Only let me repeat one thing, which perhaps I mentioned too slightly before. That the lady was determined to remove to new lodgings, where neither you nor I should be able to find her, had I not solemnly assured her, that she might depend upon being free from your visits.
These assurances I thought I might give her, not only because of your promise, but because it is necessary for you to know where she is, in order to address yourself to her by your friends.
Enable me therefore to make good to her this my solemn engagement; or adieu to all friendship, at least to all correspondence, with thee for ever.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. TUESDAY, JULY 18. AFTERNOON.
I renewed my inquiries after the lady's health, in the morning, by my servant: and, as soon as I had dined, I went myself.
I had but a poor account of it: yet sent up my compliments. She returned me thanks for all my good offices; and her excuses, that they could not be personal just then, being very low and faint: but if I gave myself the trouble of coming about six this evening, she should be able, she hoped, to drink a dish of tea with me, and would then thank me herself.
I am very proud of this condescension; and think it looks not amiss for you, as I am your avowed friend. Methinks I want fully to remove from her mind all doubts of you in this last villanous action: and who knows then what your noble relations may be able to do for you with her, if you hold your mind? For your servant acquainted me with their having actually engaged Miss Howe in their and your favour, before this cursed affair happened. And I desire the particulars of all from yourself, that I may the better know how to serve you.
She has two handsome apartments, a bed-chamber and dining-room, with light closets in each. She has already a nurse, (the people of the house having but one maid,) a woman whose care, diligence, and honesty, Mrs. Smith highly commends. She has likewise the benefit of a widow gentlewoman, Mrs. Lovick her name, who lodges over her apartment, and of whom she seems very fond, having found something in her, she thinks, resembling the qualities of her worthy Mrs. Norton.
About seven o'clock this morning, it seems, the lady was so ill, that she yielded to their desires to have an apothecary sent for—not the fellow, thou mayest believe, she had had before at Rowland's; but one Mr. Goddard, a man of skill and eminence; and of conscience too; demonstrated as well by general character, as by his prescriptions to this lady: for pronouncing her case to be grief, he ordered, for the present, only innocent juleps, by way of cordial; and, as soon as her stomach should be able to bear it, light kitchen-diet; telling Mrs. Lovick, that that, with air, moderate exercise, and cheerful company, would do her more good than all the medicines in his shop.
This has given me, as it seems it has the lady, (who also praises his modest behaviour, paternal looks, and genteel address,) a very good opinion of the man; and I design to make myself acquainted with him, and, if he advises to call in a doctor, to wish him, for the fair patient's sake, more than the physician's, (who wants not practice,) my worthy friend Dr. H.—whose character is above all exception, as his humanity, I am sure, will distinguish him to the lady.
Mrs. Lovick gratified me with an account of a letter she had written from the lady's mouth to Miss Howe; she being unable to write herself with steadiness.
It was to this effect; in answer, it seems, to her two letters, whatever were the contents of them:
'That she had been involved in a dreadful calamity, which she was sure, when known, would exempt her from the effects of her friendly displeasure, for not answering her first; having been put under an arrest.—Could she have believed it?—That she was released but the day before: and was now so weak and so low, that she was obliged to account thus for her silence to her [Miss Howe's] two letters of the 13th and 16th: that she would, as soon as able, answer them—begged of her, mean time, not to be uneasy for her; since (only that this was a calamity which came upon her when she was far from being well, a load laid upon the shoulders of a poor wretch, ready before to sink under too heavy a burden) it was nothing to the evil she had before suffered: and one felicity seemed likely to issue from it; which was, that she would be at rest, in an honest house, with considerate and kind-hearted people; having assurance given her, that she should not be molested by the wretch, whom it would be death for her to see: so that now she, [Miss Howe,] needed not to send to her by private and expensive conveyances: nor need Collins to take precautions for fear of being dogged to her lodgings; nor need she write by a fictitious name to her, but by her own.'
You can see I am in a way to oblige you: you see how much she depends upon my engaging for your forbearing to intrude yourself into her company: let not your flaming impatience destroy all; and make me look like a villain to a lady who has reason to suspect every man she sees to be so.—Upon this condition, you may expect all the services that can flow from
Your sincere well-wisher, J. BELFORD.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. TUESDAY NIGHT, JULY 18.
I am just come from the lady. I was admitted into the dining-room, where she was sitting in an elbow-chair, in a very weak and low way. She made an effort to stand up when I entered; but was forced to keep her seat. You'll excuse me, Mr. Belford: I ought to rise to thank you for all your kindness to me. I was to blame to be so loth to leave that sad place; for I am in heaven here, to what I was there; and good people about me too!—I have not had good people about me for a long, long time before; so that [with a half-smile] I had begun to wonder whither they were all gone.
Her nurse and Mrs. Smith, who were present, took occasion to retire: and, when we were alone, You seem to be a person of humanity, Sir, said she: you hinted, as I was leaving my prison, that you were not a stranger to my sad story. If you know it truly, you must know that I have been most barbarously treated; and have not deserved it at the man's hands by whom I have suffered.
I told her I knew enough to be convinced that she had the merit of a saint, and the purity of an angel: and was proceeding, when she said, No flighty compliments! no undue attributes, Sir!
I offered to plead for my sincerity; and mentioned the word politeness; and would have distinguished between that and flattery. Nothing can be polite, said she, that is not just: whatever I may have had; I have now no vanity to gratify.
I disclaimed all intentions of compliment: all I had said, and what I should say, was, and should be, the effect of sincere veneration. My unhappy friend's account of her had entitled her to that.
I then mentioned your grief, your penitence, your resolutions of making her all the amends that were possible now to be made her: and in the most earnest manner, I asserted your innocence as to the last villanous outrage.
Her answer was to this effect—It is painful to me to think of him. The amends you talk of cannot be made. This last violence you speak of, is nothing to what preceded it. That cannot be atoned for: nor palliated: this may: and I shall not be sorry to be convinced that he cannot be guilty of so very low a wickedness.——Yet, after his vile forgeries of hands—after his baseness in imposing upon me the most infamous persons as ladies of honour of his own family—what are the iniquities he is not capable of?
I would then have given her an account of the trial you stood with your friends: your own previous resolutions of marriage, had she honoured you with the requested four words: all your family's earnestness to have the honour of her alliance: and the application of your two cousins to Miss Howe, by general consent, for that young lady's interest with her: but, having just touched upon these topics, she cut me short, saying, that was a cause before another tribunal: Miss Howe's letters to her were upon the subject; and as she would write her thoughts to her as soon as she was able.
I then attempted more particularly to clear you of having any hand in the vile Sinclair's officious arrest; a point she had the generosity to wish you cleared of: and, having mentioned the outrageous letter you had written to me on this occasion, she asked, If I had that letter about me?
I owned I had.
She wished to see it.
This puzzled me horribly: for you must needs think that most of the free things, which, among us rakes, pass for wit and spirit, must be shocking stuff to the ears or eyes of persons of delicacy of that sex: and then such an air of levity runs through thy most serious letters; such a false bravery, endeavouring to carry off ludicrously the subjects that most affect thee; that those letters are generally the least fit to be seen, which ought to be most to thy credit.
Something like this I observed to her; and would fain have excused myself from showing it: but she was so earnest, that I undertook to read some parts of it, resolving to omit the most exceptionable.
I know thou'lt curse me for that; but I thought it better to oblige her than to be suspected myself; and so not have it in my power to serve thee with her, when so good a foundation was laid for it; and when she knows as bad of thee as I can tell her.
Thou rememberest the contents, I suppose, of thy furious letter.* Her remarks upon the different parts of it, which I read to her, were to the following effect:
* See Letter XII. of this volume.
Upon the last two lines, All undone! undone, by Jupiter! Zounds, Jack, what shall I do now? a curse upon all my plots and contrivances! thus she expressed herself:
'O how light, how unaffected with the sense of its own crimes, is the heart that could dictate to the pen this libertine froth?'
The paragraph which mentions the vile arrest affected her a good deal.
In the next I omitted thy curse upon thy relations, whom thou wert gallanting: and read on the seven subsequent paragraphs down to thy execrable wish; which was too shocking to read to her. What I read produced the following reflections from her:
'The plots and contrivances which he curses, and the exultings of the wicked wretches on finding me out, show me that all his guilt was premeditated: nor doubt I that his dreadful perjuries, and inhuman arts, as he went along, were to pass for fine stratagems; for witty sport; and to demonstrate a superiority of inventive talents!—O my cruel, cruel brother! had it not been for thee, I had not been thrown upon so pernicious and so despicable a plotter!—But proceed, Sir; pray proceed.'
At that part, Canst thou, O fatal prognosticator! tell me where my punishment will end?—she sighed. And when I came to that sentence, praying for my reformation, perhaps—Is that there? said she, sighing again. Wretched man!—and shed a tear for thee.—By my faith, Lovelace, I believe she hates thee not! she has at least a concern, a generous concern for thy future happiness—What a noble creature hast thou injured!
She made a very severe reflection upon me, on reading the words—On your knees, for me, beg her pardon—'You had all your lessons, Sir, said she, when you came to redeem me—You was so condescending as to kneel: I thought it was the effect of your own humanity, and good-natured earnestness to serve me—excuse me, Sir, I knew not that it was in consequence of a prescribed lesson.'
This concerned me not a little; I could not bear to be thought such a wretched puppet, such a Joseph Leman, such a Tomlinson. I endeavoured, therefore, with some warmth, to clear myself of this reflection; and she again asked my excuse: 'I was avowedly, she said, the friend of a man, whose friendship, she had reason to be sorry to say, was no credit to any body.'—And desired me to proceed.
I did; but fared not much better afterwards: for on that passage where you say, I had always been her friend and advocate, this was her unanswerable remark: 'I find, Sir, by this expression, that he had always designs against me; and that you all along knew that he had. Would to Heaven, you had had the goodness to have contrived some way, that might not have endangered your own safety, to give me notice of his baseness, since you approved not of it! But you gentlemen, I suppose, had rather see an innocent fellow-creature ruined, than be thought capable of an action, which, however generous, might be likely to loosen the bands of a wicked friendship!'
After this severe, but just reflection, I would have avoided reading the following, although I had unawares begun the sentence, (but she held me to it:) What would I now give, had I permitted you to have been a successful advocate! And this was her remark upon it—'So, Sir, you see, if you had been the happy means of preventing the evils designed me, you would have had your friend's thanks for it when he came to his consideration. This satisfaction, I am persuaded every one, in the long run, will enjoy, who has the virtue to withstand, or prevent, a wicked purpose. I was obliged, I see, to your kind wishes—but it was a point of honour with you to keep his secret; the more indispensable with you, perhaps, the viler the secret. Yet permit me to wish, Mr. Belford, that you were capable of relishing the pleasures that arise to a benevolent mind from VIRTUOUS friendship!—none other is worthy of the sacred name. You seem an humane man: I hope, for your own sake, you will one day experience the difference: and, when you do, think of Miss Howe and Clarissa Harlowe, (I find you know much of my sad story,) who were the happiest creatures on earth in each other's friendship till this friend of your's'—And there she stopt, and turned from me.
Where thou callest thyself a villanous plotter; 'To take a crime to himself, said she, without shame, O what a hardened wretch is this man!'
On that passage, where thou sayest, Let me know how she has been treated: if roughly, woe be to the guilty! this was her remark, with an air of indignation: 'What a man is your friend, Sir!—Is such a one as he to set himself up to punish the guilty?—All the rough usage I could receive from them, was infinitely less'—And there she stopt a moment or two: then proceeding—'And who shall punish him? what an assuming wretch!— Nobody but himself is entitled to injure the innocent;—he is, I suppose, on the earth, to act the part which the malignant fiend is supposed to act below—dealing out punishments, at his pleasure, to every inferior instrument of mischief!'
What, thought I, have I been doing! I shall have this savage fellow think I have been playing him booty, in reading part of his letter to this sagacious lady!—Yet, if thou art angry, it can only, in reason, be at thyself; for who would think I might not communicate to her some of thy sincerity in exculpating thyself from a criminal charge, which thou wrotest to thy friend, to convince him of thy innocence? But a bad heart, and a bad cause are confounded things: and so let us put it to its proper account.
I passed over thy charge to me, to curse them by the hour; and thy names of dragon and serpents, though so applicable; since, had I read them, thou must have been supposed to know from the first what creatures they were; vile fellow as thou wert, for bringing so much purity among them! And I closed with thy own concluding paragraph, A line! a line! a kingdom for a line! &c. However, telling her (since she saw that I omitted some sentences) that there were farther vehemences in it; but as they were better fitted to show to me the sincerity of the writer than for so delicate an ear as her's to hear, I chose to pass them over.
You have read enough, said she—he is a wicked, wicked man!—I see he intended to have me in his power at any rate; and I have no doubt of what his purposes were, by what his actions have been. You know his vile Tomlinson, I suppose—You know—But what signifies talking?—Never was there such a premeditated false heart in man, [nothing can be truer, thought I!] What has he not vowed! what has he not invented! and all for what?—Only to ruin a poor young creature, whom he ought to have protected; and whom he had first deceived of all other protection!
She arose and turned from me, her handkerchief at her eyes: and, after a pause, came towards me again—'I hope, said she, I talk to a man who has a better heart: and I thank you, Sir, for all your kind, though ineffectual pleas in my favour formerly, whether the motives for them were compassion, or principle, or both. That they were ineffectual, might very probably be owing to your want of earnestness; and that, as you might think, to my want of merit. I might not, in your eye, deserve to be saved!—I might appear to you a giddy creature, who had run away from her true and natural friends; and who therefore ought to take the consequence of the lot she had drawn.'
I was afraid, for thy sake, to let her know how very earnest I had been: but assured her that I had been her zealous friend; and that my motives were founded upon a merit, that, I believed, was never equaled: that, however indefensible Mr. Lovelace was, he had always done justice to her virtue: that to a full conviction of her untainted honour it was owing that he so earnestly desired to call so inestimable a jewel his—and was proceeding, when she again cut me short—
Enough, and too much, of this subject, Sir!—If he will never more let me behold his face, that is all I have now to ask of him.—Indeed, indeed, clasping her hands, I never will, if I can, by any means not criminally desperate, avoid it.
What could I say for thee?—There was no room, however, at that time, to touch this string again, for fear of bringing upon myself a prohibition, not only of the subject, but of ever attending her again.
I gave some distant intimations of money-matters. I should have told thee, when I read to her that passage, where thou biddest me force what sums upon her I can get her to take—she repeated, No, no, no, no! several times with great quickness; and I durst no more than just intimate it again—and that so darkly, as left her room to seem not to understand me.
Indeed I know not the person, man or woman, I should be so much afraid of disobliging, or incurring a censure from, as from her. She has so much true dignity in her manner, without pride or arrogance, (which, in those who have either, one is tempted to mortify,) such a piercing eye, yet softened so sweetly with rays of benignity, that she commands all one's reverence.
Methinks I have a kind of holy love for this angel of a woman; and it is matter of astonishment to me, that thou couldst converse with her a quarter of an hour together, and hold thy devilish purposes.
Guarded as she was by piety, prudence, virtue, dignity, family, fortune, and a purity of heart that never woman before her boasted, what a real devil must he be (yet I doubt I shall make thee proud!) who could resolve to break through so many fences!
For my own part, I am more and more sensible that I ought not to have contented myself with representing against, and expostulating with thee upon, thy base intentions: and indeed I had it in my head, more than once, to try to do something for her. But, wretch that I was! I was with-held by notions of false honour, as she justly reproached me, because of thy own voluntary communications to me of thy purposes: and then, as she was brought into such a cursed house, and was so watched by thyself, as well as by thy infernal agents, I thought (knowing my man!) that I should only accelerate the intended mischiefs.—Moreover, finding thee so much over-awed by her virtue, that thou hadst not, at thy first carrying her thither, the courage to attempt her; and that she had, more than once, without knowing thy base views, obliged thee to abandon them, and to resolve to do her justice, and thyself honour; I hardly doubted, that her merit would be triumphant at last.
It is my opinion, (if thou holdest thy purposes to marry,) that thou canst not do better than to procure thy real aunts, and thy real cousins, to pay her a visit, and to be thy advocates. But if they decline personal visits, letters from them, and from my Lord M. supported by Miss Howe's interest, may, perhaps, effect something in thy favour.
But these are only my hopes, founded on what I wish for thy sake. The lady, I really think, would choose death rather than thee: and the two women are of opinion, though they knew not half of what she has suffered, that her heart is actually broken.
At taking my leave, I tendered my best services to her, and besought her to permit me frequently to inquire after her health.
She made me no answer, but by bowing her head.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. WEDNESDAY, JULY 19.
This morning I took a chair to Smith's; and, being told that the lady had a very bad night, but was up, I sent for her worthy apothecary; who, on his coming to me, approving of my proposal of calling in Dr. H., I bid the woman acquaint her with the designed visit.
It seems she was at first displeased; yet withdrew her objection: but, after a pause, asked them, What she should do? She had effects of value, some of which she intended, as soon as she could, to turn into money, but, till then, had not a single guinea to give the doctor for his fee.
Mrs. Lovick said, she had five guineas by her; they were at her service.
She would accept of three, she said, if she would take that (pulling a diamond ring from her finger) till she repaid her; but on no other terms.
Having been told I was below with Mr. Goddard, she desired to speak one word with me, before she saw the Doctor.
She was sitting in an elbow-chair, leaning her head on a pillow; Mrs. Smith and the widow on each side her chair; her nurse, with a phial of hartshorn, behind her; in her own hand her salts.
Raising her head at my entrance, she inquired if the Doctor knew Mr. Lovelace.
I told her no; and that I believed you never saw him in your life.
Was the Doctor my friend?
He was; and a very worthy and skilful man. I named him for his eminence in his profession: and Mr. Goddard said he knew not a better physician.
I have but one condition to make before I see the gentleman; that he refuse not his fees from me. If I am poor, Sir, I am proud. I will not be under obligation, you may believe, Sir, I will not. I suffer this visit, because I would not appear ungrateful to the few friends I have left, nor obstinate to such of my relations, as may some time hence, for their private satisfaction, inquire after my behaviour in my sick hours. So, Sir, you know the condition. And don't let me be vexed. 'I am very ill! and cannot debate the matter.'
Seeing her so determined, I told her, if it must be so, it should.
Then, Sir, the gentleman may come. But I shall not be able to answer many questions. Nurse, you can tell him at the window there what a night I have had, and how I have been for two days past. And Mr. Goddard, if he be here, can let him know what I have taken. Pray let me be as little questioned as possible.
The Doctor paid his respects to her with the gentlemanly address for which he is noted: and she cast up her sweet eyes to him with that benignity which accompanies her every graceful look.
I would have retired: but she forbid it.
He took her hand, the lily not of so beautiful a white: Indeed, Madam, you are very low, said he: but give me leave to say, that you can do more for yourself than all the faculty can do for you.
He then withdrew to the window. And, after a short conference with the women, he turned to me, and to Mr. Goddard, at the other window: We can do nothing here, (speaking low,) but by cordials and nourishment. What friends has the lady? She seems to be a person of condition; and, ill as she is, a very fine woman.——A single lady, I presume?
I whisperingly told him she was. That there were extraordinary circumstances in her case; as I would have apprized him, had I met with him yesterday: that her friends were very cruel to her; but that she could not hear them named without reproaching herself; though they were much more to blame than she.
I knew I was right, said the Doctor. A love-case, Mr. Goddard! a love-case, Mr. Belford! there is one person in the world who can do her more service than all the faculty.
Mr. Goddard said he had apprehended her disorder was in her mind; and had treated her accordingly: and then told the Doctor what he had done: which he approving of, again taking her charming hand, said, My good young lady, you will require very little of our assistance. You must, in a great measure, be your own assistance. You must, in a great measure, be your own doctress. Come, dear Madam, [forgive me the familiar tenderness; your aspect commands love as well as reverence; and a father of children, some of them older than yourself, may be excused for his familiar address,] cheer up your spirits. Resolve to do all in your power to be well; and you'll soon grow better.
You are very kind, Sir, said she. I will take whatever you direct. My spirits have been hurried. I shall be better, I believe, before I am worse. The care of my good friends here, looking at the women, shall not meet with an ungrateful return.
The Doctor wrote. He would fain have declined his fee. As her malady, he said, was rather to be relieved by the soothings of a friend, than by the prescriptions of a physician, he should think himself greatly honoured to be admitted rather to advise her in the one character, than to prescribe to her in the other.
She answered, That she should be always glad to see so humane a man: that his visits would keep her in charity with his sex: but that, where [sic] she able to forget that he was her physician, she might be apt to abate of the confidence in his skill, which might be necessary to effect the amendment that was the end of his visits.
And when he urged her still further, which he did in a very polite manner, and as passing by the door two or three times a day, she said she should always have pleasure in considering him in the kind light he offered himself to her: that that might be very generous in one person to offer, which would be as ungenerous in another to accept: that indeed she was not at present high in circumstance; and he saw by the tender, (which he must accept of,) that she had greater respect to her own convenience than to his merit, or than to the pleasure she should take in his visits.
We all withdrew together; and the Doctor and Mr. Goddard having a great curiosity to know something more of her story, at the motion of the latter we went into a neighbouring coffee-house, and I gave them, in confidence, a brief relation of it; making all as light for you as I could; and yet you'll suppose, that, in order to do but common justice to the lady's character, heavy must be that light.
THREE O'CLOCK, AFTERNOON.
I just now called again at Smith's; and am told she is somewhat better; which she attributed to the soothings of her Doctor. She expressed herself highly pleased with both gentlemen; and said that their behaviour to her was perfectly paternal.——
Paternal, poor lady!——never having been, till very lately, from under her parents' wings, and now abandoned by all her friends, she is for finding out something paternal and maternal in every one, (the latter qualities in Mrs. Lovick and Mrs. Smith,) to supply to herself the father and mother her dutiful heart pants after.
Mrs. Smith told me, that, after we were gone, she gave the keys of her trunk and drawers to her and the widow Lovick, and desired them to take an inventory of them; which they did in her presence.
They also informed me, that she had requested them to find her a purchaser for two rich dressed suits; one never worn, the other not above once or twice.
This shocked me exceedingly—perhaps it may thee a little!!!—Her reason for so doing, she told them, was, that she should never live to wear them: that her sister, and other relations, were above wearing them: that her mother would not endure in her sight any thing that was her's: that she wanted the money: that she would not be obliged to any body, when she had effects by her for which she had no occasion: and yet, said she, I expect not that they will fetch a price answerable to their value.
They were both very much concerned, as they owned; and asked my advice upon it: and the richness of her apparel having given them a still higher notion of her rank than they had before, they supposed she must be of quality; and again wanted to know her story.
I told them, that she was indeed a woman of family and fortune: I still gave them room to suppose her married: but left it to her to tell them all in her own time and manner: all I would say was, that she had been very vilely treated; deserved it not; and was all innocence and purity.
You may suppose that they both expressed their astonishment, that there could be a man in the world who could ill treat so fine a creature.
As to the disposing of the two suits of apparel, I told Mrs. Smith that she should pretend that, upon inquiry, she had found a friend who would purchase the richest of them; but (that she might not mistrust) would stand upon a good bargain. And having twenty guineas about me, I left them with her, in part of payment; and bid her pretend to get her to part with it for as little more as she could induce her to take.
I am setting out for Edgeware with poor Belton—more of whom in my next. I shall return to-morrow; and leave this in readiness for your messenger, if he call in my absence.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. [IN ANSWER TO LETTER XXI. OF THIS VOLUME.] M. HALL, WED. NIGHT, JULY 19.
You might well apprehend that I should think you were playing me booty in communicating my letter to the lady.
You ask, Who would think you might not read to her the least exceptionable parts of a letter written in my own defence?—I'll tell you who—the man who, in the same letter that he asks this question, tells the friend whom he exposes to her resentment, 'That there is such an air of levity runs through his most serious letters, that those of this are least fit to be seen which ought to be most to his credit:' And now what thinkest thou of thyself-condemned folly? Be, however, I charge thee, more circumspect for the future, that so this clumsy error may stand singly by itself.
'It is painful to her to think of me!' 'Libertine froth!' 'So pernicious and so despicable a plotter!' 'A man whose friendship is no credit to any body!' 'Hardened wretch!' 'The devil's counterpart!' 'A wicked, wicked man!'—But did she, could she, dared she, to say, or imply all this?—and say it to a man whom she praises for humanity, and prefers to myself for that virtue; when all the humanity he shows, and she knows it too, is by my direction—so robs me of the credit of my own works; admirably entitled, all this shows her, to thy refinement upon the words resentment and revenge. But thou wert always aiming and blundering at some thing thou never couldst make out.
The praise thou givest to her ingenuousness, is another of thy peculiars. I think not as thou dost, of her tell-tale recapitulations and exclamations:—what end can they answer?—only that thou hast a holy love for her, [the devil fetch thee for thy oddity!] or it is extremely provoking to suppose one sees such a charming creature stand upright before a libertine, and talk of the sin against her, that cannot be forgiven!—I wish, at my heart, that these chaste ladies would have a little modesty in their anger!—It would sound very strange, if I Robert Lovelace should pretend to have more true delicacy, in a point that requires the utmost, than Miss Clarissa Harlowe.
I think I will put it into the head of her nurse Norton, and her Miss Howe, by some one of my agents, to chide the dear novice for her proclamations.
But to be serious: let me tell thee, that, severe as she is, and saucy, in asking so contemptuously, 'What a man is your friend, Sir, to set himself to punish guilty people!' I will never forgive the cursed woman, who could commit this last horrid violence on so excellent a creature.
The barbarous insults of the two nymphs, in their visits to her; the choice of the most execrable den that could be found out, in order, no doubt, to induce her to go back to theirs; and the still more execrable attempt, to propose to her a man who would pay the debt; a snare, I make no question, laid for her despairing and resenting heart by that devilish Sally, (thinking her, no doubt, a woman,) in order to ruin her with me; and to provoke me, in a fury, to give her up to their remorseless cruelty; are outrages, that, to express myself in her style, I never can, never will forgive.
But as to thy opinion, and the two women's at Smith's, that her heart is broken! that is the true women's language: I wonder how thou camest into it: thou who hast seen and heard of so many female deaths and revivals.
I'll tell thee what makes against this notion of theirs.
Her time of life, and charming constitution: the good she ever delighted to do, and fancified she was born to do; and which she may still continue to do, to as high a degree as ever; nay, higher: since I am no sordid varlet, thou knowest: her religious turn: a turn that will always teach her to bear inevitable evils with patience: the contemplation upon her last noble triumph over me, and over the whole crew; and upon her succeeding escape from us all: her will unviolated: and the inward pride of having not deserved the treatment she has met with.
How is it possible to imagine, that a woman, who has all these consolations to reflect upon, will die of a broken heart?
On the contrary, I make no doubt, but that, as she recovers from the dejection into which this last scurvy villany (which none but wretches of her own sex could have been guilty of) has thrown her, returning love will re-enter her time-pacified mind: her thoughts will then turn once more on the conjugal pivot: of course she will have livelier notions in her head; and these will make her perform all her circumvolutions with ease and pleasure; though not with so high a degree of either, as if the dear proud rogue could have exalted herself above the rest of her sex, as she turned round.
Thou askest, on reciting the bitter invectives that the lady made against thy poor friend, (standing before her, I suppose, with thy fingers in thy mouth,) What couldst thou say FOR me?
Have I not, in my former letters, suggested an hundred things, which a friend, in earnest to vindicate or excuse a friend, might say on such an occasion?
But now to current topics, and the present state of matters here.—It is true, as my servant told thee, that Miss Howe had engaged, before this cursed woman's officiousness, to use her interest with her friend in my behalf: and yet she told my cousins, in the visit they made her, that it was her opinion that she would never forgive me. I send to thee enclosed copies of all that passed on this occasion between my cousins Montague, Miss Howe, myself, Lady Betty, Lady Sarah, and Lord M.
I long to know what Miss Howe wrote to her friend, in order to induce her to marry the despicable plotter; the man whose friendship is no credit to any body; the wicked, wicked man. Thou hadst the two letters in thy hand. Had they been in mine, the seal would have yielded to the touch of my warm finger, (perhaps without the help of the post-office bullet;) and the folds, as other placations have done, opened of themselves to oblige my curiosity. A wicked omission, Jack, not to contrive to send them down to me by man and horse! It might have passed, that the messenger who brought the second letter, took them both back. I could have returned them by another, when copied, as from Miss Howe, and nobody but myself and thee the wiser.
That's a charming girl! her spirit, her delightful spirit!—not to be married to it—how I wish to get that lively bird into my cage! how would I make her flutter and fly about!—till she left a feather upon every wire!
Had I begun there, I am confident, as I have heretofore said,* that I should not have had half the difficulty with her as I have had with her charming friend. For these passionate girls have high pulses, and a clever fellow may make what sport he pleases with their unevenness—now too high, now too low, you need only to provoke and appease them by turns; to bear with them, and to forbear to tease and ask pardon; and sometimes to give yourself the merit of a sufferer from them; then catching them in the moment of concession, conscious of their ill usage of you, they are all your own.
* See Vol. VI. Letter VII.
But these sedate, contemplative girls, never out of temper but with reason; when that reason is given them, hardly ever pardon, or afford you another opportunity to offend.
It was in part the apprehension that this would be so with my dear Miss Harlowe, that made me carry her to a place where I believed she would be unable to escape me, although I were not to succeed in my first attempts. Else widow Sorlings's would have been as well for me as widow Sinclair's. For early I saw that there was no credulity in her to graft upon: no pretending to whine myself into her confidence. She was proof against amorous persuasion. She had reason in her love. Her penetration and good sense made her hate all compliments that had not truth and nature in them. What could I have done with her in any other place? and yet how long, even there, was I kept in awe, in spite of natural incitement, and unnatural instigations, (as I now think them,) by the mere force of that native dignity, and obvious purity of mind and manners, which fill every one with reverence, if not with holy love, as thou callest it,* the moment he sees her!—Else, thinkest thou not, it was easy for me to be a fine gentleman, and a delicate lover, or, at least a specious and flattering one?
* See Letter XXI. of this volume.
Lady Sarah and Lady Betty, finding the treaty, upon the success of which they have set their foolish hearts, likely to run into length, are about departing to their own seats; having taken from me the best security the nature of the case will admit of, that is to say, my word, to marry the lady, if she will have me.
And after all, (methinks thou asked,) art thou still resolved to repair, if reparation be put into thy power?
Why, Jack, I must needs own that my heart has now-and-then some retrograde motions upon thinking seriously of the irrevocable ceremony. We do not easily give up the desire of our hearts, and what we imagine essential to our happiness, let the expectation or hope of compassing it be ever so unreasonable or absurd in the opinion of others. Recurrings there will be; hankerings that will, on every but-remotely-favourable incident, (however before discouraged and beaten back by ill success,) pop up, and abate the satisfaction we should otherwise take in contrariant overtures.
'Tis ungentlemanly, Jack, man to man, to lie.——But matrimony I do not heartily love—although with a CLARISSA—yet I am in earnest to marry her.
But I am often thinking that if now this dear creature, suffering time, and my penitence, my relations' prayers, and Miss Howe's mediation to soften her resentments, (her revenge thou hast prettily* distinguished away,) and to recall repulsed inclination, should consent to meet me at the altar—How vain will she then make all thy eloquent periods of execration!—How many charming interjections of her own will she spoil! And what a couple of old patriarchs shall we become, going in the mill-horse round; getting sons and daughters; providing nurses for them first, governors and governesses next; teaching them lessons their fathers never practised, nor which their mother, as her parents will say, was much the better for! And at last, perhaps, when life shall be turned into the dully sober stillness, and I become desirous to forget all my past rogueries, what comfortable reflections will it afford to find them all revived, with equal, or probably greater trouble and expense, in the persons and manners of so many young Lovelaces of the boys; and to have the girls run away with varlets, perhaps not half so ingenious as myself; clumsy fellows, as it might happen, who could not afford the baggages one excuse for their weakness, besides those disgraceful ones of sex and nature!—O Belford! who can bear to think of these things!——Who, at my time of life especially, and with such a bias for mischief!
* See Letter XVIII. of this volume.
Of this I am absolutely convinced, that if a man ever intends to marry, and to enjoy in peace his own reflections, and not be afraid retribution, or of the consequences of his own example, he should never be a rake.
This looks like conscience; don't it, Belford?
But, being in earnest still, as I have said, all I have to do in my present uncertainty, is, to brighten up my faculties, by filing off the rust they have contracted by the town smoke, a long imprisonment in my close attendance to so little purpose on my fair perverse; and to brace up, if I can, the relaxed fibres of my mind, which have been twitched and convulsed like the nerves of some tottering paralytic, by means of the tumults she has excited in it; that so I may be able to present to her a husband as worthy as I can be of her acceptance; or, if she reject me, be in a capacity to resume my usual gaiety of heart, and show others of the misleading sex, that I am not discouraged, by the difficulties I have met with from this sweet individual of it, from endeavouring to make myself as acceptable to them as before.
In this latter case, one tour to France and Italy, I dare say, will do the business. Miss Harlowe will by that time have forgotten all she has suffered from her ungrateful Lovelace: though it will be impossible that her Lovelace should ever forget a woman, whose equal he despairs to meet with, were he to travel from one end of the world to the other.
If thou continuest paying off the heavy debts my long letters, for so many weeks together, have made thee groan under, I will endeavour to restrain myself in the desires I have, (importunate as they are,) of going to town, to throw myself at the feet of my soul's beloved. Policy and honesty, both join to strengthen the restraint my own promise and thy engagement have laid me under on this head. I would not afresh provoke: on the contrary, would give time for her resentments to subside, that so all that follows may be her own act and deed.
Hickman, [I have a mortal aversion to that fellow!] has, by a line which I have just now received, requested an interview with me on Friday at Mr. Dormer's, as at a common friend's. Does the business he wants to meet me upon require that it should be at a common friend's?—A challenge implied: Is it not, Belford?—I shall not be civil to him, I doubt. He has been an intermeddler?—Then I envy him on Miss Howe's account: for if I have a right notion of this Hickman, it is impossible that that virago can ever love him.
Every one knows that the mother, (saucy as the daughter sometimes is,) crams him down her throat. Her mother is one of the most violent-spirited women in England. Her late husband could not stand in the matrimonial contention of Who should? but tipt off the perch in it, neither knowing how to yield, nor knowing how to conquer.
A charming encouragement for a man of intrigue, when he has reason to believe that the woman he has a view upon has no love for her husband! What good principles must that wife have, who is kept in against temptation by a sense of her duty, and plighted faith, where affection has no hold of her!
Pr'ythee let's know, very particularly, how it fares with poor Belton. 'Tis an honest fellow. Something more than his Thomasine seems to stick with him.
Thou hast not been preaching to him conscience and reformation, hast thou?—Thou shouldest not take liberties with him of this sort, unless thou thoughtest him absolutely irrecoverable. A man in ill health, and crop-sick, cannot play with these solemn things as thou canst, and be neither better nor worse for them.—Repentance, Jack, I have a notion, should be set about while a man is in health and spirits. What's a man fit for, [not to begin a new work, surely!] when he is not himself, nor master of his faculties?—Hence, as I apprehend, it is that a death-bed repentance is supposed to be such a precarious and ineffectual thing.
As to myself, I hope I have a great deal of time before me; since I intend one day to be a reformed man. I have very serious reflections now-and-then. Yet am I half afraid of the truth of what my charmer once told me, that a man cannot repent when he will.—Not to hold it, I suppose she meant! By fits and starts I have repented a thousand times.
Casting my eye over the two preceding paragraphs, I fancy there is something like contradiction in them. But I will not reconsider them. The subject is a very serious one. I don't at present quite understand it. But now for one more airy.
Tourville, Mowbray, and myself, pass away our time as pleasantly as possibly we can without thee. I wish we don't add to Lord M.'s gouty days by the joy we give him.
This is one advantage, as I believe I have elsewhere observed, that we male-delinquents in love-matters have of the other sex:—for while they, poor things! sit sighing in holes and corners, or run to woods and groves to bemoan themselves on their baffled hopes, we can rant and roar, hunt and hawk; and, by new loves, banish from our hearts all remembrance of the old ones.
Merrily, however, as we pass our time, my reflections upon the injuries done to this noble creature bring a qualm upon my heart very often. But I know she will permit me to make her amends, after she has plagued me heartily; and that's my consolation.
An honest fellow still—clap thy wings, and crow, Jack!——
MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE THURSDAY MORN. JUNE* 20.
* Text error: should be JULY.
What, my dearest creature, have been your sufferings!—What must have been your anguish on so disgraceful an insult, committed in the open streets, and in the broad day!
No end, I think, of the undeserved calamities of a dear soul, who had been so unhappily driven and betrayed into the hands of a vile libertine! —How was I shocked at the receiving of your letter written by another hand, and only dictated by you!—You must be very ill. Nor is it to be wondered at. But I hope it is rather from hurry, and surprise, and lowness, which may be overcome, than from a grief given way to, which may be attended with effects I cannot bear to think of.
But whatever you do, my dear, you must not despond! Indeed you must not despond! Hitherto you have been in no fault: but despair would be all your own: and the worst fault you can be guilty of.
I cannot bear to look upon another hand instead of your's. My dear creature, send me a few lines, though ever so few, in your own hand, if possible.—For they will revive my heart; especially if they can acquaint me of your amended health.
I expect your answer to my letter of the 13th. We all expect it with impatience.
His relations are persons of so much honour—they are so very earnest to rank you among them—the wretch is so very penitent: every one of his family says he is—your own are so implacable—your last distress, though the consequence of his former villany, yet neither brought on by his direction nor with his knowledge; and so much resented by him—that my mother is absolutely of opinion that you should be his—especially if, yielding to my wishes, as expressed in my letter, and those of all his friends, you would have complied, had it not been for this horrid arrest.
I will enclose the copy of the letter I wrote to Miss Montague last Tuesday, on hearing that nobody knew what was become of you; and the answer to it, underwritten and signed by Lord M., Lady Sarah Sadleir, and Lady Betty Lawrance, as well as by the young Ladies; and also by the wretch himself.
I own, that I like not the turn of what he has written to me; and, before I will further interest myself in his favour, I have determined to inform myself, by a friend, from his own mouth, of his sincerity, and whether his whole inclination be, in his request to me, exclusive of the wishes of his relations. Yet my heart rises against him, on the supposition that there is the shadow of a reason for such a question, the woman Miss Clarissa Harlowe. But I think, with my mother, that marriage is now the only means left to make your future life tolerably easy—happy there is no saying.—His disgraces, in that case, in the eye of the world itself, will be more than your's: and, to those who know you, glorious will be your triumph.
I am obliged to accompany my mother soon to the Isle of Wight. My aunt Harman is in a declining way, and insists upon seeing us both—and Mr. Hickman too, I think.
His sister, of whom we had heard so much, with her lord, were brought t'other day to visit us. She strangely likes me, or says she does.
I can't say but that I think she answers the excellent character we heard of her.
It would be death to me to set out for the little island, and not see you first: and yet my mother (fond of exerting an authority that she herself, by that exertion, often brings into question) insists, that my next visit to you must be a congratulatory one as Mrs. Lovelace.
When I know what will be the result of the questions to be put in my name to that wretch, and what is your mind on my letter of the 13th, I shall tell you more of mine.
The bearer promises to make so much dispatch as to attend you this very afternoon. May he return with good tidings to
Your ever affectionate ANNA HOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE THURSDAY AFTERNOON.
You pain me, Miss Howe, by the ardour of your noble friendship. I will be brief, because I am not well; yet a good deal better than I was; and because I am preparing an answer to your's of the 13th. But, before hand, I must tell you, my dear, I will not have that man—don't be angry with me. But indeed I won't. So let him be asked no questions about me, I beseech you.
I do not despond, my dear. I hope I may say, I will not despond. Is not my condition greatly mended? I thank Heaven it is!
I am no prisoner now in a vile house. I am not now in the power of that man's devices. I am not now obliged to hide myself in corners for fear of him. One of his intimate companions is become my warm friend, and engages to keep him from me, and that by his own consent. I am among honest people. I have all my clothes and effects restored to me. The wretch himself bears testimony to my honour.
Indeed I am very weak and ill: but I have an excellent physician, Dr. H. and as worthy an apothecary, Mr. Goddard.—Their treatment of me, my dear, is perfectly paternal!—My mind too, I can find, begins to strengthen: and methinks, at times, I find myself superior to my calamities.
I shall have sinkings sometimes. I must expect such. And my father's maledict——But you will chide me for introducing that, now I am enumerating my comforts.
But I charge you, my dear, that you do not suffer my calamities to sit too heavily upon your own mind. If you do, that will be to new-point some of those arrows that have been blunted and lost their sharpness.
If you would contribute to my happiness, give way, my dear, to your own; and to the cheerful prospects before you!
You will think very meanly of your Clarissa, if you do not believe, that the greatest pleasure she can receive in this life is in your prosperity and welfare. Think not of me, my only friend, but as we were in times past: and suppose me gone a great, great way off!—A long journey!——How often are the dearest of friends, at their country's call, thus parted— with a certainty for years—with a probability for ever.
Love me still, however. But let it be with a weaning love. I am not what I was, when we were inseparable lovers, as I may say.—Our views must now be different—Resolve, my dear, to make a worthy man happy, because a worthy man make you so.—And so, my dearest love, for the present adieu! —adieu, my dearest love!—but I shall soon write again, I hope!
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. [IN ANSWER TO LETTER XXIII. OF THIS VOLUME.] THURDAY, JULY 20.
I read that part of your conclusion to poor Belton, where you inquire after him, and mention how merrily you and the reset pass your time at M. Hall. He fetched a deep sigh: You are all very happy! were his words. —I am sorry they were his words; for, poor fellow, he is going very fast. Change of air, he hopes, will mend him, joined to the cheerful company I have left him in. But nothing, I dare say, will.
A consuming malady, and a consuming mistress, to an indulgent keeper, are dreadful things to struggle with both together: violence must be used to get rid of the latter; and yet he has not spirit enough left him to exert himself. His house is Thomasine's house; not his. He has not been within his doors for a fortnight past. Vagabonding about from inn to inn; entering each for a bait only; and staying two or three days without power to remove; and hardly knowing which to go to next. His malady is within him; and he cannot run away from it.
Her boys (once he thought them his) are sturdy enough to shoulder him in his own house as they pass by him. Siding with the mother, they in a manner expel him; and, in his absence, riot away on the remnant of his broken fortunes. As to their mother, (who was once so tender, so submissive, so studious to oblige, that we all pronounced him happy, and his course of life the eligible,) she is now so termagant, so insolent, that he cannot contend with her, without doing infinite prejudice to his health. A broken-spirited defensive, hardly a defensive, therefore, reduced to: and this to a heart, for so many years waging offensive war, (not valuing whom the opponent,) what a reduction! now comparing himself to the superannuated lion in the fable, kicked in the jaws, and laid sprawling, by the spurning heel of an ignoble ass!
I have undertaken his cause. He has given me leave, yet not without reluctance, to put him into possession of his own house; and to place in it for him his unhappy sister, whom he has hitherto slighted, because unhappy. It is hard, he told me, (and wept, poor fellow, when he said it,) that he cannot be permitted to die quietly in his own house!—The fruits of blessed keeping these!——
Though but lately apprized of her infidelity, it now comes out to have been of so long continuance, that he has no room to believe the boys to be his: yet how fond did he use to be of them!
To what, Lovelace, shall we attribute the tenderness which a reputed father frequently shows to the children of another man?—What is that, I pray thee, which we call nature, and natural affection? And what has man to boast of as to sagacity and penetration, when he is as easily brought to cover and rear, and even to love, and often to prefer, the product of another's guilt with his wife or mistress, as a hen or a goose the eggs, and even young, of others of their kind?
Nay, let me ask, if instinct, as it is called, in the animal creation, does not enable them to distinguish their own, much more easily than we, with our boasted reason and sagacity, in this nice particular, can do?
If some men, who have wives but of doubtful virtue, considered this matter duly, I believe their inordinate ardour after gain would be a good deal cooled, when they could not be certain (though their mates could) for whose children they were elbowing, bustling, griping, and perhaps cheating, those with whom they have concerns, whether friends, neighbours, or more certain next-of-kin, by the mother's side however.
But I will not push this notion so far as it might be carried; because, if propagated, it might be of unsocial or unnatural consequence; since women of virtue would perhaps be more liable to suffer by the mistrusts and caprices or bad-hearted and foolish-headed husbands, than those who can screen themselves from detection by arts and hypocrisy, to which a woman of virtue cannot have recourse. And yet, were this notion duly and generally considered, it might be attended with no bad effects; as good education, good inclinations, and established virtue, would be the principally-sought-after qualities; and not money, when a man (not biased by mere personal attractions) was looking round him for a partner in his fortunes, and for a mother of his future children, which are to be the heirs of his possessions, and to enjoy the fruits of his industry.
But to return to poor Belton.
If I have occasion for your assistance, and that of our compeers, in re-instating the poor fellow, I will give you notice. Mean time, I have just now been told that Thomasine declares she will not stir; for, it seems, she suspects that measures will be fallen upon to make her quit. She is Mrs. Belton, she says, and will prove her marriage.
If she would give herself these airs in his life-time, what would she attempt to do after his death?
Her boy threatens any body who shall presume to insult their mother. Their father (as they call poor Belton) they speak of as an unnatural one. And their probably true father is for ever there, hostilely there, passing for her cousin, as usual: now her protecting cousin.
Hardly ever, I dare say, was there a keeper that did not make keeperess; who lavished away on her kept-fellow what she obtained from the extravagant folly of him who kept her.
I will do without you, if I can. The case will be only, as I conceive, that like of the ancient Sarmatians, their wives then in possession of their slaves. So that they had to contend not only with those wives, conscious of their infidelity, and with their slaves, but with the children of those slaves, grown up to manhood, resolute to defend their mothers and their long-manumitted fathers. But the noble Sarmatians, scorning to attack their slaves with equal weapons, only provided themselves with the same sort of whips with which they used formerly to chastise them. And attacking them with them, the miscreants fled before them.—In memory of which, to this day, the device on the coin in Novogrod, in Russia, a city of the antient Sarmatia, is a man on horseback, with a whip in his hand.
The poor fellow takes it ill, that you did not press him more than you did to be of your party at M. Hall. It is owing to Mowbray, he is sure, that he had so very slight an invitation from one whose invitations used to be so warm.
Mowbray's speech to him, he says, he never will forgive: 'Why, Tom,' said the brutal fellow, with a curse, 'thou droopest like a pip or roup-cloaking chicken. Thou shouldst grow perter, or submit to a solitary quarantine, if thou wouldst not infect the whole brood.'
For my own part, only that this poor fellow is in distress, as well in his affairs as in his mind, or I should be sick of you all. Such is the relish I have of the conversation, and such my admiration of the deportment and sentiments of this divine lady, that I would forego a month, even of thy company, to be admitted into her's but for one hour: and I am highly in conceit with myself, greatly as I used to value thine, for being able, spontaneously as I may say, to make this preference.
It is, after all, a devilish life we have lived. And to consider how it all ends in a very few years—to see to what a state of ill health this poor fellow is so soon reduced—and then to observe how every one of ye run away from the unhappy being, as rats from a falling house, is fine comfort to help a man to look back upon companions ill-chosen, and a life mis-spent!
It will be your turns by-and-by, every man of ye, if the justice of your country interpose not.
Thou art the only rake we have herded with, if thou wilt not except thyself, who hast preserved entire thy health and thy fortunes.
Mowbray indeed is indebted to a robust constitution that he has not yet suffered in his health; but his estate is dwindled away year by year.
Three-fourths of Tourville's very considerable fortunes are already dissipated; and the remaining fourth will probably soon go after the other three.
Poor Belton! we see how it is with him!—His own felicity is, that he will hardly live to want.
Thou art too proud, and too prudent, ever to be destitute; and, to do thee justice, hath a spirit to assist such of thy friends as may be reduced; and wilt, if thou shouldest then be living. But I think thou must, much sooner than thou imaginest, be called to thy account—knocked on the head perhaps by the friends of those whom thou hast injured; for if thou escapest this fate from the Harlowe family, thou wilt go on tempting danger and vengeance, till thou meetest with vengeance; and this, whether thou marriest, or not: for the nuptial life will not, I doubt, till age join with it, cure thee of that spirit for intrigue which is continually running away with thee, in spite of thy better sense, and transitory resolutions.
Well, then, I will suppose thee laid down quietly among thy worthier ancestors.
And now let me look forward to the ends of Tourville and Mowbray, [Belton will be crumbled into dust before thee, perhaps,] supposing thy early exit has saved thee from gallows intervention.
Reduced, probably, by riotous waste to consequential want, behold them refuged in some obscene hole or garret; obliged to the careless care of some dirty old woman, whom nothing but her poverty prevails upon to attend to perform the last offices for men, who have made such shocking ravage among the young ones.
Then how miserably will they whine through squeaking organs; their big voices turned into puling pity-begging lamentations! their now-offensive paws, how helpless then!—their now-erect necks then denying support to their aching heads; those globes of mischief dropping upon their quaking shoulders. Then what wry faces will they make! their hearts, and their heads, reproaching each other!—distended their parched mouths!—sunk their unmuscled cheeks!—dropt their under jaws!—each grunting like the swine he had resembled in his life! Oh! what a vile wretch have I been! Oh! that I had my life to come over again!—Confessing to the poor old woman, who cannot shrive them! Imaginary ghosts of deflowered virgins, and polluted matrons, flitting before their glassy eyes! And old Satan, to their apprehensions, grinning behind a looking-glass held up before them, to frighten them with the horror visible in their own countenances!
For my own part, if I can get some good family to credit me with a sister or daughter, as I have now an increased fortune, which will enable me to propose handsome settlements, I will desert ye all; marry, and live a life of reason, rather than a life of a brute, for the time to come.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. THURSDAY NIGHT.
I was forced to take back my twenty guineas. How the women managed it I can't tell, (I suppose they too readily found a purchaser for the rich suit;) but she mistrusted, that I was the advancer of the money; and would not let the clothes go. But Mrs. Lovick has actually sold, for fifteen guineas, some rich lace worth three times the sum; out of which she repaid her the money she borrowed for fees to the doctor, in an illness occasioned by the barbarity of the most savage of men. Thou knowest his name!
The Doctor called on her in the morning it seems, and had a short debate with her about fees. She insisted that he should take one every time he came, write or not write; mistrusting that he only gave verbal directions to Mrs. Lovick, or the nurse, to avoid taking any.
He said that it would be impossible for him, had he not been a physician, to forbear inquiries after the health and welfare of so excellent a person. He had not the thought of paying her a compliment in declining the offered fee: but he knew her case could not so suddenly vary as to demand his daily visits. She must permit him, therefore, to inquire of the women below after her health; and he must not think of coming up, if he were to be pecuniarily rewarded for the satisfaction he was so desirous to give himself.
It ended in a compromise for a fee each other time; which she unwillingly submitted to; telling him, that though she was at present desolate and in disgrace, yet her circumstances were, of right, high; and no expenses could rise so as to be scrupled, whether she lived or died. But she submitted, she added, to the compromise, in hopes to see him as often as he had opportunity; for she really looked upon him, and Mr. Goddard, from their kind and tender treatment of her, with a regard next to filial.
I hope thou wilt make thyself acquainted with this worthy Doctor when thou comest to town; and give him thy thanks, for putting her into conceit with the sex that thou hast given her so much reason to execrate.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. M. HALL, FRIDAY, JULY 21.
Just returned from an interview with this Hickman: a precise fop of a fellow, as starched as his ruffles.
Thou knowest I love him not, Jack; and whom we love not we cannot allow a merit to! perhaps not the merit they should be granted. However, I am in earnest, when I say, that he seems to me to be so set, so prim, so affected, so mincing, yet so clouterly in his person, that I dare engage for thy opinion, if thou dost justice to him, and to thyself, that thou never beheldest such another, except in a pier-glass.
I'll tell thee how I play'd him off.
He came in his own chariot to Dormer's; and we took a turn in the garden, at his request. He was devilish ceremonious, and made a bushel of apologies for the freedom he was going to take: and, after half a hundred hums and haws, told me, that he came—that he came—to wait on me—at the request of dear Miss Howe, on the account—on the account—of Miss Harlowe.
Well, Sir, speak on, said I: but give me leave to say, that if your book be as long as your preface, it will take up a week to read it.
This was pretty rough, thou'lt say: but there's nothing like balking these formalities at first. When they are put out of their road, they are filled with doubts of themselves, and can never get into it again: so that an honest fellow, impertinently attacked, as I was, has all the game in his own hand quite through the conference.
He stroked his chin, and hardly knew what to say. At last, after parenthesis within parenthesis, apologizing for apologies, in imitation, I suppose, of Swift's digression in praise of digressions—I presume—I presume, Sir, you were privy to the visit made to Miss Howe by the young Ladies your cousins, in the name of Lord M., and Lady Sarah Sadleir, and Lady Betty Lawrance.
I was, Sir: and Miss Howe had a letter afterwards, signed by his Lordship and by those Ladies, and underwritten by myself. Have you seen it, Sir?
I can't say but I have. It is the principal cause of this visit: for Miss Howe thinks your part of it is written with such an air of levity— pardon me, Sir—that she knows not whether you are in earnest or not, in your address to her for her interest to her friend.*
* See Mr. Lovelace's billet to Miss Howe, Letter XIV. of this volume.
Will Miss Howe permit me to explain myself in person to her, Mr. Hickman?
O Sir, by no means. Miss Howe, I am sure, would not give you that trouble.
I should not think it a trouble. I will most readily attend you, Sir, to Miss Howe, and satisfy her in all her scruples. Come, Sir, I will wait upon you now. You have a chariot. Are alone. We can talk as we ride.
He hesitated, wriggled, winced, stroked his ruffles, set his wig, and pulled his neckcloth, which was long enough for a bib.—I am not going directly back to Miss Howe, Sir. It will be as well if you will be so good as to satisfy Miss Howe by me.
What is it she scruples, Mr. Hickman?
Why, Sir, Miss Howe observes, that in your part of the letter, you say— but let me see, Sir—I have a copy of what you wrote, [pulling it out,] will you give me leave, Sir?—Thus you begin—Dear Miss Howe—
No offence, I hope, Mr. Hickman?
None in the least, Sir!—None at all, Sir!—Taking aim, as it were, to read.
Do you use spectacles, Mr. Hickman?
Spectacles, Sir! His whole broad face lifted up at me: Spectacles!—What makes you ask me such a question? such a young man as I use spectacles, Sir!—
They do in Spain, Mr. Hickman: young as well as old, to save their eyes. —Have you ever read Prior's Alma, Mr. Hickman?
I have, Sir—custom is every thing in nations, as well as with individuals: I know the meaning of your question—but 'tis not the English custom.—
Was you ever in Spain, Mr. Hickman?
No, Sir: I have been in Holland.
In Holland, Sir?—Never to France or Italy?—I was resolved to travel with him into the land of puzzledom.
No, Sir, I cannot say I have, as yet.
That's a wonder, Sir, when on the continent!
I went on a particular affair: I was obliged to return soon.
Well, Sir; you was going to read—pray be pleased to proceed.
Again he took aim, as if his eyes were older than the rest of him; and read, After what is written above, and signed by names and characters of such unquestionable honour—to be sure, (taking off his eye,) nobody questions the honour of Lord M. nor that of the good Ladies who signed the letter.
I hope, Mr. Hickman, nobody questions mine neither?
If you please, Sir, I will read on.—I might have been excused signing a name, almost as hateful to myself [you are pleased to say]—as I KNOW it is to YOU—
Well, Mr. Hickman, I must interrupt you at this place. In what I wrote to Miss Howe, I distinguished the word KNOW. I had a reason for it. Miss Howe has been very free with my character. I have never done her any harm. I take it very ill of her. And I hope, Sir, you come in her name to make excuses for it.
Miss Howe, Sir, is a very polite young lady. She is not accustomed to treat any man's character unbecomingly.
Then I have the more reason to take it amiss, Mr. Hickman.
Why, Sir, you know the friendship—
No friendship should warrant such freedoms as Miss Howe has taken with my character.
(I believed he began to wish he had not come near me. He seemed quite disconcerted.)
Have you not heard Miss Howe treat my name with great—
Sir, I come not to offend or affront you: but you know what a love there is between Miss Howe and Miss Harlowe.—I doubt, Sir, you have not treated Miss Harlowe as so fine a young lady deserved to be treated. And if love for her friend has made Miss Howe take freedoms, as you call them, a mind not ungenerous, on such an occasion, will rather be sorry for having given the cause, than—
I know your consequence, Sir!—but I'd rather have this reproof from a lady than from a gentleman. I have a great desire to wait upon Miss Howe. I am persuaded we should soon come to a good understanding. Generous minds are always of kin. I know we should agree in every thing. Pray, Mr. Hickman, be so kind as to introduce me to Miss Howe.
Sir—I can signify your desire, if you please, to Miss Howe.
Do so. Be pleased to read on, Mr. Hickman.
He did very formally, as if I remembered not what I had written; and when he came to the passage about the halter, the parson, and the hangman, reading it, Why, Sir, says he, does not this look like a jest?—Miss Howe thinks it does. It is not in the lady's power, you know, Sir, to doom you to the gallows.
Then, if it were, Mr. Hickman, you think she would?
You say here to Miss Howe, proceeded he, that Miss Harlowe is the most injured of her sex. I know, from Miss Howe, that she highly resents the injuries you own: insomuch that Miss Howe doubts that she shall never prevail upon her to overlook them: and as your family are all desirous you should repair her wrongs, and likewise desire Miss Howe's interposition with her friend; Miss Howe fears, from this part of your letter, that you are too much in jest; and that your offer to do her justice is rather in compliment to your friends' entreaties, than proceeding form your own inclinations: and she desires to know your true sentiments on this occasion, before she interposes further.
Do you think, Mr. Hickman, that, if I am capable of deceiving my own relations, I have so much obligation to Miss Howe, who has always treated me with great freedom, as to acknowledge to her what I don't to them?
Sir, I beg pardon: but Miss Howe thinks that, as you have written to her, she may ask you, by me, for an explanation of what you have written.
You see, Mr. Hickman, something of me.—Do you think I am in jest, or in earnest?
I see, Sir, you are a gay gentleman, of fine spirits, and all that. All I beg in Miss Howe's name is, to know if you really and bona fide join with your friends in desiring her to use her interest to reconcile you to Miss Harlowe?
I should be extremely glad to be reconciled to Miss Harlowe; and should owe great obligations to Miss Howe, if she could bring about so happy an event.
Well, Sir, and you have no objections to marriage, I presume, as the condition of that reconciliation?
I never liked matrimony in my life. I must be plain with you, Mr. Hickman.
I am sorry for it: I think it a very happy state.
I hope you will find it so, Mr. Hickman.
I doubt not but I shall, Sir. And I dare say, so would you, if you were to have Miss Harlowe.
If I could be happy in it with any body, it would be with Miss Harlowe.
I am surprised, Sir!——Then, after all, you don't think of marrying Miss Harlowe!——After the hard usage——
What hard usage, Mr. Hickman? I don't doubt but a lady of her niceness has represented what would appear trifles to any other, in a very strong light.
If what I have had hinted to me, Sir—excuse me—had been offered to the lady, she has more than trifles to complain of.
Let me know what you have heard, Mr. Hickman? I will very truly answer to the accusations.
Sir, you know best what you have done: you own the lady is the most injured, as well as the most deserving of her sex.
I do, Sir; and yet I would be glad to know what you have heard: for on that, perhaps, depends my answer to the questions Miss Howe puts to me by you.
Why then, Sir, since you ask it, you cannot be displeased if I answer you:—in the first place, Sir, you will acknowledge, I suppose, that you promised Miss Harlowe marriage, and all that?
Well, Sir, and I suppose what you have to charge me with is, that I was desirous to have all that, without marriage?
Cot-so, Sir, I know you are deemed to be a man of wit: but may I not ask if these things sit not too light upon you?
When a thing is done, and cannot be helped, 'tis right to make the best of it. I wish the lady would think so too.
I think, Sir, ladies should not be deceived. I think a promise to a lady should be as binding as to any other person, at the least.
I believe you think so, Mr. Hickman: and I believe you are a very honest, good sort of a man.
I would always keep my word, Sir, whether to man or woman.
You say well. And far be it from me to persuade you to do otherwise. But what have you farther heard?
(Thou wilt think, Jack, I must be very desirous to know in what light my elected spouse had represented things to Miss Howe; and how far Miss Howe had communicated them to Mr. Hickman.)
Sir, this is no part of my present business.
But, Mr. Hickman, 'tis part of mine. I hope you would not expect that I should answer your questions, at the same time that you refused to answer mine. What, pray, have you farther heard?
Why then, Sir, if I must say, I am told, that Miss Harlowe was carried to a very bad house.
Why, indeed, the people did not prove so good as they should be.—What farther have you heard?
I have heard, Sir, that the lady had strange advantages taken of her, very unfair ones: but what I cannot say.
And cannot you say? Cannot you guess?—Then I'll tell you, Sir. Perhaps some liberty was taken with her when she was asleep. Do you think no lady ever was taken at such an advantage?—You know, Mr. Hickman, that ladies are very shy of trusting themselves with the modestest of our sex, when they are disposed to sleep; and why so, if they did not expect that advantages would be taken of them at such times?
But, Sir, had not the lady something given her to make her sleep?
Ay, Mr. Hickman, that's the question: I want to know if the lady says she had?
I have not seen all she has written; but, by what I have heard, it is a very black affair—Excuse me, Sir.
I do excuse you, Mr. Hickman: but, supposing it were so, do you think a lady was never imposed upon by wine, or so?—Do you not think the most cautious woman in the world might not be cheated by a stronger liquor for a smaller, when she was thirsty, after a fatigue in this very warm weather? And do you think, if she was thus thrown into a profound sleep, that she is the only lady that was ever taken at such an advantage?
Even as you make it, Mr. Lovelace, this matter is not a light one. But I fear it is a great deal heavier than as you put it.
What reasons have you to fear this, Sir? What has the lady said? Pray let me know. I have reason to be so earnest.
Why, Sir, Miss Howe herself knows not the whole. The lady promises to give her all the particulars at a proper time, if she lives; but has said enough to make it out to be a very bad affair.
I am glad Miss Harlowe has not yet given all the particulars. And, since she has not, you may tell Miss Howe from me, that neither she, nor any woman in the world can be more virtuous than Miss Harlowe is to this hour, as to her own mind. Tell her, that I hope she never will know the particulars; but that she has been unworthily used: tell her, that though I know not what she has said, yet I have such an opinion of her veracity, that I would blindly subscribe to the truth of every tittle of it, though it make me ever so black. Tell her, that I have but three things to blame her for; one, that she won't give me an opportunity of repairing her wrongs: the second, that she is so ready to acquaint every body with what she has suffered, that it will put it out of my power to redress those wrongs, with any tolerable reputation to either of us. Will this, Mr. Hickman, answer any part of the intention of this visit?
Why, Sir, this is talking like a man of honour, I own. But you say there is a third thing you blame the lady for: May I ask what that is?
I don't know, Sir, whether I ought to tell it you, or not. Perhaps you won't believe it, if I do. But though the lady will tell the truth, and nothing but the truth, yet, perhaps, she will not tell the whole truth.
Pray, Sir—But it mayn't be proper—Yet you give me great curiosity. Sure there is no misconduct in the lady. I hope there is not. I am sure, if Miss Howe did not believe her to be faultless in every particular, she would not interest herself so much in her favour as she does, dearly as she loves her.
I love Miss Harlowe too well, Mr. Hickman, to wish to lessen her in Miss Howe's opinion; especially as she is abandoned of every other friend. But, perhaps, it would hardly be credited, if I should tell you.
I should be very sorry, Sir, and so would Miss Howe, if this poor lady's conduct had laid her under obligation to you for this reserve.—You have so much the appearance of a gentleman, as well as are so much distinguished in your family and fortunes, that I hope you are incapable of loading such a young lady as this, in order to lighten yourself—— Excuse me, Sir.
I do, I do, Mr. Hickman. You say you came not with any intention to affront me. I take freedom, and I give it. I should be very loth, I repeat, to say any thing that may weaken Miss Harlowe in the good opinion of the only friend she thinks she has left.
It may not be proper, said he, for me to know your third article against this unhappy lady: but I never heard of any body, out of her own implacable family, that had the least doubt of her honour. Mrs. Howe, indeed, once said, after a conference with one of her uncles, that she feared all was not right on her side.—But else, I never heard—
Oons, Sir, in a fierce tone, and with an erect mien, stopping short upon him, which made him start back—'tis next to blasphemy to question this lady's honour. She is more pure than a vestal; for vestals have often been warmed by their own fires. No age, from the first to the present, ever produced, nor will the future, to the end of the world, I dare aver, ever produce, a young blooming lady, tried as she has been tried, who has stood all trials, as she has done.—Let me tell you, Sir, that you never saw, never knew, never heard of, such another woman as Miss Harlowe.
Sir, Sir, I beg your pardon. Far be it from me to question the lady. You have not heard me say a word that could be so construed. I have the utmost honour for her. Miss Howe loves her, as she loves her own soul; and that she would not do, if she were not sure she were as virtuous as herself.
As herself, Sir!—I have a high opinion of Miss Howe, Sir—but, I dare say—
What, Sir, dare you say of Miss Howe!—I hope, Sir, you will not presume to say any thing to the disparagement of Miss Howe.
Presume, Mr. Hickman!—that is presuming language, let me tell you, Mr. Hickman!
The occasion for it, Mr. Lovelace, if designed, is presuming, if you please.—I am not a man ready to take offence, Sir—especially where I am employed as a mediator. But no man breathing shall say disparaging things of Miss Howe, in my hearing, without observation.
Well said, Mr. Hickman. I dislike not your spirit, on such a supposed occasion. But what I was going to say is this. That there is not, in my opinion, a woman in the world, who ought to compare herself with Miss Clarissa Harlowe till she has stood her trials, and has behaved under them, and after them, as she has done. You see, Sir, I speak against myself. You see I do. For, libertine as I am thought to be, I never will attempt to bring down the measures of right and wrong to the standard of my actions.
Why, Sir, this is very right. It is very noble, I will say. But 'tis pity, that the man who can pronounce so fine a sentence, will not square his actions accordingly.
That, Mr. Hickman, is another point. We all err in some things. I wish not that Miss Howe should have Miss Harlowe's trials: and I rejoice that she is in no danger of any such from so good a man.
(Poor Hickman!—he looked as if he knew not whether I meant a compliment or a reflection!)
But, proceeded I, since I find that I have excited your curiosity, that you may not go away with a doubt that may be injurious to the most admirable of women, I am enclined to hint to you what I have in the third place to blame her for.
Sir, as you please—it may not be proper—
It cannot be very improper, Mr. Hickman—So let me ask you, What would Miss Howe think, if her friend is the more determined against me, because she thinks (to revenge to me, I verily believe that!) of encouraging another lover?
How, Sir!—Sure this cannot be the case!—I can tell you, Sir, if Miss Howe thought this, she would not approve of it at all: for, little as you think Miss Howe likes you, Sir, and little as she approves of your actions by her friend, I know she is of opinion that she ought to have nobody living but you: and should continue single all her life, if she be not your's.
Revenge and obstinacy, Mr. Hickman, will make women, the best of them, do very unaccountable things. Rather than not put out both eyes of a man they are offended with, they will give up one of their own.
I don't know what to say to this, Sir: but sure she cannot encourage any other person's address!—So soon too—Why, Sir, she is, as we are told, so ill, and so weak——
Not in resentment weak, I'll assure you. I am well acquainted with all her movements—and I tell you, believe it, or not, that she refuses me in view of another lover.
Can it be?
'Tis true, by my soul!—Has she not hinted this to Miss Howe, do you think?
No, indeed, Sir. If she had I should not have troubled you at this time from Miss Howe.
Well then, you see I am right: that though she cannot be guilty of a falsehood, yet she has not told her friend the whole truth.
What shall a man say to these things!—(looking most stupidly perplexed.)
Say! Say! Mr. Hickman!—Who can account for the workings and ways of a passionate and offended woman? Endless would be the histories I could give you, within my own knowledge, of the dreadful effects of woman's passionate resentments, and what that sex will do when disappointed.
There was Miss DORRINGTON, [perhaps you know her not,] who run away with her father's groom, because he would not let her have a half-pay officer, with whom (her passions all up) she fell in love at first sight, as he accidentally passed under her window.
There was MISS SAVAGE; she married her mother's coachman, because her mother refused her a journey to Wales; in apprehension that miss intended to league herself with a remote cousin of unequal fortunes, of whom she was not a little fond when he was a visiting-guest at their house for a week.
There was the young widow SANDERSON, who believing herself slighted by a younger brother of a noble family, (Sarah Stout like,) took it into her head to drown herself.
Miss SALLY ANDERSON, [You have heard of her, no doubt?] being checked by her uncle for encouraging an address beneath her, in spite, threw herself into the arms of an ugly dog, a shoe-maker's apprentice, running away with him in a pair of shoes he had just fitted to her feet, though she never saw the fellow before, and hated him ever after: and, at last, took laudanum to make her forget for ever her own folly.