ABSTRACT

Gainsborough, Thursday, Feb. 1806 Dearest Girl, - My journey to Doncaster is deferred till next week, so I sit down to write to you a day earlier than I intended, in order that you may have two letters instead of one this week, to make up for former deficiencies. A very heavy rain last night has made the snow vanish from the fields, which looked delightfully green this morning: I walked out to enjoy the lively air and the universal sunshine, and seated myself with a book on a gateway at the bottom of a little eminence covered with evergreens, a little way from Gainsborough. It seemed the return of spring: a flock of sheep were grazing before me, and cast up every now and then their inquiring visages, as much as to say, 'What singular being is that so intent upon the mysterious thin substances he is turning over with his paws!' - The crows at intervals came wheeling with long cawings above my head, the herds lowed from the surrounding farms, the windmills whirled to the breeze, flinging their huge and rapid shadows over the fields, and the river Trent sparkled in the sun from east to west. A delightful serenity diffused itself through my heart: I worshipped the magnificence and the love of the God of Nature, and I thought of you;: these two sensations always arise in my heart in the quiet of a rural landscape, and I have often considered it a proof of the purity and the reality of my affection for you, that it always feels most powerful in my religious moments. And it is very natural. Are you not the greatest blessing Heaven has bestowed upon me? Your image attends me not only in my rural rambles, not only in those healthful walks when, escaped from the clamour of streets and the glare of theatres, I am ready to exclaim with Cowper,

'God made the country, and man made the town.' It is present with me even in the bustle of life: it gives me a distaste to frivolous and riotous society; it excites me to improve myself in order to preserve your affection, and it quenches the

little flashes of caprice and impatience which disturb the repose of existence. If I feel my anger rising at trifles, it checks me instantaneously: it seems to say to me, 'Why do you disturb yourself? Marian loves you: you deserve her love, and you ought to be above these little marks of a little mind.' Such is the power of a virtuous love. I am naturally a man of violent passions, but your affection has taught me to subdue them. Whenever you feel any little disquietudes or impatience rising in your bosom, think of the happiness you bestow upon me, and real love will produce the same effects in you as it has produced in me. No reasoning person ought to marry who cannot say, 'My love has made me better and more desirous of improvement than I have been!'