Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XIX


I must write on. Nothing else can divert me: and I think thou canst not have been a dog to me.

I would fain have closed my eyes: but sleep flies me. Well says Horace, as translated by Cowley:

The halcyon sleep will never build his nest

In any stormy breast.

’Tis not enough that he does find

Clouds and darkness in the mind:

Darkness but half his work will do.

’Tis not enough: he must find quiet too.

Now indeed do I from my heart wish that I had never known this lady. But who would have thought there had been such a woman in the world? Of all the sex I have hitherto known, or heard, or read of, it was once subdued, and always subdued. The first struggle was generally the last; or, at least, the subsequent struggles were so much fainter and fainter, that a man would rather have them than be without them. But how know I yet——

It is now near six—the sun for two hours past has been illuminating every thing about me: for that impartial orb shines upon Mother Sinclair’s house as well as upon any other: but nothing within me can it illuminate.

At day-dawn I looked through the key-hole of my beloved’s door. She had declared she would not put off her clothes any more in this house. There I beheld her in a sweet slumber, which I hope will prove refreshing to her disturbed senses; sitting in her elbow-chair, her apron over her head; her head supported by one sweet hand, the other hand hanging down upon her side, in a sleepy lifelessness; half of one pretty foot only visible.

See the difference in our cases! thought I: she, the charming injured, can sweetly sleep, while the varlet injurer cannot close his eyes; and has been trying, to no purpose, the whole night to divert his melancholy, and to fly from himself!

As every vice generally brings on its own punishment, even in this life; if any thing were to tempt me to doubt of future punishment, it would be, that there can hardly be a greater than that in which I at this instant experience in my own remorse.

I hope it will go off. If not, well will the dear creature be avenged; for I shall be the most miserable of men.


Just now Dorcas tells me, that her lady is preparing openly, and without disguise, to be gone. Very probable. The humour she flew away from me in last night has given me expectation of such an enterprize.

Now, Jack, to be thus hated and despised!—And if I have sinned beyond forgiveness——

But she has sent me a message by Dorcas, that she will meet me in the dining-room; and desires [odd enough] that the wretch may be present at the conversation that shall pass between us. This message gives me hope.


Confounded art, cunning villany!—By my soul, she had like to have slipped through my fingers! She meant nothing by her message but to get Dorcas out of the way, and a clear coast. Is a fancied distress, sufficient to justify this lady for dispensing with her principles? Does she not show me that she can wilfully deceive, as well as I?

Had she been in the fore-house, and no passage to go through to get at the street-door, she had certainly been gone. But her haste betrayed her: for Sally Martin happening to be in the fore-parlour, and hearing a swifter motion than usual, and a rustling of silks, as if from somebody in a hurry, looked out; and seeing who it was, stept between her and the door, and set her back against it.

You must not go, Madam. Indeed you must not.

By what right?—And how dare you?—And such-like imperious airs the dear creature gave herself.—While Sally called out for her aunt; and half a dozen voiced joined instantly in the cry, for me to hasten down, to hasten down in a moment.

I was gravely instructing Dorcas above stairs, and wondering what would be the subject of the conversation to which the wench was to be a witness, when these outcries reached my ears. And down I flew.—And there was the charming creature, the sweet deceiver, panting for breath, her back against the partition, a parcel in her hand, [women make no excursions without their parcels,] Sally, Polly, (but Polly obligingly pleaded for her,) the mother, Mabell, and Peter, (the footman of the house,) about her; all, however, keeping their distance; the mother and Sally between her and the door—in her soft rage the dear soul repeating, I will go—nobody has a right—I will go—if you kill me, women, I won’t go up again!

As soon as she saw me, she stept a pace or two towards me; Mr. Lovelace, I will go! said she—do you authorize these women—what right have they, or you either, to stop me?

Is this, my dear, preparative to the conversation you led me to expect in the dining-room? And do you think I can part with you thus?—Do you think I will.

And am I, Sir, to be thus beset?—Surrounded thus?—What have these women to do with me?

I desired them to leave us, all but Dorcas, who was down as soon as I. I then thought it right to assume an air of resolution, having found my tameness so greatly triumphed over. And now, my dear, said I, (urging her reluctant feet,) be pleased to walk into the fore-parlour. Here, since you will not go up stairs, here we may hold our parley; and Dorcas will be witness to it. And now, Madam, seating her, and sticking my hands in my sides, your pleasure!

Insolent villain! said the furious lady. And rising, ran to the window, and threw up the sash, [she knew not, I suppose, that there were iron rails before the windows.] And, when she found she could not get out into the street, clasping her uplifted hands together, having dropt her parcel—For the love of God, good honest man!—For the love of God, mistress—[to two passers by,] a poor, a poor creature, said she, ruined!——

I clasped her in my arms, people beginning to gather about the window: and then she cried out Murder! help! help! and carried her up to the dining-room, in spite of her little plotting heart, (as I may now call it,) although she violently struggled, catching hold of the banisters here and there, as she could. I would have seated her there; but she sunk down half-motionless, pale as ashes. And a violent burst of tears happily relieved her.

Dorcas wept over her. The wench was actually moved for her!

Violent hysterics succeeded. I left her to Mabell, Dorcas, and Polly; the latter the most supportable to her of the sisterhood.

This attempt, so resolutely made, alarmed me not a little.

Mrs. Sinclair and her nymphs, are much more concerned; because of the reputation of their house as they call it, having received some insults (broken windows threatened) to make them produce the young creature who cried out.

While the mobbish inquisitors were in the height of their office, the women came running up to me, to know what they should do; a constable being actually fetched.

Get the constable into the parlour, said I, with three or four of the forwardest of the mob, and produce one of the nymphs, onion-eyed, in a moment, with disordered head-dress and handkerchief, and let her own herself the person: the occasion, a female skirmish: but satisfied with the justice done her. Then give a dram or two to each fellow, and all will be well.


All done as I advised; and all is well.

Mrs. Sinclair wishes she had never seen the face of so skittish a lady; and she and Sally are extremely pressing with me, to leave the perverse beauty to their breaking, as they call it, for four or five days. But I cursed them into silence; only ordering double precaution for the future.

Polly, though she consoled the dear perverse one all she could, when with her, insists upon it to me, that nothing but terror will procure me tolerable usage.

Dorcas was challenged by the women upon her tears. She owned them real. Said she was ashamed of herself: but could not help it. So sincere, so unyielding a grief, in so sweet a lady!—

The women laughed at her; but I bid her make no apologies for her tears, nor mind their laughing. I was glad to see them so ready. Good use might be made of such strangers. In short, I would not have her indulge them often, and try if it were not possible to gain her lady’s confidence by her concern for her.

She said that her lady did take kind notice of them to her; and was glad to see such tokens of humanity in her.

Well then, said I, your part, whether any thing come of it or not, is to be tender-hearted. It can do no harm, if no good. But take care you are not too suddenly, or too officiously compassionate.

So Dorcas will be a humane, good sort of creature, I believe, very quickly with her lady. And as it becomes women to be so, and as my beloved is willing to think highly of her own sex; it will the more readily pass with her.

I thought to have had one trial (having gone so far) for cohabitation. But what hope can there be of succeeding?—She is invincible!—Against all my motions, against all my conceptions, (thinking of her as a woman, and in the very bloom of her charms,) she is absolutely invincible. My whole view, at the present, is to do her legal justice, if I can but once more get her out of her altitudes.

The consent of such a woman must make her ever new, ever charming. But astonishing! Can the want of a church-ceremony make such a difference!

She owes me her consent; for hitherto I have had nothing to boast of. All of my side, has been deep remorse, anguish of mind, and love increased rather than abated.

How her proud rejection stings me!—And yet I hope still to get her to listen to my stories of the family-reconciliation, and of her uncle and Capt. Tomlinson—and as she has given me a pretence to detain her against her will, she must see me, whether in temper or not.—She cannot help it. And if love will not do, terror, as the women advise, must be tried.

A nice part, after all, has my beloved to act. If she forgive me easily, I resume perhaps my projects:—if she carry her rejection into violence, that violence may make me desperate, and occasion fresh violence. She ought, since she thinks she has found the women out, to consider where she is.

I am confoundedly out of conceit with myself. If I give up my contrivances, my joy in stratagem, and plot, and invention, I shall be but a common man; such another dull heavy creature as thyself. Yet what does even my success in my machinations bring me but regret, disgrace, repentance? But I am overmatched, egregiously overmatched, by this woman. What to do with her, or without her, I know not.