From: Frances Brooke, The History of Emily Montague (London, England: Dodsley, 1769)
The History of Emily Montague
To John Temple, Esq.; at Paris.
Cowes, April 10, 1766.
After spending two or three very agreeable days here, with a party of friends, in exploring the beauties of the Island, and dropping a tender tear at Carisbrook Castle on the memory of the unfortunate Charles the First, I am just setting out for America, on a scheme I once hinted to you, of settling the lands to which I have a right as a lieutenant-colonel on half pay. On enquiry and mature deliberation, I prefer Canada to New-York for two reasons, that it is wilder, and that the women are handsomer: the first perhaps, every body will not approve; the latter, I am sure, you will.
What you call a sacrifice, is none at all; I love England, but am not obstinately chaind down to any spot of earth; nature has charms every where for a man willing to be pleased: at my time of life, the very change of place is amusing; love of variety, and the natural restlessness of man, would give me a relish for this voyage, even if I did not expect, what I really do, to become lord of a principality which will put our large-acred men in England out of countenance. My subjects indeed at present will be only bears and elks, but in time I hope to see the human face divine multiplying around me; and, in thus cultivating what is in the rudest state of nature, I shall taste one of the greatest pleasures, that of creation, and see order and beauty gradually rise from chaos.
The vessel is unmoord; the winds are fair; a gentle breeze agitates the bosom of the deep; all nature smiles: I go with all the eager hopes of a warm imagination; yet friendship casts a lingering look behind.
Our mutual loss, my dear Temple, will be great. I shall never cease to regret you, nor will you find it easy to replace the friend of your youth. You may find friends of equal merit; you may esteem them equally; but few connexions formd after five and twenty strike to the root like that early sympathy, which united us almost from infancy, and has increasd to the very hour of our separation.
What pleasure is there in the friendships of the spring of life, before the world, the mean unfeeling selfish world, breaks in on the gay mistakes of the just-expanding heart, which sees nothing but truth, and has nothing but happiness in prospect!
I am not surprizd the heathens raisd altars to friendship: twas natural for untaught superstition to defy the source of every good; they worshipd friendship, which animates the moral world, on the same principle as they paid adoration to the sun, which gives life to the world of nature.
I am summond on board. Adieu!
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Quebec, June 27.
I have this moment your letter, my dear; I am happy to hear my mother has been amusd at Bath, and not at all surprizd to find she rivals you in your conquests. By the way, I am not sure she is not handsomer, notwithstanding you tell me you are handsomer than ever: I am astonishd she will lead a tall daughter about with her thus, to let people into a secret they would never suspect, that she is past five and twenty.
You are a foolish girl, Lucy: do you think I have not more pleasure in continuing to my mother, by coming hither, the little indulgencies of life, than I could have had by enjoying them myself? pray reconcile her to my absence, and assure her she will make me happier by jovially enjoying the trifle I have assignd to her use, than by procuring me the wealth of a Nabob, in which he was to have no share.
But to return; you really, Lucy, ask me such a million of questions, tis impossible to know which to answer first; the country, the convents, the balls, the ladies, the beaux tis a history, not a letter, you demand, and it will take me a twelve-month to satisfy your curiousity.
Where shall I begin? certainly with what must first strike a soldier: I have seen then the spot where the amiable hero expird in the arms of victory; have traced him step by step with equal astonishment ad admiration: tis here alone it is possible to form an adequate idea of an enterprize, the difficulties of which must have destroyd hope itself had they been foreseen.
The country is a very fine one: you see here not only the beautiful which it has in common with Europe, but the great sublime to an amazing degree; every object here is magnificent: the very people seem almost another species, if we compare them with the French from whom they are descended.
On approaching the coast of America, I felt a kind of religious veneration, on seeing rocks which almost touchd the clouds, coverd with tall groves of pines that seemed coeval with the world itself: to which veneration the solemn silence not a little contributed; from Cape Rosières, up the river St. Lawrence, during a course of more than two hundred miles, there is not the least appearance of a human foot-step; no objects meet the eye but mountains, woods, and numerous rivers, which seem to roll their waters in vain.
It is impossible to behold a scene like this without lamenting the madness of mankind, who, more merciless than the fierce inhabitants of the howling wilderness, destroy millions of their own species in the wild contention for a little portion of that earth, the far greater part of which remains yet unpossest, and courts the hand of labour for cultivation.
The river itself is one of the noblest in the world; its breadth is ninety miles at its entrance, gradually, and almost imperceptibly, decreasing; interspersd with islands which give it a variety infinitely pleasing, and navigable near five hundred miles from the sea.
Nothing can be more striking than the view of Quebec as you approach; it stands on the summit of a boldly-rising hill, at the confluence of two very beautiful rivers, the St. Lawrence and St. Charles, and, as the convents and other public buildings first meet the eye, appears to great advantage from the port. The island of Orleans, the distant view of the cascade of Montmorenci, and the opposite village of Beauport, scattered with a pleasing irregularity along the banks of the river St. Charles, add greatly to the charms of the prospect.
I have just had time to observe, that the Canadian ladies have the vivacity of the French, with a superior share of beauty: as to balls and assemblies, we have none at present, it being a kind of interregnum of government: if I chose to give you the political state of the country, I could fill volumes with the pours and the contres; but I am not one of those sagacious observers, who, by staying a week in a place, think themselves qualified to give, not only its natural, but its moral and political history: besides which, you and I are rather too young to be very profound politicians. We are in expectation of a successor from whom we hope a new golden age; I shall then have better subjects for a letter to a lady.
Adieu! my dear girl! say every thing for me to my mother.
To Col. Rivers, at Quebec.
London, April 30.
Indeed! gone to people the wilds of America, Ned, and multiply the human face divine? tis a project worthy a tall handsome colonel of twenty seven: let me see; five feet, eleven inches, well made, with fine teeth, speaking eyes, a military air, and the look of a man of fashion: spirit, generosity, a good understanding, some knowledge, an easy address, a compassionate heart, a strong inclination for the ladies, and in short every quality a gentleman should have: excellent all these for colonization: prenez garde, mes cheres dames. You have nothing against you, Ned, but your modesty; a very useless virtue on French ground, or indeed on any ground: I wish you had a little more consciousness of your own merits: remember that to know ones self the Oracle of Apollo has pronounced to be the perfection of human wisdom. Our fair friend Mrs. Hsays, Colonel Rivers wants nothing to make him the most agreeable man breathing but a little dash of the coxcomb.
For my part, I hate humility in a man of the world; tis worse than even the hypocrisy of the saints: I am not ignorant, and therefore never deny, that I am a very handsome fellow; and I have the pleasure to find all the women of the same opinion.
I am just arrivd from Paris: the divine Madam Deis as lovely and as constant as ever; twas cruel to leave her, but who can account for the caprices of the heart? mine was the prey of a young unexperiencd English charmer, just come out of a convent.
Ha, Ned? But I forget; you are for the full-blown rose: tis a happiness, as we are friends, that tis impossible we can ever be rivals; a woman is grown out of my taste some years before she comes up to yours: absolutely, Ned, you are too nice; for my part, I am not so delicate; youth and beauty are sufficient for me; give me blooming seventeen, and I cede to you the whole empire of sentiment.
This, I suppose, will find you trying the force of your destructive charms on the savage dames of America; chasing females wild as the winds thro woods as wild as themselves: I see you pursuing the stately relict of some renownd Indian chief, some plump squaw arrivd at the age of sentiment, some warlike queen dowager of the Ottawas or Tuscaroras.
And pray, comment trouvez vous les dames sauvages? all pure and genuine nature, I suppose; none of the affected coyness of Europe: your attention there will be the more obliging, as the Indian heroes, I am told, are not very attentive to the charms of the beau sexe.
You are very sentimental on the subject of friendship; no one has more exalted notions of this species of affection than myself, yet I deny that it gives life to the moral world; a gallant man, like you, might have found a more animating principle:
I am most gloriously indolent this morning, and would not write another line if the empire of the world (observe I do not mean the female world) depended on it.
To John Temple, Esq.; Pall Mall.
Quebec, July 1.
Tis very true, Jack; I have no relish for the Misses for puling girls in hanging sleeves, who feel no passion but vanity, and, without any distinguishing taste, are dying for the first man who tells them they are handsome. Take your boarding school girls; but give me a woman; one, in short, who has a soul; not a cold inanimate form, insensible to the lively impressions of real love, and unfeeling as the wax baby she has just thrown away.
You will allow Prior to be no bad judge of female merit; and you may remember his Egyptian maid, the favorite of the luxurious King Solomon, is painted in full bloom.
By the way, Jack, there is generally a certain hoity-toity inelegance of form and manner at seventeen, which in my opinion is not balancd by freshness of complexion, the only advantage girls have to boast of.
I have another objection to girls, which is, that they will eternally fancy every man they converse with has designs; a coquet and a prude in the bud are equally disagreeable; the former expects universal adoration, the latter is alarmd even at that general civility which is the right of all their sex; of the two however the last is, I think, much the most troublesome; I wish these very apprehensive young ladies knew, their virtue is not half so often in danger as they imagine, and that there are many male creatures to whom they may safely shew politeness without being drawn into any concessions inconsistent with the strictest honor. We are not half such terrible animals as mammas, nurses, and novels represent us; and, if my opinion is of any weight, I am inclind to believe those tremendous men, who have designs on the whole, sex, are, and ever were, characters as fabulous as the giants of romance.
Women after twenty begin to know this, and therefore converse with us on the footing of rational creatures, without either fearing or expecting to find every man a lover.
To do the ladies justice however, I have seen the same absurdity in my own sex, and have observed many a very good sort of man turn pale at the politeness of an agreeable woman.
I lament this mistake, in both sexes, because it takes greatly from the pleasure of mixd society, the only society for which I have any relish.
Dont, however, fancy that, because I dislike the Misses, I have a taste for their grandmothers; there is a golden mean, Jack, of which you seem to have no idea.
You are very ill informd as to the manners of the Indian ladies; tis in the bud alone these wild roses are accessible; liberal to profusion of their charms before marriage, they are chastity itself after: the moment they commence wives, they give up the very idea of pleasing, and turn all their thoughts to the cares, and those not the most delicate cares, of domestic life: laborious hardly, active, they plough the ground, they sow, they reap; whilst the haughty husband amuses himself with hunting, shooting, fishing, and such exercises only as are the image of war; all other employments being, according to his idea, unworthy the dignity of man.
I have told you the labors of savage life, but I should observe that they are only temporary, and when urgd by the sharp tooth of necessity: their lives are, upon the whole, idle beyond any thing we can conceive. If the Epicurean definition of happiness is just, that it consists in indolence of body, and tranquillity of mind, the Indians of both sexes are the happiest people of earth; free from all care, they enjoy the present moment, forget the past, and are without solicitude for the future: in summer, stretchd on the verdant turf, they sing, they laugh, they play, they relate stories of their ancient heroes to warm the youth to war; in winter, wrapd in the furs which bounteous nature provides them, they dance, they feast, and despise the rigors of the season, at which the more effeminate Europeans tremble.
War being however the business of their lives, and the first passion of their souls, their very pleasures take their colors from it; every one must have heard of the war dance, and their songs are almost all on the same subject: on the most diligent enquiry, I find but one love song in their language, which is short and simple, tho perhaps not inexpressive:
An old Indian told me, they had also songs of friendship, but I could never procure a translation of one of them: on my pressing this Indian to translate one into French for me, he told me with a haughty air, the Indians were not usd to make translations, and that if I chose to understand their songs I must learn their language. By the way their language is extremely harmonious, especially as pronounced by their women, and as well adapted to music as Italian itself. I must not here omit an instance of their independent spirit, which is, that they never would submit to have the service of the church, tho they profess the Romish religion, in any language but their own; the women, who have in general fine voices sing in the choir with a taste and manner that would surprise you, and with a devotion that might edify more polishd nations.
The Indian women are tall and well shaped; have good eyes, and before marriage are, except their color, and their coarse greasy black hair, very far from being disagreeable; but the laborious life they afterwards lead is extremely unfavorable to beauty; they become coarse and masculine, and lose in a year or two the power as well as the desire of pleasing. To compensate however for the loss of their charms, they acquire a new empire in marrying; are consulted in all affairs of state, chuse a chief on every vacancy of the throne, are sovereign arbiters of peace and war, as well as of the fate of those unhappy captives that have the misfortune to fall into their hands, who are adopted as children, or put to the most cruel death, as the wives of the conquerors smile or frown.
A Jesuit missionary told me a story on this subject, which one cannot hear without horror: an Indian woman with whom he livd on his mission was feeding her children, when her husband brought in an English prisoner; she immediately cut off his arm, and gave her children the streaming blood to drink: the Jesuit remonstrated on the cruelty of the action, on which, looking sternly at him, I would have them warriors, said she and therefore feed them with the food of men.
This anecdote may perhaps disgust you with the Indian ladies, who certainly do not excel in female softness. I will therefore turn to the Canadian, who have every charm except that without which all other charms are to me insipid, I mean sensibility: they are gay, coquet, and sprightly; more gallant than sensible; more flatterd by the vanity of inspiring passion, than capable of feeling it themselves; and, like their European country women, prefer the outward attentions of unmeaning admiration to the real devotion of the heart. There is not perhaps on earth a race of females, who talk so much, or feel so little, of love as the French; the very reverse is in general true of the English: my fair countrywomen seem ashamed of the charming sentiment to which they are indebted for all their power.
Adieu! I am going to attend a very handsome French lady, who allows me the honor to drive her en calache to our Canadian Hyde Park, the road to St. Foix, where you will see forty or fifty calashes with pretty women in them, parading every evening: you will allow the apology to be admissible.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Quebec, July 4.
What an inconstant animal is man! do you know, Lucy, I begin to be tird of the lovely landscape round me? I have enjoyd from it all the pleasure meer inanimate objects can give, and find tis a pleasure that soon satiates, if not relieved by others which are more lively. The scenery is to be sure divine, but one grows weary of meer scenery: the most enchanting prospect soon loses its power of pleasing, when the eye is accustomd to it: we gaze at first transported on the charms of nature, and fancy they will please for ever; but, alas! it will not do; we sigh for society, the conversation of those dear to us; the more animated pleasures of the heart. There are fine women, and men of merit here; but, as the affections are not in our power. I have not yet felt my heart gravitate towards any of them. I must absolutely set in earnest about my settlement, in order to emerge from the state of vegetation into which I seem falling.
But to your last: you ask me a particular account of the convents here. Have you an inclination, my dear, to turn nun? if you have, you could not have applied to a properer person; my extreme modesty and reserve, and my speaking French, having made me already a great favourite with the older part of all the three communities, who unanimously declare colonel Rivers to be un tres aimable homme, and have given me an unlimited liberty of visiting them whenever I please: they now and then treat me with a sight of some of the young ones, but this is a favor not allowd to all the world.
There are three religious houses at Quebec, so you have choice; the Ursulines, the Hotel Dieu, and the General Hospital. The first is the severest order in the Romish church, except that very cruel one which denies its fair votaries the inestimable liberty of speech. The house is large and handsome, but has an air of gloominess, with which the black habit, and the livid paleness of the nuns, extremely corresponds. The church is, contrary to the style of the rest of the convent, ornamented and lively to the last degree. The superior is an Englishwoman of a good family, who was taken prisoner by the savages when a child and placd here by the generosity of a French officer. She is one of the most amiable women I ever knew, with a benevolence in her countenance which inspires all who see her with affection: I am very fond of her conversation, tho sixty and a nun.
The Hotel Dieu is very pleasantly situated, with a view of the two rivers, and the entrance of the port: the house is chearful, airy, and agreeable; the habit extremely becoming, a circumstance a handsome woman ought by not means to overlook; tis white with a black gauze veil, which would shew your complexion to great advantage. The order is much less severe than the Ursulines, and I might add, much more useful, their province being the care of the sick: the nuns of this house are sprightly, and have a look of health which is wanting at the Ursulines.
The General Hospital, situated about a mile out of town, on the borders of the river St. Charles, is much the most agreeable of the three. The order and the habit are the same with the Hotel Dieu, except that to the habit is added the cross, generally worn in Europe by canonesses only: a distinction procurd for them by their founder, St. Vallier, the second bishop of Quebec. The house is, without, a very noble building; and neatness, elegance and propriety reign within. The nuns, who are all of the noblesse, are many of them handsome, and all genteel, lively, and well bred; they have an air of the world, their conversation is easy, spirited, and polite: with them you almost forget the recluse in the woman of condition. In short, you have the best nuns at the Ursulines, the most agreeable women at the General Hospital: all however have an air of chagrin, which they in vain endeavour to conceal; and the general eagerness with which they tell you unaskd they are happy, is a strong proof of the contrary.
Tho the most indulgent of all men to the follies of others, especially such as have their source in mistaken devotion; tho willing to allow all the world to play the fool their own way, yet I cannot help being fird with a degree of zeal against an institution equally incompatible with public good, and private happiness; an institution which cruelly devotes beauty and innocence to slavery, regret, and wretchedness; to a more irksome imprisonment than the severest laws inflict on the worst of criminals.
Could any thing but experience, my dear Lucy, make it be believed possible that there should be rational beings, who think they are serving the God of mercy by inflicting on themselves voluntary tortures, and cutting themselves off from that state of society in which he has placd them, and for which they were formd? by renouncing the best affections of the human heart, the tender names of friend, of wife, of mother? and, as far as in them lies, counter-working creation? by spurning from them every amusement however innocent, by refusing the gifts of that beneficent power who made us to be happy, and destroying his most precious gifts, health, beauty, sensibility, cheerfulness, and peace!
My indignation is yet awake, from having seen a few days since at the Ursulines, an extreme lovely young girl, whose countenance spoke a soul formd for the most lively, yet delicate, ties of love and friendship, led by a momentary enthusiasm, or perhaps by a childish vanity artfully excited, to the foot of those altars, which she will probably too soon bathe with the bitter tears of repentance and remorse.
The ceremony, formd to strike the imagination, and seduce the heart of unguarded youth, is extremely solemn and affecting: the procession of the nuns, the sweetness of their voices in the choir, the dignified devotion with which the charming enthusiast received the veil, and took the cruel vow which shut her from the world for ever, struck my heart in spite of my reason, and I felt myself touchd even to tears by a superstition I equally pity and despise.
I am not however certain it was the ceremony which affected me thus strongly; it was impossible not to feel for this amiable victim; never was there an object more interesting; her form was elegance itself; her air and motion animated and graceful; the glow of pleasure was on her cheeks, the fire of enthusiasm in her eyes, which are the finest I ever saw: never did I see joy so lively painted on the countenance of the happiest bride: she seemd to walk in air; her whole person lookd more than human.
An enemy to every species of superstition, I must however allow it to be least destructive to true virtue in your gentle sex, and therefore to be indulgd with least danger; the superstition of men is gloomy and ferocious; it lights the fire, and points the dagger of the assassin; whilst that of women takes its color from the sex; is soft, mild, and benevolent; exerts it self in acts of kindness and charity, and seems only substituting the love of God to that of man.
Who can help admiring, whilst they pity, the foundress of the Ursuline convent, Madame de la Peltrie, to whom the very colony in some measure owes its existence? young, rich and lovely; a widow in the bloom of life, mistress of her own actions, the world was gay before her, yet she left all the pleasures that world could give, to devote her days to the severities of a religion she thought the only true one: she dard the dangers of the sea, and the greater dangers of a savage people; she landed on an unknown shore, submitted to the extremities of cold and heat, of thirst and hunger, to perform a service she thought acceptable to the Deity. To an action like this, however mistaken the motive, bigotry alone will deny praise: the man of candor will only lament that minds capable of such heroic virtue are not directed to views more conducive to their own and the general happiness.
I am unexpectedly calld this moment, my dear Lucy, on some business to Montreal, from whence you shall hear from me.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Montreal, July 9.
I am arrivd my dear, and have brought my heart safe thro such a continued fire as never poor knight errant was exposed to; waited on at every stage by blooming country girls, full of spirit and coquetry, without any of the village bashfulness of England, and dressed like the shepherdesses of romance. A man of adventure might make a pleasant journey to Montreal.
The peasants are ignorant, lazy, dirty, and stupid beyond all belief; but hospitable, courteous, civil; and, what is particularly agreeable, they leave their wives and daughters to do the honors of the house: in which obliging office they acquit themselves with an attention, which, amidst every inconvenience apparent (tho I am told not real) poverty can cause, must please every guest who has a soul inclind to be pleasd: for my part, I was charmd with them, and eat my homely fare with as much pleasure as if I had been feasting on ortolans in a palace. Their conversation is lively and amusing; all the little knowledge of Canada is confined to the sex; very few, even of the seigneurs, being able to write their own names.
The road from Quebec to Montreal is almost a continued street, the villages being numerous, and so extended along the banks of the river St. Lawrence as to leave scarce a space without houses in view; except where here or there a river, a wood, or mountain intervenes, as if to give a more pleasing variety to the scene. I dont remember ever having had a more agreeable journey; the fine prospects of the day so enlivend by the gay chat of the evening, that I was really sorry when I approachd Montreal.
The island of Montreal, on which the town stands, is a very lovely spot; highly cultivated, and tho less wild and magnificent, more smiling than the country round Quebec: the ladies, who seem to make pleasure their only business, and most of whom I have seen this morning driving about the town in calashes, and making what they call, the tour de la ville, attended by English officers, seem generally handsome, and have an air of sprightliness with which I am charmd; I must be acquainted with them all, for tho my stay is to be short, I see no reason why it should be dull. I am told they are fond of little rural balls in the country, and intend to give one as soon as I have paid my respects in form.
Six in the evening.
I am just come from dining with theregiment, and find I have a visit to pay I was not aware of, to two English ladies who are a few miles out of town: one of them is wife to the major of the regiment, and the other just going to be married to a captain in it, Sir George Clayton, a young handsome baronet, just come to his title and a very fine estate, by the death of a distant relation: he is at present at New York, and I am told they are to be married as soon as he comes back.
I have been making some flying visits to the French ladies; tho I have not seen many beauties, yet in general the women are handsome; their manner is easy and obliging, they make the most of their charms by their vivacity, and I certainly can not be displeasd with their extreme partiality for the English officers; their own men, who indeed are not very attractive, have not the least chance for any share in their good graces.
I am just setting out with a friend for Major Melmoths, to pay my compliments to the two ladies: I have no relish for this visit; I hate misses that are going to be married; they are always so full of the dear man, that they have not common civility to other people. I am told however both the ladies are agreeable.
14th. Eight in the evening.
Agreeable, Lucy! she is an angel: tis happy for me she is engagd; nothing else could secure my heart, of which you know I am very tenacious: only think of finding beauty, delicacy, sensibility, all that can charm in woman, hid in a wood in Canada!
You say I am given to be enthusiastic in my approbations, but she is really charming. I am resolvd not only to have a friendship for her myself, but that you shall, and have told her so; she comes to England as soon as she is married; you are formd to love each other.
But I must tell you; Major Melmoth kept us a week at his house in the country, in one continued round of rural amusements; by which I do not mean hunting and shooting, but such pleasures as the ladies could share; little rustic balls and parties round the neighbouring country, in which parties we were joined by all the fine women at Montreal. Mrs. Melmoth is a very pleasing, genteel brunette, but Emily Montagueyou will say I am in love with her if I describe her, and yet I declare to you I am not: knowing she loves another, to whom she is soon to be united, I see her charms with the same kind of pleasure I do yours; a pleasure, which, tho extremely lively, is by our situation without the least mixture of desire.
I have said, she is charming: there are men here who do not think so, but to me she is loveliness itself. My ideas of beauty are perhaps a little out of the common road: I hate a woman of whom every man coldly says, she is handsome; I adore beauty, but it is not meer features or complexion to which I give that name, tis spirit, tis animation, tis in one word, tis Emily Montaguewithout being regularly beautiful, she charms every sensible heart; all other women, however lovely, appear marble statues near her: fair; pale (a paleness which gives the idea of delicacy without destroying that of health), with dark hair and eyes, the latter large and languishing, she seems made to feel to a trembling excess the passion she cannot fail of inspiring: her elegant form has an air of softness and languor, which seizes the whole soul in a moment: her eyes, the most intelligent I ever saw, hold you enchaind by their bewitching sensibility.
There are a thousand unspeakable charms in her conversation; but what I am most pleasd with, is the attentive politeness of her manner, which you seldom see in a person in love; the extreme desire of pleasing one man generally taking off greatly from the attention due to all the rest. This is partly owing to her admirable understanding, and partly to the natural softness of their soul, which gives her the strongest desire of pleasing. As I am a philosopher in these matters, and have made the heart my study, I want extremely to see her with her lover, and to observe the gradual increase of her charms in his presence; love, which embellishes the most unmeaning countenance, must give to hers a fire irresistible: what eyes! when animated by tenderness!
The very soul acquires a new force and beauty by loving; a woman of honor never appears half so amiable, or displays half so many virtues, as when sensible to the merit of a man who deserves her affection. Observe, Lucy, I shall never allow you to be handsome till I hear you are in love.
Did I tell you Emily Montague had the finest hand and arm in the world? I should however have excepted yours: her tone of voice too has the same melodious sweetness, a perfection without which the loveliest woman could never make the least impression on my heart; I dont think you are very unlike upon the whole, except that she is paler. You know Lucy, you have often told me I should certainly have been in love with you if I had not been your brother: this resemblance is a proof you were right. You are really as handsome as any woman can be whose sensibility has never been put in motion.
I am to give a ball to-morrow; Mrs. Melmoth is to have the honors of it, but as she is with child, she does not dance. This circumstance has producd a dispute not a little flattering to my vanity: the ladies are making interest to dance with me; what a happy exchange have I made! what man of common sense would stay to be overlookd in England, who can have rival beauties contend for him in Canada? This important point is not yet settled; the etiquette here is rather difficult to adjust; as to me. I have nothing to do in the consultation; my hand is destind to the longest pedigree; we stand prodigiously on our noblesse at Montreal.
After a dispute in which two French ladies were near drawing their husbands into a duel, the point of honor is yielded by both to Miss Montague; each insisting only that I should not dance with the other: for my part, I submit with a good grace, as you will suppose.
I never passed a more agreeable evening; we have our amusements here, I assure you: a set of fine young fellows, and handsome women, all well dressd, and in humor with themselves, and with each other: my lovely Emily like Venus amongst the Graces, only multiplied to about sixteen. Nothing is, in my opinion, so favorable to the display of beauty as a ball. A state of rest is ungraceful; all nature is most beautiful in motion: trees agitated by the wind, a ship under sail, a horse in the course, a fine woman dancing: never any human being had such an aversion to still life as I have.
I am going back to Melmoths for a month; dont be alarmd, Lucy! I see all her perfections, but I see them with the cold eye of admiration only: a woman engaged loses all her attractions as a woman; there is no love without a ray of hope: my only ambition is to be her friend; I want to be the confidant of her passion. With what spirit such a mind as hers must love!
Adieu! my dear!
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Montreal, August 15.
By heavens, Lucy, this is more than man can bear; I was mad to stay so long at Melmoths; there is no resisting this little seducer: tis shameful in such a lovely woman to have understanding too; yet even this I could forgive, had she not that enchanting softness in her manner, which steals upon the soul, and would almost make ugliness itself charm; were she but vain, one had some chance, but she will take upon her to have no consciousness, at least no apparent consciousness, of her perfections, which is really intolerable, I told her so last night, when she put on such a malicious smileI believe the little tyrant wants to add me to the list of her slaves; but I was not formd to fill up a train. The woman I love must be so far from giving another the preference, that she must have no soul but for me; I am one of the most unreasonable men in the world on this head; she may fancy what she pleases, but I set her and all her attractions at defiance: I have made my escape, and shall set off for Quebec in an hour. Flying is, I must acknowledge, a little out of character, and unbecoming a soldier; but in these cases, it is the very best thing man or woman either can do, when they doubt their powers of resistance.
I intend to be ten days going to Quebec. I propose visiting the priests at every village, and endeavouring to get some knowledge of the nature of the country, in order to my intended settlement. Idleness being the root of all evil, and the nurse of love, I am determind to keep myself employed; nothing can be better suited to my temper than my present design; the pleasure of cultivating lands here is as much superior to what can be found in the same employment in England, as watching the expanding rose, and beholding the falling leaves: America is in infancy, Europe in old age. Nor am I very ill qualified for this agreeable task: I have studied the Georgicks, and am a pretty enough kind of a husbandman as far as theory goes; nay, I am not sure I shall not be, even in practice, the best gentlemen farmer in the province.
You may expect soon to hear of me in the Museum Rusticum; I intend to make amazing discoveries in the rural way: I have already found out, by the force of my own genius, two very uncommon circumstances; that in Canada, contrary to what we see every where else, the country is rich, the capital poor; the hills fruitful, the vallies barren. You see what excellent dispositions I have to be an useful member of society: I had always a strong bias to the study of natural philosophy.
Tell my mother how well I am employd, and she cannot but approve my voyage: assure her, my dear, of my tenderest regard.
The chaise is at the door.
The lover is every hour expected; I am not quite sure I should have likd to see him arrive: a third person, you know, on such an occasion, sinks into nothing; and I love, wherever I am, to be one of the figures which strike the eye; I hate to appear on the back ground of the picture.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street
Quebec, August 24.
You cant think, my dear, what a fund of useful knowledge I have treasurd up during my journey from Montreal. This colony is a rich mine yet unopend; I do not mean of gold and silver, but of what are of much more real value, corn and cattle. Nothing is wanting but encouragement and cultivation; the Canadians are at their ease even without labor; nature is here a bounteous mother, who pours forth her gifts almost unsolicited: bigotry, stupidity, and laziness, united, have not been able to keep the peasantry poor. I rejoice to find such admirable capabilities where I propose to fix my dominion.
I was hospitably entertained by the curés all the way down tho they are in general but ill provided for: the parochial clergy are useful every where, but I have a great aversion to monks, those drones in the political hive, whose study seems to be to make themselves as useless to the world as possible.Think too of the shocking indelicacy of many of them, who make it a point of religion to abjure linen, and wear their habits till they drop off. How astonishing that any mind should suppose the Deity an enemy to cleanliness! the Jewish religion was hardly any thing else.
I paid my respects wherever I stopped, to the seigneuress of the village; for as to the seigneurs, except two or three, if they had not wives, they would not be worth visiting.
I am every day more pleased with the women here; and, if I was gallant, should be in danger of being a convert to the French stile of gallantry; which certainly debases the mind much less than ours.
But what is all this to my Emily? How I envy Sir George! what happiness has Heaven for him, if he has a soul to taste it!
I really must not think of her; I found so much delight in her conversation, it was quite time to come away; I am almost ashamed to own how much difficulty I found in leaving her: do you know I have scarce slept since? This is absurd, but I cannot help it; which by the way is an admirable excuse for anything.
I have been come but two hours, and am going to Silleri, to pay my compliments to your friend Miss Fermor, who arrivd with her father, who comes to join his regiment, since I left Quebec. I hear there has been a very fine importation of English ladies during my absence. I am sorry I have not time to visit the rest, but I go tomorrow morning to the Indian village for a fortnight, and have several letters to write to-night.
Adieu! I am interrupted.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street
Quebec, Sept. 10.
I find, my dear, that absence and amusement are the best remedies for a beginning passion: I have passed a fortnight at the Indian village of Lorette, where the novelty of the scene, and the enquiries I have been led to make into their antient religion and manners, have been of a thousand times more service to me than all the reflection in the world would have been.
I will own to you that I staid too long at Montreal, or rather at Major Melmoths; to be six weeks in the same house with one of the most amiable, most pleasing of women, was a trying situation to a heart full of sensibility, and of a sensibility which has been hitherto, from a variety of causes, a good deal restrained. I should have avoided the danger from the first, had it appeared to me what it really was; but I thought myself secure in the consideration of her engagements, a defence however which I found grow weaker every day.
But to my savages: other nations talk of liberty, they possess it; nothing can be more astonishing than to see a little village of about thirty or forty families, the small remains of the Hurons, almost exterminated by long and continual war with the Iroquoise, preserve their independence in the midst of an European colony consisting of seventy thousand inhabitants; yet the fact is true of the savages of Lorette; they assert and they maintain that independence with a spirit truly noble. One of our company having said something which an Indian understood as a supposition that they had been subjects of France, his eyes struck fire, he stopd him abruptly, contrary to their respectful and sensible custom of never interrupting the person who speaks, You mistake, brother, said he; we are subjects to no prince; a savage is free all over the world. And he spoke only truth; they are not only free as a people, but every individual is perfectly so. Lord of himself, at once subject and master, a savage knows no superior, a circumstance which has a striking effect on his behaviour; unawed by rank or riches, distinctions unknown amongst his own nation, he would enter as unconcerned, would possess all his powers as freely in the palace of an oriental monarch, as in the cottage of the meanest peasant: tis the species, tis man, tis his equal he respects, without regarding the gaudy trappings, the accidental advantages, to which polished nations pay homage.
I have taken some pains to develop their present, as well as past, religious sentiments, because the Jesuit missionaries have boasted so much of their conversation; and find they have rather engrafted a few of the most plain and simple truths of Christianity on their ancient superstitions, than exchanged one faith for another; they are baptized, and even submit to what they themselves call the yoke of confession, and worship according to the outward forms of the Romish church, the drapery of which cannot but strike minds unused to splendor; but their belief is very little changed, except that the women seem to pay great reverence to the Virgin, perhaps because flattering to the sex. They anciently believed in one God, the ruler and creator of the universe, whom they called the Great Spirit and the Master of Life; in the sun as his image and representative; in a multitude of inferior spirits and demons; and in a future state of rewards and punishments, or, to use their own phrase, in a country of souls. They reverenced the spirits of their departed heroes, but it does not appear that they paid them any religious adoration. There morals were more pure, their manners more simple, than those of polished nations, except in what regarded the intercourse of the sexes: the young women before marriages were indulged in great libertinism, hid however under the most reserved and decent exterior. They held adultery in abhorrence, and with the more reason as their marriages were dissolvable at pleasure. The missionaries are said to have no difficulty so great in gaining them to Christianity, as that of persuading them to marry for life: they regarded the Christian system of marriage as contrary to the laws of nature and reason; and asserted that, as the Great Spirit formed us to be happy, it was opposing his will, to continue together when otherwise.
The sex we have so unjustly excluded from power in Europe have a great share in the Huron government; the chief is chose by the matrons from amongst the nearest male relations, by the female line, of him he is to succeed; and is generally an aunts or sisters son; a custom which, if we examine strictly into the principle on which it is founded, seems a little to contradict what we are told of the extreme chastity of the married ladies.
The power of the chief is extremely limited; he seems rather to advise his people as a father than command them as a master: yet, as his commands are always reasonable, and for the general good, no prince in the world is as well obeyed. They have a supreme council of ancients, into which every man enters of course at an age fixed, and another of assistants to the chief on common occasions, the members of which are like him elected by the matrons: I am pleased with this last regulation, as women are, beyond all doubt, the best judges of the merit of men; and I should be extremely pleased to see it adopted in England: canvassing for elections would then be the most agreeable thing in the world, and I am sure the ladies would give their votes on much more generous principles than we do. In the true sense of the word, we are the savages, who so impolitely deprive you of the common rights of citizenship, and leave you no power but that of which we cannot deprive you, the resistless power of your charms. By the way, I dont think you are obliged in conscience to obey laws you have had no share in making; your plea would certainly be at least as good as that of the Americans, about which we every day hear so much.
The Hurons have no positive laws; yet being a people not numerous, with a strong sense of honor, and in that state of equality which gives no food to the most tormenting passions of the human heart, and the council of ancients having a power to punish atrocious crimes, which power however they very seldom find occasion to use, they live together in a tranquillity and order which appears to us surprizing.
In more numerous Indian nations, I am told, every village has its chief and its councils, and is perfectly independent on the rest; but on great occasions summon a general council, to which every village sends deputies.
Their language is at once sublime and melodious; but, having much fewer ideas, it is impossible it can be so copious as those of Europe: the pronunciation of the men is guttural, but that of the women extremely soft and pleasing; without understanding one word of the language, the sound of it is very agreeable to me. Their style even in speaking French is bold and metaphorical: and I am told is on important occasions extremely sublime. Even in common conversation they speak in figures, of which I have this moment an instance. A savage woman was wounded lately in defending an English family from the drunken rage of one of her nation. I asked her after her wound; It is well, said she; my sisters at Quebec (meaning the English ladies) have been kind to me; and piastres, you know, are very healing.
They have no idea of letters, no alphabet, nor is their language reducible to rules: tis by painting they preserve the memory of the only events which interest them, or that they think worth recording, the conquests gained over their enemies in war.
When I speak of their paintings, I should not omit that, though extremely rude, they have a strong resemblance to the Chinese, a circumstance which struck me the more, as it is not the stile of nature. Their dances also, the most lively pantomimes I ever saw, and especially the dance of peace, exhibit variety of attitudes resembling the figures on Chinese fans; nor have their features and complexion less likeness to the pictures we see of the Tartars, as their wandering manner of life, before they became Christians, was the same.
If I thought it necessary to suppose they were not natives of the country, and that America was peopled later than the other quarters of the world. I should imagine them the descendants of Tartars; as nothing can be more easy than their passage from Asia, from which America is probably not divide; or, if it is, by a very narrow channel. But I leave this to those who are better informed, being a subject on which I honestly confess my ignorance.
I have already observed, that they retain most of their ancient superstitions. I should particularize their belief in dreams, of which folly even repeated disappointments cannot cure them: they have also an unlimited faith in their powawers, or conjurers, of whom there is one in every Indian village, who is at once physician, orator, and divine, and who is consulted as an oracle on every occasion. As I happened to smile at the recital a savage was making of a prophetic dream, from which he assured us of the death of an English officer whom I knew to be alive, You Europeans, said he, are the most unreasonable people in the world; you laugh at our belief in dreams, and yet expect us to believe things a thousand times more incredible.
Their general character is difficult to describe; made up of contrary and even contradictory qualities; they are indolent, tranquil, quiet, humane in peace; active, restless, cruel, ferocious in war: courteous, attentive, hospitable, and even polite, when kindly treated; haughty, stern, vindictive, when they are not; and their resentment is the more to be dreaded, as they hold it to a point of honor to dissemble their sense of an injury till they find an opportunity to revenge it.
They are patient of cold and heat, of hunger and thirst, even beyond all belief when necessity requires, passing whole days, and often three or four days together, without food, in the woods, when on the watch for an enemy, or even on their hunting parties; yet indulging themselves in their feasts even to the most brutal degree of intemperance. They despise death, and suffer the most excruciating tortures not only without a groan, but with an air of triumph; singing their death song, deriding their tormentors, and threatening them with the vengeance of their surviving friends: yet hold it honorable to fly before an enemy that appears the least superior in number or force.
Deprived by their extreme ignorance, and that indolence which nothing but their ardor for war can surmount, of all the conveniences, as well as elegant refinements of polished life; strangers to the softer passions, love being with them on the same footing as amongst their fellow-tenants of the woods, their lives appear to me rather tranquil than happy: they have fewer cares, but they have also much fewer enjoyments, than fall to our share. I am told, however, that, though insensible to love, they are not without affections; are extremely awake to friendship, and passionately fond of their children.
They are of a copper color, which is rendered more unpleasing by a quantity of coarse red on their cheeks; but the children, when born, are of a pale silver white; perhaps their custom of greasing their bodies, and their being so much exposed to the air and sun even from infancy, may cause that total change of complexion, which I know not how otherwise to account for: their hair is black and shining, the womens very long, parted at the top, and combed back, tied behind, and often twisted with a thong of leather, which they think very ornamental: the dress of both sexes is a close jacket, reaching to their knees, with spatter dashes, all of coarse blue cloth, shoes of deer-skin, embroidered with porcupine quills, and sometimes with silver spangles; and a blanket thrown across their shoulders, and fastened before with a kind of bodkin, with necklaces, and other ornaments of beads or shells.
They are in general tall, well made, and agile to the last degree; have a lively imagination, a strong memory; and, as far as their interests are concerned, are very dextrous politicians.
Their address is cold and reserved; but their treatment of strangers, and the unhappy, infinitely kind and hospitable. A very worthy priest, with whom I am acquainted at Quebec, was some years since shipwrecked in December on the island of Anticosti: after a variety of distresses, not difficult to be imagined on an island without inhabitants, during the severity of a winter even colder than that of Canada: he, with the small remains of his companions who survived such complicated distress, early in the spring, reached the main land in their boat, and wandered to a cabin of savages; the ancient of which, having heard his story, bid him enter, and liberally supplied their wants: Approach, brother, said he; the unhappy have a right to our assistance; we are men, and cannot but feel for the distresses which happen to men; a sentiment which has a strong resemblance to a celebrated one in a Greek tragedy.
You will not expect more from me on this subject, as my residence here has been short, and I can only be said to catch a few marking features flying. I am unable to give you a picture at full length.
Nothing astonishes me so much as to find their manners so little changed by their intercourse with the Europeans; they seem to have learnt nothing of us but excess in drinking.
The situation of the village is very fine, on an eminence, gently rising to a thick wood at some distance, a beautiful little serpentine river in front, on which are a bridge, a mill, and a small cascade, at such a distance as to be very pleasing objects from their houses; and a cultivated country, intermixed with little woods lying between them and Quebec, from which they are distant only nine very short miles.
What a letter have I written! I shall quit my post of historian to your friend Miss Fermor; the ladies love writing much better than we do; and I should perhaps be only just, if I said they write better.
To Miss Fermor, at Silleri.
Montreal, Sept. 2.
My dearest Bell will better imagine than I can describe, the pleasure it gave me to hear of her being in Canada; I am impatient to see her, but as Mrs. Melmoth comes in a fortnight to Quebec, I know she will excuse my waiting to come with her. My visit however is to Silleri; I long to see my dear girl, to tell her a thousand little trifles interesting only to friendship.
You congratulate me, my dear, on the pleasing prospect I have before me; on my approaching marriage with a man young, rich, lovely, enamord, and of an amiable character.
Yes, my dear, I am obligd to my uncle for his choice; Sir George is all you have heard; and, without doubt, loves me, as he marries me with such an inferiority of fortune. I am very happy certainly; how is it possible I should be otherwise?
I could indeed wish my tenderness for him more lively, but perhaps my wishes are romantic. I prefer him to all his sex, but wish my preference was of a less languid nature; there is something in it more like friendship than love; I see him with pleasure, but I part from him without regret; yet he deserves my affection, and I can have no objection to him which is not founded in caprice.
You say true; Colonel Rivers is very amiable; he passed six weeks with us, yet we found his conversation always new; he is the man on earth of whom one would wish to make a friend; I think I could already trust him with every sentiment of my soul; I have even more confidence in him than in Sir George whom I love; his manner is soft, attentive, insinuating, and particularly adapted to please women. Without designs, without pretentions; he steals upon you in the character of a friend, because there is not the least appearance of his ever being a lover: he seems to take such an interest in your happiness, as gives him a right to know your every thought. Dont you think, my dear, these kind of men are dangerous? Take care of yourself, my dear Bell; as to me, I am secure in my situation.
Sir George is to have the pleasure of delivering this to you, and comes again in a few days; love him for my sake, though he deserves it for his own. I assure you, he is extremely worthy.
Adieu! my dear.
To Miss. Montague, at Montreal.
Silleri, Sept. 16.
Take care, my dear Emily, you do not fall into the common error of sensible and delicate minds, that of refining away your happiness.
Sir George is handsome as an Adonis; you allow him to be of an amiable character; he is rich, young, well born, and loves you; you will have fine cloths, fine jewels, a fine house, a coach and six: all the douceurs of marriage, with an extreme pretty fellow, who is fond of you, whom you see with pleasure, and prefer to all his sex; and yet you are discontented, because you have not for him at twenty-four the romantic passion of fifteen, or rather that ideal passion which perhaps never existed but in imagination.
To be happy in this world, it is necessary not to raise ones ideas too high: if I loved a man of Sir Georges fortune half as well as by your own account you love him, I should not hesitate one moment about marrying; but sit down contented with ease, affluence, and an agreeable man, without expecting to find in life what it certainly is not, a state of continual rapture. Tis, I am afraid, my dear, your misfortune to have too much sensibility to be happy.
I could moralize exceedingly well this morning on the vanity of human wishes and expectations, and the folly of hoping for felicity in this vile sublunary world: but the subject is a little exhausted, and I have a passion for being original. I think all the moral writers, who have set off with promising to shew us the road to happiness, have obligingly ended with telling us there is no such thing; a conclusion extremely consoling, and which if they had drawn before they set pen to paper, would have saved both themselves and their readers an infinity of trouble. This fancy of what one knows is not to be found, is really an ingenious way of amusing both ones self and the world: I wish people would either write to some purpose, or be so good as not to write at all.
I believe I shall set about writing a system of ethics myself, which shall be short, clear, and comprehensive; nearer the Epicurean perhaps than the Stoic; but rural, refined, and sentimental; rural by all means; for who does not know that virtue is a country gentlewoman? all the good mammas will tell you, there is no such being to be heard of in town.
I shall certainly be glad to see you, my dear; though I foresee strange revolutions in the state of Denmark from this event; at present I have all the men to myself, and you must know I have a prodigious aversion to divided empire: however, tis some comfort they all know you are going to be married. You may come, Emily; only be so obliging to bring Sir George along with you: in your present situation, you are not so very formidable.
The men here, as I said before, are all dying for me; there are many handsomer women, but I flatter them, and the dear creatures cannot resist it. I am a very good girl to women, but naturally artful (if you will allow the expression) to the other sex; I can blush, look down, stifle a sigh, flutter my fan, and seem so agreeably confusedyou have no notion, my dear, what fools men are. If you had not got the start of me, I would have had your little white-haired baronet in a week, and yet I dont take him to be made of very combustible materials; rather mild, composed, and pretty, I believe; but he has vanity, which is quite enough for my purpose.
Either your love or Colonel Rivers will have the honor to deliver this letter; tis rather cruel to take them both from us at once; however, we shall soon be made amends; for we shall have a torrent of beaux with the general.
Dont you think the sun in this country vastly more chearing than in England? I am charmed with the sun, to say nothing of the moon, though to be sure I never saw a moon-light night that deserved the name till I came to America.
Mon cher pere desires a thousand compliments; you know he has been in love with you ever since you were seven years old; he is vastly better for his voyage, and the clear air of Canada, and looks ten years younger than before he set out.
Adieu! I am going to ramble in the woods, and pick berries, with a little smiling civil captain, who is enamoured of me: a pretty rural amusement for lovers!
Good morrow, my dear Emily,
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Quebec, Sept. 30.
Would you believe it possible, my dear, that Sir George should decline attending Emily Montague from Montreal, and leave the pleasing commission to me? I am obliged to him for the three happiest days of my life, yet am piqued at his chusing me for a cecisbeo to his mistress: he seems to think me a man sans consequence, with whom a lady may safely be trusted; there is nothing very flattering in such a kind of confidence: let him take care of himself, if he is impertinent, and sets me at defiance, I am not vain, but set our fortunes aside, and I dare enter the lists with Sir George Clayton. I cannot give her a coach and six; but I can give her, what is more conducive to happiness, a heart which knows how to value her perfections.
I never had so pleasing a journey; we were three days coming down, because we made it a continual party of pleasure, took music with us, landed once or twice a day, visited the French families we knew, lay both nights on shore, and danced at the seigneurs village.
This river, from Montreal to Quebec, exhibits a scene perhaps not to be matched in the world: it is settled on both sides, though the settlements are not so numerous on the south shore as on the other: the lovely confusion of woods, mountains, meadows, corn fields, rivers (for there are several on both sides, which lose themselves in the St. Lawrence), intermixed with churches and houses breaking upon you at a distance through the trees, form a variety of landscapes, to which it is difficult to do justice.
This charming scene, with a clear serene sky, a gentle breeze in our favor, and the conversation of half a dozen fine women, would have made the voyage pleasing to the most insensible man on earth: my Emily too of the party, and most politely attentive to the pleasure she saw I had in making the voyage agreeable to her.
I every day love her more; and, without considering the impropriety of it, I cannot help giving way to an inclination, in which I find such exquisite pleasure; I find a thousand charms in the least trifle I can do to oblige her.
Dont reason with me on this subject: I know it is madness to continue to see her; but I find a delight in her conversation, which I cannot prevail on myself to give up till she is actually married.
I respect her engagements, and pretend to no more from her than her friendship; but, as to myself, will love her in whatever manner I please: to shew you my prudence, however, I intend to dance with the handsomest unmarried Frenchwomen here on Thursday, and to shew her an attention which shall destroy all suspicion of my tenderness for Emily. I am jealous of Sir George, and hate him; but I dissemble it better than I thought it possible for me to do.
My Lucy, I am not happy; my mind is in a state not to be described; I am weak enough to encourage a hope for which there is not the least foundation: I misconstrue her friendship for me every moment; and that attention which is meerly gratitude for my apparent anxiety to oblige. I even fancy her eyes understand mine, which I am afraid speak too plainly the sentiments of my heart.
I love her, my dear girl, to madness; these three days
I am interrupted. Adieu!
Tis Capt. Fermor, who insists on my dining at Silleri. They will eternally throw me in the way of this lovely woman: of what materials do they suppose me formed?
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Silleri, Nov. 23.
I have been seeing the last ship go out of the port, Lucy; you have no notion what a melancholy sight it is: we are now left to ourselves, and shut up from all the world for the winter: somehow we seem so forsaken, so cut off from the rest of human kind, I cannot bear the idea: I sent a thousand sighs and a thousand tender wishes to dear England, which I never loved so much as at this moment.
Do you know, my dear, I could cry if I was not ashamed? I shall not absolutely be in spirits again this week.
Tis the first time I have felt any thing like bad spirits in Canada: I followed the ship with my eyes till it turned Point Levi, and, when I lost sight of it, felt as if I had lost every thing dear to me on earth. I am not particular: I see a gloom on every countenance; I have been at church, and think I never saw so many dejected faces in my life.
Adieu! for the present: it will be a fortnight before I can send this letter; another agreeable circumstance that: would to heaven I were in England, though I changed the bright sun of Canada for a fog!
We have had a weeks snow without intermission: happily for us, your brother and the Fitz have been weather-bound all the time at Silleri, and cannot possibly get away.
We have amused ourselves within doors, for there is no stirring abroad, with playing at cards, playing at shuttlecock, playing the fool, making love, and making moral reflexions: upon the whole, the week has not been very disagreeable.
The snow is when we wake constantly up to our chamber windows; we are literally dug out of it every morning.
As to Quebec, I give up all hopes of ever seeing it again: but my comfort is, that the people there cannot possibly get to their neighbors; and I flatter myself very few of them have been half so well entertained at home.
We shall be abused, I know, for (what is really the fault of the weather) keeping these two creatures here this week; the ladies hate us for engrossing two such fine fellows as your brother and Fitzgerald, as well as for having vastly more than our share of all the men: we generally go out attended by at least a dozen, without any other woman but a lively old French lady, who is a flirt of my fathers, and will certainly be my mamma.
We sweep into the generals assembly on Thursdays with such a train of beaux as draws every eye upon us: the rest of the fellows crowd round us; the misses draw up, blush, and flutter their fans; and your little Bell sits down with such a saucy impertinent consciousness in her countenance as is really provoking: Emily on the contrary looks mild and humble, and seems by her civil decent air to apologize to them for being so much more agreeable than themselves, which is a fault for my part am not in the least inclined to be ashamed of.
Your idea of Quebec, my dear, is perfectly just; it is like a third or fourth rate country town in England; much hospitality, little society; cards, scandal, dancing, and good chear; all excellent things to pass away a winter evening, and peculiarly adapted to what I am told, and what I begin to feel, of the severity of this climate.
I am told they abuse me, which I can easily believe, because my impertinence to them deserves it: but what care I, you know, Lucy, so long as I please myself, and am at Silleri out of the sound?
They are squabbling at Quebec, I hear, about I cannot tell what, therefore shall not attempt to explain: some dregs of old disputes, it seems, which have had not time to settle: however, we new comers have certainly nothing to do with these matters: you cant think how comfortable we feel at Silleri, out of the way.
My father says, the politics of Canada are as complex and as difficult to be understood as those of the Germanic system.
For my part, I think no politics worth attending to but those of the little commonwealth of woman: if I can maintain my empire over hearts, I leave the men to quarrel for every thing else.
I observe a strict neutrality, that I may have a chance for admirers amongst both parties. Adieu! the post is just going out.
To Miss Rivers, Clarges Street.
Silleri, Jan. 1.
It is with difficulty I breathe, my dear; the cold is so amazingly intense as almost totally to stop respiration. I have business, the business of pleasure, at Quebec; but have not courage to stir from the stove.
We have had five days, the severity of which none of the natives remember to have ever seen equaled: tis said, the cold is beyond all the thermometers here, tho intended for the climate.
The strongest wine freezes in a room which has a stove in it; even brandy is thickened to the consistence of oil: the largest wood fire, in a wide chimney, does not throw out its heat a quarter of a yard.
I must venture to Quebec to-morrow, or have company at home: amusements are here necessary to life; we must be jovial, or the blood will freeze in our veins.
I no longer wonder the elegant arts are unknown here; the rigor of the climate suspends the very powers of the understanding; what then must become of those of the imagination? Those who expect to see
will find themselves extremely disappointed. Genius will never mount high, where the faculties of the mind are benumbed half the year.
Tis sufficient employment for the most lively spirit here to contrive how to preserve an existence, of which there are moments that one is hardly conscious: the cold really sometimes brings on a sort of stupefaction.
We had a million of beaux here yesterday, notwithstanding the severe cold: tis the Canadian custom, calculated I suppose for the climate, to visit all the ladies on New-years-day, who sit dressed in form to be kissed: I assure you, however, our kisses could not warm them; but we were obliged, to our eternal disgrace, to call in raspberry brandy as an auxiliary.
You would have died to see the men; they look just like so many bears in their open carrioles, all wrapped in furs from head to foot; you see nothing of the human form appear, but the tip of a nose.
They have entire coats of beaver skin exactly like Fridays in Robinson Crusoe, and casques on their heads like the old knights errant in romance; you never saw such tremendous figures; but without this kind of cloathing it would be impossible to stir out at present.
The ladies are equally covered up, tho in a less unbecoming style; they have long cloth cloaks with loose hoods, like those worn by the market-women in the north of England. I have one in scarlet, the hood lined with sable, the prettiest ever seen here, in which I assure you I look amazingly handsome; the men think so, and call me the Little red riding-hood; a name which becomes me as wells the hood.
The Canadian ladies wear these cloaks in India silk in summer, which, fluttering in the wind, look really graceful on a fine woman.
Besides our riding-hoods, when we go out, we have a large buffaloes skin under our feet, which turns up, and wraps round us almost to our shoulders; so that, upon the whole, we are pretty well guarded from the weather as well as the men.
Our covered carrioles too have not only canvas windows (we dare not have glass, because we often overturn), but cloth curtains to draw all round us; the extreme swiftness of these carriages also, which dart along like lightening, helps to keep one warm, by promoting the circulation of the blood.
I pity the Fitz; no tiger was ever so hard-hearted as I am this weather: the little god has taken his flight, like the swallows. I say nothing, but cruelty is no virtue in Canada; at least at this season.
I suppose Pygmalions statue was some frozen Canadian gentlewoman, and a sudden warm day thawed her. I love to expound ancient fables, and I think no exposition can be more natural than this.
Would you know what makes me chatter so this morning? Papa has made me take some excellent liqueur; tis the mode here; all the Canadian ladies take a little, which makes them so coquet and agreeable. Certainly brandy makes a woman talk like an angel. Adieu!
To Miss Fermor.
Feb. 24, Eleven at night.
I have indeed, my dear, a pleasure in his conversation, to which words cannot do justice: love itself is less tender and lively than my friendship for Rivers; from the first moment I saw him, I lost all taste for other conversation; even yours, amiable as you are, borrows its most prevailing charm from the pleasure of hearing you talk of him.
When I call my tenderness for him friendship, I do not mean either to paint myself as an enemy to tenderer sentiments, or him as one whom it is easy to see without feeling them: all I mean is, that, as our situations make it impossible for us to think of each other except as friends, I have endeavoredI hope with successto see him in no other light: it is not in his power to marry without fortune, and mine is a trifle: had I worlds, they should be his, but, I am neither so selfish as to desire, nor so romantic as to expect, that he should descend from the rank of life he has been bred in, and live lost to the world with me.
As to the impertinence of two or three women, I hear of it with perfect indifference: my dear Rivers esteems me, he approves my conduct, and all else is below my care: the applause of worlds would give me less pleasure than one smile of approbation from him.
I am astonished your father should know me so little, as to suppose me capable of being influenced even by you: when I determined to refuse Sir George, it was from the feeling of my own heart alone; the first moment I saw Colonel Rivers convinced me my heart had till then been a stranger to true tenderness: from that moment my life has been one continued struggle between my reason, which shewed me the folly as well as indecency of marrying one man when I so infinitely preferred another, and a false point of honor and mistaken compassion: from which painful state, a concurrence of favorable accidents has at length happily relieved me, and left me free to act as becomes me.
Of this, my dear, be assured, that, though I have not the least idea of ever marrying Colonel Rivers, yet, whilst my sentiments for him continue what they are, I will never marry any other man.
To Mrs. Temple, Pall Mall.
Silleri, March 29.
We are going to dine at a farmhouse in the country, where we are to meet other company, and have a ball: the snow begins a little to soften, from the warmth of the sun, which is greater than in England in May. Our winter parties are almost at an end.
My father drives Madame Des Roches, who is of our party, and your brother Emily; I hope the little fool will be easy now, Lucy; she is very humble, to be jealous of one, who, though really very pleasing, is neither so young nor so handsome as herself; and who professes to wish only for Rivers friendship.
But I have no right to say a word on this subject, after having been so extremely hurt at Fitzgeralds attention to such a woman as Madame La Brosse; an attention too which was so plainly meant to pique me.
We are all, I am afraid, a little absurd in these affairs, and therefore ought to have some degree of indulgence for others.
Emily and I, however, differ in our ideas of love: it is the business of her life, the amusement of mine; tis the food of her hours, the seasoning of mine. Or, in other words, she loves like a foolish woman, I like a sensible man: for men, you know, compared to women, love in about the proportion of one to twenty.
Tis a mighty wrong thing, after all, Lucy, that parents will educate creatures so differently who are to live with and for each other.
Every possible means is used, even from infancy, to soften the minds of women, and to harden those of men; the contrary endeavor might be of use, for the men creatures are unfeeling enough by nature, and we are born too tremblingly alive to love, and indeed to every soft affection.
Your brother is almost the only one of his sex I know, who has the tenderness of woman with the spirit and firmness of man; a circumstance which strikes every woman who converses with him, and which contributes to make him the favorite he is amongst us. Foolish women who cannot distinguish characters may possibly give the preference to a coxcomb; but I will venture to say, no woman of sense was ever much acquainted with Colonel Rivers without feeling for him an affection of some kind or other.
A propos to women, the estimable part of us are divided into two classes only, the tender and the lively.
The former, at the head of which I place Emily, are infinitely more capable of happiness; but, to counterbalance this advantage, they are also capable of misery in the same degree. We of the other class, who feel less keenly, are perhaps upon the whole as happy, at least I would fain think so.
For example, if Emily and I marry our present lovers, she will certainly be more exquisitely happy than I shall; but if they should change their minds, or any accident prevent our coming together, I am inclined to fancy my situation would be much the most agreeable.
I should pout a month, and then look about for another lover; whilst the tender Emily would
and pine herself into a consumption.
Adieu! They wait for me.
We have had a very agreeable day, Lucy, a pretty enough kind of a ball and every body in good humor: I danced with Fitzgerald, whom I never knew so agreeable.
Happy love is gay, I find; Emily is all sprightliness, your brothers eyes have never left her a moment, and her blushes seemed to shew her sense of the distinction; I never knew her look so handsome as this day.
Do you know I felt for Madame Des Roches? Emily was excessively complaisant to her: she returned her civility, but I could perceive a kind of constraint in her manner, very different from the ease of her behaviour when we saw her before: she felt the attention of Rivers to Emily very strongly: in short, the ladies seemed to have changed characters for the day.
We supped with your brother on our return, and from his windows, which look on the river St. Charles, had the pleasure of observing one of the most beautiful objects imaginable, which I never remember to have seen before this evening.
You are to observe the winter method of fishing here, is to break openings like small fish ponds on the ice, to which the fish coming for air, are taken in prodigious quantites on the surface.
To shelter themselves from the excessive cold of the night, the fishermen build small houses of ice on the river, which are arranged in a semicircular form, and which, from the blazing fires within, have a brilliant transparency and vivid lustre, not easy either to imagine or to describe: the starry semicircle looks like an immense crescent of diamonds, on which the sun darts his meridian rays.
Absolutely, Lucy, you see nothing in Europe: you are cultivated, you have the tame beauties of art, but to see nature in her lovely wild luxuriance, you must visit your brother when he is prince of the Kamaraskas.
The variety, as well of grand objects, as of amusements, in this country, confirms me in an opinion I have always had, that Providence had made the conveniences and inconveniences of life nearly equal every where.
We have pleasures here even in winter peculiar to the climate, which counterbalance the evils we suffer from its rigor.
Good night, my dear Lucy!
To The Earl Of.
Silleri, June 6, 1767.
It is very true, my Lord, that the Jesuit missionaries still continue in the Indian villages in Canada; and I am afraid it is no less true, that they use every art to instill into those people an aversion to the English; at least I have been told this by the Indians themselves, who seem equally surprised and piqued that we do not send missionaries amongst them.
Their ideas of Christianity are extremely circumscribed, and they given no preference to one mode of our faith above another; they regard a missionary of any nation as a kind father, who comes to instruct them in the best way of worshipping the Deity, whom they suppose more propitious to Europeans than to themselves; and as an ambassador from the prince whose subject he is: they therefore think it a mark of honor, and a proof of esteem, to receive missionaries; and to our remissness, and the French wise attention on this head, is owing the extreme attachment the greater part of the savage nations have ever had to the latter.
The French missionaries, by studying their language, their manners, their tempers, their dispositions; by conforming to their way of life, and using every art to gain their esteem, have acquired an influence over them which is scarce to be conceived; nor would it be difficult for ours to do the same, were they judiciously chose, and properly encouraged.
I believe I have said, that there is a striking resemblance between the manners of the Canadians and the savages; I should have explained it, by adding, that this resemblance has been brought about, not by the French having won the savages to receive European manners, but by the very contrary; the peasants having acquired the savage indolence in peace, their activity and ferocity in war; their fondness for field sports, their hatred of labor; their love of a wandering life, and of liberty; in the latter which they have been in some degree indulged, the laws here being much milder, and more favorable to the people, than in France.
Many of the officers also, and those of rank in the colony troops, have been adopted into the savage tribes; and there is stronger evidence than, for the honor of humanity, I would wish there was, that some of them have led the death dance at the execution of English captives, have even partook the horrid repast, and imitated them in all their cruelties; cruelties, which, to the eternal disgrace, not of our holy religion, but even of our nature, these poor people, whose ignorance is their excuse, have been instigated to, both by the French and English colonies, who, with a fury truly diabolical, have offered rewards to those who brought in the scalps of their enemies. Rousseau has taken great pains to prove that the most uncultivated nations are the most virtuous: I have all due respect for this philosopher, of whose writings I am an enthusiastic admirer; but I have a still greater respect for truth, which I believe is not in this instance on his side.
There is little reason to boast of the virtues of a people who are such brutal slaves to their appetites as to be unable to avoid drinking brandy to an excess scarce to be conceived, whenever it falls in their way, though eternally lamenting the murders and other atrocious crimes of which they are so perpetually guilty when under its influence.
It is unjust to say we have corrupted them, that we have taught them a vice to which we are ourselves not addicted; both French and English are in general sober: we have indeed given them the means of intoxication, which they had not before their intercourse with us; but he must be indeed fond of praising them, who makes a virtue of their having been sober, when water was the only liquor with which they were acquainted.
From all that I have observed, and heard of these people, it appears to me an undoubted fact, that the most civilized Indian nations are the most virtuous; a fact which makes directly against Rousseaus ideal system.
Indeed all systems make against, instead of leading to, the discovery of truth.
Pere Lafitau has, for this reason, in his very learned comparison of the manners of the savages with those of the first ages, given a very imperfect account of Indian manners; he is even so candid as to own, he tells you nothing but what makes for the system he is endeavoring to establish.
My wish, on the contrary, is not to make truth subservient to any favorite sentiment or idea, any child of my fancy; but to discover it, whether agreeable or not to my own opinion.
My accounts may therefore be false or imperfect from mistake or misinformation, but will never be designedly warped from truth.
That the savages have virtues, candor must own; but only a love a paradox can make any man assert they have more than polished nations.
Your Lordship asks me what is the general moral character of the Canadians; they are simple and hospitable, yet extremely attentive to interest, where it does not interfere with that laziness which is their governing passion.
They are rather devout than virtuous; have religion without morality, and a sense of honor without very strict honesty.
Indeed I believe wherever superstition reigns, the moral sense is greatly weakened; the strongest inducement to the practice of morality is removed, when people are brought to believe that a few outward ceremonies will compensate for the want of virtue.
I myself heard a man, who had raised a large fortune by very indirect means, confess his life had been contrary to every precept of the Gospel; but that he hoped the pardon of Heaven for all his sins, as he intended to devote one of his daughters to a conventual life as an expiation.
This way of being virtuous by proxy, is certainly very easy and convenient to such sinners as have children to sacrifice.
By Colonel Rivers, who leaves us in a few days, I intend myself the honor of addressing your Lordship again.
I have the honor to be
Your Lordships, &c.
To Captain Fermor, at Silleri.
I have been taking an exact survey of the house and estate with my mother, in order to determine on some future plan of life.
Tis inconceivable what I felt on returning to a place so dear to me, and which I had not seen for many years; I ran hastily from one room to another; I traversed the garden with inexpressible eagerness: my eye devoured every object; there was not a tree, not a bush, which did not revive some pleasing, some soft idea.
I felt, to borrow a very pathetic expression of Thomsons,
on revisiting those dear scenes of infant happiness; which were increased by having with me that estimable, that affectionate mother, to whose indulgence all my happiness had been owing.
But to return to the purpose of our visit: the house is what most people would think too large for the estate, even had I a right to call it all my own; this is, however, a fault, if it is one, which I can easily forgive.
There is furniture enough in it for my family, including my mother; it is unfashionable, but some of it very good: and I think Emily has tenderness enough for me to live with me in a house, the furniture of which is not perfectly in taste.
In short, I know her much above having the slightest wish of vanity, where it comes in competition with love.
We can, as to the house, live here commodiously enough; and our only present consideration is, on what we are to live: a consideration, however, which as lovers, I believe in strictness we ought to be much above!
My mother again solicits me to resume this estate; and has proposed my making over to her my half-pay instead of it, though of much less value, which, with her own two hundred pounds a year, will, she says, enable her to continue her house in town, a point I am determined never to suffer her to give up; because she loves London; and because I insist on her having her own house to go to, if we should ever chance to be displeased with ours.
I am inclined to like this proposal: Temple and I will make a calculation; and, if we find it will answer every necessary purpose to my mother, I owe it to Emily to accept it.
I endeavor to persuade myself, that I am obliging my mother, by giving her an opportunity of showing her generosity, and of making me happy: I have been in spirits ever since she mentioned it.
I have already projected a million of improvements; have taught new streams to flow, planted ideal groves, and walked, fancy-led, in shades of my own raising.
The situation of the house is enchanting; and with all my passion for the savage luxuriance of America, I begin to find my taste return for the more mild and regular charms of my native country
We have no Chaudieres, no Montmorencis, none of those magnificent scenes on which the Canadians have a right to pride themselves; but we excel them in the lovely, the smiling; in enameled meadows, in waving corn-fields, in gardens the boast of Europe; in every elegant art which adorns and softens human life; in all the riches and beauty which cultivation can give.
I begin to think I may be blest in the possession of my Emily, without betraying her into a state of want; we may, I begin to flatter myself, live with decency, in retirement; and, in my opinion, there are a thousand charms in retirement with those we love.
Upon the whole, I believe we shall be able to live, taking the word live in the sense of lovers, not of the beau monde, who will never allow a little country squire off our hundred pounds a year to live.
Time may do more for us; at least, I am of an age and temper to encourage hope.
All here are perfectly yours.
To Captain Fitzgerald.
Bellfield, Oct. 24.
Some author has said, The happiness of the next world, to the virtuous, will consist in enjoying the society of minds like their own.
Why then should we not do our best to possess as much as possible of this happiness here?
You will see Captain Fermor and the lovely Bell immediately at our farm: take notice, I will not admit even business as an excuse much longer.
I am just come from a walk in the wood behind the house, with my mother and Emily; I want you to see it before it loses all its charms; in another fortnight, its present variegated foliage will be literally humbled in the dust.
There is something very pleasing in this season, if it did not give us the idea of the winter, which is approaching too fast.
The dryness of the air, the soft western breeze, the tremulous motion of the falling leaves, the rustling of those already fallen under our feet, their variety of lively colors, give a certain spirit and agreeable fluctuation to the scene, which is unspeakably pleasing.
By the way, we people of warm imaginations have vast advantages over others; we scorn to be confined to present scenes, or to give attention to such trifling objects as times and seasons.
I already anticipate the spring; see the woodbines and wild roses bloom in my grove, and almost catch the gale of perfume.
I have this moment received your letter.
I am sorry for what you tell me of Miss H; whose want of art has led her into indiscretions.
Tis too common to see the most innocent, nay, even the most laudable actions censured by the world; as we cannot, however, eradicate the prejudices of others, it is wisdom to yield to them in things which are indifferent.
One ought to conform to, and respect the customs, as well as the laws and religion of our country, where they are not contrary to virtue, and to that moral sense which Heaven has imprinted on our souls; where they are contrary, every generous mind will despise them.
I agree with you, my dear friend, that two persons who love, not only seem, but really are, handsomer to each other than to the rest of the world.
When we look at those we ardently love, a new softness steals unperceived into the eyes, the countenance is more animated, and the whole form has that air of tender languor which has such charms for sensible minds.
To prove the truth of this, my Emily approaches, fair as the rising morn, led by the hand of the Graces; she sees her lover, and every charm is redoubled; an involuntary smile, a blush of pleasure, speak a passion, which is the pride of my soul.
Even her voice, melodious as it is by nature, is softened when she addresses her happy Rivers.
She comes to ask my attendance on her and my mother; they are going to pay a morning visit a few miles off.
Adieu! tell the little Bell I kiss her hand.