by. Frances Brooke, 1763
To George Mordaunt, Esq;
Belmont House, July 3, 1762.
I AM indeed, my dear George, the most happy of human beings; happy in the paternal regard  of the best of parents, the sincere esteem of my worthy relations, Lord and Lady Belmont, and the friendship, the tender friendship, of their lovely daughter, the amiable lady Julia. An increase of fortune, which you are kind enough to wish me, might perhaps add something to my felicity, but is far from being necessary to constitute it, nor did it ever excite in my bosom an anxious wish. My father, though he educated me to become the most splendid situation, yet instructed me to be satisfied with my own moderate one; he taught me, that independence was all a generous mind required; and that virtue, adorned by that liberal  education his unsparing bounty lavished on me, would command through life that heart−felt esteem from the worthy of every rank, which the most exorbitant wealth alone could never procure its possessors. Other parents hoard up riches for their children; mine, with a more noble, more enlightened solicitude, expended his in storeing my mind with generous sentiments and useful knowledge, to which his unbounded goodness added every outward accomplishment that could give grace to virtue, and set her charms in the fairest light.
- liberal主要作形容词用，用于对别人的态度时，指开明而心胸宽阔，能接受新思想，liberal attitudes即为开明的态度；用于政治方向时，指自由的，此处的自由偏向于指一种开明、宽松的风气，而非我行我素的自由，liberal democracy即为自由民主，liberal trade即为自由贸易；用于生活场景时，意为慷慨大方的，跟generous和lavish近义，尤以liberal with sth的搭配较多，如liberal with one’s money，指某人用钱大方；但是liberal还有一个不太常见的用法，即本文的liberal education，特指人文主义教育。
- ①unsparing是形容词，一是指严厉、不留情面的，二可指慷慨大方、不吝啬的。如：He won his mother’s unsparing approval. （他赢得了母亲毫无保留的赞同。）unsparing来源于单词sparing，sparing即俭省、节俭、不轻易、不慷慨的意思。
②bounty本为奖金、赏金之意，尤其特指悬赏金、贸易津贴、入伍津贴等，bounty hunter则为赏金猎人。该单词可引申为慷慨恩赐的大量之物，如nature’s bounties即为自然馈赠，Lord’s bounty即为主的恩赐。
③lavish作动词用，意为“慷慨乃至于过度的给与”，偏向于指给与关照、关爱，固定搭配有：lavish sth on/upon sb/sth，如：She lavishes most of her attention on her youngest son. （她溺爱小儿子。）另外，lavish也可以做形容词，指豪华的、奢靡的、奢侈的、盛大的、慷慨不节制的，跟extravagant与luxuriously近义。lavish lifestyle即为挥霍无度的生活，lavish (in one’s) praise即为（某人的）溢美之词。
- command作动词用时，通常指命令，偏重于强制性、权威性很强的指示命令，give command为发出命令，at one’s command为服从某人命令，at your command则为可任你自由支配；在军事环境中，command又有统帅、指挥之意，command troops为统帅军队；而在古典英语中，command oneself有控制/抑制某人感情的意思。抛开这些跟命令、掌控相关的用法，command还有一种广泛使用的含义，指应得、应受到、值得、可获得、应拥有，跟deserve近义，即本文所用，to command sympathy/support为值得同情╱支持，command the respect/esteem则为受到尊重，commanded one’s attention为引起某人注意。
- ①procure是动词，意为想尽办法、费尽心力地想得到，常用搭配manage to procure则更强调了“想方设法弄到”。
②possessor为名词，指持有人，所有者，跟owner近义，常用搭配the proud possessor of指因……而自豪、引以为豪。如：she is the proud possessor of a truly incredible voice.引以为豪的是她拥有一副美妙动听的嗓音。
Shall I then murmur because I was not born to affluence? No, believe me, I would not be the son of any other than this most excellent of men, to inherit all the stores which avarice and ambition sigh for. I am prouder of a father, to whose discerning wisdom and generous expanded heart I am so obliged, than I should be of one whom I was to succeed in all the titles and possessions in the power of fortune to bestow. From him I receive, and learn properly to value, the most real of all treasures, independence and content.
- inherit：继承，接手。继承财产/资产有多种说法，比如inherit possessions/property/fortune，乃至于本文用的inherit stores。
- oblige：为动词，一是指强迫、迫使、不得不做，偏向于根据法律、道义等来迫使做某事。如：Parents are obliged by law to send their children to school.（法律规定父母必须送子女入学。）二是指（根据要求或需要）帮忙，效劳，满足，依从。如：Call me if you need any help—I’d be happy to oblige.（若有需要，尽管给我打电话——我很乐意帮忙。）但是oblige还有一个固定搭配，即本文用的be obliged，它类似于be indebted或be grateful，指感激，如：I wil be much obliged.（我将不胜感激）
What a divine morning! how lovely is the face of nature! The blue serene of Italy, with the lively verdure of England. But behold a more charming object than nature herself! the sweet, the young, the blooming lady Julia, who is this instant stepping into her post chaise with lady Anne Wilmot! How unspeakably lovely! she looks up to the window; the smiles; I understand that smile; she permits me to have the honour of following her: I’ll order my horses; and, whilst they are getting ready, endeavour to describe this most angelic of womankind.
- divine：可做动词，意为凭直觉的猜测、发现，亦或是占卜、预测，如：She could divine what he was thinking just by looking at him.（她一看就知道他在想什么。）但divine更多作为形容词用，表示上帝的、神圣的、天赐的，可引申为绝妙的、非凡的、极美的，如：Bums are as divine as seraphs!（流浪汉和六翼天使一样神圣！）又如：To err is human, to forgive, divine.（犯错是人的行为，而宽恕是神的事情。）
- serene：是较为文雅、古典的用法，表示平静的、宁静的、安详的，约等于calm＋peaceful。英国有俚语all serene，意为太平无事。本文中为古典用法，做名词用，表示晴空，deep serene可表示万里无云的晴朗天空。
- verdure：也是较为古典的名词，指青葱的草木、郁郁葱葱的植物。with abundance of flowers and of verdure为草木葱郁、花团锦簇。
Lady Julia then, who wants only three months of nineteen, is exactly what a poet or painter would wish to copy, who intended to personify the idea of female softness. Her whose form is delicate and feminine to the utmost degree: her complexion is fair, enlivened by the bloom of youth, and often diversified by blushes more beautiful than those of the morning: her features are regular; her mouth and teeth particularly lovely; her hair light brown; her eyes blue, full of softness, and strongly expressive of the exquisite sensibility of her soul. Her countenance, the beauteous abode of the Loves and the Smiles, has a mixture of sweetness and spirit, which gives life and expression to her charms.
- personify：这是一个动词，从person演化而来，后缀-fy意为使、化，该词的一个意思就是把……拟人化、人格化，常用搭配为personify sth (as sb)，如：I have tried to personify philosophy and inner feeling of human mind in my creation in a natural way.（艺术家努力以一种自然的方式，在创作中体现哲学和人的内心情感。）该词还有另一层意思，即是……的典型、集中表现、象征、化身，如：She seemed to personify goodness and nobility.（她似乎是善良和高贵的化身。）
- utmost：最大的；极度的。如：This is a matter of the utmost importance.（这是个极其重要的问题。）
- diversify：动词，第一层意思为增加…的品种；从事多种经营；扩大业务范围，与branch out近义，常用搭配为~diversify (sth) (into sth)，如：Farmers are being encouraged to diversify into new crops.（目前正鼓励农民兼种新的农作物。）第二层意思为（使）多样化、变化、不同，如：Patterns of family life are diversifying.（家庭生活模式正在变得多样化。）
- exquisite：该单词和delicate较为相似。第一层意思为精美的、精致的，exquisite craftsmanship为精美的工艺。第二层意思为剧烈的，强烈的，exquisite pain/pleasure为剧烈的疼痛/极大的快乐。第三层意思为微妙的，雅致的，敏锐的，敏感的，如：The room was decorated in exquisite taste.（这个房间的装饰情趣高雅。）
As her mind has been adorned, nor warped, by education, it is just what her appearance promises; artless, gentle, timid, soft, sincere, compassionate, awake to all the finer impressions of tenderness, and melting with pity for every human woe.
- warp：动词，为（使）扭曲，弯曲，变形，也可以用于形容人，为使（行为等）不合情理；使乖戾；不正常有偏见的。如：Years of living alone may warp one’s personality.（长期的孤身生活会使人的性格变得乖戾。）
- promise：基本意思为许诺；承诺；答应；保证。但本文为另一种较少见的用法，即使很可能、预示、揭示出。如：There were dark clouds overhead promising rain.（天上乌云密布，预示就要下雨。）
But my horses are in the court, and even this subject cannot detain me a moment longer. Adieu!
To George Mordaunt, Esq;
YOUR raillery, my dear Mordaunt, gives me pain; that I have the tenderest attachment to lady Julia is certain; but it is an attachment which has not the least resemblance to love. I should be the most ungrateful of mankind to make so ill a return to the friendship lord Belmont honours me with, and the most selfish to entertain a wish so much to lady Julia’s disadvantage. My birth, it must be confessed, is not unworthy even her, since the same blood fills our veins; my father being descended from the eldest broth of the first earl of Belmont, great grandfather of the present: but it would ill become a man whose whole expectations are limited to the inheritance of seven hundred pounds a year (long, very long, may it be before the greatest of all misfortunes makes even that little mine!) to aspire to the heiress of twice as many thousands.
What I feel for this most charming of women is, the tenderness of a relation mixed with that soft and lively esteem which it is impossible to refuse to the finest understanding and noblest mind in the world, lodged in a form almost celestial.
Love, for I have tasted its poisoned cup, is all tumult, disorder, madness; but my friendship for lady Julia, warm and animated as it is, is calm, tranquil, gentle; productive of a thousand innocent pleasures, but a stranger to every kind of inquietude: it does not even disturb my rest, a certain consequence of love, even in its earliest approaches.
Having thus vindicated myself from all suspicion of a passion, which is the present situation of my fortune I should think almost a criminal one, I roceedp to obey you in giving you the portraits of my noble friends; though, I assure you, my sketches will be very imperfect ones.
Lord Belmont, who lives eight months of the year at this charming seat, with all the magnificence and hospitality of our ancient English nobility, is about sixty years old; his person is tall, well made, graceful; his air commanding, and full of dignity: he has strong sense, with a competent share of learning, and a just and delicate taste for the fine arts; especially musick, which he studyed in Italy, under the best masters that region of harmony afforded. His politeness is equally the result of a natural desire of obliging, and an early and extensive acquaintance with the great world.
A liberality which scarce his ample possessions can bound, a paternal care of all placed by Providence under his protection, a glowing zeal for the liberty, prosperity, and honour of his country, the noblest spirit of independence, with the most animated attachment and firmest loyalty to his accomplished sovereign, are traits too strongly marked to escape the most careless observer; but those only who are admitted to his nearest intimacy are judges of his domestic virtues, or see in full light the tender, the polite, attentive husband, the fond indulgent parent, the warm unwearied friend.
If there is a shade in this picture, it is a prejudice, perhaps rather too strong, in favour of birth, and a slowness to expect very exalted virtues in any man who cannot trace his ancestors as far back, at least, as the Conquest.
Lady Belmont, who is about six years younger than her lord, with all the strength of reason and steadiness of mind generally confined to the best of our sex, has all the winning softness becoming the most amiable of her own; gentle, affable, social, polite, she joins the graces of a court to the simplicity of a cottage; and, by an inexpressible ease and sweetness in her address, makes all who approach her happy: impartial in her politeness, at her genial board no invidious distinctions take place, no cold regards damp the heart of an inferior: by a peculiar delicacy of good breeding and engaging attention to every individual, she banishes reserve, and diffuses a spirit of convivial joy around her: encouraged by her notice, the timid lose their diffidence in her presence, and often surprized exert talents of pleasing they were before themselves unconscious of possessing.
The best, and most beloved of wives, of mothers, of mistresses, her domestic character is most lovely; indeed all her virtues are rendered doubly charming, by a certain grace, a delicate finishing, which it is much easier to feel than to describe.
The economy of her house, which she does not disdain herself to direct, is magnificent without profusion, and regular without constraint. The effects of her cares appear, the cause is unobserved; all wears the smiling easy air of chance, though conducted with the most admirable order.
Her form is perfectly elegant; and her countenance, without having ever been beautiful, has a benignity in it more engaging than beauty itself.
Lady Anne Wilmot, my father, and myself, make up the present party at Belmont. Lady Anne, who without regularity of features has that animation which is the soul of beauty, is the widow of a very rich country gentleman; if it be just to prostitute the name of gentleman to beings of his order, only because they have estates of which they are unworthy, and are descended from ancestors whom the dishonour: who, when riding post through Europe, happened to see her with her father at Turin; and as she was the handsomest Englishwoman there, and the whim of being marryed just then seized him, asked her of Lord —, who could not refuse his daughter to a jointure of 3000 l. a year. She returned soon to England with her husband, where, during four years, she enjoyed the happiness of listening to the interesting histories of the chace, and entertaining the—shire hunt at dinner: her slumbers broke by the noise of hounds in a morning, and the riotous mirth of less rational animals at night. Fortune however at length took pity on her sufferings; and the good squire, overheating himself at a fox−chace, of which a fever was the consequence, left her young and rich, at full liberty to return to the chearful haunts of men, with no very high ideas of matrimonial felicity, and an abhorrence of a country life, which nothing but her friendship for Lady Belmont could have one moment suspended.
A great flow of animal spirits, and a French education, have made her a Coquet, though intended by nature for a much superior character. She is elegant in her dress, equipage, and manner of living, and rather profuse in her expences. I had first the honour of knowing her last winter at Paris, from whence she has been returned about six weeks, three of which she has passed at Belmont.
Nothing can be more easy or agreeable than the manner of living here; it is perfectly domestic, yet so diversified with amusements as to exclude that satiety from which the best and purest of sublunary enjoyments are not secure, if continued in too uniform a course. We read, we write, we ride, we converse; we play, we dance, we sing; join the company, or indulge in pensive solitude and meditation, just as fancy leads; liberty, restrained alone by virtue and politeness, is the law, and inclination the sovereign guide, at this mansion of true hospitality. Free from all the shackles of idle ceremony, the whole business of Lord Belmont’s guests, and the highest satisfaction they can give their noble host, is to be happy, and to consult their own taste entirely in their manner of being so.
Reading, musick, riding, and conversation are Lord Belmont’s favourite pleasures, but none that are innocent are excluded; balls, plays, concerts, cards, bowls, billiards, and parties of pleasure round the neighbouring country, relieve each other; and, whilst their variety prevents any of them from satiating, all conspire to give a double poignancy to the sweeter joys of domestic life, the calm and tender hours which this charming family devote to the endearing conversation of each other, and of those friends particularly honoured with their esteem.
The house, which is the work of Inigo Jones, is magnificent to the utmost degree; it stands on the summit of a slowly−rising hill, facing the South; and, beyond a spacious court, has in front an avenue of the tallest trees, which lets in the prospect of a fruitful valley, bounded at a distance by a mountain, down the sides of which rushes a foaming cascade, which spreads into a thousand meandering streams in the vale below.
The gardens and park, which are behind the house, are romantic beyond the wantonness of imagination; and the whole adjoining country diversified with hills, vallies, woods, rivers, plains, and every charm of lovely unadorned nature.
Here Lord Belmont enjoys the most unmixed and lively of all human pleasures, that of making others happy. His estate conveys the strongest idea of the patriarchal government; he seems a beneficent father surrounded by his children, over whom reverence, gratitude, and love, give him an absolute authority, which he never exerts but for their good: every eye shines with transport at his sight; parents point him out to their children; the first accents of prattling infancy are taught to lisp his honoured name; and age, supported by his bounteous hand, pours out the fervent prayer to Heaven for its benefactor.
To a life like this, and to an ardent love of independence, Lord Belmont sacrifises all the anxious and corroding cares of avarice and ambition; and finds his account in health, freedom, chearfulness, and “that sweet peace which goodness bosoms ever.” Adieu! I am going with Lord Belmont and my father to Acton−Grange, and shall not return till Thursday.
To George Mordaunt, Esq; Friday.
WE returned yesterday about six in the evening, and the moment we alighted, my Lord leading us into the garden, an unexpected scene opened on my view, which recalled the idea of the fabulous pleasures of the golden age, and could not but be infinitely pleasing to every mind uncorrupted by the false glare of tinsel pomp and awake to the genuine charms of simplicity and nature.
On a spacious lawn, bounded on every side by a profusion of the most odoriferous flowering shrubs, a joyous band of villagers were assembled: the young men drest in green, youth, health, and pleasure in their air, led up their artless charmers, in straw hats adorned with the spoils of Flora, to the rustic sound of the tabor and pipe: Round the lawn, at equal intervals, were raised temporary arbors of branches of trees, in which refreshments were prepared for the dancers: and between the arbors, seats of moss for their parents, shaded from the sun by green awnings on poles, round which were twined wreaths of flowers, breathing the sweets of the spring. The surprize, the gaiety of the scene, the flow of general joy, the sight of so many happy people, the countenances of the enraptured parents, who seemed to live over again the sprightly season of youth in their children, with the benevolent pleasure in the looks of the noble bestowers of the feast, filled my eyes with tears, and my swelling heart with a sensation of pure yet lively transport, to which the joys of courtly balls are mean.
The ladies, who were sitting in conversation with some of the oldest of the villagers, rose at our approach; and, my Lord giving Lady Anne Wilmot’s hand to my father and honoring me with Lady Julia’s, we mixed in the rustic ball. The loveliest of women had an elegant simplicity in her air and habit which became the scene, and gave her a thousand new charms: she was drest in a straw−coloured lutestring night gown, the lightest gauze linen, a hat with purple ribbons, and a sprig of glowing purple amaranthus in her bosom: I know not how to convey an idea of the particular stile of beauty in which she then appeared. − Youth, health, sprightliness, and innocence, all struck the imagination at once. − Paint to yourself the exquisite proportion, the playful air, and easy movement of a Venus, with the vivid bloom of an Hebe; − however high you raise your ideas, they will fall infinitely short of the divine original.
The approach of night putting an end to the rural assembly, the villagers retired to the hall, where they continued dancing, and our happy party passed the rest of the evening in that sweet and lively conversation, which is never to be found but amongst those of the first sense and politeness, united by that perfect confidence which makes the most trifling subjects interesting; none of us thought of separating, or imagined it midnight, when, my father opening a window, the rising sun broke in upon us, and convinced us on what swift and downy pinions the hours of happiness flit away. Adieu!
To George Mordaunt, Esq; Belmont.
NO, my friend, I have not always been this hero: too sensible to the power of beauty, I have felt the keenest pangs of unsuccessful love: but I deserved to suffer; my passion was in the highest degree criminal; and I blush, though at this distance of time, to lay open my heart even to the indulgent eyes of partial friendship.
When your father’s death called you back to England, you may remember I continued my journey to Rome: where a letter from my father introduced me into the family of Count Melespini, a nobleman of great wealth and uncommon accomplishments. As my father, who has always been of opinion that nothing purifies the manners, like the conversation of an amiable, well−educated, virtuous woman, had particularly entreated for me the honour of the Countess’s friendship, whom he had known almost a child, and to whom he had taught the English language; I was admitted to the distinction of partaking in all her amusements, and attending her every where in the quality of Cecisbeo. To the arts of the libertine, however fair, my heart had always been steeled; but the Countess joined the most piercing wit, the most winning politeness, the most engaging sensibility, the most exquisite delicacy, to a form perfectly lovely. You will not therefore wonder that the warmth and inexperience of youth, hourly exposed in so dangerous a situation, was unable to resist such variety of attractions. Charmed with the flattering preference she seemed to give me, my vanity fed by the notice of so accomplished a creature, forgetting those sentiments of honour which ought never to be one moment suspended, I became passionately in love with this charming woman: for some months, I struggled with my love; till, on her observing that my health seemed impaired and I had lost my usual vivacity, I took courage to confess the cause, though in terms which sufficiently spoke my despair of touching a heart which I feared was too sensible to virtue for my happiness: I implored her pity, and protested I had no hope of inspiring a tenderer sentiment. Whilst I was speaking, which was in broken interrupted sentences, the Countess looked at me with the strongest sorrow and compassion painted in her eyes; she was for some moments silent, and seemed lost in thought; but at last, with an air of dignified sweetness, “My dear Enrico,” said she, “shall I own to you that I have for some time feared this confession? I ought perhaps to resent this declaration, which from another I could never have forgiven: but, as I know and esteem the goodness of your heart, as I respect your father infinitely, and love you with the innocent tenderness of a sister, I will only entreat you to reflect how injurious this passion is to the Count, who has the tenderest esteem for you, and would sacrifise almost his life for your happiness: be assured of my eternal friendship, unless you forfeit it by persisting in a pursuit equally destructive to your own probity and my honor; receive the tenderest assurances of it,” continued she, giving me her hand to kiss, but believe, at the same time, that the Count deserves and possesses all my love, I had almost said, my adoration. The fondest affection united us, and time, instead of lessening, every hour encreases our mutual passion. Reserve your heart, my good Enrico, for some amiable lady of your own nation; and believe that love has no true pleasures but when it keeps within the bounds of honour.”
It is impossible, my dear Mordaunt, to express to you the shame this discourse filled me with: her gentle, her affectionate reproofs, the generous concern she shewed for my error, the mild dignity of her aspect, plunged me into inexpressible confusion, and shewed my fault in its blackest colours; at the same time that her behaviour, by increasing my esteem, added to the excess of my passion. I attempted to answer her; but it was impossible; awed, abashed, humbled before her, I had not courage even to meet her eyes: like the fallen angel in Milton, I felt
“How awful goodness is, and saw, Virtue in her own shape how lovely.”
The Countess saw, and pitied, my confusion, and generously relieved me from it by changing the subject: she talked of my father, of his merit, his tenderness for me, and expectations of my conduct; which she was sure I should never disappoint. Without hinting at what had past, she with the utmost exquisite delicacy gave me to understand it would be best I should leave Rome, by saying she knew how ardently my father wished for my return, and that it would be the height of cruelty longer to deprive him of the pleasure of seeing a son so worthy of his affection: “The Count and myself,” pursued she, “cannot lose you without inexpressible regret; but you will alleviate it by letting us hear often of your welfare. When you are united to a lady worthy of you, my dear Enrico, we may perhaps make you a visit in England: in the mean time, be assured, you have not two friends who love you with a sincerer affection.”
At this moment the Count entered, who, seeing my eyes filled with tears of love, despair, and admiration, with the tenderest anxiety enquired the cause. “I shall tell you news which will afflict you, my Lord,” said the Countess: “Signor Enrico comes to bid us farewel; he is commanded by his father to return to England; tomorrow is the last day of his stay in Rome: he promises to write to us, and to preserve an eternal remembrance of our friendship, for which he is obliged only to his own merit: his tender heart, full of the most laudable, the most engaging sensibility, melts at the idea of a separation which will not be less painful to us.”
The Count, after expressing the most obliging concern at the thought of losing me, and the warmest gratitude for these supposed marks of my friendship, insisted on my spending the rest of the day with them. I consented, but begged first to return to my lodgings; on pretence of giving some necessary orders, but in reality to give vent to my full heart, torn with a thousand contrary emotions, amongst which, I am shocked to own, hatred to the generous Count was not the weakest. I threw myself on the ground, in an agony of despair; I wept, I called Heaven to witness the purity of my love; I accused the Countess of cruelty in thus forcing me from Rome; I rose up; I begun a letter to her, in which I vowed an eternal silence and respect, but begged she would allow me still the innocent pleasure of beholding her; swore I could not live without seeing her, and that the day of my leaving Rome would be that of my death. − But why do I thus tear open wounds which are but just healed? let it suffice, that a moment’s reflexion convinced me of my madness, and shewed the charming Countess in the light of a guardian angel snatching me from the edge of a precipice. My reason in some degree returning, I drest myself with the most studious care, and returned to the Melespini palace, where I found the Abbate Camilli, a near relation of the family, whose presence saved me the confusion of being the third with my injured friends, and whose lively conversation soon dissipated the air of constraint I felt on entering the room, and even dispelled part of my melancholy.
The Count, whose own probity and virtue set him far above suspecting mine, pressed me, with all the earnestness of a friendship I so little merited, to defer my journey a week: on which I raised my downcast eyes to Madam Melespini; for such influence had this lovely woman over my heart, I did not dare to consent till certain of her permission; and, reading approbation in a smile of condescending sweetness, I consented with a transport which only those who have loved like me can conceive: my chearfulness returning, and some of the most amiable people in Rome coming in, we past the evening in the utmost gaiety. At taking leave, I was engaged to the same company in different parties of amusement for the whole time I had to stay, and had the joy of being every day with the Countess; though I never found an opportunity of speaking to her without witnesses, till the evening before I left Rome, when, going to her house an hour sooner than I was expected, I found her alone in her closet. When I approached her, my voice faltered; I trembled; I wanted power to address her: and this moment, fought with such care, wished with such ardor, was the most painful of my life. Shame alone prevented my retiring; my eyes were involuntarily turned towards the door at which I entered, in a vain hope of that interruption I had before dreaded as the greatest misfortune; and even the presence of my happy envied rival would at that moment have been most welcome.
The Countess seemed little less disconcerted than myself; however, recovering herself sooner, “Signor Enrico,” said she, “your discretion charms me; it is absolutely necessary you should leave Rome; it has already cost me an artifice unworthy of my character to conceal from the Count a secret which would have wounded his nice honor and destroyed his friendship for you. After this adored husband, be assured, you stand first of all your sex in my esteem: the sensibility of your heart, though at present so unhappily misplaced, encreases my good opinion of you: may you, my dear Enrico, meet with an English Lady worthy of your tenderness, and be as happy in marriage as the friends you leave behind. Accept,” pursued she, rising and going to a cabinet, “these miniatures of the Count and myself, which I give you by his command; and, when you look on them, believe they represent two faithful friends, whose esteem for you neither time nor absence can lessen.”
I took the pictures eagerly, and kissed that of the Countess with a passion I could not restrain, of which however she took not the least notice. I thanked her, with a confused air, for so valuable a present; and intreated her to pity a friendship too tender for my peace, but as respectful and as pure as she herself could wish it.
The Abbate Camilli here joined us, and once more saved me a scene too interesting for the present situation of my heart. The Count entered the room soon after, and our conversation turned on the other cities of Italy, which I intended visiting; to most of which he gave me letters of recommendation to the noblest families, wrote in terms so polite and affectionate as stabbed me to the heart with a sense of my own ingratitude. He did me the honor to accept my picture, which I had not the courage to offer the Countess. After protracting till morning a parting so exquisitely painful, I tore myself from all I loved; and, bathing with tears her hand which I pressed eagerly to my lips, threw myself into my chaise, and, without going to bed, took the road to Naples. But how difficult was this conquest! How often was I tempted to return to Rome, and throw myself at the Countess’s feet, without considering the consequences of so wild an action! You, my dearest Mordaunt, whose discerning spirit knows all the windings, the strange inconsistences, of the human heart, will pity rather than blame your friend, when he owns there were moments in which he formed the infamous resolution of carrying her off by force.
But when the mist of passion a little dispersed, I began to entertain more worthy sentiments; I determined to drive this lovely woman from my heart, and conquer an inclination, which the Count’s generous unsuspecting friendship would have made criminal even in the eyes of the most abandoned libertine; rather owing this resolution however to an absolute despair of success than either to reason or a sense of honor, my cure was a work of time. I was so weak, during some months, as to confine my visits to the families where the Count’s letters introduced me, that I might indulge my passion by hearing the lovely Countess continually mentioned.
Convinced at length of the folly of thus feeding so hopeless a flame, I resolved to avoid every place where I had a chance of hearing that adored name: I left Italy for France, where I hoped a life of dissipation would drive her for ever from my remembrance. I even profaned my passion for her, by meeting the advances of a Coquette; but disgust succeeded my conquest, and I found it was from time alone I must hope a cure. I had been near a year at Paris, when, in April last, I received a letter from my father, who pressed my return, and appointed me to meet him immediately at the Hague, from whence we returned together; and after a few days stay in London, came down to Belmont, where the charms of Lady Julia’s conversation, and the esteem she honors me with, entirely compleated my cure, which time, absence, and the Count’s tender and affectionate letters, had very far advanced. There is a sweetness in her friendship, my dear Mordaunt, to which love itself must yield the palm; the delicacy, yet vivacity of her sentiments; the soft sensibility of her heart, which without fear listens to vows of eternal amity and esteem − O Mordaunt, I must not, I do not hope for, I do not indeed wish for, her love; but can it be possible there is a man on earth to whom heaven destines such a blessing?
To Col. Bellville. Tuesday, Belmont.
OH! you have no notion what a reformation: Who but Lady Anne Wilmot at chapel every Sunday? grave, devout, attentive! scarce stealing a look at the prettiest fellow in the world, who sits close by me! Yes, you are undone, Bellville; Harry Mandeville, the young, the gay, the lovely Harry Mandeville, in the full bloom of conquering three and twenty, with all the fire and sprightliness of youth, the exquisite symmetry and easy grace of an Antinous; a countenance open, manly, animated; his hair the brightest chesnut; his complexion brown, flushed with the rose of health; his eyes dark, penetrating, and full of fire, but when he addresses our sex softened into a sweetness which is almost irresistible; his nose inclining to the aquiline; his lips full and red, and his teeth of the most pearly whiteness. There, read and die with envy:
“You with envy, I with love.”
Fond of me too, but afraid to declare his passion; respectful − awed by the commanding dignity of my manner − poor dear creature! I think I must unbend a little, hide half the rays of my divinity, to encourage so timid a worshiper.
Some flattering tawdry coxcomb, I suppose; some fool with a tolerable outside.
No, you never was more mistaken, Bellville: his charms, I assure you, are not all external. His understanding is of the most exalted kind, and has been improved by a very extraordinary education, in projecting which his father has employed much time and thought, and half ruined himself by carrying it into execution. Above all, the Colonel has cultivated in his son an ardent love of independence, not quite so well suited to his fortune; and a generous, perhaps a romantic, contempt of riches, which most parents if they had found would have eradicated with the utmost care. His heart is warm, noble, liberal, benevolent: sincere and violent in his friendships, he is not less so, though extremely placable, in his enmities; scorning disguise, and laying his faults as well as his virtues open to every eye: rash, romantic, imprudent; haughty to the assuming sons of wealth, but to those below him,
As Zephyr blowing underneath the violet.”
But whither am I running? and where was I when this divine creature seduced me from my right path? Oh, I remember, at chapel: it must be acknowledged my digressions are a little Pindaric. True, as I was saying, I go constantly to chapel. ‘Tis strange; but this lady Belmont has the most unaccountable way in the world of making it one’s choice to do whatever she has an inclination one should, without seeming to desire it. One sees so clearly that all she does is right, religion fits so easy upon her, her style of goodness is so becoming and graceful, that it seems want of taste and elegance not to endeavour to resemble her. Then my Lord too loves to worship in the beauty of holiness; he makes the fine arts subservient to the noblest purpose, and spends as much on serving his Creator as some people of his rank do on a kennel of hounds. We have every external incitement to devotion; exquisite paintings, an admirable organ, fine voices, and the most animated reader of prayers in the universe.
Col. Mandeville, whom I should be extremely in love with if his son was not five and twenty years younger, leaves us tomorrow morning, to join his regiment, the shire militia: he served in the late war with honour; but, meeting with some ill usage from a minister on account of a vote in parliament, he resigned his commission, and gave up his whole time to the education of my lovely Harry, whose tenderness and merit are a full reward for all his generous attention. Adieu!
To Colonel Bellville. Belmont, Thursday.