Evelina, by Fanny Burney

Letter xxxix

Mr. Villars to Evelina

Berry Hill, May 28.

WITH a reluctance which occasions me inexpressible uneasiness, I have been almost compelled to consent that my Evelina should quit the protection of the hospitable and respectable Lady Howard, and accompany Madame Duval to a city which I had hoped she would never again have entered. But alas, my dear child, we are the slaves of custom, the dupes of prejudice, and dare not stem the torrent of an opposing world, even though our judgements condemn our compliance! However, since the die is cast, we must endeavor to make the best of it.

You will have the occasion, in the course of the month you are to pass with Madame Duval, for all the circumspection and prudence you can call to your aid. She will not, I know, propose any thing to you which she thinks wrong herself; but you must learn not only to judge but to act for yourself; if any schemes are started, any engagements made, which your understanding represents to you as improper, exert yourself resolutely in avoiding them; and do not, by a too passive facility, risk the censure of the world, or your own future regret.

You cannot too assiduously attend to Madame Duval herself; but I would wish you to mix as little as possible with her associates, who are not likely to be among those whose acquaintance would reflect credit upon you. Remember, my dear Evelina, nothing is so delicate as the reputation of a woman; it is at once the most beautiful and most brittle of all human things.

Adieu, my beloved child; I shall be but ill at ease till this month is elapsed. A.V.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32