LETTER 427: THE REV. DR LEWEN TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE

 

Friday, Aug. 18.

Presuming, dearest and ever-respectable young lady, upon your former favour, and upon your opinion of my judgment and sincerity, I cannot help addressing you by a few lines, on your present unhappy situation.

 

I will not look back upon the measures which you have either been led or driven into: But will only say as to those, that I think you are the least to blame of any young lady that was ever reduced from happy to unhappy circumstances; and I have not been wanting to say as much, where I hoped my freedom would have been better received, than I have had the mortification to find it to be.

 

What I principally write for now, is, to put you upon doing a piece of justice to yourself, and to your sex, in the prosecuting for his life (I am assured his life is in your power) the most profligate and abandoned of men, as he must be, who could act so basely, as I understand Mr. Lovelace has acted by you.

 

I am very ill; and am now forced to write upon my pillow; my thoughts confused; and incapable of method: I shall not therefore aim at method: But to give you in general my opinion; and that is, That your religion, your duty to your family, the duty you owe to your honour, and even charity to your sex, oblige you to give public evidence against this very wicked man.

 

And let me add, another consideration: The prevention, by this means, of the mischiefs that may otherwise happen between your brother and Mr. Lovelace, or between the latter and your cousin Morden, who is now, I hear, arrived, and resolves to have justice done you.

A consideration which ought to affect your conscience; (Forgive me, dearest young lady, I think I am now in the way of my duty) and to be of more concern to you, than that hard pressure upon your modesty, which I know the appearance against him in an open Court, must be of to such a lady as you: And which, I conceive, will be your great difficulty. But I know, Madam, that you have dignity enough to become the blushes of the most naked truth, when necessity, justice and honour, exact it from you. Rakes and Ravishers would meet with encouragement indeed, and most from those who had the greatest abhorrence of their actions, if violated modesty were never to complain of the injury it received from the villainous attempters of it.

 

In a word, the reparation of your family dishonour, now rests in your own bosom: and which only one of these two alternatives can repair; to wit, either to Marry, or to prosecute him at Law. Bitter expedients for a soul so delicate as yours.

 

He, and all his friends, I understand, sollicit you to the first: And it is certainly, now, all the amends within his power to make. But I am assured, that you have rejected their, sollicitations, and his, with the indignation and contempt that his foul actions have deserved: But yet, that you refuse not to extend to him the Christian forgiveness he has so little reason to expect, provided he will not disturb you further.

 

But, Madam, the prosecution I advise, will not let your present and future exemption from fresh disturbance from so vile a molester, depend upon his courtesy : I should think so noble and so rightly-guided a spirit as yours, would not permit that it should, if you could help it.

 

And can indignities of any kind be properly pardoned, till we have it in our power to punish them ? To pretend to pardon, while we are labouring under the pain or dishonour of them, will be thought by some, to be but the vaunted mercy of a pusilanimous heart trembling to resent them.

 

The remedy I propose, is a severe one; but what pain can be more severe than the injury? or how will injuries be believed to grieve us, that are never honourably complained of?

 

I am sure, Miss Clarissa Harlowe, however injured, and oppressed, remains unshaken in her sentiments of honour, and virtue: And although she would sooner die, than deserve that her modesty should be drawn into question; yet she will think no truth immodest, that is to be uttered in the vindicated cause of innocence and chastity. Little, very little difference, is there, my dear young lady, between a suppressed evidence, and a falseone.

 

It is a terrible circumstance, I once more own, for a young lady of your delicacy, to be under the obligation of telling so shocking a story in public Court: But it is still a worse imputation, that she should pass over so mortal an injury unresented.

 

Conscience, honour, justice, and the cares of heaven, are on your side: And modesty would, by some, be thought but an empty name, should you refuse to obey their dictates.

 

I have been consulted, I own, on this subject. I have given it, as my opinion, that you ought to prosecute the abandoned man. But without my reasons. These I reserved, with a resolution to lay them before you, unknown to any body; that the result (if what I wish) might be your own .

 

I will only add, that the misfortunes which have befallen you, had they been the lot of a child of my own, could not have affected me more, than yours have done. My own child I love: But I both love and honour you: Since to love you, is to love virtue, good sense, prudence, and every thing that is good and noble in woman.

 

Wounded as I think all these are by the injuries, you have received, you will believe that the knowlege of your distresses must have afflicted, beyond what I am able to express,

 

Your sincere Admirer, and humble Servant,
Arthur Lewen .

 

I just now understand, that your sister will, by proper authority, propose this prosecution to you. I humbly presume,

 

that the reason why you resolved not upon this step from the first, was, that you did not know, that it would have the countenance and support of your relations .

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