Regina Maria Roche. London Tales; Or, Reflective Portraits. 2 vols. London: John Booth, 1814. 1: 87-93.
THE VACANT NOVEL READER.
There is not a silly or a marvellous novel,
that Evelina has not read: reading them became her only occupation, and her only
amusement. It afflicted her father, who is a man of sense; he feared that it might
embitter her whole life: she forms, by that course of reading, such a wrong notion
of things, that she never, he feared, would be happy among human beings as they are in the
world. Read Miss Burreys,
Mrs. Wests, Mrs. Hunters, Mrs. Edgeworths, Miss Austens Novels,
or, Mrs. Opies Tales,--or even refer to the days of Sir Charles Grandison, my dear
Evelina, her father would say sometimes to her. In these, (he would
add,) you will find men and women like ourselves, not outraged beings, that never
existed. Outraged beings, would Evelina repeat, sighing at her
To give the mind of Evelina a different turn, her father brought her to London, and introduced her into company: she was beautiful, and young; every one admired her; but they admired her in the common way, so she took no notice of it.
At a ball, given by the elegant Lady Savage, Evelina was introduced to Lord Newhaven; the moment he saw her, he became enamoured of her--I say enamoured, for I would not disgrace the sacred name of Love, by saying Lord Newhaven felt it.
His Lordship was completely a man of the world; no one could sooner discover the weak side of a person, and no one could sooner turn it to his own advantage. He was, at the time of his being introduced to Evelina, about thirty-six years of age; his person was tall, and handsome; his manners were engaging, and insinuating, to a degree.
At the ball, he determined that Evelina should be his partner; it was an honour, many in the ball-room had aspired to in vain; she refused to dance: Lady Savage had told Lord Newhaven of the character and disposition of Evelina; of that information he took every advantage.
When he found out where Evelina sat, (for she had retired to a corner of the room, and was sitting with her head leaning on her hand, taking little notice of the merry throng around her,) Lord Newhaven was aware that all depended upon his first advances; therefore he managed them with dexterity. He walked towards her with a slow dignified air; and, taking her other hand, which lay loose upon her lap, he gently raised it to his heart; then, looking confused, as if he had gone too far, let her hand drop from his, raising his eyes as if supplicating forgiveness. Evelina blushed; My Lord, said she, holding out her hand to forgive him. The look of extacy of joy that was visible in his face, would to any one have appeared sincere. He pointed to the happy pairs that were running to join the country dance, without daring to ask her if she would be one. The delicacy of his conduct overpowered her; she consented to dance, and permitted him to lead through its mazes. Lord Newhaven danced admirably, it displayed his fine figure to the best advantage. He won the heart of the inexperienced girl.
Evelina, how thy heart was formed for love! how it could have twined round the soul of a husband!--but Lord Newhaven was not the man. Lord Newhaven was all attention to Evelina; he was her attendant wherever she went to, and was given to her by the Papers, as her husband to be. Evelinas father heard all this--saw the attentions of his Lordship--and had no objection, had it been proposed to him, to consent to their union; indeed, the only thing that did astonish him, was, Lord Newhavens not proposing it: however, he had every hope and certainty that he would, and therefore put no stop to the intimacy that existed between them.
His not mentioning marriage, never once roused the suspicions of the romantic Evelina; to have indulged on thought injurious to the honour of her lover, would have been worse than death to her: no, she conceived him to be--the hero of a novel exactly.
One evening in autumn, it being rather cold, Evelina ordered a fire to be made in her dining-room; her father was from home; so, embracing the opportunity, she began to read The Wild Irish Girl, and was just at that passage--that dangerous passage, when Lord Newhaven entered unperceived by her. The room was only lighted by the blaze of the fire, which cast a glow upon every thing. Lord Newhaven leaned over her chair; Evelina was blushing as she read; it was that scene where Glorrina  and her lover sit by the window. It is indeed hard to be always virtuous, said Lord Newhaven. Evelina started--the book fell from her hand--she sighed--he still leaned over her chair--she just felt his breath upon her neck--she trembled--she fainted--he caught her in his arms--Lord Newhaven was a villain.
Old Mr. Byrne, when he heard of the sad fate of Evelina, said, May a coffin come into my house for my daughter, sooner than a novel.
1. Possibly a typographical error for "Burney's." [back to text]
2. I.e., Glorvina, the heroine of Sydney Owenson's The Wild Irish Girl (1806). [back to text]