Fiction > Hannah Webster Foster > The Coquette
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Hannah Webster Foster (1759–1840).  The Coquette, or The History of Eliza Wharton.  1855.
 
Letter XII
 
TO MISS LUCY FREEMAN.
NEW HAVEN.  
  The heart of your friend is again besieged. Whether it will surrender to the assailants or not I am unable at present to determine. Sometimes I think of becoming a predestinarian, and submitting implicitly to fate, without any exercise of free will; but, as mine seems to be a wayward one, I would counteract the operations of it, if possible.
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  Mrs. Richman told me this morning that she hoped I should be as agreeably entertained this afternoon as I had been the preceding; that she expected Mr. Boyer to dine and take tea, and doubted not but he would be as attentive and sincere to me, if not as gay and polite, as the gentleman who obtruded his civilities yesterday. I replied that I had no reason to doubt the sincerity of the one or the other, having never put them to the test, nor did I imagine I ever should. “Your friends, Eliza,” said she, “would be very happy to see you united to a man of Mr. Boyer’s worth, and so agreeably settled as he has a prospect of being.” “I hope,” said I, “that my friends are not so weary of my company as to wish to dispose of me. I am too happy in my present connections to quit them for new ones. Marriage is the tomb of friendship. It appears to me a very selfish state. Why do people in general, as soon as they are married, centre all their cares, their concerns, and pleasures in their own families? Former acquaintances are neglected or forgotten; the tenderest ties between friends are weakened or dissolved; and benevolence itself moves in a very limited sphere.” “It is the glory of the marriage state,” she rejoined, “to refine by circumscribing our enjoyments. Here we can repose in safety.
 ‘The friendships of the world are oft
Confed’racies in vice, or leagues in pleasure:
Ours has the purest virtue for its basis;
And such a friendship ends not but with life.’
True, we cannot always pay that attention to former associates which we may wish; but the little community which we superintend is quite as important an object, and certainly renders us more beneficial to the public. True benevolence, though it may change its objects, is not limited by time or place. Its effects are the same, and, aided by a second self, are rendered more diffusive and salutary.”
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  Some pleasantry passed, and we retired to dress. When summoned to dinner, I found Mr. Boyer below. If what is sometimes said be true, that love is diffident, reserved, and unassuming, this man must be tinctured with it. These symptoms were visible in his deportment when I entered the room. However, he soon recovered himself, and the conversation took a general turn. The festive board was crowned with sociability, and we found in reality “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” After we rose from table, a walk in the garden was proposed—an amusement we are all peculiarly fond of. Mr. Boyer offered me his arm. When at a sufficient distance from our company, he begged leave to congratulate himself on having an opportunity, which he had ardently desired for some time, of declaring to me his attachment, and of soliciting an interest in my favor; or, if he might be allowed the term, affection. I replied, “That, sir, is indeed laying claim to an important interest. I believe you must substitute some more indifferent epithet for the present.” “Well, then,” said he, “if it must be so, let it be esteem or friendship.” “Indeed, sir,” said I, “you are entitled to them both. Merit has always a share in that bank; and I know of none who has a larger claim on that score than Mr. Boyer.” I suppose my manner was hardly serious enough for what he considered a weighty cause. He was a little disconcerted, but, soon regaining his presence of mind, entreated me, with an air of earnestness, to encourage his suit, to admit his addresses, and, if possible, to reward his love. I told him that this was rather a sudden affair to me, and that I could not answer him without consideration. “Well, then,” said he, “take what time you think proper; only relieve my suspense as soon as may be. Shall I visit you again to-morrow?” “O, not so soon,” said I; “next Monday, I believe, will be early enough. I will endeavor to be at home.” He thanked me even for that favor, recommended himself once more to my kindness, and we walked towards the company, returned with them to the house, and he soon took leave. I immediately retired to write this letter, which I shall close without a single observation on the subject until I know your opinion.
ELIZA WHARTON.  
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