Sir Charles Grandison, by Samuel Richardson

Letter I.

Miss Harriet Byron to Miss Lucy Selby.

Saturday, March 18. Self, my dear Lucy, is a very wicked thing; a sanctifier, if one would give way to its partialities, of actions, which, in others, we should have no doubt to condemn. Delicacy, too, is often a misleader; an idol, at whose shrine we sometimes offer up our sincerity; but, in that case, it should be called indelicnci/.

Nothing, surely, can be delicate, that is not true, or that gives birth to equivocation: yet how was I pleased with Lord and Lady L. and Miss Grandison, for endeavouring to pass me off to good Dr. Bartlett in the light I had no title to appear in! As if my mind, in a certain point, remained to be known; and would so remain, till the gentleman had discovered his.

And are there some situations, in which a woman must conceal her true sentiments? In which it would be thought immodesty to speak out? Why was I born with a heart so open and sincere? But why, indeed, as Sir Charles has said in his letter relating to the Danbys, should women be blamed, for owning modestly a passion for a worthy and suitable object? Is it, that they will not speak out, lest, if their wishes should not be crowned with success by one man, they should deprive themselves of a chance to succeed with another? Do they not propose to make the man they love, happy? And is it a crime to acknow-ledge, that they are so well disposed to a worthy ob — ject? A worthy object, I repeat; for that is what will warrant the open heart. What a littleness is there in the custom that compels us to be insincere? And suppose we do not succeed with a first object, shall we cheat a future lover with the notion that he was the first?

Hitherto I had acted with some self-approbation: I told Mr. Greville, Mr. Fenwick, Mr. Orme, Mr. Fowler, that I had not seen the man to whom I could wish to give my hand at the altar: but when I found my heart engaged, I was desirous Lady D. should know that it was. But yet, misled by this same notion of delicacy, I could think myself obliged to the two sisters, and my lord, that they endeavour-ed to throw a blind over the eyes of good Dr. Bart — lett: when the right measure, I now think, would have been, not to have endeavoured to obtain lights from him, that we all thought he was not commis-sioned to give: or, if we had, to have related to him the whole truth, and not have put on disguises to him; but to have left him wholly a judge of the fit, and the unfit.

And this is love, is it? that puts an honest girl upon approving of such tricks? Begone, love! I banish thee, if thou wouldst corrupt the simplicity of that heart, which was taught to glory in truth.

And yet, I had like to have been drawn into a greater fault; for, what do you think? Miss Grandison had (by some means or other; she would not tell me how) in Dr. Bartlett’s absence on a visit to one of the canons of Windsor, got at a letter brought early this morning from her brother to that good man, and which he had left opened on his desk.

Here, Harriet, said she, is the letter so lately brought, not perhaps quite honestly come at, from my brother to Dr. Bartlett (holding it out to me). You are warmly mentioned in it. Shall I put it where 1 had it? Or will you so far partake of my fault as to read it first?

O, Miss Grandison! said I: and am 1 warmly mentioned in it? Pray oblige me with the perusal of it. And 1 held out my more than half guilty hand, and took it: but (immediately recollecting myself) did you not hint that you came at it by means not honest? Take it again; I will not partake of your fault. But, cruel Charlotte! how could you tempt me so? And I laid it on a chair.’

Read the first paragraph, Harriet. She took it up, unfolded it, and pointed to the first paragraph. Tempter! said I, how can you wish me to imi-tate our first pattern! And down I sat, and put both my hands before my eyes. Take it away, take it away, while yet 1 am mnocent! Dear Miss Grandison, don’t give me cause for self reproach. I will not partake of your ackn^ivlec/gcd fault.

She read a line or two; and then said, Shall I read farther, Harriet? The very next word is your name. 1 will

No, no, no, said I, putting my fingers to my ears. Yet, had you come honestly by it, I should have longed to read it By what means b2

Why, if people will leave their closet-doors open, let them take the consequence.

If people will do so But was it so? And yet, if it was, would you be willing to have your letters looked into?

Well then, I will carry it back Shall I? (holding it out to me) Shall I, Harriet? I will put it where I had it Shall I? And twice or thrice went from me, and came back to me, with a provoking archness in her looks.

Only tell me, Miss Grandison, is there any — thing in it that you think your brother would not have us see? But I am sure, there is, or the obliging Dr. Bartlett, who has shewn us others, would have fa-voured us with communicating the contents of this.

I would not but have seen this letter for half I am worth! O Harriet! there are huch things in it Bo-logna! Paris! Grandison-hall!

Begone, Siren: letters are sacred things. Re-place it Don’t you own, that you came not honestly by it? And yet

Ah! Lucy, I was ready to yield to the curiosity she had raised: but, recollecting myself. Begone, said I: carry back the letter: I am afraid of myself.

Why, Harriet, here is one passage, the contents of which you must be acquainted with in a very little while

I will not be tempted. Miss Grandison. I will stay till it is communicated to me, be it what it will. But you may be surprised, Harriet, at the time, and know not what answer to give to it. You had as good read it Here, take it Was there ever such a scrupulous creature? It is about you and Emily — About me and Emily! O Miss Grandison, what can there be about me and Emily?

And where’s the difference, Harriet, between ask-SIK CHARLES (iRANDISOV. 5 ing rae about the contents, and reading them? But I’ll tell you

No, you shall not: I will not hear the contents. I never will ask you. Can nobody act greatly but your brother? Let you and me, Charlotte, be the better for his example. You shall neither read them, nor tell me of them. I would not be so used myself.

Such praises did 1 never hear of woman! Oh, Harriet! Such praises

Praises, Charlotte! From your brother! O this curiosity! the first fault of our first parent! But I will not be tempted. If you provoke me to ask questions, laugh at rae, and welcome: but I beseech you, answer me not. Dear creature, if you love me, replace the letter; and do not seek to make me mean in my own eyes.

How you reflect upon me, Harriet! But let me ask you. Are you willing, as a third sister, to take Emily into your guardianship, and carry her down with you into Northamptonshire? Answer me that.

Ah! Miss Grandison! And is there such a proposal as that mentioned! But answer me not, I beseech you Whatever proposal is intended to be made me, let it be made: it will be too soon, whenever that is, if it be a disagreeable one.

But let me say, madam (and tears were in my eyes) that I will not be treated with indignity by the best man on earth. And while I can refuse to yield to a thing that I think unworthy of myself (you are a sister, madam, and have nothing either to hope or fear) I have a title to act with spirit, when occasions call for it.

My drar, you are serious Twice madam, in one breath! 1 will not for^:ve you. You ought now to hear that passage read which relates to you and Emily, if you will not read it yourself. B 3

And she was looking for it; I suppose, intending to read it to me.

No, Miss Grandison, said I, laying my spread hand upon the letter; I will neither read it, nor hear it read. I begin to apprehend, that there will be occasion for me to exert all my fortitude; and while it is yet in my power to do a right or a wrong thing, I will not deprive myself of the consciousness of having merited well, whatever may be my lot Ex-cuse me, madam.

I went to the door, and was opening it when she ran to me Dear creature! you are angry with me; but how that pride becomes you! There is a dignity in it that awes me. O Harriet! how infinitely does it become the only woman in the world, that is wor-thy of the best man in it! Only say, you are not an — gry with me. Say that you can and do forgive me.

Forgive you, my Charlotte! I do. But can you say, that you came not honestly by that letter, and yet forgive yourself? But, my dear Miss Grandison, instantly replace it; and do you watch over me, like a true friend, if in a future hour of weakness you shoqld find me desirous to know any of the contents of a. paper so naughtily come at. I own that I had like to have been overcome: and if I had, all the information it would have given me, could never have recompensed me for what I should have suf-fered in my own opinion, when 1 reflected on the means by which I had obtained it.

Superior creature! how you shame me! I will re-place the letter. And I promise you, that if I can — not forget the contents of it myself (and yet they are glorious to my brother) I will never mention any of them to you; unless the letter be fairly communicated to you, and to us all.

I threw my arms about her neck. She fervently teturned the sisterly embrace. We separated; she retiring at one door, in order to go up to replace the letter; 1 at the other, to re-consider all that had passed on the occasion. And I hope 1 shall love her the better for taking so kindly a behaviour so contrary to what her own had been.

Well, but, don’t you congratulate me, my dear, on my escape from my curiosity? I am sure my grandmamma, and my aunt, will be pleased with their girl. Yet it was a hard struggle, I own: in the suspense I am in; a very hard struggle. But though wishes will play about my heart, that I knew such of the contents as it might concern me to know; yet I am infinitely better pleased that I yielded not to the temptation, than I should have been if 1 had. And then, methinks, my pride is gratified in the superiority this lady ascribes to me over herself, whom so lately I thought greatly my superior.

Yet what merit have I in this? Since if I had considered only rules of policy, I should have been utterly wrong, had I yielded to the temptation: for what use could I have made of any knowledge I might have obtained by this means? If any proposal is to be made me, of what nature soever, it must, in that case, have appeared to be quite new to me: and what an affectation must that have oc-casioned, what dissimulation, in your Harriet? And how would a creature, educated as I have been, have behaved under such trials as might have arisen from a knowledge so faultily obtained?

And had I been discovered; had 1 given cause of suspicion, either to Dr. Bartlett, or Sir Charles; I should have appeared as the principal in the fact: it would have been mean to accuse MissGrandison, as the tempter, in a temptation yielded to with my eyes open. And should I not have cast a slur upon that curiosity which Dr. Bartlett before had not re —^1 fused to gratify, as well as shut myself out from all future communications and confidence?

It is very possible, besides, that, unused as I have been to artifice and disguise, I should have betrayed myself; especially had I found any of the contents of the letter very affecting.

Thus you see, Lucy, that policy, as well as rec-titude of manners, justifies me: and in this parti — cular I am an happy girl.

MissGrandison has just now told her sister what passed between us. Lady L. says, she would not have been Miss Grandison, in taking the letter, by what means soever come at; for how, said she, did I know what secrets there might be in it, before I read it? But I think verily, when it kad been got at, and oflPered me, I could not have been Miss Hyron.

And she threw her arms about me; Dear creature, aid she, you vmst be Lady Grandison

Must! said MissGrandison: she shall.

Miss Grandison talked to L^dy L. of its being likely that her brother would go to Bologna: of a visit he is soon to make to Grandison-hall; and she to go with him: of his going to Paris, in order to settle some matters relating to the will of his late friend Mr. Danby

Well, Lucy, my time in town is hastening to its period. Why am I not reminded, that my three allotted months are near expired? Will you receive the poor girl, who perhaps will not be able to carry down with her the heart she brought up? And yet, to go down to such dear friends without it, what an ungrateful sound has that!

Miss Grandison began to talk of other subjects relating to her brother, and that greatly to his praise. I could have heard all she had to say with infinite pleasure. I do love to hear him praised.

But, as I doubted not but these subjects arose from the letter so surreptitiously obtained, I restrained myself, and withdrew.

*

Of what a happy temper is Miss Grandison! She was much affected with the scene that passed between us; but all is over with her already. One lesson upon hei harpsichord sets every-lhing right with her. She has been railiying Lord L with as much life and spirit, as if she had done nothing to be vexed at. Had I been induced by her to read the letter which she got at dishonestly, as she owned, what a poor figure should I have made in my own eyes, for a month to come!

But did she not as soon overcome the mortification given her by her brother, on the detection of Captain Anderson’s affair? How unmercifully did she railly me, within a few hours after! Vet, she has fine quahties. One cannot help loving her I do love her. But is it not a weakness to look M-ith-out abatement of affection on those faults in one person which we should hold utterly inexcusable in another? In Miss Grandison’s case, however, don’t say it is, Lucy. O what a partiality! Yet she has within these few minutes owned, that she thought the step she had taken a faulty one, before she came to me with the letter; and hoped to induce me to countenance her in what she had done.

I called her a little Satan on this occasion. But, after all, what if the dear Charlotte’s curiosity wa more for my sake than her own? No motive of friendship, you will say, can justify a wrong action Why no, Lucy: that is very true; but if you knew Miss Grandison, you would love her dearly.

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