LETTER 207:MR LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD

Thursday, May 25.

Thou seest, Belford, how we now drive before the wind. —The dear creature now comes almost at the first word, whenever I desire the honour of her company. I told her last night, that, apprehending delay from Pritchard’s slowness, I was determined to leave it to my Lord to make his compliments in his own way; and had actually that afternoon put my writings into the hands of a very eminent lawyer, Counsellor Williams, with directions for him to draw up settlements from my own estate, and conformable to those of my own mother; which I put into his hands at the same time. It had been, I said, no small part of my concern, that her frequent displeasure, and our mutual misapprehensions, had hindered me from advising with her before, on this subject. Indeed, indeed, my dearest life, said I, you have hitherto afforded me but a very thorny courtship.

 

She was silent. Kindly silent. For well know I that she could have recriminated upon me with a vengeance. —But I was willing to see, if she were not loth to disoblige me now. —I comforted myself, I said, with the hopes, that all my difficulties were over; and that every past disobligation would now be buried in oblivion.

 

Now, Belford, I have actually deposited these writings with Counsellor Williams; and I expect the draughts in a week at furthest. So shall be doubly armed. For if I attempt, and fail, these will be ready to throw in, to make her have patience with me till I can try again.

 

I have more contrivances still in embryo. I could tell thee of an hundred, and still hold another hundred in petto, to pop in, as I go along, to excite thy surprize, and to keep up thy attention. Nor rave thou at me; but, if thou art my friend, think of Miss Howe’s letters, and of her smuggling scheme. All owing to my fair captive’s informations and incitements. —Am I not a villain, a fool, a Beelzebub, with them already? —Yet no harm done by me, nor so much as attempted?

 

Every thing of this nature, the dear creature answered (with a downcast eye, and a blushing cheek), she left to me.

 

I proposed my Lord’s chapel for the celebration, where we might have the presence of Lady Betty, Lady Sarah, and my two cousins Montague.

 

She seemed not to favour a public celebration; and waved this subject for the present. I did suppose, that she would not choose to be married in public, any more than me: So I pressed not this matter further just then.

 

But patterns I actually produced; and a jeweller was to bring as this day several sets of jewels, for her choice. But the patterns she would not open. She sighed at the mention of them; The second patterns, she said, that had been offered to her ( a ) : And very peremptorily forbid the jeweller’s coming; as well as declined my offer of getting my own mother’s to be new-set; at least for the present.

 

I do assure thee, Belford, I was in earnest in all this. My whole estate is nothing to me, put in competition with her hoped-for favour.

She then told me, that she had written her opinion of my general proposals; and there had expressed her mind, as to cloaths and jewels: —But on my behaviour to her, for no cause that she knew of, on Sunday night, she had torn the paper in two. I earnestly pressed her to let me be favoured with a sight of this paper, torn as it was. And after some hesitation, she withdrew, and sent it to me by Dorcas.

 

I perused it again. It was in a manner new to me, tho’ I had read it so lately; and by my soul I could hardly stand it. An hundred admirable creatures I called her to myself. —But I charge thee, write not a word to me in her favour, if thou meanest her well; for if I spare her, it must be all ex mere motu .

 

You may easily suppose, when I was re-admitted to her presence, that I ran over in her praises, and in vows of gratitude, and everlasting love. But here’s the devil; she still receives all I say with reserve; or if it be not with reserve, she receives it so much as her due, that she is not at all raised by it. Some women are undone by praise, by flattery. I myself am proud of praise. —Perhaps thou wilt say, that those are most proud of it, who least deserve it—As those are of riches and grandeur, who are not born to either. I own, that it requires a soul to be superior to these foibles. Have I not then a soul? —Surely, I have. — Let me then be consider’d as an exception to the rule.

 

Now have I a foundation to go upon in my terms. My Lord, in the exuberance of his generosity, mentions a thousand pounds a year peny-rents.This I know, that were I to marry this Lady, he would rather settle upon her all he has a mind to settle, than upon me: And has even threatened, that if I prove not a good husband to her, he will leave all he can at his death, from me, to her. —Yet considers not, that a woman so perfect, can never be displeased with her husband but to his disgrace; for who will blame her ? Another reason, why a Lovelace should not wish to marry a Clarissa .

 

But what a pretty fellow of an uncle mine, to think of making a wife independent of her emperor, and a rebel of course—Yet smarted himself for an error of this kind!

 

My beloved, in her torn paper, mentions but two hundred pounds a year, for her separate use. I insisted upon her naming a larger sum. She said, it might then be three; and I, for fear she should suspect very large offers, named five, and the intire disposal of all arrears in her father’s hands, for the benefit of Mrs. Norton, or whom she pleased.

 

She said, that the good woman would be uneasy, if any thing more than a competency were done for her. She was for suiting all her dispositions of this kind, she said, to the usual way of life of the person. To go beyond it, was but to put the benefited upon projects, or to make them aukward in a new state, when they might shine in that they were accustomed to. And to put it into so good a mother’s power to give her son a beginning in his business, at a proper time; yet to leave her something for herself, to set her above want, or the necessity of taking back from her child what she had been enabled to bestow upon him, would be the height of such a worthy parent’s ambition.

 

Here is prudence! Here is judgment in so young a creature! How do I hate the Harlowes for producing such an angel! —O why, why, did she refuse my sincere address to tie the knot before we came to this house!

 

But yet, what mortifies my pride, is, that this exalted creature, if I were to marry her, would not be governed in her behaviour to me by love, but by generosity merely, or by blind duty; and had rather live single, than be mine.

 

I cannot bear this. I would have the woman whom I honour with my name, if ever I confer this honour upon any, forego even her superior duties for me. I would have her look after me when I go out, as far as she can see me, as my Rosebud after her Johnny; and meet me at my return with rapture. I would be the subject of her dreams, as well as of her waking thoughts. I would have her look upon every moment lost, that is not passed with me: Sing to me, read to me, play to me when I pleased; no joy so great as in obeying me. When I should be inclined to love, overwhelm me with it; when to be serious or solitary, if intrusive, awfully so; retiring at a nod; approaching me only if I smiled encouragement: Steal into my presence with silence; out of it, if not noticed, on tiptoe. Be a Lady Easy to all my pleasures, and valuing those most, who most contributed to them; only sighing in private, that it was not herself at the time. —Thus of old did the contending wives of the honest patriarchs; each recommending her handmaid to her lord, as she thought it would oblige him, and looking upon the genial product as her own.

 

The gentle Waller says, Women are born to be controul’d . Gentle as he was, he knew that. A tyrant-husband makes a dutiful wife. And why do the Sex love rakes, but because they know how to direct their uncertain wills, and manage them?

 

Another agreeable conversation. The day of days the subject. As to fixing a particular one, that need not be done till the settlements are completed. As to marrying at my Lord’s chapel, the ladies of my family present, that would be making a public affair of it; and my charmer observed with regret, that it seemed to be my Lord’s intention to make it so:

 

It could not be imagined, I said, but that his Lordship’s setting out in a litter, and coming to town, as well as his taste for glare, and the joy he would take to see me married at last, would give it as much the air of a public marriage, as if the ceremony were performed at his own chapel, all the ladies present.

 

She could not bear the thoughts of a public day. It would carry with it an air of insult upon her whole family. And, for her part if my Lord would not take it amiss (and perhaps he would not, as the motion came not from himself, but from me), she would very willingly dispense with his Lordship’s presence; the rather, as dress and appearance would then be unnecessary. For she could not bear to think of decking her person, while her parents were in tears.

 

How excellent this, did not her parents richly deserve to be in tears!

 

See, Belford, with so charming a niceness, we might have been a long time ago upon the verge of the state, and yet found a great deal to do, before we enter’d into it.

 

All obedience, all resignation—No will but hers. I withdrew, and wrote directly to my Lord; and she not disapproving of it, sent it away. The purport as follows; for I took no copy.

 

‘That I was much obliged to his Lordship for his intended goodness to me, on an occasion that was the most solemn and awful of my life. That the admirable Lady, whom he so justly praised, thought his Lordship’s proposals in her favour too high. That she chose not to make a public appearance, if, without disobliging my friends, she could avoid it, till a reconciliation with her own could be effected. That altho’ she expressed a grateful sense of his Lordship’s consent to give her to me with his own hand; yet presuming, that the motive to his kind intention, was rather to do her honour, than that it otherwise would have been his own choice (especially as travelling would be at this time so inconvenient to him), she thought it adviseable to save his Lordship trouble on this occasion; and hoped he would take, as meant, her declining the favour.

 

‘The Lawn, I tell him, will be most acceptable to retire to; and still the more, as it is so to his Lordship.

 

‘But, if he pleases, the jointure may be made from my own estate; leaving to his Lordship’s goodness the alternative.

 

‘That I had offer’d to present to the Lady his Lordship’s bill; but on her declining to accept of it (having myself no present occasion for it), I returned it inclosed, with my thanks, &c.’

 

And is not this going a plaguy length? What a figure should I make in rakish annals, if at last I should be caught in my own gin?

 

The Sex may say what they will, but a poor innocent fellow had need to take great care of himself, when he dances upon the edge of the matrimonial precipice. Many a faint-hearted man, when he began in jest, or only designed to ape gallantry, has been forced into earnest, by being over-prompt, and taken at his word, not knowing how to own that he meant less, than the Lady supposed he meant. I am the better enabled to judge that this must have been the case of many a sneaking varlet; because I, who know the female world as well as any man in it of my standing, am so frequently in doubt of myself, and know not what to make of the matter.

 

Then these little sly rogues, how they lie couchant, ready to spring upon us harmless fellows, the moment we are in their reach! —When the ice is once broken for them, how swiftly can they make to port! —Meantime, the subject they can least speak to, they most think of. Nor can you talk of the ceremony before they have laid out in their minds how it is all to be. — Little saucy face designers! how first they draw themselves in, then us!

 

But be all these things as they will, Lord M. never in his life received so handsome a letter as this from his nephew.

The Lady, after having given to Miss Howe the particulars which are contained in Mr. Lovelace’s last letter, thus expresses herself.

‘A principal consolation arising from these favourable appearances, is, that I, who have now but one only friend, shall most probably, and if it be not my own fault, have as many new ones, as there are persons in Mr. Lovelace’s family; and this whether Mr. Lovelace treat me kindly, or not. And who knows, but that by degrees, those new friends, by their rank and merit, may have weight enough to get me restored to the favour of my relations? Till which can be effected, I shall not be tolerably easy. Happy I never expect to be. Mr. Lovelace’s mind and mine are vastly different; different in essentials .

‘But as matters are at present circumstanced, I pray you, my dear friend, to keep to yourself every thing that, revealed, might bring discredit to him— Better any-body expose a husband than a wife, if I am to be so; and what is said by you will be thought to come from me.

‘It shall be my constant prayer, that all the felicities which this world can afford, may be yours. And that the Almighty will never suffer you nor yours to the remotest posterity, to want such a friend, as my Anna Howe has been to

‘Her Clarissa Harlowe .’

Mr. Lovelace, to shew the wantonness of his invention, in his next, gives his friend an account of a scheme he had framed to be revenged on Miss Howe, when she set out for the isle of Wight; which he heard she was to do, accompanied by her mother and Mr. Hickman, in order to visit a rich aunt there, who desired to see her, and her future consort, before she changed her name. But as he does not intend to carry it into execution, it is omitted.

 

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