Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LXXII


I now, my dearest friend, resume my pen, to obey my mother, in giving you her opinion upon your unhappy story.

She still harps upon the old string, and will have it that all your calamities are owing to your first fatal step; for she believes, (what I cannot,) that your relations had intended after one general trial more, to comply with your aversion, if they had found it to be as riveted a one, as, let me say, it was a folly to suppose it would not be found to be, after so many ridiculously-repeated experiments.

As to your latter sufferings from that vilest of miscreants, she is unalterably of opinion that if all be as you have related (which she doubts not) with regard to the potions, and to the violences you have sustained, you ought by all means to set on foot a prosecution against him, and against his devilish accomplices.

She asks, What murderers, what ravishers, would be brought to justice, if modesty were to be a general plea, and allowable, against appearing in a court to prosecute?

She says, that the good of society requires, that such a beast of prey should be hunted out of it: and, if you do not prosecute him, she thinks you will be answerable for all the mischiefs he may do in the course of his future villanous life.

Will it be thought, Nancy, said she, that Miss Clarissa Harlowe can be in earnest, when she says, she is not solicitous to have her disgraces concealed from the world, if she be afraid or ashamed to appear in court, to do justice to herself and her sex against him? Will it not be rather surmised, that she may be apprehensive that some weakness, or lurking love, will appear upon the trial of the strange cause? If, inferred she, such complicated villany as this (where perjury, potions, forgery, subornation, are all combined to effect the ruin of an innocent creature, and to dishonour a family of eminence, and where the very crimes, as may be supposed, are proofs of her innocence) is to go off with impunity, what case will deserve to be brought into judgment? or what malefactor ought to be hanged?

Then she thinks, and so do I, that the vile creatures, his accomplices, ought, by all means, to be brought to condign punishment, as they must and will be upon bringing him to trial: and this may be a mean to blow up and root out a whole nest of vipers, and save many innocent creatures.

She added, that if Miss Clarissa Harlowe could be so indifferent about having this public justice done upon such a wretch for her own sake, she ought to overcome her scruples out of regard to her family, her acquaintance, and her sex, which are all highly injured and scandalized by his villany to her.

For her own part, she declares, that were she your mother, she would forgive you upon no other terms: and, upon your compliance with these, she herself will undertake to reconcile all your family to you.

These, my dear, are my mother’s sentiments upon your sad story.

I cannot say but there are reason and justice in them: and it is my opinion, that it would be very right for the law to oblige an injured woman to prosecute, and to make seduction on the man’s part capital, where his studied baseness, and no fault in her will, appeared.

To this purpose the custom in the Isle of Man is a very good one——

‘If a single woman there prosecutes a single man for a rape, the ecclesiastical judges impannel a jury; and, if this jury find him guilty, he is returned guilty to the temporal courts: where if he be convicted, the deemster, or judge, delivers to the woman a rope, a sword, and a ring; and she has it in her choice to have him hanged, beheaded, or to marry him.’

One of the two former, I think, should always be her option.

I long for the particulars of your story. You must have too much time upon your hands for a mind so active as your’s, if tolerable health and spirits be afforded you.

The villany of the worst of men, and the virtue of the most excellent of women, I expect will be exemplified in it, were it to be written in the same connected and particular manner in which you used to write to me.

Try for it, my dearest friend; and since you cannot give the example without the warning, give both, for the sakes of all those who shall hear of your unhappy fate; beginning from your’s of June 5, your prospects then not disagreeable. I pity you for the task; though I cannot willingly exempt you from it.

My mother will have me add, that she must insist upon your prosecuting the villain. She repeats, that she makes that a condition on which she permits our future correspondence. Let me therefore know your thoughts upon it. I asked her, if she would be willing that I should appear to support you in court, if you complied?—By all means, she said, if that would induce you to begin with him, and with the horrid women. I think I could probably attend you, I am sure I could, were there but a probability of bringing the monster to his deserved end.

Once more your thoughts of it, supposing it were to meet with the approbation of your relations.

But whatever be your determination on this head, it shall be my constant prayer, that God will give you patience to bear your heavy afflictions, as a person ought to do who has not brought them upon herself by a faulty will: that He will speak peace and comfort to your wounded mind; and give you many happy years. I am, and ever will be,

Your affectionate and faithful ANNA HOWE.

[The two preceding letters were sent by a special messenger: in the cover were written the following lines:]


I cannot, my dearest friend, suffer the enclosed to go unaccompanied by a few lines, to signify to you that they are both less tender in some places than I would have written, had they not been to pass my mother’s inspection. The principal reason, however, of my writing thus separately is, to beg of you to permit me to send you money and necessaries, which you must needs want; and that you will let me know, if either I, or any body I can influence, can be of service to you. I am excessively apprehensive that you are not enough out of the villain’s reach where you are. Yet London, I am persuaded, is the place, of all others, to be private in.

I could tear my hair for vexation, that I have it not in my power to afford you personal protection!—I am

Your ever devoted ANNA HOWE.

Once more forgive me, my dearest creature, for my barbarous taunting in mine of the 5th! Yet I can hardly forgive myself. I to be so cruel, yet to know you so well!—Whence, whence, had I this vile impatiency of spirit!—