LETTER 379: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE

Sunday, July 30. 

You have given me great pleasure, my dearest friend, by your approbation of my reasonings, and of my resolution founded upon them, never to have Mr. Lovelace. This approbation is so right a thing, give me leave to say, from the nature of the case, and from the strict honour and true dignity of mind, which I always admired in my Anna Howe, that I could hardly tell to what, but to my evil destiny, which of late would not let me please any-body, to attribute the advice you gave me to the contrary.

But let not the ill state of my health, and what that may naturally tend to, sadden you. I have told you, that I will not run away from life, nor avoid the means that may continue it, if God see fit: And if he do not, who shall repine at his will?

If it shall be found, that I have not acted unworthy of your Love, and of my own Character, in my greater trials, that will be a happiness to both on reflection.

The shock which you so earnestly advise me to try to get above, was a shock, the greatest that I could receive. But, my dear, as it was not occasioned by my fault, I hope I am already got above it. I hope I am.

I am more grieved (at times however) for others, than for myself . And so I ought . For as to myself, I cannot but reflect, that I have had an escape, rather than a loss, in missing Mr. Lovelace for a husband— Even had he not committed the vilest of all outrages.

Let any one, who knows my Story, collect his character from his behaviour to me, before that outrage; and then judge, whether it was in the least probable that such a man should make me happy. But to collect his character from his principles with regard to the Sex in general, and from his enterprizes upon many of them, and to consider theCruelty of his Nature, and the Sportiveness of his Invention, together with the high opinion he has of himself, it will not be doubted that a Wife of his must have been miserable; and more miserable if she loved him, than she could have been were she to be indifferent to him.

twelvemonth might very probably have put a period to my life; situated as I was with my friends; persecuted and harassed as I had been by my Brother and Sister; and my very heart torn in pieces by the wilful, and (as it is now apparent) premeditated suspenses of the man, whose gratitude I wished to engage, and whose protection I was the more entitled to expect, as he had robbed me of every other, and reduced me to an absolute dependence upon himself. Indeed I once thought that it was all his view to bring me to this (as he hated my family); and uncomfortable enough for me, if it had been all.

Can it be thought, my dear, that my heart was not more than half broken (happy as I was before I knew Mr. Lovelace) by such a grievous change in my circumstances? —Indeed it was. Nor perhaps was the wicked violence wanting to have cut short, tho’ possibly not so very short, a life that he has sported with.

Had I been his but a month, he must have possessed the Estate on which my relations had set their hearts; the more to their regret, as they hatedhim as much as he hated them .

Have I not reason, these things considered, to think myself happier without Mr. Lovelace than I could have been with him? —My will too unviolated ; and very little, nay, not any-thing as to him, to reproach myself with?

But with my Relations it is otherwise . They indeed deserve to be pitied. They are, and no doubt will long be, unhappy.

To judge of their resentments, and of their conduct, we must put ourselves in their situation: — And while they think me more in fault than themselves (whether my favourers are of their opinion, or not) and have a right to judge for themselves, they ought to have great allowances made for them; my Parents especially. They stand at least self -acquitted (that cannot I); and the rather, as they can recollect, to their pain, their past Indulgencies to me, and their unquestionable Love.

Your partiality for the friend you so much value, will not easily let you come into this way of thinking. But only, my dear, be pleased to consider the matter in the following light.

‘Here was my Mother, one of the most prudent persons of her Sex, married into a family, not perhaps so happily tempered as herself; but every one of which she had the address, for a great while, absolutely to govern as she pleased by her directing wisdom, at the same time that they knew not but her prescriptions were the dictates of their own hearts; such a sweet Art had she of conquering by seeming to yield. Think, my dear, what must be the pride and the pleasure of such a Mother, that in my Brother she could give a Son to the family she distinguished with her Love, not unworthy of their wishes; a Daughter, in my Sister, of whom she had no reason to be ashamed; and in me, a second Daughter, whom every-body complimented (such was their partial favour to me) as being the still more immediate likeness of herself? How, self-pleased, could she smile round upon a family she had so blessed! What compliments were paid her upon the example she had given us, which was followed with such hopeful effects! With what a noble confidence could she look upon her dear Mr. Harlowe, as a person made happy by her; and be delighted to think, that nothing but purity streamed from a fountain so pure!

‘Now, my dear, reverse, as I daily do, this charming prospect. See my dear Mother, sorrowing in her Closet; endeavouring to suppress her sorrow at her Table, and in those retirements where sorrow was before a stranger: Hanging down her pensive head: Smiles no more beaming over her benign aspect: Her virtue made to suffer for faults she could not be guilty of: Her patience continually tried (because she has more of it than any other) with repetitions of faults she is as much wounded by, as those can be from whom she so often hears of them: Taking to herself, as the fountain-head, a taint which only had infected one of the under-currents: Afraid to open her lips (were she willing) in my favour, lest it should be thought she has any byas in her own mind to failings that never could have been suspected in her: Robbed of that pleasing merit, which the Mother of well-nurtured and hopeful children may glory in: Every one who visits her, or is visited by her, by dumb shew, and looks that mean more than words can express, condoling where they used to congratulate: The affected silence wounding: The compassionating look reminding: The half-suppressed sigh in them, calling up deeper sighs from her ; and their averted eyes, while they endeavour to restrain the rising tear, provoking tears from her, that will not be restrained.

‘When I consider these things, and, added to these, the pangs that tear in pieces the stronger heart of my Father, because it cannot relieve itself by those tears which carry the torturing grief to the eyes of softer spirits: The overboiling tumults of my impatient and uncontroulable Brother,piqued to the heart of his honour, in the fall of a Sister, in whom he once gloried: The pride of an Elder Sister, who had given unwilling way to the honours paid over her head to one born after her: And, lastly, the dishonour I have brought upon Two Uncles, who each contended which should most favour their then happy Niece: —When, I say, I reflect upon my fault in these strong, yet just lights, what room can there be to censure any-body but my unhappy self? And how much reason have I to say, If I justify myself, mine own heart shall condemn me : If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse?’ 

Here permit me to lay down my pen for a few moments.

 

  

You are very obliging to me, intentionally, I know, when you tell me, It is in my power to hasten the day of Mr. Hickman’s happiness. But yet, give me leave to say, that I admire this kind assurance less than any other paragraph of your Letter.

In the first place you know it is not in my power to say when I can dismiss my physician; and you should not put the Celebration of a Marriageintended by yourself, and so desirable to your Mother, upon so precarious an issue. Nor will I accept of a compliment, which must mean a slight toher .

If any-thing could give me a relish for life, after what I have suffered, it would be the hopes of the continuance of the more than Sisterly Love, which has, for years, uninterruptedly bound us together as one mind. —And why, my dear, should you defer giving (by a tie still stronger) another friend to one, who has so few?

I am glad you have sent my Letter to Miss Montague. I hope I shall hear no more of this unhappy man.

I had begun the particulars of my Tragical Story: But it is so painful a task, and I have so many more important things to do, and, as I apprehend, so little time to do them in, that, could I avoid it, I would go no farther in it.

Then, to this hour, I know not by what means several of his machinations to ruin me were brought about; so that some material parts of my sad Story must be defective, if I were to sit down to write it. But I have been thinking of a way that will answer the end wished for by your Mother and You full as well; perhaps better.

Mr. Lovelace, it seems, has communicated to his friend Mr. Belford all that has passed between himself and me, as he went on. Mr. Belford has not been able to deny it. So that (as we may observe by the way) a poor young creature, whose indiscretion has given a Libertine power over her, has a reason she little thinks of, to regret her folly; since these wretches, who have no more honour in one point than in another, scruple not to make her weakness a part of their triumph to their Brother-Libertines.

I have nothing to apprehend of this sort, if I have the justice done me in his Letters, which Mr. Belford assures me I have: And therefore the particulars of my Story, and the base Arts of this vile man, will, I think, be best collected from those very Letters of his (if Mr. Belford can be prevailed upon to communicate them); to which I dare appeal with the same truth and fervor as he did, who says,— O that one would hear me! and that mine adversary had written a book ! —Surely, I would take it upon my shoulders, and bind it to me as a crown! For I covered not my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom. 

There is one way, which may be fallen upon to induce Mr. Belford to communicate these Letters; since he seems to have (and declares he always had) a sincere abhorrence of his friend’s baseness to me: But that, you’ll say, when you hear it, is a strange one. Nevertheless, I am very earnest upon it at present.

It is no other than this:

I think to make Mr. Belford the Executor of my

Last Will [Don’t be surprised]: And with this view I permit his visits with the less scruple: And every time I see him, from his concern for me, am more and more inclined to do so. If I hold in the same mind, and if he accept the Trust, and will communicate the materials in his power, those, joined with what you can furnish, will answer the whole end.

I know you will start at my notion of such an Executor: But pray, my dear, consider, in my present circumstances, what I can do better, as I am empowered to make a Will, and have considerable matters in my own disposal.

Your Mother, I am sure, would not consent that You should take this office upon you. It might subject Mr. Hickman to the insults of that violent man. Mrs. Norton cannot, for several reasons respecting herself. My Brother looks upon what I ought to have, as his right: My Uncle Harlowe is already one of my Trustees (as my Cousin Morden is the other) for the Estate my Grandfather left me: But you see I could not get from my own family the few guineas I left behind me at Harlowe-Place; and my Uncle Antony once threatened to have my Grandfather’s Will controverted. MyFather ! —To be sure, my dear, I could not expect that my Father would do all I wish should be done: And a Will to be executed by a Father for a Daughter (parts of it, perhaps, absolutely against his own judgment) carries somewhat daring and prescriptive in the very word .

If indeed my Cousin Morden were to come in time, and would undertake this Trust—But even him it might subject to hazards; and the more, as he is a man of great spirit; and as the other man (of as great) looks upon me (unprotected as I have long been) as his property.

Now Mr. Belford, as I have already mentioned, knows every-thing that has passed. He is a man of spirit, and, it seems, as fearless as the other, with more humane qualities. You don’t know, my dear, what instances of sincere humanity this Mr. Belford has shewn, not only on occasion of the cruel Arrest, but on several occasions since. And Mrs. Lovick has taken pains to enquire after his general character; and hears a very good one of him, for justice and generosity in all his concerns of Meum and Tuum, as they are called: He has a knowlege of Law-matters; and has two Executorships upon him at this time, in the discharge of which his honour is unquestioned.

All these reasons have already in a manner determined me to ask this favour of him; altho’ it will have an odd sound with it to make an intimate friend of Mr. Lovelace my Executor.

This is certain: My Brother will be more acquiescent a great deal in such a case with the Articles of my Will, as he will see that it will be to no purpose to controvert some of them, which else, I dare say, he would controvert, or persuade my other friends to do so. And who would involve an Executor in a Law-suit, if they could help it? —Which would be the case, if any-body were left, whom my Brother could hope to awe or controul; since my Father has possession of all, and is absolutely governed by him. [Angry spirits, my dear, as I have often seen, will be overcome by more angry ones, as well as sometimes be disarmed by the meek.] —Nor would I wish, you may believe, to have effects torn out of my Father’s hands: While Mr. Belford, who is a man of fortune (and a good oeconomist in his own affairs) would have no interest but to do justice.

Then he exceedingly presses for some occasion to shew his readiness to serve me: And he would be able to manage his violent friend, over whom he has more influence than any other person.

But, after all, I know not, if it were not more eligible by far, that my Story, and my Self too, should be forgotten as soon as possible. And of this I shall have the less doubt, if the character of my Parents [You will forgive me, my dear] cannot be guarded against the unqualified bitterness, which, from your affectionate zeal for me, has sometimes mingled with your ink. —A point that ought, and (I insist upon it) must be well considered of, if any-thing be done which your Mother and you are desirous to have done. The generality of the world is too apt to oppose a duty—And general duties, my dear, ought not to be weakened by the justification of a single person, however unhappily circumstanced.

My Father has been so good as to take off the heavy Malediction he laid me under. I must be now solicitous for a Last Blessing; and that is all I shall presume to petition for. My Sister’s Letter, communicating this grace, is a severe one: But as she writes to me as from every-body, how could I expect it to be otherwise?

If you set out to-morrow, this Letter cannot reach you till you get to your Aunt Harman’s. I shall therefore direct it thither, as Mr. Hickman instructed me.

I hope you will have met with no inconveniences in your little journey and voyage; and that you will have found in good health all whom you wish to see well.

If your relations in the little Island join their solicitations with your Mother’s commands, to have your nuptials celebrated before you leave them, let me beg of you, my dear, to oblige them. How grateful will the notification that you have done so, be to

Your ever-faithful and affectionate
Cl. Harlowe !

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