LETTER 107: CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE

Thursday Night, April 13.

I always lov’d writing, and my unhappy situation gives me now enough of it; and you, I fear, too much. —I have had another very warm debate with Mr. Lovelace. It brought on the subject, which you advised me not to decline, when it handsomely offer’d. And I want to have either your acquittal or blame for having suffer’d it to go off without effect.

 

The impatient wretch sent up to me several times while I was writing my last to you, to desire my company; yet his business nothing particular; only to hear him talk. The man seems pleased with his own volubility; and, whenever he has collected together abundance of smooth things, he wants me to find ears for them. —Yet he need not: for I don’t often gratify him either with giving him the praise, or shewing the pleasure in his verboseness, that he would be fond of.

 

When I had dispatch’d the letter, and given it to Mr. Hickman’s friend, I was going up again: But he be fought me to stop, and hear what he had to say.

 

Nothing, as I said, to any new purpose—but complainings, and those in a manner, and with an air, and I thought, that bordered upon insolence: —He could not live, he told me, unless he had more of my company, and of my indulgence too, than I had yet given him.

 

Hereupon I stept into the parlour, not a little out of humour with him; and the more, as he has very quietly taken up his quarters here, without talking of removing.

 

We began presently our angry conference. He provoked me; and I repeated several of the plainest things I had said before; and particularly told him that I was every hour more and more dissatisfy’d with myself, and with him: That he was not a man, who, in my opinion, improv’d upon acquaintance: And that I should not be easy till he had left me to myself.

 

He might be surprized at my warmth, perhaps. — But really the man looked so like a simpleton; hesitating, and having nothing to say for himself, or that should excuse the peremptoriness of his demand upon the [when he knew I was writing a letter, which a gentleman waited for], that I flung from him, declaring, that I would be mistress of my own time, and of my own actions, without being called to account for either.

 

He was very uneasy till he could again be admitted into my company. And when I was obliged to see him, which was sooner than I liked, never did man put on a more humble and respectful demeanour.

 

He told me, That he had, upon this occasion, been entering into himself, and had found a great deal of reason to blame himself for an impatiency and inconsideration, which, altho’ he meant nothing by it, must be very disagreeable to one of my delicacy. That having always aimed at a manly sincerity and openness of heart, he had not till now discover’d, that both were very consistent with that true politeness, which he feared he had too much disregarded, while he sought to avoid the contrary extreme; knowing, that in me he had to deal with a lady, who despised an hypocrite, and who was above all flattery. But, from this time forth, I should find such an alteration in his whole behaviour, as might be expected from a man, who knew himself to be honoured with the presence and conversation of a person, who had the most delicate mind in the world—that was his flourish.

 

I said, That he might perhaps expect congratulation upon the discovery he had just now made, That true politeness and sincerity were very compatible: But that I, who had, by a perverse fate, been thrown into his company, had abundant reason for regret, that he had not sooner found this out: —Since, I believed, very few men of birth and education were strangers to it.

 

He knew not, neither, he said, that he had so badly behav’d himself, as to deserve so very severe a rebuke.

 

Perhaps not. But he might, if so, make another discovery from what I had said; which might be to my own disadvantage: Since, if he had so much reason to be satisfied with himself, he would see what an ungenerous person he spoke to, who, when he seem’d to give himself airs of humility, which, perhaps, he thought beneath him to assume, had not the civility to make him a compliment upon them; but was ready to take him at his word.

 

He had long, with infinite pleasure, the pretended flattery-hater said, admired my superior talents, and a wisdom in so young a Lady, perfectly surprising!

 

Lady he calls me, at every word, perhaps in compliment to himself. As I endeavour to repeat his words with exactness, you’ll be pleased, once for all, to excuse me for repeating This. I have no title to it. And I am sure I am too much mortify’d at present to take any pride in that, or any other of his compliments.

 

Let him stand ever so low in my opinion, he said, he should believe all were just; and that he had nothing to do, but to govern himself for the future by my example, and by the standard I should be pleased to give him.

 

I told him, I knew better, than to value myself upon his volubility of speech: As he pretended to pay so preferable a regard to sincerity, he should confine himself to the strict rules of truth, when he spoke of me, to myself: And then, although he should be so kind as to imagine, he had reasonto make me a compliment, he would have much more to pride himself in his arts, that had made so extraordinary a young creature so great a fool.—¬†

Really, my dear, the man deserves not politer treatment! —And then has he not made a fool, an egregious fool, of me? —I am afraid he thinks so himself.—

 

He was surpriz’d! He was amaz’d! at so strange a turn upon him! —He was very unhappy, that nothing he could do or say would give me a good opinion of him. He wish’d I would let him know, what he could do to obtain my confidence.—

 

I told him, I desir’d his absence, of all things. I saw not, that my friends thought it worth their while to give me disturbance: Therefore, if he would set out for London, or Berkshire, or whither he pleased, it would be most agreeable to me, and most reputable too.

 

He would do so, he said, he intended to do so, the moment I was in a place to my liking—in a place convenient for me.

 

This would be so, I told him, when he was not here, to break in upon me, and make the apartments inconvenient.

 

He did not think this place safe; and as I had not had thoughts of staying here, he had not been so solicitous, as otherwise he should have been, to injoin privacy to his servants, nor to Mrs. Greme, at her leaving me; and there were two or three gentlemen in the neighbourhood, he said, with whose servants his gossiping rascals had scraped acquaintance: So that he could not think of leaving me here unguarded and unattended. —But fix upon any place in England, where I could be out of danger, and undiscovered, and he would go to the furthermost part of the king’s dominions, if, by doing so, he could make me easy.

 

I told him plainly, that I should never be in humour with myself for meeting him; nor with him, for seducing me away: That my regrets increased, instead of diminished: That my reputation was wounded: That nothing I could do would now retrieve it: And that he must not wonder, if I every hour grew more and more uneasy both with myself and him: That upon the whole, I was willing to take care of myself; and when he had left me, I should best know what to resolve upon, and whither to go.

 

He wish’d, he said, he were at liberty, without giving me offence, or being thought to intend to infringe upon the articles that I had stipulated and insisted upon, to make one humble proposal to me. — But the sacred regard he was determin’d to pay to all my injunctions (reluctantly as I had on Monday last put it into his power to serve me), would not permit him to make it, unless I would promise to excuse him, if I did not approve of it.

 

I asked, in some confusion, What he would say?

 

He prefaced and paraded on; and then out came, with great diffidence, and many apologies, and a bashfulness which sat very aukwardly upon him, a proposal of speedy solemnization: Which, he said, would put all right: would make my first three or four months, which otherwise must be passed in obscurity and apprehension, a round of visits and visitings to and from all his relations; To Miss Howe; To whom I pleased: And would pave the way to the reconciliation I had so much at heart.

 

Your advice had great weight with me just then, as well as his reasons, and the consideration of my unhappy situation: But what could I say? I wanted somebody to speak for me: I could not, all at once, act as if I thought, that all punctilio was at an end . I was unwilling to suppose it was so soon.

 

The man saw I was not angry at his motion. I only blush’d up to the ears; that I am sure I did: Look’d silly, and like a fool.

 

He wants not courage. Would he have had me catch at his first, at his very first word? —I was silent too! —And do not the bold sex take silence for a mark of favour? —Then, so lately in my father’s house.¬†Having, also, declared to him in my letters, before I had your advice, that I would not think of marriage, till he had passed thro’ a state of probation, as I may call it—How was it possible, I could encourage, with very ready signs of approbation, such an early proposal? especially so soon after the free treatment he had provoked from me. —If I were to die, I could not.

 

He look’d at me with great confidence; as if (notwithstanding his contradictory bashfulness) he would look me through, while my eye but now-and-then could glance at him. He begg’d my pardon with great obsequiousness: He was afraid I would think he deserv’d no other answer, but that of a contemptuous silence. True Love was fearful of offending —[Take care, Lovelace, thought I, how yours is tried by that rule]. Indeed so sacred a regard [foolish man!] would he have to all my declarations made before I honour’d him—

 

I would hear him no further; but withdrew in too visible confusion, and left him to make his nonsensical flourishes to himself.

 

I will only add, that, if he really wishes for a speedy solemnization, he never could have had a luckier time to press for my consent to it. But he let it go off; and indignation has taken place of it: And now it shall be my point, to get him at a distance from me.

 

I am, my dearest friend,

 

Your ever faithful and obliged servant,


Cl. H.

This entry was posted in from Clarissa Harlowe, to Anna Howe and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to LETTER 107: CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE

  1. Pingback: LETTER 111: MISS HOWE TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE | EN426: Digital Approaches to CLARISSA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *