Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 2, Ch. 27

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Letter XXVII.

EVELINA TO MISS MIRVAN. Berry Hill, July 21st.

YOU accuse me of mystery, and charge me with reserve: I cannot doubt but I must have merited the accusation; yet, to clear myself,-you know not how painful will be the task. But I cannot resist your kind entreaties;-indeed I do not wish to resist them; for your friendship and affection will soothe my chagrin. Had it arisen from any other cause, not a moment would I have deferred the communication you ask;-but as it is, I would, were it possible, not only conceal it from all the world, but endeavour to disbelieve it myself. Yet since I must tell you, why trifle with your impatience?

I know not how to come to the point; twenty times have I attempted it in vain;-but I will force myself to proceed.

Oh, Miss Mirvan, could you ever have believed, that one who seemed formed as a pattern for his fellow-creatures, as a model of perfection,-one whose elegance surpassed all description,-whose sweetness of manners disgraced all comparison;-oh, Miss Mirvan, could you ever have believed that Lord Orville, would have treated me with indignity?

Never, never again will I trust to appearances;-never confide in my own weak judgment;-never believe that person to be good who seems to be amiable! What cruel maxims are we taught by a knowledge of the world!-But while my own reflections absorb me, I forget you are still in suspense.

I had just finished the last letter which I wrote to you from London, when the maid of the house brought me a note. It was given to her, she said, by a footman, who told her he would call the next day for an answer.

This note,-but let it speak for itself.

"To Miss Anville.

         "With transport, most charming of thy sex, did I read
         the letter
        with which you yesterday morning favoured me. I am sorry the
        affair of the carriage should have given you any concern,
        but I am highly flattered by the anxiety you express so
        kindly. Believe me, my lovely girl, I am truly sensible
        to the honour of your good opinion, and feel myself deeply
        penetrated with love and gratitude. The correspondence you
        have so sweetly commencedh, I shall be proud of continuing;
        and I hope the strong sense I have of the favour you do me
        will prevent your withdrawing it. Assure yourself, that I
        desire nothing more ardently than to pour forth my thanks at
        your feet, and to offer those vows which are so justly the
        tribute of your charms and accomplishments. In your next
        I intreat you to acquaint me how long you shall remain in
        town. The servant, whom I shall commission to call for an
        answerh, has orders to ride post with it to me. My impatience
        for his arrival will be very great, though inferior to that
        with which I burn to tell you, in person, how much I am,
        my sweet girl, your grateful admirer, "ORVILLE."

What a letter! how has my proud heart swelled every line I have copied! What I wrote to him you know; tell me, then, my dear friend, do you think it merited such an answer?-and that I have deservedly incurred the liberty he has taken? I meant nothing but a simple apology, which I thought as much due to my own character as to his; yet by the construction he seems to have put upon it, should you not have imagined it contained the avowal of sentiments which might indeed have provoked his contempt?

The moment the letter was delivered to me, I retired to my own room to read it; and so eager was my first perusal, that,-I am ashamed to own,-it gave me no sensation but of delight. Unsuspicious of any impropriety from Lord Orville, I perceived not immediately the impertinence it implied,-I only marked the expressions of his own regard; and I was so much surprised, that I was unable for some time to compose myself, or read it again:-I could only walk up and down the room, repeating to myself, "Good God, is it possible?-am I then loved by Lord Orville?"

X [h] The correspondence you have so sweetly commen…

Manners & Morals

It would be highly inappropriate for a young woman to initiate a correspondence in any case but especially the covert exchange of feelings this letter implies.  Evelina views her letter as simply a note of apology that might have merited a civil acknowledgement in reply.  Instead the letter suggests a intimacy in which it invites her to participate as a correspondent. 



X [h] The servant, whom I shall commission to call …

Manners & Morals

That the letter requests a reply via servant rather than through the mail underscores a desire that the correspondence remain covert.