LETTER 101: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE

LETTER VIII.
Miss Clarissa Harlowe, to Miss Howe .

Thursday, P. M. April 13.

I am infinitely concerned, my ever-dear and everkind friend, that I am the sad occasion of the displeasure between your mamma and you. —How many unhappy persons have I made!—

Had I not to console myself, that my error is now owing to wicked precipitation, I should be the most miserable of all creatures. As it is, I am enough punished in the loss of my character, more valuable to me than my life; and in the cruel doubts and perplexities which, conflicting with my hopes, and each getting the victory by turns, harrow up my soul between them.

I think, however, that you should obey your mamma; and decline a correspondence with so unhappy a creature. —Take care how you fall into my error; for That began with carrying on a prohibited correspondence; which I thought it in my power to discontinue at pleasure. My talent is scribbling, and I the readier fell into this freedom, as I found delight in writing; having motives too, which I thought laudable; and, at one time, the permission of all my friends, to write to him ( a ) .

Yet (altho’ I am ready sometimes to discontinue a correspondence so dear to me, in order to make your mamma easy) what hurt could a letter now-and-then from each do? —Mine occasionally filled with self-accusation too! —So much prudence and discretion as you have; and lying under no temptation of following so bad an example, in writing to me.

I thank you most heartily for your kind offers. You may be assured, that I would sooner be beholden to you, than to any body living. To Mr. Lovelace the last. So, do not think, that by declining it, I have an intention to lay myself under obligations to him.

I am willing to hope, notwithstanding what you write, that I shall have my little money, together with my cloaths, sent me by my friends. They are too considerate, some of them, at least, to permit, that I should be put to such low difficulties. Perhaps, they will not be in haste to oblige me. But if not, I cannot yet want. —I believe you think, I must not dispute with him the expences of the road and lodgings, till I can get to a fixed one. But I hope soon to put an end even to those sort of obligations.

Small hopes, indeed, of a reconciliation, from your account of my uncle’s visit to your mamma; to set her against an almost-friendless creature, whom once he loved! But is it not my duty to try for it? Ought to widen my error, by obstinacy and resentment, because of theirresentment; which must appear reasonable to them, as they suppose my flight premeditated; and as they are made to believe, that I am capable of triumphing in it, and over them, with the man they hate? When I have done all in my power to restore myself to their favour, I shall have the less to reproach myself with. —These considerations make me waver about following your advice, in relation to marriage; especially, as he is so full of his complaisance, with regard to my former conditions, which he calls my injunctions . And, at the same time, that they dispose me not to go to any of the Ladies of his family, whose mediation my friends, as you tell me, have so strenuously declared against; I am ready to

fix all my reliance on my cousin Morden. For I think, that if I can be secure in a tolerable state of independence, till he comes to England, all must then be determin’d, in a better manner, than by any other way.

Yet, if I cannot get this man to leave me, how shall terms to my friends be proposed? —If he do, and they should get me back again by force, which you think they would attempt but for fear of him; how will the severest acts of compulsion which they can have recourse to, be justified by my flight from them? —And while we are together, and unmarried, as you observe, what censures do I expose myself to! —And must I then, to save the poor remains of my reputation, in the world’s eye, watch the gracious motion from this man’s lips?

I will acquaint you, as you desire, with all that passes between us. Hitherto I have not discover’d any thing in his behaviour that is very exceptionable. Yet I cannot say, that I think the respect he shews me, an easy, unrestrained, and natural respect; altho’ I can hardly tell where the fault is.

But he has doubtless an arrogant and incroaching spirit. Nor is he so polite as his education, and other advantages, might have made one expect him to be. He seems, in short, to be one, who has always had too much of his own will, to study to accommodate himself to that of others.

As to the placing of some confidence in him, I shall be as ready to take your advice in this particular, as in all others, and as he will be to deserve it. But tricked away as I was by him, not only against my judgment, but my inclination, can he, or any-body, expect, that I should immediately treat him with complaisance, as if I acknowleged obligation to him for carrying me away? —If I did, must he not either think me a vile dissembler before he gained that point, or afterwards ?—

Indeed, indeed, my dear, I could tear my hair, on reconsidering what you write (as to the probability that the dreaded Wednesday was more dreaded than it needed to be), to think, that I should be thus trick’d by this man; and that, in all likelihood, thro’ his vile agent Joseph Leman. So premeditated and elaborate a wickedness as it must be! —Must I not, with such a man, be wanting to myself, if I were not jealous and vigilant? —Yet what a life to live for a spirit so open, and naturally so unsuspicious, as mine?

I am obliged to Mr. Hickman for the assistance he is so kindly ready to give to our correspondence. He is so little likely to make to himself an additional merit with the daughter upon it, that I shall be very sorry, if he risk any thing with the mother by it.

I am now in a state of obligation: So must rest satisfy’d with whatever I cannot help. —Whom have I the power, once so precious to me, of obliging? — What I mean, my dear, is, that I ought, perhaps, to expect, that my influences over you are weakened by my indiscretion. Nevertheless, I will not, if I can help it, desert myself, nor give up the privilege you used to allow me, of telling you what I think of any part of your conduct which I may disapprove of.

You must permit me therefore [severe as your mamma is against an undesigning offender] to say, that I think your liveliness to her inexcusable—To pass over, for this time, what nevertheless concerns me not a little, the free treatment you almost indiscriminately give my relations.

If you will not, for your own sake, forbear such hauntings and impatiency as you repeat to me, let me beseech you, that you will for mine : —Since otherwise, your mamma may apprehend, that my example, like a leaven, is working itself into the mind of her beloved daughter. And may not such an apprehension give her an irreconcileable displeasure against me?

I inclose the copy of my letter to my sister, which you are desirous to see. You’ll observe, that altho’ I have not demanded my estate in form, and of my trustees, yet that I have hinted at leave to retire to it. How joyfully would I keep my word, if they would accept of the offer I renew! —It was not proper, I believe you’ll think, on many accounts, to own that I was carry’d off, against my inclination.

I am, my dearest friend,

Your ever-obliged and affectionate
Cl. Harlowe .

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