Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 76

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Letter LXXVI

To Miss LAETITIA WILLIS, at Gloucester.


Never did I sit down to write in such agitation as I now feel — In the course of a few days, we have met with a number of incidents so wonderful and interesting, that all my ideas are thrown into confusion and perplexity — You must not expect either method or coherence in what I am going to relate — my dearest Willis. Since my last, the aspect of affairs is totally changed! — and so changed! but I would fain give you a regular detail — In passing a river about eight days ago, our coach was overturned, and some of us narrowly escaped with life — My uncle had well nigh perished. O Heaven, I cannot reflect upon that circumstance without horror — I should have lost my best friend, my father and protector, but for the resolution and activity of his servant Humphry Clinker, whom Providence really seems to have placed near him for the necessity of this occasion. — I would not be thought superstitious; but surely he acted from a stronger impulse than common fidelity. Was it not the voice of nature that loudly called upon him to save the life of his own father? for, 0 Letty, it was discovered that Humphry Clinker was my uncle's natural son.

Almost at the same instant, a gentleman, who came to offer us his assistance, and invite us to his house, turned out to be a very old friend of Mr Bramble. — His name is Mr Dennison, one of the worthiest men living; and his lady is a perfect saint upon earth. They have an only son — who do you think is this only son? — O Letty! — O gracious heaven! how my heart palpitates, when I tell you that this only son of Mr Dennison's, is that very identical youth who, under the name of Wilson, has made such ravage in my heart! — Yes, my dear friend! Wilson and I are now lodged in the same house, and converse together freely — His father approves of his sentiments in my favour; his mother loves me with all the tenderness of a parent; my uncle, my aunt and my brother, no longer oppose my inclinations — On the contrary, they have agreed to make us happy without delay; and in three weeks or a month, if no unforeseen accident intervenes, your friend Lydia Melford, will have changed her name and condition — I say, if no accident intervenes, because such a torrent of success makes me tremble! — I wish there may not be something treacherous in this sudden reconciliation of fortune — I have no merit — I have no title to such felicity. Far from enjoying the prospect that lies before me, my mind is harrassed with a continued tumult, made up of hopes and wishes, doubts and apprehensions — I can neither eat nor sleep, and my spirits are in perpetual flutter. — I more than ever feel that vacancy in my heart, which your presence alone can fill. — The mind, in every disquiet, seeks to repose itself on the bosom of a friend; and this is such a trial as I really know not how to support without your company and counsel — I must, therefore, dear Letty, put your friendship to the test — I must beg you will come and do the last offices of maidenhood to your companion Lydia Melford.

This letter goes inclosed in one to our worthy governess, from Mrs Dennison, entreating her to interpose with your mamma, that you may be allowed to favour us with your company on this occasion; and I flatter myself that no material objection can be made to our request. The distance from hence to Gloucester, does not exceed one hundred miles, and the roads are good. — Mr Clinker, alias Loyd, shall be sent over to attend your motions — If you step into the post-chaise, with your maid Betty Barker, at seven in the morning, you will arrive by four in the afternoon at the half-way house, where there is good accommodation. There you shall be met by my brother and myself, who will next day conduct you to this place, where, I am sure, you will find yourself perfectly at your case in the midst of an agreeable society. — Dear Letty, I will take no refusal — if you have any friendship — any humanity — you will come. — I desire that immediate application may be made to your mamma; and that the moment her permission is obtained, you will apprise

Your ever faithful,
Oct. 14.