Friday night, Sept. 8. past ten.
I will now take up the account of our proceedings from my letter of last night, which contained the dying words of this incomparable lady.
As soon as we had seen the last scene closed (so blessedly for herself!) we left the body to the care of the good women, who, according to the orders she had given them that very night, removed her into that last house which she had display’d so much fortitude in providing.
In the morning, between 7 and 8 o’clock, according to appointment, the Colonel came to me here. He was very much out of order. We went together, accompanied by Mrs. Lovick and Mrs. Smith, into the deceased’s chamber. We could not help taking a view of the lovely corpse, and admiring the charming serenity of her noble aspect. The women declared, they never saw death so lovely before; and that she looked as if in an easy slumber, the colour having not quite left her cheeks and lips.
I unlocked the drawer, in which she had deposited her papers. I told you in mine of Monday last, that she had the night before sealed up with three black seals a parcel inscribed, As soon as I am certainly dead, this to be broken open by Mr. Belford . I accused myself for having not done it over night. But really I was then incapable of any thing.
I broke it open accordingly, and found in it no less than eleven letters, each sealed with her own seal and black wax, one of which was directed to me.
I will inclose a copy of it.
To John Belford, Esq;
Sunday Evening, Sept. 3.
I take this last and solemn occasion to repeat to you my thanks for all your kindness to me at a time when I most needed countenance and protection.
A few considerations I beg leave, as now, at your perusal of This, from the dead, to press upon you, with all the warmth of a sincere friendship.
By the time you will see This, you will have had an instance, I humbly trust, of the comfortable importance of a pacified conscience, in the last hours of one, who, to the last hour, will wish your eternal welfare.
The great Duke of Luxemburgh, as I have heard, on his death-bed, declared, That he would then much rather have had it to reflect upon, that he had administered a cup of cold water to a worthy poor creature in distress, than that he had won so many battles as he had triumphed for—And, as one well observes, All the sentiments of worldly grandeur vanish at that unavoidable moment which decides the destiny of all men.
If then, Sir, at the tremendous hour, it be thus with the conquerors of armies, and the subduers of nations, let me, in very few words (many are not needed) ask, What, at That period, must be the reflections of those (if capable of reflection) who have lived a life of sense and offence; whose study and whose pride most ingloriously has been to seduce the innocent, and to ruin the weak, the unguarded, and the friendless; made still more friendless by their base seductions? —Oh! Mr. Belford, weigh, ponder, and reflect upon it, now, that in health, and in vigour of mind and body, the reflections will most avail you— What an ingrateful, what an unmanly, what a meaner than reptile pride is this!
In the next place, Sir, let me beg of you, for my sake, who AM, or, as now you will best read it, have been, driven to the necessity of applying to you to be the Executor of my will, that you will bear, according to that generosity which I think to be in you, with all my friends, and particularly with my brother (who is really a worthy young man, but perhaps a little too headstrong in his first resentments and conceptions of things) if any thing, by reason of this trust, should fall out disagreeably; and that you will study to make peace, and to reconcile all parties; and more especially, that you, who seem to have a great influence upon your still more headstrong friend, will interpose, if occasion be, to prevent further mischief—For surely, Sir, that violent spirit may sit down satisfied with the evils he has already wrought; and, particularly, with the wrongs, the heinous and ignoble wrongs, he has in me done to my family, wounded in the tenderest part of its honour.
To this request I have already your repeated promise. I claim the observance of it, therefore, as a debt from you: And tho’ I hope I need not doubt it, yet was I willing, on this solemn, this last occasion, thus earnestly to reinforce it.
I have another request to make to you; It is only, That you will be pleased, by a particular messenger, to forward the inclosed letters as directed.
And now, Sir, having the presumption to think, that an useful member is lost to society by means of the unhappy step which has brought my life so soon to its period, let me hope, that I may be an humble instrument in the hands of Providence, to reform a man of your parts and abilities; and then I shall think that loss will be more abundantly repaired to the world, while it will be, by God’s goodness, my gain: And I shall have this further hope, that once more I shall have an opportunity, in a blessed Eternity, to thank you, as I now repeatedly do, for the good you have done to, and the trouble you will have taken for,
Your obliged Servant
Clarissa Harlowe .
The other letters are directed, To her Father, To her Mother, One to her two Uncles, To her Brother, To her Sister, To her Aunt Hervey, To her Cousin Morden, To Miss Howe, To Mrs. Norton, and lastly one to You, in performance of her promise, that a letter should be sent you when she arrived at her Father’s house ! —I will withhold this last till I can be assured, that you will be fitter o receive it than Tourville tells me You are at present.
Copies of all these are sealed up, and intitled, Copies of my Ten posthumous letters, for J. Belford, Esq ; and put in among the bundle of papers left to my direction, which I have not yet had leisure to open.
No wonder, while able, that she was always writing, since thus only of late could she employ that time which heretofore, from the long days she made, caused so many beautiful works to spring from her fingers. It is my opinion, that there never was a lady so young, who wrote so much, and with such celerity. Her thoughts keeping pace, as I have seen, with her pen, she hardly ever stopp’d or hesitated; and very seldom blotted out, or altered. It was a natural talent she was mistress of, among many other extraordinary ones.
I gave the Colonel his letter, and ordered Harry instantly to get ready to carry the others.
Mean time (retiring into the next apartment) we opened the Will. We were both so much affected in perusing it, that at one time the Colonel, breaking off, gave it to me to read on; at another, I gave it back to him to proceed with; neither of us being able to read it thro’, without such tokens of sensibility as affected the voices of each.
Mrs. Lovick, Mrs. Smith, and her Nurse, were still more touched, when we read those articles in which they are respectively remembered: But I will avoid mentioning the particulars (except in what relates to the thread of my narration) as I shall send you a copy of it in proper time.
The Colonel told me, he was ready to account with me for the moneys he had brought up from her friends; which would enable me, as he said, directly to execute the legacy-parts of it; and he would needs at that instant force into my hands a paper relating to that subject. I put it in my pocket-book, without looking into it; telling him, That as I hoped he would do all in his power to promote a literal performance of the will, I must beg his advice and assistance in the execution of it.
Her request to be buried with her ancestors, made a letter of the following import necessary, which I prevailed upon the Colonel to write; being unwilling myself (so early at least) to appear officious in the eye of a family which probably wishes not any communication with me.
To James Harlowe, jun. Esq;
The letter which the bearer of this brings with him, will, I presume, make it unnecessary to acquaint you and my cousins with the death of the most excellent of women. But I am requested by her Executor, who will soon send you a copy of her last Will, to acquaint her father (which I choose to do by your means) that in it she earnestly desires to be laid in the family-vault, at the feet of her grandfather.
If her father will not admit of it, she has directed her body to be buried in the church-yard of the parish where she died.
I need not tell you, that a speedy answer to This is necessary.
Her Beatification commenced yesterday afternoon, exactly at 40 minutes after six.
I can write no more, than that I am
Wm. Morden .
Friday morn. Sept. 8.
By the time this was written, and by the Colonel’s leave transcribed, Harry came booted and spurred, his horse at the door; and I delivered him the letters to the family, with those to Mrs. Norton and Miss Howe (eight in all) together with the above of the Colonel to Mr. James Harlowe; and gave him orders to make the utmost dispatch with them.
The Colonel and I have bespoke mourning for our selves and servants.