Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LXIX

MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. THURSDAY AFTERNOON, AUG. 3.

I am just now agreeably surprised by the following letter, delivered into my hands by a messenger from the lady. The letter she mentions, as enclosed,* I have returned, without taking a copy of it. The contents of it will soon be communicated to you, I presume, by other hands. They are an absolute rejection of thee—Poor Lovelace!

* See Miss Harlowe’s Letter, No. LXVIII.

TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. AUG. 3.

SIR,

You have frequently offered to oblige me in any thing that shall be within your power: and I have such an opinion of you, as to be willing to hope that, at the times you made these offers, you meant more than mere compliment.

I have therefore two requests to make to you: the first I will now mention; the other, if this shall be complied with, otherwise not.

It behoves me to leave behind me such an account as may clear up my conduct to several of my friends who will not at present concern themselves about me: and Miss Howe, and her mother, are very solicitous that I will do so.

I am apprehensive that I shall not have time to do this; and you will not wonder that I have less and less inclination to set about such a painful task; especially as I find myself unable to look back with patience on what I have suffered; and shall be too much discomposed by the retrospection, were I obliged to make it, to proceed with the requisite temper in a task of still greater importance which I have before me.

It is very evident to me that your wicked friend has given you, from time to time, a circumstantial account of all his behaviour to me, and devices against me; and you have more than once assured me, that he has done my character all the justice I could wish for, both by writing and speech.

Now, Sir, if I may have a fair, a faithful specimen from his letters or accounts to you, written upon some of the most interesting occasions, I shall be able to judge whether there will or will not be a necessity for me, for my honour’s sake, to enter upon the solicited task.

You may be assured, from my enclosed answer to the letter which Miss Montague has honoured me with, (and which you’ll be pleased to return me as soon as read,) that it is impossible for me ever to think of your friend in the way I am importuned to think of him: he cannot therefore receive any detriment from the requested specimen: and I give you my honour, that no use shall be made of it to his prejudice, in law, or otherwise. And that it may not, after I am no more, I assure you, that it is a main part of my view that the passages you shall oblige me with shall be always in your own power, and not in that of any other person.

If, Sir, you think fit to comply with my request, the passages I would wish to be transcribed (making neither better nor worse of the matter) are those which he has written to you, on or about the 7th and 8th of June, when I was alarmed by the wicked pretence of a fire; and what he has written from Sunday, June 11, to the 19th. And in doing this you will much oblige

Your humble servant, CLARISSA HARLOWE.

***

Now, Lovelace, since there are no hopes for thee of her returning favour—since some praise may lie for thy ingenuousness, having neither offered [as more diminutive-minded libertines would have done] to palliate thy crimes, by aspersing the lady, or her sex—since she may be made easier by it—since thou must fare better from thine own pen than from her’s—and, finally, since thy actions have manifested that thy letters are not the most guilty part of what she knows of thee—I see not why I may not oblige her, upon her honour, and under the restrictions, and for the reasons she has given; and this without breach of the confidence due to friendly communication; especially, as I might have added, since thou gloriest in thy pen and in thy wickedness, and canst not be ashamed.

But, be this as it may, she will be obliged before thy remonstrances or clamours against it can come; so, pr’ythee now, make the best of it, and rave not; except for the sake of a pretence against me, and to exercise thy talent of execration:—and, if thou likest to do so for these reasons, rave and welcome.

I long to know what the second request is: but this I know, that if it be any thing less than cutting thy throat, or endangering my own neck, I will certainly comply; and be proud of having it in my power to oblige her.

And now I am actually going to be busy in the extracts.