Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 18

[+] | [-] | reset

Letter XVIII.


 HOW agitated, my dear Sir, is the present life of your Evelina! every
seems important, and one event only a prelude to another.

 Mrs. Selwyn, upon her return this morning from the Hot Wells,
 entering my
room very abruptly, said, "Oh, my dear, I have terrible news for you!"

"For me, Ma'am!-Good God! what now?"

 "Arm yourself," cried she, "with all your Berry Hill philosophy;-con
every lesson of fortitude or resignation you ever learnt in your
life;-for know,-you are next week to be married to Lord Orville!"

 Doubt, astonishment, and a kind of perturbation I cannot describe,
 made this
abrupt communication alarm me extremely; and, almost breathless,
I could only exclaim, "Good God, Madam, what do you tell me!"

 "You may well be frightened, my dear," said she, ironically;
 "for really
there is something mighty terrific in becoming, at once, the wife of
the man you adore,-and a Countessw!"

 I entreated her to spare her raillery, and tell me her real
 meaning. She
could not prevail with herself to grant the first request, though
she readily complied with the second.

My poor father, she said, was still in the utmost uneasiness: he entered upon his affairs with great openness, and told her, he was equally disturbed how to dispose either of the daughter he had discovered, or the daughter he was now to give up; the former he dreaded to trust himself with again beholding, and the latter he knew not how to shock with the intelligence of her disgrace. Mrs. Selwyn then acquainted him with my situation in regard to Lord Orville: this delighted him extremely; and, when he heard of his Lordship's eagerness, he said he was himself of opinion, the sooner the union took place the better; and, in return, he informed her of the affair of Mr. Macartney. "And, after a very long conversation," continued Mrs. Selwyn, "we agreed, that the most eligible scheme for all parties would be, to have both the real and the fictitious daughter married without delay. Therefore, if either of you have any inclination to pull capsw for the title of Miss Belmont, you must do it with all speed, as next week will take from both of you all pretensions to it."

"Next week!-dear Madam, what a strange plan!-without my being consulted,-without applying to Mr. Villars,-without even the concurrence of Lord Orville!"

"As to consulting you, my dear, it was out of all question; because, you know, young ladies' hearts and hands are always to be given with reluctance;-as to Mr. Villars, it is sufficient we know him for your friend;-and as for Lord Orville, he is a party concerned."

"A party concerned!-you amaze me!"

"Why, yes; for, as I found our consultation likely to redound to his advantage, I persuaded Sir John to send for him."

"Send for him!-Good God!"

"Yes; and Sir John agreed. I told the servant, that if he could not hear of his Lordship in the house, he might be pretty certain of encountering him in the arbour.-Why do you colour, my dear?-Well, he was with us in a moment: I introduced him to Sir John; and we proceeded to business."

 "I am very, very sorry for it!-Lord Orville must himself think
 this conduct
strangely precipitate."

"No, my dear, you are mistaken; Lord Orville has too much good sense. Everything was then discussed in a rational manner. You are to be married privately, though not secretlyh, and then go to one of his Lordship's country seats: and poor little Miss Green and your brother, who have no house of their own, must go to one of Sir John's."

 "But why, my dear Madam, why all this haste? why may we not be
 allowed a
little longer time?"

"I could give you a thousand reasons," answered she, "but that I am tolerably certain two or three will be more than you can controvert, even with all the logic of genuine coquetryw. In the first place, you doubtless wish to quit the house of Mrs. Beaumont: to whose, then, can you with such propriety remove as to Lord Orville's?"

 "Surely, Madam," cried I, "I am not more destitute now than when
 I thought
myself an orphan."

X [w] philosophy;-con over


X [w] Countess

The title Evelina will assume as the wife of an Earl.

X [w] pull caps

"to quarrel or struggle, esp. in a noisy or undignified manner; to contend for." OED 


X [h] privately, though not secretly

Without the notice that would attend a public wedding. Evelina might well be leery since her mother's private marriage had contributed to her and Evelina's vulnerability. But the operant phrase here is "though not secretly."  Under the provisions of the Hardwicke Marriage Act of 1753, passed in order to prevent…

(read more)

X [w] logic of genuine coquetry

That is, should you wish to delay, possibly construed as a flirtatious will-she-or-won't-she?