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

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Mr Dennison is an elegant poet, and has written some detached pieces on the subject of his passion for Liddy, which must be very flattering to the vanity of a young woman — Perhaps he is one of the greatest theatrical geniuses that ever appeared. He sometimes entertains us with reciting favourite speeches from our best plays. We are resolved to convert the great hall into a theatre, and get up the Beaux Stratagem without delay — I think I shall make no contemptible figure in the character of Scrub; and Lismahago will be very great in Captain Gibbet. Wilson undertakes to entertain the country people with Harlequin Skeleton, for which he has got a jacket ready painted with his own hand.

Our society is really enchanting. Even the severity of Lismahago relaxes, and the vinegar of Mrs Tabby is remarkably dulcified, ever since it was agreed that she should take precedency of her niece in being first noosed: for, you must know, the day is fixed for Liddy's marriage; and the banns for both couples have been already once published in the parish church. The Captain earnestly begged that one trouble might serve for all, and Tabitha assented with a vile affectation of reluctance. Her inamorato, who came hither very slenderly equipt, has sent for his baggage to London, which, in all probability, will not arrive in time for the wedding; but it is of no great consequence, as every thing is to be transacted with the utmost privacy — Meanwhile, directions are given for making out the contracts of marriage, which are very favourable for both females; Liddy will be secured in a good jointure; and her aunt will remain mistress of her own fortune, except one half of the interest, which her husband shall have a right to enjoy for his natural life: I think this is as little in conscience as can be done for a man who yokes with such a partner for life.

These expectants seem to be so happy, that if Mr Dennison had an agreeable daughter, I believe I should be for making the third couple in this country dance. The humour seems to be infectious; for Clinker, alias Loyd, has a month's mind to play the fool, in the same fashion, with Mrs Winifred Jenkins. He has even sounded me on the subject; but I have given him no encouragement to prosecute this scheme — I told him I thought he might do better, as there was no engagement nor promise subsisting; that I did not know what designs my uncle might have formed for his advantage; but I was of opinion, that he should not, at present, run the risque of disobliging him by any premature application of this nature — Honest Humphry protested he would suffer death sooner than do or say any thing that should give offence to the 'squire: but he owned he had a kindness for the young woman, and had reason to think she looked upon him with a favourable eye; that he considered this mutual manifestation of good will, as an engagement understood, which ought to be binding to the conscience of an honest man; and he hoped the 'squire and I would be of the same opinion, when we should be at leisure to bestow any thought about the matter — I believe he is in the right; and we shall find time to take his case into consideration — You see we are fixed for some weeks at least, and as you have had a long respite, I hope you will begin immediately to discharge the arrears due to

Your affectionate,
Oct. 14.