WESTHAMBLE, April 4, '99.
It was from your own affecting account, my dear Madam, that I learned your irreparable loss, though a letter by the same post from my sister Burney confirmed the melancholy intelligence. I will not attempt to say with what extreme concern I have felt it. Your "darling niece," though I must now be glad I had never seen, I had always fancied I had known, from the lively idea you had enabled me, in common with all others, to form of what she ought to be. If this second terrible trial, and the manner in which you have supported it, had not shown me my mistake, I should have feared, from the agonised expression of your countenance — which I cannot forget — in our last mournful interview, that the cup was already full! But it is not for nothing you have been gifted, — or that so early you were led to pray "the ill you might not shun, to bear." Misfortunes of this accumulated — I had nearly said desolating — nature, always of late years sharpen to me the horrors of that part of the French Revolution which, to lessen the dread of guilt, gives death to eternal sleep. What alleviation can there be for sufferers who have imbibed such doctrine? I want to disperse among them an animated translation of the false principles, beautiful conviction, and final consolations of Fidelia. For since, in this nether sphere, with all our best hopes alive of times to come,
Ev'n Virtue sighs, while poor Affection mourns
The blasted comforts of the desert heart,
what must sorrow be where calamity sees no opening to future light? and where friends, when separated, can mark no haven for a future reunion, but where all terminates for ever in the poor visible grave? — against which all our conceptions and perceptions so entirely revolt, that I, for one, can never divest the idea of annihilation from despair.
I read with much more pleasure than surprise what you say of Mr. Pepys: I should have been disappointed indeed had he proved a "summer friend." Yet I have found many more such, I confess, than I had dreamed of in my poor philosophy, since my retirement from the broad circle of life has drawn aside a veil which, till then, had made profession wear the same semblance as friendship. But few, I believe, escape some of these lessons, which are not, however, more mortifying in the expectations they destroy than gratifying in those they confirm. You will be sure, dear Madam, but I hope not angrily, of one honour I am here venturing to give myself.
M. d'A entreats you to accept his sincerest respects.