L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by C. S. RANN, OXFORD;
Mess. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Mess. PEARSON
And ROLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Mess. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, September 5, 1789.
What mighty ills have not been done by Woman?
To the Author of the LOITERER.
SIR,YOU have from the beginning of your work, most generously offered protection to the oppressed, and consolation to the unfortunate; may I hope that to the latter you will also distribute your advice: for indeed the writer of this is most thoroughly in want of all you can bestow; an assertion which you will hardly have the boldness to doubt, when I inform you that a Woman and Matrimony (at least the thoughts of it) are the causes of my present complaint.
Little did I think, Mr. Loiterer, two months ago, that it was in the power of Man, I should rather say of Woman, to reduce me from the happy state of thoughtless content to the tormenting solicitude of deliberating without thought, or thinking without resolution. — But I will endeavour to compose my thoughts and arrange my narrative in due disposition, that you may the more easily comprehend the nature of my case, and prescribe to your Patient accordingly.
I am a middle aged Man, perhaps about 35, or perhaps a little more: An inch they say is a good deal in man’s nose, but a year or two is nothing in the age of one, blessed with sound Lungs, and active Limbs.
I inherited from my Father an Estate of about 1000l. a year; to which having been considered as heir ever since the moment of my birth, I was never suffered to waste my time, injure my health, and load my memory, by learning the vocabulary of Dead, or indeed Living Languages. To confess the truth, the chief of my erudition was collected from my Aunt’s Bible, and the most constant objects of my succeeding studies, have been Bartlett’s Farriery, or the Racing Calendar. I shot, I fished, I hunted like other Squires. I was rather good-natured than agreeable, moderately temperate, and only extravagant in Pointers and Horse-flesh.
To pleasures so cheap, and amusements so easily obtained as mine, my Fortune, to which I succeeded at 25, has ever been sufficient, and I had as little to complain of as any Country Gentleman in the Kingdom. Indeed how could it be otherwise; my estate was unencumbered, my constitution unhurt, my person uncontrolled; I was rich, healthy, and unmarried. — I sigh when I look back on such days, and when I reflect that in all probability such days will never return. ‘Tis true my Estate and my Health are still unhurt, it is likewise true that as yet I am unmarried, but how long I may continue so is uncertain; and it is this idea, this continual apprehension of losing my freedom, which disturbs my quiet, and destroys my tranquillity.
About six weeks ago I received a letter from a distant Relation, which contained a pressing invitation to spend a week or two at his house in — Shire. As it was a time of the year when little is to be done in the Sporting way, and as his house was very near C —, which celebrated its Races during the approaching week, I accepted the invitation, and stopping only to see a fine litter of puppies properly weaned, and to inspect the firing of my brown mare, I arrived at my cousin’s house the day before the Races began.
Having slept one night on the road, I finished my journey so early the next morning, that the Ladies of the Family were not quite assembled at the Breakfast-table. My cousin, however, being a man of the world, and a Member of Parliament, gave me a most polite reception, praised my Cattle, (for a drove my own Phaeton) ordered them to be well fed, and taking their Master under his own immediate care, insisted that I should taste some refreshment, Without waiting for the Ladies, “who” (added he with a smile) “are I fancy delayed longer than usual by having called a council to determine on Dresses most suitable for To-morrow night.”
As I had never seen my Cousin’s Daughters, my heart began immediately to beat at the bare mention of a Dance: for as I am naturally shy in Woman’s company, I go into it as little as possible, and as to dancing, I know no more of it than the Dead. — The idea, therefore, of attending Women to a Ball-room, and of being obliged to dance with them whether I would or no, struck such a panic into me, that I could scarcely swallow a cup of Chocolate.
I had not much time, however, to reflect on the intricacy of my present embarrassment, before the Ladies arrived in good earnest.
If Fancy had drawn a scene, not altogether agreeable, the present reality did not mend it one Jot. My Cousin has been a Widower near thirty years, indeed his Wife died in Childbirth; of course the youngest of his two Daughters cannot be a chicken. Whatever ravages, however, Time and London Winters may have made in their Faces and Persons, are abundantly made up by London Dress and London Manners.
They came into the room flounce all at once, and as they rushed through the Door, one of them contrived to hitch her petticoats over a chair so neatly, that in her hurry to disengage herself (poor Creature) she was obliged to shew Legs (I should have said Ankles) as high as the Garter. I was going to blush, only I found she made nothing of it. My Cousin now introduced me, and I made one of my very best bows, which lasted twice as long as their bob courtesy and I thought drew something like a smile from Miss Betsy, the youngest.
The consciousness of my own awkward behaviour was such, that I instantly turned down my eyes, and began sipping my tea with such assiduity that I burnt my mouth most woefully, and I believe have persuaded the company that I had not made a good meal for 24 hours before.
In about five minutes more, I ventured again to lift up my head, and this time I turned my eyes towards Miss B —, for the keenness of Miss Eliza’s observations was too present to my recollections to hazard meeting it a second time.
Miss B — did not seem to have partaken of any share of her Sister’s shrewish looks, on the contrary, when her eyes (by accident) met mine, she smiled, and simpered, and looked down quite modestly, to be sure she did not blush, but they say that the London ladies put something on their cheeks, which you cannot see blushes through. Nor were her conversation and behaviour less pleasing than her looks, for she enquired most kindly after my health, seemed quite sorry that such near relations had not been sooner acquainted, and expressed a great wish of improving the acquaintance. Such civilities from a fine woman, (for indeed, Mr. Loiterer, she is still a fine woman) could not fail of pleasing me, the more particularly as I had been but little used to the attractions of unreserved, yet delicate freedom.
I thought that no tea I had ever tasted was so good as that which I now received from Miss Louisa (for so they call her) and I took large, and repeated drafts of admiration, and souchong, ‘till the clock struck eleven. My Cousin then proposed a walk to me, to take a survey of his late improvements, which to confess the truth, were very considerable, for all the venerable and valuable oaks which I remembered to have seen there thirty years ago, not one was remaining: they had all long since been conveyed to his Majesty’s Dock-yards, for the good of the Nation, and the benefit of their owner. Mr. B —, however, still chose to talk of his timber, and his romantic regard for fine old Trees. “Yes,” (said he) "My neighbour Spendall would make fine havoc of my woods, he would make them crash;" if he did, Mr. Spendall must be an ingenious gentleman, for I take my oath that my cousin’s groves had been most carefully felled down to the strictest letter of the Statute; not a stick was there of twelve inches girth.
“I have now,” said he, changing the conversation, “only one wish remaining, which is to see my girls (he called them girls, Mr. Loiterer) well married before I die. — I might have got them great matches, to be sure; dozens of Lords have been refused — but titles are not what I want — If I knew of any worthy gentleman of a tolerable good Estate, perhaps a thousand a year or so, and contented to live in the country and enjoy domestic happiness, I would be proud to unite him to Louisa to-morrow, I can give her — but no matter for that, she is an excellent young woman, and a fortune in herself.”
You may be sure that this eloquent harangue was not lost upon me, I immediately began to smoke the old Gentleman. “No, (thought I) that cock won’t fight.”
After a stroll of about two hours, we returned to the house, and as the Ladies were busy in making themselves up, a game at Billiards was proposed, and before dinner-time, I had contrived to lose about fifteen guineas at half-a-crown a game and betting on the hazard. — A pretty good price for an Ordinary, and at a private house; but I put a good face on the matter, and eat my soup without saying a word.
It was not ‘till after the first course that I had time to look at the Ladies, in whose appearance three hours duty at the toilet had made a considerable alteration. Their hair no longer hung in matted heaps, half combed through, and half in brown plaister, but by infinite art, and repeated singeing, hung down in natural curls; nor had their complexion suffered a less material change; white and red of the most beautiful and glossy substance, was spread over each feature with true keeping and excellent mellowness. — But above all, their necks (no ladies have bosoms) were considerably altered. They had early in the morning appeared close covered up, and pinned tight under the chin Quakers, but they now shone in all the blaze of undissembled charms. Their handkerchief opened on each side, and left between it a space of at least eight inches, which was occupied, not covered, by a bit of narrow lace, a part of the Ladies dress which I have since heard called a Modesty piece. My Rector asserts that it is so termed, because it is in the only immodest part of a woman’s dress, like lucus a non lucendo; I don’t understand Latin myself, but I am sure it is hardly modesty enough to swear by. But to resume my narrative.
From this moment began the long premeditated attack; all the batteries of ogles, sighs, and smiles, were at once opened against me, which engaged so much of my attention, that I presumed not to eat another mouthful, and being at the same time closely wedged in, between the Curate of the Parish, (who dined with us) and the leg of the table, I might with truth be said to suffer at once, the united horrors of famine and a blockade.
At length Dinner was ended, the Desert cleared, and the Ladies withdrawn.
From this moment my Independence returned, and having prudently swallowed about a bottle of wine, I felt so bold on entering the Drawing room at tea time, that I defied the Devil and all his works, Unhappy boast! No sooner were the tea things removed than a walk was proposed by Miss B —. Her Sister complained of corns, her Father was kindly letting the Curate into the secrets of the Ministry, and in an evil hour was I obliged to attend my cousin in a solitary ramble.
Scarce had we quitted the house than Miss Louise told me that being an excessive bad walker through want of practice, and very fearful of stumbling, she begged for the loan of an Arm. My arm she accordingly took, and in the course of all her frights, and false steps, pinched it so hard and so often, that it is still quite black, and blue, through sheer tenderness.
Our conversation was at first rather constrained. She began upon Literature, and asked me whether or no, I had ever read The Sorrows of Wetter or the new Rousseau; (as I have in the former part of my Letter hinted at the extent of my Studies) I need not say that my answer was in the negative. She proceeded to ask me the same question of other books, to which I was obliged to return the same answer, and indeed by some foolish questions on my side, I soon convinced her that she was flinging Pearls before Swine: on which, she very kindly altered the subject of discourse, arid seemed determined that (if I could not admire her taste, and partake of her pleasure) to admire and partake of mine. She accordingly began talking of Equipage: she admired high Phaetons and loved cropt Greys to distraction. (I always drive cropt Greys, Mr. Loiterer). There was no standing this. I looked at her again and again; my eyes met hers, nor could I take them off. I thought she never looked so much like an Angel. In short, I know not where my passion might have ended, had not the luckiest accident in the world at once roused me from this rapturous dream of fancied bliss, to all the phlegm and cool reflection of sober reality. A sudden puff of wind carried off two luxurious tresses from her beautiful Chignon, and left her (unconscious to herself) in a situation truly ridiculous. The delicate thread of sentiment and affection was broken, never to be united. I walked home as cool, and as quiet, as if I had been really petrified, and during the whole course of my visit, neither said or looked another civil thing. At the ordinary indeed, I got so completely cut, that I made a baddish figure in the country dances, and spilt a glass of Lemonade over my cousin’s train. But she would not be provoked, for when once a woman is determined to get a husband, I find trifling obstacles will not damp her hopes or sour her temper. At the end of the week I arrived safe at Clod Hill, and immediately sat down to give you an account of all my Dangers and Escapes. It has cost me above a week in drawing up this Epistle, (for I am no great scribe) and I hope this consideration among many others, will induce you to give it a candid perusal, and to take under your protection and guidance the unhappy author of it. For indeed my terrors are far from having subsided, for since my return home I have received a letter from Mr. B —, signifying his intention of passing a few days at Clod Hill, in his road to a neighbouring Watering Place, where his Daughters mean to spend some weeks, What can I do, Mr. Loiterer, — what can I do? Here will be time and opportunity, for in my house I must be civil, and with time and opportunity my old Aunt used to say, a Woman might marry any body she liked.
Only consider my situation, unable to fly, and unwilling to contend, I can neither oppose, or give way. Oh! The torture of being loved against one’s will, and being married in spite of one’s self!!
Pity my incoherence, Mr. Loiterer, and compassionate my misfortunes, for added to all the rest, I have lately learnt that a scrofulous complaint has for generations been hereditary in my Cousin’s Family. Is not this too bad?
I am, Dear Sir, Yours, &c.
My friend RUSTICUS’S case is undoubtedly a very hard one, and when I reflect on it, I bless my Stars that I have no maiden Cousins on the verge of 40. But as something must be done, and very soon too, I would submit it to his Judgement whether or no, it would not be better for him to fly the Country at once; and whether or no, if the latter part of his information be true, in so doing he would not "of two Evils choose the least."
*** Two communications from an old and valuable correspondent are received. He is earnestly requested to fulfil his promise of an additional favor as soon as possible.
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