Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dorothy Osborne to Sir William

Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple
[February 1653]

SIR,–You have made me so rich as I am able to help my neighbours. There is a little head cut in an onyx that I take to be a very good one, and the dolphin is (as you say) the better for being cut less; the oddness of the figure makes the beauty of these things. If you saw one that my brother sent my Lady Diana last week, you would believe it were meant to fright people withal; 'twas brought out of the Indies, and cut there for an idol's head: they took the devil himself, sure, for their pattern that did it, for in my life I never saw so ugly a thing, and yet she is as fond on't as if it were as lovely as she herself is. Her eyes have not the flames they have had, nor is she like (I am afraid) to recover them here; but were they irrecoverably lost, the beauty of her mind were enough to make her outshine everybody else, and she would still be courted by all that knew how to value her, like la belle aveugle that was Philip the 2nd of France his mistress. I am wholly ignorant of the story you mention, and am confident you are not well informed, for 'tis impossible she should ever have done anything that were unhandsome. If I knew who the person were that is concern'd in't, she allows me so much freedom with her, that I could easily put her upon the discourse, and I do not think she would use much of disguise in it towards me. I should have guessed it Algernon Sydney, but that I cannot see in him that likelihood of a fortune which you seem to imply by saying 'tis not present. But if you should mean by that, that 'tis possible his wit and good parts may raise him to one, you must pardon if I am not of your opinion, for I do not think these are times for anybody to expect preferment in that deserves it, and in the best 'twas ever too uncertain for a wise body to trust to. But I am altogether of your mind, that my Lady Sunderland is not to be followed in her marrying fashion, and that Mr. Smith never appeared less her servant than in desiring it; to speak truth, 'twas convenient for neither of them, and in meaner people had been plain undoing one another, which I cannot understand to be kindness of either side. She has lost by it much of the repute she had gained by keeping herself a widow; it was then believed that wit and discretion were to be reconciled in her person that have so seldom been persuaded to meet in anybody else. But we are all mortal.

I did not mean that Howard. 'Twas Arundel Howard. And the seals were some remainders that showed his father's love to antiquities, and therefore cost him dear enough, if that would make them good. I am sorry I cannot follow your counsel in keeping fair with Fortune. I am not apt to suspect without just cause, but in earnest if I once find anybody faulty towards me, they lose me for ever; I have forsworn being twice deceived by the same person. For God sake do not say she has the spleen, I shall hate it worse than ever I did, nor that 'tis a disease of the wits, I shall think you abuse me, for then I am sure it would not be mine; but were it certain that they went together always, I dare swear there is nobody so proud of their wit as to keep it upon such terms, but would be glad after they had endured it a while to let them both go as they came. I know nothing yet that is likely to alter my resolution of being in town on Saturday next; but I am uncertain where I shall be, and therefore it will be best that I send you word when I am here. I should be glad to see you sooner, but that I do not know myself what company I may have with me. I meant this letter longer when I began it, but an extreme cold that I have taken lies so in my head, and makes it ache so violently, that I hardly see what I do. I'll e'en to bed as soon as I have told you that I am very much

Your faithful friend and servant,

-from Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple (1652-1654) edited by Edward Abbott Parry (London: J. M. Dent & Sons).

No comments: