LETTER 316:MISS HOWE, TO CLARISSA HARLOWE

Sunday, July 9.

May heaven signalize its vengeance, in the face of all the world, upon the most abandoned and profligate of men! —And in its own time, I doubt not but it will. —And we must look to a WORLD BEYOND THIS, for the reward of your sufferings!—

 

Another shocking detection, my dear! —How have you been deluded! —Very watchful I have thought you; very sagacious: —But, alas! not watchful, not sagacious enough, for the horrid villain you have had to deal with!—

 

The letter you sent me inclosed as mine, of the 7th of June, is a villainous forgery ( a ) . The hand, indeed, is astonishingly like mine; and the cover, I see, is actually my cover: But yet the letter is not so exactly imitated, but that (had you had any suspicions about his vileness at the time) you, who so well know my hand, might have detected it. 

In short, this vile forged letter, tho’ a long one, contains but a few extracts from mine. Mine was a very long one. He has omitted every thing, I see, in it, that could have shewn you what a detestable house the house is; and given you suspicions of the vile Tomlinson. —You will see this, and how he has turned Miss Lardner’s information, and my advices to you [execrable villain!] to his own horrid ends, by the rough draught of the genuine letter, which I shall inclose ( a ).

 

Apprehensive for both our safeties, from such a daring and profligate contriver, I must call upon you, my dear, to resolve upon taking legal vengeance of the infernal wretch. And this not only for our own sakes, but for the sakes of innocents, who otherwise may yet be deluded and outraged by him.

 

She then gives the particulars of the report made by the young fellow whom she sent to Hamstead with her letter; and who supposed he had delivered it into her own hand ( b ); and then proceeds:

 

I am astonished, that the vile wretch, who could know nothing of the time my messenger (whose honesty I can vouch for) would come, could have a creature ready to personate you! Strange, that the man should happen to arrive just as you were gone to church, as I find was the fact, on comparing what he says, with your hint that you were at church twice that day; when he might have got to Mrs. Moore’s two hours before! —But had you told me, my dear, that the villain had found you out, and was about you! —You should have done that—Yet I blame you upon a judgment founded on the event only!

 

I never had any faith in the stories that go current among country girls, of spectres, familiars, and demons; yet I see not any other way to account for this wretch’s successful villainy, and for his means of working-up his specious delusions, but by supposing (if he be not the devil himself), that he has a familiar constantly at his elbow. Sometimes it seems to me, that this familiar assumes the shape of that solemn villain Tomlinson:

 

Sometimes that of the execrable Sinclair, as he calls her: Sometimes it is permitted to take that of Lady Betty Lawrance—But when, it would assume the angelic shape and mien of my beloved friend, see what a bloated figure it made!

 

‘Tis my opinion, my dear, that you will be no longer safe where you are, than while the V. is in the country. Words are poor!—or how could I execrate him! I have hardly any doubt, that he has sold himself for a time. O may the time be short! —Or may his infernal prompter no more keep covenant with him, than he does with others!

 

I inclose not only the rough draught of my long letter mentioned above; but the heads of that which the young fellow thought he delivered into your own hands at Hamstead. And when you have perused them, I will leave you to judge, how much reason I had to be surprised, that you wrote me not an answer to either of those letters; one of which you owned you had received (tho’ it proved to be his forged one); the other delivered into your own hands, as I was assured; and both of them of so much concern to your honour; and still how much more surprised I must be, when I received a letter from Mrs. Townsend, dated June 15. from Hamstead, importing, “That Mr. Lovelace, who had been with you several days, had, on the Monday before, brought his aunt and cousin, richly dressed, and in a coach and four, to visit you: Who, with your own consent, had carried you to town with them—to your former lodgings; where you still were: That the Hamstead women believed you to be married; and reflected upon me as a fomenter of differences between man and wife: That he himself was at Hamstead the day before; viz. Wedn. the 14th; and boasted of his happiness with you; inviting Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Bevis, and Miss Rawlins, to go to town, to visit his spouse; which they promised to do: That he declared, that you were intirely reconciled to your former lodgings: —And that, finally, the women at Hamstead told Mrs. Townsend, that he had very handsomely discharged theirs.”

 

I own to you, my dear, that I was so much surprised and disgusted at these appearances, against a conduct till then unexceptionable, that I was resolved to make myself as easy as I could, and wait till you should think fit to write to me. But I could rein-in my impatience but for a few days; and on the 20th of June I wrote a sharp letter to you; which I find you did not receive.

 

What a fatality, my dear, has appeared in your case, from the very beginning till this hour! Had my mother permitted—

 

But can I blame her ; when you have a father and mother living, who have so much to answer for? —So much!— as no father and mother, considering the child they have driven, persecuted, exposed, renounced—ever had to answer for!—

 

But again I must execrate the abandoned villain—Yet, as I said before, all words are poor, and beneath the occasion!

 

But see we not, in the horrid perjuries and treachery of this man, what rakes and libertines will do, when they get a young creature into their power? It is probable, that he might have the intolerable presumption to hope an easier conquest: But, when your unexampled vigilance and exalted virtue made potions, and rapes, and the utmost violences, necessary to the attainment of his detestable end, we see that he never boggled at them. I have no doubt, that the same or equal wickedness would be oftener committed by men of this villainous cast, if the folly and credulity of the poor inconsiderates who throw themselves into their hands, did not give them an easier triumph.

 

With what comfort must those parents reflect upon these things, who have happily disposed of their daughters in marriage to a virtuous man! And how happy the young women, who find themselves safe in a worthy protection! —If such a person, as Miss Clarissa Harlowe could not escape, who can be secure? —Since, tho’ every rake is not a Lovelace, neither is every woman a Clarissa : And his attempts were but proportioned to your resistance and vigilance.

 

My mother has commanded me to let you know her thoughts upon the whole of your sad story. I will do it in another letter; and send it to you with this, by a special messenger.

 

But, for the future, if you approve of it, I will send my letters by the usual hand (Collins’s) to be left at the Saracen’s head on Snow-hill: Whither you may send yours (as we both used to do, to Wilson’s), except such as we shall think fit to transmit by the post: Which I am afraid, after my next, must be directed to Mr. Hickman, as before: Since my mother is for fixing a condition to our correspondence, which, I doubt, you will not comply with, tho’ I wish you would. This condition I shall acquaint you with by-and-by.

 

Mean time, begging excuse for all the harsh things in my last, I beseech you, my dearest creature, to believe me to be,

 

Your truly sympathizing,


and unalterable Friend,


Anna Howe .

a. See letter 239

b. See letter 229

c. See letter 251

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