Letter 64: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE

Miss Clarissa Harlowe, To Miss Howe . 

Wednesday Morning, Nine o’Clock. 

I am just return’d from my morning walk, and already have received a letter from Mr. Lovelace in answer to mine deposited last night. He must have had pen, ink, and paper, with him; for it was written in the coppice; with this circumstance; On one knee, kneeling with the other. Not from reverence to the written-to, however, as you’ll find.

 

Well are we instructed early to keep this sex at a distance. An undesigning open heart, where it is loth to disoblige, is easily drawn in, I see, to oblige more than ever it designed. It is too apt to govern itself by what a bold spirit is encouraged to expect of it. It is very difficult for a good natured young person to give a negative where it disesteems not.

 

One’s heart may harden and contract, as one gains experience, and when we have smarted perhaps for our easy folly: And so it ought, or it would be upon very unequal terms with the world.

 

Excuse these grave reflections. This man has vex’d me heartily. I see his gentleness was art ; fierceness, and a temper like what I have been too much used to at home, are nature in him. In the mind I am in, nothing shall ever make me forgive him, since there can be no good reason for his impatience on an expectation given with reserve, and absolutely revocable.

— I so much to suffer thro’ him; yet, to be treated as if I were obliged to bear insults from him!—

But here you will be pleased to read his letter; which I shall inclose.

To Miss Clarissa Harlowe .
Good God !
What is now to become of me! —How shall I support this disappointment! —No new cause! —On one knee, kneeling with the other, I write! — My feet benumbed with midnight wanderings thro’ the heaviest dews, that ever fell: My wig and my linen dripping with the hoar-frost dissolving on them! —Day but just breaking—Sun not risen to exhale— May it never rise again! —Unless it bring healing and comfort to a benighted soul! —In proportion to the joy you had inspired (ever lovely promiser!), in such proportion is my anguish!

 

And are things drawing towards a crisis between your friends and you ? —Is not this a reason for me to expect, the rather to expect, the promised interview?

 

Can I write all that is in my mind, say you? — Impossible! —Not the hundredth part of what is in my mind, and in my apprehension, can I write!

 

O the wavering, the changeable sex! —But can Miss Clarissa Harlowe—

 

Forgive me, Madam! —I know not what I write! —Yet, I must, I do, insist upon your promise—Or that you will condescend to find better excuses for the failure—Or convince me, that stronger reasons are imposed upon you, than those you offer. —A promise once given; upon deliberation given!—the promise- ed only can dispense with;—or some very apparent necessity imposed upon the promise- er, which leaves no power to perform it.

 

The first promise you ever made me! Life and Death, perhaps, depending upon it—My heart desponding from the barbarous methods resolved to be taken with you, in malice to me!

 

You would sooner choose death than Solmes (How my soul spurns the competition!) O my beloved creature, what are these but words ! — Whosewords? —Sweet and ever-adorable—What? —Promise-breaker—must I call you? —How shall I believe the asseveration (your supposed Duty in the question! Persecution so flaming! Hatred to me so strongly avow’d!) after this instance of your so lightly dispensing with your promise!

 

If, my dearest life! you would prevent my distraction, or, at least distracted consequences, renew the promised hope! —My fate is indeed upon its crisis.

 

Forgive me; dearest creature, forgive me! —I know I have written in too much anguish of mind! —Writing this, in the same moment that the just-dawning light has imparted to me the heavy disappointment!

 

I dare not re-peruse what I have written. —I must deposite it—It may serve to shew you my distracted apprehensions, that This disappointment is but a prelude to the greatest of All. —Nor, having here, any other paper, am I able to write again, if I would, on this gloomy spot. Gloomy is my soul; and all nature round me partakes of my gloom! —I trust it, therefore, to your goodness! If its fervor excites your displeasure, rather than your pity, you wrong my passion; and I shall be ready to apprehend, that I am intended to be the sacrifice of more miscreants than one! —Have patience with me, dearest creature! —I mean Solmes, and your Brother only—But, if, exerting your usual generosity, you will excuse and re -appoint, may That God, whom you profess to serve, and who is the God of Truth and of Promises, protect and bless you, for both; and for restoring to Himself, and to Hope,

Your ever-adoring, yet
almost desponding
Lovelace!

Ivy-Cavern in the Coppice—day but just breaking.

This is the Answer I shall return. 

Wednesday Morning. 

I am amazed, Sir, at the freedom of your reproaches. Pressed and teazed, against convenience and inclination to give you a private meeting, am Ito be thus challeng’d and upbraided, and my Sex reflected upon, because I thought it prudent to change my mind? —A liberty I had reserved to myself, when I made the appointment, as you call it. I wanted not instances of your impatient spirit to other people: yet may it be happy for me, that I have this new one; which shews, that you can as little spare me, when I pursue the dictates of my own reason, as you do others, for acting up to theirs. Two motives you must be governed by in this excess. The one my easiness ; the other your own presumption . Since you think you have found out the first, and have shewn so much of the last upon it, I am too much alarmed, not to wish and desire, that your letter of this day may conclude all the trouble you have had from, or for,

Your humble Servant,
Cl. Harlowe .

 

I believe, my dear, I may promise myself your approbation, whenever I write or speak with spirit, be it to whom it will. Indeed, I find but too much reason to exert it, since I have to deal with people, who measure their conduct to me, not by what is fit or decent, right or wrong, but by what they think my temper will bear. I have, till very lately, been praised for mine; but it has always been by those who never gave me opportunity to return the compliment to themselves: Some people have acted, as if they thought forbearance on one side absolutely necessary for them and me, to be upon good terms together; and in this case have ever taken care rather to owe that obligation than to lay it. You have hinted to me, that resentment is not natural to my temper, and that therefore it must soon subside. It may be so, with respect to my relations: But not to Mr. Lovelace, I assure you.

 

Wednesday Noon, March 29. 

We cannot always answer for what we can do: But to convince you, that I can keep my above resolution, with regard to This Lovelace, angry as my letter is, and three hours as it is since it was written; I assure you, that I repent it not, nor will soften it, altho’ I find it is not taken away. And yet I hardly ever before did any-thing in anger, that I did not repent in half an hour; and question myself in less than that time, whether I was right or wrong.

 

In this respite till Tuesday, I have a little time to look about me, as I may say, and consider of what I have to do, and can do. And Mr. Lovelace’s insolence will make me go very home with myself. Not that I think I can conquer my aversion to Mr. Solmes. I am sure I cannot. But, if I absolutely break with Mr. Lovelace, and give my friends convincing proofs of it, who knows but they will restore me to their favour, and let their views in relation to the other man go off by degrees? —Or, at least, that I may be safe till my cousin Morden arrives: To whom, I think, I will write; and the rather, as Mr. Lovelace has assured me, that my friends have written to him to make good their side of the question.

 

But, with all my courage, I am exceedingly apprehensive about Tuesday next, and about what may result from my stedfastness; for stedfast I am sure I shall be. They are resolved, I am told, to try every means to induce me to comply with what they are determin’d upon. I am resolved to do the like, to avoid what they would force me to do. A dreadful contention between parents and child! —Each hoping to leave the other without excuse, whatever the consequence may be.

 

What can I do? Advise me, my dear! Something is strangely wrong somewhere! to make parents, the most indulgent till now, seem cruel in a child’s eye; and a daughter, till within these few weeks, thought unexceptionably dutiful, appear, in their judgment, a rebel! —O my ambitious and violent brother! — What may he have to answer for to both!—

 

Be pleased to remember, my dear, that your last favour was dated on Saturday. This is Wednesday: And none of mine have been taken away since. Don’t let me want your advice. My situation is extremely difficult. —But I am sure you love me still: And not the less on that account. Adieu, my beloved friend.

Cl. Harlowe. 

This entry was posted in from Clarissa Harlowe, to Anna Howe and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *