LETTER 282: MR LOVELACE TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE

Superscribed, To Mrs. Lovelace . 

M. Hall, Sat. Night, June 24.

My dearest Life,
If you do not impute to love, and to terror raised by love, the poor figure I made before you last night, you will not do me justice. I thought I would try to the very last moment, if, by complying with you in every-thing, I could prevail upon you to promise to be mine on Thursday next, since you refused me an earlier day. Could I have been so happy, you had not been hindered going to Hamstead, or wherever else you pleased. But when I could not prevail upon you to give me this assurance, what room had I (my demerit so great) to suppose, that your going thither would not be to lose you for ever?

 

I will own to you, Madam, that yesterday afternoon I picked up the paper dropt by Dorcas; who has confessed, that she would have assisted you in getting away, if she had had an opportunity so to do; and undoubtedly dropped it by accident . —And could I have prevailed upon you as to the Thursday next, I would have made no use of it; secure as I should then have been, in your word given, to be mine. But when I found you inflexible, I was resolved to try, if, by resenting Dorcas’s treachery, I could not make your pardon of me the condition of mine to her : And if not, to make a handle of it to revoke my consent to your going away from Mrs. Sinclair’s; since the consequence of that must have been so fatal to me.

 

So far, indeed, was my proceeding low and artful : And when I was challenged with it, as such, in so high and noble a manner, I could not avoid taking shame to myself upon it.

 

But you must permit me, Madam, to hope, that you will not punish me too heavily for so poor a contrivance, since no dishonour was meant you; and since, in the moment of its execution, you had as great an instance of my incapacity to defend a wrong, a low measure, and, at the same time, of your power over me, as mortal man could give: In a word, since you must have seen, that I was absolutely under the controul both of Conscience, and of Love.

 

I will not offer to defend myself, for wishing you to remain where you are, till either you give me your word to meet me at the altar, on Thursday; or till I have the honour of attending you, preparative to the solemnity which will make that day the happiest of my life.

 

I am but too sensible, that this kind of treatment may appear to you with the face of an arbitrary and illegal imposition: But as the consequences, not only to ourselves, but to both our families, may be fatal, if you cannot be moved in my favour; let me beseech you to forgive this act of compulsion, on the score of the necessity you your dear self have laid me under to be guilty of it; and to permit the solemnity of next Thursday to include an act of oblivion of all past offences.

 

The orders I have given to the people of the house are: ‘That you shall be obeyed in every particular that is consistent with my expectations of finding you there on my return to town on Wednesday next: That Mrs. Sinclair, and her nieces, having incurred your just displeasure, shall not, without your orders, come into your presence: That neither shall Dorcas, till she has fully cleared her conduct to your satisfaction, be permitted to attend you: But Mabell, in her place; of whom, you seemed, some time ago, to express some liking. Will. I have left behind me to attend your commands. If he be either negligent or impertinent, your dismission shall be a dismission of him from my service for ever. But, as to letters which may be sent you, or any which you may have to send, I must humbly intreat, that none such pass from or to you, for the few days that I shall be absent.’ But I do assure you, Madam, that the seals of both sorts shall be sacred: And the letters, if such be sent, shall be given into your own hands, the moment the ceremony is performed, or before, if you require it.

 

Mean time I will inquire, and send you word, how Miss Howe does; and to what, if I can be informed, her long silence is owing.

 

Dr. Perkins I found here, attending my Lord, when I arrived with Dr. S. He acquaints me, that your father, mother, uncles, and the still lessworthy persons of your family, are well; and intend to be all at your uncle Harlowe’s next week; I presume to keep his anniversary. This can make no alteration, but a happy one, as to persons, on Thursday; because Mr. Tomlinson assured me, that, if any-thing fell out to hinder your uncle’s coming up in person (which, however, he did not then expect), he would be satisfied if his friend the Captain were proxy for him. I shall send a man and horse tomorrow to the Captain, to be at greater certainty.

 

I send this by a special messenger, who will wait your pleasure: Which I humbly hope will be signified in a line, in relation to the impatiently-wished-for Thursday.

 

My Lord, tho’ hardly sensible, and unmindful of every-thing but of our felicity, desires his most affectionate compliments to you. He has in readiness to present you several valuables; which he hopes will be acceptable, whether he lives to see you adorn them, or not.

 

Lady Sarah and Lady Betty have also their tokens of respect ready to court your acceptance: But may heaven incline you to give the opportunity of receiving their personal compliments, and those of my cousins Montague, before the next week be out!

 

His Lordship is exceeding ill. Dr. S. has no hopes of him: The only consolation I can have for the death of a relation who loves me so well, if he do die, must arise from the additional power it will put into my hands of shewing how much I am,

 

My dearest Life,
Your ever-affectionate and faithful
Lovelace .

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