Monday, July 16, 1711.
‘… Haret lateri lethalis arundo.’
This agreeable Seat is surrounded with so many pleasing Walks, which are struck out of a Wood, in the midst of which the House stands, that one can hardly ever be weary of rambling from one Labyrinth of Delight to another. To one used to live in a City the Charms of the Country are so exquisite, that the Mind is lost in a certain Transport which raises us above ordinary Life, and is yet not strong enough to be inconsistent with Tranquility. This State of Mind was I in, ravished with the Murmur of Waters, the Whisper of Breezes, the Singing of Birds; and whether I looked up to the Heavens, down on the Earth, or turned to the Prospects around me, still struck with new Sense of Pleasure; when I found by the Voice of my Friend, who walked by me, that we had insensibly stroled into the Grove sacred to the Widow.
This Woman, says he, is of all others the most unintelligible: she either designs to marry, or she does not. What is the most perplexing of all, is, that she doth not either say to her Lovers she has any Resolution against that Condition of Life in general, or that she banishes them; but conscious of her own Merit, she permits their Addresses, without Fear of any ill Consequence, or want of Respect, from their Rage or Despair. She has that in her Aspect, against which it is impossible to offend. A Man whose Thoughts are constantly bent upon so agreeable an Object, must be excused if the ordinary Occurrences in Conversation are below his Attention. I call her indeed perverse, but, alas! why do I call her so? Because her superior Merit is such, that I cannot approach her without Awe, that my Heart is checked by too much Esteem: I am angry that her Charms are not more accessible, that I am more inclined to worship than salute her: How often have I wished her unhappy that I might have an Opportunity of serving her? and how often troubled in that very Imagination, at giving her the Pain of being obliged? Well, I have led a miserable Life in secret upon her Account; but fancy she would have condescended to have some regard for me, if it had not been for that watchful Animal her Confident.
Of all Persons under the Sun (continued he, calling me by my Name) be sure to set a Mark upon Confidents: they are of all People the most impertinent. What is most pleasant to observe in them, is, that they assume to themselves the Merit of the Persons whom they have in their Custody. Orestilla is a great Fortune, and in wonderful Danger of Surprizes, therefore full of Suspicions of the least indifferent thing, particularly careful of new Acquaintance, and of growing too familiar with the old. Themista, her Favourite-Woman, is every whit as careful of whom she speaks to, and what she says. Let the Ward be a Beauty, her Confident shall treat you with an Air of Distance; let her be a Fortune, and she assumes the suspicious Behaviour of her Friend and Patroness. Thus it is that very many of our unmarried Women of Distinction, are to all Intents and Purposes married, except the Consideration of different Sexes. They are directly under the Conduct of their Whisperer; and think they are in a State of Freedom, while they can prate with one of these Attendants of all Men in general, and still avoid the Man they most like. You do not see one Heiress in a hundred whose Fate does not turn upon this Circumstance of choosing a Confident. Thus it is that the Lady is addressed to, presented and flattered, only by Proxy, in her Woman. In my Case, how is it possible that …