"Louisa, the Indulged" (1824)
SKETCHES FROM REAL LIFE.
LOUISA THE INDULGED.
Mr. Randall was a native of Leeds, in Yorkshire. At sixteen years of age, being an active, shrewd, and industrious lad, his father, who was not wealthy, sent him to London to seek his own fortune: here, after overcoming some difficulties, he at length succeeded so well as to establish himself in a lucrative and wholesale business, in which, by prudence and economy, he in a few years realized a handsome and independent capital.
At thirty-five years of age he married a lady of suitable years, agreeable in her person, amiable in her manners, who had been genteelly educated, and who brought him a pretty fortune. Two children were the fruits of this marriage: the first, a boy, a strong and healthy child, whom his father sent into Yorkshire at a very early period, for the purpose of education; the second, a girl, born soon after little James left home, reconciled Mrs. Randall to the absence, which she had before bewailed, of her son. Louisa, the name chosen by her mother for the infant, was a delicate babe, both in frame and constitution: Mrs. Randall nursed and attended to her, during the period of a feeble infancy, with unwearied and unremitting care. These circumstances endeared the interesting and beautiful little Louisa to her mother, and Mrs. Randall herself acknowledged that her affection for this child exceeded even what she had felt for James, her first-born. Sickly children, from being more dependent on their mothers than the healthy, are, generally speaking, the greater favorites. It has also been remarked, perhaps with truth, that women who do not marry very young are more devoted to their offspring than those who at an early period of life enter into the conjugal state. Be that as it may, this darling child excited the sensibility, and called forth all the tenderness, of her mother. Mr. Randall, though a worthy man and a good husband, did not quite satisfy the heart of his more refined and more susceptible partner: her son had been early taken from his mother, in whose affections her daughter now reigned without a rival.
The servant who, after she was weaned, was kept to attend on the little Louisa, was charged, at the risk of losing her place, never to leave the child alone for a single moment, awake or asleep, by night or by day; she was also ordered never to take her out in the air unless the sun shone, and then she was to be wrapped up in shawls and cloaks from head to feet; as, during the first six months, she had never been carried even from room to room without being completely enveloped in coverlids and mantles. The consequence of this over-care was, as might have been expected it should, the least breath of air gave the child cold; and, though she survived the perils of infancy, her constitution every day became more and more delicate.
Enfeebled by excessive and injudicious tenderness, her mind was not less weak than was her frame; and, from being indulged in every whim, her temper, though not a bad one, became too sensitive and too impatient of opposition to afford happiness or comfort to herself or to those around her.
Mrs. Randall, thinking that an airing every day would amuse Louisa, and at the same time benefit her health, but fearful of putting her into a hackney-coach, lest she should take cold or be exposed to the infection of a contagious disorder, prevailed on her husband, who could very well afford it, to set up his carriage. Mrs. Randall and her daughter now regularly took their morning's ride in the new chariot; but, as the glasses were but seldom allowed to be put down, lest Louisa should take cold her health was not greatly amended by these excursions.
Mr. Randall, who wanted the greater part of the house in Watling Street,2 where they resided, for the purposes of business, was persuaded by Mrs. Randall that a better air would be of service to Louisa, and at length took a house for his wife and daughter in the neighbourhood of Clapham, to which Mrs. Randall gladly removed: Mr. Randall, it was agreed between them, was to come down every evening, and return to town every morning, Sundays excepted, which he promised to pass at Clapham.3 This arrangement left Mrs. Randall at full liberty to attend to her darling little girl, whose health began to amend, and who now, being six years of age, and very pretty, was pronounced, by the ladies who paid their respects to her mamma, to be one of the sweetest and most elegant little creatures they had ever beheld.
These common-place and unmeaning compliments, frequently repeated in the presence of Louisa, made her soon begin to think herself a personage of some importance. Being the chief, if not the sole object of the attention of her mother, who omitted nothing which she imagined would either amuse, gratify, or set off her little girl to advantage, and having a servant always at command to dress and wait on her, Louisa was early prepared to become one of those helpless useless beings termed fine ladies, and grew every day more and more capricious, fanciful, and affected. Mr. Randall, though not much at home, perceiving that his daughter was in great danger of being spoiled by the excessive tenderness and over indulgence of her mother, proposed the sending of her to a boarding-school for education: to this Mrs. Randall would not consent, and urged so many objections to the plan, that Mr. Randall, who was less qualified to descant on the merits and demerits of boarding-schools than his lady, gave up the point; and, as he had taken the management of his son’s education entirely into his own hands, conceded to his wife, as her right, the sole superintendence of their daughter’s.
Mrs. Randall now engaged a young lady as a domestic governess, while masters of the first celebrity were procured to instruct the little Louisa in every fashionable accomplishment: by so doing, she purposed giving her what she called every advantage of education, without reflecting on the real import of the term; or forgetting that a young lady may be highly educated, and yet remain destitute of all those virtues which raise and ornament the female character.
Louisa, whose figure, though small, was exquisitely proportioned, soon became an elegant dancer: she also made some proficiency in music; learned to paint flowers, and sketch a landscape; and, after a few years of instruction, gained some slight knowledge of the French and Italian languages: that is, sufficient of the former to read or to translate easy French, and of the latter to understand the sentiment, if there be any, in the airs of an opera. For studies which required much or serious application Louisa had no great taste; but, as her mother made it a point that she should read with her for the best part of an hour every day, she gradually became acquainted with some of the lighter productions of modern literature – such as new plays, novels, poems, &c. with now and then a review or a magazine.
Thus passed the early youth of Louisa Randall: she was now sixteen, possessed of a delicate form, regular features, and a fair complexion – nurtured, caressed, and indulged by a fond mother, from whom she had never been separated for more than a few hours at a time – flattered by casual visitors, treated with respect by her governess, attended to with servility by her maid, and enjoying with present luxuries the future expectation of a large fortune – she thought herself a being of a superior description to the vulgar herd, and born for no other purpose but to be admired, waited upon, and attended to, by the rest of the world.
The governess dismissed, Mrs. Randall now deemed it time for her daughter to come out, as it is termed, and for that purpose subscribed, which she had not done before, to the Clapham assembly, where Miss Randall was the next season to be introduced. At the first ball, accompanied by her mother, Louisa, elegantly and tastefully attired, made her debut: the young men gazed at her – inquired who she was – and happy was the youth who could obtain the honour of dancing with her. While the male part of the assembly were thus paying all proper and expected homage to her charms, the younger females, who could not view these attentions without some little sparks of jealousy, were not quite so civil in their behaviour or flattering in their remarks: one thought her too short to be elegant; another too pale to be beautiful; a third pronounced her features too regular to be engaging; most of them found some faults in her dress; while they all agreed that, as her father was in trade, she ought not to stand above the Misses B—— and ——, whose fortunes were independent.
While the young ladies were thus amusing themselves, some of their mammas were complimenting Mrs. Randall on the dancing and other attractions of her daughter. Mrs. Randall listened to these eulogiums with unmixed delight; and, as her eyes, glistening with tears of pleasure and maternal pride, followed Louisa in the mazy dance, she took care to inform the ladies who sat near her that her daughter was educated at home, and entirely under her own direction.
Mrs. and Miss Randall returned home at a late hour; the latter fatigued, but, on the whole, pretty well pleased with her evening; and the former highly gratified by the notice and admiration which her daughter had excited.
A young lady possessed of so many attractions, among which the report of a large fortune might not be reckoned one of the least, could not be expected to remain long without suitors; and, before the winter was over, Louisa received several love-letters, and more than one serious offer of marriage: but, though her temper was sensitive, her heart was not particularly susceptible to love; and, as she was only seventeen, and her parents in no great hurry to dispose of her, the billet-douxwere returned in a blank cover; while the more serious offers of marriage were rejected, on the plea of Miss Randall’s being yet too young to think of changing her situation.
James Randall, who, on his return from Yorkshire, had been taken into his father’s warehouse, and was now become the man of business, spent his Sundays at Clapham. Independent of this addition on that day to their family circle, no domestic event occurred to relieve the monotony of Miss Randall's life, and time glided on as usual till she had nearly completed her twenty-first year. She now began to grow weary of her maidenly amusements: the assembly, in which, being no longer new, she ceased to excite any particular sensation, had lost its attractions; dancing fatigued her; drawing and painting she had given up; music, when she had no one but her mother to hear her, soon palled; reading she was not fond of; and needle-work was entirely out of the question.
Without any strong passion or interesting pursuit to engage her mind, and devoid of daily occupation, that best remedy for the vapours, Louisa became a prey to ennui, and began to fancy that a change of situation, though not desired at seventeen, might, at twenty-one, relieve her from the lassitude and tedium under which she at present suffered. Mrs. Randall, whose maternal solicitude about her daughter was unabated, divined this change in Louisa’s inclinations, and, without speaking to her on the subject, hinted to her father that their daughter was no longer averse to matrimony, and that it was now high time to think seriously about settling her in life: Mr. Randall took the hint, and, shortly after, brought down with him a gentleman whom he had often thought he should like for a son-in-law. Mr. Batson (for that was his name) was a young man of respectable character and good property, who had been, for some time, his father being dead, considered as the head partner in a substantial and money-getting business. He was, moreover, a countryman of Mr. Randall's, a circumstance which, to him, was no little recommendation.
Mr. Batson, who had more than once asked Mr. Randall to introduce him to his daughter, embraced the opportunity afforded him of paying particular attention both to Miss Randall and her mamma, who, on his departure, pronounced him to be a very civil well-behaved young man. Mr. Randall, pleased with the approbation which his wife expressed of his young friend, proposed bringing him down again very shortly: Louisa remained silent, but her looks testified that she understood their plan, and would not object to a further acquaintance. Mr. Batson was again and again invited, and again and again endeavoured, not unsuccessfully, to render himself agreeable to the ladies, by whom he was treated with all due civility. Secure of Mr. Randall’s consent, who had frankly told him he would give his daughter, on her wedding-day, ten thousand pounds, and encouraged by the smiles of the ladies to believe that an offer of marriage from him to Louisa would be acceptable to all parties, he made up his mind to proceed in due form, and bring the affair to a conclusion, as soon as etiquette and circumstances would admit.
In the meantime the Randalls were invited to a grand entertainment given in the town by A—— B——, Esq. to a select party of friends. At this feteMiss Randall experienced the mortification, both at table and in the dance, of seeing several misses, inferior to herself in point of fortune, dress, and personal accomplishments, placed above her, for no other reason but that her father was in trade, while theirs were either professional men or gentlemen of independent fortunes.
‘What great events from little causes spring!’4
From that evening Louisa determined on not marrying a tradesman: Mr. Batson, who was unacquainted with these circumstances, made his offer at this crisis, and, to his utter astonishment and great mortification, met with a decided refusal. Mr. Randall was at first, equally with Mr. Batson, disappointed by the unexpected rejection of the latter by his daughter, but consoled himself with the recollection that a young lady who was pretty, had ten thousand pounds for her fortune, beside future expectations, might be allowed to be a little difficult in her choice of a husband, as there was no fear of her dying an old maid; while Mr. Batson as shrewdly suspected that a young man who could maintain a wife need not despair of getting one: while there were so many young women on the market, it would be a folly in him to waste much time in idle regrets, or the vain pursuit of any one individual capricious fair one. Mrs. Randall, who, with her daughter, had been obliged to give precedence to ladies less splendidly attired, justified Louisa in her refusal of Mr. Batson.
At the entertainment where the mortification which Mrs. Randall and her daughter had received subsequently decided the fate of Mr. Batson, Mr. Frederic Irving, a young barrister, who was one of the party, distinguished Louisa from the other young ladies by many little civilities and compliments usual on such occasions: shortly after, she again met him at an evening party in the neighbourhood, and was again the object of his particular attention. Mrs. Randall, who was always on the alert where Louisa was concerned, remarked these circumstances, while she at the same time perceived that her daughter was not displeased with the gentleman. In consequence, she sent him a card of invitation to her next home party, which was readily accepted. Frederic, when he first saw Louisa, was smitten by her personal charms: on hearing that she had a good fortune, he thought her still more lovely, and gladly availed himself of the opportunity which Mrs. Randall afforded him to cultivate their acquaintance, and ingratiate himself with her daughter.
After the usual time of probation had passed over, Mr. Irving offered to Miss Randall in form, and was, in like form, referred by her to her father for an answer. Mr. Randall, who did not quite approve the idea of this match for his daughter, was not at first inclined to give his consent: Frederic's paternal fortune was small, and he had not as yet, being young, reaped much pecuniary advantage from his profession. These were Mr. Randall's objections; but they were soon overruled by his lady, who considered a genteel profession as preferable to wealth: beside which, she told her husband that she was sure Louisa was attached to Mr. Irving, and her happiness was of essential importance, and ought to outweigh every other consideration. Frederic Irving, superior both in education and manners to any of her former suitors, had certainly taken Louisa's fancy; but she was not a young woman to fall desperately in love, notwithstanding that she had been frequently complimented with possessing a great deal of sensibility: the truth was, excessive indulgence, acting on a delicate constitution, had rendered her too sensitive and too fastidious to be capable of feeling any very strong passion, or of yielding up her soul to the influence of warm individual affection. Disappointment, to which she had never been accustomed, might, for a time, have rendered her irritable and uneasy, but would not have made any lasting impression on her mind; neither would it have broken her heart.
Mr. Randall having at length consented to the union, and every preliminary to marriage being finally settled to the apparent satisfaction of all parties, Mr. Irving led Miss Randall to the hymeneal altar. When the honey-moon, which was passed by the sea-side, was over, Frederic took his fair bride home to a small but genteel house, which, for the convenience of his profession, he had taken in one of the squares in the vicinity of the courts of law. It being now the winter season, the first few months of Louisa's residence in town passed over agreeably enough; but, as the spring advanced, she began to complain of her situation, find a thousand faults in her house, and daily express her dissatisfaction at being obliged to live in London. Mrs. Randall, who was a frequent visitor to her daughter, also fancied that Louisa did not look well, and endeavoured to persuade Mr. Irving that his wife’s constitution was too delicate to permit her to reside in town all the year round; and as, at present, it might not be quite prudent or convenient to him to take a house in the country, he must permit Louisa to spend the greater part of the ensuing summer with her at Clapham, where he might come down every evening, and pass as much time with them as the duties of his profession would admit, Mr. Irving, in reply, said, “I have no objection to Louisa’s spending a few months with her mother;” then added smilingly, “If I could but prevail on her to rise a little earlier in the morning, take more exercise – for instance, walk two or three miles every day – I have no doubt but that she would be quite as well here as at Clapham: our situation is very airy.” Louisa, piqued by this remark, replied tartly, “How am I to take exercise? I have been accustomed to a carriage; hackney-coaches are detestable: as for walking about London, that is entirely out of the question.” Frederic, now offended in his turn, answered in a serious tone, “When fortune puts it in my power I shall be happy to keep for you both a country-house and a carriage; in the mean time you must endeavour to accommodate yourself to my situation and circumstances.”
The greater part of the summer was passed by Mr. and Mrs. Irving at Clapham: when the winter approached, and Louisa was again settled in Square, she felt the loss of the carriage, and regretted the many indulgences to which she had been but too much and too early accustomed; and she confessed to her mother, that though she had no reason to complain of Frederic, who was very attentive to her, yet she found that his being a professional man did not quite compensate for the want of those luxuries which money only can procure. When he one day told her, though in a jesting and playful tone, that it was her duty, as a barrister’s wife, to study economy, make a genteel appearance at a small expense, and visit in a certain routine for the purpose of keeping up a connexion rather than for the sake of amusement, she burst into tears, reproached him with want of tenderness, and complained bitterly that she had, since her marriage, met with nothing but disappointment and mortification.
Frederic, who was very amiable, and really loved his wife, was much hurt by these weak repinings; but, knowing that she had been a spoiled child, he made every possible allowance for her foibles, though he could not at times help feeling that he should have been happier with a woman who had been differently educated, even though her fortune had been less, and her personal charms inferior to those of Louisa. In point of prudence as well as of happiness, it might in the end have proved more advantageous; for, though ten thousand pounds was certainly an acceptable present to a young man just setting out in life, yet if, on the strength of that sum, or of future expectations, he was to be led into expenses which his present situation did not justify, he had better have been without the fortune, and trusted solely to his own talents and exertions for improving his condition.
In the course of a few years Louisa's constitution, never very strong, became, in consequence of her indolent habits and fine-lady whimsies, more and more debilitated. Not having any family, never having been accustomed to much occupation, and being deficient in that energy of mind which everywhere finds or makes employment, she had no pursuit, and, in consequence, became fretful, and every day more and more dissatisfied with her situation, though, in reality, she had no real evil to complain of.
To please his wife, and in the hope of benefiting her health, Mr. Irving at length took for her a house at Clapham, where, though she would have less of his company, he thought she might, from being nearer her mother, enjoy more advantages, and be better amused than she had been in London. He also proposed to her keeping a one-horse chair, in which he told her he would occasionally drive her out. She replied, “she had no objection to his keeping a chair for his own accommodation, but he must not ask her to ride in it, as she had a particular objection to open carriages, and considered a one-horse chair a vulgar as well as an unsafe vehicle.” “If that is your opinion,” said Frederic, “I shall not have a chair, as it was entirely on your account that I proposed keeping one; for myself, I prefer riding on horseback: if you do the same, I will purchase for you a nag, as I know of one at present that has been used to carry a lady, and will in every respect just suit you.” Louisa had, when single, learned to ride; she therefore, though but a poor horsewoman, acceded to this proposal; and the nag was accordingly purchased. Finding, on trial, that it was very gentle, she one evening consented to ride with Mr. Irving to ——, where he had occasion to go on some business connected with his profession. Unfortunately, they had not proceeded many miles on their road, before the horse on which Frederic was mounted took fright at some accidental circumstance, and set off at full speed. Louisa, terrified beyond measure, screamed aloud, and, by so doing, startled her own nag, which immediately broke into a gallop: she now lost all presence of mind, and would very soon have lost her seat, if the man-servant, who was riding behind them, had not hastened to her assistance. Frederic, who, after a short gallop, had cheeked his horse and turned him round, was also soon at his lady’s side, whom, at her request, he assisted to alight: when she had a little recovered from the effects of her fright, Mr. Irving persuaded her to remount, but could not prevail on her to proceed on their intended journey. As she insisted on returning immediately, he was obliged, though very inconvenient to himself, to accompany her back. On their way home, having to go down a dull lane, Louisa was alarmed by the appearance of some horsemen, whom she mistook for highwaymen; and, to complete the disasters of the evening, before they reached their own gate it began to rain. Disconcerted by these trifling adventures, Mrs. Irving peevishly declared she would never mount again: she kept her word, and the nag was soon after disposed of to a more skilful rider; while, at her mother’s request, a new and elegant chariot was bespoke for her daughter.
Mr. Irving’s fortune was not large, and he had not hitherto increased it by his practice in the law; but, as he had no family, and expected an accession of property at the death of Mr. Randall, who had for some time past been in ill health, he did not much trouble himself about pecuniary matters, and left the entire settling of his establishment and other domestic arrangements to the sole management of the ladies. Louisa, whom her mother conceived to be entitled, by her fortune, education, and expectations, to every indulgence, was now surrounded by all the luxuries of nature and of art; yet she was still far from happy. Her music and drawing had long been given up; reading, as the mean of acquiring knowledge, she had no notion of, and books, when read merely for amusement, soon became insipid and tasteless; gardening was too laborious an employment; and her domestic concerns, to which she had never been much accustomed to attend, were now entirely intrusted to her housekeeper. She was not fond of cards; visiting fatigued her; and company at home she considered as a burden. She was not backward in drawing her pursestrings at the call either of benevolence or vanity; but for charities which required either personal attendance or mental exertion she had no great inclination. Frederic, whose pursuits called him to London, finding on his return home but little comfort or entertainment, now spent the greater part of his time in the metropolis, where men may always find occupation or amusement.
James Randall, who had now for some years been in partnership with his father, by no means resembled his sister, either in constitution, disposition, or temperament. Active, sanguine, and enterprising, he threw his whole soul, if soul it could be called, into whatever he took in hand. Anxious to acquire wealth, he urged his father, who had already realized a handsome fortune, to enlarge his business and extend his connexions. The old gentleman, very well satisfied with the success which had hitherto crowned his own steady industry, was at first unwilling to enter into any more extensive concerns; but was at length over-persuaded by his son to take his advice, and to trust to him the sole management of the business and warehouse.
Fortune, who, it is said, favours the bold, appeared for a time to smile on James Randall. Intoxicated by present success, and sanguine with regard to future gain, he set no prudent bounds either to his ambition or speculations; and considered the sage advice and angry remonstrances which his father would sometimes force upon him as the effects of old age and mental imbecility.
Trade, like the tide, is ever ebbing and flowing; and when any article of commerce has, by whatever means, been for any length of time kept up beyond either its intrinsic or relative value, it must necessarily, before it finds its proper level in the market, suffer a considerable and rapid depreciation. This was now the case in the manufactory in which the Randalls were principally engaged; and, in the course of a few months, they lost a great portion of what they had previously gained. James Randall, though much mortified, was not discouraged, trusting that time or a change in public affairs, of which he might take advantage in future speculations, would soon set all to rights again: but his father, now advanced in years, knowing and dreading the temerity of his son, not merely suffered from present disappointment, but trembled with anxiety in respect to the future.
But enough of these uninteresting details: suffice it to say, that James Randall, in the hope of retrieving what he had lost, ran5greater and greater hazards, till he nearly ruined both his father and himself.
Mr. Randall, whose health had for some time past been declining, did not long survive these repeated vexations. At his death Mr. Irving, finding that the ten thousand pounds which he had received with Miss Randall on his marriage was likely to prove her whole fortune, took an early opportunity of suggesting to his wife the necessity of reducing their expenditure: every indulgence, he added, which his income could afford, she might still command; but the carriage and their present house must be parted with, and the sooner the better. Economy, and a patient submission to existing circumstances, were things of which Louisa, previous to her marriage, had scarcely heard the names, and were virtues which, at present, she was but little qualified to practise. The giving up the carriage was to her not only a bitter mortification, but a real inconvenience; a carriage being a luxury to which she had been early accustomed, and, with her delicate health and indolent habits, could scarcely exist without; while the bare idea of living for a few years in chambers, which Frederic gently hinted to her as a plan which might at present be expedient, threw her into a paroxysm of mingled grief and rage. She did not, it is true, upbraid her husband; he had never given her any cause; but on her brother, between whom and herself there had not been much intercourse, and never any great affection, she poured forth, the most cutting and bitter invectives; while she bewailed her own hard fate in being obliged to make sacrifices, which she had no right to do, in consequence of his imprudence. Unmindful of the cares, the sorrows, and the severe trials, to which but too many of her sex are exposed, she called herself the most unfortunate of women; forgetting that no individual, however prosperous or however deserving, is born with any charter which can exempt him or her from adversity.
Mr. Irving, finding his wife deaf to reason, had recourse to Mrs. Randall, who, seeing with him the necessity of their reducing their establishment, assured him that she would endeavour to reconcile Louisa as well as she could to the present unpleasant change in their prospects, and make such arrangements with her as might be found prudent or eligible for the future.
Soon after this period Mr. Irving had the offer of a respectable and lucrative situation in the suite of ——, who, having been appointed one of the judges, was going out to India in that capacity. He immediately determined on accepting it; but, before he gave his final answer, consulted with Mrs. Randall and her daughter on the subject, and proposed to the latter her accompanying him to Madras, where it was most probable he should remain for some years.
Mrs. Randall, who could neither consent to Louisa’s quitting England nor to her husband’s going abroad without her, endeavoured to dissuade Frederic from accepting the situation which had been offered to him; but when Mrs. Irving declared that she was willing to accompany her husband to India, anything being preferable to reducing their establishment at home, Mrs. Randall gave up the point, though she frequently warned Mr. Irving of the danger of the seas, and of the risk which he incurred in taking her daughter to a foreign country and unhealthy climate. She also reminded him of what he but too well knew – how unequal poor Louisa was to struggle with any difficulties, should he, on his arrival at Madras, find his station there less pleasant than he at present anticipated.
Louisa, amused for a while by making purchases and procuring finery suited to a tropical climate, continued to express her determination to accompany her husband; but, when the time of embarkation drew near, her resolution began to fail: fears of the sea, an element on which she had never yet been induced to venture, even on a party of pleasure, began to haunt her imagination; which, added to other weak and nervous apprehensions of fancied perils and uncertain ills, induced her at length, after many changes of mind and much vacillation of conduct, to relinquish the plan of going to India with Frederic, who could not now, even if he were so disposed, give up the appointment. Mr. Irving, disgusted by her conduct, left England with many painful feelings, mingled with some tender regrets; for, though he had been disappointed in his union with Louisa – not only in point of fortune, but in what is of much higher value, domestic felicity – he was still attached to her. His disposition was amiable and affectionate; if he had not been happy in the marriage state, it was not his own fault: this was his best consolation; he had done nothing wherewith Louisa could reproach him, and, what was still better, wherewith he could reproach himself.
After a safe and not unpleasant voyage, and without meeting with any accident or encountering with any particular inconvenience, Mr. Irving in due time arrived at Madras, from whence, finding his situation eligible, and likely to be permanent, he wrote to his wife, strongly pressing her to join him; adding, for the purpose of obviating any difficulty which might be started either by her or her mother, that he had written to a friend who was coming to Madras the next season on the subject, desiring him to call on Mrs. Irving, and settle with her everything preparatory to her voyage or necessary for her accommodation.
Louisa, who had, since the departure of Frederic, become more peevish and discontented than ever, was greatly agitated and much perplexed at the receipt of this letter. She now repented of not having accompanied her husband to India; but, though she worried and fretted from morning to night at the probability of his long absence from her, she could not summon sufficient courage to follow him. The gentleman to whom Mr. Irving had written called on her again and again, and, by representing to her in flattering colours the prospects which awaited them in India, vainly strove to persuade her to accede to her husband’s wishes. But all would not do; she had no resolution, and was incapable of any mental exertion: miserable in the thought of her husband’s protracted stay in India, and unequal to the task of following him, she at length determined on writing to him by the gentleman who was to have been her escort, pleading her own inability of exertion and delicacy of constitution as an excuse for her refusing to join him abroad, while she urged and entreated him to return to England, at all hazards, as soon as possible.
Mr. Irving, who had vainly flattered himself that Louisa, who had in her letters to him lamented his absence, would be prevailed on to follow him, was both mortified and disappointed by her refusal; but, though he still retained for her some remains of affection, he did not feel himself either disposed by inclination or bound by duty to give up his situation, and by so doing sacrifice his present interest and future prospects to a wife who had never, in any one instance since their marriage, accommodated herself to his circumstances, or consulted his wishes or convenience.
Years rolled on, but Mr. Irving did not return: engaged in the pursuit of fortune, and enervated by the enjoyment of eastern luxuries, he forgot that he had a wife in England, or remembered it only as a subject of regret. Mrs. Randall, now far advanced in years, paid the debt of nature; James Randall became a bankrupt; while Louisa the Indulged, a widowed wife, pined out the remainder of her days in retirement and solitude, a prey to ennui, discontent, regret, mortification, and disappointment.
1 Letters to Young Ladies, 129-54.
2 A short street that begins near the rear of St. Paul’s Cathedral and leads to Queen Victoria Street in the City of London.
3 A fashionable section of south London not far from Wandsworth Common where Elizabeth Lanfear’s brother, Thomas Hays, lived for about a decade between 1806 and 1816, during which part of that time Mary Hays lived with him.
4 This line, most likely adapted from two lines in Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock,Canto I, had become a popular cliché by 1824. The line eventually provoked a popular anonymous poem, as found in Who Wrote It? A Dictionary of Common Poetical Quotations in the English Language(London: G. Bell, 1878), 117:
Oft great events from trifling causes spring.
A few explosive grains will rend apart
The flinty cliff, or level the proud tower;
A little worm destroys the mighty oak,
A little drop – drop – drop will wear away
The key-stone of an arch that holdeth up
A stately fabric bridge, or firm-trod road;
And from a little spark will spring to life
A fierce devouring flame: so a small word
Breathed by the lips of slander may destroy
A noble reputation. Have a care
Of what you say, and more of what you do,
For great effects from little causes spring.
5 Original text has “run.”