Evelina by Fanny Burney - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
IN the republic of letters, there is no member of such inferior rank, or who is so much disdained by his brethren of the quill, as the humble Novelist; nor is his fate less hard in the world at large, since, among the whole class of writers, perhaps not one can be named of which the votaries are more numerous but less respectable.
Yet, while in the annals of those few of our predecessors, to whom this species of writing is indebted for being saved from contempt, and rescued from depravity, we can trace such names as Rousseau, Johnson,(1)Marivaux, Fielding, Richardson, and Smollett, no man need blush at starting from the same post, though many, nay, most men, may sigh at finding themselves distanced. The following letters are presented to the Public-for such, by novel writers, novel readers will be called,-with a very singular mixture of timidity and confidence, resulting from the peculiar situation of the editor; who, though trembling for their success from a consciousness of their imperfections, yet fears not being involved in their disgrace, while happily wrapped up in a mantle of impenetrable obscurity. To draw characters from nature, though not from life, and to mark the manners of the times, is the attempted plan of the following letters. For this purpose, a young female, educated in the most secluded retirement, makes, at the age of seventeen, her first appearance upon the great and busy stage of life; with a virtuous mind, a cultivated understanding, and a feeling heart, her ignorance of the forms, and inexperience in the manners of the world, occasion all the little incidents which these volumes record, and which form the natural progression of the life of a young woman of obscure birth, but conspicuous beauty, for the first six months after her Entrance into the world.
Perhaps, were it possible to effect the total extirpation of novels, our young ladies in general, and boarding-school damsels in particular, might profit from their annihilation; but since the distemper they have spread seems incurable, since their contagion bids defiance to the medicine of advice or reprehension, and since they are found to baffle all the mental art of physic, save what is prescribed by the slow regimen of Time, and bitter diet of Experience; surely all attempts to contribute to the number of those which may be read, if not with advantage, at least without injury, ought rather to be encouraged than contemned. Let me, therefore, prepare for disappointment those who, in the perusal of these sheets, entertain the gentle expectation of being transported to the fantastic regions of Romance, where Fiction is coloured by all the gay tints of luxurious Imagination, where Reason is an outcast, and where the sublimity of the Marvellous rejects all aid from sober Probability. The heroine of these memoirs, young, artless, and inexperienced, is
No faultless Monster that the world ne'er saw;
but the offspring of Nature, and of Nature in her simplest attire.
In all the Arts, the value of copies can only be proportioned to the scarcity of originals: among sculptors and painters, a fine statue, or a beautiful picture, of some great master, may deservedly employ the imitative talents of young and inferior artists, that their appropriation to one spot may not wholly prevent the more general expansion of their excellence; but, among authors, the reverse is the case, since the noblest productions of literature are almost equally attainable with the meanest. In books, therefore, imitation cannot be shunned too sedulously; for the very perfection of a model which is frequently seen, serves but more forcibly to mark the inferiority of a copy.
To avoid what is common, without adopting what is unnatural, must limit the ambition of the vulgar herd of authors: however zealous, therefore, my veneration of the great writers I have mentioned, however I may feel myself enlightened by the knowledge of Johnson, charmed with the eloquence of Rousseau, softened by the pathetic powers of Richardson, and exhiliarated by the wit of Fielding and humour of Smollett, I yet presume not to attempt pursuing the same ground which they have tracked; whence, though they may have cleared the weeds, they have also culled the flowers; and, though they have rendered the path plain, they have left it barren.
The candour of my readers I have not the impertinence to doubt, and to their indulgence I am sensible I have no claim; I have, therefore, only to intreat, that my own words may not pronounce my condemnation; and that what I have here ventured to say in regard to imitation, may be understood as it is meant, in a general sense, and not be imputed to an opinion of my own originality, which I have not the vanity, the folly, or the blindness, to entertain.
Whatever may be the fate of these letters, the editor is satisfied they will meet with justice; and commits them to the press, though hopeless of fame, yet not regardless of censure.
1)However superior the capacities in which these great writers deserve to be considered, they must pardon me that, for the dignity of my subject, I here rank the authors of Rasselas and Eloise as Novelists.
Lady Howard To The Rev. Mr. Villars Howard Grove, Kent.
CAN any thing, my good Sir, be more painful to a friendly mind, than a necessity of communicating disagreeable intelligence? Indeed it is sometimes difficult to determine, whether the relator or the receiver of evil tidings is most to be pitied. I have just had a letter from Madame Duval; she is totally at a loss in what manner to behave; she seems desirous to repair the wrongs she has done, yet wishes the world to believe her blameless. She would fain cast upon another the odium of those misfortunes for which she alone is answerable. Her letter is violent, sometimes abusive, and that of you!-you, to whom she is under obligations which are greater even than her faults, but to whose advice she wickedly imputes all the sufferings of her much injured daughter, the late Lady Belmont. The chief purport of her writing I will acquaint you with; the letter itself is not worthy your notice.
She tells me that she has, for many years past, been in continual expectation of making a journey to England, which prevented her writing for information concerning this melancholy subject, by giving her hopes of making personal inquiries; but family occurrences have still detained her in France, which country she now sees no prospect of quitting. She has, therefore, lately used her utmost endeavors to obtain a faithful account of whatever related to her ill-advised daughter; the result of which giving her some reason to apprehend, that, upon her death-bed, she bequeathed an infant orphan to the world, she most graciously says, that if you, with whom she understands the child is placed, will procure authentic proofs of its relationship to her, you may sent it to Paris, where she will properly provide for it.
This woman is, undoubtedly, at length, self-convicted of her most unnatural behaviour; it is evident, from her writing, that she is still as vulgar and illiterate as when her first husband, Mr. Evelyn, had the weakness to marry her; nor does she at all apologize for addressing herself to me, though I was only once in her company.
Her letter has excited in my daughter Mirvan, a strong desire to be informed of the motives which induced Madame Duval to abandon the unfortunate Lady Belmont, at a time when a mother's protection was peculiarly necessary for her peace and her reputation. Notwithstanding I was personally acquainted with all the parties concerned in that affair, the subject always appeared of too delicate a nature to be spoken of with the principals; I cannot, therefore, satisfy Mrs. Mirvan otherwise than by applying to you.
By saying that you may send the child, Madame Duval aims at conferring, where she most owes obligation. I pretend not to give you advice; you, to whose generous protection this helpless orphan is indebted for every thing, are the best and only judge of what she ought to do; but I am much concerned at the trouble and uneasiness which this unworthy woman may occasion you.
My daughter and my grandchild join with me in desiring to be most kindly remembered to the amiable girl; and they bid me remind you, that the annual visit to Howard Grove, which we were formerly promised, has been discontinued for more than four years. I am, dear Sir, with great regard, Your most obedient friend and servant, M. HOWARD.
Mr. Villars To Lady Howard Berry Hill, Dorsetshire
YOUR Ladyship did but too well foresee the perplexity and uneasiness of which Madame Duval's letter has been productive. However, I ought rather to be thankful that I have so many years remained unmolested, than repine at my present embarrassment; since it proves, at least, that this wretched woman is at length awakened to remorse.
In regard to my answer, I must humbly request your Ladyship to write to this effect: "That I would not, upon any account, intentionally offend Madame Duval; but that I have weighty, nay unanswerable reasons for detaining her granddaughter at present in England; the principal of which is, that it was the earnest desire of one to whose will she owes implicit duty. Madame Duval may be assured, that she meets with the utmost attention and tenderness; that her education, however short of my wishes, almost exceeds my abilities; and I flatter myself, when the time arrives that she shall pay her duty to her grand-mother, Madame Duval will find no reason to be dissatisfied with what has been done for her."
Your Ladyship will not, I am sure, be surprised at this answer. Madame Duval is by no means a proper companion or guardian for a young woman: she is at once uneducated and unprincipled; ungentle in temper, and unamiable in her manners. I have long known that she has persuaded herself to harbour an aversion for me-Unhappy woman! I can only regard her as an object of pity! I dare not hesitate at a request from Mrs. Mirvan; yet, in complying with it, I shall, for her own sake, be as concise as I possibly can; since the cruel transactions which preceded the birth of my ward can afford no entertainment to a mind so humane as her's.
Your Ladyship may probably have heard, that I had the honour to accompany Mr. Evelyn, the grandfather of my young charge, when upon his travels, in the capacity of a tutor. His unhappy marriage, immediately upon his return to England, with Madame Duval, then a waiting-girl at a tavern, contrary to the advice and entreaties of all his friends, among whom I was myself the most urgent, induced him to abandon his native land, and fix his abode in France. Thither he was followed by shame and repentance; feelings which his heart was not framed to support; for, notwithstanding he had been too weak to resist the allurements of beauty, which nature, though a niggard to her of every other boon, had with a lavish hand bestowed on his wife; yet he was a young man of excellent character, and, till thus unaccountably infatuated, of unblemished conduct. He survived this ill-judged marriage but two years. Upon his death-bed, with an unsteady hand, he wrote me the following note:
"My friend, forget your resentment, in favour of your humanity;-a father, trembling for the welfare of his child, bequeaths her to your care. O Villars! hear! pity! And relieve me!"
Had my circumstances permitted me, I should have answered these words by an immediate journey to Paris; but I was obliged to act by the agency of a friend, who was upon the spot, and present at the opening of the will.
Mr. Evelyn left to me a legacy of a thousand pounds, and the sole guardianship of his daughter's person till her eighteenth year; conjuring me, in the most affecting terms, to take the charge of her education till she was able to act with propriety for herself; but, in regard to fortune, he left her wholly dependent on her mother, to whose tenderness he earnestly recommended her.
Thus, though he would not, to a woman low-bred and illiberal as Mrs. Evelyn, trust the conduct and morals of his daughter, he nevertheless thought proper to secure to her the respect and duty to which, from her own child, were certainly her due; but unhappily, it never occurred to him that the mother, on her part, could fail in affection or justice.
Miss Evelyn, Madam, from the second to the eighteenth year of her life, was brought up under my care, and, except when at school under my roof. I need not speak to your Ladyship of the virtues of that excellent young creature. She loved me as her father; nor was Mrs. Villars less valued by her; while to me she became so dear, that her loss was little less afflicting than that which I have since sustained of Mrs. Villars herself.
At that period of her life we parted; her mother, then married to Monsieur Duval, sent for her to Paris. How often have I since regretted that I did not accompany her thither! Protected and supported by me, the misery and disgrace which awaited her might perhaps have been avoided. But, to be brief-Madame Duval, at the instigation of her husband, earnestly, or rather tyrannically, endeavoured to effect a union between Miss Evelyn and one of his nephews. And, when she found her power inadequate to her attempt, enraged at her non-compliance, she treated her with the grossest unkindness, and threatened her with poverty and ruin.
Miss Evelyn, to whom wrath and violence had hitherto been strangers, soon grew weary of such usage; and rashly, and without a witness, consented to a private marriage with Sir John Belmont, a very profligate young man, who had but too successfully found means to insinuate himself into her favour. He promised to conduct her to England-he did.-O, Madam, you know the rest!-Disappointed of the fortune he expected, by the inexorable rancour of the Duvals, he infamously burnt the certificate of their marriage, and denied that they had ever been united. She flew to me for protection. With what mixed transports of joy and anguish did I again see her! By my advice, she endeavoured to procure proofs of her marriage-but in vain; her credulity had been no match for his art.
Every body believed her innocent, from the guiltless tenor of her unspotted youth, and from the known libertinism of her barbarous betrayer. Yet her sufferings were too acute for her slender frame; and the same moment that gave birth to her infant, put an end at once to the sorrows and the life of its mother. The rage of Madame Duval at her elopement, abated not while this injured victim of cruelty yet drew breath. She probably intended, in time, to have pardoned her; but time was not allowed. When she was informed of her death, I have been told, that the agonies of grief and remorse, with which she was seized, occasioned her a severe fit of illness. But, from the time of her recovery to the date of her letter to your Ladyship, I had never heard that she manifested any desire to be made acquainted with the circumstances which attended the death of Lady Belmont, and the birth of her helpless child.
That child, Madam, shall never, while life is lent me, know the loss she has sustained. I have cherished, succoured, and supported her, from her earliest infancy to her sixteenth year; and so amply has she repaid my care and affection, that my fondest wish is now circumscribed by the desire of bestowing her on one who may be sensible of her worth, and then sinking to eternal rest in her arms. Thus it has happened, that the education of the father, daughter, and granddaughter, has devolved on me. What infinite misery have the two first caused me! Should the fate of the dear survivor be equally adverse, how wretched will be the end of my cares-the end of my days!
Even had Madame Duval merited the charge she claims, I fear my fortitude would have been unequal to such a parting; but being such as she is, not only my affection, but my humanity, recoils, at the barbarous idea of deserting the sacred trust reposed in me. Indeed, I could but ill support her former yearly visits to the respectable mansion at Howard Grove: pardon me, dear Madam, and do not think me insensible of the honour which your Ladyship's condescension confers upon us both; but so deep is the impression which the misfortunes of her mother have made on my heart, that she does not, even for a moment, quit my sight without exciting apprehensions and terrors which almost overpower me. Such, Madam, is my tenderness, and such my weakness!-But she is the only tie I have upon earth, and I trust to your Ladyship's goodness not to judge of my feelings with severity.
I beg leave to present my humble respects to Mrs. and Miss Mirvan; and have the honour to be, Madam, your Ladyship's most obedient and most humble servant, ARTHUR VILLARS.
Lady Howard To The Rev. Mr. Villars Howard Grove, March 8
Dear and Rev. Sir,
YOUR last letter gave me infinite pleasure: after so long and tedious an illness, how grateful to yourself and to your friends must be your returning health! You have the hearty wishes of every individual of this place for its continuance and increase.
Will you not think I take advantage of your acknowledged recovery, if I once more venture to mention your pupil and Howard Grove together? Yet you must remember the patience with which we submitted to your desire of not parting with her during the bad state of your health, tho' it was with much reluctance we forbore to solicit her company. My grand-daughter in particular, has scarce been able to repress her eagerness to again meet the friend of her infancy; and for my own part, it is very strongly my wish to manifest the regard I had for the unfortunate Lady Belmont, by proving serviceable to her child; which seems to me the best respect that can be paid to her memory. Permit me, therefore, to lay before you a plan which Mrs. Mirvan and I have formed, in consequence of your restoration to health.
I would not frighten you;-but do you think you could bear to part with your young companion for two or three months? Mrs. Mirvan proposes to spend the ensuing spring in London, whither for the first time, my grandchild will accompany her: Now, my good friend, it is very earnestly their wish to enlarge and enliven their party by the addition of your amiable ward, who would share, equally with her own daughter, the care and attention of Mrs. Mirvan. Do not start at this proposal; it is time that she should see something of the world. When young people are too rigidly sequestered from it, their lively and romantic imaginations paint it to them as a paradise of which they have been beguiled; but when they are shown it properly, and in due time, they see it such as it really is, equally shared by pain and pleasure, hope and disappointment.
You have nothing to apprehend from her meeting with Sir John Belmont, as that abandoned man is now abroad, and not expected home this year. Well, my good Sir, what say you to our scheme? I hope it will meet with your approbation; but if it should not, be assured I can never object to any decision of one who is so much respected and esteemed as Mr. Villars, by His most faithful, humble servant, M. HOWARD.
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.
Let Miss Mirvan, then, Madam, shine in all the splendour of high life; but suffer my child still to enjoy the pleasures of humble retirement, with a mind to which greater views are unknown.
I hope this reasoning will be honoured with your approbation; and I have yet another motive which has some weight with me: I would not willingly give offence to any human being; and surely Madame Duval might accuse me of injustice, if, while I refuse to let her grand-daughter wait upon her, I consent that she should join a party of pleasure to London.
In sending her to Howard Grove, not one of these scruples arise; and therefore Mrs. Clinton, a most worthy woman, formerly her nurse, and now my housekeeper, shall attend her thither next week.
Though I have always called her by the name of Anville, and reported in this neighbourhood that her father, my intimate friend, left her to my guardianship; yet I have thought it necessary she should herself be acquainted with the melancholy circumstances attending her birth: for though I am very desirous of guarding her from curiosity and impertinence, by concealing her name, family, and story, yet I would not leave it in the power of chance to shock her gentle nature with a tale of so much sorrow.
You must not, Madam, expect too much from my pupil; she is quite a little rustic, and knows nothing of the world; and though her education has been the best I could bestow in this retired place, to which Dorchester, the nearest town, is seven miles distant, yet I shall not be surprised if you should discover in her a thousand deficiencies of which I have never dreamt. She must be very much altered since she was last at Howard Grove. But I will say nothing of her; I leave her to your Ladyship's own observations, of which I beg a faithful relation; and am, Dear Madam, with great respect, Your obedient and most humble Servant, ARTHUR VILLARS.
Mr. Villars To Lady Howard March 18. Dear Madam
THIS letter will be delivered to you by my child-the child of my adoption-my affection! Unblest with one natural friend, she merits a thousand. I send her to you innocent as an angel, and artless as purity itself; and I send you with her the heart of your friend, the only hope he has on earth, the subject of his tenderest thoughts, and the object of his latest cares. She is one, Madam, for whom alone I have lately wished to live; and she is one whom to serve I would with transport die! Restore her but to me all innocence as you receive her, and the fondest hope of my heart will be amply gratified. A. VILLARS.
Lady Howard To The Rev. Mr. Villars Howard Grove
Dear Rev. Sir,
THE solemn manner in which you have committed your child to my care, has in some measure damped the pleasure which I receive from the trust, as it makes me fear that you suffer from your compliance, in which case I shall very sincerely blame myself for the earnestness with which I have requested this favour: but remember, my good Sir, she is within a few days summons; and be assured, I will not detain her a moment longer than you wish.
You desire my opinion of her.
She is a little angel! I cannot wonder that you sought to monopolize her: neither ought you, at finding it impossible.
Her face and person answer my most refined ideas of complete beauty: and this, though a subject of praise less important to you, or, to me than any other, is yet so striking, it is not possible to pass it unnoticed. Had I not known from whom she received her education, I should at first sight of so perfect a face, have been in pain for her understanding; since it has been long and justly remarked, that folly has ever sought alliance with beauty.
She has the same gentleness in her manners, the same natural graces in her motions, that I formerly so much admired in her mother. Her character seems truly ingenuous and simple; and at the same time that nature has blessed her with an excellent understanding and great quickness of parts, she has a certain air of inexperience and innocency that is extremely interesting.
You have not reason to regret the retirement in which she has lived; since that politeness which is acquired by an acquaintance with high life, is in her so well supplied by a natural desire of obliging, joined to a deportment infinitely engaging.
I observe, with great satisfaction, a growing affection between this amiable girl and my grand-daughter, whose heart is as free from selfishness or conceit, as that of her young friend is from all guile. Their regard may be mutually useful, since much is to be expected from emulation where nothing is to be feared from envy. I would have them love each other as sisters, and reciprocally supply the place of that tender and happy relationship to which neither of them has a natural claim.
Be satisfied, my good Sir, that your child shall meet with the same attention as our own. We all join in most hearty wishes for your health and happiness, and in returning our sincere thanks for the favour you have conferred on us. I am, dear Sir, Your most faithful servant, M. HOWARD.
Lady Howard To The Rev. Mr. Villars Howard Grove, March 26
BE not alarmed, my worthy friend, at my so speedily troubling you again; I seldom use the ceremony of waiting for answers, or writing with any regularity, and I have at present immediate occasion for begging your patience. Mrs. Mirvan has just received a letter from her long absent husband, containing the welcome news of his hoping to reach London by the beginning of next week. My daughter and the Captain have been separated almost seven years, and it would therefore be needless to say what joy, surprise, and consequently confusion, his at present unexpected return has caused at Howard Grove. Mrs. Mirvan, you cannot doubt, will go instantly to town to meet him; her daughter is under a thousand obligations to attend her; I grieve that her mother cannot. And now, my good Sir, I almost blush to proceed;-but, tell me, may I ask-will you permit-that your child may accompany them? Do not think us unreasonable, but consider the many inducements which conspire to make London the happiest place at present she can be in. The joyful occasion of the journey; the gaiety of the whole party, opposed to the dull life she must lead, if left here with a solitary old woman for her sole companion, while she so well knows the cheerfulness and felicity enjoyed by the rest of the family,-are circumstances that seem to merit your consideration. Mrs. Mirvan desires me to assure you that one week is all she asks, as she is certain that the Captain, who hates London, will be eager to revisit Howard Grove; and Maria is so very earnest in wishing to have the company of her friend, that, if you are inexorable, she will be deprived of half the pleasure she otherwise hopes to receive.
However, I will not, my good Sir, deceive you into an opinion that they intend to live in a retired manner, as that cannot be fairly expected. But you have no reason to be uneasy concerning Madame Duval; she has not any correspondent in England, and obtains no intelligence but by common report. She must be a stranger to the name your child bears; and, even should she hear of this excursion, so short a time as a week or less spent in town upon so particular an occasion, though previous to their meeting, cannot be construed into disrespect to herself.
Mrs. Mirvan desires me to assure you, that if you will oblige her, her two children shall equally share her time and her attention. She has sent a commission to a friend in town to take a house for her; and while she waits for an answer concerning it, I shall for one from you to our petition. However, your child is writing herself; and that, I doubt not, will more avail than all we can possible urge. My daughter desires her best compliments to you if, she says, you will grant her request but not else.
Adieu, my dear Sir, we all hope every thing from your goodness. M. HOWARD. Evelina To The Rev. Mr. Villars Howard Grove, March 26
THIS house seems to be the house of joy; every face wears a smile, and a laugh is at every body's service. It is quite amusing to walk about and see the general confusion; a room leading to the garden is fitting up for Captain Mirvan's study. Lady Howard does not sit a moment in a place; Miss Mirvan is making caps; every body so busy!-such flying from room to room!-so many orders given, and retracted, and given again! nothing but hurry and perturbation.
Well but, my dear Sir, I am desired to make a request to you. I hope you will not think me an encroacher; Lady Howard insists upon my writing!-yet I hardly know how to go on; a petition implies a want and have you left me one? No, indeed. I am half ashamed of myself for beginning this letter. But these dear ladies are so pressing-I cannot, for my life, resist wishing for the pleasures they offer me,provided you do not disapprove them.
They are to make a very short stay in town. The Captain will meet them in a day or two. Mrs. Mirvan and her sweet daughter both go; what a happy party! Yet, I am not very eager to accompany them: at least I shall be contented to remain where I am, if you desire that I should.
Assured, my dearest Sir, of your goodness, your bounty, and your indulgent kindness, ought I to form a wish that has not your sanction? Decide for me, therefore, without the least apprehension that I shall be uneasy or discontented. While I am yet in suspense, perhaps I may hope; but I am most certain that when you have once determined I shall not repine.
They tell me that London is now in full splendour. Two playhouses are open,-the Opera-house,-Ranelagh,-and the Pantheon.-You see I have learned all their names. However, pray don't suppose that I make any point of going, for I shall hardly sigh, to see them depart without me, though I shall probably never meet with such another opportunity. And, indeed, their domestic happiness will be so great,-it is natural to wish to partake of it.
I believe I am bewitched! I made a resolution, when I began, that I would not be urgent; but my pen-or rather my thoughts, will not suffer me to keep it-for I acknowledge, I must acknowledge, I cannot help wishing for your permission. I almost repent already that I have made this confession; pray forget that you have read it, if this journey is displeasing to you. But I will not write any longer; for the more I think of this affair, the less indifferent to it I find myself. Adieu, my most honoured, most reverenced, most beloved father! for by what other name can I call you? I have no happiness or sorrow, no hope or fear, but what your kindness bestows, or your displeasure may cause. You will not, I am sure, send a refusal without reasons unanswerable, and therefore I shall cheerfully acquiesce. Yet I hope-I hope you will be able to permit me to go! I am, with the utmost affection, gratitude, and duty, your EVELINA -
I cannot to you sign ANVILLE, and what other name may I claim?
Mr. Villars To Evelina Berry Hill, March 28
TO resist the urgency of intreaty, is a power which I have not yet acquired: I aim not at an authority which deprives you of liberty, yet I would fain guide myself by a prudence which should save me the pangs of repentance. Your impatience to fly to a place which your imagination has painted to you in colors so attractive, surprises me not; I have only to hope, that the liveliness of your fancy may not deceive you: to refuse, would be raising it still higher. To see my Evelina happy, is to see myself without a wish: go, then my child; and may that Heaven, which alone can direct, preserve and strengthen you! To that, my love, will I daily offer prayers for your felicity. O may it guard, watch over you, defend you from danger, save you from distress, and keep vice as distant from your person as from your heart! And to me, may it grant, the ultimate blessing of closing these aged eyes in the arms of one so dear-so deservedly beloved! ARTHUR VILLARS. Evelina To The Rev. Mr. Villars Queen Ann Street, London, Saturday, April 2 THIS moment arrived. Just going to Drury Lane Theatre. The celebrated Mr. Garrick performs Ranger. I am quite in ecstasy. So is Miss Mirvan. How fortunate that he should happen to play! We would not let Mrs. Mirvan rest till she consented to go. Her chief objection was to our dress, for we have had no time to Londonize ourselves; but we teased her into compliance, and so we are to sit in some obscure place that she may not be seen. As to me, I should be alike unknown in the most conspicuous or most private part of the house. I can write no more now. I have hardly time to breathe-only just this, the houses and streets are not quite so superb as I expected. However, I have seen nothing yet, so I ought not to judge.
Well; adieu, my dearest Sir, for the present; I could not forbear writing a few words instantly on my arrival, though I suppose my letter of thanks for your consent is still on the road. Saturday Night.
O, my dear Sir, in what raptures am I returned? Well may Mr. Garrick be so celebrated, so universally admired-I had not any idea of so great a performer. Such ease! such vivacity in his manner! such grace in his motions! such fire and meaning in his eyes!-I could hardly believe he had studied a written part, for every word seemed to be uttered from the impulse of the moment. His action-at once so graceful and so free!-his voice-so clear, so melodious, yet so wonderfully various in its tones!-Such animation!-every look speaks! I would have given the world to have had the whole play acted over again. And when he danced-O, how I envied Clarinda! I almost wished to have jumped on the stage and joined them.
I am afraid you will think me mad, so I won't say any more; yet, I really believe Mr. Garrick would make you mad too if you could see him. I intend to ask Mrs. Mirvan to go to the play every night while we stay in town. She is extremely kind to me; and Maria, her charming daughter, is the sweetest girl in the world. I shall write to you every evening all that passes in the day, and that in the same manner as, if I could see, I should tell you. Sunday.
This morning we went to Portland chapel; and afterwards we walked in the mall of St. James's Park, which by no means answered my expectations: it is a long straight walk of dirty gravel, very uneasy to the feet; and at each end instead of an open prospect, nothing is to be seen but houses built of brick. When Mrs. Mirvan pointed out the Palace to me-I think I was never much more surprised. However, the walk was very agreeable to us; every body looked gay, and seemed pleased; and the ladies were so much dressed, that Miss Mirvan and I could do nothing but look at them. Mrs. Mirvan met several of her friends. No wonder, for I never saw so many people assembled together before. I looked about for some of my acquaintance, but in vain; for I saw not one person that I knew, which is very odd, for all the world seemed there.
Mrs. Mirvan says we are not to walk in the Park again next Sunday, even if we should be in town, because there is better company in Kensington Gardens; but really if you had seen how much every body was dressed, you would not think that possible. Monday.
We are to go this evening to a private ball, given by Mrs. Stanley, a very fashionable lady of Mrs. Mirvan's acquaintance.
We have been a-shopping as Mrs. Mirvan calls it, all this morning, to buy silks, caps, gauzes, and so forth.
The shops are really very entertaining, especially the mercers; there seem to be six or seven men belonging to each shop; and every one took care by bowing and smirking, to be noticed. We were conducted from one to another, and carried from room to room with so much ceremony, that at I was almost afraid to go on. I thought I should never have chosen a silk: for they produced so many, I knew not which to fix upon; and they recommended them all so strongly, that I fancy they thought I only wanted persuasion to buy every thing they showed me. And, indeed, they took so much trouble, that I was almost ashamed I could not. At the milliners, the ladies we met were so much dressed, that I should rather have imagined they were making visits than purchases. But what most diverted me was, that we were more frequently served by men than by women; and such men! so finical, so affected! they seemed to understand every part of a woman's dress better than we do ourselves; and they recommended caps and ribbands with an air of so much importance, that I wished to ask them how long they had left off wearing them.
The dispatch with which they work in these great shops is amazing, for they have promised me a complete suit of linen against the evening.
I have just had my hair dressed. You can't think how oddly my head feels; full of powder and black pins, and a great cushion on the top of it. I believe you would hardly know me, for my face looks quite different to what it did before my hair was dressed. When I shall be able to make use of a comb for myself I cannot tell; for my hair is so much entangled, frizzled they call it, that I fear it will be very difficult.
I am half afraid of this ball to-night; for, you know, I have never danced but at school: however, Miss Mirvan says there is nothing in it. Yet, I wish it was over. Adieu, my dear Sir, pray excuse the wretched stuff I write; perhaps I may improve by being in this town, and then my letters will be less unworthy your reading. Meantime, I am, Your dutiful and affectionate, though unpolished, EVELINA.
Poor Miss Mirvan cannot wear one of the caps she made, because they dress her hair too large for them.
Evelina In Continuation Queen Ann Street, April 5, Tuesday Morning I HAVE a vast deal to say, and shall give all this morning to my pen. As to my plan of writing every evening the adventures of the day, I find it impracticable; for the diversions here are so very late, that if I begin my letters after them, I could not go to bed at all.
We passed a most extraordinary evening. A private ball this was called, so I expected to have seen about four or five couple; but Lord! my dear Sir, I believe I saw half the world! Two very large rooms were full of company; in one were cards for the elderly ladies, and in the other were the dancers. My mamma Mirvan, for she always calls me her child, said she would sit with Maria and me till we were provided with partners, and then join the card-players. The gentlemen, as they passed and repassed, looked as if they thought we were quite at their disposal, and only waiting for the honour of their commands; and they sauntered about, in a careless, indolent manner, as if with a view to keep us in suspense. I don't speak of this in regard to Miss Mirvan and myself only, but to the ladies in general: and I thought it so provoking, that I determined in my own mind that, far from humouring such airs, I would rather not dance at all, than with any one who would seem to think me ready to accept the first partner who would condescend to take me.
Not long after, a young man, who had for some time looked at us with a kind of negligent impertinence, advanced on tiptoe towards me; he had a set smile on his face, and his dress was so foppish, that I really believed he even wished to be stared at; and yet he was very ugly.
Bowing almost to the ground with a sort of swing, and waving his hand, with the greatest conceit, after a short and silly pause, he said, "Madam-may I presume?"-and stopt, offering to take my hand. I drew it back, but could scarce forbear laughing. "Allow me, Madam," continued he, affectedly breaking off every half moment, "the honour and happiness-if I am not so unhappy as to address you too late-to have the happiness and honour-"
Again he would have taken my hand; but bowing my head, I begged to be excused, and turned to Miss Mirvan to conceal my laughter. He then desired to know if I had already engaged myself to some more fortunate man? I said No, and that I believed I should not dance at all. He would keep himself he told me, disengaged, in hopes I should relent; and then, uttering some ridiculous speeches of sorrow and disappointment, though his face still wore the same invariable smile, he retreated.
It so happened, as we have since recollected, that during this little dialogue Mrs. Mirvan was conversing with the lady of the house. And very soon after, another gentleman, who seemed about six-and-twenty years old, gaily but not foppishly dressed, and indeed extremely handsome, with an air of mixed politeness and gallantry, desired to know if I was engaged, or would honour him with my hand. So he was pleased to say, though I am sure I know not what honour he could receive from me; but these sort of expressions, I find, are used as words of course, without any distinction of persons, or study of propriety.
Well, I bowed, and I am sure I coloured; for indeed I was frightened at the thoughts of dancing before so many people, all strangers, and, which was worse, with a stranger: however, that was unavoidable; for, though I looked round the room several times, I could not see one person that I knew. And so he took my hand, and led me to join in the dance.
The minuets were over before we arrived, for we were kept late by the milliners making us wait for our things.
He seemed very desirous of entering into conversation with me; but I was seized with such a panic, that I could hardly speak a word, and nothing but the shame of so soon changing my mind prevented my returning to my seat, and declining to dance at all.
He appeared to be surprised at my terror, which I believe was but too apparent: however, he asked no questions, though I fear he must think it very strange, for I did not choose to tell him it was owing to my never before dancing but with a school-girl.
His conversation was sensible and spirited; his air, and address were open and noble; his manners gentle, attentive, and infinitely engaging; his person is all elegance, and his countenance the most animated and expressive I have ever seen.
In a short time we were joined by Miss Mirvan, who stood next couple to us. But how I was startled when she whispered me that my partner was a nobleman! This gave me a new alarm: how will he be provoked, thought I, when he finds what a simple rustic he has honoured with his choice! one whose ignorance of the world makes her perpetually fear doing something wrong!
That he should be so much my superior in every way, quite disconcerted me; and you will suppose my spirits were not much raised, when I heard a lady, in passing us, say, "This is the most difficult dance I ever saw."
"O dear, then" cried Maria to her partner, "with your leave, I'll sit down till the next."
"So will I too, then," cried I, "for I am sure I can hardly stand."
"But you must speak to your partner first," answered she; for he had turned aside to talk with some gentlemen. However, I had not sufficient courage to address him; and so away we all three tript, and seated ourselves at another end of the room.
But, unfortunately for me, Miss Mirvan soon after suffered herself to be prevailed upon to attempt the dance; and just as she rose to go, she cried, "My dear, yonder is your partner, Lord Orville walking about the room in search of you." "Don't leave me then, dear girl!" cried I; but she was obliged to go. And now I was more uneasy than ever; I would have given the world to have seen Mrs. Mirvan, and begged of her to make my apologies; for what, thought I, can I possibly say to him in excuse for running away? He must either conclude me a fool, or half mad; for any one brought up in the great world, and accustomed to its ways, can have no idea of such sort of fears as mine.
My confusion increased when I observed that he was every where seeking me, with apparent perplexity and surprise; but when, at last, I saw him move towards the place where I sat, I was ready to sink with shame and distress. I found it absolutely impossible to keep my seat, because I could not think of a word to say for myself; and so I rose, and walked hastily towards the card-room, resolving to stay with Mrs. Mirvan the rest of the evening, and not to dance at all. But before I could find her, Lord Orville saw and approached me.
He begged to know if I was not well? You may easily imagine how much I was embarrassed. I made no answer; but hung my head like a fool, and looked on my fan.
He then, with an air the most respectfully serious, asked if he had been so unhappy as to offend me?
"No, indeed!" cried I; and, in hopes of changing the discourse, and preventing his further inquiries, I desired to know if he had seen the young lady who had been conversing with me?
No;-but would I honour him with any commands to her?
"O, by no means!"
Was there any other person with whom I wished to speak?
I said no, before I knew I had answered at all.
Should he have the pleasure of bringing me any refreshment?
I bowed, almost involuntarily. And away he flew.
I was quite ashamed of being so troublesome, and so much above myself as these seeming airs made me appear; but indeed I was too much confused to think or act with any consistency.
If he had not been as swift as lightning, I don't know whether I should not have stolen away again; but he returned in a moment. When I had drank a glass of lemonade, he hoped, he said, that I would again honour him with my hand, as a new dance was just begun. I had not the presence of mind to say a single word, and so I let him once more lead me to the place I had left.
Shocked to find how silly, how childish a part I had acted, my former fears of dancing before such a company, and with such a partner, returned more forcibly than ever. I suppose he perceived my uneasiness; for he entreated me to sit down again if dancing was disagreeable to me. But I was quite satisfied with the folly I had already shewn; and therefore declined his offer, though I was really scarce able to stand.
Under such conscious disadvantages, you may easily imagine my dear Sir, how ill I acquitted myself. But, though I both expected and deserved to find him very much mortified and displeased at his ill fortune in the choice he had made; yet, to my very great relief, he appeared to be even contented, and very much assisted and encouraged me. These people in high life have too much presence of mind, I believe, to seem disconcerted, or out of humour, however they may feel: for had I been the person of the most consequence in the room, I could not have met with more attention and respect.
When the dance was over, seeing me still very much flurried, he led me to a seat, saying that he would not suffer me to fatigue myself from politeness. And then, if my capacity, or even, if my spirits had been better, in how animated a conversation I might have been engaged! it was then I saw that the rank of Lord Orville was his least recommendation, his understanding and his manners being far more distinguished. His remarks upon the company in general were so apt, so just, so lively, I am almost surprised myself that they did not reanimate me; but, indeed, I was too well convinced of the ridiculous part I had myself played before so nice an observer, to be able to enjoy his pleasantry: so selfcompassion gave me feeling for others. Yet I had not the courage to attempt either to defend them or to rally in my turn; but listened to him in silent embarrassment.
When he found this, he changed the subject, and talked of public places, and public performers; but he soon discovered that I was totally ignorant of them. He then, very ingeniously, turned the discourse to the amusements and occupations of the country.
It now struck me that he was resolved to try whether or not I was capable of talking upon any subject. This put so great a restraint upon my thoughts, that I was unable to go further than a monosyllable, and not ever so far, when I could possibly avoid it.
We were sitting in this manner, he conversing with all gaiety, I looking down with all foolishness, when that fop who had first asked me to dance, with a most ridiculous solemnity approached, and, after a profound bow or two, said, "I humbly beg pardon, Madam,-and of you too, my Lord,-for breaking in upon such agreeable conversation-which must, doubtless, be more delectable-than what I have the honour to offer-but-"
I interrupted him-I blush for my folly,-with laughing; yet I could not help it; for, added to the man's stately foppishness, (and he actually took snuff between every three words) when I looked around at Lord Orville, I saw such extreme surprise in his face,-the cause of which appeared so absurd, that I could not for my life preserve my gravity.
I had not laughed before from the time I had left Miss Mirvan, and I had much better have cried then; Lord Orville actually stared at me; the beau, I know not his name, looked quite enraged. "Refrain-Madam," said he, with an important air, "a few moments refrain!-I have but a sentence to trouble you with.-May I know to what accident I must attribute not having the honour of your hand?" "Accident, Sir!" repeated I, much astonished.
"Yes, accident, Madam;-for surely,-I must take the liberty to observe-pardon me, Madam,-it ought to be no common one-that should tempt a lady-so young a one too,-to be guilty of ill-manners."
A confused idea now for the first time entered my head, of something I had heard of the rules of an assembly; but I was never at one before,-I have only danced at school,-and so giddy and heedless I was, that I had not once considered the impropriety of refusing one partner, and afterwards accepting another. I was thunderstruck at the recollection: but, while these thoughts were rushing into my head, Lord Orville with some warmth, said, "This Lady, Sir, is incapable of meriting such an accusation!"
The creature-for I am very angry with him-made a low bow and with a grin the most malicious I ever saw, "My Lord," said he, "far be it from me to accuse the lady, for having the discernment to distinguish and prefer-the superior attractions of your Lordship."
Again he bowed and walked off.
Was ever any thing so provoking? I was ready to die with shame. "What a coxcomb!" exclaimed Lord Orville: while I, without knowing what I did, rose hastily, and moving off, "I can't imagine," cried I, "where Mrs. Mirvan has hid herself!"
"Give me leave to see," answered he. I bowed and sat down again, not daring to meet his eyes; for what must he think of me, between my blunder, and the supposed preference?
He returned in a moment, and told me that Mrs. Mirvan was at cards, but would be glad to see me; and I went immediately. There was but one chair vacant; so, to my great relief, Lord Orville presently left us. I then told Mrs. Mirvan my disasters; and she good-naturedly blamed herself for not having better instructed me; but said, she had taken it for granted that I must know such common customs. However, the man may, I think, be satisfied with his pretty speech and carry his resentment no farther.
In a short time Lord Orville returned. I consented, with the best grace I could, to go down another dance, for I had had time to recollect myself; and therefore resolved to use some exertion, and, if possible, to appear less a fool than I had hitherto done; for it occurred to me, that, insignificant as I was, compared to a man of his rank and figure; yet, since he had been so unfortunate as to make choice of me for a partner, why I should endeavour to make the best of it. The dance, however, was short, and he spoke very little; so I had no opportunity of putting my resolution in practice. He was satisfied, I suppose, with his former successless efforts to draw me out or, rather, I fancied he had been inquiring who I was. This again disconcerted me; and the spirits I had determined to exert, again failed me. Tired, ashamed, and mortified, I begged to sit down till we returned home, which I did soon after. Lord Orville did me the honour to hand me to the coach, talking all the way of the honour I had done him! O these fashionable people!
Well, my dear Sir, was it not a strange evening? I could not help being thus particular, because, to me, every thing is so new. But it is now time to conclude. I am, with all love and duty, your EVELINA.