer, though urged by the strongest temptations? Deceive not thyself, Clara. Could judgement go wrong, knowing itself wrong, it were no longer worthy of that name. But we err not from passion, unless checked by reason or judgement. It is reason that tells us we offend. Rightly do we condemn the passions. It is they only that are criminal. They seduce us to our ruin. Deaf to the voice of reason, they hurry us on to the commission of crimes, while she can only tell us we are wretched past her cure.
My error in flying from, Sir Charles proved a fatal one to my peace. I cannot yet reflect upon it without horror. To have my lover brought to the verge of eternity through my fault! Alas! I fear it caused all the dreadful consequences, that so quickly followed. If so, how guilty am I?
Every thing again wore the face of joy. I heard every post from Sir Charles. He insisted on my no longer delaying our nuptials, than till he should be able to travel. I dared not again deny him. It had cost me too much already. I acquainted Lady S—– with his request, but she seemed to think him too precipitate; and, as the time of mourning was almost expired, said we ought by all means to wait that period; and indeed that Sir Charles’s health could not possibly be re-established, so as to undertake a journey sooner, and for me to return to —– would not be consistent with decency, till I was his wife.
I acquainted Sir Charles with Lady S—–’s opinion, and wished him to comply with it; but gave him to understand, that I was willing to make any concession, that was consistent with honour and virtue, as I valued his peace above everything beside. He acknowledged this, as a man of sense and honour ought to do, with a profusion of thanks, and an assurance, that he never would demand any concession,; that I should have reason to regret or repent; but still expressed his impatience for our union, and begged I would, as soon as possible, go to London, where he should attend my coming, and settle all matters, he hoped, to our mutual satisfaction. And as accidents had delayed our marriage so long, he thought there would be no necessity for concealing it any time, but that we might immediately return to —–, and receive the congratulations of our friends; or, if agreeable to me, make a little tour to France, which would, he thought, be of service to my health, ever delicate, though without any complaint but that delicacy.
I was content to acquiesce in any scheme he proposed, so dear had the danger of losing him made him to my heart, I hesitated not about going to London to meet him, and acquainted Lady S—– with my intention, but not my motive. She, at first, opposed my attempting leave her in so short a time; but, with much difficulty, I prevailed on her to let me fix that day fortnight for my departure. Sir Charles had been so importunate. I durst not attempt to put it off longer. Lady S—– could not oppose me, as she knew my dependance on some friends in London, and believed that was my motive for going.
Sir Charles was so well recovered, that he partook of all the diversions of —–, and would have come to Lady S—–’s to see me, and conduct me to London; but I objected to it, as her Ladyship had raised so many scruples against our hasty union, and thought it more advisable for him to meet me in London, than either at Lady S—–’s, or on the road, in short I absolutely prohibited either.
It was just at this time Lady Anne D—– was married to Lord R—–. Anne was related to Sir Charles. He was invited to all the parties on that occasion. Two days before his intended departure for London, there was a ball at a little distance from —–. They went by water, and had a band of music in the beat. Many such parties have I enjoyed in the company of Sir Charles: in his company I, indeed, enjoyed them. He went to this ball, and danced tvith Mrs. Fane. He returned in the damp of the night in the barge. Some, more careful of lives less valuable, walked, or returned in carriages. The moon shone bright, and it was in that delightful season when the nightingale charms you with her melody. Sir Charles was unapprehensive, though not six weeks had elapsed since he was declared to be out of danger from the fever. He soon discovered his folly; for, before he reached home, he was seized with cold and tremblings. He was alarmed, and immediately on his arrival at his house, sent for his physician, who chid him for his indiscretion.
Alas I my Amelia, must I relate the sequel? Yes, though I dip the pen in my vital blood. Two days after my arrival in town I received an account of his death, form whom alone I lived, of the choice of my heart and of my judgement, the first object of my affections, perhaps the only one that ever should have had them. These tidings deprived me even of power to lament my fate. My heart revolted against fo dreadful a stroke. I would not believe it. I insisted upon it he lived. I could not bear the fight of the person, who told me of so dreadful a misfortune. I suffered every thing, that a strong sense of the most dreadful calamity could inflict upon a tender heart. My grief drove me to distraction. They composed me with opiates, and at last, to save my reason, brought me to a settled melancholy, the condition you saw me in two years after. I wept incessantly. I shunned amusement and company, but was obliged to see some.
It was a considerable time before they durst tell me the particulars of Sir Charles’ death, and, I think, never would have told me but to save me from despair, as I constantly accused myself of being his murderer. I must reserve these for another letter. I feel too much, I suffer too sensibly, in spite of all my other heartrending griefs. The wounds, which Sir Charles’s death gave my heart, bleed as fresh on the repetition, as at the moment they were given.
His gentle, his amiable, injured shade seems to rise, and upbraid my weakness, my infidelity. No, all lovely, all good as thou art, do not accuse thy once loved Clara. Did she ever deny her love? How often has she wished, that Philemon had deserved as much? Was it not his resemblance to thee, his similarity of sentiment, that attracted, that stole her affection? How often has sire told him her heart was buried with you. Clara was sincere when she Swore never to admit another love. But she was betrayed by her security. She was betrayed by passion.
May my dear Amelia be taught, by my fatal experience, to shun evils, which, if we fall into them, are irremdieable! Adieu.
I promised to give my dear Amelia the particulars of what has been to me the source of unremitting woe. Sir Charles was Siezed with coldness and shiverings on the water. They continued after he got home. A physician was sent for. He immediately apprehended danger, but did not communicate his fears to Sir Charles, who told him he was under an indispensable necessity of setting off for London in a few days. The doctor, judging that to acquaint him with his danger would increase it, flattered him with hopes, which he could not allow himself to entertain; for he told some of his friends and attendants, that he had little hopes but from his youth and good constitution.
He staid in the house all night, unknown to Sir Charles; but, alas! in vain. Could art oppose the decrees of fate? The most amiable of his sex was delirious before morning, and never again did that most enlightened understanding shine forth, to instruct and amuse all that heard him. On the fifth day he was numbered with the dead, and I was left a prey to grief. In his delirium he ceased not to talk of, and call for Clara. Expresses were sent to Lady S—–’s but I had just left it, and, two days after my arrival in London, I received the fatal tidings. Yet I lived. I even recovered my wonted vivacity, but not for almost three years, and then it was tinged with melancholy. I desired not to part with that melancholy. I found a pleasure in it. I ceased not for a single moment to think of him, but it began to be without anguish.
I thought of death with the most sweet complacency, almost assured of being united to him in the grave. This idea soothed my sorrow, and made me again fit for, and take pleasure in society; but I rather preferred solitude, as I could there converse with my lover. I read over his letters. I carried them in my bosom, I re peated the many endearing conversations I had held with him, the polite and lively things he said to myself, and sometimes to friends, who were acquainted with our mutual affection. This alleviated my grief; but I was still faithful to my vows and to his memory. I could listen to any conversation but that of love, and to that with pleasure if it was not addressed to me.
Yet, my dear Amelia, my heart was still full of that tender passion. Alas! it was formed for no other impression. You know, my dear, I refused and rejescted the teasing assiduites of Lord B—– and Capt. H—–. I made a merit of my denial, and attributed it to my constancy to Sir CSharles’s memory. I am convinced of my mistake. Had Sir Charles never been, neither of these could have succeeded. They had merit, but they were not formed to attract me. My heart, though susceptible, was difficult. Sir Charles and Philemon - shall I name them together? It is prophanation. Yet they felt the same sentiments. Sir Charles possessed what Philemon pretended to.
In the latter end of the third year after Sir Charles’s death, I determined to retire to, a considerable distance from London, into one of the lovesiest Spots in England, and with one of the most amiable women, I was to be her hoarder; for I never could submit to a state of dependance, or living in other people’s houses as a visitor. But I was situated in a polite and agreeable neighbourhood, and a charming as well as a cheap country.
Mrs. Rich, with whom I was to lodge, &c, was about seven and twenty, handsome, and well-bred, married to a man who adored her, and for whom she had an equal tenderness. They lived elegantly on their own property, though possessed but of a small share of the goods of fortune. I made no addition to their expense, but was some to their income.
I was happy in Mrs. Rich’s company; and this scheme of economy was become necessary for me, as I had paid too little regard to my not only very small, but very precarious fortune. On looking into my affairs, I found them very much out of order, and that I had contracted some debts, which were rather inconvenient, tho’ not distressing to me. I put my little income into the hands of a friend, and reserved only so much as I thought sufficient to keep me with decent economy, and retired, as I have related, to Mrs. Rich’s, almost two hundred miles from the capital. It was there I tasted the most serene pleasures I ever experienced.
I had renounced, so early in life, all tumultuous joys. I could meditate on my past life, without many subjects for remorse. used, as I had been, to shing in courts, balls, plays and assemblies, I found more pleasure in the melody of birds, or gentle murmurs of a purling stream, than in the music of the opera. I had a few friends of sense and taste, and a few authors, who always delighted and never could deceive me. How often have I repeated, with delight, that charming soliloquy in Pastor Fido, Care silve beate! But my heart was still the slave of love. THese very propensities declared it. Solitude is not adapted to youth. Adieu, my Amelia.
I was in this happy situation and disposition of mind, when Mrs. L—– landed from France. You know how tenderly she ever loved me. She had no other motive for coming over, but a desire to see and live with me. She wrote to me from Dover. I met her, and accompanied her to Bath, where it was necessary for her to go for her health. Alas! my Amelia, you are no Stranger to my motives of action, I think those, that induced me to act as I did by Mrs. L—–, were really virtuous. Yet they were the source of more evils to me, in every shape, than I can possibly describe, or you can well imagine. But I will hasten to a conclusion.
In the house where we boarded and lodged at Bath, there were many agreeable persons. I had the fortune, alas! the ill fortune, to attract the attention of all the men, and had sufficiently recovered my gaiety to be diverted with it; Secure, as I thought, of my heart, which I had sworn never to let entertain a second love. Dreadful perjury! never enough to be lamented security!
Among the most passionate of my admirers was a Mr. C—–, and Philemon. The former was a man of polite education,, insinuating address, and an agreeable person. I often listened to, I even seemed pleased with his conversation, though it was always trifling. But he could flatter agreeably enough. I knew my heart too well to be in the least afraid of Mr. C—–. Philemon was a more dangerous object. He was young, beautiful, I thought, candid and virtuous. He was modesty itself yet not bashful. He breathed no sentiment but what seemed to proceed from sense and virtue. He had conversed more with books than men, and had retained and digested, by an excellent memory and understanding, all he had read; but it made him a little more opinionative than is becoming in any, particularly so young a man. It seemed his only fault, at least in my partial eyes; for I was partial from the beginning, but did not perceive it till too, too late.
Philemon was playful as infancy, and seemed as innocent. Good God! What a talk have I undertaken! No, it is impossible to relate the arts, by which I was rendered miserable past redemption. Philemon, without confessing a passsion, showed, by every action, by every word, that he felt one. Stiff in his opinion to others, he always seemed convinced as soon as I had given my judgement. Indeed our sentiments were almost always the same. I thought him, from the first, amiable. I loved, but was unconscious of it. Philemon was not upon an equality, with me in birth or rank. My pride told me I had nothing to fear from one who was not. I listened with pleasure to his conversation. It was always addressed to me. He used to play and be rather too familiar with some other young women, and once attempted to kiss me in sport. I relented it with a severity that hurt him. He imputed my resentment to pride. I felt uneasy whilst his embarrassment lasted. It was moon-light, We were summoned down stairs. I went to the window to admire that pale, but bright and modest planet. As he stood beside me, he pressed me to his bosom. Our situation at the window gave me leave to appear, at least, to think it accidental, I did not attempt, for a few moments to prevent it. I could not deprive myself of a pleasure, which thrilled through my heart. I began to fear I loved. I checked those fears, I cherished the sweet, the sweet poison, till it mixed with my vital blood, till it became a part of my existence.
We both left the window together. Philemon was more gay than usual. He seemed happy,. It had cost me nothing, I thought, to make him so. A sigh had stolen from him at the window: I was forced to suppress one. My soul was that moment in union his. Long time did that sweet harmony subsist. Alas! there can be no true harmony but what proceeds from virtue. Our souls were then actuated by that bright spark. Philemon, though now a villain, was not always so. Vice could not have assumed such a semblance. He was lovely beyond expression. He spoke the language of angels. Alas! my Amelia, tears will not let me proceed. Yet I could dwell for ever on the subject. Ah! Philemon, why did we ever meet? Why did you ever profess that fatal passion, which has cost me more than life. Never can I obliterate thy dear idea. It is twisted round my heart. I may cut in pieces the threads that compose my frame, but never can I separate thy idea from my bosom. It is interwoven with my life.
I can remember, with pleasure, the hours spent in the most innocent and exquisite endearments. We read together, and communicated our remarks to each other. We walked together by the side of a sweet river. Even nature seemed to rejoice with us. The fields wore a brighter verdure in January, than they were used to do in May. The weather was milder; the birds more cheerful. Sweet power of love! It can alter nature. But we were then innocent as the first happy pair in paradise, and like them happy. Now all is dreary. Nature frowns upon the hapless, guilty Clara.
Mrs. L—–and I were not long in the same house with Philemon, but long enough for kindred minds to form a strict intimacy. We lived in the same town after we left Bath. He spent his evenings with us, and showed such an attention and solicitude about me, as argued a tender passion. It was his fortune to be universally admired by the fair sex, and he had a coquetish manner of behaving, that gave them too much reason to think he liked them; but he was cautious of making professions. I am afraid it was the result of caution, not of candour.
I was the confident of two young ladies that liked him; and one of them went so far as to beg of me to try if I could, discover what sentiments entertained for her, and even to wish me to speak in her favour, as she perceived he highly esteemed me. I undertook the talk, and performed it with fidelity. But whatever I might then pretend to myself, or to Philemon, I felt exquisite pleasure at his answer. He assured me he had never loved, nor professed to love, any woman but Clara, I affected to be angry. I made myself believe I was. But I was deceived. I rejected his passion, but admitted his visits, and was never happy but in his company. He shewed jealousy, if I appeared to listen with pleasure to any other person. I avoided all company but his.
We passed our evenings in reading or cards. I was more happy in complying with his wishes, than in gratifying my own. Yet still I concealed from my heart that I loved. It was esteem, it was friendship; but I had sworn never to admit a second love, and believed myself incapable of change. I still retained every tender, grateful sentiment for the memory of Sir Charles. Philemon encouraged them. He admired and adopted his sentiments, and made himself, if possible, more dear to me. Our fondness grew to such excess, I could no longer deceive myself. I found it was love. My being seemed to depend wholly upon him. When he was absent I was restless and unhappy. In fine, I no longer existed when he disappeared. On his return, I was ecstacy, I was transport. It was mutual; at least it appeared so. He flew upstairs; but when he went down them, moved like one who expected to meet death at the bottom.
Mrs. L—– went to see a friend at some distance. Our meetings and, our mutual fondness were more unrestrained. We indulged ourselves in every innocent enjoyment, even to luxury. Our souls seemed to inhabit, not our own, but each others bodies. Never was there such a life of bliss was too much for mortals. I was happy, even to an agony. I was yet innocent in thought, as well as act. I wished not for greater joys, than to hear my lover vow eternal constancy, to fold him to my bosom, while he pressed me to his - his, which I thought the seat of every virtue - to look on his lovely eyes, which spoke the kindest, tenderest things to Clara. O! it is too much. My hearts strings break. I cannot bear it. Shield me, good angels! Rob me of memory, or restore me to my lover. No, Clara; that is now imposiible. In death you may forget him. But even death cannot unite you to the perjured Philemon. Has he not given his vows to another? Remember thy wrongs. Remember the cruel parting, when he dashed you from his bosom, saw you lie breathless at his feet; yet raved and exclaimed against you. And did Philemon stab a dagger in the heart, the faithful heart of Clara, which he had promised ever to cherish and protect?
Is there a creature on earth, but man, who could act thus? Exalt yout nature, vain lords of the creation, much as you will. Boast of your superior reason. Boast too of your humanity, and call it virtue. So it is as paint by the speculatist. But is it practised man, from whom it is named? Is there an animal so fierce, so Savage, as injure his mate, to spurn her from him, for no other cause than her attachment to him? And is there man so much more fierce, more savage than the brutes, as thus to treat a woman, who, on her bended knees, and drowened in tears, besought and conjured him not to abandon the one who could not live without him. Who had sworn not to survive his union with another? Yes, there is, and Philemon is he. He Still lives. He only can know the portrait. He will sigh, will perhaps drop a tear, if he remembers this, when the unhappy Clara is mingled with her native dust.
If dreams infest the grave, even there Philemon must be present. Was ever heart so injured? Was ever heart so devoted? To hope for relief is vain, since I cannot even endure the idea of forgetting him. Could I obliterate the remembrance of my wrongs, of his cruelty, of his falsehood, I should indeed be happy. I could cherish his image. I could live over again the days of bliss; They were Heaven. They were rapture all and ecstacy, too great for mortals.
It is impossible I can proceed. I will lay down my pen. Imagine the rest; for no pen can paint my sufferings.
In my last I attempted to describe my happiness, but it surpassed description, as much as now does my unutterable woe. I was truly blessed. I remember a few lines in an elegant writer, which Philemon and I have often read with equal pleasure, and equal admiration.
“Blessed is the maid, and worthy to be blest, Whose soul entire, by him she loves possest, Feels ev’ry vanity in fondness lost, And only studies how to please him most. - For her, ungrateful man might cease to range, And gratitude forbid desire; to change.”
Philemon said I deserved, and should enjoy that blessing. It was the only bliss on earth I coveted. To retain his affection was to me the height of prosperity. It was all I asked of Heaven to make him mine, and make him happy; and, Heaven is my witness, often have I prayed for it. He has sworn he never knew happiness but in my comnany; that he never loved any but me; and that if comtemned by all the world, he cared not, whilst he was esteemed by his Clara. What cares could afflict him, when he could repose them in her kind, her gentle bosom? that bosom now by him made the seat of woe. Ah, Philemon, dare you reflect, and can you be gay? No, you have banished reflection, left it should sting you to death. Can you banish it for ever? Will it not obtrude some time or other? Will it not approach you, even in the arms of Corifca? Name her not. Madness lies that way. It is too much for humanity to bear. Calm my perturbations, every gentle spirit of peace! And thou blest father of spirits! look down, with pity and compassion, upon the frailty of thy child, thy Servant, the creature of thy hand. Pity and forgive those passions thou hast formed her with. Assist her to repent of their fatal effects, since thou didst not assist her to conquer them.
Now, my Amelia, I can proceed. But I know not where I left off. My story might be told in two words - that I am wretched, through my own folly, and my lover’s persidy. A short story, full of misery.
Yet I could for ever dwell on the hours of rapture I spent with my Philemon; for he was mine, and only mine. We had but one soul. Many months passed away in this blissful state, when Philemon, though conscious that I felt a mutual passion, breathed his wishes for an union, with the utmost timidity, and in faltering accents. He, who could harangue the listenting senate, trembled to speak his wishes to the maid, who had more than confessed her lovel for she had given him every innocent proof of fondness.
We had spent the evening in the tenderest, and fondest manner. Philemon arose to take his leave. He hung over my chair, and, in accents scarcely articulate, breathed the most ardent wishes for a connection to last for life. I could only answer, oh Philemon, be silent. Yet I could have listened to him for ever. My face was suffused with blushes. He threw himself on his knees at my feet, and embraced me with an extasy I was unable to check. I felt it in an equal degree. We lost the use of speech. We needed it not. Our eyes were ten thousand times more eloquent than even his tongue.
When he left me, I began to reflect on his request, our mutual fondness. I found I could not live without him. Yet it was impossible for me to content to be his. My fortune was to the last degree precarious. You know its situation; therefore I shall enter into a dull recital of it. Philemon had not enough to support himself suitably to his wishes. What was I to do? Discretion would say, never see him more. It is a virtue I never possessed. It never was the virtue of a lover. Candour may, but discretion cannot. I did what I thought right, what I thought virtuous. I wrote to my lover. I told him my situation. I swore never to unite myself to him, till fortune should prove more propitious. I told him I should ever esteem him more than any man living, and, if fortune should smile, that we might yet be happy.
Philemon flew to me on receiving this letter. He consented to wait. Indeed it was impossible to think of a union, circumstanced as we both were. We continued to see each other, and to indulge a mutual tenderness. Our fondness every day increased; yet still we transgressed not the laws of virtue and modesty. Philemon professed the same attachment to it as I did. I thought I should have submitted to a thousand deaths, before I would have disobeyed its most rigid precepts. I knew not myself. I knew not the force of affection. It blinds our understanding. It weakens our strength. It is a bane to all our innocent enjoyments.
Philemon pined. He lost his bloom. He lost his vivacity. His bosom heaved with sighs. He said I was the cause. I felt too severely Such a reproach. I could not remedy it. I wished to make him happy. It was not in my power. He never hinted a dishonourable wish; but his asctions were often those of a madman. Often, after he has held me in his arms, and pressed my beating bosom to his, he has started, stamped, and raved about te room. I felt his pain, but dare not relive it.
What am I forced to write! I promised to be sincere. How dearly does it cost me! Our familiarity was the bane of virtue. We thought ourselves innocent, till we were plunged in guilt. Philemon as well as I was deceived. He tudied not my ruin. Passion was too strong for our young bosoms. He often, in the violence of passion, made attempts on my honour. He was repulsed by modesty; I fear it was no longer virtue, or I had flown from him. But I had not strength. Pardon me, ye rigid ones. I had sooner parted with life than with virtue; but both were light, when weighed against Philemon.
I might say with Eloisa, “Fame, wealth, and honour, what are you to love?” I expect not pardon from the world. I have it not from myself. Pity I shall have from a few, and those the most virtuous. They only can judge of the conflict. The vulgar feel not so exquisitely. Those, who have fallen from slight tempataions, will make my case their own, and will not pity me. But the sensible few, who can feel my tempation, as well as my remorse will perhaps even pardon; but I deserve not. I erred against reason, against conviction. I erred not to gratify myself, but my lover. Conscience reproached me in the moments of enjoyment; but my lover’s happiness depended on my compliance. Had I seen Heaven, I fear I had for forfeited it to gratify him.
He was convinced of my reluctance. It made him unhappy. He endeavoured to argue me out of my scruples. His fondness increased. His vows were renewed in the solemnest manner.
We kneeled down at his request, and called on the maker of all hearts to see the sincerity of ours. He swore never to give his hand to woman but Clara. I would not speak, but my heart assented: it was indeed sincere. He said he could not stab a dagger into the hear of her, who made him such a sacrifice; and he knew too well my love, my tenderness, not to know it would that effect, should he ever think of another woman.
These assurances quieted my remorse. I looked upon him as my husband in the eye of God. I had not a wish but centred in him. He was dearer to me than I can describe. It is even painful to imagine; for it puts the imagination to stretch. It is like taking in too glaring or too extensive a prospect, which pains the eye.
My Philemon grew every day more fond, more assiduous. I was obliged to take a journey to atttempt to settle matters for our much wished union; but I succeeded not. I was still a prey to uncertainty in point of fortune and, though my honour was at stake, determined never to consent to a union, which might embarrass him, who was dearer to me than life, than honor. It was a fatal journey on many accounts; but I could not feel misfortune, while, beloved by Philemon.
We had been separated for about five months. When we met, his passion seemed rather increased than diminished by absence. He declared it was, and I had every reason to believe him. But, good God! What am I to believe! What am I to think! How can I account for his cruelty! To his own heart I only made my appeal. He, knew my innocence of every crime, of which he was not the author. To the last he said he loved me only of all my sex; but that. fortune had placed an insuperable bar to our union.
Yet he insulted me, by times, with a cruelty, I could not have believed in his nature. When he visited me, he wore a locket, with the picture of orisca, in his bosom. I atternpted to take it from him, and he struck me to the ground. Yet I live to endure my torments. But all this is out of place: it is in disorder, like poor lara’s brain. Philemon! when you robbed me of honor, why did you not rob me of reason? Why did you not rob me of life at once? or why prevent my own hand from doing me that kind office? When I was made acquainted with your infidelity, you know I attempted it, and you had the cruelty to prevent me.
How often did he latterly wound my heart, and then pour balm into its wounds for the pleasure of torturing it afresh? He said he loved not that woman, but his interest compelled to marry her. Yet I mention this with patience. My resentments and feelings are exhausted. I sink into the grave. I am born down with griefs. Could I cease to love him, or could I excuse him to myself. I should die happy. But Heaven denies me every mitigation of my grief. I am too justly punished. I bow down to thy chastening hand, O, my father!
Adieu, my Amelia. Pardon me, my dear, the affliction this must give you. A few letters will finish my narrative. A few days, perhaps, may put a period to my most miserable being. Is there rest in Heaven for one so weary as I am? Yes, he who rules there, invites all those who labour, and are heavy laden, to come unto him. Ah! my God, I come. Make me welcome, and take me into thy rest; for sure I am weary and heavy laden. Teach me to forget my earthly love, and to love only thee, who art only worthy of love. Dare I dissemble? Do I resign him? Does he not still hold my frail heart? He only, that made it, can change it. Farewell, my dear, and ever dear Amelia.
On our second meeting, which I mentioned in my last, we were but about few weeks together. Our connection was never known nor suspected. I was at that time informed of his having a design to marry Corifca. He quieted my fears, by assurances that he never loved, nor thought he ever could love any woman but Clara. I left him, as I had done before, in the deepest melancholy and distress; it was only on account of our separation. I doubted not his love, nor his fidelity. He seemed at both times to feel as much as I did, and gave me every consolation he could, both by words and letters, after our separation. I gave my fears, to the winds, and relied on his faith.
He contrived means to see me twice, and at both times spent some days with me - Happy days! never to return. His fondness still seemed unabated, and still I believed his assurances. His letters breathed the same tender sentiments. Yet he was taking every method to promote his union with Corifca, to which he confessed to me, at last, she was not backward.
I have never seen her, nor know her, but by his description, not I believe partial. He said she had a pertness, which passed for wit and vivacity. Her figure he gave a no more favourable description of. Her complexion, he said, was most disagreeably brown, with a livid hue about her eyes, which were very bad in themselves. Yet this is the woman he prefers to Clara; who preferred him to all mankind, who for him is sworn to waste her youth in grief and solitude, if she must live.
I tremble while I mention Corifca; but I draw not her picture, Heaven is my witness, but from Philemon’s description. For her he forced me to give up his vows, yet still swore he could love no woman but Clara; that I was his first, his only love, and that he could never cease to entertain for me the tenderest passion. Alas! I have the last billet, I ever received from him, before me. I restored him the greatest number of his letters, when I gave up his vows. He would not part with mine. Let him keep them. They are the effusions of a heart wholly his.
He endeavoured to reconcile me to his falsehood, by pleading necessity and the embarrassment of his affairs. My distraction was beyond bounds. My eyes were continually bathed in tears, or I was frantic. I took no manner of food, except when he was with me. I then forced myself to eat a little. I endeavoured to appear more calm to oblige him, for he seemed affected at my diftress. Indeed it had every aggravation.
I Should have told you I was at this time in the place where he lives, and where Corifca lives. I could, add many circumstances to heighten his guilt; but I wish not to accuse him. Could I excuse him to my own heart, I should still be happy. Could I reconcile him to my esteem - but it is impossible; yet I am forced to love him.
Perche crudo destino, Ne disunisci tu, s’amor ne stringe? E tu perche ne stringi, Se ne parte il destin, persido amore?
But he had broken the bands of - love, though Clara was still a prisoner. Alas! perhaps he is still true. Where does thy madness lead thee? Is it not enough he contents to marry another? He sees and drives you to despair. His cruel heart does not even deign you pity, when you implore it on your knees.
Yes, my Amelia, I have kneeled to him, to beg him to delay his marriage. I promised to die in a few months, to rid him of his vows. But he relents not. He accused me of too great strength of passion; me, whom he had always upbraided with coldness. Yet he was still my lover, till the last fatal night before we parted.
Think not, my Amelia, I was so lost to that virtue I once held sacred, as to suffer his embraces after I relinquished his vows. No; he was no longer mine. I prized only his heart, and the vows that proceeded from it. Yet I wished to have him ever in my fight. The moments of absence were still dreadful; and the more so, as I supposed, too truluy, they were spent with Corifca. She knew out passion, and insulted it. He told me she forbid him to see me. Can I recollect all this, and retain my reason! If ever human heart felt more, I am still happy. Let them call me so. I should grieve even for that woman, for Corifca, the only person I could ever hate. Alas! I hate her not. She cannot feel what I suffer. A fiend could not have the heart to inflict it, if it could feel it.
Yet Heaven sees and suffers it. Just God! What am I, to be the object of such wrath? Ha! is there an overruling power? and does he delight in mercy? and can he not extend it to me? Dreadful is the idea, that Heaven concurs with Philemon to destroy me. I have no hope of relief. Alas! Clara, thy gried admit of none, not even in the grace. Philemon perjured, is faithless.
Yes, there is still one hope. He may repent, when you are laid in dust. Heaven can pardon both. Alas! can it unite us in the grave? I can no more. It is impossible. Adieu
Your affectionate, CLARA.
I could recount a thousand circumstances. I could dwell for ever upon the subject, though So dislresiing. But I have wearied you, my friend - alas! I should weary all the world - with my complaints. But I have left it. I can talk to the woods. They are not more deaf than Philemon, or more regardless of my woes. You have endeavoured to excuse him. I acknowledge your kindness. How often have I endeavoured it in vain. My heart is treacherous to me. It at one moment tells me he is faithful, and the next calls to mind his unkindness.
Till the fatal night before we parted, he still acted the lover. When he has come in, and found me breathless, he has torn his hair and beat his bosom, like one distracted, as I have afterwards been told. When he pressed me to his bosom; that bosom, where wished for ever to dwell; that bosom, which I thought the seat of every virtue, every manly sentiment. And I must I no longer think so? Does it harbour perjury, deceit and avarice?. Virtue! where is thy dwelling? Not on earth, since no longer with Philemon. Why did you leave him? Where could you find so lovely a habitation? Where so agreeable a companion? Can virtue find a more eligible friend than wisdom? Rich is the breast that is stored with both; richer than the mines of Peru or Golconda. These were once the possessions of Philemon; but he has mortgaged then for a heap of ore.
“Can gold calm passion, or make reason shine? Can we dig peace or reason from the mine?”
But I wander. Is it any wonder should. My reason has long been obscured by passion. I said when Philemon pressed me to his dear bosom, I have torn myself from him, and suffered him not to hold me in the onl situation where I could be happy, saying, the lover of Corifca should not press me to his breast. He has raved and sworn he was only my lover. I wished to believe, and therefore did. I dreamed still I was happy, but wake to misery. Would I had slept for ever, e’re I found out the fatal secret. Had I died while he was yet faithful, it had been too much happiness. I was not then the guilty, the repining wretch.
The fatal day arrived, which was to separate us for ever. The last day cannot be more dreadful to the most guilty sinner. Yet I determined to bear it, if possible, with fortitude; to hide it at lead from him, if I must bleed at heart. I reversed the enigma of Pythagoras, Cor ne edito. I was determined to let my griefs eat my heart. Nature would not lend her assitance. I was in faintings all the morning. My tears flowed in deluges. Every kind persuasion was used to make me delay my journey. I would not consent.
Philemon knew of my resolution, but knew not the particular day. I knew it not myself. It was hard for me to drag myself from the only object the world contained for me? What are all the rest of its inhabitants to me? I consider them not. In the midst of all mankind, where he is not, I am in a desart, a solitude.
I say this day was to separate us I was to depart at four next morning. The separation of soul and body cannot be more dreadful. Yet I determined, whatever I felt, to appear not to feel. Philemon came when he heard my intention of going. I found myself unable to support my pangs. I took opium. I had prepared it for another purpose, the purpose of self-destruction; and I had made that use of it but for my situation. I wished not to preserve mv own life, but I had no right over that of another.
Philemon came, though forbid by his mistress, and enlisted on staying with me till the hour of my departure. Never was a night spent in such agony. I can recollect nothing that passed, but what is too horrid to relate. My grief was turned to frenzy. I said the wildest things. He endeavoured to calm me, but he was cruel. He was not affected as he ought to have been. Rage possessed him, instead of tenderness. Yet sometimes he was tender. He endeavoured to sooth me by flattery.
I believe, for indeed I know what I said, I railed, and cursed my being. Not for the world’s whole treasure would I again endure the same conflict. Yet I endure sorrow most poignant every hour, and my only portion on this side the grave. Even there I dare not look for with hope; it is banished my bosom here and to eternity. For there I meet Philemon, and we cannot meet like lovers: and sure Hell has not a torment equal to mine, if I am forced to accuse him.
Was my nature - say, all ye who ever knew me, - was it formed for an avenging angel, a minister of wrath? Was I ever forward or ill tempered? I have avenged all upon myself, and hid my sorrows in my own breast, till you forced me to communicate them. Think not your commands have distressed me. The repetition is not difficult. I could not forget them. Memory served me too faithfully there. I cannot even wish to forget aught but that dreadful night, which tore me from him. Words are faint to answer such ill ideas of exquisite torture. Tear off one of my tender limbs, and bid me not complain; Clara, though delicate and soft, can bear it. But to tear my heart out of my bleeding, and yet living bosom; this only can give an idea, and but a faint and inadequate idea, of what Philemon inflicted on the woman, he had sworn ever to love, and to protect within his arms.
Prophetic, indeed, were you, Philemon, when you said, if ever you should change, it would plant a dagger in my breast. You have planted thousands there, never to be extracted by human art. Yet Clara lives, lives to tell that Philemon is false, is perjured.
We parted at four. Tears had been then of more worth than brilliants, but I could not shed one. That relief was denied me, as indeed was every other. I travelled many miles without speaking a word, almost without knowing that I was carried with great rapidity. The company were polite, were humane. They rspecteed my grief. They shewed me a thousand civilities. I regarded them not.
A young Nobleman, my fellow traveller, knew my name. His brother had dined in company with me at Lord C—–’s. He had praised me as a persan who possessed some share of wit and beauty. I had, at the time he saw me, a great share of vivacity. It passes for both where its possessor is young, and neither foolish nor ugly.
This young Nobleman asked me if I knew the family just mentioned. I told him, most intimately. Had I not seen a Mr. N—– there? I replied; I had. He said he was convinced it would give Mr. N—–, his brother, great pain to see a lady he so greatly admired in so deep a melancholy. His words drew a few tears from my eyes. I remembered what I had been, and felt what I then was. The comparison was not to be burne. I endeavoured to conceal my emotion. I succeded beyond my expectation. The rapid motion at length gave me utterance by producing a quick succession of ideas. I took some part in the conversation though it pained me. The next day I enjoyed a sweet refreshing shower of tears. It saved me from madness.
I arrived ia London ill past description. I was in a high fever. I had also received a hurt on my side. It was black, and pained me. They sent for my good, amiable docter. He let me blood in my arm, and ordered me some cordials. Several friends came to see me was unable, and still more unwilling to see them, particularly my relations or inmates. I staid but a fortnight at Mrs. D—–s. I took a lodging, making no inquiry but into the reputation of the mistress. Could I have hid myself, I had staid in London; but I was forced out into company. They intruded on my retirement. I lived in a state of dissimulation. I could not support it. I was forced to appear, what I am not, nor ever can be, easy and cheerful.
What added to my distress was, I was teazed by the friendship of a lady I have long known, to admut the addresses of her nephew, a Baronet, with a large estate. He wanted a wife, and Clara was by her partiality judged an amiable person, and fit to supply his wants. He asked not fortune. Often, when she had teazed me on this subject, I have ready to tell her all my crimes and all my grieds. I was more prudent.
Fidelia was ordered into the country for her health, just before I came to London. On perceiving my melancholy and altered looks, she asked me to accompany her. She had not yet, fixed upon the place of her abode. I consented to go with her, if she would promise to bear with my melancholy, remove to a considerable distance from London, permit me always to be alone when I chose it, and conceal my name.
She embraced me with ardour, and said, on any terms her Clara’s company would be acceptable, and if I pleased she would see no other; but insisted on my faithful promise to accompany her. i never had a heart to resist such soothing kindess. It more than persuades, it impells me.
She flattered herself she could cure my melancholy. She examined my wounds, and poured into them the balm of friendship. It had succeeded in a common case; but the arrows shot at me were poisoned with the most deadly and noxious juices: they were steeped in despair. All Fidelia could do she did; all that mortal could do. She shewed her own virtue and amiableness of heart; but even friendship and virtue cannot conquer fate. They cannot persuade me Philemon is faithful, or that I am not lost to virtue. She attempts the latter; but, till she can change the nature of right and wrong, cannot succeed.
Adieu, my Amelia. I am hastening to the grave. May you live as long as you are happy here, and may you carry no regrets, no heart wounding ideas with you, to impede your passage to a happy eternity. Clara can never hope to see you even there. You are pure, are spotless. Clara was once unsullied as the driven snow. Her heart pure, as free from every sensual wish, as those of angels. She had probably ever continued so, had she never seen Philemon.
“O grace serene! O virtue Heavenly fair! Divine oblivion of low thoughted care! Enter each mild, each amiable guest; Receive, and wrap me in eternal rest.”
I can look up to Heaven, and adore the Creator of all things, and the Judge of all hearts. I can kneel, and thank him for the afflictions he has thought me worthy to bear; but I cannot banish the idea of Philemon. It mingles itself with my imperfect devotions. When I would pray for forgiveness, I beg to be restored to him. Yet I have sworn, should Heaven oblige me to live, never to see him, never to unite myself to one who could use me so cruelly, were he to return to his love. I am now betroth to the cold grave. I shall lie in the arms of death. Yet I will live while Heaven ordains it. I will not now attempt to counteract the gracious designs of providence. I may be forgiven. Heaven has great mercies for those, that trust in him who reigns there. He can turn the heart so devoted to mortality.
When I first loved Philemon, I thought I loved virtue in a human and a lovely form. It is the deception has undone me. The transition was easy from what he appeared to the love of Heaven,
Adieu! That Heaven may be the guardian and guide of my Amelia, is, and over shall be, the prayer of her friend and sister, CLARA.
Your poor Clara is no more. To me she bequeathed the melancholy task of finishing her truly unfortunate history. I am unable to do it, for I loved her tenderly. She deserved it. She was amiable and gentle; always ready to forgive every one but herself. Her last breath was spent in a prayer for him, who not only ruined and deceived her, but used her most inhumanly. She never could be prevailed on to mention his real name.
I have known her long. I ever foung her truly virtuous, the most delicate and modest of her sex. But even angels have fallen. She seemsed, even after her fall, to have all the purity of one. I am sure her eyes never were dry for two hours to since she came into this retirement.
She endeavoured to conceal her griefs from me, because I was too much affected and asbibled by them. When alone, she was constantly upon her knees; and when I sat with her, she would frequently forget herself, and utter an ejaculation. She used sometimes to attempt to work, but could not attend to either that or reading, unless she got some book which gave a vent to her tears. Then she would read for hours. But she was never tired of writing, and seemed to be sorry to meet with any interruption, though she burned more than half of what she wrote,
I never saw any person so devout, without the least tinge of superstition. She often read over the funeral service; and when she came to that part, For I believe that my redeemer liveth: She would say, “Indeed I believe it, and that belief has restored me to my fenses, and kept me so long in this vile world. But my life, at last, must end, my dear, dear Fidelia. Suppose I should live fifty years. It is terrible, indeed, to think of it. But every day, every moment, takes off a grain at lead of the dead load that weighs me down to earth. When all these earthly particles are worn away, I shall ascend my native skies.” Then She would start and shudder, and say, “Can pollution ascend?”
I endeavoured, you may believe, to comfort her. Indeed I wanted comfort myself: for she has made me look with indifference on everything in this life, and with abhorrence on mankind. I could dwell for ever on this subject, but must draw towards the too melancholy catastrophe.
She wrote almost to the last, and has left me little farther to say; yet I am unable to say it. I think she was very well assured of her approaching end, though she appeared more cheer full and composed than I had ever seen her since we last met.
Ah madam, we can both remember when she was all gaiete de caur; when it was impossible to be dull or ill tempered in her company. She was the envy of her own, and the admiration of the other sex. Good God! to think she should be cut down like a lily in all her loveliness! Her bloom returned a few days before her death. Indeed she scarce ever looked more beautiful. She seemed to have Heaven in her aspect. Yet she would often drop a tear, though apparently composed.
You know what lovely eyes she had. They were brilliant to the last. Her voice was sweeter and more plaintive than the song of Philomel. How many have I heard say, in the days when she was beloved and admired, that that softness of accent touched their hearts more than her beauty. Indeed she was truly lovely in mind and body. But what avails it? She is mingled with the dust. Even her name is unknown in the spot where her poor relicks lie. Had I the talents of a Pope, or her beloved Littleton, I would celebrate her memory in never dying verse.
Have I not said enough? Must I describe a scene impossible for me to write, or you to conceive? I may attempt it, but, indeed, madam, I shall never get through it.
She went to church on Sunday morning, though I endeavoured to dissuade her from it, for she was very weak. I really thought she would have recovered, she seemed so much better, till wednesday, when she was seized with faintings, to which, indeed, her constitution had always a strong propensity. Those, however, which she now had were so violent, that I was greatly afraid they would prove fatal. My fears, alas! were but too soon verified.
On Friday morning she attempted to rise at eight, her usual hour, but unable. She drank some tea. I never could prevail on her to take any other breakfast. She then begged me to give her pen, ink and paper, and to leave her. I wished to prevail on her to defer writing. “Indeed, my dear Fidelia, if I defer it now, I shall break a promise to one who has, it is true, broke many to me; every one, in fact, he ever made me. But never broke one to him; and this is the last, I think, I ever made him, or ever shall perform to him.”
What surprised me, she shed not a tear when she spoke this. I never before heard her mention any circumstance relative to that villain - can call him anything else? - without anbundance of tears.
I left her reluctantly, on her assuring me she would ring if she found herself weak. Though I was sure an interruption would disagreeable, I could not help frequently going into the room. She perceived my anxiety, and begged me to stay since it gave me pain to leave her.
She complained that’she could not see to write, but still continued to attempt it. You know, my dear madam, she was very quick at her pen; but she seemed now to write very slowly. I had previously sent for the Doctor, who from the first, good man, had told me her disorder was on her mind, and past his skill. - He said, indeed he believed, past human skill - unless we could obliterate certain ideas, which too strongly worked on her imagination and sapped the foundation that delicate fabric we can never I to keep from falling into dissolution.
I hoped, however, still to amuse her; and he ordered her cordials and gentle opiates. But she took a pleausre in indulging the idea of her destroyer, and accusing herself as the most guilty of her sex.
When the Doctor came, she spoke to him with a composure which surprized us both, and told him, she was obliged to him for all his favours, but had it been in human skill to have lengthened her existence here, should she have thought him, who attempted it, her word enemy. “I am going to appear before the maker of all things, the judge of all men. It is aweful, it is dreadful. Nature shrinks at the idea. I have been, indeed, a very guilt wretch; but my crimes proceeded not from a malignity, but too great a tenderness of heart. I dare not hope for mercy, but through Christ; but he is more able to pardon that I to offend, and in him I confide. My fraility, as a woman, has been punished by the author of my guilt. I have not the idea at this moment so dreadful, as the fear that he will suffer for it. But I pray, and beg all who ever loved me to pray, that he may repent, and be received into mercy.” “
HSe showed no weakness, till she came to that part of her speech, in which she mentioned her fears for her betrayer; but that threw into agaony we thought would have ended her unfortunate life. On the application of some cordials she recovered, and was again composed. The Doctor, as well as I, was dissolved in tears, during the time she addressed us. He assured me she had not many days to live, and his prediction too true.
She desired to send for the Clergy man nearest to us, and, with a devotion which proceeded from the heart, and firm trust in God, she joined in prayer. I have always remarked she was very devout, though little attentive to rituals or outward observances. Her devotion proceeded from her heart, and a conviction of the existence of God. Never was any person so resigned to his will from reason and reflection. For her passions were war to the last, though regulated ever I a most exalted understanding and great strength of mind. Must I except when she fell a sacrifice to that murderer of her peace? Indeed, as she said, he literally planted a dagger in her heart, which I think even he could not have extracted. But I shall never have done, if I make so many digressions. Yet they grow out of my subject; and to you madam, they cannot be impertinent.
She spent most of Friday in prayer and writing to her lover, as I afterwards found. Indeed I then supposed it was so. On Saturday morning she seemed refreshed, for she had rested part of the night better than usual. I would, though against her will, watch by her with her own maid; for whenever had a nurse. The poor girl regretted no trouble, so well did she love, her amiable mistress. Indeed she was ever the kind, indulgent friend to her servants.
But, alas! how can I write it! she would rise on Saturday morning. We assissted. She finished her letter, and with finislred her letter, and with her usual politness begged me to copy it. She had left blanks for the name. When I had copied it she filled the blanks, and sealed it with her cypher. He will know this, said she, superscribing and enclosing it to Mrs. H—–.
I know not whether she wrote anything in the cover. But She always spoke of her with great affection, esteem, and tenderness. She took me in her arms, and embraced me in the tenderest manner; begged of me to forward the many letters she had left in her escritoir, as directed, but particularly that I had just copied; entreating it might be sent to London or some very distant part, and not directly from this town. She gave no reason for this, and I was unable to require any.
She sat up all day till about five in the evening, when she complained of heaviness and weakness. We laid her on the couch. She preferred it to the bed. She again embraced me and her maid. It was a last embrace. For, alas! - How can I relate it? - She expired in my arms with only a sigh, and commending her soul to him that made it through the mercy of Christ, and praying, with a fervour never exceeded, seldom equalled, for that vile man, whom I cannot forgive, though she did. I shall religiously conceal his name, for she wished it concealed, and never but in death uttered it.
She desired to be interred in the simplest and least expensive manner possible, and in the clothes she died in, which were a long dimtty wrapping gown, and two dimitty and a white silk quilted coat. Between her bosom and her waistcoat, she had pinned two letters; the names torn off: but I am sure they were from Philemon. They were, indeed, full of expressions of the tenderest passion, and vows of eternal fidelity. He declares, in both, he never had, nor ever could entertain a sentiment of love for any other woman.
I found several little billets in her drawers, in the same hand, and all in; the same style; but one which attributes his change of sentiment, or rather of conduct, for he says, the sentiment must ever remain the same, to an invincible necessity, and an emharrassment in his affairs. Yet sure he was the greatest of all villains, to use her unkindly. I could not have supposed any man capable of it.
I am equally unable to continue, or to quit the subject. Good God! madam, what pain must it give her friends, though unkind, to hear of her untimely end! You will, I know, suffer extremely; for she said your love was mutual, and ever had been so.
I think her whole composition was love. She could not find room for any other guest in her bosom. Hate I am sure she was a stranger to. She retained her affection for Philemon, and her esteem for Sir Charles Worthy, to the last. She often said, had Philemon left her room to esteem him, she had died happy. But she felt such a dreadful vacuum in her heart, she seemed to want a part of her existence. Something seemed to be torn from her, which she plainly found she could not live without.
She imagined, I know, that her, passion was abated, but it existed, in its full force, to the last moment of her life. Yet I am convinced he was unworthy; which shews of how little value human reason and judgement are, when set in opposition to passion. For never woman had a more enlightened or exalted understanding; yet she was a dupe to passion. I am unable to account for it, but by saying humanity is frail. She appears not to have erred in any action of her life but this, and a determined resolution not to live. But that was laid aside on being assured, her constitution had suffered so much from grief that she could not hold out long. Yet She ever appeared pious, and resigned to the will of God, except when she Spoke of being forced to drag about an existence fo terribly painful to her; and oftentimes she regretted that she had not died, when she believed her lover faithful. I Shall subjoin the copy of her letter, to Philemon, and send it with this, in two pacquests; for I have been so prolix, one will not contain both. I cannot repent of my attention to a person, I so dearly loved and so truly esteemed; but I really do not think I shall ever be able to erase from my mind the memory of her death, and the affliction she suffered, so as to enjoy the same happy serenity I formerly possessed. Her maid is in a state of distraction. I never saw so natural and unaffected a grief in a person of her station. She was, indeed, ever gentle to her, and if obliged to chide her, did it with such kindness, as rather increased than diminished her attachment.
I pray God to keep you a stranger to such afflictions as hers, and comfort you for her loss. Her death certainly must be a happy event to herself; and could her friends with her to live a prey to remorse and anguish? For her soul was too delicate ever to be able to forget the stain her honour had received. Her fate was an uncommon one in many things.
Poor, lovely Clara! would to God I could forget you! I never shall perhaps she is now with her kindred spirits, hymning the praises of him, who has released her from a world of misery. Perhaps fly no more feels that unfortunate love for the base Philemon, but has transferred it to him to whom all love is due, and in whom it should centre. Yet it seemed so much a part of her soul, that I can scarcely imagine, but it must exist, while that vital spark does, which we look upon to be immortal. But the ways of Heaven are not laid open to mortal eyes. I must endeavour to forget her. She really hurts my peace too much. Farewell, dear madam, and believe me, with the greatest esteem, your sincere friend, and servant,
P.S. I am almost blind with writing and crying; so must defer the copy I promised for some days.
Before this reaches the hand of Philemon, he will be released from vows grown irksome to him; vows unconstrained and unsolicited, when offered, when pressed upon the now forgotten or contemned Clara. Of how little value is life! I prized it once. I laid out plans of happiness, such as, perhaps, you now form. May yours prove more permanent than mine! I can now wish it. I can resign - alas!. I strive in vain to dissemble with myself. The hours of dissimulation must be at an end. No, Philemon, when you used me worst, in suited and, upbraided me, even then my heart was only yours. It drove to excuse you at my own expense, and when I affected to relent your unkindness, I then only dissembled with you. It was the only deceit Clara ever made use of to Philemon. It is with reluctanceI resign your heart. I still hope it will be mine, when I am unconscious of my happiness in possessing it.
You knew not the extent of my love. Yet you knew enough to be convinced, that you were once dearer to Clara than her own soul; for she would have died by her own hands, to have released you from vows, which you often swore, long after they were given, constituted the happiness of your life.
I write not to upbraid you, or to embitter your future life. No; it ever was my wish and study to render it happy, and you are as dear to my heart now, as when I made a sacrifice to you, which has weighed me down with shame and sorrow, to an early grave. Never from that fatal hour, did Clara know peace or sweet content. It spread thorns in my path. I contemned myself. How, then Philemon esteem me? The confusion which my guilt for sometime occasioned, made you think I had ceased love you. What despair did you affect to feel at my coldness!
I was deceived myself. I thought my passion abated. Our fatal seperation convinced me of my erroe. I saw all the horrors Of my fate. My mind was too prophetic. In vain did you renew your vows in your letters. Even yout assurances could scarcely assuage my grief for your absence. Yet I resolved to avoid you, till fortune should smile, and put it in our power to be united for ever. Heaven was averse. Every obstacle seemed to increase, as I endeavoured to surmount them.
Yet still I was not quite unhappy. Philemon was tender, was faithful. I shunned all company but that of —–, because he talked of you. With him, or when alone, I was happy. His generous, disinterested friendship for you made him dearer to me than a brother. His ardent wishes for our union still doubled my regard for him, and, if possible, increased my affection for you. His praises of you did not found partial in my ears. They were sweeter than flattery to the vainest of my sex.
Had I died then, I should have died happy. Convinced of your fidelity, I might have hoped to meet you, never to be separated. What have I now to hope? Come to me, Philemon. Let me hold you to my bosom - feel the last throbbings of a faithful heart. Let my dying eyes close on your image. Say you will sigh, will drop a tear, if not of love, at least of pity, for one who died to extenuate your fault.
Alas! Philemon, what a fate is mine? I dare scarce look to Heaven. It sees my weakness, even when concealed from myself and all the world. I say, “Thy will be done;” but, my heart accords not with my lips I feel. I feel dissolution approach. They would in vain conceal it from me. The voice of nature is weak, but it is distinct and sincere. It whispers I cannot live many days - and let its prophecy be soon fulfilled! I am lost, if that God, who gave me these affections, does not forgive them.
I try to pray, to turn my whole thoughts to Heaven. I think of it with pleasure, when I hope to meet you there - not as your accuser - no it cannot he. We shall meet as lovers. You will repent of the injuries have done me, when you reflect on my unalterable fidelity and affection; and you are too well convinced I am incapable of resentment. If these are profane thoughts, how lost is Clara?
I have prayed, not as I ought I fear, for more resignation to the will of Heaven. I wish for death. It carries no terrors in its train. Could I hope you would love my memory, I should die completely blested. Heaven can forgive greater crimes than ours. The heart unsusceptible of love is not fit for Heaven. Why should it be a crime to love to excess, as I have done? Yet I have been severely punished.
I submit, and should have submitted without repining, had misfortune come in any other shape, Heaven has at length heard one prayer of the wretched Clara. It is weary of afflicting her, and sends death to her relief.
Is it possible I Should forget you? Can I resolve that doubt? But it is all clouds and darkness before me. I go with a firm trust in God; not as a vengeful and austere being, as many would represent him; but as the God of mercy and forgiveness, long suffering, and plenteous in goodness ahd truth, who keepeth his promise for ever. He seeth and knoweth the heart which he formed. To him and to his mercies I commend my spirit, He can unite us for ever, or turn my heart, and teach it to love him who alone is worthy of love. To his protedion I commend you. My last breath shall be spent in a prayer for you. It will be sincere; it will be ardent. May it prove effectual! May, Heaven love you as 1 have done! May it as freely forgive your offences! Adieu! I am weak. My eyes are scarce able to bear the light. It is with infinite pain and pleasure I write to you. I think we are reconciled, and shall yet be happy. Farewell for ever, at least in this world -.
LETTER the last.
You see, my dear madam, what an unhappy fate that of our poor injured Clara was. Yet she appeared more composed and serene, than I fear she really was. I was all along convinced, before I read her letter, that her passion was unabated. Never female heart was so Steady both in love and friendship. I have suffered so much for her, that my health and gaiety are both impaired. Yet she was once the life of every one who conversed with her.
I could not have believed, that any misfortune could so suddenly change nature. Indeed her heart was still mild, tender and compassionate. It was that gentleness, that made it prey upon itself. She gave her sorrows no vent, but in tears. I observed her health decline, and the roses quit her lovely cheeks, long before Philemon forsook her. I knew not the cause at that time, but used to rally her on her pensiveness, and desire her to fit for the picture of contemplation.
She complained, which very much surprised me, of the precarious situation of her fortune and seemed to wish for riches. No woman ever despised them more, or was of a more generous disposition. Yet She did not dissemble. She really wished for them. Philemon had been extravagant, and wanted fortune to put his affairs on respectable footing. She had entrenched all her expences, and deprived herself of every elegancy, for which she had formerly so great a taste. I observed the change with surprize; but, though in the greatest and friendship with her, discovered the cause. It was a fatal cause indeed. ‘
I think her melancholy was infectious, for I am grown as dull as if I had myself met with such a disappointment. I am sure I shall never entirely forget to sigh, I might say to weep, for her. What must you feel if the ties of nature are stronger than those of friendship? But you saw not her death. You heard not her plain accents. That melancholy scene was reserved for me. Few people worse calculated to bear such Scenes. I shall not attempt to administer comfort which I want as much as any one; but I sincerely wish you every kind of happiness, and, for that end, would have you endeavour to forget the unhappy Clara.
I am, dear madam, Your sincerely affectionate Friend, and humble servant,
This text has been OCRed and corrected from the digital surrogate in Penn Libraries’ Digital Collection of British and American Fiction. The original book is held by the Kislak Center for Special Collections (Penn Libraries, University of Pennsylvania).