Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XIX


I have been reading thy shocking letter—Poor Belton! what a multitude of lively hours have we passed together! He was a fearless, cheerful fellow: who’d have thought all that should end in such dejected whimpering and terror?

But why didst thou not comfort the poor man about the rencounter between him and that poltroon Metcalfe? He acted in that affair like a man of true honour, and as I should have acted in the same circumstances. Tell him I say so; and that what happened he could neither help nor foresee.

Some people are as sensible of a scratch from a pin’s point, as others from a push of a sword: and who can say any thing for the sensibility of such fellows? Metcalfe would resent for his sister, when his sister resented not for herself. Had she demanded her brother’s protection and resentment, that would have been another man’s matte, to speak in Lord M.’s phrase: but she herself thought her brother a coxcomb to busy himself undesired in her affairs, and wished for nothing but to be provided for decently and privately in her lying-in; and was willing to take the chance of Maintenon-ing his conscience in her favour,* and getting him to marry when the little stranger came; for she knew what an easy, good-natured fellow he was. And indeed if she had prevailed upon him, it might have been happy for both; as then he would not have fallen in with his cursed Thomasine. But truly this officious brother of her’s must interpose. This made a trifling affair important: And what was the issue? Metcalfe challenged; Belton met him; disarmed him; gave him his life: but the fellow, more sensible in his skin than in his head, having received a scratch, was frighted: it gave him first a puke, then a fever, and then he died, that was all. And how could Belton help that? —But sickness, a long tedious sickness, will make a bugbear of any thing to a languishing heart, I see that. And so far was Mowbray à-propos in the verses from Nat. Lee, which thou hast described.

* Madam Maintenon was reported to have prevailed upon Lewis XIV. of France, in his old age, (sunk, as he was, by ill success in the field,) to marry her, by way of compounding with his conscience for the freedoms of his past life, to which she attributed his public losses.

Merely to die, no man of reason fears, is a mistake, say thou, or say thy author, what ye will. And thy solemn parading about the natural repugnance between life and death, is a proof that it is.

Let me tell thee, Jack, that so much am I pleased with this world, in the main; though, in some points too, the world (to make a person of it,) has been a rascal to me; so delighted am I with the joys of youth; with my worldly prospects as to fortune; and now, newly, with the charming hopes given me by my dear, thrice dear, and for ever dear CLARISSA; that were I even sure that nothing bad would come hereafter, I should be very loth (very much afraid, if thou wilt have it so,) to lay down my life and them together; and yet, upon a call of honour, no man fears death less than myself.

But I have not either inclination or leisure to weigh thy leaden arguments, except in the pig, or, as thou wouldst say, in the lump.

If I return thy letters, let me have them again some time hence, that is to say, when I am married, or when poor Belton is half forgotten; or when time has enrolled the honest fellow among those whom we have so long lost, that we may remember them with more pleasure than pain; and then I may give them a serious perusal, and enter with thee as deeply as thou wilt into the subject.

When I am married, said I?—What a sound has that!

I must wait with patience for a sight of this charming creature, till she is at her father’s. And yet, as the but blossoming beauty, as thou tellest me, is reduced to a shadow, I should have been exceedingly delighted to see her now, and every day till the happy one; that I might have the pleasure of observing how sweetly, hour by hour, she will rise to her pristine glories, by means of that state of ease and contentment, which will take place of the stormy past, upon her reconciliation with her friends, and our happy nuptials.