LETTER 85:MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE

I have a letter from Mr. Lovelace, full of transports, vows, and promises. I will send it to you inclosed. You’ll see how he engages in it for his aunt Lawrance’s protection, and for Miss Charlotte Montague’s accompanying me. ‘I have nothing to do, but to persevere, he says, and prepare to receive the personal congratulations of his whole family.’

 

But you’ll see, how he presumes upon my being his, as the consequence of throwing myself into that Lady’s protection.

 

The chariot-and-six is to be ready at the place he mentions. You’ll see, as to the slur upon my reputation, which I am so apprehensive about, how boldly he argues. Generously enough, indeed, were I to be his ; and had given him reason to believe that I would! —But that I have not done.

 

How one step brings on another with this incroaching

 

Sex! How soon may a young creature, who gives a man the least encouragement, be carried beyond her intentions, and out of her own power! —You would imagine, by what he writes, that I have given him reason to think, that my aversion to Mr. Solmes is all owing to my favour for him!

 

The dreadful thing is, that, comparing what he writes from his intelligencer, of what is designed against me [though he seems not to know the threatened day] with what my aunt and Betty assure me of, there can be no hope for me, but that I must be Solmes’s wife, if I stay here.

 

I had better have gone to my uncle Antony’s, at this rate! I should have gained time, at least, by it. This is the fruit of his fine contrivances!

 

‘What we are to do, and how good he is to be: How I am to direct all his future steps.’ All this shews, as I said before, that he is sure of me.

 

However, I have reply’d to the following effect: ‘That although I had given him room to expect, that I would put myself into his aunt’s protection; yet, as I have three days to come, between this and Monday, and as I hope that my friends will still relent, or that Mr. Solmes will give up a point they will both find it impossible to carry; I shall not look upon myself as absolutely bound by the appointment: And expect therefore, if I recede, that I shall not be called to account for it by him. That I think it necessary to acquaint him, that if, by putting myself into Lady Betty Lawrance’s protection, he understands, that I mean directly to throw myself into his power, he is very much mistaken: For that there are many points in which I must be satisfied; several matters to be adjusted, even, after I have left this house (if I do leave it), before I can think of giving him any particular encouragement: That, in the first place, he must expect, that I will do my utmost to procure my father’s reconciliation and approbation of my future steps; and that I will govern myself intirely by his commands, in every reasonable point, as much as if I had not left his house: That if he imagines, that I shall not reserve to myself this liberty, but that my withdrawing is to give him any advantages, which he would otherwise have had; I am determined to tarry where I am, and abide the event, in hopes that my friends will still accept of my reiterated promise, never to marry him, or any-body else, without their consent.’

 

This I will deposite as soon as I can. And as he thinks things are near their crisis, I dare say it will not be long before I have an answer to it.

Friday, Four o’Clock.

I am far from being well: Yet must I make myself worse than I am, preparative to the suspension I hope to obtain of the menaced evil of Wednesday next. And if I do obtain it, I will postpone my appointment to meet Mr. Lovelace.

 

Betty has told them I am very much indisposed. But I have no pity from any-body.

 

I believe, I am become the object of every-one’s aversion; and that they would all be glad I were dead. — Indeed, I believe it! —‘What ails the perverse creature,’ cries one? —‘Is she love-sick,’ another?

 

I was in the Ivy-summer-house, and came out shivering with cold, as if aguishly seized. Betty observed this, and reported it. —‘O, no matter! —Let her shiver on! —Cold cannot hurt her. Obstinacy will defend her from That. Perverseness is a Bracer to a love-sick girl, and more effectual than the Cold Bath to make hardy, altho’ the constitution be ever so tender.’

 

 

This said by a cruel brother, and heard said by the dearer friends of one, for whom, but a few month ago, every-body was apprehensive at every blast of wind to which she exposed herself!

 

Betty, it must be owned, has an admirable memory on these occasions. Nothing of this nature is lost by her repetition: Even the very air she repeats with, renders it unncecessary to ask, Who said This or That severe thing.

Friday, Six o’Clock.

My aunt, who again stays all night, has just left me. She came to tell me the result of my friends deliberations about me. It is this.

 

Next Wednesday morning they are all to be assembled: To wit, my father, mother, my uncles, herself, and my uncle Hervey; my brother and sister of course; my good Mrs. Norton is likewise to be admitted: And Dr. Lewin is to be at hand, to exhort me, it seems, if there be occasion: But my aunt is not certain, whether he is to be among them, or to tarry till called in.

 

When this awful court is set, the poor prisoner is to be brought in, supported by Mrs. Norton; who is to be first tutored to instruct me in the duty of a child; which, it seems, I have quite forgotten.

 

Nor is the success at all doubted, my aunt says: For it is not believed I can be so harden’d, as to withstand so venerable a judicature, altho’ I have withstood several of them separately. And still the less, as she hints at extraordinary condescensions from my papa. But what condescensions, from even my father, can induce me to make such a sacrifice as is expected from me?

 

Yet my spirits will never bear up, I doubt, at such a tribunal: My father presiding in it.

 

I believed indeed, that my trials would not be at an end, till he had admitted me once more into his awful presence!

 

What is hoped from me, she says, is, That I will chearfully, on Tuesday night, if not before, sign the articles; and so turn the succeeding day’s solemn convention of all my friends, into a day of festivity. I am to have the license sent me up, however, and once more the settlements, that I may see how much in earnest they are.

 

She further hinted, that my papa himself would bring up the settlements for me to sign.

 

O my dear! what a trial will This be! —How shall I be able to refuse to my father [My father! from whose presence I have been so long banish’d; he commanding and intreating, perhaps, in a breath! How shall I be able to refuse to my father] the writing of my name?

 

They are sure, she says, something is working on Mr. Lovelace’s part, and perhaps on mine: And my papa would sooner follow me to the grave, than see me his wife.

 

I said, I was not well; That the very apprehensions of these trials, were already insupportable to me; and would increase upon me, as the time approached; and I was afraid I should be extremely ill.

 

They had prepared themselves for such an artifice as That, was my aunt’s unkind word; and she could assure me, it would stand me in no stead.

 

Artifice ! repeated I: And this from my aunt Hervey?

 

Why my dear, said she, do you think people are fools? —Can they not see, how dismally you endeavour to sigh yourself down within-doors? —How you hang down your sweet face [those were the words she was pleased to use] upon your bosom: —How you totter, as it were, and hold by this chair, and by that door-post, when you know that Any-body sees you [This, my dear Miss Howe, is an aspersion to fasten hypocrisy and contempt upon me: My brother’s or sister’s aspersion! —I am not capable of arts so low]. But the moment you are down with your poultry, or advancing upon your garden-walk, and, as you imagine, out of every-body’s sight, it is seen how nimbly you trip along; and what an alertness ggoverns all your motions.

 

I should hate myself, said I, were I capable of such poor artifices as these. I must be a fool to use them, as well as a mean creature; for have I not had experience enough, that my friends are incapable of being moved in much more affecting instances ? —But you’ll see how I shall be by Tuesday.

 

My dear, you will not offer any violence to your health? —I hope, God has given you more grace, than to do that.

 

I hope he has, Madam. But there is violence enough offer’d, and threatened, to affect my health; and that will be found, without my needing to have recourse to any other, or to artifice either.

 

I’ll only tell you one thing, my dear: And that is; Ill or well, the ceremony will probably be performed before Wednesday-night: —But This, also, I will tell you, altho’ beyond my present commission, that Mr. Solmes will be under an engagement, (if you should require it of him, as a favour) after the ceremony is passed, and Lovelace’s hopes thereby utterly extinguished, to leave you at your father’s, and return to his own house every evening, until you are brought to a full sense of your duty, and consent to acknowlege your change of name.

 

There was no opening of my lips to such a speech as This. I was dumb.

 

And these, my dear Miss Howe, are They, who, some of them, at least, have called me a romantic girl! —This is my chimerical brother, and wise sister; both joining their heads together, I dare say and yet, my aunt told me, that the last part was what took in my mamma; who had, till that was started, insisted, that her child should not be married

 

if, thro’ grief or opposition, she should be ill, or fall into fits.

 

This intended violence my aunt often excused, by the certain information they pretended to have, of some plots or machinations, that were ready to break out, from Mr. Lovelace ( a ) : The effects of which were thus cunningly to be frustrated.

 

Friday, Nine o’Clock.

And now, my dear, what shall I conclude upon? You see how determin’d—But how can I expect your advice will come time enough to stand me in any stead? For here, I have been down, and already have another letter from Mr. Lovelace [The man lives upon the spot, I think]: And I must write to him, either that I will, or will not, stand to my first resolution of escaping hence on Monday next. If I let him know, that I will not (appearances so strong against him, and for Solmes, even stronger, than when I made the appointment), will it not be justly deemed my own fault, if I am compelled to marry their odious man? And if any mischief ensue from Mr. Lovelace’s rage and disappointment, will it not lie at my door? —Yet, he offers so fair! —Yet, on the other hand, to incur the censure of the world, as a giddy creature! —But that, as he hints, I have already incurred! —What can I do? Oh! that my cousin Morden! —But what signifies wishing?

 

I will here give you the substance of Mr. Lovelace’s letter. The letter itself I will send, when I have answered it; but that I will defer doing as long as I can, in hopes of finding reason to retract an appointment on which so much depends. And yet it is necessary you should have all before you, as I go
 

along, that you may be the better able to advise me in this dreadful crisis of my fate.

 

‘He begs my pardon, for writing with so much assurance; attributing it to his unbounded transport; and intirely acquiesces in my will. He is full of alternatives and proposals. He offers to attend me directly to Lady Betty’s; or, if I had rather, to my own estate; and that my Lord M. shall protect me there, [He knows not, my dear, my reasons for rejecting this inconsiderate advice]. In either case, as soon as he sees me safe, he will go up to London, or whither I please; and not come near me, but by my own permission; and till I am satisfy’d in every thing I am doubtful of, as well with regard to his reformation, as to settlements, &c.

 

‘To conduct me to You, my dear, is another of his alternatives, not doubting, he says, but your mamma will receive me. Or, if That be not agreeable to you, to your mamma, or to me, he will put me into Mr. Hickman’s protection; whom, no doubt, Miss Howe can influence; and that it may be given out, that I am gone to Bath, or Bristol, or Abroad; where-ever I please.

 

‘Again, If it be more agreeable, he proposes to attend me privately to London, where he will procure handsome lodgings for me, and both his cousins Montague to receive me there, and to accompany me till all shall be adjusted to my mind; and till a reconciliation shall be effected; which, he assures me, nothing shall be wanting in him to facilitate; greatly as he has been insulted by all my family.

 

‘These several measures he proposes to my choice; it being unlikely, he says, that he can procure in the time, a letter from Lady Betty, under her own hand, inviting me in form to her house, unless he had been himself to go to that Lady for it; which, at this critical conjuncture, while he is attending my commands, is impossible.

 

‘He conjures me, in the solemnest manner, if I would not throw him into utter despair, to keep to my appointment.

 

‘However, instead of threatening my relations, or Solmes, if I recede, he respectfully says, that he doubts not, but that, if I do, it will be upon such reasons, as he ought to be satisfy’d with; upon no slighter, he hopes, than their leaving me at full liberty to pursue my own inclinations: In which (whatever they shall be), he will intirely acquiesce; only endeavouring to make his future good behaviour, the sole ground for his expectation of my favour.

 

‘In short, he solemnly vows, that his whole view at present, is, To free me from my imprisonment; and to restore me to my own free-will, in a point so absolutely necessary to my future happiness. He declares, that neither the hopes he has in my future favour, nor the honour of himself and family, will permit him to propose any thing that shall be inconsistent with my own most scrupulous notions: And, for my mind’s sake, should choose to have this end obtained by my friends declining to compel me. But that, nevertheless, as to the world’s opinion, it is impossible to imagine, that the behaviour of my relations to me, has not already brought upon my family those free censures which they deserve, and caused the step which I am so scrupulous about taking, to be no other than the natural and expected consequence of their treatment of me.’

 

Indeed, I am afraid all this is true: And it is owing to some little degree of politeness, that Mr. Lovelace does not say all he might say on this subject: For I have no doubt, that I am the talk, and perhaps the by-word of half the country. If so, I am afraid, I can now do nothing that will give me more disgrace than I have already so causelesly received by their indiscreet persecutions: And let me be whose I will, and do what I will, I shall never wipe off the stain my confinement,

 

and the rigorous usage I have received, have fixed upon me; at least in my own opinion.

 

I wish, if ever I am to be considered as one of the eminent family this man is ally’d to, some of them do not think the worse of me, for the disgrace I have received! —In that case, perhaps, I shall be obliged to him, if he do not. You see how much this harsh, this cruel, treatment from my own family has humbled me! —But, perhaps, I was too much exalted before.

 

Mr. Lovelace concludes, ‘with repeatedly begging an interview with me; and That, this night, if possible: An honour, he says, he is the more encouraged to solicit for, as I had twice before made him hope for it. But whether he obtain it, or not, he beseeches me to choose one of the alternatives he offers to my acceptance; and not to depart from my resolution of escaping on Monday, unless the reason ceases on which I had taken it up; and that I have a prospect of being restored to my friends favour; at least to my own liberty and freedom of choice.’

 

He renews all his vows and promises on this head, in so earnest and so solemn a manner, that (his own interest, and his family’s honour, and their favour for me, co-operating) I can have no room to doubt of his sincerity.

 

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 *