LETTER 148: MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE

Tuesday, April 25. 

Be comforted; be not dejected; do not despond, my dearest and best-beloved friend. God Almighty is just and gracious, and gives not his assent to rash and inhuman curses. If he did, malice, envy, and the blackest passions, in the blackest hearts, would triumph, and the best (blasted by the malignity of the worst) would be miserable in both worlds.

This malediction shews only, what manner of spirit they are of, and how much their sordid views exceed their parental love. ‘Tis all rage and disappointment, my dear; disappointment in designs proper to be frustrated; and all you have to grieve for is, that their own rashness will turn upon their own hearts. God Almighty cannot succeed a curse so presumptuous, as to be carried into his futurity!

Fie upon them! —Fie upon them, will all the world say, who shall come to the knowledge of such overflowing venom! —And the more, when all shall know, that what they resent so outrageously, is owing to themselves!

My mother blames them for this wicked letter; and she pities you; and, of her own accord, wish’d me to write to comfort you, for this once: For she says, It is pity your heart, which was so noble (and when the sense of your fault, and the weight of a parent’s curse, are so strong upon you), should be quite broken.

Lord bless me, how your aunt writes! —Can there be two rights and two wrongs in palpable cases! — But, my dear, she must be wrong: So they all have been, justify themselves now as they will. They can only justify themselves to themselves from selfish principles, resolving toacquit, not fairly to try themselves. Did your unkind aunt, in all the tedious progress of your contentions with them, give you the least hope of their relenting? —Her dark hints I now recollect, as well as you. But why was any thing good or hopeful to you, to be darkly hinted? —How easy was it for her, who pretended always to love you so well; for her, who can give such flowing licence to her pen for your hurt; to have given you one word, one line (in confidence) of their pretended change of measures!

But don’t mind their after-pretences, my dear—All of them serve but for tacit confessions of their vile usage of you. I will keep your aunt’s secret, never fear. I would not, on any consideration, that my mother should see it.

You will now see, that you have nothing left, but to overcome all scrupulousness, and marry, as soon as you have opportunity. Determine upon this, my dear.

I will give you a motive for it, regarding myself. For this I have resolved, and this I have vowed [O friend, the best beloved of my heart, be not angry with me for it!] ‘That so long as your happiness is in suspense, I will never think of marrying.” In justice to the man I shall have, I have vowed this: For, my dear, must I not be miserable, if you are so? And what an unworthy wife must I be to any man, who cannot have interest enough in my heart, to make his obligingness a balance for an affliction he has not caused?

I would shew Lovelace your sister’s abominable letter, were it to me. I inclose it. It shall not have a place in this house. This will enter him of course into

the subject, which now you ought to have most in view. Let him see what you suffer for him. He cannot prove base to such an excellence. I should never enjoy my head or my senses, should this man prove a villain to you! With a merit so exalted, you may have punishment more than enough for your involuntary fault, in that husband.

I would not have you be too sure, that their project to seize you is over. The words intimating, that it is over, in the letter of that abominable Arabella, seem calculated to give you security. —She only says, she believes that design is over. —And I do not yet find from Miss Lloyd, that it is disavow’d. So it will be best, when you are at London, to be private, and to let every direction be to a third place; for fear of the worst; for I would not, for the world, have you fall into the hands of such flaming and malevolent spirits, by surprize.

I will myself be content to direct to you at some third place; and that I may have it to averr to my mother, or to any other, if occasion be, that I know not where you are.

Besides, this measure will make you less apprehensive of the consequences of their violence, should they resolve to attempt to carry you off in spite of Lovelace.

I would have you direct to Mr. Hickman, even your answer to this. I have a reason for it. Besides, my mamma, notwithstanding this particular indulgence, is very positive.

I would not have you dwell on the shocking occasion. I know how it must affect you. But don’t let it. Try to make light of it [Forget it you can’t]: And pursue other subjects—The subjects before you. And let me know your progress, and what he says [So far may you enter into this hateful subject] to this abominable letter, and diabolical curse. I expect that this will aptly introduce the grand topic between you, without needing a mediator.

Come, my dear, when things are at worst, they must mend. Good often comes, when evil is expected. Happily improv’d upon, this very curse may turn to a blessing. —But if you despond, there can be no hopes of cure. —Don’t let them break your heart; for that, it is plain to me, is now what some people have in view to do.

How poor, to with-hold from you your books, your jewels, and your money! —The latter is all you can at present want, since they will vouchsafe to send your cloaths. —I send fifty guineas by the bearer, inclosed in single papers in my Norris’s Miscellanies . I charge you, as you love me, return them not.

I have more at your service. So if you like not your lodgings, or his behaviour, when you get to town, leave both out of hand.

I would advise you to write to Mr. Morden without delay. If he intends for England, it may hasten him. And you’ll do very well till he can come. But surely Lovelace is bewitched, if he takes not his happiness from your consent, before that of Mr. Morden’s is made needful by his arrival.

Come, my dear, be comforted. All is hastening to be well. This very violence shews that it is. Suppose yourself to be me, and me to be you[You may —for your distress is mine]; and then give to yourself those consolations which, in that case, you would give me. Nothing but words has passed, vehement and horrid as those are. The divine goodness will not let them be more. Can you think that heaven will seal to the black passions of its depraved creatures? Manage with your usual prudence the stake before you, and all will be still happy.

I have as great apprehensions as you of the weight of a parent’s curse: But not of the curse of those parents, who have more to answer for, than the child, in the very errors they so much resent. To intitle those horrid words to efficacy, the parents views

should be pure, should be altogether justifiable; and the child’s ingratitude and undutifulness, without excuse; and her choice too, as totally inexcusable.

This is the true light, as I humbly conceive, that this matter should appear to you in, and to everybody. If you let not despondency seize you, you will strengthen, you will add more day to this but glimmering light, from

Your ever-affectionate and faithful
Anna Howe .

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