Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XI


All’s right, as heart can wish!—In spite of all objection—in spite of a reluctance next to faintings—in spite of all foresight, vigilance, suspicion—once more is the charmer of my soul in her old lodgings!

Now throbs away every pulse! Now thump, thump, thumps my bounding heart for something!

But I have not time for the particulars of our management.

My beloved is now directing some of her clothes to be packed up—never more to enter this house! Nor ever more will she, I dare say, when once again out of it!

Yet not so much as a condition of forgiveness!—The Harlowe-spirited fair-one will not deserve my mercy!—She will wait for Miss Howe’s next letter; and then, if she find a difficulty in her new schemes, [Thank her for nothing,]—will—will what? Why even then will take time to consider, whether I am to be forgiven, or for ever rejected. An indifference that revives in my heart the remembrance of a thousand of the like nature.—And yet Lady Betty and Miss Montague, [a man would be tempted to think, Jack, that they wish her to provoke my vengeance,] declare, that I ought to be satisfied with such a proud suspension!

They are entirely attached to her. Whatever she says, is, must be, gospel! They are guarantees for her return to Hampstead this night. They are to go back with her. A supper bespoken by Lady Betty at Mrs. Moore’s. All the vacant apartments there, by my permission, (for I had engaged them for a month certain,) to be filled with them and their attendants, for a week at least, or till they can prevail upon the dear perverse, as they hope they shall, to restore me to her favour, and to accompany Lady Betty to Oxfordshire.

The dear creature has thus far condescended—that she will write to Miss Howe and acquaint her with the present situation of things.

If she write, I shall see what she writes. But I believe she will have other employment soon.

Lady Betty is sure, she tells her, that she shall prevail upon her to forgive me; though she dares say, that I deserve not forgiveness. Lady Betty is too delicate to inquire strictly into the nature of my offence. But it must be an offence against herself, against Miss Montague, against the virtuous of the whole sex, or it could not be so highly resented. Yet she will not leave her till she forgive me, and till she see our nuptials privately celebrated. Mean time, as she approves of her uncle’s expedient, she will address her as already my wife before strangers.

Stedman, her solicitor, may attend her for orders in relation to her chancery affair, at Hampstead. Not one hour they can be favoured with, will they lose from the company and conversation of so dear, so charming a new relation.

Hard then if she had not obliged them with her company in their coach-and-four, to and from their cousin Leeson’s, who longed, (as they themselves had done,) to see a lady so justly celebrated.

‘How will Lord M. be raptured when he sees her, and can salute her as his niece!

‘How will Lady Sarah bless herself!—She will now think her loss of the dear daughter she mourns for happily supplied!’

Miss Montague dwells upon every word that falls from her lips. She perfectly adores her new cousin—‘For her cousin she must be. And her cousin will she call her! She answers for equal admiration in her sister Patty.

‘Ay, cry I, (whispering loud enough for her to hear,) how will my cousin Patty’s dove’s eyes glisten and run over, on the very first interview!—So gracious, so noble, so unaffected a dear creature!’

‘What a happy family,’ chorus we all, ‘will our’s be!’

These and such like congratulatory admirations every hour repeated. Her modesty hurt by the ecstatic praises:—‘Her graces are too natural to herself for her to be proud of them: but she must be content to be punished for excellencies that cast a shade upon the most excellent!’

In short, we are here, as at Hampstead, all joy and rapture—all of us except my beloved; in whose sweet face, [her almost fainting reluctance to re-enter these doors not overcome,] reigns a kind of anxious serenity!—But how will even that be changed in a few hours!

Methinks I begin to pity the half-apprehensive beauty!—But avaunt, thou unseasonably-intruding pity! Thou hast more than once already well nigh undone me! And, adieu, reflection! Begone, consideration! and commiseration! I dismiss ye all, for at least a week to come!—But remembered her broken word! Her flight, when my fond soul was meditating mercy to her!—Be remembered her treatment of me in her letter on her escape to Hampstead! Her Hampstead virulence! What is it she ought not to expect from an unchained Beelzebub, and a plotting villain?

Be her preference of the single life to me also remembered!—That she despises me!—That she even refuses to be my WIFE!—A proud Lovelace to be denied a wife!—To be more proudly rejected by a daughter of the Harlowes!—The ladies of my own family, [she thinks them the ladies of my family,] supplicating in vain for her returning favour to their despised kinsman, and taking laws from her still prouder punctilio!

Be the execrations of her vixen friend likewise remembered, poured out upon me from her representations, and thereby made her own execrations!

Be remembered still more particularly the Townsend plot, set on foot between them, and now, in a day or two, ready to break out; and the sordid threatening thrown out against me by that little fury!

Is not this the crisis for which I have been long waiting? Shall Tomlinson, shall these women be engaged; shall so many engines be set at work, at an immense expense, with infinite contrivance; and all to no purpose?

Is not this the hour of her trial—and in her, of the trial of the virtue of her whole sex, so long premeditated, so long threatened?—Whether her frost be frost indeed? Whether her virtue be principle? Whether, if once subdued, she will not be always subdued? And will she not want the crown of her glory, the proof of her till now all-surpassing excellence, if I stop short of the ultimate trial?

Now is the end of purposes long over-awed, often suspended, at hand. And need I go throw the sins of her cursed family into the too-weighty scale?

[Abhorred be force!—be the thoughts of force!—There’s no triumph over the will in force!] This I know I have said.* But would I not have avoided it, if I could? Have I not tried every other method? And have I any other resource left me? Can she resent the last outrage more than she has resented a fainter effort?—And if her resentments run ever so high, cannot I repair by matrimony?—She will not refuse me, I know, Jack: the haughty beauty will not refuse me, when her pride of being corporally inviolate is brought down; when she can tell no tales, but when, (be her resistance what it will,) even her own sex will suspect a yielding in resistance; and when that modesty, which may fill her bosom with resentment, will lock up her speech.

* Vol. IV. Letter XLVIII.

But how know I, that I have not made my own difficulties? Is she not a woman! What redress lies for a perpetuated evil? Must she not live? Her piety will secure her life.—And will not time be my friend! What, in a word, will be her behaviour afterwards?—She cannot fly me!—She must forgive me—and as I have often said, once forgiven, will be for ever forgiven.

Why then should this enervating pity unsteel my foolish heart?

It shall not. All these things will I remember; and think of nothing else, in order to keep up a resolution, which the women about me will have it I shall be still unable to hold.

I’ll teach the dear, charming creature to emulate me in contrivance; I’ll teach her to weave webs and plots against her conqueror! I’ll show her, that in her smuggling schemes she is but a spider compared to me, and that she has all this time been spinning only a cobweb!

What shall we do now! we are immersed in the depth of grief and apprehension! How ill do women bear disappointment!—Set upon going to Hampstead, and upon quitting for ever a house she re-entered with infinite reluctance; what things she intended to take with her ready packed up, herself on tiptoe to be gone, and I prepared to attend her thither; she begins to be afraid that she shall not go this night; and in grief and despair has flung herself into her old apartment; locked herself in; and through the key-hole Dorcas sees her on her knees, praying, I suppose, for a safe deliverance.

And from what? and wherefore these agonizing apprehensions?

Why, here, this unkind Lady Betty, with the dear creature’s knowledge, though to her concern, and this mad-headed cousin Montague without it, while she was employed in directing her package, have hurried away in the coach to their own lodgings, [only, indeed, to put up some night-clothes, and so forth, in order to attend their sweet cousin to Hampstead;] and, no less to my surprise than her’s, are not yet returned.

I have sent to know the meaning of it.

In a great hurry of spirits, she would have had me to go myself. Hardly any pacifying her! The girl, God bless her! is wild with her own idle apprehensions! What is she afraid of?

I curse them both for their delay. My tardy villain, how he stays! Devil fetch them! let them send their coach, and we’ll go without them. In her hearing I bid the fellow tell them so. Perhaps he stays to bring the coach, if any thing happens to hinder the ladies from attending my beloved this night.

Devil take them, again say I! They promised too they would not stay, because it was but two nights ago that a chariot was robbed at the foot of Hampstead-hill, which alarmed my fair-one when told of it!

Oh! here’s Lady Betty’s servant, with a billet.


Excuse us, my dear Nephew, I beseech you, to my dearest kinswoman. One night cannot break squares: for here Miss Montague has been taken violently ill with three fainting fits, one after another. The hurry of her joy, I believe, to find your dear lady so much surpass all expectations, [never did family love, you know, reign so strong as among us,] and the too eager desire she had to attend her, have occasioned it! For she has but weak spirits, poor girl! well as she looks.

If she be better, we will certainly go with you tomorrow morning, after we have breakfasted with her, at your lodgings. But whether she be, or not, I will do myself the pleasure to attend your lady to Hampstead; and will be with you for that purpose about nine in the morning. With due compliments to your most worthily beloved, I am

Your’s affectionately, ELIZAB. LAWRANCE.

Faith and troth, Jack, I know not what to do with myself; for here, just now having sent in the above note by Dorcas, out came my beloved with it in her hand, in a fit of phrensy!—true, by my soul!

She had indeed complained of her head all the evening.

Dorcas ran to me, out of breath, to tell me, that her lady was coming in some strange way; but she followed her so quick, that the frighted wench had not time to say in what way.

It seems, when she read the billet—Now indeed, said she, am I a lost creature! O the poor Clarissa Harlowe!

She tore off her head-clothes; inquired where I was; and in she came, her shining tresses flowing about her neck; her ruffles torn, and hanging in tatters about her snowy hands, with her arms spread out—her eyes wildly turned, as if starting from their orbits—down sunk she at my feet, as soon as she approached me; her charming bosom heaving to her uplifted face; and clasping her arms about my knees, Dear Lovelace, said she, if ever—if ever—if ever—and, unable to speak another word, quitting her clasping hold—down—prostrate on the floor sunk she, neither in a fit nor out of one.

I was quite astonished.—All my purposes suspended for a few moments, I knew neither what to say, nor what to do. But, recollecting myself, am I again, thought I, in a way to be overcome, and made a fool of!—If I now recede, I am gone for ever.

I raised her; but down she sunk, as if quite disjointed—her limbs failing her—yet not in a fit neither. I never heard of or saw such a dear unaccountable; almost lifeless, and speechless too for a few moments; what must her apprehensions be at that moment?—And for what?—An high-notioned dear soul!—Pretty ignorance!—thought I.

Never having met with so sincere, so unquestionable a repugnance, I was staggered—I was confounded—yet how should I know that it would be so till I tried?—And how, having proceeded thus far, could I stop, were I not to have had the women to goad me on, and to make light of circumstances, which they pretended to be better judges of than I?

I lifted her, however, into a chair, and in words of disordered passion, told her, all her fears were needless—wondered at them—begged of her to be pacified—besought her reliance on my faith and honour—and revowed all my old vows, and poured forth new ones.

At last, with a heart-breaking sob, I see, I see, Mr. Lovelace, in broken sentences she spoke—I see, I see—that at last—I am ruined!—Ruined, if your pity—let me implore your pity!—and down on her bosom, like a half-broken-stalked lily top-heavy with the overcharging dews of the morning, sunk her head, with a sigh that went to my heart.

All I could think of to re-assure her, when a little recovered, I said.

Why did I not send for their coach, as I had intimated? It might return in the morning for the ladies.

I had actually done so, I told her, on seeing her strange uneasiness. But it was then gone to fetch a doctor for Miss Montague, lest his chariot should not be so ready.

Ah! Lovelace! said she, with a doubting face; anguish in her imploring eye.

Lady Betty would think it very strange, I told her, if she were to know it was so disagreeable to her to stay one night for her company in the house where she had passed so many.

She called me names upon this—she had called me names before.—I was patient.

Let her go to Lady Betty’s lodgings then; directly go; if the person I called Lady Betty was really Lady Betty.

If, my dear! Good Heaven! What a villain does that IF show you believe me to be!

I cannot help it—I beseech you once more, let me go to Mrs. Leeson’s, if that IF ought not to be said.

Then assuming a more resolute spirit—I will go! I will inquire my way!—I will go by myself!—and would have rushed by me.

I folded my arms about her to detain her; pleading the bad way I heard poor Charlotte was in; and what a farther concern her impatience, if she went, would give to poor Charlotte.

She would believe nothing I said, unless I would instantly order a coach, (since she was not to have Lady Betty’s, nor was permitted to go to Mrs. Leeson’s,) and let her go in it to Hampstead, late as it was, and all alone, so much the better; for in the house of people of whom Lady Betty, upon inquiry, had heard a bad character, [Dropt foolishly this, by my prating new relation, in order to do credit to herself, by depreciating others,] every thing, and every face, looking with so much meaning vileness, as well as my own, [thou art still too sensible, thought I, my charmer!] she was resolved not to stay another night.

Dreading what might happen as to her intellects, and being very apprehensive that she might possibly go through a great deal before morning, (though more violent she could not well be with the worst she dreaded,) I humoured her, and ordered Will. to endeavour to get a coach directly, to carry us to Hampstead; I cared not at what price.

Robbers, with whom I would have terrified her, she feared not—I was all her fear, I found; and this house her terror: for I saw plainly that she now believed that Lady Betty and Miss Montague were both impostors.

But her mistrust is a little of the latest to do her service!

And, O Jack, the rage of love, the rage of revenge is upon me! by turns they tear me! The progress already made—the women’s instigations—the power I shall have to try her to the utmost, and still to marry her, if she be not to be brought to cohabitation—let me perish, Belford, if she escape me now!

Will. is not yet come back. Near eleven.

Will. is this moment returned. No coach to be got, either for love or money.

Once more she urges—to Mrs. Leeson’s, let me go, Lovelace! Good Lovelace, let me go to Mrs. Leeson’s? What is Miss Montague’s illness to my terror?—-For the Almighty’s sake, Mr. Lovelace!—her hands clasped.

O my angel! What a wildness is this! Do you know, do you see, my dearest life, what appearances your causeless apprehensions have given you?—Do you know it is past eleven o’clock?

Twelve, one, two, three, four—any hour, I care not—If you mean me honourably, let me go out of this hated house!

Thou’lt observe, Belford, that though this was written afterwards, yet, (as in other places,) I write it as it was spoken and happened, as if I had retired to put down every sentence spoken. I know thou likest this lively present-tense manner, as it is one of my peculiars.

Just as she had repeated the last words, If you mean me honourably, let me go out of this hated house, in came Mrs. Sinclair, in a great ferment—And what, pray, Madam, has this house done to you? Mr. Lovelace, you have known me some time; and, if I have not the niceness of this lady, I hope I do not deserve to be treated thus!

She set her huge arms akimbo: Hoh! Madam, let me tell you that I am amazed at your freedoms with my character! And, Mr. Lovelace, [holding up, and violently shaking her head,] if you are a gentleman, and a man of honour——

Having never before seen any thing but obsequiousness in this woman, little as she liked her, she was frighted at her masculine air, and fierce look—God help me! cried she—what will become of me now! Then, turning her head hither and thither, in a wild kind of amaze. Whom have I for a protector! What will become of me now!

I will be your protector, my dearest love!—But indeed you are uncharitably severe upon poor Mrs. Sinclair! Indeed you are!—She is a gentlewoman born, and the relict of a man of honour; and though left in such circumstance as to oblige her to let lodgings, yet would she scorn to be guilty of a wilful baseness.

I hope so—it may be so—I may be mistaken—but—but there is no crime, I presume, no treason, to say I don’t like her house.

The old dragon straddled up to her, with her arms kemboed again—her eye-brows erect, like the bristles upon a hog’s back, and, scouling over her shortened nose, more than half-hid her ferret eyes. Her mouth was distorted. She pouted out her blubber-lips, as if to bellows up wind and sputter into her horse-nostrils; and her chin was curdled, and more than usually prominent with passion.

With two Hoh-Madams she accosted the frighted fair-one; who, terrified, caught hold of my sleeve.

I feared she would fall into fits; and, with a look of indignation, told Mrs. Sinclair that these apartments were mine; and I could not imagine what she meant, either by listening to what passed between me and my spouse, or to come in uninvited; and still more I wondered at her giving herself these strange liberties.

I may be to blame, Jack, for suffering this wretch to give herself these airs; but her coming in was without my orders.

The old beldam, throwing herself into a chair, fell a blubbering and exclaiming. And the pacifying of her, and endeavouring to reconcile the lady to her, took up till near one o’clock.

And thus, between terror, and the late hour, and what followed, she was diverted from the thoughts of getting out of the house to Mrs. Leeson’s, or any where else.