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April 2, 1748.
The late great Demand for the FORTUNATE FOUNDLINGS, occasioning it to be out of Print sooner than was expected; this is to advertise the Public, that a new Edition of that Book is now in the Press, and will be published the Beginning of next Month.
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LIFE's PROGRESS THROUGH THE PASSIONS:
OR, THE ADVENTURES OF NATURA.
By the Author of The FORTUNATE FOUNDLINGS.
LONDON: Printed by T. Gardner, and Sold at his Printing-Office, at Cowley's Head, opposite St. Clement's Church, in the Strand. M,DCC,XLVIII.
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Just Published by T. Gardner,
In Four Beautiful Pocket Volumes, (Price Twelve Shillings bound.) Correctly printed from the Octavo Edition, (With New Engraved Frontispieces,)
The FEMALE SPECTATOR, COMPLEAT.
'The great Encomiums bestowed on this Work by some of the most distinguished Judges, have been so frequently inserted in all the public Papers, that it is presumed no one can be unacquainted with them, and therefore are thought needless here to be particularized: But that so useful a Work may be more universally read, (especially by the younger and politer Sort of Ladies, for whom it is more peculiarly adapted,) it is now printed in the above-mentioned Size, which will be less cumbersome to them, and the Expence being reduced to one half of what the Octavo Edition sells at, it may be more easily purchased The great Encomiums bestowed on this Work by some of the most distinguished Judges, have been so frequently inserted in all the public Papers, that it is presumed no one can be unacquainted with them, and therefore are thought needless here to be particularized: But that so useful a Work may be more universally read, (especially by the younger and politer Sort of Ladies, for whom it is more peculiarly adapted,) it is now printed in the above-mentioned Size, which will be less cumbersome to them, and the Expence being reduced to one half of what the Octavo Edition sells at, it may be more easily purchased'
The above Work is printed in a larger Letter, in Octavo, Price 1l. 4s. bound.
INTRODUCTION, Page 1.
BOOK the First.
Shews, in the example of Natura, how from our very birth, the passions, to which the human soul is incident, are discoverable in us; and how far the organs of sense, or what is called the constitution, has an effect over us, Page 4.
Contains some proofs by what swift degrees the passions gain an ascendant over the mind, and grow up in proportion with our reason, Page 7.
The early influence which the difference of sex excites, is here exemplified, in the fond, but innocent affection of Natura and Delia, Page 21.
Shews, that till we arrive at a certain age, the impressions made on us are easily erased; and also that when those which bear the name of love are once rooted in the mind, there are no lengths to which we may not be transported by that passion, if great care is not taken to prevent its getting the ascendant over reason, Page 27.
That to indulge any one fault, brings with it the temptation of committing others, is demonstrated by the behaviour of Natura, and the misfortunes and disgrace, which an ill-judged shame had like to have involved him in, Page 39.
Shews the great force of natural affection, and the good effects it has over a grateful mind, Page 51.
BOOK the Second.
The inconsideration and instability of youth, when unrestrained by authority, is here exemplified, in an odd adventure Natura embarked in with two nuns, after the death of his governor, Page 63.
The pleasures of travelling described, and the improvement a sensible mind may receive from it: with some hints to the censorious, not to be too severe on errors, the circumstances of which they are ignorant of, occasioned by a remarkable instance of an involuntary slip of nature, Page 99.
The uncertainty of human events displayed in many surprizing turns of fortune, which befel Natura, on his endeavouring to settle himself in the world: with some proofs of the necessity of fortitude, as it may happen that actions, excited by the greatest virtue, may prove the source of evil, both to ourselves and others, Page 108.
The power of fear over a mind, weak either by nature, or infirmities of body: The danger of its leading to despair, is shewn by the condition Natura was reduced to by the importunities of priests of different perswasions. This chapter also demonstrates, the little power people have of judging what is really best for them, and that what has the appearance of the severest disappointment, is frequently the greatest good, Page 135.
Shews that there is no one human advantage to which all others should be sacrificed:—the force of ambition, and the folly of suffering it to gain too great an ascendant over us:—public grandeur little capable of atoning for private discontent; among which jealousy, whether of love or honour, is the most tormenting, Page 154.
BOOK the Third.
Shews in what manner anger and revenge operate in the mind, and how ambition is capable of stifling both, in a remarkable instance, that private injuries, how great soever, may seem of no weight, when public grandeur requires they should be looked over, Page 168.
Shews at what age men are most liable to the passion of grief: the impatience of human nature under affliction, and the necessity there is of exerting reason, to restrain the excesses it would otherwise occasion, Page 178.
The struggles which different passions occasion in the human breast, are here exemplified; and that there is no one among them so strong, but may be extirpated by another, excepting revenge, which knows no period, but by gratification, Page 185.
Contains a further definition of revenge, its force, effects, and the chasm it leaves on the mind when once it ceases. The tranquility of being entirely devoid of all passions; and the impossibility for the soul to remain in that state of inactivity is also shewn; with some remarks on human nature in general, when left to itself, Page 190.
Contains a remarkable proof, that tho' the passions may operate with greater velocity and vehemence in youth, yet they are infinitely more strong and permanent, when the person is arrived at maturity, and are then scarce ever eradicated. Love and friendship are then, and not till then, truly worthy of the names they bear; and that the one between those of different sexes, is always the consequence of the other, Page 206.
How the most powerful emotions of the mind subside, and grow weaker in proportion as the strength of the body decays, is here exemplified; and that such passions as remain after a certain age, are not properly the incentives of nature but of example, long habitude, or ill humour, Page 224.
LIFE's PROGRESS THROUGH THE PASSIONS.
I have often heard it observed by the readers of biography, that the characters are generally too high painted; and that the good or bad qualities of the person pretended to be faithfully represented, are displayed in stronger colours than are to be found in nature. To this the lovers of hyperbole reply, that virtue cannot be drawn too beautiful, nor vice too deformed, in order to excite in us an ambition of imitating the one, and a horror at the thoughts of becoming any way like the other.—The argument at first, indeed, seems to have some weight, as there is nothing, not even precept itself, which so greatly contributes whether to rectify or improve the mind, as the prevalence of example: but then it ought to be considered, that if the pattern laid down before us, is so altogether angelic, as to render it impossible to be copied, emulation will be in danger of being swallowed up in an unprofitable admiration; and, on the other hand, if it appears so monstrously hideous as to take away all apprehensions of ever resembling it, we might be too apt to indulge ourselves in errors which would seem small in comparison with those presented to us.—There never yet was any one man, in whom all the virtues, or all the vices, were summed up; for, though reason and education may go a great way toward curbing the passions, yet I believe experience will inform, even the best of men, that they will sometimes launch out beyond their due bounds, in spite of all the care can be taken to restrain them; nor do I think the very worst, and most wicked, does not feel in himself, at some moments, a propensity to good, though it may be possible he never brings it into practice; at least, this was the opinion of the antients, as witness the poet's words:
All men are born with seeds of good and ill; And each shoot forth, in more or less degree: One you may cultivate with care and skill, But from the other ne'er be wholly free.
The human mind may, I think, be compared to a chequer-work, where light and shade appear by turns; and in proportion as either of these is most conspicuous, the man is alone worthy of praise or censure; for none there are can boast of being wholly bright.
I believe by this the reader will be convinced he must not expect to see a faultless figure in the hero of the following pages; but to remove all possibility of a disappointment on that score, I shall farther declare, that I am an enemy to all romances, novels, and whatever carries the air of them, tho' disguised under different appellations; and as it is a real, not fictitious character I am about to present, I think myself obliged, for the reasons I have already given, as well as to gratify my own inclinations, to draw him such as he was, not such as some sanguine imaginations might with him to have been.
I flatter myself, however, that truth will appear not altogether void of charms, and the adventures I take upon me to relate, not be less pleasing for being within the reach of probability, and such as might have happened to any other as well as the person they did.—Few there are, I am pretty certain, who will not find some resemblance of himself in one part or other of his life, among the many various and surprizing turns of fortune, which the subject of this little history experienced, as also be reminded in what manner the passions operate in every stage of life, and how far the constitution of the outward frame is concerned in the emotions of the internal faculties.
These are things surely very necessary to be considered, and when they are so, will, in a great measure, abate that unbecoming vehemence, with which people are apt to testify their admiration, or abhorrence of actions, which it very often happens would lose much of their eclat either way, were the secret springs that give them motion, seen into with the eyes of philosophy and reflection.
But this will be more clearly understood by a perusal of the facts herein contained, from which I will no longer detain in the attention of my reader.
BOOK the First.
Shews, in the example of Natura, how from our very birth, the passions, to which the human soul is incident, are discoverable in us; and how far the organs of sense, or what is called the constitution, has an effect over us.
The origin of Natura would perhaps require more time to trace than the benefit of the discovery would attone for: it shall therefore suffice to say, that his ancestors were neither of the highest rank:—that if no extraordinary action had signalized the names of any of them, so none of them had been guilty of crimes to entail infamy on their posterity: and that a moderate estate in the family had descended from father to son for many generations, without being either remarkably improved or embezzled.—His immediate parents were in very easy circumstances, and he being their first son, was welcomed into the world with a joy usual on such occasions.—I never heard that any prodigies preceded or accompanied his nativity; or that the planets, or his mother's cravings during her pregnancy, had sealed him with any particular mark or badge of distinction: but have been well assured he was a fine boy, sucked heartily of his mother's milk, and what they call a thriving child. His weaning, I am told, was attended by some little ailments, occasioned by his pining after the food to which he had been accustomed; but proper means being found to make him lose the memory of the breast, he soon recovered his flesh, increased in strength, and could go about the room at a year and some few months old, without the help of a leading-string.
Hitherto the passions, those powerful abettors, I had almost said sole authors of all human actions, operated but faintly, and could shew themselves only in proportion to the vigour of the animal frame. Yet latent as they are, an observing eye may easily discover them in each of their different propensities, even from the most early infancy. The eyes of Natura on any new and pleasing object, would denote by their sparkling a sensation of joy:—Fear was visible in him by clinging to his nurse, and endeavouring to bury himself as it were in her bosom, at the sound of menaces he was not capable of understanding:—That sorrow has a place among the first emotions of the soul, was demonstrable by the sighs which frequently would heave his little heart, long before it was possible for him either to know or to imagine any motives for them:—That the seeds of avarice are born with us, by the eagerness with which he catched at money when presented to him, his clinching it fast in his hand, and the reluctance he expressed on being deprived of it:—That anger, and impatience of controul, are inherent to our nature, might be seen in his throwing down with vehemence any favourite toy, rather than yield to resign it; and that spite and revenge are also but too much so, by his putting in practice all such tricks as his young invention could furnish, to vex any of the family who had happened to cross him:—Even those tender inclinations, which afterwards bear the name of amorous, begin to peep out long before the difference of sex is thought on; as Natura proved by the preference he gave the girls over the boys who came to play with him, and his readiness to part with any thing to them.
In a word, there is not one of all the various emotions which agitate the breast in maturity, that may not be discerned almost from the birth, hope, jealousy, and despair excepted, which, tho' they bear the name in common with those other more natural dispositions of the mind, I look upon rather as consequentials of the passions, and arising from them, than properly passions themselves: but however that be, it is certain, that they are altogether dependant on a fixation of ideas, reflection, and comparison, and therefore can have no entrance in the soul, or at least cannot be awakened in it, till some degree of knowledge is attained.
Thus do the dispositions of the infant indicate the future man; and though we see, in the behaviour of persons when grown up, so vast a difference, yet as all children at first act alike, I think it may be reasonably supposed, that were it not for some change in the constitution, an equal similitude of will, desires, and sentiments, would continue among us through maturity and old age; at least I am perfectly perswaded it would do so, among all those who are born in the same climate, and educated in the same principles: for whatever may be said of a great genius, and natural endowments, there is certainly no real distinction between the soul of the man of wit and the ideot; and that disproportion, which we are apt to behold with so much wonder, is only in fact occasioned by some or other of those innumerable and hidden accidents, which from our first coming into the world, in a more or less degree, have, an effect upon the organs of sense; and they being the sole canals through which the spirit shews itself, according as they happen to be extended, contracted, or obstructed, the man must infallibly appear.
Contains some proofs by what swift degrees the passions gain an ascendant over the mind, and grow up in proportion with our reason.
Natura had no sooner quitted the nursery, than he was put under the direction of the school, to which at first he was every day conducted either by a man or maid-servant; but when thought big enough to be trusted alone, would frequently play the truant, for which he generally received the discipline necessary on such occasions.—He took his learning notwithstanding as well as could be expected;—he had read the testament through at five years old, about seven was put into Latin, and began the rudiments of Greek before he had attained the age of nine.
As his understanding increased, the passions became stronger in proportion: and here is to be observed the wonderful wisdom of nature, or rather of the Great Author of nature, in the formation of the human system, that the passions given to us, especially those of the worst sort, are, for the most part, such opposites, that the one is a sufficient check upon the other.—The pride of treating those beneath us with contempt, is restrained by the fear of meeting the same usage from those above us.—A sordid covetousness is controlled by ostentation.—Sloth is roused by ambition, and so of the rest.—I have been told that when Natura, by the enticements of his companions, and his own eagerness to pursue the sports suitable to his years, had been drawn in to neglect his studies, he had often ran home on a sudden, and denied himself both food and sleep, till he had not only finished the task assigned him by his school-master, but also exceeded what was expected from him, instigated by the ambition of praise, and hope of being removed to a higher form.—But at other times again his love of play has rendered him totally forgetful of every thing besides, and all emulation in him absorbed in pleasure.—Thus hurried, as the different propensities prevailed, from one extreme to the other;—never in a medium, but always doing either more or less than was required of him.
In like manner was his avarice moderated by his pity;—an instance of which was this;—One morning having won at chuck-farthing, or some such game, all the money a poor boy was master of, and which he said had been given him to buy his breakfast, Natura was so much melted at his tears and complaints, that he generously returned to him the whole of what he had lost.—Greatly is it to be wished, the same sentiments of compassion would influence some of riper years, and make them scorn to take the advantage chance sometimes affords of ruining their fellow-creatures; but the misfortune is, that when we arrive at the state of perfect manhood, the worst passions are apt to get the better of the more noble, as the prospect they present is more alluring to the eye of sense: all men (as I said before) being born with the same propensities, it is virtue alone, or in other words, a strict morality, which prevents them from actuating alike in all.—But to return to the young Natura.
He was scarce ten years old when his mother died; but was not sensible of the misfortune he sustained by the loss of her, though, as it afterwards proved, was the greatest could have happened to him: the remembrance of the tenderness with which she had used him, joined to the sight of all the family in tears, made him at first indeed utter some bitter lamentations; but the thoughts of a new suit of mourning, a dress he had never yet been in, soon dissipated his grief, and the sight of himself before the great glass, in a habit so altogether strange, and therefore pleasing to him, took off all anguish for the sad occasion.—So early do we begin to be sensible of a satisfaction in any thing that we imagine is an advantage to our persons, or will make us be taken notice of.—How it grows up with us, and how difficult it is to be eradicated, I appeal even to those of the most sour and cynical disposition.
Mr. Dryden admirably describes this propensity in human nature in these lines:
Men are but children of a larger growth, Our appetites as prone to change as theirs, And full as craving too, and full as vain.
A fondness for trifles is certainly no less conspicuous in age than youth; and we daily see it among persons of the best understanding, who wholly neglect every essential to real happiness in the pursuit of those very toys which children cry to be indulged in; even such as a bit of ribband, or the sound of a monosyllable tacked to the name; without considering that those badges of distinction, like bells about an ideot's neck, frequently serve only to render their folly more remarkable, and expose them to the contempt of the lookers on, who perhaps too, as nature is the same in all, want but the same opportunity to catch no less eagerly at the tawdry gewgaw.
Natura felt not the loss of his dear mother, till he beheld another in her place. His father entered into a second marriage before much more than half his year of widowhood was expired, with a lady, who, though pretty near his equal in years, had yet remains enough of beauty to render her extremely vain and affected, and fortune enough to make her no less proud.—These two qualities occasioned Natura many rebuffs, to which he had not been acoustomed, and he felt them the more severely, as the name of mother had made him expect the same proofs of tenderness from this, who had the title, as he had remembered to have received from her who had been really so.
He endeavoured at first to insinuate himself into her favour by all those little flattering artifices which are so becoming in persons of his tender years, and which never fail to make an impression on a gentle and affable disposition; but finding his services not only rejected, but also rejected with scorn and moroseness, his spirit was too great to continue them for any long time; and all the assiduity he had shewn to gain her good-will, was on a sudden converted into a behaviour altogether the reverse: he was sure to turn the deaf ear to all the commands she laid upon him, and so far from doing any thing to please her, he seemed to take a delight in vexing her. This occasioning many complaints to his father, drew on him very severe chastisements both at home and abroad; but though while the smart remained, he made many promises of amendment in this point, the hatred he had now conceived against her, would not suffer him to keep them.
His sister, who was five years older than himself, and a girl of great prudence, took a good deal of pains to convince him how much it was both his interest and his duty to pay all manner of respect to a lady whom their father had thought fit to set over them; but all she could say on that head was thrown away, and he still replied, that since he could not make her love him, he should always hate her.
This young lady had perhaps no less reason than her brother to be dissatisfied with the humour of their stepmother; and it was only the tender affection she had for him which made her feign a contentment at the treatment both of them received, in order to keep him within any manner of bounds.
It may be reckoned among the misfortunes of Natura, that he so soon lost the benefit of these kind remonstrances: his fair adviser having a considerable fortune, independent on her father, left her by a grandmother, who had also answered for her at the font, was courted by a gentleman, to whom neither herself nor family having any thing to object, she became a bride in a very few months, and went with her husband to a seat he had at a considerable distance in the country.
This poor youth was now without any one, either to prevent him from doing a fault, or to conceal it when committed; on the contrary, his mother-in-law, having new-modelled all the family, and retained only such servants as thought it their duty to study nothing but to humour her, every little error in him was exaggerated, and he was represented to his father as incorrigible, perverse, and all that is disagreeable in nature.
I will not take upon me to determine whether, or not, the old gentleman had altogether so ill an opinion of his son, as they endeavoured to inspire him with; but it is certain, that whatever his thoughts were on the matter, he found himself obliged for a quiet life to use him with a good deal of severity, which, either because he believed it unjust, or that it was disagreeable to his own disposition, he grew very weary of in a short time, and to put an end to it, resolved to send the child to a boarding-school, tho' he had always declared against that sort of education, and frequently said, that though these great schools might improve the learning, they were apt to corrupt the morals of youth.
Finding himself, however, under a kind of necessity for so doing, nothing remained but the choice of a convenient place. The wife proposed some part of Yorkshire, not only as the cheapest, but also that by reason of the distance, she should not have the trouble of him at home in the holidays; but to this it was not in her power to prevail on his father to consent, and after many disputes between them on it, Eton was at length pitched upon.
Natura heard of his intended removal with a perfect indifference:—if the thoughts of parting from his father gave him any pain, it was balanced by those of being eased of the persecuting of his stepmother; but when all things were prepared for his journey, in which he was to be accompanied by an old relation, who was to give the necessary charge with him to those into whose care he should be committed, he was taken suddenly ill on the very day he had been to take leave of his kindred, and other friends in town.
His distemper proved to be the small-pox, but being of a very favourable sort, he recovered in a short time, and lost nothing of his handsomeness by that so-much-dreaded enemy to the face: there remained, however, a little redness, which, till intirely worn off, it was judged improper he should be sent where it was likely there might be many young gentlemen, who having never experienced the same, would take umbrage at the sight.
During the time of his indisposition he had been attended by an old nurse, who had served in the same quality to his mother, and several others of her family.—The tenderness this good creature shewed to him, and the care she took to humour him in every thing, not only while he continued in a condition, in which it might have been dangerous to have put his spirits into the least agitation, but after he was grown well enough to walk abroad, had made him become extremely pettish and self-willed; which shews, that an over-indulgence to youth, is no less prejudicial, than too much austerity.—Happy is it for those who are brought up in a due proportion between these two extremes; for as nature will be apt to fall into a dejection, if pressed down with a constant, and uninterrupted severity, so it will infallibly become arrogant and assuming, if suffered always to pursue its own dictates.—Nothing is more evident, than that most of the irregularities we see practised in the world, are owing originally to a want of the medium I have been speaking of, in forming the mind while it is pliable to impression.
This was not, however, the case of Natura; and though he would doubtless have been what we call a spoiled child, had he been for any length of time permitted to do just what he pleased, yet the nurse being discharged, he fell again under the jurisdiction of his mother-in-law, who had now more excuse than ever for treating him with severity.
His father did not want understanding, but was a good deal more indolent than befits a parent.—He had always been accustomed to live at ease, and his natural aversion to all kinds of trouble, made him not inspect into the manners or temperament of his son, with that care he ought to have done. Whenever any complaints were made concerning his behaviour, he would chide, and sometimes beat him, but seldom examined how far he really merited those effects rather of others resentment than his own. Sometimes he would ask him questions on his progress in learning, and praise or dispraise, as he found occasion; but he never discoursed with him on any other topics, nor took any pleasure in instructing him in such things as are not to be taught in schools, but which much more contribute to enlarge the mind; so that had not Natura's own curiosity led him to examine into the sources, first causes, and motives of what he was obliged to read, he would have reaped no other benefit from his Greek and Latin authors, than meerly the knowledge of their language.
Here I cannot help taking notice, that whatever inconveniences it may occasion, curiosity is one of the greatest advantages we receive from nature; it is that indeed from which all our knowledge is derived.—Were it not for this propensity in ourselves, the sun, the moon, and all the darling constellations which adorn the hemisphere, would roll above our heads in vain: contented to behold their shine, and feel their warmth, but ignorant of their motion and influence on all beneath, half that admiration due to the Divine Architect, would lye dormant in us.—Did not curiosity excite us to examine into the nature of vegetables, their amazing rise, their progress, their deaths and resurrections in the seasons allotted for these alternatives, we should enjoy the fruits of the earth indeed, but enjoy them only in common with the animals that feed upon it, or perhaps with less relish than they do, as it is agreed their organs of sensation have a greater share of poignancy than ours.—What is it but curiosity which renders study either pleasing or profitable to us?—The facts we read of would soon slip through the memory, or if they retained any place in it, could be of little advantage, without being acquainted with the motives which occasioned them. By curiosity we examine, by examining we compare, and by comparing we are alone enabled to form a right judgment, whether of things or persons.
We are told indeed of many jealousies, discontents, and quarrels, which have been occasioned by this passion, among those who might otherwise have lived in perfect harmony; and a man or woman, who has the character of being too inquisitive, is shunned as dangerous to society.—But what commendable quality is there that may not be perverted, or what virtue whose extreme does not border on a vice?—Even devotion itself should have its bounds, or it will launch into bigotry and enthusiasm;—love, the most generous and gentle of all the passions, when ill-placed, or unprescribed, degenerates into the very worst;—justice may be pursued till it becomes cruelty;—emulation indulged till it grows up to envy;—frugality to the most sordid avarice; and courage to a brutal rashness;—and so I am ready to allow that curiosity, from whence all the good in us originally arises, may also be productive of the greatest mischiefs, when not, like every other emotion of the soul, kept within its due limits, and suffered to exert itself only on warrantable objects.
It should therefore be the first care of every one to regulate this propensity in himself, as well as of those under whose tuition he may happen to be, whether parents or governors.—Nature, and the writings of learned men, who from time to time have commented on all that has happened in nature, certainly afford sufficient matter to gratify the most enquiring mind, without descending to such mean trifling inquisitions, as can no way improve itself, and may be of prejudice to others.
I have dwelt the longer on this head, because it seems to me, that on the well, or ill direction of that curiosity, which is inherent to us all, depends, in a great measure, the peace and happiness of society.
Natura, like all children, uncircumscribed by precept, had not only a desire of prying into those things which it was his advantage to know, but also into those which he had much better have been totally ignorant of, and which the discovery of his being too well skilled in, frequently occasioned him much ill will, especially when he was found to have too far dived into those little secrets which will ever be among servants in large families. But reason was not ripe enough in him to enable him to distinguish between what were proper subjects for the exercise of this passion, and what were not so.
That impediment, however, which had hitherto retarded his departure being removed, he now set out for Eton, under the conduct of the abovementioned kinsman, who placed him in a boarding-house very near the school, and took his leave, after having given him such admonitions as he thought necessary for a person of his years, when more intrusted to himself than he before had been.
But Natura was not yet arrived at an age wherein it could be expected he should reap much benefit from advice. A settled resolution, and the power of judging what is our real interest to do, are the perfections of maturity, and happy is it for the few who even then attain them.—Precept must be constantly and artfully instilled to make any impression on the mind, and is rarely fixed there, till experience confirms it; therefore, as both these were wanting to form his behaviour, what could be hoped from it, but such a one as was conformable to the various passions which agitate human nature, and which every day grow stronger in us, at least till they have attained a certain crisis, after which they decay, in proportion as they increased.
As wrath is one of the most violent emotions of the soul, so I think it is one of the first that breaks out into effects: it owes its birth indeed to pride; for we are never angry, unless touched by a real, or imaginary insult; but, by the offspring chiefly is the parent seen. Pride seldom, I believe it may be said, never, wholly dies in us, tho' it may be concealed; whereas wrath diminishes as our reason increases, and seems intirely evaporated after the heat of youth is over: when a man therefore has divested himself of the one, no tokens are left to distinguish the other.—Sometimes, indeed, we shall see an extreme impetuosity, even to old age, but then, it is out of the ordinary course of nature, and besides, the person possessed of it must be endued with a small share of sound understanding, to give any marks of such a propensity remaining in him.
It is with the utmost justice, that by the system of the christian religion, pride is intitled the original sin, not only as it was that of the fallen angels, but also as it is certainly the fountain-head from which all our other vices are derived.—It is by the dictates of this pernicious passion we are inflamed with wrath, and wild ambition,—instigated to covetousness,—to envy,—to revenge, and in fine, to stop at nothing which tends to self-gratification, be our desires of what kind soever.
During the school hours, Natura, as well as the other young gentlemen, was under too much awe of the master to give any loose to his temper; but when these were over, and they went together into the fields, or any other place to divert themselves, frequent quarrels among them ensued; but above all between those who boarded in the same house; little jealousies concerning some imaginary preference given to the one more than the other, occasioned many bitter taunts and fleers, which sometimes rose to blows and bloody noses; so that the good people with whom they were, had enough to do, to keep them in any tolerable decorum.
There is also another branch of pride which is visible in all youth, before consideration takes place, and that is, treating with contempt whoever seems our inferior.—A boy who was allowed less money, or wore plainer cloaths, was sure to be the jest of all the rest. Natura was equally guilty of this fault with his companions; but when the sarcasms became too severe, and the object of them appeared any way dejected, his generosity often got the better of his arrogance, and he would take part with the weakest side, even till he drew on himself part of those reflections he averted from the other; but this never happened without his resenting it with the utmost violence; for patience and forbearance were virtues not to be expected in this stage of life.
He was a great lover of gaming, whether of chucking, tossing up for money, or cards, and extremely ill-humoured and quarrelsome whenever luck was not on his side; which shews, that whatever people may pretend, avarice is at the bottom, and occasions all the fondness so many testify for play.
As for the other ordinary diversions of youth, none could pursue them with more eagerness, nor was less deterred by any ill accident which befel either himself, or any of his companions; one of whom having been near drowning before his face, as they were swimming together, the sight did not hinder him from plunging into the same stream every day; nor could he be prevailed upon from ringing, as often as he had an opportunity, though he had been thrown one day by the breaking of the bell-rope, a great height from the ground, and in the fall dislocated his shoulder, and bruised his body all over.—But it is not to be wondered at, that boys should remember the misfortunes their pleasures have brought on them no longer than the smart continues, when men of the ripest, and sometimes most advanced years, are not to be warned from the gratification of their passions, by the worst, and most frequently repeated ills.
He, notwithstanding, made a very good progress in those things in which he was instructed, which as yet were only Latin and Greek; and when the time of breaking up arrived, and he returned to his father's house, none who examined him concerning his learning, could suspect there was either any want of application in himself, or care in his master.
His three months of absence having rendered him a kind of stranger at home, his mother-in-law used him with somewhat more civility, and his father seemed highly satisfied with him; all his kindred and friends caressed him, and made him many little presents of such things as befitted his years; but that which crowned his felicity, was the company of a young girl, a near relation of his stepmother's, who was come to pass some time with her, and see London, which she had never been in before.
The early influence which the difference of sex excites, is here exemplified in the fond but innocent affection of Natura and Delia.
Natura being much of the same age with Delia (for so I shall call her) and both equally playful, spirituous, and good-natured, it is hard to say which of them took the greatest delight in the society of the other. Natura was never well out of the presence of Delia, nor Delia contented but when Natura was with her.
In walking, dancing, playing at cards, these amiable children were always partners; and it was remarkable, that in the latter of these diversions, Natura was never uneasy at losing his money to Delia, nor resented any little railleries she treated him with on account of his ill luck, or want of skill in the game, as he had been accustomed to do whenever he received the like from any of his companions.—So forcibly does the difference of sex operate, even before that difference is considered.
Natura was yet too young by much, to know wherefore he found in himself this complaisance, or how it came to pass, that he so much preferred a beautiful and good-humoured girl, to a boy possessed of the same qualifications; but he was not ignorant that he did so, and has often wondered (as he afterwards confessed) what it was that made him feel so much pleasure, whenever, in innocently romping together, he happened to catch hold of her in his arms; and what strange impulse it was, that rendered him so reluctant to part with her out of that posture, that she was obliged to struggle with all her strength to disengage herself.
Hence it is plain, that the passion of love is part of our composition, implanted in the soul for the propagation of the world; and we ought not, in my opinion, to be too severe on the errors which, meerly and abstracted from any other motive than itself, it sometimes influences us to be guilty of.—The laws, indeed, which prohibit any amorous intercourse between the sexes, unless authored by the solemnities of marriage, are without all question, excellently well calculated for the good of society, because without such a restriction, there would be no such thing as order in the world. I am therefore far from thinking lightly of that truly sacred institution, when I say, that there are some cases, in which the pair so offending, merit rather our pity, than that abhorrence which those of a more rigid virtue, colder constitution, or less under the power of temptation, are apt to testify on such occasion.
Rarely, however, it happens, that love is guilty of any thing capable of being condemned, even by the most austere; most of the faults committed under that sanction, being in reality instigated by some other passion, such as avarice and ambition in the one sex, and a flame which is too often confounded and mistaken for a pure affection in the other.—Yet such is the ill-judging, or careless determination of the world, that without making any allowances for circumstances, it censures all indiscriminately alike.
The time prefixed for Natura's remaining with his father being but fourteen days, as they grew near expired, the family began to talk of his going, and orders were given to bespeak a place for him in the stage-coach: he had been extremely pleased with Eton, nor had he met with any cause of disgust, either at the school or house where he was boarded, yet did the thoughts of returning thither give him as much disquiet as his young heart was capable of conceiving.—The parting from Delia was terrible to him, and the nearer the cruel moment approached, the more his anxiety increased.—She seemed also grieved to lose so agreeable a companion, and would often tell him she wished he was to stay as long as she did.
Though nothing could be more innocent than these declarations on both sides, yet what she said had such an effect on Natura, that he resolved to delay his return to Eton as long as possible; and that passion which he already felt the symptoms of, though equally ignorant of their nature or end, being always fertile in invention, put a stratagem into his head, which he flattered himself would succeed for a somewhat farther continuance of his present happiness.
The day before that prefixed for his going, he pretended a violent pain in his head and stomach, and to give the greater credit to his pretended indisposition, would eat nothing; and as it drew toward evening, cried out he was very sick, and must go to bed.—His father, who had the most tender affection for him, could not think of sending him away in that condition.—He went in the morning to his bedside, and finding him, as he imagined, a little feverish, presently ordered a physician, who did not fail to countenance the young gentleman's contrivance, either that he really thought him out of order, or that he had rendered himself so in good earnest, through abstaining from food, a thing very uncommon with him. A prescription was sent to the apothecary for him, and a certain regimen directed.
But poor Natura soon found this did not answer his purpose:—he was in the same house indeed with his beloved Delia, but had not the pleasure of her company, nor even that of barely seeing her, she being forbid going near his chamber, on account of the apprehensions they had that his complaint might terminate in a fever, and endanger her health.
This, however, was more than he knew, and resentment for her supposed indifference, joined with the weariness of living in the manner he did, made him resolve to grow well again, and chuse to go to Eton, rather than suffer so much for one who seemed so little to regard him.
Accordingly, when they brought him something had been ordered for him to take, he refused it, saying, he had not occasion for any more physic, and immediately got up, and dressed himself, in spite of all the servant that attended him could do to prevent it.—Word being carried to his father of what he was doing, he imagined him delirious, and immediately got up, and went into his room, nor though he found him intirely cool, could be perswaded from his first opinion.—The doctor was again sent for, who unwilling to lose his perquisite, made a long harangue on the nature of internal fevers, and very learnedly proved, or seemed to prove, that they might operate so far as to affect the brain, without the least outward symptom.
Natura could not forbear laughing within himself, to hear this great man so much mistaken; but when they told him he must take his physic, and go to bed, or at least be confined to his chamber, he absolutely refused both, and said he was as well as ever he was in his life.—All he said, however, availed nothing, and his father was about to make use of his authority to force him to obedience to the doctor's prescription, when finding no other way to avoid it, he fell on his knees, and with tears in his eyes, confessed he had only counterfeited sickness, to delay being sent to Eton again; begged his father to forgive him; said he was sorry for having attempted to deceive him, but was ready to go whenever he pleased.
The father was strangely amazed at the trick had been put upon him; and after some severe reprimands on the occasion, asked what he had to complain of at Eton, that had rendered him so unwilling to return. Natura hesitated at this demand, but could not find in his heart to forge any unjust accusation concerning his usage at that place, and at last said, that indeed it was only because he had a mind to stay a little longer at home with him. On which he told him he was an idle boy, but he must not expect that wheedle would serve his turn; for since he was not sick, he must go to school the next day: Natura renewed his intreaties for pardon, and assured him he now desired nothing more than to do as he commanded.
This story made a great noise in the family, and the mother-in-law did not fail to represent it in its worst colours to every one that came to the house; but Natura having obtained forgiveness from his father, did not give himself much trouble as to the rest.—Delia seemed rejoiced to see him come down stairs again, but he looked shy upon her, and told her he could not have thought she would have been so unkind as not to have come to see him; but on her acquainting him with the reason of her absence, and protesting it was not her fault, he grew as fond of her as ever; and among a great many other tender expressions, 'I wish,' said he, 'I were a man, and you a woman.'—'Why?' returned she; 'because,' cried he, 'we would be married.'—'O fye,' answered the little coquet, 'I should hate you, if you thought of any such thing; for I will never be married.' Then turned away with an affected scornfulness, and yet looked kindly enough upon him from the corner of one eye.—'I am sure,' resumed he, 'if you loved me as well as I do you, you would like to be married to me, for then we should be always together.'—He was going on with something farther in this innocent courtship, when some one or other of the family, coming into the room, broke it off; and whether it was resumed afterwards, or not, I cannot pretend to determine, nor whether he had opportunity to take any particular leave of her before his departure, which happened, as his father had threatened, the succeeding day.
Shews, that till we arrive at a certain age, the impressions made on us are easily erased; and also that when those which bear the name of love are once rooted in the mind, there are no lengths to which we may not be transported by that passion, if great care is not taken to prevent its getting the ascendant over reason.
The change of scene did not make any change in the sentiments of our young lover: Delia was always in his head, and none of the diversions he took with his companions could banish her from his thoughts; yet did she not so wholly engross his attention, as to render him remiss in his studies; his ambition, as I said before, would not suffer him to neglect the means of acquiring praise, and nothing was so insupportable to him as to find at any time another boy had merited a greater share of it: by which we may perceive that this very passion, unruly as it is, and in spite of the mischiefs it sometimes occasions, is also bestowed upon us for our emolument; and when properly directed, is the greatest excitement to all that is noble and generous, Natura seldom had the mortification of seeing any of the same standing with himself placed above him; and whenever such an accident happened, he was sure to retrieve it by an extraordinary assiduity.
But to shew that love and business are not wholly incompatible, his attachment to Delia did not take him off his learning, nor did his application to learning make him forgetful of Delia. He frequently thought of her, wished to see her, and longed for the next breaking-up, that he might re-enjoy that satisfaction, as he knew she intended to stay the whole winter at his father's; but now arrived the time to prove the inconstancy of human nature: he became acquainted with some other little misses, and by degrees found charms in them, which made those he had observed in Delia appear less admirable in his eyes; the fondness he had felt for her being in reality instigated chiefly by being the only one of his own age he had conversed with, a more general acquaintance with others not only wore off the impression she had made, but also kept him from receiving too deep a one from the particular perfections of any of those he now was pleased with:—it is likely, however, that the sight of her might have revived in him some part of his former tenderness, had he found her, as he expected he should, on his next coming to London: but an elder sister she had in the country, happening to die, she was sent for home, in order to console their mother for that loss; so that he had not any trial on that account; and tho' he thought he should have been glad of her society, during his stay in town, yet her absence gave him small anxiety; and the variety of company which came to the house on account of the baptism of a little son his mother-in-law had lately brought into the world, very well atoned for the want of Delia.
Nothing material happening to him during his stay in town at this time, nor in any other of the many visits he made his father while he continued at Eton, I shall pass over those years, and only say, that as he grew nearer to manhood, his passions gathered strength in proportion; and tho' he increased in knowledge, yet it was not that sort of knowledge which enables us to judge of the emotions we feel within ourselves, or to set curbs on those, which to indulge renders us liable to inconveniences.
All those propensities, of which he gave such early indications, and which I attempted to describe in the beginning of this book, now displayed themselves with greater vigour, and according as exterior objects presented, or circumstances excited, ruled with alternate sway: sparing sometimes to niggardliness, at others profusely liberal;—now pleased, now angry;—submissive this moment, arrogant and assuming the next;—seldom in a perfect calm, and frequently agitated to excess.—Hence arose contests and quarrels, even with those whose company in some humours he was most delighted with;—insolence to such whose way of thinking did not happen to tally with his own, and as partial an attachment to those who either did, or pretended to enter into his sentiments.
But as it was only in trivial matters, and such as were meerly boyish, he yet had opportunity of exercising the passions, his behaviour only served to shew what man would be, when arrived at maturity, if not restrained by precept.
He had attained to little more than sixteen years of age, when he had gone through all the learning of the school, and was what they call fit for the university, to which his father not intending him for the study of any particular science, did not think it necessary to send him, but rather to bestow on him those other accomplishments, which are immediately expected from a gentleman of an estate; such as fencing, dancing, and music, and accordingly provided masters to instruct him in each, as soon as he came home, which was about the time of life I mentioned.
As he was now past the age of being treated as a meer child, and also knew better how it would become him to behave to the wife of his father, his mother-in-law seemed to live with him in harmony enough, and the family at least was not divided into parties as it had been, and eighteen or nineteen months past over, without any rub in our young gentleman's tranquility.
Since his childish affection for Delia, he had not been possessed of what could be called a strong inclination for any particular female; though, as many incidents in his life afterwards proved, he had a no less amorous propensity than any of his sex, and was equally capable of going the greatest lengths for its gratification.
He was but just turned of nineteen, when happening to pass by the playhouse one evening, he took it into his head to go in, and see the last act of a very celebrated tragedy acted that night.—But it was not the poet's or the player's art which so much engaged his attention, as the numerous and gay assembly which filled every part of the house.—He was in the back bench of one of the front boxes, from which he had a full prospect of all who sat below:—but in throwing his eyes around on every dazzling belle, he found none so agreeable to him as a young lady who was placed in the next division of the box:—her age did not seem to exceed his own, and tho' less splendid in garb and jewels than several who sat near her, had something in her eyes and air, that, in his opinion, at least, infinitely exceeded them all.
When the curtain dropt, and every one was crowding out as fast they could, he lost not sight of her; and finding when they came out to the door, that she, and a companion she had with her, somewhat older than herself, seemed distressed for chairs, which by reason of the great concourse, seemed difficult to be got, he took the opportunity, in a very polite manner, to offer himself for their protector, as he perceived they had neither friend nor servant with them. They accepted it with a great deal of seeming modesty, and he conducted them through a passage belonging to the house which he knew was less thronged, and thence put them into a hackney coach, having first obtained their permission to attend them to their lodgings, or wherever else they pleased to be set down.
When they arrived at the place to which they gave the coachman a direction, he would have taken leave of them at the door; but they joined in entreating him, that since he had been at the pains of bringing them safe home, he would come in and refresh himself with such as their apartment could supply: there required little invitation to a thing his heart so sincerely wished, tho' his fears of being thought too presuming, would not suffer him to ask it.
He went up stairs, and found rooms decently furnished, and a maid-servant immediately spread the table with a genteel cold collation; but what he looked upon as the most elegant part of the entertainment, was the agreeable chit-chat during the time of supper, and a song the lady who had so much attracted him, gave him, at her friend's request, after the cloth was taken away.
It growing late, his fears of offending where he already had such an inclination to oblige, made him about to take his leave; but could not do it without intreating permission to wait on them the next day, to receive pardon, as he said, for having by his long stay, broke in upon the hours should have been devoted to repose. Tho' this compliment, and indeed all the others he had made, were directed to both, the regard his eyes paid to the youngest, easily shewed the preference he secretly gave to her; and as neither of these women wanted experience in such affairs, knew very well how to make the most of any advantage. 'If this lodging were mine,' replied the eldest briskly, 'I should have anticipated the request you make; but as I am only a guest, and take part of my friend's bed to-night on account of the hour, will take upon me to say, she ought not to refuse greater favours to so accomplished a gentleman, and from whom we have received so much civility.'
Natura did not fail to answer this gallantry in a proper manner, and departed highly satisfied with his adventure; tho' probably could find less reasons for being so, than those with whom he thought it the greatest happiness of his life to have become acquainted.
Wonderful are the workings of love on a young heart: pleasure has the same effect as pain, and permits as little rest: it was not in the power of Natura to close his eyes for a long time after he went to bed.—He recollected every thing the dear creature had said;—in what manner she looked, when speaking such or such a thing;—how inchanting she sang, and what a genteelness accompanied all she did:—when he fell into a slumber, it was only to bring her more perfectly into his mind; whatever had past in the few hours he had been with her, returned, with additional graces on her part, and her idea had in sleep all the effect her real presence could have had in waking.
With what care did he dress himself the next day:—what fears was he not possessed of, lest all about him should not be exact:—never yet had he consulted the great glass with such assiduity;—never till now examined how far he had been indebted to nature for personal endowments.
His impatience would have carried him to pay a morning visit, but he feared that would be too great a freedom, and therefore restrained himself till after dinner, though what he eat could scarce be called so; the food his mind languished for, being wanting, the body was too complaisant to indulge itself.—After rising from table, not a minute passed without looking on his watch, and at the same time cursing the tedious seconds, which seemed to him increased from sixty to six hundred.—The hour of five at length put an end to his suspence, and he took his way to the dear, well-remembered mansion of his adorable.
He found her at home, and in a careless, but most becoming dishabillee; the other lady was still with her; and told him she had tarried thus long with Miss Harriot, for so she called her, meerly to participate of the pleasure of his good company. Harriot, in a gay manner, accused her of envy, and both having a good share of wit, the conversation might have been pleasing enough to a man less prepossessed than Natura.
The tea equipage was set, and the ceremony of that being over, cards were proposed; as they were three, Ombre was the game, at which they played some hours, and Natura was asked to sup.—After what I have said, I believe the reader has no occasion to be told that he complied with a pleasure which was but too visible in his eyes.—The time passed insensibly on, or at least seemed to do so to the friend of Harriot, till the watchman reminding her it was past eleven, she started up, and pretending a surprize, that the night was so far advanced, told Natura that she must exact a second proof of that gallantry he had shewn the night before, for she had not courage to go either in a chair or a coach alone at that late hour:—this doubtless was what he would have offered, had she been silent on the occasion; and a coach being ordered to the door, he took leave of miss Harriot, though not till he had obtained leave to testify his respects in some future visits.
Had Natura appeared to have more experience of the town, the lady he gallanted home would certainly not have entertained him with the discourse she did; but his extreme youth, and the modest manner of his behaviour on the first sight of him, convinced them he was a person such as they wished to have in their power, and to that end had concerted measures between themselves, to perfect the conquest which, it was easy to perceive, one of them had begun to make over him.
Harriot being the person with whom they found he was enamoured, it was the business of the other to do for her what, it may be supposed, she would have done for her on the like occasion.—Natura was no sooner in the coach with her, than she began to magnify the charms of her fair friend, but above all extolled her virtue, her prudence, and good humour:—then, as if only to give a proof of her patience and fortitude, that her parents dying when she was an infant, had left her with a vast fortune in the hands of a guardian, who attempting to defraud her of the greatest part, she was now at law with him, 'and is obliged to live, till the affair is decided,' said this artful woman, 'in the narrow manner you see,—without a coach,—without any equipage; and yet she bears it all with chearfulness:—she has a multiplicity of admirers,' added she, 'but she assures all of them, that she will never marry, till she knows what present she shall be able to give with herself to the man she shall make choice of.'
Till now Natura had never asked himself the question how far his passion for Harriot extended, or with what view he should address her; but when he heard she was a woman of condition, and would have a fortune answerable to her birth, he began to think it would be happy for him if he could obtain her love on the most honourable terms.
It would be too tedious to relate all the particulars of his courtship; so I shall only say, that humble and timid as the first emotions of a sincere passion are, he was emboldened, by the extraordinary complaisance of Harriot, to declare it to her in a few days.—The art with which she managed on this occasion, might have deceived the most knowing in the sex; it is not, therefore, surprizing, that he should be caught in a snare, which, though ruinous as it had like to have been, had in it allurements scarce possible to be withstood at his time of life.
It was by such degrees as the most modest virgin need not blush to own, that she confessed herself sensible of an equal tenderness for him; and nothing is more strange, than that in the transport he was in, at the condescensions she made him, that he did not immediately press for the consummation of his happiness by marriage; but tho' he wished for nothing so much, yet he was with-held by the fears of his father, who he thought would not approve of such a step, as the fortune he imagined she had a right to, was yet undetermined, and himself, tho' an elder son, and the undoubted heir of a very good estate, at present wholly dependant on him.—He communicated his sentiments to Harriot on this head with the utmost sincerity, protesting at the same time that he should never enjoy a moment's tranquility till he could call her his own.
She seemed to approve of the caution he testified;—said it was such as she had always resolved religiously to observe herself; 'tho' I know not,' cried she, looking on him with the most passionate air, 'how far I might have been tempted to break thro' all for your sake; but it is well one of us is wise enough to foresee and tremble at the consequences of a marriage between two persons whose fortunes are unestablished.'—Then, finding he made her no other answer than some kisses, accompanied with a strenuous embrace, she went on; 'there is a way,' resumed she, 'to secure us to each other, without danger of disobliging any body; and that is by a contract: I never can be easy, while I think there is a possibility of your transferring your affection to some other, and if you love me with half that degree of tenderness you pretend, you cannot but feel the same anxiety.'
Natura was charmed with this proposition, and it was agreed between them, that her lawyer should draw up double contracts in form, which should be signed and delivered interchangeably by both parties. Accordingly, the very next day, the fatal papers were prepared, and he subscribed his name to that which was to remain in her custody, as she did her's to that given to him. Each being witnessed by the woman with whom he first became acquainted with her, and another person called into the room for that purpose.
Natura now considering her as his wife, thought himself intitled to take greater liberties than he had ever presumed to do before, and she had also a kind of a pretence for permitting them, till at last there remained nothing more for him to ask, or her to grant.
Enjoyment made no abatement in his passion; his fondness was rather increased by it, and he never thought himself happy, but when with her; he went to her almost every night, and sometimes passed all night with her, having made an interest with one of the servants, who let him in at whatever hour he came:—so totally did she engross his mind, that he seemed to have not the least attention for any thing beside: nor was the time he wasted with her all the prejudice she did him:—all the allowance made him by his father for cloaths and other expences, he dissipated in treats and presents to her, running in debt for every thing he had occasion for.
But this was insufficient for her expectations; she wanted a sum of money, and pretending that her law-suit required a hundred guineas immediately, and that some remittances she was to have from the country would come too late, told him he must raise it for her some way or other.
This demand was a kind of thunder-stroke to Natura; not but he doated on her enough to have sacrificed infinitely more to her desires, if in his power; but what she asked seemed so wholly out of reach, that he knew not any way by which there was the least probability of attaining it. The embarrassment that appeared in his countenance made her see it was not so easy for him to grant, as it was for her to ask. 'I should have wanted courage,' said she, 'to have made you this request, had I not considered that what is mine must one day be yours, and it will be your own unhappiness as well as mine, should my cause miscarry for want of means to carry it on.'—'Severe necessity!' added she, letting fall some tears, 'that reduces me to intreat favours where I could wish only to bestow them.'
These words destroyed all the remains of prudence his love had left in him; he embraced her, kissed away her tears, and assured her that though, as he was under age, and had but a small allowance from his father, it was not at this time very easy for him to comply with her demand, yet she might depend upon him for the money the next day, let it cost what it would, or whatever should be the consequence.
He left her that night much sooner than was his custom, in order to consult within himself on the means of fulfilling his promise to her, which, to have failed in, would have been more terrible to him than death.
That to indulge any one fault, brings with it the temptation of committing others, is demonstrated by the behaviour of Natura, and the misfortunes and disgrace which an ill-judged shame had like to have involved him in.
Never had Natura experienced so cruel a night; a thousand stratagems came into his head, but for some reason or other all seemed alike impracticable, and the morning found him in no more easy a situation.—He put on his cloaths hastily, and resolved to go to all the acquaintance he had in the world, and try the friendship of each, by borrowing what sums he thought they might be able to spare: but first, going into his father's closet, as was his custom every morning to pay his duty to him, he found a person with him who was paying him a large sum of money: the sight of what he so much wanted filled him with inexpressible agitations:—he would have given almost a limb to have had in his possession so much of that shining ore as Harriot expected from him; and wished that some sudden accident, even to the falling of the house, would happen, that in the confusion he might seize on some part of the treasure he saw before him.
The person, after the affair which brought him there was over, took leave of the father of Natura, who having thrown the money into his bureau, to a large heap was there before, waited on him down stairs, without staying to lock the drawer.
Often had Natura been present when his father received larger sums than this, and doubtless had the same opportunity as now to make himself master of some part, or all of it; but never till this unhappy exigence had the least temptation to do so.—It came into his head that the accident was perfectly providential, and that he ought not to neglect the only means by which he could perform his promise;—that his father could very well spare the sum he wanted, and that it was only taking before the time what by inheritance must be his own hereafter.—In this imagination he opened the drawer, and was about to pursue his intention, when he recollected that the money would certainly be missed, and either the fault be laid upon some innocent person, who might suffer for his crime; or he himself would be suspected of a thing, which, in this second thought, he found so mean and wicked, that he was shocked almost to death, for having been capable of even a wish to be guilty of it.—He shut the drawer again,—turned himself away, and was in the utmost confusion of mind, when his father returned into the room; which shews that there is a native honesty in the human nature, which nothing but a long practice of base actions can wholly eradicate: and I dare believe that even those we see most hardened in vice, have felt severe struggles within themselves at first, and have often looked back upon the paths of virtue, wishing, tho' fruitlesly, to return.
Natura, however, did not give over his pursuit of the means of performing his promise: on the contrary, he thought himself obliged by all the ties of love, honour, and even self-interest, to do it; but difficult as he believed the task would be, he found it much more so than he could even have imagined: his intimacy being only with such, as being much of his own age, and like him were at an allowance from their parents or guardians, it was not in the power of any of them to contribute a large sum toward making up that he wanted; the most he got from any one being no more than five guineas, and all he raised among the whole amounted to no more than twenty, and some odd pounds.
Distracted with his ill fortune, he ventured to go to an uncle he had by the mother's side, and after many complaints of his father's parsimony, told him, that having been drawn into some expences, which, though not extravagant, were more than his little purse could supply, he had broke into some money given him to pay his taylor, whom he feared would demand it of his father, and he knew not how far the ill-will of his mother-in-law might exaggerate the matter; concluding with an humble petition for twenty guineas, which he told him he would faithfully return by degrees.
As Natura had the character of a sober youth, the good old gentleman was moved by the distress he saw him in, and readily granted his request, tho' not without some admonitions to confine for the future his expences to his allowance, be it ever so small.
Thus Natura having with all his diligence not been able to raise quite half of the sum in question, was quite distracted what to do, and as he afterwards owned, more than once repented him of those scruples which had prevented him from serving himself at once out of his father's purse; tho' had the same opportunity again presented itself, it is scarce possible to believe by the rest of his behaviour, that he would have made use of it, or if he had, that he could have survived the shame and remorse it would have caused in him.
In his desperation he ran at last to the house of a noted money-scrivener, a great acquaintance of the family, and in his whose hands his father frequently reposed his ready cash: to this man he communicates his distress, and easily prevails with him to let him have fifty pounds, on giving him a note to pay him an hundred for it when he should come of age, his father having said he would then make a settlement on him.
This, however, was still somewhat short of what Harriot had demanded; but he left his watch at a pawn-broker's for the rest; and having compleated the sum, went transported with joy, and threw it into the lap of that idol of his soul; after which, he was for some days perfectly at ease, indulging himself with all he at present wished for, and losing no time in thought of what might happen to interrupt his happiness.
But while he battened in the sun-shine of his pleasures, storms of vexation were gathering over his head, which, when he least expected such a shock, poured all their force upon him.
The first time his uncle happened to see his father, he fell on the topic of the necessity there was for young gentlemen born to estates, and educated in a liberal manner, to be enabled to keep his equals company; adding, that if the parsimony of a parent, denied them an allowance, agreeable to their rank, it might either drive them to ill courses, or force them to associate themselves only with mean, low-bred people, among whom they might lose all the politeness had been inculcated into them. The father of Natura, well knowing he had nothing to answer for on this account, never suspected this discourse was directed to him in particular, and joined in his brother-in-law's opinion, heartily blaming those parents, who, by being too sparing to their children, destroyed all natural affection in them, and gave them some sort of an excuse for wishing for their death:—he thanked God he was not of that disposition, and then told him what he allowed per quarter to Natura, 'with which,' added he, 'I believe he is intirely satisfied.' The other replying, that indeed he thought it more than sufficient, the conversation dropped; but what sentiments he now began to conceive of his nephew it is easy to conceive; the father however thought no farther of this, till soon after the scrivener came to wait on him:—he was a perfect honest man, and had lent Natura the money meerly to prevent his applying to some other person, who possibly might have taken advantage of his thoughtlessness, so far as even to have brought on his utter ruin, too many such examples daily happening in the world: to deter him also from going on in this course, he demanded that exorbitant interest for his money abovementioned, which, notwithstanding, as he assured his father, in relating to him the whole transaction, he was far from any intention to make him pay.
Never was astonishment greater than that in which the father of Natura was now involved;—the discourse of his brother-in-law now came fresh into his mind, and he recollected some words which, tho' he did not observe at the time they were spoken, now convinced him had a meaning which he could not have imagined there was any room for.—He had no sooner parted from the scrivener, than he flew to that gentleman, and having related to him what had passed between him and the scrivener, conjured him, if he could give him any farther lights into the affair, not to keep him in ignorance: on which the other thought it his duty to conceal nothing, either of the complaints, or request had been made him by his nephew:—after some exclamations on the extravagance and thoughtlessness of youth, the afflicted father went in search of more discoveries, which he found it but too easy to make among the tradesmen, all of whom he found had been unpaid for some time.
It would be needless to go about to make any description of the confusion of mind he was in:—he shut himself in his closet, uncertain for some time how he should proceed; at last, as he considered there was not a possibility of reclaiming his son from whatever vice had led him thus all at once into such extravagancies, without first knowing what kind of vice it was; he resolved to talk to him, and penetrate, if possible, into the source of this evil.
Accordingly the next morning he went into the chamber where Natura was yet in bed; and began to entertain him in the manner he had proposed to himself:—first, he let him know, that he was not unacquainted with every step he had taken for raising a sum, which he could not conceive he had any occasion for, as well as his having with-held the money he had given him to discharge his tradesmen's bills:—then proceeded to set before his eyes the folly and danger of having hid, at his years, any secrets from a parent; concluding with telling him, he had yet a heart capable or forgiving what was past, provided he would behave in a different manner for the future.
What Natura felt at finding so much of what he had done revealed to his father, was greatly alleviated, by perceiving that the main thing, his engagement with Harriot, was a secret to him:—he did not fail to make large promises of being a better oeconomist, nor to express the most dutiful gratitude for the pardon the good old gentleman so readily offered; but this he told him was not sufficient to deserve a re-establishment in his favour, he must also give him a faithful account by what company, and for what purposes he had been induced to such ill husbandry; 'for,' added he, 'without a sincere confession of the motives of our past transactions, there can be little assurances of future amendment.'
Natura to this only answered, that it was impossible to recount the particulars of his expences, and made so many evasions, on his father's still continuing to press his being more explicit, that he easily perceived there would be no coming at the truth by gentle means; and therefore, throwing off at once a tenderness so ineffectual, he assumed all the authority of an offended parent, and told the trembling Natura, that since he knew not how to behave as a son, he should cease to be a father, in every thing but in his authority:—'be assured,' said be, 'I shall take sure measures to prevent you from bringing either ruin or disgrace upon a family of which you are the first profligate:—this chamber must be your prison, till I have considered in what fashion I shall dispose of you.'
With these words he flung out of the room, locking the door after him; so that when Natura rose, as he immediately did, he found himself indeed under confinement, which seemed so shameful a thing to him, that he was ready to tear himself in pieces:—it was not the grief of having offended so good a father, but the disgrace of the punishment inflicted on him, which gave him the most poignant anguish, and far from feeling any true contrition, he was all rage and madness, which having no means to vent in words, discovered itself in sullenness:—when the servant to whom he intrusted the key came in to bring him food, he refused to eat, and could scarce restrain himself from throwing in the man's face what he had brought.
It is certain, that while under this circumstance, he was agitated at once by every different unruly passion:—pride, anger, spleen, thinking himself a man, at finding the treatment of a boy, made him almost hate the person from whom he received it.—The apprehensions what farther meaning might be couched in the menace with which his father left him, threw him sometimes into a terror little different from convulsive;—but above all, his impatience for seeing his dear Harriot, and the surprize, the grief, and perhaps the resentment, he imagined she must feel on his absenting himself, drove him into a kind of despair.
In fine, unable to sustain the violence of his agitations, on the third night, regardless of what consequences might ensue from giving this additional cause of displeasure to his father, he found means to push back the lock of his chamber, and flew down stairs, and out at the street-door with so much speed, that it would have been impossible to have stopped him, had any one heard him, which none happened to do, it being midnight, and all the family in a sound sleep.
That he went directly to the lodgings of Harriot, I believe my reader will make no doubt; but perhaps her character does not yet enough appear, to give any suspicion of the reception he found there.
In effect, she was no other than one of those common creatures, who procure a miserable subsistance by the prostitution of their charms; and as nature had not been sparing to her on that score, and she was yet young, though less so than she appeared thro' art, she wanted not a number of gallants, who all contributed, more or less, to her living in the manner she did: several of these had happened to come when Natura was with her; but she having had the precaution to acquaint them with her design of drawing in this young spark for a husband, they took the cue she gave them, each passing before him either for a cousin, or one of the lawyers employed in her pretended suit.
It was with one of these equally happy, tho' less deluded rivals of Natura, that finding he did not come, she had agreed to pass this night; and her maid, as the servants of such women, for the most part, imitate their mistresses, happened to be at the door, either about to introduce, or let out a lover of her own;—the sight of a man at that time of night, with one who belonged to his beloved, immediately fired Natura with jealousy:—he seized the fellow by the collar, and in a voice hoarse with rage, asked him what business he had there? To which the other replied only with a blow on the face, the wench shrieked out, but Natura was either stronger or more nimble than his competitor; he presently tripped up his heels, and ran up stairs.—Harriot and her lover hearing somewhat of a scuffle, the latter started out of bed, and opened the chamber-door, in order to listen what had occasioned it, just as Natura had reached the stair-case.—If his soul was inflamed before, what must it now have been, to see a man in his shirt, and just risen from the arms of Harriot, who still lay trembling in bed:—he flew upon him like an incensed lion; but the other being more robust, soon disengaged himself and snatching his sword, which lay on a table near the door, was going to put an end to the life of his disturber; when Harriot cried out, 'Hold! hold!—for heaven's sake!—It is my husband!'—Natura having no weapon wherewith he might defend himself, or hurt his adversary, revenge gave way to self-preservation; and only saying, 'husband, no;—I will die rather than be the husband of so vile a woman,' run down with the same precipitation he had come up.