Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
By Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (16891762)
Letter to Mr. Wortley Montagu
TIS no affectation to say I despise the pleasure of pleasing people that I despise: all the fine equipages that shine in the ring never gave me another thought, than either pity or contempt for the owners, that could place happiness in attracting the eyes of strangers. Nothing touches me with satisfaction but what touches my heart; and I should find more pleasure in the secret joy I should feel at a kind expression from a friend I esteemed, than at the admiration of a whole playhouse, or the envy of those of my own sex, who could not attain to the same number of jewels, fine clothes, etc., supposing I was at the very top of this sort of happiness.
You may be this friend if you please: did you really esteem me, had you any tender regard for me, I could, I think, pass my life in any station happier with you than in all the grandeur of life with any other. You have some humours that would be disagreeable to any woman that married with an intention of finding her happiness abroad. That is not my resolution. If I marry, I propose to myself a retirement; there is few of my acquaintance I should ever wish to see again; and the pleasing one, and only one, is the way I design to please myself. Happiness is the natural design of all the world; and everything we see done, is meant in order to attain it. My imagination places it in friendship, by friendship I mean an entire communication of thoughts, wishes, interests, and pleasures, being undivided; a mutual esteem, which naturally carries with it a pleasing sweetness of conversation, and terminates in the desire of making one or another happy, without being forced to run into visits, noise and hurry, which serve rather to trouble than compose the thoughts of any reasonable creature. There are few capable of a friendship such as I have described, and tis necessary for the generality of the world to be taken up with trifles. Carry a fine lady and a fine gentleman out of town, and they know no more what to say. To take from them plays, operas, and fashions, is taking away all their topics of discourse; and they know not how to form their thoughts on any other subjects. They know very well what it is to be admired, but are perfectly ignorant of what it is to be loved. I take you to have sense enough not to think this scheme romantic; I rather choose to use the word friendship than love; because in the general sense that word is spoke, it signifies a passion rather founded on fancy than reason; and when I say friendship, I mean a mixture of tenderness and esteem, and which a long acquaintance increases, not decays: how far I deserve such a friendship, I can be no judge of myself. I may want the good sense that is necessary to be agreeable to a man of merit, but I know I want the vanity to believe I have; and can promise you shall never like me less upon knowing me better; and that I shall never forget you have a better understanding than myself.
And now let me entreat you to think (if possible) tolerably of my modesty, after so bold a declaration. I am resolved to throw off reserve, and use me ill if you please. I am sensible, to own an inclination for a man is putting ones self wholly in his power: but sure you have generosity enough not to abuse it. After all I have said, I pretend no tie but on your heart. If you do not love me, I shall not be happy with you; if you do, I need add no further. I am not mercenary, and would not receive an obligation that comes not from one that loves me.