LETTER 360: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE

Sunday, July 23.

 

The letter accompanying This, being upon a very peculiar subject, I would not embarass it, as I may say, with any other. And yet having some further matters upon my mind, which will want your excuse for directing them to you, I hope the following lines will have that excuse.

 

My good Mrs. Norton, so long ago as in a letter dated the 3d of this month, ( a ) hinted to me, that my relations took amiss some severe things you was pleased, in love to me, to say of them. Mrs. Norton mentioned it with that respectful love which she bears to my dearest friend: But wished, for my sake, that you would rein in a vivacity, which, on most other occasions, so charmingly becomes you. This was her sense. You know that I am warranted to speak and write freer to my Anna Howe, than Mrs. Norton would do.

 

I durst not mention it to you at that time, because appearances were so strong against me, on Mr. Lovelace’s getting me again into his power, (after my escape to Hamstead) as made you very angry with me when you answered mine on my second escape. And, soon afterwards, I was put under that barbarous arrest; so that I could not well touch upon that subject till now.

 

Now, therefore, my dearest Miss Howe, let me repeat my earnest request (for This is not the first time by several that I have been obliged to chide you on this occasion), That you will spare my parents, and other relations, in all your conversations about me. —Indeed, I wish they had thought fit to take other measures with me: But who shall judge for them? —The event has justified them, and condemned me. They expected nothing good of this vile man; he has not, therefore, deceived them : But they expected other things from me ; and I have. And they have the more reason to be set against me, if (as my aunt Hervey wrote formerly ( b ) ) they intended not to force my inclinations, in favour of Mr. Solmes; and if they believe, that my going off was the effect of choice and premeditation.

 

I have no desire to be received to favour by them: For why should I sit down to wish for what I have no reason to expect? —Besides, I could not look them in the face, if they would receive me. Indeed I could not. All I have to hope for, is, first, that my father will absolve me from his heavy malediction: And next, for a last blessing. The obtaining of these favours are needful to my peace of mind.

 

I have written to my sister; but have only mentioned the absolution.

 

I am afraid, I shall receive a very harsh answer from her: My fault, in the eyes of my family, is of so enormous a nature, that my first application will hardly be encouraged. Then they know not (nor perhaps will believe), that I am so very ill as I am. So that, were I actually to die before they could have time to take the necessary informations, you must not blame them too severely. You must call it a Fatality. I know not what you must call it: For, alas! I have made them as miserable as I am myself. And yet sometimes I think, that, were they chearfully to pronounce me forgiven, I know not whether my concern for having offended them would not be augmented: Since I imagine, that nothing can be more wounding to a spirit not ungenerous, than a generous forgiveness .

 

I hope your mamma will permit our correspondence for one month more, altho’ I do not take her advice as to having this man. Only for one month. I will not desire it longer. When catastrophes are consummating, what changes (changes that make one’s heart shudder to think of) may one short month produce! —But if she will not— why then, my dear, it becomes us both to acquiesce.

 

You can’t think what my apprehensions would have been, had I known Mr. Hickman was to have had a meeting (on such a questioning occasion as must have been his errand from you) with that haughty and uncontroulable man.

 

You give me hope of a visit from him: Let him expect to see me greatly altered. I know he loves me: For he loves every-one whom you love. A painful interview, I doubt! But I shall be glad to see a man, who you will one day, and an early day, I hope, make happy; and whose gentle manners, and unbounded love for you, will make you so, if it be not your own fault.

 

I am, my dearest, kindest friend, the sweet companion of my happy hours, the friend ever dearest and nearest to my fond heart.

Your equally obliged and faithful
Clarissa Harlowe .

( a ) See L 308

( b ) See L 144

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