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to vifit; and I flatter myself that my dear Mifs Willis will be punctual in anfwering the letters of her affectionate Clifton, April 6. LYDIA MELFORD.
To DR. LEWIS.
I HAVE followed your directions with fome fuccefs, and might have been upon my legs by this time, had the weather permitted me to ufe my faddle-horse. I rode out upon the Downs laft Tuesday, in the forenoon, when the sky, as far as the visible horizon, was without a cloud ; but, before I had gone a full mile, I was overtaken inftantaneously by a ftorm of rain, that wet me to the skin in three minutes-whence it came the devil knows; but it has laid me up (I fuppofe) for one fortnight. It makes me fick to hear people talk of the fine air upon Clifton Downs: How can the air be either agreeable or falutary, where the demon of vapours defcends in a perpetual drizzle? My confinement is the more intolerable, as I am furrounded with domeftic vexations. My niece has had a dangerous fit of illnefs, occafioned by that curfed incident at Gloucefter, which I mentioned in my last. She is a poor good-natured fimpleton, as foft as butter, and as eafily melted-not that fhe's a fool-the girl's parts are not despicable, and her education has not been neglected; that is to fay, fhe can write and fpell, and fpeak French, and play upon the harpfichord; then she dances finely, has a good figure, and is very well inclined; but, fhe's deficient in fpirit, and fo fufceptible-and so tender forfooth!-truly, the has got a languifhing eye, and reads romances. Then there's her brother, Squire Jery, a pert jackanapes, full of college petulance and felf-conceit: Proud as a German count, and as hot and hafty as a Welsh mountaineer. As for that fantastical animal my fifter Tabby, you are no stranger to her qualifications. I vow to God, fhe is fometimes fo intolerable, that I almost think fhe's the devil incarnate, come to torment me for my fins; and yet I am confcious of no fins that ought to
entail fuch family-plagues upon me-why the devil should not I fhake off these torments at once? I an't married to Tabby, thank Heaven! nor did I beget the other two: Let them choose another guardian; for my part, I an't in a condition to take care of myself, much less to superintend the conduct of giddy-headed boys and girls. You earnestly defire to know the particulars of our adventure at Gloucefter, which are briefly these, and I hope they will go no farther: Liddy had been fo long cooped up in a boarding school, which, next to a nunnery, is the worst kind of feminary that ever was contrived for young women, that she became as inflammable as touch-wood; and, going to a play in holiday-time-'fdeath, I'm afhamed to tell you! fhe fell in love with one of the actors-a handsome young fellow, that goes by the name of Wilson. The rascal foon perceived the impreffion he had made, and managed matters fo as to fee her at a house where she went to drink tea with her governess. This was the beginning of a correfpondence, which they kept up by means of a jade of a milliner, who made and dreffed caps for the girls at the boarding-school. When we arrived at Gloucester, Liddy came to ftay at lodgings with her aunt, and Wilfon bribed the maid to deliver a letter into her own hands; but it feems Jery had already acquired fo much credit with the maid (by what means he best knows), that she carried the letter to him, and fo the whole plot was difcovered. The rafh boy, without faying a word of the matter to me, went immediately in search of Wilfon; and, I fuppofe, treated him with infolence enough. The theatrical hero was too far gone in romance to brook fuch ufage: He replied in blank verse, and a formal challenge enfued.. They agreed to meet early next morning, and to decide the dispute with fword and piftol. I heard nothing at all of the affair, till Mr. Morley came to my bed-fide in the morning, and told me he was afraid my nephew was going to fight, as he had been overheard talking very loud and vehement with Wilfon, at the young man's lodgings the night before, and afterwards went and bought powder and ball at a fhop in the neighbourhood. I got up immediately, and, upon inquiry, found he was juft gone out. I begged Morley to knock up the mayor, that he might interpofe as a magiftrate;
and, in the mean time, I hobbled after the fquire, whom I faw at a diftance, walking at a great pace towards the city gate-in spite of all my efforts, I could not come up till our two combatants had taken their ground, and were priming their piftols. An old houfe luckily fcreened me from their view; fo that I rushed upon them at once before I was perceived. They were both confounded, and attempted to make their efcape different ways; but Morley coming up with constables at that instant, took Wilfon into cuftody, and Jery followed him quietly to the mayor's houfe. All this time I was ignorant of what had paffed the preceding day; and neither of the parties would discover a tittle of the matter. The mayor obferved, that it was great prefumption in Wilfon, who was a ftroller, to proceed to fuch extremities with a gentleman of family and fortune; and threatened to commit him on the vagrant act. The young fellow bustled up with great fpirit, declaring he was a gentleman, and would be treated as fuch; but he refused to explain himfelf farther. The mafter of the company being fent for, and examined touching the faid Wilson, faid the young man had engaged with him at Birmingham about fix months ago, but never would take his falary; that he had behaved fo well in his private character, as to acquire the refpect and good-will of all his acquaintance; and that the public owned his merit as an actor was altogether extraordinary. After all, I fancy he will turn out to be a run-away 'prentice from London. The manager offered to bail him for any fum, provided he would give his word and honour that he would keep the peace; but the young gentleman was on his high ropes, and would by no means lay himself under any reftrictions On the other hand, Hopeful was equally obftinate; till at length the mayor declared, that, if they both refused to be bound over, he would immediately commit Wilfon as a vagrant to hard labour. I own I was much pleased with Jery's behaviour on this occafion: He faid, that, rather than Mr. Wilson should be treated in such an ignominious manner, he would give his word and honour to profecute the affair no farther while they remained at Gloucefter. Wilson thanked him for his generous manner of proceeding, and was discharged. On our return
to our lodgings, my nephew explained the whole myftery; and I own I was exceedingly incenfed. Liddy being queftioned on the subject, and very feverely reproached by that wild cat my fifter Tabby, first fwooned away, then diffolving into a flood of tears, confeffed all the particulars of the correspondence; at the fame time giving up three letters, which were all fhe had received from her admirer. The laft, which Jery intercepted, I fend you enclosed; and when you have read it, I dare fay you won't wonder at the progrefs the writer had made in the heart of a fimple girl utterly unacquainted with the characters of mankind. Thinking it was high time to remove her from fuch a dangerous connection, I carried her off the very next day to Bristol; but the poor creature was fo frightened and fluttered by our threats and expoftulations, that she fell fick the fourth day after our arrival at Clifton, and continued fo ill for a whole week, that her life was defpaired of. It was not till yesterday that Dr. Rigge declared her out of danger. You cannot imagine what I have suffered, partly from the indifcretion of this poor child, but much more from the fear of lofing her entirely. This air is intolerably cold, and the place quite folitary. I never go down to the well, without returning low-fpirited; for there I meet with half a dozen poor emaciated creatures, with ghoftly looks, in the laft ftage of a consumption, who have made shift to linger through the winter like fo many exotic plants languishing in a hot-houfe; but in all appearance will drop into their graves before the fun has warmth enough to mitigate the rigour of this ungenial fpring. If you think the Bath water will be of any fervice to me, I will go thither as soon as my niece can bear the motion of the coach. Tell Barns I am obliged to him for his advice, but don't choose to follow it. If Davis voluntarily offers to give up the farm, the other fhall have it; but I will not begin at this time of day to distress my tenants because they are unfortunate, and cannot make regular payments. I wonder that Barns fhould think me capable of fuch oppreffion. As for Higgens, the fellow is a notorious poacher, to be fure; and an impudent rafcal to fet his fnares in my own paddock; but I fuppofe he thought he had some right, especially in my abfence, to par
take of what nature seems to have intended for common use: You may threaten him in my name as much as you please; and, if he repeats the offence, let me know it before you have recourfe to juftice-I know you are a great sportsman, and oblige many of your friends. I need not tell you to make use of my grounds; but it may be necessary to hint, that I'm more afraid of my fowling-piece than of my game. When you can fpare two or three brace of partridges, fend them over by the ftage-coach; and · tell Gwyllim that the forgot to pack up my flannels and wide fhoes in the trunk-mail-I shall trouble you as ufual, from time to time, till at last, I fuppofe, you will be tired of correfponding with
Your affured friend,
Clifton, April 17.
To MISS LYDIA MELFORD.
MISS WILLIS has pronounced my doom-you are going away, dear Mifs Melford,-you are going to be removed I know not whither! what fhall I do? which way fhall I turn for confolation? I know not what I fay-all night long have I been toffed in a sea of doubts and fears, uncertainty, and distraction, without being able to connect my thoughts, much lefs to form any confiftent plan of conduct I was even tempted to wish that I had never feen you; or that you had been lefs amiable, or less compaffionate to your poor Wilfon; and yet it would be deteftable ingratitude in me to form fuch a wifh, confidering how much I am indebted to your goodness, and the ineffable pleasure I have derived from your indulgence and approbation-Good God! I never heard your name mentioned without emotion! the most diftant prospect of being admitted to your company, filled my whole foul with a kind of pleafing alarm! as the time approached, my heart beat with redoubled force, and every nerve thrilled with a transport of expectation; but, when I found myself actually in your prefence-when I heard you speak—when I faw you smile-when I beheld your