* That the Lady judges rightly of him in this place, see Vol. I. Letter XXXIV. where, giving the motive for his generosity to his Rosebud, he says—'As I make it my rule, whenever I have committed a very capital enormity, to do some good by way of atonement; and as I believe I am a pretty deal indebted on that score; I intend to join an hundred pounds to Johnny's aunt's hundred pounds, to make one innocent couple happy.'— Besides which motive, he had a further view in answer in that instance of his generosity; as may be seen in Vol. II. Letters XXVI. XXVII. XXVIII. See also the note, Vol. II. pp. 170, 171.
To show the consistence of his actions, as they now appear, with his views and principles, as he lays them down in his first letters, it may be not amiss to refer the reader to his letters, Vol. I. No. XXXIV. XXXV.
See also Vol. I. Letter XXX.—and Letter XL. for Clarissa's early opinion of Mr. Lovelace.—Whence the coldness and indifference to him, which he so repeatedly accuses her of, will be accounted for, more to her glory, than to his honour.
O my dear! what a lot have I drawn! pride, this poor man's virtue; and revenge, his other predominating quality!—This one consolation, however, remains:—He is not an infidel, and unbeliever: had he been an infidel, there would have been no room at all for hope of him; (but priding himself, as he does, in his fertile invention) he would have been utterly abandoned, irreclaimable, and a savage.
[When she comes to relate those occasions, which Mr. Lovelace in his narrative acknowledges himself to be affected by, she thus expresses herself:]
He endeavoured, as once before, to conceal his emotion. But why, my dear, should these men (for Mr. Lovelace is not singular in this) think themselves above giving these beautiful proofs of a feeling heart? Were it in my power again to choose, or to refuse, I would reject the man with contempt, who sought to suppress, or offered to deny, the power of being visibly affected upon proper occasions, as either a savage-hearted creature, or as one who was so ignorant of the principal glory of the human nature, as to place his pride in a barbarous insensibility.
These lines translated from Juvenal by Mr. Tate, I have been often pleased with:
Compassion proper to mankind appears: Which Nature witness'd, when she lent us tears. Of tender sentiments we only give These proofs: To weep is our prerogative: To show by pitying looks, and melting eyes, How with a suff'ring friend we sympathise. Who can all sense of other ills escape, Is but a brute at best, in human shape.
It cannot but yield me some pleasure, hardly as I have sometimes thought of the people of the house, that such a good man as Captain Tomlinson had spoken well of them, upon inquiry.
And here I stop a minute, my dear, to receive, in fancy, your kind congratulation.
My next, I hope, will confirm my present, and open still more agreeable prospects. Mean time be assured, that there cannot possibly any good fortune befal me, which I shall look upon with equal delight to that I have in your friendship.
My thankful compliments to your good Mr. Hickman, to whose kind invention I am so much obliged on this occasion, conclude me, my dearest Miss Howe,
Your ever affectionate and grateful CL. HARLOWE.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. TUESDAY, MAY 30.
I have a letter from Lord M. Such a one as I would wish for, if I intended matrimony. But as matters are circumstanced, I cannot think of showing it to my beloved.
My Lord regrets, 'that he is not to be the Lady's nuptial father. He seems apprehensive that I have still, specious as my reasons are, some mischief in my head.'
He graciously consents, 'that I may marry when I please; and offers one or both of my cousins to assist my bride, and to support her spirits on the occasion; since, as he understands, she is so much afraid to venture with me.
'Pritchard, he tells me, has his final orders to draw up deeds for assigning over to me, in perpetuity, 1000L. per annum: which he will execute the same hour that the lady in person owns her marriage.'
He consents, 'that the jointure be made from my own estate.'
He wishes, 'that the Lady would have accepted of his draught; and commends me for tendering it to her. But reproaches me for my pride in not keeping it myself. What the right side gives up, the left, he says, may be the better for.'
The girls, the left-sided girls, he means.
With all my heart. If I can have my Clarissa, the devil take every thing else.
A good deal of other stuff writes the stupid peer; scribbling in several places half a dozen lines, apparently for no other reason but to bring in as many musty words in an old saw.
If thou sawest, 'How I can manage, since my beloved will wonder that I have not an answer from my Lord to such a letter as I wrote to him; and if I own I have one, will expect that I should shew it to her, as I did my letter?—This I answer—'That I can be informed by Pritchard, that my Lord has the gout in his right-hand; and has ordered him to attend me in form, for my particular orders about the transfer:' And I can see Pritchard, thou knowest, at the King's Arms, or wherever I please, at an hour's warning; though he be at M. Hall, I in town; and he, by word of mouth, can acquaint me with every thing in my Lord's letter that is necessary for my charmer to know.
Whenever it suits me, I can resolve the old peer to his right hand, and then can make him write a much more sensible letter than this that he has now sent me.
Thou knowest, that an adroitness in the art of manual imitation, was one of my earliest attainments. It has been said, on this occasion, that had I been a bad man in meum and tuum matters, I should not have been fit to live. As to the girls, we hold it no sin to cheat them. And are we not told, that in being well deceived consists the whole of human happiness?
WEDNESDAY, MAY 31.
All still happier and happier. A very high honour done me: a chariot, instead of a coach, permitted, purposely to indulge me in the subject of subjects.
Our discourse in this sweet airing turned upon our future manner of life. The day is bashfully promised me. Soon was the answer to my repeated urgency. Our equipage, our servants, our liveries, were parts of the delightful subject. A desire that the wretch who had given me intelligence out of the family (honest Joseph Leman) might not be one of our menials; and her resolution to have her faithful Hannah, whether recovered or not; were signified; and both as readily assented to.
Her wishes, from my attentive behaviour, when with her at St. Paul's,* that I would often accompany her to the Divine Service, were greatly intimated, and as readily engaged for. I assured her, that I ever had respected the clergy in a body; and some individuals of them (her Dr. Lewen for one) highly: and that were not going to church an act of religion, I thought it [as I told thee once] a most agreeable sight to see rich and poor, all of a company, as I might say, assembled once a week in one place, and each in his or her best attire, to worship the God that made them. Nor could it be a hardship upon a man liberally educated, to make one on so solemn an occasion, and to hear the harangue of a man of letters, (though far from being the principal part of the service, as it is too generally looked upon to be,) whose studies having taken a different turn from his own, he must always have something new to say.
* See Vol. IV. Letter V. ** Ibid.
She shook her head, and repeated the word new: but looked as if willing to be satisfied for the present with this answer. To be sure, Jack, she means to do great despight to his Satanic majesty in her hopes of reforming me. No wonder, therefore, if he exerts himself to prevent her, and to be revenged. But how came this in!—I am ever of party against myself.—One day, I fancy, I shall hate myself on recollecting what I am about at this instant. But I must stay till then. We must all of us do something to repent of.
The reconciliation-prospect was enlarged upon. If her uncle Harlowe will but pave the way to it, and if it can be brought about, she shall be happy.—Happy, with a sigh, as it is now possible she can be!
She won't forbear, Jack!
I told her, that I had heard from Pritchard, just before we set out on our airing, and expected him in town to-morrow from Lord M. to take my directions. I spoke with gratitude of my Lord's kindness to me; and with pleasure of Lady Sarah's, Lady Betty's, and my two cousins Montague's veneration for her: as also of his Lordship's concern that his gout hindered him from writing a reply with his own hand to my last.
She pitied my Lord. She pitied poor Mrs. Fretchville too; for she had the goodness to inquire after her. The dear creature pitied every body that seemed to want pity. Happy in her own prospects, she had leisure to look abroad, and wishes every body equally happy.
It is likely to go very hard with Mrs. Fretchville. Her face, which she had valued herself upon, will be utterly ruined. 'This good, however, as I could not but observe, she may reap from so great an evil—as the greater malady generally swallows up the less, she may have a grief on this occasion, that may diminish the other grief, and make it tolerable.'
I had a gentle reprimand for this light turn on so heavy an evil—'For what was the loss of beauty to the loss of a good husband?'—Excellent creature!
Her hopes (and her pleasure upon those hopes) that Miss Howe's mother would be reconciled to her, were also mentioned. Good Mrs. Howe was her word, for a woman so covetous, and so remorseless in her covetousness, that no one else will call her good. But this dear creature has such an extension in her love, as to be capable of valuing the most insignificant animal related to those whom she respects. Love me, and love my dog, I have heard Lord M. say.—Who knows, but that I may in time, in compliment to myself, bring her to think well of thee, Jack?
But what am I about? Am I not all this time arraigning my own heart?—I know I am, by the remorse I feel in it, while my pen bears testimony to her excellence. But yet I must add (for no selfish consideration shall hinder me from doing justice to this admirable creature) that in this conversation she demonstrated so much prudent knowledge in every thing that relates to that part of the domestic management which falls under the care of a mistress of a family, that I believe she has no equal of her years in the world.
But, indeed, I know not the subject on which she does not talk with admirable distinction; insomuch that could I but get over my prejudices against matrimony, and resolve to walk in the dull beaten path of my ancestors, I should be the happiest of men—and if I cannot, I may be ten times more to be pitied than she.
My heart, my heart, Belford, is not to be trusted—I break off, to re-peruse some of Miss Howe's virulence.
Cursed letters, these of Miss Howe, Jack!—Do thou turn back to those of mine, where I take notice of them—I proceed—
Upon the whole, my charmer was all gentleness, all ease, all serenity, throughout this sweet excursion. Nor had she reason to be otherwise: for it being the first time that I had the honour of her company alone, I was resolved to encourage her, by my respectfulness, to repeat the favour.
On our return, I found the counsellor's clerk waiting for me, with a draught of the marriage-settlements.
They are drawn, with only the necessary variations, from those made for my mother. The original of which (now returned by the counsellor) as well as the new draughts, I have put into my beloved's hands.
These settlements of my mother made the lawyer's work easy; nor can she have a better precedent; the great Lord S. having settled them, at the request of my mother's relations; all the difference, my charmer's are 100l. per annum more than my mother's.
I offered to read to her the old deed, while she looked over the draught; for she had refused her presence at the examination with the clerk: but this she also declined.
I suppose she did not care to hear of so many children, first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh sons, and as many daughters, to be begotten upon the body of the said Clarissa Harlowe.
Charming matrimonial recitativoes!—though it is always said lawfully begotten too—as if a man could beget children unlawfully upon the body of his own wife.—But thinkest thou not that these arch rogues the lawyers hereby intimate, that a man may have children by his wife before marriage?—This must be what they mean. Why will these sly fellows put an honest man in minds of such rogueries?—but hence, as in numberless other instances, we see, that law and gospel are two very different things.
Dorcas, in our absence, tried to get at the wainscot-box in the dark closet. But it cannot be done without violence. And to run a risk of consequence now, for mere curiosity-sake, would be inexcusable.
Mrs. Sinclair and the nymphs are all of opinion, that I am now so much a favourite, and have such a visible share in her confidence, and even in her affections, that I may do what I will, and plead for excuse violence of passion; which, they will have it, makes violence of action pardonable with their sex; as well as allowed extenuation with the unconcerned of both sexes; and they all offer their helping hands. Why not? they say: Has she not passed for my wife before them all?—And is she not in a fine way of being reconciled to her friends?—And was not the want of that reconciliation the pretence for postponing the consummation?
They again urge me, since it is so difficult to make night my friend, to an attempt in the day. They remind me, that the situation of their house is such, that no noises can be heard out of it; and ridicule me for making it necessary for a lady to be undressed. It was not always so with me, poor old man! Sally told me; saucily flinging her handkerchief in my face.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. FRIDAY, JUNE 2.
Notwithstanding my studied-for politeness and complaisance for some days past; and though I have wanted courage to throw the mask quite aside; yet I have made the dear creature more than once look about her, by the warm, though decent expression of my passion. I have brought her to own, that I am more than indifferent with her: but as to LOVE, which I pressed her to acknowledge, what need of acknowledgments of that sort, when a woman consents to marrying?—And once repulsing me with displeasure, the proof of true love I was vowing for her, was RESPECT, not FREEDOM. And offering to defend myself, she told me, that all the conception she had been able to form of a faulty passion, was, that it must demonstrate itself as mine sought to do.
I endeavoured to justify my passion, by laying over-delicacy at her door. Over-delicacy, she said, was not my fault, if it were her's. She must plainly tell me, that I appeared to her incapable of distinguishing what were the requisites of a pure mind. Perhaps, had the libertine presumption to imagine, that there was no difference in heart, nor any but what proceeded from difference of education and custom, between the pure and impure—and yet custom alone, as she observed, if I did so think, would make a second nature, as well in good as in bad habits.
I have just now been called to account for some innocent liberties which I thought myself entitled to take before the women; as they suppose us to be married, and now within view of consummation.
I took the lecture very hardly; and with impatience wished for the happy day and hour when I might call her all my own, and meet with no check from a niceness that had no example.
She looked at me with a bashful kind of contempt. I thought it contempt, and required the reason for it; not being conscious of offence, as I told her.
This is not the first time, Mr. Lovelace, said she, that I have had cause to be displeased with you, when you, perhaps, have not thought yourself exceptionable.—But, Sir, let me tell you, that the married state, in my eye, is a state of purity, and [I think she told me] not of licentiousness; so, at least, I understood her.
Marriage-purity, Jack!—Very comical, 'faith—yet, sweet dears, half the female world ready to run away with a rake, because he is a rake; and for no other reason; nay, every other reason against their choice of such a one.
But have not you and I, Belford, seen young wives, who would be thought modest! and, when maids, were fantastically shy; permit freedoms in public from their uxorious husbands, which have shown, that both of them have forgotten what belongs either to prudence or decency? while every modest eye has sunk under the shameless effrontery, and every modest face been covered with blushes for those who could not blush.
I once, upon such an occasion, proposed to a circle of a dozen, thus scandalized, to withdraw; since they must needs see that as well the lady, as the gentleman, wanted to be in private. This motion had its effect upon the amorous pair; and I was applauded for the check given to their licentiousness.
But, upon another occasion of this sort, I acted a little more in character. For I ventured to make an attempt upon a bride, which I should not have had the courage to make, had not the unblushing passiveness with which she received her fond husband's public toyings (looking round her with triumph rather than with shame, upon every lady present) incited my curiosity to know if the same complacency might not be shown to a private friend. 'Tis true, I was in honour obliged to keep the secret. But I never saw the turtles bill afterwards, but I thought of number two to the same female; and in my heart thanked the fond husband for the lesson he had taught his wife.
From what I have said, thou wilt see, that I approve of my beloved's exception to public loves. That, I hope, is all the charming icicle means by marriage-purity, but to return.
From the whole of what I have mentioned to have passed between my beloved and me, thou wilt gather, that I have not been a mere dangler, a Hickman, in the passed days, though not absolutely active, and a Lovelace.
The dear creature now considers herself as my wife-elect. The unsaddened heart, no longer prudish, will not now, I hope, give the sable turn to every address of the man she dislikes not. And yet she must keep up so much reserve, as will justify past inflexibilities. 'Many and many a pretty soul would yield, were she not afraid that the man she favoured would think the worse of her for it.' That is also a part of the rake's creed. But should she resent ever so strongly, she cannot now break with me; since, if she does, there will be an end of the family reconciliation; and that in a way highly discreditable to herself.
SATURDAY, JUNE 3.
Just returned from Doctors Commons. I have been endeavouring to get a license. Very true, Jack. I have the mortification to find a difficulty, as the lady is of rank and fortune, and as there is no consent of father or next friend, in obtaining this all-fettering instrument.
I made report of this difficulty. 'It is very right,' she says, 'that such difficulties should be made.'—But not to a man of my known fortune, surely, Jack, though the woman were the daughter of a duke.
I asked, if she approved of the settlements? She said, she had compared them with my mother's, and had no objection to them. She had written to Miss Howe upon the subject, she owned; and to inform her of our present situation.*
* As this letter of the Lady to Miss Howe contains no new matter, but what may be collected from one of those of Mr. Lovelace, it is omitted.
Just now, in high good humour, my beloved returned me the draughts of the settlements: a copy of which I have sent to Captain Tomlinson. She complimented me, 'that she never had any doubt of my honour in cases of this nature.'
In matters between man and man nobody ever had, thou knowest.
I had need, thou wilt say, to have some good qualities.
Great faults and great virtues are often found in the same person. In nothing very bad, but as to women: and did not one of them begin with me.*
* See Vol. I. Letter XXXI.
We have held, that women have no souls. I am a very Turk in this point, and willing to believe they have not. And if so, to whom shall I be accountable for what I do to them? Nay, if souls they have, as there is no sex in ethereals, nor need of any, what plea can a lady hold of injuries done her in her lady-state, when there is an end of her lady-ship?
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. MONDAY, JUNE 5.
I am now almost in despair of succeeding with this charming frost-piece by love or gentleness.—A copy of the draughts, as I told thee, has been sent to Captain Tomlinson; and that by a special messenger. Engrossments are proceeding with. I have been again at the Commons.—Should in all probability have procured a license by Mallory's means, had not Mallory's friend, the proctor, been suddenly sent for to Chestnut, to make an old lady's will. Pritchard has told me by word of mouth, though my charmer saw him not, all that was necessary for her to know in the letter my Lord wrote, which I could not show her: and taken my directions about the estates to be made over to me on my nuptials.—Yet, with all these favourable appearances, no conceding moment to be found, no improvable tenderness to be raised.
But never, I believe, was there so true, so delicate a modesty in the human mind as in that of this lady. And this has been my security all along; and, in spite of Miss Howe's advice to her, will be so still; since, if her delicacy be a fault, she can no more overcome it than I can my aversion to matrimony. Habit, habit, Jack, seest thou not? may subject us both to weaknesses. And should she not have charity for me, as I have for her?
Twice indeed with rapture, which once she called rude, did I salute her; and each time resenting the freedom, did she retire; though, to do her justice, she favoured me again with her presence at my first entreaty, and took no notice of the cause of her withdrawing.
Is it policy to show so open a resentment for innocent liberties, which, in her situation, she must so soon forgive?
Yet the woman who resents not initiatory freedoms must be lost. For love is an encroacher. Love never goes backward. Love is always aspiring. Always must aspire. Nothing but the highest act of love can satisfy an indulged love. And what advantages has a lover, who values not breaking the peace, over his mistress who is solicitous to keep it!
I have now at this instant wrought myself up, for the dozenth time, to a half-resolution. A thousand agreeable things I have to say to her. She is in the dining-room. Just gone up. She always expects me when there.
High displeasure!—followed by an abrupt departure.
I sat down by her. I took both her hands in mine. I would have it so. All gentle my voice. Her father mentioned with respect. Her mother with reverence. Even her brother amicably spoken of. I never thought I could have wished so ardently, as I told her I did wish, for a reconciliation with her family.
A sweet and grateful flush then overspread her fair face; a gentle sigh now-and-then heaved her handkerchief.
I perfectly longed to hear from Captain Tomlinson. It was impossible for the uncle to find fault with the draught of the settlements. I would not, however, be understood, by sending them down, that I intended to put it in her uncle's power to delay my happy day. When, when was it to be?
I would hasten again to the Commons; and would not return without the license.
The Lawn I proposed to retire to, as soon as the happy ceremony was over. This day and that day I proposed.
It was time enough to name the day, when the settlements were completed, and the license obtained. Happy should she be, could the kind Captain Tomlinson obtain her uncle's presence privately.
A good hint!—It may perhaps be improved upon—either for a delay or a pacifier.
No new delays for Heaven's sake, I besought her; and reproached her gently for the past. Name but the day—(an early day, I hoped it would be, in the following week)—that I might hail its approach, and number the tardy hours.
My cheek reclined on her shoulder—kissing her hands by turns. Rather bashfully than angrily reluctant, her hands sought to be withdrawn; her shoulder avoiding my reclined cheek—apparently loth, and more loth to quarrel with me; her downcast eye confessing more than her lips can utter. Now surely, thought I, is my time to try if she can forgive a still bolder freedom than I had ever yet taken.
I then gave her struggling hands liberty. I put one arm round her waist: I imprinted a kiss on her sweet lip, with a Be quiet only, and an averted face, as if she feared another.
Encouraged by so gentle a repulse, the tenderest things I said; and then, with my other hand, drew aside the handkerchief that concealed the beauty of beauties, and pressed with my burning lips the most charming breast that ever my ravished eyes beheld.
A very contrary passion to that which gave her bosom so delightful a swell, immediately took place. She struggled out of my encircling arms with indignation. I detained her reluctant hand. Let me go, said she. I see there is no keeping terms with you. Base encroacher! Is this the design of your flattering speeches? Far as matters have gone, I will for ever renounce you. You have an odious heart. Let me go, I tell you.
I was forced to obey, and she flung from me, repeating base, and adding flattering, encroacher.
In vain have I urged by Dorcas for the promised favour of dining with her. She would not dine at all. She could not.
But why makes she every inch of her person thus sacred?—So near the time too, that she must suppose, that all will be my own by deed of purchase and settlement?
She has read, no doubt, of the art of the eastern monarchs, who sequester themselves from the eyes of their subjects, in order to excite their adoration, when, upon some solemn occasions, they think fit to appear in public.
But let me ask thee, Belford, whether (on these solemn occasions) the preceding cavalcade; here a greater officer, and there a great minister, with their satellites, and glaring equipages; do not prepare the eyes of the wondering beholders, by degrees, to bear the blaze of canopy'd majesty (what though but an ugly old man perhaps himself? yet) glittering in the collected riches of his vast empire?
And should not my beloved, for her own sake, descend, by degrees, from goddess-hood into humanity? If it be pride that restrains her, ought not that pride to be punished? If, as in the eastern emperors, it be art as well as pride, art is what she of all women need not use. If shame, what a shame to be ashamed to communicate to her adorer's sight the most admirable of her personal graces?
Let me perish, Belford, if I would not forego the brightest diadem in the world, for the pleasure of seeing a twin Lovelace at each charming breast, drawing from it his first sustenance; the pious task, for physical reasons,* continued for one month and no more!
* In Pamela, Vol. III. Letter XXXII. these reasons are given, and are worthy of every parent's consideration, as is the whole Letter, which contains the debate between Mr. B. and his Pamela, on the important subject of mothers being nurses to their own children.
I now, methinks, behold this most charming of women in this sweet office: her conscious eye now dropt on one, now on the other, with a sigh of maternal tenderness, and then raised up to my delighted eye, full of wishes, for the sake of the pretty varlets, and for her own sake, that I would deign to legitimate; that I would condescend to put on the nuptial fetters.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. MONDAY AFTERNOON.
A letter received from the worthy Captain Tomlinson has introduced me into the presence of my charmer sooner than perhaps I should otherwise have been admitted.
Sullen her brow, at her first entrance into the dining-room. But I took no notice of what had passed, and her anger of itself subsided.
'The Captain, after letting me know that he chose not to write till he had promised the draught of the settlements, acquaint me, that his friend Mr. John Harlowe, in their first conference (which was held as soon as he got down) was extremely surprised, and even grieved (as he feared he would be) to hear that we were not married. The world, he said, who knew my character, would be very censorious, were it owned, that we had lived so long together unmarried in the same lodgings; although our marriage were now to be ever so publicly celebrated.
'His nephew James, he was sure, would make a great handle of it against any motion that might be made towards a reconciliation; and with the greater success, as there was not a family in the kingdom more jealous of their honour than theirs.'
This is true of the Harlowes, Jack: they have been called The proud Harlowes: and I have ever found, that all young honour is supercilious and touchy.
But seest thou not how right I was in my endeavour to persuade my fair- one to allow her uncle's friend to think us married; especially as he came prepared to believe it; and as her uncle hoped it was so?—But nothing on earth is so perverse as a woman, when she is set upon carrying a point, and has a meek man, or one who loves his peace, to deal with.
My beloved was vexed. She pulled out her handkerchief: but was more inclined to blame me than herself.
Had you kept your word, Mr. Lovelace, and left me when we came to town—And there she stopt; for she knew, that it was her own fault that we were not married before we left the country; and how could I leave her afterwards, while her brother was plotting to carry her off by violence?
Nor has this brother yet given over his machinations.
For, as the Captain proceeds, 'Mr. John Harlowe owned to him (but in confidence) that his nephew is at this time busied in endeavouring to find out where we are; being assured (as I am not to be heard of at any of my relations, or at my usual lodgings) that we are together. And that we are not married is plain, as he will have it, from Mr. Hickman's application so lately made to her uncle; and which was seconded by Mrs. Norton to her mother. And her brother cannot bear that I should enjoy such a triumph unmolested.'
A profound sigh, and the handkerchief again lifted to the eye. But did not the sweet soul deserve this turn upon her, for feloniously resolving to rob me of herself, had the application made by Hickman succeeded?
I read on to the following effect:
'Why (asked Mr. Harlowe) was it said to his other inquiring friend, that we were married; and that by his niece's woman, who ought to know? who could give convincing reasons, no doubt'—
Here again she wept; took a turn across the room; then returned—Read on, says she—
Will you, my dearest life, read it yourself?
I will take the letter with me, by-and-by—I cannot see to read it just now, wiping her eyes—read on—let me hear it all—that I may know your sentiments upon this letter, as well as give my own.
'The Captain then told uncle John the reasons that induced me to give out that we were married; and the conditions on which my beloved was brought to countenance it; which had kept us at the most punctilious distance.
'But still Mr. Harlowe objected my character. And went away dissatisfied. And the Captain was also so much concerned, that he cared not to write what the result of his first conference was.
'But in the next, which was held on receipt of the draughts, at the Captain's house, (as the former was, for the greater secrecy,) when the old gentleman had read them, and had the Captain's opinion, he was much better pleased. And yet he declared, that it would not be easy to persuade any other person of his family to believe so favourably of the matter, as he was now willing to believe, were they to know that we had lived so long together unmarried.
'And then the Captain says, his dear friend made a proposal:—It was this—That we should marry out of hand, but as privately as possible, as indeed he found we intended, (for he could have no objection to the draughts)—but yet, he expected to have present one trusty friend of his own, for his better satisfaction'—
Here I stopt, with a design to be angry—but she desiring me to read on, I obeyed.
'—But that it should pass to every one living, except to that trusty person, to himself, and to the Captain, that we were married from the time that we had lived together in one house; and that this time should be made to agree with that of Mr. Hickman's application to him from Miss Howe.'
This, my dearest life, said I, is a very considerate proposal. We have nothing to do but to caution the people below properly on this head. I did not think your uncle Harlowe capable of hitting upon such a charming expedient as this. But you see how much his heart is in the reconciliation.
This was the return I met with—You have always, as a mark of your politeness, let me know how meanly you think of every one in my family.
Yet thou wilt think, Belford, that I could forgive her for the reproach.
'The Captain does not know, says he, how this proposal will be relished by us. But for his part, he thinks it an expedient that will obviate many difficulties, and may possibly put an end to Mr. James Harlowe's further designs: and on this account he has, by the uncle's advice, already declared to two several persons, by whose means it may come to that young gentleman's, that he [Captain Tomlinson] has very great reason to believe that we were married soon after Mr. Hickman's application was rejected.
'And this, Mr. Lovelace, (says the Captain,) will enable you to pay a compliment to the family, that will not be unsuitable to the generosity of some of the declarations you were pleased to make to the lady before me, (and which Mr. John Harlowe may make some advantage of in favour of a reconciliation,) in that you were entitled to make the demand.' An excellent contriver, surely, she must think this worthy Mr. Tomlinson to be!
But the Captain adds, 'that if either the lady or I disapprove of his report of our marriage, he will retract it. Nevertheless, he must tell me, that Mr. John Harlowe is very much set upon this way of proceeding; as the only one, in his opinion, capable of being improved into a general reconciliation. But if we do acquiesce in it, he beseeches my fair-one not to suspend my day, that he may be authorized in what he says, as to the truth of the main fact. [How conscientious this good man!] Nor must it be expected, he says, that her uncle will take one step towards the wished-for reconciliation, till the solemnity is actually over.'
He adds, 'that he shall be very soon in town on other affairs; and then proposes to attend us, and give us a more particular account of all that has passed, or shall further pass, between Mr. Harlowe and him.'
Well, my dearest life, what say you to your uncle's expedient? Shall I write to the Captain, and acquaint him, that we have no objection to it?
She was silent for a few minutes. At last, with a sigh, See, Mr. Lovelace, said she, what you have brought me to, by treading after you in such crooked paths!—See what disgrace I have incurred!—Indeed you have not acted like a wise man.
My beloved creature, do you not remember, how earnestly I besought the honour of your hand before we came to town?—Had I been then favoured—
Well, well, Sir; there has been much amiss somewhere; that's all I will say at present. And since what's past cannot be recalled, my uncle must be obeyed, I think.
Charmingly dutiful!—I had nothing then to do, that I might not be behind-hand with the worthy Captain and her uncle, but to press for the day. This I fervently did. But (as I might have expected) she repeated her former answer; to wit, That when the settlements were completed; when the license was actually obtained; it would be time enough to name the day: and, O Mr. Lovelace, said she, turning from me with a grace inimitably tender, her handkerchief at her eyes, what a happiness, if my dear uncle could be prevailed upon to be personally a father, on this occasion, to the poor fatherless girl!
What's the matter with me!—Whence this dew-drop!—A tear!—As I hope to be saved, it is a tear, Jack!—Very ready methinks!—Only on reciting!—But her lovely image was before me, in the very attitude she spoke the words—and indeed at the time she spoke them, these lines of Shakespeare came into my head:
Thy heart is big. Get thee apart and weep! Passion, I see, is catching:—For my eye, Seeing those beads of sorrow stand in thine, Begin to water—
I withdrew, and wrote to the Captain to the following effect—'I desired that he would be so good as to acquaint his dear friend that we entirely acquiesced with what he had proposed; and had already properly cautioned the gentlewomen of the house, and their servants, as well as our own: and to tell him, That if he would in person give me the blessing of his dear niece's hand, it would crown the wishes of both. In this case, I consented, that his own day, as I presumed it would be a short one, should be ours: that by this means the secret would be with fewer persons: that I myself, as well as he, thought the ceremony could not be too privately performed; and this not only for the sake of the wise end he had proposed to answer by it, but because I would not have Lord M. think himself slighted; since that nobleman, as I had told him [the Captain] had once intended to be our nuptial-father; and actually made the offer; but that we had declined to accept of it, and that for no other reason than to avoid a public wedding; which his beloved niece would not come into, while she was in disgrace with her friends. But that if he chose not to do us this honour, I wished that Captain Tomlinson might be the trusty person whom he would have be present on the happy occasion.'
I showed this letter to my fair-one. She was not displeased with it. So, Jack, we cannot now move too fast, as to settlements and license: the day is her uncle's day, or Captain Tomlinson's, perhaps, as shall best suit the occasion. Miss Howe's smuggling scheme is now surely provided against in all events.
But I will not by anticipation make thee a judge of all the benefits that may flow from this my elaborate contrivance. Why will these girls put me upon my master-strokes?
And now for a little mine which I am getting ready to spring. The first that I have sprung, and at the rate I go on (now a resolution, and now a remorse) perhaps the last that I shall attempt to spring.
A little mine, I call it. But it may be attended with great effects. I shall not, however, absolutely depend upon the success of it, having much more effectual ones in reserve. And yet great engines are often moved by small springs. A little spark falling by accident into a powder-magazine, hath done more execution in a siege, than an hundred cannon.
Come the worst, the hymeneal torch, and a white sheet, must be my amende honorable, as the French have it.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. TUESDAY, JUNE 6.
Unsuccessful as hitherto my application to you has been, I cannot for the heart of me forbear writing once more in behalf of this admirable woman: and yet am unable to account for the zeal which impels me to take her part with an earnestness so sincere.
But all her merit thou acknowledgest; all thy own vileness thou confessest, and even gloriest in it: What hope then of moving so hardened a man?—Yet, as it is not too late, and thou art nevertheless upon the crisis, I am resolved to try what another letter will do. It is but my writing in vain, if it do no good; and if thou wilt let me prevail, I knowthou wilt hereafter think me richly entitled to thy thanks.
To argue with thee would be folly. The case cannot require it. I will only entreat thee, therefore, that thou wilt not let such an excellence lose the reward of her vigilant virtue.
I believe there never were libertines so vile, but purposed, at some future period of their lives, to set about reforming: and let me beg of thee, that thou wilt, in this great article, make thy future repentance as easy, as some time hence thou wilt wish thou hadst made it.
If thou proceedest, I have no doubt that this affair will end tragically, one way or another. It must. Such a woman must interest both gods and men in her cause. But what I most apprehend is, that with her own hand, in resentment of the perpetrated outrage, she (like another Lucretia) will assert the purity of her heart: or, if her piety preserve her from this violence, that wasting grief will soon put a period to her days. And, in either case, will not the remembrance of thy ever-during guilt, and transitory triumph, be a torment of torments to thee?
'Tis a seriously sad thing, after all, that so fine a creature should have fallen into such vile and remorseless hands: for, from thy cradle, as I have heard thee own, thou ever delightedst to sport with and torment the animal, whether bird or beast, that thou lovedst, and hadst a power over.
How different is the case of this fine woman from that of any other whom thou hast seduced!—I need not mention to thee, nor insist upon the striking difference: justice, gratitude, thy interest, thy vows, all engaging thee; and thou certainly loving her, as far as thou art capable of love, above all her sex. She not to be drawn aside by art, or to be made to suffer from credulity, nor for want of wit and discernment, (that will be another cutting reflection to so fine a mind as her's:) the contention between you only unequal, as it is between naked innocence and armed guilt. In every thing else, as thou ownest, her talents greatly superior to thine!—What a fate will her's be, if thou art not at last overcome by thy reiterated remorses!
At first, indeed, when I was admitted into her presence,* (and till I observed her meaning air, and heard her speak,) I supposed that she had no very uncommon judgment to boast of: for I made, as I thought, but just allowances for her blossoming youth, and for that loveliness of person, and for that ease and elegance in her dress, which I imagined must have taken up half her time and study to cultivate; and yet I had been prepared by thee to entertain a very high opinion of her sense and her reading. Her choice of this gay fellow, upon such hazardous terms, (thought I,) is a confirmation that her wit wants that maturity which only years and experience can give it. Her knowledge (argued I to myself) must be all theory; and the complaisance ever consorting with an age so green and so gay, will make so inexperienced a lady at least forbear to show herself disgusted at freedoms of discourse in which those present of her own sex, and some of ours, (so learned, so well read, and so travelled,) allow themselves.
* See Vol. IV. Letter VII.
In this presumption I ran on; and having the advantage, as I conceited, of all the company but you, and being desirous to appear in her eyes a mighty clever fellow, I thought I showed away, when I said any foolish things that had more sound than sense in them; and when I made silly jests, which attracted the smiles of thy Sinclair, and the specious Partington: and that Miss Harlowe did not smile too, I thought was owing to her youth or affectation, or to a mixture of both, perhaps to a greater command of her features.—Little dreamt I, that I was incurring her contempt all the time.
But when, as I said, I heard her speak, which she did not till she had fathomed us all; when I heard her sentiments on two or three subjects, and took notice of the searching eye, darting into the very inmost cells of our frothy brains; by my faith, it made me look about me; and I began to recollect, and be ashamed of all I had said before; in short, was resolved to sit silent, till every one had talked round, to keep my folly in countenance. And then I raised the subjects that she could join in, and which she did join in, so much to the confusion and surprise of every one of us!—For even thou, Lovelace, so noted for smart wit, repartee, and a vein of raillery, that delighteth all who come near thee, sattest in palpable darkness, and lookedst about thee, as well as we.
One instance only of this shall I remind thee of.
We talked of wit, and of it, and aimed at it, bandying it like a ball from one to another, and resting it chiefly with thee, who wert always proud enough and vain enough of the attribute; and then more especially as thou hadst assembled us, as far as I know, principally to show the lady thy superiority over us; and us thy triumph over her. And then Tourville (who is always satisfied with with at second-hand; wit upon memory: other men's wit) repeated some verses, as applicable to the subject; which two of us applauded, though full of double entendre. Thou, seeing the lady's serious air on one of those repetitions, appliedst thyself to her, desiring her notions of wit: a quality, thou saidst, which every one prized, whether flowing from himself, or found in another.
Then it was that she took all our attention. It was a quality much talked of, she said, but, she believed, very little understood. At least, if she might be so free as to give her judgment of it from what had passed in the present conversation, she must say, that wit with men was one thing; with women another.
This startled us all:—How the women looked!—How they pursed their mouths; a broad smile the moment before upon each, from the verses they had heard repeated, so well understood, as we saw, by their looks! While I besought her to let us know, for our instruction, what wit with women: for such I was sure it ought to be with men.
Cowley, she said, had defined it prettily by negatives. Thou desiredst her to repeat his definition.
She did; and with so much graceful ease, and beauty, and propriety of accent, as would have made bad poetry delightful.
A thousand diff'rent shapes it bears; Comely in thousand shapes appears. 'Tis not a tale, 'tis not a jest, Admir'd with laughter at a feast, Nor florid talk, which must this title gain: The proofs of wit for ever must remain. Much less can that have any place At which a virgin hides her face. Such dross the fire must purge away:—'Tis just The author blush there, where the reader must.
Here she stopt, looking round upon her upon us all with conscious superiority, as I thought. Lord, how we stared! Thou attemptedst to give us thy definition of wit, that thou mightest have something to say, and not seem to be surprised into silent modesty.
But as if she cared not to trust thee with the subject, referring to the same author as for his more positive decision, she thus, with the same harmony of voice and accent, emphatically decided upon it.
Wit, like a luxurious vine, Unless to virtue's prop it join, Firm and erect, tow'rd heaven bound, Tho' it with beauteous leaves and pleasant fruit be crown'd, It lies deform'd, and rotting on the ground.
If thou recollectest this part of the conversation, and how like fools we looked at one another; how much it put us out of conceit with ourselves, and made us fear her, when we found our conversation thus excluded from the very character which our vanity had made us think unquestionably ours; and if thou profitest properly by the recollection; thou wilt be of my mind, that there is not so much wit in wickedness as we had flattered ourselves there was.
And after all, I have been of opinion ever since that conversation, that the wit of all the rakes and libertines down to little Johnny Hartop the punster, consists mostly in saying bold and shocking things, with such courage as shall make the modest blush, the impudent laugh, and the ignorant stare.
And why dost thou think I mention these things, so mal-a-propos, as it may seem!—Only, let me tell thee, as an instance (among many that might be given from the same evening's conversation) of this fine woman's superiority in those talents which ennoble nature, and dignify her sex—evidenced not only to each of us, as we offended, but to the flippant Partington, and the grosser, but egregiously hypocritical Sinclair, in the correcting eye, the discouraging blush, in which was mixed as much displeasure as modesty, and sometimes, as the occasion called for it, (for we were some of us hardened above the sense of feeling delicate reproof,) by the sovereign contempt, mingled with a disdainful kind of pity, that showed at once her own conscious worth, and our despicable worthlessness.
O Lovelace! what then was the triumph, even in my eye, and what is it still upon reflection, of true jest, laughing impertinence, and an obscenity so shameful, even to the guilty, that they cannot hint at it but under a double meaning!
Then, as thou hast somewhere observed,* all her correctives avowed by her eye. Not poorly, like the generality of her sex, affecting ignorance of meanings too obvious to be concealed; but so resenting, as to show each impudent laugher the offence given to, and taken by a purity, that had mistaken its way, when it fell into such company.
* See Vol. IV. Letter XLVIII.
Such is the woman, such is the angel, whom thou hast betrayed into thy power, and wouldst deceive and ruin.—-Sweet creature! did she but know how she is surrounded, (as I then thought, as well as now think,) and what is intended, how much sooner would death be her choice, than so dreadful a situation!—'And how effectually would her story, were it generally known, warn all the sex against throwing themselves into the power of ours, let our vows, oaths, and protestations, be what they will!'
But let me beg of thee, once more, my dear Lovelace, if thou hast any regard for thine own honour, for the honour of thy family, for thy future peace, or for my opinion of thee, (who yet pretend not to be so much moved by principle, as by that dazzling merit which ought still more to attract thee,) to be prevailed upon—to be—to be humane, that's all— only, that thou wouldst not disgrace our common humanity!
Hardened as thou art, I know that they are the abandoned people in the house who keep thee up to a resolution against her. O that the sagacious fair-one (with so much innocent charity in her own heart) had not so resolutely held those women at distance!—that as she boarded there, she had oftener tabled with them! Specious as they are, in a week's time, she would have seen through them; they could not have been always so guarded, as they were when they saw her but seldom, and when they prepared themselves to see her; and she would have fled their house as a place infected. And yet, perhaps, with so determined an enterprizer, this discovery might have accelerated her ruin.
I know that thou art nice in thy loves. But are there not hundreds of women, who, though not utterly abandoned, would be taken with thee for mere personal regards! Make a toy, if thou wilt, of principle, with respect to such of the sex as regard it as a toy; but rob not an angel of those purities, which, in her own opinion, constitute the difference between angelic and brutal qualities.
With regard to the passion itself, the less of soul in either man or woman, the more sensual are they. Thou, Lovelace, hast a soul, though a corrupted one; and art more intent (as thou even gloriest) upon the preparative stratagem, that upon the end of conquering.
See we not the natural bent of idiots and the crazed? The very appetite is body; and when we ourselves are most fools, and crazed, then are we most eager in these pursuits. See what fools this passion makes the wisest men! What snivellers, what dotards, when they suffer themselves to be run away with by it!—An unpermanent passion! Since, if (ashamed of its more proper name) we must call it love, love gratified, is love satisfied—and where consent on one side adds to the obligation on the other. What then but remorse can follow a forcible attempt?
Do not even chaste lovers choose to be alone in their courtship preparations, ashamed to have even a child to witness to their foolish actions, and more foolish expressions? Is this deified passion, in its greatest altitudes, fitted to stand the day? Do not the lovers, when mutual consent awaits their wills, retire to coverts, and to darkness, to complete their wishes? And shall such a sneaking passion as this, which can be so easily gratified by viler objects, be permitted to debase the noblest?
Were not the delays of thy vile purposes owing more to the awe which her majestic virtue has inspired thee with, than to thy want of adroitness in villany? [I must write my free sentiments in this case; for have I not seen the angel?] I should be ready to censure some of thy contrivances and pretences to suspend the expected day, as trite, stale, and (to me, who know thy intention) poor; and too often resorted to, as nothing comes of them to be gloried in; particularly that of Mennell, the vapourish lady, and the ready-furnished house.
She must have thought so too, at times, and in her heart despised thee for them, or love thee (ungrateful as thou art!) to her misfortune; as well as entertain hope against probability. But this would afford another warning to the sex, were they to know her story; 'as it would show them what poor pretences they must seem to be satisfied with, if once they put themselves into the power of a designing man.'
If trial only was thy end, as once was thy pretence,* enough surely hast thou tried this paragon of virtue and vigilance. But I knew thee too well, to expect, at the time, that thou wouldest stop there. 'Men of our cast put no other bound to their views upon any of the sex, than what want of power compels them to put.' I knew that from one advantage gained, thou wouldest proceed to attempt another. Thy habitual aversion to wedlock too well I knew; and indeed thou avowest thy hope to bring her to cohabitation, in that very letter in which thou pretendest trial to be thy principal view.**
* See Vol. III. Letter XVIII. ** Ibid. See also Letters XVI. and XVII. of that volume.
But do not even thy own frequent and involuntary remorses, when thou hast time, place, company, and every other circumstance, to favour thee in thy wicked design, convince thee, that there can be no room for a hope so presumptuous?—Why then, since thou wouldest choose to marry her rather than lose her, wilt thou make her hate thee for ever?
But if thou darest to meditate personal trial, and art sincere in thy resolution to reward her, as she behaves in it, let me beseech thee to remove her from this vile house. That will be to give her and thy conscience fair play. So entirely now does the sweet deluded excellence depend upon her supposed happier prospects, that thou needest not to fear that she will fly from thee, or that she will wish to have recourse to that scheme of Miss Howe, which has put thee upon what thou callest thy master-strokes.
But whatever be thy determination on this head; and if I write not in time, but that thou hast actually pulled off the mask; let it not be one of the devices, if thou wouldest avoid the curses of every heart, and hereafter of thy own, to give her, no not for one hour, (be her resentment ever so great,) into the power of that villanous woman, who has, if possible, less remorse than thyself; and whose trade it is to break the resisting spirit, and utterly to ruin the heart unpractised in evil.—O Lovelace, Lovelace, how many dreadful stories could this horrid woman tell the sex! And shall that of a Clarissa swell the guilty list?
But this I might have spared. Of this, devil as thou art, thou canst not be capable. Thou couldst not enjoy a triumph so disgraceful to thy wicked pride, as well as to humanity.
Shouldest thou think, that the melancholy spectacle hourly before me has made me more serious than usual, perhaps thou wilt not be mistaken. But nothing more is to be inferred from hence (were I even to return to my former courses) but that whenever the time of cool reflection comes, whether brought on by our own disasters, or by those of others, we shall undoubtedly, if capable of thought, and if we have time for it, think in the same manner.
We neither of us are such fools as to disbelieve a futurity, or to think, whatever be our practice, that we came hither by chance, and for no end but to do all the mischief we have it in our power to do. Nor am I ashamed to own, that in the prayers which my poor uncle makes me read to him, in the absence of a very good clergyman who regularly attends him, I do not forget to put in a word or two for myself.
If, Lovelace, thou laughest at me, thy ridicule will be more conformable to thy actions than to thy belief.—Devils believe and tremble. Canst thou be more abandoned than they?
And here let me add, with regard to my poor old man, that I often wish thee present but for one half hour in a day, to see the dregs of a gay life running off in the most excruciating tortures that the cholic, the stone, and the surgeon's knife can unitedly inflict, and to hear him bewail the dissoluteness of his past life, in the bitterest anguish of a spirit every hour expecting to be called to its last account.—Yet, by all his confessions, he has not to accuse himself, in sixty-seven years of life, of half the very vile enormities which you and I have committed in the last seven only.
I conclude with recommending to your serious consideration all I have written, as proceeding from the heart and soul of
Your assured friend, JOHN BELFORD
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. TUESDAY AFTERNOON, JUNE 6.
Difficulties still to be got over in procuring this plaguy license. I ever hated, and ever shall hate, these spiritual lawyers, and their court.
And now, Jack, if I have not secured victory, I have a retreat.
But hold—thy servant with a letter—
A confounded long one, though not a narrative one—Once more in behalf of this lady?—Lie thee down, oddity! What canst thou write that can have force upon me at this crisis?—And have I not, as I went along, made thee to say all that was necessary for thee to say?
Yet once more I will take thee up.
Trite, stale, poor, (sayest thou,) are some of my contrivances; that of the widow particularly!—I have no patience with thee. Had not that contrivance its effect at that time, for a procrastination? and had I not then reason to fear, that the lady would find enough to make her dislike this house? and was it not right (intending what I intended) to lead her on from time to time with a notion that a house of her own would be ready for her soon, in order to induce her to continue here till it was?
Trite, stale, and poor!—Thou art a silly fellow, and no judge, when thou sayest this. Had I not, like a blockhead, revealed to thee, as I went along, the secret purposes of my heart, but had kept all in till the event had explained my mysteries, I would have defied thee to have been able, any more than the lady, to have guessed at what was to befall her, till it had actually come to pass. Nor doubt I, in this case, that, instead of presuming to reflect upon her for credulity, as loving me to her misfortune, and for hoping against probability, thou wouldest have been readier, by far, to censure her for nicety and over-scrupulousness. And, let me tell thee, that had she loved me a I wished her to love me, she could not possibly have been so very apprehensive of my designs, nor so ready to be influenced by Miss Howe's precautions, as she has always been, although my general character made not for me with her.
But, in thy opinion, I suffer for that simplicity in my contrivances, which is their principal excellence. No machinery make I necessary. No unnatural flights aim I at. All pure nature, taking advantage of nature, as nature tends; and so simple my devices, that when they are known, thou, even thou, imaginest thou couldest have thought of the same. And indeed thou seemest to own, that the slight thou puttest upon them is owing to my letting thee into them before-hand—undistingushing as well as ungrateful as thou art!
Yet, after all, I would not have thee think that I do not know my weak places. I have formerly told thee, that it is difficult for the ablest general to say what he will do, or what he can do, when he is obliged to regulate his motions by those of a watchful enemy.* If thou givest due weight to this consideration, thou wilt not wonder that I should make many marches and countermarches, some of which may appear, to a slight observer, unnecessary.
* See Vol. III. Letter XXXIX.
But let me cursorily enter into debate with thee on this subject, now I am within sight of my journey's end.
Abundance of impertinent things thou tellest me in this letter; some of which thou hadst from myself; others that I knew before.
All that thou sayest in this charming creature's praise is short of what I have said and written on the inexhaustible subject.
Her virtue, her resistance, which are her merits, are my stimulatives. have I not told thee so twenty times over?
Devil, as these girls between them call me, what of devil am I, but in my contrivances? I am not more a devil than others in the end I aim at; for when I have carried my point, it is still but one seduction. And I have perhaps been spared the guilt of many seductions in the time.
What of uncommon would there be in this case, but for her watchfulness!—As well as I love intrigue and stratagem, dost think that I had not rather have gained my end with less trouble and less guilt?
The man, let me tell thee, who is as wicked as he can be, is a worse man than I am. Let me ask any rake in England, if, resolving to carry his point, he would have been so long about it? or have had so much compunction as I have had?
Were every rake, nay, were every man, to sit down, as I do, and write all that enters into his head, or into his heart, and to accuse himself with equal freedom and truth, what an army of miscreants should I have to keep me in countenance!
It is a maxim with some, that if they are left alone with a woman, and make not an attempt upon her, she will think herself affronted—Are not such men as these worse than I am? What an opinion must they have of the whole sex!
Let me defend the sex I so dearly love. If these elder brethren of ours think they have general reason for their assertion, they must have kept very bad company, or must judge of women's hearts by their own. She must be an abandoned woman, who will not shrink as a snail into its shell at a gross and sudden attempt. A modest woman must be naturally cold, reserved, and shy. She cannot be so much and so soon affected as libertines are apt to imagine. She must, at least, have some confidence in the honour and silence of a man, before desire can possibly put forth in her, to encourage and meet his flame. For my own part, I have been always decent in the company of women, till I was sure of them. Nor have I ever offered a great offence, till I have found little ones passed over; and that they shunned me not, when they knew my character.
My divine Clarissa has puzzled me, and beat me out of my play: at one time, I hope to overcome by intimidating her; at another, by love; by the amorous see-saw, as I have called it.* And I have only now to join surprise to the other two, and see what can be done by all three.
* See Vol. III. Letter XVI.
And whose property, I pray thee, shall I invade, if I pursue my schemes of love and vengeance? Have not those who have a right to her renounced that right? Have they not wilfully exposed her to dangers? Yet must know, that such a woman would be considered as lawful prize by as many as could have the opportunity to attempt her?—And had they not thus cruelly exposed her, is she not a single woman? And need I tell thee, Jack, that men of our cast, the best of them [the worst stick at nothing] think it a great grace and favour done to the married men, if they leave them their wives to themselves; and compound for their sisters, daughters, wards and nieces? Shocking as these principles must be to a reflecting mind, yet such thou knowest are the principles of thousands (who would not act so generously as I have acted by almost all of the sex, over whom I have obtained a power); and as often carried into practice, as their opportunities or courage will permit.—Such therefore have no right to blame me.
Thou repeatedly pleadest her sufferings from her family. But I have too often answered this plea, to need to say any more now, than that she has not suffered for my sake. For has she not been made the victim of the malice of her rapacious brother and envious sister, who only waited for an occasion to ruin her with her other relations; and took this as the first to drive her out of the house; and, as it happened, into my arms?— Thou knowest how much against her inclination.
As for her own sins, how many has the dear creature to answer for to love and to me!—Twenty times, and twenty times twenty, has she not told me, that she refused not the odious Solmes in favour to me? And as often has she not offered to renounce me for the single life, if the implacables would have received her on that condition?—Of what repetitions does thy weak pity make me guilty?
To look a litter farther back: Canst thou forget what my sufferings were from this haughty beauty in the whole time of my attendance upon her proud motions, in the purlieus of Harlowe-place, and at the little White Hart, at Neale, as we called it?—Did I not threaten vengeance upon her then (and had I not reason?) for disappointing me of a promised interview?
O Jack! what a night had I in the bleak coppice adjoining to her father's paddock! My linen and wig frozen; my limbs absolutely numbed; my fingers only sensible of so much warmth as enabled me to hold a pen; and that obtained by rubbing the skin off, and by beating with my hands my shivering sides! Kneeling on the hoar moss on one knee, writing on the other, if the stiff scrawl could be called writing! My feet, by the time I had done, seeming to have taken root, and actually unable to support me for some minutes!—Love and rage then kept my heart in motion, [and only love and rage could do it,] or how much more than I did suffer must I have suffered!
I told thee, at my melancholy return, what were the contents of the letter I wrote.* And I showed thee afterwards her tyrannical answer to it.** Thou, then, Jack, lovedst thy friend; and pitiedst thy poor suffering Lovelace. Even the affronted God of Love approved then of my threatened vengeance against the fair promiser; though of the night of my sufferings, he is become an advocate for her.
* See Vol. II. Letter XX. ** Ibid.
Nay, was it not he himself that brought to me my adorable Nemesis; and both together put me upon this very vow, 'That I would never rest till I had drawn in this goddess-daughter of the Harlowes to cohabit with me; and that in the face of all their proud family?'
Nor canst thou forget this vow. At this instant I have thee before me, as then thou sorrowfully lookedst. Thy strong features glowing with compassion for me; thy lips twisted; thy forehead furrowed; thy whole face drawn out from the stupid round into the ghastly oval; every muscle contributing its power to complete the aspect grievous; and not one word couldst thou utter, but Amen! to my vow.
And what of distinguishing love, or favour, or confidence, have I had from her since, to make me forego this vow!
I renewed it not, indeed, afterwards; and actually, for a long season, was willing to forget it; till repetitions of the same faults revived the remembrance of the former. And now adding to those the contents of some of Miss Howe's virulent letters, so lately come at, what canst thou say for the rebel, consistent with thy loyalty to thy friend?
Every man to his genius and constitution. Hannibal was called The father of warlike stratagems. Had Hannibal been a private man, and turned his plotting head against the other sex; or had I been a general, and, turned mine against such of my fellow-creatures of my, own, as I thought myself entitled to consider as my enemies, because they were born and lived in a different climate; Hannibal would have done less mischief; Lovelace more.—That would have been the difference.
Not a sovereign on earth, if he be not a good man, and if he be of a warlike temper, but must do a thousand times more mischief than I. And why? Because he has it in his power to do more.
An honest man, perhaps thou'lt say, will not wish to have it in his power to do hurt. He ought not, let me tell him: for, if he have it, a thousand to one but it makes him both wanton and wicked.
In what, then, am I so singularly vile?
In my contrivances thou wilt say, (for thou art my echo,) if not in my proposed end of them.
How difficult does every man find it, as well as I, to forego a predominant passion! I have three passions that sway me by turns; all imperial ones—love, revenge, ambition or a desire of conquest.
As to this particular contrivance of Tomlinson and the uncle, which perhaps thou wilt think a black one; that had been spared, had not these innocent ladies put me upon finding a husband for their Mrs. Townsend: that device, therefore, is but a preventive one. Thinkest thou that I could bear to be outwitted? And may not this very contrivance save a world of mischief? for dost thou think I would have tamely given up the lady to Townsend's tars?
What meanest thou, except to overthrow thy own plea, when thou sayest, that men of our cast know no other bound to their wickedness, but want of power; yet knowest this lady to be in mine?
Enough, sayest thou, have I tried this paragon of virtue. Not so; for I have not tried her at all—all I have been doing is but preparation to a trial.
But thou art concerned for the means that I may have recourse to in the trial, and for my veracity.
Silly fellow!—Did ever any man, thinkest thou, deceive a woman, but at the expense of his veracity; how, otherwise, can he be said to deceive?
As to the means, thou dost not imagine that I expect a direct consent. My main hope is but in a yielding reluctance; without which I will be sworn, whatever rapes have been attempted, none ever were committed, one person to one person. And good Queen Bess of England, had she been living, and appealed to, would have declared herself of my mind.
It would not be amiss for the sex to know what our opinions are upon this subject. I love to warn them. I wish no man to succeed with them but myself. I told thee once, that though a rake, I am not a rake's friend.*
* See Vol. III. Letter XVIII.
Thou sayest, that I ever hated wedlock. And true thou sayest. And yet as true, when thou tellest me, that I would rather marry than lose this lady. And will she detest me for ever, thinkest thou, if I try her, and succeed not?—Take care—take care, Jack!—Seest thou not that thou warnest me that I do not try without resolving to conquer?
I must add, that I have for some time been convinced that I have done wrong to scribble to thee so freely as I have done (and the more so, if I make the lady legally mine); for has not every letter I have written to thee been a bill of indictment against myself? I may partly curse my vanity for it; and I think I will refrain for the future; for thou art really very impertinent.
A good man, I own, might urge many of the things thou urgest; but, by my soul, they come very awkwardly from thee. And thou must be sensible, that I can answer every tittle of what you writest, upon the foot of the maxims we have long held and pursued.—By the specimen above, thou wilt see that I can.
And pr'ythee tell me, Jack, what but this that follows would have been the epitome of mine and my beloved's story, after ten years' cohabitation, had I never written to thee upon the subject, and had I not been my own accuser?
'Robert Lovelace, a notorious woman-eater, makes his addresses in an honourable way to Miss Clarissa Harlowe; a young lady of the highest merit—fortunes on both sides out of the question.
'After encouragement given, he is insulted by her violent brother; who thinks it his interest to discountenance the match; and who at last challenging him, is obliged to take his worthless life at his hands.
'The family, as much enraged, as if he had taken the life he gave, insult him personally, and find out an odious lover for the young lady.
'To avoid a forced marriage, she is prevailed upon to take a step which throws her into Mr. Lovelace's protection.
'Yet, disclaiming any passion for him, she repeatedly offers to renounce him for ever, if, on that condition, her relations will receive her, and free her from the address of the man she hates.
'Mr. Lovelace, a man of strong passions, and, as some say, of great pride, thinks himself under very little obligation to her on this account; and not being naturally fond of marriage, and having so much reason to hate her relations, endeavours to prevail upon her to live with him what he calls the life of honour; and at last, by stratagem, art, and contrivance, prevails.
'He resolves never to marry any other woman: takes a pride to have her called by his name: a church-rite all the difference between them: treats her with deserved tenderness. Nobody questions their marriage but those proud relations of her's, whom he wishes to question it. Every year a charming boy. Fortunes to support the increasing family with splendor. A tender father. Always a warm friend; a generous landlord; and a punctual paymaster. Now-and-then however, perhaps, indulging with a new object, in order to bring him back with greater delight to his charming Clarissa—his only fault, love of the sex—which, nevertheless, the women say, will cure itself—defensible thus far, that he breaks no contracts by his rovings.'—
And what is there so very greatly amiss, AS THE WORLD GOES, in all this?
Let me aver, that there are thousands and ten thousands, who have worse stories to tell than this would appear to be, had I not interested thee in the progress to my great end. And besides, thou knowest that the character I gave myself to Joseph Leman, as to my treatment of my mistress, is pretty near the truth.*
* See Vol. III. Letter XLVIII.
Were I to be as much in earnest in my defence, as thou art warm in my arraignment, I could convince thee, by other arguments, observations, and comparisons, [Is not all human good and evil comparative?] that though from my ingenuous temper (writing only to thee, who art master of every secret of my heart) I am so ready to accuse myself in my narrations, yet I have something to say for myself to myself, as I go along; though no one else, perhaps, that was not a rake, would allow any weight to it.— And this caution might I give to thousands, who would stoop for a stone to throw at me: 'See that your own predominant passions, whatever they be, hurry you not into as much wickedness as mine do me. See, if ye happen to be better than I in some things, that ye are not worse in others; and in points too, that may be of more extensive bad consequence, than that of seducing a girl, (and taking care of her afterwards,) who, from her cradle, is armed with cautions against the delusions of men.' And yet I am not so partial to my own follies as to think lightly of this fault, when I allow myself to think.
Another grave thing I will add, now my hand is in: 'So dearly do I love the sex, that had I found that a character for virtue had been generally necessary to recommend me to them, I should have had a much greater regard to my morals, as to the sex, than I have had.'
To sum all up—I am sufficiently apprized, that men of worthy and honest hearts, who never allowed themselves in premeditated evil, and who take into the account the excellencies of this fine creature, will and must not only condemn, but abhor me, were they to know as much of me as thou dost. But, methinks, I would be glad to escape the censure of those men, and of those women too, who have never known what capital trials and temptations are; of those who have no genius for enterprise; of those who want rather courage than will; and most particularly of those who have only kept their secret better than I have kept, or wish to keep, mine. Were those exceptions to take place, perhaps, Jack, I should have ten to acquit to one that should condemn me. Have I not often said, that human nature is a rogue?
I threatened above to refrain writing to thee. But take it not to heart, Jack—I must write on, and cannot help it.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. WEDNESDAY NIGHT, ELEVEN O'CLOCK.
Faith, Jack, thou hadst half undone me with thy nonsense, though I would not own it on my yesterday's letter: my conscience of thy party before.— But I think I am my own man again.
So near to execution my plot; so near springing my mine; all agreed upon between the women and me; or I believe thou hadst overthrown me.
I have time for a few lines preparative to what is to happen in an hour or two; and I love to write to the moment.
We have been extremely happy. How many agreeable days have we known together!—What may the next two hours produce.
When I parted with my charmer, (which I did, with infinite reluctance, half an hour ago,) it was upon her promise that she would not sit up to write or read. For so engaging was the conversation to me, (and indeed my behaviour throughout the whole of it was confessedly agreeable to her,) that I insisted, if she did not directly retire to rest, that she should add another happy hour to the former.
To have sat up writing or reading half the night, as she sometimes does, would have frustrated my view, as thou wilt observe, when my little plot unravels.
What—What—What now!—Bounding villain! wouldst thou choke me?—
I was speaking to my heart, Jack!—It was then at my throat.—And what is all this for?—These shy women, how, when a man thinks himself near the mark, do they tempest him!
Is all ready, Dorcas? Has my beloved kept her word with me?—Whether are these billowy heavings owing more to love or to fear? I cannot tell, for the soul of me, of which I have most. If I can but take her before her apprehension, before her eloquence, is awake—
Limbs, why thus convulsed?—Knees, till now so firmly knit, why thus relaxed? why beat you thus together? Will not these trembling fingers, which twice have refused to direct the pen, fail me in the arduous moment?
Once again, why and for what all these convulsions? This project is not to end in matrimony, surely!
But the consequences must be greater than I had thought of till this moment—my beloved's destiny or my own may depend upon the issue of the two next hours!
I will recede, I think!—
Soft, O virgin saint, and safe as soft, be thy slumbers!
I will now once more turn to my friend Belford's letter. Thou shalt have fair play, my charmer. I will reperuse what thy advocate has to say for thee. Weak arguments will do, in the frame I am in!—
But, what, what's the matte!—What a double—But the uproar abates!—What a double coward am I!—Or is it that I am taken in a cowardly minute? for heroes have their fits of fear; cowards their brave moments; and virtuous women, all but my Clarissa, their moment critical—
But thus coolly enjoying the reflection in a hurricane!—Again the confusion is renewed—
What! Where!—How came it!
Is my beloved safe—
O wake not too roughly, my beloved!
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. THURSDAY MORNING, FIVE O'CLOCK, (JUNE 8.)
Now is my reformation secure; for I never shall love any other woman! Oh! she is all variety! She must ever be new to me! Imagination cannot form; much less can the pencil paint; nor can the soul of painting, poetry, describe an angel so exquisitely, so elegantly lovely!—But I will not by anticipation pacify thy impatience. Although the subject is too hallowed for profane contemplation, yet shalt thou have the whole before thee as it passed: and this not from a spirit wantoning in description upon so rich a subject; but with a design to put a bound to thy roving thoughts. It will be iniquity, greater than a Lovelace was ever guilty of, to carry them farther than I shall acknowledge.
Thus then, connecting my last with the present, I lead to it.
Didst thou not, by the conclusion of my former, perceive the consternation I was in, just as I was about to reperuse thy letter, in order to prevail upon myself to recede from my purpose of awaking in terrors my slumbering charmer? And what dost think was the matter?
I'll tell thee—
At a little after two, when the whole house was still, or seemed to be so, and, as it proved, my Clarissa in bed, and fast asleep; I also in a manner undressed (as indeed I was for an hour before) and in my gown and slippers, though, to oblige thee, writing on!—I was alarmed by a trampling noise over head, and a confused buz of mixed voices, some louder than others, like scolding, and little short of screaming. While I was wondering what could be the matter, down stairs ran Dorcas, and at my door, in an accent rather frightedly and hoarsely inward than shrilly clamorous, she cried out Fire! Fire! And this the more alarmed me, as she seemed to endeavour to cry out louder, but could not.
My pen (its last scrawl a benediction on my beloved) dropped from my fingers; and up started I; and making but three steps to the door, opening it, cried out, Where! Where! almost as much terrified as the wench; while she, more than half undrest, her petticoats in her hand, unable to speak distinctly, pointed up stairs.
I was there in a moment, and found all owing to the carelessness of Mrs. Sinclair's cook-maid, who having sat up to read the simple History of Dorastus and Faunia, when she should have been in bed, had set fire to an old pair of calico window-curtains.
She had had the presence of mind, in her fright, to tear down the half- burnt vallens, as well as curtains, and had got them, though blazing, into the chimney, by the time I came up; so that I had the satisfaction to find the danger happily over.
Mean time Dorcas, after she had directed me up stairs, not knowing the worst was over, and expecting every minute the house would be in a blaze, out of tender regard for her lady, [I shall for ever love the wench for it,] ran to her door, and rapping loudly at it, in a recovered voice, cried out, with a shillness equal to her love, Fire! Fire! The house is on fire!—Rise, Madam!—This instant rise—if you would not be burnt in your bed!
No sooner had she made this dreadful out-cry, but I heard her lady's door, with hasty violence, unbar, unbolt, unlock, and open, and my charmer's voice sounding like that of one going into a fit.
Thou mayest believe that I was greatly affected. I trembled with concern for her, and hastened down faster than the alarm of fire had made me run up, in order to satisfy her that all the danger was over.
When I had flown down to her chamber-door, there I beheld the most charming creature in the world, supporting herself on the arm of the gasping Dorcas, sighing, trembling, and ready to faint, with nothing on but an under petticoat, her lovely bosom half open, and her feet just slipped into her shoes. As soon as she saw me, she painted, and struggled to speak; but could only say, O Mr. Lovelace! and down was ready to sink.
I clasped her in my arms with an ardour she never felt before: My dearest life! fear nothing: I have been up—the danger is over—the fire is got under—and how, foolish devil, [to Dorcas,] could you thus, by your hideous yell, alarm and frighten my angel!
O Jack! how her sweet bosom, as I clasped her to mine, heaved and panted! I could even distinguish her dear heart flutter, flutter, against mine; and, for a few minutes, I feared she would go into fits.
Lest the half-lifeless charmer should catch cold in this undress, I lifted her to her bed, and sat down by her upon the side of it, endeavouring with the utmost tenderness, as well of action as expression, to dissipate her terrors.
But what did I get by this my generous care of her, and my successful endeavour to bring her to herself?—Nothing (ungrateful as she was!) but the most passionate exclamations: for we had both already forgotten the occasion, dreadful as it was, which had thrown her into my arms: I, from the joy of encircling the almost disrobed body of the loveliest of her sex; she, from the greater terrors that arose from finding herself in my arms, and both seated on the bed, from which she had been so lately frighted.
And now, Belford, reflect upon the distance at which the watchful charmer had hitherto kept me: reflect upon my love, and upon my sufferings for her: reflect upon her vigilance, and how long I had laid in wait to elude it; the awe I had stood in, because of her frozen virtue and over-niceness; and that I never before was so happy with her; and then think how ungovernable must be my transports in those happy moments!—And yet, in my own account, I was both decent and generous.
But, far from being affected, as I wished, by an address so fervent, (although from a man from whom she had so lately owned a regard, and with whom, but an hour or two before, she had parted with so much satisfaction,) I never saw a bitterer, or more moving grief, when she came fully to herself.
She appealed to Heaven against my treachery, as she called it; while I, by the most solemn vows, pleaded my own equal fright, and the reality of the danger that had alarmed us both.
She conjured me, in the most solemn and affecting manner, by turns threatening and soothing, to quit her apartment, and permit her to hide herself from the light, and from every human eye.
I besought her pardon, yet could not avoid offending; and repeatedly vowed, that the next morning's sun should witness our espousals. But taking, I suppose, all my protestations of this kind as an indication that I intended to proceed to the last extremity, she would hear nothing that I said; but, redoubling her struggles to get from me, in broken accents, and exclamations the most vehement, she protested, that she would not survive what she called a treatment so disgraceful and villanous; and, looking all wildly round her, as if for some instrument of mischief, she espied a pair of sharp-pointed scissors on a chair by the bed-side, and endeavoured to catch them up, with design to make her words good on the spot.
Seeing her desperation, I begged her to be pacified; that she would hear me speak but one word; declaring that I intended no dishonour to her: and having seized the scissors, I threw them into the chimney; and she still insisting vehemently upon my distance, I permitted her to take the chair.
But, O the sweet discomposure!—Her bared shoulders, and arms so inimitably fair and lovely: her spread hands crossed over her charming neck; yet not half concealing its glossy beauties: the scanty coat, as she rose from me, giving the whole of her admirable shape, and fine- turn'd limbs: her eyes running over, yet seeming to threaten future vengeance: and at last her lips uttering what every indignant look and glowing feature portended: exclaiming as if I had done the worst I could do, and vowing never to forgive me; wilt thou wonder if I resumed the incensed, the already too-much-provoked fair-one?
I did; and clasped her once more to my bosom: but, considering the delicacy of her frame, her force was amazing, and showed how much in earnest she was in her resentment; for it was with the utmost difficulty that I was able to hold her: nor could I prevent her sliding through my arms, to fall upon her knees: which she did at my feet: and there in the anguish of her soul, her streaming eyes lifted up to my face with supplicating softness, hands folded, dishevelled hair; for her night head-dress having fallen off in her struggling, her charming tresses fell down in naturally shining ringlets, as if officious to conceal the dazzling beauties of her neck and shoulders; her lovely bosom too heaving with sighs, and broken sobs, as if to aid her quivering lips in pleading for her—in this manner, but when her grief gave way to her speech, in words pronounced with that emphatical propriety, which distinguishes this admirable creature in her elocution from all the women I ever heard speak, did she implore my compassion and my honour.
'Consider me, dear Lovelace,' [dear was her charming word!] 'on my knees I beg you to consider me as a poor creature who has no protector but you; who has no defence but your honour: by that honour! by your humanity! by all you have vowed! I conjure you not to make me abhor myself! not to make me vile in my own eyes!'
I mentioned to-morrow as the happiest day of my life.
Tell me not of to-morrow. If indeed you mean me honourably, now, this very instant NOW! you must show it, and be gone! you can never in a whole long life repair the evils you NOW make me suffer!
Wicked wretch!—Insolent villain!—yes, she called me insolent villain, although so much in my power! And for what!—only for kissing (with passion indeed) her inimitable neck, her lips, her cheeks, her forehead, and her streaming eyes, as this assemblage of beauties offered itself at once to my ravished sight; she continuing kneeling at my feet as I sat.
If I am a villain, Madam!—And then my grasping, but trembling hand—I hope I did not hurt the tenderest and loveliest of all her beauties—If I am a villain, Madam—
She tore my ruffle, shrunk from my happy hand, with amazing force and agility, as with my other arm I would have encircled her waist.
Indeed you are!—the worst of villains!—Help! dear, blessed people! and screamed out—No help for a poor creature!
Am I then a villain, Madam?—Am I then a villain, say you?—and clasped both my arms about her, offering to raise her to my bounding heart.
Oh! no!—And yet you are!—And again I was her dear Lovelace!—her hands again clasped over her charming bosom:—Kill me! kill me!—if I am odious enough in your eyes to deserve this treatment: and I will thank you!—Too long, much too long has my life been a burden to me!—Or, (wildly looking all round her,) give me but the means, and I will instantly convince you that my honour is dearer to me than my life!
Then, with still folded hands, and fresh streaming eyes, I was her blessed Lovelace; and she would thank me with her latest breath if I would permit her to make that preference, or free her from farther indignities.
I sat suspended for a moment: by my soul, thought I, thou art, upon full proof, an angel and no woman! still, however, close clasping her to my bosom, as I raised her from her knees, she again slid through my arms, and dropped upon them.—'See, Mr. Lovelace!—Good God! that I should live to see this hour, and to bear this treatment!—See at your feet a poor creature, imploring your pity; who, for your sake, is abandoned of all the world. Let not my father's curse thus dreadfully operate! be not you the inflicter, who have been the cause of it: but spare me, I beseech you, spare me!—for how have I deserved this treatment from you? for your own sake, if not for my sake, and as you would that God Almighty, in your last hour, should have mercy upon you, spare me!'
What heart but must have been penetrated!
I would again have raised the dear suppliant from her knees; but she would not be raised, till my softened mind, she said, had yielded to her prayer, and bid her rise to be innocent.
Rise then, my angel! rise, and be what you are, and all you wish to be! only pronounce me pardoned for what has passed, and tell me you will continue to look upon me with that eye of favour and serenity which I have been blessed with for some days past, and I will submit to my beloved conqueress, whose power never was at so great an height with me, as now, and retire to my apartment.
God Almighty, said she, hear your prayers in your most arduous moments, as you have heard mine! and now leave me, this moment leave me, to my own recollection: in that you will leave me to misery enough, and more than you ought to wish to your bitterest enemy.
Impute not every thing, my best beloved, to design, for design it was not—
O Mr. Lovelace!
Upon my soul, Madam, the fire was real—[and so it was, Jack!]—The house, my dearest life, might have been consumed by it, as you will be convinced in the morning by ocular demonstration.
O Mr. Lovelace!—
Let my passion for you, Madam, and the unexpected meeting of you at your chamber-door, in an attitude so charming—
Leave me, leave me, this moment!—I beseech you leave me; looking wildly and in confusion about her, and upon herself.
Excuse me, my dearest creature, for those liberties which, innocent as they were, your too great delicacy may make you take amiss—
No more! no more!—leave me, I beseech you! again looking upon herself, and round her, in a sweet confusion—Begone! begone!
Then weeping, she struggled vehemently to withdraw her hands, which all the while I held between mine.—Her struggles!—O what additional charms, as I now reflect, did her struggles give to every feature, every limb, of a person so sweetly elegant and lovely!
Impossible, my dearest life, till you pronounce my pardon!—Say but you forgive me!—say but you forgive me!
I beseech you to be gone! leave me to myself, that I may think what I can do, and what I ought to do.
That, my dearest creature, is not enough. You must tell me that I am forgiven; that you will see me to-morrow as if nothing had happened.
And then I clasped her again in my arms, hoping she would not forgive me—
I will—I do forgive you—wretch that you are!
Nay, my Clarissa! and is it such a reluctant pardon, mingled with a word so upbraiding, that I am to be put off with, when you are thus (clasping her close to me) in my power?
I do, I do forgive you!
And will you look upon me to-morrow as if nothing had passed?
I cannot take these peevish affirmatives, so much like intentional negatives!—Say, you will, upon your honour.
Upon my honour, then—Oh! now, begone! begone!—and never never—
What! never, my angel!—Is this forgiveness?
Never, said she, let what has passed be remembered more!
I insisted upon one kiss to seal my pardon—and retired like a fool, a woman's fool, as I was!—I sneakingly retired!—Couldst thou have believed it?
But I had no sooner entered my own apartment, than reflecting upon the opportunity I had lost, and that all I had gained was but an increase of my own difficulties; and upon the ridicule I should meet with below upon a weakness so much out of my usual character; I repented, and hastened back, in hope that, through the distress of mind which I left her in, she had not so soon fastened the door; and I was fully resolved to execute all my purposes, be the consequence what it would; for, thought I, I have already sinned beyond cordial forgiveness, I doubt; and if fits and desperation ensue, I can but marry at last, and then I shall make her amends.