Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XLII


The letter accompanying this being upon a very particular subject, I would not embarrass it, as I may say, with any other. And yet having some farther matters upon my mind, which will want your excuse for directing them to you, I hope the following lines will have that excuse.

My good Mrs. Norton, so long ago as in a letter dated the 3d of this month,* hinted to me that my relations took amiss some severe things you were pleased, in love to me, to say to them. Mrs. Norton mentioned it with that respectful love which she bears to my dearest friend: but wished, for my sake, that you would rein in a vivacity, which, on most other occasions, so charmingly becomes you. This was her sense. You know that I am warranted to speak and write freer to my Anna Howe than Mrs. Norton would do.

* See Vol. VI. Letter LXIII.

I durst not mention it to you at that time, because appearances were so strong against me, on Mr. Lovelace’s getting me again into his power, (after my escape to Hampstead,) as made you very angry with me when you answered mine on my second escape. And, soon afterwards, I was put under that barbarous arrest; so that I could not well touch upon the subject till now.

Now, therefore, my dearest Miss Howe, let me repeat my earnest request (for this is not the first time by several that I have been obliged to chide you on this occasion,) that you will spare my parents, and other relations, in all your conversations about me. Indeed, I wish they had thought fit to take other measures with me: But who shall judge for them? —The event has justified them, and condemned me.—They expected nothing good of this vile man; he had not, therefore, deceived them: but they expected other things from me; and I have. And they have the more reason to be set against me, if (as my aunt Hervey wrote* formerly,) they intended not to force my inclinations in favour of Mr. Solmes; and if they believe that my going off was the effect of choice and premeditation.

* See Vol. III. Letter LII.

I have no desire to be received to favour by them: For why should I sit down to wish for what I have no reason to expect?—Besides, I could not look them in the face, if they would receive me. Indeed I could not. All I have to hope for is, first, that my father will absolve me from his heavy malediction: and next, for a last blessing. The obtaining of these favours are needful to my peace of mind.

I have written to my sister; but have only mentioned the absolution.

I am afraid I shall receive a very harsh answer from her: my fault, in the eyes of my family, is of so enormous a nature, that my first application will hardly be encouraged. Then they know not (nor perhaps will believe) that I am so very ill as I am. So that, were I actually to die before they could have time to take the necessary informations, you must not blame them too severely. You must call it a fatality. I know not what you must call it: for, alas! I have made them as miserable as I am myself. And yet sometimes I think that, were they cheerfully to pronounce me forgiven, I know not whether my concern for having offended them would not be augmented: since I imagine that nothing can be more wounding to a spirit not ungenerous than a generous forgiveness.

I hope your mother will permit our correspondence for one month more, although I do not take her advice as to having this man. When catastrophes are winding up, what changes (changes that make one’s heart shudder to think of,) may one short month produce?—But if she will not— why then, my dear, it becomes us both to acquiesce.

You can’t think what my apprehensions would have been, had I known Mr. Hickman was to have had a meeting (on such a questioning occasion as must have been his errand from you) with that haughty and uncontroulable man.

You give me hope of a visit from Mr. Hickman: let him expect to see me greatly altered. I know he loves me: for he loves every one whom you love. A painful interview, I doubt! But I shall be glad to see a man whom you will one day, and that on an early day, I hope, make happy; whose gentle manners, and unbounded love for you, will make you so, if it be not your own fault.

I am, my dearest, kindest friend, the sweet companion of my happy hours, the friend ever dearest and nearest to my fond heart,

Your equally obliged and faithful, CLARISSA HARLOWE.