LETTER 150: MISS HOWE TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE

Thursday, April 27. 

I am sorry you return’d my Norris. But you must be allow’d to do as you please. So must I, in return. We must neither of us, perhaps, expect absolutely of the other what is the rightest to be done: And yet few folks, so young, better know, what that rightest is . I cannot separate myself from you, my dear; altho’ I give a double instance of my vanity in this particular compliment to myself.

 

I am most heartily rejoiced, that your prospects are so much mended; and that, as I hoped, good has been produced out of evil. What must the man have been, what must have been his views, had he not taken such a turn, upon a letter so vile, and treatment so unnatural, himself principally the occasion of it?

 

You know best your motives for suspending: But I wish you had taken him at offers so earnest. Why should you not have permitted him to send for Lord M.’s chaplain? If punctilio only was in the way, and want of a licence, and of proper preparations, and such-like, my service to you, my dear: And there is ceremony tantamount to your ceremony.

 

Don’t, don’t, my dear friend, again be so very melancholy a decliner, as to prefer a shroud, when the matter you wish for is in your power; and when, as you have said justly heretofore, persons cannot die when they will.

 

But it is a strange perverseness in human nature, that we covet at a distance, what when near we slight.

 

You have now but one point to pursue: That is marriage. Let that be compassed. Leave the rest to Providence; and follow as that leads. You’ll have a handsome man, a genteel man; he would be a wise man, if he were not vain of his endowments, and wild and intriguing: But while the eyes of many of our sex, taken by so specious a form, and so brilliant a spirit, encourage that vanity, you must be contented to stay till grey hairs and prudence enter upon the stage together. You would not have every thing in the same man.

 

I believe Mr. Hickman treads no crooked paths; but he hobbles most ungracefully in a strait one. Yet Hickman, tho’ he pleases not my eye, nor diverts my ear, will not, as I believe, disgust the one, nor shock the other. Your man, as I have lately said, will always keep up attention; you will always be alive with him, tho’ perhaps more from fears than hopes: While Hickman will neither say anything to keep one awake, nor yet, by shocking adventures, make one’s slumbers uneasy.

 

I believe I now know which of the two men so prudent a person as you would, at first, have chosen; nor doubt I, that you can guess which Iwould have made choice of, if I might. But proud as we are, the proudest of us all can only refuse, and many of us accept the but half-worthy, for fear a still worse should offer.

 

If the men had chosen for spirits like their own, altho’ Mr. Lovelace, at the long run, might have been too many for me, I don’t doubt but I should have given heart-ake for heart-ake, for one half-year at least; while you, with my dull-swift, would have glided on as serenely, ascalmly, as accountably, as the succeeding seasons; and varying no otherwise than as they, to bring on new beauties and conveniencies to all about you.

 

  

I was going on in this stile—But my mamma broke in upon me, with a prohibitory aspect. “She gave me leave but for one letter only.” —She has seen your odious uncle; and they have been in close conference again.

 

She has vexed me; I must lay this by till I hear from you again; not knowing where to send it.

 

Direct me to a Third place, as I desired in my former.

 

I told my mother (on her challenging me), that I was writing indeed, and to you: But it was only to amuse myself; for I protested, that I knew not where to send to you.

 

I hope that your next may inform me of your nuptials, altho’ the next to that were to acquaint me, that he was the ungratefullest monster on earth; as he must be, if not the kindest husband in it.

 

My mamma has vexed me. But so, on revising, I wrote before. —But she has unhing’d me, as you call it—Pretended to catechise Hickman, I assure you, for contributing to our supposed correspondence. Catechise him severely too, upon my word! —I believe I have a sneaking kindness for the sneaking fellow; for
I can’t endure that any-body should treat him like a fool but myself.

 

I believe, between you and me, the good Lady forgot herself. I heard her loud. —She possibly imagin’d, that my papa was come to life again! —Yet the man’s meekness might have sooner convinced her, I should have thought; for my papa, it seems, would talk as loud as she: —I suppose, tho’ within a few yards of each other, as if both were out of their way, and were hollowing at half a mile’s distance, to get in again.

 

I know you’ll blame me for this sauciness. —But I told you I was vexed: And if I had not a spirit, my parentage on both sides might be doubted.

 

You must not chide me too severely, however, because I have learn’d of you not to defend myself in an error: —And I own I am wrong: —And that’s enough. You won’t be so generous in this case, as you are in every other, if you don’t think it is.

 

Adieu, my dear! —I must, I will love you; and love you for ever! So subscribes your

 

Anna Howe.

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