English Literature

The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox

The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox

Chapter 1.

Contains a Turn at Court, neither new nor surprising. — Some useless Additions to a fine Lady’s Education. — The bad Effects of a whimsical Study, which some will say is borrowed from Cervantes.

The Marquis of —— for a long Series of Years, was the first and most distinguished Favourite at Court: He held the most honourable Employments under the Crown, disposed of all Places of Profit as he pleased, presided at the Council, and in a manner governed the whole Kingdom.

This extensive Authority could not fail of making him many Enemies: He fell at last a Sacrifice to the Plots they were continually forming against him; and was not only removed from all his Employments, but banished the Court for ever.

The Pain his undeserved Disgrace gave him, he was enabled to conceal by the natural Haughtiness of his Temper; and, behaving rather like a Man who had resigned, than been dismissed from his Posts, he imagined he triumphed sufficiently over the Malice of his Enemies, while he seemed to be wholly insensible of the Effects it produced. His secret Discontent, however, was so much augmented by the Opportunity he now had of observing the Baseness and Ingratitude of Mankind, which in some Degree he experienced every Day, that he resolved to quit all Society whatever, and devote the rest of his Life to Solitude and Privacy. For the Place of his Retreat he pitched upon a Castle he had in a very remote Province of the Kingdom, in the Neighbourhood of a small Village, and several Miles distant from any Town. The vast Extent of Ground which surrounded this noble Building, he had caused to be laid out in a Manner peculiar to his Taste: The most laborious Endeavours of Art had been used to make it appear like the beautiful Product of wild, uncultivated Nature. But if this Epitome of Arcadia could boast of only artless and simple Beauties, the Inside of the Castle was adorned with a Magnificence suitable to the Dignity and immense Riches of the Owner.

While Things were preparing at the Castle for his Reception, the Marquis, though now advanced in Years, cast his Eyes on a young Lady, greatly inferior to himself in Quality, but whose Beauty and good Sense promised him an agreeable Companion. After a very short Courtship, he married her, and in a few Weeks carried his new Bride into the Country, from whence he absolutely resolved never to Return.

The Marquis, following the Plan of Life he had laid down, divided his Time between the Company of his Lady, his Library, which was large and well furnished, and his Gardens. Sometimes he took the Diversion of Hunting, but never admitted any Company whatever; and his Pride and extreme Reserve rendered him so wholly inaccessible to the Country Gentry about him, that none ever presumed to solicit his Acquaintance.

In the Second Year of his Retirement, the Marchioness brought him a Daughter, and died in Three Days after her Delivery. The Marquis, who had tenderly loved her, was extremely afflicted at her Death; but Time having produced its usual Effects, his great Fondness for the little Arabellaintirely engrossed his Attention, and made up all the Happiness of his Life. At Four Years of Age he took her from under the Direction of the Nurses and Women appointed to attend her, and permitted her to receive no Part of her Education from another, which he was capable of giving her himself. He taught her to read and write in a very few Months; and, as she grew older, finding in her an uncommon Quickness of Apprehension, and an Understanding capable of great Improvements, he resolved to cultivate so promising a Genius with the utmost Care; and, as he frequently, in the Rapture of paternal Fondness, expressed himself, render her Mind as beautiful as her Person was lovely.

Nature had indeed given her a most charming Face, a Shape easy and delicate, a sweet and insinuating Voice, and an Air so full of Dignity and Grace, as drew the Admiration of all that saw her. These native Charms were improved with all the Heightenings of Art; her Dress was perfectly magnificent; the best Masters of Music and Dancing were sent for fromLondon to attend her. She soon became a perfect Mistress of the Frenchand Italian Languages, under the Care of her Father; and it is not to be doubted, but she would have made a great Proficiency in all useful Knowlege, had not her whole Time been taken up by another Study.

From her earliest Youth she had discovered a Fondness for Reading, which extremely delighted the Marquis; he permitted her therefore the Use of his Library, in which, unfortunately for her, were great Store of Romances, and, what was still more unfortunate, not in the originalFrench, but very bad Translations.

The deceased Marchioness had purchased these Books to soften a Solitude which she found very disagreeable; and, after her Death, the Marquis removed them from her Closet into his Library, where Arabellafound them.

The surprising Adventures with which they were filled, proved a most pleasing Entertainment to a young Lady, who was wholly secluded from the World; who had no other Diversion, but ranging like a Nymph through Gardens, or, to say better, the Woods and Lawns in which she was inclosed; and who had no other Conversation but that of a grave and melancholy Father, or her own Attendants.



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