Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XLIV





As it is uncertain, from my present weak state, whether, if living, I may be in a condition to receive as I ought the favour you intend me of a visit, when you come to London, I take this opportunity to return you, while able, the humble acknowledgments of a grateful heart, for all your goodness to me from childhood till now: and more particularly for your present kind interposition in my favour—God Almighty for ever bless you, dear Sir, for the kindness you endeavoured to procure for me!

One principal end of my writing to you, in this solemn manner, is, to beg of you, which I do with the utmost earnestness, that when you come to hear the particulars of my story, you will not suffer active resentment to take place in your generous breast on my account.

Remember, my dear Cousin, that vengeance is God’s province, and he has undertaken to repay it; nor will you, I hope, invade that province:— especially as there is no necessity for you to attempt to vindicate my fame; since the offender himself (before he is called upon) has stood forth, and offered to do me all the justice that you could have extorted from him, had I lived: and when your own person may be endangered by running an equal risque with a guilty man.

Duelling, Sir, I need not tell you, who have adorned a public character, is not only an usurpation of the Divine prerogative; but it is an insult upon magistracy and good government. ’Tis an impious act. ’Tis an attempt to take away a life that ought not to depend upon a private sword; an act, the consequence of which is to hurry a soul (all its sins upon its had) into perdition; endangering that of the poor triumpher— since neither intend to give to the other that chance, as I may call it, for the Divine mercy, in an opportunity for repentance, which each presumes to hope for himself.

Seek not then, I beseech you, Sir, to aggravate my fault, by a pursuit of blood, which must necessarily be deemed a consequence of that fault. Give not the unhappy man the merit (were you assuredly to be the victor) of falling by your hand. At present he is the perfidious, the ungrateful deceiver; but will not the forfeiture of his life, and the probable loss of his soul, be a dreadful expiation for having made me miserable for a few months only, and through that misery, by the Divine favour, happy to all eternity?

In such a case, my Cousin, where shall the evil stop?—And who shall avenge on you?—And who on your avenger?

Let the poor man’s conscience, then, dear Sir, avenge me. He will one day find punishment more than enough from that. Leave him to the chance of repentance. If the Almighty will give him time for it, who should you deny it him?—Let him still be the guilty aggressor; and let no one say, Clarissa Harlowe is now amply revenged in his fall; or, in the case of your’s, (which Heaven avert!) that her fault, instead of being buried in her grave, is perpetuated, and aggravated, by a loss far greater than that of herself.

Often, Sir, has the more guilty been the vanquisher of the less. An Earl of Shrewsbury, in the reign of Charles II. as I have read, endeavouring to revenge the greatest injury that man can do to man, met with his death at Barn-Elms, from the hand of the ignoble Duke who had vilely dishonoured him. Nor can it be thought an unequal dispensation, were it generally to happen that the usurper of the Divine prerogative should be punished for his presumption by the man whom he sought to destroy, and who, however previously criminal, is put, in this case, upon a necessary act of self-defence.

May Heaven protect you, Sir, in all your ways; and, once more, I pray, reward you for all your kindness to me! A kindness so worthy of your heart, and so exceedingly grateful to mine: that of seeking to make peace, and to reconcile parents to a once-beloved child; uncles to a niece late their favourite; and a brother and sister to a sister whom once they thought not unworthy of that tender relation. A kindness so greatly preferable to the vengeance of a murdering sword.

Be a comforter, dear Sir, to my honoured parents, as you have been to me; and may we, through the Divine goodness to us both, meet in that blessed eternity, into which, as I humbly trust, I shall have entered when you will read this.

So prays, and to her latest hour will pray, my dear Cousin Morden, my friend, my guardian, but not my avenger—[dear Sir! remember that!—]

Your ever-affectionate and obliged CLARISSA HARLOWE.