LETTER 165: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE

Thursday, May 4. 

I forego every other engagement, I suspend every wish, I banish every other fear, to take up my pen, to beg of you, that you will not think of being guilty of such an act of love as I can never thank you for; but must for ever regret. If I must continue to write to you, I must. I know full well your impatience of controul, when you have the least imagination that your generosity or friendship is likely to be wounded by it.

 

My dearest, dearest creature, would you incur a maternal, as I have a paternal, malediction? Would not the world think there was an infection in my fault, if it were to be followed by Miss Howe? There are some points so fragrantly wrong, that they will not bear to be argued upon. This is one of them. I need not give reasons against such a rashness. Heaven forbid, that it should be known, that you had it but once in your thought, be your motives ever so noble and generous, to follow so bad an example! The rather, as that you would, in such a case, want the extenuations that might be pleaded in my favour; and particularly that one of being surprised into the unhappy step.

 

The restraint your mamma lays you under, would not have appeared heavy, but on my account. Would you have once thought it a hardship to be admitted to a part of her bed? —How did I use to be delighted with such a favour from my mother! —How did I love to work in her presence! —So did you in the presence of yours once. And to read to her on winter evenings I know was one of your joys. —Do not give me cause to reproach myself on the reason that may be assigned for the change.

 

Learn, my dear, I beseech you learn, to subdue your own passions. Be the motives what they will, excess is excess. Those passions in our sex, which we take no pains to subdue, may have one and the same source with those infinitely blacker passions, which we used so often to condemn in the violent and headstrong of the other sex; and which may be heightened in them only by custom, and their freer education. Let us both, my dear, ponder well this thought; look into ourselves, and fear.

 

If I write, as I find I must, I insist upon your forbearance. —Your silence to this shall be the sign to me, that you will not think of the rashness you threaten me with; and that you will obey your mamma as to your own part of the correspondence, however: Especially, as you can inform or advise me in every weighty case, by Mr. Hickman’s pen.

 

My trembling writing will shew you, what a trembling heart you, my dear impetuous creature, have given to

 

Your ever-obliged,
Or, if you take so rash a step,
Your for-ever disobliged,
Clarissa Harlowe .

    My cloaths were brought to me just now. But you have so much discomposed me, that I have no heart to look into the trunks.
    A servant of Mr. Lovelace carries this to Mr. Hickman for dispatch-sake. Let that worthy man’s pen relieve my heart from this new uneasiness.

 

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