Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LII


It is a long lane that has no turning.—Do not despise me for my proverbs —you know I was always fond of them; and if you had been so too, it would have been the better for you, let me tell you. I dare swear, the fine lady you are so likely to be soon happy with, will be far from despising them; for I am told, that she writes well, and that all her letters are full of sentences. God convert you! for nobody but he and this lady can.

I have no manner of doubt but that you will marry, as your father, and all your ancestors, did before you: else you would have had no title to be my heir; nor can your descendants have any title to be your’s, unless they are legitimate; that’s worth your remembrance, Sir!—No man is always a fool, every man is sometimes.—But your follies, I hope, are now at an end.

I know, you have vowed revenge against this fine lady’s family: but no more of that, now. You must look upon them all as your relations; and forgive and forget. And when they see you make a good husband and a good father, [which God send, for all our sakes!] they will wonder at their nonsensical antipathy, and beg your pardon: But while they think you a vile fellow, and a rake, how can they either love you, or excuse their daughter?

And methinks I could wish to give a word of comfort to the lady, who, doubtless, must be under great fears, how she shall be able to hold in such a wild creature as you have hitherto been. I would hint to her, that by strong arguments, and gentle words, she may do any thing with you; for though you are apt to be hot, gentle words will cool you, and bring you into the temper that is necessary for your cure.

Would to God, my poor lady, your aunt, who is dead and gone, had been a proper patient for the same remedy! God rest her soul! No reflections upon her memory! Worth is best known by want! I know her’s now; and if I had went first, she would by this time have known mine.

There is great wisdom in that saying, God send me a friend, that may tell me of my faults: if not, an enemy, and he will. Not that I am your enemy; and that you well know. The more noble any one is, the more humble; so bear with me, if you would be thought noble.—Am I not your uncle? and do I not design to be better to you than your father could be? Nay, I will be your father too, when the happy day comes; since you desire it: and pray make my compliments to my dear niece; and tell her, I wonder much that she has so long deferred your happiness.

Pray let her know as that I will present HER (not you) either my Lancashire seat or The Lawn in Hertfordshire, and settle upon her a thousand pounds a year penny-rents; to show her, that we are not a family to take base advantages: and you may have writings drawn, and settle as you will.—Honest Pritchard has the rent-roll of both these estates; and as he has been a good old servant, I recommend him to your lady’s favour. I have already consulted him: he will tell you what is best for you, and most pleasing to me.

I am still very bad with my gout, but will come in a litter, as soon as the day is fixed; it would be the joy of my heart to join your hands. And, let me tell you, if you do not make the best of husbands to so good a young lady, and one who has had so much courage for your sake, I will renounce you; and settle all I can upon her and her’s by you, and leave you out of the question.

If any thing be wanting for your further security, I am ready to give it; though you know, that my word has always been looked upon as my bond. And when the Harlowes know all this, let us see whether they are able to blush, and take shame to themselves.

Lady Sarah and Lady Betty want only to know the day, to make all the country round them blaze, and all their tenants mad. And, if any one of mine be sober upon the occasion, Pritchard shall eject him. And, on the birth of the first child, if a son, I will do something more for you, and repeat all our rejoicings.

I ought indeed to have written sooner. But I knew, that if you thought me long, and were in haste as to your nuptials, you would write and tell me so. But my gout was very troublesome: and I am but a slow writer, you know, at best: for composing is a thing that, though formerly I was very ready at it, (as my Lord Lexington used to say,) yet having left it off a great while, I am not so now. And I chose, on this occasion, to write all out of my own hand and memory; and to give you my best advice; for I may never have such an opportunity again. You have had [God mend you!] a strange way of turning your back upon all I have said: this once, I hope, you will be more attentive to the advice I give you for your own good.

I have still another end; nay, two other ends.

The one was, that now you are upon the borders of wedlock, as I may say, and all your wild oats will be sown, I would give you some instructions as to your public as well as private behaviour in life; which, intending you so much good as I do, you ought to hear; and perhaps would never have listened to, on any less extraordinary occasion.

The second is, that your dear lady-elect (who is it seems herself so fine and so sententious a writer) will see by this, that it is not our faults, nor for want of the best advice, that you was not a better man than you have hitherto been.

And now, in a few words, for the conduct I would wish you to follow in public, as well as in private, if you would think me worthy of advising. —It shall be short; so be not uneasy.

As to the private life: Love your lady as she deserves. Let your actions praise you. Be a good husband; and so give the lie to all your enemies; and make them ashamed of their scandals. And let us have pride in saying, that Miss Harlowe has not done either herself or family any discredit by coming among us. Do this; and I, and Lady Sarah, and Lady Betty, will love you for ever.

As to your public conduct: This as follows is what I could wish: but I reckon your lady’s wisdom will put us both right—no disparagement, Sir; since, with all your wit, you have not hitherto shown much wisdom, you know.

Get into parliament as soon as you can: for you have talons to make a great figure there. Who so proper to assist in making new holding laws, as those whom no law in being could hold?

Then, for so long as you will give attendance in St. Stephen’s chapel— its being called a chapel, I hope, will not disgust you: I am sure I have known many a riot there—a speaker has a hard time of it! but we peers have more decorum—But what was I going to say?—I must go back.

For so long as you will give your attendance in parliament, for so long will you be out of mischief; out of private mischief, at least: and may St. Stephen’s fate be your’s, if you wilfully do public mischief!

When a new election comes, you will have two or three boroughs, you know, to choose out of:—but if you stay till then, I had rather you were for the shire.

You will have interest enough, I am sure; and being so handsome a man, the women will make their husbands vote for you.

I shall long to read your speeches. I expect you will speak, if occasion offer, the very first day. You want no courage, and think highly enough of yourself, and lowly enough of every body else, to speak on all occasions.

As to the methods of the house, you have spirit enough, I fear, to be too much above them: take care of that.—I don’t so much fear your want of good-manners. To men, you want no decency, if they don’t provoke you: as to that, I wish you would only learn to be as patient of contradiction from others, as you would have other people be to you.

Although I would not have you to be a courtier; neither would I have you to be a malcontent. I remember (for I have it down) what my old friend Archibald Hutcheson said; and it was a very good saying—(to Mr. Secretary Craggs, I think it was)—’I look upon an administration, as entitled to every vote I can with good conscience give it; for a house of commons should not needlessly put drags upon the wheels of government: and when I have not given it my vote, it was with regret: and, for my country’s sake, I wished with all my heart the measure had been such as I could have approved.’

And another saying he had, which was this: ’Neither can an opposition, neither can a ministry, be always wrong. To be a plumb man therefore with either, is an infallible mark, that that man must mean more and worse than he will own he does mean.’

Are these sayings bad, Sir? are they to be despised?—Well, then, why should I be despised for remembering them, and quoting them, as I love to do? Let me tell you, if you loved my company more than you do, you would not be the worse for it. I may say so without any vanity; since it is other men’s wisdom, and not my own, that I am so fond of.

But to add a word or two more on this occasion; and I may never have such another; for you must read this through—Love honest men, and herd with them, in the house and out of the house; by whatever names they be dignified or distinguished: Keep good men company, and you shall be out of their number. But did I, or did I not, write this before?—Writing, at so many different times, and such a quantity, one may forget.

You may come in for the title when I am dead and gone—God help me!—So I would have you keep an equilibrium. If once you get the name of being a fine speaker, you may have any thing: and, to be sure, you have naturally a great deal of elocution; a tongue that would delude an angel, as the women say—to their sorrow, some of them, poor creatures!—A leading man in the house of commons is a very important character; because that house has the giving of money: and money makes the mare to go; ay, and queens and kings too, sometimes, to go in a manner very different from what they might otherwise choose to go, let me tell you.

However, methinks, I would not have you take a place neither—it will double your value, and your interest, if it be believed, that you will not: for, as you will then stand in no man’s way, you will have no envy; but pure sterling respect; and both sides will court you.

For your part, you will not want a place, as some others do, to piece up their broken fortunes. If you can now live reputably upon two thousand pounds a year, it will be hard if you cannot hereafter live upon seven or eight—less you will not have, if you oblige me; as now, by marrying so fine a lady, very much you will—and all this, and above Lady Betty’s and Lady Sarah’s favours! What, in the name of wonder, could possibly possess the proud Harlowes!—That son, that son of theirs!—But, for his dear sister’s sake, I will say no more of him.

I never was offered a place myself: and the only one I would have taken, had I been offered it, was master of the buckhounds; for I loved hunting when I was young; and it carries a good sound with it for us who live in the country. Often have I thought of that excellent old adage; He that eats the king’s goose, shall be choked with his feathers. I wish to the Lord, this was thoroughly considered by place-hunters! it would be better for them, and for their poor families.

I could say a great deal more, and all equally to the purpose. But really I am tired; and so I doubt are you. And besides, I would reserve something for conversation.

My nieces Montague, and Lady Sarah and Lady Betty, join in compliments to my niece that is to be. If she would choose to have the knot tied among us, pray tell her that we shall all see it securely done: and we will make all the country ring and blaze for a week together. But so I believe I said before.

If any thing further may be needful toward promoting your reciprocal felicity, let me know it; and how you order about the day; and all that. The enclosed bill is very much at your service. ’Tis payable at sight, as whatever else you may have occasion for shall be.

So God bless you both; and make things as convenient to my gout as you can; though, be it whenever it will, I will hobble to you; for I long to see you; and still more to see my niece; and am (in expectation of that happy opportunity)

Your most affectionate Uncle M.