LETTER 239: MR LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD

https://commons.marymount.edu/clarissa/1732/06/08/letter-238-mr-lovelace-to-john-belford-esq/

 

I went up to my new-taken apartment, and fell to writing in character, as usual. I thought I had made good my quarters. But the cruel creature, understanding

 

that I intended to take up my lodgings there, declared with so much violence against it, that I was obliged to submit, and to accept of another lodging, about twelve doors off, which Mrs. Moore recommended. And all the advantage I could obtain, was, that Will. unknown to my spouse, and for fear of a freak, should lie in the house.

 

Mrs. Moore, indeed, was unwilling to disoblige either of us. But Miss Rawlins was of opinion, that nothing more ought to be allow’d me: And yet Mrs. Moore owned, that the refusal was a strange piece of tyranny to an husband, if I were an husband.

I had a good mind to make Miss Rawlins smart for it. Come and see Miss Rawlins, Jack—If thou likest her, I’ll get her for thee with a wet finger, as the saying is!

The Widow Bevis indeed stickled hard for me [An innocent or injur’d man will have friends everywhere]. She said, That to bear much with some wives, was to be obliged to bear more: And I reflected, with a sigh, that tame spirits must always be imposed upon . And then, in my heart, I renew’d my vows of revenge upon this haughty and perverse beauty.

The second fellow came back from town about nine o’clock, with Miss Howe’s letter of Wednesday last. ‘Collins, it seems, when he left it, had desired, that it might be safely and speedily delivered into Miss Lætitia Beaumont’s own hands. But Wilson, understanding that neither she nor I were in town [ He could not know of our difference, thou must think ], resolved to take care of it till our return, in order to give it into one of our own hands; and now deliver’d it to her messenger.’

 

This was told her . Wilson, I doubt not, is in her favour upon it.

 

She took the letter with great eagerness, open’d it in a hurry [I am glad she did: Yet, I believe, all was right] before Mrs. Moore, and Mrs. Bevis (Miss Rawlins was gone home); and said, She would not for the world, that I should have had that letter; for the sake of her dear friend the writer; who had written to her very uneasily about it.

 

Her dear friend ! repeated Mrs. Bevis, when she told me this;—Such mischief-makers are always deem’d dear friends till they are found out!

 

The widow says, that I am the finest gentleman she ever beheld.

 

I have found a warm kiss now-and-then very kindly taken.

 

I might be a very wicked fellow, Jack, if I were to do all the mischief in my power. But I am evermore for quitting a too-easy prey to reptile-rakes . What but difficulty (tho’ the lady is an angel), engages me to so much perseverance here? And here, Conquer or die, is now the determination!

 

I have just now parted with this honest widow. She called upon me at my new lodgings. I told her that I saw, I must be further oblig’d to her in the course of this difficult affair: She must allow me to make her a handsome present when all was happily over. But I desired, that she would take no notice of what should pass between us, not even to her aunt ; for that she, as I saw, was in the power of Miss Rawlins: Who, being a maiden gentlewoman, knew not the right and the fit in matrimonial matters, as she, my dear widow, did.

 

Very true: How should she? said Mrs. Bevis, proud of knowing—nothing! But, for her part, she desired no present. It was enough if she could contribute to reconcile man and wife, and disappoint mischief-makers. She doubted not, that such an envious

 

creature as Miss Howe was glad that Mrs. Lovelace had eloped—Jealousy and Love was old Nick!

 

See, Belford, how charmingly things work between me and my new acquaintance, the widow! — Who knows, but that she may, after a little farther intimacy (tho’ I am banished the house on nights), contrive a midnight visit for me to my spouse, when all is still and fast asleep?

 

Where can a woman be safe, who has once enter’d the lists with a contriving and intrepid lover?

 

But as to this letter, methinks thou sayest, of Miss Howe?

 

I knew thou wouldest be uneasy for me: But did not I tell thee, that I had provided for every thing? That I always took care to keep seals intire, and to preserve covers ( a ) ? Was it not easy then, thinkest thou, to contrive a shorter letter out of a longer; and to copy the very words?

 

I can tell thee, it was so well ordered, that, not being suspected to have been in my hands, it was not easy to find me out. Had it been my Beloved’s hand, there would have been no imitating it, for such a length. Her delicate and even mind is seen in the very cut of her letters. Miss Howe’s hand is no bad one; but is not so equal and regular. That little devil’s natural impatience hurrying on her fingers, gave, I suppose, from the beginning, her handwriting, as well as the rest of her, its fits and starts, and those peculiarities, which, like strong muscular lines in a face, neither the pen nor the pencil can miss.

 

Hast thou a mind to see what it was I permitted Miss Howe to write to her lovely friend? Why then read it here, as if by way of marginal observation,

 

as extracted from hers of Wednesday last ( a ) 227 ; with a few additions of my own. —The additions underscored ( 228 ).

 

 

My dearest Friend,
You will perhaps think, that I have been too long silent. But I had begun two letters at different times since my last, and written a great deal each time; and with spirit enough, I assure you; incensed as I was against the abominable wretch you are with, particularly on reading yours of the 21st of the past month.

The FIRST I intended to keep open till I could give you some accounts of my proceedings with Mrs. Townsend. It was some days before I saw her: And this intervenient space giving me time to reperuse what I had written, I thought it proper to lay that aside, and to write in a style a little less fervent; for you would have blamed me, I knew, for the freedom of some of my expressions (execrations, if you please). And when I had gone a good way in the SECOND, the change in your prospects, on his communicating to you Miss Montague’s letter, and his better behaviour, occasioning a change in your mind, I laid that aside also: And in this uncertainty thought I would wait to see the issue of affairs between you, before I wrote again; believing that all would soon be decided one way or other.—

 

Here I was forced to break off. I am too little my own mistress. — My mother ( b ) 229 always up and down; and watching as if I were writing to a fellow. What need I (she asks me) lock myself in ( c ) 230 , if I am only reading past correspondencies? For that is my pretence, when she comes poking in with her face sharpen’d to an edge, as I may say, by a curiosity, that gives her more pain than pleasure—The Lord forgive me; but I believe I shall huff her, next time she comes in.

 

Do you forgive me too, my dear. My mother ought; because she says, I am my father’s girl; and because I am sure I am hers.

Upon my life, my dear, I am sometimes of opinion, that this vile man was capable of meaning you dishonour. When I look back upon his past conduct, I cannot help thinking so: What a villain, if so! —But now I hope, and verily believe, that he has laid aside such thoughts. My reasons for both opinions I will give you.

For the first, to wit, that he had it once in his head to take you at advantage if he could; I consider ( d ) 231 , that pride, revenge, and a delight to tread in unbeaten paths, are principal ingredients in the character of this finish’d libertine. He hates all your family, yourself excepted. —Yet is a savage in love. His pride, and the credit which a few plausible qualities sprinkled among his odious ones, have given him, have secured him too good a reception from our eye-judging, our undistinguishing, our self-flattering, our too-confiding sex, to make assiduity and obsequiousness, and a conquest of his unruly passions, any part of his study.

He has some reason for his animosity to all the men, and to one woman, of your family. He has always shewn you and his own family too, that he prefers his pride to his interest. He is a declared marriage-hater; a notorious intriguer; full of his inventions, and glorying in them. As his vanity had made him imagine, that no woman could be proof against his love, no wonder that he struggled like a lion held in toils ( e ) 232 , against a passion that he thought not returned ( f ) 233 . Hence, perhaps, it is not difficult to believe, that it became possible for such a wretch as this to give way to his old prejudices against marriage; and to that revenge which had always been a first passion with him ( g ) 234 .

And hence may we account for his delays; his teazing ways; his bringing you to bear with his lodging in the same house; his making you pass to the people of it as his wife; his bringing you into the company of his libertine companions; the attempt of imposing upon you that Miss Partington for a bedfellow, &c.

My reasons for the contrary opinion; to wit, that he is now resolved to do you all the justice in his power to do you ; are these: That he sees that all his own family ( h ) 235 have warmly engaged themselves in your cause; that the horrid wretch loves you—With such a Love, however, as Herod loved his Mariamne: That, on inquiry, I find it to be true, that counsellor Williams (whom Mr. Hickman knows to be a man of eminence in his profession) has actually as good as finished the settlements: That two draughts of them have been made; one avowedly to be sent to this veryCaptain Tomlinson: And I find, that a licence has actually been more than once endeavoured to be obtained, and that difficulties have hitherto been made equally to Lovelace’s vexation and disappointment. My mother’s proctor, who is very intimate with the proctor apply’d to by the wretch, has come at this information, in confidence; and hints, that as Mr. Lovelace is a man of high fortunes, these difficulties will probably be got over.

I had once resolved to make strict inquiry about Tomlinson; and still, if you will, your uncle’s favourite housekeeper may be sounded, at distance.

I know that the matter is so laid ( i ) 236 , that Mrs. Hodges is supposed to know nothing of the treaty set on foot by means of Capt. Tomlinson. But your uncle is an old man ( k ) 237 , and old men imagine themselves to be under obligation to their paramours, if younger than themselves, and seldom keep any thing from their knowlege. —Yet, methinks, there can be no need; since Tomlinson, as you describe him, is so good a man, and so much of a gentleman; the end to be answered by his being an impostor so much more than necessary, if Lovelace has villainy in his head. —And thus what he communicated to you of Mr. Hickman’s application to your uncle, and of Mrs. Norton’s to your mother (some of which particulars I am satisfied his vile agent Joseph Leman could not reveal to his viler employer); his pushing on the marriage-day, in the name of your uncle; which it could not answer any wicked purpose for him to do; and what he writes of your uncle’s proposal, to have it thought that you were married from the time that you had lived in one house together; and that to be made to agree with the time of Mr. Hickman’s visit to your uncle; the insisting on a trusty person’s being present at the ceremony, at that uncle’s nomination —These things make me assured that he now at last means honourably .

But if any unexpected delays should happen on his side, acquaint me, my dear, of the very street where Mrs. Sinclair lives; and where Mrs. Fretchville’s house is situated (which I cannot find that you have ever mentioned in your former letters—which is a little odd); and I will make strict inquiries of them, and of Tomlinson too; and I will (if your heart will let you take my advice) soon procure you a refuge from him with Mrs. Townsend.

But why do I now, when you seem to be in so good a train, puzzle and perplex you with my retrospections? And yet they may be of use to you, if any delay happen on his part.

But that I think cannot well be. What you have therefore now to do, is, so to behave to this proud-spirited wretch, as may banish from his mind all remembrance of past disobligations ( l ) 238 , and to receive his addresses, as those of a betrothed lover. You will incur the censure of prudery and affectation, if you keep him at that distance, which you have hitherto kept him at . His sudden (and as suddenly recover’d) illness has given him an opportunity to find out that you love him [Alas, my dear, I knew you loved him!]: He has seemed to change his nature, and is all love and gentleness: And no more quarrels now, I beseech you.

I am very angry with him, nevertheless, for the freedoms which he took with your person ( m ) 239 ; and I think some guard is necessary, as he is certainly an incroacher . But indeed all men are so; and you are such a charming creature, and have kept him at such a distance! —But no more of this subject. Only, my dear, be not over-nice, now you are so near the state. You see what difficulties you laid yourself under, when Tomlinson’s letter called you again into the wretch’s company.

If you meet with no impediments, no new causes of doubt ( n ) 240 , your reputation in the eye of the world is concerned, that you should be his,and, as your uncle rightly judges, be thought to have been his, before now . And yet, let me tell you, I can hardly bear to think, that these libertines should be rewarded for their villainy with the best of the sex, when the worst of it are too good for them.

I shall send this long letter by Collins ( o ) 241 , who changes his day to oblige me. As none of our letters by Wilson’s conveyance have miscarried, when you have been in more apparently disagreeable situations than you are in at present, I have no doubt that this will go safe.

Miss Lardner ( p ) 242 (whom you have seen at her cousin Biddulph’s) saw you at St. James’s Church on Sunday was fortnight. She kept you in her eye during the whole time; but could not once obtain the notice of yours, tho’ she courtesied to you twice. She thought to pay her compliments to you when the service was over; for she doubted not but you were married—and for an odd reason—because you came to church by yourself. —Every eye, as usual, she said was upon you; and this seeming to give you hurry, and you being nearer the door than she, you slid out before she could go to you. But she order’d her servant to follow you till you were housed. This servant saw you step into a chair which waited for you; and you ordered the men to carry you to the place where they took you up. She describes the house as a very genteel house, and sit to receive people of fashion: And what makes me mention this, is, that perhaps you will have a visit from her; or message, at least.

So that you have Mr. Doleman’s testimony to the credit of the house and people you are with ( q ) 243 ; and he is a man of fortune, and some reputation; formerly a rake indeed; but married to a woman of family; and, having had a palsy-blow, one would think, a penitent. You have also Mr. Mennell’s at least passive testimony; Mr. Tomlinson’s; and now, lastly, Miss Lardner’s; so that there will be the less need for inquiry : But you know my busy and inquisitive temper, as well as my affection for you, and my concern for your honour. But all doubt will soon be lost in certainty.

Nevertheless I must add, that I would have you command me up, if I can be of the least service or pleasure to you ( r ) 244 . I value not fame; I value not censure; nor even life itself, I verily think, as I do your honour, and your friendship. —For is not your honour my honour? And is not your friendship the pride of my life?

May heaven preserve you, my dearest creature, in honour and safety, is the prayer, the hourly prayer, of

Your ever faithful and affectionate
Anna Howe .

Thursday Morn. 5.

 

      I have written all night.

Excuse indifferent writing. My crow-quills are worn to the stumps, and I must get a new supply.

 

These Ladies always write with crow-quills, Jack.

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If thou art capable of taking in all my precautionaries in this letter, thou wilt admire my sagacity and contrivance, almost as much as I do myself.Thou

 

seest, that Miss Lardner, Mrs. Sinclair, Tomlinson, Mrs. Fretchville, Mennell, are all mentioned in it. My first liberties with her person also [Modesty,

 

modesty, Belford, I doubt, is more confined to time, place, and occasion, even by the most delicate minds, than those minds would have it believed to be]. And why all these taken notice of by me from the genuine

 

letter, but for fear some future letter from the vixen should escape my hands, in which she might refer to these names? And if none of them were to have been found in this that is to pass for hers, I might be routed horse and foot, as Lord M. would phrase it, in a like case.

 

Devilish hard (and yet I may thank myself) to be put to all this plague and trouble! —And for what, dost thou ask? O Jack, for a triumph of more value to me beforehand than an imperial crown! —Don’t ask me the value of it a month hence . But what indeed is an imperial crown itself, when a man is used to it?

 

Miss Howe might well be anxious about the letter she wrote. Her sweet friend, from what I have let pass of hers, has reason to rejoice in the thought, that it fell not into my hands.

 

And now must all my contrivances be set at work, to intercept the expected letter from Miss Howe; which is, as I suppose, to direct her to a place of safety, and out of my knowlege. Mrs. Townsend is, no doubt, in this case, to smuggle her off. I hope the villain, as I am so frequently called between these two girls, will be able to manage this point.

 

But what, perhaps, thou askest, if the lady should take it into her head, by the connivance of Miss Rawlins, to quit this house privately in the night?

 

I have thought of this, Jack. Does not Will. lie in the house? And is not the Widow Bevis my fast friend?

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