Letter to Agnes McLehose, January 8 1788

Tuesday night
( 8th January 1788 )
I am delighted, charming Clarinda, with your honest enthusiasm for Religion. Those of either sex, but particularly the female, who are lukewarm in that most important of all things, “O my soul, come not thou into their secrets!”

– I feel myself deeply interested in your good opinion, and will lay before you the outlines of my belief. He, who is our Author and Preserver, and will one day be our Judge, must be, (not for his sake in the way of duty, but from the native impulse of our hearts,) the object of our reverential awe and grateful adoration: He is almighty and all-bounteous, we are weak and dependent; hence, prayer and every other sort of devotion.

– “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to everlasting life;” consequently, it must be in everyone’s power to embrace His offer of “everlasting life;” otherwise He could not, in justice, condemn those who did not. A mind pervaded, actuated and governed by purity, truth and charity, though it does not merit heaven, yet is an absolutely necessary pre-requisite, without which heaven can neither be obtained nor enjoyed; and, by Divine promise, such a mind shall never fail of attaining “everlasting life:” hence, the impure, the deceiving, and the uncharitable, extrude themselves from eternal bliss, by their unfitness for enjoying it.

The Supreme Being has put the immediate administration of al this, for wise and good ends known to himself, into the hands of Jesus Christ, a great Personage, whose relation to Him we cannot comprehend, but whose relation to us is a Guide and Saviour; and who, except for our own obstinacy and misconduct, will bring us all, through various ways and by various means, to bliss at last.

These are my tenets, my lovely friend; and which, I think, cannot be well disputed. My creed is pretty nearly expressed in the last clause of Jamie Dean’s grace, an honest weaver in Ayrshire;

“Lord grant that we may lead a gude life! for a gude life maks a gude end, at least it helps weel!”

I am flattered by the entertainment you tell me you have found in my packet. You see me as I have been, you know me as I am, and may guess at what I am likely to be.

I too may say, “Talk not of Love, &c.” for indeed he has “plung’d me deep in woe!” Not that I ever saw a woman who pleased unexceptionably, as my Clarinda elegantly says, “In the companion, the friend, and the mistress.” One indeed I could except – One, before passion threw its mists over my discernment I knew it, the first of women! Her name is indelibly written in my heart’s core-but I dare not look in on it-a degree of agony would be the consequence. Oh, thou perfidious, cruel, mischief-making demon, who president o’er that frantic passion thou mayst, thou dost poison my peace, but shall not taint my honour-I would not for a single moment give an asylum to the most distant imagination, that would shadow the faintest outline of a selfish gratification, at the expence of her whose happiness is twisted with the threads of my existence – May she be happy as she deserves! And if my tenderest, faithfulest friendship can add to her bliss-I shall at least have one solid mine of enjoyment in my bosom! Don’t guess at these ravings!

I watched at our front window to-day, but was disappointed. It has been a day of disappointments. I am just risen from a two-hours bout after supper, with silly or sordid souls, who could relish nothing in common with me-but the Port. “One”-‘Tis now “witching time of night;” and whatever is out of joint in the foregoing scrawl, impute it to enchantments and spells; for I can’t look over it, but will seal it up directly, as I don’t care for tomorrow’s criticisms on it.

Your are by this time fast asleep, Clarinda; may good angels attend and guard you as constantly and faithfully as my good wishes do!

“Beauty, which whether waking or asleep,
“Shot forth peculiar graces-,

John Milton, I wish thy soul better rest than I expect on my pillow to-night! a for a little of the cart-horse part of human nature!

Good night, my dearest Clarinda!

Published in: on January 8, 2009 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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