Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LII



It would be hard not to write a few lines, so much pressed to write, to one I ever loved. Your former letter I received; yet was not at liberty to answer it. I break my word to answer you now.

Strange informations are every day received about you. The wretch you are with, we are told, is every hour triumphing and defying—Must not these informations aggravate? You know the uncontroulableness of the man. He loves his own humour better than he loves you—though so fine a creature as you are! I warned you over and over: no young lady was ever more warned!—Miss Clarissa Harlowe to do such a thing!

You might have given your friends the meeting. If you had held your aversion, it would have been complied with. As soon as I was intrusted myself with their intention to give up the point, I gave you a hint—a dark one perhaps*—but who would have thought—O Miss!—Such an artful flight!—Such cunning preparations!

But you want to clear up things—what can you clear up? Are you not gone off?—With a Lovelace too? What, my dear, would you clear up?

You did not design to go, you say. Why did you meet him then, chariot and six, horsemen, all prepared by him? O my dear, how art produces art!—Will it be believed?—If it would, what power will he be thought to have had over you!—He—Who?—Lovelace!—The vilest of libertines!—Over whom? A Clarissa!—Was your love for such a man above your reason? Above your resolution? What credit would a belief of this, if believed, bring you?—How mend the matter?—Oh! that you had stood the next morning!

I’ll tell you all that was intended if you had.

It was, indeed, imagined that you would not have been able to resist your father’s entreaties and commands. He was resolved to be all condescension, if anew you had not provoked him. I love my Clary Harlowe, said he, but an hour before the killing tidings were brought him; I love her as my life: I will kneel to her, if nothing else will do, to prevail upon her to oblige me.

Your father and mother (the reverse of what should have been!) would have humbled themselves to you: and if you could have denied them, and refused to sign the settlements previous to the meeting, they would have yielded, although with regret.

But it was presumed, so naturally sweet your temper, so self-denying as they thought you, that you could not have withstood them, notwithstanding all your dislike of the one man, without a greater degree of headstrong passion for the other, than you had given any of us reason to expect from you.

If you had, the meeting on Wednesday would have been a lighter trial to you. You would have been presented to all your assembled friends, with a short speech only, ’That this was the young creature, till very lately faultless, condescending, and obliging; now having cause to glory in a triumph over the wills of father, mother, uncles, the most indulgent; over family-interests, family-views; and preferring her own will to every body’s! and this for a transitory preference to person only; there being no comparison between the men in their morals.’

Thus complied with, and perhaps blessed, by your father and mother, and the consequences of your disobedience deprecated in the solemnest manner by your inimitable mother, your generosity would have been appealed to, since your duty would have been fount too weak an inducement, and you would have been bid to withdraw for one half hour’s consideration. Then would the settlements have been again tendered for your signing, by the person least disobliging to you; by your good Norton perhaps; she perhaps seconded by your father again; and, if again refused, you would have again have been led in to declare such your refusal. Some restrictions which you yourself had proposed, would have been insisted upon. You would have been permitted to go home with me, or with your uncle Antony, (with which of us was not agreed upon, because they hoped you might be persuaded,) there to stay till the arrival of your cousin Morden; or till your father could have borne to see you; or till assured that the views of Lovelace were at an end.

This the intention, your father so set upon your compliance, so much in hopes that you would have yielded, that you would have been prevailed upon by methods so condescending and so gentle; no wonder that he, in particular, was like a distracted man, when he heard of your flight—of your flight so premeditated;—with your ivy summer-house dinings, your arts to blind me, and all of us!—Naughty, naughty, young creature!

I, for my part, would not believe it, when told of it. Your uncle Hervey would not believe it. We rather expected, we rather feared, a still more desperate adventure. There could be but one more desperate; and I was readier to have the cascade resorted to, than the garden back-door.—Your mother fainted away, while her heart was torn between the two apprehensions.—Your father, poor man! your father was beside himself for near an hour—What imprecations!—What dreadful imprecations!—To this day he can hardly bear your name: yet can think of nobody else. Your merits, my dear, but aggravate your fault.—Something of fresh aggravation every hour.—How can any favour be expected?

I am sorry for it; but am afraid nothing you ask will be complied with.

Why mention you, my dear, the saving you from mortifications, who have gone off with a man? What a poor pride is it to stand upon any thing else!

I dare not open my lips in your favour. Nobody dare. Your letter must stand by itself. This has caused me to send it to Harlowe-place. Expect therefore great severity. May you be enabled to support the lot you have drawn! O my dear! how unhappy have you made every body! Can you expect to be happy? Your father wishes you had never been born. Your poor mother—but why should I afflict you? There is now no help!—You must be changed, indeed, if you are not very unhappy yourself in the reflections your thoughtful mind must suggest to you.

You must now make the best of your lot. Yet not married, it seems!

It is in your power, you say, to perform whatever you shall undertake to do. You may deceive yourself: you hope that your reputation and the favour of your friends may be retrieved. Never, never, both, I doubt, if either. Every offended person (and that is all who loved you, and are related to you) must join to restore you: when can these be of one mind in a case so notoriously wrong?

It would be very grievous, you say, to be precipitated upon measures that may make the desirable reconciliation more difficult. Is it now, my dear, a time for you to be afraid of being precipitated? At present, if ever, there can be no thought of reconciliation. The upshot of your precipitation must first be seen. There may be murder yet, as far as we know. Will the man you are with part willingly with you? If not, what may be the consequence? If he will—Lord bless me! what shall we think of his reasons for it?—I will fly this thought. I know your purity—But, my dear, are you not out of all protection?—Are you not unmarried?—Have you not (making your daily prayers useless) thrown yourself into temptation? And is not the man the most wicked of plotters?

You have hitherto, you say, (and I think, my dear, with an air unbecoming to your declared penitence,) no fault to find with the behaviour of a man from whom every evil was apprehended: like Caesar to the Roman augur, which I heard you tell of, who had bid him beware the Ides of March: the Ides of March, said Caesar, seeing the augur among the crowd, as he marched in state to the senate-house, from which he was never to return alive, the Ides of March are come. But they are not past, the augur replied. Make the application, my dear: may you be able to make this reflection upon his good behaviour to the last of your knowledge of him! May he behave himself better to you, than he ever did to any body else over whom he had power! Amen!

No answer, I beseech you. I hope your messenger will not tell any body that I have written to you. And I dare say you will not show what I have written to Mr. Lovelace—for I have written with the less reserve, depending upon your prudence.

You have my prayers.

My Dolly knows not that I write: nobody does*; not even Mr. Hervey.

* Notwithstanding what Mrs. Hervey here says, it will be hereafter seen

that this severe letter was written in private concert with the

implacable Arabella.

Dolly would have several times written: but having defended your fault with heat, and with a partiality that alarmed us, (such a fall as your’s, my dear, must be alarming to all parents,) she has been forbidden, on pain of losing our favour for ever: and this at your family’s request, as well as by her father’s commands.

You have the poor girl’s hourly prayers, I will, however, tell you, though she knows not what I do, as well as those of

Your truly afflicted aunt, D. HERVEY.