Tag Archives: letters as rhetoric

Lovelace responds to Belford’s disapproving letter (L191)

When I have opened my view to thee so amply as I have done in my former letters; and have told thee, that my principal design is but to bring virtue to a trial, that, if virtue, it need not be afraid of; and that the reward of it will be marriage (that is to say, if, after I have carried my point, I cannot prevail upon her to live with me the life of honour;* for that thou knowest is the wish of my heart); I am amazed at the repetition of thy wambling nonsense.

* See Vol. III. Letter XVIII.

I am of opinion with thee, that some time hence, when I am grown wiser, I shall conclude, that there is nothing but vanity, conceit, and nonsense, in my present wild schemes. But what is this saying, but that I must be first wiser?
I do not intend to let this matchless creature slide through my fingers.
Art thou able to say half the things in her praise, that I have said, and am continually saying or writing?

Honest Indignation? (62)

I have another letter from Mr. Lovelace. I opened it with the expectation of its being filled with bold and free complaints, on my not writing to prevent his two nights watching, in weather not extremely agreeable. But, instead of complaints, he is ‘full of tender concern lest I may have been prevented by indisposition, or by the closer confinement which he has frequently cautioned me that I may expect.’
He says, ‘He had been in different disguises loitering about our garden and park wall, all the day on Sunday last; and all Sunday night was wandering about the coppice, and near the back door. It rained; and he has got a great cold, attended with feverishness, and so hoarse, that he has almost lost his voice.’
Why did he not flame out in his letter?—Treated as I am treated by my friends, it is dangerous to be laid under the sense of an obligation to an addresser’s patience; especially when such a one suffers in health for my sake.
‘He had no shelter, he says, but under the great overgrown ivy, which spreads wildly round the heads of two or three oaklings; and that was soon wet through.’
You remember the spot. You and I, my dear, once thought ourselves obliged to the natural shade which those ivy-covered oaklings afforded us, in a sultry day.
I can’t help saying, I am sorry he has suffered for my sake; but ’tis his own seeking.
His letter is dated last night at eight: ‘And, indisposed as he is, he tells me that he will watch till ten, in hopes of my giving him the meeting he so earnestly request. And after that, he has a mile to walk to his horse and servant; and four miles then to ride to his inn.’
He owns, ‘That he has an intelligencer in our family; who has failed him for a day or two past: and not knowing how I do, or how I may be treated, his anxiety is increased.’ Continue reading

Our love makes us decline to see you (L59 and 60)

From Letter 59:

I think myself a most unhappy man, in that I have never yet been able to pay my respects to you with youre consent, for one halfe-hour. I have something to communicat to you that concernes you much, if you be pleased to admit me to youre speech. Youre honour is concerned in it, and the honour of all youre familly. It relates to the designes of one whom you are sed to valew more than he desarves; and to some of his reprobat actions; which I am reddie to give you convincing proofes of the truth of. I may appear to be interested in it: but, neverthelesse, I am reddie to make oathe, that every tittle is true: and you will see what a man you are sed to favour. But I hope not so, for your owne honour.
Pray, Madam, vouchsafe me a hearing, as you valew your honour and familly: which will oblidge, dearest Miss,
Your most humble and most faithful servant, ROGER SOLMES.
I wait below for the hope of admittance.

Whatever you have to communicate to me, which concerns my honour, may as well be done by writing as by word of mouth. If Mr. Lovelace is any of my concern, I know not that therefore he ought to be yours: for the usage I receive on your account [I must think it so!] is so harsh, that were there not such a man in the world as Mr. Lovelace, I would not wish to see Mr. Solmes, no, not for one half-hour, in the way he is pleased to be desirous to see me. I never can be in any danger from Mr. Lovelace, (and, of consequence, cannot be affected by any of your discoveries,) if the proposal I made be accepted. You have been acquainted with it no doubt. If not, be pleased to let my friends know, that if they will rid me of my apprehensions of one gentleman, I will rid them of their of another: And then, of what consequence to them, or to me, will it be, whether Mr. Lovelace be a good man, or a bad? And if not to them, nor to me, I see not how it can be of any to you. But if you do, I have nothing to say to that; and it will be a christian part if you will expostulate with him upon the errors you have discovered, and endeavour to make him as good a man, as, no doubt, you are yourself, or you would not be so ready to detect and expose him.
Excuse me, Sir: but, after my former letter to you, and your ungenerous perseverance; and after this attempt to avail yourself at the expense of another man’s character, rather than by your own proper merit; I see not that you can blame any asperity in her, whom you have so largely contributed to make unhappy.

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The Lover’s Imaginary (L58)

I follow my last of this date by command. I mentioned in my former my mother’s opinion of the merit you would have, if you could oblige your friends against your own inclination. Our conference upon this subject was introduced by the conversation we had had with Sir Harry Downeton; and my mother thinks it of so much importance, that she enjoins me to give you the particulars of it. I the rather comply, as I was unable in my last to tell what to advise you to; and as you will in this recital have my mother’s opinion at least, and, perhaps, in hers what the world’s would be, were it only to know what she knows, and not so much as I know.
My mother argues upon this case in a most discouraging manner for all such of our sex as look forward for happiness in marriage with the man of their choice.
Only, that I know, she has a side-view of her daughter; who, at the same time that she now prefers no one to another, values not the man her mother most regards, of one farthing; or I should lay it more to heart.
What is there in it, says she, that all this bustle is about? Is it such a mighty matter for a young woman to give up her inclinations to oblige her friends?
Very well, my mamma, thought I! Now, may you ask this—at FORTY, you may. But what would you have said at EIGHTEEN, is the question?
Either, said she, the lady must be thought to have very violent inclinations [And what nice young creature would have that supposed?] which she could not give up; or a very stubborn will, which she would not; or, thirdly, have parents she was indifferent about obliging.
You know my mother now-and-then argues very notably; always very warmly at least. I happen often to differ from her; and we both think so well of our own arguments, that we very seldom are so happy as to convince one another. A pretty common case, I believe, in all vehement debatings. She says, I am too witty; Angelice, too pert: I, That she is too wise; that is to say, being likewise put into English, not so young as she has been: in short, is grown so much into mother, that she has forgotten she ever was a daughter. So, generally, we call another cause by consent—yet fall into the old one half a dozen times over, without consent—quitting and resuming, with half-angry faces, forced into a smile, that there might be some room to piece together again: but go a-bed, if bedtime, a little sullen nevertheless: or, if we speak, her silence is broken with an Ah! Nancy! You are so lively! so quick! I wish you were less like your papa, child!
I pay it off with thinking, that my mother has no reason to disclaim her share in her Nancy: and if the matter go off with greater severity on her side than I wish for, then her favourite Hickman fares the worse for it next day.
I know I am a saucy creature. I know, if I do not say so, you will think so. So no more of this just now. What I mention it for, is to tell you, that on this serious occasion I will omit, if I can, all that passed between us, that had an air of flippancy on my part, or quickness on my mother’s, to let you into the cool and cogent of the conversation.
‘Look through the families, said she, which we both know, where the man and the woman have been said to marry for love; which (at the time it is so called) is perhaps no more than a passion begun in folly or thoughtlessness, and carried on from a spirit of perverseness and opposition [here we had a parenthetical debate, which I omit]; and see, if they appear to be happier than those whose principal inducement to marry has been convenience, or to oblige their friends; or ever whether they are generally so happy: for convenience and duty, where observed, will afford a permanent and even an increasing satisfaction (as well at the time, as upon the reflection) which seldom fail to reward themselves: while love, if love be the motive, is an idle passion’ [idle in ONE SENSE my mother cannot say; for love is as busy as a monkey, and as mischievous as a school-boy]—’it is a fervour, that, like all other fervours, lasts but a little while after marriage; a bow overstrained, that soon returns to its natural bent.
‘As it is founded generally upon mere notional excellencies, which were unknown to the persons themselves till attributed to either by the other; one, two, or three months, usually sets all right on both sides; and then with opened eyes they think of each other—just as every body else thought of them before.
The lovers imaginaries [her own notable word!] are by that time gone off; nature and old habits (painfully dispensed with or concealed) return: disguises thrown aside, all the moles, freckles, and defects in the minds of each discover themselves; and ’tis well if each do not sink in the opinion of the other, as much below the common standard, as the blinded imagination of both had set them above it. And now, said she, the fond pair, who knew no felicity out of each other’s company, are so far from finding the never-ending variety each had proposed in an unrestrained conversation with the other (when they seldom were together; and always parted with something to say; or, on recollection, when parted, wishing they had said); that they are continually on the wing in pursuit of amusements out of themselves; and those, concluded my sage mamma, [Did you think her wisdom so very modern?] will perhaps be the livelier to each, in which the other has no share.’

I will do justice to everything she said against me (L42)

An angry dialogue, a scolding-bout rather, has passed between my sister and me. Did you think I could scold, my dear? She was sent up to me, upon my refusal to see Mr. Solmes—let loose upon me, I think!—No intention on their parts to conciliate! It seems evident that I am given up to my brother and her, by general consent.
I will do justice to every thing she said against me, which carried any force with it. As I ask for your approbation or disapprobation of my conduct, upon the facts I lay before you, I should think it the sign of a very bad cause, if I endeavoured to mislead my judge.. . .
O child, says she, methinks you are as pleasant to the full as I am: I begin to have some hopes of you now. But do you think I will rob my sister of her humble servant? Had he first addressed himself to me, proceeded she, something might have been said: but to take my younger sister’s refusal! No, no, child; it is not come to that neither! Besides, that would be to leave the door open in your heart for you know who, child; and we would fain bar him out, if possible. In short [and then she changed both her tone and her looks] had I been as forward as somebody, to throw myself into the arms of one of the greatest profligates in England, who had endeavoured to support his claim to me through the blood of my brother, then might all my family join together to save me from such a wretch, and to marry me as fast as they could, to some worthy man, who might opportunely offer himself. And now, Clary, all’s out, and make the most of it.
Did not this deserve a severe return? Do, say it did, to justify my reply.—Alas! for my poor sister! said I—The man was not always so great a profligate. How true is the observation, That unrequited love turns to deepest hate! Continue reading

But the devil’s in this sex! (L34)

I receive, with great pleasure, the early and cheerful assurances of your loyalty and love. And let our principal and most trusty friends named in my last know that I do.
I would have thee, Jack, come down, as soon as thou canst. I believe I shall not want the others so soon. Yet they may come down to Lord M.’s. I will be there, if not to receive them, to satisfy my lord, that there is no new mischief in hand, which will require his second intervention.
For thyself, thou must be constantly with me: not for my security: the family dare do nothing but bully: they bark only at a distance: but for my entertainment: that thou mayest, from the Latin and the English classics, keep my lovesick soul from drooping.
Thou hadst best come to me here, in thy old corporal’s coat: thy servant out of livery; and to be upon a familiar footing with me, as a distant relation, to be provided for by thy interest above—I mean not in Heaven, thou mayest be sure. Thou wilt find me at a little alehouse, they call it an inn; the White Hart, most terribly wounded, (but by the weather only,) the sign: in a sorry village, within five miles from Harlowe-place. Every body knows Harlowe-place, for, like Versailles, it is sprung up from a dunghill, within every elderly person’s remembrance. Every poor body, particularly, knows it: but that only for a few years past, since a certain angel has appeared there among the sons and daughters of men.
The people here at the Hart are poor, but honest; and have gotten it into their heads, that I am a man of quality in disguise; and there is no reining-in their officious respect. Here is a pretty little smirking daughter, seventeen six days ago. I call her my Rose-bud. Her grandmother (for there is no mother), a good neat old woman, as ever filled a wicker chair in a chimney-corner, has besought me to be merciful to her.
This is the right way with me. Many and many a pretty rogue had I spared, whom I did not spare, had my power been acknowledged, and my mercy in time implored. But the debellare superbos should be my motto, were I to have a new one.
This simple chit (for there is a simplicity in her thou wouldst be highly pleased with: all humble; all officious; all innocent—I love her for her humility, her officiousness, and even for her innocence) will be pretty amusement to thee; while I combat with the weather, and dodge and creep about the walls and purlieus of Harlowe-place. Thou wilt see in her mind, all that her superiors have been taught to conceal, in order to render themselves less natural, and of consequence less pleasing.
But I charge thee, that thou do not (what I would not permit myself to do for the world—I charge thee, that thou do not) crop my Rose-bud. She is the only flower of fragrance, that has blown in this vicinage for ten years past, or will for ten years to come: for I have looked backward to the have-been’s, and forward to the will-be’s; having but too much leisure upon my hands in my present waiting. Continue reading

It is no manner of argument that because you would not be in love, you therefore are not (L12)

Indeed you would not be in love with him for the world!—Your servant, my dear. Nor would I have you. For, I think, with all the advantages of person, fortune, and family, he is not by any means worthy of you. And this opinion I give as well from the reasons you mention (which I cannot but confirm) as from what I have heard of him but a few hours ago from Mrs. Fortescue, a favourite of Lady Betty Lawrance, who knows him well—but let me congratulate you, however, on your being the first of our sex that ever I heard of, who has been able to turn that lion, Love, at her own pleasure, into a lap-dog.Well but, if you have not the throbs and the glows, you have not: and are not in love; good reason why—because you would not be in love; and there’s no more to be said.—Only, my dear, I shall keep a good look-out upon you; and so I hope you will be upon yourself; for it is no manner of argument that because you would not be in love, you therefore are not.—But before I part entirely with this subject, a word in your ear, my charming friend—’tis only by way of caution, and in pursuance of the general observation, that a stander-by is often a better judge of the game than those that play.—May it not be, that you have had, and have, such cross creatures and such odd heads to deal with, as have not allowed you to attend to the throbs?—Or, if you had them a little now and then, whether, having had two accounts to place them to, you have not by mistake put them to the wrong one?But whether you have a value for Lovelace or not, I know you will be impatient to hear what Mrs. Fortescue has said of him. Nor will I keep you longer in suspense. . . Continue reading

THIS man is not THE man (L11)

You both nettled and alarmed me, my dearest Miss Howe, by the concluding part of your last. At first reading it, I did not think it necessary, said I to myself, to guard against a critic, when I was writing to so dear a friend. But then recollecting myself, is there not more in it, said I, than the result of a vein so naturally lively? Surely I must have been guilty of an inadvertence. Let me enter into the close examination of myself which my beloved friend advises.
I do so; and cannot own any of the glow, any of the throbs you mention.—Upon my word I will repeat, I cannot. And yet the passages in my letter, upon which you are so humourously severe, lay me fairly open to your agreeable raillery. I own they do. And I cannot tell what turn my mind had taken to dictate so oddly to my pen.
But, pray now—is it saying so much, when one, who has no very particular regard to any man, says, there are some who are preferable to others? And is it blamable to say, they are the preferable, who are not well used by one’s relations; yet dispense with that usage out of regard to one’s self which they would otherwise resent? Mr. Lovelace, for instance, I may be allowed to say, is a man to be preferred to Mr. Solmes; and that I do prefer him to that man: but, surely, this may be said without its being a necessary consequence that I must be in love with him.
Indeed I would not be in love with him, as it is called, for the world: First, because I have no opinion of his morals; and think it a fault in which our whole family (my brother excepted) has had a share, that he was permitted to visit us with a hope. . . Next, because I think him to be a vain man, capable of triumphing (secretly at least) over a person whose heart he thinks he has engaged. And, thirdly, because the assiduities and veneration which you impute to him, seem to carry an haughtiness in them, as if he thought his address had a merit in it, that would be more than an equivalent to a woman’s love. In short, his very politeness, notwithstanding the advantages he must have had from his birth and education, appear to be constrained; and, with the most remarkable easy and genteel person, something, at times, seems to be behind in his manner that is too studiously kept in. Then, good-humoured as he is thought to be in the main to other people’s servants, and this even to familiarity (although, as you have observed, a familiarity that has dignity in it not unbecoming to a man of quality) he is apt sometimes to break out into a passion with his own: An oath or a curse follows, and such looks from those servants as plainly shew terror, and that they should have fared worse had they not been in my hearing: with a confirmation in the master’s looks of a surmise too well justified.
Indeed, my dear, THIS man is not THE man. I have great objections to him. My heart throbs not after him. I glow not, but with indignation against myself for having given room for such an imputation. But you must not, my dearest friend, construe common gratitude into love. I cannot bear that you should. But if ever I should have the misfortune to think it love, I promise you upon my word, which is the same as upon my honour, that I will acquaint you with it. . . . .
Judge me, then, my dear, as any indifferent person (knowing what you know of me) would do. I may be at first be a little pained; may glow a little perhaps to be found less worthy of your friendship than I wish to be; but assure yourself, that your kind correction will give me reflection that shall amend me. If it do not, you will have a fault to accuse me of, that will be utterly inexcusable: a fault, let me add, that should you not accuse me of it (if in your opinion I am guilty) you will not be so much, so warmly, my friend as I am yours; since I have never spared you on the like occasions.

It will all come out to be LOVE (L10)

What odd heads some people have!—Miss Clarissa Harlowe to be sacrificed in marriage to Mr. Roger Solmes!—Astonishing!I must not, you say, give my advice in favour of this man!—You now convince me, my dear, that you are nearer of kin than I thought you, to the family that could think of so preposterous a match, or you would never have had the least notion of my advising in his favour.
Ask for his picture. You know I have a good hand at drawing an ugly likeness. But I’ll see a little further first: for who knows what may happen, since matters are in such a train; and since you have not the courage to oppose so overwhelming a torrent?
You ask me to help you to a little of my spirit. Are you in earnest? But it will not now, I doubt, do you service.—It will not sit naturally upon you. You are your mother’s girl, think what you will; and have violent spirits to contend with. Alas! my dear, you should have borrowed some of mine a little sooner;—that is to say, before you had given the management of your estate into the hands of those who think they have a prior claim to it. What though a father’s!—Has not the father two elder children?—And do they not both bear more of his stamp and image than you do?—Pray, my dear, call me not to account for this free question; lest your application of my meaning, on examination, prove to be as severe as that.
Now I have launched out a little, indulge me one word more in the same strain—I will be decent, I promise you. I think you might have know, that Avarice and Envy are two passions that are not to be satisfied, the one by giving, the other by the envied person’s continuing to deserve and excel.—Fuel, fuel both, all the world over, to flames insatiate and devouring.
But since you ask for my opinion, you must tell me all you know or surmise of their inducements. And if you will not forbid me to make extracts from your letters for the entertainment of my aunt and cousin in the little island, who long to hear more of your affairs, it will be very obliging.But you are so tender of some people who have no tenderness for any body but themselves, that I must conjure you to speak out. Remember, that a friendship like ours admits of no reserves. You may trust my impartiality. It would be an affront to your own judgment, if you did not: For do you not ask my advice? . . . .
You are all too rich to be happy, child. For must not each of you, by the constitutions of your family, marry to be still richer? People who know in what their main excellence consists, are not to be blamed (are they) for cultivating and improving what they think most valuable?—Is true happiness any part of your family view?—So far from it, that none of your family but yourself could be happy were they not rich. So let them fret on, grumble and grudge, and accumulate; and wondering what ails them that they have not happiness when they have riches, think the cause is want of more; and so go on heaping up, till Death, as greedy an accumulator as themselves, gathers them into his garner.
Well then once more I say, do you, my dear, tell me what you know of their avowed and general motives; and I will tell you more than you will tell me of their failings! . . .
The result is this, that I am fitter for this world than you; you for the next than me:—that is the difference.—But long, long, for my sake, and for hundreds of sakes, may it be before you quit us for company more congenial to you and more worthy of you!
Now, my dear, I know you will be upon me with your grave airs: so in for the lamb, as the saying is, in for the sheep; and do you yourself look about you; for I’ll have a pull with you by way of being aforehand. Hannibal, we read, always advised to attack the Romans upon their own territories. Continue reading

What do you think of my prospects? (L9)

Try, my dear, the success of a letter this way; and give me your opinion and advice what to do in this disgraceful situation, as I cannot but call it; and what you think of my prospects; and what you would do in my case.But before-hand I will tell you, that your advice must not run in favour of this Solmes: and yet it is very likely they will endeavour to engage your mother, in order to induce you, who have such an influence over me, to favour him.
Yet, on second thoughts, if you incline to that side of the question, I would have you write your whole mind. Determined as I think I am, and cannot help it, I would at least give a patient hearing to what may be said on the other side. For my regards are not so much engaged [upon my word they are not; I know not myself if they be] to another person as some of my friends suppose; and as you, giving way to your lively vein, upon his last visits, affected to suppose. What preferable favour I may have for him to any other person, is owing more to the usage he has received, and for my sake borne, than to any personal consideration