LETTER 79: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE

Wednesday, Eleven o’ Clock, April 5. 

I must write as I have opportunity; making use of my concealed stores: For my pens and ink (all of each, that they could find) are taken from me; as I shall tell you more particularly by-and-by.

 

About an hour ago, I deposited my long letter to you; as also, in the usual place, a billet to Mr. Lovelace, lest his impatience should put him upon some rashness; signifying, in four lines, ‘That the interview was over; and that I hoped my steady refusal of Mr. Solmes would discourage any further applications to me in his favour.’

 

Altho’ I was unable, through the fatigue I had undegone, and by reason of sitting up all night to write to you, (which made me lie longer than ordinary this morning) to deposit my letter to you sooner; yet I hope you will have it in such good time, as that you will be able to send me an answer to it this night, or in the morning early; which, if ever so short, will inform me, whether I may depend upon your mamma’s indulgence, or not. This it behoves me to know as soon as possible; for they are resolved to hurry me away on Saturday next, at farthest; perhaps to-morrow.

 

I will now inform you of all that happen’d previous to their taking away my pen and ink, as well as of the manner in which that act of violence, as I may call it, was committed; and this as briefly as I can.

 

My aunt, (who with Mr. Solmes, and my two uncles) lives here, I think, came up to me, and said, she would fain have me hear what Mr. Solmes had to say of Mr. Lovelace—Only that I might be apprised of some things, that would convince me what a vile man he is, and what a wretched husband he must make. —I might give them what degree of credit I pleased; and take them with abatement for Mr. Solmes’s interestedness, if I thought fit. —But it might be of use to me, were it but to question Mr. Lovelace indirectly upon some of them, that related to myself .

 

I was indifferent, I said, about what he could say of me, as I was sure it could not be to my disadvantage; and as he had no reason to impute to me the forwardness which my unkind friends had so causelesly taxed me with.

 

She said, That he gave himself high airs on account of his family; and spoke as despicably of ours, as if an alliance with us were beneath him.

 

I reply’d, That he was a very unworthy man, if it were true, to speak slightingly of a family, which was as good as his own, ‘bating that it was not allied to the peerage: That the dignity itself, I thought, convey’d more shame than honour to descendents, who had not merit to adorn, as well as to be adorned by it: That my brother’s absurd pride, indeed, which made him every-where declare, he would never marry but to quality, gave a disgraceful preference against ours: But that were I to be assured, that Mr. Lovelace were capable of so mean a pride, as to insult us, or value himself, on such an accidental advantage, I should think as despicably of his sense, as every-body else did of his morals.

 

She insisted upon it, that he had taken such liberties; and offer’d to give some instances, which, she said, would surprise me.

 

I answer’d, That were it ever so certain, that Mr. Lovelace had taken such liberties, it would be but common justice, (so much hated as he was by all our family, and so much inveighed against in all companies by them) to inquire into the provocation he had to say what was imputed to him; and whether the value some of my friends put upon the riches they possess, (throwing perhaps contempt upon every other advantage, and even discrediting their own pretensions to family, in order to depreciate his ) might not provoke him to like contempts. Upon the whole, Madam, said I, can you say, that the inveteracy lies not as much on our side, as on his ? Can he say any-thing of us more disrespectful, than we say of him? —And as to the suggestion, so often repeated, that he would make a bad husband, is it possible for him to use a wife worse than I am used; particularly by my brother and sister?

 

Ah, niece! ah, my dear! how firmly has this wicked man attached you!

 

Perhaps not, Madam. But really great care should be taken by fathers and mothers, when they would have their daughters of their minds in these particulars, not to say things that shall necessitate the child, in honour and generosity, to take part with the man her friends are averse to. But, waving all this, as I have offered to renounce him for ever, I see not why he should be mentioned to me, nor why I should be wished to hear any-thing about him.

 

Well, but still, my dear, there can be no harm to let Mr. Solmes tell you what Mr. Lovelace has said of you . Severely as you have treated Mr. Solmes, he is fond of attending you once more: He begs to be heard on this head.

 

If it be proper for me to hear it, Madam—

 

It is, eagerly interrupted she, very proper.

Has what he has said of me, Madam, convinced you of Mr. Lovelace’s baseness?

 

It has, my dear: And that you ought to abhor him for it.

 

Then, dear Madam, be pleased to let me hear it from your mouth: There is no need that I should see Mr. Solmes, when it will have double the weight from you . What, Madam, has the man dared to say of me ?

My aunt was quite at a loss.

 

At last, Well, said she, I see how you are attached. I am sorry for it, Miss. For I do assure you, it will signify nothing. You must be Mrs. Solmes; and that in a very few days.

 

If consent of heart, and assent of voice, be necessary to a marriage, I am sure I never can, nor ever will be married to Mr. Solmes. And what will any of my relations be answerable for, if they force my hand into his, and hold it there till the Service be read; I perhaps insensible, and in fits, all the time?

 

What a romantic picture of a forced marriage have you drawn, niece! Some people would say, you have given a fine description of your own obstinacy, child.

 

My brother and sister would: But you, Madam, distinguish, I am sure, between obstinacy and aversion.

 

Supposed aversion may owe its rise to real obstinacy my dear.

 

I know my own heart, Madam. I wish you did.

 

Well, but see Mr. Solmes, once more, niece. It will oblige, and make for you, more than you imagine.

 

What should I see him for, Madam? —Is the man fond of hearing me declare my aversion to him? —Is he desirous of having me more and more incense my friends against myself? —O my cunning, my ambitious brother!

 

Ah, my dear!—with a look of pity, as if she understood the meaning of my exclamation: —But must That necessarily be the case?

 

It must, Madam, if they will take offence at me for declaring my stedfast detestation of Mr. Solmes, as a husband.

 

Mr. Solmes is to be pitied, said she. He adores you. He longs to see you once more. He loves you the better for your cruel usage of him yesterday. He is in raptures about you.

 

Ugly creature, thought I! He in raptures!—

 

What a cruel wretch must He be, said I, who can enjoy the distress he so largely contributes to! —But I see, I see, Madam, that I am consider’d as an animal to be baited, to make sport for my brother, and sister, and Mr. Solmes. They are all, all of them, wanton in their cruelty. — I, Madam, see the man!—the man so incapable of pity! —Indeed I won’t see him, if I can help it. —Indeed I won’t.

 

What a construction does your lively wit put upon the admiration Mr. Solmes expresses of you! —Passionate as you were yesterday, and contemptuously as you treated him, he dotes upon you for the very severity he suffers by. He is not so ungenerous a man as you think him: Nor has he an unfeeling heart. — Let me prevail upon you, my dear (as your father and mother expect it of you), to see him once more, and hear what he has to say to you.—

 

How can I consent to see him again, when yesterday’s interview was interpreted by you, Madam, as well as by every other, as an encouragement to him? When I myself declared, that if I saw him a second time by my own consent, it might be so taken? And when I am determined never to encourage him?

 

You might spare your reflections upon me, Miss. I have no thanks either from one side, or the other.

 

And away she flung.

 

Dearest Madam! said I, following her to the door—

 

But she would not hear me further; and her sudden breaking from me occasioned a hurry to some mean listener; as the slipping of a foot from the landing-place on the stairs discovered to me.

 

I had scarcely recovered myself from this attack, when up came Betty, with a, Miss, your company is desired below-stairs in your own parlour.

 

By whom, Betty?

 

How can I tell, Miss? —Perhaps by your sister; perhaps by your brother—I know they won’t come up-stairs to your apartment again.

 

Is Mr. Solmes gone, Betty?

 

I believe he is, Miss: —Would you have him sent for back, said the bold creature?

 

Down I went: And who should I be sent for down to, but my brother and Mr. Solmes? The latter standing sneaking behind the door, that I saw him not, till I was mockingly led by the hand into the room by my brother. And then I started as if I had beheld a ghost.

 

You are to sit down, Clary.

 

And what then, brother?

 

Why, then, you are to put off that scornful look, and hear what Mr. Solmes has to say to you.

 

Sent for down to be baited again, thought I!

 

Madam, said Mr. Solmes, as if in haste to speak, lest he should not have opportunity given him; and he judged right; Mr. Lovelace is a declaredmarriage-hater, and has a design upon your honour, if ever—

 

Base accuser! said I, in a passion, snatching my hand from my brother, who was insolently motioning to give it to Mr. Solmes; he has not!—he dares not! But you have! if endeavouring to force a free mind, is to dishonour it!

 

O thou violent creature! said my brother—But not gone yet—for I was rushing away.

 

What mean you, Sir (struggling vehemently to get away), to detain me thus against my will?

 

You shall not go, violence, clasping his unbrotherly arms about me.

 

Then let not Mr. Solmes stay. —Why hold you me thus? He shall not, for your own sake, if I can help it, see how barbarously a brother can treat a sister, who deserves not evil treatment.

 

And I struggled so vehemently to get from him, that he was forced to quit my hand; which he did with these words—Begone, then, Fury! —How strong is will! —There is no holding her.

 

And up I flew to my chamber again, and locked myself in, trembling, and out of breath.

 

In less than a quarter of an hour, up came Betty. I let her in, upon her tapping, and asking (half out of breath too) for admittance.

 

The Lord have mercy upon us! said she. —What a confusion of a house is This! —Hurrying up and down, fanning herself with her handkerchief—Such angry masters and mistresses! Such an obstinate young lady! —Such an humble lover! —Such enraged uncles! —Such—O dear! dear! What a topsy-turvy house is This? —And all for what, trow? —Only because a young Lady may be happy, and will not ? — Only because a young Lady willhave a husband, and will not have a husband? —What hurly-burlies are here, where all used to be peace and quietness?

 

Thus she ran on, talking to herself; while I sat as patiently as I could (being assured that her errand was not designed to be a welcome one to me), to observe when her soliloquy would end.

 

At last, turning to me—I must do as I am bid: I can’t help it—Don’t be angry with me, Miss. But I must carry down your pen and ink: And that, this moment.

 

By whose order?

 

By your papa’s and mamma’s.

 

How shall I know that?

 

She offered to go to my closet: I stept in before her: Touch it, if you dare.

Up came my cousin Dolly—Madam!—Madam! said the poor weeping good-natured creature, in broken sentences—You must—indeed you must—deliver to Betty—or to me—your pen and ink.

 

Must I, my sweet cousin? Then I will to you; but not to this bold body. And so I gave my standish to her.

 

I am sorry, very sorry, said Miss, to be the messenger: But your papa will not have you in the same house with him: He is resolved you shall be carried away to-morrow, or Saturday at farthest. And therefore your pen and ink is taken away, that you may give no-body notice of it.

 

And away went the dear girl very sorrowfully, carrying down with her my standish, and all its furniture, and a little parcel of pens beside, which having been seen when the great search was made, she was bid to ask for: As it happened, I had not diminished it, having half a dozen Crow-quills, which I had hid in as many different places. It was lucky; for I doubt not they had told how many were in the parcel.

 

Betty run on, telling me, that my mamma was now as much incensed against me, as any-body— That my doom was fixed! —That my violent behaviour had not left one to plead for me. That Mr. Solmes bit his lip, and mumbled, and seemed to have more in his head, than could come out at his mouth; that was her phrase.

 

And yet she also hinted to me, that the cruel creature took pleasure in seeing me; altho’ so much to my disgust. —And so wanted to see me again. Must he not be a savage, my dear?

 

The wench went on—That my uncle Harlowe said, That now he gave me up. —That he pitied Mr. Solmes—Yet hoped he would not think of This to my detriment hereafter: That my uncle Antony was of opinion, That I ought to smart for it: And, for
her part—And then, as one of the family, she gave her opinion of the same side.

 

As I have no other way of hearing any thing that is said, or intended, below, I bear sometimes more patiently, than I otherwise should do, with her impertinence. And, indeed, she seems to be in all my brother’s and sister’s counsels.

 

Miss Hervey came up again, and demanded an half-pint ink-bottle, which they had seen in my closet.

 

I gave it her without hesitation.

 

If they have no suspicion of my being able to write, they will, perhaps, let me stay longer than otherwise they would.

 

This, my dear, is now my situation.

 

All my dependence, all my hopes, is in your mamma’s favour. But for That, I know not what I might do: For who can tell what will come next?

This entry was posted in ANNA HOWE: NOT IN USE, from Clarissa Harlowe, to Anna Howe and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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