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, October 31, 1789.
—— Graves sequitur prudentia canos.
To the AUTHOR of the LOITERER.
SIR,THE good-nature with which you have accepted the communication of your Correspondents, and the attention you have shewn to their several requests, have encouraged me to lay before you the adventures of a Life, whose misfortunes are rather the effect of Folly, than Vice; and whose Follies, if not more pardonable, are at least more singular, than those of other people.
My father, who was descended from a respectable family, obtained at a very early period of life a living of 300 a Year, and immediately after married an amiable young woman, to whom he had been long and tenderly attached: In consequence of which unnatural proceeding all his great relations were so justly incensed against him, that they with one accord pronounced him ruined; and as it would have been useless to assist a ruined man, the left him to shift for himself.
But in spite of their wise predictions, my Father and Mother were obstinate enough to persist in being happy; and as they had no child but myself, and no particular penchant but for the happiness of each other, found their little income sufficient for all their wants, and almost all their wishes. And thus poor but contented, humble but happy, with unextinguished, perhaps increased affection, they slipped quietly through life, remarked only by the small circle of their acquaintance, for their goodness of heart and simplicity of manners Amongst the pleasing occupations of retired life the instruction of a darling Child was not forgotten; to cultivate my taste and improve my heart formed the business of their serious hours, and the amusement of their idle ones; nor is it to be wondered at, if under such instructors, I imbibed, together with an admiration of their Virtues, a strong desire to imitate their example. — The comforts of a sincere friendship, and the luxury of mutual love, were the first ideas I can remember; and at the age of nineteen, I quitted home, and entered the world with a heart beating kindly towards all mankind, and eager to bestow its warmest affections on some deserving and beloved object. With such a disposition, objects are seldom long wanting; and though the circles of Oxford, by the exclusion of female society, deprived me of the power to form the kind of connection I most wished; yet of friends at least I had an ample choice. Various indeed were the intimacies I formed during the first year of my residence at the University, of which some were broken off by the levity of caprice, and others interrupted by the discovery of contrary dispositions; some wore off by absence, and others were dissolved by death; and considering the motives on which most of them were founded, I know not whether the shortness of their duration can be called a disadvantage. Amongst the many connections, however, which accident or whim induced me to form, one alone was deserving of a better appellation.
Charles B —— was indeed every thing, which even my imagination could wish for in a friend, and though our acquaintance at first was the effect of chance, it was soon after the cause of mutual and real regard. — Hardly, perhaps, my equal in parts or information; in judgment and real sense he was infinitely my superior; and this difference of disposition, far from lessening our attachment, greatly increased it, — he was amused by my lively sallies, and I looked up to his judgment with admiration and respect. — Instructed by the conversation, or charmed by the correspondence of this Friend, more than three years passed away, in a state of happiness, which regret for its loss has since taught me the full value of. — In the Summer of the year — a memorable ŀra of my life, it was my fate to become acquainted with a lady of family and fortune much superior to my own, whom I shall call Belinda.
After what I have said of myself, Mr. Loiterer, you will possibly imagine that a moderate share of beauty and elegance, when accompanied by youth and good temper, would have been sufficient to captivate a heart so little disposed to resistance. The lady, however, possessed more, and at this moment, when age, ill-health, and misfortune have long conspired to blunt the finer feelings, when my blood no longer boils with the impetuosity of youth, when my pulse no more throbs with the ardour of expectation, yet even now I must own, that Belinda, both in person and mind, was almost without equal.
Such was Belinda; and when to this account I have added that she passed the Summer at the house of one of our nearest neighbours, where I had frequent opportunities of seeing and admiring her, I scarcely need say, that they were soon productive of one of those really disinterested attachments, of which the sensual and the unfeeling may be perhaps inclined to doubt the existence.
During the commencement of this attachment I felt nothing but pleasure, never once reflecting on the superiority of her rank and fortune, or my own dependant situation, I gave myself wholly up to the enchanting pleasure I found in her company and conversation. Every fresh day brought with it some fresh engagement for a ride or a walk, and when we parted in the evening, I knew I was sure of passing the greater part of the next with her, and that was sufficient: And if the reflection on the difference of our situation sometimes gave me an uneasy moment, I always took care to drive it away by some of those happy delusions, which Lovers, I believe, are never without. I well knew, indeed, had I been possessed of the wealth of the Indies, I should have thought them insufficient for my happiness without her, and therefore expected that she would as cheerfully share a cottage with me as a palace. — But, alas, I deceived myself! — What Belinda might have done had my fortune been equal to her own, I know not; probably, however, she would not have been averse to the connection, Since she always treated me at least as a distinguished friend. But her disposition was naturally turned to gaiety and amusement, and she had mixed so much with the circles of the great, and been so long used to a life of fashion, that she felt herself wholly unequal to make a sacrifice of enjoyments which custom had rendered almost necessary to her, in favour of any man whatever. — She therefore left me at the expiration of the Summer with regret, but not with tenderness, and hastened to London, where she soon after gave her hand to a man of rank superior to herself, whom her friends’ inclination rather than her own pointed out to her. — Though I had all the reason in the world to expect this event, yet when it happened, I was nearly as much hurt as if it had been entirely unlooked for and unlikely. And on my return to Oxford in the Autumn, gave myself up to a melancholy which the company of my Friend might have perhaps been able to dissipate, had I not soon after felt a severer stoke in the sudden loss of my Parents, whom Death, kinder than he usually is in such circumstances, carried off within a few hours of each other.
This was a shock, which in my present state, I was very unable to support; and finding myself thus cut off from almost every thing that was dear to me on earth, I took the extraordinary resolution of sequestering myself for ever from the World, and spending the remainder of my days in some retired spot, where I might indulge in nil the luxury of melancholy, undisturbed by the bustle of the busy, or the levity of the gay. — Into this happy solitude, however, after mature deliberation, and as a particular favour, I determined to admit my friend; but great was my mortification, when, instead of accepting the offer with proper gratitude, he positively refused to have any share in the indulgence of so absurd a whim; and exhausted by turns, all the powers of reason and raillery, to dissuade me from the execution of my plan. — But my determination was too deeply rooted to be altered by either; and his argument had no other effect, than to produce a mutual coolness, which we never afterwards made up.
As I had now reached my twenty-third year, I took Orders, and was lucky enough to obtain a Curacy in the most romantic part of the country of Cumberland. To this place I immediately repaired; and as my limited income would not allow me to commence House-keeper, I was contented to board at the house of a creditable gentleman Farmer. —— And here, for some time, I really felt the happiness I expected; I passed the morning in rambling over that rich and beautiful country, or tracing on paper those scenes with which I was more particularly pleased. — In the evening, I amused myself with reading the few lounging books which I had brought with me from Oxford, and occasionally beguiled the time by those trifling compositions, both in verse and prose, which are rather the effects of leisure than genius. — But after no very long interval these resources began to fail me. The mountains, the lakes, and the woods, were indeed still grand, beautiful, and rich; but I had seen them: — My stock of books were soon exhausted, and where reading gives no supply, composition must soon grow languid. — I now began for the first time in my life, to experience the feel of not knowing what to do with myself, or how to pass away the time, — I laid in bed of a morning, because I had no one employment to call me up; I walked out because I was tired of staying within, and returned home because I had nowhere to go when I was out; — I always wished for dinner, not because I was hungry, but merely for something to do; and have passed many a summer’s afternoon in counting the vibrations of the old family clock, or feeding my landlady’s poultry. — Tired at length of my own company, I was obliged to seek relief in that of others; but to those of the neighbouring Gentlemen, who at my first arrival had appeared willing to shew me civilities, I behaved with so much hauteur and reserve, that I effectually precluded all farther intercourse. I was therefore under the necessity of taking up with such company as I could get, and soon after got into a very respectable society of young Farmers, of whom I was alternately the admiration, and the Butt. — This, however, bad as it may seem, Was but the beginning of my folly. — I am almost ashamed when I tell you, that the sister of one of my new friends, with no other recommendation than youth and a very small share of beauty, (who was weak enough to think that a Poor Curate would make her happier than an opulent Farmer) had attractions sufficient to draw me into such an engagement, as made it impossible to refuse marrying her. — I therefore submitted to my fate, and united myself forever to a woman whom I could neither admire, esteem, or like, without even the violence of passion or the ardour of youth to plead my excuse, In this society, and with no other income than what arises from a Couple of Curacies and the produce of a small Farm, which the few hundred pounds I received with my Cara Sposa helped me to stock, I have now passed ten years; how they have passed you may guess, when I inform you that my wife is both vulgar, vain, extravagant and selfish, a manager and a slut, and that she has made me the happy father of six awkward and ordinary children, who bid fair to inherit her good qualities. — Such is my present situation; and when I look back on my past life, and considered both what I wished to have been, and what I am, I cannot help thinking, that want of judgment is nearly as fatal to our happiness as want of virtue. Since without the indulgence of any criminal passion, or the commission of any glaring fault, I have by means, neither uncommon or unlikely, drawn myself into a situation exactly the reverse of what I had been ambitious of obtaining, only from giving way to Feelings, which it was my duty to repress, and glorying in a weakness which I ought to have been ashamed of.
That the too great indulgence of romantic ideas is by no means the fault of the present age, I will readily allow; it is therefore only the more dangerous to the few who possess them. Since the opposition, and even the raillery of the world will encourage them in their Enthusiasm, by gratifying their vanity. I will therefore desire you to inform the younger part of your Readers, that they whom an early disgust with the world may induce (like the Writer of this Letter) to seek happiness in retirement, will find more sorrows than they leave behind them. Since an active life must at worst be a continual mixture of pain and pleasure, hope and fear, vexation and enjoyment; whereas a life of solitude can at best have no other claim to happiness, than exemption from actual misery, and will probably be a life of languor, disappointment, and disgust.
I am, Sir, Yours, &c.
N. B. This Work will be sold by Messrs. Prince and Cooke; to whom our Correspondents are requested to direct their communications.
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