[She dates again Monday, and declares herself highly
displeased at Miss
Partington’s being introduced to her: and still more for being obliged
to promise to be present at Mr. Lovelace’s collation. She foresees,
she says, a murder’d evening.]
Miss Clarissa Harlowe, to miss
Monday night, may 1.
I have just escaped from a very disagreeable company I was obliged, so much against my will, to be in. As a very particular relation of this evening’s conversation would be painful to me, you must content yourself with what you shall be able to collect from the outlines, as I may call them, of the characters of the persons; assisted by the little histories Mr. Lovelace gave me of each yesterday.
The names of the gentlemen are Belton, Mowbray, Tourville, and Belford. These four, with Mrs. Sinclair, Miss Partington, the great heiress mentioned in my last, Mr. Lovelace, and myself, made up the company.
I gave you before the favourable side of Miss Partington’s character, such as it was given to me by Mrs. Sinclair, and her nieces. I will now add a few words from my own observation upon her behaviour in this company.
In better company perhaps she would have appeared to less disadvantage: but, notwithstanding her innocent looks, which Mr. Lovelace also highly praised, he is the last person whose judgment I would take upon real modesty. For I observed, that, upon some talk from the gentlemen, not free enough to be easily censured, yet too indecent in its implication to come from well-bred persons, in the company of virtuous prople [sic], this young lady was very ready to apprehend; and yet, by smiles and simperings, to encourage, rather than discourage, the culpable freedoms of persons, who, in what they went out of their way to say, must either be guilty of absurdity, meaning nothing, or meaning something of rudeness.*
* Mr. Belford, in Letter XIII. of Vol. V. reminds Mr. Lovelace of some particular topics which passed in their conversation, extremely to the Lady’s honour.
But, indeed, I have seen no women, of whom I had a better opinion than I can say of Mrs. Sinclair, who have allowed gentlemen, and themselves too, in greater liberties of this sort than I had thought consistent with that purity of manners which ought to be the distinguishing characteristic of our sex: For what are words, but the body and dress of thought? And is not the mind of a person strongly indicated by outward dress?
But to the gentlemen—as they must be called in right of their ancestors, it seems; for no other do they appear to have:—