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Letter 4
Mr. Villars To Lady Howard Berry Hill, March 12
I AM grieved, Madam, to appear obstinate, and I blush to incur the imputation of
selfishness. In detaining my young charge thus long with myself in the country, I
consulted not solely my own inclination. Destined, in all probability, to possess a
very moderate fortune, I wished to contract her views to something within it. The
mind is but too naturally prone to pleasure, but too easily yielded to dissipation: it
has been my study to guard her against their delusions, by preparing her to
expect-and to despise them. But the time draws on for experience and
observation to take the place of instruction: if I have in some measure, rendered
her capable of using one with discretion, and making the other with improvement,
I shall rejoice myself with the assurance of having largely contributed to her
welfare. She is now of an age that happiness is eager to attend,-let her then
enjoy it! I commit her to the protection of your Ladyship, and only hope she may
be found worthy half the goodness I am satisfied she will meet with at your
hospitable mansion.
Thus far, Madam, I cheerfully submit to your desire. In confiding my ward to the
care of Lady Howard, I can feel no uneasiness from her absence, but what will
arise from the loss of her company, since I shall be as well convinced of her
safety as if she were under my own roof.-But can your Ladyship be serious in
proposing to introduce her to the gaieties of a London life? Permit me to ask, for
what end, or for what purpose? A youthful mind is seldom totally free from
ambition; to curb that, is the first step to contentment, since to diminish
expectation is to increase enjoyment. I apprehend nothing more than too much
raising her hopes and her views, which the natural vivacity of her disposition
would render but too easy to effect. The town-acquaintance of Mrs. Mirvan are all
in the circle of high life; this artless young creature, with too much beauty to
escape notice, has too much sensibility to be indifferent to it; but she has too little
wealth to be sought with propriety by men of the fashionable world.
Consider Madam, the peculiar cruelty of her situation. Only child of a wealthy
Baronet, whose person she has never seen, whose character she has reason to
abhor, and whose name she is forbidden to claim; entitled as she is to lawfully
inherit his fortune and estate, is there any probability that he will properly own
her? And while he continues to persevere in disavowing his marriage with Miss
Evelyn, she shall never, at the expense of her mother's honour, receive a part of
her right as the donation of his bounty.
And as to Mr. Evelyn's estate, I have no doubt but that Madame Duval and her
relations will dispose of it among themselves.
It seems, therefore, as if this deserted child, though legally heiress to two large
fortunes, must owe all her rational expectations to adoption and friendship. Yet
her income will be such as may make her happy, if she is disposed to be so in
private life; though it will by no means allow her to enjoy the luxury of a London
fine lady.