Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LXIV

MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MRS. JUDITH NORTON THURSDAY, JULY 6.

I ought not, especially at this time, to add to your afflictions—but yet I cannot help communicating to you (who now are my only soothing friend) a new trouble that has befallen me.

I had but one friend in the world, beside you; and she is utterly displeased with me.* It is grievous, but for one moment, to lie under a beloved person’s censure; and this through imputations that affect one’s honour and prudence. There are points so delicate, you know, my dear Mrs. Norton, that it is a degree of dishonour to have a vindication of one’s self from them appear to be necessary. In the present case, my misfortune is, that I know not how to account, but by guess (so subtle have been the workings of the dark spirit I have been unhappily entangled by) for some of the facts that I am called upon to explain.

Miss Howe, in short, supposes she has found a flaw in my character. I have just now received her severe letter—but I shall answer it, perhaps, in better temper, if I first consider your’s: for indeed my patience is almost at an end. And yet I ought to consider, that faithful are the wounds of a friend. But so many things at once! O my dear Mrs. Norton, how shall so young a scholar in the school of affliction be able to bear such heavy and such various evils!

But to leave this subject for a while, and turn to your letter.

I am very sorry Miss Howe is so lively in her resentments on my account. I have always blamed her very freely for her liberties of this sort with my friends. I once had a good deal of influence over her kind heart, and she made all I said a law to her. But people in calamity have little weight in any thing, or with any body. Prosperity and independence are charming things on this account, that they give force to the counsels of a friendly heart; while it is thought insolence in the miserable to advise, or so much as to remonstrate.

Yet is Miss Howe an invaluable person: And is it to be expected that she should preserve the same regard for my judgment that she had before I forfeited all title to discretion? With what face can I take upon me to reproach a want of prudence in her? But if I can be so happy as to re-establish myself in her ever-valued opinion, I shall endeavour to enforce upon her your just observation on this head.

You need not, you say, exhort me to despise such a man as him, by whom I have suffered—indeed you need not: for I would choose the cruellest death rather than to be his. And yet, my dear Mrs. Norton, I will own to you, that once I could have loved him.—Ungrateful man!—had he permitted me to love him, I once could have loved him. Yet he never deserved love. And was not this a fault?—But now, if I can but keep out of his hands, and obtain a last forgiveness, and that as well for the sake of my dear friends’ future reflections, as for my own present comfort, it is all I wish for.

Reconciliation with my friends I do not expect; nor pardon from them; at least, till in extremity, and as a viaticum.

O my beloved Mrs. Norton, you cannot imagine what I have suffered!—But indeed my heart is broken!—I am sure I shall not live to take possession of that independence, which you think would enable me to atone, in some measure, for my past conduct.

While this is my opinion, you may believe I shall not be easy till I can obtain a last forgiveness.

I wish to be left to take my own course in endeavouring to procure this grace. Yet know I not, at present, what that course shall be.

I will write. But to whom is my doubt. Calamity has not yet given me the assurance to address myself to my FATHER. My UNCLES (well as they once loved me) are hard hearted. They never had their masculine passions humanized by the tender name of FATHER. Of my BROTHER I have no hope. I have then but my MOTHER, and my SISTER, to whom I can apply.—‘And may I not, my dearest Mamma, be permitted to lift up my trembling eye to your all-cheering, and your once more than indulgent, your fond eye, in hopes of seasonable mercy to the poor sick heart that yet beats with life drawn from your own dearer heart?—Especially when pardon only, and not restoration, is implored?’

Yet were I able to engage my mother’s pity, would it not be a mean to make her still more unhappy than I have already made her, by the opposition she would meet with, were she to try to give force to that pity?

To my SISTER, then, I think, I will apply—Yet how hard-hearted has my sister been!—But I will not ask for protection; and yet I am in hourly dread that I shall want protection.—All I will ask for at present (preparative to the last forgiveness I will implore) shall be only to be freed from the heavy curse that seems to have operated as far is it can operate as to this life—and, surely, it was passion, and not intention, that carried it so far as to the other!

But why do I thus add to your distresses?—It is not, my dear Mrs. Norton, that I have so much feeling for my own calamity that I have none for your’s: since your’s is indeed an addition to my own. But you have one consolation (a very great one) which I have not:—That your afflictions, whether respecting your more or your less deserving child, rise not from any fault of your own.

But what can I do for you more than pray?—Assure yourself, that in every supplication I put up for myself, I will with equal fervour remember both you and your son. For I am and ever will be

Your truly sympathising and dutiful CLARISSA HARLOWE.