Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXIX


I will throw away a few paragraphs upon the contents of thy last shocking letters just brought me; and send what I shall write by the fellow who carries mine on the interview with Hickman.

Reformation, I see, is coming fast upon thee. Thy uncle’s slow death, and thy attendance upon him through every stage towards it, prepared thee for it. But go thou on in thine own way, as I will in mine. Happiness consists in being pleased with what we do: and if thou canst find delight in being sad, it will be as well for thee as if thou wert merry, though no other person should join to keep thee in countenance.

I am, nevertheless, exceedingly disturbed at the lady’s ill health. It is entirely owing to the cursed arrest. She was absolutely triumphant over me and the whole crew before. Thou believest me guiltless of that: so, I hope, does she.—The rest, as I have often said, is a common case; only a little uncommonly circumstanced; that’s all: Why, then, all these severe things from her, and from thee?

As to selling her clothes, and her laces, and so forth, it has, I own, a shocking sound to it. What an implacable as well as unjust set of wretches are those of her unkindredly kin, who have money of her’s in their hands, as well as large arrears of her own estate; yet with-hold both, avowedly to distress her! But may she not have money of that proud and saucy friend of her’s, Miss Howe, more than she wants?—And should not I be overjoyed, thinkest thou, to serve her?——What then is there in the parting with her apparel but female perverseness?—And I am not sure, whether I ought not to be glad, if she does this out of spite to me.— Some disappointed fair-ones would have hanged, some drowned themselves. My beloved only revenges herself upon her clothes. Different ways of working has passion in different bosoms, as humours or complexion induce. —Besides, dost think I shall grudge to replace, to three times the value, what she disposes of? So, Jack, there is no great matter in this.

Thou seest how sensible she is of the soothings of the polite doctor: this will enable thee to judge how dreadfully the horrid arrest, and her gloomy father’s curse, must have hurt her. I have great hope, if she will but see me, that my behaviour, my contrition, my soothings, may have some happy effect upon her.

But thou art too ready to give up. Let me seriously tell thee that, all excellence as she is, I think the earnest interposition of my relations; the implored mediation of that little fury Miss Howe; and the commissions thou actest under from myself; are such instances of condescension and high value in them, and such contrition in me, that nothing farther can be done.—So here let the matter rest for the present, till she considers better of it.

But now a few words upon poor Belton’s case. I own I was at first a little startled at the disloyalty of his Thomasine. Her hypocrisy to be for so many years undetected!—I have very lately had some intimations given me of her vileness; and had intended to mention them to thee when I saw thee. To say the truth, I always suspected her eye: the eye, thou knowest, is the casement at which the heart generally looks out. Many a woman, who will not show herself at the door, has tipt the sly, the intelligible wink from the windows.

But Tom. had no management at all. A very careless fellow. Would never look into his own affairs. The estate his uncle left him was his ruin: wife, or mistress, whoever was, must have had his fortune to sport with.

I have often hinted his weakness of this sort to him; and the danger he was in of becoming the property of designing people. But he hated to take pains. He would ever run away from his accounts; as now, poor fellow! he would be glad to do from himself. Had he not had a woman to fleece him, his coachman or valet, would have been his prime-minister, and done it as effectually.

But yet, for many years, I thought she was true to his bed. At least I thought the boys were his own. For though they are muscular, and big-boned, yet I supposed the healthy mother might have furnished them with legs and shoulders: for she is not of a delicate frame; and then Tom., some years ago, looked up, and spoke more like a man, than he has done of late; squeaking inwardly, poor fellow! for some time past, from contracted quail-pipes, and wheezing from lungs half spit away.

He complains, thou sayest, that we all run away from him. Why, after all, Belford, it is no pleasant thing to see a poor fellow one loves, dying by inches, yet unable to do him good. There are friendships which are only bottle-deep: I should be loth to have it thought that mine for any of my vassals is such a one. Yet, with gay hearts, which become intimate because they were gay, the reason for their first intimacy ceasing, the friendship will fade: but may not this sort of friendship be more properly distinguished by the word companionship?

But mine, as I said, is deeper than this: I would still be as ready as ever I was in my life, to the utmost of my power, to do him service.

As once instance of this my readiness to extricate him from all his difficulties as to Thomasine, dost thou care to propose to him an expedient, that is just come into my head?

It is this: I would engage Thomasine and her cubs (if Belton be convinced they are neither of them his) in a party of pleasure. She was always complaisant to me. It should be in a boat, hired for the purpose, to sail to Tilbury, to the Isle Shepey, or pleasuring up the Medway; and ’tis but contriving to turn the boat bottom upward. I can swim like a fish. Another boat shall be ready to take up whom I should direct, for fear of the worst: and then, if Tom. has a mind to be decent, one suit of mourning will serve for all three: Nay, the hostler-cousin may take his plunge from the steerage: and who knows but they may be thrown up on the beach, Thomasine and he, hand in hand?

This, thou’lt say, is no common instance of friendship.

Mean time, do thou prevail on him to come down to us: he never was more welcome in his life than he shall be now. If he will not, let him find me some other service; and I will clap a pair of wings to my shoulders, and he shall see me come flying in at his windows at the word of command.

Mowbray and Tourville each intend to give thee a letter; and I leave to those rough varlets to handle thee as thou deservest, for the shocking picture thou hast drawn of their last ends. Thy own past guilt has stared thee full in the face, one may see by it; and made thee, in consciousness of thy demerits, sketch out these cursed out-lines. I am glad thou hast got the old fiend to hold the glass* before thy own face so soon. Thou must be in earnest surely, when thou wrotest it, and have severe conviction upon thee: for what a hardened varlet must he be, who could draw such a picture as this in sport?

* See Letter XXVI. of this volume.

As for thy resolution of repenting and marrying; I would have thee consider which thou wilt set about first. If thou wilt follow my advice, thou shalt make short work of it: let matrimony take place of the other; for then thou wilt, very possibly, have repentance come tumbling in fast upon thee, as a consequence, and so have both in one.