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MY FLIGHT TO PARIS
THE AUTUMN of 1790.
Her's it was, by God commanded :
When with dire disease opprest,
DEAREST READER, I do not pretend to consider this little work as likely to be useful, perhaps it may not be even entertaining. I write it to soothe the anguish of my soul-I write it in the most wretched moments of my life. The loss of a wife whom I loved inexpressibly, drove me forth into the wide world. I fled the place where my repose was buried for ever-whence angels had claimed a sister's presence among themselves. Ah! the place I could fly, but the image of my Frederica followed me everywhere, and only in death, when I shall press the original again to my bosom, will it forsake me.
'Tis become a matter of indispensible necessity to my heart to be always talking or writing of her. The hope of allaying my anguish has placed
the pen in my hand—but the form of my beloved wife hovers over the paper ; I know not what I shall write, yet I see plainly it will be only of her.
Ye, who have hearts capable of sympathy !-Ye, who have sometimes dropped a tear at the representation of my dramas! if ever I acquired merit in your eyes, reward it by weeping with me for my
beloved Frederica !-Or at least spare your censures if youtake this book into your hands, and perhaps do not find in it what you seek. Indulge me with writing of her!-spurn me not if even the remotest object still bring me insensibly to her!-Heaven preserve you all from experiencing like affliction! yet if ever a
similar fate should be yours, ye shall not intreat my compassion in vain.
Every husband who at this moment still possesses his beloved wife, who can still clasp her affectionately to his bosom, when he reads this, and thanks God for the blessing yet spared him, I ask not tears of himyet even he may surely pity me!—But ye, whom a similarity of fate draws nearer to me! ye, who have lost a husband or a wife, who are not yet forgotten, let us weep together! we are brethren! To such Í make no excuse for writing a book solely for myself and a few friends ; a book to relieve a wounded heart.
I will at some time erect the fairest monument I can to my Frederica, but not here!-At present I am unequal to the task. When my mind is somewhat more composed I will write the history of our love and of our marriage. What a moment will it be for such a heart as her's, when I draw aside the veil that modesty threw over all her virtues.—Oh, she was so truly, so inexpressibly good, not from cold reasoning, and principle, but from the overflowings of a warm and affectionate heart! Her feelings were always noble, for there was not a place in her bosom that could harbour an ignoble thought. Her heart and hand were ever open to the relief of distress, she gave freely, and always as one human being should give to another, as though it had been to a brother or a sister.
It was only last spring that on the first of April I indulged myself in a joke, which ended in still farther proving her benevolence. I wrote her an ill-spelt, illiterate letter, as from a poor widow living in a remote part of the town, with two half-naked children, and no bed to lie on, and who, having heard of her goodness, implored her assistance. The day was cold and windy, yet my Frederica ordered the carriage to be got ready immediately, and looking out some clothes and linen, set off for the place. I had run thither before ;—Í saw the carriage coming, but as it drew up to a house in the suburbs, I began to be afraid my trick was discovered. Oh no! she only stopped to buy some rolls for the hungry children, and with these, her bundle of linen, and two roubles in her hand, she proceeded to the house pointed out, where I met her. She was less angry at my boyish levity, than concerned that she was disappointed of doing a good action. Yet in the eyes of God it was performed !-Oh, never will the first of April return without bringing tears into my eyes ! And this was only one instance out of ten thousand ! -Such a wife I have possessed ! such a wife I have lost !
You, my cherished friends and acquaintance! You, to whom I have been able to write nothing but “my wife is dead !! - You will receive this book with candour and kindness, since it will tell you what and where I have been, ever since fate, while it spared my life, robbed me of all that made life valuable ! Alas! I once thought that I had lost my greatest treasure when I lost my health !-Oh how was I mistaken! Even in the horrible winter of 1788, when I laboured under such severe bodily suffering, still, with my Frederica by my side, I tasted the soothing consolation of domestic joy, not to be purchased by wealth or honours. For my sake she renounced all company, all diversions, and considered it as no sacrifice to confine herself entirely to my sick chamber. If then I was but for a few minutes free from anguish, how serene was my soul! how deeply did I feel that all other happiness is poor and weak when compared with wedded happiness! One kiss from my wife, one pressure of her hand made even my most nauseous medicines sweet.
Thus was she my sole support, when I was lost to everything else, and now that I could again have enjoyed life with her as formerly, now she is no more! -But she was perhaps only a protecting angel sent to save me,her errand is accomplished, and she is returned to her blest abode-yet she still hovers