Hester Mulso Chapone

Samuel Richardson to Hester Mulso Chapone, 27 July 1751; Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 3:171-75.

London, July 27, 1751.


"You cannot, you will not, give me a description of the rooms," in which you and your truly worthy friends mostly sit and converse, which I desired you to do, that I might imagine myself now and then among you! — "Come, and see them." Churl! — Yet, in another letter, tell me, that you are so happy, that you dread the coming in of visitors. Very well, Miss Mulso. But you might have gratified me in the requested description; because you could hardly expect that either my disorders or business would permit me to take such a journey.

Could it be done, however, it would be inexpressibly delightful to me to honour myself with the cognition, shall I call it? of my two new nieces. God bless them all three!

You do Clarissa great honour. But I hope you'll get through the last volumes without hartshorn; yet you'll hardly have been able to find an hour to read them in, in which I have not a bottle of it in my hand.

"How could I be so wicked, as to mean to provoke you, and make you saucy?" — Must one be the consequence of the other? Remember, child, where you are.

"You would not give a fig for a man who at twenty-six is too wise to be in love." How unfair is your inference, that the people who boast of philosophy must be those who are born without hearts!

A fine task have I set myself! to draw a man that is to be above the common foibles of life; and yet to make a lover of him! to write, in short, to the taste of girls from fourteen to twenty-four years of age. Let me ask, Did you ever know a girl who in that ten years was not in love either secretly or avowedly? No, say. Well, then, is it not a common failing? It is. And shall a wise man at twenty-six not be able to get above it? Let me tell you, Madam, a the world goes, I think I do a marvellous thing to make a young woman in love with a man of exalted merit. Think you that I don't? And is she to have him with a wet finger, as the saying is? But will you have the story end with a fiddle and a dance: that is to say with matrimony; or will you not? If you will, Harriet must have her difficulties. If not, the dance may be the sooner over, in order to make the happy pair shine in the matrimonial life. And yet you girls generally care not a farthing for the story of an honest couple after the knot is tied.

But set your charming imagination at work, and give me a few scenes, as you would have them, that I may try to work them into the story. You will be in time: for I am not likely to proceed soon with the girl. Only tell me what you will undertake. I expect that you will.

But difficulties must be thrown in. Give me half a score of them, Miss Mulso: look but among your female acquaintance, and you will be able to oblige me. Nay, if you yourself are a philosopher, and have always been so, I shall judge that you were born without a heart.

"Your pride feels for Harriet." Prettily said! But your pride, my dear, must feel, I doubt, a little more than it has felt. A serene man has great advantages over a girl who finds herself, after roving about in the field of liberty and defying twenty fowlers, just caught. She must part with a few feathers, I doubt. For she will not perch in quiet in her golden-wired cage. But the man shall be rather unhappy, I think, than in fault. How, Mr. R.? But hush. I don't know how I shall order it as yet. Once more; do you set your charming imagination at work, and do it for me.

And here let me own, that you have a manifest advantage over me, in your inference drawn from what I say of Platonic love, and in relation to person; when I cried out, with an unjustifiable archness, Ah, my Miss Mulso! — This was also said to provoke you. And I submit to your really deserved censure.

"You believe you have been saucy!" You have not, you cannot be saucy. We are not upon the argument of filial duty, are we? — Though never father could be more affectionate to daughter than I profess myself to be to Miss Mulso. Witness her