Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 60

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Letter LX

To Miss LAETITIA WILLIS, at Gloucester.


Never did poor prisoner long for deliverance, more than I have longed for an opportunity to disburthen my cares into your friendly bosom; and the occasion which now presents itself, is little less than miraculous — Honest Saunders Macawly, the travelling Scotchman, who goes every year to Wales, is now at Glasgow, buying goods, and coming to pay his respects to our family, has undertaken to deliver this letter into your own hand — We have been six weeks in Scotland, and seen the principal towns of the kingdom, where we have been treated with great civility — The people are very courteous; and the country being exceedingly romantic, suits my turn and inclinations — I contracted some friendships at Edinburgh, which is a large and lofty city, full of gay company; and, in particular, commenced an intimate correspondence with one miss R—t—n, an amiable young lady of my own age, whose charms seemed to soften, and even to subdue the stubborn heart of my brother Jery; but he no sooner left the place than he relapsed into his former insensibility — I feel, however, that this indifference is not the family constitution — I never admitted but one idea of love, and that has taken such root in my heart, as to be equally proof against all the pulls of discretion, and the frosts of neglect.

Dear Letty! I had an alarming adventure at the hunters ball in Edinburgh — While I sat discoursing with a friend in a corner, all at once the very image of Wilson stood before me, dressed exactly as he was in the character of Aimwell! It was one Mr Gordon, whom I had not seen before — Shocked at the sudden apparition, I fainted away, and threw the whole assembly in confusion — However, the cause of my disorder remained a secret to every body but my brother, who was likewise struck with the resemblance, and scolded after we came home — I am very sensible of Jery's affection, and know he spoke as well with a view to my own interest and happiness, as in regard to the honour of the family; but I cannot bear to have my wounds probed severely — I was not so much affected by the censure he passed upon my own indiscretion, as with the reflection he made on the conduct of Wilson. He observed, that if he was really the gentleman he pretended to be, and harboured nothing but honourable designs, he would have vindicated his pretensions in the face of day — This remark made a deep impression upon my mind — I endeavoured to conceal my thoughts; and this endeavour had a bad effect upon my health and spirits; so it was thought necessary that I should go to the Highlands, and drink the goat-milk-whey.

We went accordingly to Lough Lomond, one of the most enchanting spots in the whole world; and what with this remedy, which I had every morning fresh from the mountains, and the pure air, and chearful company, I have recovered my flesh and appetite; though there is something still at bottom, which it is not in the power of air, exercise, company, or medicine to remove — These incidents would not touch me so nearly, if I had a sensible confidant to sympathize with my affliction, and comfort me with wholesome advice — I have nothing of this kind, except Win Jenkins, who is really a good body in the main, but very ill qualified for such an office — The poor creature is weak in her nerves, as well as in her understanding; otherwise I might have known the true name and character of that unfortunate youth — But why do I call him unfortunate? perhaps the epithet is more applicable to me for having listened to the false professions of — But, hold! I have as yet no right, and sure I have no inclination to believe any thing to the prejudice of his honour — In that reflection I shall still exert my patience. As for Mrs Jenkins, she herself is really an object of compassion — Between vanity, methodism, and love, her head is almost turned. I should have more regard for her, however, if she had been more constant in the object of her affection; but, truly, she aimed at conquest, and flirted at the same time with my uncle's footman, Humphrey Clinker, who is really a deserving young man, and one Dutton, my brother's valet de chambre, a debauched fellow; who, leaving Win in the lurch, ran away with another man's bride at Berwick.

My dear Willis, I am truly ashamed of my own sex — We complain of advantages which the men take of our youth, inexperience, insensibility, and all that; but I have seen enough to believe, that our sex in general make it their business to ensnare the other; and for this purpose, employ arts which are by no means to be justified — In point of constancy, they certainly have nothing to reproach the male part of the creation — My poor aunt, without any regard to her years and imperfections, has gone to market with her charms in every place where she thought she had the least chance to dispose of her person, which, however, hangs still heavy on her hands — I am afraid she has used even religion as a decoy, though it has not answered her expectation — She has been praying, preaching, and catechising among the methodists, with whom this country abounds; and pretends to have such manifestations and revelations, as even Clinker himself can hardly believe, though the poor fellow is half crazy with enthusiasm. As for Jenkins, she affects to take all her mistress's reveries for gospel. She has also her heart-heavings and motions of the spirit; and God forgive me if I think uncharitably, but all this seems to me to be downright hypocrisy and deceit — Perhaps, indeed, the poor girl imposes on herself — She is generally in a flutter, and is much subject to vapours — Since we came to Scotland, she has seen apparitions, and pretends to prophesy — If I could put faith in all these supernatural visitations, I should think myself abandoned of grace; for I have neither seen, heard, nor felt anything of this nature, although I endeavour to discharge the duties of religion with all the sincerity, zeal, and devotion, that is in the power of,

Dear Letty,
your ever affectionate,
GLASGOW, Sept. 7.

We are so far on our return to Brambleton-hall; and I would fain hope we shall take Gloucester in our way, in which case I shall have the inexpressible pleasure of embracing my dear Willis — Pray remember me to my worthy governess.