Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXXVII



If you do not impute to live, and to terror raised by love, the poor figure I made before you last night, you will not do me justice. I thought I would try to the very last moment, if, by complying with you in every thing, I could prevail upon you to promise to be mine on Thursday next, since you refused me an earlier day. Could I have been so happy, you had not been hindered going to Hampstead, or wherever else you pleased. But when I could not prevail upon you to give me this assurance, what room had I, (my demerit so great,) to suppose, that your going thither would not be to lose you for ever?

I will own to you, Madam, that yesterday afternoon I picked up the paper dropt by Dorcas; who has confessed that she would have assisted you in getting away, if she had had opportunity so to do; and undoubtedly dropped it by accident. And could I have prevailed upon you as to Thursday next, I would have made no use of it; secure as I should have been in your word given, to be mine. But when I found you inflexible, I was resolved to try, if, by resenting Dorcas’s treachery, I could not make your pardon of me the condition of mine to her: and if not, to make a handle of it to revoke my consent to your going away from Mrs. Sinclair’s; since the consequence of that must have been so fatal to me.

So far, indeed, was my proceeding low and artful: and when I was challenged with it, as such, in so high and noble a manner, I could not avoid taking shame to myself upon it.

But you must permit me, Madam, to hope, that you will not punish me too heavily for so poor a contrivance, since no dishonour was meant you: and since, in the moment of its execution, you had as great an instance of my incapacity to defend a wrong, a low measure, and, at the same time, in your power over me, as mortal man could give—in a word, since you must have seen, that I was absolutely under the controul both of conscience and of love.

I will not offer to defend myself, for wishing you to remain where you are, till either you give me your word to meet me at the altar on Thursday; or till I have the honour of attending you, preparative to the solemnity which will make that day the happiest of my life.

I am but too sensible, that this kind of treatment may appear to you with the face of an arbitrary and illegal imposition: but as the consequences, not only to ourselves, but to both our families, may be fatal, if you cannot be moved in my favour; let me beseech you to forgive this act of compulsion, on the score of the necessity you your dear self have laid me under to be guilty of it; and to permit the solemnity of next Thursday to include an act of oblivion for all past offences.

The orders I have given to the people of the house are: ‘That you shall be obeyed in every particular that is consistent with my expectations of finding you there on my return on Wednesday next: that Mrs. Sinclair and her nieces, having incurred your just displeasure, shall not, without your orders, come into your presence: that neither shall Dorcas, till she has fully cleared her conduct to your satisfaction, be permitted to attend you: but Mabell, in her place; of whom you seemed some time ago to express some liking. Will. I have left behind me to attend your commands. If he be either negligent or impertinent, your dismission shall be a dismission of him from my service for ever. But, as to letters which may be sent you, or any which you may have to send, I must humbly entreat, that none such pass from or to you, for the few days that I shall be absent.’ But I do assure you, madam, that the seals of both sorts shall be sacred: and the letters, if such be sent, shall be given into your own hands the moment the ceremony is performed, or before, if you require it.

Mean time I will inquire, and send you word, how Miss Howe does; and to what, if I can be informed, her long silence is owing.

Dr. Perkins I found here, attending my Lord, when I arrived with Dr. S. He acquaints me that your father, mother, uncles, and the still less worthy persons of your family, are well; and intend to be all at your uncle Harlowe’s next week; I presume, with intent to keep his anniversary. This can make no alteration, but a happy one, as to persons, on Thursday; because Mr. Tomlinson assured me, that if any thing fell out to hinder your uncle’s coming up in person, (which, however, he did not then expect,) he would be satisfied if his friend the Captain were proxy for him. I shall send a man and horse to-morrow to the Captain, to be at greater certainty.

I send this by a special messenger, who will wait your pleasure in relation to the impatiently-wished-for Thursday: which I humbly hope will be signified by a line.

My Lord, though hardly sensible, and unmindful of every thing but of your felicity, desires his most affectionate compliments to you. He has in readiness to present to you a very valuable set of jewels, which he hopes will be acceptable, whether he lives to see you adorn them or not.

Lady Sarah and Lady Betty have also their tokens of respect ready to court your acceptance: but may Heaven incline you to give the opportunity of receiving their personal compliments, and those of my cousins Montague, before the next week be out!

His Lordship is exceeding ill. Dr. S. has no hopes of him. The only consolation I can have for the death of a relation who loves me so well, if he do die, must arise from the additional power it will put into my hands of showing how much I am,

My dearest life, Your ever-affectionate, faithful, LOVELACE.