In other words, I will not degrade an excellent creature in her own eyes, by trials, when I have no cause for suspicion. And let me add, with respect to thy eagleship’s manifestation, of which thou boastest, in thy attempts upon the innocent and uncorrupted, rather than upon those whom thou humourously comparest to wrens, wagtails, and phyl-tits, as thou callest them,* that I hope I have it not once to reproach myself, that I ruined the morals of any one creature, who otherwise would have been uncorrupted. Guilt enough in contributing to the continued guilt of other poor wretches, if I am one of those who take care she shall never rise again, when she has once fallen.
* See Letter XVII. of this volume.
Whatever the capital devil, under whose banner thou hast listed, will let thee do, with regard to this incomparable woman, I hope thou wilt act with honour in relation to the enclosed, between Lord M. and me; since his Lordship, as thou wilt see, desires, that thou mayest not know he wrote on the subject; for reasons, I think, very far from being creditable to thyself: and that thou wilt take as meant, the honest zeal for thy service, of
Thy real friend,
Lord M., To John Belford, Esq. [Enclosed in the preceding.] M. Hall, Monday, may 15.
If any man in the world has power over my nephew, it is you. I therefore write this, to beg you to interfere in the affair depending between him and the most accomplished of women, as every one says; and what every one says must be true.
I don’t know that he has any bad designs upon her; but I know his temper too well, not to be apprehensive upon such long delays: and the ladies here have been for some time in fear for her: Lady Sarah in particular, who (as you must know) is a wise woman, says, that these delays, in the present case, must be from him, rather than from the lady.
He had always indeed a strong antipathy to marriage, and may think of playing his dog’s tricks by her, as he has by so many others. If there’s any danger of this, ’tis best to prevent it in time: for when a thing is done, advice comes too late.
He has always had the folly and impertinence to make a jest of me for using proverbs: but as they are the wisdom of whole nations and ages collected into a small compass, I am not to be shamed out of sentences that often contain more wisdom in them than the tedious harangues of most of our parsons and moralists. Let him laugh at them, if he pleases: you and I know better things, Mr. Belford—Though you have kept company with a wolf, you have not learnt to howl of him.
But nevertheless, you must let him know that I have written to you on this subject. I am ashamed to say it; but he has ever treated me as if I were a man of very common understanding; and would, perhaps, think never the better of the best advice in the world for coming from me. Those, Mr. Belford, who most love, are least set by.—But who would expect velvet to be made out of a sow’s ear?