Letter 406: MR ANTONY HARLOWE TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE

Aug. 12

Unhappy girl!

AS your uncle Harlowe chooses not to answer your pert letter to him; and as mine written to you before was written as if it were in the spirit of prophecy, as you have found to your sorrow; and as you are now making yourself worse than you are in your health, and better than you are in your penitence, as we are very well assured , in order to move compassion; which you do not deserve, having had so much warning: for all these reasons, I take up my pen once more; though I had told your brother, at his going to Edinburgh , that I would not write to you, even were you to write to me, without letting him know. So indeed had we all ; for he prognosticated what would happen, as to your applying to us when you knew not how to help it.

Brother John has hurt your niceness, it seems, by asking you a plain question, which your mother’s heart is too full of grief to let her ask; and modesty will not let your sister ask, though but the consequence of your actions—And yet it must be answered before you’ll obtain from your father and mother, and us, the notice you hope for, I can tell you that.

You lived several guilty weeks with one of the vilest fellows that ever drew breath, at bed as well as board no doubt (for is not his character known?); and pray don’t be ashamed to be asked after what may naturally come of such free living. This modesty, indeed, would have become you for eighteen years of your life—you’ll be pleased to mark that—but makes no good figure compared with your behaviour since the beginning of April last. So pray don’t take it up, and wipe your mouth upon it, as if nothing had happened.

But maybe I likewise am too shocking to your niceness!—Oh, girl, girl! your modesty had better been shown at the right time and place!—Everybody but you believed what the rake was: but you would believe nothing bad of him—What think you now?

Your folly has ruined all our peace. And who knows where it may yet end?—Your poor father but yesterday showed me this text: with bitter grief he showed it me, poor man! And do you lay it to your heart:

‘A father waketh for his daughter when no man knoweth; and the care for her taketh away his sleep—When she is young, lest she pass away the flower of her age ( and you know what proposals were made to you at different times ): and, being married, lest she should be hated: in her virginity, lest she should be defiled, and gotten with child in her father’s house ( I don’t make the words, mind that ): and having an husband, lest she should misbehave herself.’ And what follows ? ‘Keep a sure watch over a shameless daughter ( yet no watch could hold you !,) lest she make thee a laughing-stock to thine enemies ( as you have made us all to this cursed Lovelace ,) and a byword in the city, and a reproach among the people, and make thee ashamed before the multitude.’ Eccl[esiastic]us xlii. 9,10, etc.

Now will you wish you had not written pertly. Your sister’s severities!—Never, girl, say that is severe that is deserved. You know the meaning of words. Nobody better. Would to the Lord you had acted up but to one half of what you know. Then had we not been disappointed and grieved, as we all have been: and nobody more than him who was

Your loving uncle, ANTONY HARLOWE

This will be with you tomorrow. Perhaps you may be suffered to have some part of your estate, after you have smarted a little more. Your pertly answered uncle John, who is your trustee, will not have you be destitute. But we hope all is not true that we hear of you —Only take care, I advise you, that bad as you have acted you act not still worse, if it be possible to act worse. Improve upon the hint.

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