Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXX


This morning I was admitted, as soon as I sent up my name, into the presence of the divine lady. Such I may call her; as what I have to relate will fully prove.

She had had a tolerable night, and was much better in spirits; though weak in person; and visibly declining in looks.

Mrs. Lovick and Mrs. Smith were with her; and accused her, in a gentle manner, of having applied herself too assiduously to her pen for her strength, having been up ever since five. She said, she had rested better than she had done for many nights: she had found her spirits free, and her mind tolerably easy: and having, as she had reason to think, but a short time, and much to do in it, she must be a good housewife of her hours.

She had been writing, she said, a letter to her sister: but had not pleased herself in it; though she had made two or three essays: but that the last must go.

By hints I had dropt from time to time, she had reason, she said, to think that I knew every thing that concerned her and her family; and, if so, must be acquainted with the heavy curse her father had laid upon her; which had been dreadfully fulfilled in one part, as to her prospects in this life, and that in a very short time; which gave her great apprehensions of the other part. She had been applying herself to her sister, to obtain a revocation of it. I hope my father will revoke it, said she, or I shall be very miserable—Yet [and she gasped as she spoke, with apprehension]—I am ready to tremble at what the answer may be; for my sister is hard-hearted.

I said something reflecting upon her friends; as to what they would deserve to be thought of, if the unmerited imprecation were not withdrawn. Upon which she took me up, and talked in such a dutiful manner of her parents as must doubly condemn them (if they remain implacable) for their inhuman treatment of such a daughter.

She said, I must not blame her parents: it was her dear Miss Howe’s fault to do so. But what an enormity was there in her crime, which could set the best of parents (they had been to her, till she disobliged them) in a bad light, for resenting the rashness of a child from whose education they had reason to expect better fruits! There were some hard circumstances in her case, it was true: but my friend could tell me, that no one person, throughout the whole fatal transaction, had acted out of character, but herself. She submitted therefore to the penalty she had incurred. If they had any fault, it was only that they would not inform themselves of such circumstances, which would alleviate a little her misdeed; and that supposing her a more guilty creature than she was, they punished her without a hearing.

Lord!—I was going to curse thee, Lovelace! How every instance of excellence, in this all excelling creature, condemns thee;—thou wilt have reason to think thyself of all men the most accursed, if she die!

I then besought her, while she was capable of such glorious instances of generosity, and forgiveness, to extend her goodness to a man, whose heart bled in every vein of it for the injuries he had done her; and who would make it the study of his whole life to repair them.

The women would have withdrawn when the subject became so particular. But she would not permit them to go. She told me, that if after this time I was for entering with so much earnestness into a subject so very disagreeable to her, my visits must not be repeated. Nor was there occasion, she said, for my friendly offices in your favour; since she had begun to write her whole mind upon that subject to Miss Howe, in answer to letters from her, in which Miss Howe urged the same arguments, in compliment to the wishes of your noble and worthy relations.

Mean time, you may let him know, said she, that I reject him with my whole heart:—yet, that although I say this with such a determination as shall leave no room for doubt, I say it not however with passion. On the contrary, tell him, that I am trying to bring my mind into such a frame as to be able to pity him; [poor perjured wretch! what has he not to answer for!] and that I shall not think myself qualified for the state I am aspiring to, if, after a few struggles more, I cannot forgive him too: and I hope, clasping her hands together, uplifted as were her eyes, my dear earthly father will set me the example my heavenly one has already set us all; and, by forgiving his fallen daughter, teach her to forgive the man, who then, I hope, will not have destroyed my eternal prospects, as he has my temporal!

Stop here, thou wretch!—but I need not bid thee!——for I can go no farther!