Letter to Agnes McLehose, December 28 1787

Friday eve

I beg your pardon, my dear “Clarinda,” for the fragment scrawl I sent you yesterday.

– I really don’t know what I wrote. A gentleman for whose character, abilities and critical knowledge I have the highest veneration, called in, just as I had begun the second sentence, and I would not make the Porter wait.

– I read to my much-respected friend several of my own bagatelles and among others your lines which I had copied out.

– He began some criticisms on them as on the other pieces, when I informed him they were the work of a young lady in this town; which I assure you made him stare.

– My learned friend seriously protested that he did not believe any young woman in Edinburgh was capable of such lines; and if you know any thing of Professor Gregory you will neither doubt of his abilities nor his sincerity.

– I do love you If possible better for having so fine a taste and turn for Poesy.

– I have again gone wrong in my usual unguarded way, but you may erase the word, and put esteem, respect, or any other tame Dutch expression you please in its place.

– I believe there is no holding converse or carrying on correspondence, with an amiable woman, much less a gloriously amiable, fine woman, without some mixture of that delicious Passion, whose most devoted Slave I have more than once had the honor of being: but why be hurt or offended on that account? Can no honest man have a prepossession for a fine woman, but he must run his head against an intrigue? Take a little of the tender witchcraft of Love, and add it to the generous, the honorable sentiments of manly Friendship; and I know but one more delightful morsel, which few, few in any rank ever taste.

-Such a composition is like adding cream to strawberries – it not only gives the fruit a more elegant richness, but has a peculiar deliciousness of its own.

– I inclose you a few lines I composed on a late melancholy occasion. -I will not give above five or six copies of it at all, and I would be hurt if any friend should give any copies without my consent.

You cannot imagine, Clarinda, (I like the idea of Arcadian names in a commerce of this kind) how much store I have set by the hopes of your future friendship.

– I don’t know if you have a just idea of my character, but I wish you to see me as I am.

– I am, as most people of my trade are, a strange will o’ wisp being; the victim too frequently of much imprudence and many follies.

– My great constituent elements are Pride and Passion: the first I have endeavoured to humanize into integrity and honour; the last makes me a Devotee to the warmest degree of enthusiasm, in Love, Religion, or Friendship; either of them or all together as I happen to be inspired.

– ‘Tis true, I never saw you but once; but how much acquaintance did I form with you in that once! Don’t think I flatter you, or have a design upon you, Clarinda; I have too much pride for the one, and too little cold contrivance for the other; but of all God’s creatures I ever could approach in the beaten way of acquaintance, you struck me with the deepest, the strongest, the most permanent impression.

– I say the most permanent, because I know myself well, and how far I can promise either on my prepossessions or powers.

– Why are you unhappy? and why are so many of our fellow creatures, unworthy to belong to the same species with you, blest with all they can wish? You have a hand all benevolent to give, why were you denyed the pleasure? You have a heart form’d, gloriously form’d, for all the most refined luxuries of love; why was that heart ever wrung?

O Clarinda! shall we not meet in a state, some yet unknown state of Being, where the lavish hand of Plenty shall minister to the highest wish of Benevolence; and where the chill north-wind of Prudence shall never blow over the flowery fields of Enjoyment? if we do not, Man was made in vain! I deserv’d most of the unhappy hours that have linger’d over my head; they were the wages of my labour; but what unprovoked Demon, malignant as Hell, stole upon the confidence of unmistrusting busy Fate, and dash’d your cup of life with undeserved sorrow?

– Let me know how long your stay will be out of town: I shall count the hours till you inform me of your return.

– Cursed etiquette forbids your seeing me just now; and so soon as I can walk, I must bid Edinburgh adieu.

– Lord, why was I born to see misery which I cannot relieve, and to meet with friends whom I can’t enjoy! I look back with the pang of unvailing avarice on my loss in now knowing you sooner: all last winter; these three months past; what luxury of intercourse have I not lost! Perhaps tho’ ’twas better for my peace.You see I am either above, or incapable of Dissimulation.

– I believe it is want of that particular genius.

– I despise Design because I want either coolness or wisdom to be capable of it.

– I may take a fort by storm, but never by Siege.-
I am interrupted-Adieu! my dear Clarinda!

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Published in: on December 29, 2008 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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