Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LXXI

MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. FRIDAY, AUG. 4.

SIR,

I hold myself extremely obliged to you for your communications. I will make no use of them, that you shall have reason to reproach either yourself or me with. I wanted no new lights to make the unhappy man’s premeditated baseness to me unquestionable, as my answer to Miss Montague’s letter might convince you.*

* See Letter LXVIII. of this volume.

I must own, in his favour, that he has observed some decency in his accounts to you of the most indecent and shocking actions. And if all his strangely-communicative narrations are equally decent, nothing will be rendered criminally odious by them, but the vile heart that could meditate such contrivances as were much stronger evidences of his inhumanity than of his wit: since men of very contemptible parts and understanding may succeed in the vilest attempts, if they can once bring themselves to trample on the sanctions which bind man to man; and sooner upon an innocent person than upon any other; because such a one is apt to judge of the integrity of others’ hearts by its own.

I find I have had great reason to think myself obliged to your intention in the whole progress of my sufferings. It is, however, impossible, Sir, to miss the natural inference on this occasion that lies against his predetermined baseness. But I say the less, because you shall not think I borrow, from what you have communicated, aggravations that are not needed.

And now, Sir, that I may spare you the trouble of offering any future arguments in his favour, let me tell you that I have weighed every thing thoroughly—all that human vanity could suggest—all that a desirable reconciliation with my friends, and the kind respects of his own, could bid me hope for—the enjoyment of Miss Howe’s friendship, the dearest consideration to me, now, of all the worldly ones—all these I have weighed: and the result is, and was before you favoured me with these communications, that I have more satisfaction in the hope that, in one month, there will be an end of all with me, than in the most agreeable things that could happen from an alliance with Mr. Lovelace, although I were to be assured he would make the best and tenderest of husbands. But as to the rest; if, satisfied with the evils he has brought upon me, he will forbear all further persecutions of me, I will, to my last hour, wish him good: although he hath overwhelmed the fatherless, and digged a pit for his friend: fatherless may she well be called, and motherless too, who has been denied all paternal protection, and motherly forgiveness.

***

And now, Sir, acknowledging gratefully your favour in the extracts, I come to the second request I had to make you; which requires a great deal of courage to mention; and which courage nothing but a great deal of distress, and a very destitute condition, can give. But, if improper, I can but be denied; and dare to say I shall be at least excused. Thus, then, I preface it:

’You see, Sir, that I am thrown absolutely into the hands of strangers, who, although as kind and compassionate as strangers can be wished to be, are, nevertheless, persons from whom I cannot expect any thing more than pity and good wishes; nor can my memory receive from them any more protection than my person, if either should need it.

’If then I request it, of the only person possessed of materials that will enable him to do my character justice;

’And who has courage, independence, and ability to oblige me;

’To be the protector or my memory, as I may say;

’And to be my executor; and to see some of my dying requests performed;

’And if I leave it to him to do the whole in his own way, manner, and time; consulting, however, in requisite cases, my dear Miss Howe;

’I presume to hope that this my second request may be granted.’

And if it may, these satisfactions will accrue to me from the favour done me, and the office undertaken:

’It will be an honour to my memory, with all those who shall know that I was so well satisfied of my innocence, that, having not time to write my own story, I could intrust it to the relation which the destroyer of my fame and fortunes has given of it.

’I shall not be apprehensive of involving any one in my troubles or hazards by this task, either with my own relations, or with your friend; having dispositions to make which perhaps my own friends will not be so well pleased with as it were to be wished they would be;’ as I intend not unreasonable ones; but you know, Sir, where self is judge, matters, even with good people, will not always be rightly judged of.

’I shall also be freed from the pain of recollecting things that my soul is vexed at; and this at a time when its tumults should be allayed, in order to make way for the most important preparation.

’And who knows, but that Mr. Belford, who already, from a principle of humanity, is touched at my misfortunes, when he comes to revolve the whole story, placed before him in one strong light: and when he shall have the catastrophe likewise before him; and shall become in a manner interested in it; who knows, but that, from a still higher principle, he may so regulate his future actions as to find his own reward in the everlasting welfare which is wished him by his

’Obliged servant, ’CLARISSA HARLOWE?’