M. Hall, Wedn. night, July 19.
Thou mightst well apprehend, that I should think thou wert playing me booty, in communicating my letter to the lady.
Thou askest, Who would think thou mightst not read to her the least exceptionable parts of a letter written in my own defence to thee? — I’ll tell thee who —The man, who, in the same letter that he asks this question, tells the friend whom he exposes to her resentment, “That there is such an air of levity runs thro’ his most serious letters, that those of his are least fit to be seen, which ought to be most to his credit :” And now, what thinkest thou of thy self-condemned folly? Be, however, I charge thee, more circumspect for the future, that so this clumsy error may stand singly by itself.
“It is painful to her to think of me!” “Libertine froth!” “So pernicious and so despicable a plotter!” “A man whose friendship is no credit to any-body!” “Harden’d wretch!” “The devil’s counterpart!” “A wicked, wicked man!” —But did she, could she, dared she, to say or imply all this? —And say it to a man whom she praises for humanity, and prefers to myself for that virtue; when all the humanity he shews, and she knows it too, is by my direction—So robs me of the credit of my own works? Admirably intitled, all this shews her, to thy refinement upon the words resentment and revenge . But thou wert always aiming and blundering at something thou never couldst make out.
The praise thou givest to her ingenuousness, is another of thy peculiars. I think not as thou dost, of her tell-tale recapitulations and exclamations: —What end can they answer? —Only that thou hast an holy love [The devil fetch thee for thy oddity!], or it is extremely provoking to suppose one sees such a charming creature stand upright before a libertine, and talk of the sin against her, that cannot be forgiven! —I wish at my heart, that these chaste ladies would have a little modesty in their anger! — It would sound very strange, if I Robert Lovelace should pretend to have more true delicacy, in a point that requires the utmost, than Miss Clarissa Harlowe.
I think I will put it into the head of her Nurse Norton, and her Miss Howe, by some one of my agents, to chide the dear novice for her proclamations.
But to be serious; Let me tell thee, that severe as she is, and saucy, in asking so contemptuously, “What a man is your friend, Sir, to set himself to punish guilty people!” I will never forgive the cursed woman, who could commit this last horrid violence on so excellent a creature.
The barbarous insults of the two nymphs, in their visits to her; the choice of the most execrable den that could be found out, in order, no doubt, to induce her to go back to theirs; and the still more execrable attempt, to propose to her a man who would pay the debt; a snare, I make no question, laid for her despairing and resenting heart by that devilish Sally (thinking her, no doubt, a woman ), in order to ruin her with me; and to provoke me, in a fury, to give her up to their remorseless cruelty; are outrages, that, to express myself in her style, I never can, never will, forgive.
But as to thy opinion, and the two womens at Smith’s, that her heart is broken; that is the true womens language:
I wonder how thou camest into it: Thou who hast seen and heard of so many female deaths and revivals .
I’ll tell thee what makes against this notion of theirs.
Her time of life, and charming constitution: The good she ever delighted to do, and fancied she was born to do: And which she may still continue to do, to as high a degree as ever; nay, higher; since I am no sordid varlet, thou knowest: Her religious turn; a turn that will always teach her to bearinevitable evils with patience: The contemplation upon her last noble triumph over me, and over the whole crew; and upon her succeeding escape from us all: Her will unviolated: And the inward pride of having not deserved the treatment she has met with.
How is it possible to imagine, that a woman, who has all these consolatories to reflect upon, will die of a broken heart?
On the contrary, I make no doubt, but that, as she recovers from the dejection into which this last scurvy villainy (which none but wretches of her own sex could have been guilty of), has thrown her, returning Love will re-enter her time-pacified mind: Her thoughts will then turn once more on the conjugal pivot: Of course she will have livelier notions in her head; and these will make her perform all her circumvolutions with ease and pleasure; tho’ not with so high a degree of either, as if the dear proud rogue could have exalted herself above the rest of her sex, as she turned round.
Thou askest, on reciting the bitter invectives that the lady made against thy poor friend (standing before her, I suppose, with thy fingers in thy mouth), What couldst thou say FOR me ?
Have I not, in my former letters, suggested an hundred things, which a friend, in earnest to vindicate or excuse a friend, might say, on such an occasion?
But now to current topics, and the present state of matters here—It is true, as my servant told thee, that Miss Howe had engaged, before this cursed woman’s officiousness, to use her interest with her friend in my behalf: And yet she told my cousins, in the visit they made her, that it was her opinion, that she would never forgive me.
I long to know what Miss Howe wrote to her friend, in order to induce her to marry the despicable plotter ; the man whose friendship is no credit to any-body ; the wicked, wicked man . Thou hadst the two letters in thy hand. Had they been in mine, the seal would have yielded to the touch of my warm finger [Perhaps without the help of the post-office bullet], and the folds, as other plications have done, open’d of themselves, to oblige my curiosity. A wicked omission, Jack, not to contrive to send them down to me, by man and horse! It might have passed, that the messenger, who brought the second letter, took them both back. I could have returned them by another, when copied, as from Miss Howe, and no-body but myself and thee the wiser.
My two aunts, finding the treaty, upon the success of which they have set their foolish hearts, likely to run into length, are about departing to their own seats; having taken from me the best security the nature of the case will admit of, that is to say, my word, to marry the lady, if she will have me.
All I have to do, in my present uncertainty, is, to brighten up my faculties, by filing off the rust they have contracted by the town smoke, a long imprisonment in my close attendance to so little purpose on my fair perverse; and to brace up, if I can, the relaxed fibres of my mind, which have been twitch’d and convuls’d like the nerves of some tottering paralytic, by means of the tumults she has excited in it; that so I may be able to present to her a husband as worthy as I can be of her acceptance; or, if she reject me, be in a capacity to resume my usual gaiety of heart, and shew others of the misleading sex, that I am not discouraged by the difficulties I have met with from this sweet individual of it, from endeavouring to make myself as acceptable to them as before.
In this latter case, one tour to France and Italy, I dare say, will do the business. Miss Harlowe will by that time have forgotten all she has suffered from the ingrateful Lovelace: Tho’ it will be impossible that her Lovelace should ever forget a woman, whose equal he despairs to meet with, were he to travel from one end of the world to the other.
If thou continuest paying off the heavy debts my long letters, for so many weeks together, have made thee groan under, I will endeavour to restrain myself in the desires I have (importunate as they are) of going to town, to throw myself at the feet of my soul’s beloved. Policy, and honesty, both join to strengthen the restraint my own promise and thy engagement have laid me under on this head. I would not afresh provoke: On the contrary, would give time for her resentments to subside, that so all that follows may be her own act and deed.
Hickman [I have a mortal aversion to that fellow!] has, by a line which I have just now received, requested an interview with me on Friday at Mr. Dormer’s, as at a common friend’s . Does the business he wants to meet me upon, require that it should be at a common friend’s ? — A challenge implied; i’n’t it, Belford? —I shall not be civil to him, I doubt. He has been an intermeddler! — Then I envy him on Miss Howe’s account: For if I have a right notion of this Hickman, it is impossible that that virago can ever love him.
A charming encouragement for a man of intrigue, when he has reason to believe, that the woman he has a view upon has no love for her husband! What good principles must that wife have, who is kept in against temptation by a sense of her duty, and plighted faith, where affection has no hold of her!
Pr’ythee let’s know, very particularly, how it fares with poor Belton. —‘Tis an honest fellow. —Something more than his Thomasine seems to stick with him.
Tourville, Mowbray, and myself, pass away our time as pleasantly as possibly we can without thee. I wish we don’t add to Lord M.’s gouty days by the joy we give him.
This is one advantage, as I believe I have elsewhere observed, that we male-delinquents in love-matters have of the other sex: —For while they, poor things! sit sighing in holes and corners, or run to woods and groves to bemoan themselves for their baffled hopes, we can rant and roar, hunt and hawk; and, by new loves, banish from our hearts all remembrance of the old ones.
Merrily, however, as we pass our time, my reflections upon the injuries done to this noble creature bring a qualm upon my heart very often. But I know she will permit me to make her amends, after she has plagued me heartily; and that’s my consolation.
An honest fellow still! —Clap thy wings, and crow, Jack!—