LETTER 346: MR. LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.

M. Hall, Friday, July 21.

Just returned from an interview with this Hickman: A precise fop of a fellow, as starched as his Ruffles.

Thou knowest I love him not, Jack; and whom we love not, we cannot allow a merit to; perhaps not the merit they should be granted . However, I am in earnest, when I say, that he seems to me to be so set, so prim, so affected, so mincing, yet so clouterly in his person, that I dare engage for thy opinion, if thou dost justice to him, and to thyself, that thou never beheldest such another, except in a pier-glass.

I’ll tell thee how I plaid him off.

He came in his own chariot to Dormer’s; and we took a turn in the garden, at his request. He was devilish ceremonious, and made a bushel of apologies for the freedom he was going to take; and, after half a hundred hums and haws, told me, that he came—that he came—to wait on me—at the request of dear Miss Howe, on the account—on the account —of Miss Harlowe.

Well, Sir, speak on, said I: But give me leave to say, that if your book be as long as your preface, it will take up a week to read it.

This was pretty rough, thou’lt say: But there’s nothing like balking these formalists at first. When they are put out of their road, they are filled with doubts of themselves, and can never get into it again: So that an honest fellow, impertinently attacked, as I was, has all the game in his own hand quite thro’ the conference.

He stroaked his chin, and hardly knew what to say. At last, after parenthesis within parenthesis, apologizing for apologies, in imitation, I suppose of Swift’s Digressions in praise of Digressions—I presume, I presume, Sir, you were privy to the visit made to Miss Howe by the young Ladies your Cousins, in the name of Lord M. and Lady Sarah Sadleir, and Lady Betty Lawrance?

I was, Sir: And Miss Howe had a Letter afterwards, signed by his Lordship and by those Ladies, and underwritten by myself. Have you seen it, Sir?

I can’t say but I have. It is the principal cause of this Visit: For Miss Howe thinks your part of it is written with such an air of levity—Pardon me, Sir —that she knows not whether you are in earnest, or not, in your address to her for her interest to her friend ( a ) .

Will Miss Howe permit me to explain myself in person to her, Mr. Hickman.

O Sir, by no means. Miss Howe, I am sure, would not give you that trouble.

I should not think it a trouble. I will most readily attend you, Sir, to Miss Howe, and satisfy her in all her scruples. Come, Sir, I will wait upon you now. You have a chariot. Are alone. We can talk as we ride.

He hesitated, wriggled, winced, stroaked his ruffles, set his wig, and pulled his neckcloth, which was long enough for a bib—I am not going directly back to Miss Howe, Sir. It will be as well, if you will be so good as to satisfy Miss Howe by me.

What is it she scruples, Mr. Hickman?

Why, Sir, Miss Howe observes, that in your part of the Letter, you say—But let me fee, Sir—I have a copy of what you wrote [Pulling it out] Will you give me leave, Sir? —Thus you begin— Dear Miss Howe

No offence, I hope, Mr. Hickman?

None in the least, Sir! —None at all, Sir! —Taking aim, as it were, to read.

Do you use spectacles, Mr. Hickman?

Spectacles, Sir! His whole broad face lifted up at me: Spectacles! —What makes you ask me such a question? Such a young man as I use spectacles, Sir!—

They do in Spain, Mr. Hickman; young as well as old, to save their eyes. —Have you ever read Prior’s Alma, Mr. Hickman?

I have, Sir—Custom is every-thing in nations, as well as with individuals: I know the meaning of your question—But ’tis not the English custom.—

Was you ever in Spain, Mr. Hickman?

No, Sir: I have been in Holland.

In Holland, Sir! —Never in France or Italy? — I was resolved to travel with him into the land of Puzzledom .

No, Sir, I cannot say I have, as yet.

That’s a wonder, Sir, when on the continent!

I went on a particular affair: I was obliged to return soon.

Well, Sir; you was going to read—Pray be pleased to proceed.

Again he took aim, as if his eyes were older than the rest of him; and re’d, After what is written above, and signed by names and characters of such unquestionable honour —To be sure, taking off his eye, nobody questions the honour of Lord M. nor that of the good Ladies who signed the Letter.

I hope, Mr. Hickman, nobody questions mine neither?

If you please, Sir, I will read on. — I might have been excused signing a name, almost as hateful to myself [You are pleased to say]— as I KNOW it is to You —

Well, Mr. Hickman, I must interrupt you at this place. In what I wrote to Miss Howe, I distinguished the word KNOW. I had a reason for it. Miss Howe has been very free with my character. I have never done her any harm. I take it very ill of her. And I hope, Sir, you come in her name to make excuses for it.

Miss Howe, Sir, is a very polite young Lady. She is not accustomed to treat any man’s character unbecomingly.

Then I have the more reason to take it amiss, Mr. Hickman.

Why, Sir, you know the friendship—

No friendship should warrant such freedoms as Miss Howe has taken with my character.

I believe he began to wish he had not come near me. He seemed quite disconcerted.

Have you not heard Miss Howe treat my name with great—

Sir, I come not to offend or affront you: But you know what a Love there is between Miss Howe and Miss Harlowe. —I doubt, Sir, you have not treated Miss Harlowe, as so fine a young Lady deserved to be treated: And if Love for her friend has made Miss Howe take freedoms, as you call them, a mind not ungenerous, on such an occasion, will rather be sorry for having given the cause, than—

I know your consequence, Sir! —But I’d rather have this reproof from a Lady, than from a Gentleman. I have a great desire to wait upon Miss Howe. I am persuaded we should soon come to a good understanding. Generous minds are always of kin. I know we should agree in every-thing. Pray, Mr. Hickman, be so kind as to introduce me to Miss Howe.

Sir—I can signify your desire, if you please, to Miss Howe.

Do so. Be pleased to read on, Mr. Hickman.

He did very formally, as if I remembred not what I had written; and when he came to the passage about the Halter, the Parson, and the Hangman, reading it, Why, Sir, says he, does not this look like a jest? —Miss Howe thinks it does. It is not in the Lady’s power, you know, Sir, to doom you to the Gallows.

Then, if it were, Mr. Hickman, you think she would?

You say here to Miss Howe, proceeded he, that Miss Harlowe is the most injured of her Sex . I know from Miss Howe, that she highly resents the injuries you own: Insomuch that Miss Howe doubts that she shall never prevail upon her to overlook them: And as your family are all desirous you should repair her wrongs, and likewise desire Miss Howe’s interposition with her friend; Miss Howe fears, from this part of your Letter, that you are too much in jest; and that your offer to do her justice is rather in compliment to your friends entreaties, than proceeding from your own inclinations: And she desires to know your true sentiments on this occasion, before she interposes further.

Do you think, Mr. Hickman, that, if I am capable of deceiving my own relations, I have so much obligation to Miss Howe, who has always treated me with great freedom, as to acknowlege to her, what I don’t to them ?

Sir, I beg pardon: But Miss Howe thinks, that, as you have written to her, she may ask you, by me, for an explanation of what you have written.

You see, Mr. Hickman, something of me. —Do you think I am in jest, or in earnest?

I see, Sir, you are a gay gentleman, of fine spirits, and all That—All I beg in Miss Howe’s name, is, to know, if you really, and bona fide, join with your friends in desiring her to use her interest to reconcile you to Miss Harlowe?

I should be extremely glad to be reconciled to Miss Harlowe; and should owe great obligations to Miss Howe, if she could bring about so happy an event.
Well, Sir, and you have no objections to Marriage, I presume, as the condition of that reconciliation?

I never liked Matrimony in my life. I must be plain with you, Mr. Hickman.

I am sorry for it: I think it a very happy State.

I hope you will find it so, Mr. Hickman.

I doubt not but I shall, Sir. And I dare say, so would you, if you were to have Miss Harlowe.

If I could be happy in it with any-body, it would be with Miss Harlowe.

I am surprised, Sir! —Then, after all, you don’t think of marrying Miss Harlowe! —After the hard usage—

What hard usage, Mr. Hickman? I don’t doubt but a Lady of her niceness has represented what would appear trifles to any other, in a very strong light.

If what I have had hinted to me, Sir—Excuse me —has been offered to the Lady, she has more than trifles to complain of.

Let me know what you have heard, Mr. Hickman? I will very truly answer to the accusations.

Sir, you know best what you have done: You own the Lady is the most injured, as well as the most deserving, of her Sex .

I do, Sir; and yet, I would be glad to know what you have heard ; for on that, perhaps, depends my answer to the questions Miss Howe puts to me by you.

Why then, Sir, since you ask it, you cannot be displeased if I answer you: —In the first place, Sir, you will acknowlege, I suppose, that you promised Miss Harlowe Marriage, and all That?

Well, Sir, and I suppose what you have to charge me with, is, That I was desirous to have all That, without Marriage.

Cot so, Sir, I know you are deemed to be a man of wit: But may I not ask, if these things sit not too light upon you?
When a thing is done, and cannot be helped, ’tis right to make the best of it. I wish the Lady would think so too.

I think, Sir, Ladies should not be deceived. I think a promise to a Lady should be as binding as to any other person, at the least.

I believe you think so, Mr. Hickman: And I believe you are a very honest good sort of a man.

I would always keep my word, Sir, whether to man or woman.

You say well. And far be it from me to persuade you to do otherwise. But what have you farther heard?

Thou wilt think, Jack, I must be very desirous to know in what light my elected Spouse had represented things to Miss Howe; and how far Miss Howe had communicated them to Mr. Hickman.

Sir, this is no part of my present business.

But, Mr. Hickman, ’tis part of mine. I hope you would not expect, that I should answer your questions, at the same time that you refuse to answermine . What, pray, have you farther heard?

Why then, Sir, if I must say, I am told, that Miss Harlowe was carried to a very bad house.

Why, indeed, the people did not prove so good as they should be. —What farther have you heard?

I have heard, Sir, that the Lady had strange advantages taken of her, very unfair ones; but what I cannot say.

And cannot you say? Cannot you guess ? —Then I’ll tell you, Sir. Perhaps some liberty was taken with her when she was asleep. Do you think no Lady ever was taken at such an advantage? —You know, Mr. Hickman, that Ladies are very shy of trusting themselves with the modestest of our Sex, when they are disposed to sleep; and why so, if they did not expect, that advantages would be taken of them at such times?
But, Sir, had not the Lady something given her to make her sleep?

Ay, Mr. Hickman, that’s the question: I want to know if the Lady says she had?

I have not seen all she has written; but by what I have heard, it is a very black affair—Excuse me, Sir.

I do excuse you, Mr. Hickman: But, supposing it were so, do you think a Lady was never imposed upon by Wine, or so? —Do you think the most cautious woman in the world might not be cheated by a stronger liquor for a smaller, when she was thirsty, after a fatigue in this very warm weather? And do you think, if she was thus thrown into a profound sleep, that she is the only Lady that was ever taken at such advantage?

Even as you make it, Mr. Lovelace, this matter is not a light one. But I fear it is a great deal heavier than as you put it.

What reasons have you to fear this, Sir? What has the Lady said? Pray, let me know. I have reason to be so earnest.

Why, Sir, Miss Howe herself knows not the whole. The Lady promises to give her all the particulars at a proper time, if she lives; but has said enough to make it out to be a very bad affair.

I am glad Miss Harlowe has not yet given all the particulars. And, since she has not; you may tell Miss Howe from me, That neither she nor any woman in the world can be more virtuous than Miss Harlowe is to this hour, as to her own mind. Tell her, that I hope she never will know the particulars; but that she has been unworthily used: Tell her, that tho’ I know not what she has said, yet I have such an opinion of her veracity, that I would blindly subscribe to the truth of every tittle of it, tho’ it make me ever so black. Tell her, that I have but three things to blame her for; One,That she won’t give me an opportunity of repairing her wrongs: The Second, That she is so ready to acquaint every-body with what she has suffered, that it will put it out of my power to redress those wrongs, with any tolerable reputation to either of us. Will this, Mr. Hickman, answer any part of the intention of this visit?

Why, Sir, this is talking like a man of honour, I own. But you say there is a Third thing you blame the Lady for: May I ask what That is?

I don’t know, Sir, whether I ought to tell it you, or not. Perhaps you won’t believe it, if I do. But tho’ the Lady will tell the truth, and nothing but the truth; yet, perhaps, she will not tell you the whole truth.

Pray, Sir—But it mayn’t be proper: —Yet you give me great curiosity. —Sure there is no misconduct in the Lady. I hope there is not. I am sure, if Miss Howe did not believe her to be faultless in every particular, she would not interest herself so much in her favour as she does, dearly as she loves her.

I love miss Harlowe too well, Mr. Hickman, to wish to lessen her in Miss Howe’s opinion; especially as she is abandoned of every other friend. But, perhaps, it would hardly be credited, if I should tell you.

I should be very sorry, Sir, and so would Miss Howe, if this poor Lady’s conduct had laid her under obligation to you for this reserve. —You have so much the appearance of a gentleman, as well as are so much distinguished in your family and fortunes, that I hope you are incapable of loading such a young Lady as this, in order to lighten yourself. —Excuse me, Sir.

I do, I do, Mr. Hickman. You say, you came not with any intention to affront me. I take freedom, and I give it. I should be very loth, I repeat, to say any-thing that may weaken Miss Harlowe in the good opinion of the only friend she thinks she has eft.
It may not be proper, said he, for me to know your third article against this unhappy Lady: But I never heard of any-body, out of her own implacable family, that had the least doubt of her honour. Mrs. Howe, indeed, once said, after a conference with one of her Uncles, that she feared all was not right on her side. —But else, I never heard—

Oons, Sir, in a fierce tone, and with an erect mien, stopping short upon him, which made him start back— ‘Tis next to blasphemy to question this Lady’s honour. She is more pure than a vestal; for vestals have been often warmed by their own fires. No age, from the first to the present, ever produced, nor will the future, to the end of the world, I dare averr, ever produce, a young blooming Lady, tried as she has been tried, who has stood all trials, as she has done. —Let me tell you, Sir, That you never saw, never knew, never heard of, such another woman as Miss Harlowe.

Sir, Sir, I beg your pardon. Far be it from me to question the Lady. You have not heard me say a word, that could be so construed. I have the utmost honour for her. Miss Howe loves her, as she loves her own soul; and that she would not do. if she were not sure she were as virtuous as herself.

As herself, Sir! —I have a high opinion of Miss Howe, Sir—But, I dare say—

What, Sir, dare you say of Miss Howe? —I hope, Sir, you will not presume to say any-thing to the disparagement of Miss Howe!

Presume, Mr. Hickman! —That is presuming language, let me tell you, Mr. Hickman!

The occasion for it, Mr. Lovelace, if designed, is presuming, if your please. —I am not a man ready to take offence, Sir—Especially where I am employed as a mediator. But no man breathing shall say disparaging things of Miss Howe, in my hearing, without observation.

Well said, Mr. Hickman. I dislike not your spirit, on such a supposed occasion. But what I was going to say is this, That there is not, in my opinion, a woman in the world, who ought to compare herself with Miss Clarissa Harlowe till she has stood her trials, and has behaved under them, and after them, as she has done. You see, Sir, I speak against myself. You see I do. For, Libertine as I am thought to be, I never will attempt to bring down the measures of right and wrong to the standard of my actions.

Why, Sir, this is very right. It is very noble, I will say. But ’tis pity—Excuse me, Sir—’tis pity, that the man who can pronounce so fine a sentence, will not square his actions accordingly.

That, Mr. Hickman, is another point. We all err in some things. I wish not that Miss Howe should have Miss Harlowe’s trials: And I rejoice, that she is in no danger of any such from so good a man.

Poor Hickman! —He looked as if he knew not whether I meant a compliment or a reflection!

But, proceeded I, since I find that I have excited your curiosity, that you may not go away with a doubt that may be injurious to the most admirable of women, I am inclined to hint to you what I have in the third place to blame her for.

Sir, as you please—It may not be proper—

It cannot be very improper, Mr. Hickman—So let me ask you, What would Miss Howe think, if her friend is the more determined against me, because she thinks (in revenge to me, I verily believe that!) of encouraging another Lover?

How, Sir! —Sure this cannot be the case! —I can tell you, Sir, if Miss Howe thought this, she would not approve of it at all: For, little as you think Miss Howe likes you, Sir, and little as she approves of your actions by her friend, I know she is of opinion, that she ought to have nobody living, but you: And should continue single all her life, if she be not yours. Revenge and Obstinacy, Mr. Hickman, will make women, the best of them, do very unaccountable things. Rather than not put out both eyes of the man they are offended with, they will give up one of their own.

I don’t know what to say to this, Sir: But, sure, she cannot encourage any other person’s address!— So soon too—Why, Sir, she is, as we are told, so ill, and so weak

Not in resentment weak, I’ll assure you. I am well acquainted with all her movements—And I tell you, believe it, or not, that she refuses me in view of another Lover.

Can it be?

‘Tis true, by my Soul! —Has she not hinted This to Miss Howe, do you think?

No indeed, Sir. If she had, I should not have troubled you at this time from Miss Howe.

Well then, you see I am right: That tho’ she cannot be guilty of a falshood, yet she has not told her friend the whole truth.

What shall a man say to these things!—looking most stupidly perplexed.

Say! say ! Mr. Hickman! —Who can account for the workings and ways of a passionate and offended woman? Endless would be the histories I could give you, within my own knowlege, of the dreadful effects of womens passionate resentments, and what that Sex will do, when disappointed.

·There was Miss Dorrington [Perhaps you know her not] who ran away with her Father’s groom, because he would not let her have a half-pay officer, with whom (her passions all up) she fell in love at first sight, as he accidentally passed under her window.

·There was Miss Savage ; she married her Mother’s coachman, because her Mother refused her a journey to Wales; in apprehension, that Miss intended to league herself with a remote Cousin of unequal fortunes, of whom she was not a little fond when he was a visiting-guest at their house for a week.

·There was the young widow Sanderson ; who believing herself slighted by a younger Brother of a noble family (Sarah Stout like) took it into her head to drown herself.

·Miss Sally Anderson [You have heard of her, no doubt] being checked by her Uncle for encouraging an address beneath her, in spite, threw herself into the arms of an ugly dog, a shoemaker’s Apprentice, running away with him in a pair of shoes he had just fitted to her feet, tho’ she never saw the fellow before, and hated him ever after: And at last, took Laudanum to make her forget for ever her own folly.·

But can there be a stronger instance in point, than what the unaccountable resentments of such a Lady as Miss Clarissa Harlowe afford us? Who, at this very instant, ill as she is, not only encourages, but, in a manner, makes court to, one of the most odious dogs that ever was seen? I think Miss Howe should not be told this—And yet she ought too, in order to dissuade her from such a preposterous rashness.

O fie! O strange! Miss Howe knows nothing of this! To be sure she won’t look upon her, if this be true!

‘Tis true, very true, Mr. Hickman! True as I am here to tell you so! —And he is an ugly fellow too; uglier to look at than me.

Than you, Sir! Why, to be sure, you are one of the handsomest men in England.

Well, but the wretch she so spitefully prefers to me is a mis-shapen, meager varlet; more like a skeleton than a man! Then he dresses—you never saw a devil so bedizened! Hardly a coat to his back, nor a shoe to his foot: A bald-pated villain, yet grudges to buy a peruke to hide his baldness: For he is as covetous as hell, never satisfied, yet plaguy rich.

Why, Sir, there is some joke in this, surely. A man of common parts knows not how to take such gentlemen as you. But, Sir, if there be any truth in the Story, what is he? Some Jew, or miserly Citizen, I suppose, that may have presumed on the Lady’s distressful circumstances; and your lively wit points him out as it pleases.

Why, the rascal has estates in every county in England, and out of England too.

Some East-India Governor, I suppose, if there be any-thing in it. The Lady once had thoughts of going abroad. But, I fansy, all this time you are in jest, Sir. If not, we must surely have heard of him—

Heard of him! Ay, Sir, we have all heard of him— But none of us care to be intimate with him—except this Lady—and that, as I told you, in spite to me— His name, in short, is DEATH! —DEATH, Sir, stamping, and speaking loud, and full in his ear; which made him jump half a yard high.

Thou never beheldest any man so disconcerted. He looked as if the frightful Skeleton was before him, and he had not his accounts ready. When a little recovered, he fribbled with his waistcoat buttons, as if he had been telling his beads.

This, Sir, proceeded I, is her wooer! —Nay, she is so forward a girl, that she wooes him : But I hope it never will be a match.

He had before behaved, and now looked, with more spirit than I expected from him.

I came, Sir, said he, as a mediator of differences. It behoves me to keep my temper. But, Sir, and turned short upon me, as much as I love peace, and to promote it, I will not be ill-used.

As I had plaid so much upon him, it would have been wrong to take him at his more than half-menace:

Yet, I think, I owe him a grudge, for his presuming to address Miss Howe.

You mean no defiance, I presume, Mr. Hickman, any more than I do offence. On that presumption, I ask your excuse. But This is my way. I mean no harm. I cannot let sorrow touch my heart. I cannot be grave six minutes together, for the blood of me. I am a descendent of old Chancellor More, I believe; and should not forbear to cut a joke, were I upon the scaffold. But you may gather, from what I have said, that I prefer Miss Harlowe, and that upon the justest grounds, to all the women in the world: And I wonder, that there should be any difficulty to believe, from what I have signed, and from what I have promised to my relations, and enabled them to promise for me, that I should be glad to marry that excellent creature upon her own terms. I acknowlege to you, Mr. Hickman, that I have basely injured her. If she will honour me with her hand, I declare, that it is my intention to make her the best of husbands. But, nevertheless, I must say, that, if she goes on appealing her case, and exposing us both, as she does, it is impossible to think the knot can be knit with reputation to either. And altho’, Mr. Hickman, I have delivered my apprehensions under so ludicrous a figure, I am afraid, that she will ruin her constitution; and, by seeking death when she may shun him, will not be able to avoid him when she would be glad to do so.

This cool and honest speech let down his stiffened muscles into complacency. He was my very obedient and faithful humble servant several times over, as I waited on him to his chariot: And I was his almost as often.

And so Exit Hickman .

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