Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XV


I have just now had a specimen of what the resentment of this dear creature will be when quite recovered: an affecting one!—For entering her apartment after Dorcas; and endeavouring to soothe and pacify her disordered mind; in the midst of my blandishments, she held up to Heaven, in a speechless agony, the innocent license (which she has in her own power); as the poor distressed Catalans held up their English treaty, on an occasion that keeps the worst of my actions in countenance.

She seemed about to call down vengeance upon me; when, happily the leaden god, in pity to her trembling Lovelace, waved over her half-drowned eyes his somniferous wand, and laid asleep the fair exclaimer, before she could go half through with her intended imprecation.

Thou wilt guess, by what I have written, that some little art has been made use of: but it was with a generous design (if thou’lt allow me the word on such an occasion) in order to lessen the too-quick sense she was likely to have of what she was to suffer. A contrivance I never had occasion for before, and had not thought of now, if Mrs. Sinclair had not proposed it to me: to whom I left the management of it: and I have done nothing but curse her ever since, lest the quantity should have for ever dampened her charming intellects.

Hence my concern—for I think the poor lady ought not to have been so treated. Poor lady, did I say?—What have I to do with thy creeping style?—But have not I the worst of it; since her insensibility has made me but a thief to my own joys?

I did not intend to tell thee of this little innocent trick; for such I designed it to be; but that I hate disingenuousness: to thee, especially: and as I cannot help writing in a more serious vein than usual, thou wouldst perhaps, had I not hinted the true cause, have imagined that I was sorry for the fact itself: and this would have given thee a good deal of trouble in scribbling dull persuasives to repair by matrimony; and me in reading thy cruel nonsense. Besides, one day or other, thou mightest, had I not confessed it, have heard of it in an aggravated manner; and I know thou hast such an high opinion of this lady’s virtue, that thou wouldst be disappointed, if thou hadst reason to think that she was subdued by her own consent, or any the least yielding in her will. And so is she beholden to me in some measure, that, at the expense of my honour, she may so justly form a plea, which will entirely salve her’s.

And now is the whole secret out.

Thou wilt say I am a horrid fellow!—As the lady does, that I am the unchained Beelzebub, and a plotting villain: and as this is what you both said beforehand, and nothing worse can be said, I desire, if thou wouldst not have me quite serious with thee, and that I should think thou meanest more by thy tilting hint than I am willing to believe thou dost, that thou wilt forbear thy invectives: For is not the thing done?—Can it be helped?—And must I not now try to make the best of it?—And the rather do I enjoin to make thee this, and inviolable secrecy; because I begin to think that my punishment will be greater than the fault, were it to be only from my own reflection.