LETTER 297: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MRS. HOWE

Saturday, July 1. 

Permit me, Madam, to trouble you with a few lines, were it only to thank you for your reproofs; which have nevertheless drawn fresh streams of blood from a bleeding heart

My story is a dismal story. It has circumstances in it, that would engage pity, and possibly a judgment not altogether unfavourable, were those circumstances known. But it is my business, and shall be all my business, to repent of my failings, and not endeavour to extenuate them.

 

But I will not seek to distress your worthy mind. If I cannot suffer alone, I will make as few parties as I can in my sufferings. And, indeed, I took up my pen with this resolution, when I wrote the letter which has fallen into your hands: It was only to know, and that for a very particular reason, as well as for affection unbounded, if my dear Miss Howe, from whom I had not heard of a long time, were ill; as I had been told she was; and if so, how she now does. But my injuries being recent, and my distresses having been exceeding great, Self would croud into my letter. When distressed, the human mind is apt to turn itself to every one in whom it imagined or wished an interest, for pity and consolation —Or, to express myself better and more concisely, in your own words, Misfortune makes people plaintive : And to whom, if not to a friend, can the afflicted complain?

 

Miss Howe being abroad, when my letter came, I flatter myself that she is recovered. But it would be some satisfaction to me to be informed, if shehas been ill . Another line from your hand would be too great a favour. But, if you will be pleased to direct any servant to answer yes, or no, to that question, I will not be farther troublesome.

 

Nevertheless, I must declare, that my Miss Howe’s friendship was all the comfort I had, or expected to have, in this world; and a line from her would have been a cordial to my fainting heart. Judge then, dearest Madam, how reluctantly I must obey your prohibition—But yet, I will endeavour to obey it; altho’ I should have hoped, as well from the tenor of all that has passed between Miss Howe and me, as from her established virtue, that she could not be tainted by Evil communication, had one or two letters been permitted. This, however, I ask not for, since I think I have nothing to do, but to beg of God (who, I hope, has not yet withdrawn his grace from me, altho’ he is pleased to let loose his justice upon my faults) to give me a truly broken spirit, if it be not already broken enough, and then to take to his mercy

The unhappy
Clarissa Harlowe .

    Two favours, good Madam, I have to beg of you. —The first;—that you will not let any of my relations know, that you have heard from me. The other,—that no living creature be apprised where I am to be heard of, or directed to. This is a point that concerns me, more than I can express. —In short, my preservation from further evils may depend upon it.
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