Nor, let me tell thee, will her own scheme or penitence, in this case, be half so perfect, if she do not fall, as if she does: for what a foolish penitent will she make, who has nothing to repent of!—She piques herself, thou knowest, and makes it matter of reproach to me, that she went not off with me by her own consent; but was tricked out of herself.
Nor upbraid thou me upon the meditated breach of vows so repeatedly made. She will not, thou seest, permit me to fulfil them. And if she would, this I have to say, that, at the time I made the most solemn of them, I was fully determined to keep them. But what prince thinks himself obliged any longer to observe the articles of treaties, the most sacredly sworn to, than suits with his interest or inclination; although the consequence of the infraction must be, as he knows, the destruction of thousands.
Is not this then the result of all, that Miss Clarissa Harlowe, if it be not her own fault, may be as virtuous after she has lost her honour, as it is called, as she was before? She may be a more eminent example to her sex; and if she yield (a little yield) in the trial, may be a completer penitent. Nor can she, but by her own wilfulness, be reduced to low fortunes.
And thus may her old nurse and she; an old coachman; and a pair of old coach-horses; and two or three old maid-servants, and perhaps a very old footman or two, (for every thing will be old and penitential about her,) live very comfortably together; reading old sermons, and old prayer-books; and relieving old men and old women; and giving old lessons, and old warnings, upon new subjects, as well as old ones, to the young ladies of her neighbourhood; and so pass on to a good old age, doing a great deal of good both by precept and example in her generation.
And is a woman who can live thus prettily without controul; who ever did prefer, and who still prefers, the single to the married life; and who will be enabled to do every thing that the plan she had formed will direct her to do; to be said to be ruined, undone, and such sort of stuff?—I have no patience with the pretty fools, who use those strong words, to describe a transitory evil; an evil which a mere church-form makes none?
At this rate of romancing, how many flourishing ruins dost thou, as well as I, know? Let us but look about us, and we shall see some of the haughtiest and most censorious spirits among out acquaintance of that sex now passing for chaste wives, of whom strange stories might be told; and others, whose husbands' hearts have been made to ache for their gaieties, both before and after marriage; and yet know not half so much of them, as some of us honest fellows could tell them.
But, having thus satisfied myself in relation to the worst that can happen to this charming creature; and that it will be her own fault, if she be unhappy; I have not at all reflected upon what is likely to be my own lot.
This has always been my notion, though Miss Howe grudges us rakes the best of the sex, and says, that the worst is too good for us,* that the wife of a libertine ought to be pure, spotless, uncontaminated. To what purpose has such a one lived a free life, but to know the world, and to make his advantages of it!—And, to be very serious, it would be a misfortune to the public for two persons, heads of a family, to be both bad; since, between two such, a race of varlets might be propagated (Lovelaces and Belfords, if thou wilt) who might do great mischief in the world.
Thou seest at bottom that I am not an abandoned fellow; and that there is a mixture of gravity in me. This, as I grow older, may increase; and when my active capacity begins to abate, I may sit down with the preacher, and resolve all my past life into vanity and vexation of spirit.
This is certain, that I shall never find a woman so well suited to my taste as Miss Clarissa Harlowe. I only wish that I may have such a lady as her to comfort and adorn my setting sun. I have often thought it very unhappy for us both, that so excellent a creature sprang up a little too late for my setting out, and a little too early in my progress, before I can think of returning. And yet, as I have picked up the sweet traveller in my way, I cannot help wishing that she would bear me company in the rest of my journey, although she were stepping out of her own path to oblige me. And then, perhaps, we could put up in the evening at the same inn; and be very happy in each other's conversation; recounting the difficulties and dangers we had passed in our way to it.
I imagine that thou wilt be apt to suspect that some passages in this letter were written in town. Why, Jack, I cannot but say that the Westminster air is a little grosser than that at Hampstead; and the conversation of Mrs. Sinclair and the nymphs less innocent than Mrs. Moore's and Miss Rawlins's. And I think in my heart I can say and write those things at one place which I cannot at the other, nor indeed any where else.
I came to town about seven this morning—all necessary directions and precautions remembered to be given.
I besought the favour of an audience before I set out. I was desirous to see which of her lovely faces she was pleased to put on, after another night had passed. But she was resolved, I found, to leave our quarrel open. She would not give me an opportunity so much as to entreat her again to close it, before the arrival of Lady Betty and my cousin.
I had notice from my proctor, by a few lines brought by a man and horse, just before I set out, that all difficulties had been for two days past surmounted; and that I might have the license for fetching.
I sent up the letter to my beloved, by Mrs. Bevis, with a repeated request for admittance to her presence upon it; but neither did this stand me in stead. I suppose she thought it would be allowing of the consequences that were naturally to be expected to follow the obtaining of this instrument, if she had consented to see me on the contents of this letter, having refused me that honour before I sent it up to her.— No surprising her.—No advantage to be taken of her inattention to the nicest circumstances.
And now, Belford, I set out upon business.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. MONDAY, JUNE 12.
Durst ever see a license, Jack?
'Edmund, by divine permission, Lord Bishop of London, to our well-beloved in Christ, Robert Lovelace, [your servant, my good Lord! What have I done to merit so much goodness, who never saw your Lordship in my life?] of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, bachelor, and Clarissa Harlowe, of the same parish, spinster, sendeth greeting.—WHEREAS ye are, as is alleged, determined to enter into the holy state of Matrimony [this is only alleged, thou observest] by and with the consent of, &c. &c. &c. and are very desirous of obtaining your marriage to be solemnized in the face of the church: We are willing that your honest desires [honest desires, Jack!] may more speedily have their due effect: and therefore, that ye may be able to procure such Marriage to be freely and lawfully solemnized in the parish church of St. Martin's in the Fields, or St. Giles's in the Fields, in the county of Middlesex, by the Rector, Vicar, or Curate thereof, at any time of the year, [at ANY time of the year, Jack!] without publication of bans: Provided, that by reason of any pre-contract, [I verily think that I have had three or four pre-contracts in my time; but the good girls have not claimed upon them of a long while,] consanguinity, affinity, or any other lawful cause whatsoever, there be no lawful impediment on this behalf; and that there be not at this time any action, suit, plaint, quarrel, or demand, moved or depending before any judge ecclesiastical or temporal, for or concerning any marriage contracted by or with either of you; and that the said marriage be openly solemnized in the church above-mentioned, between the hours of eight and twelve in the forenoon; and without prejudice to the minister of the place where the said woman is a parishioner: We do hereby, for good causes, [it cost me—let me see, Jack—what did it cost me?] give and grant our License, as well to you as to the parties contracting, as to the Rector, Vicar, or Curate of the said church, where the said marriage is intended to be solemnized, to solemnize the same, in manner and form above specified, according to the rites and ceremonies prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer in that behalf published by authority of Parliament. Provided always, that if hereafter any fraud shall appear to have been committed, at the time of granting this License, either by false suggestions, or concealment of the truth, [now this, Belford, is a little hard upon us; for I cannot say that every one of our suggestions is literally true:—so, in good conscience, I ought not to marry under this License;] the License shall be void to all intents and purposes, as if the same had not been granted. And in that case we do inhibit all ministers whatsoever, if any thing of the premises shall come to their knowledge, from proceeding to the celebration of the said Marriage; without first consulting Us, or our Vicar-general. Given,' &c.
Then follow the register's name, and a large pendent seal, with these words round it—SEAL OF THE VICAR-GENERAL AND OFFICIAL PRINCIPAL OF THE DIOCESE OF LONDON.
A good whimsical instrument, take it altogether! But what, thinkest thou, are the arms to this matrimonial harbinger?—Why, in the first place, two crossed swords; to show that marriage is a state of offence as well as defence; three lions; to denote that those who enter into the state ought to have a triple proportion of courage. And [couldst thou have imagined that these priestly fellows, in so solemn a case, would cut their jokes upon poor souls who came to have their honest desires put in a way to be gratified;] there are three crooked horns, smartly top-knotted with ribands; which being the ladies' wear, seem to indicate that they may very probably adorn, as well as bestow, the bull's feather.
To describe it according to heraldry art, if I am not mistaken—gules, two swords, saltire-wise, or; second coat, a chevron sable between three bugle-horns, OR [so it ought to be]: on a chief of the second, three lions rampant of the first—but the devil take them for their hieroglyphics, should I say, if I were determined in good earnest to marry!
And determined to marry I would be, were it not for this consideration, that once married, and I am married for life.
That's the plague of it!—Could a man do as the birds do, change every Valentine's day, [a natural appointment! for birds have not the sense, forsooth, to fetter themselves, as we wiseacre men take great and solemn pains to do,] there would be nothing at all in it. And what a glorious time would the lawyers have, on the one hand, with their noverini universi's, and suits commenceable on restitution of goods and chattels; and the parsons, on the other, with their indulgencies [renewable annually, as other licenses] to the honest desires of their clients?
Then, were a stated mullet, according to rank or fortune, to be paid on every change, towards the exigencies of the state [but none on renewals with the old lives, for the sake of encouraging constancy, especially among the minores] the change would be made sufficiently difficult, and the whole public would be the better for it; while those children, which the parents could not agree about maintaining, might be considered as the children of the public, and provided for like the children of the antient Spartans; who were (as ours would in this case be) a nation of heroes. How, Jack, could I have improved upon Lycurgus's institutions had I been a lawgiver!
Did I never show thee a scheme which I drew up on such a notion as this? —In which I demonstrated the conveniencies, and obviated the inconveniencies, of changing the present mode to this? I believe I never did.
I remember I proved to a demonstration, that such a change would be a mean of annihilating, absolutely annihilating, four or five very atrocious and capital sins.—Rapes, vulgarly so called; adultery, and fornication; nor would polygamy be panted after. Frequently would it prevent murders and duelling; hardly any such thing as jealousy (the cause of shocking violences) would be heard of: and hypocrisy between man and wife be banished the bosoms of each. Nor, probably, would the reproach of barrenness rest, as it now too often does, where it is least deserved.—Nor would there possibly be such a person as a barren woman.
Moreover, what a multitude of domestic quarrels would be avoided, where such a scheme carried into execution? Since both sexes would bear with each other, in the view that they could help themselves in a few months.
And then what a charming subject for conversation would be the gallant and generous last partings between man and wife! Each, perhaps, a new mate in eye, and rejoicing secretly in the manumission, could afford to be complaisantly sorrowful in appearance. 'He presented her with this jewel, it will be said by the reporter, for example sake: she him with that. How he wept! How she sobb'd! How they looked after one another!' Yet, that's the jest of it, neither of them wishing to stand another twelvemonth's trial.
And if giddy fellows, or giddy girls, misbehave in a first marriage, whether from noviceship, having expected to find more in the matter than can be found; or from perverseness on her part, or positiveness on his, each being mistaken in the other [a mighty difference, Jack, in the same person, an inmate or a visiter]; what a fine opportunity will each have, by this scheme, of recovering a lost character, and of setting all right in the next adventure?
And, O Jack! with what joy, with what rapture, would the changelings (or changeables, if thou like that word better) number the weeks, the days, the hours, as the annual obligation approached to its desirable period!
As for the spleen or vapours, no such malady would be known or heard of. The physical tribe would, indeed, be the sufferers, and the only sufferers; since fresh health and fresh spirits, the consequences of sweet blood and sweet humours (the mind and body continually pleased with each other) would perpetually flow in; and the joys of expectation, the highest of all our joys, would invigorate and keep all alive.
But, that no body of men might suffer, the physicians, I thought, might turn parsons, as there would be a great demand for parsons. Besides, as they would be partakers in the general benefit, they must be sorry fellows indeed if they preferred themselves to the public.
Every one would be married a dozen times at least. Both men and women would be careful of their characters and polite in their behaviour, as well as delicate in their persons, and elegant in their dress, [a great matte each of these, let me tell thee, to keep passion alive,] either to induce a renewal with the old love, or to recommend themselves to a new. While the newspapers would be crowded with paragraphs; all the world their readers, as all the world would be concerned to see who and who's together—
'Yesterday, for instance, entered into the holy state of matrimony,' [we should all speak reverently of matrimony, then,] 'the right Honourable Robert Earl Lovelace' [I shall be an earl by that time,] 'with her Grace the Duchess Dowager of Fifty-manors; his Lordship's one-and-thirtieth wife.'—I shall then be contented, perhaps, to take up, as it is called, with a widow. But she must not have had more than one husband neither. Thou knowest that I am nice in these particulars.
I know, Jack, that thou for thy part, wilt approve of my scheme.
As Lord M. and I, between us, have three or four boroughs at command, I think I will get into parliament, in order to bring in a bill for this good purpose.
Neither will the house of parliament, nor the houses of convocation, have reason to object it. And all the courts, whether spiritual or sensual, civil or uncivil, will find their account in it when passed into a law.
By my soul, Jack, I should be apprehensive of a general insurrection, and that incited by the women, were such a bill to be thrown out.—For here is the excellency of the scheme: the women will have equal reason with the men to be pleased with it.
Dost think, that old prerogative Harlowe, for example, must not, if such a law were in being, have pulled in his horns?—So excellent a wife as he has, would never else have renewed with such a gloomy tyrant: who, as well as all other married tyrants, must have been upon good behaviour from year to year.
A termagant wife, if such a law were to pass, would be a phoenix.
The churches would be the only market-place for the fair sex; and domestic excellence the capital recommendation.
Nor would there be an old maid in Great Britain, and all its territories. For what an odd soul must she be who could not have her twelvemonth's trial?
In short, a total alteration for the better, in the morals and way of life in both sexes, must, in a very few years, be the consequence of such a salutary law.
Who would have expected such a one from me! I wish the devil owe me not a spite for it.
The would not the distinction be very pretty, Jack? as in flowers;—such a gentleman, or such a lady, is an ANNUAL—such a one is a PERENNIAL.
One difficulty, however, as I remember, occurred to me, upon the probability that a wife might be enceinte, as the lawyers call it. But thus I obviated it—
That no man should be allowed to marry another woman without his then wife's consent, till she were brought-to-bed, and he had defrayed all incident charges; and till it was agreed upon between them whether the child should be his, her's, or the public's. The women in this case to have what I call the coercive option; for I would not have it in the man's power to be a dog neither.
And, indeed, I gave the turn of the scale in every part of my scheme in the women's favour: for dearly do I love the sweet rogues.
How infinitely more preferable this my scheme to the polygamy one of the old patriarchs; who had wives and concubines without number!—I believe David and Solomon had their hundreds at a time. Had they not, Jack?
Let me add, that annual parliaments, and annual marriages, are the projects next my heart. How could I expatiate upon the benefits that would arise from both!
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
Well, but now my plots thicken; and my employment of writing to thee on this subject will soon come to a conclusion. For now, having got the license; and Mrs. Townsend with her tars, being to come to Hampstead next Wednesday or Thursday; and another letter possibly, or message from Miss Howe, to inquire how Miss Harlowe does, upon the rustic's report of her ill health, and to express her wonder that she has not heard form her in answer to her's on her escape; I must soon blow up the lady, or be blown up myself. And so I am preparing, with Lady Betty and my cousin Montague, to wait upon my beloved with a coach-and-four, or a sett; for Lady Betty will not stir out with a pair for the world; though but for two or three miles. And this is a well-known part of her character.
But as to the arms and crest upon the coach and trappings?
Dost thou not know that a Blunt's must supply her, while her own is new lining and repairing? An opportunity she is willing to take now she is in town. Nothing of this kind can be done to her mind in the country. Liveries nearly Lady Betty's.
Thou hast seen Lady Betty Lawrance several times—hast thou not, Belford?
No, never in my life.
But thou hast—and lain with her too; or fame does thee more credit than thou deservest—Why, Jack, knowest thou not Lady Betty's other name?
Other name!—Has she two?
She has. And what thinkest thou of Lady Bab. Wallis?
O the devil!
Now thou hast it. Lady Barbara thou knowest, lifted up in circumstances, and by pride, never appears or produces herself, but on occasions special —to pass to men of quality or price, for a duchess, or countess, at least. She has always been admired for a grandeur in her air, that few women of quality can come up to; and never was supposed to be other than what she passed for; though often and often a paramour for lords.
And who, thinkest thou, is my cousin Montague?
Nay, how should I know?
How indeed! Why, my little Johanetta Golding, a lively, yet modest-looking girl, is my cousin Montague.
There, Belford, is an aunt!—There's a cousin!—Both have wit at will. Both are accustomed to ape quality.—Both are genteelly descended. Mistresses of themselves, and well educated—yet past pity.—True Spartan dames; ashamed of nothing but detection—always, therefore, upon their guard against that. And in their own conceit, when assuming top parts, the very quality they ape.
And how dost think I dress them out?—I'll tell thee.
Lady Betty in a rich gold tissue, adorned with jewels of high price.
My cousin Montague in a pale pink, standing on end with silver flowers of her own working. Charlotte as well as my beloved is admirable at her needle. Not quite so richly jewell'd out as Lady Betty; but ear-rings and solitaire very valuable, and infinitely becoming.
Johanetta, thou knowest, has a good complexion, a fine neck, and ears remarkably fine—so has Charlotte. She is nearly of Charlotte's stature too.
Laces both, the richest that could be procured.
Thou canst not imagine what a sum the loan of the jewels cost me, though but for three days.
This sweet girl will half ruin me. But seest thou not, by this time, that her reign is short!—It must be so. And Mrs. Sinclair has already prepared every thing for her reception once more.
Here come the ladies—attended by Susan Morrison, a tenant-farmer's daughter, as Lady Betty's woman; with her hands before her, and thoroughly instructed.
How dress advantages women!—especially those who have naturally a genteel air and turn, and have had education.
Hadst thou seen how they paraded it—Cousin, and Cousin, and Nephew, at every word; Lady Betty bridling and looking haughtily-condescending.— Charlotte galanting her fan, and swimming over the floor without touching it.
How I long to see my niece-elect! cries one—for they are told that we are not married; and are pleased that I have not put the slight upon them that they had apprehended from me.
How I long to see my dear cousin that is to be, the other!
Your La'ship, and your La'ship, and an awkward courtesy at every address —prim Susan Morrison.
Top your parts, ye villains!—You know how nicely I distinguish. There will be no passion in this case to blind the judgment, and to help on meditated delusion, as when you engage with titled sinners. My charmer is as cool and as distinguishing, though not quite so learned in her own sex, as I am. Your commonly-assumed dignity won't do for me now. Airs of superiority, as if born to rank.—But no over-do!—Doubting nothing. Let not your faces arraign your hearts.
Easy and unaffected!—Your very dresses will give you pride enough.
A little graver, Lady Betty.—More significance, less bridling in your dignity.
That's the air! Charmingly hit——Again——You have it.
Devil take you!—Less arrogance. You are got into airs of young quality. Be less sensible of your new condition. People born to dignity command respect without needing to require it.
Now for your part, Cousin Charlotte!—
Pretty well. But a little too frolicky that air.—Yet have I prepared my beloved to expect in you both great vivacity and quality-freedom.
Curse those eyes!—Those glancings will never do. A down-cast bashful turn, if you can command it. Look upon me. Suppose me now to be my beloved.
Devil take that leer. Too significantly arch!—Once I knew you the girl I would now have you to be.
Sprightly, but not confident, cousin Charlotte!—Be sure forget not to look down, or aside, when looked at. When eyes meet eyes, be your's the retreating ones. Your face will bear examination.
O Lord! Lord! that so young a creature can so soon forget the innocent appearance she first charmed by; and which I thought born with you all!— Five years to ruin what twenty had been building up! How natural the latter lesson! How difficult to regain the former!
A stranger, as I hope to be saved, to the principal arts of your sex!— Once more, what a devil has your heart to do in your eyes?
Have I not told you, that my beloved is a great observer of the eyes? She once quoted upon me a text,* which showed me how she came by her knowledge—Dorcas's were found guilty of treason the first moment she saw her.
* Eccles. xxvi. The whoredom of a woman may be known in her haughty looks and eye-lids. Watch over an impudent eye, and marvel not if it trespass against thee.
Once more, suppose me to be my charmer.—Now you are to encounter my examining eye, and my doubting heart—
That's my dear!
Study that air in the pier-glass!—
Your honours, now, devils!—
Pretty well, Cousin Charlotte, for a young country lady! Till form yields to familiarity, you may courtesy low. You must not be supposed to have forgot your boarding-school airs.
But too low, too low Lady Betty, for your years and your quality. The common fault of your sex will be your danger: aiming to be young too long!—The devil's in you all, when you judge of yourselves by your wishes, and by your vanity! Fifty, in that case, is never more than fifteen.
Graceful ease, conscious dignity, like that of my charmer, Oh! how hard to hit!
Both together now—
Charming!—That's the air, Lady Betty!—That's the cue, Cousin Charlotte, suited to the character of each!—But, once more, be sure to have a guard upon your eyes.
Never fear, Nephew!—
Never fear, Cousin.
A dram of Barbadoes each—
And now we are gone—
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. AT MRS. SINCLAIR'S, MONDAY AFTERNOON.
All's right, as heart can wish!—In spite of all objection—in spite of a reluctance next to faintings—in spite of all foresight, vigilance, suspicion—once more is the charmer of my soul in her old lodgings!
Now throbs away every pulse! Now thump, thump, thumps my bounding heart for something!
But I have not time for the particulars of our management.
My beloved is now directing some of her clothes to be packed up—never more to enter this house! Nor ever more will she, I dare say, when once again out of it!
Yet not so much as a condition of forgiveness!—The Harlowe-spirited fair-one will not deserve my mercy!—She will wait for Miss Howe's next letter; and then, if she find a difficulty in her new schemes, [Thank her for nothing,]—will—will what? Why even then will take time to consider, whether I am to be forgiven, or for ever rejected. An indifference that revives in my heart the remembrance of a thousand of the like nature.—And yet Lady Betty and Miss Montague, [a man would be tempted to think, Jack, that they wish her to provoke my vengeance,] declare, that I ought to be satisfied with such a proud suspension!
They are entirely attached to her. Whatever she says, is, must be, gospel! They are guarantees for her return to Hampstead this night. They are to go back with her. A supper bespoken by Lady Betty at Mrs. Moore's. All the vacant apartments there, by my permission, (for I had engaged them for a month certain,) to be filled with them and their attendants, for a week at least, or till they can prevail upon the dear perverse, as they hope they shall, to restore me to her favour, and to accompany Lady Betty to Oxfordshire.
The dear creature has thus far condescended—that she will write to Miss Howe and acquaint her with the present situation of things.
If she write, I shall see what she writes. But I believe she will have other employment soon.
Lady Betty is sure, she tells her, that she shall prevail upon her to forgive me; though she dares say, that I deserve not forgiveness. Lady Betty is too delicate to inquire strictly into the nature of my offence. But it must be an offence against herself, against Miss Montague, against the virtuous of the whole sex, or it could not be so highly resented. Yet she will not leave her till she forgive me, and till she see our nuptials privately celebrated. Mean time, as she approves of her uncle's expedient, she will address her as already my wife before strangers.
Stedman, her solicitor, may attend her for orders in relation to her chancery affair, at Hampstead. Not one hour they can be favoured with, will they lose from the company and conversation of so dear, so charming a new relation.
Hard then if she had not obliged them with her company in their coach-and-four, to and from their cousin Leeson's, who longed, (as they themselves had done,) to see a lady so justly celebrated.
'How will Lord M. be raptured when he sees her, and can salute her as his niece!
'How will Lady Sarah bless herself!—She will now think her loss of the dear daughter she mourns for happily supplied!'
Miss Montague dwells upon every word that falls from her lips. She perfectly adores her new cousin—'For her cousin she must be. And her cousin will she call her! She answers for equal admiration in her sister Patty.
'Ay, cry I, (whispering loud enough for her to hear,) how will my cousin Patty's dove's eyes glisten and run over, on the very first interview!— So gracious, so noble, so unaffected a dear creature!'
'What a happy family,' chorus we all, 'will our's be!'
These and such like congratulatory admirations every hour repeated. Her modesty hurt by the ecstatic praises:—'Her graces are too natural to herself for her to be proud of them: but she must be content to be punished for excellencies that cast a shade upon the most excellent!'
In short, we are here, as at Hampstead, all joy and rapture—all of us except my beloved; in whose sweet face, [her almost fainting reluctance to re-enter these doors not overcome,] reigns a kind of anxious serenity! —But how will even that be changed in a few hours!
Methinks I begin to pity the half-apprehensive beauty!—But avaunt, thou unseasonably-intruding pity! Thou hast more than once already well nigh undone me! And, adieu, reflection! Begone, consideration! and commiseration! I dismiss ye all, for at least a week to come!—But remembered her broken word! Her flight, when my fond soul was meditating mercy to her!—Be remembered her treatment of me in her letter on her escape to Hampstead! Her Hampstead virulence! What is it she ought not to expect from an unchained Beelzebub, and a plotting villain?
Be her preference of the single life to me also remembered!—That she despises me!—That she even refuses to be my WIFE!—A proud Lovelace to be denied a wife!—To be more proudly rejected by a daughter of the Harlowes!—The ladies of my own family, [she thinks them the ladies of my family,] supplicating in vain for her returning favour to their despised kinsman, and taking laws from her still prouder punctilio!
Be the execrations of her vixen friend likewise remembered, poured out upon me from her representations, and thereby made her own execrations!
Be remembered still more particularly the Townsend plot, set on foot between them, and now, in a day or two, ready to break out; and the sordid threatening thrown out against me by that little fury!
Is not this the crisis for which I have been long waiting? Shall Tomlinson, shall these women be engaged; shall so many engines be set at work, at an immense expense, with infinite contrivance; and all to no purpose?
Is not this the hour of her trial—and in her, of the trial of the virtue of her whole sex, so long premeditated, so long threatened?—Whether her frost be frost indeed? Whether her virtue be principle? Whether, if once subdued, she will not be always subdued? And will she not want the crown of her glory, the proof of her till now all-surpassing excellence, if I stop short of the ultimate trial?
Now is the end of purposes long over-awed, often suspended, at hand. And need I go throw the sins of her cursed family into the too-weighty scale?
[Abhorred be force!—be the thoughts of force!—There's no triumph over the will in force!] This I know I have said.* But would I not have avoided it, if I could? Have I not tried every other method? And have I any other resource left me? Can she resent the last outrage more than she has resented a fainter effort?—And if her resentments run ever so high, cannot I repair by matrimony?—She will not refuse me, I know, Jack: the haughty beauty will not refuse me, when her pride of being corporally inviolate is brought down; when she can tell no tales, but when, (be her resistance what it will,) even her own sex will suspect a yielding in resistance; and when that modesty, which may fill her bosom with resentment, will lock up her speech.
* Vol. IV. Letter XLVIII.
But how know I, that I have not made my own difficulties? Is she not a woman! What redress lies for a perpetuated evil? Must she not live? Her piety will secure her life.—And will not time be my friend! What, in a word, will be her behaviour afterwards?—She cannot fly me!—She must forgive me—and as I have often said, once forgiven, will be for ever forgiven.
Why then should this enervating pity unsteel my foolish heart?
It shall not. All these things will I remember; and think of nothing else, in order to keep up a resolution, which the women about me will have it I shall be still unable to hold.
I'll teach the dear, charming creature to emulate me in contrivance; I'll teach her to weave webs and plots against her conqueror! I'll show her, that in her smuggling schemes she is but a spider compared to me, and that she has all this time been spinning only a cobweb!
What shall we do now! we are immersed in the depth of grief and apprehension! How ill do women bear disappointment!—Set upon going to Hampstead, and upon quitting for ever a house she re-entered with infinite reluctance; what things she intended to take with her ready packed up, herself on tiptoe to be gone, and I prepared to attend her thither; she begins to be afraid that she shall not go this night; and in grief and despair has flung herself into her old apartment; locked herself in; and through the key-hole Dorcas sees her on her knees, praying, I suppose, for a safe deliverance.
And from what? and wherefore these agonizing apprehensions?
Why, here, this unkind Lady Betty, with the dear creature's knowledge, though to her concern, and this mad-headed cousin Montague without it, while she was employed in directing her package, have hurried away in the coach to their own lodgings, [only, indeed, to put up some night-clothes, and so forth, in order to attend their sweet cousin to Hampstead;] and, no less to my surprise than her's, are not yet returned.
I have sent to know the meaning of it.
In a great hurry of spirits, she would have had me to go myself. Hardly any pacifying her! The girl, God bless her! is wild with her own idle apprehensions! What is she afraid of?
I curse them both for their delay. My tardy villain, how he stays! Devil fetch them! let them send their coach, and we'll go without them. In her hearing I bid the fellow tell them so. Perhaps he stays to bring the coach, if any thing happens to hinder the ladies from attending my beloved this night.
Devil take them, again say I! They promised too they would not stay, because it was but two nights ago that a chariot was robbed at the foot of Hampstead-hill, which alarmed my fair-one when told of it!
Oh! here's Lady Betty's servant, with a billet.
TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. MONDAY NIGHT.
Excuse us, my dear Nephew, I beseech you, to my dearest kinswoman. One night cannot break squares: for here Miss Montague has been taken violently ill with three fainting fits, one after another. The hurry of her joy, I believe, to find your dear lady so much surpass all expectations, [never did family love, you know, reign so strong as among us,] and the too eager desire she had to attend her, have occasioned it! For she has but weak spirits, poor girl! well as she looks.
If she be better, we will certainly go with you tomorrow morning, after we have breakfasted with her, at your lodgings. But whether she be, or not, I will do myself the pleasure to attend your lady to Hampstead; and will be with you for that purpose about nine in the morning. With due compliments to your most worthily beloved, I am
Your's affectionately, ELIZAB. LAWRANCE.
Faith and troth, Jack, I know not what to do with myself; for here, just now having sent in the above note by Dorcas, out came my beloved with it in her hand, in a fit of phrensy!—true, by my soul!
She had indeed complained of her head all the evening.
Dorcas ran to me, out of breath, to tell me, that her lady was coming in some strange way; but she followed her so quick, that the frighted wench had not time to say in what way.
It seems, when she read the billet—Now indeed, said she, am I a lost creature! O the poor Clarissa Harlowe!
She tore off her head-clothes; inquired where I was; and in she came, her shining tresses flowing about her neck; her ruffles torn, and hanging in tatters about her snowy hands, with her arms spread out—her eyes wildly turned, as if starting from their orbits—down sunk she at my feet, as soon as she approached me; her charming bosom heaving to her uplifted face; and clasping her arms about my knees, Dear Lovelace, said she, if ever—if ever—if ever—and, unable to speak another word, quitting her clasping hold—down—prostrate on the floor sunk she, neither in a fit nor out of one.
I was quite astonished.—All my purposes suspended for a few moments, I knew neither what to say, nor what to do. But, recollecting myself, am I again, thought I, in a way to be overcome, and made a fool of!—If I now recede, I am gone for ever.
I raised her; but down she sunk, as if quite disjointed—her limbs failing her—yet not in a fit neither. I never heard of or saw such a dear unaccountable; almost lifeless, and speechless too for a few moments; what must her apprehensions be at that moment?—And for what?— An high-notioned dear soul!—Pretty ignorance!—thought I.
Never having met with so sincere, so unquestionable a repugnance, I was staggered—I was confounded—yet how should I know that it would be so till I tried?—And how, having proceeded thus far, could I stop, were I not to have had the women to goad me on, and to make light of circumstances, which they pretended to be better judges of than I?
I lifted her, however, into a chair, and in words of disordered passion, told her, all her fears were needless—wondered at them—begged of her to be pacified—besought her reliance on my faith and honour—and revowed all my old vows, and poured forth new ones.
At last, with a heart-breaking sob, I see, I see, Mr. Lovelace, in broken sentences she spoke—I see, I see—that at last—I am ruined!—Ruined, if your pity—let me implore your pity!—and down on her bosom, like a half-broken-stalked lily top-heavy with the overcharging dews of the morning, sunk her head, with a sigh that went to my heart.
All I could think of to re-assure her, when a little recovered, I said.
Why did I not send for their coach, as I had intimated? It might return in the morning for the ladies.
I had actually done so, I told her, on seeing her strange uneasiness. But it was then gone to fetch a doctor for Miss Montague, lest his chariot should not be so ready.
Ah! Lovelace! said she, with a doubting face; anguish in her imploring eye.
Lady Betty would think it very strange, I told her, if she were to know it was so disagreeable to her to stay one night for her company in the house where she had passed so many.
She called me names upon this—she had called me names before.—I was patient.
Let her go to Lady Betty's lodgings then; directly go; if the person I called Lady Betty was really Lady Betty.
If, my dear! Good Heaven! What a villain does that IF show you believe me to be!
I cannot help it—I beseech you once more, let me go to Mrs. Leeson's, if that IF ought not to be said.
Then assuming a more resolute spirit—I will go! I will inquire my way! —I will go by myself!—and would have rushed by me.
I folded my arms about her to detain her; pleading the bad way I heard poor Charlotte was in; and what a farther concern her impatience, if she went, would give to poor Charlotte.
She would believe nothing I said, unless I would instantly order a coach, (since she was not to have Lady Betty's, nor was permitted to go to Mrs. Leeson's,) and let her go in it to Hampstead, late as it was, and all alone, so much the better; for in the house of people of whom Lady Betty, upon inquiry, had heard a bad character, [Dropt foolishly this, by my prating new relation, in order to do credit to herself, by depreciating others,] every thing, and every face, looking with so much meaning vileness, as well as my own, [thou art still too sensible, thought I, my charmer!] she was resolved not to stay another night.
Dreading what might happen as to her intellects, and being very apprehensive that she might possibly go through a great deal before morning, (though more violent she could not well be with the worst she dreaded,) I humoured her, and ordered Will. to endeavour to get a coach directly, to carry us to Hampstead; I cared not at what price.
Robbers, with whom I would have terrified her, she feared not—I was all her fear, I found; and this house her terror: for I saw plainly that she now believed that Lady Betty and Miss Montague were both impostors.
But her mistrust is a little of the latest to do her service!
And, O Jack, the rage of love, the rage of revenge is upon me! by turns they tear me! The progress already made—the women's instigations—the power I shall have to try her to the utmost, and still to marry her, if she be not to be brought to cohabitation—let me perish, Belford, if she escape me now!
Will. is not yet come back. Near eleven.
Will. is this moment returned. No coach to be got, either for love or money.
Once more she urges—to Mrs. Leeson's, let me go, Lovelace! Good Lovelace, let me go to Mrs. Leeson's? What is Miss Montague's illness to my terror?—-For the Almighty's sake, Mr. Lovelace!—her hands clasped.
O my angel! What a wildness is this! Do you know, do you see, my dearest life, what appearances your causeless apprehensions have given you?—Do you know it is past eleven o'clock?
Twelve, one, two, three, four—any hour, I care not—If you mean me honourably, let me go out of this hated house!
Thou'lt observe, Belford, that though this was written afterwards, yet, (as in other places,) I write it as it was spoken and happened, as if I had retired to put down every sentence spoken. I know thou likest this lively present-tense manner, as it is one of my peculiars.
Just as she had repeated the last words, If you mean me honourably, let me go out of this hated house, in came Mrs. Sinclair, in a great ferment —And what, pray, Madam, has this house done to you? Mr. Lovelace, you have known me some time; and, if I have not the niceness of this lady, I hope I do not deserve to be treated thus!
She set her huge arms akimbo: Hoh! Madam, let me tell you that I am amazed at your freedoms with my character! And, Mr. Lovelace, [holding up, and violently shaking her head,] if you are a gentleman, and a man of honour——
Having never before seen any thing but obsequiousness in this woman, little as she liked her, she was frighted at her masculine air, and fierce look—God help me! cried she—what will become of me now! Then, turning her head hither and thither, in a wild kind of amaze. Whom have I for a protector! What will become of me now!
I will be your protector, my dearest love!—But indeed you are uncharitably severe upon poor Mrs. Sinclair! Indeed you are!—She is a gentlewoman born, and the relict of a man of honour; and though left in such circumstance as to oblige her to let lodgings, yet would she scorn to be guilty of a wilful baseness.
I hope so—it may be so—I may be mistaken—but—but there is no crime, I presume, no treason, to say I don't like her house.
The old dragon straddled up to her, with her arms kemboed again—her eye-brows erect, like the bristles upon a hog's back, and, scouling over her shortened nose, more than half-hid her ferret eyes. Her mouth was distorted. She pouted out her blubber-lips, as if to bellows up wind and sputter into her horse-nostrils; and her chin was curdled, and more than usually prominent with passion.
With two Hoh-Madams she accosted the frighted fair-one; who, terrified, caught hold of my sleeve.
I feared she would fall into fits; and, with a look of indignation, told Mrs. Sinclair that these apartments were mine; and I could not imagine what she meant, either by listening to what passed between me and my spouse, or to come in uninvited; and still more I wondered at her giving herself these strange liberties.
I may be to blame, Jack, for suffering this wretch to give herself these airs; but her coming in was without my orders.
The old beldam, throwing herself into a chair, fell a blubbering and exclaiming. And the pacifying of her, and endeavouring to reconcile the lady to her, took up till near one o'clock.
And thus, between terror, and the late hour, and what followed, she was diverted from the thoughts of getting out of the house to Mrs. Leeson's, or any where else.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. TUESDAY MORNING, JUNE 13.
And now, Belford, I can go no farther. The affair is over. Clarissa lives. And I am
Your humble servant, R. LOVELACE.
[The whole of this black transaction is given by the injured lady to Miss Howe, in her subsequent letters, dated Thursday, July 6. See Letters LXVII. LXVIII. LXIX.]
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. WATFORD, WEDN. JAN. 14.
O thou savage-hearted monster! What work hast thou made in one guilty hour, for a whole age of repentance!
I am inexpressibly concerned at the fate of this matchless lady! She could not have fallen into the hands of any other man breathing, and suffered as she has done with thee.
I had written a great part of another long letter to try to soften thy flinty heart in her favour; for I thought it but too likely that thou shouldst succeed in getting her back again to the accursed woman's. But I find it would have been too late, had I finished it, and sent it away. Yet cannot I forbear writing, to urge thee to make the only amends thou now canst make her, by a proper use of the license thou hast obtained.
Poor, poor lady! It is a pain to me that I ever saw her. Such an adorer of virtue to be sacrificed to the vilest of her sex; and thou their implement in the devil's hand, for a purpose so base, so ungenerous, so inhumane!—Pride thyself, O cruellest of men! in this reflection; and that thy triumph over a woman, who for thy sake was abandoned of every friend she had in the world, was effected; not by advantages taken of her weakness and credulity; but by the blackest artifice; after a long course of studied deceits had been tried to no purpose.
I can tell thee, it is well either for thee or for me, that I am not the brother of the lady. Had I been her brother, her violation must have been followed by the blood of one of us.
Excuse me, Lovelace; and let not the lady fare the worse for my concern for her. And yet I have but one other motive to ask thy excuse; and that is, because I owe to thy own communicative pen the knowledge I have of thy barbarous villany, since thou mightest, if thou wouldst, have passed it upon me for a common seduction.
CLARISSA LIVES, thou sayest. That she does is my wonder: and these words show that thou thyself (though thou couldst, nevertheless, proceed) hardly expectedst she would have survived the outrage. What must have been the poor lady's distress (watchful as she had been over her honour) when dreadful certainty took place of cruel apprehension!—And yet a man may guess what must have been, by that which thou paintest, when she suspected herself tricked, deserted, and betrayed, by the pretended ladies.
That thou couldst behold her phrensy on this occasion, and her half-speechless, half-fainting prostration at thy feet, and yet retain thy evil purposes, will hardly be thought credible, even by those who know thee, if they have seen her.
Poor, poor lady! With such noble qualities as would have adorned the most exalted married life, to fall into the hands of the only man in the world, who could have treated her as thou hast treated her!—And to let loose the old dragon, as thou properly callest her, upon the before-affrighted innocent, what a barbarity was that! What a poor piece of barbarity! in order to obtain by terror, what thou dispairedst to gain by love, though supported by stratagems the most insidious!
O LOVELACE! LOVELACE! had I doubted it before, I should now be convinced, that there must be a WORLD AFTER THIS, to do justice to injured merit, and to punish barbarous perfidy! Could the divine SOCRATES, and the divine CLARISSA, otherwise have suffered?
But let me, if possible, for one moment, try to forget this villanous outrage on the most excellent of women.
I have business here which will hold me yet a few days; and then perhaps I shall quit this house for ever.
I have had a solemn and tedious time of it. I should never have known that I had half the respect I really find I had for the old gentleman, had I not so closely, at his earnest desire, attended him, and been a witness of the tortures he underwent.
This melancholy occasion may possibly have contributed to humanize me: but surely I never could have been so remorseless a caitiff as thou hast been, to a woman of half this lady's excellence.
But pr'ythee, dear Lovelace, if thou'rt a man, and not a devil, resolve, out of hand, to repair thy sin of ingratitude, by conferring upon thyself the highest honour thou canst receive, in making her lawfully thine.
But if thou canst not prevail upon thyself to do her this justice, I think I should not scruple a tilt with thee, [an everlasting rupture at least must follow] if thou sacrificest her to the accursed women.
Thou art desirous to know what advantage I reap by my uncle's demise. I do not certainly know; for I have not been so greedily solicitous on this subject as some of the kindred have been, who ought to have shown more decency, as I have told them, and suffered the corpse to have been cold before they had begun their hungry inquiries. But, by what I gathered from the poor man's talk to me, who oftener than I wished touched upon the subject, I deem it will be upwards of 5000L. in cash, and in the funds, after all legacies paid, besides the real estate, which is a clear 1000L. a-year.
I wish, from my heart, thou wert a money-lover! Were the estate to be of double the value, thou shouldst have it every shilling; only upon one condition [for my circumstances before were as easy as I wish them to be while I am single]—that thou wouldst permit me the honour of being this fatherless lady's father, as it is called, at the altar.
Think of this! my dear Lovelace! be honest: and let me present thee with the brightest jewel that man ever possessed; and then, body and soul, wilt thou bind to thee for ever thy
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. THURSDAY, JUNE 15.
Let me alone, you great dog, you!—let me alone!—have I heard a lesser boy, his coward arms held over his head and face, say to a bigger, who was pommeling him, for having run away with his apple, his orange, or his ginger-bread.
So say I to thee, on occasion of thy severity to thy poor friend, who, as thou ownest, has furnished thee (ungenerous as thou art!) with the weapons thou brandishest so fearfully against him.—And to what purpose, when the mischief is done? when, of consequence, the affair is irretrievable? and when a CLARISSA could not move me?
Well, but, after all, I must own, that there is something very singular in this lady's case: and, at times, I cannot help regretting that ever I attempted her; since not one power either of body or soul could be moved in my favour; and since, to use the expression of the philosopher, on a much graver occasion, there is no difference to be found between the skull of King Philip and that of another man.
But people's extravagant notions of things alter not facts, Belford: and, when all's done, Miss Clarissa Harlowe has but run the fate of a thousand others of her sex—only that they did not set such a romantic value upon what they call their honour; that's all.
And yet I will allow thee this—that if a person sets a high value upon any thing, be it ever such a trifle in itself, or in the eye of others, the robbing of that person of it is not a trifle to him. Take the matter in this light, I own I have done wrong, great wrong, to this admirable creature.
But have I not known twenty and twenty of the sex, who have seemed to carry their notions of virtue high; yet, when brought to the test, have abated of their severity? And how should we be convinced that any of them are proof till they are tried?
A thousand times have I said, that I never yet met with such a woman as this. If I had, I hardly ever should have attempted Miss Clarissa Harlowe. Hitherto she is all angel: and was not that the point which at setting out I proposed to try?* And was not cohabitation ever my darling view? And am I not now, at last, in the high road to it?—It is true, that I have nothing to boast of as to her will. The very contrary. But now are we come to the test, whether she cannot be brought to make the best of an irreparable evil. If she exclaim, [she has reason to exclaim, and I will sit down with patience by the hour together to hear her exclamations, till she is tired of them,] she will then descend to expostulation perhaps: expostulation will give me hope: expostulation will show that she hates me not. And, if she hate me not, she will forgive: and, if she now forgive, then will all be over; and she will be mine upon my own terms: and it shall then be the whole study of my future life to make her happy.
* See Vol. III. Letter XVIII.
So, Belford, thou seest that I have journeyed on to this stage [indeed, through infinite mazes, and as infinite remorses] with one determined point in view from the first. To thy urgent supplication then, that I will do her grateful justice by marriage, let me answer in Matt. Prior's two lines on his hoped-for auditorship; as put into the mouths of his St. John and Harley;
—-Let that be done, which Matt. doth say. YEA, quoth the Earl—BUT NOT TO-DAY.
Thou seest, Jack, that I make no resolutions, however, against doing her, one time or other, the wished-for justice, even were I to succeed in my principal view, cohabitation. And of this I do assure thee, that, if I ever marry, it must, it shall be Miss Clarissa Harlowe.—Nor is her honour at all impaired with me, by what she has so far suffered: but the contrary. She must only take care that, if she be at last brought to forgive me, she show me that her Lovelace is the only man on earth whom she could have forgiven on the like occasion.
But ah, Jack! what, in the mean time, shall I do with this admirable creature? At present—[I am loth to say it—but, at present] she is quite stupified.
I had rather, methinks, she should have retained all her active powers, though I had suffered by her nails and her teeth, than that she should be sunk into such a state of absolute—insensibility (shall I call it?) as she has been in every since Tuesday morning. Yet, as she begins a little to revive, and now-and-then to call names, and to exclaim, I dread almost to engage with the anguish of a spirit that owes its extraordinary agitations to a niceness that has no example either in ancient or modern story. For, after all, what is there in her case that should stupify such a glowing, such a blooming charmer?—Excess of grief, excess of terror, have made a person's hair stand on end, and even (as we have read) changed the colour of it. But that it should so stupify, as to make a person, at times, insensible to those imaginary wrongs, which would raise others from stupifaction, is very surprising!
But I will leave this subject, least it should make me too grave.
I was yesterday at Hampstead, and discharged all obligations there, with no small applause. I told them that the lady was now as happy as myself: and that is no great untruth; for I am not altogether so, when I allow myself to think.
Mrs. Townsend, with her tars, had not been then there. I told them what I would have them say to her, if she came.
Well, but, after all [how many after-all's have I?] I could be very grave, were I to give way to it.—The devil take me for a fool! What's the matte with me, I wonder!—I must breathe a fresher air for a few days.
But what shall I do with this admirable creature the while?—Hang me, if I know!—For, if I stir, the venomous spider of this habitation will want to set upon the charming fly, whose silken wings are already so entangled in my enormous web, that she cannot move hand or foot: for so much has grief stupified her, that she is at present destitute of will, as she always seemed to be of desire. I must not therefore think of leaving her yet for two days together.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
I have just now had a specimen of what the resentment of this dear creature will be when quite recovered: an affecting one!—For entering her apartment after Dorcas; and endeavouring to soothe and pacify her disordered mind; in the midst of my blandishments, she held up to Heaven, in a speechless agony, the innocent license (which she has in her own power); as the poor distressed Catalans held up their English treaty, on an occasion that keeps the worst of my actions in countenance.
She seemed about to call down vengeance upon me; when, happily the leaden god, in pity to her trembling Lovelace, waved over her half-drowned eyes his somniferous want, and laid asleep the fair exclaimer, before she could go half through with her intended imprecation.
Thou wilt guess, by what I have written, that some little art has been made use of: but it was with a generous design (if thou'lt allow me the word on such an occasion) in order to lessen the too-quick sense she was likely to have of what she was to suffer. A contrivance I never had occasion for before, and had not thought of now, if Mrs. Sinclair had not proposed it to me: to whom I left the management of it: and I have done nothing but curse her ever since, lest the quantity should have for ever dampened her charming intellects.
Hence my concern—for I think the poor lady ought not to have been so treated. Poor lady, did I say?—What have I to do with thy creeping style?—But have not I the worst of it; since her insensibility has made me but a thief to my own joys?
I did not intend to tell thee of this little innocent trick; for such I designed it to be; but that I hate disingenuousness: to thee, especially: and as I cannot help writing in a more serious vein than usual, thou wouldst perhaps, had I not hinted the true cause, have imagined that I was sorry for the fact itself: and this would have given thee a good deal of trouble in scribbling dull persuasives to repair by matrimony; and me in reading thy cruel nonsense. Besides, one day or other, thou mightest, had I not confessed it, have heard of it in an aggravated manner; and I know thou hast such an high opinion of this lady's virtue, that thou wouldst be disappointed, if thou hadst reason to think that she was subdued by her own consent, or any the least yielding in her will. And so is she beholden to me in some measure, that, at the expense of my honour, she may so justly form a plea, which will entirely salve her's.
And now is the whole secret out.
Thou wilt say I am a horrid fellow!—As the lady does, that I am the unchained Beelzebub, and a plotting villain: and as this is what you both said beforehand, and nothing worse can be said, I desire, if thou wouldst not have me quite serious with thee, and that I should think thou meanest more by thy tilting hint than I am willing to believe thou dost, that thou wilt forbear thy invectives: For is not the thing done?—Can it be helped?—And must I not now try to make the best of it?—And the rather do I enjoin to make thee this, and inviolable secrecy; because I begin to think that my punishment will be greater than the fault, were it to be only from my own reflection.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. FRIDAY, JUNE 16.
I am sorry to hear of thy misfortune; but hope thou wilt not long lie by it. Thy servant tells me what narrow escape thou hadst with thy neck, I wish it may not be ominous: but I think thou seemest not to be in so enterprising a way as formerly; and yet, merry or sad, thou seest a rake's neck is always in danger, if not from the hangman, from his own horse. But, 'tis a vicious toad, it seems; and I think thou shouldst never venture upon his back again; for 'tis a plaguy thing for rider and horse both to be vicious.
The fellow tells me, thou desirest me to continue to write to thee in order to divert thy chagrin on thy forced confinement: but how can I think it in my power to divert, when my subject is not pleasing to myself?
Caesar never knew what it was to be hipped, I will call it, till he came to be what Pompey was; that is to say, till he arrived at the height of his ambition: nor did thy Lovelace know what it was to be gloomy, till he had completed his wishes upon the most charming creature in the world.
And yet why say I completed? when the will, the consent, is wanting—and I have still views before me of obtaining that?
Yet I could almost join with thee in the wish, which thou sendest me up by thy servant, unfriendly as it is, that I had had thy misfortune before Monday night last: for here, the poor lady has run into a contrary extreme to that I told thee of in my last: for now is she as much too lively, as before she was too stupid; and 'bating that she has pretty frequent lucid intervals, would be deemed raving mad, and I should be obliged to confine her.
I am most confoundedly disturbed about it: for I begin to fear that her intellects are irreparably hurt.
Who the devil could have expected such strange effects from a cause so common and so slight?
But these high-souled and high-sensed girls, who had set up for shining lights and examples to the rest of the sex, are with such difficulty brought down to the common standard, that a wise man, who prefers his peace of mind to his glory, in subduing one of that exalted class, would have nothing to say to them.
I do all in my power to quiet her spirits, when I force myself into her presence.
I go on, begging pardon one minute; and vowing truth and honour another.
I would at first have persuaded her, and offered to call witnesses to the truth of it, that we were actually married. Though the license was in her hands, I thought the assertion might go down in her disorder; and charming consequences I hoped would follow. But this would not do.—
I therefore gave up that hope: and now I declare to her, that it is my resolution to marry her, the moment her uncle Harlowe informs me that he will grace the ceremony with his presence.
But she believes nothing I say; nor, (whether in her senses, or not) bears me with patience in her sight.
I pity her with all my soul; and I curse myself, when she is in her wailing fits, and when I apprehend that intellects, so charming, are for ever damped.
But more I curse these women, who put me upon such an expedient! Lord! Lord! what a hand have I made of it!—And all for what?
Last night, for the first time since Monday night, she got to her pen and ink; but she pursues her writing with such eagerness and hurry, as show too evidently her discomposure.
I hope, however, that this employment will help to calm her spirits.
Just now Dorcas tells me, that what she writes she tears, and throws the paper in fragments under the table, either as not knowing what she does, or disliking it: then gets up, wrings her hands, weeps, and shifts her seat all round the room: then returns to her table, sits down, and writes again.
One odd letter, as I may call it, Dorcas has this moment given me from her—Carry this, said she, to the vilest of men. Dorcas, a toad, brought it, without any further direction to me. I sat down, intending (though 'tis pretty long) to give thee a copy of it: but, for my life, I cannot; 'tis so extravagant. And the original is too much an original to let it go out of my hands.
But some of the scraps and fragments, as either torn through, or flung aside, I will copy, for the novelty of the thing, and to show thee how her mind works now she is in the whimsical way. Yet I know I am still furnishing thee with new weapons against myself. But spare thy comments. My own reflections render them needless. Dorcas thinks her lady will ask for them: so wishes to have them to lay again under the table.
By the first thou'lt guess that I have told her that Miss Howe is very ill, and can't write; that she may account the better for not having received the letter designed for her.
PAPER I (Torn in two pieces.)
MY DEAREST MISS HOWE,
O what dreadful, dreadful things have I to tell you! But yet I cannot tell you neither. But say, are you really ill, as a vile, vile creature informs me you are?
But he never yet told me truth, and I hope has not in this: and yet, if it were not true, surely I should have heard from you before now!—But what have I to do to upbraid?—You may well be tired of me!—And if you are, I can forgive you; for I am tired of myself: and all my own relations were tired of me long before you were.
How good you have always been to me, mine own dear Anna Howe!—But how I ramble!
I sat down to say a great deal—my heart was full—I did not know what to say first—and thought, and grief, and confusion, and (O my poor head) I cannot tell what—and thought, and grief and confusion, came crowding so thick upon me; one would be first; another would be first; all would be first; so I can write nothing at all.—Only that, whatever they have done to me, I cannot tell; but I am no longer what I was-in any one thing did I say? Yes, but I am; for I am still, and I ever will be,
Plague on it! I can write no more of this eloquent nonsense myself; which rather shows a raised, than a quenched, imagination: but Dorcas shall transcribe the others in separate papers, as written by the whimsical charmer: and some time hence when all is over, and I can better bear to read them, I may ask thee for a sight of them. Preserve them, therefore; for we often look back with pleasure even upon the heaviest griefs, when the cause of them is removed.
PAPER II (Scratch'd through, and thrown under the table.)
—And can you, my dear, honoured Papa, resolve for ever to reprobate your poor child?—But I am sure you would not, if you knew what she has suffered since her unhappy—And will nobody plead for your poor suffering girl?—No one good body?—Why then, dearest Sir, let it be an act of your own innate goodness, which I have so much experienced, and so much abused. I don't presume to think you should receive me—No, indeed!—My name is—I don't know what my name is!—I never dare to wish to come into your family again!—But your heavy curse, my Papa—Yes, I will call you Papa, and help yourself as you can—for you are my own dear Papa, whether you will or not—and though I am an unworthy child—yet I am your child—
A Lady took a great fancy to a young lion, or a bear, I forget which—but a bear, or a tiger, I believe it was. It was made her a present of when a whelp. She fed it with her own hand: she nursed up the wicked cub with great tenderness; and would play with it without fear or apprehension of danger: and it was obedient to all her commands: and its tameness, as she used to boast, increased with its growth; so that, like a lap-dog, it would follow her all over the house. But mind what followed: at last, some how, neglecting to satisfy its hungry maw, or having otherwise disobliged it on some occasion, it resumed its nature; and on a sudden fell upon her, and tore her in pieces.—And who was most to blame, I pray? The brute, or the lady? The lady, surely!— For what she did was out of nature, out of character, at least: what it did was in its own nature.
How art thou now humbled in the dust, thou proud Clarissa Harlowe! Thou that never steppedst out of thy father's house but to be admired! Who wert wont to turn thine eye, sparkling with healthful life, and self-assurance, to different objects at once as thou passedst, as if (for so thy penetrating sister used to say) to plume thyself upon the expected applauses of all that beheld thee! Thou that usedst to go to rest satisfied with the adulations paid thee in the past day, and couldst put off every thing but thy vanity!—-
Rejoice not now, my Bella, my Sister, my Friend; but pity the humbled creature, whose foolish heart you used to say you beheld through the thin veil of humility which covered it.
It must have been so! My fall had not else been permitted—
You penetrated my proud heart with the jealousy of an elder sister's searching eye.
You knew me better than I knew myself.
Hence your upbraidings and your chidings, when I began to totter.
But forgive now those vain triumphs of my heart.
I thought, poor, proud wretch that I was, that what you said was owing to your envy.
I thought I could acquit my intention of any such vanity.
I was too secure in the knowledge I thought I had of my own heart.
My supposed advantages became a snare to me.
And what now is the end of all?—
What now is become of the prospects of a happy life, which once I thought opening before me?—Who now shall assist in the solemn preparations? Who now shall provide the nuptial ornaments, which soften and divert the apprehensions of the fearful virgin? No court now to be paid to my smiles! No encouraging compliments to inspire thee with hope of laying a mind not unworthy of thee under obligation! No elevation now for conscious merit, and applauded purity, to look down from on a prostrate adorer, and an admiring world, and up to pleased and rejoicing parents and relations!
Thou pernicious caterpillar, that preyest upon the fair leaf of virgin fame, and poisonest those leaves which thou canst not devour!
Thou fell blight, thou eastern blast, thou overspreading mildew, that destroyest the early promises of the shining year! that mockest the laborious toil, and blastest the joyful hopes, of the painful husbandman!
Thou fretting moth, that corruptest the fairest garment!
Thou eating canker-worm, that preyest upon the opening bud, and turnest the damask-rose into livid yellowness!
If, as religion teaches us, God will judge us, in a great measure, by our benevolent or evil actions to one another—O wretch! bethink thee, in time bethink thee, how great must be thy condemnation!
At first, I saw something in your air and person that displeased me not. Your birth and fortunes were no small advantages to you.—You acted not ignobly by my passionate brother. Every body said you were brave: every body said you were generous: a brave man, I thought, could not be a base man: a generous man, could not, I believed, be ungenerous, where he acknowledged obligation. Thus prepossessed, all the rest that my soul loved and wished for in your reformation I hoped!—I knew not, but by report, any flagrant instances of your vileness. You seemed frank, as well as generous: frankness and generosity ever attracted me: whoever kept up those appearances, I judged of their hearts by my own; and whatever qualities I wished to find in them, I was ready to find; and, when found, I believed them to be natives of the soil.
My fortunes, my rank, my character, I thought a further security. I was in none of those respects unworthy of being the niece of Lord M. and of his two noble sisters.—Your vows, your imprecations—But, Oh! you have barbarously and basely conspired against that honour, which you ought to have protected: and now you have made me—What is it of vile that you have not made me?—
Yet, God knows my heart, I had no culpable inclinations!—I honoured virtue!—I hated vice!—But I knew not, that you were vice itself!
Had the happiness of any of the poorest outcast in the world, whom I had neveer seen, never known, never before heard of, lain as much in my power, as my happiness did in your's, my benevolent heart would have made me fly to the succour of such a poor distressed—with what pleasure would I have raised the dejected head, and comforted the desponding heart!—But who now shall pity the poor wretch, who has increased, instead of diminished, the number of the miserable!
Lead me, where my own thoughts themselves may lose me; Where I may dose out what I've left of life, Forget myself, and that day's guile!—— Cruel remembrance!——how shall I appease thee?
[Death only can be dreadful to the bad;* To innocence 'tis like a bugbear dress'd To frighten children. Pull but off the mask, And he'll appear a friend.]
* Transcriber's note: Portions set off in square brackets [ ] are written at angles to the majority of the text, as if squeezed into margins.
——Oh! you have done an act That blots the face and blush of modesty; Takes off the rose From the fair forehead of an innocent love, And makes a blister there!
Then down I laid my head, Down on cold earth, and for a while was dead; And my freed soul to a strange somewhere fled! Ah! sottish soul! said I, When back to its cage again I saw it fly; Fool! to resume her broken chain, And row the galley here again! Fool! to that body to return, Where it condemn'd and destin'd is to mourn!
[I could a tale unfold—— Would harrow up thy soul——]
O my Miss Howe! if thou hast friendship, help me, And speak the words of peace to my divided soul, That wars within me, And raises ev'ry sense to my confusion. I'm tott'ring on the brink Of peace; an thou art all the hold I've left! Assist me——in the pangs of my affliction!
When honour's lost, 'tis a relief to die: Death's but a sure retreat from infamy.
[By swift misfortunes How I am pursu'd! Which on each other Are, like waves, renew'd!]
The farewell, youth, And all the joys that dwell With youth and life! And life itself, farewell!
For life can never be sincerely blest. Heav'n punishes the bad, and proves the best.
After all, Belford, I have just skimmed over these transcriptions of Dorcas: and I see there are method and good sense in some of them, wild as others of them are; and that her memory, which serves her so well for these poetical flights, is far from being impaired. And this gives me hope, that she will soon recover her charming intellects—though I shall be the sufferer by their restoration, I make no doubt.
But, in the letter she wrote to me, there are yet greater extravagancies; and though I said it was too affecting to give thee a copy of it, yet, after I have let thee see the loose papers enclosed, I think I may throw in a transcript of that. Dorcas therefore shall here transcribe it. I cannot. The reading of it affected me ten times more than the severest reproaches of a regular mind could do.
TO MR. LOVELACE
I never intended to write another line to you. I would not see you, if I could help it—O that I never had!
But tell me, of a truth, is Miss Howe really and truly ill?—Very ill?- And is not her illness poison? And don't you know who gave it to her?
What you, or Mrs. Sinclair, or somebody (I cannot tell who) have done to my poor head, you best know: but I shall never be what I was. My head is gone. I have wept away all my brain, I believe; for I can weep no more. Indeed I have had my full share; so it is no matter.
But, good now, Lovelace, don't set Mrs. Sinclair upon me again.—I never did her any harm. She so affrights me, when I see her!—Ever since—when was it? I cannot tell. You can, I suppose. She may be a good woman, as far as I know. She was the wife of a man of honour—very likely—though forced to let lodgings for a livelihood. Poor gentlewoman! Let her know I pity her: but don't let her come near me again—pray don't!
Yet she may be a very good woman—
What would I say!—I forget what I was going to say.
O Lovelace, you are Satan himself; or he helps you out in every thing; and that's as bad!
But have you really and truly sold yourself to him? And for how long? What duration is your reign to have?
Poor man! The contract will be out: and then what will be your fate!
O Lovelace! if you could be sorry for yourself, I would be sorry too—but when all my doors are fast, and nothing but the key-hole open, and the key of late put into that, to be where you are, in a manner without opening any of them—O wretched, wretched Clarissa Harlowe!
For I never will be Lovelace—let my uncle take it as he pleases.
Well, but now I remember what I was going to say—it is for your good— not mine—for nothing can do me good now!—O thou villanous man! thou hated Lovelace!
But Mrs. Sinclair may be a good woman—if you love me—but that you don't —but don't let her bluster up with her worse than mannish airs to me again! O she is a frightful woman! If she be a woman! She needed not to put on that fearful mask to scare me out of my poor wits. But don't tell her what I say—I have no hatred to her—it is only fright, and foolish fear, that's all.—She may not be a bad woman—but neither are all men, any more than all women alike—God forbid they should be like you!
Alas! you have killed my head among you—I don't say who did it!—God forgive you all!—But had it not been better to have put me out of all your ways at once? You might safely have done it! For nobody would require me at your hands—no, not a soul—except, indeed, Miss Howe would have said, when she should see you, What, Lovelace, have you done with Clarissa Harlowe?—And then you could have given any slight, gay answer— sent her beyond sea; or, she has run away from me, as she did from her parents. And this would have been easily credited; for you know, Lovelace, she that could run away from them, might very well run away from you.
But this is nothing to what I wanted to say. Now I have it.
I have lost it again—This foolish wench comes teasing me—for what purpose should I eat? For what end should I wish to live?—I tell thee, Dorcas, I will neither eat nor drink. I cannot be worse than I am.
I will do as you'd have me—good Dorcas, look not upon me so fiercely— but thou canst not look so bad as I have seen somebody look.
Mr. Lovelace, now that I remember what I took pen in hand to say, let me hurry off my thoughts, lest I lose them again—here I am sensible—and yet I am hardly sensible neither—but I know my head is not as it should be, for all that—therefore let me propose one thing to you: it is for your good—not mine; and this is it:
I must needs be both a trouble and an expense to you. And here my uncle Harlowe, when he knows how I am, will never wish any man to have me: no, not even you, who have been the occasion of it—barbarous and ungrateful! —A less complicated villany cost a Tarquin—but I forget what I would say again—
Then this is it—I never shall be myself again: I have been a very wicked creature—a vain, proud, poor creature, full of secret pride—which I carried off under an humble guise, and deceived every body—my sister says so—and now I am punished—so let me be carried out of this house, and out of your sight; and let me be put into that Bedlam privately, which once I saw: but it was a sad sight to me then! Little as I thought what I should come to myself!—That is all I would say: this is all I have to wish for—then I shall be out of all your ways; and I shall be taken care of; and bread and water without your tormentings, will be dainties: and my straw-bed the easiest I have lain in—for—I cannot tell how long!
My clothes will sell for what will keep me there, perhaps as long as I shall live. But, Lovelace, dear Lovelace, I will call you; for you have cost me enough, I'm sure!—don't let me be made a show of, for my family's sake; nay, for your own sake, don't do that—for when I know all I have suffered, which yet I do not, and no matter if I never do—I may be apt to rave against you by name, and tell of all your baseness to a poor humbled creature, that once was as proud as any body—but of what I can't tell—except of my own folly and vanity—but let that pass—since I am punished enough for it—
So, suppose, instead of Bedlam, it were a private mad-house, where nobody comes!—That will be better a great deal.
But, another thing, Lovelace: don't let them use me cruelly when I am there—you have used me cruelly enough, you know!—Don't let them use me cruelly; for I will be very tractable; and do as any body would have me to do—except what you would have me do—for that I never will.—Another thing, Lovelace: don't let this good woman, I was going to say vile woman; but don't tell her that—because she won't let you send me to this happy refuge, perhaps, if she were to know it—
Another thing, Lovelace: and let me have pen, and ink, and paper, allowed me—it will be all my amusement—but they need not send to any body I shall write to, what I write, because it will but trouble them: and somebody may do you a mischief, may be—I wish not that any body do any body a mischief upon my account.
You tell me, that Lady Betty Lawrance, and your cousin Montague, were here to take leave of me; but that I was asleep, and could not be waked. So you told me at first I was married, you know, and that you were my husband—Ah! Lovelace! look to what you say.—But let not them, (for they will sport with my misery,) let not that Lady Betty, let not that Miss Montague, whatever the real ones may do; nor Mrs. Sinclair neither, nor any of her lodgers, nor her nieces, come to see me in my place—real ones, I say; for, Lovelace, I shall find out all your villanies in time— indeed I shall—so put me there as soon as you can—it is for your good— then all will pass for ravings that I can say, as, I doubt no many poor creatures' exclamations do pass, though there may be too much truth in them for all that—and you know I began to be mad at Hampstead—so you said.—Ah! villanous man! what have you not to answer for!
A little interval seems to be lent me. I had begun to look over what I have written. It is not fit for any one to see, so far as I have been able to re-peruse it: but my head will not hold, I doubt, to go through it all. If therefore I have not already mentioned my earnest desire, let me tell you it is this: that I be sent out of this abominable house without delay, and locked up in some private mad-house about this town; for such, it seems, there are; never more to be seen, or to be produced to any body, except in your own vindication, if you should be charged with the murder of my person; a much lighter crime than that of honour, which the greatest villain on earth has robbed me of. And deny me not this my last request, I beseech you; and one other, and that is, never to let me see you more! This surely may be granted to
The miserably abused CLARISSA HARLOWE.
I will not bear thy heavy preachments, Belford, upon this affecting letter. So, not a word of that sort! The paper, thou'lt see, is blistered with the tears even of the hardened transcriber; which has made her ink run here and there.
Mrs. Sinclair is a true heroine, and, I think, shames us all. And she is a woman too! Thou'lt say, the beset things corrupted become the worst. But this is certain, that whatever the sex set their hearts upon, they make thorough work of it. And hence it is, that a mischief which would end in simple robbery among men rogues, becomes murder, if a woman be in it.
I know thou wilt blame me for having had recourse to art. But do not physicians prescribe opiates in acute cases, where the violence of the disorder would be apt to throw the patient into a fever or delirium? I aver, that my motive for this expedient was mercy; nor could it be any thing else. For a rape, thou knowest, to us rakes, is far from being an undesirable thing. Nothing but the law stands in our way, upon that account; and the opinion of what a modest woman will suffer rather than become a viva voce accuser, lessens much an honest fellow's apprehensions on that score. Then, if these somnivolencies [I hate the word opiates on this occasion,] have turned her head, that is an effect they frequently have upon some constitutions; and in this case was rather the fault of the dose than the design of the giver.
But is not wine itself an opiate in degree?—How many women have been taken advantage of by wine, and other still more intoxicating viands?— Let me tell thee, Jack, that the experience of many of the passive sex, and the consciences of many more of the active, appealed to, will testify that thy Lovelace is not the worst of villains. Nor would I have thee put me upon clearing myself by comparisons.
If she escape a settled delirium when my plots unravel, I think it is all I ought to be concerned about. What therefore I desire of thee, is, that, if two constructions may be made of my actions, thou wilt afford me the most favourable. For this, not only friendship, but my own ingenuousness, which has furnished thee with the knowledge of the facts against which thou art so ready to inveigh, require of thee.
Will. is just returned from an errand to Hampstead; and acquaints me, that Mrs. Townsend was yesterday at Mrs. Moore's, accompanied by three or four rough fellows; a greater number (as supposed) at a distance. She was strangely surprised at the news that my spouse and I are entirely reconciled; and that two fine ladies, my relations, came to visit her, and went to town with her: where she is very happy with me. She was sure we were not married, she said, unless it was while we were at Hampstead: and they were sure the ceremony was not performed there. But that the lady is happy and easy, is unquestionable: and a fling was thrown out by Mrs. Moore and Mrs. Bevis at mischief-makers, as they knew Mrs. Townsend to be acquainted with Miss Howe.
Now, since my fair-one can neither receive, nor send away letters, I am pretty easy as to this Mrs. Townsend and her employer. And I fancy Miss Howe will be puzzled to know what to think of the matter, and afraid of sending by Wilson's conveyance; and perhaps suppose that her friend slights her; or has changed her mind in my favour, and is ashamed to own it; as she has not had an answer to what she wrote; and will believe that the rustic delivered her last letter into her own hand.
Mean time I have a little project come into my head, of a new kind; just for amusement-sake, that's all: variety has irresistible charms. I cannot live without intrigue. My charmer has no passions; that is to say, none of the passions that I want her to have. She engages all my reverence. I am at present more inclined to regret what I have done, than to proceed to new offences: and shall regret it till I see how she takes it when recovered.
Shall I tell thee my project? 'Tis not a high one.—'Tis this—to get hither to Mrs. Moore, Miss Rawlins, and my widow Bevis; for they are desirous to make a visit to my spouse, now we are so happy together. And, if I can order it right, Belton, Mowbray, Tourville, and I, will show them a little more of the ways of this wicked town, than they at present know. Why should they be acquainted with a man of my character, and not be the better and wiser for it?—I would have every body rail against rakes with judgment and knowledge, if they will rail. Two of these women gave me a great deal of trouble: and the third, I am confident, will forgive a merry evening.
Thou wilt be curious to know what the persons of these women are, to whom I intend so much distinction. I think I have not heretofore mentioned any thing characteristic of their persons.
Mrs. Moore is a widow of about thirty-eight; a little mortified by misfortunes; but those are often the merriest folks, when warmed. She has good features still; and is what they call much of a gentlewoman, and very neat in her person and dress. She has given over, I believe, all thoughts of our sex: but when the dying embers are raked up about the half-consumed stump, there will be fuel enough left, I dare say, to blaze out, and give a comfortable warmth to a half-starved by-stander.
Mrs. Bevis is comely; that is to say, plump; a lover of mirth, and one whom no grief ever dwelt with, I dare say, for a week together; about twenty-five years of age: Mowbray will have very little difficulty with her, I believe; for one cannot do every thing one's self. And yet sometimes women of this free cast, when it comes to the point, answer not the promises their cheerful forwardness gives a man who has a view upon them.
Miss Rawlins is an agreeable young lady enough; but not beautiful. She has sense, and would be thought to know the world, as it is called; but, for her knowledge, is more indebted to theory than experience. A mere whipt-syllabub knowledge this, Jack, that always fails the person who trusts to it, when it should hold to do her service. For such young ladies have so much dependence upon their own understanding and wariness, are so much above the cautions that the less opinionative may be benefited by, that their presumption is generally their overthrow, when attempted by a man of experience, who knows how to flatter their vanity, and to magnify their wisdom, in order to take advantage of their folly. But, for Miss Rawlins, if I can add experience to her theory, what an accomplished person will she be!—And how much will she be obliged to me; and not only she, but all those who may be the better for the precepts she thinks herself already so well qualified to give! Dearly, Jack, do I love to engage with these precept-givers, and example-setters.