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In the society in which I had lived, self-gratification seemed to be the study of every individual, without giving the least attention to the pleasure and enjoyment of others. It was only the outward conduct of Nerissa that was different; her disposition was the same; and, as I had resolved to be attentive to the happiness of a wife, I wished not to chuse one who would be regardless of that of a husband. We were not suited to each other; the only objects of Nerissa were rank and fortune; she has since attained her wishes, having been lately married to a title and a settlement.
I next became acquainted in the house of Sir George Edwin, a man of very moderate fortune, who had lived some years in town for the education of his family. With Sir George I had but little intercourse, though he too was a man of the world; but he moved in an inferior sphere, his pleasures being chiefly confined to the bottle. He had threedaughters, of whom I had that sort of acquaintance one necessarily acquires in a narrow country like this, by meeting frequently at places of public resort, as well as at private entertainments; but, as they were always attended by their mother Lady Edwin, a grave matron, she never permitted them to engage in those familiar parties, amongst whom, or at the tavern, I generally passed my evenings.
The Miss Edwins were justly esteemed handsome; their manners were easy, not elegant; their conversation was, for the most part, confined to the occur rences of the day, and never went farther than ob servations on the last ball or the last dinner. These they were so eager to communicate, that they commonly spoke all at once, each of them afraid, no doubt, lest her sister should have the merit of her important discoveries. The only object of the mos ther seemed to be to get her girls well married. For this purpose she had trusted entirely to the ex
ternal accomplishments of their persons, and those little arts which experienced matrons know well how to use, to entrap the amorous and unwary. I hope she will succeed; the Miss Edwins appear to be good sort of girls, and will, I have no doubt, make excellent wives to some honest country squire, or some plodding man of business, who has no other idea of a wife than as a breeder or a housekeeper. Lady Edwin says she is an excellent economist, and her daughters have had the benefit of her example.
In the house of Sir George Edwin I first heard of Cordelia, and not much to her advantage., This, for censure will often defeat its purpose, gave me a strong desire to be acquainted with her. I soon, learned that she was an only daughter; that she was now in her twenty second year; that her father died when she was a child, leaving her a handsome fortune, which, being placed in the hands of a relation in the mercantile line, was so much impaired by his failure, that her mother found it necessary to cut short her plan of a fashionable and expensive education, and to take the chief care of her daugh ter's instruction upon herself. They had lived together in a decent retirement for five or six years,/ except a few months which they passed in town every winter, with the only one of their opulent relations who received them with the same affection as in their prosperity. Cordelia and her mother were upon one of these annual visits when I was introduced to her. I will not pretend to describe the sensations I then felt, nor the "mind illumined I "face" that produced them; from that moment Is was unhappy but in her company, and found in her conversation that elegance of mind, that cheerful sweetness and sensibility of temper, which was dif fused upon her countenance. I rejoiced at that rank and fortune of which I was possessed, as giving me
the power of making Cordelia happy, and of raising her to a station less unworthy her distinguished merit and accomplishments. The lady with whom she lived gave me every opportunity I could wish of cultivating a more intimate acquaintance, and shewing the sincerity of my attachment; nor did her mother seem averse to the connexion, though there was, at times, an anxious solicitude in her countenance at those approaches to the familiarity which I had been accustomed to indulge, both in manner and conversation, among my female acquaintance; a habit which the sincerity of my passion for Cordelia could not, at all times, repress. Cordelia herself, always received me with affability; and, though I could hot pretend to discover any partiality in my favour, I attributed this to her compliance with the cautious prudence of a mother, which would be moved by an open declaration of my attachment, and a proposal of marriage in form.
Desirous to interest the mother in my favour, I made my first application to her, convinced that she could not hesitate to approve of a match which was so favourable in point of fortune. Contrary to my hopes, she at once referred me to her daughter, with an observation in which there was more truth than politeness: "That being the person principally "interested, she was the first to be applied to." Having endeavoured to make an apology for this part of my conduct, of which a better notion of female delicacy than was to be acquired among my former companions had taught me the impropriety, I was shewn into Cordelia's dressing room; where, after a short pause, I entered on the purpose of my visit, and made offer of myself and fortune, with all the ardour which the strength and sincerity of my passion inspired, and with all the attention that was due to her beauty and accomplishments. She heard me, not without emotion; and, as she seemed un
able to give an immediate answer, I interpreted her silence favourably; and seizing her hand, pressed my suit with all the earnestness of which I was cas pable. She soon recovered her tranquillity, and withdrawing her hand, answered with her usual un> affected modesty, but with a firmness I had never before observed, "That she was obliged to me for my favourable opinion; but as our affections were "not in our power, and as the mode of life to which 26 I had been accustomed was little suited to her "inclinations, or to create that respect for the sex "which she hoped to find in a husband, it was im"possible I could ever be hers." In vain did I join with her in blaming my past conduct; in vain did I assure her of the settled purpose I had formed to alter my mode of life; that I had actually done so; that as all my wishes were centered in an union with her, it should be the future business of my life to promote her happiness. She remained inflexible; she doubted not, she said, the sincerity of my intentions; but her resolution was taken; and she repeatedly assured me, that her motives made it unalterable. Some of the family coming in, I retired in a state of mind which I shall not attempt to describe.
This incident, Mr. Mirror, has made me look into myself, into my past conduct, and into the errors or misfortunes, call them by what name you please, which have been the chief cause of my present anx iety and uneasiness. That I was the heir of an opulent fortune, was no fault of mine; neither can I be answerable for having succeeded to it at the early age of eighteen, when the passions were contending for gratification, when the means were in my power, and novelty heightened the enjoyment. The societies I frequented were composed of the first names of the kingdom, both for rank and fortune; our knowledge of men was not confined to the narrow circle of our own country; we were acquainted with
the faces of the principal potentates of Europe, and with those of many of their ministers; we could discourse of music and painting in the language of a connoisseur, and re-echo the opinions we had heard of the most celebrated singers of Florence, Naples, and Rome. Was I to blame for accommodating myself to the established manners of my country, in that rank of life to which I belonged? Even the attention that was paid to my education, before the death of an excellent father, has been a source of misfortune; it can only be from the impressions I then received, that I acquired a confused idea of a conduct more becoming a being who found himself capable of reasoning and reflection. This idea often sobtruded itself in the hours of langour and inactivity, and sometimes even embittered the cup of enjoyment. Restrained, for a time, by those habits which remain after the passions that produced them are extinguished, Iat last found means to break the charm, and to form plans of rational and domestic enjoyment. Disappointed in these, I feel the most poignant regret that I was not born a younger brother, and compelled to seek that distinction from Amerit which I enjoyed from fortune; or that my father had not allowed me to remain equally ignorant and uncultivated as the generality of my companions, whose affections centre in themselves, whose ambition consists in frequenting the best com1 pany, and whose knowledge is confined to the kitchensor the gaming-table. Displeased with myself, gdisgusted with the world, and rejected by Cordelia,
vam preparing to sink at once into retirement and -oblivion. What my occupations are to be, I know esnot, Jani hundred schemes have been formed and
rejected. If it be in your power to suggest any wthing I can steadily adhere to, and which will make me less contemptible in my own eyes, you will do good to one; but if you can exhibit in your Mirror