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markable degree, far more than it merited; and, when I became a father, bestowed my affection very partially on my children, preferring those who in that respect were superior, and feeling little regard for another who had fewer personal attractions. But of this more hereafter.
And now, having spoken of my exterior qualities, I shall leave those which were inward to unfold themselves as my history advances.
I remember little of any importance which took place during the first ten years of my existence. My life during that period was monotonous, but not unhappy. I hated my book and loved play, as other boys generally do. I spent as little time as I possibly could with my tutor, and as much as could be stolen from other occupations with the groom and the gamekeeper. I suppose that I was allowed to be as careless in my outward appearance at that time, as in my mind, if I may judge by the process of combing, brushing, and setting up, (to use a military term,) which took place whenever it was signified that my Lord and Lady were expected. A little before which times, my tutor always kept me much closer to my books, taking care not to relax in his discipline until the great people had again turned their backs upon us, and were fairly on their road to town; by which system I generally gained more in the three summer months than I did in all the other months of
When I was in my twelfth year, my mother died, and was brought down to Hartlands to be buried. And it was soon after this that my sister, who might then be about eighteen, began to attach herself particularly to me. She was taken to town, however, the next winter, introduced at court, and made acquainted with all the elegant varieties of the great metropolis, while I was left at Hartlands under the tuition of my worthy preceptor.
After the second winter, the career of my sister's gayety was stopped short, by the indisposition of our father, who was taken suddenly ill in the House of Lords, and from that period was so wholly unfit for business, that he became a mere cipher in the family. He was removed, by the advice of his physician, to Hartlands; and, as he was not entirely in such a state as might au
thorise his friends to act for him, though in fact incapable of acting for himself, that disorder ensued at the Hall in which every one did what was good in the sight of his own eyes, with this deduction only—that nothing was done in my father's sight which might arouse him from that apathy into which his attack (which was probably paralytic) had so suddenly thrown him; moreover, my sister's whims were also carefully attended to.
I was about fourteen years of age when these events took place, and was rapidly advancing towards that state of unprincipled profligacy to which I afterwards attained. It was about this period that my sister's character began to unfold itself; and it was then that I began to feel that influence which in after-life operated so powerfully on my character.
The influence of the female mind over the stronger mind of man, is greater, perhaps, than many are willing to acknowledge. Its operations are various, and some men struggle fearfully to disengage themselves from it. But this I believe, that, more or less, all men have felt its power; and those, perhaps, have experienced it to the greatest extent who would have it supposed they despise it most. It is generally thought that this influence is most powerful when engaged in the cause of evil; but I doubt the fact. A woman loses many of her charms, and, consequently, much of hier power, in the opinion of man, when she ranges herself on the side of that which is wrong; while it is impossible to calculate the influence of a virtuous woman, when that influence is exercised with tenderness and modesty. The ruin produced by a bad woman may be sudden and violent, and compared to the bursting of a volcano, or the overflowings of the ocean; but the influences of virtuous women are like the gentle dew and morning showers, which descend silently and softly, and are known only by their effects in the smiling aspect of the valleys and the weight of the autumnal branches.
My sister was between nineteen and twenty when my father was brought down in the state above mentioned, to Hartland Hall; and she then took the management of the family, in a great measure, upon herself, and really conducted herself with an ability which astonished every VOL. VII.
She sat at the head of the table, entirely relieved my father from all attention to visiters, delivered her commands to the servants, reproved where she thought right, and, as I before said, made every person submit to her caprices. But, though certainly haughty to her inferiors, she was extremely pleasing to her equals; and though her manner was without stiffness, yet it was impossible for any person, of any age or sex, to advance one step nearer to her, in the way of freedom, than she chose to permit.
My tutor was naturally an extremely forward spirit, and, as he dined at our table, he had many opportunities, after my father's settlement in the country, of conversing with my sister ; but he was not long left in doubt respecting the distance at which he was to keep himself; and he had sense (or, rather, I should say, cunning) enough to keep very exactly to the bounds which were prescribed to him: that is, he never addressed my sister but with the profoundest respect, although he used other liberties in her presence which, in these days, would scarcely be permitted even among ladies of much inferior rank; for he seldom restrained himself from uttering any sentiment, however profane or incorrect, which gave him an opportunity of exhibiting his talent for wit, although his patron's daughter was sitting by his side.
But although my sister could tolerate a profane expression or a vain jest, yet she could not endure what she called ill breeding; that is, any departure from the accepted modes of high life; and, soon after her arrival at Hartlands, she gave me a most severe lecture on the general style of my manners. She began in a sort of sarcastic tone, and told me that my behaviour in company did credit to my masters, viz. the groom and gamekeeper; adding, that, so far, I had been a very attentive pupil, and that she doubted not but I should soon be very fit company for the stable-boys; and then, when she had brought up the blood into my face, she changed her tone, and urged me, by the honour of our ancient and noble family, to try to become more of a gentleman.
I have often thought that the term gentleman, in its most enlarged signification, includes all human perfections; and that it was a term better understood by some
of the heroes of the chivalric age than by my cotemporaries, and, most assuredly, than it was by my sister; who cared little how much of my evil nature I indulged, provided I did it with a certain air, and in obeisance to certain rules of gallantry, and certain points of honour. For instance: I might give utterance to any principle whatever, however vile or profane, in the very best company, provided I clothed these sentiments in certain doubtful terms and fashionable phraseology; and I might depart from every point of common honesty, in my dealings with my fellow-creatures, provided I could do it without detection, and with a careless air, and an affectation of despising the very gains of which I was most greedy.-With all this she endeavoured to inspire me with a sort of ambition; a kind of vague expectation, of becoming a very great man, and of excelling all who had gone before me.
Such were the lessons given me by my sister, and given me, for the most part, in a sort of satirical way; which, together with the sneers of my tutor, who found means to pour contempt on all that is sacred and all that is holy, gradually formed my character
an awful mould; as will soon be evident.
In the mean time, years rolled on. Having been kept at home until I was eighteen, I was sent to the University, and from thence to travel. My tutor was my companion during my residence at the University, and afterwards on the continent: notwithstanding which, while in these places, I passed through as complete a course of extravagance and dissipation as any young man who ever left his father's house in the same circumstances; and, at three-and-twenty, I was suddenly called home from Paris to bury my father, and to take up my new honours.
While I had been abroad, my sister had married an old lord, (to whom we will give the title of Seaforth,) had brought him an heir, had become a widow, and had returned to her father's house, where I found her on my return.
Her deceased lord, it seems, had been much incumbered by debts and 'mortgages: he had, therefore, left his wife with a very moderate jointure, and his son in
the hands of guardians and trustees ; who, during the minority, were to improve the estate, and to bring the affairs into as good a condition as possible against the boy came of age.
My sister's marriage had, it seems, been formed, on both sides, on lucrative motives; and both parties had been in some degree bitten in the reciprocal attempt to deceive each other. My sister, however, had gained rank; and, her little son enjoyed a title, and was heir to a good estate. Upon the whole, therefore, she was not much dissatisfied with her bargain; though she told me a piteous tale when I arrived at home, and gave me a long history of the harshness with which she had been treated by her lord's trustees. It was soon settled that she should reside with me; and my father's remains were scarcely consigned to the family vault, when we began to remodel and change every thing at the Hall; my sister urging me to the most foolish expenses, in order, as she said, that we might make it a complete place.
We were visited by nearly all the distinguished families in the county; we had new equipages from London, hired expensive servants, and bought costly horses; and, before we had half completed our changes at Hartlands, we went to London, and began as many new arrangements in our town-house. I was resolved, also, that the entertainments which my sister gave should excel any thing of the kind displayed that season; and, to crown all, I attended the fashionable clubs, betted high, and lost my money.
The consequence of all this was, that, in a few months, money ran short, or, rather, we began to apprehend that it would do so very speedily; on which, my sister persuaded me to pay my addresses to a Miss Golding, a banker's daughter, in the city, a lady of immense fortune.
My title, and probably my person and manners, were pleasing in the eyes of the city lady; and, I no sooner offered myself than I was accepted. Neither did I meet with any difficulty in making an excellent bargain with the old gentleman, whom I contrived to blind completely by my specious appearance and courtier-like expressions.
After a short courtship, I was married ; and took my bride down to spend the honeymoon at Hartlands.