For this reason, I forbear saying any thing on so nice a subject as your letter to your sister. It must be right, because you think it so—and if it be taken as it ought, that will show you that it is. But if it beget insults and revilings, as it is but too likely, I find you don't intend to let me know it.
You were always so ready to accuse yourself for other people's faults, and to suspect your own conduct rather than the judgment of your relations, that I have often told you I cannot imitate you in this. It is not a necessary point of belief with me, that all people in years are therefore wise; or that all young people are therefore rash and headstrong: it may be generally the case, as far as I know: and possibly it may be so in the case of my mother and her girl: but I will venture to say that it has not yet appeared to be so between the principals of Harlowe-place and their second daughter.
You are for excusing them beforehand for their expected cruelty, as not knowing what you have suffered, nor how ill you are: they have heard of the former, and are not sorry for it: of the latter they have been told, and I have most reason to know how they have taken it—but I shall be far from avoiding the fault, and as surely shall incur the rebuke, if I say any more upon this subject. I will therefore only add at present, That your reasonings in their behalf show you to be all excellence; their returns to you that they are all——Do, my dear, let me end with a little bit of spiteful justice—but you won't, I know—so I have done, quite done, however reluctantly: yet if you think of the word I would have said, don't doubt the justice of it, and fill up the blank with it.
You intimate that were I actually married, and Mr. Hickman to desire it, you would think of obliging me with a visit on the occasion; and that, perhaps, when with me, it would be difficult for you to remove far from me.
Lord, my dear, what a stress do you seem to lay upon Mr. Hickman's desiring it!—To be sure he does and would of all things desire to have you near us, and with us, if we might be so favoured—policy, as well as veneration for you, would undoubtedly make the man, if not a fool, desire this. But let me tell you, that if Mr. Hickman, after marriage, should pretend to dispute with me my friendships, as I hope I am not quite a fool, I should let him know how far his own quiet was concerned in such an impertinence; especially if they were such friendships as were contracted before I knew him.
I know I always differed from you on this subject: for you think more highly of a husband's prerogative than most people do of the royal one. These notions, my dear, from a person of your sense and judgment, are no way advantageous to us; inasmuch as they justify the assuming sex in their insolence; when hardly one out of ten of them, their opportunities considered, deserves any prerogative at all. Look through all the families we know; and we shall not find one-third of them have half the sense of their wives. And yet these are to be vested with prerogatives! And a woman of twice their sense has nothing to do but hear, tremble, and obey—and for conscience-sake too, I warrant!
But Mr. Hickman and I may perhaps have a little discourse upon these sorts of subjects, before I suffer him to talk of the day: and then I shall let him know what he has to trust to; as he will me, if he be a sincere man, what he pretends to expect from me. But let me tell you, my dear, that it is more in your power than, perhaps, you think it, to hasten the day so much pressed for by my mother, as well as wished for by you—for the very day that you can assure me that you are in a tolerable state of health, and have discharged your doctor and apothecary, at their own motions, on that account—some day in a month from that desirable news shall be it. So, my dear, make haste and be well, and then this matter will be brought to effect in a manner more agreeable to your Anna Howe than it otherwise ever can.
I sent this day, by a particular hand, to the Misses Montague, your letter of just reprobation of the greatest profligate in the kingdom; and hope I shall not have done amiss that I transcribe some of the paragraphs of your letter of the 23d, and send them with it, as you at first intended should be done.
You are, it seems, (and that too much for your health,) employed in writing. I hope it is in penning down the particulars of your tragical story. And my mother has put me in mind to press you to it, with a view that one day, if it might be published under feigned names, it would be as much use as honour to the sex. My mother says she cannot help admiring you for the propriety of your resentment of the wretch; and she would be extremely glad to have her advice of penning your sad story complied with. And then, she says, your noble conduct throughout your trials and calamities will afford not only a shining example to your sex, but at the same time, (those calamities befalling SUCH a person,) a fearful warning to the inconsiderate young creatures of it.
On Monday we shall set out on our journey; and I hope to be back in a fortnight, and on my return will have one pull more with my mother for a London journey: and, if the pretence must be the buying of clothes, the principal motive will be that of seeing once more my dear friend, while I can say I have not finally given consent to the change of a visiter into a relation, and so can call myself MY OWN, as well as
Your ANNA HOWE.
MISS HOWE, TO THE TWO MISSES MONTAGUE SAT. JULY 29.
I have not bee wanting to use all my interest with my beloved friend, to induce her to forgive and be reconciled to your kinsman, (though he has so ill deserved it;) and have even repeated my earnest advice to her on this head. This repetition, and the waiting for her answer, having taken up time, have bee the cause that I could not sooner do myself the honour of writing to you on this subject.
You will see, by the enclosed, her immovable resolution, grounded on noble and high-souled motives, which I cannot but regret and applaud at the same time: applaud, for the justice of her determination, which will confirm all your worthy house in the opinion you had conceived of her unequalled merit; and regret, because I have but too much reason to apprehend, as well by that, as by the report of a gentleman just come from her, that she is in a declining way, as to her health, that her thoughts are very differently employed than on a continuance here.
The enclosed letter she thought fit to send to me unsealed, that, after I had perused it, I might forward it to you: and this is the reason it is superscribed by myself, and sealed with my seal. It is very full and peremptory; but as she had been pleased, in a letter to me, dated the 23d instant, (as soon as she could hold a pen,) to give me more ample reasons why she could not comply with your pressing requests, as well as mine, I will transcribe some of the passages in that letter, which will give one of the wickedest men in the world, (if he sees them,) reason to think himself one of the most unhappy, in the loss of so incomparable a wife as he might have gloried in, had he not been so superlatively wicked. These are the passages.
[See, for these passages, Miss Harlowe's letter, No. XLI. of this volume, dated July 23, marked with a turned comma, thus ']
And now, Ladies, you have before you my beloved friend's reasons for her refusal of a man unworthy of the relation he bears to so many excellent persons: and I will add, [for I cannot help it,] that the merit and rank of the person considered, and the vile manner of his proceedings, there never was a greater villany committed: and since she thinks her first and only fault cannot be expiated but by death, I pray to God daily, and will hourly from the moment I shall hear of that sad catastrophe, that He will be pleased to make him the subject of His vengeance, in some such way, as that all who know of his perfidious crime, may see the hand of Heaven in the punishment of it!
You will forgive me, Ladies: I love not mine own soul better than I do Miss Clarissa Harlowe. And the distresses she has gone through; the persecution she suffers from all her friends; the curse she lies under, for his sake, from her implacable father; her reduced health and circumstances, from high health and affluence; and that execrable arrest and confinement, which have deepened all her other calamities, [and which must be laid at his door, as it was the act of his vile agents, that, whether from his immediate orders or not, naturally flowed from his preceding baseness;] the sex dishonoured in the eye of the world, in the person of one of the greatest ornaments of it; the unmanly methods, whatever they were, [for I know not all as yet,] by which he compassed her ruin; all these considerations join to justify my warmth, and my execrations of a man whom I think excluded by his crimes from the benefit even of christian forgiveness—and were you to see all she writes, and to know the admirable talents she is mistress of, you yourselves would join with me to admire her, and execrate him.
Believe me to be, with a high sense of your merits,
Dear Ladies, Your most obedient and humble servant, ANNA HOWE.
MRS. NORTON, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE FRIDAY, JULY 28.
MY DEAREST YOUNG LADY,
I have the consolation to tell you that my son is once again in a hopeful way, as to his health. He desires his duty to you. He is very low and weak. And so am I. But this is the first time that I have been able, for several days past, to sit up to write, or I would not have been so long silent.
Your letter to your sister is received and answered. You have the answer by this time, I suppose. I wish it may be to your satisfaction: but am afraid it will not: for, by Betty Barnes, I find they were in a great ferment on receiving your's, and much divided whether it should be answered or not. They will not yet believe that you are so ill, as [to my infinite concern] I find you are. What passed between Miss Harlowe and Miss Howe has been, as I feared it would be, an aggravation.
I showed Betty two or three passages in your letter to me; and she seemed moved, and said, She would report them favourably, and would procure me a visit from Miss Harlowe, if I would promise to show the same to her. But I have heard no more of that.
Methinks, I am sorry you refuse the wicked man: but doubt not, nevertheless, that your motives for doing so are more commendable than my wishes that you would not. But as you would be resolved, as I may say, on life, if you gave way to such a thought; and as I have so much interest in your recovery; I cannot forbear showing this regard to myself; and to ask you, If you cannot get over your just resentments?— But I dare say no more on this subject.
What a dreadful thing indeed was it for my dearest tender young lady to be arrested in the streets of London!—How does my heart go over again and again for you, what your's must have suffered at that time!—Yet this, to such a mind as your's, must be light, compared to what you had suffered before.
O my dearest Miss Clary, how shall we know what to pray for, when we pray, but that God's will may be done, and that we may be resigned to it! —When at nine years old, and afterwards at eleven, you had a dangerous fever, how incessantly did we grieve, and pray, and put up our vows to the Throne of Grace, for your recovery!—For all our lives were bound up in your life—yet now, my dear, as it has proved, [especially if we are soon to lose you,] what a much more desirable event, both for you and for us, would it have been, had we then lost you!
A sad thing to say! But as it is in pure love to you that I say it, and in full conviction that we are not always fit to be our own choosers, I hope it may be excusable; and the rather, as the same reflection will naturally lead both you and me to acquiesce under the dispensation; since we are assured that nothing happens by chance; and the greatest good may, for aught we know, be produced from the heaviest evils.
I am glad you are with such honest people; and that you have all your effects restored. How dreadfully have you been used, that one should be glad of such a poor piece of justice as that!
Your talent at moving the passions is always hinted at; and this Betty of your sister's never comes near me that she is not full of it. But, as you say, whom has it moved, that you wished to move? Yet, were it not for this unhappy notion, I am sure your mother would relent. Forgive me, my dear Miss Clary; for I must try one way to be convinced if my opinion be not just. But I will not tell you what that is, unless it succeeds. I will try, in pure duty and love to them, as to you.
May Heaven be your support in all your trials, is the constant prayer, my dearest young lady, of
Your ever affectionate friend and servant, JUDITH NORTON.
MRS. NORTON, TO MRS. HARLOWE FRIDAY, JULY 28.
Being forbid (without leave) to send you any thing I might happen to receive from my beloved Miss Clary, and so ill, that I cannot attend you to ask your leave, I give you this trouble, to let you know that I have received a letter from her; which, I think, I should hereafter be held inexcusable, as things may happen, if I did not desire permission to communicate to you, and that as soon as possible.
Applications have been made to the dear young lady from Lord M., from the two ladies his sisters, and from both his nieces, and from the wicked man himself, to forgive and marry him. This, in noble indignation for the usage she has received from him, she has absolutely refused. And perhaps, Madam, if you and the honoured family should be of opinion that to comply with their wishes is now the properest measure that can be taken, the circumstances of things may require your authority or advice, to induce her to change her mind.
I have reason to believe that one motive for her refusal is her full conviction that she shall not long be a trouble to any body; and so she would not give a husband a right to interfere with her family, in relation to the estate her grandfather devised to her. But of this, however, I have not the least intimation from her. Nor would she, I dare say, mention it as a reason, having still stronger reasons, from his vile treatment of her, to refuse him.
The letter I have received will show how truly penitent the dear creature is; and, if I have your permission, I will send it sealed up, with a copy of mine, to which it is an answer. But as I resolve upon this step without her knowledge, [and indeed I do,] I will not acquaint her with it, unless it be attended with desirable effects: because, otherwise, besides making me incur her displeasure, it might quite break her already half-broken heart. I am,
Honoured Madam, Your dutiful and ever-obliged servant, JUDITH NORTON.
MRS. HARLOWE, TO MRS. JUDITH NORTON SUNDAY, JULY 30.
We all know your virtuous prudence, worthy woman: we all do. But your partiality to this your rash favourite is likewise known. And we are no less acquainted with the unhappy body's power of painting her distresses so as to pierce a stone.
Every one is of opinion that the dear naughty creature is working about to be forgiven and received: and for this reason it is that Betty has been forbidden, [not by me, you may be assured!] to mention any more of her letters; for she did speak to my Bella of some moving passages you read to her.
This will convince you that nothing will be heard in her favour. To what purpose then should I mention any thing about her?—But you may be sure that I will, if I can have but one second. However, that is not at all likely, until we see what the consequences of her crime will be: And who can tell that?—She may—How can I speak it, and my once darling daughter unmarried?—She may be with child!—This would perpetuate her stain. Her brother may come to some harm; which God forbid!—One child's ruin, I hope, will not be followed by another's murder!
As to her grief, and her present misery, whatever it be, she must bear with it; and it must be short of what I hourly bear for her! Indeed I am afraid nothing but her being at the last extremity of all will make her father, and her uncles, and her other friends, forgive her.
The easy pardon perverse children meet with, when they have done the rashest and most rebellious thing they can do, is the reason (as is pleaded to us every day) that so may follow their example. They depend upon the indulgent weakness of their parents' tempers, and, in that dependence, harden their own hearts: and a little humiliation, when they have brought themselves into the foretold misery, is to be a sufficient atonement for the greatest perverseness.
But for such a child as this [I mention what others hourly say, but what I must sorrowfully subscribe to] to lay plots and stratagems to deceive her parents as well as herself! and to run away with a libertine! Can there be any atonement for her crime? And is she not answerable to God, to us, to you, and to all the world who knew her, for the abuse of such talents as she has abused?
You say her heart is half-broken: Is it to be wondered at? Was not her sin committed equally against warning and the light of her own knowledge?
That he would now marry her, or that she would refuse him, if she believed him in earnest, as she has circumstanced herself, is not at all probable; and were I inclined to believe it, nobody else here would. He values not his relations; and would deceive them as soon as any others: his aversion to marriage he has always openly declared; and still occasionally declares it. But, if he be now in earnest, which every one who knows him must doubt, which do you think (hating us too as he professes to hate and despise us all) would be most eligible here, To hear of her death, or of her marriage to such a vile man?
To all of us, yet, I cannot say! For, O my good Mrs. Norton, you know what a mother's tenderness for the child of her heart would make her choose, notwithstanding all that child's faults, rather than lose her for ever!
But I must sail with the tide; my own judgment also joining with the general resentment; or I should make the unhappiness of the more worthy still greater, [my dear Mr. Harlowe's particularly;] which is already more than enough to make them unhappy for the remainder of their days. This I know; if I were to oppose the rest, our son would fly out to find this libertine; and who could tell what would be the issue of that with such a man of violence and blood as that Lovelace is known to be?
All I can expect to prevail for her is, that in a week, or so, Mr. Brand may be sent up to inquire privately about her present state and way of life, and to see she is not altogether destitute: for nothing she writes herself will be regarded.
Her father indeed has, at her earnest request, withdrawn the curse, which, in a passion, he laid upon her, at her first wicked flight from us. But Miss Howe, [it is a sad thing, Mrs. Norton, to suffer so many ways at once,] had made matters so difficult by her undue liberties with us all, as well by speech in all companies, as by letters written to my Bella, that we could hardly prevail upon him to hear her letter read.
These liberties of Miss Howe with us; the general cry against us abroad wherever we are spoken of; and the visible, and not seldom audible, disrespectfulness, which high and low treat us with to our faces, as we go to and from church, and even at church, (for no where else have we the heart to go,) as if none of us had been regarded but upon her account; and as if she were innocent, we all in fault; are constant aggravations, you must needs think, to the whole family.
She has made my lot heavy, I am sure, that was far from being light before!—To tell you truth, I am enjoined not to receive any thing of her's, from any hand, without leave. Should I therefore gratify my yearnings after her, so far as to receive privately the letter you mention, what would the case be, but to torment myself, without being able to do her good?—And were it to be known—Mr. Harlowe is so passionate—And should it throw his gout into his stomach, as her rash flight did—Indeed, indeed, I am very unhappy!—For, O my good woman, she is my child still!—But unless it were more in my power—Yet do I long to see the letter—you say it tells of her present way and circumstances. The poor child, who ought to be in possession of thousands!—And will!—For her father will be a faithful steward for her.—But it must be in his own way, and at his own time.
And is she really ill?—so very ill?—But she ought to sorrow—she has given a double measure of it.
But does she really believe she shall not long trouble us?—But, O my Norton!—She must, she will, long trouble us—For can she think her death, if we should be deprived of her, will put an end to our afflictions?—Can it be thought that the fall of such a child will not be regretted by us to the last hour of our lives?
But, in the letter you have, does she, without reserve, express her contrition? Has she in it no reflecting hints? Does she not aim at extenuations?—If I were to see it, will it not shock me so much, that my apparent grief may expose me to harshnesses?—Can it be contrived—
But to what purpose?—Don't send it—I charge you don't—I dare not see it—
Oh! forgive the almost distracted mother! You can.—You know how to allow for all this—so I will let it go.—I will not write over again this part of my letter.
But I choose not to know more of her than is communicated to us all— no more than I dare own I have seen—and what some of them may rather communicate to me, than receive from me: and this for the sake of my outward quiet: although my inward peace suffers more and more by the compelled reserve.
I was forced to break off. But I will now try to conclude my long letter.
I am sorry you are ill. But if you were well, I could not, for your own sake, wish you to go up, as Betty tells us you long to do. If you went, nothing would be minded that came from you. As they already think you too partial in her favour, your going up would confirm it, and do yourself prejudice, and her no good. And as every body values you here, I advise you not to interest yourself too warmly in her favour, especially before my Bella's Betty, till I can let you know a proper time. Yet to forbid you to love the dear naughty creature, who can? O my Norton! you must love her!—And so must I!
I send you five guineas, to help you in your present illness, and your son's; for it must have lain heavy upon you. What a sad, sad thing, my dear good woman, that all your pains, and all my pains, for eighteen or nineteen years together, have, in so few months, been rendered thus deplorably vain! Yet I must be always your friend, and pity you, for the very reason that I myself deserve every one's pity.
Perhaps I may find an opportunity to pay you a visit, as in your illness; and then may weep over the letter you mention with you. But, for the future, write nothing to me about the poor girl that you think may not be communicated to us all.
And I charge you, as you value my friendship, as you wish my peace, not to say any thing of a letter you have from me, either to the naughty one, or to any body else. It was with some little relief (the occasion given) to write to you, who must, in so particular a manner, share my affliction. A mother, Mrs. Norton, cannot forget her child, though that child could abandon her mother; and, in so doing, run away with all her mother's comforts!—As I truly say is the case of
Your unhappy friend, CHARLOTTE HARLOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MRS. JUDITH NORTON SAT. JULY 29.
I congratulate you, my dear Mrs. Norton, with all my heart, on your son's recovery; which I pray to God, with all your own health, to perfect.
I write in some hurry, being apprehensive of the sequence of the hints you give of some method you propose to try in my favour [with my relations, I presume, you mean]: but you will not tell me what, you say, if it prove unsuccessful.
Now I must beg of you that you will not take any step in my favour, with which you do not first acquaint me.
I have but one request to make to them, besides what is contained in my letter to my sister; and I would not, methinks, for the sake of their own future peace of mind, that they should be teased so by your well-meant kindness, and that of Miss Howe, as to be put upon denying me that. And why should more be asked for me than I can partake of? More than is absolutely necessary for my own peace?
You suppose I should have my sister's answer to my letter by the time your's reached my hand. I have it: and a severe one, a very severe one, it is. Yet, considering my fault in their eyes, and the provocations I am to suppose they so newly had from my dear Miss Howe, I am to look upon it as a favour that it was answered at all. I will send you a copy of it soon; as also of mine, to which it is an answer.
I have reason to be very thankful that my father has withdrawn that heavy malediction, which affected me so much—A parent's curse, my dear Mrs. Norton! What child could die in peace under a parent's curse? so literally fulfilled too as this has been in what relates to this life!
My heart is too full to touch upon the particulars of my sister's letter. I can make but one atonement for my fault. May that be accepted! And may it soon be forgotten, by every dear relation, that there was such an unhappy daughter, sister, or niece, as Clarissa Harlowe!
My cousin Morden was one of those who was so earnest in prayer for my recovery, at nine and eleven years of age, as you mention. My sister thinks he will be one of those who wish I never had had a being. But pray, when he does come, let me hear of it with the first.
You think that, were it not for that unhappy notion of my moving talent, my mother would relent. What would I give to see her once more, and, although unknown to her, to kiss but the hem of her garment!
Could I have thought that the last time I saw her would have been the last, with what difficulty should I have been torn from her embraced feet!—And when, screened behind the yew-hedge on the 5th of April last,* I saw my father, and my uncle Antony, and my brother and sister, how little did I think that that would be the last time I should ever see them; and, in so short a space, that so many dreadful evils would befal me!
* See Vol. II. Letter XXXVI.
But I can write nothing but what must give you trouble. I will therefore, after repeating my desire that you will not intercede for me but with my previous consent, conclude with the assurance, that I am, and ever will be,
Your most affectionate and dutiful CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MISS AR. HARLOWE, TO MISS CL. HARLOWE [IN ANSWER TO HER'S OF FRIDAY, JULY 21, LETTER XLV. OF THIS VOLUME.] THURSDAY, JULY 27.
O MY UNHAPPY LOST SISTER!
What a miserable hand have you made of your romantic and giddy expedition!—I pity you at my heart.
You may well grieve and repent!—Lovelace has left you!—In what way or circumstances you know best.
I wish your conduct had made your case more pitiable. But 'tis your own seeking!
God help you!—For you have not a friend will look upon you!—Poor, wicked, undone creature!—Fallen, as you are, against warning, against expostulation, against duty!
But it signifies nothing to reproach you. I weep over you.
My poor mother!—Your rashness and folly have made her more miserable than you can be.—Yet she has besought my father to grant your request.
My uncles joined with her: for they thought there was a little more modesty in your letter than in the letters of your pert advocate: and my father is pleased to give me leave to write; but only these words for him, and no more: 'That he withdraws the curse he laid upon you, at the first hearing of your wicked flight, so far as it is in his power to do it; and hopes that your present punishment may be all that you will meet with. For the rest, he will never own you, nor forgive you; and grieves he has such a daughter in the world.'
All this, and more you have deserved from him, and from all of us: But what have you done to this abandoned libertine, to deserve what you have met with at his hands?—I fear, I fear, Sister!—But no more!—A blessed four months' work have you made of it.
My brother is now at Edinburgh, sent thither by my father, [though he knows not this to be the motive,] that he may not meet your triumphant deluder.
We are told he would be glad to marry you: But why, then, did he abandon you? He had kept you till he was tired of you, no question; and it is not likely he would wish to have you but upon the terms you have already without all doubt been his.
You ought to advise your friend Miss Howe to concern herself less in your matters than she does, except she could do it with more decency. She has written three letters to me: very insolent ones. Your favourer, poor Mrs. Norton, thinks you know nothing of the pert creature's writing. I hope you don't. But then the more impertinent the writer. But, believing the fond woman, I sat down the more readily to answer your letter; and I write with less severity, I can tell you, than otherwise I should have done, if I had answered it all.
Monday last was your birth-day. Think, poor ungrateful wretch, as you are! how we all used to keep it; and you will not wonder to be told, that we ran away from one another that day. But God give you true penitence, if you have it not already! and it will be true, if it be equal to the shame and the sorrow you have given us all.
Your afflicted sister, ARABELLA HARLOWE.
Your cousin Morden is every day expected in England. He, as well as others of the family, when he comes to hear what a blessed piece of work you have made of it, will wish you never had had a being.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE SUNDAY, JULY 30.
You have given me great pleasure, my dearest friend, by your approbation of my reasonings, and of my resolution founded upon them, never to have Mr. Lovelace. This approbation is so right a thing, give me leave to say, from the nature of the case, and from the strict honour and true dignity of mind, which I always admired in my Anna Howe, that I could hardly tell to what, but to my evil destiny, which of late would not let me please any body, to attribute the advice you gave me to the contrary.
But let not the ill state of my health, and what that may naturally tend to, sadden you. I have told you, that I will not run away from life, nor avoid the means that may continue it, if God see fit: and if He do not, who shall repine at His will!
If it shall be found that I have not acted unworthy of your love, and of my own character, in my greater trials, that will be a happiness to both on reflection.
The shock which you so earnestly advise me to try to get above, was a shock, the greatest that I could receive. But, my dear, as it was not occasioned by my fault, I hope I am already got above it. I hope I am.
I am more grieved (at times however) for others, than for myself. And so I ought. For as to myself, I cannot but reflect that I have had an escape, rather than a loss, in missing Mr. Lovelace for a husband—even had he not committed the vilest of all outrages.
Let any one, who knows my story, collect his character from his behaviour to me before that outrage; and then judge whether it was in the least probable that such a man should make me happy. But to collect his character from his principles with regard to the sex in general, and from his enterprizes upon many of them, and to consider the cruelty of his nature, and the sportiveness of his invention, together with the high opinion he has of himself, it will not be doubted that a wife of his must have been miserable; and more miserable if she loved him, than she could have been were she to be indifferent to him.
A twelvemonth might very probably have put a period to my life; situated as I was with my friends; persecuted and harassed as I had been by my brother and sister; and my very heart torn in pieces by the wilful, and (as it is now apparent) premeditated suspenses of the man, whose gratitude I wished to engage, and whose protection I was the more entitled to expect, as he had robbed me of every other, and reduced me to an absolute dependence upon himself. Indeed I once thought that it was all his view to bring me to this, (as he hated my family;) and uncomfortable enough for me, if it had been all.
Can it be thought, my dear, that my heart was not more than half broken (happy as I was before I knew Mr. Lovelace) by a grievous change in my circumstances?—Indeed it was. Nor perhaps was the wicked violence wanting to have cut short, though possibly not so very short, a life that he has sported with.
Had I been his but a month, he must have possessed the estate on which my relations had set their hearts; the more to their regret, as they hated him as much as he hated them.
Have I not reason, these things considered, to think myself happier without Mr. Lovelace than I could have been with him?—My will too unviolated; and very little, nay, not any thing as to him, to reproach myself with?
But with my relations it is otherwise. They indeed deserve to be pitied. They are, and no doubt will long be, unhappy.
To judge of their resentments, and of their conduct, we must put ourselves in their situation:—and while they think me more in fault than themselves, (whether my favourers are of their opinion, or not,) and have a right to judge for themselves, they ought to have great allowances made for them; my parents especially. They stand at least self-acquitted, (that I cannot;) and the rather, as they can recollect, to their pain, their past indulgencies to me, and their unquestionable love.
Your partiality for the friend you so much value will not easily let you come into this way of thinking. But only, my dear, be pleased to consider the matter in the following light.
'Here was my MOTHER, one of the most prudent persons of her sex, married into a family, not perhaps so happily tempered as herself; but every one of which she had the address, for a great while, absolutely to govern as she pleased by her directing wisdom, at the same time that they knew not but her prescriptions were the dictates of their own hearts; such a sweet heart had she of conquering by seeming to yield. Think, my dear, what must be the pride and the pleasure of such a mother, that in my brother she could give a son to the family she distinguished with her love, not unworthy of their wishes; a daughter, in my sister, of whom she had no reason to be ashamed; and in me a second daughter, whom every body complimented (such was their partial favour to me) as being the still more immediate likeness of herself? How, self pleased, could she smile round upon a family she had so blessed! What compliments were paid her upon the example she had given us, which was followed with such hopeful effects! With what a noble confidence could she look upon her dear Mr. Harlowe, as a person made happy by her; and be delighted to think that nothing but purity streamed from a fountain so pure!
'Now, my dear, reverse, as I daily do, this charming prospect. See my dear mother, sorrowing in her closet; endeavouring to suppress her sorrow at her table, and in those retirements where sorrow was before a stranger: hanging down her pensive head: smiles no more beaming over her benign aspect: her virtue made to suffer for faults she could not be guilty of: her patience continually tried (because she has more of it than any other) with repetitions of faults she is as much wounded by, as those can be from whom she so often hears of them: taking to herself, as the fountain-head, a taint which only had infected one of the under-currents: afraid to open her lips (were she willing) in my favour, lest it should be thought she has any bias in her own mind to failings that never could have been suspected in her: robbed of that pleasing merit, which the mother of well-nurtured and hopeful children may glory in: every one who visits her, or is visited by her, by dumb show, and looks that mean more than words can express, condoling where they used to congratulate: the affected silence wounding: the compassionating look reminding: the half-suppressed sigh in them, calling up deeper sighs from her; and their averted eyes, while they endeavour to restrain the rising tear, provoking tears from her, that will not be restrained.
'When I consider these things, and, added to these, the pangs that tear in pieces the stronger heart of my FATHER, because it cannot relieve itself by those which carry the torturing grief to the eyes of softer spirits: the overboiling tumults of my impatient and uncontroulable BROTHER, piqued to the heart of his honour, in the fall of a sister, in whom he once gloried: the pride of an ELDER SISTER, who had given unwilling way to the honours paid over her head to one born after her: and, lastly, the dishonour I have brought upon two UNCLES, who each contended which should most favour their then happy niece:—When, I say, I reflect upon my fault in these strong, yet just lights, what room can there be to censure any body but my unhappy self? and how much reason have I to say, If I justify myself, mine own heart shall condemn me: if I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse?'
Here permit me to lay down my pen for a few moments.
You are very obliging to me, intentionally, I know, when you tell me, it is in my power to hasten the day of Mr. Hickman's happiness. But yet, give me leave to say, that I admire this kind assurance less than any other paragraph of your letter.
In the first place you know it is not in my power to say when I can dismiss my physician; and you should not put the celebration of a marriage intended by yourself, and so desirable to your mother, upon so precarious an issue. Nor will I accept of a compliment, which must mean a slight to her.
If any thing could give me a relish for life, after what I have suffered, it would be the hopes of the continuance of the more than sisterly love, which has, for years, uninterruptedly bound us together as one mind.—And why, my dear, should you defer giving (by a tie still stronger) another friend to one who has so few?
I am glad you have sent my letter to Miss Montague. I hope I shall hear no more of this unhappy man.
I had begun the particulars of my tragical story: but it is so painful a task, and I have so many more important things to do, and, as I apprehend, so little time to do them in, that, could I avoid it, I would go no farther in it.
Then, to this hour, I know not by what means several of his machinations to ruin me were brought about; so that some material parts of my sad story must be defective, if I were to sit down to write it. But I have been thinking of a way that will answer the end wished for by your mother and you full as well, perhaps better.
Mr. Lovelace, it seems, had communicated to his friend Mr. Belford all that has passed between himself and me, as he went on. Mr. Belford has not been able to deny it. So that (as we may observe by the way) a poor young creature, whose indiscretion has given a libertine power over her, has a reason she little thinks of, to regret her folly; since these wretches, who have no more honour in one point than in another, scruple not to make her weakness a part of their triumph to their brother libertines.
I have nothing to apprehend of this sort, if I have the justice done me in his letters which Mr. Belford assures me I have: and therefore the particulars of my story, and the base arts of this vile man, will, I think, be best collected from those very letters of his, (if Mr. Belford can be prevailed upon to communicate them;) to which I dare appeal with the same truth and fervour as he did, who says—O that one would hear me! and that mine adversary had written a book!—Surely, I would take it upon my shoulders, and bind it to me as a crown! for I covered not my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom.
There is one way which may be fallen upon to induce Mr. Belford to communicate these letters; since he seems to have (and declares he always had) a sincere abhorrence of his friend's baseness to me: but that, you'll say, when you hear it, is a strange one. Nevertheless, I am very earnest upon it at present.
It is no other than this:
I think to make Mr. Belford the executor of my last will: [don't be surprised:] and with this view I permit his visits with the less scruple: and every time I see him, from his concern for me, am more and more inclined to do so. If I hold in the same mind, and if he accept the trust, and will communicate the materials in his power, those, joined with what you can furnish, will answer the whole end.
I know you will start at my notion of such an executor; but pray, my dear, consider, in my present circumstances, what I can do better, as I am empowered to make a will, and have considerable matters in my own disposal.
Your mother, I am sure, would not consent that you should take this office upon you. It might subject Mr. Hickman to the insults of that violent man. Mrs. Norton cannot, for several reasons respecting herself. My brother looks upon what I ought to have as his right. My uncle Harlowe is already one of my trustees (as my cousin Morden is the other) for the estate my grandfather left me: but you see I could not get from my own family the few guineas I left behind me at Harlowe-place; and my uncle Antony once threatened to have my grandfather's will controverted. My father!—To be sure, my dear, I could not expect that my father would do all I wish should be done: and a will to be executed by a father for a daughter, (parts of it, perhaps, absolutely against his own judgment,) carries somewhat daring and prescriptive in the very word.
If indeed my cousin Morden were to come in time, and would undertake this trust—but even him it might subject to hazards; and the more, as he is a man of great spirit; and as the other man (of as great) looks upon me (unprotected as I have long been) as his property.
Now Mr. Belford, as I have already mentioned, knows every thing that has passed. He is a man of spirit, and, it seems, as fearless as the other, with more humane qualities. You don't know, my dear, what instances of sincere humanity this Mr. Belford has shown, not only on occasion of the cruel arrest, but on several occasions since. And Mrs. Lovick has taken pains to inquire after his general character; and hears a very good one of him, his justice and generosity in all his concerns of meum and tuum, as they are called: he has a knowledge of law-matters; and has two executorships upon him at this time, in the discharge of which his honour is unquestioned.
All these reasons have already in a manner determined me to ask this favour of him; although it will have an odd sound with it to make an intimate friend of Mr. Lovelace my executor.
This is certain: my brother will be more acquiescent a great deal in such a case with the articles of the will, as he will see that it will be to no purpose to controvert some of them, which else, I dare say, he would controvert, or persuade my other friends to do so. And who would involve an executor in a law-suit, if they could help it?—Which would be the case, if any body were left, whom my brother could hope to awe or controul; since my father has possession of all, and is absolutely governed by him. [Angry spirits, my dear, as I have often seen, will be overcome by more angry ones, as well as sometimes be disarmed by the meek.]—Nor would I wish, you may believe, to have effects torn out of my father's hands: while Mr. Belford, who is a man of fortune, (and a good economist in his own affairs) would have no interest but to do justice.
Then he exceedingly presses for some occasion to show his readiness to serve me: and he would be able to manage his violent friend, over whom he has more influence than any other person.
But after all, I know not if it were not more eligible by far, that my story, and myself too, should be forgotten as soon as possible. And of this I shall have the less doubt, if the character of my parents [you will forgive my, my dear] cannot be guarded against the unqualified bitterness which, from your affectionate zeal for me, has sometimes mingled with your ink—a point that ought, and (I insist upon it) must be well considered of, if any thing be done which your mother and you are desirous to have done. The generality of the world is too apt to oppose a duty—and general duties, my dear, ought not to be weakened by the justification of a single person, however unhappily circumstanced.
My father has been so good as to take off the heavy malediction he laid me under. I must be now solicitous for a last blessing; and that is all I shall presume to petition for. My sister's letter, communicating this grace, is a severe one: but as she writes to me as from every body, how could I expect it to be otherwise?
If you set out to-morrow, this letter cannot reach you till you get to your aunt Harman's. I shall therefore direct it thither, as Mr. Hickman instructed me.
I hope you will have met with no inconveniencies in your little journey and voyage; and that you will have found in good health all whom you wish to see well.
If your relations in the little island join their solicitations with your mother's commands, to have your nuptials celebrated before you leave them, let me beg of you, my dear, to oblige them. How grateful will the notification that you have done so be to
Your ever faithful and affectionate CL. HARLOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HARLOWE SATURDAY, JULY 29.
I repine not, my dear Sister, at the severity you have been pleased to express in the letter you favoured me with; because that severity was accompanied with the grace I had petitioned for; and because the reproaches of mine own heart are stronger than any other person's reproaches can be: and yet I am not half so culpable as I am imagined to be: as would be allowed, if all the circumstances of my unhappy story were known: and which I shall be ready to communicate to Mrs. Norton, if she be commissioned to inquire into them; or to you, my Sister, if you can have patience to hear them.
I remembered with a bleeding heart what day the 24th of July was. I began with the eve of it; and I passed the day itself—as it was fit I should pass it. Nor have I any comfort to give to my dear and ever-honoured father and mother, and to you, my Bella, but this—that, as it was the first unhappy anniversary of my birth, in all probability, it will be the last.
Believe me, my dear Sister, I say not this merely to move compassion, but from the best grounds. And as, on that account, I think it of the highest importance to my peace of mind to obtain one farther favour, I would choose to owe to your intercession, as my sister, the leave I beg, to address half a dozen lines (with the hope of having them answered as I wish) to either or to both my honoured parents, to beg their last blessing.
This blessing is all the favour I have now to ask: it is all I dare to ask: yet am I afraid to rush at once, though by letter, into the presence of either. And if I did not ask it, it might seem to be owing to stubbornness and want of duty, when my heart is all humility penitence. Only, be so good as to embolden me to attempt this task— write but this one line, 'Clary Harlowe, you are at liberty to write as you desire.' This will be enough—and shall, to my last hour, be acknowledged as the greatest favour, by
Your truly penitent sister, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MRS. NORTON, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE MONDAY, JULY 31.
MY DEAREST YOUNG LADY,
I must indeed own that I took the liberty to write to your mother, offering to enclose to her, if she gave me leave, your's of the 24th: by which I thought she would see what was the state of your mind; what the nature of your last troubles was from the wicked arrest; what the people are where you lodge; what proposals were made you from Lord M.'s family; also your sincere penitence; and how much Miss Howe's writing to them, in the terms she wrote in, disturbed you—but, as you have taken the matter into your own hands, and forbid me, in your last, to act in this nice affair unknown to you, I am glad the letter was not required of me—and indeed it may be better that the matter lie wholly between you and them; since my affection for you is thought to proceed from partiality.
They would choose, no doubt, that you should owe to themselves, and not to my humble mediation, the favour for which you so earnestly sue, and of which I would not have your despair: for I will venture to assure you, that your mother is ready to take the first opportunity to show her maternal tenderness: and this I gather from several hints I am not at liberty to explain myself upon.
I long to be with you, now I am better, and now my son is in a fair way of recovery. But is it not hard to have it signified to me that at present it will not be taken well if I go?—I suppose, while the reconciliation, which I hope will take place, is negotiating by means of the correspondence so newly opened between you and your sister. But if you will have me come, I will rely on my good intentions, and risque every one's displeasure.
Mr. Brand has business in town; to solicit for a benefice which it is expected the incumbent will be obliged to quit for a better preferment: and, when there, he is to inquire privately after your way of life, and of your health.
He is a very officious young man; and, but that your uncle Harlowe (who has chosen him for this errand) regards him as an oracle, your mother had rather any body else had been sent.
He is one of those puzzling, over-doing gentlemen, who think they see farther into matters than any body else, and are fond of discovered mysteries where there are none, in order to be thought shrewd men.
I can't say I like him, either in the pulpit or out of it: I, who had a father one of the soundest divines and finest scholars in the kingdom; who never made an ostentation of what he knew; but loved and venerated he gospel he taught, preferring it to all other learning: to be obliged to hear a young man depart from his text as soon as he has named it, (so contrary, too, to the example set him by his learned and worthy principal,* when his health permits him to preach;) and throwing about, to a christian and country audience, scraps of Latin and Greek from the Pagan Classics; and not always brought in with great propriety neither, (if I am to judge by the only way given me to judge of them, by the English he puts them into;) is an indication of something wrong, either in his head, or his heart, or both; for, otherwise, his education at the university must have taught him better. You know, my dear Miss Clary, the honour I have for the cloth: it is owing to that, that I say what I do.
* Dr. Lewen.
I know not the day he is to set out; and, as his inquiries are to be private, be pleased to take no notice of this intelligence. I have no doubt that your life and conversation are such as may defy the scrutinies of the most officious inquirer.
I am just now told that you have written a second letter to your sister: but am afraid they will wait for Mr. Brand's report, before farther favour will be obtained from them; for they will not yet believe you are so ill as I fear you are.
But you would soon find that you have an indulgent mother, were she at liberty to act according to her own inclination. And this gives me great hopes that all will end well at last: for I verily think you are in the right way to a reconciliation. God give a blessing to it, and restore your health, and you to all your friends, prays
Your ever affectionate, JUDITH NORTON.
Your mother has privately sent me five guineas: she is pleased to say to help us in the illness we have been afflicted with; but, more likely, that I might send them to you, as from myself. I hope, therefore, I may send them up, with ten more I have still left.
I will send you word of Mr. Morden's arrival, the moment I know it.
If agreeable, I should be glad to know all that passes between your relations and you.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MRS. NORTON WEDNESDAY, AUG. 2.
You give me, my dear Mrs. Norton, great pleasure in hearing of your's and your son's recovery. May you continue, for many, many years, a blessing to each other!
You tell me that you did actually write to my mother, offering to enclose to her mine of the 24th past: and you say it was not required of you. That is to say, although you cover it over as gently as you could, that your offer was rejected; which makes it evident that no plea could be made for me. Yet, you bid me hope, that the grace I sued for would, in time, be granted.
The grace I then sued for was indeed granted; but you are afraid, you say, that they will wait for Mr. Brand's report, before favour will be obtained in return to the second letter which I wrote to my sister; and you add, that I have an indulgent mother, were she at liberty to act according to her own inclination; and that all will end well at last.
But what, my dear Mrs. Norton, what is the grace I sue for in my second letter?—It is not that they will receive me into favour—If they think it is, they are mistaken. I do not, I cannot expect that. Nor, as I have often said, should I, if they would receive me, bear to live in the eye of those dear friends whom I have so grievously offended. 'Tis only, simply, a blessing I ask: a blessing to die with; not to lie with.—Do they know that? and do they know that their unkindness will perhaps shorten my date; so that their favour, if ever they intend to grant it, may come too late?
Once more, I desire you not to think of coming to me. I have no uneasiness now, but what proceeds from the apprehension of seeing a man I would not see for the world, if I could help it; and from the severity of my nearest and dearest relations: a severity entirely their own, I doubt; for you tell me that my brother is at Edinburgh! You would therefore heighten their severity, and make yourself enemies besides, if you were to come to me—Don't you see you would?
Mr. Brand may come, if he will. He is a clergyman, and must mean well; or I must think so, let him say of me what he will. All my fear is, that, as he knows I am in disgrace with a family whose esteem he is desirous to cultivate; and as he has obligations to my uncle Harlowe and to my father; he will be but a languid acquitter—not that I am afraid of what he, or any body in the world, can hear as to my conduct. You may, my revered and dear friend, indeed you may, rest satisfied, that that is such as may warrant me to challenge the inquiries of the most officious.
I will send you copies of what passes, as you desire, when I have an answer to my second letter. I now begin to wish that I had taken the heart to write to my father himself; or to my mother, at least; instead of to my sister; and yet I doubt my poor mother can do nothing for me of herself. A strong confederacy, my dear Mrs. Norton, (a strong confederacy indeed!) against a poor girl, their daughter, sister, niece! —My brother, perhaps, got it renewed before he left them. He needed not—his work is done; and more than done.
Don't afflict yourself about money-matters on my account. I have no occasion for money. I am glad my mother was so considerate to you. I was in pain for you on the same subject. But Heaven will not permit so good a woman to want the humble blessings she was always satisfied with. I wish every individual of our family were but as rich as you!—O my mamma Norton, you are rich! you are rich indeed!—the true riches are such content as you are blessed with.—And I hope in God that I am in the way to be rich too.
Adieu, my ever-indulgent friend. You say all will be at last happy—and I know it will—I confide that it will, with as much security, as you may, that I will be, to my last hour,
Your ever grateful and affectionate CL. HARLOWE.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. TUESDAY, AUG. 1.
I am most confoundedly chagrined and disappointed: for here, on Saturday, arrived a messenger from Miss Howe, with a letter to my cousins;* which I knew nothing of till yesterday; when Lady Sarah and Lady Betty were procured to be here, to sit in judgment upon it with the old Peer, and my two kinswomen. And never was bear so miserably baited as thy poor friend!—And for what?—why for the cruelty of Miss Harlowe: For have I committed any new offence? and would I not have re-instated myself in her favour upon her own terms, if I could? And is it fair to punish me for what is my misfortune, and not my fault? Such event-judging fools as I have for my relations! I am ashamed of them all.
* See Letter LV. of this volume.
In that of Miss Howe was enclosed one to her from Miss Harlowe,* to be transmitted to my cousins, containing a final rejection of me; and that in very vehement and positive terms; yet she pretends that, in this rejection, she is governed more by principle than passion—[D——d lie, as ever was told!] and, as a proof that she is, says, that she can forgive me, and does, on this one condition, that I will never molest her more—the whole letter so written as to make herself more admired, me more detested.
* See Letter XLI. of this volume.
What we have been told of the agitations and workings, and sighings and sobbings, of the French prophets among us formerly, was nothing at all to the scene exhibited by these maudlin souls, at the reading of these letters; and of some affecting passages extracted from another of my fair implacable's to Miss Howe—such lamentations for the loss of so charming a relation! such applaudings of her virtue, of her exaltedness of soul and sentiment! such menaces of disinherisons! I, not needing their reproaches to be stung to the heart with my own reflections, and with the rage of disappointment; and as sincerely as any of them admiring her— 'What the devil,' cried I, 'is all this for? Is it not enough to be despised and rejected? Can I help her implacable spirit? Would I not repair the evils I have made her suffer?'—Then was I ready to curse them all, herself and Miss Howe for company: and heartily swore that she should yet be mine.
I now swear it over again to thee—'Were her death to follow in a week after the knot is tied, by the Lord of Heaven, it shall be tied, and she shall die a Lovelace!'—Tell her so, if thou wilt: but, at the same time, tell her that I have no view to her fortune; and that I will solemnly resign that, and all pretensions to it, in whose favour she pleases, if she resign life issueless.—I am not so low-minded a wretch, as to be guilty of any sordid views to her fortune.—Let her judge for herself, then, whether it be not for her honour rather to leave this world a Lovelace than a Harlowe.
But do not think I will entirely rest a cause so near my heart upon an advocate who so much more admires his client's adversary than his client. I will go to town, in a few days, in order to throw myself at her feet: and I will carry with me, or have at hand, a resolute, well-prepared parson; and the ceremony shall be performed, let what will be the consequence.
But if she will permit me to attend her for this purpose at either of the churches mentioned in the license, (which she has by her, and, thank Heaven! has not returned me with my letters,) then will I not disturb her; but meet her at the altar in either church, and will engage to bring my two cousins to attend her, and even Lady Sarah and Lady Betty; and my Lord M. in person shall give her to me.
Or, if it be still more agreeable to her, I will undertake that either Lady Sarah or Lady Betty, or both, shall go to town and attend her down; and the marriage shall be celebrated in their presence, and in that of Lord M., either here or elsewhere, at her own choice.
Do not play me booty, Belford; but sincerely and warmly use all the eloquence thou art master of, to prevail upon her to choose one of these three methods. One of them she must choose—by my soul, she must.
Here is Charlotte tapping at my closet-door for admittance. What a devil wants Charlotte?—I will hear no more reproaches!—Come in, girl!
My cousin Charlotte, finding me writing on with too much earnestness to have any regard for politeness to her, and guessing at my subject, besought me to let her see what I had written.
I obliged her. And she was so highly pleased on seeing me so much in earnest, that she offered, and I accepted her offer, to write a letter to Miss Harlowe; with permission to treat me in it as she thought fit.
I shall enclose a copy of her letter.
When she had written it, she brought it to me, with apologies for the freedom taken with me in it: but I excused it; and she was ready to give me a kiss for it; telling her I had hopes of success from it; and that I thought she had luckily hit it off.
Every one approves of it, as well as I; and is pleased with me for so patiently submitting to be abused, and undertaken for.—If it do not succeed, all the blame will be thrown upon the dear creature's perverseness: her charitable or forgiving disposition, about which she makes such a parade, will be justly questioned; and the piety, of which she is now in full possession, will be transferred to me.
Putting, therefore, my whole confidence in this letter, I postpone all my other alternatives, as also my going to town, till my empress send an answer to my cousin Montague.
But if she persist, and will not promise to take time to consider of the matter, thou mayest communicate to her what I had written, as above, before my cousin entered; and, if she be still perverse, assure her, that I must and will see her—but this with all honour, all humility: and, if I cannot move her in my favour, I will then go abroad, and perhaps never more return to England.
I am sorry thou art, at this critical time, so busily employed, as thou informest me thou art, in thy Watford affairs, and in preparing to do Belton justice. If thou wantest my assistance in the latter, command me. Though engrossed by this perverse beauty, and plagued as I am, I will obey thy first summons.
I have great dependence upon thy zeal and thy friendship: hasten back to her, therefore, and resume a task so interesting to me, that it is equally the subject of my dreams, as of my waking hours.
MISS MONTAGUE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TUESDAY, AUG. 1.
All our family is deeply sensible of the injuries you have received at the hands of one of it, whom you only can render in any manner worthy of the relation he stands in to us all: and if, as an act of mercy and charity, the greatest your pious heart can show, you will be pleased to look over his past wickedness and ingratitude, and suffer yourself to be our kinswoman, you will make us the happiest family in the world: and I can engage, that Lord M., and Lady Sarah Sadleir, and Lady Betty Lawrance, and my sister, who are all admirers of your virtues, and of your nobleness of mind, will for ever love and reverence you, and do every thing in all their powers to make you amends for what you have suffered from Mr. Lovelace. This, Madam, we should not, however, dare to petition for, were we not assured, that Mr. Lovelace is most sincerely sorry for his past vileness to you; and that he will, on his knees, beg your pardon, and vow eternal love and honour to you.
Wherefore, my dearest cousin, [how you will charm us all, if this agreeable style may be permitted!] for all our sakes, for his soul's sake, [you must, I am sure, be so good a lady, as to wish to save a soul!] and allow me to say, for your own fame's sake, condescend to our joint request: and if, by way of encouragement, you will but say you will be glad to see, and to be as much known personally, as you are by fame, to Charlotte Montague, I will, in two days' time from the receipt of your permission, wait upon you with or without my sister, and receive your farther commands.
Let me, our dearest cousin, [we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of calling you so; let me] entreat you to give me your permission for my journey to London; and put it in the power of Lord M. and of the ladies of the family, to make you what reparation they can make you, for the injuries which a person of the greatest merit in the world has received from one of the most audacious men in it; and you will infinitely oblige us all; and particularly her, who repeatedly presumes to style herself
Your affectionate cousin, and obliged servant, CHARLOTTE MONTAGUE.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. THURSDAY MORNING, AUG. 3. SIX O'CLOCK.
I have been so much employed in my own and Belton's affairs, that I could not come to town till last night; having contented myself with sending to Mrs. Lovick, to know, from time to time, the state of the lady's health; of which I received but very indifferent accounts, owing, in a great measure, to letters or advices brought her from her implacable family.
I have now completed my own affairs; and, next week, shall go to Epsom, to endeavour to put Belton's sister into possession of his own house for him: after which, I shall devote myself wholly to your service, and to that of the lady.
I was admitted to her presence last night; and found her visibly altered for the worse. When I went home, I had your letter of Tuesday last put into my hands. Let me tell thee, Lovelace, that I insist upon the performance of thy engagement to me that thou wilt not personally molest her.
[Mr. Belford dates again on Thursday morning, ten o'clock; and gives an account of a conversation which he had just held with the Lady upon the subject of Miss Montague's letter to her, preceding, and upon Mr. Lovelace's alternatives, as mentioned in Letter LXV., which Mr. Belford supported with the utmost earnestness. But, as the result of this conversation will be found in the subsequent letters, Mr. Belford's pleas and arguments in favour of his friend, and the Lady's answers, are omitted.]
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS MONTAGUE THURSDAY, AUG. 3.
I am infinitely obliged to you for your kind and condescending letter. A letter, however, which heightens my regrets, as it gives me a new instance of what a happy creature I might have been in an alliance so much approved of by such worthy ladies; and which, on their accounts, and on that of Lord M. would have been so reputable to myself, and was once so desirable.
But indeed, indeed, Madam, my heart sincerely repulses the man who, descended from such a family, could be guilty, first, of such premeditated violence as he has been guilty of; and, as he knows, farther intended me, on the night previous to the day he set out for Berkshire; and, next, pretending to spirit, could be so mean as to wish to lift into that family a person he was capable of abasing into a companionship with the most abandoned of her sex.
Allow me then, dear Madam, to declare with favour, that I think I never could be ranked with the ladies of a family so splendid and so noble, if, by vowing love and honour at the altar to such a violator, I could sanctify, as I may say, his unprecedented and elaborate wickedness.
Permit me, however, to make one request to my good Lord M., and to Lady Betty, and Lady Sarah, and to your kind self, and your sister.—It is, that you will all be pleased to join your authority and interests to prevail upon Mr. Lovelace not to molest me farther.
Be pleased to tell him, that, if I am designed for life, it will be very cruel in him to attempt to hunt me out of it; for I am determined never to see him more, if I can help it. The more cruel, because he knows that I have nobody to defend me from him: nor do I wish to engage any body to his hurt, or to their own.
If I am, on the other hand, destined for death, it will be no less cruel, if he will not permit me to die in peace—since a peaceable and happy end I wish him; indeed I do.
Every worldly good attend you, dear Madam, and every branch of the honourable family, is the wish of one, whose misfortune it is that she is obliged to disclaim any other title than that of,
Dear Madam, Your and their obliged and faithful servant, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. THURSDAY AFTERNOON, AUG. 3.
I am just now agreeably surprised by the following letter, delivered into my hands by a messenger from the lady. The letter she mentions, as enclosed,* I have returned, without taking a copy of it. The contents of it will soon be communicated to you, I presume, by other hands. They are an absolute rejection of thee—Poor Lovelace!
* See Miss Harlowe's Letter, No. LXVIII.
TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. AUG. 3.
You have frequently offered to oblige me in any thing that shall be within your power: and I have such an opinion of you, as to be willing to hope that, at the times you made these offers, you meant more than mere compliment.
I have therefore two requests to make to you: the first I will now mention; the other, if this shall be complied with, otherwise not.
It behoves me to leave behind me such an account as may clear up my conduct to several of my friends who will not at present concern themselves about me: and Miss Howe, and her mother, are very solicitous that I will do so.
I am apprehensive that I shall not have time to do this; and you will not wonder that I have less and less inclination to set about such a painful task; especially as I find myself unable to look back with patience on what I have suffered; and shall be too much discomposed by the retrospection, were I obliged to make it, to proceed with the requisite temper in a task of still greater importance which I have before me.
It is very evident to me that your wicked friend has given you, from time to time, a circumstantial account of all his behaviour to me, and devices against me; and you have more than once assured me, that he has done my character all the justice I could wish for, both by writing and speech.
Now, Sir, if I may have a fair, a faithful specimen from his letters or accounts to you, written upon some of the most interesting occasions, I shall be able to judge whether there will or will not be a necessity for me, for my honour's sake, to enter upon the solicited task.
You may be assured, from my enclosed answer to the letter which Miss Montague has honoured me with, (and which you'll be pleased to return me as soon as read,) that it is impossible for me ever to think of your friend in the way I am importuned to think of him: he cannot therefore receive any detriment from the requested specimen: and I give you my honour, that no use shall be made of it to his prejudice, in law, or otherwise. And that it may not, after I am no more, I assure you, that it is a main part of my view that the passages you shall oblige me with shall be always in your own power, and not in that of any other person.
If, Sir, you think fit to comply with my request, the passages I would wish to be transcribed (making neither better nor worse of the matter) are those which he has written to you, on or about the 7th and 8th of June, when I was alarmed by the wicked pretence of a fire; and what he has written from Sunday, June 11, to the 19th. And in doing this you will much oblige
Your humble servant, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
Now, Lovelace, since there are no hopes for thee of her returning favour—since some praise may lie for thy ingenuousness, having neither offered [as more diminutive-minded libertines would have done] to palliate thy crimes, by aspersing the lady, or her sex—since she may be made easier by it—since thou must fare better from thine own pen than from her's—and, finally, since thy actions have manifested that thy letters are not the most guilty part of what she knows of thee—I see not why I may not oblige her, upon her honour, and under the restrictions, and for the reasons she has given; and this without breach of the confidence due to friendly communication; especially, as I might have added, since thou gloriest in thy pen and in thy wickedness, and canst not be ashamed.
But, be this as it may, she will be obliged before thy remonstrances or clamours against it can come; so, pr'ythee now, make the best of it, and rave not; except for the sake of a pretence against me, and to exercise thy talent of execration:—and, if thou likest to do so for these reasons, rave and welcome.
I long to know what the second request is: but this I know, that if it be any thing less than cutting thy throat, or endangering my own neck, I will certainly comply; and be proud of having it in my power to oblige her.
And now I am actually going to be busy in the extracts.
MR. BELFORD, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE AUG. 3, 4.
You have engaged me to communicate to you, upon my honour, (making neither better nor worse of the matter,) what Mr. Lovelace has written to me, in relation to yourself, in the period preceding your going to Hampstead, and in that between the 11th and 19th of June: and you assure me you have no view in this request, but to see if it be necessary for you, from the account he gives, to touch upon the painful subjects yourself, for the sake of your own character.
Your commands, Madam, are of a very delicate nature, as they may seem to affect the secrets of private friendship: but as I know you are not capable of a view, the motives to which you will not own; and as I think the communication may do some credit to my unhappy friend's character, as an ingenuous man; though his actions by the most excellent woman in the world have lost him all title to that of an honourable one; I obey you with the greater cheerfulness.
[He then proceeds with his extracts, and concludes them with an address to her in his friend's behalf, in the following words:]
'And now, Madam, I have fulfilled your commands; and, I hope, have not dis-served my friend with you; since you will hereby see the justice he does to your virtue in every line he writes. He does the same in all his letters, though to his own condemnation: and, give me leave to add, that if this ever-amiable sufferer can think it in any manner consistent with her honour to receive his vows on the altar, on his truly penitent turn of mind, I have not the least doubt but that he will make her the best and tenderest of husbands. What obligation will not the admirable lady hereby lay upon all his noble family, who so greatly admire her! and, I will presume to say, upon her own, when the unhappy family aversion (which certainly has been carried to an unreasonable height against him) shall be got over, and a general reconciliation takes place! For who is it that would not give these two admirable persons to each other, were not his morals an objection?
However this be, I would humbly refer to you, Madam, whether, as you will be mistress of very delicate particulars from me his friend, you should not in honour think yourself concerned to pass them by, as if you had never seen them; and not to take advantage of the communication, not even in an argument, as some perhaps might lie, with respect to the premeditated design he seems to have had, not against you, as you; but as against the sex; over whom (I am sorry I can bear witness myself) it is the villanous aim of all libertines to triumph: and I would not, if any misunderstanding should arise between him and me, give him room to reproach me that his losing of you, and (through his usage of you) of his own friends, were owing to what perhaps he would call breach of trust, were he to judge rather by the event than by my intention.
I am, Madam, with the most profound veneration,
Your most faithful humble servant, J. BELFORD.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. FRIDAY, AUG. 4.
I hold myself extremely obliged to you for your communications. I will make no use of them, that you shall have reason to reproach either yourself or me with. I wanted no new lights to make the unhappy man's premeditated baseness to me unquestionable, as my answer to Miss Montague's letter might convince you.*
* See Letter LXVIII. of this volume.
I must own, in his favour, that he has observed some decency in his accounts to you of the most indecent and shocking actions. And if all his strangely-communicative narrations are equally decent, nothing will be rendered criminally odious by them, but the vile heart that could meditate such contrivances as were much stronger evidences of his inhumanity than of his wit: since men of very contemptible parts and understanding may succeed in the vilest attempts, if they can once bring themselves to trample on the sanctions which bind man to man; and sooner upon an innocent person than upon any other; because such a one is apt to judge of the integrity of others' hearts by its own.
I find I have had great reason to think myself obliged to your intention in the whole progress of my sufferings. It is, however, impossible, Sir, to miss the natural inference on this occasion that lies against his predetermined baseness. But I say the less, because you shall not think I borrow, from what you have communicated, aggravations that are not needed.
And now, Sir, that I may spare you the trouble of offering any future arguments in his favour, let me tell you that I have weighed every thing thoroughly—all that human vanity could suggest—all that a desirable reconciliation with my friends, and the kind respects of his own, could bid me hope for—the enjoyment of Miss Howe's friendship, the dearest consideration to me, now, of all the worldly ones—all these I have weighed: and the result is, and was before you favoured me with these communications, that I have more satisfaction in the hope that, in one month, there will be an end of all with me, than in the most agreeable things that could happen from an alliance with Mr. Lovelace, although I were to be assured he would make the best and tenderest of husbands. But as to the rest; if, satisfied with the evils he has brought upon me, he will forbear all further persecutions of me, I will, to my last hour, wish him good: although he hath overwhelmed the fatherless, and digged a pit for his friend: fatherless may she well be called, and motherless too, who has been denied all paternal protection, and motherly forgiveness.
And now, Sir, acknowledging gratefully your favour in the extracts, I come to the second request I had to make you; which requires a great deal of courage to mention; and which courage nothing but a great deal of distress, and a very destitute condition, can give. But, if improper, I can but be denied; and dare to say I shall be at least excused. Thus, then, I preface it:
'You see, Sir, that I am thrown absolutely into the hands of strangers, who, although as kind and compassionate as strangers can be wished to be, are, nevertheless, persons from whom I cannot expect any thing more than pity and good wishes; nor can my memory receive from them any more protection than my person, if either should need it.
'If then I request it, of the only person possessed of materials that will enable him to do my character justice;
'And who has courage, independence, and ability to oblige me;
'To be the protector or my memory, as I may say;
'And to be my executor; and to see some of my dying requests performed;
'And if I leave it to him to do the whole in his own way, manner, and time; consulting, however, in requisite cases, my dear Miss Howe;
'I presume to hope that this my second request may be granted.'
And if it may, these satisfactions will accrue to me from the favour done me, and the office undertaken:
'It will be an honour to my memory, with all those who shall know that I was so well satisfied of my innocence, that, having not time to write my own story, I could intrust it to the relation which the destroyer of my fame and fortunes has given of it.
'I shall not be apprehensive of involving any one in my troubles or hazards by this task, either with my own relations, or with your friend; having dispositions to make which perhaps my own friends will not be so well pleased with as it were to be wished they would be;' as I intend not unreasonable ones; but you know, Sir, where self is judge, matters, even with good people, will not always be rightly judged of.
'I shall also be freed from the pain of recollecting things that my soul is vexed at; and this at a time when its tumults should be allayed, in order to make way for the most important preparation.
'And who knows, but that Mr. Belford, who already, from a principle of humanity, is touched at my misfortunes, when he comes to revolve the whole story, placed before him in one strong light: and when he shall have the catastrophe likewise before him; and shall become in a manner interested in it; who knows, but that, from a still higher principle, he may so regulate his future actions as to find his own reward in the everlasting welfare which is wished him by his
'Obliged servant, 'CLARISSA HARLOWE?'
MR. BELFORD, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE FRIDAY, AUG. 4.
I am so sensible of the honour done me in your's of this day, that I would not delay for one moment the answering of it. I hope you will live to see many happy years; and to be your own executrix in those points which your heart is most set upon. But, in the case of survivorship, I most cheerfully accept of the sacred office you are pleased to offer me; and you may absolutely rely upon my fidelity, and, if possible, upon the literal performance of every article you shall enjoin me.
The effect of the kind wish you conclude with, had been my concern ever since I have been admitted to the honour of your conversation. It shall be my whole endeavour that it be not vain. The happiness of approaching you, which this trust, as I presume, will give me frequent opportunities of doing, must necessarily promote the desired end: since it will be impossible to be a witness of your piety, equanimity, and other virtues, and not aspire to emulate you. All I beg is, that you will not suffer any future candidate, or event, to displace me; unless some new instances of unworthiness appear either in the morals or behaviour of,
Madam, Your most obliged and faithful servant, J. BELFORD.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. FRIDAY NIGHT, AUG. 4.
I have actually delivered to the lady the extracts she requested me to give her from your letters. I do assure you that I have made the very best of the matter for you, not that conscience, but that friendship, could oblige me to make. I have changed or omitted some free words. The warm description of her person in the fire-scene, as I may call it, I have omitted. I have told her, that I have done justice to you, in the justice you have done to her by her unexampled virtue. But take the very words which I wrote to her immediately following the extracts:
'And now, Madam,'—See the paragraph marked with an inverted comma [thus '], Letter LXX. of this volume.
The lady is extremely uneasy at the thoughts of your attempting to visit her. For Heaven's sake, (your word being given,) and for pity's sake, (for she is really in a very weak and languishing way,) let me beg of you not to think of it.
Yesterday afternoon she received a cruel letter (as Mrs. Lovick supposes it to be, by the effect it had upon her) from her sister, in answer to one written last Saturday, entreating a blessing and forgiveness from her parents.
She acknowledges, that if the same decency and justice are observed in all of your letters, as in the extracts I have obliged her with, (as I have assured her they are,) she shall think herself freed from the necessity of writing her own story: and this is an advantage to thee which thou oughtest to thank me for.
But what thinkest thou is the second request she had to make to me? no other than that I would be her executor!—Her motives will appear before thee in proper time; and then, I dare to answer, will be satisfactory.
You cannot imagine how proud I am of this trust. I am afraid I shall too soon come into the execution of it. As she is always writing, what a melancholy pleasure will be the perusal and disposition of her papers afford me! such a sweetness of temper, so much patience and resignation, as she seems to be mistress of; yet writing of and in the midst of present distresses! how much more lively and affecting, for that reason, must her style be; her mind tortured by the pangs of uncertainty, (the events then hidden in the womb of fate,) than the dry, narrative, unanimated style of persons, relating difficulties and dangers surmounted; the relater perfectly at ease; and if himself unmoved by his own story, not likely greatly to affect the reader!
SATURDAY MORNING, AUG. 5.
I am just returned from visiting the lady, and thanking her in person for the honour she has done me; and assuring her, if called to the sacred trust, of the utmost fidelity and exactness.
I found her very ill. I took notice of it. She said, she had received a second hard-hearted letter from her sister; and she had been writing a letter (and that on her knees) directly to her mother; which, before, she had not had the courage to do. It was for a last blessing and forgiveness. No wonder, she said, that I saw her affected. Now that I had accepted of the last charitable office for her, (for which, as well as for complying with her other request, she thanked me,) I should one day have all these letters before me: and could she have a kind one in return to that she had been now writing, to counterbalance the unkind one she had from her sister, she might be induced to show me both together— otherwise, for her sister's sake, it were no matter how few saw the poor Bella's letter.