Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 1, Ch. 31

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Letter XXXI



YOU will, doubtless, be surprised at receiving a letter from one who had for so short a period the honour of your acquaintance, and that at so great a distance of time; but the motive which has induced me to take this liberty is of so delicate a nature, that were I to commence making apologies for my officiousness, I fear my letter would be too long for your patience.

You have, probably, already conjectured the subject upon which I mean to treat. My regard for Mr. Evelyn, and his amiable daughter, was well known to you: nor can I ever cease to be interested in whatever belongs to their memory or family.

I must own myself somewhat distressed in what manner to introduce the purport of my writing; yet as I think that, in affairs of this kind, frankness is the first requisite to a good understanding between the parties concerned, I will neither torment you nor myself with punctilious ceremonies, but proceed instantly and openly to the business which occasions my giving you this trouble.

I presume, Sir, it would be superfluous to tell you, that your child resides still in Dorsetshire, and is still under the protection of the Reverend Mr. Villars, in whose house she was born: for, though no enquiries concerning her have reached his ears, or mine, I can never suppose it possible you have forborne to make them. It only remains, therefore, to tell you, that your daughter is now grown up; that she has been educated with the utmost care, and the utmost success; and that she is now a most deserving, accomplished, and amiable young woman.

Whatever may be your view for her future destination in life, it seems time to declare it. She is greatly admired, and, I doubt not, will be very much sought after: it is proper, therefore, that her future expectations, and your pleasure concerning her, should be made known.

Believe me, Sir, she merits your utmost attention and regard. You could not see and know her, and remain unmoved by those sensations of affection which belong to so near and tender a relationship. She is the lovely resemblance of her lovely mother;-pardon, Sir, the liberty I take in mentioning that unfortunate lady; but I think it behoves me, upon this occasion, to shew the esteem I felt for her: allow me, therefore, to say, and be not offended at my freedom, that the memory of that excellent lady has but too long remained under the aspersions of calumny; surely it is time to vindicate her fame;-and how can that be done in a manner more eligible, more grateful to her friends, or more honourable to yourself, than by openly receiving as your child, the daughter of the late Lady Belmont?

The venerable man who has had the care of her education, deserves your warmest acknowledgments, for the unremitting pains he has taken, and the attention he has shewn in the discharge of his trust. Indeed she has been peculiarly fortunate in meeting with such a friend and guardian; a more worthy man, or one whose character seems nearer to perfection, does not exist.

Permit me to assure you, Sir, she will amply repay whatever regard and favour you may hereafter shew her, by the comfort and happiness you cannot fail to find in her affection and duty. To be owned properly by you is the first wish of her heart; and, I am sure, that to merit your approbation will be the first study of her life.

I fear that you will think this address impertinent; but I must rest upon the goodness of my intention to plead my excuse. I am, Sir, Your most obedient humble servant, M. HOWARD.