This etext was prepared by Christopher Hapka, Sunnyvale, California.
LIBER AMORIS, OR, THE NEW PYGMALION
by WILLIAM HAZLITT
The circumstances, an outline of which is given in these pages, happened a very short time ago to a native of North Britain, who left his own country early in life, in consequence of political animosities and an ill-advised connection in marriage. It was some years after that he formed the fatal attachment which is the subject of the following narrative. The whole was transcribed very carefully with his own hand, a little before be set out for the Continent in hopes of benefiting by a change of scene, but he died soon after in the Netherlands--it is supposed, of disappointment preying on a sickly frame and morbid state of mind. It was his wish that what bad been his strongest feeling while living, should be preserved in this shape when he was no more.--It has been suggested to the friend, into whose hands the manuscript was entrusted, that many things (particularly in the Conversations in the First Part) either childish or redundant, might have been omitted; but a promise was given that not a word should be altered, and the pledge was held sacred. The names and circumstances are so far disguised, it is presumed, as to prevent any consequences resulting from the publication, farther than the amusement or sympathy of the reader.
H. Oh! is it you? I had something to shew you--I have got a picture here. Do you know any one it's like?
S. No, Sir.
H. Don't you think it like yourself?
S. No: it's much handsomer than I can pretend to be.
H. That's because you don't see yourself with the same eyes that others do. I don't think it handsomer, and the expression is hardly so fine as yours sometimes is.
S. Now you flatter me. Besides, the complexion is fair, and mine is dark.
H. Thine is pale and beautiful, my love, not dark! But if your colour were a little heightened, and you wore the same dress, and your hair were let down over your shoulders, as it is here, it might be taken for a picture of you. Look here, only see how like it is. The forehead is like, with that little obstinate protrusion in the middle; the eyebrows are like, and the eyes are just like yours, when you look up and say--"No--never!"
S. What then, do I always say--"No--never!" when I look up?
H. I don't know about that--I never heard you say so but once; but that was once too often for my peace. It was when you told me, "you could never be mine." Ah! if you are never to be mine, I shall not long be myself. I cannot go on as I am. My faculties leave me: I think of nothing, I have no feeling about any thing but thee: thy sweet image has taken possession of me, haunts me, and will drive me to distraction. Yet I could almost wish to go mad for thy sake: for then I might fancy that I had thy love in return, which I cannot live without!
S. Do not, I beg, talk in that manner, but tell me what this is a picture of.
H. I hardly know; but it is a very small and delicate copy (painted in oil on a gold ground) of some fine old Italian picture, Guido's or Raphael's, but I think Raphael's. Some say it is a Madonna; others call it a Magdalen, and say you may distinguish the tear upon the cheek, though no tear is there. But it seems to me more like Raphael's St. Cecilia, "with looks commercing with the skies," than anything else.--See, Sarah, how beautiful it is! Ah! dear girl, these are the ideas I have cherished in my heart, and in my brain; and I never found any thing to realise them on earth till I met with thee, my love! While thou didst seem sensible of my kindness, I was but too happy: but now thou hast cruelly cast me off.
S. You have no reason to say so: you are the same to me as ever.
H. That is, nothing. You are to me everything, and I am nothing to you. Is it not too true?
H. Then kiss me, my sweetest. Oh! could you see your face now--your mouth full of suppressed sensibility, your downcast eyes, the soft blush upon that cheek, you would not say the picture is not like because it is too handsome, or because you want complexion. Thou art heavenly-fair, my love--like her from whom the picture was taken--the idol of the painter's heart, as thou art of mine! Shall I make a drawing of it, altering the dress a little, to shew you how like it is?
S. As you please.--
H. But I am afraid I tire you with this prosing description of the French character and abuse of the English? You know there is but one subject on which I should ever wish to talk, if you would let me.