LETTER 109: MR LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD

And do I not see that I shall need nothing but patience, in order to have all power with me? For what shall we say, if all these complaints of a character wounded; these declarations of increasing regrets for meeting me; of resentments never to be got over for my seducing her away: These angry commands to leave her: —What shall we say, If all were to mean nothing but Matrimony ? —And what if my forbearing to enter upon that subject come out to be the true cause of her petulance and uneasiness?

 

I had once before play’d about the skirts of the irrevocable obligation; but thought myself obliged to speak in clouds, and to run away from the subject, as soon as she took my meaning, lest she should imagine it to be ungenerously urged, now she was in some sort in my power, as she had forbid me, beforehand, to touch upon it, till I were in a state of visible reformation, and till a reconciliation with her friends were probable. But now, out-argued, out-talented, and pushed so vehemently to leave one, whom I had no good pretence to hold, if she would go; and who could so easily, if I had given her cause to doubt, have thrown herself into other protection, or have return’d to Harlowe-Place and Solmes; I spoke out upon the subject, and offer’d reasons, altho’ with infinite doubt and hesitation [ lest she should be offended at me, Belford!] why she should assent to the legal tie, and make me the happiest of men. And O how the mantled cheek, the downcast eye, the silent, yet trembling lip, and the heaving bosom, a sweet collection of heighten’d beauties, gave evidence, that the tender was not mortally offensive!

 

Charming creature, thought I [But I charge thee, that thou let not any of the sex know my exultation] Is it so soon come to this? —Am I already lord of the destiny of a Clarissa Harlowe! —Am I already the reformed man thou resolvedst I should be, before I had the least encouragement given me? Is it thus, that the more thou knowest me, the less thou seest reason to approve of me ? —And can art and design enter into a breast so celestial; To banish me from thee, to insist so rigorously upon my absence, in order to bring me closer to thee, and make the blessing dear? —Well do thy arts justify mine ; and encourage me to let loose my plotting genius upon thee.

 

But let me tell thee, charming maid, if thy wishes are at all to be answer’d, that thou hast yet to account to me for thy reluctance to go off with me, at a crisis when thy going off was necessary to avoid being forced into the nuptial setters with a wretch, that were he not thy aversion, thou wert no more honest to thy own merit, than to me.

 

I am accustomed to be preferr’d, let me tell thee, by thy equals in rank too, tho’ thy inferiors in merit; but who is not so! And shall I marry a woman, who has given me reason to doubt the preference she has for me?

 

No, my dearest love,—I have too sacred a regard for thy injunctions, to let them be broke thro’, even by thyself. Nor will I take-in thy full meaning, by blushing silence only. Nor shalt thou give me room to doubt, whether it be necessity or love, that inspires this condescending impulse.

 

Upon these principles, what had I to do, but to construe her silence into contemptuous displeasure? And I begg’d her pardon, for making a motion, which, I had so much reason to fear, would offend her: For the future I would pay a sacred regard to her previous injunctions, and prove to her, by all my conduct, the truth of that observation, That true love is always fearful of offending!—

 

And what could the Lady say to this? methinks thou askest.

 

Say! —Why she look’d vex’d, disconcerted, teaz’d; was at a loss, as I thought, whether to be more angry with herself, or me. She turn’d about, however, as if to hide a starting tear; and drew a sigh into two or three but just audible quavers, trying to suppress it; and withdrew, leaving me master of the field.

 

Tell me not of politeness: Tell me not of generosity: Tell me not of compassion: —Is she not a match for me? More than a match? Does she not out-do me at every fair weapon? Has she not made me doubt her love? Has she not taken officious pains to declare, that she was not averse to Solmes for any respect she had to me? and her sorrow for putting herself out of his reach; that is to say, for meeting me?\

 

Then what a triumph would it be to the Harlowe pride, were I now to marry this Lady? —A family beneath my own! —No one in it worthy of an alliance with, but her! —My own estate not contemptible! — Living within the bounds of it, to avoid dependence upon their betters, and obliged to no man living! —My expectations still so much more considerable—My person, my talents—not to be despised, surely—Yet rejected by them with scorn: —Obliged to carry on an underhand address to their daughter, when two of the most considerable families in the kingdom have made overtures, which I have declined, partly for her sake, and partly because I never will marry, if she be not the person: To be forced to steal her away; not only from them, but from herself : —And must I be brought to implore forgiveness and reconciliation from the Harlowes? —Beg to be acknowleged as the son of a gloomy tyrant, whose only boast is his riches? As a brother to a wretch, who has conceived immortal hatred to me; and to a sister who was beneath my attempts, or I would have had her in my own way, [and that with a tenth part of the trouble and pains, that her sister, whom she has so barbarously insulted, has cost me, yet not a step advanced with her ?] And, finally, as a nephew to uncles, who valuing themselves upon their acquired fortunes, would insult me, as creeping to them on that account? —Forbid it the blood of the Lovelaces, that yourlast, and, let me say, not the meanest of your stock, should thus creep, thus fawn, thus lick the dust, for a Wife !—

 

Proceed anon.

 

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