Sacred to Simplicity
To Which Are Added
Printed For Blacks and Parry,
T. Plummer, Seething-Lane.
To Her Dear Sons, The Author Most Affectionately Inscribes This Volume, as a Small Memorial of Maternal Love.
The following pages were written rather as an amusement in those hours of leisure, which a retired life afforded, than with any view of publication; but, having gradually increased in number sufficient to form a volume, in compliance with the repeated solicitations of some partial friends, and with the utmost diffidence I now submit them to the inspection of the world. Some few of the pieces were inserted several years ago, in the periodical publications of the day; they have since been revised, corrected, and, it is hoped, considerably improved: but bearing in mind this advice of Madame Genlis, Tales of the Castle, vol. iii. page 47. A woman ought never to suffer a man to add a single word to her writings; if she does, the man she consults, be he who he may, will always pass for the original inventor, and she will be accused of putting her name to the works of vi A4v vi others, I have not suffered them to pass thro’ any other hands; of course the beauties (if any should be discovered) and the blemishes are all my own.
To attempt exploring an untrodden path on the parnassian mountain, would argue both folly and presumption; and I hope I shall not be considered as guilty of either, in following, at humble distance, that which a favourite Charlotte Smith. writer of the present day has chosen. As it has not been with the extravagant idea of disputing the palm with one, who, in sonnet-writing, stands unrivaled, but, to speak metaphorically, rather with a design of gathering a few of those straggling wild-flowers she may have passed by unregarded.
Born in the country and ever enthusiastically attached to rural scenes, and rural pleasures, it will not excite wonder, that many of the subjects are of a descriptive kind: my fondness for flowers commenced in childhood; vii A5r vii and I well remember the infantine joy with which, in early spring, I paced the green slopes of my father’s gardens, watching the first unfolding buds of the yellow aconite, and red hepatica. In maturer years I have derived much pleasure from botanical studies; which, however despised and derided by those who have no taste for them, (and consequently cannot form a competent judgment of a science they do not understand) certainly afford a pure and innocent amusement, which tends to enlarge the mind, and elevate it from nature up to nature’s God.—Thus much I thought proper to premise, as an apology to those who may censure the redundancy of rural description.
I am not conscious of having been guilty of plagiarism, in any of my performances; tho’ on this subject I speak cautiously, knowing how difficult it is for those who are much conversant with books, to steer clear of that error. Mr. Sherida n remarks, that Faded ideas float in the fancy like half-forgotten dreams; and the viii A5v viii imagination, in its fullest enjoyments, becomes suspicious of its offspring, and doubts whether it has created, or adopted.
To the respectable synod, whose fiát crowns the labours of the bard with immortality, or consigns them to oblivion, I dare not look up with higher hopes or expectation than that this little volume, as inoffensive, may escape the severity of criticism; tho’ the Age of Chivalry, we are told, is no more, the author appeals to their gallantry as men, not too rigidly to censure the light effusions of a female pen; and to their humanity, not to Break a butterfly upon a wheel.
B. F.Duncroft Cottage, 1805-06-21June, 21, 1805.
- Page 17, line under Sonnet XV. for Marquerite, read Marguerite.
- Page 34, line 6, for the, read this.
Descriptive Of Morning.
Morn’s rosy light breaks o’er yon eastern hill,
And faintly mingles with the twilight grey;
The shepherd thro’ the valley bends his way,
Waking soft echo with his carrol shrill:
Printing with tim’rous step the dewy lawn,
And the high-soaring lark his matin sings,
Primeval songster; while the dappl’d fawn,
In antic gambols, thro’ the forest bounds;
And hark! the loud blast of the huntsman’s horn,
On the fresh breezes of the morning borne,
O’er the tall cliff, and cavern’d rock, resounds.
While his fleet hounds their sylvan chace pursue,
And from the tangling thickets brush the dew.
As fades the rain-bow of a summer’s sky,
So fade the pleasures of life’s early day;
So swift the fairy forms of hope decay,
E’en as the purple clouds of evening fly!
And sable night will soon in deepest gloom
Involve the smiling landscape now so fair;
And the tir’d pilgrim, in this vale of care,
Soon seek the refuge of a peaceful tomb.
But morn shall chace the murky shades of night,
With rosy fingers, and ambrosial breath;
And, once dissolv’d the frozen bands of death,
Th’ awaken’d spirit soar to realms of light,
Where joy’s celestial beam no griefs shall shroud,
Where day perpetual reigns, undarken’d by a cloud!
(From Gessner’s Idyls.)
Fair flower! by Doris lov’d, shall I presume
With savage grasp, thy silken form to spoil?
To waste, with lavish hand, thy choice perfume,
Thy crimson-streaked leaves in dust to soil?
No—she shall place thee on her snowy breast,
And thy delicious odours thence arise,
As incense, when with love’s warm hopes impress’d,
To the fair Paphian Queen we sacrifice.
Ah happy flower! those coral lips to kiss,
And thence thy bright vermillion tints to steal;
Would, I like thee, might taste such nectar’d bliss,
And there my vows of tender passion seal:
Like thee, beneath the sunshine of her eye,
To live, and there, like thee, sweet flower! to die.
O Fortune! changeful as the varying wind,
Why should the human heart in thee confide?
Thy brittle chain, alas! no virtues bind,
Light as the froth that floats upon the tide.
Thy smile, the sunbeam of an April morn,
And transient as the drops of dew that swell
The cowslip’s cup, and tip the blossom’d thorn;
Or, quivering, glitter in the lily’s bell.
Go, fickle goddess, and essay to cheat
Some heart that never trusted thee before;
But I so oft’ have witness’d thy deceit,
Thy syren song shall ne’er delude me more:
Nor will I at thy wayward frowns repine,
While the superior joys of health and peace are mine.
Bright rose the sun upon my natal hour,
Repose and Peace the downy cradle spread;
While Pleasure strew’d my path with many a flower,
And rose-lip’d Health her choicest blessings shed:
Then, fondly to a mother’s bosom press’d,
The blissful days on rapid pinions pass’d;
And, in a tender father’s arms caress’d,
Each morn beheld me happier than the last.
But scarcely seven short years had roll’d away,
’Ere destin’d one lov’d parent’s loss to mourn;
And now, (more exquisite the pang) to pay
The tribute of my grief o’er a dear father’s urn!
And with sad tears the hallow’d earth bedew,
That hides his honor’d form for ever from my view.
Addressed to the Village Children of Kent, who present Travellers, passing the road, with Nose-gays.
Sweet, smiling train! your pleasing task pursue,
The mountain-pink and spotted orchis bring;
Violets and hyacinths, of azure hue,
And the first snow-drops of the infant spring:
Tho’ venal minds the simple tribute scorn,
Or pride, disdainful, view with brow austere,
These blossoms spangl’d with the dews of morn,
To sensibility shall still be dear,
The artless off’rings of the blameless hand,
And mild benevolence shall pleas’d bestow
Her meed, to bid your little hearts expand,
And spread your dimpl’d cheeks with pleasure’s glow.
Then, gentle village babes, your task pursue,
And may life’s thorny paths, be strew’d with flowers, for you.
Amid some gothic Abbey’s solemn gloom,
Which seems on human vanity to frown,
Why asks the pride of man a pompous tomb,
With blazon’d ’scutcheons hung, and trophies of renown?
Yields not the daisy’d turf a softer bed,
Where the poor peasant’s clay-cold ashes rest?
At morning’s dawn with liquid pearls o’erspread,
And by the setting-sun, in golden splendor dress’d:
There springs the scented thyme, the primrose fair,
And blue-bells there the slender stem shall rear;
And thither oft’ the village swain repair,
O’er his departed friend to drop a tender tear;
The sweet memorial of affection dear,
Transcending far all praise that sculptur’d marbles bear!
Why fade the roses of Miranda’s cheek,
And from her bosom whence that deep-drawn sigh,
While from her lips, the faltering accents break,
And tears obscure the lustre of her eye?
Was it that hope portray’d too perfect joy,
That fancy’s visions fade by reason’s light?
Why should ideal ills her peace annoy?
Not ev’ry morn arises calm and bright!
As in the ether some white clouds appear,
So, in the chequer’d maze of life, we find
Grief mixed with happiness, and hope with fear,
By turns to gladden and subdue the mind;
But why should virtue droop? with steady ray
Religion’s sacred lamp illumines her votary’s way.
To A Wood In Hampshire.
Dear favourite haunt! where oft, with sportive glee
And frolic step, I’ve press’d the mossy ground;
Searching each flower-enamel’d dingle round,
For orchis, Orchis Fuciflora, or Bee-Orchis: This beautiful and rare plant grows abundantly in Ackendar Wood. crested with a pictur’d bee:
As oft’ the briar’s soft tufts, with crimson crown’d,
My fancy pleas’d; and still thy hazle shade,
Sweet Ackendar! its wonted charm retains;
For there the black-bird pours his mellow strains,
And spring’s first violets purple every glade;
Still o’er thy sloping banks the hawthorn spreads,
And horn-beams wave their boughs of shining green;
While strawberries hide beneath their nectar’d heads:
Pleas’d, I again survey the sylvan scene,
Where many a summer’s eve my infant footsteps stray’d.
Supposed to be written by Delamere, during his illness in France. VideMrs. Smith’s Emmeline.
Go, sly deluder! break thy poison’d dart;
Go steep in bitter tears thy fatal bow,
And tear those rosy bands, which, wreath’d with art,
Conceal the heart-corroding thorns of woe:
’Ere those tormenting bands my bosom bound,
Joy o’er my head his glittering banner wav’d,
Blythe health, and dimpl’d mirth, play’d sportive round,
No care oppress’d me, and no fear enslav’d:
But now a group of hideous spectres rise:
Anxiety, with visage ghastly pale,
Grim Jealousy uprears his jaundic’d eyes.
And fell Despair unfolds a sable veil:
Then, traitor, tear those bands, which wreath’d with art,
Conceal th’ envenom’d thorns that lacerate the heart.
Occasioned by the death of an intimate Friend.
Sweet is the pastoral sound, when evening still,
Spreads o’er each closing flower her humid veil,
Of sheep-bell tinkling on the health-clad hill;
Sweet the wood-pigeon’s melancholy tale,
And sweet the murmurs of the purling rill:
Ah! that these dulcet melodies might cheer
The sorrowing heart, expel sad memory’s thorn,
Arrest the sigh, and check the falling tear,
That bathes in friendship’s dews thy sable bier,
Belov’d companion of life’s blissful morn!
Ye Muses! to Eliza’s tomb repair,
Funeral wreaths of yew and cypress blend;
And strew the fading rose and lily there,
Pure emblems of my dear departed friend.
Written on the Sea shore.
O’er the blue bosom of th’ unruffl’d deep,
The sun declining, spreads a saffron ray;
Hush’d in their caves, the stormy whirlwinds sleep,
And dove-ey’d Peace assumes her gentle sway:
Come, then, thou minister of soft repose,
And round my brows thy verdant olive bind;
With downy hand my aching eyelids close,
And soothe the throbbings of my tortur’d mind;
And woo thy mild associate, balmy Sleep,
His poppies o’er my couch of straw to shed,
In dews lethean all my senses steep,
And o’er remembrance sad oblivion’s pall to spread;
So shall this breast a mental calm regain,
But ah! the magic spell I court in vain!
Written on Visiting Arundel Castle.
Mantl’d in ivy, see this mould’ring tower,
On whose time-shaken walls the moon’s pale light
Throws a faint lustre, cheering oft’ the sight
Of the lone wanderer at the midnight hour,
As slowly toiling up the hill’s steep side,
With pensive retrospective glance, he dwells
On days long past, and fancy’s magic power
Recals the morn when gallant Springet Sir William Springet died of a Calenture, in Arundel Castle,whilst on military duty, in the reign of Charles the First. died,
Whilst all his manly heart with sorrow swells.
O venerable fortress! now no more
War’s crimson banners o’er thy turrets wave,
To stain thy courts with streams of human gore;
But peace resides on Arun’s classic Alluding to the Poets who have resided in the neighbourhood, viz. Otway, Collins, Hayley, &c; shore,
And thy green meads his lucid waters lave.
Yes, I will range the deep romantic dell,
The tangl’d coppicecopsesand unfrequented glade;
Where the tall fox-glove hangs its speckl’d bell,
And pale clematis weaves a tufted shade:
Culling with care, each fragrant flower that blows
On the rude cliff, or paints the dewy mead;
To the wild woodbine, join the blushing rose,
And bind my garland with a flexile reed;
Nor, sweet Simplicity! the boon disdain,
If bending duteous, at thy rustic shrine,
I lay these lovely blossoms of the plain,
Or the white bind-wythe, in light wreaths intwine
Around the moss-grown pillars of thy fane;
And dedicate to thee, fair nymph, my doric strain.
Where are those scenes that brighten’d on mine eye?
What adverse cloud has darken’d them in shade?
What noxious blast has bade the blossoms fade,
And forc’d the weeping loves on languid wing to fly?
’Tis cold Indifference—her love-chilling dart,
With aim unerring, the dire fiend has thrown;
Her freezing influence oft, too oft, I’ve known
Repel affection’s stream fast flowing from the heart:
Not openly she meditates the blow,
Not suddenly her cruel shafts destroy,
Unseen they tear the rip’ning buds of joy;
But sure the poison works tho’ its effect be slow:
Thus on the damask rose the canker preys,
And thus the stricken heart in secret grief decays.
Written on the Return of Spring.
Once more awaken’d by the balmy gale,
Enchanting spring resumes her genial reign;
Spreads her luxuriant carpet on the plain,
And hangs o’er every shrub her green translucent veil:
Now on each sunny bank the pile-wort spreads
Its golden stars, mingling with ale-hoof blue,
And frail veronica’s Veronica Chamædrys, wild Speedwel, or Germander: This delicate little plant is one of the most beautiful, as well as most common ornaments of our banks and hedges, in April and May. Rousseau observes, The short duration of its flowers furnishes a proper emblem of the fleeting nature of female charms. cerulean hue;
While crimson-spotted cowslips rear their heads,
And lady’s-smocks, and cuckoo-flowers adorn
The meads where milk-white lambs their gambols play.
Soft music breathes from every blossom’d thorn,
That hides the thrush and woodlark’s moss-clad nest;
Sweet minstrels! while ye greet the length’ning day,
May no unhallow’d foot your tranquil haunts molest.
Written in the Height of Summer.
From flowery lawns, and fields of new-mown hay,
Where odours float on every sighing gale;
And vagrant butterflies, on painted wing,
Sport in the sunshine of their transient day;
And humming bees ambrosial sweets inhale,
From fragrant jess’min, and syringa pale,
Or to the bell-flower’s purple clusters cling:—
From these I fly to some sequester’d vale,
Which chesnuts shade, and sycamores embower;
Or by the margin of a lucid stream,
Where flag-flowers blow, and water-lillies spread,
And alders thick exclude the solar beam,
On some moss-cover’d bank recline my head,
And in poetic vision waste the noontide hour.
Written in a Shrubbery towards the decline of Autumn.
See, o’er its withering leaves, the musk-rose bend,
And scarce a purple aster paints the glade;
Yet, cease awhile ye ruffling winds! to rend
This variegated canopy of shade.
Here, autumn’s touch the rich dark brown bestows,
There, mix’d with paler leaves of yellow hue,
The shining holly’s scarlet fruitage glows,
And crimson berries stud the deep-green yew.
Thou radiant orb! whose mild declining ray
Now gilds with gayer tinge this lov’d retreat,
Yet, ling’ring, still prolong the golden day.-
How vain the wish! no more thy glories meet
My dazzl’d eye; but from the lakes arise
Blue mists, and twilight grey involves the blushing skies.
Written in a Winter’s Morning.
Tho’storms and tempests mark thy gloomy reign,
Stern winter! still the poet’s eye shall find
Full many a charm to linger in thy train—
Spread round thy frozen panoply of snow;
In icy chains, each brook and streamlet bind;
Still unappal’d the christmas rose Helleborus Niger. This plant, in mild winters and a proper soil, sometimes blows in December. shall blow,
And beauteous crocuses their golden bloom
Disclose, ere yet thy ruthless reign be past;
And bright mezereon breathe its faint perfume,
Amid the rigours of thy northern blast:
Whilst on the leafless lyme pale miseltoe
Its wax-like berries hangs, and green of sickly cast.
And the sweet redbreast, from his laurel bower,
Warbles his vespers clear, at twilight’s sober hour.
The breeze is hush’d, nor thro’ the willow plays,—
Its lank green branches float upon the stream,
In whose clear mirror Hesper’s silv’ry rays
Reflected glitter—hide, fair star! thy beam;
On this sad breast, no cheering ray must shine;
And, rise ye winds! for ill this tranquil scene
Accords with anguish so severe as mine:
Ah! more congenial, were the blast so keen
That rudely rages round some sea-beat shore;
The dashing billow, and the roaring wave;—
And better far than all, a quiet grave,
Where the afflicted heart shall throb no more:
But each dark cloud of human sorrow past,
The suff’ring spirit rest in peace at last.
Scene.—The Ruins of an Abbey.
Mark, o’er yon fir-crown’d rock, the last faint gleam
Of evening into dusky twilight fade,—
And now the full-orb’d moon, her rising beam
Darts thro’ this ivy’d arch and mould’ring colonade,
Shedding mild radiance where the mossy tomb,
A mutilated sculptur’d form displays,
With tangling brambles hung, where thistles bloom,
And the pale briony enwreathes its gadding sprays.
Now thro’ the cloister’d aisle and grass-grown court
On swift revolving wing the bat flits round;
And from the ruin’d tower, (her lov’d resort,)
The lone owl’s melancholy notes resound:
While deep embower’d amid the beechen grove,
The tender nightingale begins his lay of love.
To the Dryads of Windsor Forest.
Nymphs of the sylvan shade! may no rude swain,
With desolating axe, your bowers deform;
Nor the wild fury of the wint’ry storm
Lay waste the honours of your green domain;
Long may your monarch oaks their branches spread,
Your lofty elms, and verdant beeches rise;
To whose thick boughs the ’frighted squirrel hies,
And safe reposes in his leafy bed:
Long may your chestnut groves with blossoms crown’d,
Your plane and birch their graceful foliage wear,
Your aspins quiver to the summer air,
And pines majestic shade the mossy ground:
While herds of spotted deer wide scatter’d round,
The fresh-sprung herbage crop, or thro’ the vistas bound.
To a Nightingale.
Sweet chauntress of the groves! prolong thy strain,
So softly trilling on my raptur’d ear;
Thy melting melody my spirits cheer,
O tune that wild melifluous note again!
As my tir’d footsteps linger in the dale,
Thy song shall soothe me, and the wild rose spread
Its blooming boughs luxuriant o’er my head,
And with rich odours, fill each sighing gale.
Sweet chauntress of the groves! thy strains renew,
And greet the partner of thy sylvan bower,
With tender warblings charm the midnight hour;
Now ev’ry shrub is bath’d in balmy dew,
And the soft moonlight silvers o’er the vale,
Sweet chauntress of the groves! repeat thy soothing tale.
Oberon’s Invitation To Titania.
Arise, my queen ! thy tulip bower forsake,
Resplendent Venus sheds her silver ray
On the calm surface of the crystal lake,
And the bat circles thro’ the twilight grey.
Arise, and on the night-moth’s mottl’d plumes,
With me, o’er fields of breathing bean-flowers sail,
Or mid the apple-blossom’s mild perfumes
Imbibe rich essence from the nectar’d gale:
Meantime, our sportive elfins shall prepare spring,
Beneath yon pine-wood, where broad mushrooms
The moonlight banquet; sprightly Robin Robin-good-fellow, or Puck; a merry sprite, whose feats are celebrated in Milton’s L’Allegro, Shakespeare’s Midsummer-night’s Dream, and an old song attributed to Ben Jonson; and preserved in Dr. Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, vol. iii. page 202. there
His spells shall weave, and merry ditties sing,
While thickly scatter’d o’er the mossy ground
Pale glow-worms pour their lambent light around.
On an Unfortunate Suicide.
Ill-Fated being! did the whelming tide
Of mis’ry sink thy soul in deep despair;
That, rashly venturing on a world untired,
Thou sought’st a refuge from thy feelings, grown
Too keen th’ intolerable load to bear?
O! could the poignancy of woe atone,
Or plead for pity at the throne of grace,
Could the recording angel’s Vide Sterne’s pathetic Story of Le Fevre. falling tear,
The unrepented crime of suicide efface,
Then might a dawn of hope thy spirit cheer,
When the last trumpet echoes thro’ the tombs
That thy distracted soul should pardon meet;
And cherub-mercy, veil with hov’ring plumes,
The awful splendors of the judgment seat.
Let not proud man ungratefully repine,
If doom’d the path of life obscure to tread;
Whilst others in superior station shine,
And wealth and pow’r their splendid boons combine,
To grace a more distinguish’d fav’rite’s head:
The lofty cedar, on the mountain’s brow,
The tempest rends, and ruffling winds deform;
While humble violets, in the vale below,
Diffuse their odours, and uninjur’d blow,
Protected from the ravage of the storm:
Nor useless in their sphere: the hand that rear’d
The cedar, strew’d these blossoms o’er the plain;
For diff’rent virtues, diff’rent states prepar’d,
Nor made the great Creator ought in vain!
On a Beautiful Child Sleeping.
Angels guard, and heav’n protect thee!
Ev’ry blessing gracious send;
Save from evil, and direct thee
At pure virtue’s shrine to bend.
Soft, the lovely babe reposes,
Wrap’d in slumber’s downy wing;
Soft, as zephyr breathes o’er roses,
In the sweetest morn of spring.
Gentle dreams! that hover round him,
Led by fancy, youth, and joy;
With your gayest scenes surround him,
And in sleep amuse my boy.
Health, fair queen of earthly pleasure!
Round his brows thy garlands bind;
Dove-ey’d peace! still dearer treasure,
Ever bless his infant mind.
Innocence and virtue lighting
With their brightest rays his morn;
Truth and wisdom these uniting,
Shall his riper years adorn.
O! if ev’ry bliss possessing.
Equal to my fondest pray’rs,
Sweetest Boy! each precious blessing
Thy thrice happy mother shares.
With A Manuscript Volume Of Juvenile Essays.
Friend of my heart! whose smiles more pleasure yield
Than fame’s loud praise, this simple gift approve;
O! be its want of merit kindly veil’d
By the dear mantle of indulgent love.
The liliea of the vale obscurely blow
In some lone dingle, or sequester’d glade;
And modest violets hide their purple glow
Beneath the moss-clad bank and hazle shade.
Yet, Phebus sheds his spirit-cheering ray,
On these retiring children of the dale;
And, at the tranquil hour of closing day,
Mild evening round them wraps her dewy veil.
Then let the sunshine of thy favor gild
Thy Laura’s heart with joy,—her gift approve;
And, be its numerous blemishes conceal’d,
By the dear mantle of indulgent love.
To The Same,
With a Pair of Gloves.
One glove, in token of defiance,
To his proud foe, the champion sends:
A pair, the symbols of alliance,
Are given by lovers, and by friends.
Tho’ small the boon, yet true affection
Is oft’ in trivial acts express’d;
A tender look can chace dejection,
And calm the sigh of grief to rest.
And humble gifts, by love presented,
By love sincere shall sweet be deem’d,
While those, with rubies ornamented,
At pomp’s proud shrine are less esteem’d.
And Atticus may wear with pleasure,
This tribute borne him by the Loves; The Author’s two youngest Sons.
Laura, his smile accounts a treasure,
For she is blest when he approves!
My dearest friend! with eye propitious,
The idle bagatelle survey;
The muse, I woo’d, but she, capricious,
Refused to harmonize the lay.
Written in an Hour of Affliction.
Toss’d on the waves of a tempestuous ocean,
The drooping sailor hails his port in view,
Escap’d each jarring element’s commotion,
He joyous bids the stormy seas adieu!
Not so the mariner, who gaily steering
His painted bark o’er pleasure’s silver tide,—
No joy his bosom warms when near appearing
An unknown harbour, and a clime untried:
Bright shines the sun, soft blow the summer breezes,
Smooth glides the vessel o’er the dimpl’d stream,
His blithesome heart the tranquil voyage pleases,
But when, as waking from a soothing dream,
Appal’d he sees the blissful shores receding
On which with transport rov’d his vacant eye;—
Fair were the scenes,—but ah! the scenes succeeding,
Unprov’d, in chilling mists and darkness lie.
And care’s worn pilgrim, in this vale of sorrow,
Delighted views his weary journey’s close;
To-day he labours, trusting that to-morrow
He shall enjoy his mansion of repose.
But the gay wanderer in the maze of folly,
By fashion’s breath, in airy circles borne,
Surveys, with deep oppressive melancholy,
That bourne from whence he never shall return.
Then, O my soul! tho’ high the tide of anguish
Rises, and mountain billows o’er thee roll,
Confide in Heav’n, nor let thy virtue languish,
But cherish hope, and coward fear controul:
What, tho’ the storm this vital thread dissever,
And to the dust my sinking head decline,
Heir of immortal life! thou’lt live for ever!
And paradise, with all its joys, be thine!
To Miss W.
With the Passionate Shepherd to his Love, and the Nymph’s Reply. These elegant little Ballads are inserted in Dr. Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, vol. I, page 220, the first is ascribed to Christopher Marlow, who was killed by a stab in a Brothel; the last to Sir Walter Raleigh, as a juvenile production of his pen.
Like this wise nymph’s, be your reply,
When flatterers breathe the artful sigh;
Nor, lovely maid, his suit approve,
Who seeks with gifts to win your love.
The tinsel coxcomb’s lures beware;
Light as the breath of summer air,
This gay ephemeron of an hour,
Despises love’s subduing power.
Nor, yet a list’ning ear incline
To the insidious libertine,
For his unhallow’d breast the glow
Of chaste affection ne’er can know.
The venal sycophant withstand,
Who seeks, for wealth, to gain your hand;
His heart to ev’ry passion cold,
Except th’ insatiate love of gold.
But, should a graceful youth appear,
Wise, generous, tender, and sincere,
Who boasts a fair unblemish’d name,
Whose conduct malice dares not blame;
Who, like your sire, delights to bless,
And succour virtue in distress;
Whose soul celestial truth informs,
And pure devotion’s spirit warms:
Should such a youth, dear Fanny, sue,
O! be his flame approv’d by you;
His worth your mind may justly move,
To live with him, and be his love.
With him before the altar bow,
With him exchange sthe sacred vow,
Nor let the awful word, obey,
Your doubting heart with fear dismay.
In love’s soft hand, the nuptial chain
Becomes a gentle silken rein,
Enwreath’d with flowers, whose vivid bloom
Thro’ every season breathe perfume:
And, trust me, Hymen’s genial ray
Can gild with bliss life’s wint’ry day,
And o’er encircling plains of snow,
Bid lilies spring, and roses blow.
Then let no rising doubts annoy
The sun-beam bright of promised joy;
As wisdom bids, the swain approve,
And live with him, and be his love.
Lines Addressed to E— C—, Esq.
On returning him Smollet’s Ferdinand Count Fathom.
Your injunction, you see, sir, I’ve strictly obey’d,
And return you Count Fathom, tho’ scarcely half read.
In the critic’s high throne, for a female to sit,
And censure what Smollet, or Fielding has writ’,
May presumptuous be deem’d; yet permit me to say,
The mind where chaste virtue holds absolute sway,
No author, however facetious, can please,
(Tho’ his style be the model of classical ease)
If decency’s barrier he rudely disdains,
And to fancy licentious delivers the reins.
True wit, like the dew-drop that spangles the thorn,
And gems the white blossom on May’s rosy morn,
Is brilliant and pure, without cloud, speck, or stain,
In a word, like Miss A—n’s delicious champaigne.
St. Andrew’s Eve.
A Village Legend.
Keen the winds of November swept over the wold,
And stripp’d the dry leaves from the grove;
But, Mabel, regardless of danger or cold,
Softly stole from her cot, when the curfew-bell toll’d,
Mutual vows to exchange with her love.
From the ivy-clad abbey the screech-owl’s shrill cry,
Fill’d each pause of the deep-swelling blast;
Blue tapers funereal, Corpse-Candles, a vulgar tradition in Wales.——Pennant. pale gleam’d on her eye,
And meteors portentous shot thro’ the dark sky,
As on to the church-yard she pass’d.
Long ere she approach’d it, a form cross’d her way,
In the garb of a pilgrim array’d,
(Tho’ dimly descry’d by the moon’s clouded ray)
Who thus in low accents, well-skill’d to betray,
Accosted the credulous maid:
Sweet Mabel, a cordial, thy spirits to cheer,
By thy true-love commission’d, I bring:
Drink a health to thy Alleyn, so fond and sincere,
This pledge of his faith too, he begs thee to wear
He said, and presented a ring.
The maid took the chalice—
Most grateful to me
Are the gifts of my swain, she reply’d:
Love hallows the tribute, O blest may he be!
And peace, courteous stranger, attend upon thee,
Where fortune thy footsteps shall guide,
Then the path-way pursuing, at length, to her view,
The wall of the church-yard appear’d,
Where spleen-wort, and maidenhair luxuriantly grew;
And within its inclosure a wide spreading yew,
For a century its huge trunk had rear’d.
There her love she beheld, as athwart the deep shade
The moonlight soft chequer’d the place;
The pilgrim, at distance, had follow’d the maid,
And, now by a tombstone conceal’d, he survey’d
The fair in her Alleyn’s embrace.
Thrice welcome, my dear one! enraptur’d I press
The treasure so lov’d to my heart.
The damsel with fondness return’d his caress,
But her voice sunk, and, falt’ring, could scarcely confess
The emotions she sought to impart.
At length, O my Alleyn! thy cordial, she cry’d,
By turns chills my blood and inflames—
What cordial? the lover, astonish’d reply’d:
Then the counterfeit pilgrim his garb cast aside,
Rush’d forth, and thus wildly exclaims:
Revenge, thou art mine! now attend, haughty fair,
And prepare to resign thy last breath;
No longer my soul thy indifference shall bear,
But my rival, in turn, feel the pangs of despair,
For the draught that I gave thee was death!
No more, with soft wishes, thy bosom shall heave,
Or love dart his fires from thine eye;
No more hope’s gay visions thy fancy deceive,
And whisper that Mable for Alleyn shall live,
For Mabel with Hubert shall die!
With a ring I’ve espous’d thee, look round and behold
The bride-bed made close by thy side—
My hands have prepar’d it, tho’ narrow and cold,
With a winding-sheet only, our limbs to infold,
’Tis there I would sleep with my bride.
Then, frantickly laughing, a dagger he drew,
And sheath’d the keen point in his breast.—
Poor Alleyn, distracted, his arms fondly threw
Round his now dying Mable, kind, lovely, and true,
And his lips to her cold lips he press’d:
On his bosom, so faithful, her breath she resign’d
And her eye-lids his trembling hand clos’d.
Two moons the sad lover in solitude pin’d,
Ere the third rose full-orb’d his pale corpse was consign’d
To the grave where his Mabel repos’d.
At the end of the hamlet, where four roads unite,
The suicide’s relicks are laid;
A stake marks the spot, half conceal’d from the sight
By nightshade and hemlock; and adders delight
To lurk ’mid the poisonous shade.
Now traditions report, when the year has roll’d round,
And Saint Andrew’s vigil returns,
The death-bell is heard, deep and solemn to sound,
And Hubert’s thin shade thrice encircles the mound,
Where the lovers are buried, and mourns:
But, on May’s earliest morn, the fair maids of the vale,
O’er the green-sward, bespangl’d with dew,
(While they weep at rememb’rance of Mabel’s sad tale)
Strew bright purple pansies, and primroses pale,
With hare-bells, and violets blue.
And at midsummer oft’, by the star’s silver light,
Love-spells o’er the cold earth they weave;
The oracular herb, Telphium roseum. Orpine. Vulg. Midsummer men. with each mystical rite,
On the yew-boughs suspending, to augur aright
If their lovers are true, or deceive.
There too, village brides, with their bridegrooms repair,
Ere at Hymen’s pure altar they bow;
Join their hands o’er the turf which conceal the fond pair,
Whilst a soft tear to pity, from rapture they spare,
And plight the reciprocal vow.
An Invitation to the Cuckoo.
Summer’s herald! come away,
See, our fields with flowers are gay,
Yellow crowfoot, bugle blue,
And hare-bells of cerulean hue:
Primrose tufts each bank adorn,
Shelter’d by the blooming thorn;
Near thy name-sake plant Arum Cuckoo-pint, commonly called Lords and Ladies. up-rears
Its spotted leaves, and purple spears:
Where the marshy meadow spreads,
King-cups lift their golden heads;
Buck-bean, fring’d, in silver pride,
Decks the winding river’s side.
Sweetest cuckoo! come away,
See, our woods and groves are gay;
Nature clothes the sylvan scene
In her robe of freshest green.
On the breeze soft music floats,
Linnets chaunt their sprightly notes;
And the love-lorn nightinglae
Warbles sweet his melting tale.
’Mid the elm-boughs, high in air,
Rooks their straw-built nests prepare;
Deep embosom’d in the grove,
The fond turtle woo’d his love.
Merry minstrel! come away,
Much I love thy mellow lay,
When wand’ring thro’ the dewy glade,
Or resting in the hawthorn shade.
Myriads of the insect class
Creep among the springing grass;
Beetles as the emerald green,
In the op’ning buds are seen.
Clustering bees, on busy wing,
To the cherry-blossoms cling,
Or their cells with honey fill,
From the fragrant daffodil.
Sweetest cuckoo! come away,
Why should’st thou so long delay?
Shepherd-boys, in every vale,
They return shall joyous hail.
Written a few weeks after the death of the Duke of H*******, on seeing a Porte-feuille of his Drawings.
Cold is that hand which trac’d with so much skill
The sloping valley, and the vine-clad hill,
The gothic grandeur of the mould’ring tower,
The Isle of Pauline, and the woodbine bower;
The straw-roof’d cot, the consecrated fane,
Where cloister’d monks rehearse the holy strain,
And vestals meek a white-rob’d train appear,
Sigh o’er their beads, and drop the frequent tear;
Or prostrate at the cross, and sacred shrine,
Relinquish earthly love, for love divine.
Cold is that hand which sketch’d, with happiest skill,
The sylvan scenery of St. Leonard’s hill;
The grand chateau, once H*******’s princely seat,
The winding wood-walks of his lov’d retreat.
O sainted shade! long with deep suff’rings tried,
And by the fiery ordeal purified;
No more thy heart a martyr’d king shall mourn,
Or sorrow o’er thy royal pupil’s The Duke was preceptor to the late unfortunate Dauphin of France. urn;
No more lament, that, nipp’d in beauty’s bloom,
Thy darling daughter found an early tomb;
Thy spirit soars their spirits to rejoin,
Where, thron’d in bliss, as morning stars they shine.
What! tho’ no pageantry, no vain parade,
Mock’ry of grief! thy obsequies display’d,
No blazon’d ’scutcheons round thy hearse were hung.
No requiem chaunted, and no dirges sung,
Yet love and friendship o’er thy sable bier,
Breath’d the warm sigh, and dropp’d the tender tear;
Thy sad domestics round the coffin press’d,
And thy pale form with sweetest roses dress’d;E3 54 E3v 54
Whilst one distinguish’d boon thy sovereign gave,
Was borne in mournful triumph to thy grave;
There, while the last funereal rites were paid,
The cordon bleu The blue ribbon, or string belonging to the order of Knighthood of S. Esprit. across the pall was laid.
Blest shade! escap’d the coil of human strife,
Now crown’d with glory, and immortal life,
Tho’ no proud monument, no marble urn
(Where sculptur’d angels weep, and cherubs mourn,)
Record thy titles, and thy deeds relate,
In all the cold magnificence of state,
The plain white tablet, with thy name impress’d,
Which marks the spot where thy cold relics rest,
More interest in the feeling breast shall raise,
Than pompous eulogy, or venal praise:
And often, when the sun’s departing beam
Gilds the green valley, and the winding stream,
When evening twilight sheds its pearly dews,
(That hour so dear to fancy, and the muse,)55 E4r 55
My footsteps shall thy fav’rite paths pursue,
And all thy virtues rise to mental view:
Thy heart, which bled for others in distress,
And felt those miseries it could not redress;
Thy temper mild, benevolent, and kind,
Thy courteous manners, and thy taste refin’d,
Memory shall cherish, and the rich perfume
Embalm thy ashes, and survive the tomb.
Miss Starbridge to Lady Julia Portland.
Bath, 1760-07-15July 15, 1760.
You will be pleased, dear Lady Julia, when I tell you that a journey to the Spa, which was at first proposed by the physicians, is not now thought necessary to the perfect restoration of Mrs. Walpole’s greatly mended health; as much air and gentle exercise as the delicacy of her constitution would bear, were however, strongly recommended, and determined us on a tour to Bath. We arrived at this elegant city last night; our journey was extremely pleasant, my sister’s indisposition abating every day, and Mr. Walpole’s spirits, of consequence, becoming more and more lively: add to this, a charming country, diversified with almost every beauty in nature, and glowing in all the rich luxuriance of summer; extensive60 E6v 60 sive prospects, thick hanging woods, flowery plains, and hills covered with the freshest verdure; nor was the happy shepherd, with his oaten pipe and faithful dog, guarding his snowy flock of sheep, wanting to complete the pastoral scene. I intended to have descanted very particularly on the pleasures of travelling, and perhaps have tired your patience, but an adventure, in which much of the pathetic is interwoven, engrosses (I would say, but that I dread your brother’s frown) all my waking thoughts, and even my dreams are full of Athenia. A day or two after we began our excursion, the weather being sultry, and my sister rather fatigued, we stopped some miles short of the town where we had intended to rest, at a very pretty village. You know how fond I am of a summer’s evening ramble, and when I mention a fine shady wood, at a small distance from the inn, you will suppose inclination led me thither. I had followed a winding path only far enough to lose sight of the entrance, when I met a lovely child, of four 61 E7r 61 years old, with a little basket full of wood-strawberries in her hand; she was attended by a female servant, and the expression of her countenance was peculiarly sweet and engaging; I regarded her attentively till a small gothic gate, in one corner of the wood, almost covered with laurel and wild roses, at which she entered, concealed her from my view: my steps were involuntarily turned to follow. Approaching the gate, I discovered a thick shrubbery, enclosed from the wood by green paling: it extended a considerable way, and was grown too luxuriant to afford one opening for the eye of curiosity; but whatever beauties it might conceal, there were sufficient in the spot to which I had strayed to invite a longer stay: the blackbird and thrush serenaded me with their dulcet notes, and I was pursuing my former path when, stooping to gather some woodstrawberries, I saw something shine among the leaves; it was a gold clasp; I could easily guess to whom it belonged, and, pleased with so good an excuse for 62 E7v 62 gratifying my wish of surveying the retired spot, which I supposed the residence of the little beauty, I was again advancing to the gate, with an intention of restoring to her the lost ornament, when the sweetest notes of harmony, proceeding from the garden, detained me in silent rapture; in a few moments the music ceased, and a voice, exquisitely soft, but mournful, repeated the following stanzas:
O dear departed shades! in peace repose;
Your praise in fame’s bright volume shines confest;
’Twas your’s with glory honor’s race to close,
To sink from peril to the bowers of rest.
Around this urn, your lov’d Athenia’s care,
Unfading laurels, and sad cypress spread;
The weeping loves hang wreaths of myrtle there,
And there the zephyr’s mingled odours shed.
O dear departed shades! in peace repose,
Nor let my sorrows your soft rest invade;
But may the sigh that from affliction flows
Expire, unheard, amid this gloomy shade.
Ah me! too far remote your peaceful grave—
Then o’er this urn each morn I’ll flow’rets strew;
And when the sun descends in ocean’s wave,
My tears shall mingle with the falling dew.
O dear departed shades! in peace repose;
Receive this tribute to your mem’ry due;
And when the hand of death these eyes shall close,
My free unfetter’d soul shall speed to you.
You will beter conceive, than I can describe my perplexity; curiosity was indeed powerfully excited, but that respect which should ever attend the dignity of sorrow held me for some moments suspended, whether I ought to interrupt its indulgence by an unwelcome intrusion: at length, in hopes of seeing only the gardener, (believe me, or not, Lady Julia upon my word, I was sincere in my wish; and you 64 E8v 64 will please to consider, that ignorant of the dispostion of the grounds, I had no means of knowing that the pensive musician might not be hid in some arbour or embowering grove,) I ventured to open the gate, when the first object that attracted my notice was a lady, dressed in the garb of woe; her robes, of thin black silk, were without ornament, but, flowing in a long train on the ground, seemed to give additional elegance to her tall and graceful figure her beautiful hair, of the palest brown, was partially concealed by a simple fold of crape, which fell veil- like on her shoulders; black bugle bracelets formed a striking contrast with the snowy whiteness of her arms, and the dejected look, which overspread the fairest and most delicate face I ever saw, interested my heart in her favour before she spoke. Advancing to meet me, and expressing in the politest terms her acknowledgements for what she called the trouble I had taken, she invited me to rest, after my walk, in her cottage, (for such she stiled her retired dwelling.) the parlour into which I was conducted, was furnished with taste; on one side, a piano-forte, on 65 F1r 65 the other, a number of shelves, prettily ornamented, and filled with books; several landscapes, very finely painted, adorned the apartment, and the jessamine and Italian honey-suckles, now in full blow, that embowered the green treillage work of the windows, which opened to the ground, filled it with the most delicious fragrance. My eyes were irresistibly drawn to the gardens, which seemed to environ the house; every thing was so uniformly elegant, that I could not forbear expressing my admiration. The polite mistress of this charming solitude, with that grace and polished ease, which is all her own, asked me, if I thought a nearer view of the grounds would repay me for the pains of walking round them; I accepted her invitation with a pleasure allayed only by the apprehension of becoming a troublesome visitor. It is a delightful spot, and reflects honour on the taste of the designer. I was particularly struck with a kind of dell, more deeply shaded than any other part of the garden; a rustic building, dedicated F 66 F1v 66 to the dryads, decorates one corner; a plain urn of white marble is placed at a small distance from it, and at the foot of the pedestal lay a lute. Tears filled the eyes of my fair companion as she turned towards the grove; I was afraid she saw that I perceived her emotion, and stepped hastily forward to the borders of a noble stream, which flowed in gentle windings thro’ a lawn planted with larches, pines, and cedars, till its clear surface was broken by falling down a rough descent into the valley below. Near the edge of this cascade, among the weeping willows which hung over it, I observed another urn with a wreath of faded flowers twined round it, inscribed with the name of Selina. Our walk was terminated by a grotto, where the stream, being conveyed thro’ an arch of rock-work (overgrown with a variety of mosses, lichens, and the long green leaves of the harts-tongue) disappears; the situation is very retired, and tho’ at no great distance from the house is entirely hid from it by a plantation of evergreens 67 F2r 67 on one side, and a fine orangerie, which reaches a considerable way, on the other. We seated ourselves in the grotto, and little Selina, with the smiles of a cherub, placed her basket of strawberries on the table before us, a footman following, by his lady’s direction, with cream.
When I rose to take my leave, my heart prompted me (for it was not the impulse of cold insipid ceremony) to say, how much satisfaction it would give me, if an accident, from which I had already derived great pleasure, should prove the basis of a further acquaintance with a lady who engaged my esteem and admiration. Taking my hand with an air of courtly breeding, she replied, There is certainly, Miss Starbridge, for I had previously told her my name a magnetism which attracts some minds, even in the first interview: I am aware of the compliment I make to myself, when I tell you I felt it strongly impel me to express the same desire, had F2 68 F2v 68 not a reflection on the pensiveness which has habitually clouded the natural cheerfulness of my disposition, and renders me unfit for society, kept me silent; yet the solitude I have embraced has not caused me to become a misanthrope, and those sorrows that induced me to seek it, tho’ most poignant, have tended to soften yet more the susceptibility of my nature, and powerfully impel me to seek still sweeter consolation in the bosom of sympathy: to some, the recital of my past life would be uninteresting, but if I judge aright, you, madam, are not of the number of those who refuse a sigh to the unfortunate; and if you will condescend to grace my lowly roof this evening, it will give me pleasure to relate my short history: sad as are some of the events which compose it; they were blended with moments of delight from which, in recollection, I shall derive a portion of that happiness I witnessed ere they fled for ever. I will not tell you my answer to this obliging invitation; but I asked permission just to dispatch a card to Mr. and 69 F3r 69 Mrs. Walpole, who I now, for the first time, thought would be alarmed at my absence. This letter is extended to immoderate length, and my brother will not excuse me from walking with him on the parade before sunset; so your ladyship must wait patiently till next post for the sequel of my visit to the lovely recluse. Adieu! tell my lord Belmour, I do not forget him, and let his charming sister assure herself how much I am her’s, &c. &c.
My Dear Friend,
Are you anxious to receive the promised narrative? well then, without further preface, I lay it before you. When Miss Melville had led me to her dressing-room, and given orders that we should not be interrupted, she addressed me as follows:
My parents both left this world of sorrow and and disappointment before I was sensible of their protecting care, or capable of lamenting the loss of it. The Earl of Castlebroke, (my father’s most intimate friend) was my guardian, and never were the duties of such a charge more studiously attended to; in his lordship’s family I constantly resided till my brother, who was three years older than me, had possession of his fortune. Of the numerous visitants at Castlebroke71 F4r 71 broke Lodge, Mr. and Mrs. Clifford, with their lovely niece, claimed the largest share of my esteem: Selina was, like myself, an orphan; the similarity of our fate, inspired a mutual attachment between us, which increasing years ripened into the truest frienship, and most unreserved confidence. You will pardon me, Madam, if I so far digress from my story as to give you a short description of my amiable friend. Her form was in a peculiar degree delicate and feminine; and she had received from nature that grace more attractive than beauty, as I have often observed many women who were in reality much handsomer had very little attention paid them when she was present; her modesty and diffidence, which were in the extreme, prevented the very superior qualities of her mind from being discovered, except on an intimate acquaintance: to her personal charms, and a splendid fortune, therefore, she was indebted for numerous train of suitors; of these the most distinguished, as well as most importunate, was Count F4 72 F4v 72 Almado, from whose family Mr. Clifford had received every mark of politeness, and hospitality, when at Madrid; and this induced him to solicit that young nobleman to pass part of the summer he spent in England, at his villa, which was within a mile of Castlebroke Lodge; a circumstance highly pleasing to me, as it afforded me frequent opportunities of seeing my dear Selina. Often have we by appointment passed whole mornings together in a gothic temple, which was situated in the most retired part of the park; books, embroidery, and music alternately beguiled the fast flying hours; my noble guardian, delighted with our growing friendship, would frequently, when more important affairs required not his attention, condescend to share in the amusements of his children, as he always called us. To his conversation, ever instructive, we owed much of our knowledge in geography, and natural philosophy; his lessons being delivered in a more familiar style than our teachers were accustomed to use, we comprehended 73 F5r 73 them more clearly. These scenes are dear to my remembrance; the years in which I enjoyed them, passed in tranquillity. Ah! surely, Miss Starbridge, they were the happiest of my life. The last interview I had with my sweet friend, alone in our favourite retreat, was one summer’s evening; I had waited for her near an hour; and supposing some unexpected incident had prevented her coming, I had just closed the volume, with which I was amusing myself, and was going to return to the house, when I met her on the steps of the temple, her own, and Mrs. Clifford’s footman at a small distance; as soon as she saw me she dismissed the servants, and with a look of anxiety, which alarmed me, threw her arms about me, and burst into tears. I was too much struck to break silence, but she soon recovered her voice: In your society, my Athenia, said she, I trust I shall find a refuge from my own disquieting emotions; the Count has left us:—His departure is not the cause of your uneasiness, my dear; he has many 74 F5v 74 shining qualities but I always thought them alloyed with a fire and impetuosity, little calculated to win the gentle heart of my Selina. Yes, resumed she, sighing, love is indeed a stranger to my bosom but, had Almado given me leave, I could have respected him; his virtues might have inspired esteem, unmingled with a softer sentiment, had not the violence of his passions absolutely changed it into terror. I was enjoying the sweetness of the air, and contemplating the beautiful effect of the moonlight in the cypress walk, rather later than usual, last evening, secretly congratulating myself on being likely to be so soon freed from the Count’s importunities, when I saw him at the further end of it; determined to avoid him, I turned down a path leading thro’ the wilderness and went directly to the saloon, where I found my uncle and aunt, with Sir George and Lady Sydney, who were just arrived. Almado did not appear till supper time; he tried to dissemble, but excessive anger was marked on his glowing countenance; 75 F6r 75 he withdrew as soon as he could with politeness, on pretence of writing some letters of importance. At breakfast he was visibly discomposed; and notwithstanding his avowed pupose of quitting Oakley- Grove immediately, prolonged his departure till noon. It so happened that I did not go into my dressing-room till an hour before dinner; the first thing that caught my eye was this billet, laid on the toilet. She took it out of her pocket-book; it contained, as nearly as I can remember, these words: I thank you, Madam, for that contemptuous behaviour, which has conquered love in raising a just indignation; I shall, as soon as possible, be in my native country, and it is uncertain how long those circumstances which precipitate my return, may detain me there; you think you shall not see me again; but know, the resentment your conduct has awakened shall never sleep more.Almado. 76 F6v 76 I trembled excessively on reading this note: how weak to be so much affected! The man who wrote it will soon be many leagues distant:—but, my Athenia, I could not sufficiently compose myself to venture from home so early as I longed to be with you; my ideas were full of horror; I fancied I might be insulted by the Count, who, perhaps, had concealed himself near, with some desperate design, and only feigned the necessity of his speedy departure. I imparted my fears, and their motive, to Mrs. Clifford, who kindly tried to dispel them, and indulged my folly, by permitting her servant, with mine, to attend me. I was prevented making a reply by the approach of Lord Castlebroke, with a gentleman, whom I soon discovered to be my brother, tho’ he ws grown very tall, and five years travelling in different climates had greatly embrowned his complexion. I flew to welcome his return to England, and he returned my sisterly embrace, with the warmest affection; in the meantime. my lord 77 F7r 77 stepped forward, and taking Selina’s hand, presented her to my dear Lionel, as my most intimate friend, and his other daughter. My brother purchased this house soon after his arrival, and resided wholly at the Lodge till it was ready for his reception. He had frequent opportunities of seeing Miss Clifford, and the nearness of his relationship to me rendered her less reserved in conversation with him than she usually was in general society. You will not wonder, that he loved a woman so truly lovely with the tenderest affection, nor, had you known the worth of Lionel, that it should create in her bosom a mutual attachment. Our guardian approved what had long been my ardent wish, and in a few months my happy brother received his Selina from the hand of the almost equally happy Mr. Clifford. They united their entreaties that I would live with them, but my lord would not consent to my leaving Castlebroke-Lodge: it was at last agreed, that my time should be equally divided between the two houses: I accompanied my 78 F7v 78 sister to this sequestered abode, and was for some weeks her visitor, a witness to the felicity of an union which rose on the permanent basis of virtue. Of those who paid their personal congratulations to my brother, on his marriage, Colonel Fortescue was among the foremost; they were educated at an academy together, but no particular friendship subsisted between them, till they chanced to have apartments under the same roof at Florence. Congeniality of virtues changed the common civilities of acquaintance into the more delightful attentions of sincere esteem. Lionel insisted on unceremonious visits from Mr. Fortescue, and the Colonel obeyed his injunctions with evident pleasure. I will not pay so poor a compliment to my brother’s friend, as to attempt a description of his personal, or mental accomplishments; it is sufficient to say, the latter would have reflected lustre on a diadem; of the former you may form some idea from the painter’s skill. As Athenia spoke she rose, and took from one of 79 F8r 79 the drawers of an indian cabinet, a miniature set with brilliants. It is a good resemblance, said she, putting it into my hand, but not a flattering one. I could have gazed on it for hours; the features were extremely handsome, but the expressive turn of the whole countenance most attracted my admiration.
I am again interrupted—let me confess, most welcome is the interruption; you will forgive this avowal, dear Lady Julia, when I add, that it is the arrival of Lord Belmour, which bids me relinquish the pen.
Mr. Fortescue’s visits to Myrtle-Wood, resumed Miss Melville, were frequent, during his stay in England. I blush not to confess how much his merit endeared him to me; but it was not till one evening, nearly two years after our first acquaintance, that I became sensible how essential his society was to my happiness: the day having been very warm, we were sitting under the colonade fronting the lawn, and listening to the melody of my brother’s German-flute, when the colonel’s servant brought a packet to his master; he asked our permission to break the seal, and as he read, I thought a degree of concern was impressed on his fine open countenance; to conceal the inquietude this supposition inspired, I took up some geraniums, which lay 81 G1r 81 on a table by me, and was disposing them in boquets; when my brother, perceiving his friend’s discomoposure, eagerly said, I hope you have no bad news, my dear Raymond; I ought not, Sir, he replied, with a sigh, to call the voice of duty such; yet the felicity I have enjoyed in your hospitable mansion, (bowing very low) I cannot resign without regret, and I own this summons to join my regiment is unwelcome, as it enforces my departure early to-morrow. The remainder of the evening was spent in unsuccessful endeavours to amuse each other; the interval between supper and the hour when we usually retired to rest, was painful, but no one seemed to have the resolution to shorten it; at length Colonel Fortescue rose from his seat, and with a graceful politeness, which I never saw equalled, made his acknowledgments for what he stiled the honours he had received at Myrtle-Wood, and bade us adieu. We immediately repaired to our apartments, but not to rest; at least all my efforts to woo the sleep compellingG 82 G1v 82 pelling power were fruitless; I therefore rose, and, invited by the beauty of the night, wrapped my robede-chambre round me, and went into the garden: all was still, not a breath trembled on the leaves of the myrtles; the dew hanging thick on the blossoms, sparkled in the moon-beams, and heightened the fragrance of the orange grove: I entered the grotto, and, judge how great my surprize,—beheld Mr. Fortescue! he started at my approach, but as I was hastily retiring, stepped forward, and taking my hand in the most respectful manner, led me to a seat, and besought me to indulge him with my presence a few moments.
I should, said he, be most happy had I cause to believe, that sentiments consonant to those which impeded my repose, actuated you, my dearest Miss Melville, to seek this retreat; but I dare not flatter myself with a hope so presuming, so infinitely beyond my pretensions; yet be not offended if I implore your 83 G2r 83 pity: O that my merits were such as might authorize me to change that word for friendship—friendship did I say! cold inexpressive epithet! for love!— Be not offended if I plead the ardour of a passion inspired, sweetest and most beloved of women, by your perfections! the disclosure I had once determined should never be made, because my love was without hope, but in this parting hour resolution forsakes me; perhaps it is the last time I shall ever behold you, if so— Then, sinking on his knees, he breathed a fervent prayer for my happiness. O Miss Starbridge! words could but ill describe how much I was affected; I gave him my hand, and kneeled in silence beside him; my tears flowed unceasingly, and spoke the language of a heart which sought not to disguise its feelings. The dawning day reminded us of the necessity of our separation:—the noblest, most beloved men, led me thro’ the orange grove, then tenderly pressing the hand he held to his lips, bedewed it with a tear.—Pardon my weakness, madam,G2 84 G2v 84 dam, I am unable to dwell longer on the scene.— I cannot not, dear lady Julia, forbear mingling some sympathetic drops with those which fell from the lovely blue eyes of Athenia: she soon wiped them away, and thus, but in mournful accents, continued her story.
In less than two months after the colonel’s departure my sister was brought to bed of a second daughter, which lived but a few hours; as soon as she was sufficiently recovered to bear the fatigue of a journey, we set out for the house of Mr. Clifford, where I intended staying till Lord Castlebroke, who was absent on some affairs of moment, returned to the lodge, where he was expected in a few days. When we were within seven miles of Oakley-Grove, my brother, who was on horseback, rode forward, and soon after a servant, in a very rich livery of crimson and silver, bowed obsequiously as he passed the chariot: Mrs. Melville immediately recognized him for 85 G3r 85 one of Count Almado’s attendants. Selina’s pleasure at revisiting those scenes where her infant years were passed was extreme. The day after our arrival, as soon as we were disengaged from company, she was inclined to walk in the gardens; I attended her; she looked remarkably lovely, the evening air had given her lips a coral hue, and tinged her delicate complexion wiht an unusual bloom; her dress too was simply elegant, and as such particularly became her,—a robe of the palest straw-coloured lustring, confined to the waist with a broad purple sattin girdle, and tassels of pearls. Inclination led our steps to a building at the extremity of the pleasure-grounds; it was erected on the model of a Turkish mosque, and stood in the center of a grove of aspins: the blue silk curtains were drawn before the windows opposite the garden,—gracious heaven! for what a purpose! to conceal the Count Almado, whom we discovered on our entrance sitting in a musing posture, with pen and paper on the table before him: a faint scream, G3 86 G3v 86 which escaped from Mrs. Melville, broke his reverie, and he hastily advanced to meet us; O let me forget that look of horror which overspread his features, as he thus, in a voice some times rendered almost inarticulate by rage, and often interrupted by convulsive sobs and smothered sighs, addressed my trembling sister. Selina, my misery is complete; I cannot see you the wife of another and live: this spot, so frequently the witness of your tyranny, and of my sufferings, is destined as that in which both shall know a period: my resolution was fixed; and one hour later you had beheld me lifeless at your feet, equally insensible to your beauty, and your scorn: why then, by your presence, did you rekindle these distracting, these fatal emotions? Yes, my insulted love shall yet be accomplished. Tears dropped from his eyes as he uttered these words; I was terrified beyond expression, and endeavouring to support my sister, who leaned, fainting, and almost motionless on 87 G4r 87 my bosom, when the count drew his sword! What at that moment became of my reason? I shrieked aloud, but we were too far from the house for any one to hear me: phrenzy then surely seized the brain of Almado; he traversed the apartment with rapid step, then coming up to us, both thro’ terror, having sunk down together on the marble floor, he repeated with stronger emphasis, O Selina! Selina! I cannot live, and see you the wife of another, neither can I die in peace while my rival is blest. Miss Starbridge, I saw the cruel instrument of death pierce her beauteous bosom, and then a happy insensibility relieved me from the ensuing scene of augmented horror. When I recovered my senses I found myself on a sopha, in the drawing-room, my own maid, and Mrs. Clifford’s woman, attending with the proper restoratives: from them I learned that the count had stabbed himself, and was without anny signs of life, when my brother and Mr. Clifford entered the mosque, whither they had walked in search G4 88 G4v 88 of Selina and me. I enquired anxiously after my dear sister, and desired them to support me to her chamber; the surgeon who arrived a few minutes before, was dressing the wound; he pronounced it not dangerous, but expressed his fears, lest, from the very delicate state of her health, the shock she had received might prove fatal. We nourished, however, the sweet delusion of hope; alas! the next rising sun evinced it to be vain! the fever which had seized her the preceding night was indeed abated, and reason resumed the seat of delirium, but her countenance was impressed with the palid hue of death; My Athenia, said she, extending her hand, as I approached her bed, dearest sister of my heart! I am sensible of my danger, and whilst able, wish to make one request to you, which I know you will not refuse: supply the loss of maternal care to my sweet child, and may her infantine gratitude, and growing virtues repay your affectionate attention. To you, most fondly beloved of my soul! turning to my afflicted89 G5r 90 flicted brother, she will, I trust, prove a comfort: and, O my Lionel! by that love which has rendered us so happy, I conjure you not indulge immoderate sorrow.—Her voice failed; she had only the power to clasp her arms around his neck; and pressing him feebly to her bosom, expired. O Miss Starbridge! but what right have I thus to wound your sympathetic feelings? The paper which the desperate Almado left on the table was an unfinished letter, addressed to Mr. Clifford; it spoke the language of ungovernable passions: he had accidentally heard of Selina’s marriage, soon after he landed in England; and, having enquired the place of her abode, was on his way to Myrtle-Wood, when the servant, who was sent forward to give the necessary orders for his master’s accomodation that night, in the next town, knowing Mrs. Melville, informed the Count of his meeting her on the road, as he supposed, going to Mr. Clifford’s. This intelligence determined him to return early in the morning to the village near 90 G5v 90 Oakley-Grove; but how could he enter the mansion of his friend, as an assassin! despair at length absorbing the desire of revenge, he left the inn, in search of some solitary spot, where unseen he might execute his dreadful purpose of suicide: wandering near the wall of Mr. Clifford’s gardens, he recollected that a small gate which opened into the adjacent meadow, was frequently left unlocked; by this means he found admission to the mosque, and there, unhappily, we found him. The poignancy of that sorrow which filled every breast that knew the worth of our dear lamented Mrs. Melville, it is impossible to describe: my brother’s rose to little less than distraction; when we returned to Myrtle-wood, the sight of his infant daughter, renewed his grief. Lord Castlebroke, who honoured us with his company, tho’ a sincere mourner with us, sought with unremitting assiduity to withdraw his mind from so fixed an attention to melancholy ideas. Lionel acknowledged with gratitude his friendly intentions, but, said he, 91 G6r 91 it will not do; every thing here reminds me of the happiness I once enjoyed with my Selina, and which, with that dear angel, took an everlasting flight; I have formed a design which I will now impart to you, my noble friend; it is to enter his majesty’s service as a volunteer; your lordship knows Colonel Fortescue, now with his regiment in Germany; you are no stranger to the intimacy subsisting between us; perhaps, in his society, remote from those scenes, which too painfully recal the remembrance of my lost felicity, tranquillity may be brought once more to dwell in this affflicted bosom. Dearest Athenia, you will fulfil the dying request of your sainted sister; to your care I entrust my little Selina, and both to the protection of you, my houred guardian, who will more than compensate to them the absence of their Melville. My unhappy brother staid in England only so long as the arrangement of his affairs required his presence. When he took leave of me my heart foreboded a final separation, and a few months 92 G6v 92 verified its prediction: a letter from Colonel Fortescue to Lord Castlebroke contained the sad tidings, that a fever, occasioned by excessive fatigue, in the performance of military duty, joined to the grief which incessantly preyed on his constitution, had deprived him of his beloved friend: the news of conquest followed soon after, and a ray of hope penetrated the clouds of involving woe; alas! I anticipated a visionary joy; that day which crowned with wreaths of palm and laurel the brows of victorious heroes, saw one of the most distinguished fall on the plains of Minden! A young officer distantly related to Mrs. Fortescue, waited on that lady, with the melancholy information, that Raymond, in the final engagement, received three wounds, which the surgeons apprehended were mortal; and indeed, he added, when he left the tent, it was the opinion of one of those gentlemen, from the great effusion of blood, which rendered him extremely faint and languid, the colonel would scarcely survive the night: 93 G7r 93 he lamented the necessity he was under of leaving the place before the event was ascertained, to which he said nothing but indispensible circumstances should have compelled him. Yet, in reality, it could have administered no consolation to us. I own for sometime I indulged the dawning of a faint hope, but it can deceive me no longer; ten months have passed, and changed a state of uncertainty to absolute despair. My beloved brother, in a will, made a few weeks before he went abroad, bequeathed this little retreat to me, as a memorial of his affection; a solitude so suited to my disposition, I determined not to quit, tho’ repeatedly importuned by my generous guardian, to bring my sweet orphan girl, and reside with him at the Lodge; but it is my wish to avoid promiscuous society: our visits to my lord are not unfrequent, and he has several times had the goodness to spend a week with us; excepting his lordship, Mrs. Fortescue (who soon after the loss of her son, took a small house in the neighbourhood,) 94 G7v 94 is almost the only person with whom I have any intercourse; the sympathy of sorrow first formed that chain of friendship which unites us, and I trust will never be broken.
Here the fair mourner closed her affecting history; I will not lengthen my letter with a vain attempt to paint my feelings, or that reluctance with which I left the sweet retired abode, of which Athenia is the grace and ornament.
Letter IV. In about a month from the date of the preceding letter, the Earl of Belmour’s nuptials with Miss Starbridge, took place, and they immediately set out on a tour to Italy; the following was written after their return.
The Countess of Belmour, To Lady Julia Portland.
Southcote Abbey1761-05-09 May 9, 1761.
Congratulate me, my dear sister, that after eight months’ absence, I am returned safe to my native country; you had an account of our tour in a multitude of letters, if they all came to your hands, so that your curiousity, I think, can have no further claim of that nature, on my pen; and to speak the truth, I am a little tired of the subject: but I have another to enlarge upon, which I believe you will be delighted with, at least it has been productive of more pleasure to me than I can express. You remember, a few weeks before I become the happy bride 96 G8v 96 of your dear brother, the accident which brought me acquainted with Miss Melville, and how much I was interested by her melancholy history; I had often wished to repeat my visit to her, when distance, and the sea between us prevented me from enjoying that gratification. Lord Belmour’s politeness, you need not be told, renders him ever studious to promote my pleasures, and often to anticipate my very wishes: As we were returning to the Abbey, from our foreign expedition, he proposed our taking Myrtle-Wood on the road, as it would be only a few miles round: I rejoiced at the proposal, and we reached that delightful solitude the next morning. The footman, on my enquiring for his lady, conducted us thro’ the hall into a back parlour; the charming Athenia was sitting by the window, in an elegant dishabille, embroidering violets on a white sattin sword-knot, and listening with delighted attention, to a gentleman who was reading Milton. She rose and welcomed me to Myrtle-Wood, with her accustomed97 H1r 97 tomed grace, and a lively pleasure, easily accounted for, when she introduced me to Colonel Fortescue. They pressed us, with all the warmth of friendship, to stay with them at least till the next day: It was impossible to refuse. After taking chocolate we walked in the gardens till near dinner-time: My Edgar was absolutely enchanted with the style of beautiful simplicity in which the grounds were disposed, and says, he shall not rest till he has raised such a rustic fane to the Dryads, among the venerable oaks and beeches of Southcote Park. When we rose from table, the conversation turning on literary subjects, the gentlemen retired to the library, to consult an ancient author on some event in history. I took that opportunity to felicitate my fair friend, on the happy change in her situation, and begged, if my wishes were not impertinent, she would gratify them, by informing me of those circumstances which had occasioned so long a suspension of her felicity. She replied, she was eager to impart them, as they must H 98 H1v 98 appear mysterious. The evening was very warm for the season, and inclination drawing us abroad to enjoy its beauties, we seated ourselves on a green bench, shaded with laburnums, and purple lilacs in full bloom, by the side of the canal, while Athenia thus complied with my request.When your ladyship left Myrtle-Wood, I was a prey to sorrow and despair; the cup of joy seemed exhausted, and nothing was left me even to hope; could I then have thought it possible to experience such a reverse! You now see me the happy wife of the most amiable and generous of men! A few weeks after you honoured me with a visit, as I was one morning standing at my dressing-room window, in that state of mental abstraction from outward objects, which the wretched often feel, a carriage, driving up the avenue of chestnut trees in front of the house, roused me from the indulgence of melancholy ideas: It was Mrs. Fortescue’s, but I hardly 99 H2r 99 knew her, as she alighted with almost youthful gaiety: her dress surprized me,—she had exchanged the sables of mourning, for a brocade of peagreen with silver flowers. As I advanced to meet her, she said, Come, my Athenia, that pensive air must give place to smiles; and those black robes to bridal ornaments; I happily possess an infallible talisman, to restore the native roses to your cheeks, my own beloved daughter. Folding her maternal arms about me, she tenderly saluted me, and gave me a letter; I knew the writing, and sudden joy for a few moments overcame me; when I had at length power to break the seal, I want words, Lady Belmour, to express the emotions of my soul, as I read the welcome lines, which told me that my Raymond was perfectly recovered from a long and dangerous illness, and would be with me in a few hours after his letter. I asked Mrs. Fortescue when this invaluable treasure was conveyed to her hands. As I was at breakfast this morning, she replied, a servant rode H2 100 H2v 100 up to the door on horseback, and, enquiring if I was at home, delivered a packet to Maurice, saying, his master had ordered him to wait till I had opened it, as probably I might have a message for the lady to whose house he was going. I sent for him into the parlour, and asked him how my son had heard of my removal from L――? he said, the colonel knew not but that I still resided there, and had sent him thither, but finding another family in the house to which he had been directed, he enquired of them the place of my abode, and came with the utmost expedition; adding, as soon as he had carried a letter to Miss Melville at Myrtle Wood, he should make all possible haste back, to prevent his master’s going round by L――, which was many miles out of the way. I told him to give me the letter, which I would take care to convey to you; and after some suitable refreshment to return without delay. I assure you, my love, I gave immediate orders for the chariot, and only staid to make such an alteration in my attire, 101 H3r 101 as I thought would in some degree prepare you for the reception of joyful tidings; and with your permission, continued the good lady, smiling, I will receive Raymond here, or I shall but just get a glimpse of him, for I know how impatient he will be to see you. The day was spent in a truly social manner, but I believe Mrs. Fortescue, as well as Athenia, thought old Time had shook off his plumes, and crept rather than flew, till five o’clock, when the colonel arrived. Our reception of him evinced our joy, which he shared in a manner bordering on transport; his long indisposition had not made so very great an alteration in his looks as I expected; tho’ he was much thinner, and his complexion had not regained that fine glow of health which now overspreads it. His mother’s anxiety was no less than mine to know the reason of her son’s having never written to us, when returning health permitted; and was beginning to make enquiry. This the colonel prevented by drawing his chair between ours, and H3 102 H3v 102 taking a hand of each, which he alternately pressed to his lips, said, I am almost afraid to ask my dearest friends what their sentiments of me have been within the last few hours, since my letters informed them I was still in existence; but be assured I have felt distress—Mrs. Fortescue interrupted him, by saying, If I had thought of any thing but the blessing of again seeing you, I might, perhaps, have been displeased; but that delightful consideration absorbed every other; and I dare say, whatever you deserve, you have no reproaches to fear from Miss Melville. No, sir, I replied, never, even in thought, has my heart accused you of unkindness, or neglect; my reliance was too firmly established, on your generosity, and that honour which you make the criterion of your conduct, to permit the very shadow of suspicion; yet fears for your safety, I scruple not to confess, were to me a perpetual source of sorrow. He thanked me with a look of ineffable tenderness and affection, saying, It only then remains 103 H4r 103 for me to account for that long silence, by which I was myself so deep a sufferer. Soon after Captain Drayton, who informed you, madam, to Mrs. Fortescue, of my being wounded, had left the tent, Mr. Stanley, an English gentleman, whom I had freguently visited, came to enquire after me, and insisted on my being carried to his house, which was much nearer than my own lodgings; I believe the surgeons at that time apprehended imminent danger; but at my hospitable friend’s repeated importunities, I was placed on a litter, and conveyed very slowly, and with the utmost care, to his dwelling. Extreme languor from loss of blood, reduced me for several hours to a state of insensibility; when I opened my eyes, the first object they rested on was a young lady, sitting by my bedside, the sister of Mrs. Stanley. She was handsome, and accomplished, and during my illness attended me with an attention and assiduity, which I imputed to the nativeH4 104 H4v 104 tive benevolence of her heart. As I was for a long time unable to hold a pen, and you, my beloved friends, were ever in my thoughts, I asked the favour of Miss Rochelle to be my amanuensis. As I dictated a few lines to my Athenia, I observed her face suddenly suffused with a blush of the deepest crimson, an universal tremor seized her, and she twice dropped the pen as she copied my expressions: When I was so far recovered, as no longer to need her friendly assistance, I passed as much of my time in writing as the physician would allow: It soothed and cheered the tedious hours of absence, and I fondly anticipated the pleasure of hearing from you in reply: but month after month wore away, and not a line either from my mother, or Miss Melville blessed my longing eyes. Lost in conjectures, my anxiety hourly increased, and sometimes my imagination presaged the worst of all that could befal me; the two dearest of human beings, I feared, had found their way before me to the grave. My kind friends united 105 H5r 105 their efforts to enliven my spirits, by every amusement in which my unsettled health admitted of my participating. Miss Rochelle exerted all her skill to relieve my dejection; she tried the efficacy of music, accompanying her guittar with her voice, which was uncommonly fine. She often sought to engage my attention to some favourite author; she was particularly fond of Shakespeare; and one day taking up a volume of his works, began reading Twelfth Night, but when she came to these lines, She never told her love,But let concealment, like a worm i’the bud,Feed on her damask cheek, She burst into tears, and instantly left the room. I was surprized at the sudden emotion, and to your partiality, which will acquit your Raymond of vanity, I may confess an apprehension (indeed fatally true) that Miss Rochelle cherished an affection 106 H5v 106 for him which he never wished to excite, except in the gentle bosom of his Athenia. This painful idea adding yet more to impatience of returning to England, I daily wearied my doctor with importunities, to consent to my embarking, and constantly received the same answer, that as soon as he judged my health sufficiently re-established to warrant his sanction to such a proceeding, I should certainly receive it; but it was more than two months from my first solicitation, before he gave his consent, and then not without the utmost caution, and the concuring opinion of another of the faculty. The evening previous to my quitting Mr. Stanley’s, he happened to be particularly engaged for an hour or two; and the air being remarkably clear and serene, I retired to the observatory; attracted by the singular brilliancy of one of the planets, I was surveying it thro’ a reflecting telescope, when somebody stepped softly along the apartment; I turned my head, and Miss Rochelle threw herself on her knees at my feet. 107 H6r 107 Astonished beyond expression, I would have raised her, but she refused my assistance. No, Mr. Fortescue, her voice faultering as she spoke, and her eyes never once lifted from the ground, this attitude best becomes a suppliant, and I will not rise till you pardon a fault of which you are at present ignorant, but which has been the hidden source of all your sorrow. Under the influence of an unconquerable passion, which not all your diffidence could prevent you from perceiving, infatuated, and blind to the future, I considered not that the thorns I planted in those bosoms most dear to you, would, thro’ your sufferings, pierce my own. Perfectly stupified, I could not understand a syllable; I thought her reason was affected. The following words undeceived me: I am not surprized that my address appears mysterious; I cannot express myself coherently; but this, putting into my hands a packet, containing all the letters I had written to you, with those Miss 108 H6v 108 Rochelle had written for me, will explain my meaning. You know my weakness, sir, but can you pity and forgive my want of resolution, to promote the happiness of Miss Melville, while I was so wretched? I wished her to believe you lost to her for ever; and this was my motive for detaining those letters addressed to Mrs. Fortescue; as they were to be inclosed under the same covers with mine, to my beloved Matilda, it was an easy task to deceive my brother, to whom you always gave yours, and he delivered them into my hands. Hope deluded me into a belief of improbability;—surely, I am the first of my sex that ever flattered herself with a prospect of happiness from the usual inconstancy of man! But Athenia was absent; she had never been your nurse in sickness; and my assiduous attentions, joined to that resentment I thought the idea of her unkindness in not writing to you must kindle in your breast, I vainly hoped would have taught you to forget her charms: but when no reflection, awakened by 109 H7r 109 anger, or suspicion of fickleness in her affection, mingled with your grief, I wept the futility of my expectations; and when I beheld that sorrow, which at times, appeared insupportable, I lamented my meanness and duplicity, with bitter tears of contrition and unfeigned repentance. Believe me, sir, I despised myself, even more than I envied Miss Melville, and would gladly, had my fortitude equalled my inclination, have disclosed the secret that would, in a great measure, have restored your peace.—But how could I bear the thoughts of losing your esteem? Life itself is less dear to me; yet at this hour, I feel your happiness to be dearer still! think what you have suffered, in comparison of what I shall do, in the conscious review of my own littleness, will be trifling, and let that consideration induce you to forgive an offence for which I have now made all the atonement I am able, before I bid you an eternal adieu! and when you remember the unhappy Gartha, endeavour to repel those painful ideas, which I fear will 110 H7v 110 too often mingle with the recollection. Struck with the earnestness of her manner, nor less so with the confession she had made, I stood for a few minutes unable to reply, and it was a difficult matter to frame a proper one. I repeatedly offered her my hand, intreating her to rise, and expressing with ardour, those sentiments of gratitude for her many kind attentions to me during my tedious illness, with which my heart was impressed. I cannot, sir, said she, accept acknowledgements of this nature; I was more than recompensed by the pleasure of your conversation, for what you call a trouble: nor will I receive your offered hand, till you give it as the pledge of amity and forgiveness. I could not use the latter word—degrading to a lady from one of my own sex. It would have conveyed an idea of superiority highly unbecoming any man to assume, and so I told Miss Rochelle, at the same time adding, if to know that I could never harbour any resentment towards her, and that her felicity was one of my 111 H8r 111 heart’s first wishes,—I did, with the utmost sincerity, assure her of both. She then rose, and retiring a few paces, fixed her eyes on me for a moment. Most generous of men! be happiness uninterrupted the portion of you and your Athenia! Sighs rendered her voice inarticulate, and she hastily withdrew. After a sleepless night, for the crowd of different ideas that filled my thoughts, banished repose from my couch, early on the following morning I took leave of the benevolent Mr. and Mrs. Stanley: Miss Rochelle, as I expected, did not appear. I obtained the promise of a visit from that gentleman, to whom I am under such great obligations, but I could not prevail on his lady to give me any expectation of seeing her in England, as she is extremely averse to crossing the sea, always suffering severely when on that element.
My charming friend’s narration was concluded by the approach of little Selina, with an invitation from 112 H8v 112 the gentleman, to spend an hour in a sail on the water before the evening closed. We kissed the rosy cheeks of the smiling messenger, and instantly prepared to attend them. At supper I reproved Mrs. Fortescue, for not informing me of the colonel’s return; asking her if it was possible she should have forgotten how much I was interested by the recital with which she had formerly obliged me; it is true, had she honored me with a letter, (which by her not mentioning it, I supposed she had not done) I should have been in Italy when it arrived, but that was no apology for her, because she did not know it. She replied, with a sweet expressive smile, Rather let me ask Lady Belmour, how she can be so forgetful of her own consequence, as not to imagine the newspapers would apprize me of her tour? But indeed I engaged my Lord Castlebroke, who I knew would have very early intelligence of your return, to acquaint me with it; for I longed to communicate that event to your ladyship, which has made me the happiest of women.113 I1r 113
We could not prevail on Mr. and Mrs. Fortescue to accompany us to Southcote Abbey, because of a promise they had given Lord Castlebroke, to carry Miss Melville the next day to the Lodge; his lordship, who is extremely fond of her, insisting, since Athenia’s marriage, on having her frequently for a few weeks with him; and she constantly spends the three winter months at Mr. Clifford’s; but in a fortnight, our friends of Myrtle-Wood, engage to be with us.
And now, Lady Julia, you expect a description of the colonel.—I positively will not say a word; come and see for yourself; and yet it may be dangerous, unless (which I sincerely hope) ere this some man of merit may have taught you to look on the graces of every other with no sentiment more lively than approbation: in this wish, my dear lord unites most cordially with his and your
The Birth of Sensibility. This little effusion of fancy was suggested by Miss Aikin’s beautiful Allegory of The Birth of Pity.—It was written at a very early age, and as such, claims every indulgence from the reader.
One beautiful serene summer’s evening, after rambling in a shady grove till the sun had sunk behind the western hills, and twilight, in robes of palest grey, threw a softened light on every object around, I seated myself on the bank of a winding river: A weeping willow spread over me its branches, which, drooping, floated on the stream: An antique turret, partly in ruins, thickly mantled in ivy, and surrounded with yew and cypress, was the only building to be seen. I had been reading a melancholy tale, I2 116 I2v 116 which in strong colours impressed itself on my memory, and led me to reflect on the strange pleasure we derive from tragedy, and narratives of woe. What, thought I, can cause this seeming inconsistency in the feelings of a benevolent mind! Can one human being rejoice in the misfortunes of another?—Forbid it heaven! The pale beams of the moon, now risen in unclouded majesty, silvered o’er the surface of the water on which my eyes ere fixed, and all nature seemed hushed to repose, when a gentle slumber stole upon my senses, and methought a being of angelic form stood before me. A mantle of the palest sapphire hung from her shoulders to the ground, her flaxen hair fell in waving curls on her fine neck, and a white transparent veil shaded her face; as she lifted it up, she sighed, and remained for some moments silent. Never did I behold a countenance so delicate, or features so expressive; and tho’ a smile played on her coral lips, her lovely blue eyes were suffused with tears, and resembled violets bathed 117 I3r 117 in dew: beneath her veil, she wore a wreath of rosebuds mingled with lilies of the valley. Wonder not, said she in accents soft as the breath of zephyrs, that tales of woe can please: I am called Sensibility, and have been from infancy your constant companion: by me you were taught to protect the linnet’s nest, to nurse the bleating lamb which had lost its mother, and shelter the affrighted woodpigeon which took refuge in your bower. My sire was Humanity, and my mother Sympathy, the daughter of Tenderness; I was born in a cavern, overshadowed with laurels and myrtles, at the foot of Parnassus and consigned to the care of Melpomene, who fed me with honey from Hybla, and lulled me to rest with plaintive songs, and the melancholy music of the Eolian lyre. Down oneside of the cavern ran a stream from Helicon, and in the trees around it doves and nightingales built their nests. I make it my sole care to augment the felicity of some favoured mortals, who ungratefully repine at my influence, I3 118 I3v 118 and would gladly be under the dominion of Apathy. Alas! how inconsiderate! if the rose has thorns, has it not also vermil tints, and ambrosial sweetness? If the jessamine droops, laden with the dew-drops of morning, when the sun has exhaled them will it not be refreshed, and breathe richer fragrance? So if the heart be touched with a story of sorrow, it will at the same time experience a delicious sensation; and if tears often flow, say, can you call it weakness? Can you wish to be divested of this genuine test of tenderness, and desire the departure of sensibility?
Ah no, fair nymph! still deign to be my attendant; teach me to sigh with the unhappy, and with the happy to rejoice. I am now sensible, that the pleasure arising from legends of woe, and the trials of virtue, owes its origin to the finer impulses of the mind; these teach me ever to cherish, while my heart expands with the certain conviction; that we 119 I4r 119 have some generous joys, and generous cares beyond ourselves.
Scarcely had I pronounced these words, when the loud tolling of the village bell broke the fetters in which Morpheus had bound me, and dispelled the airy illusion.
There is not among the virtues one of lovelier aspect than gratitude. The woodbine that closely entwines the decaying tree, by which it has long been supported, is its proper emblem; for the truly grateful never forget past favours; and it is the first wish of their hearts to repay them, not simply in words, or by the tender of those gifts, which are acceptable only to the venal mind, but by the richer tribute of esteem, and those nameless endearing attentions which soften the hard pallet of poverty, relieve the languors of sickness, and sweetly smooth the down-hill of life, to the feeble steps of hoary 122 I5v 122 age:—Attentions dear to the susceptible soul, and more delicious than the incense of Persia, offered to the rising sun.
But as the happiness of a man is not to be estimated by the wide extent of his domain, or his virtue by the number of vassals who call him lord; so neither are splended oblations at the shrine of gratitude to be considered as infallible criterions of the giver’s liberality. Ostentation, pride, and a desire of praise, are not unfrequently the actuating tho’ invisible motives to seemingly noble and generous deeds: and, in most instances, the truly delicate and feeling mind will receive superior gratification from more simple acknowledgments; nay, in some cases I believe it possible, that a flower may be prized more highly than a diamond: agreeable to the idea of a late charming poet, and sweetly expressed by him in the motto prefixed to this paper.I shall 123 I6r 123
I shall close these few reflections on Gratitude, with the following fragment of a pastoral tale, not wholly inapplicable to the subject.
Amaryllis had now completed her seventeenth year; the shepherds of the neighbouring hamlets admired her beauty, and Echo, responsive to their pipes, filled every valley with her praise; but her heart was replete with innocence, and her rosy cheeks ever dimpled with smiles, for the arrows of love had never invaded the repose of her bosom. Her happiness was centered in her duty, and she seldom quitted the cottage of her sire, Palemon, the venerable woodman of the forest, but when her snowy sheep demanded her care; and as they bounded along the velvet turf of the meadows, or cropped wild-thyme and daisies on the brow of the hills, the artless shepherdess, reclined under a spreading maple, or bush of 124 I6v 124 white-thorn, her favourite dog couched at her feet, would listen with delight to the woodlark’s warbled song; or gathering primroses and violets to deck her cottage window, and interweaving the flexile stalks of the cowslip, and hare-bell, to form chaplets, chaunt in wild, yet sweetest strains, the joys of pastoral life.
But this tranquillity she was soon to resign; for at the wake she attracted the notice of Mirtillo, the most graceful young shepherd of the plain; and when on May-morning, at sun rise, the band of youthful villagers assmebled round the flower-encircled pole, to celebrate the glad return of spring, he sought her for his partner in the dance, and presented her with garlands of the freshest flowers: From that time, often at the close of day would he assist in guiding her fleecy charge to the fold; nor unfrequently, when moonlight illumined the dewy vale, and the tired peasants were sunk in balmy slumber, 125 I7r 125 did the soft notes of his flagelet, from the hazle coppice behind Palemon’s dwelling, steal sweetly on the air, in concert with the nightingale’s plaintive lay. He told her his love; Amaryllis believed, and secretly vowed to give her hand only to Mirtillo.
Soon after, an accident happened which cost her many tears: her favourite lamb had strayed from the pastures; she sought it all day in the woodlands, but in vain. When the first rosy ray of morning glanced thro’ the eglantine which embowered her casement, reflecting its narrow diamond panes on the whitened wall of her chamber, she arose and renewed the pursuit, but without success. Passing a flowery brake in her return, she espied some wild pinks newly blown, and gathering them, said, My ramble has not been useless this morning, tho’ my lamb is still unfound; these are the first pinks I have seen this summer; I will make them into a garland for Mirtillo. She sat down under a clump of young birch 126 I7v 126 trees, and had just accomplished her pleasing task, when Corydon, passing to his daily labour, thus accosted her: Amaryllis, why so pensive? has any misfortune, sweet girl! befallen thee? She told the cause of her inquietude, and the attentive shepherd replied: Had the little wanderer a blue ribbon tyed round its neck? Amaryllis blushed, (for Mirtillo had bestowed that ornament on her lost favourite) if so, I found it yesterday in the stream that runs by my orchard, and was fortunately just in time to save it from perishing? He brought the lamb to the delighted shepherdess, who thus addressed him: Had I aught more worthy his acceptance I would not offer so poor a tribute to Corydon; but, gentle shepherd! refuse not to accept my crook, and this chaplet, wove indeed for another, but gratitude dedicates it to thee.