Letter II


How you oppress me, my dearest friend, with your politeness! I cannot

doubt your sincerity; but you should take care, that you give me not

reason from your kind partiality to call in question your judgment.

You do not distinguish that I take many admirable hints from you, and

have the art to pass them upon you for my own: for in all you do, in

all you say, nay, in your very looks (so animated!) you give lessons

to one who loves you and observes you as I love you and observe you,

without knowing that you do--So pray, my dear, be more sparing of your

praise for the future, lest after this confession we should suspect

that you secretly intend to praise yourself, while you would be

thought only to commend another.

Our family has indeed been strangely discomposed.--Discomposed!--It

has been in tumults, ever since the unhappy transaction; and I have

borne all the blame; yet should have had too much concern from myself,

had I been more justly spared by every one else.

For, whether it be owing to a faulty impatience, having been too

indulgently treated to be inured to blame, or to the regret I have to

hear those censured on my account, whom it is my duty to vindicate; I

have sometimes wished, that it had pleased God to have taken me in my

last fever, when I had every body's love and good opinion; but oftener

that I had never been distinguished by my grandfather as I was: since

that distinction has estranged from me my brother's and sister's

affections; at least, has raised a jealousy with regard to the

apprehended favour of my two uncles, that now-and-then overshadows

their love.

My brother being happily recovered of his fever, and his wound in a

hopeful way, although he has not yet ventured abroad, I will be as

particular as you desire in the little history you demand of me. But

heaven forbid that any thing should ever happen which may require it

to be produced for the purpose you mention!

I will begin, as you command, with Mr. Lovelace's address to my

sister; and be as brief as possible. I will recite facts only; and

leave you to judge of the truth of the report raised, that the younger

sister has robbed the elder.

It was in pursuance of a conference between Lord M. and my uncle

Antony, that Mr. Lovelace [my father and mother not forbidding] paid

his respect to my sister Arabella. My brother was then in Scotland,

busying himself in viewing the condition of the considerable estate

which was left him there by his generous godmother, together with one

as considerable in Yorkshire. I was also absent at my Dairy-house, as

it is called,* busied in the accounts relating to the estate which my

grandfather had the goodness to devise to me; and which once a year

was left to my inspection, although I have given the whole into my

father's power.

* Her grandfather, in order to invite her to him as often as her other

friends would spare her, indulged her in erecting and fitting up a

diary-house in her own taste. When finished, it was so much admired

for its elegant simplicity and convenience, that the whole seat

(before, of old time, from its situation, called The Grove) was

generally known by the name of The Dairy-house. Her grandfather in

particular was fond of having it so called.

My sister made me a visit there the day after Mr. Lovelace had been

introduced; and seemed highly pleased with the gentleman. His birth,

his fortune in possession, a clear 2000L. a year, as Lord M. had

assured my uncle; presumptive heir to that nobleman's large estate:

his great expectations from Lady Sarah Sadleir and Lady Betty

Lawrence; who with his uncle interested themselves very warmly (he

being the last of his line) to see him married.

'So handsome a man!--O her beloved Clary!' (for then she was ready to

love me dearly, from the overflowings of her good humour on his

account!) 'He was but too handsome a man for her!--Were she but as

amiable as somebody, there would be a probability of holding his

affections!--For he was wild, she heard; very wild, very gay; loved

intrigue--but he was young; a man of sense: would see his error, could

she but have patience with his faults, if his faults were not cured by


Thus she ran on; and then wanted me 'to see the charming man,' as she

called him.--Again concerned, 'that she was not handsome enough for

him;' with, 'a sad thing, that the man should have the advantage of

the woman in that particular!'--But then, stepping to the glass, she

complimented herself, 'That she was very well: that there were many

women deemed passable who were inferior to herself: that she was

always thought comely; and comeliness, let her tell me, having not so

much to lose as beauty had, would hold, when that would evaporate or

fly off:--nay, for that matter,' [and again she turned to the glass]

'her features were not irregular; her eyes not at all amiss.' And I

remember they were more than usually brilliant at that time.-- 'Nothing, in short, to be found fault with, though nothing very

engaging she doubted--was there, Clary.'

Excuse me, my dear, I never was thus particular before; no, not to

you. Nor would I now have written thus freely of a sister, but that

she makes a merit to my brother of disowning that she ever liked him;

as I shall mention hereafter: and then you will always have me give

you minute descriptions, nor suffer me to pass by the air and manner

in which things are spoken that are to be taken notice of; rightly

observing, that air and manner often express more than the

accompanying words.

I congratulated her upon her prospects. She received my compliments

with a great deal of self-complacency.

She liked the gentleman still more at his next visit; and yet he made

no particular address to her, although an opportunity was given him

for it. This was wondered at, as my uncle has introduced him into our

family declaredly as a visitor to my sister. But as we are ever ready

to make excuses when in good humour with ourselves for the perhaps not

unwilful slights of those whose approbation we wish to engage; so my

sister found out a reason much to Mr. Lovelace's advantage for his not

improving the opportunity that was given him.--It was bashfulness,

truly, in him. [Bashfulness in Mr. Lovelace, my dear!]--Indeed, gay

and lively as he is, he has not the look of an impudent man. But, I

fancy, it is many, many years ago since he was bashful.

Thus, however, could my sister make it out--'Upon her word, she

believed Mr. Lovelace deserved not the bad character he had as to

women.--He was really, to her thinking, a modest man. He would have

spoken out, she believed; but once or twice as he seemed to intend to

do so, he was under so agreeable a confusion! Such a profound

respect he seemed to shew her! A perfect reverence, she thought: she

loved dearly that a man in courtship should shew a reverence to his

mistress'--So indeed we all do, I believe: and with reason; since, if

I may judge from what I have seen in many families, there is little

enough of it shewn afterwards.--And she told my aunt Hervey, that she

would be a little less upon the reserve next time he came: 'She was

not one of those flirts, not she, who would give pain to a person that

deserved to be well-treated; and the more pain for the greatness of

his value for her.'--I wish she had not somebody whom I love in her


In his third visit, Bella governed herself by this kind and

considerate principle: so that, according to her own account of the

matter, the man might have spoken out.--But he was still bashful: he

was not able to overcome this unseasonable reverence. So this visit

went off as the former.

But now she began to be dissatisfied with him. She compared his

general character with this his particular behaviour to her; and

having never been courted before, owned herself puzzled how to deal

with so odd a lover. 'What did the man mean, she wondered? Had not

her uncle brought him declaredly as a suitor to her?--It could not be

bashfulness (now she thought of it) since he might have opened his

mind to her uncle, if he wanted courage to speak directly to her.--Not

that she cared much for the man neither: but it was right, surely,

that a woman should be put out of doubt early as to a man's intentions

in such a case as this, from his own mouth.--But, truly, she had begun

to think, that he was more solicitous to cultivate her mamma's good

opinion, than hers!--Every body, she owned, admired her mother's

conversation; but he was mistaken if he thought respect to her mother

only would do with her. And then, for his own sake, surely he should

put it into her power to be complaisant to him, if he gave her reason

to approve of him. This distant behaviour, she must take upon herself

to say, was the more extraordinary, as he continued his visits, and

declared himself extremely desirous to cultivate a friendship with the

whole family; and as he could have no doubt about her sense, if she

might take upon her to join her own with the general opinion; he

having taken great notice of, and admired many of her good things as

they fell from her lips. Reserves were painful, she must needs say,

to open and free spirits, like hers: and yet she must tell my aunt,'

(to whom all this was directed) 'that she should never forget what she

owed to her sex, and to herself, were Mr. Lovelace as unexceptionable

in his morals as in his figure, and were he to urge his suit ever so


I was not of her council. I was still absent. And it was agreed upon

between my aunt Hervey and her, that she was to be quite solemn and

shy in his next visit, if there were not a peculiarity in his address

to her.

But my sister it seems had not considered the matter well. This was

not the way, as it proved, to be taken for matters of mere omission,

with a man of Mr. Lovelace's penetration. Nor with any man; since if

love has not taken root deep enough to cause it to shoot out into

declaration, if an opportunity be fairly given for it, there is little

room to expect, that the blighting winds of anger or resentment will

bring it forward. Then my poor sister is not naturally good-humoured.

This is too well-known a truth for me to endeavor to conceal it,

especially from you. She must therefore, I doubt, have appeared to

great disadvantages when she aimed to be worse tempered than ordinary.

How they managed it in their next conversation I know not. One would

be tempted to think by the issue, that Mr. Lovelace was ungenerous

enough to seek the occasion given,* and to improve it. Yet he thought

fit to put the question too:--But, she says, it was not till, by some

means or other (she knew not how) he had wrought her up to such a

pitch of displeasure with him, that it was impossible for her to

recover herself at the instant. Nevertheless he re-urged his

question, as expecting a definitive answer, without waiting for the

return of her temper, or endeavouring to mollify her; so that she was

under a necessity of persisting in her denial: yet gave him reason to

think she did not dislike his address, only the manner of it; his

court being rather made to her mother than to herself, as if he was

sure of her consent at any time.

* See Mr. Lovelace's Letter, No. XXXI, in which he briefly accounts for

his conduct in this affair.

A good encouraging denial, I must own: as was the rest of her plea; to

wit, 'A disinclination to change her state. Exceedingly happy as she

was: she never could be happier!' And such-like consenting negatives,

as I may call them, and yet not intend a reflection upon my sister:

for what can any young creature in the like circumstances say, when

she is not sure but a too-ready consent may subject her to the slights

of a sex that generally values a blessing either more or less as it is

obtained with difficulty or ease? Miss Biddulph's answer to a copy of

verse from a gentleman, reproaching our sex as acting in disguise, is

not a bad one, although you may perhaps think it too acknowledging for

the female character.

Ungen'rous Sex!--To scorn us if we're kind;

And yet upbraid us if we seem severe!

Do you, t' encourage us to tell our mind,

Yourselves put off disguise, and be sincere.

You talk of coquetry!--Your own false hearts

Compel our sex to act dissembling parts.

Here I am obliged to lay down my pen. I will soon resume it.