Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LXIII

MRS. NORTON, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE MONDAY NIGHT, JULY 3.

O the barbarous villany of this detestable man! And is there a man in the world who could offer violence to so sweet a creature!

And are you sure you are now out of his reach?

You command me to keep secret the particulars of the vile treatment you have met with; or else, upon an unexpected visit which Miss Harlowe favoured me with, soon after I had received your melancholy letter, I should have been tempted to own I had heard from you, and to have communicated to her such parts of your two letters as would have demonstrated your penitence, and your earnestness to obtain the revocation of your father’s malediction, as well as his protection from outrages that may still be offered to you. But then your sister would probably have expected a sight of the letters, and even to have been permitted to take them with her to the family.

Yet they must one day be acquainted with the sad story:—and it is impossible but they must pity you, and forgive you, when they know your early penitence, and your unprecedented sufferings; and that you have fallen by the brutal force of a barbarous ravisher, and not by the vile arts of a seducing lover.

The wicked man gives it out at Lord M.’s, as Miss Harlowe tells me, that he is actually married to you—yet she believes it not: nor had I the heart to let her know the truth.

She put it close to me, Whether I had not corresponded with you from the time of your going away? I could safely tell her, (as I did,) that I had not: but I said, that I was well informed, that you took extremely to heart your father’s imprecation; and that, if she would excuse me, I would say it would be a kind and sisterly part, if she would use her interest to get you discharged from it.

Among other severe things, she told me, that my partial fondness for you made me very little consider the honour of the rest of the family: but, if I had not heard this from you, she supposed I was set on by Miss Howe.

She expressed herself with a good deal of bitterness against that young lady: who, it seems, every where, and to every body, (for you must think that your story is the subject of all conversations,) rails against your family; treating them, as your sister says, with contempt, and even with ridicule.

I am sorry such angry freedoms are taken, for two reasons; first, because such liberties never do any good. I have heard you own, that Miss Howe has a satirical vein; but I should hope that a young lady of her sense, and right cast of mind, must know that the end of satire is not to exasperate, but amend; and should never be personal. If it be, as my good father used to say, it may make an impartial person suspect that the satirist has a natural spleen to gratify; which may be as great a fault in him, as any of those which he pretends to censure and expose in others.

Perhaps a hint of this from you will not be thrown away.

My second reason is, That these freedoms, from so warm a friend to you as Miss Howe is known to be, are most likely to be charged to your account.

My resentments are so strong against this vilest of men, that I dare not touch upon the shocking particulars which you mention of his baseness. What defence, indeed, could there be against so determined a wretch, after you was in his power? I will only repeat my earnest supplication to you, that, black as appearances are, you will not despair. Your calamities are exceeding great; but then you have talents proportioned to your trials. This every body allows.

Suppose the worst, and that your family will not be moved in your favour, your cousin Morden will soon arrive, as Miss Harlowe told me. If he should even be got over to their side, he will however see justice done you; and then may you live an exemplary life, making hundreds happy, and teaching young ladies to shun the snares in which you have been so dreadfully entangled.

As to the man you have lost, is an union with such a perjured heart as his, with such an admirable one as your’s, to be wished for? A base, low-hearted wretch, as you justly call him, with all his pride of ancestry; and more an enemy to himself with regard to his present and future happiness than to you, in the barbarous and ungrateful wrongs he has done you: I need not, I am sure, exhort you to despise such a man as this, since not to be able to do so, would be a reflection upon a sex to which you have always been an honour.

Your moral character is untainted: the very nature of your sufferings, as you will observe, demonstrates that. Cheer up, therefore, your dear heart, and do not despair; for is it not GOD who governs the world, and permits some things, and directs others, as He pleases? and will He not reward temporary sufferings, innocently incurred, and piously supported, with eternal felicity?—And what, my dear, is this poor needle’s point of NOW to a boundless eternity?

My heart, however, labours under a double affliction: For my poor boy is very, very bad—a violent fever—nor can it be brought to intermit.—Pray for him, my dearest Miss—for his recovery, if God see fit.—I hope God will see fit—if not (how can I bear to suppose that!) Pray for me, that he will give me that patience and resignation which I have been wishing to you. I am, my dearest young lady,

Your ever affectionate JUDITH NORTON.