Letter 11: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE

March 1

You both nettled and alarmed me, my dearest Miss Howe, by the concluding part of your last. At first reading it, I did not think it necessary, said I to myself, to guard against a critic, when I was writing to so dear a friend. But then recollecting myself, Is there not more in it, said I, than the result of a vein so naturally lively? Surely, I must have been guilty of an inadvertence. —Let me enter into the close examination of myself, which my beloved friend advises.

I did so; and cannot own any of the glow, any of the throbs you mention. — Upon my word, I will repeat, I cannot. And yet the passages in my letter upon which you are so humourously severe, lay me fairly open to your agreeable raillery. I own they do. And I cannot tell what turn my mind had taken, to dictate so oddly to my pen.

But-pray-now—Is it saying so much, when one, who has no very particular regard to any man, says, There are some who are preferable toothers ? And is it blameable to say, Those are the preferable, who are not well used by one’s relations; yet dispense with that usage out of regard to one’s self, which they would otherwise resent? Mr. Lovelace, for instance, I may be allow’d to say, is a man to be preferr’d to Mr. Solmes; and that I do prefer him to that man: But, surely, this may be said, without its being a necessary consequence, that one must be in love with him.

Indeed, I would not be in love with him, as it is called, for the world: First, because I have no opinion of his morals; and think it a fault in which our whole family, my brother excepted, has had a share,
that he was permitted to visit us with a hope; which, however being distant, did not, as I have observed heretofore, intitle any of us to call him to account for such of his immoralities as came to our ears. Next, because I think him to be a vain man, capable of triumphing, secretly at least, over a person whose heart he thinks he has engaged. And, thirdly, because the assiduities and veneration which you impute to him, seem to carry an haughtiness in them, as if his address had a merit in it, that would be an equivalent for a lady’s favour. In short, he seems to me so to behave, when most unguarded, as if he thought himself above the very politeness which his birth and education (perhaps therefore more than his choice) oblige him to shew. In other words, his very politeness appears to me to be constrained; and, with the most remarkably easy and genteel person, something seems to be behind in his manner, that is too studiously kept in. Then, goodhumour’d as he is thought to be in the main to other peoples servants, and this even to familiarity (altho’, as you have observ’d, a familiarity that has dignity in it, not unbecoming a man of quality), he is apt sometimes to break out into passion with his own : An oath or a curse follows; and such looks from those servants as plainly shew terror; and that they should have far’d worse, had they not been in my hearing: With a confirmation in the master’s looks of a surmize too well justify’d.

Indeed, my dear, THIS man is not THE man. I have great objections to him. My heart throbs not after him: I glow not, but with indignation against myself, for having given room for such an imputation. — But you must not, my dearest friend, construe common Gratitude into Love. I cannot bear that you should. But if ever I should have the misfortune to think it Love, I promise you, upon my word, which is the same as upon my honour, that I will acquaint you with it.

You bid me to tell you very speedily, and by the new-found expedient, that I am not displeased with you for your agreeable raillery: I dispatch this therefore immediately; postponing to my next the account of the inducements which my friends have to promote with so much earnestness the address of Mr. Solmes.

Be satisfy’d, my dear, mean time, that I am not displeased with you: Indeed I am not: On the contrary, I give you my hearty thanks for your friendly premonitions. And I charge you, as I have often done, that if you observe any thing in me so very faulty, as would require, from you to others, in my behalf, the palliation of friendly and partial love, you acquaint me with it: For, methinks, I would to conduct myself, as not to give reason even for an adversary to censure me: And how shall so weak and so young a creature avoid the censure of such, if myfriend will not hold a looking-glass before me, to let me see my imperfections?

Judge me then, my dear, as any indifferent person knowing what you know of me) would do: —I may, at first, be a little pained; may glow a little, perhaps, to be found less worthy of your friendship, than I wish to be; but assure yourself, that your kind correction will give me reflection, that shall amend me. If it do not, you will have a fault to accuse me of, that will be utterly in -excusable: A fault, let me add, that should you not accuse me of it, if in your opinion I am guilty, you will not be so much, so warmly, my friend, as I am yours; who have never spar’d you, you know, my dear, on the like occasions.

Here I break off; to begin another letter to you; with the assurance, mean time, that I am, and ever will be,

Your equally affectionate
and grateful
Cl. Harlowe .

 

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