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Jane Talbot   By: (1771-1810)

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Jane Talbot


Charles Brockden Brown.

Letter I

To Henry Colden

Philadelphia, Monday Evening, October 3.

I am very far from being a wise girl. So conscience whispers me, and, though vanity is eager to refute the charge, I must acknowledge that she is seldom successful. Conscience tells me it is folly, it is guilt, to wrap up my existence in one frail mortal; to employ all my thoughts, to lavish all my affections, upon one object; to dote upon a human being, who, as such, must be the heir of many frailties, and whom I know to be not without his faults; to enjoy no peace but in his presence, to be grateful for his permission to sacrifice fortune, ease, life itself, for his sake.

From the humiliation produced by these charges, vanity endeavours to relieve me by insinuating that all happiness springs from affection; that nature ordains no tie so strong as that between the sexes; that to love without bounds is to confer bliss not only on ourselves but on another; that conjugal affection is the genuine sphere not only of happiness but duty.

Besides, my heart will not be persuaded but that its fondness for you is nothing more than simple justice. Ought I not to love excellence, and does my poor imagination figure to itself any thing in human shape more excellent than thou?

But yet there are bounds beyond which passion cannot go without counteracting its own purposes. I am afraid mine goes beyond those bounds. So far as it produces rapture, it deserves to be cherished; but when productive of impatience, repining, agony, on occasions too that are slight, trivial, or unavoidable, 'tis surely culpable.

Methinks, my friend, I would not have had thee for a witness of the bitterness, the tumult of my feelings, during this day; ever since you left me. You cannot conceive any thing more forlorn, more vacant, more anxious, than this weak heart has been and still is. I was terrified at my own sensations, and, with my usual folly, began to construe them into omens of evils; so inadequate, so disproportioned was my distress to the cause that produced it.

Ah! my friend! a weak very weak creature is thy Jane. From excess of love arises that weakness; that must be its apology with thee, for, in thy mind, my fondness, I know, needs an apology.

Shall I scold you a little? I have held in the rein a long time, but my overflowing heart must have relief, and I shall find a sort of comfort in chiding you. Let me chide you, then, for coldness, for insensibility: but no; I will not. Let me enjoy the rewards of self denial and forbearance, and seal up my accusing lips. Let me forget the coldness of your last salute, your ill concealed effort to disengage yourself from my foolishly fond arms. You have got at your journey's end, I hope. Farewell.


Letter II

To Henry Colden

Tuesday Morning, October 4.

I must write to you, you said, frequently and copiously: you did not mean, I suppose, that I should always be scribbling, but I cannot help it. I can do nothing but converse with you. When present, my prate is incessant; when absent, I can prate to you with as little intermission; for the pen, used so carelessly and thoughtlessly as I use it, does but prate.

Besides, I have not forgotten my promise. 'Tis true the story you wished me to give you is more easily communicated by the pen than by the lips. I admit your claim to be acquainted with all the incidents of my life, be they momentous or trivial. I have often told you that the retrospect is very mournful; but that ought not to prevent me from making it, when so useful a purpose as that of thoroughly disclosing to you the character of one, on whom your future happiness is to depend, will be affected by it. I am not surprised that calumny has been busy with my life, and am very little anxious to clear myself from unjust charges, except to such as you.

At this moment, I may add, my mood is not unfriendly to the undertaking... Continue reading book >>

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