Clarissa Harlowe LETTER VII


I have begun another letter to thee, in continuation of my narrative: but I believe I shall send thee this before I shall finish that. By the enclosed thou wilt see, that neither of the correspondents deserve mercy from me: and I am resolved to make the ending with one the beginning with the other.

If thou sayest that the provocations I have given to one of them will justify her freedoms; I answer, so they will, to any other person but myself. But he that is capable of giving those provocations, and has the power to punish those who abuse him for giving them, will show his resentment; and the more remorselessly, perhaps, as he has deserved the freedoms.

If thou sayest, it is, however, wrong to do so; I reply, that it is nevertheless human nature:—And wouldst thou not have me to be a man, Jack?

Here read the letter, if thou wilt. But thou art not my friend, if thou offerest to plead for either of the saucy creatures, after thou hast read it.



After the discoveries I had made of the villanous machinations of the most abandoned of men, particularized in my long letter of Wednesday* last, you will believe, my dearest friend, that my surprise upon perusing your’s of Thursday evening from Hampstead** was not so great as my indignation. Had the villain attempted to fire a city instead of a house, I should not have wondered at it. All that I am amazed at is, that he (whose boast, as I am told, it is, that no woman shall keep him out of her bed-chamber, when he has made a resolution to be in it) did not discover his foot before. And it is as strange to me, that, having got you at such a shocking advantage, and in such a horrid house, you could, at the time, escape dishonour, and afterwards get from such a set of infernals.

* See Vol. V. Letter XX. ** Ibid. See Letter XXI.

I gave you, in my long letter of Wednesday and Thursday last, reasons why you ought to mistrust that specious Tomlinson. That man, my dear, must be a solemn villain. May lightning from Heaven blast the wretch, who has set him and the rest of his REMORSELESS GANG at work, to endeavour to destroy the most consummate virtue!—Heaven be praised! you have escaped from all their snares, and now are out of danger.—So I will not trouble you at present with the particulars I have further collected relating to this abominable imposture.

For the same reason, I forbear to communicate to you some new stories of the abhorred wretch himself which have come to my ears. One, in particular, of so shocking a nature!—Indeed, my dear, the man’s a devil.

The whole story of Mrs. Fretchville, and her house, I have no doubt to pronounce, likewise, an absolute fiction.—Fellow!—How my soul spurns the villain!

Your thought of going abroad, and your reasons for so doing, most sensibly affect me. But be comforted, my dear; I hope you will not be under a necessity of quitting your native country. Were I sure that that must be the cruel case, I would abandon all my better prospects, and soon be with you. And I would accompany you whithersoever you went, and share fortunes with you: for it is impossible that I should be happy, if I knew that you were exposed not only to the perils of the sea, but to the attempts of other vile men; your personal graces attracting every eye; and exposing you to those hourly dangers, which others, less distinguished by the gifts of nature, might avoid.—All that I know that beauty (so greatly coveted, and so greatly admired) is good for.

O my dear, were I ever to marry, and to be the mother of a CLARISSA, [Clarissa must be the name, if promisingly lovely,] how often would my heart ache for the dear creature, as she grew up, when I reflected that a prudence and discretion, unexampled in woman, had not, in you, been a sufficient protection to that beauty, which had drawn after it as many admirers as beholders!—How little should I regret the attacks of that cruel distemper, as it is called, which frequently makes the greatest ravages in the finest faces!


I have just parted with Mrs. Townsend.* I thought you had once seen her with me; but she says she never had the honour to be personally known to you. She has a manlike spirit. She knows the world. And her two brothers being in town, she is sure she can engage them in so good a cause, and (if there should be occasion) both their ships’ crews, in your service.

* For the account of Mrs. Townsend, &c. see Vol. IV. Letter XLII.

Give your consent, my dear; and the horrid villain shall be repaid with broken bones, at least, for all his vileness!

The misfortune is, Mrs. Townsend cannot be with you till Thursday next, or Wednesday, at soonest: Are you sure you can be safe where you are till then? I think you are too near London; and perhaps you had better be in it. If you remove, let me, the very moment, know whither.

How my heart is torn, to think of the necessity so dear a creature is driven to of hiding herself! Devilish fellow! He must have been sportive and wanton in his inventions—yet that cruel, that savage sportiveness has saved you from the sudden violence to which he has had recourse in the violation of others, of names and families not contemptible. For such the villain always gloried to spread his snares.

The vileness of this specious monster has done more, than any other consideration could do, to bring Mr. Hickman into credit with me. Mr. Hickman alone knows (from me) of your flight, and the reason of it. Had I not given him the reason, he might have thought still worse of the vile attempt. I communicated it to him by showing him your letter from Hampstead. When he had read it, [and he trembled and reddened, as he read,] he threw himself at my feet, and besought me to permit him to attend you, and to give you the protection of his house. The good-natured man had tears in his eyes, and was repeatedly earnest on this subject; proposing to take his chariot-and-four, or a set, and in person, in the face of all the world, give himself the glory of protecting such an oppressed innocent.

I could not but be pleased with him. And I let him know that I was. I hardly expected so much spirit from him. But a man’s passiveness to a beloved object of our sex may not, perhaps, argue want of courage on proper occasions.

I thought I ought, in return, to have some consideration for his safety, as such an open step would draw upon him the vengeance of the most villanous enterpriser in the world, who has always a gang of fellows, such as himself, at his call, ready to support one another in the vilest outrages. But yet, as Mr. Hickman might have strengthened his hands by legal recourses, I should not have stood upon it, had I not known your delicacy, [since such a step must have made a great noise, and given occasion for scandal, as if some advantage had been gained over you,] and were there not the greatest probability that all might be more silently, and more effectually, managed, by Mrs. Townsend’s means.

Mrs. Townsend will in person attend you—she hopes, on Wednesday—her brothers, and some of their people, will scatteringly, and as if they knew nothing of you, [so we have contrived,] see you safe not only to London, but to her house at Deptford.

She has a kinswoman, who will take your commands there, if she herself be obliged to leave you. And there you may stay, till the wretch’s fury, on losing you, and his search, are over.

He will very soon, ’tis likely, enter upon some new villany, which may engross him: and it may be given out, that you are gone to lay claim to the protection of your cousin Morden at Florence.

Possibly, if he can be made to believe it, he will go over, in hopes to find you there.

After a while, I can procure you a lodging in one of our neighbouring villages, where I may have the happiness to be your daily visiter. And if this Hickman be not silly and apish, and if my mother do not do unaccountable things, I may the sooner think of marrying, that I may, without controul, receive and entertain the darling of my heart.

Many, very many, happy days do I hope we shall yet see together; and as this is my hope, I expect that it will be your consolation.

As to your estate, since you are resolved not to litigate for it, we will be patient, either till Colonel Morden arrives, or till shame compels some people to be just.

Upon the whole, I cannot but think your prospects now much happier than they could have been, had you been actually married to such a man as this. I must therefore congratulate you upon your escape, not only from a horrid libertine, but from so vile a husband, as he must have made to any woman; but more especially to a person of your virtue and delicacy.

You hate him, heartily hate him, I hope, my dear—I am sure you do. It would be strange, if so much purity of life and manners were not to abhor what is so repugnant to itself.

In your letter before me, you mention one written to me for a feint.* I have not received any such. Depend upon it, therefore, that he must have it. And if he has, it is a wonder that he did not likewise get my long one of the 7th. Heaven be praised that he did not; and that it came safe to your hands!

* See Vol. V. Letters XXI. and XXII.

I send this by a young fellow, whose father is one of our tenants, with command to deliver it to no other hands but your’s. He is to return directly, if you give him any letter. If not, he will proceed to London upon his own pleasures. He is a simple fellow; but very honest. So you may say anything to him. If you write not by him, I desire a line or two, as soon as possible.

My mother knows nothing of his going to you; nor yet of your abandoning the fellow. Forgive me! But he is not entitled to good manners.

I shall long to hear how you and Mrs. Townsend order matters. I wish she could have been with you sooner. But I have lost no time in engaging her, as you will suppose. I refer to her, what I have further to say and advise. So shall conclude with my prayers, that Heaven will direct and protect my dearest creature, and make your future days happy!


And now, Jack, I will suppose that thou hast read this cursed letter. Allow me to make a few observations upon some of its contents.

It is strange to Miss Howe, that having got her friend at such a shocking advantage, &c. And it is strange to me, too. If ever I have such another opportunity given to me, the cause of both our wonder, I believe, will cease.

So thou seest Tomlinson is further detected.—No such person as Mrs. Fretchville.—May lightning from Heaven—O Lord, O Lord, O Lord!—What a horrid vixen is this!—My gang, my remorseless gang, too, is brought in—and thou wilt plead for these girls again; wilt thou? heaven be praised, she says, that her friend is out of danger—Miss Howe should be sure of that, and that she herself is safe.—But for this termagant, (as I often said,) I must surely have made a better hand of it.—

New stories of me, Jack!—What can they be?—I have not found that my generosity to my Rose-bud ever did me due credit with this pair of friends. Very hard, Belford, that credits cannot be set against debits, and a balance struck in a rake’s favour, as well as in that of every common man!—But he, from whom no good is expected, is not allowed the merit of the good he does.

I ought to have been a little more attentive to character than I have been. For, notwithstanding that the measures of right and wrong are said to be so manifest, let me tell thee, that character biases and runs away with all mankind. Let a man or woman once establish themselves in the world’s opinion, and all that either of them do will be sanctified. Nay, in the very courts of justice, does not character acquit or condemn as often as facts, and sometimes even in spite of facts?—Yet, [impolitic that I have been and am!] to be so careless of mine!—And now, I doubt, it is irretrievable.—But to leave moralizing.

Thou, Jack, knowest almost all my enterprises worth remembering. Can this particular story, which this girl hints at, be that of Lucy Villars?—Or can she have heard of my intrigue with the pretty gipsey, who met me in Norwood, and of the trap I caught her cruel husband in, [a fellow as gloomy and tyrannical as old Harlowe,] when he pursued a wife, who would not have deserved ill of him, if he had deserved well of her!—But he was not quite drowned. The man is alive at this day, and Miss Howe mentions the story as a very shocking one. Besides, both these are a twelve-month old, or more.

But evil fame and scandal are always new. When the offender has forgot a vile fact, it is often told to one and to another, who, having never heard of it before, trumpet it about as a novelty to others. But well said the honest corregidor at Madrid, [a saying with which I encroached Lord M.’s collection,]—Good actions are remembered but for a day: bad ones for many years after the life of the guilty. Such is the relish that the world has for scandal. In other words, such is the desire which every one has to exculpate himself by blackening his neighbour. You and I, Belford, have been very kind to the world, in furnishing it with opportunities to gratify its devil.

[Miss Howe will abandon her own better prospects, and share fortunes with her, were she to go abroad.]—Charming romancer!—I must set about this girl, Jack. I have always had hopes of a woman whose passions carry her to such altitudes.—Had I attacked Miss Howe first, her passions, (inflamed and guided as I could have managed them,) would have brought her into my lure in a fortnight.

But thinkest thou, [and yet I think thou dost,] that there is any thing in these high flights among the sex?—Verily, Jack, these vehement friendships are nothing but chaff and stubble, liable to be blown away by the very wind that raises them. Apes, mere apes of us! they think the word friendship has a pretty sound with it; and it is much talked of—a fashionable word. And so, truly, a single woman, who thinks she has a soul, and knows that she wants something, would be thought to have found a fellow-soul for it in her own sex. But I repeat, that the word is a mere word, the thing a mere name with them; a cork-bottomed shuttle-cock, which they are fond of striking to and fro, to make one another glow in the frosty weather of a single-state; but which, when a man comes in between the pretended inseparables, is given up, like their music and other maidenly amusements; which, nevertheless, may be necessary to keep the pretty rogues out of active mischief. They then, in short, having caught the fish, lay aside the net.*

* He alludes here to the story of a pope, who, (once a poor fisherman,) through every preferment he rose to, even to that of the cardinalate, hung up in view of all his guests his net, as a token of humility. But, when he arrived at the pontificate, he took it down, saying, that there was no need of the net, when he had caught the fish.

Thou hast a mind, perhaps, to make an exception for these two ladies.—With all my heart. My Clarissa has, if woman has, a soul capable of friendship. Her flame is bright and steady. But Miss Howe’s, were it not kept up by her mother’s opposition, is too vehement to endure. How often have I known opposition not only cement friendship, but create love? I doubt not but poor Hickman would fare the better with this vixen, if her mother were as heartily against him, as she is for him.

Thus much, indeed, as to these two ladies, I will grant thee, that the active spirit of the one, and the meek disposition of the other, may make their friendship more durable than it would otherwise be; for this is certain, that in every friendship, whether male or female, there must be a man and a woman spirit, (that is to say, one of them must be a forbearing one,) to make it permanent.

But this I pronounce, as a truth, which all experience confirms, that friendship between women never holds to the sacrifice of capital gratifications, or to the endangering of life, limb, or estate, as it often does in our nobler sex.

Well, but next comes an indictment against poor beauty! What has beauty done that Miss Howe should be offended at it?—Miss Howe, Jack, is a charming girl. She has no reason to quarrel with beauty!—Didst ever see her?—Too much fire and spirit in her eye, indeed, for a girl!—But that’s no fault with a man that can lower that fire and spirit at pleasure; and I know I am the man that can.

For my own part, when I was first introduced to this lady, which was by my goddess when she herself was a visiter at Mrs. Howe’s, I had not been half an hour with her, but I even hungered and thirsted after a romping ’bout with the lively rogue; and, in the second or third visit, was more deterred by the delicacy of her friend, than by what I apprehended from her own. This charming creature’s presence, thought I, awes us both. And I wished her absence, though any other woman were present, that I might try the differences in Miss Howe’s behaviour before her friend’s face, or behind her back.

Delicate women make delicate women, as well as decent men. With all Miss Howe’s fire and spirit, it was easy to see, by her very eye, that she watched for lessons and feared reproof from the penetrating eye of her milder dispositioned friend;* and yet it was as easy to observe, in the candour and sweet manners of the other, that the fear which Miss Howe stood in of her, was more owing to her own generous apprehension that she fell short of her excellencies, than to Miss Harlowe’s consciousness of excellence over her. I have often since I came at Miss Howe’s letters, revolved this just and fine praise contained in one of them:** ‘Every one saw that the preference they gave you to themselves exalted you not into any visible triumph over them; for you had always something to say, on every point you carried, that raised the yielding heart, and left every one pleased and satisfied with themselves, though they carried not off the palm.’

* Miss Howe, in Vol. III. Letter XIX. says, That she was always more afraid of Clarissa than of her mother; and, in Vol. III. Letter XLIV. That she fears her almost as much as she loves her; and in many other places, in her letters, verifies this observation of Lovelace. ** See Vol. IV. Letter XXXI.

As I propose, in a more advanced life, to endeavour to atone for my useful freedoms with individuals of the sex, by giving cautions and instructions to the whole, I have made a memorandum to enlarge upon this doctrine;—to wit, that it is full as necessary to direct daughters in the choice of their female companions, as it is to guard them against the designs of men.

I say not this, however, to the disparagement of Miss Howe. She has from pride, what her friend has from principle. [The Lord help the sex, if they had not pride!] But yet I am confident, that Miss Howe is indebted to the conversation and correspondence of Miss Harlowe for her highest improvements. But, both these ladies out of the question, I make no scruple to aver, [and I, Jack, should know something of the matter,] that there have been more girls ruined, at least prepared for ruin, by their own sex, (taking in servants, as well as companions,) than directly by the attempts and delusions of men.

But it is time enough when I am old and joyless, to enlarge upon this topic.

As to the comparison between the two ladies, I will expatiate more on that subject, (for I like it,) when I have had them both. Which this letter of the vixen girl’s, I hope thou wilt allow, warrants me to try for.

I return to the consideration of a few more of its contents, to justify my vengeances so nearly now in view.

As to Mrs. Townsend,—her manlike spirit—her two brothers—and the ships’ crews—I say nothing but this to the insolent threatening—Let ’em come!—But as to her sordid menace—To repay the horrid villain, as she calls me, for all my vileness by BROKEN BONES!—Broken bones, Belford!—Who can bear this porterly threatening!—Broken bones, Jack!—D—n the little vulgar!—Give me a name for her—but I banish all furious resentment. If I get these two girls into my power, Heaven forbid that I should be a second Phalaris, who turned his bull upon the artist!—No bones of their’s will I break—They shall come off with me upon much lighter terms!—

But these fellows are smugglers, it seems. And am not I a smuggler too?—I am—and have not the least doubt but I shall have secured my goods before Thursday, or Wednesday either.

But did I want a plot, what a charming new one does this letter of Miss Howe strike me out! I am almost sorry, that I have fixed upon one.—For here, how easy would it be for me to assemble a crew of swabbers, and to create a Mrs. Townsend (whose person, thou seest, my beloved knows not) to come on Tuesday, at Miss Howe’s repeated solicitations, in order to carry my beloved to a warehouse of my own providing?

This, however, is my triumphant hope, that at the very time that these ragamuffins will be at Hampstead (looking for us) my dear Miss Harlowe and I [so the Fates I imagine have ordained] shall be fast asleep in each other’s arms in town.—Lie still, villain, till the time comes.—My heart, Jack! my heart!—It is always thumping away on the remotest prospects of this nature.

But it seems that the vileness of this specious monster [meaning me, Jack!] has brought Hickman into credit with her. So I have done some good! But to whom I cannot tell: for this poor fellow, should I permit him to have this termagant, will be punished, as many times we all are, by the enjoyment of his own wishes—nor can she be happy, as I take it, with him, were he to govern himself by her will, and have none of his own; since never was there a directing wife who knew where to stop: power makes such a one wanton—she despises the man she can govern. Like Alexander, who wept, that he had no more worlds to conquer, she will be looking out for new exercises for her power, till she grow uneasy to herself, a discredit to her husband, and a plague to all about her.

But this honest fellow, it seems, with tears in his eyes, and with humble prostration, besought the vixen to permit him to set out in his chariot-and-four, in order to give himself the glory of protecting such an oppressed innocent, in the face of the whole world. Nay, he reddened, it seems: and trembled too! as he read the fair complainant’s letter.—How valiant is all this!—Women love brave men; and no wonder that his tears, his trembling, and his prostration, gave him high reputation with the meek Miss Howe.

But dost think, Jack, that I in the like case (and equally affected with the distress) should have acted thus? Dost think, that I should not first have rescued the lady, and then, if needful, have asked excuse for it, the lady in my hand?—Wouldst not thou have done thus, as well as I?

But, ’tis best as it is. Honest Hickman may now sleep in a whole skin. And yet that is more perhaps than he would have done (the lady’s deliverance unattempted) had I come at this requested permission of his any other way than by a letter that it must not be known that I have intercepted.

Miss Howe thinks I may be diverted from pursuing my charmer, by some new-started villany. Villany is a word that she is extremely fond of. But I can tell her, that it is impossible I should, till the end of this villany be obtained. Difficulty is a stimulus with such a spirit as mine. I thought Miss Howe knew me better. Were she to offer herself, person for person, in the romancing zeal of her friendship, to save her friend, it should not do, while the dear creature is on this side the moon.

She thanks Heaven, that her friend has received her letter of the 7th. We are all glad of it. She ought to thank me too. But I will not at present claim her thanks.

But when she rejoices that the letter went safe, does she not, in effect, call out for vengeance, and expect it!—All in good time, Miss Howe. When settest thou out for the Isle of Wight, love?

I will close at this time with desiring thee to make a list of the virulent terms with which the enclosed letter abounds: and then, if thou supposest that I have made such another, and have added to it all the flowers of the same blow, in the former letters of the same saucy creature, and those in that of Miss Harlowe, which she left for me on her elopement, thou wilt certainly think, that I have provocations sufficient to justify me in all that I shall do to either.

Return the enclosed the moment thou hast perused it.