LETTER 74: MISS HOWE TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE

Sunday, April 2.

 

I ought yesterday to have acknowleged the receipt of your parcel: Robin tells me, that the Joseph Leman whom you mention as the traitor, saw him. He was in the poultry-yard, and spoke to Robin over the bank which divides that from the Green-Lane. What brings you hither, Mr. Robert? —But I can tell. Hie away, as fast as you can.

 

No doubt but their dependence upon this fellow’s vigilance, and upon Betty’s, leaves you more at liberty in your airings, than you would otherwise be: But you are the only person I ever heard of, who, in such circumstances, had not some faithful servant, to trust little offices to. A poet, my dear, would not have gone to work for an Angelica, without giving her her Violetta, her Cleanthe, her Clelia, or some such pretty-nam’d confidante. —An old nurse at the least.

 

I read to my mamma several passages of your letters. But your last paragraph, in your yesterday’s, charm’d her quite. You have won her heart by it, she told me. And while her fit of gratitude for it lasted, I was thinking to open my proposal, and to press it with all the earnestness I could give it, when Hickman came in, making his legs, and stroking his cravat and ruffles in turn.

 

I could most freely have ruffled him for it. —As it was—Sir—saw you not some one of the servants? — Could not one of them have come in before you?

 

He begg’d pardon: Looked as if he knew not whether he had best keep his ground, or withdraw: —Till my mamma. Why, Nancy, we are not upon particulars. —Pray, Mr. Hickman, sit down.

 

By your le—ave, good madam, to me. —You know his drawl, when his muscles give him the respectful hesitation—

 

Ay, ay, pray sit down, honest man, if you are weary! —But by my mamma, if you please. I desire my hoop may have its full circumference. All they’re good for, that I know, is to clean dirty shoes, and to keep ill-manner’d fellows at a distance.

 

Strange girl! cry’d my mamma, displeased; but with a milder turn, Ay, ay, Mr. Hickman, sit down by me . I have no such forbidding folly in my dress. — I looked serious; and in my heart was glad this speech of hers was not made to your uncle Antony.

 

My mamma, with the true widow’s freedom, would mighty prudently have led into our subject, and have had him see, I question not, that very paragraph in your letter, which is so much in his favour. He was highly obliged to dear Miss Harlowe, she would assure him; that she did say—

 

But I asked him, If he had any news by his last letters from London: A question he always understands to be a Subject-changer ; for otherwise I never put it. And so if he be but silent, I am not angry with him, that he answers it not.

 

I choose not to mention my proposal before him, till I know how it will be relish’d by my mamma. If it be not well received, perhaps I may employhim on the occasion. Yet I don’t like to owe him an obligation, if I could help it. For men who have his views in their heads, do so parade it, so strut about, if a woman condescend to employ them in her affairs, that one has no patience with them. But if I find not an opportunity this day, I willmake one tomorrow.

 

I shall not open either of your sealed-up parcels, but in your presence. There is no need. Your conduct is out of all question with me: And by the extracts you have given me from his letters and your own, I know all that relates to the present situation of things between you.

 

I was going to give you a little flippant hint or two. But since you wish to be thought superior to all our sex, in the command of yourself; and since indeed you deserve to be so thought; I will spare you. —You are, however, at times, more than half inclin’d to speak out. That you do not, is only owing to a little bashful struggle between you and yourself, as I may say. When that is quite got over, I know you will favour me undisguisedly with the result.

 

I cannot forgive your taking upon you (at so extravagant a rate too) to pay my mamma’s servant. Indeed I am, and I will be, angry with you for it. A year’s wages at once well nigh (only as, unknown to my mamma, I make it better for the servants, according to their merits)! —How it made the man stare! — And it may be his ruin too, as far as I known. If he should buy a ring, and marry a sorry body in the neighbourhood with the money, one would be loth, a twelvemonth hence, that the poor old fellow should think he had reason to wish the bounty never conferr’d!

 

I MUST give you your way in these things, you say. — And I know there is no contradicting you: For you were ever putting too great a value upon little offices done for you, and too little upon the great ones you do for others . The satisfaction you have in doing so, I grant it, repays you. But why should you, by the nobleness of your mind, throw reproaches upon the rest of the world? —Particularly, upon your own family, and upon ours too?

 

If, as I have heard you say, it is a good rule to give WORDS the hearing, but to form our judgments of men and things by DEEDS ONLY; what shall we think of one, who seeks to find palliatives in words, for narrowness of heart in the very persons her deeds so silently, yet so forcibly, reflect upon? Why blush you not, my dear friend, to be thus singular? —When you meet with another person, whose mind is like your own, then display your excellencies as you please: But till then, for pity’s sake, let your heart and your spirit suffer a little contraction.

 

I intended to write but a few lines; chiefly to let you know, your parcels are come safe. And accordingly I began in a large hand; and I am already come to the end of my second sheet. But I could write a quire without hesitation, upon a subject so copious, and so beloved, as is your praise. —Not for this single instance of your generosity; since I am really angry with you for it; but for the benevolence exemplified in the whole tenor of your life and actions; of which This is but a common instance. God direct you, in your own arduous trials, is all I have room to add; and make you as happy, as you think to be

Your own
Anna Howe .

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