Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LII

MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TUESDAY, AUG. 29.

MY DEAREST FRIEND,

We are at length returned to our own home. I had intended to wait on you in London: but my mother is very ill—Alas! my dear, she is very ill indeed—and you are likewise very ill—I see that by your’s of the 25th— What shall I do, if I lose two such near, and dear, and tender friends? She was taken ill yesterday at our last stage in our return home—and has a violent surfeit and fever, and the doctors are doubtful about her.

If she should die, how will all my pertnesses to her fly in my face!— Why, why, did I ever vex her? She says I have been all duty and obedience!—She kindly forgets all my faults, and remembers every thing I have been so happy as to oblige her in. And this cuts me to the heart.

I see, I see, my dear, that you are very bad—and I cannot bear it. Do, my beloved Miss Harlowe, if you can be better, do, for my sake, be better; and send me word of it. Let the bearer bring me a line. Be sure you send me a line. If I lose you, my more than sister, and lose my mother, I shall distrust my own conduct, and will not marry. And why should I?—Creeping, cringing in courtship!—O my dear, these men are a vile race of reptiles in our day, and mere bears in their own. See in Lovelace all that is desirable in figure, in birth, and in fortune: but in his heart a devil!—See in Hickman—Indeed, my dear, I cannot tell what any body can see in Hickman, to be always preaching in his favour. And is it to be expected that I, who could hardly bear control from a mother, should take it from a husband?—from one too, who has neither more wit, nor more understanding, than myself? yet he to be my instructor!—So he will, I suppose; but more by the insolence of his will than by the merit of his counsel. It is in vain to think of it. I cannot be a wife to any man breathing whom I at present know. This I the rather mention now, because, on my mother’s danger, I know you will be for pressing me the sooner to throw myself into another sort of protection, should I be deprived of her. But no more of this subject, or indeed of any other; for I am obliged to attend my mamma, who cannot bear me out of her sight.

*** WEDNESDAY, AUG. 30.

My mother, Heaven be praised! has had a fine night, and is much better. Her fever has yielded to medicine! and now I can write once more with freedom and ease to you, in hopes that you also are better. If this be granted to my prayers, I shall again be happy, I write with still the more alacrity as I have an opportunity given me to touch upon a subject in which you are nearly concerned.

You must know then, my dear, that your cousin Morden has been here with me. He told me of an interview he had on Monday at Lord M.’s with Lovelace; and asked me abundance of questions about you, and about that villanous man.

I could have raised a fine flame between them if I would: but, observing that he is a man of very lively passions, and believing you would be miserable if any thing should happen to him from a quarrel with a man who is known to have so many advantages at his sword, I made not the worst of the subjects we talked of. But, as I could not tell untruths in his favour, you must think I said enough to make him curse the wretch.

I don’t find, well as they all used to respect Colonel Morden, that he has influence enough upon them to bring them to any terms of reconciliation.

What can they mean by it!—But your brother is come home, it seems: so, the honour of the house, the reputation of the family, is all the cry!

The Colonel is exceedingly out of humour with them all. Yet has he not hitherto, it seems, seen your brutal brother.—I told him how ill you were, and communicated to him some of the contents of your letter. He admired you, cursed Lovelace, and raved against all your family.—He declared that they were all unworthy of you.

At his earnest request, I permitted him to take some brief notes of such of the contents of your letter to me as I thought I could read to him; and, particularly, of your melancholy conclusion.*

* See Letter XXXII. of this volume.

He says that none of your friends think you are so ill as you are; nor will believe it. He is sure they all love you; and that dearly too.

If they do, their present hardness of heart will be the subject of everlasting remorse to them should you be taken from us—but now it seems [barbarous wretches!] you are to suffer within an inch of your life.

He asked me questions about Mr. Belford: and, when he had heard what I had to say of that gentleman, and his disinterested services to you, he raved at some villanous surmises thrown out against you by that officious pedant, Brand: who, but for his gown, I find, would come off poorly enough between your cousin and Lovelace.

He was so uneasy about you himself, that on Thursday, the 24th, he sent up an honest serious man,* one Alston, a gentleman farmer, to inquire of your condition, your visiters, and the like; who brought him word that you was very ill, and was put to great straits to support yourself: but as this was told him by the gentlewoman of the house where you lodge, who, it seems, mingled it with some tart, though deserved, reflections upon your relations’ cruelty, it was not credited by them: and I myself hope it cannot be true; for surely you could not be so unjust, I will say, to my friendship, as to suffer any inconveniencies for want of money. I think I could not forgive you, if it were so.

* See Letter XXIII. ibid.

The Colonel (as one of your trustees) is resolved to see you put into possession of your estate: and, in the mean time, he has actually engaged them to remit to him for you the produce of it accrued since your grandfather’s death, (a very considerable sum;) and proposes himself to attend you with it. But, by a hint he dropt, I find you had disappointed some people’s littleness, by not writing to them for money and supplies; since they were determined to distress you, and to put you at defiance.

Like all the rest!—I hope I may say that without offence.

Your cousin imagines that, before a reconciliation takes place, they will insist that you make such a will, as to that estate, as they shall approve of: but he declares that he will not go out of England till he has seen justice done you by every body; and that you shall not be imposed on either by friend or foe—

By relation or foe, should he not have said?—for a friend will not impose upon a friend.

So, my dear, you are to buy your peace, if some people are to have their wills!

Your cousin [not I, my dear, though it was always my opinion*] says, that the whole family is too rich to be either humble, considerate, or contented. And as for himself, he has an ample fortune, he says, and thinks of leaving it wholly to you.

* See Vol. I. Letter X.

Had this villain Lovelace consulted his worldly interest only, what a fortune would he have had in you, even although your marrying him had deprived you of a paternal share!

I am obliged to leave off here. But having a good deal still more to write, and my mother better, I will pursue the subject in another letter, although I send both together. I need not say how much I am, and will ever be,

Your affectionate, &c. ANNA HOWE.