Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister, by Aphra Behn

The Argument

In the time of the rebellion of the true Protestant Huguenot in Paris, under the conduct of the Prince of Condé (whom we will call Cesario) many illustrious persons were drawn into the association, amongst which there was one, whose quality and fortune (joined with his youth and beauty) rendered him more elevated in the esteem of the gay part of the world than most of that age. In his tender years (unhappily enough) he chanced to fall in love with a lady, whom we will call Myrtilla, who had charms enough to engage any heart; she had all the advantages of youth and nature; a shape excellent; a most agreeable stature, not too tall, and far from low, delicately proportioned; her face a little inclined round, soft, smooth and white; her eyes were blue, a little languishing, and full of love and wit; a mouth curiously made, dimpled, and full of sweetness; lips round, soft, plump and red; white teeth, firm and even; her nose a little Roman, and which gave a noble grace to her lovely face, her hair light brown; a neck and bosom delicately turned, white and rising; her arms and hands exactly shaped; to this a vivacity of youth engaging; a wit quick and flowing; a humour gay, and an air irresistibly charming; and nothing was wanting to complete the joys of the young Philander, (so we call our amorous hero) but Myrtilla’s heart, which the illustrious Cesario had before possessed; however, consulting her honour and her interest, and knowing all the arts as women do to feign a tenderness; she yields to marry him: while Philander, who scorned to owe his happiness to the commands of parents, or to chaffer for a beauty, with her consent steals her away, and marries her. But see how transitory is a violent passion; after being satiated, he slights the prize he had so dearly conquered; some say, the change was occasioned by her too visibly continued love to Cesario; but whatever it was, this was most certain, Philander cast his eyes upon a young maid, sister to Myrtilla, a beauty, whose early bloom promised wonders when come to perfection; but I will spare her picture here, Philander in the following epistles will often enough present it to your view: He loved and languished, long before he durst discover his pain; her being sister to his wife, nobly born, and of undoubted fame, rendered his passion too criminal to hope for a return, while the young lovely Sylvia (so we shall call the noble maid) sighed out her hours in the same pain and languishment for Philander, and knew not that it was love, till she betraying it innocently to the overjoyed lover and brother, he soon taught her to understand it was love — he pursues it, she permits it, and at last yields, when being discovered in the criminal intrigue, she flies with him; he absolutely quits Myrtilla, lives some time in a village near Paris, called St Denis, with this betrayed unfortunate, till being found out, and like to be apprehended, (one for the rape, the other for the flight) she is forced to marry a cadet, a creature of Philander’s, to bear the name of husband only to her, while Philander had the entire possession of her soul and body: still the League went forward, and all things were ready for a war in Paris; but it is not my business here to mix the rough relation of a war, with the soft affairs of love; let it suffice, the Huguenots were defeated, and the King got the day, and every rebel lay at the mercy of his sovereign. Philander was taken prisoner, made his escape to a little cottage near his own palace, not far from Paris, writes to Sylvia to come to him, which she does, and in spite of all the industry to re-seize him, he got away with Sylvia.

After their flight these letters were found in their cabinets, at their house at St Denis, where they both lived together, for the space of a year; and they are as exactly as possible placed in the order they were sent, and were those supposed to be written towards the latter end of their amours.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31