Wednesday [January 29, 1812.]
On Monday we depart for Ireland. This is probably the last letter you will receive from Keswick. We are staying at Calvert's, and our; 100 pounds has arrived. Prospects appear fair ; but I have learned to doubt of the result of all human enterprises, whilst my language and my countenance express the confidence of enthusiasm, and my heart rebels against the dismal suggestions of possible evil.
I do not ask you wherefore you are unhappy, my dearest friend, because I sympathise with every feeling which the unkindness of ingratitude excites in you. But I tell you to subdue it, for our sakes, and for the sake of that world to which I will suppose that you are destined to be an ornament and a glory. Your present state is isolated and friendless ; even worse, daily ingratitude and unexpected duplicity cut you to the heart. You suffer the severities of ill fortune; and all the dreary intercourse of daily life is unmingled by consolation, save the infrequent post days. And what can letters do? They can tell you that you are beloved ; can prove to you that I am yours; but this only at intervals. With what bitter force will ingratitude and duplicity recur! This is more than duty demands : for a devotement like yours some recompence is to be expected. I will find one for you though here a corner of self comes in. Come and live with us. You are not one to start at this." What will the world say? " What they please, precisely. Those who know anything of our public and private character will believe any scandal as soon as Sir F. Burdett's friends would give credit to the story of his keeping five mistresses in Tottenham Court Road. This is one of the Morning Post stories. Nor will the world's whispers affect our usefulness. In what manner? Who will credit that, when I made a Scotch marriage with a woman who is handsome, any criminality, of the nature of infidelity, can be attached to me? Who will believe, when they read our publications, but that our conduct is in some degree regulated by such impressions, and repeated endeavours to counteract general demoralization? And, supposing after all that they did believe this, are we answerable for their silly notions? Is our usefulness and happiness, which latter must in some degree conduce to the former, to be sacrificed to opinion? Is expediency to be the rule of our conduct? Ought minds unisonous in reason and feeling to be separated by the inferences which others may draw from their conduct?
Let us attempt to form this Paradise, and defy the destroyers. Calm consistent reasoning will defeat the most terrible. Besides, you may be eminently useful : the union of our minds will be much more efficacious than a state of separate endeavour. I shall excite you to action ; you will excite me to just speculation. We should mutually correct each other's weaknesses, and confirm our powers. Harriet, Eliza, and Percy, all join to entreat that you will attempt to come to consider the point without having decided against us previously. How extensive might not be your usefulness, how improved and confirmed your speculations of justness! What admirable and excellent greatness might you not add to the grandeur and firmness of your present character! And I how firm and collected should /not become! I should possibly gain the advantage in the exchange of qualities; but my powers are such as would augment yours. I perceive in you the embryo of a mighty intellect which may one day enlighten thousands. How desirous ought I not to be, if I conceive that the one spark which glimmers through mine should kindle a blaze by which nations may rejoice!
Am I not earnest that you should come? But consider this point. We have enough money for all of us. There is no doubt but that you could do more good with us than at Hurst. Explain your plan to your father : tell him that your considerations of usefulness lead you to join yourself with us. I will not insult your confidence by supposing that you can fear [but] that you will be independent amongst us. Whenever you come, you have nothing to do but to throw yourself into the mail, and, at the end of your journey, I shall be waiting for you.
In the summer we shall see you. Can you make up your mind never to leave us? How consummate then might not our publications be ; how directed by the close analysis of reasoning, how animated by the emanations of your warmer heart! Have you no money? Write and say so. If not we can easily spare some: we shall have superfluity in Dublin.
Will you well consider this? Oh, my dearest friend, when I think of the uncertainty and transitoriness of human life and its occupations, when I consider its fleeting prospects and its fluctuating principles, how desirous am I to crowd into its sphere as much usefulness as possible ! We have but a certain time allotted us in which to do its business : how much does it become us to improve and multiply this time; and to regard every hour neglected, misspent, or unimproved, as so much lost to the cause of virtue, liberty, and happiness.
I hope to be compelled to [have] recourse to laudanum no more. My health is re-established, and I am now strong in hope and nerve. Your hopes must go with us : I must have no horrible forebodings. Everybody is not killed that goes to Dublin. Perhaps many are now on the road for the very same purpose as that which we propose.
As to what you say of the Duke of Norfolk, it is quite unfounded. The D[uke] is a deist. The Duke is far from the best of the English noblemen:he is not a moral man, but certainly is not attached to Catholicism. He desires and votes for Reform, though he has not virtue enough to begin it in his own person. He is in every respect a character of mediocrity. Depend upon it, I have nothing to fear either from him or his emissaries. The Duke is as [little] my friend as he is yours: he merely desires to gratify his own family, his own borough-interest.
"Passive virtue is " not " your sphere of action : " most active you ought to be. Come, come to Ireland. Arrange your affairs, give up school. It is a noble field. Energies like yours ought to be unconfined. Write for what money you want. You do not fear the journey; the hatred of the world is despicable to you. Come, come, and share with us the noblest success, or the most glorious martyrdom. Here is an appeal to the feelings of a noble mind ! I ought to be ashamed of my- self. Consider merely the considerations of usefulness, and put out of the question all foolish rant of persuasion. Yet come : it is right that you should come. Assert your freedom the freedom of Truth and Nature.
You will hear from me again. Adieu,my dearest friend. I shall write, before we leave K [eswick], again. Yours P[ercy]
[Written by Harriet.]
WHY is my dear friend unhappy, and why are you not with us? Why will you suffer the opinion of the world to keep you from us ? Would it not be better to leave the world to itself, and come and be happy whilst it is in your power? Remember, life is short. What shall I say to bring you to us? Is there nothing we can urge to shake you? Why are we separated? Should we not be more useful all together? You would, by your arguments, countenance ours: as you are older than I am, therefore people would not think what I say so foolish. Then why will you not join us? I am well convinced that, if you were in Ireland, you might do as much good as Percy. Indeed I am hurt at the idea of your being unhappy : and why would you be the slave of a world that has persecuted you, and which continues to wound you in every way it can ? friend, what I say may have no weight. I know I am much younger than yourself, and that your judgment is much superior to mine. You have seen more of the world than myself. Yet, if you knew how ardent we are to have you near us, I am sure you would comply. I cannot wait till the summer : you must come to us in Ireland.
I am Irish : I claim kinship with them. I have done with the English : I have witnessed too much of John Bull, and I am ashamed of him. Till I am disappointed in the brothers and sisters of my affection, I will claim kindred with those brave sons of the ocean; and, when I am deceived in them, it will be enough.
I have never told you of my sister. 'Tis well : words can never sufficiently express her kindness and goodness to me. She is my more than mother. What do I not owe to her gentle care? Everything. When you see her, you will form your judgment of her. I did think, before I was acquainted with you, that she was the best and most superior woman in the world. I do not say I have changed my opinion: that remains fixed. I have only so far changed it as to think there are some like her; but, as to being better, that I cannot think. She begs me to tell you that she is no lover of forms and ceremonies. She has long loved and admired you, my dear friend : so do not call her "Miss Westbrook." She is your sister, and mine. How oft have I blessed that Providence who has given me such a treasure ! Did you but know her as I do, you would not wonder at my love for her. Her amiable qualities gain her friends in all who have the happiness of knowing her. But I will say no more, as I are unable to do her justice.
I know not if you have bad weather in Sussex. Here it is so uncertain you never know if the morrow will be fine. All this week has been very stormy, and last night and to-day it has never ceased.
We are spending the last week with our amiable friends [the] Calverts. We are so much indebted to them ! They have been extremely kind and attentive. She is a most amiable woman, and I wish you were here to see her. She saw us reading your last letter, at which she was very much surprised, the length was so uncommon.
You will think of us next Monday night: then we set sail. 'Twill be either pleasure or not: I suspect we shall be very sick. We will write from the Isle of Man, if you do not hear from us before.
There seems to be sad work in Ireland; but I hope Percy will escape all prosecutions. I hope we shall hear from you again soon. When we do not hear from you it is quite a blank.
I must now say adieu. I hope you will put the most favourable constructions on what we have said. Keep up your spirits, and believe me ever.
Your sincere, affectionate friend, H. S.