Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

could introduce her? There could be no such home, for every thing in it would, from contrast, remind her of the height from which she had fallen, and the love of a family who loved her no longer ?”

“ This is severely strong,” said I, and I gave a deep sigh.

“ Not stronger than true,” he replied. “But, even supposing that a miracle should intervene in your favour, and that you obtained her by consent, reluctant, but still consent: or suppose that, having married without it, you are what they might call forgiven. With even this forgiveness, could you be more than endured ?— think you that you would ever be received as an equal, much less as a son or brother ? Your fortune and your station being where they are, must not this daughter of wealth and nobility fall to their level, and partake of their character ? Could she ever be restored to that blythe and buoyant cheerfulness, of which you would have deprived her, and which you have described as the delight of her father, and the charm of her friends ? Where would the freedom of her spirit fly? To her husband, you will say, and perhaps a loved progeny, but obtained at the expense of what? poverty, and the loss of the smile of the world!”

I was again sensibly moved, but he went on.

“What hour of the day, what movement could either of you make, what part of your ow

your own family could she cultivate, that would not painfully remind her of the height from which she had fallen,—you, of the alteration in her lot, perhaps in her disposition ; and

all caused by your own misplaced, selfish, and too successful partiality.”

I now absolutely groaned at this forcible picture, and begged him to desist.

“Not yet,” said he, "for say what you please of the poetry of life, and particularly of love; deck it out in pastorals, and repeat every day the pretty song which you say once so moved you, of Lucy singing at her wheel, in russet gown and apron blue; Miss Hastings was never made to turn a wheel, or wear a russet gown; or if she could wear it for your sake, she could not submit to it without flying from the world, and living in a desert. There indeed, out of reach of former habits, acquaintance, and ideas, it might be possible, and only possible, that in total oblivion of the past, life might not be made a perpetual burthen by memory; yet even there, memory would often force her way, and embitter present enjoyment by former recollections. In short, the world is an imperious world, and never forgives an attempt at rebellion."

“ Alas!” said I, “I fear that is too true.” ,

“ Without therefore, steeping the senses in forgetfulness,” proceeded he, "which could only be achieved by being cut off from it, it would be vain for a woman who has sunk from her station, to think herself independent of it. Every transitory or chance account of former amusements, former grandeur, and, above all, former friends, would make her heart sink at the thought of what she had been, contrasted with what she was."

“ Yet she might love her husband,” said I, hesitatingly.

“She might, but would that reconcile her to the loss of family love ? a father's fondness, for example."

6 I fear not,” said I, and I trembled when I thought of the mutual fondness of Mr. Hastings and his daughter.

Fothergill saw how I was affected, and went on. “ These things," said he, “ will have their weight spite of romance. A marquess who becomes a bergèr for love, must either have little dignity of character, or repent and be miserable in banishment."

As a last struggle in the argument, I now asked Fothergill, if he could mention instances of this ?

“A pregnant one,” he replied, “ in the Countess of Warwick, with no less a man than Addison; though that could scarcely be called a mésalliance, for, in the end, he was Secretary of State. That union was not happy, because, as was said, the Countess could never forget (perhaps never forgive), that her second husband had been her son's tutor. And yet, no doubt, when the great lady first made this stoop, she was actuated, as she thought, by a most generous devotion, as well as admiration, for a person certainly the ornament of his

age.

Still it availed little for poor Addison ; and I cannot do better, as an illustration of the subject, than refer you to what Johnson says of it, in his life of that illustrious man.”

At this, taking down his Lives of the Poets, he read as follows:

“ This year (1716), he married the Countess Dowager of Warwick, whom he had solicited by a long and anxious courtship, perhaps with behaviour not very much unlike that of Sir Roger, to his disdainful widow; and who, I am afraid, diverted herself often by playing with his passion. He is said to have first known her by becoming tutor to her son. In what part of his life he obtained the recommendation, or how long, and in what manner, he lived in the family, I know not. His advances, at first, were certainly timorous, but grew bolder as his reputation and influence increased; till at last the lady was persuaded to marry him, on terms much like those on which a Turkish princess is espoused, to whom the Sultan is reported to pronounce, “daughter, I give thee this man for thy slave.' The marriage made no addition to his happiness; it neither found them, nor made them equal. She always remembered her own rank, and thought herself entitled to treat with very little ceremony the tutor of her son.

“This is surely enough for the argument,” concluded Fothergill, “ though there are other cases which I have not been without observing, and which, in fact, first prompted this opinion of mine.”

I entreated to know them,
“ Why frequently,” he replied, “some of our most

[ocr errors]

* She was a Middleton, daughter of Sir Thomas. Who that reflects upon the universal fame of Addison, and feels himn in his delightful literature one of the benefactors of mankind, and at the same time is puzzled to find out the family name of the wife who thus looked down upon him, but must laugh such nonsense to scorn.

settled maxims of life arise from accidental circumstances. When I was the companion of Lord Castleton, a picture of mésalliance forcibly struck me, in the person of his own sister, Lady Harriet Longueville, who exchanged that name for Baggs."

“ Baggs !” exclaimed I, “what a name !” and I thought with complacency of the De Cliffords.

“ Plebeian, certainly,” said Fothergill, “ nor was Mr. Baggs in his condition much better than his name, though he was the son of honest parents, respectable in their line of life, his father, in fact, having a place in the Lord Mayor's court. As for himself, the best that can be said of him was, that he was not disreputable from any vice, and had a certain coarse vigour of character; the worst, that being tolerably educated, he had conceived too high an idea of his own abilities, which he supposed would ensure him fortune whenever he pleased. In the meantime, his reading gave him notions far beyond himself ; for he practised the sentimental and romantic, with much contempt for those whom he called common-place persons."

I thought my good tutor looked too significantly at me while thus describing the hero Mr. Baggs; but I contented myself with saying, “ And was it such a person as this who obtained an earl's sister ? Ah! she could not have been like Bertha! Perhaps she was plain and unattractive ; perhaps half-witted or uneducated; or perhaps a despairing old maid.”

“ Far from them all,” said Fothergill. “She was rather handsome; had had the usual education of her rank; was accomplished and popular, and though not in

[blocks in formation]
« ПредишнаНапред »