Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XVIII



When these lines reach your hands, your late unhappy niece will have known the end of all her troubles; and, as she humbly hopes, will be rejoicing in the mercies of a gracious God, who has declared, that he will forgive the truly penitent of heart.

I write, therefore, my dear uncles, and to you both in one letter (since your fraternal love has made you both but as one person) to give you comfort, and not distress; for, however sharp my afflictions have been, they have been but of short duration; and I am betimes (happily as I hope) arrived at the end of a painful journey.

At the same time I write to thank you both for all your kind indulgence to me, and to beg your forgiveness of my last, my only great fault to you and to my family.

The ways of Providence are unsearchable. Various are the means made use of by it, to bring poor sinners to a sense of their duty. Some are drawn by love, others are driven by terrors, to their divine refuge. I had for eighteen years out of nineteen, rejoiced in the favour and affection of every one. No trouble came near to my heart, I seemed to be one of those designed to be drawn by the silken cords of love.—But, perhaps, I was too apt to value myself upon the love and favour of every one: the merit of the good I delighted to do, and of the inclinations which were given me, and which I could not help having, I was, perhaps, too ready to attribute to myself; and now, being led to account for the cause of my temporary calamities, find I had a secret pride to be punished for, which I had not fathomed: and it was necessary, perhaps, that some sore and terrible misfortunes should befall me, in order to mortify that my pride, and that my vanity.

Temptations were accordingly sent. I shrunk in the day of trial. My discretion, which had been so cried up, was found wanting when it came to be weighed in an equal balance. I was betrayed, fell, and became the by-word of my companions, and a disgrace to my family, which had prided itself in me perhaps too much. But as my fault was not that of a culpable will, when my pride was sufficiently mortified, I was not suffered (although surrounded by dangers, and entangled in snares) to be totally lost: but, purified by sufferings, I was fitted for the change I have NOW, at the time you will receive this, so newly, and, as I humbly hope, so happily experienced.

Rejoice with me, then, dear Sirs, that I have weathered so great a storm. Nor let it be matter of concern, that I am cut off in the bloom of youth. ’There is no inquisition in the grave,’ says the wise man, ’whether we lived ten or a hundred years; and the day of death is better than the day of our birth.’

Once more, dear Sirs, accept my grateful thanks for all your goodness to me, from my early childhood to the day, the unhappy day, of my error! Forgive that error!—And God give us a happy meeting in a blessed eternity; prays

Your most dutiful and obliged kinswoman, CLARISSA HARLOWE.

Mr. Belford gives the Lady’s posthumous letters to Mrs. Hervey, Miss

Howe, and Mrs. Norton, at length likewise: but, although every

letter varies in style as well as matter from the others; yet, as

they are written on the same subject, and are pretty long, it is

thought proper to abstract them.

That to her aunt Hervey is written in the same pious and generous strain with those preceding, seeking to give comfort rather than distress. ’The Almighty, I hope,’ says she, ’has received and blessed my penitence, and I am happy. Could I have been more than so at the end of what is called a happy life of twenty, or thirty, or forty years to come? And what are twenty, or thirty, or forty years to look back upon? In half of any of these periods, what friends might not I have mourned for? what temptations from worldly prosperity might I not have encountered with? And in such a case, immersed in earthly pleasures, how little likelihood, that, in my last stage, I should have been blessed with such a preparation and resignation as I have now been blessed with?’

She proceeds as follows: ’Thus much, Madam, of comfort to you and to myself from this dispensation. As to my dear parents, I hope they will console themselves that they have still many blessings left, which ought to balance the troubles my error has given them: that, unhappy as I have been to be the interrupter of their felicities, they never, till this my fault, know any heavy evil: that afflictions patiently borne may be turned into blessings: that uninterrupted happiness is not to be expected in this life: that, after all, they have not, as I humbly presume to hope, the probability of the everlasting perdition of their child to deplore: and that, in short, when my story comes to be fully known, they will have the comfort to find that my sufferings redound more to my honour than to my disgrace.

’These considerations will, I hope, make their temporary loss of but one child out of three (unhappily circumstances too as she was) matter of greater consolation than affliction. And the rather, as we may hope for a happy meeting once more, never to be separated either by time or offences.’

She concludes this letter with an address to her cousin Dolly Hervey, whom she calls her amiable cousin; and thankfully remembers for the part she took in her afflictions.—’O my dear Cousin, let your worthy heart be guarded against those delusions which have been fatal to my worldly happiness!—That pity, which you bestowed upon me, demonstrates a gentleness of nature, which may possibly subject you to misfortunes, if your eye be permitted to mislead your judgment.—But a strict observance of your filial duty, my dearest Cousin, and the precepts of so prudent a mother as you have the happiness to have (enforced by so sad an example in your own family as I have set) will, I make no doubt, with the Divine assistance, be your guard and security.’

The posthumous letter to Miss Howe is extremely tender and affectionate. She pathetically calls upon her ’to rejoice that all her Clarissa’s troubles are now at an end; that the state of temptation and trial, of doubt and uncertainty, is now over with her; and that she has happily escaped the snares that were laid for her soul; the rather to rejoice, as that her misfortunes were of such a nature, that it was impossible she could be tolerably happy in this life.’

She ’thankfully acknowledges the favours she had received from Mrs. Howe and Mr. Hickman; and expresses her concern for the trouble she has occasioned to the former, as well as to her; and prays that all the earthly blessings they used to wish to each other, may singly devolve upon her.’

She beseeches her, ’that she will not suspend the day which shall supply to herself the friend she will have lost in her, and give to herself a still nearer and dearer relation.’

She tells her, ’That her choice (a choice made with the approbation of all her friends) has fallen upon a sincere, an honest, a virtuous, and, what is more than all, a pious man; a man who, although he admires her person, is still more in love with the graces of her mind. And as those graces are improvable with every added year of life, which will impair the transitory ones of person, what a firm basis, infers she, has Mr. Hickman chosen to build his love upon!’

She prays, ’That God will bless them together; and that the remembrance of her, and of what she has suffered, may not interrupt their mutual happiness; she desires them to think of nothing but what she now is; and that a time will come when they shall meet again, never to be divided.

’To the Divine protection, mean time, she commits her; and charges her, by the love that has always subsisted between them, that she will not mourn too heavily for her; and again calls upon her, after a gentle tear, which she will allow her to let fall in memory of their uninterrupted friendship, to rejoice that she is so early released; and that she is purified by her sufferings, and is made, as she assuredly trusts, by God’s goodness, eternally happy.’

The posthumous letters to Mr. LOVELACE and Mr. MORDEN will be inserted

hereafter: as will also the substance of that written to Mrs.