Transcriber's Notes: This text retains many old and inconsistent spellings as found in the Dodsley 1769 edition. Differences from that edition are as follows: As is usually done in modern editions of Emily Montague, the letters have been renumbered to run consecutively from 1 to 228. This avoids irregularities in numbering in the original. Normal case has been used for the initial words of each letter. Long s has been replaced with a regular short s. The Errata which appeared at the end of volume four of the original has been applied to the text. Various other corrections have been made, and in each case, the original form has been recorded in the html markup. Usage of quote marks has been modernized.
THE HISTORY OF EMILY MONTAGUE. In FOUR VOLUMES.
By the AUTHOR of Lady JULIA MANDEVILLE.
—"A kind indulgent sleep O'er works of length allowably may creep." Horace.
LONDON, Printed for J. DODSLEY, in Pall Mall. MDCCLXIX.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY GUY CARLETON, Esq. GOVERNOR AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF His Majesty's Province of QUEBEC, &c. &c. &c.
As the scene of so great a part of the following work is laid in Canada, I flatter myself there is a peculiar propriety in addressing it to your excellency, to whose probity and enlightened attention the colony owes its happiness, and individuals that tranquillity of mind, without which there can be no exertion of the powers of either the understanding or imagination.
Were I to say all your excellency has done to diffuse, through this province, so happy under your command, a spirit of loyalty and attachment to our excellent Sovereign, of chearful obedience to the laws, and of that union which makes the strength of government, I should hazard your esteem by doing you justice.
I will, therefore, only beg leave to add mine to the general voice of Canada; and to assure your excellency, that
I am, With the utmost esteem and respect, Your most obedient servant, Frances Brooke. London, March 22, 1769.
THE HISTORY OF EMILY MONTAGUE.
To John Temple, Esq; at Paris.
Cowes, April 10, 1766.
After spending two or three very agreeable days here, with a party of friends, in exploring the beauties of the Island, and dropping a tender tear at Carisbrook Castle on the memory of the unfortunate Charles the First, I am just setting out for America, on a scheme I once hinted to you, of settling the lands to which I have a right as a lieutenant-colonel on half pay. On enquiry and mature deliberation, I prefer Canada to New-York for two reasons, that it is wilder, and that the women are handsomer: the first, perhaps, every body will not approve; the latter, I am sure, you will.
You may perhaps call my project romantic, but my active temper is ill suited to the lazy character of a reduc'd officer: besides that I am too proud to narrow my circle of life, and not quite unfeeling enough to break in on the little estate which is scarce sufficient to support my mother and sister in the manner to which they have been accustom'd.
What you call a sacrifice, is none at all; I love England, but am not obstinately chain'd down to any spot of earth; nature has charms every where for a man willing to be pleased: at my time of life, the very change of place is amusing; love of variety, and the natural restlessness of man, would give me a relish for this voyage, even if I did not expect, what I really do, to become lord of a principality which will put our large-acred men in England out of countenance. My subjects indeed at present will be only bears and elks, but in time I hope to see the human face divine multiplying around me; and, in thus cultivating what is in the rudest state of nature, I shall taste one of the greatest of all pleasures, that of creation, and see order and beauty gradually rise from chaos.
The vessel is unmoor'd; the winds are fair; a gentle breeze agitates the bosom of the deep; all nature smiles: I go with all the eager hopes of a warm imagination; yet friendship casts a lingering look behind.
Our mutual loss, my dear Temple, will be great. I shall never cease to regret you, nor will you find it easy to replace the friend of your youth. You may find friends of equal merit; you may esteem them equally; but few connexions form'd after five and twenty strike root like that early sympathy, which united us almost from infancy, and has increas'd to the very hour of our separation.
What pleasure is there in the friendships of the spring of life, before the world, the mean unfeeling selfish world, breaks in on the gay mistakes of the just-expanding heart, which sees nothing but truth, and has nothing but happiness in prospect!
I am not surpriz'd the heathens rais'd altars to friendship: 'twas natural for untaught superstition to deify the source of every good; they worship'd friendship, which animates the moral world, on the same principle as they paid adoration to the sun, which gives life to the world of nature.
I am summon'd on board. Adieu!
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Quebec, June 27.
I have this moment your letter, my dear; I am happy to hear my mother has been amus'd at Bath, and not at all surpriz'd to find she rivals you in your conquests. By the way, I am not sure she is not handsomer, notwithstanding you tell me you are handsomer than ever: I am astonish'd she will lead a tall daughter about with her thus, to let people into a secret they would never suspect, that she is past five and twenty.
You are a foolish girl, Lucy: do you think I have not more pleasure in continuing to my mother, by coming hither, the little indulgencies of life, than I could have had by enjoying them myself? pray reconcile her to my absence, and assure her she will make me happier by jovially enjoying the trifle I have assign'd to her use, than by procuring me the wealth of a Nabob, in which she was to have no share.
But to return; you really, Lucy, ask me such a million of questions, 'tis impossible to know which to answer first; the country, the convents, the balls, the ladies, the beaux—'tis a history, not a letter, you demand, and it will take me a twelvemonth to satisfy your curiosity.
Where shall I begin? certainly with what must first strike a soldier: I have seen then the spot where the amiable hero expir'd in the arms of victory; have traced him step by step with equal astonishment and admiration: 'tis here alone it is possible to form an adequate idea of an enterprize, the difficulties of which must have destroy'd hope itself had they been foreseen.
The country is a very fine one: you see here not only the beautiful which it has in common with Europe, but the great sublime to an amazing degree; every object here is magnificent: the very people seem almost another species, if we compare them with the French from whom they are descended.
On approaching the coast of America, I felt a kind of religious veneration, on seeing rocks which almost touch'd the clouds, cover'd with tall groves of pines that seemed coeval with the world itself: to which veneration the solemn silence not a little contributed; from Cape Rosieres, up the river St. Lawrence, during a course of more than two hundred miles, there is not the least appearance of a human footstep; no objects meet the eye but mountains, woods, and numerous rivers, which seem to roll their waters in vain.
It is impossible to behold a scene like this without lamenting the madness of mankind, who, more merciless than the fierce inhabitants of the howling wilderness, destroy millions of their own species in the wild contention for a little portion of that earth, the far greater part of which remains yet unpossest, and courts the hand of labour for cultivation.
The river itself is one of the noblest in the world; its breadth is ninety miles at its entrance, gradually, and almost imperceptibly, decreasing; interspers'd with islands which give it a variety infinitely pleasing, and navigable near five hundred miles from the sea.
Nothing can be more striking than the view of Quebec as you approach; it stands on the summit of a boldly-rising hill, at the confluence of two very beautiful rivers, the St. Lawrence and St. Charles, and, as the convents and other public buildings first meet the eye, appears to great advantage from the port. The island of Orleans, the distant view of the cascade of Montmorenci, and the opposite village of Beauport, scattered with a pleasing irregularity along the banks of the river St. Charles, add greatly to the charms of the prospect.
I have just had time to observe, that the Canadian ladies have the vivacity of the French, with a superior share of beauty: as to balls and assemblies, we have none at present, it being a kind of interregnum of government: if I chose to give you the political state of the country, I could fill volumes with the pours and the contres; but I am not one of those sagacious observers, who, by staying a week in a place, think themselves qualified to give, not only its natural, but its moral and political history: besides which, you and I are rather too young to be very profound politicians. We are in expectation of a successor from whom we hope a new golden age; I shall then have better subjects for a letter to a lady.
Adieu! my dear girl! say every thing for me to my mother. Yours,
To Col. Rivers, at Quebec.
London, April 30.
Indeed! gone to people the wilds of America, Ned, and multiply the human face divine? 'tis a project worthy a tall handsome colonel of twenty seven: let me see; five feet, eleven inches, well made, with fine teeth, speaking eyes, a military air, and the look of a man of fashion: spirit, generosity, a good understanding, some knowledge, an easy address, a compassionate heart, a strong inclination for the ladies, and in short every quality a gentleman should have: excellent all these for colonization: prenez garde, mes cheres dames. You have nothing against you, Ned, but your modesty; a very useless virtue on French ground, or indeed on any ground: I wish you had a little more consciousness of your own merits: remember that to know one's self the oracle of Apollo has pronounced to be the perfection of human wisdom. Our fair friend Mrs. H—— says, "Colonel Rivers wants nothing to make him the most agreeable man breathing but a little dash of the coxcomb."
For my part, I hate humility in a man of the world; 'tis worse than even the hypocrisy of the saints: I am not ignorant, and therefore never deny, that I am a very handsome fellow; and I have the pleasure to find all the women of the same opinion.
I am just arriv'd from Paris: the divine Madame De —— is as lovely and as constant as ever; 'twas cruel to leave her, but who can account for the caprices of the heart? mine was the prey of a young unexperienc'd English charmer, just come out of a convent,
"The bloom of opening flowers—"
Ha, Ned? But I forget; you are for the full-blown rose: 'tis a happiness, as we are friends, that 'tis impossible we can ever be rivals; a woman is grown out of my taste some years before she comes up to yours: absolutely, Ned, you are too nice; for my part, I am not so delicate; youth and beauty are sufficient for me; give me blooming seventeen, and I cede to you the whole empire of sentiment.
This, I suppose, will find you trying the force of your destructive charms on the savage dames of America; chasing females wild as the winds thro' woods as wild as themselves: I see you pursuing the stately relict of some renown'd Indian chief, some plump squaw arriv'd at the age of sentiment, some warlike queen dowager of the Ottawas or Tuscaroras.
And pray, comment trouvez vous les dames sauvages? all pure and genuine nature, I suppose; none of the affected coyness of Europe: your attention there will be the more obliging, as the Indian heroes, I am told, are not very attentive to the charms of the beau sexe.
You are very sentimental on the subject of friendship; no one has more exalted notions of this species of affection than myself, yet I deny that it gives life to the moral world; a gallant man, like you, might have found a more animating principle:
O Venus! O Mere de l'Amour!
I am most gloriously indolent this morning, and would not write another line if the empire of the world (observe I do not mean the female world) depended on it.
Adieu! J. Temple.
To John Temple, Esq; Pall Mall.
Quebec, July 1.
'Tis very true, Jack; I have no relish for the Misses; for puling girls in hanging sleeves, who feel no passion but vanity, and, without any distinguishing taste, are dying for the first man who tells them they are handsome. Take your boarding-school girls; but give me a woman; one, in short, who has a soul; not a cold inanimate form, insensible to the lively impressions of real love, and unfeeling as the wax baby she has just thrown away.
You will allow Prior to be no bad judge of female merit; and you may remember his Egyptian maid, the favorite of the luxurious King Solomon, is painted in full bloom.
By the way, Jack, there is generally a certain hoity-toity inelegance of form and manner at seventeen, which in my opinion is not balanc'd by freshness of complexion, the only advantage girls have to boast of.
I have another objection to girls, which is, that they will eternally fancy every man they converse with has designs; a coquet and a prude in the bud are equally disagreeable; the former expects universal adoration, the latter is alarm'd even at that general civility which is the right of all their sex; of the two however the last is, I think, much the most troublesome; I wish these very apprehensive young ladies knew, their virtue is not half so often in danger as they imagine, and that there are many male creatures to whom they may safely shew politeness without being drawn into any concessions inconsistent with the strictest honor. We are not half such terrible animals as mammas, nurses, and novels represent us; and, if my opinion is of any weight, I am inclin'd to believe those tremendous men, who have designs on the whole sex, are, and ever were, characters as fabulous as the giants of romance.
Women after twenty begin to know this, and therefore converse with us on the footing of rational creatures, without either fearing or expecting to find every man a lover.
To do the ladies justice however, I have seen the same absurdity in my own sex, and have observed many a very good sort of man turn pale at the politeness of an agreeable woman.
I lament this mistake, in both sexes, because it takes greatly from the pleasure of mix'd society, the only society for which I have any relish.
Don't, however, fancy that, because I dislike the Misses, I have a taste for their grandmothers; there is a golden mean, Jack, of which you seem to have no idea.
You are very ill inform'd as to the manners of the Indian ladies; 'tis in the bud alone these wild roses are accessible; liberal to profusion of their charms before marriage, they are chastity itself after: the moment they commence wives, they give up the very idea of pleasing, and turn all their thoughts to the cares, and those not the most delicate cares, of domestic life: laborious, hardy, active, they plough the ground, they sow, they reap; whilst the haughty husband amuses himself with hunting, shooting, fishing, and such exercises only as are the image of war; all other employments being, according to his idea, unworthy the dignity of man.
I have told you the labors of savage life, but I should observe that they are only temporary, and when urg'd by the sharp tooth of necessity: their lives are, upon the whole, idle beyond any thing we can conceive. If the Epicurean definition of happiness is just, that it consists in indolence of body, and tranquillity of mind, the Indians of both sexes are the happiest people on earth; free from all care, they enjoy the present moment, forget the past, and are without solicitude for the future: in summer, stretch'd on the verdant turf, they sing, they laugh, they play, they relate stories of their ancient heroes to warm the youth to war; in winter, wrap'd in the furs which bounteous nature provides them, they dance, they feast, and despise the rigors of the season, at which the more effeminate Europeans tremble.
War being however the business of their lives, and the first passion of their souls, their very pleasures take their colors from it: every one must have heard of the war dance, and their songs are almost all on the same subject: on the most diligent enquiry, I find but one love song in their language, which is short and simple, tho' perhaps not inexpressive:
"I love you, I love you dearly, I love you all day long."
An old Indian told me, they had also songs of friendship, but I could never procure a translation of one of them: on my pressing this Indian to translate one into French for me, he told me with a haughty air, the Indians were not us'd to make translations, and that if I chose to understand their songs I must learn their language. By the way, their language is extremely harmonious, especially as pronounced by their women, and as well adapted to music as Italian itself. I must not here omit an instance of their independent spirit, which is, that they never would submit to have the service of the church, tho' they profess the Romish religion, in any language but their own; the women, who have in general fine voices, sing in the choir with a taste and manner that would surprize you, and with a devotion that might edify more polish'd nations.
The Indian women are tall and well shaped; have good eyes, and before marriage are, except their color, and their coarse greasy black hair, very far from being disagreeable; but the laborious life they afterwards lead is extremely unfavorable to beauty; they become coarse and masculine, and lose in a year or two the power as well as the desire of pleasing. To compensate however for the loss of their charms, they acquire a new empire in marrying; are consulted in all affairs of state, chuse a chief on every vacancy of the throne, are sovereign arbiters of peace and war, as well as of the fate of those unhappy captives that have the misfortune to fall into their hands, who are adopted as children, or put to the most cruel death, as the wives of the conquerors smile or frown.
A Jesuit missionary told me a story on this subject, which one cannot hear without horror: an Indian woman with whom he liv'd on his mission was feeding her children, when her husband brought in an English prisoner; she immediately cut off his arm, and gave her children the streaming blood to drink: the Jesuit remonstrated on the cruelty of the action, on which, looking sternly at him, "I would have them warriors," said she, "and therefore feed them with the food of men."
This anecdote may perhaps disgust you with the Indian ladies, who certainly do not excel in female softness. I will therefore turn to the Canadian, who have every charm except that without which all other charms are to me insipid, I mean sensibility: they are gay, coquet, and sprightly; more gallant than sensible; more flatter'd by the vanity of inspiring passion, than capable of feeling it themselves; and, like their European countrywomen, prefer the outward attentions of unmeaning admiration to the real devotion of the heart. There is not perhaps on earth a race of females, who talk so much, or feel so little, of love as the French; the very reverse is in general true of the English: my fair countrywomen seem ashamed of the charming sentiment to which they are indebted for all their power.
Adieu! I am going to attend a very handsome French lady, who allows me the honor to drive her en calache to our Canadian Hyde Park, the road to St. Foix, where you will see forty or fifty calashes, with pretty women in them, parading every evening: you will allow the apology to be admissible.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Quebec, July 4.
What an inconstant animal is man! do you know, Lucy, I begin to be tir'd of the lovely landscape round me? I have enjoy'd from it all the pleasure meer inanimate objects can give, and find 'tis a pleasure that soon satiates, if not relieved by others which are more lively. The scenery is to be sure divine, but one grows weary of meer scenery: the most enchanting prospect soon loses its power of pleasing, when the eye is accustom'd to it: we gaze at first transported on the charms of nature, and fancy they will please for ever; but, alas! it will not do; we sigh for society, the conversation of those dear to us; the more animated pleasures of the heart. There are fine women, and men of merit here; but, as the affections are not in our power, I have not yet felt my heart gravitate towards any of them. I must absolutely set in earnest about my settlement, in order to emerge from the state of vegetation into which I seem falling.
But to your last: you ask me a particular account of the convents here. Have you an inclination, my dear, to turn nun? if you have, you could not have applied to a properer person; my extreme modesty and reserve, and my speaking French, having made me already a great favourite with the older part of all the three communities, who unanimously declare colonel Rivers to be un tres aimable homme, and have given me an unlimited liberty of visiting them whenever I please: they now and then treat me with a sight of some of the young ones, but this is a favor not allow'd to all the world.
There are three religious houses at Quebec, so you have choice; the Ursulines, the Hotel Dieu, and the General Hospital. The first is the severest order in the Romish church, except that very cruel one which denies its fair votaries the inestimable liberty of speech. The house is large and handsome, but has an air of gloominess, with which the black habit, and the livid paleness of the nuns, extremely corresponds. The church is, contrary to the style of the rest of the convent, ornamented and lively to the last degree. The superior is an English-woman of good family, who was taken prisoner by the savages when a child, and plac'd here by the generosity of a French officer. She is one of the most amiable women I ever knew, with a benevolence in her countenance which inspires all who see her with affection: I am very fond of her conversation, tho' sixty and a nun.
The Hotel Dieu is very pleasantly situated, with a view of the two rivers, and the entrance of the port: the house is chearful, airy, and agreeable; the habit extremely becoming, a circumstance a handsome woman ought by no means to overlook; 'tis white with a black gauze veil, which would shew your complexion to great advantage. The order is much less severe than the Ursulines, and I might add, much more useful, their province being the care of the sick: the nuns of this house are sprightly, and have a look of health which is wanting at the Ursulines.
The General Hospital, situated about a mile out of town, on the borders of the river St. Charles, is much the most agreeable of the three. The order and the habit are the same with the Hotel Dieu, except that to the habit is added the cross, generally worn in Europe by canonesses only: a distinction procur'd for them by their founder, St. Vallier, the second bishop of Quebec. The house is, without, a very noble building; and neatness, elegance and propriety reign within. The nuns, who are all of the noblesse, are many of them handsome, and all genteel, lively, and well bred; they have an air of the world, their conversation is easy, spirited, and polite: with them you almost forget the recluse in the woman of condition. In short, you have the best nuns at the Ursulines, the most agreeable women at the General Hospital: all however have an air of chagrin, which they in vain endeavour to conceal; and the general eagerness with which they tell you unask'd they are happy, is a strong proof of the contrary.
Tho' the most indulgent of all men to the follies of others, especially such as have their source in mistaken devotion; tho' willing to allow all the world to play the fool their own way, yet I cannot help being fir'd with a degree of zeal against an institution equally incompatible with public good, and private happiness; an institution which cruelly devotes beauty and innocence to slavery, regret, and wretchedness; to a more irksome imprisonment than the severest laws inflict on the worst of criminals.
Could any thing but experience, my dear Lucy, make it be believ'd possible that there should be rational beings, who think they are serving the God of mercy by inflicting on themselves voluntary tortures, and cutting themselves off from that state of society in which he has plac'd them, and for which they were form'd? by renouncing the best affections of the human heart, the tender names of friend, of wife, of mother? and, as far as in them lies, counter-working creation? by spurning from them every amusement however innocent, by refusing the gifts of that beneficent power who made us to be happy, and destroying his most precious gifts, health, beauty, sensibility, chearfulness, and peace!
My indignation is yet awake, from having seen a few days since at the Ursulines, an extreme lovely young girl, whose countenance spoke a soul form'd for the most lively, yet delicate, ties of love and friendship, led by a momentary enthusiasm, or perhaps by a childish vanity artfully excited, to the foot of those altars, which she will probably too soon bathe with the bitter tears of repentance and remorse.
The ceremony, form'd to strike the imagination, and seduce the heart of unguarded youth, is extremely solemn and affecting; the procession of the nuns, the sweetness of their voices in the choir, the dignified devotion with which the charming enthusiast received the veil, and took the cruel vow which shut her from the world for ever, struck my heart in spite of my reason, and I felt myself touch'd even to tears by a superstition I equally pity and despise.
I am not however certain it was the ceremony which affected me thus strongly; it was impossible not to feel for this amiable victim; never was there an object more interesting; her form was elegance itself; her air and motion animated and graceful; the glow of pleasure was on her cheek, the fire of enthusiasm in her eyes, which are the finest I ever saw: never did I see joy so livelily painted on the countenance of the happiest bride; she seem'd to walk in air; her whole person look'd more than human.
An enemy to every species of superstition, I must however allow it to be least destructive to true virtue in your gentle sex, and therefore to be indulg'd with least danger: the superstition of men is gloomy and ferocious; it lights the fire, and points the dagger of the assassin; whilst that of women takes its color from the sex; is soft, mild, and benevolent; exerts itself in acts of kindness and charity, and seems only substituting the love of God to that of man.
Who can help admiring, whilst they pity, the foundress of the Ursuline convent, Madame de la Peltrie, to whom the very colony in some measure owes its existence? young, rich and lovely; a widow in the bloom of life, mistress of her own actions, the world was gay before her, yet she left all the pleasures that world could give, to devote her days to the severities of a religion she thought the only true one: she dar'd the dangers of the sea, and the greater dangers of a savage people; she landed on an unknown shore, submitted to the extremities of cold and heat, of thirst and hunger, to perform a service she thought acceptable to the Deity. To an action like this, however mistaken the motive, bigotry alone will deny praise: the man of candor will only lament that minds capable of such heroic virtue are not directed to views more conducive to their own and the general happiness.
I am unexpectedly call'd this moment, my dear Lucy, on some business to Montreal, from whence you shall hear from me.
Adieu! Ed. Rivers.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Montreal, July 9.
I am arriv'd, my dear, and have brought my heart safe thro' such a continued fire as never poor knight errant was exposed to; waited on at every stage by blooming country girls, full of spirit and coquetry, without any of the village bashfulness of England, and dressed like the shepherdesses of romance. A man of adventure might make a pleasant journey to Montreal.
The peasants are ignorant, lazy, dirty, and stupid beyond all belief; but hospitable, courteous, civil; and, what is particularly agreeable, they leave their wives and daughters to do the honors of the house: in which obliging office they acquit themselves with an attention, which, amidst every inconvenience apparent (tho' I am told not real) poverty can cause, must please every guest who has a soul inclin'd to be pleas'd: for my part, I was charm'd with them, and eat my homely fare with as much pleasure as if I had been feasting on ortolans in a palace. Their conversation is lively and amusing; all the little knowledge of Canada is confined to the sex; very few, even of the seigneurs, being able to write their own names.
The road from Quebec to Montreal is almost a continued street, the villages being numerous, and so extended along the banks of the river St. Lawrence as to leave scarce a space without houses in view; except where here or there a river, a wood, or mountain intervenes, as if to give a more pleasing variety to the scene. I don't remember ever having had a more agreeable journey; the fine prospects of the day so enliven'd by the gay chat of the evening, that I was really sorry when I approach'd Montreal.
The island of Montreal, on which the town stands, is a very lovely spot; highly cultivated, and tho' less wild and magnificent, more smiling than the country round Quebec: the ladies, who seem to make pleasure their only business, and most of whom I have seen this morning driving about the town in calashes, and making what they call, the tour de la ville, attended by English officers, seem generally handsome, and have an air of sprightliness with which I am charm'd; I must be acquainted with them all, for tho' my stay is to be short, I see no reason why it should be dull. I am told they are fond of little rural balls in the country, and intend to give one as soon as I have paid my respects in form.
Six in the evening.
I am just come from dining with the —— regiment, and find I have a visit to pay I was not aware of, to two English ladies who are a few miles out of town: one of them is wife to the major of the regiment, and the other just going to be married to a captain in it, Sir George Clayton, a young handsome baronet, just come to his title and a very fine estate, by the death of a distant relation: he is at present at New York, and I am told they are to be married as soon as he comes back.
I have been making some flying visits to the French ladies; tho' I have not seen many beauties, yet in general the women are handsome; their manner is easy and obliging, they make the most of their charms by their vivacity, and I certainly cannot be displeas'd with their extreme partiality for the English officers; their own men, who indeed are not very attractive, have not the least chance for any share in their good graces.
I am just setting out with a friend for Major Melmoth's, to pay my compliments to the two ladies: I have no relish for this visit; I hate misses that are going to be married; they are always so full of the dear man, that they have not common civility to other people. I am told however both the ladies are agreeable.
14th. Eight in the evening.
Agreeable, Lucy! she is an angel: 'tis happy for me she is engag'd; nothing else could secure my heart, of which you know I am very tenacious: only think of finding beauty, delicacy, sensibility, all that can charm in woman, hid in a wood in Canada!
You say I am given to be enthusiastic in my approbations, but she is really charming. I am resolv'd not only to have a friendship for her myself, but that you shall, and have told her so; she comes to England as soon as she is married; you are form'd to love each other.
But I must tell you; Major Melmoth kept us a week at his house in the country, in one continued round of rural amusements; by which I do not mean hunting and shooting, but such pleasures as the ladies could share; little rustic balls and parties round the neighbouring country, in which parties we were joined by all the fine women at Montreal. Mrs. Melmoth is a very pleasing, genteel brunette, but Emily Montague—you will say I am in love with her if I describe her, and yet I declare to you I am not: knowing she loves another, to whom she is soon to be united, I see her charms with the same kind of pleasure I do yours; a pleasure, which, tho' extremely lively, is by our situation without the least mixture of desire.
I have said, she is charming; there are men here who do not think so, but to me she is loveliness itself. My ideas of beauty are perhaps a little out of the common road: I hate a woman of whom every man coldly says, she is handsome; I adore beauty, but it is not meer features or complexion to which I give that name; 'tis life, 'tis spirit, 'tis animation, 'tis—in one word, 'tis Emily Montague—without being regularly beautiful, she charms every sensible heart; all other women, however lovely, appear marble statues near her: fair; pale (a paleness which gives the idea of delicacy without destroying that of health), with dark hair and eyes, the latter large and languishing, she seems made to feel to a trembling excess the passion she cannot fail of inspiring: her elegant form has an air of softness and languor, which seizes the whole soul in a moment: her eyes, the most intelligent I ever saw, hold you enchain'd by their bewitching sensibility.
There are a thousand unspeakable charms in her conversation; but what I am most pleas'd with, is the attentive politeness of her manner, which you seldom see in a person in love; the extreme desire of pleasing one man generally taking off greatly from the attention due to all the rest. This is partly owing to her admirable understanding, and partly to the natural softness of her soul, which gives her the strongest desire of pleasing. As I am a philosopher in these matters, and have made the heart my study, I want extremely to see her with her lover, and to observe the gradual encrease of her charms in his presence; love, which embellishes the most unmeaning countenance, must give to her's a fire irresistible: what eyes! when animated by tenderness!
The very soul acquires a new force and beauty by loving; a woman of honor never appears half so amiable, or displays half so many virtues, as when sensible to the merit of a man who deserves her affection. Observe, Lucy, I shall never allow you to be handsome till I hear you are in love.
Did I tell you Emily Montague had the finest hand and arm in the world? I should however have excepted yours: her tone of voice too has the same melodious sweetness, a perfection without which the loveliest woman could never make the least impression on my heart: I don't think you are very unlike upon the whole, except that she is paler. You know, Lucy, you have often told me I should certainly have been in love with you if I had not been your brother: this resemblance is a proof you were right. You are really as handsome as any woman can be whose sensibility has never been put in motion.
I am to give a ball to-morrow; Mrs. Melmoth is to have the honors of it, but as she is with child, she does not dance. This circumstance has produc'd a dispute not a little flattering to my vanity: the ladies are making interest to dance with me; what a happy exchange have I made! what man of common sense would stay to be overlook'd in England, who can have rival beauties contend for him in Canada? This important point is not yet settled; the etiquette here is rather difficult to adjust; as to me, I have nothing to do in the consultation; my hand is destin'd to the longest pedigree; we stand prodigiously on our noblesse at Montreal.
After a dispute in which two French ladies were near drawing their husbands into a duel, the point of honor is yielded by both to Miss Montague; each insisting only that I should not dance with the other: for my part, I submit with a good grace, as you will suppose.
I never passed a more agreeable evening: we have our amusements here, I assure you: a set of fine young fellows, and handsome women, all well dress'd, and in humor with themselves, and with each other: my lovely Emily like Venus amongst the Graces, only multiplied to about sixteen. Nothing is, in my opinion, so favorable to the display of beauty as a ball. A state of rest is ungraceful; all nature is most beautiful in motion; trees agitated by the wind, a ship under sail, a horse in the course, a fine woman dancing: never any human being had such an aversion to still life as I have.
I am going back to Melmoth's for a month; don't be alarm'd, Lucy! I see all her perfections, but I see them with the cold eye of admiration only: a woman engaged loses all her attractions as a woman; there is no love without a ray of hope: my only ambition is to be her friend; I want to be the confidant of her passion. With what spirit such a mind as hers must love!
Adieu! my dear! Yours, Ed. Rivers.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Montreal, August 15.
By Heavens, Lucy, this is more than man can bear; I was mad to stay so long at Melmoth's; there is no resisting this little seducer: 'tis shameful in such a lovely woman to have understanding too; yet even this I could forgive, had she not that enchanting softness in her manner, which steals upon the soul, and would almost make ugliness itself charm; were she but vain, one had some chance, but she will take upon her to have no consciousness, at least no apparent consciousness, of her perfections, which is really intolerable. I told her so last night, when she put on such a malicious smile—I believe the little tyrant wants to add me to the list of her slaves; but I was not form'd to fill up a train. The woman I love must be so far from giving another the preference, that she must have no soul but for me; I am one of the most unreasonable men in the world on this head; she may fancy what she pleases, but I set her and all her attractions at defiance: I have made my escape, and shall set off for Quebec in an hour. Flying is, I must acknowledge, a little out of character, and unbecoming a soldier; but in these cases, it is the very best thing man or woman either can do, when they doubt their powers of resistance.
I intend to be ten days going to Quebec. I propose visiting the priests at every village, and endeavouring to get some knowledge of the nature of the country, in order to my intended settlement. Idleness being the root of all evil, and the nurse of love, I am determin'd to keep myself employed; nothing can be better suited to my temper than my present design; the pleasure of cultivating lands here is as much superior to what can be found in the same employment in England, as watching the expanding rose, and beholding the falling leaves: America is in infancy, Europe in old age. Nor am I very ill qualified for this agreable task: I have studied the Georgicks, and am a pretty enough kind of a husbandman as far as theory goes; nay, I am not sure I shall not be, even in practice, the best gentleman farmer in the province.
You may expect soon to hear of me in the Museum Rusticum; I intend to make amazing discoveries in the rural way: I have already found out, by the force of my own genius, two very uncommon circumstances; that in Canada, contrary to what we see every where else, the country is rich, the capital poor; the hills fruitful, the vallies barren. You see what excellent dispositions I have to be an useful member of society: I had always a strong biass to the study of natural philosophy.
Tell my mother how well I am employ'd, and she cannot but approve my voyage: assure her, my dear, of my tenderest regard.
The chaise is at the door.
Adieu! Ed. Rivers.
The lover is every hour expected; I am not quite sure I should have lik'd to see him arrive: a third person, you know, on such an occasion, sinks into nothing; and I love, wherever I am, to be one of the figures which strike the eye; I hate to appear on the back ground of the picture.
To Miss Rivers.
Quebec, Aug. 24.
You can't think, my dear, what a fund of useful knowledge I have treasur'd up during my journey from Montreal. This colony is a rich mine yet unopen'd; I do not mean of gold and silver, but of what are of much more real value, corn and cattle. Nothing is wanting but encouragement and cultivation; the Canadians are at their ease even without labor; nature is here a bounteous mother, who pours forth her gifts almost unsolicited: bigotry, stupidity, and laziness, united, have not been able to keep the peasantry poor. I rejoice to find such admirable capabilities where I propose to fix my dominion.
I was hospitably entertained by the cures all the way down, tho' they are in general but ill provided for: the parochial clergy are useful every where, but I have a great aversion to monks, those drones in the political hive, whose whole study seems to be to make themselves as useless to the world as possible. Think too of the shocking indelicacy of many of them, who make it a point of religion to abjure linen, and wear their habits till they drop off. How astonishing that any mind should suppose the Deity an enemy to cleanliness! the Jewish religion was hardly any thing else.
I paid my respects wherever I stopped, to the seigneuress of the village; for as to the seigneurs, except two or three, if they had not wives, they would not be worth visiting.
I am every day more pleased with the women here; and, if I was gallant, should be in danger of being a convert to the French stile of gallantry; which certainly debases the mind much less than ours.
But what is all this to my Emily? How I envy Sir George! what happiness has Heaven prepared for him, if he has a soul to taste it!
I really must not think of her; I found so much delight in her conversation, it was quite time to come away; I am almost ashamed to own how much difficulty I found in leaving her: do you know I have scarce slept since? This is absurd, but I cannot help it; which by the way is an admirable excuse for any thing.
I have been come but two hours, and am going to Silleri, to pay my compliments to your friend Miss Fermor, who arrived with her father, who comes to join his regiment, since I left Quebec. I hear there has been a very fine importation of English ladies during my absence. I am sorry I have not time to visit the rest, but I go to-morrow morning to the Indian village for a fortnight, and have several letters to write to-night.
Adieu! I am interrupted, Yours, Ed. Rivers.
To Mrs. Melmoth, at Montreal.
Quebec, August 24.
I cannot, Madam, express my obligation to you for having added a postscript to Major Melmoth's letter: I am sure he will excuse my answering the whole to you; if not, I beg he may know that I shall be very pert about it, being much more solicitous to please you than him, for a thousand reasons too tedious to mention.
I thought you had more penetration than to suppose me indifferent: on the contrary, sensibility is my fault; though it is not your little every-day beauties who can excite it: I have admirable dispositions to love, though I am hard to please: in short, I am not cruel, I am only nice: do but you, or your divine friend, give me leave to wear your chains, and you shall soon be convinced I can love like an angel, when I set in earnest about it. But, alas! you are married, and in love with your husband; and your friend is in a situation still more unfavorable to a lover's hopes. This is particularly unfortunate, as you are the only two of your bewitching sex in Canada, for whom my heart feels the least sympathy. To be plain, but don't tell the little Major, I am more than half in love with you both, and, if I was the grand Turk, should certainly fit out a fleet, to seize, and bring you to my seraglio.
There is one virtue I admire extremely in you both; I mean, that humane and tender compassion for the poor men, which prompts you to be always seen together; if you appeared separate, where is the hero who could resist either of you?
You ask me how I like the French ladies at Montreal: I think them extremely pleasing; and many of them handsome; I thought Madame L—— so, even near you and Miss Montague; which is, I think, saying as much as can be said on the subject.
I have just heard by accident that Sir George is arrived at Montreal. Assure Miss Montague, no one can be more warmly interested in her happiness than I am: she is the most perfect work of Heaven; may she be the happiest! I feel much more on this occasion than I can express: a mind like hers must, in marriage, be exquisitely happy or miserable: my friendship makes me tremble for her, notwithstanding the worthy character I have heard of Sir George.
I will defer till another time what I had to say to Major Melmoth.
I have the honour to be, Madam, Yours &c. Ed. Rivers.
Silleri, August 24.
I have been a month arrived, my dear, without having seen your brother, who is at Montreal, but I am told is expected to-day. I have spent my time however very agreably. I know not what the winter may be, but I am enchanted with the beauty of this country in summer; bold, picturesque, romantic, nature reigns here in all her wanton luxuriance, adorned by a thousand wild graces which mock the cultivated beauties of Europe. The scenery about the town is infinitely lovely; the prospect extensive, and diversified by a variety of hills, woods, rivers, cascades, intermingled with smiling farms and cottages, and bounded by distant mountains which seem to scale the very Heavens.
The days are much hotter here than in England, but the heat is more supportable from the breezes which always spring up about noon; and the evenings are charming beyond expression. We have much thunder and lightening, but very few instances of their being fatal: the thunder is more magnificent and aweful than in Europe, and the lightening brighter and more beautiful; I have even seen it of a clear pale purple, resembling the gay tints of the morning.
The verdure is equal to that of England, and in the evening acquires an unspeakable beauty from the lucid splendor of the fire-flies sparkling like a thousand little stars on the trees and on the grass.
There are two very noble falls of water near Quebec, la Chaudiere and Montmorenci: the former is a prodigious sheet of water, rushing over the wildest rocks, and forming a scene grotesque, irregular, astonishing: the latter, less wild, less irregular, but more pleasing and more majestic, falls from an immense height, down the side of a romantic mountain, into the river St. Lawrence, opposite the most smiling part of the island of Orleans, to the cultivated charms of which it forms the most striking and agreeable contrast.
The river of the same name, which supplies the cascade of Montmorenci, is the most lovely of all inanimate objects: but why do I call it inanimate? It almost breathes; I no longer wonder at the enthusiasm of Greece and Rome; 'twas from objects resembling this their mythology took its rise; it seems the residence of a thousand deities.
Paint to yourself a stupendous rock burst as it were in sunder by the hands of nature, to give passage to a small, but very deep and beautiful river; and forming on each side a regular and magnificent wall, crowned with the noblest woods that can be imagined; the sides of these romantic walls adorned with a variety of the gayest flowers, and in many places little streams of the purest water gushing through, and losing themselves in the river below: a thousand natural grottoes in the rock make you suppose yourself in the abode of the Nereids; as a little island, covered with flowering shrubs, about a mile above the falls, where the river enlarges itself as if to give it room, seems intended for the throne of the river goddess. Beyond this, the rapids, formed by the irregular projections of the rock, which in some places seem almost to meet, rival in beauty, as they excel in variety, the cascade itself, and close this little world of enchantment.
In short, the loveliness of this fairy scene alone more than pays the fatigues of my voyage; and, if I ever murmur at having crossed the Atlantic, remind me that I have seen the river Montmorenci.
I can give you a very imperfect account of the people here; I have only examined the landscape about Quebec, and have given very little attention to the figures; the French ladies are handsome, but as to the beaux, they appear to me not at all dangerous, and one might safely walk in a wood by moonlight with the most agreeable Frenchman here. I am not surprized the Canadian ladies take such pains to seduce our men from us; but I think it a little hard we have no temptation to make reprisals.
I am at present at an extreme pretty farm on the banks of the river St. Lawrence; the house stands at the foot of a steep mountain covered with a variety of trees, forming a verdant sloping wall, which rises in a kind of regular confusion, "Shade above shade, a woody theatre," and has in front this noble river, on which the ships continually passing present to the delighted eye the most charming moving picture imaginable; I never saw a place so formed to inspire that pleasing lassitude, that divine inclination to saunter, which may not improperly be called, the luxurious indolence of the country. I intend to build a temple here to the charming goddess of laziness.
A gentleman is just coming down the winding path on the side of the hill, whom by his air I take to be your brother. Adieu! I must receive him: my father is at Quebec.
Yours, Arabella Fermor.
Your brother has given me a very pleasing piece of intelligence: my friend Emily Montague is at Montreal, and is going to be married to great advantage; I must write to her immediately, and insist on her making me a visit before she marries. She came to America two years ago, with her uncle Colonel Montague, who died here, and I imagined was gone back to England; she is however at Montreal with Mrs. Melmoth, a distant relation of her mother's. Adieu! ma tres chere!
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Quebec, Sept. 10.
I find, my dear, that absence and amusement are the best remedies for a beginning passion; I have passed a fortnight at the Indian village of Lorette, where the novelty of the scene, and the enquiries I have been led to make into their antient religion and manners, have been of a thousand times more service to me than all the reflection in the world would have been.
I will own to you that I staid too long at Montreal, or rather at Major Melmoth's; to be six weeks in the same house with one of the most amiable, most pleasing of women, was a trying situation to a heart full of sensibility, and of a sensibility which has been hitherto, from a variety of causes, a good deal restrained. I should have avoided the danger from the first, had it appeared to me what it really was; but I thought myself secure in the consideration of her engagements, a defence however which I found grow weaker every day.
But to my savages: other nations talk of liberty, they possess it; nothing can be more astonishing than to see a little village of about thirty or forty families, the small remains of the Hurons, almost exterminated by long and continual war with the Iroquoise, preserve their independence in the midst of an European colony consisting of seventy thousand inhabitants; yet the fact is true of the savages of Lorette; they assert and they maintain that independence with a spirit truly noble. One of our company having said something which an Indian understood as a supposition that they had been subjects of France, his eyes struck fire, he stop'd him abruptly, contrary to their respectful and sensible custom of never interrupting the person who speaks, "You mistake, brother," said he; "we are subjects to no prince; a savage is free all over the world." And he spoke only truth; they are not only free as a people, but every individual is perfectly so. Lord of himself, at once subject and master, a savage knows no superior, a circumstance which has a striking effect on his behaviour; unawed by rank or riches, distinctions unknown amongst his own nation, he would enter as unconcerned, would possess all his powers as freely in the palace of an oriental monarch, as in the cottage of the meanest peasant: 'tis the species, 'tis man, 'tis his equal he respects, without regarding the gaudy trappings, the accidental advantages, to which polished nations pay homage.
I have taken some pains to develop their present, as well as past, religious sentiments, because the Jesuit missionaries have boasted so much of their conversion; and find they have rather engrafted a few of the most plain and simple truths of Christianity on their ancient superstitions, than exchanged one faith for another; they are baptized, and even submit to what they themselves call the yoke of confession, and worship according to the outward forms of the Romish church, the drapery of which cannot but strike minds unused to splendor; but their belief is very little changed, except that the women seem to pay great reverence to the Virgin, perhaps because flattering to the sex. They anciently believed in one God, the ruler and creator of the universe, whom they called the Great Spirit and the Master of Life; in the sun as his image and representative; in a multitude of inferior spirits and demons; and in a future state of rewards and punishments, or, to use their own phrase, in a country of souls. They reverenced the spirits of their departed heroes, but it does not appear that they paid them any religious adoration. Their morals were more pure, their manners more simple, than those of polished nations, except in what regarded the intercourse of the sexes: the young women before marriage were indulged in great libertinism, hid however under the most reserved and decent exterior. They held adultery in abhorrence, and with the more reason as their marriages were dissolvable at pleasure. The missionaries are said to have found no difficulty so great in gaining them to Christianity, as that of persuading them to marry for life: they regarded the Christian system of marriage as contrary to the laws of nature and reason; and asserted that, as the Great Spirit formed us to be happy, it was opposing his will, to continue together when otherwise.
The sex we have so unjustly excluded from power in Europe have a great share in the Huron government; the chief is chose by the matrons from amongst the nearest male relations, by the female line, of him he is to succeed; and is generally an aunt's or sister's son; a custom which, if we examine strictly into the principle on which it is founded, seems a little to contradict what we are told of the extreme chastity of the married ladies.
The power of the chief is extremely limited; he seems rather to advise his people as a father than command them as a master: yet, as his commands are always reasonable, and for the general good, no prince in the world is so well obeyed. They have a supreme council of ancients, into which every man enters of course at an age fixed, and another of assistants to the chief on common occasions, the members of which are like him elected by the matrons: I am pleased with this last regulation, as women are, beyond all doubt, the best judges of the merit of men; and I should be extremely pleased to see it adopted in England: canvassing for elections would then be the most agreeable thing in the world, and I am sure the ladies would give their votes on much more generous principles than we do. In the true sense of the word, we are the savages, who so impolitely deprive you of the common rights of citizenship, and leave you no power but that of which we cannot deprive you, the resistless power of your charms. By the way, I don't think you are obliged in conscience to obey laws you have had no share in making; your plea would certainly be at least as good as that of the Americans, about which we every day hear so much.
The Hurons have no positive laws; yet being a people not numerous, with a strong sense of honor, and in that state of equality which gives no food to the most tormenting passions of the human heart, and the council of ancients having a power to punish atrocious crimes, which power however they very seldom find occasion to use, they live together in a tranquillity and order which appears to us surprizing.
In more numerous Indian nations, I am told, every village has its chief and its councils, and is perfectly independent on the rest; but on great occasions summon a general council, to which every village sends deputies.
Their language is at once sublime and melodious; but, having much fewer ideas, it is impossible it can be so copious as those of Europe: the pronunciation of the men is guttural, but that of the women extremely soft and pleasing; without understanding one word of the language, the sound of it is very agreeable to me. Their style even in speaking French is bold and metaphorical: and I am told is on important occasions extremely sublime. Even in common conversation they speak in figures, of which I have this moment an instance. A savage woman was wounded lately in defending an English family from the drunken rage of one of her nation. I asked her after her wound; "It is well," said she; "my sisters at Quebec (meaning the English ladies) have been kind to me; and piastres, you know, are very healing."
They have no idea of letters, no alphabet, nor is their language reducible to rules: 'tis by painting they preserve the memory of the only events which interest them, or that they think worth recording, the conquests gained over their enemies in war.
When I speak of their paintings, I should not omit that, though extremely rude, they have a strong resemblance to the Chinese, a circumstance which struck me the more, as it is not the stile of nature. Their dances also, the most lively pantomimes I ever saw, and especially the dance of peace, exhibit variety of attitudes resembling the figures on Chinese fans; nor have their features and complexion less likeness to the pictures we see of the Tartars, as their wandering manner of life, before they became christians, was the same.
If I thought it necessary to suppose they were not natives of the country, and that America was peopled later than the other quarters of the world, I should imagine them the descendants of Tartars; as nothing can be more easy than their passage from Asia, from which America is probably not divided; or, if it is, by a very narrow channel. But I leave this to those who are better informed, being a subject on which I honestly confess my ignorance.
I have already observed, that they retain most of their antient superstitions. I should particularize their belief in dreams, of which folly even repeated disappointments cannot cure them: they have also an unlimited faith in their powawers, or conjurers, of whom there is one in every Indian village, who is at once physician, orator, and divine, and who is consulted as an oracle on every occasion. As I happened to smile at the recital a savage was making of a prophetic dream, from which he assured us of the death of an English officer whom I knew to be alive, "You Europeans," said he, "are the most unreasonable people in the world; you laugh at our belief in dreams, and yet expect us to believe things a thousand times more incredible."
Their general character is difficult to describe; made up of contrary and even contradictory qualities, they are indolent, tranquil, quiet, humane in peace; active, restless, cruel, ferocious in war: courteous, attentive, hospitable, and even polite, when kindly treated; haughty, stern, vindictive, when they are not; and their resentment is the more to be dreaded, as they hold it a point of honor to dissemble their sense of an injury till they find an opportunity to revenge it.
They are patient of cold and heat, of hunger and thirst, even beyond all belief when necessity requires, passing whole days, and often three or four days together, without food, in the woods, when on the watch for an enemy, or even on their hunting parties; yet indulging themselves in their feasts even to the most brutal degree of intemperance. They despise death, and suffer the most excruciating tortures not only without a groan, but with an air of triumph; singing their death song, deriding their tormentors, and threatening them with the vengeance of their surviving friends: yet hold it honorable to fly before an enemy that appears the least superior in number or force.
Deprived by their extreme ignorance, and that indolence which nothing but their ardor for war can surmount, of all the conveniencies, as well as elegant refinements of polished life; strangers to the softer passions, love being with them on the same footing as amongst their fellow-tenants of the woods, their lives appear to me rather tranquil than happy: they have fewer cares, but they have also much fewer enjoyments, than fall to our share. I am told, however, that, though insensible to love, they are not without affections; are extremely awake to friendship, and passionately fond of their children.
They are of a copper color, which is rendered more unpleasing by a quantity of coarse red on their cheeks; but the children, when born, are of a pale silver white; perhaps their indelicate custom of greasing their bodies, and their being so much exposed to the air and sun even from infancy, may cause that total change of complexion, which I know not how otherwise to account for: their hair is black and shining, the women's very long, parted at the top, and combed back, tied behind, and often twisted with a thong of leather, which they think very ornamental: the dress of both sexes is a close jacket, reaching to their knees, with spatterdashes, all of coarse blue cloth, shoes of deer-skin, embroidered with porcupine quills, and sometimes with silver spangles; and a blanket thrown across their shoulders, and fastened before with a kind of bodkin, with necklaces, and other ornaments of beads or shells.
They are in general tall, well made, and agile to the last degree; have a lively imagination, a strong memory; and, as far as their interests are concerned, are very dextrous politicians.
Their address is cold and reserved; but their treatment of strangers, and the unhappy, infinitely kind and hospitable. A very worthy priest, with whom I am acquainted at Quebec, was some years since shipwrecked in December on the island of Anticosti: after a variety of distresses, not difficult to be imagined on an island without inhabitants, during the severity of a winter even colder than that of Canada; he, with the small remains of his companions who survived such complicated distress, early in the spring, reached the main land in their boat, and wandered to a cabbin of savages; the ancient of which, having heard his story, bid him enter, and liberally supplied their wants: "Approach, brother," said he; "the unhappy have a right to our assistance; we are men, and cannot but feel for the distresses which happen to men;" a sentiment which has a strong resemblance to a celebrated one in a Greek tragedy.
You will not expect more from me on this subject, as my residence here has been short, and I can only be said to catch a few marking features flying. I am unable to give you a picture at full length.
Nothing astonishes me so much as to find their manners so little changed by their intercourse with the Europeans; they seem to have learnt nothing of us but excess in drinking.
The situation of the village is very fine, on an eminence, gently rising to a thick wood at some distance, a beautiful little serpentine river in front, on which are a bridge, a mill, and a small cascade, at such a distance as to be very pleasing objects from their houses; and a cultivated country, intermixed with little woods lying between them and Quebec, from which they are distant only nine very short miles.
What a letter have I written! I shall quit my post of historian to your friend Miss Fermor; the ladies love writing much better than we do; and I should perhaps be only just, if I said they write better.
Adieu! Ed. Rivers.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Quebec, Sept. 12.
I yesterday morning received a letter from Major Melmoth, to introduce to my acquaintance Sir George Clayton, who brought it; he wanted no other introduction to me than his being dear to the most amiable woman breathing; in virtue of that claim, he may command every civility, every attention in my power. He breakfasted with me yesterday: we were two hours alone, and had a great deal of conversation; we afterwards spent the day together very agreably, on a party of pleasure in the country.
I am going with him this afternoon to visit Miss Fermor, to whom he has a letter from the divine Emily, which he is to deliver himself.
He is very handsome, but not of my favorite stile of beauty: extremely fair and blooming, with fine features, light hair and eyes; his countenance not absolutely heavy, but inanimate, and to my taste insipid: finely made, not ungenteel, but without that easy air of the world which I prefer to the most exact symmetry without it. In short, he is what the country ladies in England call a sweet pretty man. He dresses well, has the finest horses and the handsomest liveries I have seen in Canada. His manner is civil but cold, his conversation sensible but not spirited; he seems to be a man rather to approve than to love. Will you excuse me if I say, he resembles the form my imagination paints of Prometheus's man of clay, before he stole the celestial fire to animate him?
Perhaps I scrutinize him too strictly; perhaps I am prejudiced in my judgment by the very high idea I had form'd of the man whom Emily Montague could love. I will own to you, that I thought it impossible for her to be pleased with meer beauty; and I cannot even now change my opinion; I shall find some latent fire, some hidden spark, when we are better acquainted.
I intend to be very intimate with him, to endeavour to see into his very soul; I am hard to please in a husband for my Emily; he must have spirit, he must have sensibility, or he cannot make her happy.
He thank'd me for my civility to Miss Montague: do you know I thought him impertinent? and I am not yet sure he was not so, though I saw he meant to be polite.
He comes: our horses are at the door. Adieu!
Yours, Ed. Rivers.
Eight in the evening.
We are return'd: I every hour like him less. There were several ladies, French and English, with Miss Fermor, all on the rack to engage the Baronet's attention; you have no notion of the effect of a title in America. To do the ladies justice however, he really look'd very handsome; the ride, and the civilities he receiv'd from a circle of pretty women, for they were well chose, gave a glow to his complexion extremely favorable to his desire of pleasing, which, through all his calmness, it was impossible not to observe; he even attempted once or twice to be lively, but fail'd: vanity itself could not inspire him with vivacity; yet vanity is certainly his ruling passion, if such a piece of still life can be said to have any passions at all.
What a charm, my dear Lucy, is there in sensibility! 'Tis the magnet which attracts all to itself: virtue may command esteem, understanding and talents admiration, beauty a transient desire; but 'tis sensibility alone which can inspire love.
Yet the tender, the sensible Emily Montague—no, my dear, 'tis impossible: she may fancy she loves him, but it is not in nature; unless she extremely mistakes his character. His approbation of her, for he cannot feel a livelier sentiment, may at present, when with her, raise him a little above his natural vegetative state, but after marriage he will certainly sink into it again.
If I have the least judgment in men, he will be a cold, civil, inattentive husband; a tasteless, insipid, silent companion; a tranquil, frozen, unimpassion'd lover; his insensibility will secure her from rivals, his vanity will give her all the drapery of happiness; her friends will congratulate her choice; she will be the envy of her own sex: without giving positive offence, he will every moment wound, because he is a stranger to, all the fine feelings of a heart like hers; she will seek in vain the friend, the lover, she expected; yet, scarce knowing of what to complain, she will accuse herself of caprice, and be astonish'd to find herself wretched with the best husband in the world.
I tremble for her happiness; I know how few of my own sex are to be found who have the lively sensibility of yours, and of those few how many wear out their hearts by a life of gallantry and dissipation, and bring only apathy and disgust into marriage. I know few men capable of making her happy; but this Sir George—my Lucy, I have not patience.
Did I tell you all the men here are in love with your friend Bell Fermor? The women all hate her, which is an unequivocal proof that she pleases the other sex.
To Miss Fermor, at Silleri.
Montreal, Sept. 2.
My dearest Bell will better imagine than I can describe, the pleasure it gave me to hear of her being in Canada; I am impatient to see her, but as Mrs. Melmoth comes in a fortnight to Quebec, I know she will excuse my waiting to come with her. My visit however is to Silleri; I long to see my dear girl, to tell her a thousand little trifles interesting only to friendship.
You congratulate me, my dear, on the pleasing prospect I have before me; on my approaching marriage with a man young, rich, lovely, enamor'd, and of an amiable character.
Yes, my dear, I am oblig'd to my uncle for his choice; Sir George is all you have heard; and, without doubt, loves me, as he marries me with such an inferiority of fortune. I am very happy certainly; how is it possible I should be otherwise?
I could indeed wish my tenderness for him more lively, but perhaps my wishes are romantic. I prefer him to all his sex, but wish my preference was of a less languid nature; there is something in it more like friendship than love; I see him with pleasure, but I part from him without regret; yet he deserves my affection, and I can have no objection to him which is not founded in caprice.
You say true; Colonel Rivers is very amiable; he pass'd six weeks with us, yet we found his conversation always new; he is the man on earth of whom one would wish to make a friend; I think I could already trust him with every sentiment of my soul; I have even more confidence in him than in Sir George whom I love; his manner is soft, attentive, insinuating, and particularly adapted to please women. Without designs, without pretensions; he steals upon you in the character of a friend, because there is not the least appearance of his ever being a lover: he seems to take such an interest in your happiness, as gives him a right to know your every thought. Don't you think, my dear, these kind of men are dangerous? Take care of yourself, my dear Bell; as to me, I am secure in my situation.
Sir George is to have the pleasure of delivering this to you, and comes again in a few days; love him for my sake, though he deserves it for his own. I assure you, he is extremely worthy.
Adieu! my dear. Your affectionate Emily Montague.
To John Temple, Esq; Pall Mall.
Quebec, Sept. 15.
Believe me, Jack, you are wrong; this vagrant taste is unnatural, and does not lead to happiness; your eager pursuit of pleasure defeats itself; love gives no true delight but where the heart is attach'd, and you do not give yours time to fix. Such is our unhappy frailty, that the tenderest passion may wear out, and another succeed, but the love of change merely as change is not in nature; where it is a real taste, 'tis a depraved one. Boys are inconstant from vanity and affectation, old men from decay of passion; but men, and particularly men of sense, find their happiness only in that lively attachment of which it is impossible for more than one to be the object. Love is an intellectual pleasure, and even the senses will be weakly affected where the heart is silent.
You will find this truth confirmed even within the walls of the seraglio; amidst this crowd of rival beauties, eager to please, one happy fair generally reigns in the heart of the sultan; the rest serve only to gratify his pride and ostentation, and are regarded by him with the same indifference as the furniture of his superb palace, of which they may be said to make a part.
With your estate, you should marry; I have as many objections to the state as you can have; I mean, on the footing marriage is at present. But of this I am certain, that two persons at once delicate and sensible, united by friendship, by taste, by a conformity of sentiment, by that lively ardent tender inclination which alone deserves the name of love, will find happiness in marriage, which is in vain sought in any other kind of attachment.
You are so happy as to have the power of chusing; you are rich, and have not the temptation to a mercenary engagement. Look round you for a companion, a confidente; a tender amiable friend, with all the charms of a mistress: above all, be certain of her affection, that you engage, that you fill her whole soul. Find such a woman, my dear Temple, and you cannot make too much haste to be happy.
I have a thousand things to say to you, but am setting off immediately with Sir George Clayton, to meet the lieutenant governor at Montreal; a piece of respect which I should pay with the most lively pleasure, if it did not give me the opportunity of seeing the woman in the world I most admire. I am not however going to set you the example of marrying: I am not so happy; she is engaged to the gentleman who goes up with me. Adieu!
Yours, Ed. Rivers.
To Miss Montague, at Montreal.
Silleri, Sept. 16.
Take care, my dear Emily, you do not fall into the common error of sensible and delicate minds, that of refining away your happiness.
Sir George is handsome as an Adonis; you allow him to be of an amiable character; he is rich, young, well born, and loves you; you will have fine cloaths, fine jewels, a fine house, a coach and six; all the douceurs of marriage, with an extreme pretty fellow, who is fond of you, whom you see with pleasure, and prefer to all his sex; and yet you are discontented, because you have not for him at twenty-four the romantic passion of fifteen, or rather that ideal passion which perhaps never existed but in imagination.
To be happy in this world, it is necessary not to raise one's ideas too high: if I loved a man of Sir George's fortune half as well as by your own account you love him, I should not hesitate one moment about marrying; but sit down contented with ease, affluence, and an agreeable man, without expecting to find life what it certainly is not, a state of continual rapture. 'Tis, I am afraid, my dear, your misfortune to have too much sensibility to be happy.
I could moralize exceedingly well this morning on the vanity of human wishes and expectations, and the folly of hoping for felicity in this vile sublunary world: but the subject is a little exhausted, and I have a passion for being original. I think all the moral writers, who have set off with promising to shew us the road to happiness, have obligingly ended with telling us there is no such thing; a conclusion extremely consoling, and which if they had drawn before they set pen to paper, would have saved both themselves and their readers an infinity of trouble. This fancy of hunting for what one knows is not to be found, is really an ingenious way of amusing both one's self and the world: I wish people would either write to some purpose, or be so good as not to write at all.
I believe I shall set about writing a system of ethics myself, which shall be short, clear, and comprehensive; nearer the Epicurean perhaps than the Stoic; but rural, refined, and sentimental; rural by all means; for who does not know that virtue is a country gentlewoman? all the good mammas will tell you, there is no such being to be heard of in town.
I shall certainly be glad to see you, my dear; though I foresee strange revolutions in the state of Denmark from this event; at present I have all the men to myself, and you must know I have a prodigious aversion to divided empire: however, 'tis some comfort they all know you are going to be married. You may come, Emily; only be so obliging to bring Sir George along with you: in your present situation, you are not so very formidable.
The men here, as I said before, are all dying for me; there are many handsomer women, but I flatter them, and the dear creatures cannot resist it. I am a very good girl to women, but naturally artful (if you will allow the expression) to the other sex; I can blush, look down, stifle a sigh, flutter my fan, and seem so agreeably confused—you have no notion, my dear, what fools men are. If you had not got the start of me, I would have had your little white-haired baronet in a week, and yet I don't take him to be made of very combustible materials; rather mild, composed, and pretty, I believe; but he has vanity, which is quite enough for my purpose.
Either your love or Colonel Rivers will have the honor to deliver this letter; 'tis rather cruel to take them both from us at once; however, we shall soon be made amends; for we shall have a torrent of beaux with the general.
Don't you think the sun in this country vastly more chearing than in England? I am charmed with the sun, to say nothing of the moon, though to be sure I never saw a moon-light night that deserved the name till I came to America.
Mon cher pere desires a thousand compliments; you know he has been in love with you ever since you were seven years old: he is vastly better for his voyage, and the clear air of Canada, and looks ten years younger than before he set out.
Adieu! I am going to ramble in the woods, and pick berries, with a little smiling civil captain, who is enamoured of me: a pretty rural amusement for lovers!
Good morrow, my dear Emily,
Yours, A. Fermor.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Silleri, Sept. 18.
Your brother, my dear, is gone to Montreal with Sir George Clayton, of whom I suppose you have heard, and who is going to marry a friend of mine, to pay a visit to Monsieur le General, who is arrived there. The men in Canada, the English I mean, are eternally changing place, even when they have not so pleasing a call; travelling is cheap and amusing, the prospects lovely, the weather inviting; and there are no very lively pleasures at present to attach them either to Quebec or Montreal, so that they divide themselves between both.
This fancy of the men, which is extremely the mode, makes an agreable circulation of inamoratoes, which serves to vary the amusement of the ladies; so that upon the whole 'tis a pretty fashion, and deserves encouragement.
You expect too much of your brother, my dear; the summer is charming here, but with no such very striking difference from that of England, as to give room to say a vast deal on the subject; though I believe, if you will please to compare our letters, you will find, putting us together, we cut a pretty figure in the descriptive way; at least if your brother tells me truth.
You may expect a very well painted frost-piece from me in the winter; as to the present season, it is just like any fine autumn in England: I may add, that the beauty of the nights is much beyond my power of description: a constant Aurora borealis, without a cloud in the heavens; and a moon so resplendent that you may see to read the smallest print by its light; one has nothing to wish but that it was full moon every night. Our evening walks are delicious, especially at Silleri, where 'tis the pleasantest thing in the world to listen to soft nonsense,
"Whilst the moon dances through the trembling leaves"
(A line I stole from Philander and Sylvia): But to return:
The French ladies never walk but at night, which shews their good taste; and then only within the walls of Quebec, which does not: they saunter slowly, after supper, on a particular battery, which is a kind of little Mall: they have no idea of walking in the country, nor the least feeling of the lovely scene around them; there are many of them who never saw the falls of Montmorenci, though little more than an hour's drive from the town. They seem born without the smallest portion of curiosity, or any idea of the pleasures of the imagination, or indeed any pleasure but that of being admired; love, or rather coquetry, dress, and devotion, seem to share all their hours: yet, as they are lively, and in general handsome, the men are very ready to excuse their want of knowledge.
There are two ladies in the province, I am told, who read; but both of them are above fifty, and they are regarded as prodigies of erudition.
Eight in the evening.
Absolutely, Lucy, I will marry a savage, and turn squaw (a pretty soft name for an Indian princess!): never was any thing so delightful as their lives; they talk of French husbands, but commend me to an Indian one, who lets his wife ramble five hundred miles, without asking where she is going.
I was sitting after dinner with a book, in a thicket of hawthorn near the beach, when a loud laugh called my attention to the river, where I saw a canoe of savages making to the shore; there were six women, and two or three children, without one man amongst them: they landed, tied the canoe to the root of a tree, and finding out the most agreable shady spot amongst the bushes with which the beach was covered, which happened to be very near me, made a fire, on which they laid some fish to broil, and, fetching water from the river, sat down on the grass to their frugal repast.
I stole softly to the house, and, ordering a servant to bring some wine and cold provisions, returned to my squaws: I asked them in French if they were of Lorette; they shook their heads: I repeated the question in English, when the oldest of the women told me, they were not; that their country was on the borders of New England; that, their husbands being on a hunting party in the woods, curiosity, and the desire of seeing their brethren the English who had conquered Quebec, had brought them up the great river, down which they should return as soon as they had seen Montreal. She courteously asked me to sit down, and eat with them, which I complied with, and produced my part of the feast. We soon became good company, and brighten'd the chain of friendship with two bottles of wine, which put them into such spirits, that they danced, sung, shook me by the hand, and grew so very fond of me, that I began to be afraid I should not easily get rid of them. They were very unwilling to part with me; but, after two or three very ridiculous hours, I with some difficulty prevailed on the ladies to pursue their voyage, having first replenished their canoe with provisions and a few bottles of wine, and given them a letter of recommendation to your brother, that they might be in no distress at Montreal.