Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XVI

TO JAMES HARLOWE, JUN. ESQ.

SIR,

There was but one time, but one occasion, after the rash step I was precipitated upon, that I would hope to be excused looking up to you in the character of a brother and friend. And NOW is that time, and THIS the occasion. NOW, at reading this, will you pity your late unhappy sister! NOW will you forgive her faults, both supposed and real! And NOW will you afford to her memory that kind concern which you refused to her before!

I write, my Brother, in the first place, to beg your pardon for the offence my unhappy step gave to you, and to the rest of a family so dear to me.

Virgin purity should not so behave as to be suspected, yet, when you come to know all my story, you will find farther room for pity, if not more than pity, for your late unhappy sister!

O that passion had not been deaf! That misconception would have given way to inquiry! That your rigorous heart, if it could not itself be softened (moderating the power you had obtained over every one) had permitted other hearts more indulgently to expand!

But I write not to give pain. I had rather you should think me faulty still, than take to yourself the consequence that will follow from acquitting me.

Abandoning therefore a subject which I had not intended to touch upon, (for I hope, at the writing of this, I am above the spirit of recrimination,) let me tell you, Sir, that my next motive for writing to you in this last and most solemn manner is, to beg of you to forego any active resentments (which may endanger a life so precious to all your friends) against the man to whose elaborate baseness I owe my worldly ruin.

For, ought an innocent man to run an equal risque with a guilty one?— A more than equal risque, as the guilty one has been long inured to acts of violence, and is skilled in the arts of offence?

You would not arrogate to yourself God’s province, who has said, Vengeance is mine, and I will repay it. If you would, I tremble for the consequence: For will it not be suitable to the divine justice to punish the presumptuous innocent (as you would be in this case) in the very error, and that by the hand of the self-defending guilty—reserving him for a future day of vengeance for his accumulated crimes?

Leave then the poor wretch to the divine justice. Let your sister’s fault die with her. At least, let it not be revived in blood. Life is a short stage where longest. A little time hence, the now-green head will be grey, if it lives this little time: and if Heaven will afford him time for repentance, why should not you?

Then think, my Brother, what will be the consequence to your dear parents, if the guilty wretch, who has occasioned to them the loss of a daughter, should likewise deprive them of their best hope, and only son, more worth in the family account than several daughters?

Would you add, my Brother, to those distresses which you hold your sister so inexcusable for having (although from involuntary and undersigned causes) given?

Seek not then, I beseech you, to extend the evil consequences of your sister’s error. His conscience, when it shall please God to touch it, will be sharper than your sword.

I have still another motive for writing to you in this solemn manner: it is, to entreat you to watch over your passions. The principal fault I knew you to be guilty of is, the violence of your temper when you think yourself in the right; which you would oftener be, but for that very violence.

You have several times brought your life into danger by it.

Is not the man guilty of a high degree of injustice, who is more apt to give contradiction, than able to bear it? How often, with you, has impetuosity brought on abasement? A consequence too natural.

Let me then caution you, dear Sir, against a warmth of temper, an impetuosity when moved, and you so ready to be moved, that may hurry you into unforeseen difficulties; and which it is in some measure a sin not to endeavour to restrain. God enable you to do it for the sake of your own peace and safety, as well present as future! and for the sake of your family and friends, who all see your fault, but are tender of speaking to you of it!

As for me, my Brother, my punishment has been seasonable. God gave me grace to make a right use of my sufferings. I early repented. I never loved the man half so much as I hated his actions, when I saw what he was capable of. I gave up my whole heart to a better hope. God blessed my penitence and my reliance upon him. And now I presume to say, I AM HAPPY.

May Heave preserve you in safety, health, and honour, and long continue your life for a comfort and stay to your honoured parents! And may you, in that change of your single state, meet with a wife as agreeable to every one else as to yourself, and be happy in a hopeful race, and not have one Clarissa among them, to embitter your comforts when she should give you most comfort! But may my example be of use to warn the dear creatures whom once I hoped to live to see and to cherish, of the evils with which the deceitful world abounds! are the prayers of

Your affectionate sister, CL. HARLOWE.