Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XLI

MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. LONDON, JUNE 27. TUESDAY.

You must excuse me, Lovelace, from engaging in the office you would have me undertake, till I can be better assured you really intend honourably at last by this much-injured lady.

I believe you know your friend Belford too well to think he would be easy with you, or with any man alive, who should seek to make him promise for him what he never intended to perform. And let me tell thee, that I have not much confidence in the honour of a man, who by imitation of hands (I will only call it) has shown so little regard to the honour of his own relations.

Only that thou hast such jesuitical qualifyings, or I should think thee at last touched with remorse, and brought within view of being ashamed of thy cursed inventions by the ill success of thy last: which I heartily congratulate thee upon.

O the divine lady!—But I will not aggravate!

Nevertheless, when thou writest that, in thy present mood, thou thinkest of marrying, and yet canst so easily change thy mood; when I know thy heart is against the state: that the four words thou courtest from the lady are as much to thy purpose, as if she wrote forty; since it will show she can forgive the highest injury that can be offered to woman; and when I recollect how easily thou canst find excuses to postpone; thou must be more explicit a good deal, as to thy real intentions, and future honour, than thou art: for I cannot trust to temporary remorse; which brought on by disappointment too, and not by principle, and the like of which thou hast so often got over.

If thou canst convince me time enough for the day, that thou meanest to do honourably by her, in her own sense of the word; or, if not time enough, wilt fix some other day, (which thou oughtest to leave to her option, and not bind her down for the Thursday; and the rather, as thy pretence for so doing is founded on an absolute fiction;) I will then most cheerfully undertake thy cause; by person, if she will admit me to her presence; if she will not, by pen. But, in this case, thou must allow me to be guarantee for thy family. And, if so, so much as I value thee, and respect thy skill in all the qualifications of a gentleman, thou mayest depend upon it, that I will act up to the character of a guarantee, with more honour than the princes of our day usually do——to their shame be it spoken.

Mean time let me tell thee, that my heart bleeds for the wrong this angelic lady has received: and if thou dost not marry her, if she will have thee, and, when married, make her the best and tenderest of husbands, I would rather be a dog, a monkey, a bear, a viper, or a toad, than thee.

Command me with honour, and thou shalt find none readier to oblige thee than

Thy sincere friend, JOHN BELFORD.