Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Mr. Villars to Evelina
By Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame dArblay) (17521840)
DISPLEASURE! My Evelina!You have but done your duty; you have but shown that humanity without which I should blush to own my child. It is mine, however, to see that your generosity be not repressed by your suffering from indulging it; I remit to you, therefore, not merely a token of my approbation, but an acknowledgment of my desire to participate in your charity.
O my child, were my fortune equal to my confidence in thy benevolence, with what transport should I, through thy means, devote it to the relief of indigent virtue! yet let us not repine at the limitation of our power; for while our bounty is proportioned to our ability, the difference of the greater or less donation can weigh but little in the scale of justice.
In reading your account of the misguided man, whose misery has so largely excited your compassion, I am led to apprehend that his unhappy situation is less the effect of misfortune than misconduct. If he is reduced to that state of poverty represented by the Branghtons, he should endeavour, by activity and industry, to retrieve his affairs, and not pass his time in idle reading in the very shop of his creditor.
The pistol scene made me shudder; the courage with which you pursued this desperate man, at once delighted and terrified me. Be ever thus, my dearest Evelina, dauntless in the cause of distress! let no weak fears, no timid doubts, deter you from the exertion of your duty, according to the fullest sense of it that Nature has implanted in your mind. Though gentleness and modesty are the peculiar attributes of your sex, yet fortitude and firmness, when occasion demands them, are virtues as noble and as becoming in women as in men: the right line of conduct is the same for both sexes, though the manner in which it is pursued may somewhat vary, and be accommodated to the strength or weakness of the different travellers.
There is, however, something so mysterious in all you have seen or heard of this wretched man, that I am unwilling to stamp a bad impression of his character upon so slight and partial a knowledge of it. Where anything is doubtful, the ties of society and the laws of humanity, claim a favourable interpretation; but remember, my dear child, that those of discretion have an equal claim to your regard.
As to Sir Clement Willoughby, I know not how to express my indignation at his conduct. Insolence so insufferable, and the implication of suspicions so shocking, irritate me to a degree of wrath, which I hardly thought my almost worn-out passions were capable of again experiencing. You must converse with him no more: he imagines, from the pliability of your temper, that he may offend you with impunity; but his behaviour justifies, nay, calls for your avowed resentment; do not, therefore, hesitate in forbidding him your sight.
The Branghtons, Mr. Smith, and young Brown, however ill-bred and disagreeable, are objects too contemptible for serious displeasure; yet I grieve much that my Evelina should be exposed to their rudeness and impertinence.
The very day that this tedious month expires, I shall send Mrs. Clinton to town, who will accompany you to Howard Grove. Your stay there, will I hope be short; for I feel daily an increasing impatience to fold my beloved child to my bosom!