LETTER 158: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE

Friday, April 28.

Mr. Lovelace is returned already. My brother’s projects were his pretence. I could not but look upon this short absence as an evasion of his promise; especially as he had taken such precautions with the people below; and as he knew that I proposed to keep close within doors. I cannot bear to be dealt meanly with, and angrily insisted, that he should directly set out for Berkshire, in order to engage his cousin, as he had promised.

 

O my dearest life, said he, why will you banish me from your presence? —I cannot leave you for so long a time, as you seem to expect I should. I have been hovering about town, ever since I left you. Edgware was the furthest place I went to; and there I was not able to stay two hours, for fear, at this crisis any thing should happen. Who can account for the workings of an apprehensive mind, when all that is dear and valuable to it is at stake? —You may spare yourself the trouble of writing to any of your friends till the happy ceremony has passed, that shall intitle me to give weight to your application. When they know we are marry’d, your brother’s plots will be at an end; and your father and mother, and uncles, must be reconciled to you. —Why then should you hesitate a moment to confirm my happiness? —Why, once more, would you banish me from you? Why will you not give the man, who has brought you into difficulties, and who so honourably wishes to extricate you from them, the happiness of doing so? 

He was silent. My voice failed to second the inclination I had to say something not wholly discouraging to a point so ardently pressed.

 

I’ll tell you, my angel, resumed he, what I propose to do, if you approve of it. I will instantly go out to view some of the handsome new squares, or fine streets round them, and make a report to you of any suitable house I find to be let. I will take such a one as you shall choose, furnish it, and set up an equipage befitting our condition. You shall direct the whole. And on some early day, either before or after we fix (it must be at your own choice) be pleased to make me the happiest of men. And then will every thing be in a desirable train. You shall receive in your own house (if it can be so soon furnish’d as I wish) the congratulations of all my relations: Charlotte shall visit you in the interim: And if it take up time, you shall choose whom you’ll honour with your company, first, second, or third, in the summer months; and on your return, you shall find all that was wanting in your new habitation supply’d; and pleasures in a constant round shall attend us. O my angel, take me to you, instead of banishing me from you, and make me yours for ever.

 

You see, my dear, that here was no day pressed for. I was not uneasy about that; and the sooner I recovered myself, as there was not. But, however, I gave him no reason to upbraid me for refusing his offer of going in search of a house.

 

He is accordingly gone out for this purpose. But I find, that he intends to take up his lodging here tonight; and if to-night, no doubt, on other nights, when he is in town. As the doors and windows of my apartment have good fastenings; as he has not, in all this time, given me cause for apprehension; as he has the pretence of my brother’s schemes to plead; the people below are very courteous and obligeing; Miss Horton especially, who seems to have taken a great liking to me, and to be of a gentler temper and manners, than Miss Martin; and as we are now in a tolerable way; I imagine, it would look particular to them all, and bring me into a debate with a man, who, let him be set upon what he will, has always a great deal to say for himself, if I insisted upon his promise: On all these accounts, I think I will take no notice of his lodging here, if he don’t.

 

Let me know, my dear, your thoughts of every thing. You may believe I gave him back his note the moment I saw him.

 

Friday evening.

Mr. Lovelace has seen two or three houses; but none to his mind. But he has heard of one which looks promising, he says, and which he is to inquire about in the morning.

 

Saturday morning.

He has made his inquiries, and actually seen the house he was told of last night. The owner of it is a young widow lady, who is inconsolable for the death of her husband, Fretchville her name. It is furnished quite in taste, every thing being new within these six months. He believes, if I like not the furniture, the use of it may be agreed for, with the house, for a time certain: But if I like it, he will endeavour to take the one, and purchase the other, directly.

 

The lady fees no-body; nor are the best apartments above-stairs to be view’d till she is either absent, or gone into the country, where she proposes to live retired; and which she talks of doing in a fortnight or three weeks, at farthest.

 

What Mr. Lovelace saw of the house (which were the salon and two parlours) was perfectly elegant and he was assured, all is of a piece. The offices are also very convenient; coach-house and stables at hand.

He shall be very impatient, he says, till I see the whole; nor will he, if he finds he can have it, look farther till I have seen it, except any thing else offer to my liking. The price he values not.

 

He has just now received a letter from Lady Betty Lawrance, by a particular hand; the contents principally relating to an affair she has in Chancery. But in the postscript she is pleased to say very respectful things of me. They are all impatient, she says, for the happy day being over; which, they flatter themselves, will ensure his reformation .

 

He hoped, he told me, that I would soon enable him to answer their wishes, and his own . But, altho’ the opportunity was so inviting, he urged not for the day. Which is the more extraordinary, as he was so pressing for marriage before we came to town.

 

He was very earnest with me to give him, and four of his friends, my company on Monday evening, at a little collation. Miss Martin and Miss Horton cannot, he says, be there, being engaged in a party of their own, with two daughters of Colonel Solcombe, and two nieces of Sir Anthony Holmes, upon an annual occasion. But Mrs. Sinclair will be present, and she gave him hope also of the company of a young maiden lady of very great fortune and merit (Miss Partington), to whom Colonel Sinclair, it seems, in his life-time, was guardian, and who therefore calls Mrs. Sinclair mamma.

 

I desired to be excused. He had laid me, I said, under a most disagreeable necessity of appearing as a married person; and I would see as few people as possible who were to think me so.

 

He would not urge it, he said, if I were much averse: But they were his select friends, men of birth and fortune; who long’d to see me. It was true, that they, as well as his friend Doleman, believed we were married: But they thought him under the restrictions that he had mentioned to the people below. I might be assured, he tole me, that his politeness before them should be carried into the highest degree of reverence.

 

When he is set upon any thing, there is no knowing, as I have said heretofore, what one can do. But I will not, if I can help it, be made a shew of; especially to men of whose characters and principles I have no good opinion. I am, my dearest friend,

 

Your ever-affectionate
Cl. Harlowe .

Mr. Lovelace, in his next letter to his friend Mr. Belford, recites the most material passages in hers preceding. He invites him to his collation on Monday evening.

 

Mowbray, Belton, and Tourville, says he, long to see my angel, and will be there. She has refused me; but must be present notwithstanding. And then will I shew thee the pride and glory of the Harlowe family, my implacable enemies; and thou shalt join with me in my triumph over them all.

 

If I can procure you this honour, you’ll be ready to laugh out, as I have often much ado to forbear, at the puritanical behaviour of the mother before this lady. Not an oath, not a curse, nor the least free word, escapes her lips. She minces in her gaite. She prims up her horse-mouth. Her voice, which when she pleases, is the voice of thunder, is sunk into an humble whine. Her stiff hams, that have not been bent to a civility for ten years past, are now limber’d into courtesies three-deep at every word. Her fat arms are cross’d before her; and she can hardly be prevailed upon to sit, in the presence of my goddess.

 

I am drawing up instructions for ye all to observe on Monday night. It will be thy care, who art a parading fellow, and pretendest to wisdom, to keep the rest from blundering.

Saturday night.

Most confoundedly alarm’d. —Lord, Sir, what do you think? cry’d Dorcas—My lady is resolv’d to go to church to-morrow! I was at quadrille with the women below. —To church! said I, and down I laid my cards. To church ! repeated they, each looking upon the other. We had done playing for that night. Who could have dreamt of such a whim as this? —Without notice, without questions! Her cloaths not come! No leave asked! —Impossible she should think to be my wife! —Why, this lady don’t consider, if she go to church, I must go too! —Yet not to ask for my company! —Her brother and Singleton ready to snap her up, as far as he knows! — Known by her cloaths! Her person, her features, so distinguished! —Not such another woman in England! To church of all places! —Is the devil in the girl, said I? as soon as I could speak.

 

Well, but to leave this subject till to-morrow morning, I will now give you the instructions I have drawn up for yours and your companions behaviour on Monday night.

 

    Instructions to be observed by John Belford, Richard Mowbray, Thomas Belton, and James Tourville, Esquires of the body to General Robert Lovelace, on their admission to the presence of his goddess.

Then follow his humorous instructions: —In which he cautions them to avoid all obscene hints, and even the double entendre.

 

You know, says he, that I never permitted any of you to talk obscenely. Time enough for that, when ye grow old, and can only talk. What! as I have often said, cannot you touch a woman’s heart, without wounding her ear?

 

I need not bid you respect me mightily. Your allegiance obliges you to that. And who, that sees me, respects me not?

 

He gives them their cue as to Miss Partington, and her history and assumed character.

 

So noted, says he, for innocent looks, yet deep discretion! —And be sure to remember, that my beloved has no name but mine; and that the mother has no other than her maiden name, Sinclair ; her husband a lieutenant-colonel.

 

Many other whimsical particulars he gives; and then says,

 

This dear lady is prodigiously learned in Theories : But as to Practics, as to Experimentals, must be, as you know, from her tender years, a mere novice. Till she knew me, I dare say, she did not believe, whatever she had read, that there were such fellows in the world, as she’ll see in you four. I shall have much pleasure in observing how she’ll stare at her company, when she finds me the politest man of the five.

 

    And so much for instructions general and particular for your behaviour on Monday night.

And now, methinks, thou art curious to know, what can be my view, in risking the displeasure of my fair one, and alarming her fears, after four or five halcyon days have gone over our heads? —I’ll satisfy thee.

 

The visitors of the two nieces will croud the house. Beds will be scarce. Miss Partington, a sweet modest genteel girl, will be prodigiously taken with my charmer; will want to begin a friendship with her. A share in her bed for one night only, will be requested. Who knows, but on that very Monday night I may be so unhappy, as to give mortal offence to my beloved? The shyest birds may be caught napping. Should she attempt to fly me upon it, cannot I detain her? Should she actually fly, cannot I bring her back by authority, civil or uncivil, if I have evidence upon evidence, that she acknowleged, tho’ but tacitly, her marriage? —And should I, or should I not succeed, and she forgive me, or if she but descend to expostulate, or if she bear me in her sight; then will she be all my own. All delicacy is my charmer. I long to see how such a delicacy, on either occasion, will behave. And in my situation it behoves me to provide against every accident.

 

I must take care, knowing what an eel I have to do with, that the little wriggling rogue does not slip thro’ my fingers. How silly should I look, staring after her, when she had shot from me into the muddy river, her family, from which, with so much difficulty, I have taken her!

 

Well then; here are—Let me see—How many persons are there who, after Monday night, will be able to swear, that she has gone by my name, answered to my name, had no other view in leaving her friends, but to go by my name? Her own relations not able nor willing to deny it. —First, here are my servants; her servant Dorcas, Mrs. Sinclair, her two nieces, and Miss Partington.

 

But for fear these evidences should be suspected, here comes the jét of the business. —No less than four worthy gentlemen, of fortune and family, who were all in company such a night particularly, at a collation to which they were invited by Robert Lovelace of Sandoun-Hall, in the county of Lancaster, Esquire, in company with Magdalen Sinclair widow, and Priscilla Partington spinster, and the Lady complainant; when the said Robert Lovelace addressed himself to the said lady, on a multitude of occasions, as his lady; as they and others did, as Mrs. Lovelace; every one complimenting and congratulating her upon her nuptials; and that she received such their compliments and congratulations with no other visible displeasure or repugnance, than such as a young bride, full of blushes and pretty confusion, might be supposed to express upon such contemplative revolvings as those compliments would naturally inspire. Nor do thou rave at me, Jack, nor rebel. —Dost think I brought the dear creature here for nothing?

 

And there’s a faint sketch of my plot. —Stand by, varlets—Tanta-ra-ra-ra! —Veil your bonnets, and confess your master!

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

Leave a Reply

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