Italic Content
Long Dash

Letter Number I.

We have the pleasure to submit to our female readers the letter of Amelia, which came too late for our last number. It is the first of a series, and the specimen which it exhibits of the talents and sentiments of the writer, will render any recommendation on our part totally unnecessary.

Letter I.

At length, my dear and ever honoured Madam, the period is arrived, when I have for the first time quitted your maternal care: for the first time I find myself at a distance from you:--the day passes, alas! and I see you not! The sensation oppresses me, and the novelty of the scenes around me, so striking and extraordinary as they must appear, though they may, at times, suspend, do not lessen the impression, that so large a space lies between my mother, and such a mother, and me.

I am truly sensible of the affectionate and ever-watchful care to which you have entrusted me. I well know that she, who is not only your sister by birth, but the sister of your heart, will fully supply the presence of a parent to your Amelia; that she deserves, in the highest degree, the confidence you place in her, and the respectful regard I entertain for her, and that she will fulfil all you expect, in her care of me. All this you had well weighed.--It was full time, you thought, for me to become more intimately acquainted with that sphere of life, in which it would be my allotment to move, and, prevented by a long and afflicting inability to attend me thither yourself you have at length executed your plan of introducing me, as it is called, to the world, under such auspices, as leave not the least sensation of doubt or reluctance in your mind; and thus I am become an inhabitant of a square in London.

I may probably tell you no new thing; I certainly shall no surprise you, when I mention, that no small degree of astonishment has been expressed by relations as well as acquaintance, that, with my fortune, and in my situation in life, I should have consented to be so long kept in the retirement of the country; and there have been those (for mischievous spirits, as it appears, are by no means confined to the gay, the busy, and crowded scenes of life), who have endeavoured to make me discontented at the comparative seclusion in which I lived with you, at a time when other young women of age and condition, have long been initiated into the higher circles of life, and enjoyed all the pleasures of them. I have been told, that I might stay in the old family mansion, to nurse a sick mother, till I should be fit for no other occupation. I was not, you will believe me, without an answer for these and similar sarcasms, and it was equally that of my understanding and my heart, of an understanding cultivated by your care, and an heart formed by your precepts and example. My reply, on these mortifying occasions, for they certainly did mortify me, was uniformly to the same effect:--"That I felt it not only an essential duty, but an inexpressible pleasure, to attend to the comforts of a parent who was prevented by bodily infirmity from quitting her home; that she had long been bereaved of the kindest husband woman ever possessed, as they all knew, and was left with no other child but me, to whose education she had devoted the many years of her widowhood, and that I owed her more than tongue could express. I never failed to argue on the advantages I received by remaining continually and so long with her, from the superior instruction conveyed to me from her enlarged and enlightened understanding, and the improvement which I must derive from the continual view of her virtues, and the insensible communication of her excellence; and that if I had remained two years beyond the age that is usual, according to the fashionable etiquette of introducing young women into what is called life, I doubted not but I should derive proportionable advantages from that unfashionable circumstance."

I would only reason, my dearest mother, as you have taught me; but where could I have found such an instructor, so qualified, from experience, knowledge, manners, and affection, to direct my understanding to its best objects, to form my manners to my condition, and to mould my heart to the purposes of virtue?--I have been told, that I was a romantic girl;--my reply was, --"Change the expression, if you please, and call me a romantic daughter; a character which, if it is so, I shall never desire to lose." I did not disclose this nonsense at the time; because it made no impression on me, there was no occasion to mention it to you; and as I, heaven knows, had no cause of complaint, I would not give these impertinent discontents of others, the importance of being offered to your attention.

There is something surely more than ridiculous in the notion, that at a certain age, girls of birth, or fortune, must peremptorily breathe the air and appear in the circles of fashionable life; as if they were to be disposed of, according to the custom which necessity imposes on the inferior classes, of putting out the boys apprentices, and sending the girls to service. The days of chivalry are certainly past and gone; for instead of having our castles approached by knights, who have left their sovereigns, to contend for the prize of beauty; the beauties themselves are obliged to issue from their castles, seek the metropolis, and present themselves at every place of public resort, to the gaze of our modern chevaliers, who will not risk catching a cold in their service. It is impossible, I am told, for a young woman to acquire an elegance of behaviour, or any thing like a fashionable deportment, without having passed one winter at least in the west end of London; and that any one who has been absent from it a very few seasons, must necessarily become an antiquated creature. I may, surely, speak of myself, my dearest mother, without reserve to you, and I do not hesitate to assure you; that, at the only party, not a very large one indeed, where I have yet been making an allowance for my being among strangers, I felt myself as much at my ease, as at the occasional festivities in our Gothic saloon at ----- park; and I surely may add, that no accidental visitor at your mansion, however habituated to fashionable life, could possibly discover from any thing he would see or hear there, that the mistress of it had been its constant inhabitant during the last twelve years, and of course, had not seen an opera, or been at a drawing-room in that long dismal period.

That I shall derive a certain, and I will add, a necessary kind of improvement from my visit to London, there can be, I hope, no doubt: you entertain that expectation, and I trust you will not be disappointed. My mind will be enlarged by contemplating new pictures of life; my understanding will be strengthened by what I shall hear and see, amid the busy hum of mankind; my imagination will be corrected by a more intimate association with the world; and I shall obtain that experience, nor can I desire any other, which will be derived from discovering the practical truths of those theories which I learned in your chamber at home.

My aunt, with her quaint and peculiar humour, tells me, that I am very popular with the elderly ladies. Some of the misses, however, while they acknowledge that I am astonishing well for one who has been brought up in the country, have sagaciously discovered that I am, as might be expected, somewhat deficient in the manieres du monde. By one tonish youth it has been observed, that what I say is sensible enough, but that I deliver myself with such precision, as if my sentiments were repeated from a book; while another of the same class, who has the character of a wit, after paying some compliments to my general appearance, vows it is a pity that I should employ words a foot long, when those of half an inch would issue from my pretty mouth with much superior effect. My dearest mother little thought what a pedant she had made of her daughter. I am, nevertheless, consoled by the opinion, that a few months of town life will correct all my inaccuracies, and advance me into a charming creature. You may depend upon being regularly informed of the progressive state of my improvements.

I must tell you, dear mother, rather as a matter of fact than of vanity, that Lady Elizabeth -----has taken very kindly to me. I need not tell you, who are so well versed in the genealogy of our nobility, the rank and titles of her family: she was born, and has been bred up, in Grosvenor-square, and is so devotedly attached to a town life, as, in my poor opinion, to make herself perfectly ridiculous when she speaks on that subject. She appears to have naturally a good understanding, if she would but make a right use of it, and a large portion of accomplishments, with a vivacity that is pleasant enough in its way; but the least interruption of her pleasures will effectually dampen it. The not being invited to a ball; the disappointment of a partner in a country dance; the omission of an opera; a rainy Sunday in the spring; in short, the not having engagements for a fortnight to come, are treated as real misfortunes. Her happiness depends upon the state of her card-rack; and, according to the contents of that machine, she is lively or languishing. She detests the country, and represents her father's fine place in the North as a dreary desert, where she hears nothing but owls, and sees nothing but stags' horns; the only prospect, she says, it possesses worth looking at, is from a high ground in the park, which gives a view of the high-road to London, and where you may be occasionally regaled with the delightful sound of the horn of a mailcoach. She never wishes to hear the warbling of a nightingale out of Kensington-gardens, and will not allow the Thames to possess a beautiful feature beyond Vauxhall. The only country-seat she could bear to inhabit is Wimbledon Park, a very fine place belonging to Lord Spencer; not indeed on account of its extent or its beauties, though it possesses both in a superior degree, but because it is only six miles from town. "O what a place," she exclaims, "for a fete champetre!"

When I was describing your venerable mansion to her, she absolutely shrieked, and desired me to stop, for she was sure some horrid ghost, clanking his chains, would conclude my history. On my mentioning that we were one hundred and sixty miles from London, she said it was ten miles worse than their frightful castle, by being that space more remote from the only scene of real pleasure and rational enjoyment. When I represented the state of your health, and with those sensations which I do not affect to conceal whenever I advert to that afflicting subject, "No wonder," she said; "for what kind of advice or medical assistance is to be expected from the bungling practitioners who are called doctors in the country; where, if you want a saline draught in the dog-days, you are obliged to send half a dozen miles for it?" Thus does she indulge herself when she is in spirits, and with an use and application of terms which I do not always comprehend. I did not know before that the world of fashion had a gibberish of its own: but so it is; and I shall request my new friend to give me the vocabulary of it, which I will send you, to enlarge your knowledge of languages. On my hinting that, as she had given so much of her heart to dear London, I was fearful she had been so cruel as not to reserve a corner of it for any one of its inhabitants. "As for that, my dear," says she, "I hoax you. It is love, I suppose, you are thinking of: that may do well enough for your country misses, who look at yourselves in brooks, saunter through groves, and read verses beneath a beech tree; but it is good for nothing in town but to make you look pale and cure you of laughing: and as for your sighing swains, they are perfectly detestable. After all, what should I gain by matrimony? I have rank and title, and shall have fortune. My father, who is the dearest creature alive, is all indulgence, and my mother loves pleasure as well as her daughter; so that I do not perceive how I should mend my situation at present by becoming a married woman. I called the other day on my friend Lady B -----, and found her nursing her child: she was really a perfect quiz, and fit only to be represented as a figure in a sentimental print, with maternal affection written under it, and stuck up in a shop window." Lady Elizabeth has made a dead set, she says, at my rural philosophy; and I am, it seems, from her tuition, to return into the country transformed into a rational creature, when I am to be so enlightened as to prefer an opera to a rookery, and to persuade you to change provincial breezes for the salubrious air of Portland-place.

Such is the rodomontade of my fashionable friend; and as it helps to enliven society, and attracts people about her, I am fearful it will be encouraged into a habit; and when that period arrives in which vivacity is no longer graceful, it will become an overbearing talkativeness that no one will endure.

I am in no danger, you will perceive, of becoming a convert, either to her manners or opinions. Tho' her frolic gaiety will sometimes, forcibly as it were, excite my mirth, it leaves not a sentiment that my mind retains for five minutes. I consider her as I do the characters of a modern comedy, who may amaze and make me laugh while they are on the scene, but leave no impression to survive the fall of the curtain.--But where I may surely ask, and the question will not displease--where, I say, will this folly terminate? For folly it is, and all these sprightly graces are but the bells which gingle on the cap, and render the figure that wears it more conspicuous.--How admirably does Pope describe these votaries of fashion! The description would not, I think, be exaggerated, if I were to say, the victims of it:

See how the world its veterans rewards,

A youth of frolic, and old age of cards:

Fair to no purpose, artful to no end;

Young without lovers, old without a friend

I am proud of having extended my letter to such a length, because I well know that it will be gratifying to your heart. You shall know how I have proceeded in it.--When the day is past, and I retire to my chamber, I sit down to my table, and write some portion of a letter, before I recommend my sleeping hours to the protection of Heaven: and thus I associate the duties I owe to my earthly parent and my celestial Father.

While I continue in the constant practice of these duties, and never will I cease to practise them, there can be no apprehensions, and I trust you do not entertain any, that the contagion of the world will affect me. Your last words were, "Continue, my dearest child, to cherish that affection which is the native inmate of your heart, and it will prove a talisman now, and at all times, to protect you from the dangers of the world, where pleasure assumes so many shapes, disguises itself with such flattering appearances, and practises such seducing arts, that innocence is too often caught in its snares, and virtue suspects not the charm by which it is betrayed."--You added, with your last embrace, "If ever you should feel your affection disposed to droop, delay not a moment to hasten to your native home, that it may revive in a parent's arms."

I am confident, my ever dear and honoured mother, that as I left you, so shall return to you,

The same dutiful and affectionate