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Chapter 5
"Hard students are commonly troubled with gowts, catarrhs, rheums, cachexia,
bradypepsia, bad eyes, stone, and collick, crudities, oppilations, vertigo, winds,
consumptions, and all such diseases as come by over-much sitting: they are
most part lean, dry, ill-colored . . . and all through immoderate pains and
extraordinary studies. If you will not believe the truth of this, look upon great
Tostatus and Thomas Aquainas' works; and tell me whether those men took
pains."--BURTON'S Anatomy of Melancholy, P. I, s. 2.
This was Mr. Casaubon's letter.
MY DEAR MISS BROOKE,--I have your guardian's permission to address you on
a subject than which I have none more at heart. I am not, I trust, mistaken in the
recognition of some deeper correspondence than that of date in the fact that a
consciousness of need in my own life had arisen contemporaneously with the
possibility of my becoming acquainted with you. For in the first hour of meeting
you, I had an impression of your eminent and perhaps exclusive fitness to supply
that need (connected, I may say, with such activity of the affections as even the
preoccupations of a work too special to be abdicated could not uninterruptedly
dissimulate); and each succeeding opportunity for observation has given the
impression an added depth by convincing me more emphatically of that fitness
which I had preconceived, and thus evoking more decisively those affections to
which I have but now referred. Our conversations have, I think, made sufficiently
clear to you the tenor of my life and purposes: a tenor unsuited, I am aware, to
the commoner order of minds. But I have discerned in you an elevation of
thought and a capability of devotedness, which I had hitherto not conceived to be
compatible either with the early bloom of youth or with those graces of sex that
may be said at once to win and to confer distinction when combined, as they
notably are in you, with the mental qualities above indicated. It was, I confess,
beyond my hope to meet with this rare combination of elements both solid and
attractive, adapted to supply aid in graver labors and to cast a charm over vacant
hours; and but for the event of my introduction to you (which, let me again say, I
trust not to be superficially coincident with foreshadowing needs, but
providentially related thereto as stages towards the completion of a life's plan), I
should presumably have gone on to the last without any attempt to lighten my
solitariness by a matrimonial union.
Such, my dear Miss Brooke, is the accurate statement of my feelings; and I rely
on your kind indulgence in venturing now to ask you how far your own are of a
nature to confirm my happy presentiment. To be accepted by you as your
husband and the earthly guardian of your welfare, I should regard as the highest
of providential gifts. In return I can at least offer you an affection hitherto
unwasted, and the faithful consecration of a life which, however short in the
sequel, has no backward pages whereon, if you choose to turn them, you will find
records such as might justly cause you either bitterness or shame. I await the
expression of your sentiments with an anxiety which it would be the part of
wisdom (were it possible) to divert by a more arduous labor than usual. But in