I knew she would be displeased if I had censured the cruelty of her relations: I therefore only said, that surely she must have enemies, who hoped to find their account in keeping up the resentments of her friends against her.
It may be so, Mr. Belford, said she: the unhappy never want enemies. One fault, wilfully committed, authorizes the imputation of many more. Where the ear is opened to accusations, accusers will not be wanting; and every one will officiously come with stories against a disgraced child, where nothing dare be said in her favour. I should have been wise in time, and not have needed to be convinced, by my own misfortunes, of the truth of what common experience daily demonstrates. Mr. Lovelace's baseness, my father's inflexibility, my sister's reproaches, are the natural consequences of my own rashness; so I must make the best of my hard lot. Only, as these consequences follow one another so closely, while they are new, how can I help being anew affected?
I asked, if a letter written by myself, by her doctor or apothecary, to any of her friends, representing her low state of health, and great humility, would be acceptable? or if a journey to any of them would be of service, I would gladly undertake it in person, and strictly conform to her orders, to whomsoever she should direct me to apply.
She earnestly desired that nothing of this sort might be attempted, especially without her knowledge and consent. Miss Howe, she said, had done harm by her kindly-intended zeal; and if there were room to expect favour by mediation, she had ready at hand a kind friend, Mrs. Norton, who for piety and prudence had few equals; and who would let slip no opportunity to endeavour to do her service.
I let her know that I was going out of town till Monday: she wished me pleasure; and said she should be glad to see me on my return.
MISS AR. HARLOWE, TO MISS CL. HARLOWE [IN ANSWER TO HER'S OF JULY 29. SEE LETTER LXII. OF THIS VOLUME.] THURSDAY MORN. AUG. 3.
I wish you would not trouble me with any more of your letters. You had always a knack at writing; and depended upon making every one do what you would when you wrote. But your wit and folly have undone you. And now, as all naughty creatures do, when they can't help themselves, you come begging and praying, and make others as uneasy as yourself.
When I wrote last to you, I expected that I should not be at rest.
And so you'd creep on, by little and little, till you'll want to be received again.
But you only hope for forgiveness and a blessing, you say. A blessing for what, sister Clary? Think for what!—However, I read your letter to my father and mother.
I won't tell you what my father said—one who has the true sense you boast to have of your misdeeds, may guess, without my telling you, what a justly-incensed father would say on such an occasion.
My poor mother—O wretch! what has not your ungrateful folly cost my poor mother!—Had you been less a darling, you would not, perhaps, have been so graceless: But I never in my life saw a cockered favourite come to good.
My heart is full, and I can't help writing my mind; for your crimes have disgraced us all; and I am afraid and ashamed to go to any public or private assembly or diversion: And why?—I need not say why, when your actions are the subjects either of the open talk, or of the affronting whispers, of both sexes at all such places.
Upon the whole, I am sorry I have no more comfort to send you: but I find nobody willing to forgive you.
I don't know what time may do for you; and when it is seen that your penitence is not owing more to disappointment than to true conviction: for it is too probable, Miss Clary, that, had not your feather-headed villain abandoned you, we should have heard nothing of these moving supplications; nor of any thing but defiances from him, and a guilt gloried in from you. And this is every one's opinion, as well as that of
Your afflicted sister, ARABELLA HARLOWE.
I send this by a particular hand, who undertakes to give it you or leave it for you by to-morrow night.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO HER MOTHER SATURDAY, AUG. 5
No self-convicted criminal ever approached her angry and just judge with greater awe, nor with a truer contrition, than I do you by these lines.
Indeed I must say, that if the latter of my humble prayer had not respected my future welfare, I had not dared to take this liberty. But my heart is set upon it, as upon a thing next to God Almighty's forgiveness necessary for me.
Had my happy sister known my distresses, she would not have wrung my heart, as she has done, by a severity, which I must needs think unkind and unsisterly.
But complaint of any unkindness from her belongs not to me: yet, as she is pleased to write that it must be seen that my penitence is less owing to disappointment than to true conviction, permit me, Madam, to insist upon it, that, if such a plea can be allowed me, I an actually entitled to the blessing I sue for; since my humble prayer is founded upon a true and unfeigned repentance: and this you will the readier believe, if the creature who never, to the best of her remembrance, told her mamma a wilful falsehood may be credited, when she declares, as she does, in the most solemn manner, that she met the seducer with a determination not to go off with him: that the rash step was owing more to compulsion than to infatuation: and that her heart was so little in it, that she repented and grieved from the moment she found herself in his power; and for every moment after, for several weeks before she had any cause from him to apprehend the usage she met with.
Wherefore, on my knees, my ever-honoured Mamma, (for on my knees I write this letter,) I do most humbly beg your blessing: say but, in so many words, (I ask you not, Madam, to call me your daughter,)—Lost, unhappy wretch, I forgive you! and may God bless you!—This is all! Let me, on a blessed scrap of paper, but see one sentence to this effect, under your dear hand, that I may hold it to my heart in my most trying struggles, and I shall think it a passport to Heaven. And, if I do not too much presume, and it were WE instead of I, and both your honoured names subjoined to it, I should then have nothing more to wish. Then would I say, 'Great and merciful God! thou seest here in this paper thy poor unworthy creature absolved by her justly-offended parents: Oh! join, for my Redeemer's sake, thy all-gracious fiat, and receive a repentant sinner to the arms of thy mercy!'
I can conjure you, Madam, by no subject of motherly tenderness, that will not, in the opinion of my severe censurers, (before whom this humble address must appear,) add to reproach: let me therefore, for God's sake, prevail upon you to pronounce me blest and forgiven, since you will thereby sprinkle comfort through the last hours of
Your CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MISS MONTAGUE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [IN ANSWER TO HER'S OF AUG. 3. SEE LETTER LXVIII. OF THIS VOLUME.] MONDAY, AUG. 7.
We were all of opinion, before your letter came, that Mr. Lovelace was utterly unworthy of you, and deserved condign punishment, rather than to be blessed with such a wife: and hoped far more from your kind consideration for us, than any we supposed you could have for so base an injurer. For we were all determined to love you, and admire you, let his behaviour to you be what it would.
But, after your letter, what can be said?
I am, however, commanded to write in all the subscribing names, to let you know how greatly your sufferings have affected us: to tell you that my Lord M. has forbid him ever more to enter the doors of the apartments where he shall be: and as you labour under the unhappy effects of your friends' displeasure, which may subject you to inconveniencies, his Lordship, and Lady Sarah, and Lady Betty, beg of you to accept, for your life, or, at least, till you are admitted to enjoy your own estate, of one hundred guineas per quarter, which will be regularly brought you by an especial hand, and of the enclosed bank-bill for a beginning. And do not, dearest Madam, we all beseech you, do not think you are beholden (for this token of Lord M.'s, and Lady Sarah's, and Lady Betty's, love to you) to the friends of this vile man; for he has not one friend left among us.
We each of us desire to be favoured with a place in your esteem; and to be considered upon the same foot of relationship as if what once was so much our pleasure to hope would be, had been. And it shall be our united prayer, that you may recover health and spirits, and live to see many happy years: and, since this wretch can no more be pleaded for, that, when he is gone abroad, as he now is preparing to do, we may be permitted the honour of a personal acquaintance with a lady who has no equal. These are the earnest requests, dearest young lady, of
Your affectionate friends, and most faithful servants, M. SARAH SADLEIR. ELIZ. LAWRANCE. CHARL. MONTAGUE. MARTH. MONTAGUE.
You will break the hearts of the three first-named more particularly, if you refuse them your acceptance. Dearest young lady, punish not them for his crimes. We send by a particular hand, which will bring us, we hope, your accepting favour.
Mr. Lovelace writes by the same hand; but he knows nothing of our letter, nor we of his: for we shun each other; and one part of the house holds us, another him, the remotest from each other.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SAT. AUG. 23.
I am so disturbed at the contents of Miss Harlowe's answer to my cousin Charlotte's letter of Tuesday last, (which was given her by the same fellow that gave me your's,) that I have hardly patience or consideration enough to weigh what you write.
She had need indeed to cry out for mercy for herself from her friends, who knows not how to show any! She is a true daughter of the Harlowes!— By my soul, Jack, she is a true daughter of the Harlowes! Yet has she so many excellencies, that I must love her; and, fool that I am, love her the more for despising me.
Thou runnest on with thy cursed nonsensical reformado rote, of dying, dying, dying! and, having once got the word by the end, canst not help foisting it in at every period! The devil take me, if I don't think thou wouldst rather give her poison with thy own hands, rather than she should recover, and rob thee of the merit of being a conjurer!
But no more of thy cursed knell; thy changes upon death's candlestick turned bottom-upwards: she'll live to bury me; I see that: for, by my soul, I can neither eat, drink, nor sleep, nor, what is still worse, love any woman in the world but her. Nor care I to look upon a woman now: on the contrary, I turn my head from every one I meet: except by chance an eye, an air, a feature, strikes me, resembling her's in some glancing-by face; and then I cannot forbear looking again: though the second look recovers me; for there can be nobody like her.
But surely, Belford, the devil's in this woman! The more I think of her nonsense and obstinacy, the less patience I have with her. Is it possible she can do herself, her family, her friends, so much justice any other way, as by marrying me? Were she sure she should live but a day, she ought to die a wife. If her christian revenge will not let her wish to do so for her own sake, ought she not for the sake of her family, and of her sex, which she pretends sometimes to have so much concern for? And if no sake is dear enough to move her Harlowe-spirit in my favour, has she any title to the pity thou so pitifully art always bespeaking for her?
As to the difference which her letter has made between me and the stupid family here, [and I must tell thee we are all broke in pieces,] I value not that of a button. They are fools to anathematize and curse me, who can give them ten curses for one, were they to hold it for a day together.
I have one half of the house to myself; and that the best; for the great enjoy that least which costs them most: grandeur and use are two things: the common part is their's; the state part is mine: and here I lord it, and will lord it, as long as I please; while the two pursy sisters, the old gouty brother, and the two musty nieces, are stived up in the other half, and dare not stir for fear of meeting me: whom, (that's the jest of it,) they have forbidden coming into their apartments, as I have them into mine. And so I have them all prisoners, while I range about as I please. Pretty dogs and doggesses to quarrel and bark at me, and yet, whenever I appear, afraid to pop out of their kennels; or, if out before they see me, at the sight of me run growling in again, with their flapt ears, their sweeping dewlaps, and their quivering tails curling inwards.
And here, while I am thus worthily waging war with beetles, drones, wasps, and hornets, and am all on fire with the rage of slighted love, thou art regaling thyself with phlegm and rock-water, and art going on with thy reformation-scheme and thy exultations in my misfortunes!
The devil take thee for an insensible dough-baked varlet! I have no more patience with thee than with the lady; for thou knowest nothing either of love or friendship, but art as unworthy of the one, as incapable of the other; else wouldst thou not rejoice, as thou dost under the grimace of pity, in my disappointments.
And thou art a pretty fellow, art thou not? to engage to transcribe for her some parts of my letters written to thee in confidence? Letters that thou shouldest sooner have parted with thy cursed tongue, than have owned that thou ever hadst received such: yet these are now to be communicated to her! But I charge thee, and woe be to thee if it be too late! that thou do not oblige her with a line of mine.
If thou hast done it, the least vengeance I will take is to break through my honour given to thee not to visit her, as thou wilt have broken through thine to me, in communicating letters written under the seal of friendship.
I am now convinced, too sadly for my hopes, by her letter to my cousin Charlotte, that she is determined never to have me.
Unprecedented wickedness, she calls mine to her. But how does she know what love, in its flaming ardour, will stimulate men to do? How does she know the requisite distinctions of the words she uses in this case?—To think the worst, and to be able to make comparisons in these very delicate situations, must she not be less delicate than I had imagined her to be?—But she has head that the devil is black; and having a mind to make one of me, brays together, in the mortar of her wild fancy, twenty chimney-sweepers, in order to make one sootier than ordinary rise out of the dirty mass.
But what a whirlwind does she raise in my soul by her proud contempts of me! Never, never, was mortal man's pride so mortified! How does she sink me, even in my own eyes!—'Her heart sincerely repulses me, she says, for my MEANNESS!'—Yet she intends to reap the benefit of what she calls so!—Curse upon her haughtiness, and her meanness, at the same time!—Her haughtiness to me, and her meanness to her own relations; more unworthy of kindred with her, than I can be, or I am mean indeed.
Yet who but must admire, who but must adore her; Oh! that cursed, cursed house! But for the women of that!—Then their d——d potions! But for those, had her unimpaired intellects, and the majesty of her virtue, saved her, as once it did by her humble eloquence,* another time by her terrifying menaces against her own life.**
* In the fire-scene, Vol. V. Letter XVI. ** Vol. VI. Letter XXXVI. in the pen-knife-scene.
Yet in both these to find her power over me, and my love for her, and to hate, to despise, and to refuse me!—She might have done this with some show of justice, had the last-intended violation been perpetrated:—but to go away conqueress and triumphant in every light!—Well may she despise me for suffering her to do so.
She left me low and mean indeed!—And the impression holds with her.—I could tear my flesh, that I gave her not cause—that I humbled her not indeed;—or that I staid not in town to attend her motions instead of Lord M.'s, till I could have exalted myself, by giving to myself a wife superior to all trial, to all temptation.
I will venture one more letter to her, however; and if that don't do, or procure me an answer, then will I endeavour to see her, let what will be the consequence. If she get out of my way, I will do some noble mischief to the vixen girl whom she most loves, and then quit the kingdom for ever.
And now, Jack, since thy hand is in at communicating the contents of private letters, tell her this, if thou wilt. And add to it, That if SHE abandon me, GOD will: and what then will be the fate of
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. [IN ANSWER TO LETTER LXV. OF THIS VOLUME.] MONDAY, AUG. 7.
And so you have actually delivered to the fair implacable extracts of letters written in the confidence of friendship! Take care—take care, Belford—I do indeed love you better than I love any man in the world: but this is a very delicate point. The matter is grown very serious to me. My heart is bent upon having her. And have her I will, though I marry her in the agonies of death.
She is very earnest, you say, that I will not offer to molest her. That, let me tell her, will absolutely depend upon herself, and the answer she returns, whether by pen and ink, or the contemptuous one of silence, which she bestowed upon my last four to her: and I will write it in such humble, and in such reasonable terms, that, if she be not a true Harlowe, she shall forgive me. But as to the executorship which she is for conferring upon thee—thou shalt not be her executor: let me perish if thou shalt.—Nor shall she die. Nobody shall be any thing, nobody shall dare to be any thing, to her, but I—thy happiness is already too great, to be admitted daily to her presence; to look upon her, to talk to her, to hear her talk, while I am forbid to come within view of her window— What a reprobation is this, of the man who was once more dear to her than all the men in the world!—And now to be able to look down upon me, while her exalted head is hid from me among the stars, sometimes with scorn, at other times with pity; I cannot bear it.
This I tell thee, that if I have not success in my effort by letter, I will overcome the creeping folly that has found its way to my heart, or I will tear it out in her presence, and throw it at her's, that she may see how much more tender than her own that organ is, which she, and you, and every one else, have taken the liberty to call callous.
Give notice of the people who live back and edge, and on either hand, of the cursed mother, to remove their best effects, if I am rejected: for the first vengeance I shall take will be to set fire to that den of serpents. Nor will there be any fear of taking them when they are in any act that has the relish of salvation in it, as Shakspeare says—so that my revenge, if they perish in the flames I shall light up, will be complete as to them.
MR. LOVELACE TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE MONDAY, AUG. 7.
Little as I have reason to expect either your patient ear, or forgiving heart, yet cannot I forbear to write to you once more, (as a more pardonable intrusion, perhaps, than a visit would be,) to beg of you to put it in my power to atone, as far as it is possible to atone, for the injuries I have done you.
Your angelic purity, and my awakened conscience, are standing records of your exalted merit, and of my detestable baseness: but your forgiveness will lay me under an eternal obligation to you.—Forgive me then, my dearest life, my earthly good, the visible anchor of my future hope!—As you, (who believe you have something to be forgiven for,) hope for pardon yourself, forgive me, and consent to meet me, upon your own conditions, and in whose company you please, at the holy altar, and to give yourself a title to the most repentant and affectionate heart that ever beat in a human bosom.
But, perhaps, a time of probation may be required. It may be impossible for you, as well from indisposition as doubt, so soon to receive me to absolute favour as my heart wishes to be received. In this case, I will submit to your pleasure; and there shall be no penance which you can impose that I will not cheerfully undergo, if you will be pleased to give me hope that, after an expiation, suppose of months, wherein the regularity of my future life and actions shall convince you of my reformation, you will at last be mine.
Let me beg then the favour of a few lines, encouraging me in this conditional hope, if it must not be a still nearer hope, and a more generous encouragement.
If you refuse me this, you will make me desperate. But even then I must, at all events, throw myself at your feet, that I may not charge myself with the omission of any earnest, any humble effort, to move you in my favour: for in YOU, Madam, in YOUR forgiveness, are centred my hopes as to both worlds: since to be reprobated finally by you, will leave me without expectation of mercy from above! For I am now awakened enough to think that to be forgiven by injured innocents is necessary to the Divine pardon; the Almighty putting into the power of such, (as is reasonable to believe,) the wretch who causelessly and capitally offends them. And who can be entitled to this power, if YOU are not?
Your cause, Madam, in a word, I look upon to be the cause of virtue, and, as such, the cause of God. And may I not expect that He will assert it in the perdition of a man, who has acted by a person of the most spotless purity as I have done, if you, by rejecting me, show that I have offended beyond the possibility of forgiveness.
I do most solemnly assure you that no temporal or worldly views induce me to this earnest address. I deserve not forgiveness from you. Nor do my Lord M. and his sisters from me. I despise them from my heart for presuming to imagine that I will be controuled by the prospect of any benefits in their power to confer. There is not a person breathing, but yourself, who shall prescribe to me. Your whole conduct, Madam, has been so nobly principled, and your resentments are so admirably just, that you appear to me even in a divine light; and in an infinitely more amiable one at the same time than you could have appeared in, had you not suffered the barbarous wrongs, that now fill my mind with anguish and horror at my own recollected villany to the most excellent of women.
I repeat, that all I beg for the present is a few lines to guide my doubtful steps; and, if possible for you so far to condescend, to encourage me to hope that, if I can justify my present vows by my future conduct, I may be permitted the honour to style myself,
Eternally your's, R. LOVELACE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO LORD M. AND TO THE LADIES OF HIS HOUSE [IN REPLY TO MISS MONTAGUE'S OF AUG. 7. SEE LETTER LXXVI. OF THIS VOLUME.] TUESDAY, AUG. 8.
Excuse me, my good Lord, and my ever-honoured Ladies, from accepting of your noble quarterly bounty; and allow me to return, with all grateful acknowledgement, and true humility, the enclosed earnest of your goodness to me. Indeed I have no need of the one, and cannot possibly want the other: but, nevertheless have such a sense of your generous favour, that, to my last hour, I shall have pleasure in contemplating upon it, and be proud of the place I hold in the esteem of such venerable persons, to whom I once had the ambition to hope to be related.
But give me leave to express my concern that you have banished your kinsman from your presence and favour: since now, perhaps, he will be under less restraint than ever; and since I in particular, who had hoped by your influence to remain unmolested for the remainder of my days, may again be subjected to his persecutions.
He has not, my good Lord, and my dear Ladies, offended against you, as he has against me; yet you could all very generously intercede for him with me: and shall I be very improper, if I desire, for my own peace-sake; for the sake of other poor creatures, who may still be injured by him, if he be made quite desperate; and for the sake of all your worthy family; that you will extend to him that forgiveness which you hope for from me? and this the rather, as I presume to think, that his daring and impetuous spirit will not be subdued by violent methods; since I have no doubt that the gratifying of a present passion will be always more prevalent with him than any future prospects, however unwarrantable the one, or beneficial the other.
Your resentments on my account are extremely generous, as your goodness to me is truly noble: but I am not without hope that he will be properly affected by the evils he has made me suffer; and that, when I am laid low and forgotten, your whole honourable family will be enabled to rejoice in his reformation; and see many of those happy years together, which, my good Lord, and my dear Ladies, you so kindly wish to
Your ever-grateful and obliged CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. THURSDAY NIGHT, AUG. 10.
You have been informed by Tourville, how much Belton's illness and affairs have engaged me, as well as Mowbray and him, since my former. I called at Smith's on Monday, in my way to Epsom.
The lady was gone to chapel: but I had the satisfaction to hear she was not worse; and left my compliments, and an intimation that I should be out of town for three or four days.
I refer myself to Tourville, who will let you know the difficulty we had to drive out this meek mistress, and frugal manager, with her cubs, and to give the poor fellow's sister possession for him of his own house; he skulking mean while at an inn at Croydon, too dispirited to appear in his own cause.
But I must observe that we were probably but just in time to save the shattered remains of his fortune from this rapacious woman, and her accomplices: for, as he cannot live long, and she thinks so, we found she had certainly taken measures to set up a marriage, and keep possession of all for herself and her sons.
Tourville will tell you how I was forced to chastise the quondam hostler in her sight, before I could drive him out of the house. He had the insolence to lay hands on me: and I made him take but one step from the top to the bottom of a pair of stairs. I thought his neck and all his bones had been broken. And then, he being carried out neck-and-heels, Thomasine thought fit to walk out after him.
Charming consequences of keeping; the state we have been so fond of extolling!—Whatever it may be thought of in strong health, sickness and declining spirits in the keeper will bring him to see the difference.
She should soon have him, she told a confidant, in the space of six foot by five; meaning his bed: and then she would let nobody come near him but whom she pleased. This hostler-fellow, I suppose, would then have been his physician; his will ready made for him; and widows' weeds probably ready provided; who knows, but she to appear in them in his own sight? as once I knew an instance in a wicked wife; insulting a husband she hated, when she thought him past recovery: though it gave the man such spirits, and such a turn, that he got over it, and lived to see her in her coffin, dressed out in the very weeds she had insulted him in.
So much, for the present, for Belton and his Thomasine.
I begin to pity thee heartily, now I see thee in earnest in the fruitless love thou expressest to this angel of a woman; and the rather, as, say what thou wilt, it is impossible she should get over her illness, and her friends' implacableness, of which she has had fresh instances.
I hope thou art not indeed displeased with the extracts I have made from thy letters for her. The letting her know the justice thou hast done to her virtue in them, is so much in favour of thy ingenuousness, (a quality, let me repeat, that gives thee a superiority over common libertines,) that I think in my heart I was right; though to any other woman, and to one who had not known the worst of thee that she could know, it might have been wrong.
If the end will justify the means, it is plain, that I have done well with regard to ye both; since I have made her easier, and thee appear in a better light to her, than otherwise thou wouldst have done.
But if, nevertheless, thou art dissatisfied with my having obliged her in a point, which I acknowledge to be delicate, let us canvas this matter at our first meeting: and then I will show thee what the extracts were, and what connections I gave them in thy favour.
But surely thou dost not pretend to say what I shall, or shall not do, as to the executorship.
I am my own man, I hope. I think thou shouldst be glad to have the justification of her memory left to one, who, at the same time, thou mayest be assured, will treat thee, and thy actions, with all the lenity the case will admit.
I cannot help expressing my surprise at one instance of thy self-partiality; and that is, where thou sayest she has need, indeed, to cry out for mercy herself from her friends, who knows not how to show any.
Surely thou canst not think the cases alike—for she, as I understand, desires but a last blessing, and a last forgiveness, for a fault in a manner involuntary, if a fault at all; and does not so much as hope to be received; thou, to be forgiven premeditated wrongs, (which, nevertheless, she forgives, on condition to be no more molested by thee;) and hopest to be received into favour, and to make the finest jewel in the world thy absolute property in consequence of that forgiveness.
I will now briefly proceed to relate what has passed since my last, as to the excellent lady. By the account I shall give thee, thou wilt see that she has troubles enough upon her, all springing originally from thyself, without needing to add more to them by new vexations. And as long as thou canst exert thyself so very cavalierly at M. Hall, where every one is thy prisoner, I see not but the bravery of thy spirit may be as well gratified in domineering there over half a dozen persons of rank and distinction, as it could be over an helpless orphan, as I may call this lady, since she has not a single friend to stand by her, if I do not; and who will think herself happy, if she can refuge herself from thee, and from all the world, in the arms of death.
My last was dated on Saturday.
On Sunday, in compliance with her doctor's advice, she took a little airing. Mrs. Lovick, and Mr. Smith and his wife, were with her. After being at Highgate chapel at divine service, she treated them with a little repast; and in the afternoon was at Islington church, in her way home; returning tolerably cheerful.
She had received several letters in my absence, as Mrs. Lovick acquainted me, besides your's. Your's, it seems, much distressed her; but she ordered the messenger, who pressed for an answer, to be told that it did not require an immediate one.
On Wednesday she received a letter from her uncle Harlowe,* in answer to one she had written to her mother on Saturday on her knees. It must be a very cruel one, Mrs. Lovick says, by the effects it had upon her: for, when she received it, she was intending to take an afternoon airing in a coach: but was thrown into so violent a fit of hysterics upon it, that she was forced to lie down; and (being not recovered by it) to go to bed about eight o'clock.
* See Letter LXXXIV. of this volume.
On Thursday morning she was up very early; and had recourse to the Scriptures to calm her mind, as she told Mrs. Lovick: and, weak as she was, would go in a chair to Lincoln's-inn chapel, about eleven. She was brought home a little better; and then sat down to write to her uncle. But was obliged to leave off several times—to struggle, as she told Mrs. Lovick, for an humble temper. 'My heart, said she to the good woman, is a proud heart, and not yet, I find, enough mortified to my condition; but, do what I can, will be for prescribing resenting things to my pen.'
I arrived in town from Belton's this Thursday evening; and went directly to Smith's. She was too ill to receive my visit. But, on sending up my compliments, she sent me down word that she should be glad to see me in the morning.
Mrs. Lovick obliged me with the copy of a meditation collected by the lady from the Scriptures. She has entitled it Poor mortals the cause of their own misery; so entitled, I presume, with intention to take off the edge of her repinings at hardships so disproportioned to her fault, were her fault even as great as she is inclined to think it. We may see, by this, the method she takes to fortify her mind, and to which she owes, in a great measure, the magnanimity with which she bears her undeserved persecutions.
POOR MORTALS THE CAUSE OF THEIR OWN MISERY.
Say not thou, it is through the Lord that I fell away; for thou oughtest not to do the thing that he hateth.
Say not thou, he hath caused me to err; for he hath no need of the sinful man.
He himself made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel;
If thou wilt, to keep the commandments, and to perform acceptable faithfulness.
He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thine hand to whither thou wilt.
He hath commanded no man to do wickedly: neither hath he given any man license to sin.
And now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly my hope is only in thee.
Deliver me from all my offences: and make me not a rebuke unto the foolish.
When thou with rebuke dost chasten man for sin, thou makest his beauty to consume away, like as it were a moth fretting a garment: every man, therefore, is vanity.
Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged. O bring thou me out of my distresses!
Mrs. Smith gave me the following particulars of a conversation that passed between herself and a young clergyman, on Tuesday afternoon, who, as it appears, was employed to make inquiries about the lady by her friends.
He came into the shop in a riding-habit, and asked for some Spanish snuff; and finding only Mrs. Smith there, he desired to have a little talk with her in the back-shop.
He beat about the bush in several distant questions, and at last began to talk more directly about Miss Harlowe.
He said he knew her before her fall, [that was his impudent word;] and gave the substance of the following account of her, as I collected it from Mrs. Smith:
'She was then, he said, the admiration and delight of every body: he lamented, with great solemnity, her backsliding; another of his phrases. Mrs. Smith said, he was a fine scholar; for he spoke several things she understood not; and either in Latin or Greek, she could not tell which; but was so good as to give her the English of them without asking. A fine thing, she said, for a scholar to be so condescending!'
He said, 'Her going off with so vile a rake had given great scandal and offence to all the neighbouring ladies, as well as to her friends.'
He told Mrs. Smith 'how much she used to be followed by every one's eye, whenever she went abroad, or to church; and praised and blessed by every tongue, as she passed; especially by the poor: that she gave the fashion to the fashionable, without seeming herself to intend it, or to know she did: that, however, it was pleasant to see ladies imitate her in dress and behaviour, who being unable to come up to her in grace and ease, exposed but their own affectation and awkwardness, at the time that they thought themselves secure of general approbation, because they wore the same things, and put them on in the same manner, that she did, who had every body's admiration; little considering, that were her person like their's, or if she had their defects, she would have brought up a very different fashion; for that nature was her guide in every thing, and ease her study; which, joined with a mingled dignity and condescension in her air and manner, whether she received or paid a compliment, distinguished her above all her sex.
'He spoke not, he said, his own sentiments only on this occasion, but those of every body: for that the praises of Miss Clarissa Harlowe were such a favourite topic, that a person who could not speak well upon any other subject, was sure to speak well upon that; because he could say nothing but what he had heard repeated and applauded twenty times over.'
Hence it was, perhaps, that this novice accounted for the best things he said himself; though I must own that the personal knowledge of the lady, which I am favoured with, made it easy to me to lick into shape what the good woman reported to me, as the character given her by the young Levite: For who, even now, in her decline of health, sees not that all these attributes belong to her?
I suppose he has not been long come from college, and now thinks he has nothing to do but to blaze away for a scholar among the ignorant; as such young fellows are apt to think those who cannot cap verses with them, and tell us how an antient author expressed himself in Latin on a subject, upon which, however, they may know how, as well as that author, to express themselves in English.
Mrs. Smith was so taken with him, that she would fain have introduced him to the lady, not questioning but it would be very acceptable to her to see one who knew her and her friends so well. But this he declined for several reasons, as he call them; which he gave. One was, that persons of his cloth should be very cautious of the company they were in, especially where sex was concerned, and where a woman had slurred her reputation—[I wish I had been there when he gave himself these airs.] Another, that he was desired to inform himself of her present way of life, and who her visiters were; for, as to the praises Mrs. Smith gave the lady, he hinted, that she seemed to be a good-natured woman, and might (though for the lady's sake he hoped not) be too partial and short-sighted to be trusted to, absolutely, in a concern of so high a nature as he intimated the task was which he had undertaken; nodding out words of doubtful import, and assuming airs of great significance (as I could gather) throughout the whole conversation. And when Mrs. Smith told him that the lady was in a very bad state of health, he gave a careless shrug—She may be very ill, says he: her disappointments must have touched her to the quick: but she is not bad enough, I dare say, yet, to atone for her very great lapse, and to expect to be forgiven by those whom she has so much disgraced.
A starched, conceited coxcomb! what would I give he had fallen in my way!
He departed, highly satisfied with himself, no doubt, and assured of Mrs. Smith's great opinion of his sagacity and learning: but bid her not say any thing to the lady about him or his inquiries. And I, for very different reasons, enjoined the same thing.
I am glad, however, for her peace of mind's sake, that they begin to think it behoves them to inquire about her.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. FRIDAY, AUG. 11.
[Mr. Belford acquaints his friend with the generosity of Lord M. and the Ladies of his family; and with the Lady's grateful sentiments upon the occasion.
He says, that in hopes to avoid the pain of seeing him, (Mr. Lovelace,) she intends to answer his letter of the 7th, though much against her inclination.]
'She took great notice,' says Mr. Belford, 'of that passage in your's, which makes necessary to the Divine pardon, the forgiveness of a person causelessly injured.
'Her grandfather, I find, has enabled her at eighteen years of age to make her will, and to devise great part of his estate to whom she pleases of the family, and the rest out of it (if she die single) at her own discretion; and this to create respect to her! as he apprehended that she would be envied: and she now resolves to set about making her will out of hand.'
[Mr. Belford insists upon the promise he had made him, not to molest the Lady: and gives him the contents of her answer to Lord M. and the Ladies of his Lordship's family, declining their generous offers. See Letter LXXX. of this volume.
MISS CL. HARLOWE, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. FRIDAY, AUG. 11.
It is a cruel alternative to be either forced to see you, or to write to you. But a will of my own has been long denied me; and to avoid a greater evil, nay, now I may say, the greatest, I write.
Were I capable of disguising or concealing my real sentiments, I might safely, I dare say, give you the remote hope you request, and yet keep all my resolutions. But I must tell you, Sir, (it becomes my character to tell you, that, were I to live more years than perhaps I may weeks, and there were not another man in the world, I could not, I would not, be your's.
There is no merit in performing a duty.
Religion enjoins me not only to forgive injuries, but to return good for evil. It is all my consolation, and I bless God for giving me that, that I am now in such a state of mind, with regard to you, that I can cheerfully obey its dictates. And accordingly I tell you, that, wherever you go, I wish you happy. And in this I mean to include every good wish.
And now having, with great reluctance I own, complied with one of your compulsatory alternatives, I expect the fruits of it.
MR. JOHN HARLOWE, TO MISS CL. HARLOWE [IN ANSWER TO HER'S TO HER MOTHER. SEE LETTER LXXV. OF THIS VOLUME.] MONDAY, AUG. 7.
POOR UNGRATEFUL, NAUGHTY KINSWOMAN!
Your mother neither caring, nor being permitted, to write, I am desired to set pen to paper, though I had resolved against it.
And so I am to tell you, that your letters, joined to the occasion of them, almost break the hearts of us all.
Were we sure you had seen your folly, and were truly penitent, and, at the same time, that you were so very ill as you pretend, I know not what might be done for you. But we are all acquainted with your moving ways when you want to carry a point.
Unhappy girl! how miserable have you made us all! We, who used to visit with so much pleasure, now cannot endure to look upon one another.
If you had not know, upon an hundred occasions, how dear you once was to us, you might judge of it now, were you to know how much your folly has unhinged us all.
Naughty, naughty girl! You see the fruits of preferring a rake and libertine to a man of sobriety and morals, against full warning, against better knowledge. And such a modest creature, too, as you were! How could you think of such an unworthy preference!
Your mother can't ask, and your sister knows not in modesty how to ask; and so I ask you, if you have any reason to think yourself with child by this villain?—You must answer this, and answer it truly, before any thing can be resolved upon about you.
You may well be touched with a deep remorse for your misdeeds. Could I ever have thought that my doting-piece, as every one called you, would have done thus? To be sure I loved you too well. But that is over now. Yet, though I will not pretend to answer for any body but myself, for my own part I say God forgive you! and this is all from
Your afflicted uncle, JOHN HARLOWE.
The following MEDITATION was stitched to the bottom of this letter with black silk.
O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave! that thou wouldst keep me secret, till thy wrath be past!
My face is foul with weeping; and on my eye-lid is the shadow of death.
My friends scorn me; but mine eye poureth out tears unto God.
A dreadful sound is in my ears; in prosperity the destroyer came upon me!
I have sinned! what shall I do unto thee, O thou Preserver of men! why hast thou set me as a mark against thee; so that I am a burden to myself!
When I say my bed shall comfort me; my couch shall ease my complaint;
Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions.
So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than life.
I loath it! I would not live always!—Let me alone; for my days are vanity!
He hath made me a bye-word of the people; and aforetime I was as a tabret.
My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart.
When I looked for good, then evil came unto me; and when I waited for light, then came darkness.
And where now is my hope?—
Yet all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO JOHN HARLOWE, ESQ. THURSDAY, AUG. 10.
It was an act of charity I begged: only for a last blessing, that I might die in peace. I ask not to be received again, as my severe sister [Oh! that I had not written to her!] is pleased to say, is my view. Let that grace be denied me when I do.
I could not look forward to my last scene with comfort, without seeking, at least, to obtain the blessing I petitioned for; and that with a contrition so deep, that I deserved not, were it known, to be turned over from the tender nature of a mother, to the upbraiding pen of an uncle! and to be wounded by a cruel question, put by him in a shocking manner: and which a little, a very little time, will better answer than I can: for I am not either a hardened or shameless creature: if I were, I should not have been so solicitous to obtain the favour I sued for.
And permit me to say that I asked it as well for my father and mother's sake, as for my own; for I am sure they at least will be uneasy, after I am gone, that they refused it to me.
I should still be glad to have theirs, and your's, Sir, and all your blessings, and your prayers: but, denied in such a manner, I will not presume again to ask it: relying entirely on the Almighty's; which is never denied, when supplicated for with such true penitence as I hope mine is.
God preserve my dear uncle, and all my honoured friends! prays
Your unhappy CLARISSA HARLOWE.
END OF VOL. 7.