Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXVIII



We are such bad company here to one another, that it is some relief to retire and write.

I was summoned to breakfast about half an hour after nine. Slowly did the mournful congress meet. Each, lifelessly and spiritless, took our places, with swoln eyes, inquiring, without expecting any tolerable account, how each had rested.

The sorrowing mother gave for answer, that she should never more know what rest was.

By the time we were well seated, the bell ringing, the outward gate opening, a chariot rattling over the pavement of the court-yard, put them into emotion.

I left them; and was just time enough to give Miss Howe my hand as she alighted: her maid in tears remaining in the chariot.

I think you told me, Sir, you never saw Miss Howe. She is a fine, graceful young lady. A fixed melancholy on her whole aspect, overclouded a vivacity and fire, which, nevertheless, darted now-and-then through the awful gloom. I shall ever respect her for her love to my dear cousin.

Never did I think, said she, as she gave me her hand, to enter more these doors: but, living or dead, Clarissa brings me after her any where!

She entered with me the little parlour; and seeing the coffin, withdrew her hand from mine, and with impatience pushed aside the lid. As impatiently she removed the face-cloth. In a wild air, she clasped her uplifted hands together; and now looked upon the corpse, now up to Heaven, as if appealing to that. Her bosom heaved and fluttered discernible through her handkerchief, and at last she broke silence:—O Sir!—See you not here!—the glory of her sex?—Thus by the most villanous of yours—thus—laid low!

O my blessed Friend!—said she—My sweet Companion!—My lovely Monitress! —kissing her lips at every tender appellation. And is this all!—Is it all of my CLARISSA’S story!

Then, after a short pause, and a profound sigh, she turned to me, and then to her breathless friend. But is she, can she be, really dead!—O no!—She only sleeps.—Awake, my beloved Friend! My sweet clay-cold Friend, awake: let thy Anna Howe revive thee; by her warm breath revive thee, my dear creature! And, kissing her again, Let my warm lips animate thy cold ones!

Then, sighing again, as from the bottom of her heart, and with an air, as if disappointed that she answered not, And can such perfection end thus! —And art thou really and indeed flown from thine Anna Howe!—O my unkind CLARISSA!

She was silent a few moments, and then, seeming to recover herself, she turned to me—Forgive, forgive, Mr. Morden, this wild phrensy!—I am myself!—I never shall be!—You knew not the excellence, no, not half the excellence, that is thus laid low!—Repeating, This cannot, surely, be all of my CLARISSA’S story!

Again pausing, One tear, my beloved friend, didst thou allow me!—But this dumb sorrow!—O for a tear to ease my full-swoln heart that is just bursting!—

But why, Sir, why, Mr. Morden, was she sent hither? Why not to me?—She has no father, no mother, no relation; no, not one!—They had all renounced her. I was her sympathizing friend—And had not I the best right to my dear creature’s remains?—And must names, without nature, be preferred to such a love as mine?

Again she kissed her lips, each cheek, her forehead;—and sighed as if her heart would break—

But why, why, said she, was I withheld from seeing my dearest, dear friend, and too easily persuaded to delay, the friendly visit that my heart panted after; what pain will this reflection give me!—O my blessed Friend! Who knows, who knows, had I come in time, what my cordial comfortings might have done for thee!—But—looking round her, as if she apprehended seeing some of the family—One more kiss, my Angel, my Friend, my ever-to-be-regretted, lost Companion! And let me fly this hated house, which I never loved but for thy sake!—Adieu then, my dearest CLARISSA!—Thou art happy, I doubt not, as thou assuredst me in thy last letter!—O may we meet, and rejoice together, where no villanous Lovelaces, no hard-hearted relations, will ever shock our innocence, or ruffle our felicity!

Again she was silent, unable to go, though seeming to intend it: struggling, as it were, with her grief, and heaving with anguish. At last, happily, a flood of tears gushed from her eyes—Now!—Now!—said she, shall I—shall I—be easier. But for this kindly relief, my heart would have burst asunder—more, many more tears than these are due to my CLARISSA, whose counsel has done for me what mine could not do for her!— But why, looking earnestly upon her, her hands clasped and lifted up—But why do I thus lament the HAPPY? And that thou art so, is my comfort. It is, it is, my dear creature! kissing her again.

Excuse me, Sir, [turning to me, who was as much moved as herself,] I loved the dear creature, as never woman loved another. Excuse my frantic grief. How has the glory of her sex fallen a victim to villany and to hard-heartedness!

Madam, said I, they all have it!—Now indeed they have it—

And let them have it;—I should belie my love for the friend of my heart, were I to pity them!—But how unhappy am I [looking upon her] that I saw her not before these eyes were shut, before these lips were for ever closed!—O Sir, you know not the wisdom that continually flowed from these lips when she spoke!—Nor what a friend I have lost!

Then surveying the lid, she seemed to take in at once the meaning of the emblems; and this gave her so much fresh grief, that though she several times wipes her eyes, she was unable to read the inscription and texts; turning, therefore, to me, Favour me, Sir, I pray you, by a line, with the description of these emblems, and with these texts; and if I might be allowed a lock of the dear creature’s hair——

I told her that her executor would order both; and would also send her a copy of her last will; in which she would find the most grateful remembrances of her love for her, whom she calls The sister of her heart.

Justly, said she, does she call me so; for we had but one heart, but one soul, between us; and now my better half is torn from me—What shall I do?

But looking round her, on a servant’s stepping by the door, as if again she had apprehended it was some of the family—Once more, said she, a solemn, an everlasting adieu!—Alas for me! a solemn, an everlasting adieu!

Then again embracing her face with both her hands, and kissing it, and afterwards the hands of the dear deceased, first one, then the other, she gave me her hand, and quitting the room with precipitation, rushed into her chariot; and, when there, with profound sight, and a fresh burst of tears, unable to speak, she bowed her head to me, and was driven away.

The inconsolable company saw how much I had been moved on my return to them. Mr. James Harlowe had been telling them what had passed between him and me. And, finding myself unfit for company, and observing, that they broke off talk at my coming in, I thought it proper to leave them to their consultations.

And here I will put an end to this letter, for indeed, Sir, the very recollection of this affecting scene has left me nearly as unable to proceed, as I was, just after it, to converse with my cousins. I am, Sir, with great truth,

Your most obedient humble servant, WILLIAM MORDEN.