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to be frustrated in her scheme respecting her own daughter, she devises a variety of the basest stratagems, and takes every opportunity afforded by the confidence which Delphine reposes in her (who esteems it a duty to acknowledge to her her affection for Leontius), to ruin her in the opinion of her lover. She influences madame de Mondoville in her behalf, by encouraging, even in Spain, a misrepresentation of the character of Delphine; and having at length fully worked, moreover, upon the jealousy of Leontius, and convinced him of her attachment to another person, the heart of the young and impetuous Spaniard becomes rent with the utmost agony; and, in a fit of despair, at the very moment he is expected by Delphine, he gives his hand to Matilda; who, perpetually engaged in the performance of her religious duties, knows nothing of her having been supplanted in the affections of the man she thus marries.
The die is now thrown; and the misery of Leontius and Delphine commences from this precipitate action.-Leontius soon discovers, however, that he has been imposed upon by madame de Vernon; but does not know that he has been imposed upon designedly-for he finds that the person he suspected to have been a gallant of Delphine's is only a lover of her friend, madame d'Ervins. The heart of Delphine is nearly broken: but she supports her situation with becoming dignity, though she never ceases to feel an inextinguishable affection for Leontius. The great part that now remains to be played by madame de Vernon is to prevent all explanation between the unfortunate pair; since she dreads the violence of the temper of her son-in-law, whom she knows to be still secretly attached to Delphine, and since much of the ample fortune of the latter is still necessary to extricate her from very heavy and pressing debts she had long incurred by a series of ill luck in gaming. In both respects she succeeds. And hitherto we have nothing very strikingly exceptionable. But the blind confidence which Delphine still reposes in her aunt-even in spite of the warnings of her best friends, and her own ocular proofs of imprudence and deceit-impeaches her judgement, whatever compliment it may pay to her generosity. This, however, we will pardon: but why should a being of the noble nature and immaculate character of Delphine-since the creation of her mind and person depended upon the plastic hand of madame de Staël-be made to countenance, out of any species of friendship whatever, an illicit amour between madame d'Ervins and her gallant, M. Serbellane, even allowing that M. d'Ervins had grossly misconducted himself towards his wife, and was of an age, in comparison with her own, which must set all love at defiance? why should she be made to suffer an
assignation between them, at her own house, even thought M. Serbellane is on the point of quitting Paris, and separating himself-perhaps for ever-from the object of his affections?-and why, more especially, after the fatal duel between himself and M. d'Ervins, should she endeavour to overcome the scruples of her friend, and advise her to marry the murderer of her husband? That she had been unguardedly betrayed into a promise of procuring an interview in the former instance, and thought herself bound both by friendship and honour to fulfil it, though her judgement condemned the asylum she granted--and that, in the latter, she was afterwards happy to find her arguments had made little impression on the mind of madame d'Ervins, and approved of her retiring from the world and assuming the veil -we do not forget: but the more specious and plausible the conduct, the more dangerous the example.-We afterwards find her renewing a very intimate friendship with madame de Lebensey, who had taken an advantage afforded her by the laws of her country (Holland), and had divorced her.self from one husband, that she might marry another. This divorce is justified, on the part of the lady, by the gross misconduct of her first husband, and the compulsory nature of her first marriage: madame de Lebensey is represented as a pattern of conjugal fidelity and propriety in her second connexion; and the delicacy of the mind of Delphine herself upon this subject is afterwards established, by her refusal to listen to hints thrown out by this same M. de Lebensey, still a man of unspotted honour, that, in consequence of the late law of divorce of the French republic, then in the very act of passing, the union so ardently desired between herself and Leontius might yet be effected. There is a magnanimity in the conduct of Delphine in this instance, in which the domestic felicity of her cousin, madame de Mondoville, is intimately concerned,—as well as in a variety of others, in which she readily consents to sacrifice her own happiness to promote that of her friend-to which we are very ready to give unqualified applause; but the arguments in favour of divorce, though resisted by herself, are here again brought forward with too much prominence, and are certainly ill calculated for the waning morality of the present day.
Delphine, however, eventually becomes acquainted with the perfidy of madame de Vernon, whose health, as well as fortune, at length falls a sacrifice to the late hours with which she pursues her inclination for gaming; and here, too, the goodness of her heart, and the superior tone of her mind, interest us most feelingly in her favour. She knows the passion Leontius still entertains for her; and, while she freely pardons the dying madame de Vernon, and sincerely ac
cepts her repentance, she cautiously conceals the information which madame de Vernon had thus confidentially communicated to her, because she knows that the happiness of madame de Mondoville is closely connected with such concealment. The dying scene of madame de Vernon is drawn with much spirit; and we shall select it, not only as a fair 'specimen of the work, but to show our readers what is the sort of religion they are to expect in this seductive novel. Was it then impossible to show the absurdity of the rites prescribed by the Romish religion at this awful moment, without rejecting all revealed religion whatever, and reverting, for consolation, to that empty and undefinable thing, which, in modern times, is denominated the religion of nature-a religion which, even in its utmost purity of precepts and doctrines, the best and wisest of the heathen world have found woefully unsatisfactory and inefficient?
• Madame de Lebensey to Louisa d'Albémar,
You have conde
Paris, December 2. How cruel a scene, madam, am I commissioned to relate to you! madame d'Albémar is confined to her bed, in a burning fever, and I myself have scarcely sufficient strength to fulfill the duties which my friendship for you and for her imposes on me. scended, she has told me, to remember me with kind concern; and it is perhaps to you that I am indebted for the good will of this most perfect of beings. How shall I ever be able to testify my gratitude for so great a service? What a soul, what a character has she! and the most distressing circumstances are for ever to deprive a woman like this of all hope of happiness!
Madame de Vernon is no more. Yesterday, at eleven o'clock in the morning, she expired in the arms of Delphine. An unfortunate fatality rendered her last moments terrible. I will endeavour to give you a connected account of the events of the last twelve hours, of which I shall never lose the remembrance. Excuse my perturbation, should I be unable to subdue it.
'At twelve o'clock, the night before last, madame d'Albémar returned to madame de Vernon's apartment, and found her on a sofa, the oppression of her breast not having allowed her to remain in bed. The alarming paleness of her countenance would have excited doubts of her being alive, if her eyes had not from time to time showed a degree of animation in looking at Delphine. Delphine sought, in the works of ancient and modern moralists, divines and philosophers, what was best calculated to support the drooping soul under the terrour of death. The chamber was dimly lighted: madame d'Albémar placed herself near a lamp, the shaded rays of which shed on her countenance an air of mystery. She grew animated as she read those pages to which souls of sensibility and daring geniuses have committed their generous thoughts. You know her enthusiasth for every thing grand and noble: this habitual feeling was heightened by the desire of making a pro'found impression on madame de Vernon's heart: her voice naturally so affecting, had something of solemn in it; she frequently raised to
wards the Supreme Being a look worthy of success in imploring him : her uplifted hand invited Heaven to witness the truth of her words; and her whole attitude was marked with inexpressible grace and dignity.' Vol. i. P. 443.
At this moment I heard two doors open with remarkable violence, in a house where the greatest precaution was taken to prevent the slightest noise, which might disturb madame de Vernon; the hasty tread of feet too struck my ear: I rose, and beheld Leontius entering with a letter in his hand (it was that from madame de Vernon, which contained the confession of her conduct). He quivered with rage, was pale with cold, and his whole external appearance indicated that he was just arrived from a long journey: in reality, for seven days and nights, through frost and snow, he had travelled from Madrid, without stopping the instant he arrived he had rushed into madame de Vernon's house without speaking to any person, as if distracted with agitations and sufferings, mental and bodily.
Delphine looked round, uttered a shriek on seeing Leontius, and stretched out her arms towards him, without knowing what she did. This movement and the altered countenance of Delphine, completed the almost total derangement of Leontius's reason; and, hastily taking her by the arm, as if to drag her away :-What are you doing (cried he, addressing madame de Vernon, whose face he could not see, a curtain, half-drawn before the sofa, concealing her from his view) what are you doing to this poor unfortunate victim? what new perfidy are you employing against her? This letter, which you addressed to me in Spain, was delivered to me by the courier, just as I arrived, as I was coming to clear up the dreadful doubt, with which Delphine's silence, and a letter from a friend, had pervaded my mind: here is the letter! it contains the recital of your barbarous falsehoods. I was not to receive it, you said, till after Delphine's departure: was this another scheme, to prevent my return to Paris, and to draw the unfortunate Delphine into some new snare during my absence?-Leontius! said madame d'Albémar, how unjust and cruel you are! madame de Vernon is dying, do you not know this?-Dying! re-echoed Leontius; no, and I do not believe it; she feigns it for the purpose of exciting your pity. And will you suffer yourself again, to be deceived by her detestable artifice? What, Delphine, you had written to me that I was to depend on madame de Vernon's explanation, and she employed that very proof of your confidence, to convince me, that you were in love with M. de Serbellane, whereas you were a generous victim sacrificing yourself to the reputation of madame d'Ervins! And you, Delphine, who supposed me to have been acquainted with the truth-you must have thought me the weakest, the most ungrateful, and most unfeeling of mankind; that I condemned you for your virtues, that I abandoned you for your misfortunes! I have my faults, and advantage has been taken of them, to give some colour of probability to a conduct the most cruel towards the most lovely and most gentle of her sex. But this is not all: an obstacle in point of fortune opposed my union with Matilda; and that obstacle is removed by Delphine, the pattern of boundless generosity, the victim of shameless ingratitude! I was ignorant of that service, and she is punished for having per
formed it; all is mystery around me; I am entangled in the toils of falsehood; and when at length I learn that I am loved, and that I have always been loved (said he, in a heart-rending tone of voice) I am bound, fettered for ever! I see her whom I adore, who is the object of my love, of my eternal regret: she stretches out her arms to her unfortunate friend: every feature in her face bears the mark of sorrow; and I can do nothing for her relief! I rejected her when she was on the point of giving herself to me, whe she shed perhaps bitter tears for my loss; and it was you, said he, calling upon madame de Vernon, it was you . . . .
The inexpressible anguish of that unfortunate woman excited in me the most profound pity. Delphine, who suffered by it still more severely than I, exclaimed:-Stop! Leontius: stop! a fatal accident has brought her to the verge of the grave: if you knew by how many sincere and affecting testimonies of regret she has since endeavoured to atone for the fault, which maternal love had impelled her to commit! -If it was her daughter that she wished to serve, she will be severely punished, exclaimed Leontius, she will have to reproach herself with her misery and mine. Break, perfidious woman, (said he to madame de Vernon) break asunder those ties which you have woven with falsehoods! give me back the day, the morning of that day, when I had not yet heard your deceitful tongue, when I was still free to marry Delphine, give it back to me!-Ah! Leontius! replied madame de Vernon, do not persecute me on the brink of the grave; accept my repentance. Recover your recollection, interrupted Delphine, addressing Leontius: observe the condition of that unfortunate woman! can you be inaccessible to pity?-Pity! he replied with a fierce and bewildered air: pity! for whom? for her? ah! if it be true, that she is dying, pray Heaven to grant that I may exchange situations with her, that on that bed of pain, I may be regretted by Delphine, and that she may wear in my stead, those adamantine chains with which she has loaded me, that she may herself fulfill that long destiny of sufferings to which her deep dissimulation has condemned me.Barbarian! exclaimed Delphine; what can be done to melt you, to obtain from you one gentle word to sooth the dying moments of poor Sophia? and I too! have not I suffered? since the time when I lost the hope of being united to you, has a single day passed without witnessing my detestation of life? I entreat you in the name of my tears, my misfortunes. . . . . .-Misfortunes, which she has caused, interrupted Leontius, what do you require of me?
Delphine was going to answer, when madame de Vernon, raising herself like a spectre from the tomb, and leaning upon me, made a signal to Delphine to let her speak. Supported by my arm, she came forward from the recess where her sofa was placed, and the light now showing her whole person, Leontius was struck with the sight of her emaciated condition, of which he had not before been able to judge: this spectacle suddenly calmed his fury; he sighed, cast down his eyes, and I saw, even before madame de Vernon had begun to speak, how great a change had taken place in the disposition of his sonl.
Delphine, said madame de Vernon, do not ask of Leontius à pardon which he cannot grant me, since his whole heart disavows it: I have perhaps deserved the torment he inflicts on me: you, my dear