LETTER 362: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MRS. NORTON

Monday night, July 24.

 

My dear Mrs. Norton,

 

Had I not fallen into fresh troubles, which disabled me for several days from holding a pen, I should not have forborn inquiring after your health, and that of your son; for I should have been but too ready to impute your own silence to the cause, to which, to my very great concern, I find it was owing. I pray to Heaven, my dear good friend, to give you comfort in the way most desireable to yourself.

 

I am exceedingly concerned at Miss Howe’s writing about me to my friends. I do assure you, that I was as ignorant of her intention so to do, as of the contents of her letter. Nor has she yet let me know (discouraged, I suppose, by her ill success), that she did write. Impossible to share the delight which such charming spirits give,¬†without the inconvenience that will attend their volatility. —So mixed are our best enjoyments!

 

It was but yesterday that I wrote to chide the dear creature for freedoms of that nature, which her unseasonable love for me had made her take, as you wrote me word in your former. I was afraid, that all such freedoms would be attributed to me . And I am sure, that nothing but my own application to my friends, and a full conviction of my contrition, will procure me favour. Least of all can I expect, that either your mediation or hers (both of whose fond and partial love of me is so well known) will avail me.

She then gives a brief account of the arrest: Of her dejection under it: Of her apprehensions of being carried to her former lodgings: Of Mr. Lovelace’s avowed innocence, as to that insult: Of her release, by Mr. Belford: Of Mr. Lovelace’s promise not to molest her: Of her cloaths being sent her: Of the earnest desire of all his friends, and of himself, to marry her: Of Miss Howe’s advice to comply with their requests: And, of her declared resolution rather to die, than be his, sent to Miss Howe, to be given to his relations, but as yesterday. After which, she thus proceeds:

Now, my dear Mrs. Norton, you will be surprised, perhaps, that I should have returned such an answer: But, when you have every-thing before you, you, who know me so well, will not think me wrong. And, besides, I am upon a better preparation, than for an earthly husband.

 

Nor let it be imagined, my dear and ever-venerable friend, that my present turn of mind proceeds from gloominess or melancholy; for altho’ it was brought on by disappointment (the world shewing me early, even at my first rushing into it, its true and ugly face); yet, I hope, that it has obtained a better root, and will every day more and more, by its fruits, demonstrate to me, and to all my friends, that it has.

 

I have written to my sister. Last Friday I wrote. So the dye is thrown. I hope for a gentle answer. But, perhaps, they will not vouchsafe me any . It is my first direct application, you know. I wish Miss Howe had left me to my own workings, in this tender point.

 

It will be a great satisfaction to me, to hear of your perfect recovery; and that my foster-brother is out of danger. But why said I, out of danger ? —When can this be justly said of creatures, who hold by so uncertain a tenure?

 
This is one of those forms of common speech, that proves the frailty and the presumption of poor mortals, at the same time.

 

Don’t be uneasy you cannot answer your wishes to be with me. I am happier than I could have expected to be among mere strangers. It was grievous at first; but use reconciles every-thing to us. The people of the house where I am, are courteous and honest. There is a widow who lodges in it (have I not said so formerly?), a good woman; who is the better for having been a proficient in the school of affliction.

 

An excellent school! my dear Mrs. Norton, in which we are taught to know ourselves, to be able to compasonate and bear with one another, and to look up to a better hope.

 

I have as humane a physician (whose fees are his least regard), and as worthy an apothecary, as ever patient was visited by. My nurse is diligent, obliging, silent, and sober. So I am not unhappy without : And within — I hope, my dear Mrs. Norton, that I shall be every day more and more happy within .

 

No doubt, it would be one of the greatest comforts I could know, to have you with me: You, who love me so dearly: Who have been the watchful sustainer of my helpless infancy: You, by whose precepts I have been so much benefited! —In your dear bosom could I repose all my griefs. And by your piety, and experience in the ways of Heaven, should I be strengthened in what I am still to go through.

 

But, as it must not be, I will acquiesce; and so, I hope, will you: For you see in what respects I am not unhappy; and in those that I am, they lie not in your power to remedy.

 

Then, as I have told you, I have all my cloaths in my own possession. So I am rich enough, as to this world, and in common conveniencies.

 

So you see, my venerable and dear friend, that I am not always turning the dark side of my prospects, in order to move compassion; a trick imputed to me, too often, by my hard-hearted sister; when, if I know my own heart, it is above all trick or artifice. Yet I hope at last I shall be so happy, as to receive benefit rather than reproach from this talent, if it be my talent. At last, I say; for whose heart have I hitherto moved? —Not one, I am sure, that was not predetermined in my favour!

 

As to the day—I have passed it, as I ought to pass it— It has been a very heavy day to me! —More for my friends sake, too, than for my own! —How did they use to pass it! —What a Gala! —How have they now passed it! — To imagine it, how grievous! —Say not, that those are cruel, who suffer so much for my fault; and who, for eighteen years together, rejoiced in me, and rejoiced me, by their indulgent goodness! —But I will think the rest! — Adieu, my dearest Mrs. Norton! —Adieu!

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