Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LXXVII

MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SAT. AUG. 23.

I am so disturbed at the contents of Miss Harlowe’s answer to my cousin Charlotte’s letter of Tuesday last, (which was given her by the same fellow that gave me your’s,) that I have hardly patience or consideration enough to weigh what you write.

She had need indeed to cry out for mercy for herself from her friends, who knows not how to show any! She is a true daughter of the Harlowes!— By my soul, Jack, she is a true daughter of the Harlowes! Yet has she so many excellencies, that I must love her; and, fool that I am, love her the more for despising me.

Thou runnest on with thy cursed nonsensical reformado rote, of dying, dying, dying! and, having once got the word by the end, canst not help foisting it in at every period! The devil take me, if I don’t think thou wouldst rather give her poison with thy own hands, rather than she should recover, and rob thee of the merit of being a conjurer!

But no more of thy cursed knell; thy changes upon death’s candlestick turned bottom-upwards: she’ll live to bury me; I see that: for, by my soul, I can neither eat, drink, nor sleep, nor, what is still worse, love any woman in the world but her. Nor care I to look upon a woman now: on the contrary, I turn my head from every one I meet: except by chance an eye, an air, a feature, strikes me, resembling her’s in some glancing-by face; and then I cannot forbear looking again: though the second look recovers me; for there can be nobody like her.

But surely, Belford, the devil’s in this woman! The more I think of her nonsense and obstinacy, the less patience I have with her. Is it possible she can do herself, her family, her friends, so much justice any other way, as by marrying me? Were she sure she should live but a day, she ought to die a wife. If her christian revenge will not let her wish to do so for her own sake, ought she not for the sake of her family, and of her sex, which she pretends sometimes to have so much concern for? And if no sake is dear enough to move her Harlowe-spirit in my favour, has she any title to the pity thou so pitifully art always bespeaking for her?

As to the difference which her letter has made between me and the stupid family here, [and I must tell thee we are all broke in pieces,] I value not that of a button. They are fools to anathematize and curse me, who can give them ten curses for one, were they to hold it for a day together.

I have one half of the house to myself; and that the best; for the great enjoy that least which costs them most: grandeur and use are two things: the common part is their’s; the state part is mine: and here I lord it, and will lord it, as long as I please; while the two pursy sisters, the old gouty brother, and the two musty nieces, are stived up in the other half, and dare not stir for fear of meeting me: whom, (that’s the jest of it,) they have forbidden coming into their apartments, as I have them into mine. And so I have them all prisoners, while I range about as I please. Pretty dogs and doggesses to quarrel and bark at me, and yet, whenever I appear, afraid to pop out of their kennels; or, if out before they see me, at the sight of me run growling in again, with their flapt ears, their sweeping dewlaps, and their quivering tails curling inwards.

And here, while I am thus worthily waging war with beetles, drones, wasps, and hornets, and am all on fire with the rage of slighted love, thou art regaling thyself with phlegm and rock-water, and art going on with thy reformation-scheme and thy exultations in my misfortunes!

The devil take thee for an insensible dough-baked varlet! I have no more patience with thee than with the lady; for thou knowest nothing either of love or friendship, but art as unworthy of the one, as incapable of the other; else wouldst thou not rejoice, as thou dost under the grimace of pity, in my disappointments.

And thou art a pretty fellow, art thou not? to engage to transcribe for her some parts of my letters written to thee in confidence? Letters that thou shouldest sooner have parted with thy cursed tongue, than have owned that thou ever hadst received such: yet these are now to be communicated to her! But I charge thee, and woe be to thee if it be too late! that thou do not oblige her with a line of mine.

If thou hast done it, the least vengeance I will take is to break through my honour given to thee not to visit her, as thou wilt have broken through thine to me, in communicating letters written under the seal of friendship.

I am now convinced, too sadly for my hopes, by her letter to my cousin Charlotte, that she is determined never to have me.

Unprecedented wickedness, she calls mine to her. But how does she know what love, in its flaming ardour, will stimulate men to do? How does she know the requisite distinctions of the words she uses in this case?—To think the worst, and to be able to make comparisons in these very delicate situations, must she not be less delicate than I had imagined her to be?—But she has heard that the devil is black; and having a mind to make one of me, brays together, in the mortar of her wild fancy, twenty chimney-sweepers, in order to make one sootier than ordinary rise out of the dirty mass.

But what a whirlwind does she raise in my soul by her proud contempts of me! Never, never, was mortal man’s pride so mortified! How does she sink me, even in my own eyes!—’Her heart sincerely repulses me, she says, for my MEANNESS!’—Yet she intends to reap the benefit of what she calls so!—Curse upon her haughtiness, and her meanness, at the same time!—Her haughtiness to me, and her meanness to her own relations; more unworthy of kindred with her, than I can be, or I am mean indeed.

Yet who but must admire, who but must adore her; Oh! that cursed, cursed house! But for the women of that!—Then their d——d potions! But for those, had her unimpaired intellects, and the majesty of her virtue, saved her, as once it did by her humble eloquence,* another time by her terrifying menaces against her own life.**

* In the fire-scene, Vol. V. Letter XVI. ** Vol. VI. Letter XXXVI. in the pen-knife-scene.

Yet in both these to find her power over me, and my love for her, and to hate, to despise, and to refuse me!—She might have done this with some show of justice, had the last-intended violation been perpetrated:—but to go away conqueress and triumphant in every light!—Well may she despise me for suffering her to do so.

She left me low and mean indeed!—And the impression holds with her.—I could tear my flesh, that I gave her not cause—that I humbled her not indeed;—or that I staid not in town to attend her motions instead of Lord M.’s, till I could have exalted myself, by giving to myself a wife superior to all trial, to all temptation.

I will venture one more letter to her, however; and if that don’t do, or procure me an answer, then will I endeavour to see her, let what will be the consequence. If she get out of my way, I will do some noble mischief to the vixen girl whom she most loves, and then quit the kingdom for ever.

And now, Jack, since thy hand is in at communicating the contents of private letters, tell her this, if thou wilt. And add to it, That if SHE abandon me, GOD will: and what then will be the fate of

Her LOVELACE.