Liber Amoris, or, the New Pygmalion

Author: William Hazlitt

Letter XII. to C. P----

I have no answer from her. I’m mad. I wish you to call on M---- in confidence, to say I intend to make her an offer of my hand, and that I will write to her father to that effect the instant I am free, and ask him whether he thinks it will be to any purpose, and what he would advise me to do.


"Love is not love that alteration finds: Oh no! it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests and is never shaken."

Shall I not love her for herself alone, in spite of fickleness and folly? To love her for her regard to me, is not to love her, but myself. She has robbed me of herself: shall she also rob me of my love of her? Did I not live on her smile? Is it less sweet because it is withdrawn from me? Did I not adore her every grace? Does she bend less enchantingly, because she has turned from me to another? Is my love then in the power of fortune, or of her caprice? No, I will have it lasting as it is pure; and I will make a Goddess of her, and build a temple to her in my heart, and worship her on indestructible altars, and raise statues to her: and my homage shall be unblemished as her unrivalled symmetry of form; and when that fails, the memory of it shall survive; and my bosom shall be proof to scorn, as hers has been to pity; and I will pursue her with an unrelenting love, and sue to be her slave, and tend her steps without notice and without reward; and serve her living, and mourn for her when dead. And thus my love will have shewn itself superior to her hate; and I shall triumph and then die. This is my idea of the only true and heroic love! Such is mine for her.


Perfect love has this advantage in it, that it leaves the possessor of it nothing farther to desire. There is one object (at least) in which the soul finds absolute content, for which it seeks to live, or dares to die. The heart has as it were filled up the moulds of the imagination. The truth of passion keeps pace with and outvies the extravagance of mere language. There are no words so fine, no flattery so soft, that there is not a sentiment beyond them, that it is impossible to express, at the bottom of the heart where true love is. What idle sounds the common phrases, adorable creature, angel, divinity, are? What a proud reflection it is to have a feeling answering to all these, rooted in the breast, unalterable, unutterable, to which all other feelings are light and vain! Perfect love reposes on the object of its choice, like the halcyon on the wave; and the air of heaven is around it.


London, July 4th, I822.

I have seen M----! Now, my dear H----, let me entreat and adjure you to take what I have to tell you, FOR WHAT IT IS WORTH—neither for less, nor more. In the first place, I have learned nothing decisive from him.
This, as you will at once see, is, as far as it goes, good. I am either to hear from him, or see him again in a day or two; but I thought you would like to know what passed inconclusive as it was—so I write without delay, and in great haste to save a post. I found him frank, and even friendly in his manner to me, and in his views respecting you. I think that he is sincerely sorry for your situation; and he feels that the person who has placed you in that situation is not much less awkwardly situated herself; and he professes that he would willingly do what he can for the good of both. But he sees great difficulties attending the affair—which he frankly professes to consider as an altogether unfortunate one. With respect to the marriage, he seems to see the most formidable objections to it, on both sides; but yet he by no means decidedly says that it cannot, or that it ought not to take place. These, mind you, are his own feelings on the subject: but the most important point I learn from him is this, that he is not prepared to use his influence either way—that the rest of the family are of the same way of feeling; and that, in fact, the thing must and does entirely rest with herself. To learn this was, as you see, gaining a great point.—When I then endeavoured to ascertain whether he knew anything decisive as to what are her views on the subject, I found that he did not. He has an opinion on the subject, and he didn’t scruple to tell me what it was; but he has no positive knowledge. In short, he believes, from what he learns from herself (and he had purposely seen her on the subject, in consequence of my application to him) that she is at present indisposed to the marriage; but he is not prepared to say positively that she will not consent to it. Now all this, coming from him in the most frank and unaffected manner, and without any appearance of cant, caution, or reserve, I take to be most important as it respects your views, whatever they may be; and certainly much more favourable to them (I confess it) than I was prepared to expect, supposing them to remain as they were. In fact as I said before, the affair rests entirely with herself. They are none of them disposed either to further the marriage, or throw any insurmountable obstacles in the way of it; and what is more important than all, they are evidently by no means CERTAIN that SHE may not, at some future period, consent to it; or they would, for her sake as well as their own, let you know as much flatly, and put an end to the affair at once.

Seeing in how frank and straitforward a manner he received what I had to say to him, and replied to it, I proceeded to ask him what were HIS views, and what were likely to be HERS (in case she did not consent) as to whether you should return to live in the house;—but I added, without waiting for his answer, that if she intended to persist in treating you as she had done for some time past, it would be worse than madness for you to think of returning. I added that, in case you did return, all you would expect from her would be that she would treat you with civility and kindness—that she would continue to evince that friendly feeling towards you, that she had done for a great length of time, &c. To this, he said, he could really give no decisive reply, but that he should be most happy if, by any intervention of his, he could conduce to your comfort; but he seemed to think that for you to return on any express understanding that she should behave to you in any particular manner, would be to place her in a most awkward situation. He went somewhat at length into this point, and talked very reasonably about it; the result, however, was that he would not throw any obstacles in the way of your return, or of her treating you as a friend, &c., nor did it appear that he believed she would refuse to do so. And, finally, we parted on the understanding that he would see them on the subject, and ascertain what could be done for the comfort of all parties: though he was of opinion that if you could make up your mind to break off the acquaintance altogether, it would be the best plan of all. I am to hear from him again in a day or two.—Well, what do you say to all this? Can you turn it to any thing but good—comparative good? If you would know what say to it, it is this:—She is still to be won by wise and prudent conduct on your part; she was always to have been won by such;—and if she is lost, it has been (not, as you sometimes suppose, because you have not carried that unwise, may I not say UNWORTHY? conduct still farther, but because you gave way to it at all. Of course I use the terms "wise" and "prudent" with reference to your object. Whether the pursuit of that object is wise, only yourself can judge. I say she has all along been to be won, and she still is to be won; and all that stands in the way of your views at this moment is your past conduct. They are all of them, every soul, frightened at you; they have SEEN enough of you to make them so; and they have doubtless heard ten times more than they have seen, or than anyone else has seen. They are all of them including M---- (and particularly she herself) frightened out of their wits, as to what might be your treatment of her if she were yours; and they dare not trust you—they will not trust you, at present.
I do not say that they will trust you, or rather that SHE will, for it all depends on her, when you have gone through a probation, but I am sure that she will not trust you till you have. You will, I hope, not be angry with me when I say that she would be a fool if she did. If she were to accept you at present, and without knowing more of you, even I should begin to suspect that she had an unworthy motive for doing it. Let me not forget to mention what is perhaps as important a point as any, as it regards the marriage. I of course stated to M---- that when you are free, you are prepared to make her a formal offer of your hand; but I begged him, if he was certain that such an offer would be refused, to tell me so plainly at once, that I might endeavour, in that case, to dissuade you from subjecting yourself to the pain of such a refusal. HE WOULD NOT TELL ME THAT HE WAS CERTAIN. He said his opinion was that she would not accept your offer, but still he seemed to think that there would be no harm in making it!---One word more, and a very important one. He once, and without my referring in the slightest manner to that part of the subject, spoke of her as a GOOD GIRL, and LIKELY TO MAKE ANY MAN AN EXCELLENT WIFE! Do you think if she were a bad girl (and if she were, he must know her to be so) he would have dared to do this, under these circumstances?—And once, in speaking of HIS not being a fit person to set his face against "marrying for love," he added "I did so myself, and out of that house; and I have had reason to rejoice at it ever since." And mind (for I anticipate your cursed suspicions) I’m certain, at least, if manner can entitle one to be certain of any thing, that he said all this spontaneously, and without any understood motive; and I’m certain, too, that he knows you to be a person that it would not do to play any tricks of this kind with. I believe—(and all this would never have entered my thoughts, but that I know it will enter yours) I believe that even if they thought (as you have sometimes supposed they do) that she needs whitewashing, or making an honest woman of, YOU would be the last person they would think of using for such a purpose, for they know (as well as I do) that you couldn’t fail to find out the trick in a month, and would turn her into the street the next moment, though she were twenty times your wife—and that, as to the consequences of doing so, you would laugh at them, even if you couldn’t escape from them.—I shall lose the post if I say more.

Believe me,

Ever truly your friend,

C. P.


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Chicago: William Hazlitt, "Letter XII. To C. P----," Liber Amoris, or, the New Pygmalion, trans. Garnett, Constance Black, 1862-1946 in Liber Amoris, or, the New Pygmalion (London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1920), Original Sources, accessed April 23, 2018,

MLA: Hazlitt, William. "Letter XII. To C. P----." Liber Amoris, or, the New Pygmalion, translted by Garnett, Constance Black, 1862-1946, in Liber Amoris, or, the New Pygmalion, London, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1920, Original Sources. 23 Apr. 2018.

Harvard: Hazlitt, W, 'Letter XII. To C. P----' in Liber Amoris, or, the New Pygmalion, trans. . cited in 1920, Liber Amoris, or, the New Pygmalion, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, London. Original Sources, retrieved 23 April 2018, from