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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 328

In The Conscious Lovers by Richard Steele, two couples attempt to marry the person they truly love despite parental opposition and misunderstandings.

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Bevil is in love with Indiana, who lost her father and then the rest of her family during a trip. He's paying her bills and waiting for his father to agree that he can marry her; his father doesn't want him to marry a woman with an unknown background and no family. He wants Bevil to marry Lucinda Sealand. Mr. Sealand isn't so sure about the match anymore, though, because he knows about Indiana and believes that Bevil is intending to keep her as his mistress.

Bevil and Lucinda are engaged; they both agree that they don't want to be married. He has actually given her permission to break off the engagement later. Bevil's friend Myrtle wants to marry Lucinda. Lucinda is in danger of marrying another man, Cimberton, who is wealthy and eccentric, if her marriage with Bevil ends.

At one point, Myrtle is so confused and concerned that he accuses Bervil of being less-than-honest and perhaps preventing Lucinda and Myrtle from being together. Bevil gets upset for a moment but wisdom prevails and he shows him a letter from Lucinda where she expresses gratitude for Bevil's permission to end the engagement. The two continue to try to thwart the ambitions of Mr. Sealand and Cimberton. Myrtle even disguises himself as Cimberton's relative.

When Mr. Sealand goes to visit Indiana and find out the truth of her relationship with Bevil, he discovers that she's his lost daughter. He changed his name in the past to escape certain troubles. He's happy to have found her and their relationship is confirmed by her aunt. He agrees to let her marry Bevil and to split his estate between Indiana and Lucinda. Cimberton doesn't want to marry Lucinda if she's only getting half the estate; Bevil requests that Myrtle and Lucinda be allowed to marry and Mr. Sealand agrees.

Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1040

Young Bevil, a gentleman of some fortune, is engaged to marry the daughter of Mr. Sealand. Although he is not in love with the woman, he agrees to marry her at his father’s request. On the day of the marriage, however, there is some doubt that the marriage will take place, for the bride’s father discovers that Bevil is paying the bills of a young woman he brought back from France. Fearing that the young woman, called Indiana, is Bevil’s mistress, Mr. Sealand does not want his daughter to marry a man who keeps another woman.

The father does not know that Bevil sent a letter to Lucinda Sealand that gives her his permission to break off the marriage at that late date. Bevil did so because he knows that Lucinda is really in love with his friend, Mr. Myrtle, and because he himself wants to marry Indiana. After the letter is sent, Sir John’s valet tells young Bevil that the marriage will probably be broken by Mr. Sealand. Bevil then confides in the servant that Indiana is the daughter of the British merchant named Danvers, who disappeared in the Indies soon after the ship in which Indiana, her mother, and her aunt were traveling to join him was captured by French privateers.

Myrtle then arrives at Bevil’s apartment and tells his friend that a third marriage arrangement is in the wind that day. Mrs. Sealand is trying to wed her daughter to Mr. Cimberton, a queer fellow with peculiar ideas about wives and a great deal of money; Mrs. Sealand is willing to overlook strange notions in favor of the fortune her daughter might marry. The only thing that prevents the marriage contract from being settled that day is the nonappearance of Cimberton’s wealthy uncle. Bevil suggests to Myrtle that he and Bevil’s servant Tom, an artful rascal, disguise themselves as lawyers and go to the Sealand house in an attempt to prevent the marriage or, at least, to find out what can be done to keep the contract from being signed.

Meanwhile Indiana’s aunt cautions her against the attentions of Bevil. The aunt cannot believe, despite Indiana’s reports of Bevil’s behavior, that the young man is helping Indiana and paying her bills without intending to make her his mistress. As they continue to argue, Bevil appears. Indiana tries to learn in private conversation what his intentions are, for she loves him very much. He replies only that he does everything for her because he finds pleasure in doing good. Wanting him to love her, she feels rather hurt. Secretly, Bevil promised himself that he would never tell her of his affection as long as his father did not give permission for a marriage to her.

At the Sealand house, in the meantime, Lucinda is subjected to the humiliation of an inspection by Cimberton, who in company with Mrs. Sealand looks at Lucinda as he might look at a prize mare he is buying for his stable. While they talk over her good and bad points, Myrtle and Bevil’s servant, disguised as lawyers, put in their appearance. They learn very little, except that Mrs. Sealand is determined to wed her daughter to Cimberton as soon as possible. Upon leaving the house, Bevil’s servant receives a letter from Lucinda for his master. Myrtle, who suspects duplicity on Bevil’s part, sends him a challenge to a duel.

Myrtle appears at Bevil’s apartment a few minutes after his challenge. Bevil refuses at first to be a party to a duel, but when Myrtle heaps many insults upon Bevil and Indiana, calling the latter Bevil’s whore, his language so enrages Bevil that he says he will fight. A moment later Bevil regains control of himself. Realizing how foolish a duel will be, he shows Myrtle the letter from Lucinda, which only thanks Bevil for giving her permission to break off the wedding.

Sir John and Mr. Sealand meet. Mr. Sealand refuses to go on with the marriage that day until he satisfies himself as to the relationship between Indiana and Bevil. Sir John agrees to wait until the investigation is complete.

Bevil and Myrtle decide to make one more attempt to terminate the possible marital arrangements of Mrs. Sealand for her daughter. Myrtle disguises himself as Cimberton’s uncle and goes to the Sealand house. There Lucinda discovers his identity, but she keeps it from her mother and the unwelcome suitor.

At the same time Mr. Sealand goes to Indiana’s home. As soon as he enters the house Indiana’s aunt recognizes him as someone she knew before, but she decides not to reveal herself to him. Questioned, Indiana says that she was befriended by Bevil but that he made no effort to seduce her. Her deportment and her narrative assure Mr. Sealand that there is no illicit relationship between the two. When she finishes her story, telling of her lost father and the capture of herself, her mother, and her aunt by French privateers, he asks her father’s name. She tells him it is Danvers. Mr. Sealand then announces that Indiana is his long-lost daughter, and he identifies some trinkets she has as those belonging to his first wife and their child. When Indiana’s aunt appears, identifying herself as Mr. Sealand’s sister, he recognizes her at once. He tells them that he changed his name after undergoing certain difficulties in the Indies.

Mr. Sealand readily agrees to a marriage between his newfound daughter and Bevil. At that moment Sir John, young Bevil, and a group from the Sealand house arrive. Sir John, hearing the news, is pleased at the prospect of a marriage between Indiana and his son. Bevil, anxious to aid his friend Myrtle, then requests that a marriage be arranged between his friend and Lucinda. Cimberton tries to intercede on his own behalf until Mr. Sealand informs him that only half his fortune will now go to Lucinda. Cimberton, more anxious for the money than for the woman, departs in a huff, whereupon Myrtle, who still disguised as Cimberton’s uncle, throws off the disguise and claims Lucinda for his bride.

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