LETTER 428: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO THE REV. DR LEWEN

Sat. Aug. 19. 

Reverend and Dear Sir,
I thought, till I received your affectionate and welcome Letter, that I had neither Father, Uncle, Brother left; nor hardly a friend among my former favourers of your Sex. Yet, knowing you so well, and having no reason to upbraid myself with a faulty will, I was to blame (even although I had doubted the continuance of your good opinion) to decline the trial whether I had forfeited it or not; and if I had, whether I could not, honourably,reinstate myself in it.

But, Sir, it was owing to different causes that I did not; partly to shame, to think how high, in my happier days, I stood in your esteem, and how much I must be sunk in it, since those so much nearer in relation to me gave me up; partly to deep distress, which makes the humbled heart diffident; and made mine afraid to claim the kindred mind in yours, which would have supplied to me in some measure all the dear and lost relations I have named.

Then, So loth, as I sometimes was, to be thought to want to make a party against those whom both duty and inclination bid me reverence: So longtrailed on between hope and doubt : So little my own mistress at one time; so fearful of making or causing mischief, at another; and not being encouraged to hope, by your kind notice, that my application to you would be acceptable;—apprehending, that my relations had engaged yoursilence at least ( a ) —

These —But why these unavailing retrospections now? —I was to be unhappy—In order to be happy; that is my hope! —Resigning therefore to That hope, I will, without any further preamble, write a few lines (if writing to you, I can write but a few) in answer to the subject of your kind Letter.

Permit me, then, to say, That I believe your arguments would have been unanswerable in almost every other case of This nature, but in That of the unhappy Clarissa Harlowe .

It is certain, that creatures who cannot stand the shock of public shame, should be doubly careful how they expose themselves to the danger of incurring private guilt, which may possibly bring them to it. But as to myself, suppose there were no objections from the declining way I am in as to my health; and supposing I could have prevailed upon myself to appear against This man; were there not room to apprehend, that the end so much wished for by my friends (to wit, his condign punishment) would not have been obtained, when it came to be seen, that I had consented to give him a clandestine meeting; and, in consequence of that, had been weakly tricked out of myself; and further still, had not been able to avoid living under one roof with him for several weeks; which I did (not only without complaint, but) without cause of complaint?

Little advantage in a Court (perhaps, bandied about, and jested profligately with) would some of those pleas in my favour have been, which out of Court, and to a private and serious audience, would have carried the greatest weight against him—Such, particularly, as the infamous methods to which he had recourse.—

It would, no doubt, have been a ready retort from every mouth, that I ought not to have thrown myself into the power of such a man, and that I ought to take for my pains what had befallen me.

But had the Prosecution been carried on to effect, and had he even been sentenced to death, can it be supposed, that his family would not have had interest enough to obtain his pardon, for a crime thought too lightly of, though one of the greatest that can be committed against a creature valuing her honour above her life? —While I had been censured as pursuing with sanguinary views a man who offered me early all the reparation in his power to make?

And had he been pardoned, would he not then have been at liberty to do as much mischief as ever?

I dare say, Sir, such is the assurance of the man upon whom my unhappy destiny threw me; and such his inveteracy to my family (which would then have appeared to be justified by their known inveteracy to him, and by their earnest endeavours to take away his life); that he would not have been sorry to have had an opportunity to confront Me, and my Father, Uncles, and Brother, at the Bar of a Court of justice, on such an occasion. In which case, would not (on his acquittal, or pardon) resentments have been reciprocally heightened? And then would my Brother, or my Cousin Morden, have been more secure than now?

How do these considerations aggravate my fault! My motives, at first, were not indeed blameable: But I had forgotten the excellent caution, which yet I was not ignorant of, That we ought not to do evil that good may come of it .

In full conviction of the purity of my heart, and of the firmness of my principles [Why may I not, thus called upon, say what I am conscious of, and yet without the imputation of faulty pride; since all is but a Duty, and I should be utterly inexcuseable, could I not justly say what I do? —In this full conviction] he has offered me Marriage. He has avowed his penitence: A sincere penitence I have reason to think it, tho’ perhaps not a Christianone. And his noble relations (kinder to the poor Sufferer than her own) on the same conviction, and his own not ungenerous acknowledgements, have joined to intercede with me to forgive and accept of him. Altho’ I cannot comply with the latter part of their intercession, have not you, Sir, from the best Rules, and from the divinest Example, taught me to forgive injuries?

The injury I have received from him is indeed of the highest nature, and it was attended with circumstances of unmanly baseness, and premeditation; yet, I bless God, it has not tainted my mind; it has not hurt my morals. No thanks indeed to the wicked man that it has not. No vile courses have followed it. My will is unviolated. The evil (respecting myself, and not my friends ) is merely personal. No credulity, no weakness, no want of vigilance, have I to reproach myself with. I have, thro’ Grace, triumphed over the deepest machinations. I have escaped from him. I have renounced him. The man whom once I could have loved, I have been enabled to despise: And shall not Charity complete my triumph? And shall I not enjoy it? —And where would be my triumph, if he deserved my forgiveness? —Poor man! He has had a loss in losing me! I have the pride to think so, because I think I know my own heart. I have had none in losing him!

But I have another plea to make, which alone would have been enough (as I presume) to answer the contents of your very kind and friendly Letter.

I know, my dear and reverend friend, the spiritual guide and director of my happier days! I know, that you will allow of my endeavour to bring myself to this charitable disposition, when I tell you how near I think myself to that great and awful moment, in which, and even in the ardent preparation to which, every sense of indignity or injury that concerns not the immortal Soul, ought to be absorbed in higher and more important contemplations.

Thus much for myself .

And for the satisfaction of my friends and favourers, Miss Howe is solicitous to have all those Letters and Materials preserved, which will set my whole story in a true light. The good Dr. Lewen is one of the principal of those friends and favourers.

The warning that may be given from those papers to all such young creatures as may have known or heard of me, may be of more efficacy to the end wished for, as I humbly presume to think, than my appearance could have been in a Court of Justice, pursuing a doubtful event, under the disadvantages I have mentioned. And if, my dear and good Sir, you are now, on considering every-thing, of this opinion, and I could know it, I should consider it as a particular felicity; being as solicitous as ever to be justified in what I may in your eyes.

I am sorry, Sir, that your indisposition has reduced you to the necessity of writing upon your pillow. But how much am I obliged to that kind and generous concern for me, which has impelled you, as I may say, to write a Letter, containing so many paternal lines, with such inconvenience to yourself!

May the Almighty bless you, dear and reverend Sir, for all your goodness to me of long time past, as well as for that which engages my present gratitude! Continue to esteem me to the last, as I do and will venerate you! And let me bespeak your prayers; the continuance, I should say, of your prayers; for I doubt not, that I have always had them: And to them, perhaps, has in part been owing (as well as to your pious precepts instilled thro’ my earlier youth) that I have been able to make the Stand I have made; altho’ every-thing that you prayed for has not been granted to me by that Divine Wisdom, which knows what is best for its poor creatures.

My prayers for you are, That it will please God to restore you to your affectionate flock; and after as many years of life as shall be for His service, and to your own comfort, give us a happy meeting in those regions of blessedness, which you have taught me, as well by Example, as by Precept, to aspire to!

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