LETTER 87: MISS HOWE TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE

Image taken from Google

Image taken from Google  Anna Howe.

Sat. Afternoon.

By your last date of Ten, in your letter of this day, you could not long have deposited it, before Robin took it. He rode hard, and brought it to me just as I had risen from table.

 

You may justly blame me for sending my messenger empty-handed, your situation consider’d; and yet that very situation [so critical!] is partly the reason for it: For indeed I knew not what to write, fit to send you.

 

I had been inquiring privately, how to procure you a conveyance from Harlowe-Place, and yet not appear in it; knowing, that to oblige in the fact,and to disoblige in the manner, is but obliging by halves: My mamma being, moreover, very suspicious, and very uneasy; made more so by daily visits from your uncle Antony, who tells her, that now every-thing is upon the point of being determined, and hopes, that her daughter will not so interfere, as to discourage your compliance with their wills. This I came at by a way that I cannot take notice of, or both should hear of it, in a manner neither would like: And, without that, my mamma and I have had almost hourly bickerings.

 

I found more difficulty than I expected, as the time was confined, and secresy required, in procuring you a vehicle; and as you so earnestly forbid me to accompany you in your enterprize. Had you not obliged me to keep measures with my mamma, I could have managed it with ease. I could even have taken our own chariot, on one pretence or other, and put two horses extraordinary to it, if I had thought fit; and I could have sent it back from London, and nobody the wiser as to the lodgings we might have taken.

 

I wish to the Lord, you had permitted This! Indeed I think you are two punctilious a great deal for your situation. Would you expect to enjoy yourself with your usual placidness, and not be ruffled, in an hurricane which every moment threatens to blow your house down?

 

Had your distress sprung from yourself, that would have been another thing. But when all the world knows where to lay the fault, this alters the case.

 

How can you say I am happy, when my mamma, to her power, is as much an abettor of their wickedness to my dearest friend, as your aunt, or any-body else? —And this thro’ the instigation of that odd-headed and foolish uncle of yours, who [sorry creature that he is] keeps her up to resolutions, which are unworthy of her, for an example to me, and please you. 

Is not this case enough for me to ground a resentment upon, sufficient to justify me for accompanying you; the friendship between us so well known?

 

Indeed, my dear, the importance of the case consider’d, I must repeat, That you are too nice. Don’t they already think, that your standing-out is owing a good deal to my advice? Have they not prohibited our correspondence upon that very surmize? And have I, but on your account, reason to value what they think?

 

Besides, what discredit have I to fear by such a step? What detriment? Would Hickman, do you believe, refuse me upon it? —If he did, should I be sorry for that? —Who is it, that has a Soul, who would not be affected by such an instance of female friendship?

 

But I should vex and disorder my mamma! —Well, that is something! But not more than she vexes and disorders me, on her being made an implement by such a sorry creature, who ambles hither every day in spite to my dearest friend. —Woe be to both, if it be for a double end ! —Chide me, if you will: I don’t care.

 

I say, and I insist upon it, such a step would ennoble your friend: And if still you will permit it, I will take the office out of Lovelace’s hands; and, tomorrow evening, or on Monday, before his time of appointment takes place, will come in a chariot, or chaise: And then, my dear, if we get off as I wish, will we make terms, and what terms we please, with them All. My mamma will be glad to receive her daughter again, I warrant ye: And Hickman will cry for joy on my return; or he shall for sorrow .

 

But you are so very earnestly angry with me for proposing such a step, and have always so much to say for your side of any question, that I am afraid to urge it farther. —Only be so good as to encourage me to resume it, if, upon farther consideration, and upon weighing matters well [and in this light, Whether best to go off with me, or with Lovelace ], you can get over your punctilious regard for my reputation. A woman going off with a woman is not so discreditable a thing, surely! and with no view, but to avoid the fellows! —I say, only be so good as to consider this point; and if you can get over your scruples, on my account, do. And so I will have done with this argument for the present; and apply myself to some of the passages in yours.

 

A time, I hope, will come, that I shall be able to read your affecting narratives, without that impatience and bitterness, which now boils over in my heart, and would flow to my pen, were I to enter into the particulars of what you write. And, indeed, I am afraid of giving you my advice at all, or of telling you what I should do in your case [supposing you will still refuse my offer]; finding too, what you have been brought, or rather driven, to, without it; lest any evil should follow it: In which case, I should never forgive myself. And this consideration has added to my difficulties in writing to you, now you are upon such a crisis, and yet refuse the only method— But I said, I would not for the present touch any more that string. Yet, one word more, chide me, if you please: If any harm betide you, I shall for ever blame my mamma—Indeed I shall—And perhaps, yourself, if you do not accept of my offer.

 

But one thing, in your present situation, and prospects, let me advise: It is this, That if you do go away with Mr. Lovelace, you take the first opportunity to permit the ceremony to pass. Why should you not, when every-body will know by whose assistance, and in whose company, you leave your father’s house, go whithersoever you will? —You may, indeed, keep him at distance, until settlements are drawn, and such-like matters are adjusted to your mind. But even These are matters of less consideration in your

 

particular case, than they would be in that of most others: Because, be his other faults what they will, nobody thinks him an ungenerous man:Because the possession of your estate must be given up to you, as soon as your cousin Morden comes; who, as your Trustee, will see it done; and done upon proper terms: Because there is no want of fortune on his side: Because all his family value you, and are extremely desirous that you should be their relation: Because he makes no scruple of accepting you without conditions. You see how he has always defy’d your relations [I, for my own part, can forgive him for that fault: Nor know I, if it be not a noble one]. And I dare say, he had rather call you his, without a shilling, than be under obligation to those whom he has full as little reason to love, as they have to love him. You have heard, that his own relations cannot make his proud spirit submit to owe any favour to them.

 

For all these reasons, I think, you may the less stand upon previous settlements. It is therefore my absolute opinion, that, if you do go off with him [And in that case you must let him be judge, when he can leave you with safety, you’ll observe That], you should not postpone the ceremony.

 

Give this matter your most serious consideration. Punctilio is out of doors the moment you are out of your father’s house. I know how justly severe you have been upon those inexcusable creatures, whose giddiness, and even want of decency, have made them, in the same hour, as I may say, leap from a parent’s window to a husband’s bed—But, considering Lovelace’s character, I repeat my opinion, that your Reputation in the eye of the world requires, that no delay be made in this point, when once you are in his power.

 

I need not, I am sure, make a stronger plea to you .

 

You say, in excuse for my mamma (what my fervent love for my friend very ill brooks), That we ought not to blame any-one for not doing what she has an option to do, or to let alone. This, in cases of friendship, would admit of very strict discussion. If the thing requested be of greater consequence, or even of equal, to the person sought to, and it were, as the old phrase has it, to take a thorn out of one’s friend’s foot, to put it into our own, something might be said. — Nay, it would be, I will venture to say, a selfish thing, in us to ask a favour of a friend, which would subject That friend to the same or equal inconvenience, as That from which we wanted to be relieved. The requester would, in this case, teach his friend, by his own selfish example, with much better reason, to deny him, and despise a friendship so merely nominal. But if, by a less inconvenience to ourselves, we could relieve our friend from a greater, the refusal of such a favour makes the refuser unworthy of the name of Friend: Nor would I admit such a one, not even into the outermost fold of my heart.

 

I am well aware, that this is your opinion of friendship, as well as mine: For I owe the distinction to you, upon a certain occasion; and it saved me from a very great inconvenience, as you must needs remember. But you was always for making excuses for other people, in cases wherein you would not have allowed of one for yourself .

 

I must own, that were these excuses for a friend’s indifference, or denial, made by any-body but you, in a case of such vast importance to herself, and of so comparative a small one to those whose protection she would be thought to wish for; I, who am for ever, as you have often remarked, endeavouring to trace effects to their causes, should be ready to suspect, that there was a latent, un-owned inclination, which balancing, orpreponderating rather, made the issue of the alternative (however important) sit more lightly upon the excuser’s mind than she cared to own.

 

You will understand me, my dear. But if you do not, it may be as well for me; for I am afraid I shall have it from you, for but starting such a notion, or giving a hint, which, perhaps, as you did once in another case, you will reprimandingly call, ‘Not being able to forego the ostentation of sagacity, tho’ at the expence of that tenderness which is due to friendship and charity.’

 

What signifies owwning a fault, without mending it, you’ll say? —Very true, my dear. But you know I ever was a saucy creature! —Ever stood in need of great allowances. —And I know, likewise, that I ever had them from my dear Clarissa Harlowe. Nor do I doubt them now: For you know how much I love you! —If it be possible, more than myself I love you! Believe me, my dear! And, in consequence of that belief, you will be able to judge, how much I am affected by your present distressful and critical situation; which will not suffer me to pass by, without a censure, even that philosophy of temper in your own cause, which you have not in another’s, and which all that know you, ever admired you for.

 

From this critical and distressful situation, it shall be my hourly prayers, that you may be delivered without blemish to that fair fame, which has hitherto, like your heart, been unspotted.

 

With This prayer, twenty times repeated, concludes

 

Your ever-affectionate
Anna Howe .

      I hurry’d myself in writing This; and I hurry Robin away with it, that in a Situation so very critical, you may have all the time possible to consider what I have written, upon two points so very important. I will repeat them in a very few words:
      ‘Whether you choose not rather to go off with one of

your own Sex

 

 

Anna Howe

 

than with one of the

 

other

      ; with Mr.

Lovelace

    ?’
    And if not,
    ‘Whether you should not marry him as soon as possible?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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