Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XLV

MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO WM. MORDEN, ESQ. THURSDAY, AUG. 31.

I most heartily congratulate you, dear Sir, on your return to your native country.

I heard with much pleasure that you were come; but I was both afraid and ashamed, till you encouraged me by a first notice, to address myself to you.

How consoling is it to my wounded heart to find that you have not been carried away by that tide of resentment and displeasure with which I have been so unhappily overwhelmed—but that, while my still nearer relations have not thought fit to examine into the truth of vile reports raised against me, you have informed yourself of my innocence, and generously credited the information!

I have not the least reason to doubt Mr. Lovelace’s sincerity in his offers of marriage; nor that all his relations are heartily desirous of ranking me among them. I have had noble instances of their esteem for me, on their apprehending that my father’s displeasure must have had absolutely refused their pressing solicitations in their kinsman’s favour as well as his own.

Nor think me, my dear Cousin, blamable for refusing him. I had given Mr. Lovelace no reason to think me a weak creature. If I had, a man of his character might have thought himself warranted to endeavour to take ungenerous advantage of the weakness he had been able to inspire. The consciousness of my own weakness (in that case) might have brought me to a composition with his wickedness.

I can indeed forgive him. But that is, because I think his crimes have set me above him. Can I be above the man, Sir, to whom I shall give my hand and my vows, and with them a sanction to the most premeditated baseness? No, Sir, let me say, that your cousin Clarissa, were she likely to live many years, and that (if she married not this man) in penury or want, despised and forsaken by all her friends, puts not so high a value upon the conveniencies of life, nor upon life itself, as to seek to re-obtain the one, or to preserve the other, by giving such a sanction: a sanction, which (were she to perform her duty,) would reward the violator.

Nor is it so much from pride as from principle that I say this. What, Sir! when virtue, when chastity, is the crown of a woman, and particularly of a wife, shall form an attempt upon her’s but upon a presumption that she was capable of receiving his offered hand when he had found himself mistaken in the vile opinion he had conceived of her? Hitherto he has not had reason to think me weak. Nor will I give an instance so flagrant, that weak I am in a point in which it would be criminal to be found weak.

One day, Sir, you will perhaps know all my story. But, whenever it is known, I beg that the author of my calamities may not be vindictively sought after. He could not have been the author of them, but for a strange concurrence of unhappy causes. As the law will not be able to reach him when I am gone, the apprehension of any other sort of vengeance terrifies me; since, in such a case, should my friends be safe, what honour would his death bring to my memory?—If any of them should come to misfortune, how would my fault be aggravated!

God long preserve you, my dearest Cousin, and bless you but in proportion to the consolation you have given me, in letting me know that you still love me; and that I have one near and dear relation who can pity and forgive me; (and then you will be greatly blessed;) is the prayer of

Your ever grateful and affectionate CL. HARLOWE.