Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XLIV

TO MR. PATRICK M’DONALD,

AT HIS LODGINGS, AT MR. BROWN’S, PERUKE-MAKER, IN ST. MARTIN’S LANE, WESTMINSTER

M. Hall, Wedn. Morning, Two o’clock.

DEAR M’DONALD,

The bearer of this has a letter to carry to the lady.* I have been at the trouble of writing a copy of it: which I enclose, that you may not mistake your cue.

* See the preceding Letter.

You will judge of my reasons for ante-dating the enclosed sealed one,* directed to you by the name of Tomlinson; which you are to show to the lady, as in confidence. You will open it of course.

* See the next Letter.

I doubt not your dexterity and management, dear M’Donald; nor your zeal; especially as the hope of cohabitation must now be given up. Impossible to be carried is that scheme. I might break her heart, but not incline her will—am in earnest therefore to marry her, if she let not the day slip.

Improve upon the hint of her mother. That may touch her. But John Harlowe, remember, has privately engaged that lady—privately, I say; else, (not to mention the reason for her uncle Harlowe’s former expedient,) you know, she might find means to get a letter away to the one or to the other, to know the truth; or to Miss Howe, to engage her to inquire into it: and, if she should, the word privately will account for the uncle’s and mother’s denying it.

However, fail not, as from me, to charge our mother and her nymphs to redouble their vigilance both as to her person and letters. All’s upon a crisis now. But she must not be treated ill neither.

Thursday over, I shall know what to resolve upon.

If necessary, you must assume authority. The devil’s in’t, if such a girl as this shall awe a man of your years and experience. You are not in love with her as I am. Fly out, if she doubt your honour. Spirits naturally soft may be beat out of their play and borne down (though ever so much raised) by higher anger. All women are cowards at bottom; only violent where they may. I have often stormed a girl out of her mistrust, and made her yield (before she knew where she was) to the point indignantly mistrusted; and that to make up with me, though I was the aggressor.

If this matter succeed as I’d have it, (or if not, and do not fail by your fault,) I will take you off the necessity of pursuing your cursed smuggling; which otherwise may one day end fatally for you.

We are none of us perfect, M’Donald. This sweet lady makes me serious sometimes in spite of my heart. But as private vices are less blamable than public; and as I think smuggling (as it is called) a national evil; I have no doubt to pronounce you a much worse man than myself, and as such shall take pleasure in reforming you.

I send you enclosed ten guineas, as a small earnest of further favours. Hitherto you have been a very clever fellow.

As to clothes for Thursday, Monmouth-street will afford a ready supply. Clothes quite new would make your condition suspected. But you may defer that care, till you see if she can be prevailed upon. Your riding-dress will do for the first visit. Nor let your boots be over clean. I have always told you the consequence of attending to the minutiae, where art (or imposture, as the ill-mannered would call it) is designed—your linen rumpled and soily, when you wait upon her—easy terms these—just come to town—remember (as formerly) to loll, to throw out your legs, to stroke and grasp down your ruffles, as if of significance enough to be careless. What though the presence of a fine lady would require a different behaviour, are you not of years to dispense with politeness? You can have no design upon her, you know. You are a father yourself of daughters as old as she. Evermore is parade and obsequiousness suspectable: it must show either a foolish head, or a knavish heart. Assume airs of consequence therefore; and you will be treated as a man of consequence. I have often more than half ruined myself by my complaisance; and, being afraid of controul, have brought controul upon myself.

I think I have no more to say at present. I intend to be at Slough, or on the way to it, as by mine to the lady. Adieu, honest M’Donald.

R.L.