With what comfort must those parents reflect upon these things who have happily disposed of their daughters in marriage to a virtuous man! And how happy the young women who find themselves safe in a worthy protection!—If such a person as Miss Clarissa Harlowe could not escape, who can be secure?—Since, though every rake is not a LOVELACE, neither is every woman a CLARISSA: and his attempts were but proportioned to your resistance and vigilance.
My mother has commanded me to let you know her thoughts upon the whole of your sad story. I will do it in another letter; and send it to you with this, by a special messenger.
But, for the future, if you approve of it, I will send my letters by the usual hand, (Collins's,) to be left at the Saracen's Head, on Snow-hill: whither you may send your's, (as we both used to do, to Wilson's,) except such as we shall think fit to transmit by the post: which I am afraid, after my next, must be directed to Mr. Hickman, as before: since my mother is fixing a condition to our correspondence, which, I doubt, you will not comply with, though I wish you would. This condition I shall acquaint you with by-and-by.
Mean time, begging excuse for all the harsh things in my last, of which your sweet meekness and superior greatness of soul have now made me most heartily ashamed, I beseech you, my dearest creature, to believe me to be
Your truly sympathising, and unalterable friend, ANNA HOWE.
MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE MONDAY, JULY 10.
I now, my dearest friend, resume my pen, to obey my mother, in giving you her opinion upon your unhappy story.
She still harps upon the old string, and will have it that all your calamities are owing to your first fatal step; for she believes, (what I cannot,) that your relations had intended after one general trial more, to comply with your aversion, if they had found it to be as riveted a one, as, let me say, it was a folly to suppose it would not be found to be, after so many ridiculously-repeated experiments.
As to your latter sufferings from that vilest of miscreants, she is unalterably of opinion that if all be as you have related (which she doubts not) with regard to the potions, and to the violences you have sustained, you ought by all means to set on foot a prosecution against him, and against his devilish accomplices.
She asks, What murderers, what ravishers, would be brought to justice, if modesty were to be a general plea, and allowable, against appearing in a court to prosecute?
She says, that the good of society requires, that such a beast of prey should be hunted out of it: and, if you do not prosecute him, she thinks you will be answerable for all the mischiefs he may do in the course of his future villanous life.
Will it be thought, Nancy, said she, that Miss Clarissa Harlowe can be in earnest, when she says, she is not solicitous to have her disgraces concealed from the world, if she be afraid or ashamed to appear in court, to do justice to herself and her sex against him? Will it not be rather surmised, that she may be apprehensive that some weakness, or lurking love, will appear upon the trial of the strange cause? If, inferred she, such complicated villany as this (where perjury, potions, forgery, subornation, are all combined to effect the ruin of an innocent creature, and to dishonour a family of eminence, and where the very crimes, as may be supposed, are proofs of her innocence) is to go off with impunity, what case will deserve to be brought into judgment? or what malefactor ought to be hanged?
Then she thinks, and so do I, that the vile creatures, his accomplices, ought, by all means, to be brought to condign punishment, as they must and will be upon bringing him to trial: and this may be a mean to blow up and root out a whole nest of vipers, and save many innocent creatures.
She added, that if Miss Clarissa Harlowe could be so indifferent about having this public justice done upon such a wretch for her own sake, she ought to overcome her scruples out of regard to her family, her acquaintance, and her sex, which are all highly injured and scandalized by his villany to her.
For her own part, she declares, that were she your mother, she would forgive you upon no other terms: and, upon your compliance with these, she herself will undertake to reconcile all your family to you.
These, my dear, are my mother's sentiments upon your sad story.
I cannot say but there are reason and justice in them: and it is my opinion, that it would be very right for the law to oblige an injured woman to prosecute, and to make seduction on the man's part capital, where his studied baseness, and no fault in her will, appeared.
To this purpose the custom in the Isle of Man is a very good one——
'If a single woman there prosecutes a single man for a rape, the ecclesiastical judges impannel a jury; and, if this jury find him guilty, he is returned guilty to the temporal courts: where if he be convicted, the deemster, or judge, delivers to the woman a rope, a sword, and a ring; and she has it in her choice to have him hanged, beheaded, or to marry him.'
One of the two former, I think, should always be her option.
I long for the particulars of your story. You must have too much time upon your hands for a mind so active as your's, if tolerable health and spirits be afforded you.
The villany of the worst of men, and the virtue of the most excellent of women, I expect will be exemplified in it, were it to be written in the same connected and particular manner in which you used to write to me.
Try for it, my dearest friend; and since you cannot give the example without the warning, give both, for the sakes of all those who shall hear of your unhappy fate; beginning from your's of June 5, your prospects then not disagreeable. I pity you for the task; though I cannot willingly exempt you from it.
My mother will have me add, that she must insist upon your prosecuting the villain. She repeats, that she makes that a condition on which she permits our future correspondence. Let me therefore know your thoughts upon it. I asked her, if she would be willing that I should appear to support you in court, if you complied?—By all means, she said, if that would induce you to begin with him, and with the horrid women. I think I could probably attend you, I am sure I could, were there but a probability of bringing the monster to his deserved end.
Once more your thoughts of it, supposing it were to meet with the approbation of your relations.
But whatever be your determination on this head, it shall be my constant prayer, that God will give you patience to bear your heavy afflictions, as a person ought to do who has not brought them upon herself by a faulty will: that He will speak peace and comfort to your wounded mind; and give you many happy years. I am, and ever will be,
Your affectionate and faithful ANNA HOWE.
[The two preceding letters were sent by a special messenger: in the cover were written the following lines:]
MONDAY, JULY 10.
I cannot, my dearest friend, suffer the enclosed to go unaccompanied by a few lines, to signify to you that they are both less tender in some places than I would have written, had they not been to pass my mother's inspection. The principal reason, however, of my writing thus separately is, to beg of you to permit me to send you money and necessaries, which you must needs want; and that you will let me know, if either I, or any body I can influence, can be of service to you. I am excessively apprehensive that you are not enough out of the villain's reach where you are. Yet London, I am persuaded, is the place, of all others, to be private in.
I could tear my hair for vexation, that I have it not in my power to afford you personal protection!—I am
Your ever devoted ANNA HOWE.
Once more forgive me, my dearest creature, for my barbarous taunting in mine of the 5th! Yet I can hardly forgive myself. I to be so cruel, yet to know you so well!—Whence, whence, had I this vile impatiency of spirit!—
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE TUESDAY, JULY 11.
Forgive you, my dear!—Most cordially do I forgive you—Will you forgive me for some sharp things I wrote in return to your's of the 5th? You could not have loved me as you do, nor had the concern you have always shown for my honour, if you had not been utterly displeased with me, on the appearance which my conduct wore to you when you wrote that letter. I most heartily thank you, my best and only love, for the opportunity you gave me of clearing it up; and for being generously ready to acquit me of intentional blame, the moment you had read my melancholy narrative.
As you are so earnest to have all the particulars of my sad story before you, I will, if life and spirits be lent me, give you an ample account of all that has befallen me, from the time you mention. But this, it is very probable, you will not see, till after the close of my last scene: and as I shall write with a view to that, I hope no other voucher will be wanted for the veracity of the writer, be who will the reader.
I am far from thinking myself out of the reach of this man's further violence. But what can I do? Whither can I fly?—Perhaps my bad state of health (which must grow worse, as recollection of the past evils, and reflections upon them, grow heavier and heavier upon me) may be my protection. Once, indeed, I thought of going abroad; and, had I the prospect of many years before me, I would go.—But, my dear, the blow is given.—Nor have you reason now, circumstanced as I am, to be concerned that it is. What a heart must I have, if it be not broken—and indeed, my dear friend, I do so earnestly wish for the last closing scene, and with so much comfort find myself in a declining way, that I even sometimes ungratefully regret that naturally-healthy constitution, which used to double upon me all my enjoyments.
As to the earnestly-recommended prosecution, I may possibly touch upon it more largely hereafter, if ever I shall have better spirits; for they are at present extremely sunk and low. But just now, I will only say, that I would sooner suffer every evil (the repetition of the capital one excepted) than appear publicly in a court to do myself justice.* And I am heartily grieved that your mother prescribes such a measure as the condition of our future correspondence: for the continuance of your friendship, my dear, and the desire I had to correspond with you to my life's end, were all my remaining hopes and consolation. Nevertheless, as that friendship is in the power of the heart, not of the hand only, I hope I shall not forfeit that.
* Dr. Lewen, in Letter XXIV. of Vol. VIII. presses her to this public prosecution, by arguments worthy of his character; which she answers in a manner worthy of her's. See Letter XXV. of that volume.
O my dear! what would I give to obtain a revocation of my father's malediction! a reconciliation is not to be hoped for. You, who never loved my father, may think my solicitude on this head a weakness: but the motive for it, sunk as my spirits at times are, is not always weak.
I approve of the method you prescribe for the conveyance of our letters; and have already caused the porter of the inn to be engaged to bring to me your's, the moment that Collins arrives with them. And the servant of the house where I am will be permitted to carry mine to Collins for you.
I have written a letter to Miss Rawlins, of Hampstead; the answer to which, just now received, has helped me to the knowledge of the vile contrivance, by which the wicked man got your letter of June the 10th. I will give you the contents of both.
In mine to her, I briefly acquainted her 'with what had befallen me, through the vileness of the women who had passed upon me as the aunt and cousin of the wickedest of men; and own, that I never was married to him. I desire her to make particular inquiry, and to let me know, who it was at Mrs. Moore's that, on Sunday afternoon, June 11, while I was at church, received a letter from Miss Howe, pretending to be me, and lying on a couch:—which letter, had it come to my hands, would have saved me from ruin. I excuse myself (on the score of the delirium, which the horrid usage I had received threw me into, and from a confinement as barbarous as illegal) that I had not before applied to Mrs. Moore for an account of what I was indebted to her: which account I now desired. And, for fear of being traced by Mr. Lovelace, I directed her to superscribe her answer, To Mrs. Mary Atkins; to be left till called for, at the Belle Savage Inn, on Ludgate-hill.'
In her answer, she tells me, 'that the vile wretch prevailed upon Mrs. Bevis to personate me, [a sudden motion of his, it seems, on the appearance of your messenger,] and persuaded her to lie along a couch: a handkerchief over her neck and face; pretending to be ill; the credulous woman drawn in by false notions of your ill offices to keep up a variance between a man and his wife—and so taking the letter from your messenger as me.
'Miss Rawlins takes pains to excuse Mrs. Bevis's intention. She expresses their astonishment, and concern at what I communicate: but is glad, however, and so they are all, that they know in time the vileness of the base man; the two widows and herself having, at his earnest invitation, designed me a visit at Mrs. Sinclair's: supposing all to be happy between him and me; as he assured them was the case. Mr. Lovelace, she informs me, had handsomely satisfied Mrs. Moore. And Miss Rawlins concludes with wishing to be favoured with the particulars of so extraordinary a story, as these particulars may be of use, to let her see what wicked creatures (women as well as men) there are in the world.'
I thank you, my dear, for the draughts of your two letters which were intercepted by this horrid man. I see the great advantage they were of to him, in the prosecution of his villanous designs against the poor wretch whom he had so long made the sport of his abhorred inventions.
Let me repeat, that I am quite sick of life; and of an earth, in which innocent and benevolent spirits are sure to be considered as aliens, and to be made sufferers by the genuine sons and daughters of that earth.
How unhappy, that those letters only which could have acquainted me with his horrid views, and armed me against them, and against the vileness of the base women, should fall into his hands!—Unhappier still, in that my very escape to Hampstead gave him the opportunity of receiving them.
Nevertheless, I cannot but still wonder, how it was possible for that Tomlinson to know what passed between Mr. Hickman and my uncle Harlowe:* a circumstance which gave the vile impostor most of his credit with me.
* See the note in Letter LXX. of this volume.
How the wicked wretch himself could find me out at Hampstead, must also remain wholly a mystery to me. He may glory in his contrivances—he, who has more wickedness than wit, may glory in his contrivances!—But, after all, I shall, I humbly presume to hope, be happy, when he, poor wretch, will be—alas!—who can say what!——
Adieu, my dearest friend!—May you be happy!—And then your Clarissa cannot be wholly miserable!
END OF VOL. 6.