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Letter 38
Mr. Villars To Lady Howard Berry Hill, May 27
Dear Madam,
I BELIEVE your Ladyship will not be surprised at hearing I have had a visit from
Madame Duval, as I doubt not her having made known her intention before she
left Howard Grove. I would gladly have excused myself this meeting, could I have
avoided it decently; but, after so long a journey, it was not possible to refuse her
She told me, that she came to Berry Hill, in consequence of a letter I had sent to
her grand-daughter, in which I forbid her going to Paris. Very roughly she then
called me to account for the authority which I had assumed; and, had I been
disposed to have argued with her, she would very angrily have disputed the right
by which I used it. But I declined all debating. I therefore listened very quietly, till
she had so much fatigued herself with talking, that she was glad, in her turn, to
be silent. And then, I begged to know the purport of her visit.
She answered, that she came to make me relinquish the power I had usurped
over her grand-daughter; and assured me she would not quit the place till she
But I will not trouble your Ladyship with the particulars of this disagreeable
conversation; nor should I, but on account of the result, have chosen so
unpleasant a subject for your perusal. However, I will be as concise as I possibly
can, that the better occupations of your Ladyship's time may be less impeded.
When she found me inexorable in refusing Evelina's attending her to Paris, she
peremptorily insisted that she should at least live with her in London till Sir John
Belmont's return. I remonstrated against this scheme with all the energy in my
power; but the contest was vain; she lost her patience, and I my time. She
declared, that if I was resolute in opposing her, she would instantly make a will, in
which she would leave all her fortune to strangers, though, otherwise, she
intended her grand-daughter for her sole heiress.
To me, I own, this threat seemed of little consequence; I have long accustomed
myself to think, that, with a competency, of which she is sure, my child might be
as happy as in the possession of millions; but the incertitude of her future fate
deters me from following implicitly the dictates of my present judgement. The
connections she may hereafter form, the style of life for which she may be
destined, and the future family to which she may belong, are considerations
which give but too much weight to the menaces of Madame Duval. In short,
Madam, after a discourse infinitely tedious, I was obliged, though very reluctantly,
to compromise with this ungovernable woman, by consenting that Evelina should
pass one month with her.
I never made a concession with so bad a grace, or so much regret. The violence
and vulgarity of this woman, her total ignorance of propriety, the family to which
she is related, and the company she is likely to keep, are objections so forcible to
her having the charge of this dear child, that nothing less than my diffidence of
the right I have of depriving her of so large a fortune, would have induced me to