LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life of William Roscoe
William Roscoe to an unnamed correspondent, [1785 c.]

Vol I. Contents
Chapter I. 1753-1781
Chapter II. 1781-1787
Chapter III. 1787-1792
Chapter IV. 1788-1796
Chapter V. 1795
Chapter VI. 1796-1799
Chapter VII. 1799-1805
Chapter IX. 1806-1807
Chapter X. 1808
Chapter XI. 1809-1810
Vol II. Contents
Chapter XII. 1811-1812
Chapter XIII. 1812-1815
Chapter XIV. 1816
Chapter XV. 1817-1818
Chapter XVI. 1819
Chapter XVII. 1820-1823
Chapter XVIII. 1824
Chapter XIX. 1825-1827
Chapter XX. 1827-1831
Chapter XXI.
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“As I have been unexpectedly led to take an interest in your concerns, I trust my addressing a few lines to you will not be thought impertinent. The commission intrusted to me was not a voluntary one on my part, and was only intended to suit the present occasion; but I should think I had ill discharged my duty were I to suffer you to return without endeavouring, as far as in my power, to promote your future happiness. Whatever may be the result, the motive is surely excusable. Though a stranger, I cannot but feel for the peculiarity of your situation; deprived of those relatives who would have been your protection, you have confided your happiness to others. It is a heavy misfortune to be friendless, but a still heavier to mistake an enemy for a friend: that this has been your lot I greatly suspect, and sincerely wish I may be mistaken in the supposition.

“Before I proceed farther give me leave to say, once for all, that your own situation was the sole inducement with me to interfere on your account, and not any recommendation from any person. The commission was
not, indeed, personally to me, as I have not the pleasure of your friend’s acquaintance; but I cheerfully accepted it, and am happy it has hitherto been favourable—whatever I can do further on your account I will willingly comply with; but the idea that your friend had the most distant right to expect a compliance with a request of this kind is not pleasing to me, and I have therefore thought it necessary to place this matter in its proper light.

“In some of the short conversations we have had on your concerns, you will possibly have thought my enquiries might proceed from an idle curiosity; but I trust they sprung from a better motive. Was it possible for a man of any feeling to know so much of your history as you have thought proper to intrust me with, and not be deeply interested on your account? With family, with fortune, with accomplishments which promise more than a common share of happiness to their possessor, is it possible to stand by and see them become useless, or, rather, perverted into the means of misery, without one endeavour to prevent it? To be silent on such an occasion would be to become accessary to your ruin. In making an attempt to serve you, I have nothing to fear from any of the parties concerned; but from your prudence and good sense I have much to hope, that the language of truth, though from the pen of a stranger, will not be without its effect.

“I will candidly own my questions were directed to obtain information, whether the unfortunate event we were speaking of was the result of an attachment in which your heart was engaged, or not, and whether it was probable the evil might be speedily remedied by a union with some person whose future attention might in some degree compensate you for the danger and distress you have suffered on his account; but on this point no light
was thrown; and possibly, as this was foreign to the business on which we met, you might not think this subject alluded to.

“In what I have to say I must, therefore, proceed on supposition; only leaving it to yourself to apply it, in case any observations I may make should have a reference to your situation.

“Give me leave, then, Madam, to express my wonder and astonishment, that in your rank of life, with your fortune and endowments, any man, whatever his quality might be, who had so far engaged your affections, should have chosen to contribute to your destruction and disgrace, rather than to your true interest and happiness. From what has happened, I am almost authorised to suppose you would have honoured him with your hand. Could he refuse it? Whatever his pretence might be, rest assured he is not only undeserving of your confidence and esteem, but merits your contempt and aversion. Avoid him more than death; for depend upon it you are a sacrifice to his gratification; that instead o being your friend, he is your most unpardonable enemy, and pursues his selfish aims, at the risk of every thing that is dear and honourable to you in life. To see him again would be a circumstance of regret; but, still more, to listen to him, even so far as to give him an opportunity of apology for that which cannot possibly admit of apology, would be a degradation of which I cannot think you capable. Relax from your resolution of eternally discarding him, and you are lost for ever.

“But perhaps your heart may feel an attachment, against which reason and argument are of little avail. Love, it is said, is involuntary. I should, however, suppose (and, as a married man, I may be allowed to have had some experience), that the passion of love at least expects mutuality; and that it must be an un-
accountable disposition that could continue to love after unequivocal proofs had been given of the unworthiness of the object. Now, if there be in nature a monster to be avoided and dreaded beyond all others, it is the person who, under the sacred names of love and of friendship, inflicts a wound which he has neither inclination nor ability to heal. To love such a being is not only unaccountable, but preposterous; it is a prostitution of body and of mind which nothing can excuse. To be deceived is sometimes the lot of the wisest and best of mankind; but to remain enchanted by hypocrisy after she has dropped the mask, is a degree of culpability which can only be accounted for by a total extinction of every principle of goodness.

“I should be happy to think that these remarks are not in any degree applicable to your situation. Perhaps your future prospects in life are more favourable than, from want of information, they appear to me; and a short time may place you in a happy and respectable situation with a person deserving your esteem. If that be the case, you will have the goodness to consider this as a well-meant, though mistaken attempt to be serviceable to you in a point of the highest importance.

“Supposing, then, that there is some ground for my apprehensions (without which my letter may be considered as blank paper), give me leave to suggest to you a few considerations which may possibly assist you in your future conduct. That any further connection can subsist between you and the author of your misfortune, whoever he may be, I will not believe. But your unprotected situation, an attention to your character, a regard to your helpless infant, and, perhaps, other considerations, will still require no small degree of prudence and fortitude. In these, however, you have shown you are not deficient; and I am convinced that, by directing
them properly, you will surmount your difficulties. What more particularly strikes me is as follows:—

“If the person alluded to be resident in your neighbourhood, assert your own dignity, and immediately end all connection, at whatever risk it may be. Have no apprehension that the real object of your journey here may by these means be known. Your conduct in spurning your deceiver from you will, even in that case, exculpate you from the disgrace in the eyes of the world, and place it where it ought to rest.

“Attach yourself, as much as circumstances will admit, to your relatives and some of the most respectable of your friends; and whilst you remain at your house, never be without their company.

“Make a confidant of some person of worth of your own sex, in whom you can confide; this will be an inexpressible relief to your mind, and will probably preserve you from many dangers.

“Consider whether it would not be more advisable to fix your residence in some large town—as London, or Bath. A country residence cannot be favourable to you. But, above all, let me most earnestly advise you to accept of some of those offers of a connection for life, which, I am convinced, will be made to you. On this head I have only one thing to say. Never live in apprehension that your husband may discover a secret; never entertain the consciousness that you have in any manner misled him. The constant and habitual practice of deception will embitter your life and degrade your mind. An avowal of this transaction before marriage would, I confess, operate differently on different men; but it will be a test of affection, and his love of you and your sincerity will be the best pledges of your future happiness.

“May I be allowed, before I conclude, to request you
will call to mind who you are, from whom you are descended, and to whom you are accountable. Possessed, in point of fortune, of whatever you can wish, you are the absolute mistress of your own conduct. Let no person control you till you think proper publicly to authorise him; and consider all attempts to interfere with your property or your actions, as a web spread for your destruction. You had the misfortune of losing your father whilst you were young; you have lately lost a brother, who, had he lived a short time longer, might have been your guardian and protector;—but think! had they been spared to this day, how would their spirits have been roused against the author of your indignity! What they would have felt on such an occasion it is your duty to feel; and be assured, the false step you have taken is yet retrievable, and that there is an immense difference between an unpremeditated error and a wilful continuance in guilt.

“Let me then once more entreat you, Madam, if there be any veneration due to your lost relatives; if there be any respect of family and connections; if there be any thing honourable in female conduct; or any choice between innocence and guilt, lasting happiness or eternal misery,—to exert every power of your mind to disengage yourself from a connection which has already so deeply injured you, and which, if continued, can only prey upon your spirits, injure your health, impair your future hopes, and inevitably expose you to the pity or contempt of those who, with infinitely less advantages in every respect, have either resisted, or not experienced, the dangers to which you have been exposed.

“That a determined resolution of correcting the errors of your present conduct may be a consolation to your mind, and may accompany you, like a good angel, on your long and fatiguing journey; and that God may
give you prudence to judge what is for your true happiness, and strength of mind to attain it, is the very sincere wish of, Madam,” &c.