LETTER 261: MR LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD ESQ.

Friday, June 16.

I am sorry to hear of thy misfortune; but hope thou wilt not long lie by it. Thy servant tells me, what a narrow escape thou hadst with thy neck. I wish it may not be ominous: But I think thou seemest not to be in so enterprising a way as formerly; and yet, merry or sad, thou seest a rake’s neck is always in danger, if not from the hangman, from his own horse. But ’tis a vicious toad, it seems; and I think thou shouldst never venture upon his back again; for ’tis a plaguy thing for rider and horse both to be vicious.

Thy fellow tells me, thou desirest me to continue to write to thee, to divert thy chagrin on thy forced confinement: But how I can think it in my power to divert, when my subject is not pleasing to myself?

Cæsar never knew what it was to be hyp’d, I will call it, till he came to be what Pompey was; that is to say, till he arrived at the height of his ambition: Nor did thy Lovelace know what it was to be gloomy, till he had completed his wishes upon the charming’st creature in the world, as the other did his upon the most potent republic that ever existed.

And yet why say I, completed ? when the will, the consent, is wanting—And I have still views before me of obtaining that?

Yet I could almost join with thee in the wish, which thou sendest me up by thy servant, unfriendly as it is, that I had had thy misfortune before Monday night last: For here, the poor lady has run into a contrary extreme to that I told thee of in my last: For now is she as much too lively, as before she was too stupid; and, ‘bating that she has pretty frequent lucid intervals, would be deem’d raving mad, and I should be obliged to confine her.

I am most confoundedly disturb’d about it: For I begin to fear, that her intellects are irreparably hurt.

Who the devil could have expected such strange effects from a cause so common, and so slight?

But these high soul’d and high-sens’d girls, who had set up for shining lights and examples to the rest of the sex, [I now see, that such there are!] are with such difficulty brought down to the common standard, that a wise man, who prefers his peace of mind to his glory in subduing one of that exalted class, would have nothing to say to them.

I do all in my power to quiet her spirits, when I force myself into her presence.

I go on, begging pardon one minute; and vowing truth and honour another.

I would at first have persuaded her, and offer’d to call witnesses to the truth of it, that we were actually married. Tho’ the licence was in her hands, I thought the assertion might go down in her disorder; and charming consequences I hoped would follow. But this would not do.—

I therefore gave up that hope: And now I declare to her, that it is my resolution to marry her, the moment her uncle Harlowe informs me, that he will grace the ceremony with his presence.

But she believes nothing I say; nor (whether in her senses, or not) bears me with patience in her sight.

I pity her with all my soul; and I curse myself, when she is in her wailing fits, and when I apprehend, that intellects, so charming as hers, are for ever damp’d—But more I curse these women, who put me upon such an expedient! —Lord! Lord! what a hand have I made of it! —And all for what?

Last night, for the first time since Monday last, she got to her pen and ink: But she pursues her writing with such eagerness and hurry, as shew too evidently her discomposure.

I hope, however, that this employment will help to calm her spirits.

 

Just now Dorcas tells me, that what she writes she tears, and throws the paper in fragments under the table, either as not knowing what she does, or disliking it: Then gets up, wrings her hands, weeps, and shifts her seat all round the room: Then returns to her table, sits down, and writes again.

 

One odd letter, as I may call it, Dorcas has this moment given me from her— Carry this, said she, to the vilest of men . Dorcas, a toad! brought it, without any further direction, to me . —I sat down, intending (tho’ ’tis pretty long) to give thee a copy of it: But, for my life, I cannot; ’tis so extravagant. And the original is too much an original to let it go out of my hands.

But some of the scraps and fragments, as either torn thro’, or flung aside, I will copy, for the novelty of the thing, and to shew thee how her mind works, now she is in this whimsical way. Yet I know I am still furnishing thee with new weapons against myself. But spare thy comments. My own reflections render them needless. Dorcas thinks her lady will ask for them: So wishes to have them to lay again under her table.

By the first thou’lt guess, that I have told her, that Miss Howe is very ill, and can’t write; that she may account the better for not having received the letter designed for her.

 

PAPER I.

(Torn in two pieces.)My dearest Miss Howe !
O! what dreadful, dreadful things have I to tell you! But yet I cannot tell you neither But say, Are you really ill, as a vile, vile creature informs me you are?

But he never yet told me truth, and I hope has not in this: And yet, if it were not true, surely I should have heard from you before now! —But what have I to do, to upbraid? —You may well be tired of me! —And if you are, I can forgive you; for I am tired of myself: And all my own relations were tired of me long before you were.

How good you have always been to me, mine own dear Anna Howe! —But how I ramble!

I sat down to say a great deal—My heart was full—I did not know what to say first—And thought, and grief, and confusion, and (O my poor head!) I cannot tell what—And thought, and grief, and confusion, came crouding so thick upon me; one would be first, another would be first, all would be first; so I can write nothing at all. —Only that, whatever they have done to me, I cannot tell; but I am no longer what I was in any one thing. —In any one thing did I say? Yes, but I am; for I am still, and I ever will be,

Your true—

Plague on it! I can write no more of this eloquent nonsense myself; which rather shews a raised, than a quenched, imagination: But Dorcas shall transcribe the others in separate papers, as written by the whimsical charmer: And some time hence, when all is over, and I can better bear to read them, I may ask thee for a sight of them. Preserve them therefore; for we often look back with pleasure even upon the heaviest griefs, when the cause of them is removed.

 

PAPER II.

(Scratch’d thro’, and thrown under the Table.)And can you, my dear honoured papa, resolve for ever to reprobate your poor child? —But I am sure you would not, if you knew what she has suffered since her unhappy—And will nobody plead for your poor suffering girl? —No one good body? —Why, then, dearest Sir, let it be an act of your own innate goodness, which I have so much experienced, and so much abused. —I don’t presume to think you should receive me—No, indeed— my name is—I don’t know what my name is! —I never dare to wish to come into your family again! —But your heavy curse, my papa—Yes, I will call you papa, and help yourself as you can—for you are my own dear papa, whether you will or not—And tho’ I am an unworthy child—yet Iam your child—

 

PAPER III.

A lady took a great fancy to a young Lion, or a Bear, I forget which—but a Bear, or a Tyger, I believe, it was. It was made her a present of, when a whelp. She fed it with her own hand: She nursed up the wicked cub with great tenderness; and would play with it, without fear or apprehension of danger: And it was obedient
to all her commands: And its tameness, as she used to boast, increased with its growth; so that, like a lapdog, it would follow her all over the house. But mind what followed: At last, some-how, neglecting to satisfy its hungry maw, or having other-wise disobliged it on some occasion, it resumed its nature; and on a sudden fell upon her, and tore her in pieces. —And who was most to blame, I pray? The brute, or the lady? The lady, surely! —For what she did, was out of nature, out of character, at least: What it did, was in its own nature.

 

PAPER IV.

How art thou now humbled in the dust, thou proud Clarissa Harlowe! Thou that never steppedst out of thy father’s house, but to be admired! Who wert wont to turn thine eye, sparkling with healthful life, and self-assurance, to different objects at once, as thou passedst, as if (for so thy penetrating sister used to say) to plume thyself upon the expected applauses of all that beheld thee! Thou that usedst to go to rest satisfied with the adulations paid thee in the past day, and couldst put off every thing but thy vanity!—

 

PAPER V.

Rejoice not now, my Bella, my sister, my friend; but pity the humbled creature, whose foolish heart you used to say you beheld thro’ the thin veil of humility, which cover’d it.

It must have been so! My fall had not else been permitted—

You penetrated my proud heart with the jealousy of an elder sister’s searching eye.

You knew me better than I knew myself.

Hence your upbraidings, and your chidings, when I began to totter.

But forgive now those vain triumphs of my heart.

I thought, poor proud wretch that I was, that what you said was owing to your envy.

I thought I could acquit my intention of any such vanity. I was too secure in the knowlege I thought I had of my own heart.

My supposed advantages became a snare to me.

And what now is the end of all?—

 

PAPER VI.

What now is become of the prospects of a happy life, which once I thought opening before me? — Who now shall assist in the solemn preparations? Who now shall provide the nuptial ornaments, which soften and divert the apprehensions of the fearful virgin? No court now to be paid to my smiles! No encouraging compliments to inspire thee with hope of laying a mind not unworthy of thee under obligation! No elevation now for conscious merit, and applauded purity, to look down from on a prostrate adorer, and an admiring world, and up to pleased and rejoicing parents and relations!

 

PAPER VII.

Thou pernicious caterpillar, that preyest upon the fair leaf of virgin fame, and poisonest those leaves which thou canst not devour!

Thou fell blight, thou eastern blast, thou overspreading mildew, that destroyest the early promises of the shining year! that mockest the laborious toil, and blastest the joyful hopes, of the painful husbandman!

Thou fretting moth, that corruptest the fairest garment!

Thou eating canker-worm, that preyest upon the opening bud, and turnest the damask rose into livid yellowness!

If, as Religion teaches us, God will judge us, in a great measure, by our benevolent or evil actions to one another —O wretch! bethink thee, in time bethink thee, how great must be thy condemnation!

 

PAPER VIII.

At first, I saw something in your air and person that displeased me not. Your birth and fortunes were no small advantages to you. —You acted not ignobly by my passionate brother. Every-body said you were brave: Every-body said you were generous. A brave man, I thought, could not be a base man: Agenerous man, could not, I believed, be ungenerous, where he acknowleged obligation . Thus prepossessed, all the rest, that my soul loved, and wished for, in your reformation, I hoped! —I knew not, but by report, any flagrant instances of your vileness. You seemed frank, as well as generous: Frankness and generosity ever attracted me: Whoever kept up those appearances, I judged of their hearts by my own; and whatever qualities I wished to find in them, I was ready to find; and, when found, I believed them to be natives of the soil.

My Fortunes, my Rank, my Character, I thought a further security. I was in none of those respects unworthy of being the niece of Lord M. and of his two noble sisters. —Your vows, your imprecations—But, Oh! you have barbarously and basely conspired against that honour, which you ought to have protected: And now you have made me—What is it of vile, that you have not made me?—

Yet, God knows my heart, I had no culpable inclinations! —I honoured virtue! —I hated vice! —But I knew not, that you were vice itself!

 

PAPER IX.

Had the happiness of any the poorest outcast in the world, whom I had never seen, never known, never before heard of, lain as much in my power, as my happiness did in yours, my benevolent heart would have made me fly to the succour of such a poor distressed—With what pleasure would I have raised the dejected head, and comforted the desponding heart! —But who now shall pity the poor wretch, who has increased, instead of diminished, the number of the miserable!

PAPER X.

Lead me, where my own Thoughts themselves may lose me,
Where I may doze out what I’ve left of Life,
Forget myself; and that day’s guilt!—
Cruel remembrance!—how shall I appease thee?

—Oh! you have done an act
That blots the face and blush of modesty;
Takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love,
And makes a blister there!—

Then down I laid my head,
Down on cold earth, and for a while was dead;
And my freed Soul to a strange somewhere fled!
Ah! sottish soul! said I,
When back to its cage again I saw it fly,
Fool! to resume her broken chain,
And row the galley here again!
Fool! to that body to return,
Where it condemn’d and destin’d is to mourn .

O my Miss Howe! if thou hast friendship, help me,
And speak the words of peace to my divided soul,
That wars within me,
And raises ev’ry sense to my confusion.
I’m tott’ring on the brink
Of peace; and thou art all the hold I’ve left!
Assist me in the pangs of my affliction!

When honour’s lost, ’tis a relief to die:
Death’s but sure retreat from infamy.

Then farewel, youth,
And all the joys that dwell
With youth and life!
And life itself, farewel!

For life can never be sincerely blest.
Heaven punishes the Bad, and proves the Best .

After all, Belford, I have just skimm’d over these transcriptions of Dorcas; and I see there is method and good sense in some of them, wild as others of them are; and that her memory, which serves her so well for these poetical flights, is far from being impair’d. And this gives me hope, that she will soon recover her charming intellects—Tho’ I shall be the sufferer by their restoration, I make no doubt.

But, in the letter she wrote to me, there are yet greater extravagancies; and tho’ I said, It was too affecting to give thee a copy of it, yet, after I have let thee see the loose papers inclosed, I think I may throw in a transcription of that. Dorcas, therefore, shall here transcribe it: I cannot. The reading of it affected me ten times more, than the severest reproaches of a regular mind.

 

To Mr. Lovelace .

I never intended to write another line to you. I would not see you, If I could help it. O that I never had!

But tell me of a truth, Is Miss Howe really and truly ill? —Very ill? —And is not her illness poison? And don’t you know who gave it her?

What you, or Mrs. Sinclair, or somebody, I cannot tell who, have done to my poor head, you best know: But I shall never be what I was. My head is gone. I have wept away all my brain, I believe; for I can weep no more. Indeed I have had my full share; so it is no matter.

But, good now, Lovelace, don’t set Mrs. Sinclair upon me again! I never did her any Harm. She so affrights me, when I see her! —Ever since—When was it? I cannot tell. You can, I suppose. She may be a good woman, as far as I know. She was the wife of a man of honour—Very likely! —Tho’ forced to let lodgings for her livelihood. Poor gentlewoman! Let her know I pity her: But don’t let her come near me again—Pray don’t!

Yet she may be a very good woman—

What would I say! —I forget what I was going to say. O Lovelace, you are Satan himself; or he helps you out in every thing; and that’s as bad!

But have you really and truly sold yourself to him? And for how long? What duration is your reign to have?

Poor man! The contract will be out; and then what will be your fate!

Oh! Lovelace! if you could be sorry for yourself, I would be sorry too—But when all my doors are fast, and nothing but the key-hole open, and the key of late put into that, to be where you are, in a manner without opening any of them—O wretched, wretched Clarissa Harlowe!

For I never will be Lovelace—let my uncle take it as he pleases.

Well, but now I remember what I was going to say— It is for your good—not mine —For nothing can do me good now! —O thou villainous man! thou hated Lovelace!.

But Mrs. Sinclair may be a good woman—If you love me—But that you don’t—But don’t let her bluster up with her worse than mannish airs to me again! O she is a frightful woman! If she be a woman! —She needed not to put on that fearful mask to scare me out of my poor wits. But don’t tell her what I say—I have no hatred to her— It is only fright, and foolish fear, that’s all. —She may not be a bad woman—But neither are all men, any more than all women, alike—God forbid they should be like you!

Alas! you have killed my head among you—I don’t say who did it—God forgive you all! —But had it not been better to have put me out of all your ways at once? You might safely have done it! For nobody would require me at your hands—No, not a soul—Except, indeed, Miss Howe would have said, when she should see you, What, Lovelace, have you done with Clarissa Harlowe? —And then you could have given any slight gay answer—Sent her beyond sea; or, she has run away from me, as she did from her parents. And this would have been easily credited; for you know, Lovelace, she that could run away from them, might very well run away from you .

But this is nothing to what I wanted to say. Now I have it!

I have lost it again—This foolish wench comes teazing me—For what purpose should I eat? For what end should I wish to live? —I tell thee, Dorcas, I will neither eat nor drink. I cannot be worse than I am.

I will do as you’d have me—Good Dorcas, look not upon me so fiercely—But thou canst not look so bad as I have seen somebody look.

Mr. Lovelace, now that I remember what I took pen in hand to say, let me hurry off my thoughts, lest I lose them again. —Here I am sensible—And yet I am hardly sensible neither—But I know my head is not as it should be, for all that—Therefore let me propose one thing to you: It is for yourgood—not mine : And this is it:

I must needs be both a trouble, and an expence, to you. And here my uncle Harlowe, when he knows how I am, will never wish any man to have me: No, not even you, who have been the occasion of it—Barbarous and ungrateful! —A less complicated villainy cost a Tarquin—But I forget what I would say again—.

Then this is it: I never shall be myself again: I have been a very wicked creature—a vain, proud, poor creature —full of secret pride—which I carried off under an humble guise, and deceived every-body—My sister says so—And now I am punished—so let me be carried out of this house, and out of your sight; and let me be put into that Bedlam privately, which once I saw: But it was a sad sight to me then! Little as I thought what I should come to myself ! —That is all I would say: This is all I have to wish for—Then I shall be out of all your ways; and I shall be taken care of; and bread and water, without your tormentings, will be dainties; and my straw bed the easiest I have lain in—for—I cannot tell how long!—

My cloaths will sell for what will keep me there, perhaps, as long as I shall live. But, Lovelace, dear Lovelace I will call you; for you have cost me enough, I’m sure!—don’t let me be made a shew of, for my family’s sake; nay, for your own sake, don’t do that— For when I know all I have suffer’d, which yet I do not and no matter if I never do—I may be apt to rave against you by name, and tell of all your baseness to a poor humbled creature, that once was as proud as any-body— But of what I can’t tell—Except of my own folly and vanity—But let that pass—since I am punished enough for it—

So, suppose, instead of Bedlam, it were a private madhouse, where nobody comes! —That will be better a great deal.

But, another thing, Lovelace: Don’t let them use me cruelly when I am there— You have used me cruelly enough, you know! Don’t let them use me cruelly; for I will be very tractable; and do as any-body would have me do— Except what you would have me do—for that I never will. —Another thing, Lovelace: Don’t let this good woman; I was going to say vile woman; but don’t tell her that, —Because she won’t let you send me to this happy refuge perhaps, if she were to know it—

Another thing, Lovelace: And let me have pen, and ink, and paper, allowed me—It will be all my amusement —But they need not send to any-body I shall write to, what I write, because it will but trouble them: And somebody may do you a mischief, may-be. —I wish not that any-body do any-body a mischief upon my account.

You tell me, that Lady Betty Lawrance, and your cousin Montague, were here to take leave of me; but that I was asleep, and could not be waked. So you told me at first, I was married, you know; and that you were my husband—Ah! Lovelace! look to what you say —But let not them (for they will sport with my misery), let not that Lady Betty, let not that Miss Montague, whatever the real ones may do; nor Mrs. Sinclair neither, nor any of her lodgers, nor her nieces, come to see me in my place— Real ones, I say; for, Lovelace, I shall find out all your villainies in time—Indeed I shall—So put me there as soon as you can—It is for your good— Then all will pass for ravings that I can say, as, I doubt not, many poor creatures exclamations do pass, tho’ there may be too much truth in them for all that—And you know I began to be mad at Hamstead —So you said. —Ah! villainous man! what have you not to answer for!

 

A little interval seems to be lent me. I had begun to look over what I have written. It is not fit for any one to see, so far as I have been able to re-peruse it: But my head will not hold, I doubt, to go through it all. If therefore I have not already mentioned my earnest desire, let me tell you, it is this: That I be sent out of this abominable house without delay, and lock’d up in some private madhouse about this town; for such, it seems, there are; never more to be seen, or to be produced to any-body, except in your own vindication, if you should be charged with the murder of my person; a much lighter crime, than that of my honour, which the greatest villain on earth has robbed me of. And deny me not this my last request, I beseech you; and one other, and that is, Never to let me see you more! This surely may be granted to

The miserably abused
Clarissa Harlowe .

I will not hear thy heavy preachments upon this plaguy letter. So, not a word of that sort! The paper, thou’lt see, is blister’d with the tears even of the harden’d transcriber; which has made her ink run here-and-there.

Mrs. Sinclair is a true heroine, and, I think, shames us all. And she is a woman too! Thou’lt say, The best things corrupted become the worst. But this is certain, that whatever the sex set their hearts upon, they make thorough work of it. And hence it is, that a mischief, which would end in simple robbery among men-rogues, becomes murder, if a woman be in it.

I know thou wilt blame me for having had recourse to art . But do not physicians prescribe opiates in acute cases, where the violence of the disorder would be apt to throw the patient into a fever or delirium? I averr, that my motive for this expedient was mercy ; nor could it be any thing else. For a Rape, thou knowest, to us Rakes, is far from being an undesirable thing. Nothing but the Law stands in our way, upon that account; and the opinion of what a modest woman will suffer, rather than become a viva voce accuser, lessens much an honest fellow’s apprehensions on that score. Then, if these somnivolences [I hate the word opiates on this occasion] have turned her head, that is an effect they frequently have upon some constitutions; and in this case was rather the fault of the dose, than the design of the giver.

But is not wine itself an opiate in degree? —How many women have been taken advantage of by wine, and other still more intoxicating viands? —Let me tell thee, Jack, that the experience of many of the passive sex, and the consciences of many more of the active, appealed to, will testify that thy Lovelace is not the worst of villains. Nor would I have thee put me upon clearing myself, by comparisons.

If she escape a settled delirium when my plots unravel, I think it is all I ought to be concerned about. What therefore I desire of thee, is, That, if two constructions may be made of my actions, thou wilt afford me the most favourable. For this, not only friendship, but my own ingenuity, which has furnished thee with the knowlege of the facts, against which thou art so ready to inveigh, require of thee.

 

Will is just returned from an errand to Hamstead; and acquaints me, that Mrs. Townsend was yesterday at Mrs. Moore’s, accompanied by three or four rough fellows. She was strangely surprised at the news, that my spouse and I are intirely reconciled; and that two fine ladies, my relations, came to visit her, and went to town with her: Where she is very happy with me. She was sure we were not married, she said, unless it was while we were at Hamstead: And they were sure the ceremony was not performed there. But that the Lady is happy and easy, is unquestionable: And a fling was thrown out by Mrs. Moore and Mrs. Bevis at mischief-makers, as they knew Mrs. Townsend to be acquainted with Miss Howe.

Now, since my Fair-one can neither receive, nor send away letters, I am pretty easy, as to this Mrs. Townsend, and her employer. And I fancy Miss Howe will be puzzled to know what to think of the matter, and afraid of sending by Wilson’s conveyance; and perhaps suppose, that her friend slights her; or has changed her mind in my favour, and is ashamed to own it; as she has not had an answer to what she wrote; and will believe, that the rustic delivered her last letter into her own hand.

Mean time, I have a little project come into my head, of a new kind; just for amusement-sake, that’s all: Variety has irresistible charms. I cannot live without intrigue. My charmer has no passions; that is to say, none of the passions that I want her to have. She engages all my reverence. I am at present more inclined to regret what I have done, than to proceed to new offences: And shall regret it till I see how she takes it, when recovered.

Shall I tell thee my project? ‘Tis not a high one. —‘Tis this—To get hither Mrs. Moore, Miss Rawlins, and my Widow Bevis; for they are desirous to make a visit to my spouse, now we are so happy together. And, if I can order it right, Belton, Mowbray, Tourville, and I, will shew them a little more of the ways of this wicked town, than they at present know. Why should they be acquainted with a man of my character, and not be the better andwiser for it? —I would have every-body rail against rakes with judgment aud knowlege, if they will rail. Two of these women gave me a great deal of trouble: And the third, I am confident, will forgive a merry evening.

I am really sick at heart for a frolick, and have no doubt but this will be an agreeable one. These women already think me a wild fellow; nor do they like me the less for it, as I can perceive; and I shall take care, that they shall be treated with so much freedom before one another’s faces, that in policy they shall keep each other’s counsel. And won’t this be doing a kind thing by them? since it will knit an indissoluble band of union and friendship between three women who are neighbours, and at present have only common obligations to one another: For thou wantest not to be told, that secrets of love, and secrets of this nature, are generally the strongest cement of female friendships.

But, after all, if my Beloved should be happily restored to her intellects, we may have scenes arise between us, that will be sufficiently busy to employ all the faculties of thy friend, without looking out for new occasions. Already, as I have often observed, has she been the means of saving scores; yet without her own knowlege.

Sat. Night.

By Dorcas’s account of her Lady’s behaviour, the dear creature seems to be recovering. I shall give the earliest notice of this to the worthy Captain Tomlinson, that he may apprise uncle John of it. I must be properly enabled, from that quarter to pacify her, or, at least, to rebate her first violence.

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