Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXIV


* Text error: should be JULY.

What, my dearest creature, have been your sufferings!—What must have been your anguish on so disgraceful an insult, committed in the open streets, and in the broad day!

No end, I think, of the undeserved calamities of a dear soul, who had been so unhappily driven and betrayed into the hands of a vile libertine! —How was I shocked at the receiving of your letter written by another hand, and only dictated by you!—You must be very ill. Nor is it to be wondered at. But I hope it is rather from hurry, and surprise, and lowness, which may be overcome, than from a grief given way to, which may be attended with effects I cannot bear to think of.

But whatever you do, my dear, you must not despond! Indeed you must not despond! Hitherto you have been in no fault: but despair would be all your own: and the worst fault you can be guilty of.

I cannot bear to look upon another hand instead of your’s. My dear creature, send me a few lines, though ever so few, in your own hand, if possible.—For they will revive my heart; especially if they can acquaint me of your amended health.

I expect your answer to my letter of the 13th. We all expect it with impatience.

His relations are persons of so much honour—they are so very earnest to rank you among them—the wretch is so very penitent: every one of his family says he is—your own are so implacable—your last distress, though the consequence of his former villany, yet neither brought on by his direction nor with his knowledge; and so much resented by him—that my mother is absolutely of opinion that you should be his—especially if, yielding to my wishes, as expressed in my letter, and those of all his friends, you would have complied, had it not been for this horrid arrest.

I will enclose the copy of the letter I wrote to Miss Montague last Tuesday, on hearing that nobody knew what was become of you; and the answer to it, underwritten and signed by Lord M., Lady Sarah Sadleir, and Lady Betty Lawrance, as well as by the young Ladies; and also by the wretch himself.

I own, that I like not the turn of what he has written to me; and, before I will further interest myself in his favour, I have determined to inform myself, by a friend, from his own mouth, of his sincerity, and whether his whole inclination be, in his request to me, exclusive of the wishes of his relations. Yet my heart rises against him, on the supposition that there is the shadow of a reason for such a question, the woman Miss Clarissa Harlowe. But I think, with my mother, that marriage is now the only means left to make your future life tolerably easy—happy there is no saying.—His disgraces, in that case, in the eye of the world itself, will be more than your’s: and, to those who know you, glorious will be your triumph.

I am obliged to accompany my mother soon to the Isle of Wight. My aunt Harman is in a declining way, and insists upon seeing us both—and Mr. Hickman too, I think.

His sister, of whom we had heard so much, with her lord, were brought t’other day to visit us. She strangely likes me, or says she does.

I can’t say but that I think she answers the excellent character we heard of her.

It would be death to me to set out for the little island, and not see you first: and yet my mother (fond of exerting an authority that she herself, by that exertion, often brings into question) insists, that my next visit to you must be a congratulatory one as Mrs. Lovelace.

When I know what will be the result of the questions to be put in my name to that wretch, and what is your mind on my letter of the 13th, I shall tell you more of mine.

The bearer promises to make so much dispatch as to attend you this very afternoon. May he return with good tidings to

Your ever affectionate ANNA HOWE.