My dearest life, Your ever-affectionate, faithful, LOVELACE.
MR. LOVELACE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [SUPERSCRIBED TO MRS. LOVELACE.] M. HALL, SUNDAY NIGHT, JUNE 25.
MY DEAREST LOVE,
I cannot find words to express how much I am mortified at the return of my messenger without a line from you.
Thursday is so near, that I will send messenger after messenger every four hours, till I have a favourable answer; the one to meet the other, till its eve arrives, to know if I may venture to appear in your presence with the hope of having my wishes answered on that day.
Your love, Madam, I neither expect, nor ask for; nor will, till my future behaviour gives you cause to think I deserve it. All I at present presume to wish is, to have it in my power to do you all the justice I can now do you: and to your generosity will I leave it, to reward me, as I shall merit, with your affection.
At present, revolving my poor behaviour of Friday night before you, I think I should sooner choose to go to my last audit, unprepared for it as I am, than to appear in your presence, unless you give me some hope, that I shall be received as your elected husband, rather than, (however deserved,) as a detested criminal.
Let me, therefore, propose an expedient, in order to spare my own confusion; and to spare you the necessity for that soul-harrowing recrimination, which I cannot stand, and which must be disagreeable to yourself—to name the church, and I will have every thing in readiness; so that our next interview will be, in a manner, at the very altar; and then you will have the kind husband to forgive for the faults of the ungrateful lover. If your resentment be still too high to write more, let it only be in your own dear hand, these words, St. Martin's church, Thursday—or these, St. Giles's church, Thursday; nor will I insist upon any inscription or subscription, or so much as the initials of your name. This shall be all the favour I will expect, till the dear hand itself is given to mine, in presence of that Being whom I invoke as a witness of the inviolable faith and honour of
Your adoring LOVELACE.
MR. LOVELACE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [SUPERSCRIBED TO MRS. LOVELACE.] M. HALL, MONDAY, JUNE 26.
Once more, my dearest love, do I conjure you to send me the four requested words. There is no time to be lost. And I would not have next Thursday go over, without being entitled to call you mine, for the world; and that as well for your sake as for my own. Hitherto all that has passed is between you and me only; but, after Thursday, if my wishes are unanswered, the whole will be before the world.
My Lord is extremely ill, and endures not to have me out of his sight for one half hour. But this shall not have the least weight with me, if you be pleased to hold out the olive-branch to me in the four requested words.
I have the following intelligence from Captain Tomlinson.
'All your family are at your uncle Harlowe's. Your uncle finds he cannot go up; and names Captain Tomlinson for his proxy. He proposes to keep all your family with him till the Captain assures him that the ceremony is over.
'Already he has begun, with hope of success, to try to reconcile your mother to you.'
My Lord M. but just now has told me how happy he should think himself to have an opportunity, before he dies, to salute you as his niece. I have put him in hopes that he shall see you; and have told him that I will go to town on Wednesday, in order to prevail upon you to accompany me down on Thursday or Friday. I have ordered a set to be in readiness to carry me up; and, were not my Lord so very ill, my cousin Montague tells me that she would offer her attendance on you. If you please, therefore, we can set out for this place the moment the solemnity is performed.
Do not, dearest creature, dissipate all those promising appearances, and by refusing to save your own and your family's reputation in the eye of the world, use yourself worse than the ungratefullest wretch on earth has used you. For if we were married, all the disgrace you imagine you have suffered while a single lady, will be my own, and only known to ourselves.
Once more, then, consider well the situation we are both in; and remember, my dearest life, that Thursday will be soon here; and that you have no time to lose.
In a letter sent by the messenger whom I dispatch with this, I have desired that my friend, Mr. Belford, who is your very great admirer, and who knows all the secrets of my heart, will wait upon you, to know what I am to depend upon as to the chosen day.
Surely, my dear, you never could, at any time, suffer half so much from cruel suspense, as I do.
If I have not an answer to this, either from your own goodness, or through Mr. Belford's intercession, it will be too late for me to set out: and Captain Tomlinson will be disappointed, who goes to town on purpose to attend your pleasure.
One motive for the gentle resistance I have presumed to lay you under is, to prevent the mischiefs that might ensue (as probably to the more innocent, as to the less) were you to write to any body while your passions were so much raised and inflamed against me. Having apprized you of my direction to the women in town on this head, I wonder you should have endeavoured to send a letter to Miss Howe, although in a cover directed to that young lady's* servant; as you must think it would be likely to fall into my hands.
* The lady had made an attempt to send away a letter.
The just sense of what I have deserved the contents should be, leaves me no room to doubt what they are. Nevertheless, I return it you enclosed, with the seal, as you will see, unbroken.
Relieve, I beseech you, dearest Madam, by the four requested words, or by Mr. Belford, the anxiety of
Your ever-affectionate and obliged LOVELACE.
Remember, there will not, there cannot be time for further writing, and for coming up by Thursday, your uncle's birth-day.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. MONDAY, JUNE 26.
Thou wilt see the situation I am in with Miss Harlowe by the enclosed copies of three letters; to two of which I am so much scorned as not to have one word given me in answer; and of the third (now sent by the messenger who brings thee this) I am afraid as little notice will be taken—and if so, her day of grace is absolutely over.
One would imagine (so long used to constraint too as she has been) that she might have been satisfied with the triumph she had over us all on Friday night! a triumph that to this hour has sunk my pride and my vanity so much, that I almost hate the words, plot, contrivance, scheme; and shall mistrust myself in future for every one that rises to my inventive head.
But seest thou not that I am under a necessity to continue her at Sinclair's and to prohibit all her correspondencies?
Now, Belford, as I really, in my present mood, think of nothing less than marrying her, if she let not Thursday slip, I would have thee attend her, in pursuance of the intimation I have given her in my letter of this date; and vow for me, swear for me, bind thy soul to her for my honour, and use what arguments thy friendly heart can suggest, in order to procure me an answer from her; which, as thou wilt see, she may give in four words only. And then I purpose to leave Lord M. (dangerously ill as he is,) and meet her at her appointed church, in order to solemnize. If she will but sign Cl. H. to thy writing the four words, that shall do: for I would not come up to be made a fool of in the face of all my family and friends.
If she should let the day go off, I shall be desperate. I am entangled in my own devices, and cannot bear that she should detect me.
O that I had been honest!—What a devil are all my plots come to! What do they end in, but one grand plot upon myself, and a title to eternal infamy and disgrace! But, depending on thy friendly offices, I will say no more of this.—Let her send me but one line!—But one line!—To treat me as unworthy of her notice;—yet be altogether in my power—I cannot—I will not bear that.
My Lord, as I said, is extremely ill. The doctors give him over. He gives himself over. Those who would not have him die, are afraid he will die. But as to myself, I am doubtful: for these long and violent struggles between the constitution and the disease (though the latter has three physicians and an apothecary to help it forward, and all three, as to their prescriptions, of different opinions too) indicate a plaguy habit, and savour more of recovery than death: and the more so, as he has no sharp or acute mental organs to whet out his bodily ones, and to raise his fever above the sympathetic helpful one.
Thou wilt see in the enclosed what pains I am at to dispatch messengers; who are constantly on the road to meet each other, and one of them to link in the chain with the fourth, whose station is in London, and five miles onwards, or till met. But in truth I have some other matters for them to perform at the same time, with my Lord's banker and his lawyer; which will enable me, if his Lordship is so good as to die this bout, to be an over match for some of my other relations. I don't mean Charlotte and Patty; for they are noble girls: but others, who have been scratching and clawing under-ground like so many moles in my absence; and whose workings I have discovered since I have been down, by the little heaps of dirt they have thrown up.
A speedy account of thy commission, dear Jack! The letter travels all night.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. LONDON, JUNE 27. TUESDAY.
You must excuse me, Lovelace, from engaging in the office you would have me undertake, till I can be better assured you really intend honourably at last by this much-injured lady.
I believe you know your friend Belford too well to think he would be easy with you, or with any man alive, who should seek to make him promise for him what he never intended to perform. And let me tell thee, that I have not much confidence in the honour of a man, why by imitation of hands (I will only call it) has shown so little regard to the honour of his own relations.
Only that thou hast such jesuitical qualifyings, or I should think thee at last touched with remorse, and brought within view of being ashamed of thy cursed inventions by the ill success of thy last: which I heartily congratulate thee upon.
O the divine lady!—But I will not aggravate!
Nevertheless, when thou writest that, in thy present mood, thou thinkest of marrying, and yet canst so easily change thy mood; when I know thy heart is against the state: that the four words thou courtest from the lady are as much to thy purpose, as if she wrote forty; since it will show she can forgive the highest injury that can be offered to woman; and when I recollect how easily thou canst find excuses to postpone; thou must be more explicit a good deal, as to thy real intentions, and future honour, than thou art: for I cannot trust to temporary remorse; which brought on by disappointment too, and not by principle, and the like of which thou hast so often got over.
If thou canst convince me time enough for the day, that thou meanest to do honourably by her, in her own sense of the word; or, if not time enough, wilt fix some other day, (which thou oughtest to leave to her option, and not bind her down for the Thursday; and the rather, as thy pretence for so doing is founded on an absolute fiction;) I will then most cheerfully undertake thy cause; by person, if she will admit me to her presence; if she will not, by pen. But, in this case, thou must allow me to be guarantee for thy family. And, if so, so much as I value thee, and respect thy skill in all the qualifications of a gentleman, thou mayest depend upon it, that I will act up to the character of a guarantee, with more honour than the princes of our day usually do——to their shame be it spoken.
Mean time let me tell thee, that my heart bleeds for the wrong this angelic lady has received: and if thou dost not marry her, if she will have thee, and, when married, make her the best and tenderest of husbands, I would rather be a dog, a monkey, a bear, a viper, or a toad, than thee.
Command me with honour, and thou shalt find none readier to oblige thee than
Thy sincere friend, JOHN BELFORD.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. M. HALL, JUNE 27. TUESDAY NIGHT, NEAR 12.
Your's reached me this moment, by an extraordinary push in the messengers.
What a man of honour thou of a sudden!——
And so, in the imaginary shape of a guarantee, thou threatenest me!
Had I not been in earnest as to the lady, I should not have offered to employ thee in the affair. But, let me say, that hadst thou undertaken the task, and I hadst afterwards thought fit to change my mind, I should have contented myself to tell thee, that that was my mind when thou engagedst for me, and to have given thee the reasons for the change, and then left thee to thy own discretion: for never knew I what fear of man was—nor fear of woman neither, till I became acquainted with Miss Clarissa Harlowe, nay, what is most surprising, till I came to have her in my power.
And so thou wilt not wait upon the charmer of my heart, but upon terms and conditions!—Let it alone and be curs'd; I care not.—But so much credit did I give to the value thou expressedst for her, that I thought the office would have been acceptable to thee, as serviceable to me; for what was it, but to endeavour to persuade her to consent to the reparation of her own honour? For what have I done but disgraced myself, and been a thief to my own joys?—And if there be a union of hearts, and an intention to solemnize, what is there wanting but the foolish ceremony?—and that I still offer. But, if she will keep back her hand, if she will make me hold out mine in vain, how can I help it?
I write her one more letter; and if, after she has received that, she keeps sullen silence, she must thank herself for what is to follow.
But, after all,, my heart is not wholly her's. I love her beyond expression; and cannot help it. I hope therefore she will receive this last tender as I wish. I hope she intends not, like a true woman, to plague, and vex, and tease me, now she has found her power. If she will take me to mercy now these remorses are upon me, (though I scorn to condition with thee for my sincerity,) all her trials, as I have heretofore declared, shall be over, and she shall be as happy as I can make her: for, ruminating upon all that has passed between us, from the first hour of our acquaintance till the present, I must pronounce, That she is virtue itself and once more I say, has no equal.
As to what you hint, of leaving to her choice another day, do you consider, that it will be impossible that my contrivances and stratagems should be much longer concealed?—This makes me press that day, though so near; and the more, as I have made so much ado about her uncle's anniversary. If she send me the four words, I will spare no fatigue to be in time, if not for the canonical hour at church, for some other hour of the day in her own apartment, or any other: for money will do every thing: and that I have never spared in this affair.
To show thee, that I am not at enmity with thee, I enclose the copies of two letters—one to her: it is the fourth, and must be the last on the subject——The other to Captain Tomlinson; calculated, as thou wilt see, for him to show her.
And now, Jack, interfere; in this case or not, thou knowest the mind of
MR. LOVELACE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [SUPERSCRIBED TO MRS. LOVELACE.] M. HALL, WED. MORNING, ONE O'CLOCK, JUNE 28.
Not one line, my dearest life, not one word, in answer to three letters I have written! The time is now so short, that this must be the last letter that can reach you on this side the important hour that might make us legally one.
My friend, Mr. Belford, is apprehensive, that he cannot wait upon you in time, by reason of some urgent affairs of his own.
I the less regret the disappointment, because I have procured a more acceptable person, as I hope, to attend you; Captain Tomlinson I mean: to whom I had applied for this purpose, before I had Mr. Belford's answer.
I was the more solicitous to obtain his favour form him, because of the office he is to take upon him, as I humbly presume to hope, to-morrow. That office obliged him to be in town as this day: and I acquainted him with my unhappy situation with you; and desired that he would show me, on this occasion, that I had as much of his favour and friendship as your uncle had; since the whole treaty must be broken off, if he could not prevail upon you in my behalf.
He will dispatch the messenger directly; whom I propose to meet in person at Slough; either to proceed onward to London with a joyful heart, or to return back to M. Hall with a broken one.
I ought not (but cannot help it) to anticipate the pleasure Mr. Tomlinson proposes to himself, in acquainting you with the likelihood there is of your mother's seconding your uncle's views. For, it seems, he has privately communicated to her his laudable intentions: and her resolution depends, as well as his, upon what to-morrow will produce.
Disappoint not then, I beseech you, for an hundred persons' sakes, as well as for mine, that uncle and that mother, whose displeasure I have heard you so often deplore.
You may think it impossible for me to reach London by the canonical hour. If it should, the ceremony may be performed in your own apartments, at any time in the day, or at night: so that Captain Tomlinson may have it to aver to your uncle, that it was performed on his anniversary.
Tell but the Captain, that you forbid me not to attend you: and that shall be sufficient for bringing to you, on the wings of love,
Your ever-grateful and affectionate LOVELACE.
TO MR. PATRICK M'DONALD, AT HIS LODGINGS, AT MR. BROWN'S, PERUKE-MAKER, IN ST. MARTIN'S LANE, WESTMINSTER M. HALL, WEDN. MORNING, TWO O'CLOCK.
The bearer of this has a letter to carry to the lady.* I have been at the trouble of writing a copy of it: which I enclose, that you may not mistake your cue.
* See the preceding Letter.
You will judge of my reasons for ante-dating the enclosed sealed one,* directed to you by the name of Tomlinson; which you are to show to the lady, as in confidence. You will open it of course.
* See the next Letter.
I doubt not your dexterity and management, dear M'Donald; nor your zeal; especially as the hope of cohabitation must now be given up. Impossible to be carried is that scheme. I might break her heart, but not incline her will—am in earnest therefore to marry her, if she let not the day slip.
Improve upon the hint of her mother. That may touch her. But John Harlowe, remember, has privately engaged that lady—privately, I say; else, (not to mention the reason for her uncle Harlowe's former expedient,) you know, she might find means to get a letter away to the one or to the other, to know the truth; or to Miss Howe, to engage her to inquire into it: and, if she should, the word privately will account for the uncle's and mother's denying it.
However, fail not, as from me, to charge our mother and her nymphs to redouble their vigilance both as to her person and letters. All's upon a crisis now. But she must not be treated ill neither.
Thursday over, I shall know what to resolve upon.
If necessary, you must assume authority. The devil's in't, if such a girl as this shall awe a man of your years and experience. You are not in love with her as I am. Fly out, if she doubt your honour. Spirits naturally soft may be beat out of their play and borne down (though ever so much raised) by higher anger. All women are cowards at bottom; only violent where they may. I have often stormed a girl out of her mistrust, and made her yield (before she knew where she was) to the point indignantly mistrusted; and that to make up with me, though I was the aggressor.
If this matter succeed as I'd have it, (or if not, and do not fail by your fault,) I will take you off the necessity of pursuing your cursed smuggling; which otherwise may one day end fatally for you.
We are none of us perfect, M'Donald. This sweet lady makes me serious sometimes in spite of my heart. But as private vices are less blamable than public; an as I think smuggling (as it is called) a national evil; I have no doubt to pronounce you a much worse man than myself, and as such shall take pleasure in reforming you.
I send you enclosed ten guineas, as a small earnest of further favours. Hitherto you have been a very clever fellow.
As to clothes for Thursday, Monmouth-street will afford a ready supply. Clothes quite new would make your condition suspected. But you may defer that care, till you see if she can be prevailed upon. Your riding-dress will do for the first visit. Nor let your boots be over clean. I have always told you the consequence of attending to the minutiae, where art (or imposture, as the ill-mannered would call it) is designed—your linen rumpled and soily, when you wait upon her—easy terms these—just come to town—remember (as formerly) to loll, to throw out your legs, to stroke and grasp down your ruffles, as if of significance enough to be careless. What though the presence of a fine lady would require a different behaviour, are you not of years to dispense with politeness? You can have no design upon her, you know. You are a father yourself of daughters as old as she. Evermore is parade and obsequiousness suspectable: it must show either a foolish head, or a knavish heart. Assume airs of consequence therefore; and you will be treated as a man of consequence. I have often more than half ruined myself by my complaisance; and, being afraid of controul, have brought controul upon myself.
I think I have no more to say at present. I intend to be at Slough, or on the way to it, as by mine to the lady. Adieu, honest M'Donald.
TO CAPTAIN TOMLINSON [ENCLOSED IN THE PRECEDING; TO BE SHOWN TO THE LADY AS IN CONFIDENCE.] M. HALL, TUESDAY MORN., JUNE 27.
DEAR CAPTAIN TOMLINSON,
An unhappy misunderstanding has arisen between the dearest lady in the world and me (the particulars of which she perhaps may give you, but I will not, because I might be thought partial to myself;) and she refusing to answer my most pressing and respectful letters; I am at a most perplexing uncertainty whether she will meet us or not next Thursday to solemnize.
My Lord is so extremely ill, that if I thought she would not oblige me, I would defer going up to town for two or three days. He cares not to have me out of his sight: yet is impatient to salute my beloved as his neice [sic] before he dies. This I have promised to give him an opportunity to do: intending, if the dear creature will make me happy, to set out with her for this place directly from church.
With regret I speak it of the charmer of my soul, that irreconcilableness is her family-fault—the less excusable indeed for her, as she herself suffers by it in so high a degree from her own relations.
Now, Sir, as you intended to be in town some time before Thursday, if it be not too great an inconvenience to you, I could be glad you would go up as soon as possible, for my sake: and this I the more boldly request, as I presume that a man who has so many great affairs of his own in hand as you have, would be glad to be at a certainty as to the day.
You, Sir, can so pathetically and justly set before her the unhappy consequences that will follow if the day be postponed, as well with regard to her uncle's disappointment, as to the part you have assured me her mother is willing to take in the wished-for reconciliation, that I have great hopes she will suffer herself to be prevailed upon. And a man and horse shall be in waiting to take your dispatches and bring them to me.
But if you cannot prevail in my favour, you will be pleased to satisfy your friend, Mr. John Harlowe, that it is not my fault that he is not obliged. I am, dear Sir,
Your extremely obliged and faithful servant, R. LOVELACE.
TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. WEDN. JUNE 28, NEAR TWELVE O'CLOCK.
I received your's, as your servant desired me to acquaint you, by ten this morning. Horse and man were in a foam.
I instantly equipped myself, as if come off from a journey, and posted away to the lady, intending to plead great affairs that I came not before, in order to favour your antedate; and likewise to be in a hurry, to have a pretence to hurry her ladyship, and to take no denial for her giving a satisfactory return to your messenger. But, upon my entering Mrs. Sinclair's house, I found all in the greatest consternation.
You must not, Sir, be surprised. It is a trouble to me to be the relater of the bad news; but so it is—The lady is gone off! She was missed but half an hour before I came.
Her waiting-maid is run away, or hitherto is not to be found: so that they conclude it was by her connivance.
They had sent, before I came, to my honoured masters Mr. Belton, Mr. Mowbray, and Mr. Belford. Mr. Tourville is out of town.
High words are passing between Madam Sinclair, and Madam Horton, and Madam Martin; as also with Dorcas. And your servant William threatens to hang or drown himself.
They have sent to know if they can hear of Mabell, the waiting-maid, at her mother's, who it seems lives in Chick-lane, West-Smithfield; and to an uncle of her's also, who keeps an alehouse at Cow-cross, had by, and with whom she lived last.
Your messenger having just changed his horse, is come back: so I will not detain him longer than to add, that I am, with great concern for this misfortune, and thanks for your seasonable favour and kind intentions towards me—I am sure this was not my fault—
Honoured Sir, Your most obliged, humble servant, PATRICK M'DONALD.
MR. MOWBRAY, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. WEDNESDAY, TWELVE O'CLOCK.
I have plaguy news to acquaint thee with. Miss Harlowe is gone off!— Quite gone, by soul!—I have no time for particulars, your servant being gone off. But if I had, we are not yet come to the bottom of the matter. The ladies here are all blubbering like devills, accusing one another most confoundedly: whilst Belton and I damn them all together in thy name.
If thou shouldst hear that thy fellow Will. is taken dead out of some horse-pond, and Dorcas cut down from her bed's teaster, from dangling in her own garters, be not surprised. Here's the devil to pay. Nobody serene but Jack Belford, who is taking minutes of examinations, accusations, and confessions, with the significant air of a Middlesex Justice; and intends to write at large all particulars, I suppose.
I heartily condole with thee: so does Belton. But it may turn out for the best: for she is gone away with thy marks, I understand. A foolish little devill! Where will she mend herself? for nobody will look upon her. And they tell me that thou wouldst certainly have married her, had she staid. But I know thee better.
Dear Bobby, adieu. If Lord M. will die now, to comfort thee for this loss, what a seasonable exit would he make! Let's have a letter from thee. Pr'ythee do. Thou can'st write devill-like to Belford, who shews us nothing at all. Thine heartily,
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. THURSDAY, JUNE 29.
Thou hast heard from M'Donald and Mowbray the news. Bad or good, I know not which thou'lt deem it. I only wish I could have given thee joy upon the same account, before the unhappy lady was seduced from Hampstead; for then of what an ungrateful villany hadst thou been spared the perpetration, which now thou hast to answer for!
I came to town purely to serve thee with her, expecting that thy next would satisfy me that I might endeavour it without dishonour. And at first when I found her gone, I half pitied thee; for now wilt thou be inevitably blown up: and in what an execrable light wilt thou appear to all the world!—Poor Lovelace! caught in thy own snares! thy punishment is but beginning.
But to my narrative: for I suppose thou expectest all particulars from me, since Mowbray has informed thee that I have been collecting them.
'The noble exertion of spirit she has made on Friday night, had, it seems, greatly disordered her; insomuch that she was not visible till Saturday evening; when Mabell saw her; and she seemed to be very ill: but on Sunday morning, having dressed herself, as if designing to go to church, she ordered Mabell to get her a coach to the door.
'The wench told her, She was to obey her in every thing but the calling of a coach or chair, or in relation to letters.
'She sent for Will. and gave him the same command.
'He pleaded his master's orders to the contrary, and desired to be excused.
'Upon this, down she went, herself, and would have gone out without observation; but finding the street-door double-locked, and the key not in the lock, she stept into the street-parlour, and would have thrown up the sash to call out to the people passing by, as they doubted not: but that, since her last attempt of the same nature, had been fastened down.
'Hereupon she resolutely stept into Mrs. Sinclair's parlour in the back-house; where were the old devil and her two partners; and demanded the key of the street-door, or to have it opened for her.
'They were all surprised; but desired to be excused, and pleaded your orders.
'She asserted, that you had no authority over her; and never should have any: that their present refusal was their own act and deed: she saw the intent of their back house, and the reason of putting her there: she pleaded her condition and fortune; and said, they had no way to avoid utter ruin, but by opening their doors to her, or by murdering her, and burying her in their garden or cellar, too deep for detection: that already what had been done to her was punishable by death: and bid them at their peril detain her.'
What a noble, what a right spirit has this charming creature, in cases that will justify an exertion of spirit!—
'They answered that Mr. Lovelace could prove his marriage, and would indemnify them. And they all would have vindicated their behaviour on Friday night, and the reputation of their house. But refusing to hear them on that topic, she flung from them threatening.
'She then went up half a dozen stairs in her way to her own apartment: but, as if she had bethought herself, down she stept again, and proceeded towards the street-parlour; saying, as she passed by the infamous Dorcas, I'll make myself protectors, though the windows suffer. But that wench, of her own head, on the lady's going out of that parlour to Mrs. Sinclair's, had locked the door, and taken out the key: so that finding herself disappointed, she burst into tears, and went sobbing and menacing up stairs again.
'She made no other attempt till the effectual one. Your letters and messages, they suppose, coming so fast upon one another (though she would not answer one of them) gave her some amusement, and an assurance to them, that she would at last forgive you; and that then all would end as you wished.
'The women, in pursuance of your orders, offered not to obtrude themselves upon her; and Dorcas also kept out of her sight all the rest of Sunday; also on Monday and Tuesday. But by the lady's condescension, (even to familiarity) to Mabell, they imagined, that she must be working in her mind all that time to get away. They therefore redoubled their cautions to the wench; who told them so faithfully all that passed between her lady and her, that they had no doubt of her fidelity to her wicked trust.
''Tis probable she might have been contriving something all this time; but saw no room for perfecting any scheme. The contrivance by which she effected her escape seems to me not to have been fallen upon till the very day; since it depended partly upon the weather, as it proved. But it is evident she hoped something from Mabell's simplicity, or gratitude, or compassion, by cultivating all the time her civility to her.
'Polly waited on her early on Wednesday morning; and met with a better reception than she had reason to expect. She complained however, with warmth, of her confinement. Polly said there would be an happy end to it (if it were a confinement,) next day, she presumed. She absolutely declared to the contrary, in the way Polly meant it; and said, That Mr. Lovelace, on his return [which looked as if she intended to wait for it] should have reason to repent the orders he had given, as they all should their observance of them: let him send twenty letters, she would not answer one, be the consequence what it would; nor give him hope of the least favour, while she was in that house. She had given Mrs. Sinclair and themselves fair warning, she said: no orders of another ought to make them detain a free person: but having made an open attempt to go, and been detained by them, she was the calmer, she told Polly; let them look to the consequence.
'But yet she spoke this with temper; and Polly gave it as her opinion, (with apprehension for their own safety,) that having so good a handle to punish them all, she would not go away if she might. And what, inferred Polly, is the indemnity of a man who has committed the vilest of rapes on a person of condition; and must himself, if prosecuted for it, either fly, or be hanged?
'Sinclair, [so I will still call her,] upon this representation of Polly, foresaw, she said, the ruin of her poor house in the issue of this strange business; and the infamous Sally and Dorcas bore their parts in the apprehension: and this put them upon thinking it advisable for the future, that the street-door should generally in the day-time be only left upon a bolt-latch, as they called it, which any body might open on the inside; and that the key should be kept in the door; that their numerous comers and goers, as they called their guests, should be able to give evidence, that she might have gone out if she would: not forgetting, however, to renew their orders to Will. to Dorcas, to Mabell, and the rest, to redouble their vigilance on this occasion, to prevent her escape: none of them doubting, at the same time, that her love of a man so considerable in their eyes, and the prospect of what was to happen, as she had reason to believe, on Thursday, her uncle's birth-day, would (though perhaps not till the last hour, for her pride sake, was their word) engage her to change her temper.
'They believe, that she discovered the key to be left in the door; for she was down more than once to walk in the little garden, and seemed to cast her eye each time to the street-door.
'About eight yesterday morning, an hour after Polly had left her, she told Mabell, she was sure she should not live long; and having a good many suits of apparel, which after her death would be of no use to any body she valued, she would give her a brown lustring gown, which, with some alterations to make it more suitable to her degree, would a great while serve her for a Sunday wear; for that she (Mabell) was the only person in that house of whom she could think without terror or antipathy.
'Mabell expressing her gratitude upon the occasion, the lady said, she had nothing to employ herself about, and if she could get a workwoman directly, she would look over her things then, and give her what she intended for her.
'Her mistress's mantua-maker, the maid replied, lived but a little way off: and she doubted not that she could procure her, or one of the journey-women to alter the gown out of hand.
'I will give you also, said she, a quilted coat, which will require but little alteration, if any; for you are much about my stature: but the gown I will give directions about, because the sleeves and the robings and facings must be altered for your wear, being, I believe, above your station: and try, said she, if you can get the workwoman, and we'll advise about it. If she cannot come now, let her come in the afternoon; but I had rather now, because it will amuse me to give you a lift.
'Then stepping to the window, it rains, said she, [and so it had done all the morning:] slip on the hood and short cloak I have seen you wear, and come to me when you are ready to go out, because you shall bring me in something that I want.
'Mabell equipped herself accordingly, and received her commands to buy her some trifles, and then left her; but in her way out, stept into the back parlour, where Dorcas was with Mrs. Sinclair, telling her where she was going, and on what account, bidding Dorcas look out till she came back. So faithful as the wench to the trust reposed in her, and so little had the lady's generosity wrought upon her.
'Mrs. Sinclair commended her; Dorcas envied her, and took her cue: and Mabell soon returned with the mantua-maker's journey-woman; (she resolved, she said, but she would not come without her); and then Dorcas went off guard.
'The lady looked out the gown and petticoat, and before the workwoman caused Mabell to try it on; and, that it might fit the better, made the willing wench pull off her upper-petticoat, and put on that she gave her. Then she bid them go into Mr. Lovelace's apartment, and contrive about it before the pier-glass there, and stay till she came to them, to give them her opinion.
'Mabell would have taken her own clothes, and hood, and short cloak with her: but her lady said, No matter; you may put them on again here, when we have considered about the alterations: there's no occasion to litter the other room.
'They went; and instantly, as it is supposed, she slipt on Mabell's gown and petticoat over her own, which was white damask, and put on the wench's hood, short cloak, and ordinary apron, and down she went.
'Hearing somebody tripping along the passage, both Will. and Dorcas whipt to the inner-hall door, and saw her; but, taking her for Mabell, Are you going far, Mabell? cried Will.
'Without turning her face, or answering, she held out her hand, pointing to the stairs; which they construed as a caution for them to look out in her absence; and supposing she would not be long gone, as she had not in form, repeated her caution to them, up went Will, tarrying at the stairs-head in expectation of the supposed Mabell's return.
'Mabell and the workwoman waited a good while, amusing themselves not disagreeably, the one with contriving in the way of her business, the other delighting herself with her fine gown and coat. But at last, wondering the lady did not come in to them, Mabell tiptoed it to her door, and tapping, and not being answered, stept into the chamber.
'Will. at that instant, from his station at the stairs-head, seeing Mabell in her lady's clothes; for he had been told of the present, [gifts to servants fly from servant to servant in a minute,] was very much surprised, having, as he thought, just seen her go out in her own; and stepping up, met her at the door. How the devil can this be? said he: just now you went out in your own dress! How came you here in this? and how could you pass me unseen? but nevertheless, kissing her, said, he would now brag he had kissed his lady, or one in her clothes.
'I am glad, Mr. William, cried Mabell, to see you here so diligently. But know you where my lady is?
'In my master's apartment, answered Will. Is she not? Was she not talking with you this moment?
'No, that's Mrs. Dolins's journey-woman.
'They both stood aghast, as they said; Will, again recollecting he had seen Mabell, as he thought, go out in her own clothes. And while they were debating and wondering, up comes Dorcas with your fourth letter, just then brought for the lady, and seeing Mabell dressed out, (whom she had likewise beheld a little before), as she supposed, in her common clothes; she joined in the wonder; till Mabell, re-entering the lady's apartment, missed her own clothes; and then suspecting what had happened, and letting the others into the ground of the suspicion, they all agreed that she had certainly escaped. And then followed such an uproar of mutual accusation, and you should have done this, and you have done that, as alarmed the whole house; every apartment in both houses giving up its devil, to the number of fourteen or fifteen, including the mother and her partners.
'Will. told them his story; and then ran out, as on the like occasion formerly, to make inquiry whether the lady was seen by any of the coachmen, chairmen, or porters, plying in that neighbourhood: while Dorcas cleared herself immediately, and that at the poor Mabell's expense, who made a figure as guilty as awkward, having on the suspected price of her treachery; which Dorcas, out of envy, was ready to tear from her back.
'Hereupon all the pack opened at the poor wench, while the mother foamed at the mouth, bellowed out her orders for seizing the suspected offender; who could neither be heard in her own defence, nor had she been heard, would have been believed.
'That such a perfidious wretch should ever disgrace her house, was the mother's cry; good people might be corrupted; but it was a fine thing if such a house as her's could not be faithfully served by cursed creatures who were hired knowing the business they were to be employed in, and who had no pretence to principle!—D—n her, the wretch proceeded!—She had no patience with her! call the cook, and call the scullion!
'They were at hand.
'See, that guilty pyeball devil, was her word—(her lady's gown upon her back)—but I'll punish her for a warning to all betrayers of their trust. Put on the great gridiron this moment, [an oath or a curse at every word:] make up a roaring fire—the cleaver bring me this instant—I'll cut her into quarters with my own hands; and carbonade and broil the traitress for a feast to all the dogs and cats in the neighbourhood, and eat the first slice of the toad myself, without salt or pepper.
'The poor Mabell, frighted out of her wits, expected every moment to be torn in pieces, having half a score open-clawed paws upon her all at once. She promised to confess all. But that all, when she had obtained a hearing, was nothing: for nothing had she to confess.
'Sally, hereupon with a curse of mercy, ordered her to retire; undertaking that she and Polly would examine her themselves, that they might be able to write all particulars to his honour; and then, if she could not clear herself, or, if guilty, give some account of the lady, (who had been so wicked as to give them all this trouble,) so as they might get her again, then the cleaver and gridiron might go to work with all their heart.
'The wench, glad of this reprieve, went up stairs; and while Sally was laying out the law, and prating away in her usual dictorial manner, whipt on another gown, and sliding down the stairs, escaped to her relations. And this flight, which was certainly more owing to terror than guilt, was, in the true Old Bailey construction, made a confirmation of the latter.'
These are the particulars of Miss Harlowe's flight. Thou'lt hardly think me too minute.—How I long to triumph over thy impatience and fury on the occasion!
Let me beseech thee, my dear Lovelace, in thy next letter, to rave most gloriously!—I shall be grievously disappointed if thou dost not.
Where, Lovelace, can the poor lady be gone? And who can describe the distress she must be in?
By thy former letters, it may be supposed, that she can have very little money: nor, by the suddenness of her flight, more clothes than those she has on. And thou knowest who once said,* 'Her parents will not receive her. Her uncles will not entertain her. Her Norton is in their direction, and cannot. Miss Howe dare not. She has not one friend or intimate in town—entirely a stranger to it.' And, let me add, has been despoiled of her honour by the man for whom she had made all these sacrifices; and who stood bound to her by a thousand oaths and vows, to be her husband, her protector, and friend!
* See Vol. IV. Letter XXI.
How strong must be her resentment of the barbarous treatment she has received! how worthy of herself, that it has made her hate the man she once loved! and, rather than marry him, choose to expose her disgrace to the whole world: to forego the reconciliation with her friends which her heart was so set upon: and to hazard a thousand evils to which her youth and her sex may too probably expose an indigent and friendly beauty!
Rememberest thou not that home push upon thee, in one of the papers written in her delirium; of which, however it savours not?——
I will assure thee, that I have very often since most seriously reflected upon it: and as thy intended second outrage convinces me that it made no impression upon thee then, and perhaps thou hast never thought of it since, I will transcribe the sentence.
'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.'*
* See Vol. VI. Letter XVI.
And is this amiable doctrine the sum of religion? Upon my faith, believe it is. For, to indulge a serious thought, since we are not atheists, except in practice, does God, the BEING of Beings, want any thing of us for HIMSELF! And does he not enjoin us works of mercy to one another, as the means to obtain his mercy? A sublime principle, and worthy of the SUPREME SUPERINTENDENT and FATHER of all things!—But if we are to be judged by this noble principle, what, indeed, must be thy condemnation on the score of this lady only? and what mine, and what all our confraternity's, on the score of other women: though we are none of us half so bad as thou art, as well for want of inclination, I hope, as of opportunity!
I must add, that, as well for thy own sake, as for the lady's, I wish ye were yet to be married to each other. It is the only medium that can be hit upon to salve the honour of both. All that's past may yet be concealed from the world, and from all her sufferings, if thou resolvest to be a tender and kind husband to her.
And if this really be thy intention, I will accept with pleasure of a commission from thee that shall tend to promote so good an end, whenever she can be found; that is to say, if she will admit to her presence a man who professes friendship to thee. Nor can I give a greater demonstration, that I am
Thy sincere friend, J. BELFORD.
P.S. Mabell's clothes were thrown into the passage this morning: nobody knows by whom.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. FRIDAY, JUNE 30.
I am ruined, undone, blown up, destroyed, and worse than annihilated, that's certain!—But was not the news shocking enough, dost thou think, without thy throwing into the too-weighty scale reproaches, which thou couldst have had no opportunity to make but for my own voluntary communications? at a time too, when, as it falls out, I have another very sensible disappointment to struggle with?
I imagine, if there be such a thing as future punishment, it must be none of the smallest mortifications, that a new devil shall be punished by a worse old one. And, take that! And, take that! to have the old satyr cry to the screaming sufferer, laying on with a cat-o'-nine-tails, with a star of burning brass at the end of each: and, for what! for what!—-Why, if the truth may be fairly told, for not being so bad a devil as myself.
Thou art, surely, casuist good enough to know, (what I have insisted upon* heretofore,) that the sin of seducing a credulous and easy girl, is as great as that of bringing to your lure an incredulous and watchful one.
* See Vol. IV. Letter XVII.
However ungenerous an appearance what I am going to say may have from my pen, let me tell thee, that if such a woman as Miss Harlowe chose to enter into the matrimonial state, [I am resolved to disappoint thee in thy meditated triumph over my rage and despair!] and, according to the old patriarchal system, to go on contributing to get sons and daughters, with no other view than to bring them up piously, and to be good and useful members of the commonwealth, what a devil had she to do, to let her fancy run a gadding after a rake? one whom she knew to be a rake?
Oh! but truly she hoped to have the merit of reclaiming him. She had formed pretty notions how charming it would look to have a penitent of her own making dangling at her side at church, through an applauding neighbourhood: and, as their family increased, marching with her thither, at the head of their boys and girls, processionally, as it were, boasting of the fruits of their honest desires, as my good lord bishop has it in his license. And then, what a comely sight, all kneeling down together in one pew, according to eldership as we have seen in effigy, a whole family upon some old monument, where the honest chevalier in armour is presented kneeling, with up-lifted hands, and half a dozen jolter-headed crop-eared boys behind him, ranged gradatim, or step-fashion according to age and size, all in the same posture—facing his pious dame, with a ruff about her neck, and as many whey-faced girls all kneeling behind her: an altar between them, and an open book upon it: over their heads semiluminary rays darting from gilded clouds, surrounding an achievement- motto, IN COELO SALUS—or QUIES—perhaps, if they have happened to live the usual married life of brawl and contradiction.
It is certainly as much my misfortune to have fallen in with Miss Clarissa Harlowe, were I to have valued my reputation or ease, as it is that of Miss Harlowe to have been acquainted with me. And, after all, what have I done more than prosecute the maxim, by which thou and I and every rake are governed, and which, before I knew this lady, we have pursued from pretty girl to pretty girl, as fast as we have set one down, taking another up;—just as the fellows do with their flying coaches and flying horses at a country fair——with a Who rides next! Who rides next!
But here in the present case, to carry on the volant metaphor, (for I must either be merry, or mad,) is a pretty little miss just come out of her hanging-sleeve-coat, brought to buy a pretty little fairing; for the world, Jack, is but a great fair, thou knowest; and, to give thee serious reflection for serious, all its joys but tinselled hobby-horses, gilt gingerbread, squeaking trumpets, painted drums, and so forth.
Now behold this pretty little miss skimming from booth to booth, in a very pretty manner. One pretty little fellow called Wyerley, perhaps; another jiggeting rascal called Biron, a third simpering varlet of the name of Symmes, and a more hideous villain than any of the reset, with a long bag under his arm, and parchment settlements tagged to his heels, yelped Solmes: pursue her from raree-show to raree-show, shouldering upon one another at every turn, stopping when she stops, and set a spinning again when she moves. And thus dangled after, but still in the eye of her watchful guardians, traverses the pretty little miss through the whole fair, equally delighted and delighting: till at last, taken with the invitation of the laced-hat orator, and seeing several pretty little bib-wearers stuck together in the flying-coaches, cutting safely the yielding air, in the one-go-up the other go-down picture-of-the-world vehicle, and all with as little fear as wit, is tempted to ride next.
In then suppose she slily pops, when none of her friends are near her: And if, after two or three ups and downs, her pretty head turns giddy, and she throws herself out of the coach when at its elevation, and so dashes out her pretty little brains, who can help it?—And would you hang the poor fellow, whose professed trade it was to set the pretty little creature a flying?
'Tis true, this pretty little miss, being a very pretty little miss, being a very much-admired little miss, being a very good little miss, who always minded her book, and had passed through her sampler-doctrine with high applause; had even stitched out, in gaudy propriety of colors, an Abraham offering up Isaac, a Sampson and the Philistines; and flowers, and knots, and trees, and the sun and the moon, and the seven stars, all hung up in frames with glasses before them, for the admiration of her future grand children: who likewise was entitled to a very pretty little estate: who was descended from a pretty little family upwards of one hundred years gentility; which lived in a very pretty little manner, respected a very little on their own accounts, a great deal on her's:——
For such a pretty little miss as this to come to so great a misfortune, must be a very sad thing: But, tell me, would not the losing of any ordinary child, of any other less considerable family, or less shining or amiable qualities, have been as great and heavy a loss to that family, as the losing this pretty little miss could be to her's?
To descend to a very low instance, and that only as to personality; hast thou any doubt, that thy strong-muscled bony-faced was as much admired by thy mother, as if it had been the face of a Lovelace, or any other handsome fellow? And had thy picture been drawn, would she have forgiven the painter, had he not expressed so exactly thy lineaments, as that every one should have discerned the likeness? The handsome likeness is all that is wished for. Ugliness made familiar to us, with the partiality natural to fond parents, will be beauty all the world over.— Do thou apply.
But, alas! Jack, all this is but a copy of my countenance, drawn to evade thy malice!—Though it answer thy unfriendly purpose to own it, I cannot forbear to own it, that I am stung to the very soul with this unhappy— accident, must I call it!—Have I nobody, whose throat, either for carelessness or treachery, I ought to cut, in order to pacify my vengeance?
When I reflect upon my last iniquitous intention, the first outrage so nobly resented, as well as, so far as she was able, so nobly resisted, I cannot but conclude, that I was under the power of fascination from these accursed Circes; who, pretending to know their own sex, would have it, that there is in every woman a yielding, or a weak-resisting moment to be met with: and that yet, and yet, and yet, I had not tried enough; but that, if neither love nor terror should enable me to hit that lucky moment, when, by help of their cursed arts, she was once overcome, she would be for ever overcome:—appealing to all my experience, to all my knowledge of the sex, for justification of their assertion.
My appeal to experience, I own, was but too favourable to their argument: For dost thou think I could have held my purpose against such an angel as this, had I ever before met with a woman so much in earnest to defend her honour against the unwearied artifices and perseverance of the man she loved? Why then were there not more examples of a virtue so immovable? Or, why was this singular one to fall to my lot? except indeed to double my guilt; and at the same time to convince all that should hear her story, that there are angels as well as devils in the flesh?
So much for confession; and for the sake of humouring my conscience; with a view likewise to disarm thy malice by acknowledgement: since no one shall say worse of me, than I will of myself on this occasion.
One thing I will nevertheless add, to show the sincerity of my contrition —'Tis this, that if thou canst by any means find her out within these three days, or any time before she has discovered the stories relating to Captain Tomlinson and her uncle to be what they are; and if thou canst prevail upon her to consent, I will actually, in thy presence and his, (he to represent her uncle,) marry her.
I am still in hopes it may be so—she cannot be long concealed—I have already set all engines at work to find her out! and if I do, what indifferent persons, [and no one of her friends, as thou observest, will look upon her,] will care to embroil themselves with a man of my figure, fortune, and resolution? Show her this part, then, or any other part of this letter, as thy own discretion, if thou canst find her: for, after all, methinks, I would be glad that this affair, which is bad enough in itself, should go off without worse personal consequences to any body else: and yet it runs in my mind, I know not why, that, sooner or later it will draw a few drops of blood after it; except she and I can make it up between ourselves. And this may be another reason why she should not carry her resentment too far—not that such an affair would give me much concern neither, were I to choose any man of men, for I heartily hate all her family, but herself; and ever shall.
Let me add, that the lady's plot to escape appears to me no extraordinary one. There was much more luck than probability that it should do: since, to make it succeed, it was necessary that Dorcas and Will., and Sinclair and her nymphs, should be all deceived, or off their guard. It belongs to me, when I see them, to give them my hearty thanks that they were; and that their selfish care to provide for their own future security, should induce them to leave their outward door upon their bolt-latch, and be curs'd to them.
Mabell deserves a pitch suit and a bonfire, rather than the lustring; and as her clothes are returned, le the lady's be put to her others, to be sent to her when it can be told whither—but not till I give the word neither; for we must get the dear fugitive back again if possible.
I suppose that my stupid villain, who knew not such a goddess-shaped lady with a mien so noble, from the awkward and bent-shouldered Mabell, has been at Hampstead to see after her. And yet I hardly think she would go thither. He ought to go through every street where bills for lodgings are up, to inquire after a new-comer. The houses of such as deal in women's matters, and tea, coffee, and such-like, are those to be inquired at for her. If some tidings be not quickly heard of her, I would not have either Dorcas, Will., or Mabell, appear in my sight, whatever their superiors think fit to do.
This, though written in character, is a very long letter, considering it is not a narrative one, or a journal of proceedings, like most of my former; for such will unavoidably and naturally, as I may say, run into length. But I have so used myself to write a great deal of late, that I know not how to help it. Yet I must add to its length, in order to explain myself on a hint I gave at the beginning of it; which was, that I have another disappointment, besides this of Miss Harlowe's escape, to bemoan.
And what dost thou think it is? Why, the old Peer, pox of his tough constitution, (for that malady would have helped him on,) has made shift by fire and brimstone, and the devil knows what, to force the gout to quit the counterscarp of his stomach, just as it had collected all its strength, in order to storm the citadel of his heart. In short, they have, by the mere force of stink-pots, hand-granades, and pop-guns, driven the slow-working pioneer quite out of the trunk into the extremities; and there it lies nibbling and gnawing upon his great toe; when I had a fair end of the distemper and the distempered.
But I, who could write to thee of laudanum, and the wet cloth, formerly, yet let 8000L. a year slip through my fingers, when I had entered upon it more than in imagination, [for I had begun to ask the stewards questions, and to hear them talk of fines and renewals, and such sort of stuff,] deserve to be mortified.
Thou canst not imagine how differently the servants, and even my cousins, look upon me, since yesterday, to what they did before. Neither the one nor the other bow or courtesy half so low—nor am I a quarter so often his honour and your honour, as I was within these few hours, with the former: and as to the latter—it is cousin Bobby again, with the usual familiarity, instead of Sir, and Sir, and If you please, Mr. Lovelace. And now they have the insolence to congratulate me on the recovery of the best of uncles; while I am forced to seem as much delighted as they, when, would it do me good, I could sit down and cry my eyes out.
I had bespoke my mourning in imagination, after the example of a certain foreign minister, who, before the death, or even last illness of Charles II., as honest White Kennet tells us, had half exhausted Blackwell-hall of its sables—an indication, as the historian would insinuate, that the monarch was to be poisoned, and the ambassador in the secret.—And yet, fool that I was, I could not take the hint—What the devil does a man read history for, if he cannot profit by the examples he find in it?
But thus, Jack, is an observation of the old Peer's verified, that one misfortune seldom comes alone: and so concludes
Thy doubly mortified LOVELACE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE WEDNESDAY NIGHT, JUNE 28.
O MY DEAREST MISS HOWE!
Once more have I escaped—But, alas! I, my best self, have not escaped! —Oh! your poor Clarissa Harlowe! you also will hate me, I fear!——
Yet you won't, when you know all!
But no more of my self! my lost self. You that can rise in a morning to be blest, and to bless; and go to rest delighted with your own reflections, and in your unbroken, unstarting slumbers, conversing with saints and angels, the former only more pure than yourself, as they have shaken off the incumbrance of body; you shall be my subject, as you have long, long, been my only pleasure. And let me, at awful distance, revere my beloved Anna Howe, and in her reflect upon what her Clarissa Harlowe once was!
Forgive, O forgive my rambling. My peace is destroyed. My intellects are touched. And what flighty nonsense must you read, if you now will vouchsafe to correspond with me, as formerly!
O my best, my dearest, my only friend! what a tale have I to unfold!— But still upon self, this vile, this hated self!—I will shake it off, if possible; and why should I not, since I think, except one wretch, I hate nothing so much? Self, then, be banished from self one moment (for I doubt it will be for no longer) to inquire after a dearer object, my beloved Anna Howe!—whose mind, all robed in spotless white, charms and irradiates—But what would I say?——
And how, my dearest friend, after this rhapsody, which on re-perusal, I would not let go, but to show you what a distracted mind dictates to my trembling pen! How do you? You have been very ill, it seems. That you are recovered, my dear, let me hear. That your mother is well, pray let me hear, and hear quickly. This comfort surely is owing to me; for if life is no worse than chequer-work, I must now have a little white to come, having seen nothing but black, all unchequered dismal black, for a great, great while.
And what is all this wild incoherence for? It is only to beg to know how you have been, and how you do now, by a line directed for Mrs. Rachel Clark, at Mr. Smith's, a glove-shop, in King-street, Covent-garden; which (although my abode is secret to every body else) will reach the hands of —your unhappy—but that's not enough——
Your miserable CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MRS. HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [SUPERSCRIBED AS DIRECTED IN THE PRECEDING.] FRIDAY, JUNE 30.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE,
You will wonder to receive a letter from me. I am sorry for the great distress you seem to be in. Such a hopeful young lady as you were! But see what comes of disobedience to parents!
For my part; although I pity you, yet I much more pity your poor father and mother. Such education as they gave you! such improvement as you made! and such delight as they took in you!—And all come to this!—
But pray, Miss, don't make my Nancy guilt of your fault; which is that of disobedience. I have charged her over and over not to correspond with one who had made such a giddy step. It is not to her reputation, I am sure. You know that I so charged her; yet you go on corresponding together, to my very great vexation; for she has been very perverse upon it more than once. Evil communication, Miss—you know the rest.
Here, people cannot be unhappy by themselves, but they must invoke their friends and acquaintance whose discretion has kept them clear of their errors, into near as much unhappiness as if they had run into the like of their own heads! Thus my poor daughter is always in tears and grief. And she has postponed her own felicity, truly, because you are unhappy.
If people, who seek their own ruin, could be the only sufferers by their headstrong doings, it were something: But, O Miss, Miss! what have you to answer for, who have made as many grieved hearts as have known you! The whole sex is indeed wounded by you: For, who but Miss Clarissa Harlowe was proposed by every father and mother for a pattern for their daughters?
I write a long letter, where I proposed to say but a few words; and those to forbid your writing to my Nancy: and this as well because of the false step you have made, as because it will grieve her poor heart, and do you no good. If you love her, therefore, write not to her. Your sad letter came into my hands, Nancy being abroad: and I shall not show it her: for there would be no comfort for her, if she saw it, nor for me, whose delight she is—as you once was to your parents.—
But you seem to be sensible enough of your errors now.—So are all giddy girls, when it is too late: and what a crest-fallen figure then do the consequences of their self-willed obstinacy and headstrongness compel them to make!
I may say too much: only as I think it proper to bear that testimony against your rashness which it behoves every careful parent to bear: and none more than
Your compassionating, well-wishing ANNABELLA HOWE.
I send this by a special messenger, who has business only so far as Barnet, because you shall have no need to write again; knowing how you love writing: and knowing, likewise, that misfortune makes people plaintive.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MRS. HOWE. SATURDAY, JULY 1.
Permit me, Madam, to trouble you with a few lines, were it only to thank you for your reproofs; which have nevertheless drawn fresh streams of blood from a bleeding heart.
My story is a dismal story. It has circumstances in it that would engage pity, and possibly a judgment not altogether unfavourable, were those circumstances known. But it is my business, and shall be all my business, to repent of my failings, and not endeavour to extenuate them.
Nor will I seek to distress your worthy mind. If I cannot suffer alone, I will make as few parties as I can in my sufferings. And, indeed, I took up my pen with this resolution when I wrote the letter which has fallen into your hands. It was only to know, and that for a very particular reason, as well as for affection unbounded, if my dear Miss Howe, from whom I had not heard of a long time, were ill; as I had been told she was; and if so, how she now does. But my injuries being recent, and my distresses having been exceeding great, self would crowd into my letter. When distressed, the human mind is apt to turn itself to every one, in whom it imagined or wished an interest, for pity and consolation. —Or, to express myself better, and more concisely, in your own words, misfortune makes people plaintive: And to whom, if not to a friend, can the afflicted complain?
Miss Howe being abroad when my letter came, I flatter myself that she is recovered. But it would be some satisfaction to me to be informed if she has been ill. Another line from your hand would be too great a favour: but if you will be pleased to direct any servant to answer yes, or no, to that question, I will not be farther troublesome.
Nevertheless, I must declare, that my Miss Howe's friendship was all the comfort I had, or expected to have in this world; and a line from her would have been a cordial to my fainting heart. Judge then, dearest Madam, how reluctantly I must obey your prohibition—but yet I will endeavour to obey it; although I should have hoped, as well from the tenor of all that has passed between Miss Howe and me, as from her established virtue, that she could not be tainted by evil communication, had one or two letters been permitted. This, however, I ask not for, since I think I have nothing to do but to beg of God (who, I hope, has not yet withdrawn his grace from me, although he has pleaded to let loose his justice upon my faults) to give me a truly broken spirit, if it be not already broken enough, and then to take to his mercy
The unhappy CLARISSA HARLOWE.
Two favours, good Madam, I have to beg of you.—The first,—that you will not let any of my relations know that you have heard from me. The other,—that no living creature be apprized where I am to be heard of, or directed to. This is a point that concerns me more than I can express.—In short, my preservation from further evils may depend upon it.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO HANNAH BURTON THURSDAY, JUNE 29.
MY GOOD HANNAH,
Strange things have happened to me, since you were dismissed my service (so sorely against my will) and your pert fellow servant set over me. But that must all be forgotten now—
How do you, my Hannah? Are you recovered of your illness? If you are, do you choose to come and be with me? Or can you conveniently?
I am a very unhappy creature, and, being among all strangers, should be very glad to have you with me, of whose fidelity and love I have had so many acceptable instances.
Living or dying, I will endeavour to make it worth your while, my Hannah.
If you are recovered, as I hope, and if you have a good place, it may be they would bear with your absence, and suffer somebody in your room for a month or so: and, by that time, I hope to be provided for, and you may then return to your place.
Don't let any of my friends know of this my desire: whether you can come or not.
I am at Mr. Smith's, a hosier's and glove shop, in King-street, Covent-garden.
You must direct to me by the name of Rachel Clark.
Do, my good Hannah, come if you can to your poor young mistress, who always valued you, and always will whether you come or not.
I send this to your mother at St. Alban's, not knowing where to direct to you. Return me a line, that I may know what to depend upon: and I shall see you have not forgotten the pretty hand you were taught, in happy days, by
Your true friend, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
HANNAH BURTON [IN ANSWER.] MONDAY, JULY 3.
I have not forgot to write, and never will forget any thing you, my dear young lady, was so good as to larn me. I am very sorrowful for your misfortens, my dearest young lady; so sorrowfull, I do not know what to do. Gladd at harte would I be to be able to come to you. But indeed I have not been able to stir out of my rome here at my mother's ever since I was forsed to leave my plase with a roomatise, which has made me quite and clene helpless. I will pray for you night and day, my dearest, my kindest, my goodest young lady, who have been so badly used; and I am very sorry I cannot come to do you love and sarvice; which will ever be in the harte of mee to do, if it was in my power: who am
Your most dutiful servant to command, HANNAH BURTON.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MRS. JUDITH NORTON THURSDAY, JUNE 29.
MY DEAR MRS. NORTON,
I address myself to you, after a very long silence, (which, however, was not owing either to want of love or duty,) principally to desire you to satisfy me in two or three points, which it behoves me to know.
My father, and all the family, I am informed, are to be at my uncle Harlowe's this day, as usual. Pray acquaint me, if they have been there? And if they were cheerful on the anniversary occasion? And also, if you have heard of any journey, or intended journey, of my brother, in company with Captain Singleton and Mr. Solmes?
Strange things have happened to me, my dear, worthy and maternal friend— very strange things!—Mr. Lovelace has proved a very barbarous and ungrateful man to me. But, God be praised, I have escaped from him. Being among absolute strangers (though I think worthy folks) I have written to Hannah Burton to come and be with me. If the good creature fall in your way, pray encourage her to come to me. I always intended to have her, she knows: but hoped to be in happier circumstances.
Say nothing to any of my friends that you have heard from me.
Pray, do you think my father would be prevailed upon, if I were to supplicate him by letter, to take off the heavy curse he laid upon me at my going from Harlowe-place? I can expect no other favour from him. But that being literally fulfilled as to my prospects in this life, I hope it will be thought to have operated far enough; and my heart is so weak!—it is very weak!—But for my father's own sake—what should I say!—Indeed I hardly know how I ought to express myself on this sad subject!—but it will give ease to my mind to be released from it.
I am afraid my Poor, as I used to call the good creatures to whose necessities I was wont to administer by your faithful hands, have missed me of late. But now, alas! I am poor myself. It is not the least aggravation of my fault, nor of my regrets, that with such inclinations as God has given me, I have put it our of my power to do the good I once pleased myself to think I was born to do. It is a sad thing, my dearest Mrs. Nortin, to render useless to ourselves and the world, by our own rashness, the talents which Providence has intrusted to us, for the service of both.
But these reflections are now too late; and perhaps I ought to have kept them to myself. Let me, however, hope that you love me still. Pray let me hope that you do. And then, notwithstanding my misfortunes, which have made me seem ungrateful to the kind and truly maternal pains you have taken with me from my cradle, I shall have the happiness to think that there is one worthy person, who hates not
The unfortunate CLARISSA HARLOWE.
Pray remember me to my foster-brother. I hope he continues dutiful and good to you. Be pleased to direct for Rachel Clark, at Mr. Smith's, in King-street, Covent-garden. But keep the direction an absolute secret.
MRS. NORTON [IN ANSWER.] SATURDAY, JULY 1.
Your letter, my dearest young lady, cuts me to the heart! Why will you not let me know all your distresses?—Yet you have said enough!
My son is very good to me. A few hours ago he was taken with a feverish disorder. But I hope it will go off happily, if his ardour for business will give him the recess from it which his good master is willing to allow him. He presents his duty to you, and shed tears at hearing your sad letter read.
You have been misinformed as to your family's being at your uncle Harlowe's. They did not intend to be there. Nor was the day kept at all. Indeed, they have not stirred out, but to church (and that but three times) ever since the day you went away.—Unhappy day for them, and for all who know you!—To me, I am sure, most particularly so!—My heart now bleeds more and more for you.
I have not heard a syllable of such a journey as you mentioned of your brother, Captain Singleton, and Mr. Solmes. There has been some talk indeed of your brother's setting out for his northern estates: but I have not heard of it lately.
I am afraid no letter will be received from you. It grieves me to tell you so, my dearest young lady. No evil can have happened to you, which they do not expect to hear of; so great is their antipathy to the wicked man, and so bad is his character.
I cannot but think hardly of their unforgiveness: but there is no judging for others by one's self. Nevertheless I will add, that, if you had had as gentle spirits as mine, these evils had never happened either to them or to you. I knew your virtue, and your love of virtue, from your very cradle; and I doubted not but that, with God's grace, would always be your guard. But you could never be driven; nor was there occasion to drive you—so generous, so noble, so discreet.—But how does my love of your amiable qualities increase my affliction; as these recollections must do your's!
You are escaped, my dearest Miss—happily, I hope—that is to say, with your honour—else, how great must be your distress!—Yet, from your letter, I dread the worst.
I am very seldom at Harlowe-place. The house is not the house it used to be, since you went from it. Then they are so relentless! And, as I cannot say harsh things of the beloved child of my heart, as well as bosom, they do not take it amiss that I stay away.
Your Hannah left her place ill some time ago! and, as she is still at her mother's at St. Alban's, I am afraid she continues ill. If so, as you are among strangers, and I cannot encourage you at present to come into these parts, I shall think it my duty to attend you (let it be taken as it will) as soon as my Tommy's indisposition will permit; which I hope will be soon.
I have a little money by me. You say you are poor yourself.—How grievous are those words from one entitled and accustomed to affluence!— Will you be so good to command it, my beloved young lady?—It is most of it your own bounty to me. And I should take a pride to restore it to its original owner.
Your Poor bless you, and pray for you continually. I have so managed your last benevolence, and they have been so healthy, and have had such constant employ, that it has held out; and will hold out till the happier times return, which I continually pray for.
Let me beg of you, my dearest young lady, to take to yourself all those aids which good persons, like you, draw from RELIGION, in support of their calamities. Let your sufferings be what they will, I am sure you have been innocent in your intention. So do not despond. None are made to suffer above what they can, and therefore ought to bear.
We know not the methods of Providence, nor what wise ends it may have to serve in its seemingly-severe dispensations to its poor creatures.
Few persons have greater reason to say this than myself. And since we are apt in calamities to draw more comfort from example than precept, you will permit me to remind you of my own lot: For who has had a greater share of afflictions than myself?
To say nothing of the loss of an excellent mother, at a time of life when motherly care is most wanted; the death of a dear father, who was an ornament to his cloth, (and who had qualified me to be his scribe and amanuensis,) just as he came within view of a preferment which would have made his family easy, threw me friendless into the wide world; threw me upon a very careless, and, which was much worse, a very unkind husband. Poor man!—but he was spared long enough, thank God, in a tedious illness, to repent of his neglected opportunities, and his light principles; which I have always thought of with pleasure, although I was left the more destitute for his chargeable illness, and ready to be brought to bed, when he died, of my Tommy.
But this very circumstance, which I thought the unhappiest that I could have been left in, (so short-sighted is human prudence!) became the happy means of recommending me to your mother, who, in regard to my character, and in compassion to my very destitute circumstances, permitted me, as I made a conscience of not parting with my poor boy, to nurse both you and him, born within a few days of each other. And I have never since wanted any of the humble blessings which God has made me contented with.
Nor have I known what a very great grief was, from the day of my poor husband's death till the day that your parents told me how much they were determined that you should have Mr. Solmes; when I was apprized not only of your aversion to him, but how unworthy he was of you: for then I began to dread the consequences of forcing so generous a spirit; and, till then, I never feared Mr. Lovelace, attracting as was his person, and specious his manners and address. For I was sure you would never have him, if he gave you not good reason to be convinced of his reformation: nor till your friends were as well satisfied in it as yourself. But that unhappy misunderstanding between your brother and Mr. Lovelace, and their joining so violently to force you upon Mr. Solmes, did all that mischief, which has cost you and them so dear, and poor me all my peace! Oh! what has not this ungrateful, this double-guilty man to answer for!
Nevertheless, you know not what God has in store for you yet!—But if you are to be punished all your days here, for example sake, in a case of such importance, for your one false step, be pleased to consider, that this life is but a state of probation; and if you have your purification in it, you will be the more happy. Nor doubt I, that you will have the higher reward hereafter for submitting to the will of Providence here with patience and resignation.
You see, my dearest Miss Clary, that I make no scruple to call the step you took a false one. In you it was less excusable than it would have been in any other young lady; not only because of your superior talents, but because of the opposition between your character and his: so that, if you had been provoked to quit your father's house, it need not to have been with him. Nor needed I, indeed, but as an instance of my impartial love, to have written this to you.*
* Mrs. Norton, having only the family representation and invectives to form her judgment upon, knew not that Clarissa had determined against going off with Mr. Lovelace; nor how solicitous she had been to procure for herself any other protection than his, when she apprehended that, if she staid, she had no way to avoid being married to Mr. Solmes.
After this, it will have an unkind, and perhaps at this time an unseasonable appearance, to express my concern that you have not before favoured me with a line. Yet if you can account to yourself for your silence, I dare say I ought to be satisfied; for I am sure you love me: as I both love and honour you, and ever will, and the more for your misfortunes.
One consolation, methinks, I have, even when I am sorrowing for your calamities; and that is, that I know not any young person so qualified to shine the brighter for the trials she may be exercised with: and yet it is a consolation that ends in adding to my regrets for your afflictions, because you are blessed with a mind so well able to bear prosperity, and to make every body round you the better for it!—But I will forbear till I know more.
Ruminating on every thing your melancholy letter suggests, and apprehending, from the gentleness of your mind, the amiableness of your person, and your youth, the farther misfortunes and inconveniencies to which you may possibly be subjected, I cannot conclude without asking for your leave to attend you, and that in a very earnest manner—and I beg of you not to deny me, on any consideration relating to myself, or even to the indisposition of my other beloved child, if I can be either of use or of comfort to you. Were it, my dearest young lady, but for two or three days, permit me to attend you, although my son's illness should increase, and compel me to come down again at the end of those two or three days.— I repeat my request, likewise, that you will command from me the little sum remaining in the hands of your bounty to your Poor, as well as that dispensed to
Your ever-affectionate and faithful servant, JUDITH NORTON.
MISS CL. HARLOWE, TO LADY BETTY LAWRANCE THURSDAY, JUNE 29.
I hope you'll excuse the freedom of this address, from one who has not the honour to be personally known to you, although you must have heard much of Clarissa Harlowe. It is only to beg the favour of a line from your Ladyship's hand, (by the next post, if convenient,) in answer to the following questions:
1. Whether you wrote a letter, dated, as I have a memorandum, Wedn. June 7, congratulating your nephew Lovelace on his supposed nuptials, as reported to you by Mr. Spurrier, your Ladyship's steward, as from one Captain Tomlinson:—and in it reproaching Mr. Lovelace, as guilty of slight, &c. in not having acquainted your Ladyship and the family with his marriage?
2. Whether your ladyship wrote to Miss Montague to meet you at Reading, in order to attend you to your cousin Leeson's, in Albemarle-street; on your being obliged to be in town on your old chancery affair, I remember are the words? and whether you bespoke your nephew's attendance there on Sunday night the 11th?
3. Whether your Ladyship and Miss Montague did come to town at that time; and whether you went to Hampstead, on Monday, in a hired coach and four, your own being repairing, and took from thence to town with the young creature whom you visited there?
Your Ladyship will probably guess, that the questions are not asked for reasons favourable to your nephew Lovelace. But be the answer what it will, it can do him no hurt, nor me any good; only that I think I owe it to my former hopes, (however deceived in them,) and even to charity, that a person, of whom I was once willing to think better, should not prove so egregiously abandoned, as to be wanting, in every instance, to that veracity which is indispensable in the character of a gentleman.
Be pleased, Madam, to direct to me, (keeping the direction a secret for the present,) to be left at the Belle-Savage, on Ludgate hill, till called for. I am
Your Ladyship's most humble servant, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
LADY BETTY LAWRANCE, TO MISS CL. HARLOWE SATURDAY, JULY 1.
I find that all is not as it should be between you and my nephew Lovelace. It will very much afflict me, and all his friends, if he has been guilty of any designed baseness to a lady of your character and merit.
We have been long in expectation of an opportunity to congratulate you and ourselves upon an event most earnestly wished for by us all; since our hopes of him are built upon the power you have over him: for if ever man adored a woman, he is that man, and you, Madam, are that woman.
Miss Montague, in her last letter to me, in answer to one of mine, inquiring if she knew from him whether he could call you his, or was likely soon to have that honour, has these words: 'I know not what to make of my cousin Lovelace, as to the point your Ladyship is so earnest about. He sometimes says he is actually married to Miss Cl. Harlowe: at other times, that it is her own fault if he be not.—He speaks of her not only with love but with reverence: yet owns, that there is a misunderstanding between them; but confesses that she is wholly faultless. An angel, and not a woman, he says she is: and that no man living can be worthy of her.'—
This is what my niece Montague writes.
God grant, my dearest young lady, that he may not have so heinously offended you that you cannot forgive him! If you are not already married, and refuse to be his, I shall lose all hopes that he ever will marry, or be the man I wish him to be. So will Lord M. So will Lady Sarah Sadleir.
I will now answer your questions: but indeed I hardly know what to write, for fear of widening still more the unhappy difference between you. But yet such a young lady must command every thing from me. This then is my answer:
I wrote not any letter to him on or about the 7th of June.
Neither I nor my steward know any such man as Captain Tomlinson.
I wrote not to my niece to meet me at Reading, nor to accompany me to my cousin Leeson's in town.
My chancery affair, though, like most chancery affairs, it be of long standing, is, nevertheless, now in so good a way, that it cannot give me occasion to go to town.
Nor have I been in town these six months: nor at Hampstead for years.
Neither shall I have any temptation to go to town, except to pay my congratulatory compliments to Mrs. Lovelace. On which occasion I should go with the greatest pleasure; and should hope for the favour of your accompanying me to Glenham-hall, for a month at least.
Be what will the reason of your inquiry, let me entreat you, my dear young lady, for Lord M.'s sake; for my sake; for this giddy man's sake, soul as well as body; and for all our family's sakes; not to suffer this answer to widen differences so far as to make you refuse him, if he already has not the honour of calling you his; as I am apprehensive he has not, by your signing by your family-name.
And here let me offer to you my mediation to compose the difference between you, be it what it will. Your cause, my dear young lady, cannot be put into the hands of any body living more devoted to your service, than into those of
Your sincere admirer, and humble servant, ELIZ. LAWRANCE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MRS. HODGES ENFIELD, JUNE 22.
I am under a kind of necessity to write to you, having no one among my relations to whom I dare write, or hope a line from if I did. It is but to answer a question. It is this:
Whether you know any such man as Captain Tomlinson? and, if you do, whether he be very intimate with my uncle Harlowe?
I will describe his person lest, possibly, he should go by another name among you; although I know not why he should.
'He is a thin, tallish man, a little pock-fretten, of a sallowish complexion. Fifty years of age, or more. Of good aspect when he looks up. He seems to be a serious man, and one who knows the world. He stoops a little in the shoulders. Is of Berkshire. His wife of Oxfordshire; and has several children. He removed lately into your parts form Northamptonshire.'
I must desire you, Mrs. Hodges, that you will not let my uncle, nor any of my relations, know that I write to you.
You used to say, that you would be glad to have it in your power to serve me. That, indeed, was in my prosperity. But, I dare say, you will not refuse me in a particular that will oblige me, without hurting yourself.
I understand that my father, mother, and sister, and I presume, my brother, and my uncle Antony, are to be at my uncle Harlowe's this day. God preserve them all, and may they rejoice in many happy birth-days! You will write six words to me concerning their healths.
Direct, for a particular reason, to Mrs. Dorothy Salcombe, to be left till called for, at the Four Swans Inn, Bishopsgate-street.
You know my hand-writing well enough, were not the contents of the letter sufficient to excuse my name, or any other subscription, than that of
MRS. HODGES [IN ANSWER.] SAT. JULY 2.
I return you an anser, as you wish me to doe. Master is acquented with no sitch man. I am shure no sitch ever came to our house. And master sturs very little out. He has no harte to stur out. For why? Your obstinacy makes um not care to see one another. Master's birth-day never was kept soe before: for not a sole heere: and nothing but sikeing and sorrowin from master to think how it yused to bee.
I axed master, if soe bee he knowed sitch a man as one Captain Tomlinson? but said not whirfor I axed. He sed, No, not he.
Shure this is no trix nor forgery bruing against master by one Tomlinson —Won knows not what company you may have been forsed to keep, sen you went away, you knoe, Maddam; but Lundon is a pestilent plase; and that 'Squire Luvless is a devil (for all he is sitch a like gentleman to look to) as I hev herd every boddy say; and think as how you have found by thiss.
I truste, Maddam, you wulde not let master cum to harme, if you knoed it, by any body who may pretend to be acquented with him: but for fere, I querid with myself if I shulde not tell him. But I was willin to show you, that I wulde plessure you in advarsity, if advarsity be your lott, as well as prosperity; for I am none of those that woulde doe otherwiss. Soe no more from
Your humble sarvent, to wish you well, SARAH HODGES.
MISS CL. HARLOWE, TO LADY BETTY LAWRANCE. MONDAY, JULY 3.
I cannot excuse myself from giving your Ladyship this one trouble more; to thank you, as I most heartily do, for your kind letter.
I must own to you, Madam, that the honour of being related to ladies as eminent for their virtue as for their descent, was at first no small inducement with me to lend an ear to Mr. Lovelace's address. And the rather, as I was determined, had it come to effect, to do every thing in my power to deserve your favourable opinion.
I had another motive, which I knew would of itself give me merit with your whole family; a presumptuous one, (a punishably presumptuous one, as it has proved,) in the hope that I might be an humble mean in the hand of Providence to reclaim a man, who had, as I thought, good sense enough to acknowledge the intended obligation, whether the generous hope were to succeed or not.
But I have been most egregiously mistaken in Mr. Lovelace; the only man, I persuade myself, pretending to be a gentleman, in whom I could have been so much mistaken: for while I was endeavouring to save a drowning wretch, I have been, not accidentally, but premeditatedly, and of set purpose, drawn in after him. And he has had the glory to add to the list of those he has ruined, a name, that, I will be bold to say, would not have disparaged his own. And this, Madam, by means that would shock humanity to be made acquainted with.
My whole end is served by your Ladyship's answer to the questions I took the liberty to put to you in writing. Nor have I a wish to make the unhappy man more odious to you than is necessary to excuse myself for absolutely declining your offered mediation.
When your Ladyship shall be informed of the following particulars:
That after he had compulsorily, as I may say, tricked me into the act of going off with him, he could carry me to one of the vilest houses, as it proved, in London:
That he could be guilty of a wicked attempt, in resentment of which, I found means to escape from him to Hampstead:
That, after he had found me out there (I know not how) he could procure two women, dressed out richly, to personate your Ladyship and Miss Montague; who, under pretence of engaging me to make a visit in town to your cousin Leeson, (promising to return with me that evening to Hampstead,) betrayed me back again to the vile house: where, again made a prisoner, I was first robbed of my senses; and then of my honour. Why should I seek to conceal that disgrace from others which I cannot hide from myself?
When your Ladyship shall know, that, in the shocking progress to this ruin, wilful falsehoods, repeated forgeries, (particularly of one letter from your Ladyship, another from Miss Montague, and a third from Lord M.) and numberless perjuries, were not the least of his crimes: you will judge, that I can have no principles that will make me worthy of an alliance with ladies of your's and your noble sister's character, if I could not from my soul declare, that such an alliance can never now take place.
I will not offer to clear myself entirely of blame: but, as to him, I have no fault to accuse myself of: my crime was, the corresponding with him at first, when prohibited so to do by those who had a right to my obedience; made still more inexcusable, by giving him a clandestine meeting, which put me into the power of his arts. And for this I am content to be punished: thankful, that at last I have escaped from him; and have it in my power to reject so wicked a man for my husband: and glad, if I may be a warning, since I cannot be an example: which once (very vain, and very conceited, as I was) I proposed to myself to be.
All the ill I wish him is, that he may reform; and that I may be the last victim to his baseness. Perhaps this desirable wish may be obtained, when he shall see how his wickedness, his unmerited wickedness! to a poor creature, made friendless by his cruel arts, will end.
I conclude with my humble thanks to your Ladyship for your favourable opinion of me; and with the assurance that I will be, while life is lent me,
Your Ladyship's grateful and obliged servant, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MRS. NORTON SUNDAY EVENING, JULY 2.
How kindly, my beloved Mrs. Norton, do you soothe the anguish of a bleeding heart! Surely you are mine own mother; and, by some unaccountable mistake, I must have been laid to a family that, having newly found out, or at least suspected, the imposture, cast me from their hearts, with the indignation that such a discovery will warrant.
Oh! that I had been indeed your own child, born to partake of your humble fortunes, an heiress only to that content in which you are so happy! then should I have had a truly gentle spirit to have guided my ductile heart, which force and ungenerous usage sit so ill upon: and nothing of what has happened would have been.
But let me take heed that I enlarge not, by impatience, the breach already made in my duty by my rashness! since, had I not erred, my mother, at least, could never have been thought hard-hearted and unforgiving. Am I not then answerable, not only for my own faults, but for the consequences of them; which tend to depreciate and bring disgrace upon a maternal character never before called in question?
It is kind, however, in you to endeavour to extenuate the faults of one so greatly sensible of it: and could it be wiped off entirely, it would render me more worthy of the pains you have taken in my education: for it must add to your grief, as it does to my confusion, that, after such promising beginnings, I should have so behaved as to be a disgrace instead of a credit to you and my other friends.
But that I may not make you think me more guilty than I am, give me leave briefly to assure you, that, when my story is known, I shall be to more compassion than blame, even on the score of going away with Mr. Lovelace.
As to all that happened afterwards, let me only say, that although I must call myself a lost creature as to this world, yet have I this consolation left me, that I have not suffered either for want of circumspection, or through careful credulity or weakness. Not one moment was I off my guard, or unmindful of your early precepts. But (having been enabled to baffle many base contrivances) I was at last ruined by arts the most inhuman. But had I not been rejected by every friend, this low-hearted man had not dared, nor would have had opportunity, to treat me as he has treated me.
More I cannot, at this time, nor need I say: and this I desire you to keep to yourself, lest resentments should be taken up when I am gone, that may spread the evil which I hope will end with me.