Whatever happened to most of Lady Mary’s resolutions, this one, at least, was not kept. Actually, Lady Mary was not quite so emancipated at this time of her life as she may have imagined. She never sent a letter, except in fear and trembling. “I hazard a great deal if it falls into other hands, and I write for all that,” was her constant cry. Yet, there was nothing in the correspondence, save the fact of it, to offend even a most austere maiden aunt of the day.
The correspondence, of course, continued. The lovers, if so they can be called, now indulged in a slightly acid academic discussion, or rather a number of slightly acid academic discussions, about marriage. It is evident that Montagu held strong views as to the duty of a wife; so undoubtedly did Lady Mary—only, the trouble was, the views were by no means identical. If he were determined to set himself up as the strong loquacious man, his fiancee was certainly not prepared meekly to obey his behests in silence. They indulged in a somewhat candid examination of each other’s character—and of their own. It is really rather amusing, this careful cold-blooded dissection of their feelings. It is a safe guess that at this game Lady Mary scored heavily.
“I wish, with all my soul, I thought as you do,” she wrote on April 25, 1710. “I endeavour to convince myself by your arguments, and am sorry my reason is so obstinate, not to be deluded into an opinion, that ’tis impossible a man can esteem a woman. I suppose I should then be very easy at your thoughts of me; I should thank you for the wit and beauty you give me, and not be angry at the follies and weaknesses; but, to my infinite affliction, I can believe neither one nor t’other. One part of my character is not so good, nor t’other so bad, as you fancy it. Should we ever live together, you would be disappointed both ways; you would find an easy equality of temper you do not expect, and a thousand faults you do not imagine. You think, if you married me, I should be passionately fond of you one month, and of somebody else the next: neither would happen. I can esteem, I can be a friend, but I don’t know whether I can love. Expect all that is complaisant and easy, but never what is fond, in me. You judge very wrong of my heart, when you suppose me capable of views of interest, and that anything could oblige me to flatter any body. Was I the most indigent creature in the world, I should answer you as I do now, without adding or diminishing. I am incapable of art, and ’tis because I will not be capable of it. Could I deceive one minute, I should never regain my own good opinion; and who could bear to live with one they despised? If you can resolve to live with a companion that will have all the deference due to your superiority of good sense, and that your proposals can be agreeable to those on whom I depend, I have nothing to say against them.”