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DE CLIFFORD; OR,
thing that had so pleasingly, yet so tormentingly, absorbed me, and allowed my mind to become a tumult of the happiest as well as the most despairing recollections. And yet (mark it ye young !), such is the irrepressible buoyancy of youth (ah! how far beyond all that the world can give without it!), that my despair was not without alleviation. I was not in those regions of sorrow
" Where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes,
No! amid my darkest gloom at leaving what I thought paradise, I could not part with the delight of thinking I might one day return to it, and a gleam of Bertha dressed in smiles, would sometimes dissipate all the black signs of hopelessness that otherwise surrounded me.
Thus, though sunk in grief, and often in despair, to think that I had no right to expect to see Bertha again, or, if I did, that it would only be as the wife of some higher and happier being, the coach could not pass a cottage in a retired nook, with a garden of neatness like her own, but I peopled it in imagination with all that my fond fancy could indulge ; in fact, with nothing short of what my wishes coveted, and my heart promised. That I might one day live in such a spot, in holy union with my beloved and latest found, was the raving of eighteen ; but I felt myself a man, and as my object is to paint nature as she is actually seen and felt, I will not be deterred from confessing these weaknesses.
I recollect, indeed, the observation of a celebrated French prelate, * “ It is so far from dangerous, that it
is even right, for young people to be made acquainted with love, in order that they may shut their senses against it when criminal, and know how to act when innocent and honourable."
I will not, therefore, fear the ridicule which may attend this account of myself, nor am I ashamed of having so early entertained a passion which, under all disadvantages, and ten thousand anxieties and temptations, kept my mind pure and my conduct correct.
On arriving at home, I am ashamed to say, every thing appeared distasteful. My father's hale heartiness, though it pleased for the moment, had not the dignity which belonged to Mr. Hastings. His clothes were coarser, and not so well made; nor was my mother either so well dressed, nor had she so smooth a manner, as Mr. Hastings's housekeeper. The brusquerie of my brothers I was rather afraid of, so only said to myself, how different their deportment was from the Etonian knowingness acquired by my friend!
But Bertha, the elegant, the vivid, the frank, the graceful, whose every feature and every motion, even without the aid of her beauty, it did one good to think of; where was she? alas! not in my homely home, nor within fifty miles of it, but in her own palace—for such I thought the abode which was blessed with her pre
It is inconceivable what misery this folly of mine (for surely it was not less) occasioned. But I tell it, that other young fools may take warning by it, and not run the risk of shipwreck among rocks and quicksands, because they do not chuse to see them.
Still shall I confess that when I did open my eyes, though I was fully aware of the impenetrable barrier that interposed between me and my wishes, the indul
DE CLIFFORD; OR,
gence of them gave me sweeter enjoyments than the actual gratification of any others which I afterwards fostered. How did I not love that prettiest of all ballads, the “Wish,” by Rogers! How often did I not repeat it in my walks, in my chamber, and in my bed. Though got by heart, I never stirred out without it, and I think of it now with delight, for the delight it gave me then. Rogers's more elaborate, perhaps finer poems, were not half so valued, whatever their superiority; and as, except to lovers of eighteen, it may not be so well remembered, I cannot even now refuse myself the pleasure of transcribing it, if only for the early recollections it brings along with it.
“Mine be a cot beside the hill,
my ivied porch shall spring,
Where first our marriage vows were given,
And point with taper spire to heav'n.” With this ruling, this absorbing feeling, no wonder that all other things became vapid. My first proof of this was in the total indifference with which I viewed our kindly neighbours at the Hall Place. They were as affable, and the girls as fine in dress as ever; but so fastidious was I grown, that their affability seemed too familiar; and as to their finery, O! heavens! what comparison could it bear with the simple elegance of Bertha !
I visited the Hall, indeed, but the inhabitants,
though so much wealthier than we, seemed now to have lost all pretensions to superiority, and were themselves thrown into obscurity. In fact, there was nothing elegant, any more than interesting in existence, but the scenery and inmates of Foljambe Park.
And yet I would not dissuade my younger readers, if the object is worthy, from early love. lover may, indeed, not reach the chivalry of the mature knight, but depend upon it no youth, under the influence of an honourable attachment, will ever entertain a grovelling thought, much less stoop to a dishonourable act.
This I felt in my inmost heart. In mind, I became fastidious, delicate, jealous ; in person and dress, nice, if not elegant. I was more than ever alive to the sweets of poetry, particularly pastoral, and I read with increased rapture in Virgil, the praises of Amaryllis or Galatea.
In fine, I quaffed the sweet poison of this delicious madness till, like other madmen, the delusion became part of myself, and, though fully aware of the hopelessness of my case, I would not have parted with my dream of success for all the realities of life.
In short, I felt the force of the exclamation of Leontes,
“Make me but think so twenty years together,
The pleasures of that madness.” Thus passed my eighteenth year, full of romantic sentiment, which, inspired as it was by a soul-elevating as well as all-engrossing passion, created within me a sort of poetry of the heart, which, though it often was followed by cruel mortifications, never afterwards left me. It, in fact, under a thousand vicissitudes of good
DE CLIFFORD; OR,
and evil, formed the gilding, or rather sunshine, of my life, chequered as it was with many a cloud.
The earliest of these mortifications was the not hearing any thing from Foljambe, much less of the deity, as I thought her, of that place, which I never remembered but as the abode of the happy.
To be sure, I nursed myself in unreasonable, because presumptuous, hopes, not merely that I should be remembered, but remembered with pleasure. My own ecstasies, which formed one perpetual remembrance of what I had seen and what I had enjoyed, forbade the thought that I should never see the Park again ; but month after month passed on without any note of remembrance, still less of recall. Foljambe, indeed, had told me in the off-hand language of Eton, he would 66 tip me a line some convenient day or other;"—but I never found that day arrive.
I became querulous and melancholy, as well as fastidious, and my father—who, notwithstanding the retirement and mechanism of his life, was not without observation of the world, and derived some notions of human nature from even such temporary insight into it as could be derived from his attendances on the grand juries-in some degree divined my disease.
5 Lad,” said he one day to me, “it was an evil hour when I allowed thee to pass those days with young Hastings at yon fine place, schoolfellow as he
It has made thee discontent with thy own home, and will not help thee much, I doubt, abroad. Thou seest thou art already forgotten, and, mayhap, if they were to meet thee at summer assizes, they would not know thee.”
I shuddered at this, and conibated it with all my might, but my father would not give up his opinion.