I fell upon a piece at Dorrell's, this very evening, intituled, The Sacred Classics, written by one Blackwell.
I took it home with me, and had not read a dozen pages, when I was convinced that I ought to be ashamed of myself to think how greatly I have admired less noble and less natural beauties in Pagan authors; while I have known nothing of this all-exciting collection of beauties, the Bible! By my faith, Lovelace, I shall for the future have a better opinion of the good sense and taste of half a score of parsons, whom I have fallen in with in my time, and despised for magnifying, as I thought they did, the language and the sentiments to be found in it, in preference to all the ancient poets and philosophers. And this is now a convincing proof to me, and shames as much an infidel's presumption as his ignorance, that those who know least are the greatest scoffers. A pretty pack of would-be wits of us, who censure without knowledge, laugh without reason, and are most noisy and loud against things we know least of!
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. WEDNESDAY, JULY 26.
I came not to town till this morning early: poor Belton clinging to me, as a man destitute of all other hold.
I hastened to Smith's, and had but a very indifferent account of the lady's health. I sent up my compliments; and she desired to see me in the afternoon.
Mrs. Lovick told me, that after I went away on Saturday, she actually parted with one of her best suits of clothes to a gentlewoman who is her [Mrs. Lovick's] benefactress, and who bought them for a niece who is very speedily to be married, and whom she fits out and portions as her intended heiress. The lady was so jealous that the money might come from you or me, that she would see the purchaser: who owned to Mrs. Lovick that she bought them for half their worth: but yet, though her conscience permitted her to take them at such an under rate, the widow says her friend admired the lady, as one of the loveliest of her sex: and having been let into a little of her story, could not help shedding tears at taking away her purchase.
She may be a good sort of woman: Mrs. Lovick says she is: but SELF is an odious devil, that reconciles to some people the most cruel and dishonest actions. But, nevertheless, it is my opinion, that those who can suffer themselves to take advantage of the necessities of their fellow-creatures, in order to buy any thing at a less rate than would allow them the legal interest of their purchase-money (supposing they purchase before they want) are no better than robbers for the difference. —To plunder a wreck, and to rob at a fire, are indeed higher degrees of wickedness: but do not those, as well as these, heighten the distresses of the distressed, and heap misery on the miserable, whom it is the duty of every one to relieve?
About three o'clock I went again to Smith's. The lady was writing when I sent up my name; but admitted of my visit. I saw a miserable alteration in her countenance for the worse; and Mrs. Lovick respectfully accusing her of too great assiduity to her pen, early and late, and of her abstinence the day before, I took notice of the alteration; and told her, that her physician had greater hopes of her than she had of herself; and I would take the liberty to say, that despair of recovery allowed not room for cure.
She said she neither despaired nor hoped. Then stepping to the glass, with great composure, My countenance, said she, is indeed an honest picture of my heart. But the mind will run away with the body at any time.
Writing is all my diversion, continued she: and I have subjects that cannot be dispensed with. As to my hours, I have always been an early riser: but now rest is less in my power than ever. Sleep has a long time ago quarreled with me, and will not be friends, although I have made the first advances. What will be, must.
She then stept to her closet, and brought me a parcel sealed up with three seals: Be so kind, said she, as to give this to your friend. A very grateful present it ought to be to him: for, Sir, this packet contains such letters of his to me, as, compared with his actions, would reflect dishonour upon all his sex, were they to fall into other hands.
As to my letters to him, they are not many. He may either keep or destroy them, as he pleases.
I thought, Lovelace, I ought not to forego this opportunity to plead for you: I therefore, with the packet in my hand, urged all the arguments I could think of in your favour.
She heard me out with more attention than I could have promised myself, considering her determined resolution.
I would not interrupt you, Mr. Belford, said she, though I am far from being pleased with the subject of your discourse. The motives for your pleas in his favour are generous. I love to see instances of generous friendship in either sex. But I have written my full mind on this subject to Miss Howe, who will communicate it to the ladies of his family. No more, therefore, I pray you, upon a topic that may lead to disagreeable recrimination.
Her apothecary came in. He advised her to the air, and blamed her for so great an application, as he was told she made to her pen; and he gave it as the doctor's opinion, as well as his own, that she would recover, if she herself desired to recover, and would use the means.
She may possibly write too much for her health: but I have observed, on several occasions, that when the medical men are at a loss what to prescribe, they inquire what their patients like best, or are most diverted with, and forbid them that.
But, noble minded as they see this lady is, they know not half her nobleness of mind, nor how deeply she is wounded; and depend too much upon her youth, which I doubt will not do in this case; and upon time, which will not alleviate the woes of such a mind: for, having been bent upon doing good, and upon reclaiming a libertine whom she loved, she is disappointed in all her darling views, and will never be able, I fear, to look up with satisfaction enough in herself to make life desirable to her. For this lady had other views in living, than the common ones of eating, sleeping, dressing, visiting, and those other fashionable amusements, which fill up the time of most of her sex, especially of those of it who think themselves fitted to shine in and adorn polite assemblies. Her grief, in short, seems to me to be of such a nature, that time, which alleviates most other person's afflictions, will, as the poet says, give increase to her's.
Thou, Lovelace, mightest have seen all this superior excellence, as thou wentest along. In every word, in every sentiment, in every action, is it visible.—But thy cursed inventions and intriguing spirit ran away with thee. 'Tis fit that the subject of thy wicked boast, and thy reflections on talents so egregiously misapplied, should be thy punishment and thy curse.
Mr. Goddard took his leave; and I was going to do so too, when the maid came up, and told her a gentleman was below, who very earnestly inquired after her health, and desired to see her: his name Hickman.
She was overjoyed; and bid the maid desire the gentleman to walk up.
I would have withdrawn; but I supposed she thought it was likely I should have met him upon the stairs; and so she forbid it.
She shot to the stairs-head to receive him, and, taking his hand, asked half a dozen questions (without waiting for any answer) in relation to Miss Howe's health; acknowledging, in high terms, her goodness in sending him to see her, before she set out upon her little journey.
He gave her a letter from that young lady, which she put into her bosom, saying, she would read it by-and-by.
He was visibly shocked to see how ill she looked.
You look at me with concern, Mr. Hickman, said she—O Sir! times are strangely altered with me since I saw you last at my dear Miss Howe's!— What a cheerful creature was I then!—my heart at rest! my prospects charming! and beloved by every body!—but I will not pain you!
Indeed, Madam, said he, I am grieved for you at my soul.
He turned away his face, with visible grief in it.
Her own eyes glistened: but she turned to each of us, presenting one to the other—him to me, as a gentleman truly deserving to be called so—me to him, as your friend, indeed, [how was I at that instant ashamed of myself!] but, nevertheless, as a man of humanity; detesting my friend's baseness; and desirous of doing her all manner of good offices.
Mr. Hickman received my civilities with a coldness, which, however, was rather to be expected on your account, than that it deserved exception on mine. And the lady invited us both to breakfast with her in the morning; he being obliged to return the next day.
I left them together, and called upon Mr. Dorrell, my attorney, to consult him upon poor Belton's affairs; and then went home, and wrote thus far, preparative to what may occur in my breakfasting-visit in the morning.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. THURSDAY, JULY 27.
I went this morning, according to the lady's invitation, to breakfast, and found Mr. Hickman with her.
A good deal of heaviness and concern hung upon his countenance: but he received me with more respect than he did yesterday; which, I presume, was owing to the lady's favourable character of me.
He spoke very little; for I suppose they had all their talk out yesterday, and before I came this morning.
By the hints that dropped, I perceived that Miss Howe's letter gave an account of your interview with her at Col. Ambrose's—of your professions to Miss Howe; and Miss Howe's opinion, that marrying you was the only way now left to repair her wrongs.
Mr. Hickman, as I also gathered, had pressed her, in Miss Howe's name, to let her, on her return from the Isle of Wight, find her at a neighbouring farm-house, where neat apartments would be made ready to receive her. She asked how long it would be before they returned? And he told her, it was proposed to be no more than a fortnight out and in. Upon which she said, she should then perhaps have time to consider of that kind proposal.
He had tendered her money from Miss Howe; but could not induce her to take any. No wonder I was refused! she only said, that, if she had occasion, she would be obliged to nobody but Miss Howe.
Mr. Goddard, her apothecary, came in before breakfast was over. At her desire he sat down with us. Mr. Hickman asked him, if he could give him any consolation in relation to Miss Harlowe's recovery, to carry down to a friend who loved her as she loved her own life?
The lady, said he, will do very well, if she will resolve upon it herself. Indeed you will, Madam. The doctor is entirely of this opinion; and has ordered nothing for you but weak jellies and innocent cordials, lest you should starve yourself. And let me tell you, Madam, that so much watching, so little nourishment, and so much grief, as you seem to indulge, is enough to impair the most vigorous health, and to wear out the strongest constitution.
What, Sir, said she, can I do? I have no appetite. Nothing you call nourishing will stay on my stomach. I do what I can: and have such kind directors in Dr. H. and you, that I should be inexcusable if I did not.
I'll give you a regimen, Madam, replied he; which, I am sure, the doctor will approve of, and will make physic unnecessary in your case. And that is, 'go to rest at ten at night. Rise not till seven in the morning. Let your breakfast be watergruel, or milk-pottage, or weak broths: your dinner any thing you like, so you will but eat: a dish of tea, with milk, in the afternoon; and sago for your supper: and, my life for your's, this diet, and a month's country air, will set you up.'
We were much pleased with the worthy gentleman's disinterested regimen: and she said, referring to her nurse, (who vouched for her,) Pray, Mr. Hickman, let Miss Howe know the good hands I am in: and as to the kind charge of the gentleman, assure her, that all I promised to her, in the longest of my two last letters, on the subject of my health, I do and will, to the utmost of my power, observe. I have engaged, Sir, (to Mr. Goddard,) I have engaged, Sir, (to me,) to Miss Howe, to avoid all wilful neglects. It would be an unpardonable fault, and very ill become the character I would be glad to deserve, or the temper of mind I wish my friends hereafter to think me mistress of, if I did not.
Mr. Hickman and I went afterwards to a neighbouring coffee-house; and he gave me some account of your behaviour at the ball on Monday night, and of your treatment of him in the conference he had with you before that; which he represented in a more favourable light than you had done yourself: and yet he gave his sentiments of you with great freedom, but with the politeness of a gentleman.
He told me how very determined the lady was against marrying you; that she had, early this morning, set herself to write a letter to Miss Howe, in answer to one he brought her, which he was to call for at twelve, it being almost finished before he saw her at breakfast; and that at three he proposed to set out on his return.
He told me that Miss Howe, and her mother, and himself, were to begin their little journey for the Isle of Wight on Monday next: but that he must make the most favourable representation of Miss Harlowe's bad health, or they should have a very uneasy absence. He expressed the pleasure he had in finding the lady in such good hands. He proposed to call on Dr. H. to take his opinion whether it were likely she would recover; and hoped he should find it favourable.
As he was resolved to make the best of the matter, and as the lady had refused to accept of the money offered by Mr. Hickman, I said nothing of her parting with her clothes. I thought it would serve no other end to mention it, but to shock Miss Howe: for it has such a sound with it, that a woman of her rank and fortune should be so reduced, that I cannot myself think of it with patience; nor know I but one man in the world who can.
This gentleman is a little finical and formal. Modest or diffident men wear not soon off those little precisenesses, which the confident, if ever they had them, presently get above; because they are too confident to doubt any thing. But I think Mr. Hickman is an agreeable, sensible man, and not at all deserving of the treatment or the character you give him.
But you are really a strange mortal: because you have advantages in your person, in your air, and intellect, above all the men I know, and a face that would deceive the devil, you can't think any man else tolerable.
It is upon this modest principle that thou deridest some of us, who, not having thy confidence in their outside appearance, seek to hide their defects by the tailor's and peruke-maker's assistance; (mistakenly enough, if it be really done so absurdly as to expose them more;) and sayest, that we do but hang out a sign, in our dress, of what we have in the shop of our minds. This, no doubt, thou thinkest, is smartly observed: but pr'ythee, Lovelace, let me tell thee, if thou canst, what sort of a sign must thou hang out, wert thou obliged to give us a clear idea by it of the furniture of thy mind?
Mr. Hickman tells me, he should have been happy with Miss Howe some weeks ago, (for all the settlements have been some time engrossed;) but that she will not marry, she declares, while her dear friend is so unhappy.
This is truly a charming instance of the force of female friendship; which you and I, and our brother rakes, have constantly ridiculed as a chimerical thing in women of equal age, and perfections.
But really, Lovelace, I see more and more that there are not in the world, with our conceited pride, narrower-souled wretches than we rakes and libertines are. And I'll tell thee how it comes about.
Our early love of roguery makes us generally run away from instruction; and so we become mere smatterers in the sciences we are put to learn; and, because we will know no more, think there is no more to be known.
With an infinite deal of vanity, un-reined imaginations, and no judgments at all, we next commence half-wits, and then think we have the whole field of knowledge in possession, and despise every one who takes more pains, and is more serious, than ourselves, as phlegmatic, stupid fellows, who have no taste for the most poignant pleasures of life.
This makes us insufferable to men of modesty and merit, and obliges us to herd with those of our own cast; and by this means we have no opportunities of seeing or conversing with any body who could or would show us what we are; and so we conclude that we are the cleverest fellows in the world, and the only men of spirit in it; and looking down with supercilious eyes on all who gave not themselves the liberties we take, imagine the world made for us, and for us only.
Thus, as to useful knowledge, while others go to the bottom, we only skim the surface; are despised by people of solid sense, of true honour, and superior talents; and shutting our eyes, move round and round, like so many blind mill-horses, in one narrow circle, while we imagine we have all the world to range in.
I threw myself in Mr. Hickman's way, on his return from the lady.
He was excessively moved at taking leave of her; being afraid, as he said to me, (though he would not tell her so,) that he should never see her again. She charged him to represent every thing to Miss Howe in the most favourable light that the truth would bear.
He told me of a tender passage at parting; which was, that having saluted her at her closet-door, he could not help once more taking the same liberty, in a more fervent manner, at the stairs-head, whither she accompanied him; and this in the thought, that it was the last time he should ever have that honour; and offering to apologize for his freedom (for he had pressed her to his heart with a vehemence, that he could neither account for or resist)—'Excuse you, Mr. Hickman! that I will: you are my brother and my friend: and to show you that the good man, who is to be happy with my beloved Miss Howe, is very dear to me, you shall carry to her this token of my love,' [offering her sweet face to his salute, and pressing his hand between her's:] 'and perhaps her love of me will make it more agreeable to her, than her punctilio would otherwise allow it to be: and tell her, said she, dropping on one knee, with clasped hands, and uplifted eyes, that in this posture you see me, in the last moment of our parting, begging a blessing upon you both, and that you may be the delight and comfort of each other, for many, very many happy years!'
Tears, said he, fell from my eyes: I even sobbed with mingled joy and sorrow; and she retreating as soon as I raised her, I went down stairs highly dissatisfied with myself for going; yet unable to stay; my eyes fixed the contrary way to my feet, as long as I could behold the skirts of her raiment.
I went to the back-shop, continued the worthy man, and recommended the angelic lady to the best care of Mrs. Smith; and, when I was in the street, cast my eye up at her window: there, for the last time, I doubt, said he, that I shall ever behold her, I saw her; and she waved her charming hand to me, and with such a look of smiling goodness, and mingled concern, as I cannot describe.
Pr'ythee tell me, thou vile Lovelace, if thou hast not a notion, even from these jejune descriptions of mine, that there must be a more exalted pleasure in intellectual friendship, than ever thou couldst taste in the gross fumes of sensuality? And whether it may not be possible for thee, in time, to give that preference to the infinitely preferable, which I hope, now, that I shall always give?
I will leave thee to make the most of this reflection, from
Thy true friend, J. BELFORD.
MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE THURSDAY, JULY 25.*
* Text error: should be Tuesday.
Your two affecting letters were brought to me (as I had directed any letter from you should be) to the Colonel's, about an hour before we broke up. I could not forbear dipping into them there; and shedding more tears over them than I will tell you of; although I dried my eyes as well as I could, that the company I was obliged to return to, and my mother, should see as little of my concern as possible.
I am yet (and was then still more) excessively fluttered. The occasion I will communicate to you by-and-by: for nothing but the flutters given by the stroke of death could divert my first attention from the sad and solemn contents of your last favour. These therefore I must begin with.
How can I bear the thoughts of losing so dear a friend! I will not so much as suppose it. Indeed I cannot! such a mind as your's was not vested in humanity to be snatched away from us so soon. There must still be a great deal for you to do for the good of all who have the happiness to know you.
You enumerate in your letter of Thursday last,* the particulars in which your situation is already mended: let me see by effects that you are in earnest in that enumeration; and that you really have the courage to resolve to get above the sense of injuries you could not avoid; and then will I trust to Providence and my humble prayers for your perfect recovery: and glad at my heart shall I be, on my return from the little island, to find you well enough to be near us according to the proposal Mr. Hickman has to make to you.
* See Vol. VII. Letter XXV.
You chide me in your's of Sunday on the freedom I take with your friends.*
* Ibid. Letter XLII.
I may be warm. I know I am—too warm. Yet warmth in friendship, surely, cannot be a crime; especially when our friend has great merit, labours under oppression, and is struggling with undeserved calamity.
I have no opinion of coolness in friendship, be it dignified or distinguished by the name of prudence, or what it will.
You may excuse your relations. It was ever your way to do so. But, my dear, other people must be allowed to judge as they please. I am not their daughter, nor the sister of your brother and sister—I thank Heaven, I am not.
But if you are displeased with me for the freedoms I took so long ago as you mention, I am afraid, if you knew what passed upon an application I made to your sister very lately, (in hopes to procure you the absolution your heart is so much set upon,) that you would be still more concerned. But they have been even with me—but I must not tell you all. I hope, however, that these unforgivers [my mother is among them] were always good, dutiful, passive children to their parents.
Once more forgive me. I owned I was too warm. But I have no example to the contrary but from you: and the treatment you meet with is very little encouragement to me to endeavour to imitate you in your dutiful meekness.
You leave it to me to give a negative to the hopes of the noble family, whose only disgrace is, that so very vile a man is so nearly related to them. But yet—alas! my dear, I am so fearful of consequences, so selfishly fearful, if this negative must be given—I don't know what I should say—but give me leave to suspend, however, this negative till I hear from you again.
This earnest courtship of you into their splendid family is so very honourable to you—they so justly admire you—you must have had such a noble triumph over the base man—he is so much in earnest—the world knows so much of the unhappy affair—you may do still so much good—your will is so inviolate—your relations are so implacable—think, my dear, and re-think.
And let me leave you to do so, while I give you the occasion of the flutter I mentioned at the beginning of this letter; in the conclusion of which you will find the obligation I have consented to lay myself under, to refer this important point once more to your discussion, before I give, in your name, the negative that cannot, when given, be with honour to yourself repented of or recalled.
Know, then, my dear, that I accompanied my mother to Colonel Ambrose's on the occasion I mentioned to you in my former. Many ladies and gentlemen were there whom you know; particularly Miss Kitty D'Oily, Miss Lloyd, Miss Biddy D'Ollyffe, Miss Biddulph, and their respective admirers, with the Colonel's two nieces; fine women both; besides many whom you know not; for they were strangers to me but by name. A splendid company, and all pleased with one another, till Colonel Ambrose introduced one, who, the moment he was brought into the great hall, set the whole assembly into a kind of agitation.
It was your villain.
I thought I should have sunk as soon as I set my eyes upon him. My mother was also affected; and, coming to me, Nancy, whispered she, can you bear the sight of that wretch without too much emotion?—If not, withdraw into the next apartment.
I could not remove. Every body's eyes were glanced from him to me. I sat down and fanned myself, and was forced to order a glass of water. Oh! that I had the eye the basilisk is reported to have, thought I, and that his life were within the power of it!—directly would I kill him.
He entered with an air so hateful to me, but so agreeable to every other eye, that I could have looked him dead for that too.
After the general salutations he singled out Mr. Hickman, and told him he had recollected some parts of his behaviour to him, when he saw him last, which had made him think himself under obligation to his patience and politeness.
And so, indeed, he was.
Miss D'Oily, upon his complimenting her, among a knot of ladies, asked him, in their hearing, how Miss Clarissa Harlowe did?
He heard, he said, you were not so well as he wished you to be, and as you deserved to be.
O Mr. Lovelace, said she, what have you to answer for on that young lady's account, if all be true that I have heard.
I have a great deal to answer for, said the unblushing villain: but that dear lady has so many excellencies, and so much delicacy, that little sins are great ones in her eye.
Little sins! replied Miss D'Oily: Mr. Lovelace's character is so well known, that nobody believes he can commit little sins.
You are very good to me, Miss D'Oily.
Indeed I am not.
Then I am the only person to whom you are not very good: and so I am the less obliged to you.
He turned, with an unconcerned air, to Miss Playford, and made her some genteel compliments. I believe you know her not. She visits his cousins Montague. Indeed he had something in his specious manner to say to every body: and this too soon quieted the disgust each person had at his entrance.
I still kept my seat, and he either saw me not, or would not yet see me; and addressing himself to my mother, taking her unwilling hand, with an air of high assurance, I am glad to see you here, Madam, I hope Miss Howe is well. I have reason to complain greatly of her: but hope to owe to her the highest obligation that can be laid on man.
My daughter, Sir, is accustomed to be too warm and too zealous in her friendships for either my tranquility or her own.
There had indeed been some late occasion given for mutual displeasure between my mother and me: but I think she might have spared this to him; though nobody heard it, I believe, but the person to whom it was spoken, and the lady who told it me; for my mother spoke it low.
We are not wholly, Madam, to live for ourselves, said the vile hypocrite: it is not every one who had a soul capable of friendship: and what a heart must that be, which can be insensible to the interests of a suffering friend?
This sentiment from Mr. Lovelace's mouth! said my mother—forgive me, Sir; but you can have no end, surely, in endeavouring to make me think as well of you as some innocent creatures have thought of you to their cost.
She would have flung from him. But, detaining her hand—Less severe, dear Madam, said he, be less severe in this place, I beseech you. You will allow, that a very faulty person may see his errors; and when he does, and owns them, and repents, should he not be treated mercifully?
Your air, Sir, seems not to be that of a penitent. But the place may as properly excuse this subject, as what you call my severity.
But, dearest Madam, permit me to say, that I hope for your interest with your charming daughter (was his syncophant word) to have it put in my power to convince all the world that there never was a truer penitent. And why, why this anger, dear Madam, (for she struggled to get her hand out of his,) these violent airs—so maidenly! [impudent fellow!]—May I not ask, if Miss Howe be here?
She would not have been here, replied my mother, had she known whom she had been to see.
And is she here, then?—Thank Heaven!—he disengaged her hand, and stept forward into company.
Dear Miss Lloyd, said he, with an air, (taking her hand as he quitted my mother's,) tell me, tell me, is Miss Arabella Harlowe here? Or will she be here? I was informed she would—and this, and the opportunity of paying my compliments to your friend Miss Howe, were great inducements with me to attend the Colonel.
Superlative assurance! was it not, my dear?
Miss Arabella Harlowe, excuse me, Sir, said Miss Lloyd, would be very little inclined to meet you here, or any where else.
Perhaps so, my dear Miss Lloyd: but, perhaps, for that very reason, I am more desirous to see her.
Miss Harlowe, Sir, and Miss Biddulph, with a threatening air, will hardly be here without her brother. I imagine, if one comes, both will come.
Heaven grant they both may! said the wretch. Nothing, Miss Biddulph, shall begin from me to disturb this assembly, I assure you, if they do. One calm half-hour's conversation with that brother and sister, would be a most fortunate opportunity to me, in presence of the Colonel and his lady, or whom else they should choose.
Then, turning round, as if desirous to find out the one or the other, he 'spied me, and with a very low bow, approached me.
I was all in a flutter, you may suppose. He would have taken my hand. I refused it, all glowing with indignation: every body's eyes upon us.
I went down from him to the other end of the room, and sat down, as I thought, out of his hated sight; but presently I heard his odious voice, whispering, behind my chair, (he leaning upon the back of it, with impudent unconcern,) Charming Miss Howe! looking over my shoulder: one request—[I started up from my seat; but could hardly stand neither, for very indignation]—O this sweet, but becoming disdain! whispered on the insufferable creature—I am sorry to give you all this emotion: but either here, or at your own house, let me entreat from you one quarter of an hour's audience.—I beseech you, Madam, but one quarter of an hour, in any of the adjoining apartments.
Not for a kingdom, fluttering my fan. I knew not what I did.—But I could have killed him.
We are so much observed—else on my knees, my dear Miss Howe, would I beg your interest with your charming friend.
She'll have nothing to say to you.
(I had not then your letters, my dear.)
Killing words!—But indeed I have deserved them, and a dagger in my heart besides. I am so conscious of my demerits, that I have no hope, but in your interposition—could I owe that favour to Miss Howe's mediation which I cannot hope for on any other account—
My mediation, vilest of men!—My mediation!—I abhor you!—From my soul, I abhor you, vilest of men!—Three or four times I repeated these words, stammering too.—I was excessively fluttered.
You can tell me nothing, Madam, so bad as I will call myself. I have been, indeed, the vilest of men; but now I am not so. Permit me—every body's eyes are upon us!—but one moment's audience—to exchange but ten words with you, dearest Miss Howe—in whose presence you please—for your dear friend's sake—but ten words with you in the next apartment.
It is an insult upon me to presume that I would exchange with you, if I could help it!—Out of my way! Out of my sight—fellow!
And away I would have flung: but he took my hand. I was excessively disordered—every body's eyes more and more intent upon us.
Mr. Hickman, whom my mother had drawn on one side, to enjoin him a patience, which perhaps needed not to have been enforced, came up just then, with my mother who had him by his leading-strings—by his sleeve I should say.
Mr. Hickman, said the bold wretch, be my advocate but for ten words in the next apartment with Miss Howe, in your presence; and in your's, Madam, to my mother.
Hear, Nancy, what he has to say to you. To get rid of him, hear his ten words.
Excuse me, Madam! his very breath—Unhand me, Sir!
He sighed and looked—O how the practised villain sighed and looked! He then let go my hand, with such a reverence in his manner, as brought blame upon me from some, that I would not hear him.—And this incensed me the more. O my dear, this man is a devil! This man is indeed a devil!— So much patience when he pleases! So much gentleness!—Yet so resolute, so persisting, so audacious!
I was going out of the assembly in great disorder. He was at the door as soon as I.
How kind this is, said the wretch; and, ready to follow me, opened the door for me.
I turned back upon this: and, not knowing what I did, snapped my fan just in his face, as he turned short upon me; and the powder flew from his hair.
Every body seemed as much pleased as I was vexed.
He turned to Mr. Hickman, nettled at the powder flying, and at the smiles of the company upon him; Mr. Hickman, you will be one of the happiest men in the world, because you are a good man, and will do nothing to provoke this passionate lady; and because she has too much good sense to be provoked without reason: but else the Lord have mercy upon you!
This man, this Mr. Hickman, my dear, is too meek for a man. Indeed he is.—But my patient mother twits me, that her passionate daughter ought to like him the better for that. But meek men abroad are not always meek at home. I have observed that in more instances than one: and if they were, I should not, I verily think, like them the better for being so.
He then turned to my mother, resolved to be even with her too: Where, good Madam, could Miss Howe get all this spirit?
The company around smiled; for I need not tell you that my mother's high spiritedness is pretty well known; and she, sadly vexed, said, Sir, you treat me, as you do the rest of the world—but—
I beg pardon, Madam, interrupted he: I might have spared my question—and instantly (I retiring to the other end of the hall) he turned to Miss Playford; What would I give, Madam, to hear you sing that song you obliged us with at Lord M.'s!
He then, as if nothing had happened, fell into a conversation with her and Miss D'Ollyffe, upon music; and whisperingly sung to Miss Playford; holding her two hands, with such airs of genteel unconcern, that it vexed me not a little to look round, and see how pleased half the giddy fools of our sex were with him, notwithstanding his notorious wicked character. To this it is that such vile fellows owe much of their vileness: whereas, if they found themselves shunned, and despised, and treated as beasts of prey, as they are, they would run to their caverns; there howl by themselves; and none but such as sad accident, or unpitiable presumption, threw in their way, would suffer by them.
He afterwards talked very seriously, at times, to Mr. Hickman: at times, I say; for it was with such breaks and starts of gaiety, turning to this lady, and to that, and then to Mr. Hickman again, resuming a serious or a gay air at pleasure, that he took every body's eye, the women's especially; who were full of their whispering admirations of him, qualified with if's and but's, and what pity's, and such sort of stuff, that showed in their very dispraises too much liking.
Well may our sex be the sport and ridicule of such libertines! Unthinking eye-governed creatures!—Would not a little reflection teach us, that a man of merit must be a man of modesty, because a diffident one? and that such a wretch as this must have taken his degrees in wickedness, and gone through a course of vileness, before he could arrive at this impenetrable effrontery? an effrontery which can produce only from the light opinion he has of us, and the high one of himself.
But our sex are generally modest and bashful themselves, and are too apt to consider that which in the main is their principal grace, as a defect: and finely do they judge, when they think of supplying that defect by choosing a man that cannot be ashamed.
His discourse to Mr. Hickman turned upon you, and his acknowledged injuries of you: though he could so lightly start from the subject, and return to it.
I have no patience with such a devil—man he cannot be called. To be sure he would behave in the same manner any where, or in any presence, even at the altar itself, if a woman were with him there.
It shall ever be a rule with me, that he who does not regard a woman with some degree of reverence, will look upon her and occasionally treat her with contempt.
He had the confidence to offer to take me out; but I absolutely refused him, and shunned him all I could, putting on the most contemptuous airs; but nothing could mortify him.
I wished twenty times I had not been there.
The gentlemen were as ready as I to wish he had broken his neck, rather than been present, I believe: for nobody was regarded but he. So little of the fop; yet so elegant and rich in his dress: his person so specious: his air so intrepid: so much meaning and penetration in his face: so much gaiety, yet so little affectation; no mere toupet-man; but all manly; and his courage and wit, the one so known, the other so dreaded, you must think the petits-maitres (of which there were four or five present) were most deplorably off in his company; and one grave gentleman observed to me, (pleased to see me shun him as I did,) that the poet's observation was too true, that the generality of ladies were rakes in their hearts, or they could not be so much taken with a man who had so notorious a character.
I told him the reflection both of the poet and applier was much too general, and made with more ill-nature than good manners.
When the wretch saw how industriously I avoided him, (shifting from one part of the hall to another,) he at last boldly stept up to me, as my mother and Mr. Hickman were talking to me; and thus before them accosted me:
I beg your pardon, Madam; but by your mother's leave, I must have a few moments' conversation with you, either here, or at your own house; and I beg you will give me the opportunity.
Nancy, said my mother, hear what he has to say to you. In my presence you may: and better in the adjoining apartment, if it must be, than to come to you at our own house.
I retired to one corner of the hall, my mother following me, and he, taking Mr. Hickman under his arm, following her—Well, Sir, said I, what have you to say?—Tell me here.
I have been telling Mr. Hickman, said he, how much I am concerned for the injuries I have done to the most excellent woman in the world: and yet, that she obtained such a glorious triumph over me the last time I had the honour to see her, as, with my penitence, ought to have abated her former resentments: but that I will, with all my soul, enter into any measures to obtain her forgiveness of me. My cousins Montague have told you this. Lady Betty and Lady Sarah and my Lord M. are engaged for my honour. I know your power with the dear creature. My cousins told me you gave them hopes you would use it in my behalf. My Lord M. and his two sisters are impatiently expecting the fruits of it. You must have heard from her before now: I hope you have. And will you be so good as to tell me, if I may have any hopes?
If I must speak on this subject, let me tell you that you have broken her heart. You know not the value of the lady you have injured. You deserve her not. And she despises you, as she ought.
Dear Miss Howe, mingle not passion with denunciations so severe. I must know my fate. I will go abroad once more, if I find her absolutely irreconcileable. But I hope she will give me leave to attend upon her, to know my doom from her own mouth.
It would be death immediate for her to see you. And what must you be, to be able to look her in the face?
I then reproached him (with vehemence enough you may believe) on his baseness, and the evils he had made you suffer: the distress he had reduced you to; all your friends made your enemies: the vile house he had carried you to; hinted at his villanous arts; the dreadful arrest: and told him of your present deplorable illness, and resolution to die rather than to have him.
He vindicated not any part of his conduct, but that of the arrest; and so solemnly protested his sorrow for his usage of you, accusing himself in the freest manner, and by deserved appellations, that I promised to lay before you this part of our conversation. And now you have it.
My mother, as well as Mr. Hickman, believes, from what passed on this occasion, that he is touched in conscience for the wrongs he has done you: but, by his whole behaviour, I must own, it seems to me that nothing can touch him for half an hour together. Yet I have no doubt that he would willingly marry you; and it piques his pride, I could see, that he should be denied; as it did mine, that such a wretch had dared to think it in his power to have such a woman whenever he pleased; and that it must be accounted a condescension, and matter of obligation (by all his own family at least) that he would vouchsafe to think of marriage.
Now, my dear, you have before you the reason why I suspend the decisive negative to the ladies of his family. My mother, Miss Lloyd, and Miss Biddulph, who were inquisitive after the subject of our retired conversation, and whose curiosity I thought it was right, in some degree, to gratify, (especially as these young ladies are of our select acquaintance,) are all of opinion that you should be his.
You will let Mr. Hickman know your whole mind; and when he acquaint me with it, I will tell you all my own.
Mean time, may the news he will bring me of the state of your health be favourable! prays, with the utmost fervency,
Your ever faithful and affectionate ANNA HOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE THURSDAY, JULY 27.
MY DEAREST MISS HOWE,
After I have thankfully acknowledged your favour in sending Mr. Hickman to visit me before you set out upon your intended journey, I must chide you (in the sincerity of that faithful love, which could not be the love it is if it would not admit of that cementing freedom) for suspending the decisive negative, which, upon such full deliberation, I had entreated you to give to Mr. Lovelace's relations.
I am sorry that I am obliged to repeat to you, my dear, who know me so well, that, were I sure I should live many years, I would not have Mr. Lovelace; much less can I think of him, as it is probable I may not live one.
As to the world and its censures, you know, my dear, that, however desirous I always was of a fair fame, yet I never thought it right to give more than a second place to the world's opinion. The challenges made to Mr. Lovelace, by Miss D'Oily, in public company, are a fresh proof that I have lost my reputation: and what advantage would it be to me, were it retrievable, and were I to live long, if I could not acquit myself to myself?
Having in my former said so much on the freedoms you have taken with my friends, I shall say the less now; but your hint, that something else has newly passed between some of them and you, gives me great concern, and that as well for my own sake as for theirs, since it must necessarily incense them against me. I wise, my dear, that I had been left to my own course on an occasion so very interesting to myself. But, since what is done cannot be helped, I must abide the consequences: yet I dread more than before, what may be my sister's answer, if an answer will be at all vouchsafed.
Will you give me leave, my dear, to close this subject with one remark? —It is this: that my beloved friend, in points where her own laudable zeal is concerned, has ever seemed more ready to fly from the rebuke, than from the fault. If you will excuse this freedom, I will acknowledge thus far in favour of your way of thinking, as to the conduct of some parents in these nice cases, that indiscreet opposition does frequently as much mischief as giddy love.
As to the invitation you are so kind as to give me, to remove privately into your neighbourhood, I have told Mr. Hickman that I will consider of it; but believe, if you will be so good as to excuse me, that I shall not accept of it, even should I be able to remove. I will give you my reasons for declining it; and so I ought, when both my love and my gratitude would make a visit now-and-then from my dear Miss Howe the most consolate thing in the world to me.
You must know then, that this great town, wicked as it is, wants not opportunities of being better; having daily prayers at several churches in it; and I am desirous, as my strength will permit, to embrace those opportunities. The method I have proposed to myself (and was beginning to practise when that cruel arrest deprived me of both freedom and strength) is this: when I was disposed to gentle exercise, I took a chair to St. Dunstan's church in Fleet-street, where are prayers at seven in the morning; I proposed if the weather favoured, to walk (if not, to take chair) to Lincoln's-inn chapel, where, at eleven in the morning, and at five in the afternoon, are the same desirable opportunities; and at other times to go no farther than Covent-garden church, where are early morning prayers likewise.
This method pursued, I doubt not, will greatly help, as it has already done, to calm my disturbed thoughts, and to bring me to that perfect resignation after which I aspire: for I must own, my dear, that sometimes still my griefs and my reflections are too heavy for me; and all the aid I can draw from religious duties is hardly sufficient to support my staggering reason. I am a very young creature you know, my dear, to be left to my own conduct in such circumstances as I am in.
Another reason why I choose not to go down into your neighbourhood, is the displeasure that might arise, on my account, between your mother and you.
If indeed you were actually married, and the worthy man (who would then have a title to all your regard) were earnestly desirous of near neighbourhood, I know not what I might do: for although I might not perhaps intend to give up my other important reasons at the time I should make you a congratulatory visit, yet I might not know how to deny myself the pleasure of continuing near you when there.
I send you enclosed the copy of my letter to my sister. I hope it will be thought to be written with a true penitent spirit; for indeed it is. I desire that you will not think I stoop too low in it; since there can be no such thing as that in a child to parents whom she has unhappily offended.
But if still (perhaps more disgusted than before at your freedom with them) they should pass it by with the contempt of silence, (for I have not yet been favoured with an answer,) I must learn to think it right in them to do so; especially as it is my first direct application: for I have often censured the boldness of those, who, applying for a favour, which it is in a person's option to grant or refuse, take the liberty of being offended, if they are not gratified; as if the petitioned had not as good a right to reject, as the petitioner to ask.
But if my letter should be answered, and that in such terms as will make me loth to communicate it to so warm a friend—you must not, my dear, take it upon yourself to censure my relations; but allow for them as they know not what I have suffered; as being filled with just resentments against me, (just to them if they think them just;) and as not being able to judge of the reality of my penitence.
And after all, what can they do for me?—They can only pity me: and what will that but augment their own grief; to which at present their resentment is an alleviation? for can they by their pity restore to me my lost reputation? Can they by it purchase a sponge that will wipe out from the year the past fatal four months of my life?*
* She takes in the time that she appointed to meet Mr. Lovelace.
Your account of the gay, unconcerned behaviour of Mr. Lovelace, at the Colonel's, does not surprise me at all, after I am told that he had the intrepidity to go there, knowing who were invited and expected.—Only this, my dear, I really wonder at, that Miss Howe could imagine that I could have a thought of such a man for a husband.
Poor wretch! I pity him, to see him fluttering about; abusing talents that were given him for excellent purposes; taking in consideration for courage; and dancing, fearless of danger, on the edge of a precipice!
But indeed his threatening to see me most sensibly alarms and shocks me. I cannot but hope that I never, never more shall see him in this world.
Since you are so loth, my dear, to send the desired negative to the ladies of his family, I will only trouble you to transmit the letter I shall enclose for that purpose; directed indeed to yourself, because it was to you that those ladies applied themselves on this occasion; but to be sent by you to any one of the ladies, at your own choice.
I commend myself, my dearest Miss Howe, to your prayers; and conclude with repeated thanks for sending Mr. Hickman to me; and with wishes for your health and happiness, and for the speedy celebration of your nuptials;
Your ever affectionate and obliged, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE [ENCLOSED IN THE PRECEDING.] THURSDAY, JULY 27.
MY DEAREST MISS HOWE,
Since you seem loth to acquiesce in my determined resolution, signified to you as soon as I was able to hold a pen, I beg the favour of you, by this, or by any other way you think most proper, to acquaint the worthy ladies, who have applied to you in behalf of their relation, that although I am infinitely obliged to their generous opinion of me, yet I cannot consent to sanctify, as I may say, Mr. Lovelace's repeated breaches of all moral sanctions, and hazard my future happiness by a union with a man, through whose premeditated injuries, in a long train of the basest contrivances, I have forfeited my temporal hopes.
He himself, when he reflects upon his own actions, must surely bear testimony to the justice as well as fitness of my determination. The ladies, I dare say, would, were they to know the whole of my unhappy story.
Be pleased to acquaint them that I deceive myself, if my resolution on this head (however ungratefully and even inhumanely he has treated me) be not owing more to principle than passion. Nor can I give a stronger proof of the truth of this assurance, on this one easy condition, that he will never molest me more.
In whatever way you choose to make this declaration, be pleased to let my most respectful compliments to the ladies of that noble family, and to my Lord M., accompany it. And do you, my dear, believe that I shall be, to the last moment of my life,
Your ever obliged and affectionate CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. FRIDAY, JULY 28.
I have three letters of thine to take notice of:* but am divided in my mind, whether to quarrel with thee on thy unmerciful reflections, or to thank thee for thy acceptable particularity and diligence. But several of my sweet dears have I, indeed, in my time, made to cry and laugh before the cry could go off the other: Why may I not, therefore, curse and applaud thee in the same moment? So take both in one: and what follows, as it shall rise from my pen.
* Letters XLVI. XLVII. and XLVIII. of this volume.
How often have I ingenuously confessed my sins against this excellent creature?—Yet thou never sparest me, although as bad a man as myself. Since then I get so little by my confessions, I had a good mind to try to defend myself; and that not only from antient and modern story, but from common practice; and yet avoid repeating any thing I have suggested before in my own behalf.
I am in a humour to play the fool with my pen: briefly then, from antient story first:—Dost thou not think that I am as much entitled to forgiveness on Miss Harlowe's account, as Virgil's hero was on Queen Dido's? For what an ungrateful varlet was that vagabond to the hospitable princess, who had willingly conferred upon him the last favour?—Stealing away, (whence, I suppose, the ironical phrase of trusty Trojan to this day,) like a thief—pretendedly indeed at the command of the gods; but could that be, when the errand he went upon was to rob other princes, not only of their dominions, but of their lives?—Yet this fellow is, at every word, the pious AEneas, with the immortal bard who celebrates him.
Should Miss Harlowe even break her heart, (which Heaven forbid!) for the usage she has received, (to say nothing of her disappointed pride, to which her death would be attributable, more than to reason,) what comparison will her fate hold to Queen Dido's? And have I half the obligation to her, that AEneas had to the Queen of Carthage? The latter placing a confidence, the former none, in her man?—Then, whom else have I robbed? Whom else have I injured? Her brother's worthless life I gave him, instead of taking any man's; while the Trojan vagabond destroyed his thousands. Why then should it not be the pious Lovelace, as well as the pious AEneas? For, dost thou think, had a conflagration happened, and had it been in my power, that I would not have saved my old Anchises, (as he did his from the Ilion bonfire,) even at the expense of my Creuesa, had I a wife of that name?
But for a more modern instance in my favour—Have I used Miss Harlowe, as our famous Maiden Queen, as she was called, used one of her own blood, a sister-queen, who threw herself into her protection from her rebel-subjects, and whom she detained prisoner eighteen years, and at last cut off her head? Yet do not honest protestants pronounce her pious too?—And call her particularly their Queen?
As to common practice—Who, let me ask, that has it in his power to gratify a predominant passion, be it what it will, denies himself the gratification?—Leaving it to cooler deliberation, (and, if he be a great man, to his flatterers,) to find a reason for it afterwards?
Then, as to the worst part of my treatment of this lady, How many men are there, who, as well as I, have sought, by intoxicating liquors, first to inebriate, then to subdue? What signifies what the potations were, when the same end was in view?
Let me tell thee, upon the whole, that neither the Queen of Carthage, nor the Queen of Scots, would have thought they had any reason to complain of cruelty, had they been used no worse than I have used the queen of my heart: And then do I not aspire with my whole soul to repair by marriage? Would the pious AEneas, thinkest thou, have done such a piece of justice by Dido, had she lived?
Come, come, Belford, let people run away with notions as they will, I am comparatively a very innocent man. And if by these, and other like reasonings, I have quieted my own conscience, a great end is answered. What have I to do with the world?
And now I sit me peaceably down to consider thy letters.
I hope thy pleas in my favour,* when she gave thee, (so generously gave thee,) for me my letters, were urged with an honest energy. But I suspect thee much for being too ready to give up thy client. Then thou hast such a misgiving aspect, an aspect rather inviting rejection than carrying persuasion with it; and art such an hesitating, such a humming and hawing caitiff; that I shall attribute my failure, if I do fail, rather to the inability and ill looks of my advocate, than to my cause. Again, thou art deprived of the force men of our cast give to arguments; for she won't let thee swear!-Art, moreover, a very heavy, thoughtless fellow; tolerable only at a second rebound; a horrid dunce at the impromptu. These, encountering with such a lady, are great disadvantages.—And still a greater is thy balancing, (as thou dost at present,) between old rakery and new reformation; since this puts thee into the same situation with her, as they told me, at Leipsick, Martin Luther was in, at the first public dispute which he held in defence of his supposed new doctrines with Eckius. For Martin was then but a linsey-wolsey reformer. He retained some dogmas, which, by natural consequence, made others, that he held, untenable. So that Eckius, in some points, had the better of him. But, from that time, he made clear work, renouncing all that stood in his way: and then his doctrines ran upon all fours. He was never puzzled afterwards; and could boldly declare that he would defend them in the face of angels and men; and to his friends, who would have dissuaded him from venturing to appear before the Emperor Charles at Spires, That, were there as many devils at Spires, as tiles upon the houses, he would go. An answer that is admired by every protestant Saxon to this day.
* See Letter XLVII. of this volume.
Since then thy unhappy awkwardness destroys the force of thy arguments, I think thou hadst better (for the present, however) forbear to urge her on the subject of accepting the reparation I offer; lest the continual teasing of her to forgive me should but strengthen her in her denials of forgiveness; till, for consistency sake, she'll be forced to adhere to a resolution so often avowed—Whereas, if left to herself, a little time, and better health, which will bring on better spirits, will give her quicker resentments; those quicker resentments will lead her into vehemence; that vehemence will subside, and turn into expostulation and parley: my friends will then interpose, and guaranty for me: and all our trouble on both sides will be over.—Such is the natural course of things.
I cannot endure thee for thy hopelessness in the lady's recovery;* and that in contradiction to the doctor and apothecary.
* See Letter XLVII. of this volume.
Time, in the words of Congreve, thou sayest, will give increase to her afflictions. But why so? Knowest thou not that those words (so contrary to common experience) were applied to the case of a person, while passion was in its full vigour?—At such a time, every one in a heavy grief thinks the same: but as enthusiasts do by Scripture, so dost thou by the poets thou hast read: any thing that carries the most distant allusion from either to the case in hand, is put down by both for gospel, however incongruous to the general scope of either, and to that case. So once, in a pulpit, I heard one of the former very vehemently declare himself to be a dead dog; when every man, woman, and child, were convinced to the contrary by his howling.
I can tell thee that, if nothing else will do, I am determined, in spite of thy buskin-airs, and of thy engagements for me to the contrary, to see her myself.
Face to face have I known many a quarrel made up, which distance would have kept alive, and widened. Thou wilt be a madder Jack than he in the tale of a Tub, if thou givest an active opposition to this interview.
In short, I cannot bear the thought, that a woman whom once I had bound to me in the silken cords of love, should slip through my fingers, and be able, while my heart flames out with a violent passion for her, to despise me, and to set both love and me at defiance. Thou canst not imagine how much I envy thee, and her doctor, and her apothecary, and every one who I hear are admitted to her presence and conversation; and wish to be the one or the other in turn.
Wherefore, if nothing else will do, I will see her. I'll tell thee of an admirable expedient, just come cross me, to save thy promise, and my own.
Mrs. Lovick, you say, is a good woman: if the lady be worse, you shall advise her to send for a parson to pray by her: unknown to her, unknown to the lady, unknown to thee, (for so it may pass,) I will contrive to be the man, petticoated out, and vested in a gown and cassock. I once, for a certain purpose, did assume the canonicals; and I was thought to make a fine sleek appearance; my broad rose-bound beaver became me mightily; and I was much admired upon the whole by all who saw me.
Methinks it must be charmingly a propos to see me kneeling down by her bed-side, (I am sure I shall pray heartily,) beginning out of the common-prayer book the sick-office for the restoration of the languishing lady, and concluding with an exhortation to charity and forgiveness for myself.
I will consider of this matter. But, in whatever shape I shall choose to appear, of this thou mayest assure thyself, I will apprize thee beforehand of my visit, that thou mayst contrive to be out of the way, and to know nothing of the matter. This will save thy word; and, as to mine, can she think worse of me than she does at present?
An indispensable of true love and profound respect, in thy wise opinion,* is absurdity or awkwardness.—'Tis surprising that thou shouldst be one of those partial mortals who take their measures of right and wrong from what they find themselves to be, and cannot help being!—So awkwardness is a perfection in the awkward!—At this rate, no man ever can be in the wrong. But I insist upon it, that an awkward fellow will do every thing awkwardly: and, if he be like thee, will, when he has done foolishly, rack his unmeaning brain for excuses as awkward as his first fault. Respectful love is an inspirer of actions worthy of itself; and he who cannot show it, where he most means it, manifests that he is an unpolite rough creature, a perfect Belford, and has it not in him.
* See Letter XLVI. of this volume.
But here thou'lt throw out that notable witticism, that my outside is the best of me, thine the worst of thee; and that, if I set about mending my mind, thou wilt mend thy appearance.
But, pr'ythee, Jack, don't stay for that; but set about thy amendment in dress when thou leavest off thy mourning; for why shouldst thou prepossess in thy disfavour all those who never saw thee before?—It is hard to remove early-taken prejudices, whether of liking or distaste. People will hunt, as I may say, for reasons to confirm first impressions, in compliment to their own sagacity: nor is it every mind that has the ingenuousness to confess itself half mistaken, when it finds itself to be wrong. Thou thyself art an adept in the pretended science of reading men; and, whenever thou art out, wilt study to find some reasons why it was more probable that thou shouldst have been right; and wilt watch every motion and action, and every word and sentiment, in the person thou hast once censured, for proofs, in order to help thee to revive and maintain thy first opinion. And, indeed, as thou seldom errest on the favourable side, human nature is so vile a thing that thou art likely to be right five times in six on what thou findest in thine own heart, to have reason to compliment thyself on thy penetration.
Here is preachment for thy preachment: and I hope, if thou likest thy own, thou wilt thank me for mine; the rather, as thou mayest be the better for it, if thou wilt: since it is calculated for thy own meridian.
Well, but the lady refers my destiny to the letter she has written, actually written, to Miss Howe; to whom it seems she has given her reasons why she will not have me. I long to know the contents of this letter: but am in great hopes that she has so expressed her denials, as shall give room to think she only wants to be persuaded to the contrary, in order to reconcile herself to herself.
I could make some pretty observations upon one or two places of the lady's mediation: but, wicked as I am thought to be, I never was so abandoned as to turn into ridicule, or even to treat with levity, things sacred. I think it the highest degree of ill manners to jest upon those subjects which the world in general look upon with veneration, and call divine. I would not even treat the mythology of the heathen to a heathen, with the ridicule that perhaps would fairly lie from some of the absurdities that strike every common observer. Nor, when at Rome, and in other popish countries, did I ever behave indecently at those ceremonies which I thought very extraordinary: for I saw some people affected, and seemingly edified, by them; and I contented myself to think, though they were any good end to the many, there was religion enough in them, or civil policy at least, to exempt them from the ridicule of even a bad man who had common sense and good manners.
For the like reason I have never given noisy or tumultuous instances of dislike to a new play, if I thought it ever so indifferent: for I concluded, first, that every one was entitled to see quietly what he paid for: and, next, as the theatre (the epitome of the world) consisted of pit, boxes, and gallery, it was hard, I thought, if there could be such a performance exhibited as would not please somebody in that mixed multitude: and, if it did, those somebodies had as much right to enjoy their own judgments, undisturbedly, as I had to enjoy mine.
This was my way of showing my disapprobation; I never went again. And as a man is at his option, whether he will go to a play or not, he has not the same excuse for expressing his dislike clamorously as if he were compelled to see it.
I have ever, thou knowest, declared against those shallow libertines, who could not make out their pretensions to wit, but on two subjects, to which every man of true wit will scorn to be beholden: PROFANENESS and OBSCENITY, I mean; which must shock the ears of every man or woman of sense, without answering any end, but of showing a very low and abandoned nature. And, till I came acquainted with the brutal Mowbray, [no great praise to myself from such a tutor,] I was far from making so free as I do now, with oaths and curses; for then I was forced to out-swear him sometimes in order to keep him in his allegiance to me his general: nay, I often check myself to myself, for this empty unprofitable liberty of speech; in which we are outdone by the sons of the common-sewer.
All my vice is women, and the love of plots and intrigues; and I cannot but wonder how I fell into those shocking freedoms of speech; since, generally speaking, they are far from helping forward my main end: only, now-and-then, indeed, a little novice rises to one's notice, who seems to think dress, and oaths, and curses, the diagnostics of the rakish spirit she is inclined to favour: and indeed they are the only qualifications that some who are called rakes and pretty fellows have to boast of. But what must the women be, who can be attracted by such empty-souled profligates!—since wickedness with wit is hardly tolerable; but, without it, is equally shocking and contemptible.
There again is preachment for thy preachment; and thou wilt be apt to think that I am reforming too: but no such matter. If this were new light darting in upon me, as thy morality seems to be to thee, something of this kind might be apprehended: but this was always my way of thinking; and I defy thee, or any of thy brethren, to name a time when I have either ridiculed religion, or talked obscenely. On the contrary, thou knowest how often I have checked that bear, in love-matters, Mowbray, and the finical Tourville, and thyself too, for what ye have called the double-entendre. In love, as in points that required a manly-resentment, it has always been my maxim, to act, rather than to talk; and I do assure thee, as to the first, the women themselves will excuse the one sooner than the other.
As to the admiration thou expressest for the books of scripture, thou art certainly right in it. But 'tis strange to me, that thou wert ignorant of their beauty, and noble simplicity, till now. Their antiquity always made me reverence them: And how was it possible that thou couldest not, for that reason, if for no other, give them a perusal?
I'll tell thee a short story, which I had from my tutor, admonishing me against exposing myself by ignorant wonder, when I should quit college, to go to town, or travel.
'The first time Dryden's Alexander's Feast fell into his hands, he told me, he was prodigiously charmed with it: and, having never heard any body speak of it before, thought, as thou dost of the Bible, that he had made a new discovery.
'He hastened to an appointment which he had with several wits, (for he was then in town,) one of whom was a noted critic, who, according to him, had more merit than good fortune; for all the little nibblers in wit, whose writings would not stand the test of criticism, made it, he said, a common cause to run him down, as men would a mad dog.
'The young gentleman (for young he then was) set forth magnificently in the praises of that inimitable performance; and gave himself airs of second-hand merit, for finding out its beauties.
'The old bard heard him out with a smile, which the collegian took for approbation, till he spoke; and then it was in these mortifying words: 'Sdeath, Sir, where have you lived till now, or with what sort of company have you conversed, young as you are, that you have never before heard of the finest piece in the English language?'
This story had such an effect upon me, who had ever a proud heart, and wanted to be thought a clever fellow, that, in order to avoid the like disgrace, I laid down two rules to myself. The first, whenever I went into company where there were strangers, to hear every one of them speak, before I gave myself liberty to prate: The other, if I found any of them above my match, to give up all title to new discoveries, contenting myself to praise what they praised, as beauties familiar to me, though I had never heard of them before. And so, by degrees, I got the reputation of a wit myself: and when I threw off all restraint, and books, and learned conversation, and fell in with some of our brethren who are now wandering in Erebus, and with such others as Belton, Mowbray, Tourville, and thyself, I set up on my own stock; and, like what we have been told of Sir Richard, in his latter days, valued myself on being the emperor of the company; for, having fathomed the depth of them all, and afraid of no rival but thee, whom also I had got a little under, (by my gaiety and promptitude at least) I proudly, like Addison's Cato, delighted to give laws to my little senate.
Proceed with thee by-and-by.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
But now I have cleared myself of any intentional levity on occasion of my beloved's meditation; which, as you observe, is finely suited to her case, (that is to say, as she and you have drawn her case;) I cannot help expressing my pleasure, that by one or two verses of it, [the arrow, Jack, and what she feared being come upon her!] I am encouraged to hope, what it will be very surprising to me if it do not happen: that is, in plain English, that the dear creature is in the way to be a mamma.
This cursed arrest, because of the ill effects the terror might have had upon her, in that hoped-for circumstance, has concerned me more than on any other account. It would be the pride of my life to prove, in this charming frost-piece, the triumph of Nature over principle, and to have a young Lovelace by such an angel: and then, for its sake, I am confident she will live, and will legitimate it. And what a meritorious little cherub would it be, that should lay an obligation upon both parents before it was born, which neither of them would be able to repay!—Could I be sure it is so, I should be out of all pain for her recovery: pain, I say; since, were she to die—[die! abominable word! how I hate it!] I verily think I should be the most miserable man in the world.
As for the earnestness she expresses for death, she has found the words ready to her hand in honest Job; else she would not have delivered herself with such strength and vehemence.
Her innate piety (as I have more than once observed) will not permit her to shorten her own life, either by violence or neglect. She has a mind too noble for that; and would have done it before now, had she designed any such thing: for to do it, like the Roman matron, when the mischief is over, and it can serve no end; and when the man, however a Tarquin, as some may think me in this action, is not a Tarquin in power, so that no national point can be made of it; is what she has too much good sense to think of.
Then, as I observed in a like case, a little while ago, the distress, when this was written, was strong upon her; and she saw no end of it: but all was darkness and apprehension before her. Moreover, has she it not in her power to disappoint, as much as she has been disappointed? Revenge, Jack, has induced many a woman to cherish a life, to which grief and despair would otherwise have put an end.
And, after all, death is no such eligible thing, as Job in his calamities, makes it. And a death desired merely from worldly disappointments shows not a right mind, let me tell this lady, whatever she may think of it.* You and I Jack, although not afraid, in the height of passion or resentment, to rush into those dangers which might be followed by a sudden and violent death, whenever a point of honour calls upon us, would shudder at his cool and deliberate approach in a lingering sickness, which had debilitated the spirits.
* Mr. Lovelace could not know, that the lady was so thoroughly sensible of the solidity of this doctrine, as she really was: for, in her letter to Mrs. Norton, (Letter XLIV. of this volume,) she says,—'Nor let it be imagined, that my present turn of mind proceeds from gloominess or melancholy: for although it was brought on by disappointment, (the world showing me early, even at my first rushing into it, its true and ugly face,) yet I hope, that it has obtained a better root, and will every day more and more, by its fruits, demonstrate to me, and to all my friends, that it has.'
So we read of a famous French general [I forget as well the reign of the prince as the name of the man] who, having faced with intrepidity the ghastly varlet on an hundred occasions in the field, was the most dejected of wretches, when, having forfeited his life for treason, he was led with all the cruel parade of preparation, and surrounding guards, to the scaffold.
The poet says well:
'Tis not the stoic lesson, got by rote, The pomp of words, and pedant dissertation, That can support us in the hour of terror. Books have taught cowards to talk nobly of it: But when the trial comes, they start, and stand aghast.
Very true: for then it is the old man in the fable, with his bundle of sticks.
The lady is well read in Shakspeare, our English pride and glory; and must sometimes reason with herself in his words, so greatly expressed, that the subject, affecting as it is, cannot produce any thing greater.
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where; To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot; This sensible, warm motion to become A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice: To be imprison'd in the viewless winds, Or blown, with restless violence, about The pendant worlds; or to be worse than worst Of those that lawless and uncertain thought Imagines howling: 'tis too horrible! The weariest and most loaded worldly life, That pain, age, penury, and imprisonment, Can lay on nature, is a paradise To what we fear of death.——
I find, by one of thy three letters, that my beloved had some account from Hickman of my interview with Miss Howe, at Col. Ambrose's. I had a very agreeable time of it there; although severely rallied by several of the assembly. It concerns me, however, not a little, to find our affair so generally known among the flippanti of both sexes. It is all her own fault. There never, surely, was such an odd little soul as this.—Not to keep her own secret, when the revealing of it could answer no possible good end; and when she wants not (one would think) to raise to herself either pity or friends, or to me enemies, by the proclamation!—Why, Jack, must not all her own sex laugh in their sleeves at her weakness? what would become of the peace of the world, if all women should take it into their heads to follow her example? what a fine time of it would the heads of families have? Their wives always filling their ears with their confessions; their daughters with theirs: sisters would be every day setting their brothers about cutting of throats, if the brothers had at heart the honour of their families, as it is called; and the whole world would either be a scene of confusion; or cuckoldom as much the fashion as it is in Lithuania.*
* In Lithuania, the women are said to have so allowedly their gallants, called adjutores, that the husbands hardly ever enter upon any part of pleasure without them.
I am glad, however, that Miss Howe (as much as she hates me) kept her word with my cousins on their visit to her, and with me at the Colonel's, to endeavour to persuade her friend to make up all matters by matrimony; which, no doubt, is the best, nay, the only method she can take, for her own honour, and that of her family.
I had once thoughts of revenging myself on that vixen, and, particularly, as thou mayest* remember, had planned something to this purpose on the journey she is going to take, which had been talked of some time. But, I think—let me see—yet, I think, I will let this Hickman have her safe and entire, as thou believest the fellow to be a tolerable sort of a mortal, and that I have made the worst of him: and I am glad, for his own sake, he has not launched out too virulently against me to thee.
* See Vol. IV. Letter LIV.
But thou seest, Jack, by her refusal of money from him, or Miss Howe,* that the dear extravagant takes a delight in oddnesses, choosing to part with her clothes, though for a song. Dost think she is not a little touched at times? I am afraid she is. A little spice of that insanity, I doubt, runs through her, that she had in a stronger degree, in the first week of my operations. Her contempt of life; her proclamations; her refusal of matrimony; and now of money from her most intimate friends; are sprinklings of this kind, and no other way, I think, to be accounted for.
* See Letter XLVIII. of this volume.
Her apothecary is a good honest fellow. I like him much. But the silly dear's harping so continually upon one string, dying, dying, dying, is what I have no patience with. I hope all this melancholy jargon is owing entirely to the way I would have her to be in. And it being as new to her, as the Bible beauties to thee,* no wonder she knows not what to make of herself; and so fancies she is breeding death, when the event will turn out quite the contrary.
* See Letter XLVI. of this volume.
Thou art a sorry fellow in thy remarks on the education and qualification of smarts and beaux of the rakish order; if by thy we's and us's thou meanest thyself or me:* for I pretend to say, that the picture has no resemblance of us, who have read and conversed as we have done. It may indeed, and I believe it does, resemble the generality of the fops and coxcombs about town. But that let them look to; for, if it affects not me, to what purpose thy random shot?—If indeed thou findest, by the new light darted in upon thee, since thou hast had the honour of conversing with this admirable creature, that the cap fits thy own head, why then, according to the qui capit rule, e'en take and clap it on: and I will add a string of bells to it, to complete thee for the fore-horse of the idiot team.
* Ibid. and Letter LXVIII.
Although I just now said a kind thing or two for this fellow Hickman; yet I can tell thee, I could (to use one of my noble peer's humble phrases) eat him up without a corn of salt, when I think of his impudence to salute my charmer twice at parting:* And have still less patience with the lady herself for presuming to offer her cheek or lip [thou sayest not which] to him, and to press his clumsy fist between her charming hands. An honour worth a king's ransom; and what I would give—what would I not give? to have!—And then he, in return, to press her, as thou sayest he did, to his stupid heart; at that time, no doubt, more sensible, than ever it was before!
* See Letter XLVIII. of this volume.
By thy description of their parting, I see thou wilt be a delicate fellow in time. My mortification in this lady's displeasure, will be thy exaltation from her conversation. I envy thee as well for thy opportunities, as for thy improvements: and such an impression has thy concluding paragraph* made upon me, that I wish I do not get into a reformation-humour as well as thou: and then what a couple of lamentable puppies shall we make, howling in recitative to each other's discordant music!
Let me improve upon the thought, and imagine that, turned hermits, we have opened the two old caves at Hornsey, or dug new ones; and in each of our cells set up a death's head, and an hour-glass, for objects of contemplation—I have seen such a picture: but then, Jack, had not the old penitent fornicator a suffocating long grey beard? What figures would a couple of brocaded or laced-waistcoated toupets make with their sour screw'd up half-cock'd faces, and more than half shut eyes, in a kneeling attitude, recapitulating their respective rogueries? This scheme, were we only to make trial of it, and return afterwards to our old ways, might serve to better purpose by far, than Horner's in the Country Wife, to bring the pretty wenches to us.
Let me see; the author of Hudibras has somewhere a description that would suit us, when met in one of our caves, and comparing our dismal notes together. This is it. Suppose me described—
—He sat upon his rump, His head like one in doleful dump: Betwixt his knees his hands apply'd Unto his cheeks, on either side: And by him, in another hole, Sat stupid Belford, cheek by jowl.
I know thou wilt think me too ludicrous. I think myself so. It is truly, to be ingenuous, a forced put: for my passions are so wound up, that I am obliged either to laugh or cry. Like honest drunken Jack Daventry, [poor fellow!—What an unhappy end was his!]—thou knowest, I used to observe, that whenever he rose from an entertainment, which he never did sober, it was his way, as soon as he got to the door, to look round him like a carrier pigeon just thrown up, in order to spy out his course; and then, taking to his heels, he would run all the way home, though it were a mile or two, when he could hardly stand, and must have tumbled on his nose if he had attempted to walk moderately. This then must be my excuse, in this my unconverted estate, for a conclusion so unworthy of the conclusion to thy third letter.
What a length have I run!—Thou wilt own, that if I pay thee not in quality, I do in quantity: and yet I leave a multitude of things unobserved upon. Indeed I hardly at this present know what to do with myself but scribble. Tired with Lord M. who, in his recovery, has played upon me the fable of the nurse, the crying child, and the wolf—tired with my cousins Montague, though charming girls, were they not so near of kin—tired with Mowbray and Tourville, and their everlasting identity— tired with the country—tired of myself—longing for what I have not—I must go to town; and there have an interview with the charmer of my soul: for desperate diseases must have desperate remedies; and I only wait to know my doom from Miss Howe! and then, if it be rejection, I will try my fate, and receive my sentence at her feet.—But I will apprize thee of it beforehand, as I told thee, that thou mayest keep thy parole with the lady in the best manner thou canst.
MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [IN ANSWER TO HER'S OF JULY 27, SEE LETTERS L. LI. OF THIS VOLUME.] FRIDAY NIGHT, JULY 28.
I will now, my dearest friend, write to you all my mind, without reserve, on your resolution not to have this vilest of men. You gave me, in your's of Sunday the 23d, reasons so worthy of the pure mind of my Clarissa, in support of this your resolution, that nothing but self-love, lest I should lose my ever-amiable friend, could have prevailed upon me to wish you to alter it.
Indeed, I thought it was impossible there could be (however desirable) so noble an instance given by any of our sex, of a passion conquered, when there were so many inducements to give way to it. And, therefore, I was willing to urge you once more to overcome your just indignation, and to be prevailed upon by the solicitations of his friends, before you carried your resentments to so great a height, that it would be more difficult for you, and less to your honour to comply, than if you had complied at first.
But now, my dear, that I see you fixed in your noble resolution; and that it is impossible for your pure mind to join itself with that of so perjured a miscreant; I congratulate you most heartily upon it; and beg your pardon for but seeming to doubt that theory and practice were not the same thing with my beloved Clarissa.
I have only one thing that saddens my heart on this occasion; and that is, the bad state of health Mr. Hickman (unwillingly) owns you are in. Hitherto you have well observed the doctrine you always laid down to me, That a cursed person should first seek the world's opinion of her; and, in all cases where the two could not be reconciled, have preferred the first to the last; and are, of consequence, well justified to your own heart, as well as to your Anna Howe. Let me therefore beseech you to endeavour, by all possible means, to recover your health and spirits: and this, as what, if it can be effected, will crown the work, and show the world, that you were indeed got above the base wretch; and, though put out of your course for a little while, could resume it again, and go on blessing all within your knowledge, as well by your example as by your precepts.
For Heaven's sake, then, for the world's sake, for the honour of our sex, and for my sake, once more I beseech you, try to overcome this shock: and, if you can overcome it, I shall then be as happy as I wish to be; for I cannot, indeed I cannot, think of parting with you, for many, many years to come.
The reasons you give for discouraging my wishes to have you near us are so convincing, that I ought at present to acquiesce in them: but, my dear, when your mind is fully settled, as, (now you are so absolutely determined in it, with regard this wretch,) I hope it will soon be, I shall expect you with us, or near us: and then you shall chalk out every path that I will set my foot in; nor will I turn aside either to the right hand or to the left.
You wish I had not mediated for you to your friends. I wish so too; because my mediation was ineffectual; because it may give new ground for the malice of some of them to work upon; and because you are angry with me for doing so. But how, as I said in my former, could I sit down in quiet, when I knew how uneasy their implacableness made you?—But I will tear myself from the subject; for I see I shall be warm again—and displease you—and there is not one thing in the world that I would do, however agreeable to myself, if I thought it would disoblige you; nor any one that I would omit to do, if I knew it would give you pleasure. And indeed, my dear half-severe friend, I will try if I cannot avoid the fault as willingly as I would the rebuke.