Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXII


This morning I took a chair to Smith’s; and, being told that the lady had a very bad night, but was up, I sent for her worthy apothecary; who, on his coming to me, approving of my proposal of calling in Dr. H., I bid the woman acquaint her with the designed visit.

It seems she was at first displeased; yet withdrew her objection: but, after a pause, asked them, What she should do? She had effects of value, some of which she intended, as soon as she could, to turn into money, but, till then, had not a single guinea to give the doctor for his fee.

Mrs. Lovick said, she had five guineas by her; they were at her service.

She would accept of three, she said, if she would take that (pulling a diamond ring from her finger) till she repaid her; but on no other terms.

Having been told I was below with Mr. Goddard, she desired to speak one word with me, before she saw the Doctor.

She was sitting in an elbow-chair, leaning her head on a pillow; Mrs. Smith and the widow on each side her chair; her nurse, with a phial of hartshorn, behind her; in her own hand her salts.

Raising her head at my entrance, she inquired if the Doctor knew Mr. Lovelace.

I told her no; and that I believed you never saw him in your life.

Was the Doctor my friend?

He was; and a very worthy and skilful man. I named him for his eminence in his profession: and Mr. Goddard said he knew not a better physician.

I have but one condition to make before I see the gentleman; that he refuse not his fees from me. If I am poor, Sir, I am proud. I will not be under obligation, you may believe, Sir, I will not. I suffer this visit, because I would not appear ungrateful to the few friends I have left, nor obstinate to such of my relations, as may some time hence, for their private satisfaction, inquire after my behaviour in my sick hours. So, Sir, you know the condition. And don’t let me be vexed. ’I am very ill! and cannot debate the matter.’

Seeing her so determined, I told her, if it must be so, it should.

Then, Sir, the gentleman may come. But I shall not be able to answer many questions. Nurse, you can tell him at the window there what a night I have had, and how I have been for two days past. And Mr. Goddard, if he be here, can let him know what I have taken. Pray let me be as little questioned as possible.

The Doctor paid his respects to her with the gentlemanly address for which he is noted: and she cast up her sweet eyes to him with that benignity which accompanies her every graceful look.

I would have retired: but she forbid it.

He took her hand, the lily not of so beautiful a white: Indeed, Madam, you are very low, said he: but give me leave to say, that you can do more for yourself than all the faculty can do for you.

He then withdrew to the window. And, after a short conference with the women, he turned to me, and to Mr. Goddard, at the other window: We can do nothing here, (speaking low,) but by cordials and nourishment. What friends has the lady? She seems to be a person of condition; and, ill as she is, a very fine woman.——A single lady, I presume?

I whisperingly told him she was. That there were extraordinary circumstances in her case; as I would have apprized him, had I met with him yesterday: that her friends were very cruel to her; but that she could not hear them named without reproaching herself; though they were much more to blame than she.

I knew I was right, said the Doctor. A love-case, Mr. Goddard! a love-case, Mr. Belford! there is one person in the world who can do her more service than all the faculty.

Mr. Goddard said he had apprehended her disorder was in her mind; and had treated her accordingly: and then told the Doctor what he had done: which he approving of, again taking her charming hand, said, My good young lady, you will require very little of our assistance. You must, in a great measure, be your own assistance. You must, in a great measure, be your own doctress. Come, dear Madam, [forgive me the familiar tenderness; your aspect commands love as well as reverence; and a father of children, some of them older than yourself, may be excused for his familiar address,] cheer up your spirits. Resolve to do all in your power to be well; and you’ll soon grow better.

You are very kind, Sir, said she. I will take whatever you direct. My spirits have been hurried. I shall be better, I believe, before I am worse. The care of my good friends here, looking at the women, shall not meet with an ungrateful return.

The Doctor wrote. He would fain have declined his fee. As her malady, he said, was rather to be relieved by the soothings of a friend, than by the prescriptions of a physician, he should think himself greatly honoured to be admitted rather to advise her in the one character, than to prescribe to her in the other.

She answered, That she should be always glad to see so humane a man: that his visits would keep her in charity with his sex: but that, where [sic] she able to forget that he was her physician, she might be apt to abate of the confidence in his skill, which might be necessary to effect the amendment that was the end of his visits.

And when he urged her still further, which he did in a very polite manner, and as passing by the door two or three times a day, she said she should always have pleasure in considering him in the kind light he offered himself to her: that that might be very generous in one person to offer, which would be as ungenerous in another to accept: that indeed she was not at present high in circumstance; and he saw by the tender, (which he must accept of,) that she had greater respect to her own convenience than to his merit, or than to the pleasure she should take in his visits.

We all withdrew together; and the Doctor and Mr. Goddard having a great curiosity to know something more of her story, at the motion of the latter we went into a neighbouring coffee-house, and I gave them, in confidence, a brief relation of it; making all as light for you as I could; and yet you’ll suppose, that, in order to do but common justice to the lady’s character, heavy must be that light.


I just now called again at Smith’s; and am told she is somewhat better; which she attributed to the soothings of her Doctor. She expressed herself highly pleased with both gentlemen; and said that their behaviour to her was perfectly paternal.——

Paternal, poor lady!——never having been, till very lately, from under her parents’ wings, and now abandoned by all her friends, she is for finding out something paternal and maternal in every one, (the latter qualities in Mrs. Lovick and Mrs. Smith,) to supply to herself the father and mother her dutiful heart pants after.

Mrs. Smith told me, that, after we were gone, she gave the keys of her trunk and drawers to her and the widow Lovick, and desired them to take an inventory of them; which they did in her presence.

They also informed me, that she had requested them to find her a purchaser for two rich dressed suits; one never worn, the other not above once or twice.

This shocked me exceedingly—perhaps it may thee a little!!!—Her reason for so doing, she told them, was, that she should never live to wear them: that her sister, and other relations, were above wearing them: that her mother would not endure in her sight any thing that was her’s: that she wanted the money: that she would not be obliged to any body, when she had effects by her for which she had no occasion: and yet, said she, I expect not that they will fetch a price answerable to their value.

They were both very much concerned, as they owned; and asked my advice upon it: and the richness of her apparel having given them a still higher notion of her rank than they had before, they supposed she must be of quality; and again wanted to know her story.

I told them, that she was indeed a woman of family and fortune: I still gave them room to suppose her married: but left it to her to tell them all in her own time and manner: all I would say was, that she had been very vilely treated; deserved it not; and was all innocence and purity.

You may suppose that they both expressed their astonishment, that there could be a man in the world who could ill treat so fine a creature.

As to the disposing of the two suits of apparel, I told Mrs. Smith that she should pretend that, upon inquiry, she had found a friend who would purchase the richest of them; but (that she might not mistrust) would stand upon a good bargain. And having twenty guineas about me, I left them with her, in part of payment; and bid her pretend to get her to part with it for as little more as she could induce her to take.

I am setting out for Edgeware with poor Belton—more of whom in my next. I shall return to-morrow; and leave this in readiness for your messenger, if he call in my absence.