Predictably the father has taken Mr Eagle’s side re his wayward son and penned the following reply:
I am very greatly obliged to you for your favour of the 22nd instant, and although I am in some degree gratified that my son is a little more attentive than he was, yet I regret much that he is not what he ought to be. I have reasoned with him coolly on his conduct and placed before him in the strongest light the consequences of a continuance in carelessness and I do hope he sees his error and that err long he will be sensible of giving his undivided attention to his business. His attachment in a certain quarter (however respectable the family) has given me the deepest concern. He does promise me it shall not take him from his studies and he has had the severest remonstrance from me on the subject.
With regard to his situation after Mr Gill’s retirement, I have endeavoured to rouse his feelings in every possible way. I have stated to him what he owes in duty to you, to himself, and his character and future fame, and have shown him the shame and disgrace he cannot but feel, after having had opportunities to fit him for respectable business, to be obliged to put up with practice of an inferior nature – practice which I would rather see converted into the humblest occupation of life than that he should follow his current path. I do see the need of having occasional interviews with him, and I will flatter myself they will be useful. He is very inexperienced and requires much and repeated admonition. It is a great misfortune that he is so much left to himself at his time of life. I tremble when I say I know it has been the ruin of thousands, and freely would I give £100 a year to get him to live in a family where he could have the benefit of the example of normal domestic habits, sound moral advice, and such society which, whilst it promoted his comfort, would form and establish just principles in his mind. But we must wait events, and if any favourable opportunity offers, be ready to avail ourselves of it. You might perhaps at some time see something of this sort that may be turned to advantage. I wish for no fine place or lodgings for him, the plainest rooms and food and habits – indeed he should and shall have no other – but these with the advantage of a good example before his eyes and occasionally a word or two of advice, I would pay anything for.
You observe that he complains of a weakness in his eyes. I consider that as mere puppyish foppery on his part and have ridiculed it in him. I do not think his eyes are at all deficient, but he may by a habit of affected peeking very easily make himself near-sighted. As you justly observe, if he can bear the glare of a drawing-room he must not have credit given him for being hurt by the minor light of an office. I hope he will not play at billiards any more, he knows my decided hostility to all such employments; it is nothing in the thing itself that is objectionable, but the company that frequent those places is not congenial to his improvement in the law.
I cannot conclude without repeating my obligations to you for your very candid letter, and as it is chiefly through your medium that I can be informed of my son’s conduct I must entreat the favour that you will occasionally favour me with your sentiments thereon.
Halifax 27 August 1797