Angelina, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 1.

“But, my dear Lady Di., indeed you should not let this affair prey so continually upon your spirits,” said Miss Burrage, in the condoling tone of a humble companion —“you really have almost fretted yourself into a nervous fever. I was in hopes that change of air, and change of scene, would have done every thing for you, or I never would have consented to your leaving London; for you know your ladyship’s always better in London than any where else. And I’m sure your ladyship has thought and talked of nothing but this sad affair since you came to Clifton.”

“I confess,” said Lady Diana Chillingworth, “I deserve the reproaches of my friends for giving way to my sensibility, as I do, upon this occasion: but I own I cannot help it. — Oh, what will the world say! What will the world say! — The world will lay all the blame upon me; yet I’m sure I’m the last, the very last person that ought to be blamed.”

“Assuredly,” replied Miss Burrage, “nobody can blame your ladyship; and nobody will, I am persuaded. The blame will all be thrown, where it ought to be, upon the young lady herself.”

“If I could but be convinced of that,” said her ladyship, in a tone of great feeling; “such a young creature, scarcely sixteen, to take such a step! — I am sure I wish to Heaven her father had never made me her guardian. I confess, I was most exceedingly imprudent, out of regard to her family, to take under my protection such a self-willed, unaccountable, romantic girl. Indeed, my dear,” continued Lady Diana Chillingworth, turning to her sister, Lady Frances Somerset, “it was you that misled me. You remember you used to tell me, that Anne Warwick had such great abilities!”—

“That I thought it a pity they had not been well directed,” said Lady Frances.

“And such generosity of temper, and such warm affections!” said Lady Di. —

“That I regretted their not having been properly cultivated.”

“I confess, Miss Warwick was never a great favourite of mine,” said Miss Barrage; “but now that she has lost her best friend —”

“She is likely to find a great number of enemies,” said Lady Frances.

“She has been her own enemy, poor girl! I am sure I pity her,” replied Miss Burrage; “but, at the same time, I must say, that ever since she came to my Lady Di. Chillingworth’s, she has had good advice enough.”

“Too much, perhaps; which is worse than too little,” thought Lady Frances.

“Advice!” repeated Lady Di. Chillingworth: “why, as to that, my conscience, I own, acquits me there; for, to be sure, no young person, of her age, or of any age, had ever more advice, or more good advice, than Miss Warwick had from me; I thought it my duty to advise her, and advise her I did from morning till night, as Miss Burrage very well knows, and will do me the justice, I hope, to say in all companies.”

That I shall certainly make it a principle to do,” said Miss Burrage. “I am sure it would surprise and grieve you, Lady Frances, to hear the sort of foolish, imprudent things that Miss. Warwick, with all her abilities, used to say. I recollect —”

“Very possibly,” replied Lady Frances; “but why should we trouble ourselves to recollect all the foolish, imprudent things which this poor girl may have said? — This unfortunate elopement is a sufficient proof of her folly and imprudence. With whom did she go off?”

“With nobody,” cried Lady Diana —“there’s the wonder.”

“With nobody! — Incredible. — She had certainly some admirer, some lover, and she was afraid, I suppose, to mention the business to you.”

“No such thing, my dear: there is no love at all in the case: indeed, for my part, I cannot in the least comprehend Miss Warwick, nor ever could. She used, every now and then, to begin and talk to me some nonsense about her hatred of the forms of the world, and her love of liberty, and I know not what; and then she had some female correspondent, to whom she used to write folio sheets, twice a week, I believe; but I could never see any of these letters. Indeed, in town, you know, I could not possibly have leisure for such things; but Miss Burrage, I fancy, has one of the letters, if you have any curiosity to see it. Miss Burrage can tell you a great deal more of the whole business than I can; for you know, in London, engaged as I always was, with scarcely a moment ever to myself, how could I attend to all Anne Warwick’s oddities? I protest I know nothing of the matter, but that, one morning, Miss Warwick was nowhere to be found, and my maid brought me a letter, of one word of which I could not make sense: the letter was found on the young lady’s dressing-table, according to the usual custom of eloping heroines. Miss Burrage, do show Lady Frances the letters — you have them somewhere; and tell my sister all you know of the matter, for I declare, I’m quite tired of it; besides, I shall be wanted at the card-table.”

Lady Diana Chillingworth went to calm her sensibility at the card-table; and Lady Frances turned to Miss Burrage, for further information.

“All I know,” said Miss Burrage, “is, that one night I saw Miss Warwick putting a lock of frightful hair into a locket, and I asked her whose it was. —‘My amiable Araminta’s,’ said Miss Warwick, ‘Is she pretty?’ said I. ‘I have never seen her,’ said Miss Warwick; ‘but I will show you a charming picture of her mind!’— and she put this long letter into my hand. I’ll leave it with your ladyship, if you please; it is a good, or rather a bad hour’s work to read it.”

Araminta!” exclaimed Lady Frances, looking at the signature of the letter —“this is only a nom de guerre, I suppose.”

“Heaven knows!” answered Miss Burrage; “but Miss Warwick always signed her epistles Angelina, and her unknown friend’s were always signed Araminta. I do suspect that Araminta, whoever she is, was the instigator of this elopement.”

“I wish,” said Lady Frances, examining the post-mark of the letter, “I wish that we could find out where Araminta lives; we might then, perhaps, recover this poor Miss Warwick, before the affair is talked of in the world — before her reputation is injured.”

“It would certainly be a most desirable thing,” said Miss Burrage; “but Miss Warwick has such odd notions, that I question whether she will ever behave like other people; and, for my part, I cannot blame Lady Diana Chillingworth for giving her up. She is one of those young ladies whom it is scarcely possible to manage by common sense.”

“It is certainly true,” said Lady Frances, “that young women of Miss Warwick’s superior abilities require something more than common sense to direct them properly. Young ladies who think of nothing but dress, public amusements, and forming what they call high connexions, are undoubtedly most easily managed, by the fear of what the world will say of them; but Miss Warwick appeared to me to have higher ideas of excellence; and I therefore regret that she should be totally given up by her friends.”

“It is Miss Warwick who has given up her friends,” said Miss Burrage, with a mixture of embarrassment and sarcasm in her manner; “it is Miss Warwick who has given up her friends; not Miss Warwick’s friends who have given up Miss Warwick.”

The letter from the “amiable Araminta,” which Miss Burrage left for the pervsal of Lady Frances Somerset, contained three folio sheets, of which, it is hoped, the following abridgment will be sufficiently ample to satisfy the curiosity even of those who are lovers of long letters:—

“Yes, my Angelina! our hearts are formed for that higher species of friendship, of which common souls are inadequate to form an idea, however their fashionable puerile lips may, in the intellectual inanity of their conversation, profane the term. Yes, my Angelina, you are right — every fibre of my frame, every energy of my intellect, tells me so. I read your letter by moonlight! The air balmy and pure as my Angelina’s thoughts! The river silently meandering! — The rocks! — The woods! — Nature in all her majesty. Sublime confidante! Sympathizing with my supreme felicity. And shall I confess to you, friend of my soul! that I could not refuse myself the pleasure of reading to my Orlando some of those passages in your last, which evince so powerfully the superiority of that understanding, which, if I mistake not strangely, is formed to combat, in all its Proteus forms, the system of social slavery? With what soul-rending eloquence does my Angelina describe the solitariness, the isolation of the heart she experiences in a crowded metropolis! With what emphatic energy of inborn independence does she exclaim against the family phalanx of her aristocratic persecutors!-Surely — surely she will not be intimidated from ‘the settled purpose of her soul’ by the phantom-fear of worldly censure! — The garnish-tinselled wand of fashion has waved in vain in the illuminated halls of folly-painted pleasure; my Angelina’s eyes have withstood, yes, without a blink, the dazzling enchantment. — And will she — no, I cannot, I will not think so for an instant — will she now submit her understanding, spell-bound, to the soporific charm of nonsensical words, uttered in an awful tone by that potent enchantress, Prejudice? — The declamation, the remonstrances of self-elected judges of right and wrong, should be treated with deserved contempt by superior minds, who claim the privilege of thinking and acting for themselves. The words ward and guardian appal my Angelina! but what are legal technical formalities, what are human institutions, to the view of shackle-scorning Reason! Oppressed, degraded, enslaved, must our unfortunate sex for ever submit to sacrifice their rights, their pleasures, their will, at the altar of public opinion; whilst the shouts of interested priests, and idle spectators, raise the senseless enthusiasm of the self-devoted victim, or drown her cries in the truth-extorting moment of agonizing nature! — You will not perfectly understand, perhaps, to what these last exclamations of your Araminta allude:— But, chosen friend of my heart! — when we meet —— and oh, let that be quickly!-my cottage longs for the arrival of my unsophisticated Angelina! — when we meet you shall know all — your Araminta, too, has had her sorrows — Enough of this! — But her Orlando has a heart, pure as the infantine god of love could, in his most perfect mood, delight at once to wound, and own — joined to an understanding — shall I say it? — worthy to judge of your Araminta’s — And will not my sober-minded Angelina prefer, to all that palaces can afford, such society in a cottage? — I shall reserve for my next the description of a cottage, which I have in my eye, within view of —; but I will not anticipate. — Adieu, my amiable Angelina. — I enclose, as you desire, a lock of my hair. — Ever, unalterably, your affectionate, though almost heart-broken,

“ARAMINTA.

“April, 1800. —Angelina Bower!

“So let me christen my cottage!”

What effect this letter may have on sober-minded readers in general can easily be guessed; but Miss Warwick, who was little deserving of this epithet, was so charmed with the sound of it, that it made her totally to forget to judge of her amiable Araminta’s mode of reasoning. “Garnish-tinselled wands”—“shackle-scorning Reason”—“isolation of the heart”—“soul-rending eloquence”— with “rocks and woods, and a meandering river — balmy air — moonlight — Orlando — energy of intellect — a cottage — and a heart-broken friend,” made, when all mixed together, strange confusion in Angelina’s imagination. She neglected to observe, that her Araminta was in the course of two pages —“almost heart-broken”— and in the possession of —“supreme felicity.”—— Yet Miss Warwick, though she judged so like a simpleton, was a young woman of considerable abilities: her want of what the world calls common sense arose from certain mistakes in her education. — She had passed her childhood with a father and mother, who cultivated her literary taste, but who neglected to cultivate her judgment: her reading was confined to works of imagination; and the conversation which she heard was not calculated to give her any knowledge of realities. Her parents died when she was about fourteen, and she then went to reside with Lady Diana Chillingworth, a lady who placed her whole happiness in living in a certain circle of high company in London. Miss Warwick saw the follies of the society with which she now mixed; she felt insupportable ennui from the want of books and conversation suited to her taste; she heard with impatience Lady Diana’s dogmatical advice; observed, with disgust, the meanness of her companion, Miss Burrage, and felt with triumph the superiority of her own abilities. It was in this situation of her mind that Miss Warwick happened, at a circulating library, to meet with a new novel, called “The Woman of Genius.”— The character of Araminta, the heroine, charmed her beyond measure; and having been informed, by the preface, that the story was founded on facts in the life of the authoress herself, she longed to become acquainted with her; and addressed a letter to “The Woman of Genius,” at her publisher’s. The letter was answered in a highly flattering, and consequently, very agreeable style, and the correspondence continued for nearly two years; till, at length, Miss W. formed a strong desire to see her unknown friend. The ridicule with which Miss Burrage treated every thing, and every idea, that was not sanctioned by fashion, and her total want of any taste for literature, were continually contrasted in Miss Warwick’s mind, with the picture she had formed of her Araminta. — Miss Burrage, who dreaded, though certainly without reason, that she might be supplanted in the good graces of Lady Diana, endeavoured by every petty means in her power, to disgust her young rival with the situation in which she was placed. She succeeded beyond her hopes. Miss Warwick determined to accept of her unknown friend’s invitation to Angelina Bower — a charming romantic cottage in South Wales, where, according to Araminta’s description, she might pass her halcyon days in tranquil, elegant retirement. It was not difficult for our heroine, though unused to deception, to conceal her project from Lady Diana Chillingworth, who was much more observant of the appearance of her protégée in public, than interested about what passed in her mind in private. Miss Warwick quitted her ladyship’s house without the least difficulty, and the following is the letter which our heroine left upon her dressing-table. Under all the emphatic words, according to the custom of some letter-writers, were drawn emphatic lines.

“Averse as I am to every thing that may have the appearance of a clandestine transaction, I have, however, found myself under the necessity of leaving your ladyship’s house, without imparting to you my intentions. Confidence and sympathy go hand in hand, nor can either be commanded by the voice of authority. Your ladyship’s opinions and mine, upon all subjects, differ so essentially, that I could never hope for your approbation, either of my sentiments or my conduct. It is my unalterable determination to act and think upon every occasion for myself; though I am well aware, that they who start out of the common track, either in words or action, are exposed to the ridicule and persecution of vulgar or illiberal minds. They who venture to carry the first torch into unexplored or unfrequented passages in the mine of truth are exposed to the most imminent danger. Rich, however, are the treasures of the place, and cowardly the soul that hesitates! But I forget myself.

“It may be necessary to inform your ladyship, that, disgusted with the frivolity of what is called fashionable life, and unable to live without the higher pleasures of friendship, I have chosen for my asylum the humble, tranquil cottage of a female friend, whose tastes, whose principles have long been known to me: whose genius I admire! whose virtues I revere! Whose example I emulate!

“Though I do not condescend to use the fulsome language of a mean dependant, I am not forgetful of the kindness I have received from your ladyship. It has not been without a painful struggle that I have broken my bonds asunder — the bonds of what is falsely called duty: spontaneous gratitude ever will have full, indisputable, undisputed power over the heart and understanding of

“ANNE-ANGELINA WARWICK.

“P.S. It will be in vain to attempt to discover the place of my retreat. All I ask is to be left in peace, to enjoy, in my retirement, perfect felicity.”

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Last updated Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 13:53