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Letter 27
Lady Howard To The Rev. Mr. Villars Howard Grove
Dear Sir,
I CANNOT give a greater proof of the high opinion I have of your candour, than
by the liberty I am now going to take, of presuming to offer you advice, upon a
subject concerning which you have so just a claim to act for yourself; but I know
you have too unaffected a love of justice, to be partially tenacious of your own
Madame Duval has been proposing a scheme which has put us all in commotion,
and against which, at first, in common with the rest of my family, I exclaimed: but,
upon more mature consideration, I own my objections have almost wholly
This scheme is no other than to commence a lawsuit with Sir John Belmont, to
prove the validity of his marriage with Miss Evelyn; the necessary consequence
of which proof will be, securing his fortune and estate to his daughter.
And why, my dear Sir, should not this be? I know that, upon first hearing, such a
plan conveys ideas that must shock you; but I know, too, that your mind is
superior to being governed by prejudices, or to opposing any important cause on
account of a few disagreeable attendant circumstances.
Your lovely charge, now first entering into life, has merit which ought not to be
buried in obscurity. She seems born for an ornament to the world. Nature has
been bountiful to her of whatever she had to bestow; and the peculiar attention
you have given to her education, has formed her mind to a degree of excellence,
that in one so young I have scarce ever seen equalled. Fortune alone has
hitherto been sparing of her gifts; and she, too, now opens the way which leads
to all that is left to wish for her.
What your reasons may have been, my good Sir, for so carefully concealing the
birth, name, and pretensions of this amiable girl, and forbearing to make any
claim upon Sir John Belmont, I am totally a stranger to; but, without knowing, I
respect them, from the high opinion that I have of your character and judgment:
but I hope they are not insuperable; for I cannot but think, that it was never
designed for one who seems meant to grace the world, to have her life devoted
to retirement.
Surely Sir John Belmont, wretch as he has shown himself, could never see his
accomplished daughter, and not be proud to own her, and eager to secure her
the inheritance of his fortune. The admiration she met with in town, though
merely the effect of her external attractions, was such, that Mrs. Mirvan assures
me, she would have had the most splendid offers, had there not seemed to be
some mystery in regard to her birth, which, she was well informed was
assiduously, though vainly, endeavoured to be discovered.
Can it be right, my dear Sir, that this promising young creature should be
deprived of the fortune and rank of life to which she is lawfully entitled, and which
you have prepared her to support and to use so nobly? To despise riches may,