I congratulate you and Miss Damford on her arrival: she is a charming young lady; but tell her, that we shall not allow her to take you at your word, and to think that she excels you in any one thing: only, indeed, we think you nicer in some points than you need be to, as to your present agreeable circumstance. And yet, let me tell you, that the easy, unaffected, conjugal purity, in word and behaviour, between your good man and you, is worthy of imitation, and what the countess and I have with pleasure contemplated since we left you, an hundred times, and admire in you both: and it is good policy too, child, as well as high decorum; for it is what will make you ever new and respectful to one another.
But you have the honour of it all, whose sweet, natural, and easy modesty, in person, behaviour, and conversation, forbid indecency, even in thought, much more in word, to approach you: insomuch that no rakes can be rakes in your presence, and yet they hardly know to what they owe their restraint.
However, as people who see you at this time, will take it for granted that you and Mr. B. have been very intimate together, I should think you need not be ashamed of your appearance, because, as he rightly observes, you have no reason to be ashamed of your husband.
Excuse my pleasantry, my dear: and answer our demand upon you, as soon as you can; which will oblige us all; particularly your affectionate sister,
MY DEAREST LADY,
What a task have you imposed upon me! And according to the terms you annex to it, how shall I acquit myself of it, without incurring the censure of affectation, if I freely accuse myself as I may deserve, or of vanity, if I do not? Indeed, Madam, I have a great many failings: and you don’t know the pain it costs me to keep them under; not so much for fear the world should see them, for I bless God, I can hope they are not capital, as for fear they should become capital, if I were to let them grow upon me.
And this, surely, I need not have told your ladyship, and the Countess of C., who have read my papers, and seen my behaviour in the kind visit you made to your dear brother, and had from both but too much reason to censure me, did not your generous and partial favour make you overlook my greater failings, and pass under a kinder name many of my lesser; for surely, my good ladies, you must both of you have observed, in what you have read and seen, that I am naturally of a saucy temper: and with all my appearance of meekness and humility, can resent, and sting too, when I think myself provoked.
I have also discovered in myself, on many occasions (of some of which I will by-and-by remind your ladyship), a malignancy of heart, that, it is true, lasts but a little while—nor had it need—but for which I have often called myself to account—to very little purpose hitherto.