Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LIV

MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [IN ANSWER TO HER’S OF JULY 27, SEE LETTERS L. LI. OF THIS VOLUME.] FRIDAY NIGHT, JULY 28.

I will now, my dearest friend, write to you all my mind, without reserve, on your resolution not to have this vilest of men. You gave me, in your’s of Sunday the 23d, reasons so worthy of the pure mind of my Clarissa, in support of this your resolution, that nothing but self-love, lest I should lose my ever-amiable friend, could have prevailed upon me to wish you to alter it.

Indeed, I thought it was impossible there could be (however desirable) so noble an instance given by any of our sex, of a passion conquered, when there were so many inducements to give way to it. And, therefore, I was willing to urge you once more to overcome your just indignation, and to be prevailed upon by the solicitations of his friends, before you carried your resentments to so great a height, that it would be more difficult for you, and less to your honour to comply, than if you had complied at first.

But now, my dear, that I see you fixed in your noble resolution; and that it is impossible for your pure mind to join itself with that of so perjured a miscreant; I congratulate you most heartily upon it; and beg your pardon for but seeming to doubt that theory and practice were not the same thing with my beloved Clarissa.

I have only one thing that saddens my heart on this occasion; and that is, the bad state of health Mr. Hickman (unwillingly) owns you are in. Hitherto you have well observed the doctrine you always laid down to me, That a cursed person should first seek the world’s opinion of her; and, in all cases where the two could not be reconciled, have preferred the first to the last; and are, of consequence, well justified to your own heart, as well as to your Anna Howe. Let me therefore beseech you to endeavour, by all possible means, to recover your health and spirits: and this, as what, if it can be effected, will crown the work, and show the world, that you were indeed got above the base wretch; and, though put out of your course for a little while, could resume it again, and go on blessing all within your knowledge, as well by your example as by your precepts.

For Heaven’s sake, then, for the world’s sake, for the honour of our sex, and for my sake, once more I beseech you, try to overcome this shock: and, if you can overcome it, I shall then be as happy as I wish to be; for I cannot, indeed I cannot, think of parting with you, for many, many years to come.

The reasons you give for discouraging my wishes to have you near us are so convincing, that I ought at present to acquiesce in them: but, my dear, when your mind is fully settled, as, (now you are so absolutely determined in it, with regard this wretch,) I hope it will soon be, I shall expect you with us, or near us: and then you shall chalk out every path that I will set my foot in; nor will I turn aside either to the right hand or to the left.

You wish I had not mediated for you to your friends. I wish so too; because my mediation was ineffectual; because it may give new ground for the malice of some of them to work upon; and because you are angry with me for doing so. But how, as I said in my former, could I sit down in quiet, when I knew how uneasy their implacableness made you?—But I will tear myself from the subject; for I see I shall be warm again—and displease you—and there is not one thing in the world that I would do, however agreeable to myself, if I thought it would disoblige you; nor any one that I would omit to do, if I knew it would give you pleasure. And indeed, my dear half-severe friend, I will try if I cannot avoid the fault as willingly as I would the rebuke.

For this reason, I forbear saying any thing on so nice a subject as your letter to your sister. It must be right, because you think it so—and if it be taken as it ought, that will show you that it is. But if it beget insults and revilings, as it is but too likely, I find you don’t intend to let me know it.

You were always so ready to accuse yourself for other people’s faults, and to suspect your own conduct rather than the judgment of your relations, that I have often told you I cannot imitate you in this. It is not a necessary point of belief with me, that all people in years are therefore wise; or that all young people are therefore rash and headstrong: it may be generally the case, as far as I know: and possibly it may be so in the case of my mother and her girl: but I will venture to say that it has not yet appeared to be so between the principals of Harlowe-place and their second daughter.

You are for excusing them beforehand for their expected cruelty, as not knowing what you have suffered, nor how ill you are: they have heard of the former, and are not sorry for it: of the latter they have been told, and I have most reason to know how they have taken it—but I shall be far from avoiding the fault, and as surely shall incur the rebuke, if I say any more upon this subject. I will therefore only add at present, That your reasonings in their behalf show you to be all excellence; their returns to you that they are all——Do, my dear, let me end with a little bit of spiteful justice—but you won’t, I know—so I have done, quite done, however reluctantly: yet if you think of the word I would have said, don’t doubt the justice of it, and fill up the blank with it.

You intimate that were I actually married, and Mr. Hickman to desire it, you would think of obliging me with a visit on the occasion; and that, perhaps, when with me, it would be difficult for you to remove far from me.

Lord, my dear, what a stress do you seem to lay upon Mr. Hickman’s desiring it!—To be sure he does and would of all things desire to have you near us, and with us, if we might be so favoured—policy, as well as veneration for you, would undoubtedly make the man, if not a fool, desire this. But let me tell you, that if Mr. Hickman, after marriage, should pretend to dispute with me my friendships, as I hope I am not quite a fool, I should let him know how far his own quiet was concerned in such an impertinence; especially if they were such friendships as were contracted before I knew him.

I know I always differed from you on this subject: for you think more highly of a husband’s prerogative than most people do of the royal one. These notions, my dear, from a person of your sense and judgment, are no way advantageous to us; inasmuch as they justify the assuming sex in their insolence; when hardly one out of ten of them, their opportunities considered, deserves any prerogative at all. Look through all the families we know; and we shall not find one-third of them have half the sense of their wives. And yet these are to be vested with prerogatives! And a woman of twice their sense has nothing to do but hear, tremble, and obey—and for conscience-sake too, I warrant!

But Mr. Hickman and I may perhaps have a little discourse upon these sorts of subjects, before I suffer him to talk of the day: and then I shall let him know what he has to trust to; as he will me, if he be a sincere man, what he pretends to expect from me. But let me tell you, my dear, that it is more in your power than, perhaps, you think it, to hasten the day so much pressed for by my mother, as well as wished for by you—for the very day that you can assure me that you are in a tolerable state of health, and have discharged your doctor and apothecary, at their own motions, on that account—some day in a month from that desirable news shall be it. So, my dear, make haste and be well, and then this matter will be brought to effect in a manner more agreeable to your Anna Howe than it otherwise ever can.

I sent this day, by a particular hand, to the Misses Montague, your letter of just reprobation of the greatest profligate in the kingdom; and hope I shall not have done amiss that I transcribe some of the paragraphs of your letter of the 23d, and send them with it, as you at first intended should be done.

You are, it seems, (and that too much for your health,) employed in writing. I hope it is in penning down the particulars of your tragical story. And my mother has put me in mind to press you to it, with a view that one day, if it might be published under feigned names, it would be as much use as honour to the sex. My mother says she cannot help admiring you for the propriety of your resentment of the wretch; and she would be extremely glad to have her advice of penning your sad story complied with. And then, she says, your noble conduct throughout your trials and calamities will afford not only a shining example to your sex, but at the same time, (those calamities befalling SUCH a person,) a fearful warning to the inconsiderate young creatures of it.

On Monday we shall set out on our journey; and I hope to be back in a fortnight, and on my return will have one pull more with my mother for a London journey: and, if the pretence must be the buying of clothes, the principal motive will be that of seeing once more my dear friend, while I can say I have not finally given consent to the change of a visiter into a relation, and so can call myself MY OWN, as well as

Your ANNA HOWE.