Clarissa Harlowe LETTER L


I cannot for my life account for your wretch’s teasing ways; but he certainly doubts your love of him. In this he is a modest man, as well as somebody else; and tacitly confesses that he does not deserve it.

Your Israelitish hankerings after the Egyptian onion, (testified still more in your letter to your aunt,) your often repeated regrets for meeting him, for being betrayed by him—these he cannot bear.

I have been looking back on the whole of his conduct, and comparing it with his general character; and find that he is more consistently, more uniformly, mean, revengeful, and proud, than either of us once imagined.

From his cradle, as I may say, as an only child, and a boy, humoursome, spoiled, mischievous; the governor of his governors.

A libertine in his riper years, hardly regardful of appearances; and despising the sex in general, for the faults of particulars of it, who made themselves too cheap to him.

What has been his behaviour in your family?—a CLARISSA in view, (from the time your foolish brother was obliged to take a life from him,) but defiance for defiances. Getting you into his power by terror, by artifice. What politeness can be expected from such a man?

Well, but what in such a situation is to be done? Why, you must despise him: you must hate him, if you can, and run away from him—But whither?—Whither indeed, now that your brother is laying foolish plots to put you in a still worse condition, as it may happen.

But if you cannot despise and hate him—if you care not to break with him, you must part with some punctilio’s. And if the so doing bring not on the solemnity, you must put yourself into the protection of the ladies of his family.

Their respect for you is of itself a security for his honour to you, if there could be any room for doubt. And at least, you should remind him of his offer to bring one of the Miss Montagues to attend you at your new lodgings in town, and accompany you till all is happily over.

This, you’ll say, will be as good as declaring yourself to be his. And so let it. You ought not now to think of any thing else but to be his. Does not your brother’s project convince you more and more of this?

Give over then, my dearest friend, any thoughts of this hopeless reconciliation, which has kept you balancing thus long. You own, in the letter before me, that he made very explicit offers, though you give me not the very words. And he gave his reasons, I perceive, with his wishes that you should accept them; which very few of the sorry fellows do, whose plea is generally but a compliment to our self-love—That we must love them, however presumptuous and unworthy, because they love us.

Were I in your place, and had your charming delicacies, I should, perhaps, do as you do. No doubt but I should expect that the man should urge me with respectful warmth; that he should supplicate with constancy, and that all his words and actions should tend to the one principal point; nevertheless, if I suspected art or delay, founded upon his doubts of my love, I would either condescend to clear up is doubts or renounce him for ever.

And in my last case, I, your Anna Howe, would exert myself, and either find you a private refuge, or resolve to share fortunes with you.

What a wretch! to be so easily answered by your reference to the arrival of your cousin Morden! But I am afraid that you was too scrupulous: for did he not resent that reference?

Could we have his account of the matter, I fancy, my dear, I should think you over nice, over delicate.* Had you laid hold of his acknowledged explicitness, he would have been as much in your power, as now you seem to be in his: you wanted not to be told, that the person who had been tricked into such a step as you had taken, must of necessity submit to many mortifications.

* The reader who has seen his account, which Miss Howe could not have

seen, when she wrote thus, will observe that it was not possible for a

person of her true delicacy of mind to act otherwise than she did, to a

man so cruelly and so insolently artful.

But were it to me, a girl of spirit as I am thought to be, I do assure you, I would, in a quarter of an hour (all the time I would allow to punctilio in such a case as yours) know what he drives at: since either he must mean well or ill; if ill, the sooner you know it, the better. If well, whose modesty is it he distresses, but that of his own wife?

And methinks you should endeavour to avoid all exasperating recriminations, as to what you have heard of his failure in morals; especially while you are so happy as not to have occasion to speak of them by experience.

I grant that it gives a worthy mind some satisfaction in having borne its testimony against the immoralities of a bad one. But that correction which is unseasonably given, is more likely either to harden or make an hypocrite, than to reclaim.

I am pleased, however, as well as you, with his making light of your brother’s wise project.—Poor creature! and must Master Jemmy Harlowe, with his half-wit, pretend to plot, and contrive mischief, yet rail at Lovelace for the same things?—A witty villain deserves hanging at once (and without ceremony, if you please): but a half-witted one deserves broken bones first, and hanging afterwards. I think Lovelace has given his character in a few words.*

* See Letter XLV. of this volume.

Be angry at me, if you please; but as sure as you are alive, now that this poor creature, whom some call your brother, finds he has succeeded in making you fly your father’s house, and that he has nothing to fear but your getting into your own, and into an independence of him, he thinks himself equal to any thing, and so he has a mind to fight Lovelace with his own weapons.

Don’t you remember his pragmatical triumph, as told you by your aunt, and prided in by that saucy Betty Barnes, from his own foolish mouth?*

* See Vol.II. Letter XLVII.

I expect nothing from your letter to your aunt. I hope Lovelace will never know the contents of it. In every one of yours, I see that he as warmly resents as he dares the little confidence you have in him. I should resent it too, were I he; and knew that I deserved better.

Don’t be scrupulous about clothes, if you think of putting yourself into the protection of the ladies of his family. They know how matters stand between you and your relations, and love you never the worse for the silly people’s cruelty.

I know you won’t demand possession of your estate. But give him a right to demand it for you; and that will be still better.

Adieu, my dear! May heaven guide and direct you in all your steps, is the daily prayer of

Your ever affectionate and faithful ANNA HOWE.