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ART. II. Letters from Elizabeth Sophia de Valiere to her Friend Louilo
Hortensia de Canteleu. By Madam Riccoboni. Translated from the French by Mr. Maceuen. 12mo. 2 Vols. Becket. 1772. HE public has been, for some years, indebted to this
agreeable writer, for several ingenious performances, and for none more entertaining than the present letters. They are conceived with much art and fenfibility; they abound with excellent observations on manners and life; and they discover a penetration which can never be exerted but by those who have mixed much in fociety. The characters the draws are sufficiently pointed and distinguished; and the incidents she produces have their foundation in nature, and charm by the surprize they excite. The mind, moved and agitated, is conscious of the impressions the meant to communicate. experience all the little suspicions, all the tender anxieties, all the bewitching uneasiness, attendant on love.
While the conduct and execution of the piece deserve, in general, to be highly commended, there are episodical or digressive narratives in it, which are extremely interesting; and of these we may mention the story of the Marquis de Monglas, as an example of that delicate skill and address that are so rarely exhibited by the novelist.
This nobleman was unexceptionable in his character, but bordered on his sixtieth year. After having devoted a confiderable part of his life to the profession of arms, and the service, of his King, the idea of enlarging his mind induced him to visit foreign countries, and he spent eighteen years in his travels. Meanwhile the Count d'Alby, his friend and the partner of his campaigns, had married, and had become the father of several children. The eldest of his sons was destined to succeed him; the second was a Knight of Malta ; and the third was intended for the church. He had also a daughter, and be bad determined to bury her in an abby. It was in vain that she had wit, beauty, and every amiable accomplishment; and it was in vain that the discovered a reluctance to the austerities of a religious order. This was the state of the Count's affairs when the Marquis came to pay him a visit at his leat
• Moni. de Monglas, fays Madam Riccoboni, beheld with grief the management of the Count d'Alby, in regard to his children; he could not fee without i dignation, the crue) and unjur difference, which a father dared to put between creatures entrusted by providence, and the laws of society, to his care, under the obligation of the strictest impartiality, which Ņature herself seems to have planted in the breast of every parent. He knew mankind too well to won. der at their habitual inconsistency; he knew how much their manpers and principles are at a variance, and that by an odd compound of wisdom and folly, men who are capable of enacting just laws, çan at the same time adopt customs in downright violation of them.
• Mons. de Monglas observed Mademoiselle d'Alby's deep melan. choly; and was much affected with it.' The liberty usually allowed in the country giving him frequent opportunities of conversing with her, he discovered great qualities in her, and every day his compalfion for her increased : her youth, the graces of her person, the can. dour of her mind, the noble fimplicity of her expreltions, the confi. dence the reposed in him, her respect for her severe parents, whose cruelty drew tears from her eyes, and her modest complaints, every moment augmented the concern which the Marquis began to take in the fortune of an amiable and distressed young lady, "The natural fenfibility of his temper had often opened his heart to the feducing charms of a passion, which age and continual application to ftudy, made him then little susceptible of; but if he no longer fol. lowed women upon sensual motives, he still loved them ; preferred their friendship to that of his own sex, and laughed at the idle declamations of those four philosophers, who have presumed to call them the quick fards of wisdom and true happiness,
• Tender compassion was not a transient sentiment, ftill less a fruit, less emotion in the generous foul of Monf. de Monglas. Whilst he pitied Mademoiselle d'Alby, he considered the means of making her independent and happy: several occurred to his thoughts, yet none but what were attended with difficulty in the execution ; he feared to offend his friend; the pride of Henrietta's father might itand in the way of his designs ; pride is often an hindrance to beneficence: the Marquis had no relation to propose for her: as he had been absent fo many years, he knew nobody whose addresses he could promote by such arrangements as are calily made by the rich and generous, However the season was fast advancing, and Henrietta must soon reé turn to her convenț. As his heart was bent on serving the young lady, Monf. de Monglas at last determined on the only project, which but a little before he thought himself secure he never would have embraced. At firft he thought of communicating it to the Count d'Alby, but his delicacy induced him to consult Henrietta : he wanted to be fure of the difpofition of her mind, and to undertake nothing without knowing whether he would approve the scheme. It was so advantageous to the family, that a violent and tyrannical father might probably use the same authority to connect her with the world, which he had abused in order to banith her from it.
. One evening, when the young Henrietta, from a terras that commanded a view of the sea, was admiring the beauty of the lece ting sun, Mons. de Monglas, after some conversation about indifferent matters,' led her to a dillance from her mother's women, and speak ing low enough to be heard by her alone : may I prelume, Mademoiselle, said he, to Thew you what a concern I take in your happiness, how much I am affected with your present melancholy situation ? I have long thought how to deliver you from a painful restraint, restore you to the world, and to yourself. Why should common opinion, custom, and the laws of decorum, oblige me to propose to you a fate of dependance, when I would with to free you from your prefent one. The proposal I make, I confess, may not procure you all the pleasures you may promise yourself from a change in your condition, at your age; but it will be attended with these adyantages. You will not be obliged to take the vow of an eternal retreat, and you will have the hopes left you of recovering one day your entire liberty.
• The countenance of Mademoiselle d'Alby was overspread with blushes ; fe appeared surprised, amazed, and cast her eyes on the ground : accustomed to look on her fate, as inevitable, the hardly. ventured to give her heart up to this first ray of hope. But being pressed to answer, she hesitated, sighed, and with a fearful and faul. tering accent, do you imagine, Sir, do you, said the, imagine you, shall be able to alter my father's refolution?
• Yes, Mademoiselle, replied Monf. de Monglas, if mine do not displease you. My fortune and his friendship afure me of a ready compliance on his part; I would have asked and should have obtained it, but I was in doubt as to yours. But what do I offer you, my dear Henrietta ? Your cruel destiny reduces you to the choice of two situations: one of these is terrible, the other little satisfactory : a gloomy, an eternal retreat, or the hand of an old man, whose age and temper of mind, keep him at a distance from those vain amusements, which youth is so fond of. Liberty, ease, and peace, are the only advantages in my power to promise or procure you. , A small number of men of sense, and decent women, will form your society; in this narrow but select circle, free to cultivate the gifts you hold from Nature, and to enlarge your ideas, you will spend ihose years which are commonly devoted to pleasures, in fitting yourself for that time of life, when their relish being paft, their former votaries find nothing in themselves capable of supplying their loss, or to fill up those moments they once spent in searching after them, in fond expectation, but rarely in the full fruition of them.
• I am not acquainted with the pleasures you mention, said Hensietta, but if my father grants me the favour to live in his house, the amusements it affords will be sufficient for my happiness; and if. 1 altered my condition, I should not with for any other. Very well, Mademoiselle, replied Mons. de Monglas, I may then Aatter myself with seeing you happy; it is the most ardent with of my heart : my conduct will prove to you how disinterested I am. Condescend to direct my measures, to lay your commands upon me: Shall I speak, Mademoiselle ? or shall I leave you time to examine my proposal, to consult yourself, and to determine upon the choice you may think proper to make?
• Henrietta's choice was already fixed. Her extreme reluctance to a monastic life, did not allow her to reflect on the age of the Marquis : her education and innocence Thut her eyes to the inconve. niencies of so disproportioned an union : and her modest, but decifive answer, affured Monf. de Monglas of her confent and gratitude, That very evening, being called into her father's closet, The there with joy received orders to prepare herself to give her hand to the Marquis : the celebration of the marriage was fixed for the beginning of the ensuing week.
Madam de Terville with two more relations of the Count d'Alby, arrived at Chazel the moment when he was leading his daughter to
the chapel of the Chateau. These ladies, surprised and delighted with an event which promised a day of diversion, were very forward to compliment Henrietta, and attended her to the altar. Notwith. fanding the difference of their age, Monf. de Monglas and his young spouse made no unbecoming figure in the eyes of the small number of friends present at the ceremony.
• The Marquis, who was of a good height, and perfectly well made, added to the elegance of his person, the most regular and agreeable features. The evenness of his temper, his simple, uniform, and regular way of life, preserved them ftill in all their beauty. His face did not wear the traces of that premature decay of nature, fo early engraven on the countenance of those thoughtless young men, who before they are arrived at the time when they might enjoy life, appear already on the decline of their days. The looks of the Mara quis, fixed on the amiable girl who was now become his wife, expreffed that pure and lively joy, inspired by the pleasure of obliging. Mademoiselle d'Alby discovered that affecting air which Aows from gratitude. This sentiment causes the most delicious sensations in the heart, at that happy age when pride comes not in to ftilc it, or when we have not yet learned to lessen the value of favours received, by humbling reflections, or by a rigid scrutiny into the motives of that benefcence which we are become the object of.
• Part of the day was spent in gay rural diversions ; but towards the evening, a gloomy melancholy overspread the countenance of the young Marchioness. She had been walking out alone, with Madam de Neuillant, one of her father's relacions, who arrived that morna ing: this lady was become, within six months, the widow of an old oficer, infrm, tyrannical, of an amorous disposition, jealous, and capricious: fe had purchased the fortune the then enjoyed, by eight years loathing, vexation, and constraint. More compassionate than prudent, she could not help pitying Madam de Monglas, and discovering an officious commiferation of her future condition. She soufed the fear and curiosity of the young bride, and was indiscreet enough to add to the one, by fatisfying the other. Her too circumftantial descriptions alarmed the Marchioness; all her gay hopes of future happiness vanished in an instant; a horrid itate of subjection, with all its dreadful consequences, continual importunities, unavoidable quarrels, odious fufpicions; no peace, no tranquillity. What a frightful prospect! Why did not Ihc know this before! She repented, wept, afflicted herself immoderately: every inilant redoubled her ter ror. Madam d'Alby and Madam de Terville could not remove her fears; and when they led her to the nuptial chamber, all their efforts to calm her troubled mind, could only draw from her a promise to govern herself, to conceal her grief, and not offend Mons. de Monglas, by letting him fee her fruitless and disobliging regret.
• Madam d'Alby was scarce gone out, when Henrietta, forgetting the promise she had just made her, rose precipitately, and hastily throwing on her gown, was preparing to quit the room, the instant Mons. de Monglas entered. She threw herself trembling on a couch ; he sat down by her, looked on her some time in filence, and seeing her paleness, perceiving trouble and fear in her eyes yet moistened with her tears, he took her by the hand, pressed ir, kiffed it, and in an ac-cent of tenderness and emotion; take comfort, Madam, faid he, take comfort for ever. You shall not purchase by a disagreeabie complaisance, the easy fituation wherein I have now placed you. In marrying you, I was not orged by the desire of poffefling a beautiful young woman, but by the desire of making a valuable one happy. Dismiss your fears, I wave my privilege as husband : your happiness and mine require it. The struggle is doubtleis violent. How hard to repress the emotions which this moment raises! Your charms !-an acquired right !--But by yielding to this impulse I hould prepare the way to long and bitter repentance. At my years, love is accompanied with reitlessness, and with pain! the certainty of not being able to please, carries a cruel reflection to the heart; distrust walks hand in hand, and frightful jealousy treads upon its heels. Soon, tormented by sad suspicions, we affiet, we offend the object of our love, and the cause of our disquiet; we make her as unhappy, and more to be pitied than ourselves! no, my lovely Henrietta, the title of hulband, so necessary to give a sanction to my regard for you in the eyes of the world, and to make you partake in my fortune, shall never induce me to trouble the sweet tranquillity of your days. View in your husband, a tender father, an indulgent friend : I have rescued you from oppreslion and tyranny : look on my houfe as a sanctuary, where peace and liberty await you ; remember, when you thall come to inhabit it, the disinterested motive which engaged me to make you mistress of it; be it your care to make it agreeable to yourself and to me; condescend to frew some flowers on the winter of my life ; treat with kindness a man capable of preferring you to himself; of sparing you the importunate proofs of tenderness; of relising the powerful impulse of his senses; of extinguilling in your presence, a flame, that glows perhaps with the morç ardour, as it draws nearer the period of its extinction. Yes, my dear Henrietta, I facrifice all my desires to you ; from this moment, I adopt the sentimenis of a father for you, and find myself happy in the consideration that they will make your duty less irksome, your obligations more easy to be discharged, and for ever remove from both of us the leait degree of misunderstanding or distaste.
• The more Madam de Neuillant's imprudent discourse had alarmed Henrietta, and the more terrible it had made her husband appear, the more agrecable was the surprise, which this speech, so capable of erafing its fad impresion, excited. -Tenderneis and delight, called forth iears of comfort and joy, which bathed her face and bosom. You, my father! You my friend! You Sir! repeated she, throwing herself into the arms of Monf. de Monglas, and pressing him to her breast with transport : Oh! cried she, may my asliduities, my atten. tive friend hip, my respect, my gratitude, convey every moment, into the soul of my generous friend, all that pleasure with which bis goodness has filled mine. Mons. de Monglas spent the remaining part of the night in acquainting the Marchioness with the plan of life he had chalked out for himself. All the amusements confiftent with good breeding, decorum, and family happiness, entered into this plan formed for their common felicity. He made her sensible, but with caution and delicacy, how much me ought to fear the exposing to ridicule, a man who, without the allurement of a tranfieng