Again I hasten from the recollection of scenes, which will, at times, obtrude themselves upon me.
But return me my last letter—and build nothing upon its contents. I must, I will, I have already, overcome these fruitless gloominess. Every hour my constitution rises stronger and stronger to befriend me; and, except a tributary sigh now-and-then to the memory of my heart's beloved, it gives me hope that I shall quickly be what I was—life, spirit, gaiety, and once more the plague of a sex that has been my plague, and will be every man's plague at one time or other of his life. I repeat my desire, however, that you will write to me as usual. I hope you have good store of particulars by you to communicate, when I can better bear to hear of the dispositions that were made for all that was mortal of my beloved Clarissa.
But it will be the joy of my heart to be told that her implacable friends are plagued with remorse. Such things as those you may now send me: for company in misery is some relief; especially when a man can think those he hates as miserable as himself.
One more adieu, Jack!
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
I am preparing to leave this kingdom. Mowbray and Tourville promise to give me their company in a month or two.
I'll give thee my route.
I shall first to Paris; and, for some amusement and diversion sake, try to renew some of my old friendships: thence to some of the German courts: thence, perhaps, to Vienna: thence descend through Bavaria and the Tyrol to Venice, where I shall keep the carnival: thence to Florence and Turin: thence again over Mount Cenis to France: and, when I return again to Paris, shall expect to see my friend Belford, who, by that time, I doubt not, will be all crusted and bearded over with penitence, self-denial, and mortification; a very anchoret, only an itinerant one, journeying over in hope to cover a multitude of his own sins, by proselyting his old companions.
But let me tell thee, Jack, if stock rises on, as it has done since I wrote my last letter, I am afraid thou wilt find a difficult task in succeeding, should such be thy purpose.
Nor, I verily think, can thy own penitence and reformation hold. Strong habits are not so easily rooted out. Old Satan has had too much benefit from thy faithful services, for a series of years, to let thee so easily get out of his clutches. He knows what will do with thee. A fine strapping Bona Roba, in the Charters-taste, but well-limbed, clear-complexioned, and Turkish-eyed; thou the first man with her, or made to believe so, which is the same thing; how will thy frosty face be illuminated by it! A composition will be made between thee and the grand tempter: thou wilt promise to do him suit and service till old age and inability come. And then will he, in all probability, be sure of thee for ever. For, wert thou to outlive thy present reigning appetites, he will trump up some other darling sin, or make a now secondary one darling, in order to keep thee firmly attached to his infernal interests. Thou wilt continue resolving to amend, but never amending, till, grown old before thou art aware, (a dozen years after thou art old with every body else,) thy for-time-built tenement having lasted its allotted period, he claps down upon thy grizzled head the universal trap-door: and then all will be over with thee in his own way.
Thou wilt think these hints uncharacteristic from me. But yet I cannot help warning thee of the danger thou art actually in; which is the greater, as thou seemst not to know it. A few words more, therefore, on this subject.
Thou hast made good resolutions. If thou keepest them not, thou wilt never be able to keep any. But, nevertheless, the devil and thy time of life are against thee: and six to one thou failest. Were it only that thou hast resolved, six to one thou failest. And if thou dost, thou wilt become the scoff of men, and the triumph of devils.—Then how will I laugh at thee! For this warning is not from principle. Perhaps I wish it were: but I never lied to man, and hardly ever said truth to woman. The firs is what all free-livers cannot say: the second what every one can.
I am mad again, by Jupiter!—But, thank my stars, not gloomily so!— Farewell, farewell, farewell, for the third or fourth time, concludes
I believe Charlotte and you are in private league together. Letters, I find, have passed between her and you, and Lord M. I have been kept strangely in the dark of late; but will soon break upon you all, as the sun upon a midnight thief.
Remember that you never sent me the copy of my beloved's will.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. FRIDAY, SEPT. 22.
Just as I was sitting down to answer your's of the 14th to the 18th, in order to give you all the consolation in my power, came your revoking letter of Wednesday.
I am really concerned and disappointed that your first was so soon followed by one so contrary to it.
The shocking letter you mention, which your friends withhold from you, is indeed from me. They may now, I see, show you any thing. Ask them, then, for that letter, if you think it worth while to read aught about the true mother of your mind.
I will suppose that thou hast just read the letter thou callest shocking, and which I intended to be so. And let me ask what thou thinkest of it? Dost thou not tremble at the horrors the vilest of women labours with, on the apprehensions of death, and future judgment?—How sit the reflections that must have been raised by the perusal of this letter upon thy yet unclosed eyelet-holes? Will not some serious thoughts mingle with thy melilot, and tear off the callus of thy mind, as that may flay the leather from thy back, and as thy epispastics may strip the parchment from thy plotting head? If not, then indeed is thy conscience seared, and no hopes will lie for thee.
[Mr. Belford then gives an account of the wretched Sinclair's terrible exit, which he had just then received.]
If this move thee not, I have news to acquaint thee with, of another dismal catastrophe that is but within this hour come to my ear, of another of thy blessed agents. Thy TOMLINSON!—Dying, and, in all probability, before this can reach thee, dead, in Maidstone gaol. As thou sayest in thy first letter, something strangely retributive seems to be working.
This is his case. He was at the head of a gang of smugglers, endeavouring to carry off run goods, landed last Tuesday, when a party of dragoons came up with them in the evening. Some of his comrades fled. M'Donald, being surrounded, attempted to fight his way through, and wounded his man; but having received a shot in his neck, and being cut deeply in the head by a broad-sword, he fell from his horse, was taken, and carried to Maidstone gaol: and there my informant left him, just dying, and assured of hanging if he recover.
Absolutely destitute, he got a kinsman of his to apply to me, and, if in town, to the rest of the confraternity, for something, not to support him was the word, (for he expected not to live till the fellow returned,) but to bury him.
I never employed him but once, and then he ruined my project. I now thank Heaven that he did. But I sent him five guineas, and promised him more, as from you, and Mowbray, and Tourville, if he live a few days, or to take his trial. And I put it upon you to make further inquiry of him, and to give him what you think fit.
His messenger tells me that he is very penitent; that he weeps continually. He cries out, that he has been the vilest of men: yet palliates, that his necessities made him worse than he should otherwise have been; [an excuse which none of us can plead:] but that which touches him most of all, is a vile imposture he was put upon, to serve a certain gentleman of fortune to the ruin of the most excellent woman that ever lived; and who, he had heard, was dead of grief.
Let me consider, Lovelace—Whose turn can be next?
I wish it may not be thine. But since thou givest me one piece of advice, (which I should indeed have thought out of character, hadst thou not taken pains to convince me that it proceeds not from principle,) I will give thee another: and that is, prosecute, as fast as thou canst, thy intended tour. Change of scene, and of climate, may establish thy health: while this gross air and the approach of winter, may thicken thy blood; and with the help of a conscience that is upon the struggle with thee, and like a cunning wrestler watches its opportunity to give thee another fall, may make thee miserable for thy life.
I return your revoked letter. Don't destroy it, however. The same dialect may one day come in fashion with you again.
As to the family at Harlowe-place, I have most affecting letters from Colonel Morden relating to their grief and compunction. But are you, to whom the occasion is owing, entitled to rejoice in their distress?
I should be sorry, if I could not say, that what you have warned me of in sport, makes me tremble in earnest. I hope, for this is a serious subject with me, (though nothing can be so with you,) that I never shall deserve, by my apostasy, to be the scoff of men, and the triumph of devils.
All that you say, of the difficulty of conquering rooted habits, is but too true. Those, and time of life, are indeed too much against me: but, when I reflect upon the ends (some untimely) of those of our companions whom we have formerly lost; upon Belton's miserable exit; upon the howls and screams of Sinclair, which are still in my ears; and now upon your miserable Tomlinson, and compare their ends with the happy and desirable end of the inimitable Miss Harlowe, I hope I have reason to think my footing morally secure. Your caution, nevertheless, will be of use, however you might design it: and since I know my weak side, I will endeavour to fortify myself in that quarter by marriage, as soon as I can make myself worthy of the confidence and esteem of some virtuous woman; and, by this means, become the subject of your envy, rather than of your scoffs.
I have already begun my retributory purposes, as I may call them. I have settled an annual sum for life upon poor John Loftus, whom I disabled while he was endeavouring to protect his young mistress from my lawless attempts. I rejoice that I succeeded not in that; as I do in recollecting many others of the like sort, in which I miscarried.
Poor Farley, who had become a bankrupt, I have set up again; but have declared, that the annual allowance I make her shall cease, if I hear she returns to her former courses: and I have made her accountable for her conduct to the good widow Lovick; whom I have taken, at a handsome salary, for my housekeeper at Edgware, (for I have let the house at Watford;) and she is to dispense the quarterly allotment to her, as she merits.
This good woman shall have other matters of the like nature under her care, as we grow better acquainted; and I make no doubt that she will answer my expectations, and that I shall be both confirmed and improved by her conversation: for she shall generally sit at my own table.
The undeserved sufferings of Miss Clarissa Harlowe, her exalted merit, her exemplary preparation, and her happy end, will be standing subjects with us.
She shall read to me, when I have no company; write for me, out of books, passages she shall recommend. Her years (turned of fifty,) and her good character, will secure me from scandal; and I have great pleasure in reflecting that I shall be better myself for making her happy.
Then, whenever I am in danger, I will read some of the admirable lady's papers: whenever I would abhor my former ways, I will read some of thine, and copies of my own.
The consequence of all this will be, that I shall be the delight of my own relations of both sexes, who were wont to look upon me as a lost man. I shall have good order in my own family, because I shall give a good example myself. I shall be visited and respected, not perhaps by Lovelace, by Mowbray, and by Tourville, because they cannot see me upon the old terms, and will not, perhaps, see me upon the new, but by the best and worthiest gentlemen, clergy as well as laity, all around me. I shall look upon my past follies with contempt: upon my old companions with pity. Oaths and curses shall be for ever banished my mouth: in their place shall succeed conversation becoming a rational being, and a gentleman. And instead of acts of offence, subjecting me perpetually to acts of defence, will I endeavour to atone for my past evils, by doing all the good in my power, and by becoming an universal benefactor to the extent of that power.
Now tell me, Lovelace, upon this faint sketch of what I hope to do, and to be, if this be not a scheme infinitely preferable to the wild, the pernicious, the dangerous ones, both to body and soul, which we have pursued?
I wish I could make my sketch as amiable to you as it appears to me. I wish it with all my soul: for I always loved you. It has been my misfortune that I did: for this led me into infinite riots and follies, of which, otherwise, I verily think I should not have been guilty.
You have a great deal more to answer for than I have, were it only in the temporal ruin of this admirable woman. Let me now, while you yet have youth, and health, and intellect, prevail upon you: for I am afraid, very much afraid, that such is the enormity of this single wickedness, in depriving the world of such a shining light, that if you do not quickly reform, it will be out of your power to reform at all; and that Providence, which has already given you the fates of your agents Sinclair and Tomlinson to take warning by, will not let the principal offender escape, if he slight the warning.
You will, perhaps, laugh at me for these serious reflections. Do, if you will. I had rather you should laugh at me, for continuing in this way of thinking and acting, than triumph over me, as you threaten, on my swerving from purposes I have determined upon with such good reason, and induced and warned by such examples.
And so much for this subject at present.
I should be glad to know when you intend to set out. I have too much concern for your welfare, not to wish you in a thinner air and more certain climate.
What have Tourville and Mowbray to do, that they cannot set out with you? They will not covet my company, I dare say; and I shall not be able to endure theirs, when you are gone: take them, therefore, with you.
I will not, however, forswear making you a visit at Paris, at your return from Germany and Italy: but hardly with the hope of reclaiming you, if due reflection upon what I have set before you, and upon what you have written in your two last, will not by that time have done it.
I suppose I shall see you before you go. Once more I wish you were gone. This heavy island-air cannot do for you what that of the Continent will.
I do not think I ought to communicate with you, as I used to do, on this side the Channel: let me, then, hear from you on the opposite shore, and you shall command the pen, as you please; and, honestly, the power of
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. TUESDAY, SEPT. 26.
Fate, I believe, in my conscience, spins threads for tragedies, on purpose for thee to weave with.—Thy Watford uncle, poor Belton, the fair inimitable, [exalted creature! and is she to be found in such a list!] the accursed woman, and Tomlinson, seemed to have been all doomed to give thee a theme for the dismal and the horrible;—and, by my soul, that thou dost work it going, as Lord M. would phrase it.
That's the horrid thing, a man cannot begin to think, but causes for thought crowd in upon him; the gloomy takes place, and mirth and gaiety abandon his heard for ever!
Poor M'Donald!—I am really sorry for the fellow.—He was an useful, faithful, solemn varlet, who could act incomparably any part given him, and knew not what a blush was.—He really took honest pains for me in the last affair; which has cost him and me so dearly in reflection. Often gravelled, as we both were, yet was he never daunted.—Poor M'Donald! I must once more say:—for carrying on a solemn piece of roguery, he had no equal.
I was so solicitous to know if he were really as bad as thou hast a knack of painting every body whom thou singlest out to exercise thy murdering pen upon, that I dispatched a man and horse to Maidstone, as soon as I had thine; and had word brought me, that he died in two hours after he had received thy five guineas. And all thou wrotest of his concern, in relation to the ever-dear Miss Harlowe, it seems was true.
I can't help it, Belford!—I have only to add, that it is happy that the poor fellow lived not to be hanged; as it seems he would have been; for who knows, as he had got into such a penitential strain, what might have been in his dying speech?
When a man has not great good to comfort himself with, it is right to make the best of the little that may offer. There never was any discomfort happened to mortal man, but some little ray of consolation would dart in, if the wretch was not so much a wretch, as to draw, instead of undraw, the curtain, to keep it out.
And so much, at this time, and for ever, for poor Capt. Tomlinson, as I called him.
Your solicitude to get me out of this heavy changeable climate exactly tallies with every body's here. They all believe that travelling will establish me. Yet I think I am quite well. Only these plaguy news and fulls, and the equinoctals, fright me a little when I think of them; and that is always: for the whole family are continually ringing these changes in my ears, and are more sedulously intent, than I can well account for, to get me out of the kingdom.
But wilt thou write often, when I am gone? Wilt thou then piece the thread where thou brokest it off? Wilt thou give me the particulars of their distress, who were my auxiliaries in bringing on the event that affects me?—Nay, principals rather: Since, say what thou wilt, what did I do worth a woman's breaking her heart for?
Faith and troth, Jack, I have had very hard usage, as I have often said: —to have such a plaguy ill name given me, screamed out upon, run away from, as a mad dog would be; all my own friends ready to renounce me!— Yet I think I deserve it all; for have I not been as ready to give up myself, as others are to condemn me?
What madness, what folly, this!—Who will take the part of a man that condemns himself?—Who can?—He that pleads guilty to an indictment, leaves no room for aught but the sentence. Out upon me, for an impolitical wretch! I have not the art of the least artful of any of our Christian princes; who every day are guilty of ten times worse breaches of faith; and yet, issuing out a manifesto, they wipe their mouths, and go on from infraction to infraction, from robbery to robbery; commit devastation upon devastation; and destroy—for their glory! And are rewarded with the names of conquerors, and are dubbed Le Grand; praised, and even deified, by orators and poets, for their butcheries and depredations.
While I, a poor, single, harmless prowler; at least comparatively harmless; in order to satisfy my hunger, steal but one poor lamb; and every mouth is opened, every hand is lifted up, against me.
Nay, as I have just now heard, I am to be manifestoed against, though no prince: for Miss Howe threatens to have the case published to the whole world.
I have a good mind not to oppose it; and to write an answer to it, as soon as it comes forth, and exculpate myself, by throwing all the fault upon the old ones. And this I have to plead, supposing all that my worst enemies can allege against me were true,—That I am not answerable for all the extravagant consequences that this affair has been attended with; and which could not possibly be foreseen.
And this I will prove demonstrably by a case, which, but a few hours ago, I put to Lord M. and the two Misses Montague. This it is:
Suppose A, a miser, had hid a parcel of gold in a secret place, in order to keep it there, till he could lend it out at extravagant interest.
Suppose B, in such a great want of this treasure, as to be unable to live without it.
And suppose A, the miser, has such an opinion of B, the wanter, that he would rather lend it to him, than to any mortal living; but yet, though he has no other use in the world for it, insists upon very unconscionable terms.
B would gladly pay common interest for it; but would be undone, (in his own opinion at least, and that is every thing to him,) if he complied with the miser's terms; since he would be sure to be soon thrown into gaol for the debt, and made a prisoner for life. Wherefore guessing (being an arch, penetrating fellow) where the sweet hoard lies, he searches for it, when the miser is in a profound sleep, finds it, and runs away with it.
[B, in this case, can only be a thief, that's plain, Jack.]
Here Miss Montague put in very smartly.—A thief, Sir, said she, that steals what is and ought to be dearer to me than my life, deserves less to be forgiven than he who murders me.
But what is this, cousin Charlotte, said I, that is dearer to you than your life? Your honour, you'll say—I will not talk to a lady (I never did) in a way she cannot answer me—But in the instance for which I put my case, (allowing all you attribute to the phantom) what honour is lost, where the will is not violated, and the person cannot help it? But, with respect to the case put, how knew we, till the theft was committed, that the miser did actually set so romantic a value upon the treasure?
Both my cousins were silent; and my Lord, because he could not answer me, cursed me; and I proceeded.
Well then, the result is, that B can only be a thief; that's plain.—To pursue, therefore, my case—
Suppose this same miserly A, on awaking and searching for, and finding his treasure gone, takes it so much to heart that he starves himself;
Who but himself is to blame for that?—Would either equity, law, or conscience, hang B for a murder?
And now to apply, said I——
None of your applications, cried my cousins, both in a breath.
None of your applications, and be d——d to you, the passionate Peer.
Well then, returned I, I am to conclude it to be a case so plain that it needs none; looking at the two girls, who tried for a blush a-piece. And I hold myself, of consequence, acquitted of the death.
Not so, cried my Lord, [Peers are judges, thou knowest, Jack, in the last resort:] for if, by committing an unlawful act, a capital crime is the consequence, you are answerable for both.
Say you so, my good Lord?—But will you take upon you to say, supposing (as in the present case) a rape (saving your presence, cousin Charlotte, saving your presence, cousin Patty)—Is death the natural consequence of a rape?—Did you ever hear, my Lord, or did you, Ladies, that it was?— And if not the natural consequence, and a lady will destroy herself, whether by a lingering death, as of grief; or by the dagger, as Lucretia did; is there more than one fault the man's?—Is not the other her's?— Were it not so, let me tell you, my dears, chucking each of my blushing cousins under the chin, we either would have had no men so wicked as young Tarquin was, or no women so virtuous as Lucretia, in the space of— How many thousand years, my Lord?—And so Lucretia is recorded as a single wonder!
You may believe I was cried out upon. People who cannot answer, will rave: and this they all did. But I insisted upon it to them, and so I do to you, Jack, that I ought to be acquitted of every thing but a common theft, a private larceny, as the lawyers call it, in this point. And were my life to be a forfeit of the law, it would not be for murder.
Besides, as I told them, there was a circumstance strongly in my favour in this case: for I would have been glad, with all my soul, to have purchased my forgiveness by a compliance with the terms I first boggled at. And this, you all know, I offered; and my Lord, and Lady Betty, and Lady Sarah, and my two cousins, and all my cousins' cousins, to the fourteenth generation, would have been bound for me—But it would not do: the sweet miser would break her heart, and die: And how could I help it?
Upon the whole, Jack, had not the lady died, would there have been half so much said of it, as there is? Was I the cause of her death? or could I help it? And have there not been, in a million of cases like this, nine hundred and ninty-nine thousand that have not ended as this has ended?—How hard, then, is my fate!—Upon my soul, I won't bear it as I have done; but, instead of taking guilt to myself, claim pity. And this (since yesterday cannot be recalled) is the only course I can pursue to make myself easy. Proceed anon.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
But what a pretty scheme of life hast thou drawn out for thyself and thy old widow! By my soul, Jack, I was mightily taken with it. There is but one thing wanting in it; and that will come of course: only to be in the commission, and one of the quorum. Thou art already provided with a clerk, as good as thou'lt want, in the widow Lovick; for thou understandest law, and she conscience: a good Lord Chancellor between ye! —I should take prodigious pleasure to hear thee decide in a bastard case, upon thy new notions and old remembrances.
But raillery apart. [All gloom at heart, by Jupiter! although the pen and the countenance assume airs of levity!] If, after all, thou canst so easily repent and reform, as thou thinkest thou canst: if thou canst thus shake off thy old sins, and thy old habits: and if thy old master will so readily dismiss so tried and so faithful a servant, and permit thee thus calmly to enjoy thy new system; no room for scandal; all temptation ceasing: and if at last (thy reformation warranted and approved by time) thou marriest, and livest honest:—why, Belford, I cannot but say, that if all these IF's come to pass, thou standest a good chance to be a happy man!
All I think, as I told thee in my last, is, that the devil knows his own interest too well, to let thee off so easily. Thou thyself tallest me, that we cannot repent when we will. And indeed I found it so: for, in my lucid intervals, I made good resolutions: but as health turned its blithe side to me, and opened my prospects of recovery, all my old inclinations and appetites returned; and this letter, perhaps, will be a thorough conviction to thee, that I am as wild a fellow as ever, or in the way to be so.
Thou askest me, very seriously, if, upon the faint sketch thou hast drawn, thy new scheme be not infinitely preferable to any of those which we have so long pursued?—Why, Jack—Let me reflect—Why, Belford—I can't say—I can't say—but it is. To speak out—It is really, as Biddy in the play says, a good comfortable scheme.
But when thou tallest me, that it was thy misfortune to love me, because thy value for me made thee a wickeder man than otherwise thou wouldst have been; I desire thee to revolve this assertion: and I am persuaded that thou wilt not find thyself in so right a train as thou imaginest.
No false colourings, no glosses, does a true penitent aim at. Debasement, diffidence, mortification, contrition, are all near of a kin, Jack, and inseparable from a repentant spirit. If thou knowest not this, thou art not got three steps (out of threescore) towards repentance and amendment. And let me remind thee, before the grand accuser come to do it, that thou wert ever above being a passive follower in iniquity. Though thou hadst not so good an invention as he to whom thou writest, thou hadst as active an heart for mischief, as ever I met with in man.
Then for improving an hint, thou wert always a true Englishman. I never started a roguery, that did not come out of thy forge in a manner ready anvilled and hammered for execution, when I have sometimes been at a loss to make any thing of it myself.
What indeed made me appear to be more wicked than thou was, that I being a handsome fellow, and thou an ugly one, when we had started a game, and hunted it down, the poor frighted puss generally threw herself into my paws, rather than into thine: and then, disappointed, hast thou wiped thy blubber-lips, and marched off to start a new game, calling me a wicked fellow all the while.
In short, Belford, thou wert an excellent starter and setter. The old women were not afraid for their daughters, when they saw such a face as thine. But, when I came, whip was the key turned upon the girls. And yet all signified nothing; for love, upon occasion, will draw an elephant through a key-hole. But for thy HEART, Belford, who ever doubted the wickedness of that?
Nor even in this affair, that sticks most upon me, which my conscience makes such a handle of against me, art thou so innocent as thou fanciest thyself. Thou wilt stare at this: but it is true; and I will convince thee of it in an instant.
Thou sayest, thou wouldst have saved the lady from the ruin she met with. Thou art a pretty fellow for this: For how wouldst thou have saved her? What methods didst thou take to save her?
Thou knewest my designs all along. Hadst thou a mind to make thyself a good title to the merit to which thou now pretendest to lay claim, thou shouldest, like a true knight-errant, have sought to set the lady free from the enchanted castle. Thou shouldst have apprized her of her danger; have stolen in, when the giant was out of the way; or, hadst thou had the true spirit of chivalry upon thee, and nothing else would have done, have killed the giant; and then something wouldst thou have had to brag of.
'Oh! but the giant was my friend: he reposed a confidence in me: and I should have betrayed my friend, and his confidence!' This thou wouldst have pleaded, no doubt. But try this plea upon thy present principles, and thou wilt see what a caitiff thou wert to let it have weight with thee, upon an occasion where a breach of confidence is more excusable than to keep the secret. Did not the lady herself once putt his very point home upon me? And didst thou not, on that occasion, heavily blame thyself?*
* See Vol. VII. Letter XXI.
Thou canst not pretend, and I know thou wilt not, that thou wert afraid of thy life by taking such a measure: for a braver fellow lives not, nor a more fearless, than Jack Belford. I remember several instances, and thou canst not forget them, where thou hast ventured thy bones, thy neck, thy life, against numbers, in a cause of roguery; and hadst thou had a spark of that virtue, which now thou art willing to flatter thyself thou hast, thou wouldst surely have run a risk to save an innocence, and a virtue, that it became every man to protect and espouse. This is the truth of the case, greatly as it makes against myself. But I hate a hypocrite from my soul.
I believe I should have killed thee at the time, if I could, hadst thou betrayed me thus. But I am sure now, that I would have thanked thee for it, with all my heart; and thought thee more a father, and a friend, than my real father, and my best friend—and it was natural for thee to think, with so exalted a merit as this lady had, that this would have been the case, when consideration took place of passion; or, rather, when the d——d fondness for intrigue ceased, which never was my pride so much, as it is now, upon reflection, my curse.
Set about defending myself, and I will probe thee still deeper, and convince thee still more effectually, that thou hast more guilt than merit even in this affair. And as to all the others, in which we were accustomed to hunt in couples, thou wert always the forwardest whelp, and more ready, by far, to run away with me, than I with thee. Yet canst thou now compose thy horse-muscles, and cry out, How much more hadst thou, Lovelace, to answer for than I have!—Saying nothing, neither, when thou sayest this, were it true: for thou wilt not be tried, when the time comes, by comparison. In short, thou mayest, at this rate, so miserably deceive thyself, that, notwithstanding all thy self-denial and mortification, when thou closest thy eyes, thou mayst perhaps open them in a place where thou thoughtest least to be.
However, consult thy old woman on this subject. I shall be thought to be out of character, if I go on in this strain. But really, as to a title to merit in this affair, I do assure thee, Jack, that thou less deservest praise than a horsepond; and I wish I had the sousing of thee.
I am actually now employed in taking leave of my friends in the country. I had once thought of taking Tomlinson, as I called him, with me: but his destiny has frustrated that intention.
Next Monday I think to see you in town; and then you, and I, and Mowbray, and Tourville, will laugh off that evening together. They will both accompany me (as I expect you will) to Dover, if not cross the water. I must leave you and them good friends. They take extremely amiss the treatment you have given them in your last letters. They say, you strike at their understandings. I laugh at them; and tell them, that those people who have least, are the most apt to be angry when it is called into question.
Make up all the papers and narratives you can spare me against the time. The will, particularly, I expect to take with me. Who knows but that those things, which will help to secure you in the way you are got into, may convert me?
Thou talkest of a wife, Jack: What thinkest you of our Charlotte? Her family and fortune, I doubt, according to thy scheme, are a little too high. Will those be an objection? Charlotte is a smart girl. For piety (thy present turn) I cannot say much: yet she is as serious as most of her sex at her time of life—Would flaunt it a little, I believe, too, like the rest of them, were her reputation under covert.
But it won't do neither, now I think of it:—Thou art so homely, and so awkward a creature! Hast such a boatswain-like air!—People would think she had picked thee up in Wapping, or Rotherhithe; or in going to see some new ship launched, or to view the docks at Chatham, or Portsmouth. So gaudy and so clumsy! Thy tawdriness won't do with Charlotte!—So sit thee down contented, Belford: although I think, in a whimsical way, as now, I mentioned Charlotte to thee once before.* Yet would I fain secure thy morals too, if matrimony will do it.—Let me see!—Now I have it.—— Has not the widow Lovick a daughter, or a niece? It is not every girl of fortune and family that will go to prayers with thee once or twice a day. But since thou art for taking a wife to mortify with, what if thou marriest the widow herself?—She will then have a double concern in thy conversation. You and she may, tete a tete, pass many a comfortable winter's evening together, comparing experiences, as the good folks call them.
* See the Postscript to Letter XL. of Vol. VIII.
I am serious, Jack, faith I am. And I would have thee take it into thy wise consideration.
Mr. Belford returns a very serious answer to the preceding letter; which appears not.
In it, he most heartily wishes that he had withstood Mr. Lovelace, whatever had been the consequence, in designs so elaborately base and ungrateful, and so long and steadily pursued, against a lady whose merit and innocence entitled her to the protection of every man who had the least pretences to the title of a gentleman; and who deserved to be even the public care.
He most severely censures himself for his false notions of honour to his friend, on this head; and recollects what the divine lady, as he calls her, said to him on this very subject, as related by himself in his letter to Lovelace No. XXI. Vol. VII., to which Lovelace also (both instigator and accuser) refers, and to his own regret and shame on the occasion. He distinguishes, however, between an irreparable injury intended to a CLARISSA, and one designed to such of the sex, as contribute by their weakness and indiscretion to their own fall, and thereby entitle themselves to a large share of the guilt which accompanies the crime.
He offers not, he says, to palliate or extenuate the crimes he himself has been guilty of: but laments, for Mr. Lovelace's own sake, that he gives him, with so ludicrous and unconcerned an air, such solemn and useful lessons and warnings. Nevertheless, he resolves to make it his whole endeavour, he tells him, to render them efficacious to himself: and should think himself but too happy, if he shall be enabled to set him such an example as may be a mean to bring about the reformation of a man so dear to him as he has always been, from the first of their acquaintance; and who is capable of thinking so rightly and deeply; though at present to such little purpose, as make his very knowledge add to his condemnation.
MR. BELFORD, TO COLONEL MORDEN THURSDAY, SEPT. 21.
Give me leave, dear Sir, to address myself to you in a very serious and solemn manner, on a subject that I must not, cannot, dispense with; as I promised the divine lady that I would do every thing in my power to prevent that further mischief of which she was so very apprehensive.
I will not content myself with distant hints. It is with very great concern that I have just now heard of a declaration which you are said to have made to your relations at Harlowe-place, that you will not rest till you have avenged your cousin's wrongs upon Mr. Lovelace.
Far be it from me to offer to defend the unhappy man, or even unduly to extenuate his crime! But yet I must say, that the family, by their persecutions of the dear lady at first, and by their implacableness afterwards, ought, at least, to share the blame with him. There is even great reason to believe, that a lady of such a religious turn, her virtue neither to be surprised nor corrupted, her will inviolate, would have got over a mere personal injury; especially as he would have done all that was in his power to repair it; and as, from the application of all his family in his favour, and other circumstances attending his sincere and voluntary offer, the lady might have condescended, with greater glory to herself, than if he had never offended.
When I have the pleasure of seeing you next, I will acquaint you, Sir, with all the circumstances of this melancholy story; from which you will see that Mr. Lovelace was extremely ill treated at first, by the whole family, this admirable lady excepted. This exception, I know, heightens his crime: but as his principal intention was but to try her virtue; and that he became so earnest a suppliant to her for marriage; and as he has suffered so deplorably in the loss of his reason, for not having it in his power to repair her wrongs; I presume to hope that much is to be pleaded against such a resolution as you are said to have made. I will read to you, at the same time, some passages from letters of his; two of which (one but this moment received) will convince you that the unhappy man, who is but now recovering his intellects, needs no greater punishment than what he has from his own reflections.
I have just now read over the copies of the dear lady's posthumous letters. I send them all to you, except that directed for Mr. Lovelace; which I reserve till I have the pleasure of seeing you. Let me entreat you to read once more that written to yourself; and that to her brother;* which latter I now send you; as they are in point to the present subject.
* See Letter XVI. of this volume.
I think, Sir, they are unanswerable. Such, at least, is the effect they have upon me, that I hope I shall never be provoked to draw my sword again in a private quarrel.
To the weight these must needs have upon you, let me add, that the unhappy man has given no new occasion of offence, since your visit to him at Lord M.'s, when you were so well satisfied of his intention to atone for his crimes, that you yourself urged to your dear cousin her forgiveness of him.
Let me also (though I presume to hope there is no need, when you coolly consider every thing) remind you of your own promise to your departing cousin; relying upon which, her last moments were the easier.
Reflect, my dear Colonel Morden, that the highest injury was to her: her family all have a share in the cause: she forgives it: Why should we not endeavour to imitate what we admire?
You asked me, Sir, when in town, if a brave man could be a premeditatedly base one?—Generally speaking, I believe bravery and baseness are incompatible. But Mr. Lovelace's character, in the instance before us, affords a proof of the truth of the common observation, that there is no general rule but has its exceptions: for England, I believe, as gallant a nation as it is deemed to be, has not in it a braver spirit than his; nor a man who has a greater skill at his weapons; nor more calmness with his skill.
I mention not this with a thought that it can affect Col. Morden; who, if he be not withheld by SUPERIOR MOTIVES, as well as influenced by those I have reminded him of, will tell me, that this skill, and this bravery, will make him the more worthy of being called upon by him.
To these SUPERIOR MOTIVES then I refer myself: and with the greater confidence; as a pursuit ending in blood would not, at this time, have the plea lie for it with any body, which sudden passion might have with some: but would be construed by all to be a cool and deliberate act of revenge for an evil absolutely irretrievable: an act of which a brave and noble spirit (such as is the gentleman's to whom I now write) is not capable.
Excuse me, Sir, for the sake of my executorial duty and promise, keeping in eye the dear lady's personal injunctions, as well as written will, enforced by letters posthumous. Every article of which (solicitous as we both are to see it duly performed) she would have dispensed with, rather than farther mischief should happen on her account. I am, dear Sir,
Your affectionate and faithful friend, J. BELFORD.
[THIS IS THE POSTHUMOUS LETTER TO COL. MORDEN, REFERRED TO IN THE ABOVE.]
TO MY BELOVED COUSIN WILLIAM MORDEN, ESQ. TO BE DELIVERED AFTER MY DEATH.
MY DEAREST COUSIN,
As it is uncertain, from my present weak state, whether, if living, I may be in a condition to receive as I ought the favour you intend me of a visit, when you come to London, I take this opportunity to return you, while able, the humble acknowledgments of a grateful heart, for all your goodness to me from childhood till now: and more particularly for your present kind interposition in my favour—God Almighty for ever bless you, dear Sir, for the kindness you endeavoured to procure for me!
One principal end of my writing to you, in this solemn manner, is, to beg of you, which I do with the utmost earnestness, that when you come to hear the particulars of my story, you will not suffer active resentment to take place in your generous breast on my account.
Remember, my dear Cousin, that vengeance is God's province, and he has undertaken to repay it; nor will you, I hope, invade that province:— especially as there is no necessity for you to attempt to vindicate my fame; since the offender himself (before he is called upon) has stood forth, and offered to do me all the justice that you could have extorted from him, had I lived: and when your own person may be endangered by running an equal risque with a guilty man.
Duelling, Sir, I need not tell you, who have adorned a public character, is not only an usurpation of the Divine prerogative; but it is an insult upon magistracy and good government. 'Tis an impious act. 'Tis an attempt to take away a life that ought not to depend upon a private sword; an act, the consequence of which is to hurry a soul (all its sins upon its had) into perdition; endangering that of the poor triumpher— since neither intend to give to the other that chance, as I may call it, for the Divine mercy, in an opportunity for repentance, which each presumes to hope for himself.
Seek not then, I beseech you, Sir, to aggravate my fault, by a pursuit of blood, which must necessarily be deemed a consequence of that fault. Give not the unhappy man the merit (were you assuredly to be the victor) of falling by your hand. At present he is the perfidious, the ungrateful deceiver; but will not the forfeiture of his life, and the probable loss of his soul, be a dreadful expiation for having made me miserable for a few months only, and through that misery, by the Divine favour, happy to all eternity?
In such a case, my Cousin, where shall the evil stop?—And who shall avenge on you?—And who on your avenger?
Let the poor man's conscience, then, dear Sir, avenge me. He will one day find punishment more than enough from that. Leave him to the chance of repentance. If the Almighty will give him time for it, who should you deny it him?—Let him still be the guilty aggressor; and let no one say, Clarissa Harlowe is now amply revenged in his fall; or, in the case of your's, (which Heaven avert!) that her fault, instead of being buried in her grave, is perpetuated, and aggravated, by a loss far greater than that of herself.
Often, Sir, has the more guilty been the vanquisher of the less. An Earl of Shrewsbury, in the reign of Charles II. as I have read, endeavouring to revenge the greatest injury that man can do to man, met with his death at Barn-Elms, from the hand of the ignoble Duke who had vilely dishonoured him. Nor can it be thought an unequal dispensation, were it generally to happen that the usurper of the Divine prerogative should be punished for his presumption by the man whom he sought to destroy, and who, however previously criminal, is put, in this case, upon a necessary act of self-defence.
May Heaven protect you, Sir, in all your ways; and, once more, I pray, reward you for all your kindness to me! A kindness so worthy of your heart, and so exceedingly grateful to mine: that of seeking to make peace, and to reconcile parents to a once-beloved child; uncles to a niece late their favourite; and a brother and sister to a sister whom once they thought not unworthy of that tender relation. A kindness so greatly preferable to the vengeance of a murdering sword.
Be a comforter, dear Sir, to my honoured parents, as you have been to me; and may we, through the Divine goodness to us both, meet in that blessed eternity, into which, as I humbly trust, I shall have entered when you will read this.
So prays, and to her latest hour will pray, my dear Cousin Morden, my friend, my guardian, but not my avenger—[dear Sir! remember that!—]
Your ever-affectionate and obliged CLARISSA HARLOWE.
COLONEL MORDEN, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SATURDAY, SEPT. 23.
I am very sorry that any thing you have heard I have said should give you uneasiness.
I am obliged to you for the letters you have communicated to me; and still further for your promise to favour me with others occasionally.
All that relates to my dear cousin I shall be glad to see, be it from whom it will.
I leave to your own discretion, what may or may not be proper for Miss Howe to see from a pen so free as mine.
I admire her spirit. Were she a man, do you think, Sir, she, at this time, would have your advice to take upon such a subject as that upon which you write?
Fear not, however, that your communications shall put me upon any measures that otherwise I should not have taken. The wickedness, Sir, is of such a nature, as admits not of aggravation.
Yet I do assure you, that I have not made any resolutions that will be a tie upon me.
I have indeed expressed myself with vehemence upon the occasion. Who could forbear to do so? But it is not my way to resolve in matters of moment, till opportunity brings the execution of my purposes within my reach. We shall see by what manner of spirit this young man will be actuated on his recovery. If he continue to brave and defy a family, which he has so irreparably injured—if—but resolutions depending upon future contingencies are best left to future determination, as I just now hinted.
Mean time, I will own that I think my cousin's arguments unanswerable. No good man but must be influenced by them.—But, alas! Sir, who is good?
As to your arguments; I hope you will believe me, when I assure you, as I now do, that your opinion and your reasonings have, and will always have, great and deserved weight with me; and that I respect you still more than I did, if possible, for your expostulations in support of my cousin's pious injunctions to me. They come from you, Sir, with the greatest propriety, as her executor and representative; and likewise as you are a man of humanity, and a well-wisher to both parties.
I am not exempt from violent passions, Sir, any more than your friend; but then I hope they are only capable of being raised by other people's insolence, and not by my own arrogance. If ever I am stimulated by my imperfections and my resentments to act against my judgment and my cousin's injunctions, some such reflections as these that follow will run away with my reason. Indeed they are always present with me.
In the first place; my own disappointment: who came over with the hope of passing the remainder of my days in the conversation of a kinswoman so beloved; and to whom I have a double relation as her cousin and trustee.
Then I reflect, too, too often perhaps for my engagements to her in her last hours, that the dear creature could only forgive for herself. She, no doubt, is happy: but who shall forgive for a whole family, in all its branches made miserable for their lives?
That the more faulty her friends were as to her, the more enormous his ingratitude, and the more inexcusable—What! Sir, was it not enough that she suffered what she did for him, but the barbarian must make her suffer for her sufferings for his sake?—Passion makes me express this weakly; passion refuses the aid of expression sometimes, where the propriety of a resentment prima facie declares expression to be needless. I leave it to you, Sir, to give this reflection its due force.
That the author of this diffusive mischief perpetuated it premeditatedly, wantonly, in the gaiety of his heart. To try my cousin, say you, Sir! To try the virtue of a Clarissa, Sir!—Has she then given him any cause to doubt her virtue?—It could not be.—If he avers that she did, I am indeed called upon—but I will have patience.
That he carried her, as now appears, to a vile brothel, purposely to put her out of all human resource; himself out of the reach of all human remorse: and that, finding her proof against all the common arts of delusion, base and unmanly arts were there used to effect his wicked purposes. Once dead, the injured saint, in her will, says, he has seen her.
That I could not know this, when I saw him at M. Hall: that, the object of his attempts considered, I could not suppose there was such a monster breathing as he: that it was natural for me to impute her refusal of him rather to transitory resentment, to consciousness of human frailty, and mingled doubts of the sincerity of his offers, than to villanies, which had given the irreversible blow, and had at that instant brought her down to the gates of death, which in a very few days enclosed her.
That he is a man of defiance: a man who thinks to awe every one by his insolent darings, and by his pretensions to superior courage and skill.
That, disgrace as he is to his name, and to the character of a gentleman, the man would not want merit, who, in vindication of the dishonoured distincion, should expunge and blot him out of the worthy list.
That the injured family has a son, who, however unworthy of such a sister, is of a temper vehement, unbridled, fierce; unequal, therefore, (as he has once indeed been found,) to a contention with this man: the loss of which son, by a violent death on such an occasion, and by a hand so justly hated, would complete the misery of the whole family; and who, nevertheless, resolves to call him to account, if I do not; his very misbehaviour, perhaps, to such a sister, stimulating his perverse heart to do her memory the more signal justice; though the attempt might be fatal to himself.
Then, Sir, to be a witness, as I am every hour, to the calamity and distress of a family to which I am related; every one of whom, however averse to an alliance with him while it had not place, would no doubt have been soon reconciled to the admirable creature, had the man (to whom, for his family and fortunes, it was not a disgrace to be allied) done her but common justice!
To see them hang their pensive heads; mope about, shunning one another; though formerly never used to meet but to rejoice in each other; afflicting themselves with reflections, that the last time they respectively saw the dear creature, it was here or there, at such a place, in such an attitude; and could they have thought that it would have been the last?—Every one of them reviving instances of her excellencies that will for a long time make their very blessings a curse to them!
Her closet, her chamber, her cabinet, given up to me to disfurnish, in order to answer (now too late obliging!) the legacies bequeathed; unable themselves to enter them; and even making use of less convenient back stairs, that they may avoid passing by the doors of her apartment!
Her parlour locked up; the walks, the retirements, the summer-house in which she delighted, and in which she used to pursue her charming works; that in particular, from which she went to the fatal interview, shunned, or hurried by, or over!
Her perfections, nevertheless, called up to remembrance, and enumerated; incidents and graces, unheeded before, or passed over in the group of her numberless perfections, now brought back into notice, and dwelt upon!
The very servants allowed to expatiate upon these praiseful topics to their principals! Even eloquent in their praises! The distressed principals listening and weeping! Then to see them break in upon the zealous applauders, by their impatience and remorse, and throw abroad their helpless hands, and exclaim; then again to see them listen to hear more of her praises, and weep again—they even encouraging the servants to repeat how they used to be stopt by strangers to ask after her, and by those who knew her, to be told of some new instances to her honour—how aggravating all this!
In dreams they see her, and desire to see her; always an angle, and accompanied by angels; always clad in robes of light; always endeavouring to comfort them, who declare, that they shall never more know comfort!
What an example she set! How she indited! How she drew! How she wrought! How she talked! How she sung! How she played! Her voice music! Her accent harmony!
Her conversation how instructive! how sought after! The delight of persons of all ages, of both sexes, of all ranks! Yet how humble, how condescending! Never were dignity and humility so illustriously mingled!
At other times, how generous, how noble, how charitable, how judicious in her charities! In every action laudable! In every attitude attractive! In every appearance, whether full-dressed, or in the housewife's more humble garb, equally elegant, and equally lovely! Like, or resembling, Miss Clarissa Harlowe, they now remember to be a praise denoting the highest degree of excellence, with every one, whatever person, action, or rank, spoken of.—The desirable daughter; the obliging kinswoman; the affectionate sister, (all envy now subsided!) the faithful, the warm friend; the affable, the kind, the benevolent mistress!—Not one fault remembered! All their severities called cruelties: mutually accusing each other; each him and herself; and all to raise her character, and torment themselves.
Such, Sir, was the angel, of whom the vilest of men has deprived the world! You, Sir, who know more of the barbarous machinations and practices of this strange man, can help me to still more inflaming reasons, were they needed, why a man, not perfect, may stand excused to the generality of the world, if he should pursue his vengeance; and the rather, as through an absence of six years, (high as just report, and the promises of her early youth from childhood, had raised her in his esteem,) he could not till now know one half of her excellencies—till now! that we have lost, for ever lost, the admirable creature!—
But I will force myself from the subject, after I have repeated that I have not yet made any resolutions that can bind me. Whenever I do, I shall be glad they may be such as may merit the honour of your approbation.
I send you back the copies of the posthumous letters. I see the humanity of your purpose, in the transmission of them to me; and I thank you most heartily for it. I presume, that it is owing to the same laudable consideration, that you kept back the copy of that to the wicked man himself.
I intend to wait upon Miss Howe in person with the diamond ring, and such other of the effects bequeathed to her as are here. I am, Sir,
Your most faithful and obliged servant, WM. MORDEN.
[Mr. Belford, in his answer to this letter, farther enforces the lady's dying injunctions; and rejoices that the Colonel has made no vindictive resolutions; and hopes every thing from his prudence and consideration, and from his promise given to the dying lady.
He refers to the seeing him in town on account of the dreadful ends of two of the greatest criminals in his cousin's affair. 'This, says he, together with Mr. Lovelace's disorder of mind, looks as if Providence had already taken the punishment of these unhappy wretches into its own hands.'
He desires the Colonel will give him a day's notice of his coming to town, lest otherwise he may be absent at the time—this he does, though he tells him not the reason, with a view to prevent a meeting between him and Mr. Lovelace; who might be in town (as he apprehends,) about the same time, in his way to go abroad.]
COLONEL MORDEN, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. TUESDAY, SEPT. 26.
I cannot help congratulating myself as well as you that we have already got through with the family every article of the will where they have any concern.
You left me a discretional power in many instances; and, in pursuance of it, I have had my dear cousin's personal jewels, and will account to you for them, at the highest price, when I come to town, as well as for other matters that you were pleased to intrust to my management.
These jewels I have presented to my cousin Dolly Hervey, in acknowledgement of her love to the dear departed. I have told Miss Howe of this; and she is as well pleased with what I have done as if she had been the purchaser of them herself. As that young lady has jewels of her own, she could only have wished to purchase these because they were her beloved friend's.—The grandmother's jewels are also valued; and the money will be paid me for you, to be carried to the uses of the will.
Mrs. Norton is preparing, by general consent, to enter upon her office as housekeeper at The Grove. But it is my opinion that she will not be long on this side Heaven.
I waited upon Miss Howe myself, as I told you I would, with what was bequeathed to her and her mother. You will not be displeased, perhaps, if I make a few observations with regard to that young lady, so dear to my beloved cousin, as you have not a personal acquaintance with her.
There never was a firmer or nobler friendship in women, than between my dear cousin and Miss Howe, to which this wretched man had given a period.
Friendship, generally speaking, Mr. Belford, is too fervent a flame for female minds to manage: a light that but in few of their hands burns steady, and often hurries the sex into flight and absurdity. Like other extremes, it is hardly ever durable. Marriage, which is the highest state of friendship, generally absorbs the most vehement friendships of female to female; and that whether the wedlock be happy, or not.
What female mind is capable of two fervent female friendships at the same time?—This I mention as a general observation; but the friendship that subsisted between these two ladies affords a remarkable exception to it: which I account for from those qualities and attainments in both, which, were they more common, would furnish more exceptions still in favour of the sex.
Both had an enlarged, and even a liberal education: both had minds thirsting after virtuous knowledge; great readers both; great writers— [and early familiar writing I take to be one of the greatest openers and improvers of the mind that man or woman can be employed in.] Both generous. High in fortune, therefore above that dependence each on the other that frequently destroys that familiarity which is the cement of friendship. Both excelling in different ways, in which neither sought to envy the other. Both blessed with clear and distinguishing faculties; with solid sense; and, from their first intimacy, [I have many of my lights, Sir, from Mrs. Norton,] each seeing something in the other to fear, as well as to love; yet making it an indispensable condition of their friendship, each to tell the other of her failings; and to be thankful for the freedom taken. One by nature gentle; the other made so by her love and admiration of her exalted friend—impossible that there could be a friendship better calculated for duration.
I must, however, take the liberty to blame Miss Howe for her behaviour to Mr. Hickman. And I infer from it, that even women of sense are not to be trusted with power.
By the way, I am sure I need not desire you not to communicate to this fervent young lady the liberties I have taken with her character.
I dare say my cousin could not approve of Miss Howe's behaviour to this gentleman; a behaviour which is talked of by as many as know Mr. Hickman and her. Can a wise young lady be easy under such censure? She must know it.
Mr. Hickman is really a very worthy man. Every body speaks well of him. But he is gentle-dispositioned, and he adores Miss Howe; and love admits not of an air of even due dignity to the object of it. Yet will Mr. Hickman hardly ever get back the reins he has yielded up; unless she, by carrying too far the power of which she seems at present too sensible, should, when she has no favours to confer which he has not a right to demand, provoke him to throw off the too-heavy yoke. And should he do so, and then treat her with negligence, Miss Howe, of all the women I know, will be the least able to support herself under it. She will then be more unhappy than she ever made him; for a man who is uneasy at home, can divert himself abroad; which a woman cannot so easily do, without scandal.—Permit me to take farther notice, as to Miss Howe, that it is very obvious to me, that she has, by her haughty behaviour to this worthy man, involved herself in one difficulty, from which she knows not how to extricate herself with that grace which accompanies all her actions. She intends to have Mr. Hickman. I believe she does not dislike him. And it will cost her no small pains to descend from the elevation she has climbed to.
Another inconvenience she will suffer from her having taught every body (for she is above disguise) to think, by her treatment of Mr. Hickman, much more meanly of him than he deserves to be thought of. And must she not suffer dishonour in his dishonour?
Mrs. Howe is much disturbed at her daughter's behaviour to the gentleman. He is very deservedly a favourite of her's. But [another failing in Miss Howe] her mother has not all the authority with her that a mother ought to have. Miss Howe is indeed a woman of fine sense; but it requires a high degree of good understanding, as well as a sweet and gentle disposition of mind, and great discretion, in a child, when grown up, to let it be seen, that she mingles reverence with her love, to a parent, who has talents visibly inferior to her own.
Miss Howe is open, generous, noble. The mother has not any of her fine qualities. Parents, in order to preserve their children's veneration for them, should take great care not to let them see any thing in their conduct, or behaviour, or principles, which they themselves would not approve of in others.
Mr. Hickman has, however, this consideration to comfort himself with, that the same vivacity by which he suffers, makes Miss Howe's own mother, at times, equally sensible. And as he sees enough of this beforehand, he will have more reason to blame himself than the lady, should she prove as lively a wife as she was a mistress, for having continued his addresses, and married her, against such threatening appearances.
There is also another circumstance which good-natured men, who engage with even lively women, may look forward to with pleasure; a circumstance which generally lowers the spirits of the ladies, and domesticates them, as I may call it; and which, as it will bring those of Mr. Hickman and Miss Howe nearer to a par, that worthy gentleman will have double reason, when it happens, to congratulate himself upon it.
But after all, I see that there is something so charmingly brilliant and frank in Miss Howe's disposition, although at present visibly overclouded by grief, that it is impossible not to love her, even for her failings. She may, and I hope she will, make Mr. Hickman an obliging wife. And if she does, she will have additional merit with me; since she cannot be apprehensive of check or controul; and may therefore, by her generosity and prudence, lay an obligation upon her husband, by the performance of what is no more than her duty.
Her mother both loves and fears her. Yet is Mrs. Howe also a woman of vivacity, and ready enough, I dare say, to cry out when she is pained. But, alas! she has, as I hinted above, weakened her authority by the narrowness of her mind.
Yet once she praised her daughter to me with so much warmth for the generosity of her spirit, that had I not known the old lady's character, I should have thought her generous herself. And yet I have always observed, that people of narrow tempers are ready to praise generous ones:—and thus have I accounted for it—that such persons generally find it to their purpose, that all the world should be open-minded but themselves.
The old lady applied herself to me, to urge to the young one the contents of the will, in order to hasten her to fix a day for her marriage; but desired that I would not let Miss Howe know that she did.
I took the liberty upon it to tell Miss Howe that I hoped that her part of a will, so soon, and so punctually, in almost all its other articles, fulfilled, would not be the only one that would be slighted.
Her answer was, she would consider of it: and made me a courtesy with such an air, as showed me that she thought me more out of my sphere, than I could allow her to think me, had I been permitted to argue the point with her.
I found Miss Howe and her own servant-maid in deep mourning. This, it seems, had occasioned a great debate at first between her mother and her. Her mother had the words of the will on her side; and Mr. Hickman's interest in her view; her daughter having said that she would wear it for six months at least. But the young lady carried her point—'Strange,' said she, 'if I, who shall mourn the heavy, the irreparable loss to the last hour of my life, should not show my concern to the world for a few months!'
Mr. Hickman, for his part, was so far from uttering an opposing word on this occasion, that, on the very day that Miss Howe put on her's, he waited on her in a new suit of mourning, as for a near relation. His servants and equipage made the same respectful appearance.
Whether the mother was consulted by him in it, I cannot say; but the daughter knew nothing of it, till she saw him in it; she looked at him with surprise, and asked him for whom he mourned?
The dear, and ever-dear Miss Harlowe, he said.
She was at a loss, it seems. At last—All the world ought to mourn for my Clarissa, said she; But whom, man, [that was her whimsical address to him,] thinkest thou to oblige by this appearance?
It is more than appearance, Madam. I love not my own sister, worthy as she is, better than I loved Miss Clarissa Harlowe. I oblige myself by it. And if I disoblige not you, that is all I wish.
She surveyed him, I am told, from head to foot. She knew not, at first, whether to be angry or pleased.—At length, 'I thought at first,' said she, 'that you might have a bolder and freer motive—but (as my Mamma says) you may be a well-meaning man, though generally a little wrong-headed—however, as the world is censorious, and may think us nearer of kin than I would have it supposed, I must take care that I am not seen abroad in your company.'
But let me add, Mr. Belford, that if this compliment of Mr. Hickman (or this more than compliment, as I may call it, since the worthy man speaks not of my dear cousin without emotion) does not produce a short day, I shall think Miss Howe has less generosity in her temper than I am willing to allow her.
You will excuse me, Mr. Belford, for the particularities which you invited and encouraged. Having now seen every thing that relates to the will of my dear cousin brought to a desirable issue, I will set about making my own. I shall follow the dear creature's example, and give my reasons for every article, that there may be no room for after-contention.
What but a fear of death, a fear unworthy of a creature who knows that he must one day as surely die as he was born, can hinder any one from making such a disposition?
I hope soon to pay my respects to you in town. Mean time, I am, with great respect, dear Sir,
Your faithful and affectionate humble servant, WM. MORDEN.
MR. BELFORD, TO MISS HOWE THURSDAY, SEPT. 28.
I do myself the honour to send you by this, according to my promise,* copies of the posthumous letters written by your exalted friend.
* See Letter XXXVI. of this volume.
These will be accompanied with other letters, particularly a copy of one from Mr. Lovelace, begun to be written on the 14th, and continued down to the 18th.* You will see by it, Madam, the dreadful anguish that his spirits labour with, and his deep remorse.
* See Letter XXXVII. ibid.
Mr. Lovelace sent for this letter back. I complied; but I first took a copy of it. As I have not told him that I have done so, you will be pleased to forbear communicating of it to any body but Mr. Hickman. That gentleman's perusal of it will be the same as if nobody but yourself saw it.
One of the letters of Colonel Morden, which I enclose, you will observe, Madam, is only a copy.* The true reason for which, as I will ingenuously acknowledge, is, some free, but respectful animadversions which the Colonel has made upon your declining to carry into execution your part of your dear friend's last requests. I have therefore, in respect to that worthy gentleman, (having a caution from him on that head,) omitted those parts.
* The preceding Letter.
Will you allow me, Madam, however, to tell you, that I myself could not have believed that my inimitable testatrix's own Miss Howe would have been the most backward in performing such a part of her dear friend's last will, as is entirely in her own power to perform—especially, when that performance would make one of the most deserving men in England happy; and whom, I presume, she proposes to honour with her hand.
Excuse me, Madam, I have a most sincere veneration for you; and would not disoblige you for the world.
I will not presume to make remarks on the letters I send you; nor upon the informations I have to give you of the dreadful end of two unhappy wretches who were the greatest criminals in the affair of your adorable friend. These are the infamous Sinclair, and a person whom you have read of, no doubt, in the letters of the charming innocent, by the name of Captain Tomlinson.
The wretched woman died in the extremest tortures and despondency: the man from wounds got in defending himself in carrying on a contraband trade; both accusing themselves, in their last hours, for the parts they had acted against the most excellent of women, as of the crime that gave them the deepest remorse.
Give me leave to say, Madam, that if your compassion be not excited for the poor man who suffers so greatly from his own anguish of mind, as you will observe by his letter he does; and for the unhappy family, whose remorse, you will see by Colonel Morden's, is so deep; your terror must. And yet I should not wonder, if the just sense of the irreparable loss you have sustained hardens a heart against pity, which, on a less extraordinary occasion, would want its principal grace, if it were not compassionate.
I am, Madam, with the greatest respect and gratitude, Your most obliged and faithful humble servant, J. BELFORD.
MISS HOWE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SATURDAY, SEPT. 30.
I little thought I ever could have owed so much obligation to any man as you have laid me under. And yet what you have sent me has almost broken my heart, and ruined my eyes.
I am surprised, though agreeably, that you have so soon, and so well, got over that part of the trust you have engaged in, which relates to the family.
It may be presumed, from the exits you mention of two of the infernal man's accomplices, that the thunderbolt will not stop short of the principal. Indeed I have some pleasure to think it seems rolling along towards the devoted head that has plotted all the mischief. But let me, however, say, that although I think Mr. Morden not altogether in the wrong in his reasons for resentment, as he is the dear creature's kinsman and trustee, yet I think you very much in the right in endeavouring to dissuade him from it, as you are her executor, and act in pursuance of her earnest request.
But what a letter is that of the infernal man's! I cannot observe upon it. Neither can I, for very different reasons, upon my dear creature's posthumous letters; particularly on that to him. O Mr. Belford! what numberless perfections died, when my Clarissa drew her last breath!
If decency be observed in his letters, for I have not yet had patience to read above two or three of them, (besides this horrid one, which I return to you enclosed,) I may some time hence be curious to look, by their means, into the hearts of wretches, which, though they must be the abhorrence of virtuous minds, will, when they are laid open, (as I presume they are in them,) afford a proper warning to those who read them, and teach them to detest men of such profligate characters.
If your reformation be sincere, you will not be offended that I do not except you on this occasion.—And thus have I helped you to a criterion to try yourself by.
By this letter of the wicked man it is apparent that there are still wickeder women. But see what a guilty commerce with the devils of your sex will bring those to whose morals ye have ruined!—For these women were once innocent: it was man that made them otherwise. The first bad man, perhaps, threw them upon worse men; those upon still worse; till they commenced devils incarnate—the height of wickedness or of shame is not arrived at all at once, as I have somewhere heard observed.
But this man, this monster rather, for him to curse these women, and to curse the dear creature's family (implacable as the latter were,) in order to lighten a burden he voluntarily took up, and groans under, is meanness added to wickedness: and in vain will he one day find his low plea of sharing with her friends, and with those common wretches, a guilt which will be adjudged him as all his own; though they too may meet their punishment; as it is evidently begun; in the first, in their ineffectual reproaches of one another; in the second—as you have told me.
This letter of the abandoned wretch I have not shown to any body; not even to Mr. Hickman: for, Sir, I must tell you, I do not as yet think it the same thing as only seeing it myself.
Mr. Hickman, like the rest of his sex, would grow upon indulgence. One distinction from me would make him pay two to himself. Insolent creepers, or encroachers all of you! To show any of you a favour to-day, you would expect it as a right to-morrow.
I am, as you see, very open and sincere with you; and design in another letter to be still more so, in answer to your call, and Colonel Morden's call, upon me, in a point that concerns me to explain myself upon to my beloved creature's executor, and to the Colonel, as her only tender and only worthy relation.
I cannot but highly applaud Colonel Morden for his generosity to Miss Dolly Hervey.
O that he had arrived time enough to save my inimitable friend from the machinations of the vilest of men, and from the envy and malice of the most selfish and implacable of brothers and sisters!
MISS HOWE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. MONDAY, OCT. 2.
When you question me, Sir, as you do, and on a subject so affecting to me, in the character of the representative of my best beloved friend, and have in every particular hitherto acted up to that character, you are entitled to my regard: especially as you are joined in your questioning of me by a gentleman whom I look upon as the dearest and nearest (because worthiest) relation of my dear friend: and who, it seems, has been so severe a censurer of my conduct, that your politeness will not permit you to send me his letter, with others of his; but a copy only, in which the passages reflecting upon me are omitted.
I presume, however, that what is meant by this alarming freedom of the Colonel is no more than what you both have already hinted to me. As if you thought I were not inclined to pay so much regard to my beloved creature's last will, in my own case, as I would have others pay to it. A charge that I ought not to be quite silent under.
You have observed, no doubt, that I have seemed to value myself upon the freedom I take in declaring my sentiments without reserve upon every subject that I pretend to touch upon: and I can hardly question that I have, or shall, in your opinion, by my unceremonious treatment of you upon so short an acquaintance, run into the error of those, who, wanting to be thought above hypocrisy and flattery, fall into rusticity, if not ill-manners; a common fault with such, who, not caring to correct constitutional failings, seek to gloss them over by some nominal virtue; when all the time, perhaps, these failings are entirely owing to native arrogance; or, at least, to a contracted rust, that they will not, because it would give them pain, submit to have filed off.
You see, Sir, that I can, however, be as free with myself as with you: and by what I am going to write, you will find me still more free; and yet I am aware that such of my sex as will not assume some little dignity, and exact respect from your's, will render themselves cheap; and, perhaps, for their modesty and diffidence, be repaid with scorn and insult.
But the scorn I will endeavour not to deserve; and the insult I will not bear.
In some of the dear creature's papers which you have had in your possession, and must again have, in order to get transcribed, you will find several friendly, but severe reprehensions of me, on account of a natural, or, at least, an habitual, warmth of temper, which she was pleased to impute to me.
I was thinking to give you her charge against me in her own words, from one of her letters delivered to me with her own hands, on taking leave of me on the last visit she honoured me with. But I will supply that charge by confession of more than it imports; to wit, 'That I am haughty, uncontroulable, and violent in my temper;' this, I say; 'Impatient of contradiction,' was my beloved's charge; [from any body but her dear self, she should have said;] 'and aim not at that affability, that gentleness, next to meekness, which, in the letter I was going to communicate, she tells me are the peculiar and indispensable characteristics of a real fine lady; who, she is pleased to say, should appear to be gall-less as a dove; and never should know what warmth or high spirit is, but in the cause of religion or virtue; or in cases where her own honour, the honour of a friend, or that of an innocent person, is concerned.'
Now, Sir, as I needs must plead guilty to this indictment, do you think I ought not to resolve upon a single life?—I, who have such an opinion of your sex, that I think there is not one man in an hundred whom a woman of sense and spirit can either honour or obey, though you make us promise both, in that solemn form of words which unites or rather binds us to you in marriage?
When I look round upon all the married people of my acquaintance, and see how they live, and what they bear who live best, I am confirmed in my dislike to the state.
Well do your sex contrive to bring us up fools and idiots, in order to make us bear the yoke you lay upon our shoulders; and that we may not despise you from our hearts, (as we certainly should, if we were brought up as you are,) for your ignorance, as much as you often make us do (as it is) for your insolence.
These, Sir, are some of my notions. And, with these notions, let me repeat my question, Do you think I ought to marry at all?
If I marry either a sordid or an imperious wretch, can I, do you think, live with him? And ought a man of a contrary character, for the sake of either of our reputations, to be plagued with me?
Long did I stand out against all the offers made me, and against all the persuasions of my mother; and, to tell you the truth, the longer, and with the more obstinacy, as the person my choice would have first fallen upon was neither approved by my mother, nor by my dear friend. This riveted me to my pride, and to my opposition; for although I was convinced, after a while, that my choice would neither have been prudent nor happy; and that the specious wretch was not what he had made me believe he was; yet could I not easily think of any other man; and indeed, from the detection of him, took a settled aversion to the whole sex.
At last Mr. Hickman offered himself; a man worthy of a better choice. He had the good fortune [he thinks it so] to be agreeable (and to make his proposals agreeable) to my mother.
As to myself; I own, that were I to have chosen a brother, Mr. Hickman should have been the man; virtuous, sober, sincere, friendly, as he is. But I wish not to marry; nor knew I the man in the world whom I could think deserving of my beloved friend. But neither of our parents would let us live single.
The accursed Lovelace was proposed warmly to her at one time; and, while she was yet but indifferent to him, they, by ungenerous usage of him, (for then, Sir, he was not known to be Beelzebub himself,) and by endeavouring to force her inclinations in favour first of one worthless man, then of another, in antipathy to him, through her foolish brother's caprice, turned that indifference (from the natural generosity of her soul) into a regard which she never otherwise would have had for a man of his character.
Mr. Hickman was proposed to me. I refused him again and again. He persisted; my mother his advocate. I told him my dislike of all men—of him—of matrimony—still he persisted. I used him with tyranny—led, indeed, partly by my temper, partly by design; hoping thereby to get rid of him; till the poor man (his character unexceptionably uniform) still persisting, made himself a merit with me by his patience. This brought down my pride, [I never, Sir, was accounted very ungenerous, nor quite ungrateful,] and gave me, at one time, an inferiority in my own opinion to him; which lasted just long enough for my friends to prevail upon me to promise him encouragement, and to receive his addresses.
Having done so, when the weather-glass of my pride got up again, I found I had gone too far to recede. My mother and my friends both held me to it. Yet I tried him, I vexed him, an hundred ways; and not so much neither with design to vex him, as to make him hate me, and decline his suit.
He bore this, however; and got nothing but my pity; yet still my mother, and my friend, having obtained my promise, [made, however, not to him, but to them,] and being well assured that I valued no man more than Mr. Hickman, (who never once disobliged me in word, or deed, or look, except by his foolish perseverance,) insisted upon the performance.
While my dear friend was in her unhappy uncertainty, I could not think of marriage; and now, what encouragement have I?—She, my monitress, my guide, my counsel, gone, for ever gone! by whose advice and instructions I hoped to acquit myself tolerably in the state to which I could not avoid entering. For, Sir, my mother is so partially Mr. Hickman's friend, that I am sure, should any difference arise, she would always censure me, and acquit him; even were he ungenerous enough to remember me in his day.
This, Sir, being my situation, consider how difficult it is for me to think of marriage. Whenever we approve, we can find an hundred good reasons to justify our approbation. Whenever we dislike, we can find a thousand to justify our dislike. Every thing in the latter case is an impediment; every shadow a bugbear.—Thus can I enumerate and swell, perhaps, only imaginary grievances; 'I must go whither he would have me to go; visit whom he would have me to visit: well as I love to write, (though now, alas! my grand inducement to write is over!) it must be to whom he pleases:' and Mrs. Hickman (who, as Miss Howe, cannot do wrong) would hardly ever be able to do right. Thus, the tables turned upon me, I am reminded of my vowed obedience; Madam'd up perhaps to matrimonial perfection, and all the wedded warfare practised comfortably over between us, (for I shall not be passive under insolent treatment,) till we become curses to each other, a bye-word to our neighbours, and the jest of our own servants.
But there must be bear and forbear, methinks some wise body will tell me: But why must I be teased into a state where that must be necessarily the case; when now I can do as I please, and wish only to be let alone to do as best pleases me? And what, in effect, does my mother say? 'Anna Howe, you now do every thing that pleases you; you now have nobody to controul you; you go and you come; you dress and you undress; you rise and you go to rest, just as you think best; but you must be happier still, child!'—
As how, Madam?
'Why, you must marry, my dear, and have none of these options; but, in every thing, do as your husband commands you.'
This is very hard, you will own, Sir, for such a one as me to think of. And yet, engaged to enter into that state, as I am, how can I help myself? My mother presses me; my friend, my beloved friend, writing as from the dead, presses me; and you and Mr. Morden, as executors of her will, remind me; the man is not afraid of me, [I am sure, were I the man, I should not have half his courage;] and I think I ought to conclude to punish him (the only effectual way I have to do it) for his perverse adherence and persecution, with the grant of his own wishes; a punishment which many others who enjoy their's very commonly experience.
Let me then assure you, Sir, that when I can find, in the words of my charming friend in her will, writing of her cousin Hervey, that my grief for her is mellowed by time into a remembrance more sweet than painful, that I may not be utterly unworthy of the passion a man of some merit has for me, I will answer the request of my dear friend, so often repeated, and so earnestly pressed; and Mr. Hickman shall find, if he continue to deserve my gratitude, that my endeavours shall not be wanting to make him amends for the patience he has had, and must still a little while longer have with me: and then will it be his own fault (I hope not mine) if our marriage answer not those happy prognostics, which filled her generous presaging mind, upon this view, as she once, for my encouragement, and to induce me to encourage him, told me.
Thus, Sir, have I, in a very free manner, accounted to you, as to the executor of my beloved friend, for all that relates to you, as such, to know; and even for more than I needed to do, against myself; only that you will find as much against me in some of her letters; and so, losing nothing, I gain the character of ingenuousness with you.
And thus much for the double reprimand, on my delaying my part of the performance of my dear friend's will.
And now, while you are admonishing me on this subject, let me remind you of one great article relating to yourself: it is furnished me by my dear creature's posthumous letter to you—I hope you will not forget, that the most benevolent of her sex expresses herself as earnestly concerned for your thorough reformation, as she does for my marrying. You'll see to it, then, that her wishes are as completely answered in that particular, as you are desirous they should be in all others.
I have, I own, disobeyed her in one article; and that is, where she desires I would not put myself into mourning. I could not help it.
I send this and mine of Saturday last together; and will not add another word, after I have told you that I think myself
Your obliged servant, A. HOWE.
MR. BELFORD, TO MISS HOWE THURSDAY NIGHT, OCT. 5.
I return you, Madam, my most respectful thanks for your condescending hint, in relation to the pious wishes of your exalted friend for my thorough reformation.
I will only say, that it will be my earnest and unwearied endeavour to make those generous wishes effectual: and I hope for the Divine blessing upon such my endeavours, or else I know they will be in vain.
I cannot, Madam, express how much I think myself obliged to you for your farther condescension, in writing to me so frankly the state of your past and present mind, in relation to the single and matrimonial life. If the lady by whom, as the executor of her inimitable friend, I am thus honoured, has failings, never were failings so lovely in woman!—How much more lovely, indeed, than the virtues of many of her sex!
I might have ventured into the hands of such a lady the Colonel's original letter entire. The worthy gentleman exceedingly admires you; and this caution was the effect of his politeness only, and of his regard for you.
I send you, Madam, a letter from Lord M. to myself; and the copies of three others written in consequence of that. These will acquaint you with Mr. Lovelace's departure from England, and with other particulars, which you will be curious to know.
Be pleased to keep to yourself such of the contents as your own prudence will suggest to you ought not to be seen by any body else.
I am, Madam, with the profoundest and most grateful respect,
Your faithful and obliged humble servant, JOHN BELFORD.
LORD M. TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. M. HALL, FRIDAY, SEPT. 29.
My kinsman Lovelace is now setting out for London; proposing to see you, and then to go to Dover, and so embark. God send him well out of the kingdom!
On Monday he will be with you, I believe. Pray let me be favoured with an account of all your conversations; for Mr. Mowbray and Mr. Tourville are to be there too; and whether you think he is grown quite his own man again.
What I mostly write for is, to wish you to keep Colonel Morden and him asunder; and so I give you notice of his going to town. I should be very loth there should be any mischief between them, as you gave me notice that the Colonel threatened my nephew. But my kinsman would not bear that; so nobody let him know that he did. But I hope there is no fear; for the Colonel does not, as I hear, threaten now. For his own sake, I am glad of that; for there is not such a man in the world as my kinsman is said to be, at all the weapons—as well he was not; he would not be so daring.
We shall all here miss the wild fellow. To be sure, there is no man better company when he pleases.
Pray, do you never travel thirty or forty miles? I should be glad to see you here at M. Hall. It will be charity when my kinsman is gone; for we suppose you will be his chief correspondent; although he has promised to write to my nieces often. But he is very apt to forget his promises; to us his relations particularly. God preserve us all; Amen! prays
Your very humble servant, M.
MR. BELFORD, TO LORD M. LONDON, TUESDAY NIGHT, OCT. 3.
I obey your Lordship's commands with great pleasure.
Yesterday in the afternoon Mr. Lovelace made me a visit at my lodgings. As I was in expectation of one from Colonel Morden about the same time, I thought proper to carry him to a tavern which neither of us frequented, (on pretence of a half-appointment;) ordering notice to be sent me thither, if the Colonel came; and Mr. Lovelace sent to Mowbray, and Tourville, and Mr. Doleman of Uxbridge, (who came to town to take leave of him,) to let them know where to find us.
Mr. Lovelace is too well recovered, I was going to say. I never saw him more gay, lively, and handsome. We had a good deal of bluster about some parts of the trust I had engaged in; and upon freedoms I had treated him with; in which, he would have it, that I had exceeded our agreed-upon limits; but on the arrival of our three old companions, and a nephew of Mr. Doleman's, (who had a good while been desirous to pass an hour with Mr. Lovelace,) it blew off for the present.
Mr. Mowbray and Mr. Tourville had also taken some exceptions at the freedoms of my pen; and Mr. Lovelace, after his way, took upon him to reconcile us; and did it at the expense of all three; and with such an infinite run of humour and raillery, that we had nothing to do but to laugh at what he said, and at one another. I can deal tolerably with him at my pen; but in conversation he has no equal. In short, it was his day. He was glad, he said, to find himself alive; and his two friends, clapping and rubbing their hands twenty times in an hour, declared, that now, once more, he was all himself—the charming'st fellow in the world; and they would follow him to the farthest part of the globe.
I threw a bur upon his coat now-and-then; but none would stick.
Your Lordship knows, that there are many things which occasion a roar of applause in conversation, when the heart is open, and men are resolved to be merry, which will neither bear repeating, nor thinking of afterwards. Common things, in the mouth of a man we admire, and whose wit has passed upon us for sterling, become, in a gay hour, uncommon. We watch every turn of such a one's countenance, and are resolved to laugh when he smiles, even before he utters what we are expecting to flow from his lips.
Mr. Doleman and his nephew took leave of us by twelve, Mowbray and Tourville grew very noisy by one, and were carried off by two. Wine never moves Mr. Lovelace, notwithstanding a vivacity which generally helps on over-gay spirits. As to myself, the little part I had taken in the gaiety kept me unconcerned.
The clock struck three before I could get him into any serious or attentive way—so natural to him is gaiety of heart; and such strong hold had the liveliness of the evening taken of him. His conversation, you know, my Lord, when his heart is free, runs off to the bottom without any dregs.
But after that hour, and when we thought of parting, he became a little more serious: and then he told me his designs, and gave me a plan of his intended tour; wishing heartily that I could have accompanied him.
We parted about four; he not a little dissatisfied with me; for we had some talk about subjects, which, he said, he loved not to think of; to whit, Miss Harlowe's will; my executorship; papers I had in confidence communicated to that admirable lady (with no unfriendly design, I assure your Lordship;) and he insisting upon, and I refusing, the return of the letters he had written to me, from the time that he had made his first addresses to her.
He would see me once again, he said; and it would be upon very ill terms if I complied not with his request. Which I bid him not expect. But, that I might not deny him every thing, I told him, that I would give him a copy of the will; though I was sure, I said, when he read it, he would wish he had never seen it.
I had a message from him about eleven this morning, desiring me to name a place at which to dine with him, and Mowbray, and Tourville, for the last time: and soon after another from Colonel Morden, inviting me to pass the evening with him at the Bedford-head in Covent-Garden. And, that I might keep them at distance from one another, I appointed Mr. Lovelace at the Eagle in Suffolk-street.
There I met him, and the two others. We began where we left off at our last parting; and were very high with each other. But, at last, all was made up, and he offered to forget and forgive every thing, on condition that I would correspond with him while abroad, and continue the series which had been broken through by his illness; and particularly give him, as I had offered, a copy of the lady's last will.
I promised him: and he then fell to rallying me on my gravity, and on my reformation-schemes, as he called them. As we walked about the room, expecting dinner to be brought in, he laid his hand upon my shoulder; then pushed me from him with a curse; walking round me, and surveying me from head to foot; then calling for the observations of the others, he turned round upon his heel, and with one of his peculiar wild airs, 'Ha, ha, ha, ha,' burst he out, 'that these sour-faced proselytes should take it into their heads that they cannot be pious, without forfeiting both their good-nature and good-manners!—Why, Jack,' turning me about, 'pr'ythee look up, man!—Dost thou not know, that religion, if it has taken proper hold of the heart, is the most cheerful countenance-maker in the world?—I have heard my beloved Miss Harlowe say so: and she knew, or nobody did. And was not her aspect a benign proof of the observation? But thy these wamblings in thy cursed gizzard, and thy awkward grimaces, I see thou'rt but a novice in it yet!—Ah, Belford, Belford, thou hast a confounded parcel of briers and thorns to trample over barefoot, before religion will illuminate these gloomy features!'