Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LXV


I am most confoundedly chagrined and disappointed: for here, on Saturday, arrived a messenger from Miss Howe, with a letter to my cousins;* which I knew nothing of till yesterday; when Lady Sarah and Lady Betty were procured to be here, to sit in judgment upon it with the old Peer, and my two kinswomen. And never was bear so miserably baited as thy poor friend!—And for what?—why for the cruelty of Miss Harlowe: For have I committed any new offence? and would I not have re-instated myself in her favour upon her own terms, if I could? And is it fair to punish me for what is my misfortune, and not my fault? Such event-judging fools as I have for my relations! I am ashamed of them all.

* See Letter LV. of this volume.

In that of Miss Howe was enclosed one to her from Miss Harlowe,* to be transmitted to my cousins, containing a final rejection of me; and that in very vehement and positive terms; yet she pretends that, in this rejection, she is governed more by principle than passion—[D——d lie, as ever was told!] and, as a proof that she is, says, that she can forgive me, and does, on this one condition, that I will never molest her more—the whole letter so written as to make herself more admired, me more detested.

* See Letter XLI. of this volume.

What we have been told of the agitations and workings, and sighings and sobbings, of the French prophets among us formerly, was nothing at all to the scene exhibited by these maudlin souls, at the reading of these letters; and of some affecting passages extracted from another of my fair implacable’s to Miss Howe—such lamentations for the loss of so charming a relation! such applaudings of her virtue, of her exaltedness of soul and sentiment! such menaces of disinherisons! I, not needing their reproaches to be stung to the heart with my own reflections, and with the rage of disappointment; and as sincerely as any of them admiring her— ’What the devil,’ cried I, ’is all this for? Is it not enough to be despised and rejected? Can I help her implacable spirit? Would I not repair the evils I have made her suffer?’—Then was I ready to curse them all, herself and Miss Howe for company: and heartily swore that she should yet be mine.

I now swear it over again to thee—’Were her death to follow in a week after the knot is tied, by the Lord of Heaven, it shall be tied, and she shall die a Lovelace!’—Tell her so, if thou wilt: but, at the same time, tell her that I have no view to her fortune; and that I will solemnly resign that, and all pretensions to it, in whose favour she pleases, if she resign life issueless.—I am not so low-minded a wretch, as to be guilty of any sordid views to her fortune.—Let her judge for herself, then, whether it be not for her honour rather to leave this world a Lovelace than a Harlowe.

But do not think I will entirely rest a cause so near my heart upon an advocate who so much more admires his client’s adversary than his client. I will go to town, in a few days, in order to throw myself at her feet: and I will carry with me, or have at hand, a resolute, well-prepared parson; and the ceremony shall be performed, let what will be the consequence.

But if she will permit me to attend her for this purpose at either of the churches mentioned in the license, (which she has by her, and, thank Heaven! has not returned me with my letters,) then will I not disturb her; but meet her at the altar in either church, and will engage to bring my two cousins to attend her, and even Lady Sarah and Lady Betty; and my Lord M. in person shall give her to me.

Or, if it be still more agreeable to her, I will undertake that either Lady Sarah or Lady Betty, or both, shall go to town and attend her down; and the marriage shall be celebrated in their presence, and in that of Lord M., either here or elsewhere, at her own choice.

Do not play me booty, Belford; but sincerely and warmly use all the eloquence thou art master of, to prevail upon her to choose one of these three methods. One of them she must choose—by my soul, she must.

Here is Charlotte tapping at my closet-door for admittance. What a devil wants Charlotte?—I will hear no more reproaches!—Come in, girl!


My cousin Charlotte, finding me writing on with too much earnestness to have any regard for politeness to her, and guessing at my subject, besought me to let her see what I had written.

I obliged her. And she was so highly pleased on seeing me so much in earnest, that she offered, and I accepted her offer, to write a letter to Miss Harlowe; with permission to treat me in it as she thought fit.

I shall enclose a copy of her letter.

When she had written it, she brought it to me, with apologies for the freedom taken with me in it: but I excused it; and she was ready to give me a kiss for it; telling her I had hopes of success from it; and that I thought she had luckily hit it off.

Every one approves of it, as well as I; and is pleased with me for so patiently submitting to be abused, and undertaken for.—If it do not succeed, all the blame will be thrown upon the dear creature’s perverseness: her charitable or forgiving disposition, about which she makes such a parade, will be justly questioned; and the piety, of which she is now in full possession, will be transferred to me.

Putting, therefore, my whole confidence in this letter, I postpone all my other alternatives, as also my going to town, till my empress send an answer to my cousin Montague.

But if she persist, and will not promise to take time to consider of the matter, thou mayest communicate to her what I had written, as above, before my cousin entered; and, if she be still perverse, assure her, that I must and will see her—but this with all honour, all humility: and, if I cannot move her in my favour, I will then go abroad, and perhaps never more return to England.

I am sorry thou art, at this critical time, so busily employed, as thou informest me thou art, in thy Watford affairs, and in preparing to do Belton justice. If thou wantest my assistance in the latter, command me. Though engrossed by this perverse beauty, and plagued as I am, I will obey thy first summons.

I have great dependence upon thy zeal and thy friendship: hasten back to her, therefore, and resume a task so interesting to me, that it is equally the subject of my dreams, as of my waking hours.