LETTER 310: MISS HOWE TO CLARISSA HARLOWE

Wednesday, July 5.

My dear Clarissa,

I have at last heard from you from a quarter I little expected.

From my mamma.

She had for some time seen me uneasy and grieving; and justly supposed it was about you. And this morning dropt a hint, which made me conjecture that she must have heard something of you, more than I knew. And when she found that this added to my uneasiness, she owned she had a letter in her hands of yours, dated the 29th of June, directed for me.

You may guess, that this occasion’d a little warmth, that could not be wished for by either.

[It is surprising, my dear, mighty surprising! that, knowing the prohibition I lay under of corresponding with you, you could send a letter for me to our own house: Since it must be fifty to one that it would fall into my mother’s hands, as you find it did.]

In short, she resented that I should disobey her: I was as much concerned that she should open and with-hold from me my letters: And at last she was pleased to compromise the matter with me, by giving up the letter, and permitting me to write to you once or twice ; she to see the contents of what I wrote. For, besides the value she has for you, she could not but have a great curiosity to know the occasion of so sad a situation, as your melancholy letter shews you to be in.

[But I shall get her to be satisfied with hearing me read what I write; putting in between hooks, thus [], what I intend not to read to her.]

Need I to remind you, Miss Cl. Harlowe, of three letters I wrote to you, to none of which I had any answer; except to the first, and that a few lines only, promising a letter at large; tho’ you were well enough, the day after you received my second,to go joyfully back again with him to the vile house? But more of these by-and-by. I must hasten to take notice of your letter of Wednesday last week; which you could contrive should fall into my mother’s hands.

Let me tell you, that that letter has almost broken my heart. Good God! what have you brought yourself to, Miss Clarissa Harlowe? —Could I have believed, that after you had escaped from the miscreant (with such mighty pains and earnestness escaped), and after such an attempt as he had made, you would have been prevailed upon, not only to forgive him, but (without being married too) to return with him to that horrid house! —A house I had given you such an account of! —Surprising! —What an intoxicating thing is this Love ? —I always feared, that You, even You, were not proof against it.

You your best self have not escaped! —Indeed I see not how you could expect to escape.

What a tale have you to unfold! —You need not unfold it, my dear: I would have engaged to prognosticate all that has happen’d, had you but told me, that you would once more have put yourself into his power, after you had taken such pains to get out of it.

Your peace is destroyed! —I wonder not at it: Since now you must reproach yourself for a credulity so ill-placed.

Your intellect is touch’d! —I am sure my heart bleeds for you: But, excuse me, my dear, I doubt your intellect was touch’d before you left Hamstead; or you would never have let him find you out there; or, when he did, suffer him to prevail upon you to return to the horrid brothel.

I tell you, I sent you three letters : The first of which, dated the 7th and 8th of June ( a ) (for it was wrote at twice), came safe to your hands, as you sent me word by a few lines dated the ninth: Had it not, I should have doubted my own safety; since in it I gave you such an account of the abominable house, and threw such cautions in your way, as to that Tomlinson, as the more surprised me that you could think of going back to it again, after you had escaped from it, and from Lovelace—O my dear! — But nothing now will I ever wonder at!

The second, dated June 10 ( a ) 292 was given into your own hand at Hamstead, on Sunday the 11th, as you was lying upon a couch, in a strange way, according to my messenger’s account of you, bloated, and flush-coloured; I don’t know how.

The third was dated the 20th of June ( b ) 293 Having not heard one word from you since the promising billet of the 9th, I own I did not spare you in it. I ventured it by the usual conveyance, by that Wilson’s, having no other: So cannot be sure you received it. Indeed I rather think you might not; because in yours, which fell into my mamma’s hands, you make no mention of it: And if you had had it, I believe it would have touch’d you too much, to have been passed by unnoticed.

You have heard, that I have been ill, you say. I had a cold indeed; but it was so slight a one, that it confined me not an hour. But I doubt not, that strange things you have heard, and been told, to induce you to take the step you took. And, till you did take that step (the going back with this villain, I mean), I knew not a more pitiable case than yours: — For every body must have excused you before, who knew how you was used at home, and was acquainted with your prudence and vigilance. But, alas! my dear, we see that the wisest people are not to be depended upon, whenLove, like an ignis fatuus, holds up its misleading lights before their eyes.

My mother tells me, she sent you an answer, desiring you not to write to me, because it would grieve me. To be sure I am grieved; exceedinglygrieved; and, disappointed too, you must permit me to say. For I had always thought, that there never was such a woman, at your years, in the world.

But I remember once an argument you held, on occasion of a censure passed in company upon an excellent preacher, who was not a very excellent liver: Preaching and practising, you said, required quite different talents: Which, when united in the same person, made the man a saint; as wit and judgment going together constituted a genius.

You made it out, I remember, very prettily: But you never made it out, excuse me, my dear, more convincingly, than by that part of your late conduct, which I complain of.

My love for you, and my concern for your honour, may possibly have made me a little of the severest: If you think so, place it to its proper account; To That love, and to That concern: Which will but do justice, to

Your afflicted and faithful,
A. H.

 

POSTSCRIPT.

My mother would not be satisfied without reading my letter herself; and that before I had fixed my proposed hooks. She knows, by this means, and has excused, our former correspondence.

She indeed suspected it before: And so she very well might; knowing Me, and knowing my love of You.

She has so much real concern for your misfortunes, that, thinking it will be a consolation to you, and that it will oblige me, she consents that you shall write to me the particulars at large of your sad story : But it is on condition, that I shew her all that has passed between us, relating to yourself and the vilest of men: I have the more chearfully complied, as the communication cannot be to your disadvantage.

You may therefore write freely, and direct to our own house.

My mother promises to shew me the copy of her letter to you, and your reply to it; which latter she has but just told me of. She already apologizes for the severity of hers: And thinks the sight of your reply will affect me too much. But having her promise, I will not dispense with it.

I doubt hers is severe enough. So I fear you will think mine: But you have taught me never to spare the fault for the friend’s sake and that a great error ought rather to be more inexcuseable in the person we value, than in one we are indifferent to; because it is a reflection upon our choice of that person, and tends to a breach of the love of mind; and to expose us to the world for our partiality. To the love of mind, I repeat; since it is impossible but the errors of the dearest friend must weaken our inward opinion of that friend; and thereby lay a foundation for future distance, and perhaps disgust.

God grant, that you may be able to clear your conduct after you had escaped from Hamstead; as all before that time was noble, generous, and prudent: The man a devil, and you a saint! —Yet I hope you can; and therefore expect it from you.

I send by a particular hand. He will call for your answer at your own appointment.

I am afraid this horrid wretch will trace out by the post-offices where you are, if not careful.

To have Money, and Will, and Head, to be a villain, is too much for the rest of the world, when they meet in one man.

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