Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXIV


Well, Jack, now are we upon another footing together. This dear creature will not let me be good. She is now authorizing all my plots by her own example.

Thou must be partial in the highest degree, if now thou blamest me for resuming my former schemes, since in that case I shall but follow her cue. No forced construction of her actions do I make on this occasion, in order to justify a bad cause or a worse intention. A slight pretence, indeed, served the wolf when he had a mind to quarrel with the lamb; but this is not now my case.

For here (wouldst thou have thought it?) taking advantage of Dorcas’s compassionate temper, and of some warm expressions which the tender-hearted wench let fall against the cruelty of men, and wishing to have it in her power to serve her, has she given her the following note, signed by her maiden name: for she has thought fit, in positive and plain words, to own to the pitying Dorcas that she is not married.


I then underwritten do hereby promise, that, on my coming into possession of my own estate, I will provide for Dorcas Martindale in a gentlewoman-like manner, in my own house: or, if I do not soon obtain that possession, or should first die, I do hereby bind myself, my executors, and administrators, to pay to her, or her order, during the term of her natural life, the sum of five pounds on each of the four usual quarterly days in the year; on condition that she faithfully assist me in my escape from an illegal confinement under which I now labour. The first quarterly payment to commence and be payable at the end of three months immediately following the day of my deliverance. And I do also promise to give her, as a testimony of my honour in the rest, a diamond ring, which I have showed her. Witness my hand this nineteenth day of June, in the year above written.


Now, Jack, what terms wouldst thou have me to keep with such a sweet corruptress? Seest thou not how she hates me? Seest thou not that she is resolved never to forgive me? Seest thou not, however, that she must disgrace herself in the eye of the world, if she actually should escape? That she must be subjected to infinite distress and hazard! For whom has she to receive and protect her? Yet to determine to risque all these evils! and furthermore to stoop to artifice, to be guilty of the reigning vice of the times, of bribery and corruption! O Jack, Jack! say not, write not another word in her favour!

Thou hast blamed me for bringing her to this house: but had I carried her to any other in England, where there would have been one servant or inmate capable either of compassion or corruption, what must have been the consequence?

But seest thou not, however, that in this flimsy contrivance, the dear implacable, like a drowning man, catches at a straw to save herself!—A straw shall she find to be the refuge she has resorted to.