Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 75

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Letter LXXV

To Sir WATKIN PHILLIPS, Bart. at Oxon.


Every day is now big with incident and discovery — Young Mr Dennison proves to be no other than that identical person whom I have execrated so long, under the name of Wilson — He had eloped from college at Cambridge, to avoid a match that he detested, and acted in different parts of the country as a stroller, until the lady in question made choice of a husband for herself; then he returned to his father, and disclosed his passion for Liddy, which met with the approbation of his parents, though the father little imagined that Mr Bramble was his old companion Matthew Loyd. The young gentleman, being impowered to make honourable proposals to my uncle and me, had been in search of us all over England, without effect; and he it was whom I had seen pass on horseback by the window of the inn, where I stood with my sister, but he little dreamed that we were in the house — As for the real Mr Wilson, whom I called forth to combat, by mistake, he is the neighbour and intimate friend of old Mr Dennison, and this connexion had suggested to the son the idea of taking that name while he remained in obscurity.

You may easily conceive what pleasure I must have felt on discovering that the honour of our family was in no danger from the conduct of a sister whom I love with uncommon affection; that, instead of debasing her sentiments and views to a wretched stroller, she had really captivated the heart of a gentleman, her equal in rank and superior in fortune; and that, as his parents approved of his attachment, I was on the eve of acquiring a brother-in-law so worthy of my friendship and esteem. George Dennison is, without all question, one of the most accomplished young fellows in England. His person is at once elegant and manly, and his understanding highly cultivated. Tho' his spirit is lofty, his heart is kind; and his manner so engaging, as to command veneration and love, even from malice and indifference. When I weigh my own character with his, I am ashamed to find myself so light in the balance; but the comparison excites no envy — I propose him as a model for imitation — I have endeavoured to recommend myself to his friendship, and hope I have already found a place in his affection. I am, however, mortified to reflect what flagrant injustice we every day commit, and what absurd judgment we form, in viewing objects through the falsifying mediums of prejudice and passion. Had you asked me a few days ago, the picture of Wilson the player, I should have drawn a portrait very unlike the real person and character of George Dennison. Without all doubt, the greatest advantage acquired in travelling and perusing mankind in the original, is that of dispelling those shameful clouds that darken the faculties of the mind, preventing it from judging with candour and precision.

The real Wilson is a great original, and the best tempered, companionable man I ever knew — I question if ever he was angry or low-spirited in his life. He makes no pretensions to letters; but he is an adept in every thing else that can be either useful or entertaining. Among other qualifications, he is a complete sportsman, and counted the best shot in the county. He and Dennison, and Lismahago and I, attended by Clinker, went a-shooting yesterday, and made a great havock among the partridges — To-morrow we shall take the field against the woodcocks and snipes. In the evening we dance and sing, or play at commerce, loo, and quadrille.