Letter 29: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE
Saturday, March 11
I have had such taunting messages and such repeated avowals of ill-offices brought me from my brother and sister, if I do not comply with their wills (delivered, too, with provoking sauciness by Betty Barnes), that I have thought it proper, before I entered upon my intended address to my uncles, in pursuance of the hint given me in my mamma’s letter, to expostulate a little with them. But, I have done it in such a manner, as will give you (if you please to take it as you have done some parts of my former letters) great advantage over me. In short, you will have more cause than ever to declare me far gone in love, if my reasons for the change of my style in these letters, with regard to Mr Lovelace, do not engage your more favourable opinion—For I have thought proper to give them their own way; and, since they will have it that I have a preferable regard for Mr Lovelace, I give them a cause rather to confirm their opinion than doubt it.
These are my reasons in brief for the alteration of my style.
In the first place, they have grounded their principal argument for my compliance with their will upon my acknowledgements that my heart is free; and so supposing I give up no preferable person, my opposition has the look of downright obstinacy in their eyes; and they argue that, at worst, my aversion to Solmes is an aversion that may be easily surmounted, and ought to be surmounted in duty to my father, and for the promotion of family views.
Next, although they build upon this argument in order to silence me, they seem not to believe me, but treat me as violently and as disgracefully, as if I were in love with one of my father’s footmen—so that my conditional willingness to give up Lovelace has procured me no favour.
In the next place, I cannot but think that my brother’s antipathy to him is far from being well-grounded. His inordinate passion for the sex is his crime that is always rung in my ears, and a very great one it is: but, does my brother recriminate upon him thus, in love to me?—No—His whole behaviour shows me, that that is not his motive, and that he thinks me rather in his way, than otherwise.
It is then the call of justice, as I may say, to speak up a little for a man who, although provoked by my brother, did not do him all the mischief he could have done him, and which my brother had endeavoured to do him. It might not be amiss therefore, I thought, to alarm them a little with an apprehension that the methods they are taking with me are the very reverse of those they should take to answer the end they design by them. And after all, what is the compliment I make Mr Lovelace, if I allow it to be thought that I do really prefer him to such a man as him they terrify me with? Then, my Miss Howe (concluded I) accuses me of a tameness, which subjects me to insults from my brother: I will keep that dear friend in my eye; and for all these considerations, try what a little of her spirit will do—sit it ever so awkwardly upon me.
In this way of thinking, I wrote to my brother and sister. This is my letter to him.
[ Letter 29.1: Clarissa Harlowe to James Harlowe, Jun. ]TREATED, as I am treated, and, in a great measure, if not wholly , by your instigations, brother, you must permit me to expostulate with you upon the occasion. It is not my intention to displease you in what I am going to write: and yet I must deal freely with you. The occasion calls for it.
And permit me, in the first place, to remind you that I am your sister , and not your servant ; and that, therefore, the bitter revilings and passionate language brought me from you, upon an occasion in which you have no reason to prescribe to me, are neither worthy of my character to bear, or of yours to offer.
Put the case that I were to marry the man you dislike, and that he were not to make a polite or tender husband; is that a reason for you to be an impolite and disobliging brother?—Why must you , sir, anticipate my misfortunes, were such a case to happen?—Let me tell you plainly, that the husband who could treat me, as a wife , worse than you, of late, have treated me as a sister , must be a barbarous man indeed.
Ask yourself, I pray you, sir, if you would thus have treated your sister Bella, had she thought fit to receive the addresses of the man so much hated by you?—If not, let me caution you, my brother, not to take your measures by what you think will be borne, but rather by what ought to be offered.
How would you take it, if you had a brother who, in a like case were to act by you , as you do by me ? You cannot but remember what a laconic answer you gave even to my papa, who recommended to you Miss Nelly D’Oily— you did not like her , were your words: and that was thought sufficient.
You must needs think that I cannot but know to whom to attribute my disgraces, when I recollect my papa’s indulgence to me in permitting me to decline several offers; and to whom , that a common cause is endeavoured to be made, in favour of a man whose person and manners are more exceptionable than those of any of the gentlemen I have been permitted to refuse.
I offer not to compare the two men together: nor is there, indeed, the least comparison to be made between them. All the difference to the one’s disadvantage, if I did, is but in one point—Of the greatest importance, indeed—but to whom of most importance?—to myself , surely, were I to encourage his application: of the least to you. Nevertheless, if you do not by your strange policies unite that man and me as joint-sufferers in one cause, you shall find me as much resolved to renounce him as I am to refuse the other. I have made an overture to this purpose: I hope you will not give me reason to confirm my apprehensions that it will be owing to you if it be not accepted.
It is a sad thing to have it to say, without being conscious of ever having given you cause of offence, that I have in you a brother , but not a friend.
Perhaps you will not condescend to enter into the reasons of your late conduct with a foolish sister: but, if politeness , if civility , be not due to that character, and to my sex, justice is.
Let me take the liberty further to observe, that the principal end of a young gentleman’s education at the university is to learn him to reason justly, and to subdue the violence of his passions. I hope, brother, that you will not give room for anybody who knows us both to conclude that the toilette has learned the one more
of the latter doctrine, than the university has taught the other. I am truly sorry to have cause to say, that I have heard it often remarked that your uncontrolled passions are not a credit to your liberal education.
I hope, sir, that you will excuse the freedom I have taken with you. You have given me too much reason for it, and you have taken much greater with me, without reason—so, if you are offended, ought to look at the cause, and not at the effect—Then examining yourself, that cause will cease, and there will not be anywhere a more accomplished gentleman than my brother.
Sisterly affection, I do assure you, sir (unkindly, as you have used me ), and not the pertness which of late you have been so apt to impute to me, is my motive in this hint. Let me invoke your returning kindness, my only brother ! And give me cause, I beseech you, to call you my compassionating friend. For I am, and ever will be,
Your affectionate sister, CL. HARLOWE
This is my brother’s answer.
[ Letter 29.2: James Harlowe, Jun. ] to Miss Clarissa HarloweI know there will be no end of your impertinent scribble if I don’t write to you. I write therefore: but, without entering into argument with such a conceited and pert preacher and questioner, it is to forbid you to plague me with your quaint nonsense. I know not what wit in a woman is good for, but to make her over-value herself, and despise everybody else. Yours, Miss Pert, has set you above your duty, and above being taught or prescribed to either by parents or anybody else—But go on, miss, your mortification will be the greater; that’s all, child. It shall , I assure you, if I can make it so, so long as you prefer that villainous Lovelace, who is justly hated by all your family. We see by your letter now, as well as we too justly suspected before, most evidently what hold he has got of your forward heart. But the stronger the hold, the greater must be the force (and you shall have enough of that) to tear such a miscreant from it. In me, notwithstanding your saucy lecturing and as saucy reflections before, you are sure of a friend, as well as a brother, if it be not your own fault. But if you will still think of such a husband as that Lovelace, never expect either in
I will now give you a copy of my letter to my sister, with her unsisterly answer.
[ Letter 29.3: Clarissa Harlowe to Arabella Harlowe ]IN what, my dear sister, have I offended you, that instead of endeavouring to soften my father’s anger against me (as I am sure I should have done for you, had my unhappy case been yours) you should in so hard-hearted a manner join to aggravate not only his displeasure, but my mamma’s against me. Make but my case your own, my dear Bella, and suppose you were commanded to marry Mr lovelace (to whom you are believed to have an antipathy), would you not think
it a very grievous injunction?—Yet cannot your dislike to Mr Lovelace be greater than mine is to Mr Solmes. Nor are love and hatred voluntary passions.
My brother may, perhaps, think it a proof of a manly spirit to be an utter stranger to the gentle passions. We have both heard him boast that he never loved with distinction; and, having predominating passions, and checked in his first attempt, perhaps he never will. It is the less wonder then, raw from the college, so lately himself the tutored , that he should set up for a tutor, a prescriber to our gentler sex, whose tastes and manners are differently formed; for what, according to his account, are colleges, but classes of tyrants, from the upper students over the lower, and from them to the tutor?—That he with such masculine passions should endeavour to control and bear down an unhappy sister, in a case where his antipathy and, give me leave to say, his ambition (once you would have allowed the latter to be his fault) can be gratified by so doing, may not be quite so much to be wondered at—but that a sister should give up the cause of a sister and join with him to set her father and mother against her, in a case relative to sex, in a case that might have been her own—indeed, my Bella, this is not pretty in you.
There was a time that Mr Lovelace was thought reclaimable, and when it was far from being deemed a censurable view to hope to bring back to the paths of virtue and honour a man of his sense and understanding. I am far from wishing to make the experiment—but nevertheless will say, that if I have not a regard for him, the disgraceful methods taken to compel me to receive the address of a such a man as Mr Solmes are enough to inspire it.
Do you, my sister, for one moment lay aside all prejudice, and compare the two men in their births, their educations, their persons, their understandings, their manners, their air, and their whole deportments; and in their fortunes too, taking in reversions; and then judge of both. Yet, as I have frequently offered, I will live single with all my heart, if that will do.
I cannot thus live in displeasure and disgrace!—I would, if I could, oblige all my friends—But will it be just , will it be honest , to marry a man I cannot endure?—If I have not been used to oppose the will of my father, but have always delighted to oblige and obey, judge of the strength of my antipathy by the painful opposition I am obliged to make, and cannot help it.
Pity then, my dearest Bella, my sister, my friend, my companion, my adviser, as you used to be when I was happy, and plead for
Your ever-affectionate CL. HARLOWE
[ Letter 29.4: Arabella Harlowe] to Miss Clary HarloweLET it be pretty, or not pretty, in your wise opinion, I shall speak my mind, I’ll assure you, both of you and your conduct in relation to this detested Lovelace. You are a fond, foolish girl, with all your wisdom. Your letter shows that enough in twenty places. And as to your cant of living single, nobody will believe you. This is one of your fetches to avoid complying with your duty and the will of the most indulgent parents in the world, as yours have been to you, I am sure—though now they see themselves finely requited for it.
We all, indeed, once thought your temper soft and amiable: but why was it?—
You never was contradicted before: you had always your own way. But no sooner do you meet with opposition in your wishes to throw yourself away upon a vile rake, but you show what you are!—You cannot love Mr Solmes! that’s the pretence; but sister, sister, let me tell you, that is because Lovelace has got into your fond heart: a wretch hated, justly hated, by us all; and who has dipped his hands in the blood of your brother—Yet him you would make our relation, would you?
I have no patience with you, but for putting the case of my liking such a vile wretch as him. As to the encouragement you pretend he received formerly from all our family, it was before we knew him to be so vile. And the proofs that had such force upon us ought to have had some upon you—And would , had you not been a foolish forward girl; as on this occasion everybody sees you are.
Oh how you run out in favour of the wretch!—His birth, his education, his person, his understanding, his manners, his air, his fortune—reversions too taken in to augment the surfeiting catalogue! What a fond string of love-sick praises is here!—And yet you would live single—Yes, I warrant!—When so many imaginary perfections dance before your dazzled eye!—But no more—I only desire that you will not, while you seem to have such an opinion of your wit, think everyone else a fool; and that you can at pleasure by your whining flourishes make us all dance after your lead.
Write as often as you will, this shall be the last answer or notice you shall have upon this subject from
I had in readiness a letter for each of my uncles; and meeting in the garden a servant of my uncle Harlowe, I gave them to him to deliver according to their respective directions. If I am to form a judgement by the answers I have received from my brother and sister, as above, I must not, I doubt, expect any good from them. But when I have tried every expedient, I shall have the less to blame myself for if anything unhappy should fall out. I will send you copies of both when I shall see what notice they will be thought worthy of, if of any.