Letter to Agnes McLehose , January 20 1788

Sunday night
( 20th January 1788 )

The impertinence of fools has joined with a return of an old indisposition, to make me good for nothing today.-The paper has lain before me all this evening, to write to my dear Clarinda, but-

“Fools rush’d on fools, as waves succeed to waves”

I cursed them in my soul: they sacreligiously disturbed my meditations on her who holds my heart.-What a creature is man! A little alarm last night and today that I am mortal, has made such a revolution on my spirits! There is no Philosophy, no Divinity, comes half so home to the mind.-I have no idea of courage that braves Heaven.-‘Tis the wild ravings of an imaginary hero in Bedlam.-

I can no more, Clarinda; I can scarce hold up my head: but I am happy you don’t know it, you would be so uneasy.-
Sylvander

Monday morning-
I am, my lovely friend, much better this morning, on the whole; but I have a horrid languor on my spirits.-

“Sick of the world, and all its joy,
“My soul in pining sadness mourns:
“Dark scenes of woe my mind employ,
“The past and present in their turns”

Have you ever met with a saying of the Great and likewise Good Mr Locke, Author of the famous essay on the human understanding,He wrote a letter to a friend, directing it, “not to be delivered till after my decease;” it ended thus-“I know you loved me when “living, and will preserve my memory now I am dead.-All the use to “be made of it is; that this life affords no solid satisfaction, but in “the consciousness of having done well, and the hopes of another “life.-Adieu! I leave my best wishes with you-J. Locke-”

Clarinda, may I reckon on your friendship for life? I think I may. Thou Almighty Preserver of Men! Thy friendship, which hitherto I have too much neglected, to secure it shall, all the future days and nights of my life, be my steady care! -The idea of my Clarinda follows-

“Hide it my heart, within that close disguise,
“Where mix’d with God’s her lov’d idea lies”

But I fear that inconstancy, the consequent imperfection of human weakness.- Shall I meet with a friendship that defies years of Absence and the chances and changes of Fortune? Perhaps “such things are”; One honest man I have great hopes from, that way: but who, except a Romance-writer, would think on a love that could promise for life, in spite of distance, absence, chance and change; and that too, with slender hopes of Fruition?

-For my own part, I can say to myself in both requisitions, “Thou art the man!” I dare, in cool resolve I dare, declare myself that Friend, and that Lover.-If Womankind is capable of such things, Clarinda is.-I trust that she is; and feel I shall be miserable, if she is not.

– There is not one Virtue which gives worth, or one Sentiment which does honor to the Sex, that she does not possess superiour to any woman I ever saw: her exalted mind, aided a little perhaps by her situation, is, I think, capable of that nobly-romanticLove-enthusiasm.-

May I see you on Wedensday evening, my dear angel? The next wedensday again will, I conjecture, be a hated day to us both.-I tremble for censorious remark, for your sake; but in extraordinary cases, may not usual and useful Precaution be a little dispensed with? Three evenings, three swift-winged evenings, with pimons of down, are all the past-I dare not calculate the future.-I shall call at Miss Nimmo’s tomorrow-evening; ’twill be a farewell call.-

I have wrote out my last sheet of paper, so I am reduc’d to my last half-sheet-What a strange, mysterious faculty is that thing called Imagination? We have no ideas almost at all, of another world; but I have often amused myself with visionary schemes of what happiness might be enjoyed by small alterations, alterations that we can fully enter to, in this present state of existence

-For instance; suppose you and I just as we are at present; the same reasoning Powers, sentiments and even desires; the same fond curiousity for knowledge and remarking observation in our minds; & imagine our bodies free from pain and the necessary supplies for the wants of nature, at all times and easily within our reaeli: imagine farther that we were set free from the laws of gravitation which binds us to this globe, and could at pleasure fly, without inconvenience, through all the yet unconjecture’d bounds of Creation-what a life of bliss would we lead, in our mutual pursuit of virtue and knowledge, and our mutual enjoyment of friendship and love!-

I see you laughing at my fairy fancies, and calling me a voluptuous Mahometan; but I am certain I would be a happy creature, beyond any thing we call bliss here below: nay, it would be a paradise congenial to you too.

-Don’t you see us hand in hand, or rather my arm about your lovely waist, making our remarks on Sirius, the nearest of the fixed stars; or surveying a Comet flaming inoxious by us, as we just now would mark the passing pomp of a travelling Monarch: or, in a shady bower of Mercury or Venus, dedicating the hour to love; in mutual converse, relying honor and revelling endearment-while the most exalted strains of Poesy and Harmony would be the ready, spontaneous language of our souls!

Devotion is the favorite employment of your heart; so is it of mine: what incentives then to, and powers for, Reverence, Gratitude, Faith and Hope in all the fervours of Adoration and Praise to that Being whose unsearchable Wisdom, Power and Goodness so pervaded, so inspired every Sense and Feeling!-

By this time, I dare say, you will be blessing the neglect of the maid that leaves me destitute of Paper.-

Sylvander

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