From the archives of La Belle Assemblee, we find a section entitled “The Listener,” a sort of “Dear Abby” column for Regency readers. The next few posts will be taken from this informed source, appropriately named Timothy Hearwell, Esq., on salient points of good character during the reign of the Prince Regent.
From “Chance over Reason,” March, 1816 edition:
“There are, as Solomon says, those who strive and strive and yet are more behind.”
In this column, the writer pours a tale of caution into “the Listener’s” ear. He had got up a business, purely by chance, and made a considerable fortune.
Ashamed of owing everything to good luck, and nothing to my own genius, wishing, as much as in me lay, to justify the favors of Heaven, I began to work (with purpose)….”
To his chagrin, his earnest labors were met with either criticism or downright annoyance, as his efforts seemed only to be getting in the way of the business, until even his friends avoided him. The business turning to failure, the penitent wrote a play about his troubles, a comedy, and later romantic novels that were written hurriedly, (and badly):
I took no pains to conceal the machinery by which I set my puppets in motion. I took care to banish from my works every serious and moral reflection, and only thought of crowding events one upon the other.
Having made another fortune in this accidental endeavor, the writer resolved to marry. His protestations of love with one young lady were met with little comment, she answering his suit by merely raising her “beautiful” eyes upward, as if overcome with like sentiment. This went on for some time, until one evening, as he was leaving her house, he spied a dark figure dropping to the street from the balcony of her window. He raised the alarm, thinking thieves were at work, but soon discovered his beloved in the act of elopement. Therefore, he cautions,
we must not always trust to simplicity of demeanor, or fine eyes cast modestly toward heaven.
Cursing his belabored attempt at matrimony, the writer resolved to flirt injudiciously with every pretty woman he met, having no regard for the feelings of expectation he might arouse in the feminine breast while himself remaining insensible to any like feeling the recipient of his “dishonorable” addresses might arouse in him. He happened upon a widow with five daughters, who made their living by executing painting on velvet (!). They, too, were victims of his false blandishments, except for one. This daughter remained “sprightly” in spite of his flirting, her fine mind ultimately catching his regard and his love, so that:
I had united my fate with the best of women, and ever since I have a thousand times blest that destiny which has always been a safer guide to me, than my own prudence.”
A destiny that was further rewarded by immense wealth bestowed on the widow and daughters by an uncle’s will, securing the happy couple’s financial future and rewarding, quite by accident, the writer’s trust in chance.