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Unappalled by these denunciations of future vengeance, De Courcy conveyed Eva in his arms to a place of safety, and found the means of restoring her to her guardians the Wentworths. The seeds of a fever which had lurked in his constitution had been called into action by De Courcy's exertions upon this memorable night. On his recovery, a friend and fellow-student, himself something of a Methodist, conducts him to a place of worship frequented by those who held that persuasion, when he finds himself unexpectedly seated close to that lovely vision which he had seen but briefly on the night when he released her, and which had nevertheless haunted, ever since, not merely the delirious dreams of his fever, but the more sober moments of his reconvalescence. He is invited to the house of her guardians, where the society and conversation is described with the pencil of a master. The various effect of the peculiar doctrines which they professed, is described as they affected Mrs Wentworth, a woman of strong sense, rigid rectitude, and a natural warmth of temper which religion had subdued; her husband, a cold-hearted Pharisee, whose head was so full of theology, that his heart had no room for Christian charity or human feeling; and Mr Macowen, a preacher of the sect, a sensual hypocrite, whose disgusting attributes are something too forcibly described. The conversation of such a society was limited to evangelical subjects ; or whatever appeared to diverge from the only tolerated topic, was brought back to it by main force, according to the manner
in which the preachers of the seventeenth century spiritualized all temporal incidents and occupations, or rather degraded doctrines of the highest and most reverent import, by the base comparisons and associations with which they dared to interweave them.
‘One man talked incessantly of the ‘election of grace;' his mind literally seemed not to have room for another idea; every sentence, if it did not begin, ended with the same phrase, and every subject only furnished matter for its introduction. Dr Thorpe's last sermon at Bethesda was spoken of in terms of high and merited panegyric.—“Very true,” said he ; “but—a — Did you think there was enough of election in it?’ A late work of the same author (his clever pamphlet on the Catholic petition) was mentioned.—“But does he say anything of election in it 2' –“ There was no opportunity,” said Mr Wentworth.—“Then he should have made one—Ah, I would give very little for a book that did not assert the election of grace l’ Once seated in his election-saddle, he posted on with alarming speed, and ended with declaring, that Elisha Coles on God's Sovereignty, was worth all the divinity that ever was written. “I have a large collection of the works of godly writers, " said he, turning to De Courcy, “but not one work that ever was, would I resign for that of Elisha Coles.”—“Won't you except the Bible 2" said De Courcy, smiling. —‘Oh, yes—the Bible—ay, to be sure, the Bible, ” said the discomfited champion of election; “but still, you know,” —and he continued to mutter something about Elisha Coles on God's Sovereignty. “Another, who never stopped talking, appeared to De Courcy a complete evangelical time-keeper; –the same ceaseless ticking sound;—the same vacillating motion of the head and body; and his whole conversation turning on the various lengths of the sermons he had heard, of which it appeared, he was in the habit of listening to four every Sunday. “Mr Matthias preached exactly forty-eight minutes. I was at Mr Cooper's exhortation at Plunket-street in the evening, and it was precisely fifty-three minutes.”—“And how many seconds?' said Mrs Wentworth, smiling—for she felt the ridicule of this. “Close to De Courcy were two very young men, who were comparing the respective progress they had made in the conversion of some of their relations. They spoke on this subject with a familiarity that certainly made De Courcy start.—“My aunt is almost entirely converted,” said one. “She never goes to church now, though she never missed early prayers at St Thomas's for forty years before. Now,” with a strange sort of triumph, “now, is your sister converted, as much as that ?”—“Yes—yes—she is.” answered the other, eagerly; “for she burned her week's preparation yesterday, and my mother's too along with it.”—Vol. i. 64-67.
De Courcy in vain attempted to assimilate his conversation to that of the party, by quoting such religious works as were known to him. The chilling words “Arminian” or “ heterodox” were applied to those popular preachers whose sermons he ventured to quote; and even Coelebs was appealed to without effect, as he was given to understand that Hannah More, however apostolical in the eyes of Lord Orford, was held light in the estimation of the present system. Thus repulsed from the society of the gentlemen—
“When he arrived in the drawingroom, the same monotonous and repulsive stillness; the same dry circle (in whose verge no spirit could be raised) reduced him to the same petrifying medium with all around. The females were collected round the tea-table; the conversation was carried on in pensive whispers; a large table near them was spread with evangelical tracts, &c. The room was hung with dark-brown paper; and the four unsnuffed candles burning dimly (the light of two of them almost absorbed in the dark baize that covered the table on which they stood), gave just the light that Young might have written by, when the Duke of Grafton sent him a human skull, with a taper in it, as an appropriate candelabrum for his tragedy writing-desk. The ladies sometimes took up these tracts, shook a head of deep conviction over their contents, laid them down, and the same stillness recurred. The very hissing of the tea-urn, and the crackling of the coals, was a relief to De Courcy's ears.”—Vol. i. 69, 70.
Notwithstanding the gloom and spiritual pride in which she had been educated, the beauty and sweet disposition of Eva burned with pure and pale splendour, like a lamp in a sepulchre; and De Courcy nourished for her that desperate attachment with which youths of seventeen resign themselves to the first impression of the tender passion. He becomes in love—to pining, to sickness, almost to death; and at length prevails upon his worthy and affectionate guardian to make proposals for him to the guardians of Eva. Mr and Mrs Wentworth both urge the utter impropriety of their countenancing a connexion between young persons so opposite in religious opinions; but are gradually compelled to give ground,-the former by consideration of De Courcy's worldly wealth, to which his religious opinions had not rendered him indifferent, and his more amiable wife, by her compassion for the state of the young Eva, and her discovering that he had awakened sentiments in the breast of Eva corresponding to his own.
De Courcy is therefore received, on the footing of an acknowledged lover, into the house of the Wentworths, exposed, however, to the persecutions of the father and many of his visiters, who were resolved at all rates to achieve his conversion.
“Charles at first yielded from timidity, or answered from complaisance, but at length found himself, by the pertinacity of the disputants, inextricably involved in the mazes of controversy. Every hour he was called on to discuss or to decide on points above human comprehension; he was pressed with importunities
about his spiritual state, which was represented to depend on his adopting the separate creed of every individual speaker, with
all its divisions and subdivisions, and shades of difference, that seemed to him to give to airy nothing ‘a local habitation and a name.’”—P. 117.
Even when he turned from this persecution to Eva, he did not all times find the relief which he expected. Her purity, her inexperience, her timidity, and the absolute subjection of her mind to religious feeling exclusively, prevented her from understanding or returning the warmth of affection with which her lover regarded her. She was cold and constrained ; blamed herself for the slightest deviation into worldly passion and human feeling —in short, the person in the world least qualified to return the affection of an enthusiastic young Irishman. Her accomplishments were upon the same narrow and constrained scale as her feelings. She could discourse exquisite music, but not one earthly song; and the warm expressions of human passion which occurred in her evangelical hymns were only addressed to the Deity with an amorous pastoral feeling, which seemed to her lover equally unsuitable and nonsensical. Again, Eva, in her little sphere of enjoyments, cultivated drawing ; but it was only that of flowers, objects as pure, as fair, and as inanimate, we had almost said, as herself. To feelings of imagination and passion, she was equally averse and impassive; and such appeared to be the tranquil purity of her still and orderly existence, that De Courcy felt it almost criminal to strive to awaken her imagination, “to delude her with the visions of fancy ;” and that it resembled the attempt of the fallen angels in Milton to “min