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Letter Number II.


My dear & ever honoured Mother,

That you are so perfectly satisfied with my last letter, gives me additional spirits to begin another; and though I have waited for your short, but delightful answer, to write in form, I have not passed a day, or rather a night (for it is a part of the latter season which I ever dedicate to you), without preparing materials for the paper which is now before me.

I must confess that I have not been so surprised, delighted, or instructed, as I expected to be, on my entering upon the novel scene of a town life: and here I cannot but admire, as I am sure I have every reason to bless that anticipating skill, by which you prepared me for the gaieties, the pleasures, and the splendour of the world. You certainly employed all your maternal sagacity to instil into my mind, but without my perceiving it, that preparatory knowledge, which, though it may have deprived me of such petty, transient pleasures as arise from mere novelty, has greatly lessened the number of those dangers to which inexperience, and particularly female inexperience, is so liable, on such an entrance into the world (for I must use the fashionable expression) as mine.

I am like a person who, before he sets out on his travels, has studied the geography of the countries through which he is to pass, and made himself acquainted with the language, manners, and customs of their inhabitants. The advantages of such previous knowledge must be obvious to the least reflection on the subject: and if it is so useful to a man who is, in some measure, already prepared, by the structure of his frame, the natural condition of his mind, the ordinary course of his education, and the early habits of his life, to pass into other regions and to seek other climes, how much must the utility be increased, if I may proceed in my comparison, when the youthful female is about to leave the fostering tenderness of maternal care, and to pass the guiltless limits of a native home for the other hemisphere of life, into which so many appear to enter without any preparation but the exterior accomplishments of the rank to which they belong, or any other notion of it but such as is derived from the fallacious representations of a foreign governess or an artful waiting-maid! Hence it is, that, with a baby sort of eagerness and curiosity, they fly to glare and glitter; catch at every toy in the shew-glass of dissipation; scarce weigh any thing as a good or an evil but in the balances of the ton; marry merely for a title or a fortune; and, to make worse of it, become miserable for life. But while the young may be reasonably pitied who are brought up, as it were, in error, and are taught to amble along the flowery path without being told whither it ay lead, or, at least, so told, as to leave no salutary impression, what sentiments are to be entertained of their conduct, whom experience and long usage of the world should have taught better; who should not only feel it a pleasure, but consider it as a duty, to guide the young adventurers in the right way, or point out the evils which so often lurk and hide their serpent trains beneath the flowers on which they tread; what, I say, is to be said of those fashionable veterans, who are so often seen to smile at follies while they are growing into faulty habits, and, as it were, countenancing errors to the very moment that they are becoming vices? and then the reflection is dismissed at once with a significant shrug, and an exclamation of--"Who would have thought it!" You, my dear mother, were I by your side, would, I doubt not, render the conduct of such persons intelligible to me; but I can only attribute it to a depravity of the mind, to an insensibility of the heart, or having themselves, from accidental circumstances, passed down the stream of time without encountering the shoals, they are content to leave those who come after them, to pursue the same course, and to the chance of the same lucky fortune.

You will be pleased not to imagine that these remarks are a sample of my natural sagacity and unassisted spirit of observation; for though you taught me caution, you guarded me against suspicion: they were absolutely forced upon me, and you shall have the history of them.

On Wednesday morning I accompanied my aunt and Mrs. W ----- to an exhibition of pictures, where we met Mr. T -----, who has called two or three times in ----- Square since I have been an inhabitant of it. He is a man of very amiable manners, and is in high estimation for his learning and knowledge of the fine arts: he had the goodness to point out to me some of the best pictures; and was explaining their particular beauties, and the characters of their respective masters, when the room became so crowded as to put an end to his very pleasing and profitable lecture. In the evening we met him again at Lady B-----'s party, when he drew a chair behind mine, and renewed the subject of the morning, which he rendered extremely interesting, not only by the perspicuous and instructive manner in which he treated it, but by a most animated attack on Bonaparte, which he connected with it. He accused him of having torn down the finest picture of the first masters from the very situations in the churches, and other public edifices, in Rome and other places, for which those celebrated artists had expressly painted and adapted them, in order to misplace them in that abominable depository of stolen goods, the gallery of the Louvre, where, he added, they are so disposed, that, besides the injury which many of them have sustained from their removal, they are seen in such unfavourable lights, as to lose a very large portion of their beauties. I cannot recollect the names, but Mr. T----- mentioned, with uncommon feeling, the fate of a very favourite picture of his, on which he had so often gazed with little less than rapture, in some church, I think it was, in Florence. This divine painting, as he called it, representing the Holy Virgin and child, before which so many pious knees had, for a long succession of years, been daily bent; which so many artists had studied, and none could rival; which had received, from the foreign visitors of all countries, the tribute of admiration; nay, which the great master himself had painted for that particular alter, and had presented as a gift to the church of his patron saint, as an offering of his piety; this picture has actually been transferred to the profane purpose of decorating the dressing-room of Madam Bonaparte. You will readily imagine, my dearest mother, the energetic manner in which Mr. T----- delivered himself on the occasion; nor will you be at a loss to conceive with what attentive silence your daughter sat to hear him. And now for the conclusion:--The gentleman had no sooner left me than I felt the tap of a fan on my shoulder; and on turning round, a certain elderly lady, one of that species whom Lady Elizabeth calls tabby-cats, was there, to say, in a half whisper, "I have been observing you, young lady, for some time, and I desire you will not encourage that self same Mr. T----- to make love to you; for though he may be a very sensible and clever kind of a man, he has not, to my knowledge, above twelve or fifteen hundred pounds a year; and that you know, my dear, will not do for you." And before I could explain myself, off she hobbled. The poor old lady had fancied that all Mr. T-----'s lamentation over a forlorn picture, was a plaintive love-tale to your happy daughter. I could not help smiling at this intermeddling mistake; and I verily believe, if Lady Elizabeth had been there to have received that communication, I should have made an hearty laugh of it. But this is not all.

I had scarcely recovered from my surprise, when I found another beau had taken possession of the chair which Mr. T----- had so lately occupied: it was no less a personage, I assure you, than the fashionable Mr. N. After suppressing a yawn, he made some very general, common-place, unmeaning observations on the opera; glanced an opinion of some of the performers; hinted an admiration at the dancing of Vestris; and after complaining of the dire length of winter, and declaring he languished for a vernal squeeze in Kensington-gardens, he condescended to make a few observations on the company: with all of which I chimed in with a complaisant yes or no, as respectively suited them: when, after at least five minutes of silence, and a solemn contemplation, as it appeared to me, of his feet, asked me if I did not think his shoes possessed an uncommon brilliance? The question was rather unexpected, I must own; but fortunately for my credit and character, I answered that they had so fine a gloss, I could almost suppose they were satin. This reply of mine operated on the gentleman like an electrical stroke, and seemed to rouse him at once into an active consciousness of existence: his eyes brightened, his countenance glowed, his voice assumed a new tone, and he proceeded to explain to me the lustre of his feet. It was produced--by what, think you, my dearest mother? I think you will laugh till you cry again,--why, by the curious composition of his blacking; which instead of being compounded of common ingredients and vulgar oils, is indebted, for its consistency and superior polish, to the jellies and jams of the finest fruits. I literally repeat his very words. He added, that half the young men of fashion in town had striven in vain to equal him in this essential article of dress; nay, that some of them had offered very high bribes to his servant to betray the receipt; but that he still walked the streets of London in boots, and trod every fashionable carpet in shoes of unrivalled lustre. With this proud piece of information he left me, looking at his feet as he walked off, till the crowd of the room prevented him from indulging in the gaze of those interesting objects. I have gained, also, some additional lustre on the occasion; for, in the course of the evening, he observed to several people, some of whom communicated the flattering unction to me, that I was a very fine, elegant, sensible girl. In a very few minutes, however, I had another tap on my shoulder from the same fan as before; and the same kind old lady whispered to me, that I might let that young man make love to me as long as I pleased, for that he had twelve thousand pounds a year.

Thus, my dearest mother, was your Amelia supposed to be seriously admired by one gentleman, who was in love with the picture of a Madonna, and by another who was enamoured of his boots and shoes; but you will believe me, when I assure you, that were I compelled to marry one or the other, I should prefer good sense with twelve hundred a-year, to tonish folly with twelve thousand: the former, at least, might happily fancy that I bore some resemblance to a favourite picture, and become fond of me; while the latter might want to japan me, or be disposed to make a footstool of me; and that is a submission against which, will all my wishes to be a dutiful wife, you will encourage me to enter a formal protest.

Such is the origin of those sage remarks with which I commenced this letter; and I conclude it, my dear and ever honoured mother, with the assurance that I am still your most affectionate, dutiful, and unaltered