Continuing the narrative that began here.
Letter the Thirty-Seventh:
Miss Honoria Wells to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dear Sister,——
London! ’Tis not Constantinople, with its antient Ruins crusted o’er with the Minarets of the Mussulman Faith; ’tis not thrice-holy Jerusalem, where Knights on Crusade did Battle in old Times; ’tis not unhappy Carthage, or doom’d Cusco of the thousand golden Idols, or fortunate Sevil of the Blossoms, or great Cairo where the Hareem of the Sultan is a City in itself;—it is not one of your great Cities of Romance, where notable Women have accomplished great Deeds, worthy of the pages of M. Scudery;—but O! ’tis a Paradise, to one who, having known only Captivity, is now granted the Freedom of the Town. Nor have I far to go to enjoy that Freedom: For if I but remain here at the Lodgings of Doctor Albertus, the Town comes to me, and I am surrounded, and nigh besieged, by Lords, and Knights, and a Host of Persons of Rank; so that, had I not already made my Choice, I should not fail of attracting an Husband worthy of my Consideration.
I am lodged here in admirable Comfort: For the House which Doctor Albertus has hired in Town is commodious and respectable, tho’ lacking that gothick Romance which attaches to Grimthorne, and lends it a peculiar Attraction not to be found when the house is of more recent Construction.
As I have passed much of my Time in conversation with the eminent Doctor, I cannot forbear recording a few of the great Man’s choice Observations; particularly as George continues reticent, but for occasional Statements which seem to suggest that he has somewhat he would tell me, but hesitates: For which Reason I have preferred the conversation of Doctor Albertus, who hesitates not, but speaks what is in his Mind. Indeed, when George did speak this Evening, it was to express certain Doubts or Reservations as to the Propriety of my lodging here with the Doctor: Doubts which are most certainly groundless, but reflect well on his solicitous Concern for me, and prove him a worthy Choice. That eminent Personage, however, refuted his doubts thus: “It is not (quoth he) against Propriety to offer innocent Hospitality to any Visitor: But, on the Contrary, in all Ages heretofore the greatest Sin against Propriety has always been to refuse Hospitality to a Traveler, whether a Friend or a Stranger. Thus in Homer, and (what is doubtless infinitely more persuasive in this our christian Era) in sacred Scripture, where we find Hospitality the Virtue most cultivated among the Patriarchs; so that Abraham did verily pursue the Angels, so as not to lose the Opportunity of affording them a Feast and a Night’s Lodging;—knowing not that they were Angels, but only supposing them Men like himself. And that many have thus entertained Angels unawares, is a By-word or Proverb, often heard, because doubtless true. But if it be a Duty to entertain the Stranger, on the Grounds that any such Traveler may be an Angel disguised, then how much more obligatory, and how much more delightful, to give Hospitality to one whose angelic Nature is not obscured, but shines brightly every Day; so that Hospitality is not a Duty to be fulfilled, but a Privilege to be sought after?”
Here George interjected some Words, to the Effect that it was not a Question of Hospitality, so much as the Talk of the Town, and the Conclusions, however incorrect, which the Chatterers might draw from the Fact of a Woman, as yet unmarried, lodging with a Man, or rather two Men: To which Doctor Albertus reply’d, “That Virtue is Proof against all Attack; but (quoth he) there is naught proof against Gossip: Wherefore Gossip is to be contemned, and disregarded, as a Thing not worthy of Consideration. For as well might we decide that it shall not rain on Sunday, as that we shall not be talked of, and gossiped about, or even disparaged: But as such Disparagement can in no Wise diminish our true Virtue, or subtract an Iota from the imperishable Record of our Deeds, we must regard it as of no Account.”
To which George objected, “That what may be of no Account as regards our future State, is yet of some Importance in the Present, in that one’s Position in the World depends to no little Degree upon Reputation, which may be diminished by Gossip, tho’ Virtue per se may not be.”
“Then History (quoth Doctor Albertus) must be our Guide, in determining the true Value of a spotless Reputation to a Woman: We must examine the Matter, and see whether ’tis the Case, that History is kinder to Women who have never been Objects of Scandal or Gossip. But when we search the Pages of History for such Women, we find that History remembers them not at all, whether because no Women have ever been above the Reach of Gossip, or because those Women most eminent for their Accomplishments have always attracted Envy. Now, our Miss Wells is a Woman of Accomplishment, as she has shewn by the most abundant Proofs, and therefore will not escape Envy: But to join with Cleopatra, and Elizabeth, and all the notable Women of History, in suffering the Pinpricks of Envy, to earn an imperishable Memory, must surely be regarded as no little Honor. I say not that our Miss Wells shall rule an Empire, for such is not her Lot; but Honor attaches but rarely to Rulers, and more frequently to those, whose Accomplishments are of the Mind: Wherein Miss Wells exceeds to a great Degree the common Atchievements of her Sex.”
To this Argument George made no Answer, and indeed it seems unanswerable. I am sure, however, that it must have pleased him: For one who speaks well of me, must necessarily be speaking well of George, as the Man I have chosen for my Husband; and doubtless he is sensible of the Honor it does him, to be thus attached to a Woman of notable Accomplishments, as the eminent Doctor has remarked.
How much more I have to tell you—of London, of the wise Opinions of Doctor Albertus, of the many great Figures I have met! But these Things must wait: For Sleep calls me, and I may not refuse; ’tis very late. One Thing alone could add to my Happiness; viz, that you, my dear Friend and Sister, could be here with me to share it: Wherefore I am, as always,
Your affectionate Friend,