Clarissa Harlowe LETTER VIII


So, Jack, they think they have gained a mighty point. But, were I to change my mind, were I to repent, I fancy I am safe.—And yet this very moment it rises to my mind, that ’tis hard trusting too; for surely there must be some embers, where there was fire so lately, that may be stirred up to give a blaze to combustibles strewed lightly upon them. Love, like some self-propagating plants, or roots, (which have taken strong hold in the earth) when once got deep into the heart, is hardly ever totally extirpated, except by matrimony indeed, which is the grave of love, because it allows of the end of love. Then these ladies, all advocates for herself, with herself, Miss Howe at their head, perhaps,——not in favour to me—I don’t expect that from Miss Howe—but perhaps in favour to herself: for Miss Howe has reason to apprehend vengeance from me, I ween. Her Hickman will be safe too, as she may think, if I marry her beloved friend: for he has been a busy fellow, and I have long wished to have a slap at him!—The lady’s case desperate with her friends too; and likely to be so, while single, and her character exposed to censure.

A husband is a charming cloke, a fig-leaved apron for a wife: and for a lady to be protected in liberties, in diversions, which her heart pants after—and all her faults, even the most criminal, were she to be detected, to be thrown upon the husband, and the ridicule too; a charming privilege for a wife!

But I shall have one comfort, if I marry, which pleases me not a little. If a man’s wife has a dear friend of her sex, a hundred liberties may be taken with that friend, which could not be taken, if the single lady (knowing what a title to freedoms marriage had given him with her friend) was not less scrupulous with him than she ought to be as to herself. Then there are broad freedoms (shall I call them?) that may be taken by the husband with his wife, that may not be quite shocking, which, if the wife bears before her friends, will serve for a lesson to that friend; and if that friend bears to be present at them without check or bashfulness, will show a sagacious fellow that she can bear as much herself, at proper time and place.

Chastity, Jack, like piety, is an uniform thing. If in look, if in speech, a girl give way to undue levity, depend upon it the devil has got one of his cloven feet in her heart already—so, Hickman, take care of thyself, I advise thee, whether I marry or not.

Thus, Jack, have I at once reconciled myself to all my relations—and if the lady refuses me, thrown the fault upon her. This, I knew, would be in my power to do at any time: and I was the more arrogant to them, in order to heighten the merit of my compliance.

But, after all, it would be very whimsical, would it not, if all my plots and contrivances should end in wedlock? What a punishment should this come out to be, upon myself too, that all this while I have been plundering my own treasury?

And then, can there be so much harm done, if it can be so easily repaired by a few magical words; as I Robert take thee, Clarissa; and I Clarissa take thee, Robert, with the rest of the for-better and for-worse legerdemain, which will hocus pocus all the wrongs, the crying wrongs, that I have done to Miss Harlowe, into acts of kindness and benevolence to Mrs. Lovelace?

But, Jack, two things I must insist upon with thee, if this is to be the case.—Having put secrets of so high a nature between me and my spouse into thy power, I must, for my own honour, and for the honour of my wife and illustrious progeny, first oblige thee to give up the letters I have so profusely scribbled to thee; and in the next place, do by thee, as I have heard whispered in France was done by the true father of a certain monarque; that is to say, cut thy throat, to prevent thy telling of tales.

I have found means to heighten the kind opinion my friends here have begun to have of me, by communicating to them the contents of the four last letters which I wrote to press my elected spouse to solemnize. My Lord repeated one of his phrases in my favour, that he hopes it will come out, that the devil is not quite so black as he is painted.

Now pr’ythee, dear Jack, since so many good consequences are to flow from these our nuptials, (one of which to thyself; since the sooner thou diest, the less thou wilt have to answer for); and that I now-and-then am apt to believe there may be something in the old fellow’s notion, who once told us, that he who kills a man, has all that man’s sins to answer for, as well as his own, because he gave him not the time to repent of them that Heaven designed to allow him, [a fine thing for thee, if thou consentest to be knocked of the head; but a cursed one for the manslayer!] and since there may be room to fear that Miss Howe will not give us her help; I pr’ythee now exert thyself to find out my Clarissa Harlowe, that I may make a LOVELACE of her. Set all the city bellmen, and the country criers, for ten miles round the metropolis, at work, with their ’Oye’s! and if any man, woman, or child can give tale or tidings.’ —Advertise her in all the news-papers; and let her know, ’That if she will repair to Lady Betty Lawrance, or to Miss Charlotte Montague, she may hear of something greatly to her advantage.’


My two cousins Montague are actually to set out to-morrow to Mrs. Howe’s, to engage her vixen daughter’s interest with her friend. They will flaunt it away in a chariot-and-six, for the greater state and significance.

Confounded mortification to be reduced this low!—My pride hardly knows how to brook it.

Lord M. has engaged the two venerables to stay here to attend the issue: and I, standing very high at present in their good graces, am to gallant them to Oxford, to Blenheim, and to several other places.