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LETTERS
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X

 

 
L. STERNE,
LETTERS TO ELIZA (1767),
LETTER IX
ANONYMOUS,
LETTERS FROM ELIZA TO YORICK (1775),
LETTER IX
 

 

 

[48]

I Wish to God, Eliza, it was possible
to postpone the voyage to India for
another year, for I am firmly persuad-
ed within my own breast, that thy hus-
band could never limit thee with re-
gard to time ---

I fear that Mr. B. has exaggerated
matters, --- I like not his countenance,
it is absolutely killing thee --- should
evil befall thee, what will he not have
to answer for --- I know not the being
that will be deserving of so much pity,
or that I shall hate more; he will be
an outcast alien; in which case I will
be a father to thy children my good

                     girl,

[49]

girl, therefore take no thought about
them --- But, Eliza, if thou art so very
ill, still put off all thoughts of return-
ing to India this year --- write to your
husband -- tell him the truth of your
case --- if he is the generous humane
man you describe him to be, he cannot
but applaud your conduct --- I am cre-
dibly informed, that his repugnance to
your living in England arises only
from the dread which has enter'd his
brain, that thou mayest run him in
debt, beyond thy appointments, and
that he must discharge them ---

That such a creature should be sa-
crificed, for the paltry consideration
a few hundreds, is too, too hard!

                     Oh!



[50]

Oh! my child, that I could with
propriety indemnify him for every
charge, even to the last mite, that thou
hast been of to him! With joy would
I give him my whole subsistence, nay, sequester my livings, and trust the
treasures heaven has furnish'd my
head with, for a future subsistence ---

You owe much, I allow, to your
husband; you owe something to ap-
pearances, and the opinion of the
world ; but, trust me, my dear, you
owe much likewise to yourself --- Return
therefore from Deal if you continue
ill: I will prescribe for you gratis.
You are not the first woman by many,
I have done so for with success ---

                     I will


[51]

I will send for my wife and daugh-
ter, and they shall carry you in pursuit
of health to Montpelier, the wells of
Bancer's, the Spaw, or whither thou
wilt; thou shalt direct them, and
make parties of pleasure in what
corner of the world fancy points out
to you.

We shall fish upon the banks of
Arno, and lose ourselves in the sweet
labyrinths of its vallies, and then thou
should'st warble to us, as I have once
or twice heard thee "I'm lost. I'm
lost," but we should find thee again,
my Eliza ---

             E2             Of



[52]

Of a similar nature to this, was
your physician's prescription "ease,
gentle exercise, the pure southern air
of France or milder Naples, with the
society of friendly, gentle beings" ---

Sensible man, he certainly enter'd
into your feelings, he knew the falla-
cy of medicine to a creature, whose
illness has arisen from the affliction of
her mind --- Time only, my dear, I fear
you must trust to, and have your reli-
ance on; may it give you the health
so enthusiastic a votary to the charm-
ing goddess deserves ---

I honour you, Eliza, for keeping
secret some things, which if explain'd

                     had



[53]

had been a panegyric on yourself ---
There is a dignity in venerable affliction
which will not allow it to appeal to the
world for pity or redress --- Well have
you supported that character, my ami-
able philosophic friend! And, indeed,
I begin to think you have as many
virtues, as my uncle Toby's widow ---

I don't mean to insinuate, hussey,
that my opinion is no better founded
than his was of Mrs. Wadman; nor
do I conceive it possible for any Trim
to convince me it is equally fallacious;
I am sure while I have my reason it is
not ---

             E3              Talking



[54]

Talking of widows --- pray, Eliza, if
ever you are such, do not think of
giving yourself to some wealthy nabob,
because I design to marry you my-
self --- My wife cannot live long-- she
has sold all the provinces in France al-
ready, and I know not the woman I
should like so well for her substitute,
as yourself --- 'Tis true, I am ninety
five in constitution, and you but
twenty-five; rather too great a dispa-
rity this! but what I want in youth,
I will make up in wit and good hu-
mour --- Not Swift so lov'd his Stella,
Scarron his Maintenon, or Waller his
Sacharissa, as I will love and sing thee,
my wife elect --- all those names, emi-

                     nent

[55]

nent as they were, shall give place to
thine, Eliza.

Tell me in answer to this, that you
approve and honour the proposal; and
that you would (like the Spectator's
mistress) have more joy in putting on
an old man's slipper, than associat-
ing with the gay, the voluptuous, and
the young --- Adieu, my Simplicia ---


Yours

TRISTRAM.


E4 My

 

 

[48]

MY TRISTRAM,
I WOULD oblige you in any thing
practicable -- with any thing within
the line of duty - but it is impossible
to postpone my voyage - my orders are irrevocable - I must submit.

     Mr. B--- did not exaggerate - but I am
better - my children I therefore hope will
not be orphans - but I thank thee, how-
ever, for the generosity of thy idea con-
cerning them - it was exalted.

     Indeed you have been misinformed
concerning my husband's temper - he is
not of that parsimonious disposition which
you imagine. - If my expenses only were
in question, I might continue to breathe

                     the

[49]

the air of Europe - but more tender con-
siderations urge him to press my return
to India - I am not made a pecuniary sa-
crifice.

     You allow I owe much to my husband
- - I will follow but the dictates of my duty to
discharge that debt-the most sacred
debt of which we know, and contracted
in the most solemn manner.

     I confess much is due to appearances,
and the opinion of the world, yet not to
wrong those appearances, and that opi-
nion - not to take form what is due to
myself, I would, if circumstances permit-
ted, I would indeed turn from Deal to
pay what is due to friendship.

     You should prescribe for me - but not

 G                    cor-

[50]

corporeally - let those do it whose business
it is - let them have their perquisites, and
fatten on the anguish of the valetudinary,
while my Yorick assumed to himself the
noble task of prescribing to the mind,
and eradicating the disorders of the soul -
that is the task he can perform unrival-
ed, and for which heaven particularly de-
signed him, and let his talents to be-
nefit an unsteling - a depraved world.

     May thy wife and daughters be bet-
ter employed, than in administring to
the anguish of thy Indian - may they
be the means and partakers of thy do-
mestic happiness - if they felt as I feel,
they would think every toil a pleasure
which gave thee comfort.

     I cannot think, let physicians prescribe

                     as

[51]


as they please, that change of place
could relieve me - I have tried it from
one side of the globe to another, with-
out success - therefore Britain, and thy
converse would certainly prove as effica-
cious, as the air of France and Naples --
but my continuance here will be impossi-
ble.

     Anguish of the mind, as you justly inti-
mate, perhaps, proceeding from too great
degree of sensibility, and being consti-
tutionally ailing, will, in my case, baf-
fle the prescriptions of the art, and ex-
perience of the most able physicians.

     You say, "There is a dignity in ve-
" nerable affliction, which will not allow
" it to appeal to the world for pity or re-
" dress." - You speak form my heart,

G2                     you

[52]

you have taken my sentiment - oh! may
I never be compelled to seek from
the world, or be so fortunate as to
merit indiscriminate pity.

     If I am pitied - let it be by thee! - Yet
I would not wish thee to pity any thing.

     Thy worthy heart is so tender, that I
am sensible, shoulst thou have occasion
to pity any one, that thy anguish would
be more severe than that felt by the ob-
ject of sensibility. - I would wish none
but the flinty breasted to feel pity, and
they are incapable of it.

     But you grow merry - you ask, If ever
I should become a widow (heaven avert
the hour !) whether I would marry a-
gain? Wether I would give my hand
to some rich Nabob.

                      I

[53]


     I think I never should give my hand
again - as I am afraid my heart would
not go with it. ----- But as to Nabobs, I
despite them all - those who pretend to
be Christians, I mean.

     Have they not depopulated towns --
laid waste villages, and desolated the
plains of my native country? ---- Alas!
They have fertilized the immense fields of
India, with the blood of the inhabitants
-- they have sacrified the lives of mil-
lions of my countrymen to their insati-
able avarice - rivers of blood stream for
vengeance against them - widows and or-
phans supplicate heaven for revenge.

     Then can those spirits, who have
waded through blood, to gain riches and
power, be congenial with the soul of

                     Eliza,

[54]


Eliza, -- could Yorick's hapless Indian
bear the idea of an union with the mur-
derers of her countrymen - no - shame
and poverty be first my portion.

     Riches, as the origin of luxury, and
support of the gaudy trappings of pride,
I contemn. - Gold is beneficial only in
the hands of virtue, when the benevo-
lent hand is extended to petitionary dis-
tress - or when soft-eyed humanity seeks
the cottage of affliction to

     "Shine its superfluity away" --
to diffuse its blessings around, and bid
the tear of joy start from the eye of
sorrow, and trickle down the woe-wan
cheeks that begin to glow with the
warmth of gratitude.

Yes, my Bramin, were I a widow --

                     and

[55]

and thou a widower - I think I would
give my hand to thee, preferable to any
man existing - I would unite in the pu-
rity of heart, with my moniter - I would
wed thy soul - my mind should adopt
thy sentiments, and become congenial
with thy own, and

                                                         (refine
" My rough genius should at length
acquiring worth by imitating time;
with thee I'd wander o'er the historic

                                                         (page,
And view the changing scenes of every age.
Or led by thee, the latest tracts explore
of grave philosophy's extensive lore;
or now reclin'd in the Sylvean bow'r,
with paceful bards, enjoy the blissful

                                                         (hour."
     What matter desparity of years, re-
specting the mortal part; the soul, that

                     ray

[56]

ray of immortality, is always young; and
I am certain, thy soul is more vigorous
than what the generality of mankind can
boast.

     If any part of thee is old, it is the most
insignificant. - The most valuable part is
all the vernal blood of youthful prime.

     A great poet says,
"For love no certain cause can be assign'd
'tis in no face, but in the lover's mind."
     And may not I improve the idea --
may not I say,

                                                 (waste,
Why should one thought on years unequal
love's noy in age, but in the lover's taste;
if time towards the grave the body bring,
the soul shines in all the charm of

                                                  (spring.

                     Then

[57]


Then let not frail corruption touch my                                                                (heart
I claim the soul, and love th'immortal part.


     But rapsody aside - I hope Mrs. St --ne
will out-live every idea of such union
- - you say, She has sold all provinces
in France - I am glad of ot - that she
may sooner purchase the fee simple
of her health in her native air.

     However, I honour thy flipper, and
really prefer it to my association with the
gay, the voluptuous, and the young --
but I would not have Mrs. S----ne put
it off too soon, for the sake of thy do-
mestic happiness.


H

[58]


     Without joking, I am seriously, and
with sincerity, in the utmost purity of
affection, thine most unalterably,


ELIZA.


P.S. My heart will beat with impatience
     for an answer -- be expeditious to ease
     its throbbings,


ELIZA.





 

 
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