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THE LADIES' GARLAND.
FROM THE CONFESSIONS OF AN ELDERLY GENTLEMAN, BY THE COUNTESS OF BLE3SINGT0N.
LOUISA ;—0 R, MY FIRST LOVE.
Our hero first apologizes for intruding liis autobiography upon the public, from the fact that this is an autobiographical-loving age: why, then, says he, should /not amuse myself, if not my readers, by revealing the experience I have acquired, if it were only for the purpose of establishing two facts, which many young men seem to doubt; namely, that vanity is not solely confined to women ; and that all old gentlemen, however improbable it may appear, were once young. * * * *
I have been many years absent from my home, wandering in search of that yet undiscovered good, 'a fine climate;' which, like happiness, forever eludes the pursuer, though constantly holding out delusive prospects of its attainment. The searchers of one, like those of the other, are, in general, confined to the class, who, possessed of more wealth than wisdom, make unto themselves an imaginary good; and then set out in a weary chase of it.
On my return, after many long and weary years of absence, I was rather worse in health than when 1 left; as the incursions made on my already debilitated constitution, by undue heat, unlooked for winds, and unwholesome diet, instead of retarding, tended to advance, the effects of that cruel enemy, Time.
Change of air having been prescribed for me, I lately proceeded to this country seat of mine, which I have not visited for twentyfive years; and 1 have had the drawers of my old escritoire brought to my easy chair, and have sought amusement in examining their contents. What piles of letters, in deli
Vol. VI.-No. 4—Oct. 1842.
cate hand-writing, tied up with ribands of as delicate dye, met my pensive gaze! What miniatures of languishing blue-eyed blondes, and sparkling piquante brunettes! What long ringlets of hair of every color, from the lightest shade of auburn, (maliciously called red,) to the darkest hue of the raven's wing! What rings, pins, and lockets, were scattered around, with mottos of eternal love and everlasting fidelity! which eternal love and everlasting fidelity had rarely withstood the ordeal of six months'intimacy. What countless pairs of small white gloves! What heaps of purses, the works of delicate fingers! What piles of fans; knots of riband; with boqufts of faded flowers, and a profusion of seals, with devices each more tender than the other!
The past, with all its long forgotten pleasures and pains, rose up to my imagination. The loved—the changed—the dead—stood before me, in their pristine charms; and I felt towards each, and all, some portion of long vanished tenderness revive in my breast. Beautiful sex! soothers in our affliction, and best enliveners in our hours of happiness, all that I have known of joy on earth, I owe to your smiles—to your partiality!
This miniature represents my first love, not the object of my crude, puerile fancy; for what stripling has ever passed from fifteen to twenty, without having fancied himself, at least half a dozen times, smitten with the tender passion? No—this picture has nothing to do with such minor phantasies. It represents her who caused me to feel the
first rational sentiment of attachment I ever experienced, the first woman that led me to anticipate with pleasurable feelings the holy state of wedlock, as a near, and not as a petspeclive good; as a happiness to be attained as speedily as possible, and not as a change of life to be endured, as best it might be, at some remote period. How vast is the difference, by the way, between a passion and a sentiment! The first may be excited for an unworthy object, and in an unworthy mind; by a silly girl for a sillier boy; but the second can only be inspired by a pure woman, and entertained by an honorable man. One of the many distinctions between the two sexes, is, that women feel love as a sentiment; while with men, it is a passion : hence, it takes deeper root, and is of longer duration, with them, than with us. But, in proportion to our intellectual cultivation, this peculiarity becomes less frequent; for imagination and refinement once enlisted beneath the banners of love, that becomes sentiment which otherwise would have been solely passion.
But to return from this digression, I now begin the narrative of my first love.
Louisa Sydney, the original of the miniature now before me, was one of the fairest specimens of her sex that nature ever formed. There are the eyes, blue as heaven's own cerulean hue, and the cheek with its delicate tint, resembling the leaf of a newly blown rose. There are the long and silken tresses of lightest brown, that wantoned over her finely rounded shoulders, descending to a waist, whose exquisite symmetry was unequalled. Well do I remember, when one of those silken glossy ringlets was severed from her beautiful head, to fill the locket now before me! Poor, dear Louisa! how she loved me! There is something soothing and delightful in the recollection of a pure-minded woman's affection; it is the oasis in the desert of a worldly man's life, to which his feelings turn for refreshment, when wearied with the unhallowed passions of this worko'day world. I would not voluntarily relinquish the memory of Louisa's love for all— all—what shall I say !—Alas! my all of enjoyment is now so limited, that I have little to resign; but that, and much, much more, would I surrender, sooner than part from the conviction that she loved me.
Louisa Sydney was not only beautiful, but she was mild and gentle, beyond description; yet her gentleness and amazing docility, had nothing of insipidity in them, for they originated in a perfect freedom from selfishness, that led her to yield her own wishes to those of the person she loved, a concession not of reason but of volition. She absolutely lived for those dear to her; and had more pleasure
in obeying their desires, than in gratifying her own.
There was a sweet pensiveness in her nature, that harmonized perfectly with the peculiar character of her beauty. Her's was not a mind prone to gloom, but of that subdued and tender order, which, like a summer twilight, in itself beautiful, disposes all to feel its mild and soothing influence. One could not have told her, with the slightest prospect of success, a ludicrous story, a whimsical quibble, or any one of the various bad jokes with which the conversation of the generality of persons is assisted in society. But she was one to whom the fairest flowers, the most imaginative poem, or the most elevated work on practical holiness, would be felt to be an appropriate offering. Strongly tinctured with romance, the romance of youthful refinement, which is a natural attribute of the best and purest of her sex, ere experience has driven the illusions of early youth away, Louisa shrank from the busy world, affrighted and stunned with its turmoil; and opened her innocent heart to the contemplation of the charms of nature, and the adoration of the God who created them.
What pictures we drew of the future !— love, not in a cottage, because she knew my lot had rendered my home a stately one, but she would have preferred a more humble abode.
"A cottage," has she often said, "overgrown with woodbine, jessamine, and roses; sheltered by a wood, with a clear stream gliding in front of a garden, redolent with flowers; this, dearest Harry, would be my choice."
"And our food, dearest," would I reply, in bantering mood, "should be milk, honey, and curds, with new-laid eggs and simple fruits."
"Well, such food would amply content me," would Louisa say, " but your sex are always thinking of a good dinner. Yet, would you all be better and happier, because more healthy, if your diet was more simple; but you 'yearn for the flesh pots,' the green fat of turtle, or the white muscle of venison, the racy juice of Spain's vines, and the iced vintage of France. Ah, Harry, Harry—
'These little thinga, disguise it how you can,
Bless me, what a twinge that was! it seemed as if a red-hot knitting-needle was shot through my foot; and the exclamation it occasioned brought my blockhead of a servant in, with—"If you please, sir, did you call?"—Did I call? if I had, he would not have been so prompt in his attendance. Oh! this plaguy gout! how dependent it makes a man feel! for not only does it "fill all his bones with aches—make him roar," but it impresses him with the agreeable conviction, that if a spark from the fire should by chance be attracted towards his garments, he might be consumed at leisure, unless some «-!rvant should arrive to his rescue. Ah! why did I not marry 1 why not have secured to myself a legitimate—a licensed nurse, whose duty, if not pleasure, it would have been, to have watched the paroxysms of this fearful malady, and to have noted the want of philosophy with which they were endured 1 People are always so philosophically stoical to the sufferings of their near and dear relatives, and so ready to accuse them of not bearing the ills to which flesh is heir, with becoming equa-: nimity. Another twinge !—Oh! what martyrdom!
Pshaw, pshaw, at this rate my confession will never be made. Let me see, where was 1? Poor, dear Louisa! we thought not of gout in her day; no, no, nor of the necessity! of easy chairs, in which persons are most uneasily placed; nor of sofas, reclining on which, a wretch suffers more than on the bed of Procrustes.' In her day, I only remembered that I had feet for dancing. *****
But to resume.—Let me open this pacquetj of letters, written with a crow quill. Howj delicate is the writing, and the .riband that holds them together, couleur de rose, like the cheek of the fair writer when they were penned—that cheek—what is it now 1 Poor, dear Louisa!
Here is the first letter she ever wrote me, for I see I numbered them.
"I fear you will think me too lightly won, and blame my imprudence in answering the note you placed in my hand on leaving the ball. That note has told me all that I longed to know, which I hoped, yet doubted. And yet a feeling of remorse poisoned my enjoyment while reading it; for, conscience whispered that I ought not to have received it, and that in perusing it, I violated the duty I owe dear mamma. Every word of kindness from her (and never does she speak to me save in kindness,) seems to reproach me for this duplicity. Do let me tell her; or, better still, confess to her yourself, that you love me; for there is something that looks like guilt in mystery, which renders it abhorrent to me."
Poor, dear Louisa!
Here is No. 2.
"What a delightful picture you have drawn of our future lives! But can you, dearest Harry, give up the gay and brilliant world, which you have enjoyed with such a zest, to retire to some sequestered home with me? I rejoice that you like green fields,
trees, flowers, and birds, almost as much as I do." (Poor dear soul! I had persuaded her, and myself too, that I was a perfect Corydon.) "From my infancy I had felt delight in them, and this sympathy in our tastes is a new link in the chain of affection that binds us. I thought, but perhaps it was only fancy, that you looked pale last night, and this thought haunted my pillow." (Poor Louisa! if she saw me now, with this rubicund face!) "I hope you are not ill, dear Henry; or if ill, that you will not make light of your indisposition. Now, that you know the happiness of another depends on you, you must be careful of your health. It is by suggesting to me a similar reflection, that dear good mamma makes me submit to a thousand disagreeable remedies, for colds caught, and antidotes against catching them.
"Is it not even more culpable of me to write to yon clandestinely, than to receive your letters?" (I had postponed declaring in form to her mother, purposely, that I might enjoy the selfish gratification of triumphing over Louisa's repugnance to the maintenance of our secret correspondence.) "Indeed, Harry, I must write to you no more, until mamma knows all; for she is too confiding and indulgent to be deceived by her child, on whom she has lavished such unremitting care and affection. I know not how I shall acquire courage to place this note in your hand; there is something so unfeminine—so indelicate, in acting thus, and in the presence, too, of the dear parent I am deceiving, that I blush for myself. Do not, dearest Harry, think ill of me, that my attachment to you has conquered the maidenly reserve of your 'Louisa.'"
Dear, gentle soul! I think I see her now, with that deep, earnest look of tenderness, with which I so often caught her beautiful
eyes fixed on my face! Why, bless me,
if I am not playing the woman, and weeping for a poor, dear girl, that has been in her grave these forty years! Well, l did not think I had so much softness left in my rugged nature; but, if ever a girl merited to be loved and lamented, it was Louisa Sydney.
[ complied with her desire, and told her mother of our attachment a week sooner than I had intended. The good lady seemed nearly as much hurt as surprised, that her daughter should have avowed a preference for any man, without having first consulted her; but, a tear and a kiss from Louisa, and a few civil speeches from me, made our peace, and all was soon couleur de rose again.
"Mr. Lyster," said Lady Sydney, "in confiding my child to you, I give you that which is dearer to me than life itself. Louisa's feelings are as delicate as is, alas ! her frame;