In this my new apartment I now write, and shall continue to write, as occasions offer, that I may be the more circumstantial: but I depend upon the return of my letters, or copies of them, on demand, that I may have together all that relates to this affecting story; which I shall re-peruse with melancholy pleasure to the end of my life.
I think I will send thee Brand’s letter to Mr. John Harlowe, recanting his base surmises. It is a matchless piece of pedantry; and may perhaps a little divert thy deep chagrin: some time hence at least it may, if not now.
What wretched creatures are there in the world! What strangely mixed creatures!—So sensible and so silly at the same time! What a various, what a foolish creature is man!—
The lady has just finished her letter, and has entertained Mrs. Lovick, Mrs. Smith, and me, with a noble discourse on the vanity and brevity of life, to which I cannot do justice in the repetition: and indeed I am so grieved for her, that, ill as she is, my intellects are not half so clear as her’s.
A few things which made the strongest impression upon me, as well from the sentiments themselves as from her manner of uttering them, I remember. She introduced them thus:
I am thinking, said she, what a gradual and happy death God Almighty (blessed be his name) affords me! Who would have thought, that, suffering what I have suffered, and abandoned as I have been, with such a tender education as I have had, I should be so long a dying!—But see now by little and little it had come to this. I was first take off from the power of walking; then I took a coach—a coach grew too violent an exercise: then I took up a chair—the prison was a large death-stride upon me—I should have suffered longer else!—Next, I was unable to go to church; then to go up or down stairs; now hardly can move from one room to another: and a less room will soon hold me.—My eyes begin to fail me, so that at times I cannot see to read distinctly; and now I can hardly write, or hold a pen.—Next, I presume, I shall know nobody, nor be able to thank any of you; I therefore now once more thank you, Mrs. Lovick, and you, Mrs. Smith, and you, Mr. Belford, while I can thank you, for all your kindness to me. And thus by little and little, in such a gradual sensible death as I am blessed with, God dies away in us, as I may say, all human satisfaction, in order to subdue his poor creatures to himself.
Thou mayest guess how affected we all were at this moving account of her progressive weakness. We heard it with wet eyes; for what with the women’s example, and what with her moving eloquence, I could no more help it than they. But we were silent nevertheless; and she went on applying herself to me.
O Mr. Belford! This is a poor transitory life in the best enjoyments. We flutter about here and there, with all our vanities about us, like painted butterflies, for a gay, but a very short season, till at last we lay ourselves down in a quiescent state, and turn into vile worms: And who knows in what form, or to what condition we shall rise again?