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Letter 28
Mr Villars To Lady Howard Berry Hill, May 2
YOUR letter, Madam, has opened a source of anxiety, to which I look forward
with dread, and which, to see closed, I scarcely dare expect. I am unwilling to
oppose my opinion to that of your Ladyship; nor, indeed, can I, but by arguments
which I believe will rather rank me as a hermit ignorant of the world, and fit only
for my cell, than as a proper guardian, in an age such as this, for an
accomplished young woman. Yet, thus called upon, it behoves me to explain,
and endeavour to vindicate, the reasons by which I have been hitherto guided.
The mother of this dear child,-who was led to destruction by her own
imprudence, the hardness of heart of Madame Duval, and the villany of Sir John
Belmont,-was once, what her daughter is now, the best beloved of my heart: and
her memory, so long as my own holds, I shall love, mourn and honour! On the
fatal day that her gentle soul left its mansion, and not many hours ere she
ceased to breathe, I solemnly plighted my faith, That her child if it lived, should
know no father but myself, or her acknowledged husband.
You cannot, Madam, suppose that I found much difficulty in adhering to this
promise, and forbearing to make any claim upon Sir John Belmont. Could I feel
an affection the most paternal for this poor sufferer, and not abominate her
destroyer? Could I wish to deliver to him, who had so basely betrayed the
mother, the helpless and innocent offspring, who, born in so much sorrow,
seemed entitled to all the compassionate tenderness of pity?
For many years, the name alone of that man, accidentally spoken in my hearing,
almost divested me of my Christianity, and scarce could I forbear to execrate
him. Yet I sought not, neither did I desire, to deprive him of his child, had he with
any appearance of contrition, or, indeed, of humanity, endeavoured to become
less unworthy such a blessing;-but he is a stranger to all parental feelings, and
has with a savage insensibility, forborne to enquire even into the existence of this
sweet orphan, though the situation of his injured wife was but too well known to
You wish to be acquainted with my intentions.-I must acknowledge they were
such as I now perceive would not be honoured with your Ladyship's approbation;
for though I have sometimes thought of presenting Evelina to her father, and
demanding the justice which is her due, yet, at other times, I have both disdained
and feared the application; disdained lest it should be refused; and feared, lest it
should be accepted!
Lady Belmont, who was firmly persuaded of her approaching dissolution,
frequently and earnestly besought me, that if her infant was a female, I would not
abandon her to the direction of a man so wholly unfit to take the charge of her
education: but, should she be importunately demanded, that I would retire with
her abroad, and carefully conceal her from Sir John, till some apparent change in
his sentiments and conduct should announce him less improper for such a trust.
And often would she say, "Should the poor babe have any feelings
correspondent with its mother's, it will have no want while under your protection."