LETTER 33: Clarissa Harlowe to MISS HOWE


Thursday, March 16.

Having met with such bad success in my application to those of my own family, I have taken a step that will surprise you. It is no other than writing a letter to Mr. Solmes himself. I sent it; and have his answer. He had certainly help in it. For I have seen a letter of his; as indifferently worded, as poorly spelt. Yet the superscription is of his dictating, I dare say; for he is a formal wretch. With these, I shall inclose one from my brother to me, on occasion of mine to Mr. Solmes. I did think that it was possible to discourage this man from proceeding; and that would have answer’d all my wishes. It was worth the trial. But you’ll see nothing will do. My brother has taken his measures too securely.


To Roger Solmes, Esq;

Wednesday, Mar. 15. 

Sir, You will wonder to receive a letter from me, and more still at the uncommon subject of it. But the necessity of the case will justify me, at least in my own apprehension; and I shall therefore make no other apology for it.

When you first came acquainted with my father’s family, you found the writer of This one of the happiest creatures in the world; beloved by the best and most indulgent of parents, and rejoicing in the kind favour of two affectionate uncles, and in the esteem of every one.

But how is this happy scene now changed! —You was pleased to cast a favourable eye upon me. You addressed yourself to my friends: Your proposals were approved of by them; approved of without consulting me; as if my choice and happiness were of the least signification. Those who had a right to all reasonable obedience from me, insisted upon it without reserve. I had not the felicity to think as they did; almost the first time my sentiments differed from theirs. I besought them to indulge me in a point so important to my future happiness: But, alas, in vain! And then (for I thought it was but honest) I told you my mind; and even that my affections were engaged.

But, to my mortification, and surprize, you persisted, and still persist.

The consequence of all is too grievous for me to repeat: You, who have such free access to the rest of the family, know it too well; too well you know it, either for the credit of your own generosity, or for my reputation. I am used, on your account, as I never before was used, and never before was thought to deserve to be used; and this was the hard, the impossible condition of their returning favour, that I must prefer a man to all others, that of all others I cannot prefer.

Thus distressed, and made unhappy, and all for your sake, and thro’ your cruel perseverance, I write, Sir, to demand of you the peace of mind you have robbed me of: To demand of you Love of so many dear friends, of which you have deprived me; and, if you have the generosity that should distinguish a man, and a gentleman, to adjure you not to continue an address that has been attended with such cruel effects to the creature you profess to esteem.

If you really value me, as my friends would make me believe, and as you have declared you do, must it not be a mean and selfish value? A value that can have no merit with the unhappy object of it, because it is attended with effects so grievous to her? It must be for your own sake only, not for mine . And, even in this point, you must be mistaken; for would a prudent man wish to marry one who has not a heart to give? Who cannot esteem him? Who therefore must prove a bad wife? —And how cruel would it be to make a poor creature a bad wife, whose pride it would be to make a good one?

If I am capable of judging, our tempers and inclinations are vastly different. Any other of my sex will make you happier than I can. The treatment I meet with, and the obstinacy, as it is called, with which I support myself under it, ought to convince

you of this; were I not able to give so good a reason for this my supposed perverseness, as that I cannot consent to marry a man whom I cannot value.

But if, Sir, you have not so much generosity in your value for me, as to desist, for my own sake, let me conjure you, by the regard due to yourself,and to your own future happiness, to discontinue your suit, and place your affections on a worthier object: For why should you make me miserable, and yourself not happy? By this means you will do all that is now in your power, to restore me to the affection of my friends; and, if That can be, it will leave me in as happy a state as you found me. You need only to say, That you see there are no Hopes, as you will perhaps complaisantly call it, of succeeding with me (—And indeed, Sir, there cannot be a greater truth than this—) and that you will therefore no more think of me; but turn your thoughts another way.

Your compliance with this request, will lay me under the highest obligation to your generosity, and make me ever

Your well-wisher, and humble servant,
Clarissa Harlowe .

To Miss Clarissa Harlowe .

These most humbly present.
Thursday, March 16.

Dearest Miss,
Your letter has had a very contrary effect upon me, to what you seem to have expected from it. It has doubly convinced me of the excellency of your mind, and the honour of your disposition. Call it selfish, or what you please, I must persist in my suit; and happy shall I be, if by patience and perseverance, and a steady and unalterable devoir, I may at last overcome the difficulty laid in my way.

As your good parents, your uncles, and other friends, are absolutely determined you shall never have Mr. Lovelace, if they can help it; and as I presume no other person is in the way; I will contentedly wait the issue of this matter. And, forgive me, dearest Miss; but a person should sooner persuade me to give up to him my estate, as an instance of my generosity, because he could not be happy without it, than I would a much more valuable treasure, to promote the felicity of another, and make his way easier to circumvent myself.

Pardon me, dear Miss, but I must persevere, tho’ I am sorry you suffer on my account, as you are pleased to think; for I never before saw the Lady I could love: And while there is any hope, and that you remain undisposed of to some other happier man, I must and will be

Your faithful, and obsequious admirer,
Roger Solmes .

Mr. James Harlowe, To Miss Clarissa Harlowe .

Thursday, March 16.

What a fine whim you took into your head, to write a letter to Mr. Solmes, to persuade him to give up his pretensions to you! —Of all the pretty romantic flights you have delighted in, this was certainly one of the most extraordinary. But to say nothing of what fires us all with indignation against you (your owning your prepossession in a villain’s favour, and your impertinence to me and your sister, and your uncles; one of which has given it you home, child); How can you lay at Mr. Solmes’s door, the usage you so bitterly complain of? —You know, little fool, as you are, that it is your fondness for Lovelace that has brought upon you all these things; and which would have happen’d, whether Mr. Solmes had honour’d you with his addresses or not.

As you must needs know This to be true, consider, pretty, witty Miss, if your fond love-sick heart can let you consider, what a fine figure all your expostulations with us, and charges upon Mr. Solmes, make! —With what propriety do you demand of him to restore to you your former happiness, as you call it, and merely call it, for it you thought our favour so, you would restore it to yourself; since it is yet in your own power to do so. Therefore, Miss Pert, none of your pathetics, except in the right place. Depend upon it, whether you have Mr. Solmes, or not, you shall never have your heart’s delight, the vile rake Lovelace, if our parents, if our uncles, if I, can hinder it. No! you fallen angel, you shall not give your father and mother such a son, nor me such a brother, in giving yourself that profligate wretch for a husband . And so set your heart at rest, and lay aside all thoughts of him, if ever you expect forgiveness, reconciliation, or a kind opinion, from any of your family; but especially from him, who, at present, styles himself

Your Brother,
James Harlowe .

P. S. I know your knack at letter-writing. If you send me an answer to this, I’ll return it unopen’d, for I won’t argue with your perverseness in so plain a case— Only once for all, I was willing to put you right as to Mr. Solmes; whom I think to blame to trouble his head about you.

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