Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion

Contents:
Author: William Hazlitt

To the Same

(In continuation)

My dear Friend, The next day I felt almost as sailors must do after a violent storm over-night, that has subsided towards daybreak. The morning was a dull and stupid calm, and I found she was unwell, in consequence of what had happened. In the evening I grew more uneasy, and determined on going into the country for a week or two. I gathered up the fragments of the locket of her hair, and the little bronze statue, which were strewed about the floor, kissed them, folded them up in a sheet of paper, and sent them to her, with these lines written in pencil on the outside—"Pieces of a broken heart, to be kept in remembrance of the unhappy. Farewell." No notice was taken; nor did I expect any. The following morning I requested Betsey to pack up my box for me, as I should go out of town the next day, and at the same time wrote a note to her sister to say, I should take it as a favour if she would please to accept of the enclosed copies of the Vicar of Wakefield, The Man of Feeling and Nature and Art, in lieu of three volumes of my own writings, which I had given her on different occasions, in the course of our acquaintance. I was piqued, in fact, that she should have these to shew as proofs of my weakness, and as if I thought the way to win her was by plaguing her with my own performances.

She sent me word back that the books I had sent were of no use to her, and that I should have those I wished for in the afternoon; but that she could not before, as she had lent them to her sister, Mrs. M-----. I said, "very well;" but observed (laughing) to Betsey, "It’s a bad rule to give and take; so, if Sarah won’t have these books, you must; they are very pretty ones, I assure you." She curtsied and took them, according to the family custom. In the afternoon, when I came back to tea, I found the little girl on her knees, busy in packing up my things, and a large paper parcel on the table, which I could not at first tell what to make of. On opening it, however, I soon found what it was. It contained a number of volumes which I had given her at different times (among others, a little Prayer-Book, bound in crimson velvet, with green silk linings; she kissed it twenty times when she received it, and said it was the prettiest present in the world, and that she would shew it to her aunt, who would be proud of it)—and all these she had returned together. Her name in the title-page was cut out of them all. I doubted at the instant whether she had done this before or after I had sent for them back, and I have doubted of it since; but there is no occasion to suppose her UGLY ALL OVER WITH HYPOCRISY. Poor little thing! She has enough to answer for, as it is. I asked Betsey if she could carry a message for me, and she said "YES." "Will you tell your sister, then, that I did not want all these books; and give my love to her, and say that I shall be obliged if she will still keep these that I have sent back, and tell her that it is only those of my own writing that I think unworthy of her." What do you think the little imp made answer? She raised herself on the other side of the table where she stood, as if inspired by the genius of the place, and said—"AND THOSE ARE THE ONES THAT SHE PRIZES THE MOST!" If there were ever words spoken that could revive the dead, those were the words. Let me kiss them, and forget that my ears have heard aught else! I said, "Are you sure of that?" and she said, "Yes, quite sure." I told her, "If I could be, I should be very different from what I was." And I became so that instant, for these casual words carried assurance to my heart of her esteem—that once implied, I had proofs enough of her fondness. Oh! how I felt at that moment! Restored to love, hope, and joy, by a breath which I had caught by the merest accident, and which I might have pined in absence and mute despair for want of hearing! I did not know how to contain myself; I was childish, wanton, drunk with pleasure. I gave Betsey a twenty-shilling note which I happened to have in my hand, and on her asking "What’s this for, Sir?" I said, "It’s for you. Don’t you think it worth that to be made happy? You once made me very wretched by some words I heard you drop, and now you have made me as happy; and all I wish you is, when you grow up, that you may find some one to love you as well as I do your sister, and that you may love better than she does me!" I continued in this state of delirium or dotage all that day and the next, talked incessantly, laughed at every thing, and was so extravagant, nobody could tell what was the matter with me. I murmured her name; I blest her; I folded her to my heart in delicious fondness; I called her by my own name; I worshipped her: I was mad for her. I told P---- I should laugh in her face, if ever she pretended not to like me again. Her mother came in and said, she hoped I should excuse Sarah’s coming up. "Oh, Ma’am," I said, "I have no wish to see her; I feel her at my heart; she does not hate me after all, and I wish for nothing. Let her come when she will, she is to me welcomer than light, than life; but let it be in her own sweet time, and at her own dear pleasure." Betsey also told me she was "so glad to get the books back." I, however, sobered and wavered (by degrees) from seeing nothing of her, day after day; and in less than a week I was devoted to the Infernal Gods. I could hold out no longer than the Monday evening following. I sent a message to her; she returned an ambiguous answer; but she came up. Pity me, my friend, for the shame of this recital. Pity me for the pain of having ever had to make it! If the spirits of mortal creatures, purified by faith and hope, can (according to the highest assurances) ever, during thousands of years of smooth-rolling eternity and balmy, sainted repose, forget the pain, the toil, the anguish, the helplessness, and the despair they have suffered here, in this frail being, then may I forget that withering hour, and her, that fair, pale form that entered, my inhuman betrayer, and my only earthly love! She said, "Did you wish to speak to me, Sir?" I said, "Yes, may I not speak to you? I wanted to see you and be friends." I rose up, offered her an arm-chair which stood facing, bowed on it, and knelt to her adoring. She said (going) "If that’s all, I have nothing to say." I replied, "Why do you treat me thus? What have I done to become thus hateful to you?" ANSWER, "I always told you I had no affection for you." You may suppose this was a blow, after the imaginary honey-moon in which I had passed the preceding week. I was stunned by it; my heart sunk within me. I contrived to say, "Nay, my dear girl, not always neither; for did you not once (if I might presume to look back to those happy, happy times), when you were sitting on my knee as usual, embracing and embraced, and I asked if you could not love me at last, did you not make answer, in the softest tones that ever man heard, ’I COULD EASILY SAY SO, WHETHER I DID OR NOT; YOU SHOULD JUDGE BY MY ACTIONS!’ Was I to blame in taking you at your word, when every hope I had depended on your sincerity? And did you not say since I came back, ’YOUR FEELINGS TO ME WERE THE SAME AS EVER?’ Why then is your behaviour so different?" S. "Is it nothing, your exposing me to the whole house in the way you did the other evening?" H. "Nay, that was the consequence of your cruel reception of me, not the cause of it. I had better have gone away last year, as I proposed to do, unless you would give some pledge of your fidelity; but it was your own offer that I should remain. ’Why should I go?’ you said, ’Why could we not go on the same as we had done, and say nothing about the word FOREVER?’" S. "And how did you behave when you returned?" H. "That was all forgiven when we last parted, and your last words were, ’I should find you the same as ever’ when I came home? Did you not that very day enchant and madden me over again by the purest kisses and embraces, and did I not go from you (as I said) adoring, confiding, with every assurance of mutual esteem and friendship?" S. "Yes, and in your absence I found that you had told my aunt what had passed between us." H. "It was to induce her to extort your real sentiments from you, that you might no longer make a secret of your true regard for me, which your actions (but not your words) confessed." S. "I own I have been guilty of improprieties, which you have gone and repeated, not only in the house, but out of it; so that it has come to my ears from various quarters, as if I was a light character. And I am determined in future to be guided by the advice of my relations, and particularly of my aunt, whom I consider as my best friend, and keep every lodger at a proper distance." You will find hereafter that her favourite lodger, whom she visits daily, had left the house; so that she might easily make and keep this vow of extraordinary self-denial. Precious little dissembler! Yet her aunt, her best friend, says, "No, Sir, no; Sarah’s no hypocrite!" which I was fool enough to believe; and yet my great and unpardonable offence is to have entertained passing doubts on this delicate point. I said, Whatever errors I had committed, arose from my anxiety to have everything explained to her honour: my conduct shewed that I had that at heart, and that I built on the purity of her character as on a rock. My esteem for her amounted to adoration.
"She did not want adoration." It was only when any thing happened to imply that I had been mistaken, that I committed any extravagance, because I could not bear to think her short of perfection. "She was far from perfection," she replied, with an air and manner (oh, my God!) as near it as possible. "How could she accuse me of a want of regard to her? It was but the other day, Sarah," I said to her, "when that little circumstance of the books happened, and I fancied the expressions your sister dropped proved the sincerity of all your kindness to me—you don’t know how my heart melted within me at the thought, that after all, I might be dear to you. New hopes sprung up in my heart, and I felt as Adam must have done when his Eve was created for him!" "She had heard enough of that sort of conversation," (moving towards the door). This, I own, was the unkindest cut of all. I had, in that case, no hopes whatever. I felt that I had expended words in vain, and that the conversation below stairs (which I told you of when I saw you) had spoiled her taste for mine. If the allusion had been classical I should have been to blame; but it was scriptural, it was a sort of religious courtship, and Miss L. is religious!

At once he took his Muse and dipt her Right in the middle of the Scripture.

It would not do—the lady could make neither head nor tail of it. This is a poor attempt at levity. Alas! I am sad enough. "Would she go and leave me so? If it was only my own behaviour, I still did not doubt of success. I knew the sincerity of my love, and she would be convinced of it in time. If that was all, I did not care: but tell me true, is there not a new attachment that is the real cause of your estrangement? Tell me, my sweet friend, and before you tell me, give me your hand (nay, both hands) that I may have something to support me under the dreadful conviction." She let me take her hands in mine, saying, "She supposed there could be no objection to that,"—as if she acted on the suggestions of others, instead of following her own will—but still avoided giving me any answer. I conjured her to tell me the worst, and kill me on the spot. Any thing was better than my present state. I said, "Is it Mr. C-----?" She smiled, and said with gay indifference, "Mr. C----- was here a very short time." "Well, then, was it Mr. -----?" She hesitated, and then replied faintly, "No." This was a mere trick to mislead; one of the profoundnesses of Satan, in which she is an adept. "But," she added hastily, "she could make no more confidences." "Then," said I, "you have something to communicate." "No; but she had once mentioned a thing of the sort, which I had hinted to her mother, though it signified little." All this while I was in tortures. Every word, every half-denial, stabbed me. "Had she any tie?" "No, I have no tie!" "You are not going to be married soon?" "I don’t intend ever to marry at all!" "Can’t you be friends with me as of old?" "She could give no promises." "Would she make her own terms?" "She would make none."—"I was sadly afraid the LITTLE IMAGE was dethroned from her heart, as I had dashed it to the ground the other night."—"She was neither desperate nor violent." I did not answer—"But deliberate and deadly,"—though I might; and so she vanished in this running fight of question and answer, in spite of my vain efforts to detain her. The cockatrice, I said, mocks me: so she has always done. The thought was a dagger to me. My head reeled, my heart recoiled within me. I was stung with scorpions; my flesh crawled; I was choked with rage; her scorn scorched me like flames; her air (her heavenly air) withdrawn from me, stifled me, and left me gasping for breath and being. It was a fable. She started up in her own likeness, a serpent in place of a woman. She had fascinated, she had stung me, and had returned to her proper shape, gliding from me after inflicting the mortal wound, and instilling deadly poison into every pore; but her form lost none of its original brightness by the change of character, but was all glittering, beauteous, voluptuous grace. Seed of the serpent or of the woman, she was divine! I felt that she was a witch, and had bewitched me. Fate had enclosed me round about. was transformed too, no longer human (any more than she, to whom I had knit myself) my feelings were marble; my blood was of molten lead; my thoughts on fire. I was taken out of myself, wrapt into another sphere, far from the light of day, of hope, of love. I had no natural affection left; she had slain me, but no other thing had power over me. Her arms embraced another; but her mock-embrace, the phantom of her love, still bound me, and I had not a wish to escape. So I felt then, and so perhaps shall feel till I grow old and die, nor have any desire that my years should last longer than they are linked in the chain of those amorous folds, or than her enchantments steep my soul in oblivion of all other things! I started to find myself alone—for ever alone, without a creature to love me. I looked round the room for help; I saw the tables, the chairs, the places where she stood or sat, empty, deserted, dead. I could not stay where I was; I had no one to go to but to the parent-mischief, the preternatural hag, that had "drugged this posset" of her daughter’s charms and falsehood for me, and I went down and (such was my weakness and helplessness) sat with her for an hour, and talked with her of her daughter, and the sweet days we had passed together, and said I thought her a good girl, and believed that if there was no rival, she still had a regard for me at the bottom of her heart; and how I liked her all the better for her coy, maiden airs: and I received the assurance over and over that there was no one else; and that Sarah (they all knew) never staid five minutes with any other lodger, while with me she would stay by the hour together, in spite of all her father could say to her (what were her motives, was best known to herself!) and while we were talking of her, she came bounding into the room, smiling with smothered delight at the consummation of my folly and her own art; and I asked her mother whether she thought she looked as if she hated me, and I took her wrinkled, withered, cadaverous, clammy hand at parting, and kissed it. Faugh!—

I will make an end of this story; there is something in it discordant to honest ears. I left the house the next day, and returned to Scotland in a state so near to phrenzy, that I take it the shades sometimes ran into one another. R---- met me the day after I arrived, and will tell you the way I was in. I was like a person in a high fever; only mine was in the mind instead of the body. It had the same irritating, uncomfortable effect on the bye-standers. I was incapable of any application, and don’t know what I should have done, had it not been for the kindness of -----. I came to see you, to "bestow some of my tediousness upon you," but you were gone from home. Everything went on well as to the law business; and as it approached to a conclusion, I wrote to my good friend P---- to go to M----, who had married her sister, and ask him if it would be worth my while to make her a formal offer, as soon as I was free, as, with the least encouragement, I was ready to throw myself at her feet; and to know, in case of refusal, whether I might go back there and be treated as an old friend. Not a word of answer could be got from her on either point, notwithstanding every importunity and intreaty; but it was the opinion of M---- that I might go and try my fortune. I did so with joy, with something like confidence. I thought her giving no positive answer implied a chance, at least, of the reversion of her favour, in case I behaved well. All was false, hollow, insidious. The first night after I got home, I slept on down. In Scotland, the flint had been my pillow. But now I slept under the same roof with her. What softness, what balmy repose in the very thought! I saw her that same day and shook hands with her, and told her how glad I was to see her; and she was kind and comfortable, though still cold and distant. Her manner was altered from what it was the last time. She still absented herself from the room, but was mild and affable when she did come. She was pale, dejected, evidently uneasy about something, and had been ill. I thought it was perhaps her reluctance to yield to my wishes, her pity for what I suffered; and that in the struggle between both, she did not know what to do. How I worshipped her at these moments! We had a long interview the third day, and I thought all was doing well. I found her sitting at work in the window-seat of the front parlour; and on my asking if I might come in, she made no objection. I sat down by her; she let me take her hand; I talked to her of indifferent things, and of old times. I asked her if she would put some new frills on my shirts?---"With the greatest pleasure." If she could get THE LITTLE IMAGE mended? "It was broken in three pieces, and the sword was gone, but she would try." I then asked her to make up a plaid silk which I had given her in the winter, and which she said would make a pretty summer gown. I so longed to see her in it!—"She had little time to spare, but perhaps might!" Think what I felt, talking peaceably, kindly, tenderly with my love,—not passionately, not violently. I tried to take pattern by her patient meekness, as I thought it, and to subdue my desires to her will. I then sued to her, but respectfully, to be admitted to her friendship—she must know I was as true a friend as ever woman had—or if there was a bar to our intimacy from a dearer attachment, to let me know it frankly, as I shewed her all my heart. She drew out her handkerchief and wiped her eyes "of tears which sacred pity had engendered there." Was it so or not? I cannot tell. But so she stood (while I pleaded my cause to her with all the earnestness, and fondness in the world) with the tears trickling from her eye-lashes, her head stooping, her attitude fixed, with the finest expression that ever was seen of mixed regret, pity, and stubborn resolution; but without speaking a word, without altering a feature. It was like a petrifaction of a human face in the softest moment of passion. "Ah!" I said, "how you look! I have prayed again and again while I was away from you, in the agony of my spirit, that I might but live to see you look so again, and then breathe my last!" I intreated her to give me some explanation.
In vain! At length she said she must go, and disappeared like a spirit. That week she did all the little trifling favours I had asked of her. The frills were put on, and she sent up to know if I wanted any more done. She got the Buonaparte mended. This was like healing old wounds indeed! How? As follows, for thereby hangs the conclusion of my tale. Listen.

I had sent a message one evening to speak to her about some special affairs of the house, and received no answer. I waited an hour expecting her, and then went out in great vexation at my disappointment.
I complained to her mother a day or two after, saying I thought it so unlike Sarah’s usual propriety of behaviour, that she must mean it as a mark of disrespect. Mrs. L---- said, "La! Sir, you’re always fancying things. Why, she was dressing to go out, and she was only going to get the little image you’re both so fond of mended; and it’s to be done this evening. She has been to two or three places to see about it, before she could get anyone to undertake it." My heart, my poor fond heart, almost melted within me at this news. I answered, "Ah! Madam, that’s always the way with the dear creature. I am finding fault with her and thinking the hardest things of her; and at that very time she’s doing something to shew the most delicate attention, and that she has no greater satisfaction than in gratifying my wishes!" On this we had some farther talk, and I took nearly the whole of the lodgings at a hundred guineas a year, that (as I said) she might have a little leisure to sit at her needle of an evening, or to read if she chose, or to walk out when it was fine. She was not in good health, and it would do her good to be less confined. I would be the drudge and she should no longer be the slave. I asked nothing in return. To see her happy, to make her so, was to be so myself.—This was agreed to. I went over to Blackheath that evening, delighted as I could be after all I had suffered, and lay the whole of the next morning on the heath under the open sky, dreaming of my earthly Goddess. This was Sunday. That evening I returned, for I could hardly bear to be for a moment out of the house where she was, and the next morning she tapped at the door—it was opened—it was she—she hesitated and then came forward: she had got the little image in her hand, I took it, and blest her from my heart. She said "They had been obliged to put some new pieces to it." I said "I didn’t care how it was done, so that I had it restored to me safe, and by her." I thanked her and begged to shake hands with her. She did so, and as I held the only hand in the world that I never wished to let go, I looked up in her face, and said "Have pity on me, have pity on me, and save me if you can!" Not a word of answer, but she looked full in my eyes, as much as to say, "Well, I’ll think of it; and if I can, I will save you!" We talked about the expense of repairing the figure. "Was the man waiting?"—"No, she had fetched it on Saturday evening." I said I’d give her the money in the course of the day, and then shook hands with her again in token of reconciliation; and she went waving out of the room, but at the door turned round and looked full at me, as she did the first time she beguiled me of my heart. This was the last.—

All that day I longed to go down stairs to ask her and her mother to set out with me for Scotland on Wednesday, and on Saturday I would make her my wife. Something withheld me. In the evening, however, I could not rest without seeing her, and I said to her younger sister, "Betsey, if Sarah will come up now, I’ll pay her what she laid out for me the other day."—"My sister’s gone out, Sir," was the answer. What again! thought I, That’s somewhat sudden. I told P---- her sitting in the window-seat of the front parlour boded me no good. It was not in her old character.
She did not use to know there were doors or windows in the house—and now she goes out three times in a week. It is to meet some one, I’ll lay my life on’t. "Where is she gone?"—"To my grandmother’s, Sir." "Where does your grandmother live now?"—"At Somers’ Town." I immediately set out to Somers’ Town. I passed one or two streets, and at last turned up King Street, thinking it most likely she would return that way home. I passed a house in King Street where I had once lived, and had not proceeded many paces, ruminating on chance and change and old times, when I saw her coming towards me. I felt a strange pang at the sight, but I thought her alone. Some people before me moved on, and I saw another person with her. THE MURDER WAS OUT. It was a tall, rather well-looking young man, but I did not at first recollect him. We passed at the crossing of the street without speaking. Will you believe it, after all that had past between us for two years, after what had passed in the last half-year, after what had passed that very morning, she went by me without even changing countenance, without expressing the slightest emotion, without betraying either shame or pity or remorse or any other feeling that any other human being but herself must have shewn in the same situation. She had no time to prepare for acting a part, to suppress her feelings—the truth is, she has not one natural feeling in her bosom to suppress. I turned and looked—they also turned and looked and as if by mutual consent, we both retrod our steps and passed again, in the same way. I went home. I was stifled. I could not stay in the house, walked into the street and met them coming towards home. As soon as he had left her at the door (I fancy she had prevailed with him to accompany her, dreading some violence) I returned, went up stairs, and requested an interview. Tell her, I said, I’m in excellent temper and good spirits, but I must see her! She came smiling, and I said, "Come in, my dear girl, and sit down, and tell me all about it, how it is and who it is."—" What," she said, "do you mean Mr. C----?" "Oh," said I, "Then it is he! Ah! you rogue, I always suspected there was something between you, but you know you denied it lustily: why did you not tell me all about it at the time, instead of letting me suffer as I have done? But, however, no reproaches. I only wish it may all end happily and honourably for you, and I am satisfied. But," I said, "you know you used to tell me, you despised looks."—"She didn’t think Mr. C---- was so particularly handsome." "No, but he’s very well to pass, and a well-grown youth into the bargain." Pshaw! let me put an end to the fulsome detail. I found he had lived over the way, that he had been lured thence, no doubt, almost a year before, that they had first spoken in the street, and that he had never once hinted at marriage, and had gone away, because (as he said) they were too much together, and that it was better for her to meet him occasionally out of doors. "There could be no harm in them walking together." "No, but you may go some where afterwards."—" One must trust to one’s principle for that." Consummate hypocrite! * * * * * * I told her Mr. M----, who had married her sister, did not wish to leave the house. I, who would have married her, did not wish to leave it. I told her I hoped I should not live to see her come to shame, after all my love of her; but put her on her guard as well as I could, and said, after the lengths she had permitted herself with me, I could not help being alarmed at the influence of one over her, whom she could hardly herself suppose to have a tenth part of my esteem for her!! She made no answer to this, but thanked me coldly for my good advice, and rose to go. I begged her to sit a few minutes, that I might try to recollect if there was anything else I wished to say to her, perhaps for the last time; and then, not finding anything, I bade her good night, and asked for a farewell kiss. Do you know she refused; so little does she understand what is due to friendship, or love, or honour! We parted friends, however, and I felt deep grief, but no enmity against her. I thought C---- had pressed his suit after I went, and had prevailed. There was no harm in that—a little fickleness or so, a little over-pretension to unalterable attachment—but that was all. She liked him better than me—it was my hard hap, but I must bear it. I went out to roam the desert streets, when, turning a corner, whom should I meet but her very lover? I went up to him and asked for a few minutes’ conversation on a subject that was highly interesting to me and I believed not indifferent to him: and in the course of four hours’ talk, it came out that for three months previous to my quitting London for Scotland, she had been playing the same game with him as with me—that he breakfasted first, and enjoyed an hour of her society, and then I took my turn, so that we never jostled; and this explained why, when he came back sometimes and passed my door, as she was sitting in my lap, she coloured violently, thinking if her lover looked in, what a denouement there would be. He could not help again and again expressing his astonishment at finding that our intimacy had continued unimpaired up to so late a period after he came, and when they were on the most intimate footing. She used to deny positively to him that there was anything between us, just as she used to assure me with impenetrable effrontery that "Mr. C---- was nothing to her, but merely a lodger." All this while she kept up the farce of her romantic attachment to her old lover, vowed that she never could alter in that respect, let me go to Scotland on the solemn and repeated assurance that there was no new flame, that there was no bar between us but this shadowy love—I leave her on this understanding, she becomes more fond or more intimate with her new lover; he quitting the house (whether tired out or not, I can’t say)—in revenge she ceases to write to me, keeps me in wretched suspense, treats me like something loathsome to her when I return to enquire the cause, denies it with scorn and impudence, destroys me and shews no pity, no desire to soothe or shorten the pangs she has occasioned by her wantonness and hypocrisy, and wishes to linger the affair on to the last moment, going out to keep an appointment with another while she pretends to be obliging me in the tenderest point (which C---- himself said was too much). . . .What do you think of all this? Shall I tell you my opinion? But I must try to do it in another letter.

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Chicago: William Hazlitt, "To the Same," Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Evans, Sebastian in Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion Original Sources, accessed April 19, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CK8Z6K9RKYJ1P1T.

MLA: Hazlitt, William. "To the Same." Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Evans, Sebastian, in Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion, Original Sources. 19 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CK8Z6K9RKYJ1P1T.

Harvard: Hazlitt, W, 'To the Same' in Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion, ed. and trans. . cited in , Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion. Original Sources, retrieved 19 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CK8Z6K9RKYJ1P1T.