O my dear friend, I have had a sad conflict! Trial upon trial; conference upon conference!—But what law, what ceremony, can give a man a right to a heart which abhors him more than it does any living creature?
I hope my mother will be able to prevail for me.—But I will recount it all, though I sit up the whole night to do it; for I have a vast deal to write, and will be as minute as you wish me to be.
I concluded my last in a fright. It was occasioned by a conversation that passed between my mother and my aunt, part of which Hannah overheard. I need not give you the particulars; since what I have to relate to you from different conversations that have passed between my mother and me, in the space of a very few hours, will include them all. I will begin then.
I went down this morning when breakfast was ready with a very uneasy heart, from what Hannah had informed me of yesterday afternoon; wishing for an opportunity, however, to appeal to my mother, in hopes to engage her interest in my behalf, and purposing to try to find one when she retired to her own apartment after breakfast: but, unluckily, there was the odious Solmes, sitting asquat between my mother and sister, with so much assurance in his looks!—But you know, my dear, that those we love not, cannot do any thing to please us.
Had the wretch kept his seat, it might have been well enough: but the bend and broad-shouldered creature must needs rise, and stalk towards a chair, which was just by that which was set for me.
I removed it to a distance, as if to make way to my own: and down I sat, abruptly I believe; what I had heard all in my head.
But this was not enough to daunt him. The man is a very confident, he is a very bold, staring man!—Indeed, my dear, the man is very confident.
He took the removed chair, and drew it so near mine, squatting in it with his ugly weight, that he pressed upon my hoop.—I was so offended (all I had heard, as I said, in my head) that I removed to another chair. I own I had too little command of myself. It gave my brother and sister too much advantage. I day say they took it. But I did it involuntarily, I think. I could not help it.—I knew not what I did.
I saw that my father was excessively displeased. When angry, no man's countenance ever shews it so much as my father's. Clarissa Harlowe! said he with a big voice—and there he stopped. Sir! said I, trembling and courtesying (for I had not then sat down again); and put my chair nearer the wretch, and sat down—my face, as I could feel, all in a glow.
Make tea, child, said my kind mamma; sit by me, love, and make tea.
I removed with pleasure to the seat the man had quitted; and being thus indulgently put into employment, soon recovered myself; and in the course of the breakfasting officiously asked two or three questions of Mr. Solmes, which I would not have done, but to make up with my father.—Proud spirits may be brought to! Whisperingly spoke my sister to me, over her shoulder, with an air of triumph and scorn: but I did not mind her.
My mother was all kindness and condescension. I asked her once, if she were pleased with the tea? She said, softly, (and again called me dear,) she was pleased with all I did. I was very proud of this encouraging goodness: and all blew over, as I hoped, between my father and me; for he also spoke kindly to me two or three times.
Small accidents these, my dear, to trouble you with; only as they lead to greater, as you shall hear.
Before the usual breakfast-time was over, my father withdrew with my mother, telling her he wanted to speak with her. Then my sister and next my aunt (who was with us) dropt away.
My brother gave himself some airs of insult, which I understood well enough; but which Mr. Solmes could make nothing of: and at last he arose from his seat—Sister, said he, I have a curiosity to shew you. I will fetch it. And away he went shutting the door close after him.
I saw what all this was for. I arose; the man hemming up for a speech, rising, and beginning to set his splay-feet [indeed, my dear, the man in all his ways is hateful to me] in an approaching posture.—I will save my brother the trouble of bringing to me his curiosity, said I. I courtesied—Your servant, sir—The man cried, Madam, Madam, twice, and looked like a fool.—But away I went—to find my brother, to save my word.—But my brother, indifferent as the weather was, was gone to walk in the garden with my sister. A plain case, that he had left his curiosity with me, and designed to shew me no other.
I had but just got into my own apartment, and began to think of sending Hannah to beg an audience of my mother (the more encouraged by her condescending goodness at breakfast) when Shorey, her woman, brought me her commands to attend me in her closet.
My father, Hannah told me, was just gone out of it with a positive angry countenance. Then I as much dreaded the audience as I had wished for it before.
I went down however; but, apprehending the subject she intended to talk to me upon, approached her trembling, and my heart in visible palpitations.
She saw my concern. Holding out her kind arms, as she sat, Come kiss me, my dear, said she, with a smile like a sun-beam breaking through the cloud that overshadowed her naturally benign aspect—Why flutters my jewel so?
This preparative sweetness, with her goodness just before, confirmed my apprehensions. My mother saw the bitter pill wanted gilding.
O my Mamma! was all I could say; and I clasped my arms round her neck, and my face sunk into her bosom.
My child! my child! restrain, said she, your powers of moving! I dare not else trust myself with you.—And my tears trickled down her bosom, as hers bedewed my neck.
O the words of kindness, all to be expressed in vain, that flowed from her lips!
Lift up your sweet face, my best child, my own Clarissa Harlowe!—O my daughter, best beloved of my heart, lift up a face so ever amiable to me!—Why these sobs?—Is an apprehended duty so affecting a thing, that before I can speak—But I am glad, my love, you can guess at what I have to say to you. I am spared the pains of breaking to you what was a task upon me reluctantly enough undertaken to break to you. Then rising, she drew a chair near her own, and made me sit down by her, overwhelmed as I was with tears of apprehension of what she had to say, and of gratitude for her truly maternal goodness to me—sobs still my only language.
And drawing her chair still nearer to mine, she put her arms round my neck, and my glowing cheek wet with my tears, close to her own: Let me talk to you, my child. Since silence is your choice, hearken to me, and be silent.
You know, my dear, what I every day forego, and undergo, for the sake of peace. Your papa is a very good man, and means well; but he will not be controuled; nor yet persuaded. You have sometimes seemed to pity me, that I am obliged to give up every point. Poor man! his reputation the less for it; mine the greater: yet would I not have this credit, if I could help it, at so dear a rate to him and to myself. You are a dutiful, a prudent, and a wise child, she was pleased to say, in hope, no doubt, to make me so: you would not add, I am sure, to my trouble: you would not wilfully break that peace which costs your mother so much to preserve. Obedience is better than sacrifice. O my Clary Harlowe, rejoice my heart, by telling me that I have apprehended too much!—I see your concern! I see your perplexity! I see your conflict! [loosing her arm, and rising, not willing I should see how much she herself was affected]. I will leave you a moment.—Answer me not—[for I was essaying to speak, and had, as soon as she took her dear cheek from mine, dropt down on my knees, my hands clasped, and lifted up in a supplicating manner]—I am not prepared for your irresistible expostulation, she was pleased to say. I will leave you to recollection: and I charge you, on my blessing, that all this my truly maternal tenderness be not thrown away upon you.
And then she withdrew into the next apartment; wiping her eyes as she went from me; as mine overflowed; my heart taking in the whole compass of her meaning.
She soon returned, having recovered more steadiness.
Still on my knees, I had thrown my face across the chair she had sat in.
Look up to me, my Clary Harlowe—No sullenness, I hope!
No, indeed, my ever-to-be-revered Mamma.—And I arose. I bent my knee.
She raised me. No kneeling to me, but with knees of duty and compliance. Your heart, not your knees, must bend. It is absolutely determined. Prepare yourself therefore to receive your father, when he visits you by-and-by, as he would wish to receive you. But on this one quarter of an hour depends the peace of my future life, the satisfaction of all the family, and your own security from a man of violence: and I charge you besides, on my blessing, that you think of being Mrs. Solmes.
There went the dagger to my heart, and down I sunk: and when I recovered, found myself in the arms of my Hannah, my sister's Betty holding open my reluctantly-opened palm, my laces cut, my linen scented with hartshorn; and my mother gone. Had I been less kindly treated, the hated name still forborne to be mentioned, or mentioned with a little more preparation and reserve, I had stood the horrid sound with less visible emotion—But to be bid, on the blessing of a mother so dearly beloved, so truly reverenced, to think of being MRS. SOLMES—what a denunciation was that!
Shorey came in with a message (delivered in her solemn way): Your mamma, Miss, is concerned for your disorder: she expects you down again in an hour; and bid me say, that she then hopes every thing from your duty.
I made no reply; for what could I say? And leaning upon my Hannah's arm, withdrew to my own apartment. There you will guess how the greatest part of the hour was employed.
Within that time, my mother came up to me.
I love, she was pleased to say, to come into this apartment.—No emotions, child! No flutters!—Am I not your mother?—Do not discompose me by discomposing yourself! Do not occasion me uneasiness, when I would give you nothing but pleasure. Come, my dear, we will go into your closet.
She took my hand, led the way, and made me sit down by her: and after she had inquired how I did, she began in a strain as if she supposed I had made use of the intervening space to overcome all my objections.
She was pleased to tell me, that my father and she, in order to spare my natural modesty, had taken the whole affair upon themselves—
Hear me out; and then speak.—He is not indeed every thing I wish him to be: but he is a man of probity, and has no vices—
No vices, Madam—!
Hear me out, child.—You have not behaved much amiss to him: we have seen with pleasure that you have not—
O Madam, must I not now speak!
I shall have done presently.—A young creature of your virtuous and pious turn, she was pleased to say, cannot surely love a profligate: you love your brother too well, to wish to marry one who had like to have killed him, and who threatened your uncles, and defies us all. You have had your own way six or seven times: we want to secure you against a man so vile. Tell me (I have a right to know) whether you prefer this man to all others?—Yet God forbid that I should know you do; for such a declaration would make us all miserable. Yet tell me, are your affections engaged to this man?
I knew not what the inference would be, if I said they were not.
You hesitate—You answer me not—You cannot answer me.—Rising—Never more will I look upon you with an eye of favour—
O Madam, Madam! Kill me not with your displeasure—I would not, I need not, hesitate one moment, did I not dread the inference, if I answer you as you wish.—Yet be that inference what it will, your threatened displeasure will make me speak. And I declare to you, that I know not my own heart, if it not be absolutely free. And pray, let me ask my dearest Mamma, in what has my conduct been faulty, that, like a giddy creature, I must be forced to marry, to save me from—From what? Let me beseech you, Madam, to be the guardian of my reputation! Let not your Clarissa be precipitated into a state she wishes not to enter into with any man! And this upon a supposition that otherwise she shall marry herself, and disgrace her whole family.
Well then, Clary [passing over the force of my plea] if your heart be free—
O my beloved Mamma, let the usual generosity of your dear heart operate in my favour. Urge not upon me the inference that made me hesitate.
I won't be interrupted, Clary—You have seen in my behaviour to you, on this occasion, a truly maternal tenderness; you have observed that I have undertaken the task with some reluctance, because the man is not every thing; and because I know you carry your notions of perfection in a man too high—
Dearest Madam, this one time excuse me!—Is there then any danger that I should be guilty of an imprudent thing for the man's sake you hint at?
Again interrupted!—Am I to be questioned, and argued with? You know this won't do somewhere else. You know it won't. What reason then, ungenerous girl, can you have for arguing with me thus, but because you think from my indulgence to you, you may?
What can I say? What can I do? What must that cause be that will not bear being argued upon?
Again! Clary Harlowe!
Dearest Madam, forgive me: it was always my pride and my pleasure to obey you. But look upon that man—see but the disagreeableness of his person—
Now, Clary, do I see whose person you have in your eye!—Now is Mr. Solmes, I see, but comparatively disagreeable; disagreeable only as another man has a much more specious person
But, Madam, are not his manners equally so?—Is not his person the true representative of his mind?—That other man is not, shall not be, any thing to me, release me but from this one man, whom my heart, unbidden, resists.
Condition thus with your father. Will he bear, do you think, to be thus dialogued with? Have I not conjured you, as you value my peace—What is it that I do not give up?—This very task, because I apprehended you would not be easily persuaded, is a task indeed upon me. And will you give up nothing? Have you not refused as many as have been offered to you? If you would not have us guess for whom, comply; for comply you must, or be looked upon as in a state of defiance with your whole family.
And saying this, she arose and went from me. But at the chamber-door stopt; and turned back: I will not say below in what a disposition I leave you. Consider of every thing. The matter is resolved upon. As you value your father's blessing and mine, and the satisfaction of all the family, resolve to comply. I will leave you for a few moments. I will come up to you again. See that I find you as I wish to find you; and since your heart is free, let your duty govern it.
In about half an hour, my mother returned. She found me in tears. She took my hand: It is my part evermore, said she, to be of the acknowledging side. I believe I have needlessly exposed myself to your opposition, by the method I have taken with you. I first began as if I expected a denial, and by my indulgence brought it upon myself.
Do not, my dearest Mamma! do not say so!
Were the occasion for this debate, proceeded she, to have risen from myself; were it in my power to dispense with your compliance; you too well know what you can do with me.
Would any body, my dear Miss Howe, wish to marry, who sees a wife of such a temper, and blessed with such an understanding as my mother is noted for, not only deprived of all power, but obliged to be even active in bringing to bear a point of high importance, which she thinks ought not to be insisted upon?
When I came to you a second time, proceeded she, knowing that your opposition would avail you nothing, I refused to hear your reasons: and in this I was wrong too, because a young creature who loves to reason, and used to love to be convinced by reason, ought to have all her objections heard: I now therefore, this third time, see you; and am come resolved to hear all you have to say: and let me, my dear, by my patience engage your gratitude; your generosity, I will call it, because it is to you I speak, who used to have a mind wholly generous.—Let me, if your heart be really free, let me see what it will induce you to do to oblige me: and so as you permit your usual discretion to govern you, I will hear all you have to say; but with this intimation, that say what you will, it will be of no avail elsewhere.
What a dreadful saying is that! But could I engage your pity, Madam, it would be somewhat.
You have as much of my pity as of my love. But what is person, Clary, with one of your prudence, and your heart disengaged?
Should the eye be disgusted, when the heart is to be engaged?—O Madam, who can think of marrying when the heart is shocked at the first appearance, and where the disgust must be confirmed by every conversation afterwards?
This, Clary, is owing to your prepossession. Let me not have cause to regret that noble firmness of mind in so young a creature which I thought your glory, and which was my boast in your character. In this instance it would be obstinacy, and want of duty.—Have you not made objections to several—
That was to their minds, to their principles, Madam.—But this man—
Is an honest man, Clary Harlowe. He has a good mind. He is a virtuous man.
He an honest man? His a good mind, Madam? He a virtuous man?—
Nobody denies these qualities.
Can he be an honest man who offers terms that will rob all his own relations of their just expectations?—Can his mind be good—
You, Clary Harlowe, for whose sake he offers so much, are the last person who should make this observation.
Give me leave to say, Madam, that a person preferring happiness to fortune, as I do; that want not even what I have, and can give up the use of that, as an instance of duty—
No more, no more of your merits!—You know you will be a gainer by that cheerful instance of your duty; not a loser. You know you have but cast your bread upon the waters—so no more of that!—For it is not understood as a merit by every body, I assure you; though I think it a high one; and so did your father and uncles at the time—
At the time, Madam!—How unworthily do my brother and sister, who are afraid that the favour I was so lately in—
I hear nothing against your brother and sister—What family feuds have I in prospect, at a time when I hoped to have most comfort from you all!
God bless my brother and sister in all their worthy views! You shall have no family feuds if I can prevent them. You yourself, Madam, shall tell me what I shall bear from them, and I will bear it: but let my actions, not their misrepresentations (as I am sure by the disgraceful prohibitions I have met with has been the case) speak for me.
Just then, up came my father, with a sternness in his looks that made me tremble.—He took two or three turns about my chamber, though pained by his gout; and then said to my mother, who was silent as soon as she saw him—
My dear, you are long absent.—Dinner is near ready. What you had to say, lay in a very little compass. Surely, you have nothing to do but to declare your will, and my will—But perhaps you may be talking of the preparations—Let us have you soon down—Your daughter in your hand, if worthy of the name.
And down he went, casting his eye upon me with a look so stern, that I was unable to say one word to him, or even for a few minutes to my mother.
Was not this very intimidating, my dear?
My mother, seeing my concern, seemed to pity me. She called me her good child, and kissed me; and told me that my father should not know I had made such opposition. He has kindly furnished us with an excuse for being so long together, said she.—Come, my dear—dinner will be upon table presently—Shall we go down?—And took my hand.
This made me start: What, Madam, go down to let it be supposed we were talking of preparations!—O my beloved Mamma, command me not down upon such a supposition.
You see, child, that to stay longer together, will be owning that you are debating about an absolute duty; and that will not be borne. Did not your father himself some days ago tell you, he would be obeyed? I will a third time leave you. I must say something by way of excuse for you: and that you desire not to go down to dinner—that your modesty on the occasion—
O Madam! say not my modesty on such an occasion: for that will be to give hope—
And design you not to give hope?—Perverse girl!—Rising and flinging from me; take more time for consideration!—Since it is necessary, take more time—and when I see you next, let me know what blame I have to cast upon myself, or to bear from your father, for my indulgence to you.
She made, however, a little stop at the chamber-door; and seemed to expect that I would have besought her to make the gentlest construction for me; for, hesitating, she was pleased to say, I suppose you would not have me make a report—
O Madam, interrupted I, whose favour can I hope for if I lose my mamma's?
To have desired a favourable report, you know, my dear, would have been qualifying upon a point that I was too much determined upon, to give room for any of my friends to think I have the least hesitation about it. And so my mother went down stairs.
I will deposit thus far; and, as I know you will not think me too minute in the relation of particulars so very interesting to one you honour with your love, proceed in the same way. As matters stand, I don't care to have papers, so freely written, about me.
Pray let Robert call every day, if you can spare him, whether I have any thing ready or not.
I should be glad you would not send him empty handed. What a generosity will it be in you, to write as frequently from friendship, as I am forced to do from misfortune! The letters being taken away will be an assurance that you have them. As I shall write and deposit as I have opportunity, the formality of super and sub-scription will be excused. For I need not say how much I am
Your sincere and ever affectionate, CL. HARLOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE
My mother, on her return, which was as soon as she had dined, was pleased to inform me, that she told my father, on his questioning her about my cheerul compliance (for, it seems, the cheerful was all that was doubted) that she was willing, on so material a point, to give a child whom she had so much reason to love (as she condescended to acknowledge were her words) liberty to say all that was in her heart to say, that her compliance might be the freer: letting him know, that when he came up, she was attending to my pleas; for that she found I had rather not marry at all.
She told me, that to this my father angrily said, let her take care—let her take care—that she give me not ground to suspect her of a preference somewhere else. But, if it be to ease her heart, and not to dispute my will, you may hear her out.
So, Clary, said my mother, I am returned in a temper accordingly: and I hope you will not again, by your peremptoriness, shew me how I ought to treat you.
Indeed, Madam, you did me justice to say, I have no inclination to marry at all. I have not, I hope, made myself so very unuseful in my papa's family, as—
No more of your merits, Clary! You have been a good child. You have eased me of all the family cares: but do not now give more than ever you relieved me from. You have been amply repaid in the reputation your skill and management have given you: but now there is soon to be a period to all those assistances from you. If you marry, there will be a natural, and, if to please us, a desirable period; because your own family will employ all your talents in that way: if you do not, there will be a period likewise, but not a natural one—you understand me, child.
I have made inquiry already after a housekeeper. I would have had your good Norton; but I suppose you will yourself wish to have the worthy woman with you. If you desire it, that shall be agreed upon for you.
But, why, dearest Madam, why am I, the youngest, to be precipitated into a state, that I am very far from wishing to enter into with any body?
You are going to question me, I suppose, why your sister is not thought of for Mr. Solmes?
I hope, Madam, it will not displease you if I were.
I might refer you for an answer to your father.—Mr. Solmes has reasons for preferring you—
And I have reasons, Madam, for disliking him. And why I am—
This quickness upon me, interrupted my mother, is not to be borne! I am gone, and your father comes, if I can do no good with you.
O Madam, I would rather die, than—
She put her hand to my mouth—No peremptoriness, Clary Harlowe: once you declare yourself inflexible, I have done.
I wept for vexation. This is all, all, my brother's doings—his grasping views—
No reflections upon your brother: he has entirely the honour of the family at heart.
I would no more dishonour my family, Madam, than my brother would.
I believe it: but I hope you will allow your father, and me, and your uncles, to judge what will do it honour, what dishonour.
I then offered to live single; never to marry at all; or never but with their full approbation.
If you mean to shew your duty, and your obedience, Clary, you must shew it in our way, not in your own.
I hope, Madam, that I have not so behaved hitherto, as to render such a trial of my obedience necessary.
Yes, Clary, I cannot but say that you have hitherto behaved extremely well: but you have had no trials till now: and I hope, that now you are called to one, you will not fail in it. Parents, proceeded she, when children are young, are pleased with every thing they do. You have been a good child upon the whole: but we have hitherto rather complied with you, than you with us. Now that you are grown up to marriageable years, is the test; especially as your grandfather has made you independent, as we may say, in preference to those who had prior expectations upon that estate.
Madam, my grandfather knew, and expressly mentioned in his will his desire, that my father will more than make it up to my sister. I did nothing but what I thought my duty to procure his favour. It was rather a mark of his affection, than any advantage to me: For, do I either seek or wish to be independent? Were I to be queen of the universe, that dignity should not absolve me from my duty to you and to my father. I would kneel for your blessings, were it in the presence of millions—so that—
I am loth to interrupt you, Clary; though you could more than once break in upon me. You are young and unbroken: but, with all this ostentation of your duty, I desire you to shew a little more deference to me when I am speaking.
I beg your pardon, dear Madam, and your patience with me on such an occasion as this. If I did not speak with earnestness upon it, I should be supposed to have only maidenly objections against a man I never can endure.
Dearest, dearest Madam, permit me to speak what I have to say, this once—It is hard, it is very hard, to be forbidden to enter into the cause of all these misunderstandings, because I must not speak disrespectfully of one who supposes me in the way of his ambition, and treats me like a slave—
Whither, whither, Clary—
My dearest Mamma!—My duty will not permit me so far to suppose my father arbitrary, as to make a plea of that arbitrariness to you—
How now, Clary!—O girl!
Your patience, my dearest Mamma:—you were pleased to say, you would hear me with patience.—PERSON in a man is nothing, because I am supposed to be prudent: so my eye is to be disgusted, and my reason not convinced—
Thus are my imputed good qualities to be made my punishment; and I am to wedded to a monster—
[Astonishing!—Can this, Clarissa, be from you?
The man, Madam, person and mind, is a monster in my eye.]—And that I may be induced to bear this treatment, I am to be complimented with being indifferent to all men: yet, at other times, and to serve other purposes, be thought prepossessed in favour of a man against whose moral character lie just objections.—Confined, as if, like the giddiest of creatures, I would run away with this man, and disgrace my whole family! O my dearest Mamma! who can be patient under such treatment?
Now, Clary, I suppose you will allow me to speak. I think I have had patience indeed with you.—Could I have thought—but I will put all upon a short issue. Your mother, Clarissa, shall shew you an example of that patience you so boldly claim from her, without having any yourself.
O my dear, how my mother's condescension distressed me at the time!—Infinitely more distressed me, than rigour could have done. But she knew, she was to be sure aware, that she was put upon a harsh, upon an unreasonable service, let me say, or she would not, she could not, have had so much patience with me.
Let me tell you then, proceeded she, that all lies in a small compass, as your father said.—You have been hitherto, as you are pretty ready to plead, a dutiful child. You have indeed had no cause to be otherwise. No child was ever more favoured. Whether you will discredit all your past behaviour; whether, at a time and upon an occasion, that the highest instance of duty is expected from you (an instance that is to crown all); and when you declare that your heart is free—you will give that instance; or whether, having a view to the independence you may claim, (for so, Clary, whatever be your motive, it will be judged,) and which any man you favour, can assert for you against us all; or rather for himself in spite of us—whether, I say, you will break with us all; and stand in defiance of a jealous father, needlessly jealous, I will venture to say, of the prerogatives of his sex, as to me, and still ten times more jealous of the authority of a father;—this is now the point with us. You know your father has made it a point; and did he ever give up one he thought he had a right to carry?
Too true, thought I to myself! And now my brother has engaged my father, his fine scheme will walk alone, without needing his leading-strings; and it is become my father's will that I oppose; not my brother's grasping views.
I was silent. To say the truth, I was just then sullenly silent. My heart was too big. I thought it was hard to be thus given up by my mother; and that she should make a will so uncontroulable as my brother's, her will.—My mother, my dear, though I must not say so, was not obliged to marry against her liking. My mother loved my father.
My silence availed me still less.
I see, my dear, said she, that you are convinced. Now, my good child—now, my Clary, do I love you! It shall not be known, that you have argued with me at all. All shall be imputed to that modesty which has ever so much distinguished you. You shall have the full merit of your resignation.
She tenderly wiped the tears from my eyes, and kissed my cheek—Your father expects you down with a cheerful countenance—but I will excuse your going. All your scruples, you see, have met with an indulgence truly maternal from me. I rejoice in the hope that you are convinced. This indeed seems to be a proof of the truth of your agreeable declaration, that your heart is free.
Did not this seem to border upon cruelty, my dear, in so indulgent a mother?—It would be wicked [would it not] to suppose my mother capable of art?—But she is put upon it, and obliged to take methods to which her heart is naturally above stooping; and all intended for my good, because she sees that no arguing will be admitted any where else!
I will go down, proceeded she, and excuse your attendance at afternoon tea, as I did to dinner: for I know you will have some little reluctances to subdue. I will allow you those; and also some little natural shynesses—and so you shall not come down, if you chuse not to come down. Only, my dear, do not disgrace my report when you come to supper. And be sure behave as you used to do to your brother and sister; for your behaviour to them will be one test of your cheerful obedience to us. I advise as a friend, you see, rather than command as a mother—So adieu, my love. And again she kissed me; and was going.
O my dear Mamma, said I, forgive me!—But surely you cannot believe, I can ever think of having that man!
She was very angry, and seemed to be greatly disappointed. She threatened to turn me over to my father and uncles:—she however bid me (generously bid me) consider, what a handle I gave to my brother and sister, if I thought they had views to serve by making my uncles dissatisfied with me.
I, said she, in a milder accent, have early said all that I thought could be said against the present proposal, on a supposition, that you, who have refused several other (whom I own to be preferable as to person) would not approve of it; and could I have succeeded, you, Clary, had never heard of it. But if I could not, how can you expect to prevail? My great ends in the task I have undertaken, are the preservation of the family peace so likely to be overturned; to reinstate you in the affections of your father and uncles: and to preserve you from a man of violence.—Your father, you must needs think will flame out upon your refusal to comply: your uncles are so
thoroughly convinced of the consistency of the measure with their favourite views of aggrandizing the family, that they are as much determined as your father: your aunt Hervey and your uncle Hervey are of the same party. And it is hard, if a father and mother, and uncles, and aunt, all conjoined, cannot be allowed to direct your choice—surely, my dear girl, proceeded she [for I was silent all this time], it cannot be that you are the more averse, because the family views will be promoted by the match—this, I assure you, is what every body must think, if you comply not. Nor, while the man, so obnoxious to us all, remains unmarried, and buzzes about you, will the strongest wishes to live single, be in the least regarded. And well you know, that were Mr. Lovelace an angel, and your father had made it a point that you should not have him, it would be in vain to dispute his will. As to the prohibition laid upon you (much as I will own against my liking), that is owing to the belief that you corresponded by Miss Howe's means with that man; nor do I doubt that you did so.
I answered to every article, in such a manner, as I am sure would have satisfied her, could she have been permitted to judge for herself; and I then inveighed with bitterness against the disgraceful prohibitions laid upon me.
They would serve to shew me, she was pleased to say, how much in earnest my father was. They might be taken off, whenever I thought fit, and no harm done, nor disgrace received. But if I were to be contumacious, I might thank myself for all that would follow.
I sighed. I wept. I was silent.
Shall I, Clary, said she, shall I tell your father that these prohibitions are as unnecessary as I hoped they would be? That you know your duty, and will not offer to controvert his will? What say you, my love?
O Madam, what can I say to questions so indulgently put? I do indeed know my duty: no creature in the world is more willing to practise it: but, pardon me, dearest Madam, if I say, that I must bear these prohibitions, if I am to pay so dear to have them taken off.
Determined and perverse, my dear mamma called me: and after walking twice or thrice in anger about the room, she turned to me: Your heart free, Clarissa! How can you tell me your heart is free? Such extraordinary prepossessions to a particular person must be owing to extraordinary prepossessions in another's favour! Tell me, Clary, and tell me truly—Do you not continue to correspond with Mr. Lovelace?
Dearest Madam, replied I, you know my motives: to prevent mischief, I answered his letters. The reasons for our apprehensions of this sort are not over.
I own to you, Clary, (although now I would not have it known,) that I once thought a little qualifying among such violent spirits was not amiss. I did not know but all things would come round again by the mediation of Lord M. and his two sisters: but as they all three think proper to resent for their nephew; and as their nephew thinks fit to defy us all; and as terms are offered, on the other hand, that could not be asked, which will very probably prevent your grandfather's estate going out of the family, and may be a means to bring still greater into it; I see not, that the continuance of your correspondence with him either can or ought to be permitted. I therefore now forbid it to you, as you value my favour.
Be pleased, Madam, only to advise me how to break it off with safety to my brother and uncles; and it is all I wish for. Would to heaven, the man so hated had not the pretence to make of having been too violently treated, when he meant peace and reconciliation! It would always have been in my own power to have broke with him. His reputed immoralities would have given me a just pretence at any time to do so. But, Madam, as my uncles and my brother will keep no measures; as he has heard what the view is; and his regard for me from resenting their violent treatment of him and his family; what can I do? Would you have me, Madam, make him desperate?
The law will protect us, child! offended magistracy will assert itself—
But, Madam, may not some dreadful mischief first happen?—The law asserts not itself, till it is offended.
You have made offers, Clary, if you might be obliged in the point in question—Are you really in earnest, were you to be complied with, to break off all correspondence with Mr. Lovelace?—Let me know this.
Indeed I am; and I will. You, Madam, shall see all the letters that have passed between us. You shall see I have given him no encouragement independent of my duty. And when you have seen them, you will be better able to direct me how, on the condition I have offered, to break entirely with him.
I take you at your word, Clarissa—Give me his letters; and the copies of yours.
I am sure, Madam, you will keep the knowledge that I write, and what I write—
No conditions with your mother—surely my prudence may be trusted to.
I begged her pardon; and besought her to take the key of the private drawer in my escritoire, where they lay, that she herself might see that I had no reserves to my mother.
She did; and took all his letters, and the copies of mine.—Unconditioned with, she was pleased to say, they shall be yours again, unseen by any body else.
I thanked her; and she withdrew to read them; saying, she would return them, when she had.
You, my dear, have seen all the letters that passed between Mr. Lovelace and me, till my last return from you. You have acknowledged, that he has nothing to boast of from them. Three others I have received since, by the private conveyance I told you of: the last I have not yet answered.
In these three, as in those you have seen, after having besought my favour, and, in the most earnest manner, professed the ardour of his passion for me; and set forth the indignities done him; the defiances my brother throws out against him in all companies; the menaces, and hostile appearance of my uncles wherever they go; and the methods they take to defame him; he declares, 'That neither his own honour, nor the honour of his family, (involved as that is in the undistinguishing reflection cast upon him for an unhappy affair which he would have shunned, but could not) permit him to bear these confirmed indignities: that as my inclinations, if not favourable to him, cannot be, nor are, to such a man as the newly-introduced Solmes, he is interested the more to resent my brother's behaviour; who to every body avows his rancour and malice; and glories in the probability he has, through the address of this Solmes, of mortifying me, and avenging himself on him: that it is impossible he should not think himself concerned to frustrate a measure so directly levelled at him, had he not a still higher motive for hoping to frustrate it: that I must forgive him, if he enter into conference with Solmes upon it. He earnestly insists (upon what he has so often proposed) that I will give him leave, in company with Lord M. to wait upon my uncles, and even upon my father—and he promises patience, if new provocations, absolutely beneath a man to bear, be not given:' which by the way I am far from being able to engage for.
In my answer, I absolutely declare, as I tell him I have often done, 'That he is to expect no favour from me against the approbation of my friends: that I am sure their consents for his visiting any of them will never be obtained: that I will not be either so undutiful, or so indiscreet, as to suffer my interests to be separated from the interests of my family, for any man upon earth: that I do not think myself obliged to him for the forbearance I desire one flaming spirit to have with others: that in this desire I require nothing of him, but what prudence, justice, and the laws of his country require: that if he has any expectations of favour from me, on that account, he deceives himself: that I have no inclination, as I have often told him, to change my condition: that I cannot allow myself to correspond with him any longer in this clandestine manner: it is mean, low, undutiful, I tell him; and has a giddy appearance, which cannot be excused: that therefore he is not to expect that I will continue it.
To this in his last, among other things, he replies, 'That if I am actually determined to break off all correspondence with him, he must conclude, that it is with a view to become the wife of a man, whom no woman of honour and fortune can think tolerable. And in that case, I must excuse him for saying, that he shall neither be able to bear the thoughts of losing for ever a person in whom all his present and all his future hopes are centred; nor support himself with patience under the insolent triumphs of my brother upon it. But that nevertheless he will not threaten either his own life, or that of any other man. He must take his resolutions as such a dreaded event shall impel him at the time. If he shall know that it will have my consent, he must endeavour to resign to his destiny: but if it be brought about by compulsion, he shall not be able to answer for the consequence.'
I will send you these letters for your perusal in a few days. I would enclose them; but that it is possible something may happen, which may make my mother require to re-peruse them. When you see them, you will observe how he endeavours to hold me to this correspondence.
In about an hour my mother returned. Take your letters, Clary: I have nothing, she was pleased to say, to tax your discretion with, as to the wording of yours to him: you have even kept up a proper dignity, as well as observed all the rules of decorum; and you have resented, as you ought to resent, his menacing invectives. In a word, I see not, that he can form the least expectations, from what you have written, that you will encourage the passion he avows for you. But does he not avow his passion? Have you the least doubt about what must be the issue of this correspondence, if continued? And do you yourself think, when you know the avowed hatred of one side, and he declared defiances of the other, that this can be, that it ought to be a match?
By no means it can, Madam; you will be pleased to observed, that I have said as much to him. But now, Madam, that the whole correspondence is before you, I beg your commands what to do in a situation so very disagreeable.
One thing I will tell you, Clary—but I charge you, as you would not have me question the generosity of your spirit, to take no advantage of it, either mentally or verbally; that I am so much pleased with the offer of your keys to me, made in so cheerful and unreserved a manner, and in the prudence you have shewn in your letters, that were it practicable to bring every one, or your father only, into my opinion, I should readily leave all the rest to your discretion, reserving only to myself the direction or approbation of your future letters; and to see, that you broke off the correspondence as soon as possible. But as it is not, and as I know your father would have no patience with you, should it be acknowledged that you correspond with Mr. Lovelace, or that you have corresponded with him since the time he prohibited you to do so; I forbid you to continue such a liberty—Yet, as the case is difficult, let me ask you, What you yourself can propose? Your heart, you say, is free. Your own, that you cannot think, as matters circumstanced, that a match with a man so obnoxious as he now is to us all, is proper to be thought of: What do you propose to do?—What, Clary, are your own thoughts of the matter?
Without hesitation thus I answered—What I humbly propose is this:—'That I will write to Mr. Lovelace (for I have not answered his last) that he has nothing to do between my father and me: that I neither ask his advice nor need it: but that since he thinks he has some pretence for interfering, because of my brother's avowal of the interest of Mr. Solmes in displeasure to him, I will assure him (without giving him any reason to impute the assurance to be in the least favourable to himself) that I will never be that man's.' And if, proceeded I, I may never be permitted to give him this assurance; and Mr. Solmes, in consequence of it, be discouraged from prosecuting his address; let Mr. Lovelace be satisfied or dissatisfied, I will go no farther; nor write another line to him; nor ever see him more, if I can avoid it: and I shall have a good excuse for it, without bringing in any of my family.
Ah! my love!—But what shall we do about the terms Mr. Solmes offers? Those are the inducements with every body. He has even given hopes to your brother that he will make exchanges of estates; or, at least, that he will purchase the northern one; for you know it must be entirely consistent with the family-views, that we increase our interest in this country. Your brother, in short, has given a plan that captivates us all. And a family so rich in all its branches, and that has its views to honour, must be pleased to see a very great probability of taking rank one day among the principal in the kingdom.
And for the sake of these views, for the sake of this plan of my brother's, am I, Madam, to be given in marriage to a man I can never endure!—O my dear Mamma, save me, save me, if you can, from this heavy evil.—I had rather be buried alive, indeed I had, than have that man!
She chid me for my vehemence; but was so good as to tell me, That she would sound my uncle Harlowe, who was then below; and if he encouraged her (or would engage to second her) she would venture to talk to my father herself; and I should hear further in the morning.
She went down to tea, and kindly undertook to excuse my attendance at supper.
But is it not a sad thing, I repeat, to be obliged to stand in opposition to the will of such a mother? Why, as I often say to myself, was such a man as this Solmes fixed upon? The only man in the world, surely, that could offer so much, and deserve so little!
Little indeed does he deserve!—Why, my dear, the man has the most indifferent of characters. Every mouth is opened against him for his sordid ways—A foolish man, to be so base-minded!—When the difference between the obtaining of a fame for generosity, and incurring the censure of being a miser, will not, prudently managed, cost fifty pounds a year.
What a name have you got, at a less expense? And what an opportunity had he of obtaining credit at a very small one, succeeding such a wretched creature as Sir Oliver, in fortunes so vast?—Yet has he so behaved, that the common phrase is applied to him, That Sir Oliver will never be dead while Mr. Solmes lives.
The world, as I have often thought, ill-natured as it is said to be, is generally more just in characters (speaking by what it feels) than is usually apprehended: and those who complain most of its censoriousness, perhaps should look inwardly for the occasion oftener than they do.
My heart is a little at ease, on the hopes that my mother will be able to procure favour for me, and a deliverance from this man; and so I have leisure to moralize. But if I had not, I should not forbear to intermingle occasionally these sorts of remarks, because you command me never to omit them when they occur to my mind: and not to be able to make them, even in a more affecting situation, when one sits down to write, would shew one's self more engaged to self, and to one's own concerns, than attentive to the wishes of a friend. If it be said, that it is natural so to be, what makes that nature, on occasions where a friend may be obliged, or reminded of a piece of instruction, which (writing down) one's self may be the better for, but a fault; which it would set a person above nature to subdue?
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE SAT. MAR. 4.
Would you not have thought something might have been obtained in my favour, from an offer so reasonable, from an expedient so proper, as I imagine, to put a tolerable end, as from myself, to a correspondence I hardly know how otherwise, with safety to some of my family, to get rid of?—But my brother's plan, (which my mother spoke of, and of which I have in vain endeavoured to procure a copy, with a design to take it to pieces, and expose it, as I question not there is room to do,) joined with my father's impatience of contradiction, are irresistible.
I have not been in bed all night; nor am I in the least drowsy. Expectation, and hope, and doubt, (an uneasy state!) kept me sufficiently wakeful. I stept down at my usual time, that it might not be known I had not been in bed; and gave directions in the family way.
About eight o'clock, Shorey came to me from my mother with orders to attend her in her chamber.
My mother had been weeping, I saw by her eyes: but her aspect seemed to be less tender, and less affectionate, than the day before; and this, as soon as I entered into her presence, struck me with an awe, which gave a great damp to my spirits.
Sit down, Clary Harlowe; I shall talk to you by-and-by: and continued looking into a drawer among laces and linens, in a way neither busy nor unbusy.
I believe it was a quarter of an hour before she spoke to me (my heart throbbing with the suspense all the time); and then she asked me coldly, What directions I had given for the day?
I shewed her the bill of fare for this day, and to-morrow, if, I said, it pleased her to approve of it.
She made a small alteration in it; but with an air so cold and so solemn, as added to my emotions.
Mr. Harlowe talks of dining out to-day, I think, at my brother Antony's—
Mr. Harlowe!—Not my father!—Have I not then a father!—thought I.
Sit down when I bid you.
I sat down.
You look very sullen, Clary.
I hope not, Madam.
If children would always be children—parents—And there she stopt.
She then went to her toilette, and looked into the glass, and gave half a sigh—the other half, as if she would not have sighed if she could have helped it, she gently hem'd away.
I don't love to see the girl look so sullen.
Indeed, Madam, I am not sullen.—And I arose, and, turning from her, drew out my handkerchief; for the tears ran down my cheeks.
I thought, by the glass before me, I saw the mother in her softened eye cast towards me. But her words confirmed not the hoped-for tenderness.
One of the most provoking things in this world is, to have people cry for what they can help!
I wish to heaven I could, Madam!—And I sobbed again.
Tears of penitence and sobs of perverseness are mighty well suited!—You may go up to your chamber. I shall talk with you by-and-by.
I courtesied with reverence.
Mock me not with outward gestures of respect. The heart, Clary, is what I want.
Indeed, Madam, you have it. It is not so much mine as my Mamma's!
Fine talking!—As somebody says, If words were to pass for duty, Clarissa Harlowe would be the dutifulest child breathing.
God bless that somebody!—Be it whom it will, God bless that somebody!—And I courtesied, and, pursuant to her last command, was going.
She seemed struck; but was to be angry with me.
So turning from me, she spoke with quickness, Whither now, Clary Harlowe?
You commanded me, Madam, to go to my chamber.
I see you are very ready to go out of my presence.—Is your compliance the effect of sullenness, or obedience?—You are very ready to leave me.
I could hold no longer; but threw myself at her feet: O my dearest Mamma! Let me know all I am to suffer! Let me know what I am to be!—I will bear it, if I can bear it: but your displeasure I cannot bear!
Leave me, leave me, Clary Harlowe!—No kneeling!—Limbs so supple! Will so stubborn!—Rise, I tell you.
I cannot rise! I will disobey my Mamma, when she bids me leave her without being reconciled to me! No sullens, my Mamma: no perverseness: but, worse than either: this is direct disobedience!—Yet tear not yourself from me! [wrapping my arms about her as I kneeled; she struggling to get from me; my face lifted up to hers, with eyes running over, that spoke not my heart if they were not all humility and reverence] You must not, must not, tear yourself from me! [for still the dear lady struggled, and looked this way and that, all in a sweet disorder, as if she knew not what to do].—I will neither rise, nor leave you, nor let you go, till you say you are not angry with me.
O thou ever-moving child of my heart! [folding her dear arms about my neck, as mine embraced her knees] Why was this task—But leave me!—You have discomposed me beyond expression! Leave me, my dear!—I won't be angry with you—if I can help it—if you'll be good.
I arose trembling, and, hardly knowing what I did, or how I stood or walked, withdrew to my chamber. My Hannah followed me as soon as she heard me quit my mother's presence, and with salts and spring-water just kept me from fainting; and that was as much as she could do. It was near two hours before I could so far recover myself as to take up my pen, to write to you how unhappily my hopes have ended.
My mother went down to breakfast. I was not fit to appear: but if I had been better, I suppose I should not have been sent for; since the permission for my attending her down, was given by my father (when in my chamber) only on condition that she found me worthy of the name of daughter. That, I doubt, I shall never be in his opinion, if he be not brought to change his mind as to this Mr. Solmes.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE [IN ANSWER TO LETTER XV.] SAT. MARCH 4, 12 O'CLOCK.
Hannah has just now brought me from the usual place your favour of yesterday. The contents of it have made me very thoughtful; and you will have an answer in my gravest style.—I to have that Mr. Solmes!—No indeed!—I will sooner—But I will write first to those passages in your letter which are less concerning, that I may touch upon this part with more patience.
As to what you mention of my sister's value for Mr. Lovelace, I am not very much surprised at it. She takes such officious pains, and it is so much her subject, to have it thought that she never did, and never could like him, that she gives but too much room to suspect that she does. She never tells the story of their parting, and of her refusal of him, but her colour rises, she looks with disdain upon me, and mingles anger with the airs she gives herself:—anger as well as airs, demonstrating, that she refused a man whom she thought worth accepting: Where else is the reason either for anger or boast?—Poor Bella! She is to be pitied—she cannot either like or dislike with temper! Would to heaven she had been mistress of all her wishes!—Would to heaven she had!
As to what you say of my giving up to my father's controul the estate devised me, my motives at the time, as you acknowledge, were not blamable. Your advice to me on the subject was grounded, as I remember, on your good opinion of me; believing that I should not make a bad use of the power willed me. Neither you nor I, my dear, although you now assume the air of a diviner, [pardon me] could have believed that would have happened which has happened, as to my father's part particularly. You were indeed jealous of my brother's views against me; or rather of his predominant love of himself; but I did not think so hardly of my brother and sister as you always did. You never loved them; and ill-will has eyes ever open to the faulty side; as good-will or love is blind even to real imperfections. I will briefly recollect my motives.
I found jealousies and uneasiness rising in every breast, where all before was unity and love. The honoured testator was reflected upon: a second childhood was attributed to him; and I was censured, as having taken advantage of it. All young creatures, thought I, more or less, covet independency; but those who wish most for it, are seldom the fittest to be trusted either with the government of themselves, or with power over others. This is certainly a very high and unusual devise to so young a creature. We should not aim at all we have power to do. To take all that good-nature, or indulgence, or good opinion confers, shews a want of moderation, and a graspingness that is unworthy of that indulgence; and are bad indications of the use that may be made of the power bequeathed. It is true, thought I, that I have formed agreeable schemes of making others as happy as myself, by the proper discharge of the stewardship intrusted to me. [Are not all estates stewardships, my dear?] But let me examine myself: Is not vanity, or secret love of praise, a principal motive with me at the bottom?—Ought I not to suspect my own heart? If I set up for myself, puffed up with every one's good opinion, may I not be left to myself?—Every one's eyes are upon the conduct, upon the visits, upon the visiters, of a young creature of our sex, made independent: And are not such subjected, more than any others, to the attempts of enterprisers and fortune-seekers?—And then, left to myself, should I take a wrong step, though with ever so good an intention, how many should I have to triumph over me, how few to pity me!—The more of the one, and the fewer of the other, for having aimed at excelling.
These were some of my reflections at the time: and I have no doubt, but that in the same situation I should do the very same thing; and that upon the maturest deliberation. Who can command or foresee events? To act up to our best judgments at the time, is all we can do. If I have erred, 'tis to worldly wisdom only that I have erred. If we suffer by an act of duty, or even by an act of generosity, is it not pleasurable on reflection, that the fault is in others, rather than in ourselves?—I had much rather have reason to think others unkind, than that they should have any to think me undutiful.
And so, my dear, I am sure had you.
And now for the most concerning part of your letter.
You think I must of necessity, as matters are circumstanced, be Solmes's wife. I will not be very rash, my dear, in protesting to the contrary: but I think it never can, and, what is still more, never ought to be!—My temper, I know, is depended upon. But I have heretofore said,* that I have something in me of my father's family, as well as of my mother's. And have I any encouragement to follow too implicitly the example which my mother sets of meekness, and resignedness to the wills of others? Is she not for ever obliged (as she was pleased to hint to me) to be of the forbearing side? In my mother's case, your observation I must own is verified, that those who will bear much, shall have much to bear.** What is it, as she says, that she has not sacrificed to peace?—Yet, has she by her sacrifices always found the peace she has deserved to find? Indeed, no!—I am afraid the very contrary. And often and often have I had reason (on her account) to reflect, that we poor mortals, by our over-solicitude to preserve undisturbed the qualities we are constitutionally fond of, frequently lose the benefits we propose to ourselves from them: since the designing and encroaching (finding out what we most fear to forfeit) direct their batteries against these our weaker places, and, making an artillery (if I may so phrase it) of our hopes and fears, play upon us at their pleasure.
* See Letter IX.
** See Letter X.
Steadiness of mind, (a quality which the ill-bred and censorious deny to any of our sex) when we are absolutely convinced of being in the right [otherwise it is not steadiness, but obstinacy] and when it is exerted in material cases, is a quality, which, as my good Dr. Lewen was wont to say, brings great credit to the possessor of it; at the same time that it usually, when tried and known, raises such above the attempts of the meanly machinating. He used therefore to inculcate upon me this steadiness, upon laudable convictions. And why may I not think that I am now put upon a proper exercise of it?
I said above, that I never can be, that I never ought to be, Mrs. Solmes.—I repeat, that I ought not: for surely, my dear, I should not give up to my brother's ambition the happiness of my future life. Surely I ought not to be the instrument of depriving Mr. Solmes's relations of their natural rights and reversionary prospects, for the sake of further aggrandizing a family (although that I am of) which already lives in great affluence and splendour; and which might be as justly dissatisfied, were all that some of it aim at to be obtained, that they were not princes, as now they are that they are not peers [For when ever was an ambitious mind, as you observe in the case of avarice,* satisfied by acquisition?]. The less, surely, ought I to give into these grasping views of my brother, as I myself heartily despise the end aimed at; as I wish not either to change my state, or better my fortunes; and as I am fully persuaded, that happiness and riches are two things, and very seldom meet together.
* See Letter X.
Yet I dread, I exceedingly dread, the conflicts I know I must encounter with. It is possible, that I may be more unhappy from the due observation of the good doctor's general precept, than were I to yield the point; since what I call steadiness is deemed stubbornness, obstinacy, prepossession, by those who have a right to put what interpretation they please upon my conduct.
So, my dear, were we perfect (which no one can be) we could not be happy in this life, unless those with whom we have to deal (those more especially who have any controul upon us) were governed by the same principles. But then does not the good Doctor's conclusion recur,—That we have nothing to do, but to chuse what is right; to be steady in the pursuit of it; and to leave the issue to Providence?
This, if you approve of my motives, (and if you don't, pray inform me) must be my aim in the present case.
But what then can I plead for a palliation to myself of my mother's sufferings on my account? Perhaps this consideration will carry some force with it—That her difficulties cannot last long; only till this great struggle shall be one way or other determined—Whereas my unhappiness, if I comply, will (from an aversion not to be overcome) be for life. To which let me add, That as I have reason to think that the present measures are not entered upon with her own natural liking, she will have the less pain, should they want the success which I think in my heart they ought to want.
I have run a great length in a very little time. The subject touched me to the quick. My reflections upon it will give you reason to expect from me a perhaps too steady behaviour in a new conference, which, I find, I must have with my mother. My father and brother, as she was pleased to tell me, dine at my uncle Antony's; and that, as I have reason to believe, on purpose to give an opportunity for it.
Hannah informs me, that she heard my father high and angry with my mother, at taking leave of her: I suppose for being to favourable to me; for Hannah heard her say, as in tears, 'Indeed, Mr. Harlowe, you greatly distress me!—The poor girl does not deserve—' Hannah heard no more, but that he said, he would break somebody's heart—Mine, I suppose—Not my mother's, I hope.
As only my sister dines with my mother, I thought I should have been commanded down: but she sent me up a plate from her table. I continued my writing. I could not touch a morsel. I ordered Hannah however to eat of it, that I might not be thought sullen.
Before I conclude this, I will see whether any thing offers from either of my private correspondencies, that will make it proper to add to it; and will take a turn in the wood-yard and garden for that purpose.
I am stopped. Hannah shall deposit this. She was ordered by my mother (who asked where I was) to tell me, that she would come up and talk with me in my own closet.—She is coming! Adieu, my dear.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE SAT. AFTERNOON.
The expected conference is over: but my difficulties are increased. This, as my mother was pleased to tell me, being the last persuasory effort that is to be attempted, I will be particular in the account of it as my head and my heart will allow it to be.
I have made, said she, as she entered my room, a short as well as early dinner, on purpose to confer with you: and I do assure you, that it will be the last conference I shall either be permitted or inclined to hold with you on the subject, if you should prove as refractory as it is imagined you will prove by some, who are of opinion, that I have not the weight with you which my indulgence deserves. But I hope you will convince as well them as me of the contrary.
Your father both dines and sups at your uncle's, on purpose to give us this opportunity; and, according to the report I shall make on his return, (which I have promised shall be a very faithful one,) he will take his measures with you.
I was offering to speak—Hear, Clarissa, what I have to tell you, said she, before you speak, unless what you have to say will signify to me your compliance—Say—Will it?—If it will, you may speak.
I was silent.
She looked with concern and anger upon me—No compliance, I find!—Such a dutiful young creature hitherto!—Will you not, can you not, speak as I would have you speak?—Then [rejecting me as it were with her hand] continue silent.—I, no more than your father, will bear your avowed contradiction.
She paused, with a look of expectation, as if she waited for my consenting answer.
I was still silent; looking down; the tears in my eyes.
O thou determined girl!—But say—Speak out—Are you resolved to stand in opposition to us all, in a point our hearts are set upon?
May I, Madam, be permitted to expostulate?—
To what purpose expostulate with me, Clarissa? Your father is determined. Have I not told you there is no receding; that the honour as well as the interest of the family is concerned? Be ingenuous: you used to be so, even occasionally against yourself:—Who at the long run must submit—all of us to you; or you to all of us?—If you intend to yield at last if you find you cannot conquer, yield now, and with a grace—for yield you must, or be none of our child.
I wept. I knew not what to say; or rather how to express what I had to say.
Take notice, that there are flaws in your grandfather's will: not a shilling of that estate will be yours, if you do not yield. Your grandfather left it to you, as a reward of your duty to him and to us—You will justly forfeit it, if—
Permit me, good Madam, to say, that, if it were unjustly bequeathed me, I ought not to wish to have it. But I hope Mr. Solmes will be apprised of these flaws.
This is very pertly said, Clarissa: but reflect, that the forfeiture of that estate, through your opposition, will be attended with the total loss of your father's favour: and then how destitute must you be; how unable to support yourself; and how many benevolent designs and good actions must you give up!
I must accommodate myself, Madam, in the latter case, to my circumstance: much only is required where much is given. It becomes me to be thankful for what I have had. I have reason to bless you, Madam, and my good Mrs. Norton, for bringing me up to be satisfied with little; with much less, I will venture to say, than my father's indulgence annually confers upon me.—And then I thought of the old Roman and his lentils.
What perverseness! said my mother.—But if you depend upon the favour of either or both of your uncles, vain will be that dependence: they will give you up, I do assure you, if your father does, and absolutely renounce you.
I am sorry, Madam, that I have had so little merit as to have made no deeper impressions of favour for me in their hearts: but I will love and honour them as long as I live.
All this, Clarissa, makes your prepossession in a certain man's favour the more evident. Indeed, your brother and sister cannot go any where, but they hear of these prepossessions.
It is a great grief to me, Madam, to be made the subject of the public talk: but I hope you will have the goodness to excuse me for observing, that the authors of my disgrace within doors, the talkers of my prepossession without, and the reporters of it from abroad, are originally the same persons.
She severely chid me for this.
I received her rebukes in silence.
You are sullen, Clarissa: I see you are sullen.—And she walked about the room in anger. Then turning to me—You can bear the imputation of sullenness I see!—You have no concern to clear yourself of it. I was afraid of telling you all I was enjoined to tell you, in case you were to be unpersuadable: but I find that I had a greater opinion of your delicacy, of your gentleness, than I needed to have—it cannot discompose so steady, so inflexible a young creature, to be told, as I now tell you, that the settlements are actually drawn; and that you will be called down in a very few days to hear them read, and to sign them: for it is impossible, if your heart be free, that you can make the least objection to them; except it will be an objection with you, that they are so much in your favour, and in the favour of all our family.
I was speechless, absolutely speechless. Although my heart was ready to burst, yet could I neither weep nor speak.
I am sorry, said she, for your averseness to this match: [match she was pleased to call it!] but there is no help. The honour and interest of the family, as your aunt has told you, and as I have told you, are concerned; and you must comply.
I was still speechless.
She folded the warm statue, as she was pleased to call me, in her arms; and entreated me, for heaven's sake, to comply.
Speech and tears were lent me at the same time.—You have given me life, Madam, said I, clasping my uplifted hands together, and falling on one knee; a happy one, till now, has your goodness, and my papa's, made it! O do not, do not, make all the remainder of it miserable!
Your father, replied she, is resolved not to see you, till he sees you as obedient a child as you used to be. You have never been put to a test till now, that deserved to be called a test. This is, this must be, my last effort with you. Give me hope, my dear child: my peace is concerned: I will compound with you but for hope: and yet your father will not be satisfied without an implicit, and even a cheerful obedience—Give me but hope, child!
To give you hope, my dearest, my most indulgent Mamma, is to give you every thing. Can I be honest, if I give a hope that I cannot confirm?
She was very angry. She again called me perverse: she upbraided me with regarding only my own prepossessions, and respecting not either her peace of mind or my own duty:—'It is a grating thing, said she, for the parents of a child, who delighted in her in all the time of her helpless infancy, and throughout every stage of her childhood; and in every part of her education to womanhood, because of the promises she gave of proving the most grateful and dutiful of children; to find, just when the time arrived which should crown their wishes, that child stand in the way of her own happiness, and her parents' comfort,and, refusing an excellent offer and noble settlements, give suspicions to her anxious friends, that she would become the property of a vile rake and libertine, who (be the occasion what it will) defies her family, and has actually embrued his hands in her brother's blood.
'I have had a very hard time of it, said she, between your father and you; for, seeing your dislike, I have more than once pleaded for you: but all to no purpose. I am only treated as a too fond mother, who, from motives of a blamable indulgence, encourage a child to stand in opposition to a father's will. I am charged with dividing the family into two parts; I and my youngest daughter standing against my husband, his two brothers, my son, my eldest daughter, and my sister Hervey. I have been told, that I must be convinced of the fitness as well as advantage to the whole (your brother and Mr. Lovelace out of the question) of carrying the contract with Mr. Solmes, on which so many contracts depend, into execution.
'Your father's heart, I tell you once more, is in it: he has declared, that he had rather have no daughter in you, than one he cannot dispose of for your own good: especially if you have owned, that your heart is free; and as the general good of his whole family is to be promoted by your obedience. He has pleaded, poor man! that his frequent gouty paroxysms (every fit more threatening than the former) give him no extraordinary prospects, either of worldly happiness, or of long days: and he hopes, that you, who have been supposed to have contributed to the lengthening of your grandfather's life, will not, by your disobedience, shorten your father's.'
This was a most affecting plea, my dear. I wept in silence upon it. I could not speak to it. And my mother proceeded: 'What therefore can be his motives, Clary Harlowe, in the earnest desire he has to see this treaty perfected, but the welfare and aggrandizement of his family; which already having fortunes to become the highest condition, cannot but aspire to greater distinctions? However slight such views as these may appear to you, Clary, you know, that they are not slight ones to any other of the family: and your father will be his own judge of what is and what is not likely to promote the good of his children. Your abstractedness, child, (affectation of abstractedness, some call it,) savours, let me tell you, of greater particularity, than we aim to carry. Modesty and humility, therefore, will oblige you rather to mistrust yourself of peculiarity, than censure views which all the world pursues, as opportunity offers.'
I was still silent; and she proceeded—'It is owing to the good opinion, Clary, which your father has of you, and of your prudence, duty, and gratitude, that he engaged for your compliance, in your absence (before you returned from Miss Howe); and that he built and finished contracts upon it, which cannot be made void, or cancelled.'
But why then, thought I, did they receive me, on my return from Miss Howe, with so much intimidating solemnity?—To be sure, my dear, this argument, as well as the rest, was obtruded upon my mother.
She went on, 'Your father has declared, that your unexpected opposition, [unexpected she was pleased to call it,] and Mr. Lovelace's continued menaces and insults, more and more convince him, that a short day is necessary in order to put an end to all that man's hopes, and to his own apprehensions resulting from the disobedience of a child so favoured. He has therefore actually ordered patterns of the richest silks to be sent for from London—'
I started—I was out of breath—I gasped, at this frightful precipitance—I was going to open with warmth against it. I knew whose the happy expedient must be: female minds, I once heard my brother say, that could but be brought to balance on the change of their state, might easily be determined by the glare and splendour of the nuptial preparations, and the pride of becoming the mistress of a family.—But she was pleased to hurry on, that I might not have time to express my disgusts at such a communication—to this effect: 'Your father therefore, my Clary, cannot, either for your sake, or his own, labour under a suspense so affecting to his repose. He has even thought fit to acquaint me, on my pleading for you, that it becomes me, as I value my own peace, [how harsh to such a wife!] and as I wish, that he does not suspect that I secretly favour the address of a vile rake, (a character which all the sex, he is pleased to say, virtuous and vicious, are but too fond of!) to exert my authority over you: and that this I may the less scrupulously do, as you have owned [the old string!] that your heart is free.'
Unworthy reflection in my mother's case, surely, this of our sex's valuing a libertine; since she made choice of my father in preference to several suitors of equal fortune, because they were of inferior reputation for morals!
'Your father, added she, at his going out, told me what he expected from me, in case I found out that I had not the requisite influence upon you—It was this—That I should directly separate myself from you, and leave you singly to take the consequence of your double disobedience—I therefore entreat you, my dear Clarissa, concluded she, and that in the most earnest and condescending manner, to signify to your father, on his return, your ready obedience; and this as well for my sake as your own.'
Affected by my mother's goodness to me, and by that part of her argument which related to her own peace, and to the suspicions they had of her secretly inclining to prefer the man so hated by them, to the man so much my aversion, I could not but wish it were possible for me to obey, I therefore paused, hesitated, considered, and was silent for some time. I could see, that my mother hoped that the result of this hesitation would be favourable to her arguments. But then recollecting, that all was owing to the instigations of a brother and sister, wholly actuated by selfish and envious views; that I had not deserved the treatment I had of late met with; that my disgrace was already become the public talk; that the man was Mr. Solmes; and that my aversion to him was too generally known, to make my compliance either creditable to myself or to them: that it would give my brother and sister a triumph over me, and over Mr. Lovelace, which they would not fail to glory in; and which, although it concerned me but little to regard on his account, yet might be attended with fatal mischiefs—And then Mr. Solmes's disagreeable person; his still more disagreeable manners; his low understanding—Understanding! the glory of a man, so little to be dispensed with in the head and director of a family, in order to preserve to him that respect which a good wife (and that for the justification of her own choice) should pay him herself, and wish every body to pay him.—And as Mr. Solmes's inferiority in this respectable faculty of the human mind [I must be allowed to say this to you, and no great self assumption neither] would proclaim to all future, as well as to all present observers, what must have been my mean inducement. All these reflections crowding upon my remembrance; I would, Madam, said I, folding my hands, with an earnestness in which my whole heart was engaged, bear the cruelest tortures, bear loss of limb, and even of life, to give you peace. But this man, every moment I would, at you command, think of him with favour, is the more my aversion. You cannot, indeed you cannot, think, how my whole soul resists him!—And to talk of contracts concluded upon; of patterns; of a short day!—Save me, save me, O my dearest Mamma, save your child, from this heavy, from this insupportable evil—!
Never was there a countenance that expressed so significantly, as my mother's did, an anguish, which she struggled to hide, under an anger she was compelled to assume—till the latter overcoming the former, she turned from me with an uplifted eye, and stamping—Strange perverseness! were the only words I heard of a sentence that she angrily pronounced; and was going. I then, half-frantically I believe, laid hold of her gown—Have patience with me, dearest Madam! said I—Do not you renounce me totally!—If you must separate yourself from your child, let it not be with absolute reprobation on your own part!—My uncles may be hard-hearted—my father may be immovable—I may suffer from my brother's ambition, and from my sister's envy!—But let me not lose my Mamma's love; at least, her pity.
She turned to me with benigner rays—You have my love! You have my pity! But, O my dearest girl—I have not yours.
Indeed, indeed, Madam, you have: and all my reverence, all my gratitude, you have!—But in this one point—Cannot I be this once obliged?—Will no expedient be accepted? Have I not made a very fair proposal as to Mr. Lovelace?
I wish, for both our sakes, my dear unpersuadable girl, that the decision of this point lay with me. But why, when you know it does not, why should you thus perplex and urge me?—To renounce Mr. Lovelace is now but half what is aimed at. Nor will any body else believe you in earnest in the offer, if I would. While you remain single, Mr. Lovelace will have hopes—and you, in the opinion of others, inclinations.
Permit me, dearest Madam, to say, that your goodness to me, your patience, your peace, weigh more with me, than all the rest put together: for although I am to be treated by my brother, and, through his instigations, by my father, as a slave in this point, and not as a daughter, yet my mind is not that of a slave. You have not brought me up to be mean.
So, Clary! you are already at defiance with your father! I have had too much cause before to apprehend as much—What will this come to?—I, and then my dear mamma sighed—I, am forced to put up with many humours—
That you are, my ever-honoured Mamma, is my grief. And can it be thought, that this very consideration, and the apprehension of what may result from a much worse-tempered man, (a man who has not half the sense of my father,) has not made an impression upon me, to the disadvantage of the married life? Yet 'tis something of an alleviation, if one must bear undue controul, to bear it from a man of sense. My father, I have heard you say, Madam, was for years a very good-humoured gentleman—unobjectionable in person and manners—but the man proposed to me—
Forbear reflecting upon your father: [Did I, my dear, in what I have repeated, and I think they are the very words, reflect upon my father?] it is not possible, I must say again, and again, were all men equally indifferent to you, that you should be thus sturdy in your will. I am tired out with your obstinacy—The most unpersuadable girl—You forget, that I must separate myself from you, if you will not comply. You do not remember that you father will take you up, where I leave you. Once more, however, I will put it to you,—Are you determined to brave your father's displeasure?—Are you determined to defy your uncles?—Do you choose to break with us all, rather than encourage Mr. Solmes?—Rather than give me hope?
Dreadful alternative—But is not my sincerity, is not the integrity of my heart, concerned in the answer? May not my everlasting happiness be the sacrifice? Will not the least shadow of the hope you just now demanded from me, be driven into absolute and sudden certainty? Is it not sought to ensnare, to entangle me in my own desire of obeying, if I could give answers that might be construed into hope?—Forgive me, Madam: bear with your child's boldness in such a cause as this!—Settlements drawn!—Patterns sent for!—An early day!—Dear, dear Madam, how can I give hope, and not intend to be this man's?
Ah, girl, never say your heart is free! You deceive yourself if you think it is.
Thus to be driven [and I wrung my hands through impatience] by the instigations of a designing, an ambitious brother, and by a sister, that—
How often, Clary, must I forbid your unsisterly reflections?—Does not your father, do not your uncles, does not every body, patronize Mr. Solmes? And let me tell you, ungrateful girl, and unmovable as ungrateful, let me repeatedly tell you, that it is evident to me, that nothing but a love unworthy of your prudence can make you a creature late so dutiful, now so sturdy. You may guess what your father's first question on his return will be. He must know, that I can do nothing with you. I have done my part. Seek me, if your mind change before he comes back: you have yet a little more time, as he stays supper. I will no more seek you, nor to you.—And away she flung.
What could I do but weep?
I am extremely affected on my mother's account—more, I must needs say, than on my own. And indeed, all things considered, and especially, that the measure she is engaged in, is (as I dare say it is) against her own judgment, she deserves more compassion than myself.—Excellent woman! What pity, that meekness and condescension should not be attended with the due rewards of those charming graces!—Yet had she not let violent spirits (as I have elsewhere observed with no small regret) find their power over hers, it could not have been thus.
But here, run away with my pen, I suffer my mother to be angry with me on her own account. She hinted to me, indeed, that I must seek her, if my mind changed; which is a condition that amounts to a prohibition of attending her: but, as she left me in displeasure, will it not have a very obstinate appearance, and look like a kind of renunciation of her mediation in my favour, if I go not down before my father returns, to supplicate her pity, and her kind report to him?
I will attend her. I had rather all the world should be angry with me than my mamma!
Mean time, to clear my hands from papers of such a nature, Hannah shall deposit this. If two or three letters reach you together, they will but express from one period to another, the anxieties and difficulties which the mind of your unhappy but ever affectionate friend labours under.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE SAT. NIGHT.
I have been down. I am to be unlucky in all I do, I think, be my intentions ever so good. I have made matters worse instead of better: as I shall now tell you.
I found my mother and sister together in my sister's parlour. My mother, I fear, by the glow of her fine face, (and as the browner, sullener glow in her sister's confirmed,) had been expressing herself with warmth, against her unhappier child: perhaps giving such an account of what had passed, as should clear herself, and convince Bella, and, through her, my brother and uncles, of the sincere pains she had taken with me.
I entered like a dejected criminal; and besought the favour of a private audience. My mother's return, both looks and words, gave but too much reason for my above surmise.
You have, said she [looking at me with a sternness that never sits well on her sweet features] rather a requesting than a conceding countenance, Clarissa Harlowe: if I am mistaken, tell me so; and I will withdraw with you wherever you will.—Yet whether so, or not, you may say what you have to say before your sister.
My mother, I thought, might have withdrawn with me, as she knows that I have not a friend in my sister.