Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 74

[+] | [-] | reset

'By Wilson's means, I likewise formed an acquaintance with a sensible physician, who lives in the next market-town; and his sister, an agreeable old maiden, passed the Christmas holidays at our house. Mean while I began my farming with great eagerness, and that very winter planted these groves that please you so much. — As for the neighbouring gentry, I had no trouble from that quarter during my first campaign; they were all gone to town before I settled in the country; and by the summer I had taken measures to defend myself from their attacks. — When a gay equipage came to my gates, I was never at home; those who visited me in a modest way, I received; and according to the remarks I made on their characters and conversation, either rejected their advances, or returned their civility — I was in general despised among the fashionable company, as a low fellow, both in breeding and circumstances; nevertheless, I found a few individuals of moderate fortune, who gladly adopted my stile of living; and many others would have acceded to our society, had they not been prevented by the pride, envy, and ambition of their wives and daughters. — Those, in times of luxury and dissipation, are the rocks upon which all the small estates in the country are wrecked.

'I reserved in my own hands, some acres of ground adjacent to the house, for making experiments in agriculture, according to the directions of Lyle, Tull, Hart, Duhamel, and others who have written on this subject; and qualified their theory with the practical observations of farmer Bland, who was my great master in the art of husbandry. — In short, I became enamoured of a country life; and my success greatly exceeded my expectation — I drained bogs, burned heath, grubbed up furze and fern; I planted copse and willows where nothing else would grow; I gradually inclosed all my farms, and made such improvements that my estate now yields me clear twelve hundred pounds a year — All this time my wife and I have enjoyed uninterrupted health, and a regular flow of spirits, except on a very few occasions, when our cheerfulness was invaded by such accidents as are inseparable from the condition of life. I lost two children in their infancy, by the small-pox, so that I have one son only, in whom all our hopes are centered. — He went yesterday to visit a friend, with whom he has stayed all night, but he will be here to dinner. — I shall this day have the pleasure of presenting him to you and your family; and I flatter myself you will find him not altogether unworthy of our affection.

'The truth is, either I am blinded by the partiality of a parent, or he is a boy of very amiable character; and yet his conduct has given us unspeakable disquiet. — You must know, we had projected a match between him and a gentleman's daughter in the next county, who will in all probability be heiress of a considerable fortune; but, it seems, he had a personal disgust to the alliance. He was then at Cambridge, and tried to gain time on various pretences; but being pressed in letters by his mother and me to give a definitive answer, he fairly gave his tutor the slip, and disappeared about eight months ago. — Before he took this rash step, he wrote me a letter, explaining his objections to the match, and declaring, that he would keep himself concealed until he should understand that his parents would dispense with his contracting an engagement that must make him miserable for life, and he prescribed the form of advertising in a certain newspaper, by which he might be apprized of our sentiments on this subject.

'You may easily conceive how much we were alarmed and afflicted by this elopement, which he had made without dropping the least hint to his companion Charles Wilson, who belonged to the same college. — We resolved to punish him with the appearance of neglect, in hopes that he would return of his own accord; but he maintained his purpose till the young lady chose a partner for herself; then he produced himself, and made his peace by the mediation of Wilson. — Suppose we should unite our families by joining him with your niece, who is one of the most lovely creatures I ever beheld. — My wife is already as fond of her as if she were her own child, and I have a presentiment that my son will be captivated by her at first sight.' 'Nothing could be more agreeable to all our family (said I) than such an alliance; but, my dear friend, candour obliges me to tell you, that I am afraid Liddy's heart is not wholly disengaged — there is a cursed obstacle' — 'You mean the young stroller at Gloucester (said he) — You are surprised that I should know this circumstance; but you will be more surprised when I tell you that stroller is no other than my son George Dennison — That was the character he assumed in his eclipse.' 'I am, indeed, astonished and overjoyed (cried I), and shall be happy beyond expression to see your proposal take effect.'

He then gave me to understand that the young gentleman, at his emerging from concealment, had disclosed his passion for Miss Melford, the niece of Mr Bramble, of Monmouthshire. Though Mr Dennison little dreamed that this was his old friend Matthew Loyd, he nevertheless furnished his son with proper credentials, and he had been at Bath, London, and many other places in quest of us, to make himself and his pretensions known.