Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XLI



I arrived in town yesterday, after a tolerably pleasant journey (considering the hot weather and dusty roads). I put up at the Bull and Gate in Holborn, and hastened to Covent-garden. I soon found the house where the unhappy lady lodgeth. And, in the back shop, had a good deal of discourse* with Mrs. Smith, (her landlady,) whom I found to be so ’highly prepossessed’** in her ’favour,’ that I saw it would not answer your desires to take my informations ’altogether’ from her: and being obliged to attend my patron, (who to my sorrow,

* See Vol. VII. Letter LXXXI. ** Transcriber’s note: Mr. Brand’s letters are characterized by a style that makes excessive use of italics for emphasis. Although in the remainder of Clarissa I have largely disregarded italics for the sake of plain-text formatting, this style makes such emphatic use of italics that I have indicated all such instances in his letters by placing the italicized words and phrases in quotations, thus ’ ’.

’Miserum et aliena vivere quadra,’)

I find wanteth much waiting upon, and is ’another’ sort of man than he was at college: for, Sir, ’inter nos,’ ’honours change manners.’ For the ’aforesaid causes,’ I thought it would best answer all the ends of the commission with which you honoured me, to engage, in the desired scrutiny, the wife of a ’particular friend,’ who liveth almost over-against the house where she lodgeth, and who is a gentlewoman of ’character,’ and ’sobriety,’ a ’mother of children,’ and one who ’knoweth’ the ’world’ well.

To her I applied myself, therefore, and gave her a short history of the case, and desired she would very particularly inquire into the ’conduct’ of the unhappy young lady; her ’present way of life’ and ’subsistence’; her ’visiters,’ her ’employments,’ and such-like: for these, Sir, you know, are the things whereof you wished to be informed.

Accordingly, Sir, I waited upon the gentlewoman aforesaid, this day; and, to ’my’ very great trouble, (because I know it will be to ’your’s,’ and likewise to all your worthy family’s,) I must say, that I do find things look a little more ’darkly’ than I hoped the would. For, alas! Sir, the gentlewoman’s report turneth out not so ’favourable’ for Miss’s reputation, as ’I’ wished, as ’you’ wished, and as ’every one’ of her friends wished. But so it is throughout the world, that ’one false step’ generally brings on ’another’; and peradventure ’a worse,’ and ’a still worse’; till the poor ’limed soul’ (a very fit epithet of the Divine Quarles’s!) is quite ’entangled,’ and (without infinite mercy) lost for ever.

It seemeth, Sir, she is, notwithstanding, in a very ’ill state of health.’ In this, ’both’ gentlewomen (that is to say, Mrs. Smith, her landlady, and my friend’s wife) agree. Yet she goeth often out in a chair, to ’prayers’ (as it is said). But my friend’s wife told me, that nothing is more common in London, than that the frequenting of the church at morning prayers is made the ’pretence’ and ’cover’ for ’private assignations.’ What a sad thing is this! that what was designed for ’wholesome nourishment’ to the ’poor soul,’ should be turned into ’rank poison!’ But as Mr. Daniel de Foe (an ingenious man, though a ’dissenter’) observeth (but indeed it is an old proverb; only I think he was the first that put it into verse)

God never had a house of pray’r

But Satan had a chapel there.

Yet to do the lady ’justice,’ nobody cometh home with her: nor indeed ’can’ they, because she goeth forward and backward in a ’sedan,’ or ’chair,’ (as they call it). But then there is a gentleman of ’no good character’ (an ’intimado’ of Mr. Lovelace) who is a ’constant’ visiter of her, and of the people of the house, whom he ’regaleth’ and ’treateth,’ and hath (of consequence) their ’high good words.’

I have thereupon taken the trouble (for I love to be ’exact’ in any ’commission’ I undertake) to inquire ’particularly’ about this ’gentleman,’ as he is called (albeit I hold no man so but by his actions: for, as Juvenal saith,

—’Nobilitas sola est, atque unica virtus’)

And this I did ’before’ I would sit down to write to you.

His name is Belford. He hath a paternal estate of upwards of one thousand pounds by the year; and is now in mourning for an uncle who left him very considerably besides. He beareth a very profligate character as to ’women,’ (for I inquired particularly about ’that,’) and is Mr. Lovelace’s more especial ’privado,’ with whom he holdeth a ’regular correspondence’; and hath been often seen with Miss (tête à tête) at the ’window’—in no ’bad way,’ indeed: but my friend’s wife is of opinion that all is not ’as it should be.’ And, indeed, it is mighty strange to me, if Miss be so ’notable a penitent’ (as is represented) and if she have such an ’aversion’ to Mr. Lovelace, that she will admit his ’privado’ into ’her retirements,’ and see ’no other company.’

I understand, from Mrs. Smith, that Mr. Hickman was to see her some time ago, from Miss Howe; and I am told, by ’another’ hand, (you see, Sir, how diligent I have been to execute the ’commissions’ you gave me,) that he had no ’extraordinary opinion’ of this Belford at first; though they were seen together one morning by the opposite neighbour, at ’breakfast’: and another time this Belford was observed to ’watch’ Mr. Hickman’s coming from her; so that, as it should seem, he was mighty zealous to ’ingratiate’ himself with Mr. Hickman; no doubt to engage him to make a ’favourable report to Miss Howe’ of the ’intimacy’ he was admitted into by her unhappy friend; who (’as she is very ill’) may ’mean no harm’ in allowing his visits, (for he, it seemeth, brought to her, or recommended, at least, the doctor and apothecary that attend her:) but I think (upon the whole) ’it looketh not well.’

I am sorry, Sir, I cannot give you a better account of the young lady’s ’prudence.’ But, what shall we say?

’Uvaque conspectâ livorem ducit ab uvâ,’

as Juvenal observeth.

One thing I am afraid of; which is, that Miss may be under ’necessities’; and that this Belford (who, as Mrs. Smith owns, hath ’offered her money,’ which she, ’at the time,’ refused) may find an opportunity to ’take advantage’ of those ’necessities’: and it is well observed by that poet, that

’Ægrè formosam poteris servare puellam:

Nunc prece, nunc pretio, forma petita ruit.’

And this Belford (who is a ’bold man,’ and hath, as they say, the ’look’ of one) may make good that of Horace, (with whose writings you are so well acquainted; nobody better;)

’Audax omnia perpeti,

Gens humana ruit per vetitum nefas.’

Forgive me, Sir, for what I am going to write: but if you could prevail upon the rest of your family to join in the scheme which ’you,’ and her ’virtuous sister,’ Miss Arabella, and the Archdeacon, and I, once talked of, (which is to persuade the unhappy young lady to go, in some ’creditable’ manner, to some one of the foreign colonies,) it might not save only her ’own credit’ and ’reputation,’ but the ’reputation’ and ’credit’ of all her ’family,’ and a great deal of ’vexation’ moreover. For it is my humble opinion, that you will hardly (any of you) enjoy yourselves while this (’once’ innocent) young lady is in the way of being so frequently heard of by you: and this would put her ’out of the way’ both of ’this Belford’ and of ’that Lovelace,’ and it might, peradventure, prevent as much ’evil’ as ’scandal.’

You will forgive me, Sir, for this my ’plainness.’ Ovid pleadeth for me,

’——Adulator nullus amicus erit.’

And I have no view but that of approving myself a ’zealous well-wisher’ to ’all’ your worthy family, (whereto I owe a great number of obligations,) and very particularly, Sir,

Your obliged and humble servant, ELIAS BRAND.


P.S. I shall give you ’farther hints’ when I come down, (which will be in

a few days;) and who my ’informants’ were; but by ’these’ you will

see, that I have been very assiduous (for the time) in the task you

set me upon.

The ’length’ of my letter you will excuse: for I need not tell you, Sir,

what ’narrative,’ ’complex,’ and ’conversation’ letters (such a one

as ’mine’) require. Every one to his ’talent.’ ’Letter-writing’

is mine. I will be bold to say; and that my ’correspondence’ was

much coveted in the university, on that account, by ’tyros,’ and

by ’sophs,’ when I was hardly a ’soph’ myself. But this I should

not have taken upon myself to mention, but only in defence of the

’length’ of my letter; for nobody writeth ’shorter’ or ’pithier,’

when the subject requireth ’common forms’ only—but, in apologizing

for my ’prolixity,’ I am ’adding’ to the ’fault,’ (if it were one,

which, however, I cannot think it to be, the ’subject’ considered:

but this I have said before in other words:) so, Sir, if you will

excuse my ’post-script,’ I am sure you will not find fault with my


One word more as to a matter of ’erudition,’ which you greatly love to

hear me ’start’ and ’dwell upon.’ Dr. Lewen once, in ’your’

presence, (as you, ’my good patron,’ cannot but remember,) in a

’smartish’ kind of debate between ’him’ and ’me,’ took upon him to

censure the ’paranthetical’ style, as I call it. He was a very

learned and judicious man, to be sure, and an ornament to ’our

function’: but yet I must needs say, that it is a style which I

greatly like; and the good Doctor was then past his ’youth,’ and

that time of life, of consequence, when a ’fertile imagination,’

and a ’rich fancy,’ pour in ideas so fast upon a writer, that

parentheses are often wanted (and that for the sake of ’brevity,’

as well as ’perspicuity’) to save the reader the trouble of reading

a passage ’more than once.’ Every man to his talent, (as I said

before.) We are all so apt to set up our ’natural biasses’ for

’general standards,’ that I wondered ’the less’ at the worthy

Doctor’s ’stiffness’ on this occasion. He ’smiled at me,’ you may

remember, Sir—and, whether I was right or not, I am sure I ’smiled

at him.’ And ’you,’ my ’worthy patron,’ (as I had the satisfaction

to observe,) seemed to be of ’my party.’ But was it not strange,

that the ’old gentleman’ and ’I’ should so widely differ, when the

’end’ with ’both’ (that is to say, ’perspicuity’ or ’clearness,’)

was the same?—But what shall we say?—

’Errare est hominis, sed non persistere.’

I think I have nothing to add until I have the honour of attending you in

’person’; but I am, (as above,) &c. &c. &c.