Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LIII


I have just now received the enclosed from my aunt Hervey. Be pleased, my dear, to keep her secret of having written to the unhappy wretch her niece.

I may go to London, I see, or where I will. No matter what becomes of me.

I was the willinger to suspend my journey thither till I heard from Harlowe-place. I thought, if I could be encouraged to hope for a reconciliation, I would let this man see, that he should not have me in his power, but upon my own terms, if at all.

But I find I must be his, whether I will or not; and perhaps through still greater mortifications than those great ones which I have already met with—And must I be so absolutely thrown upon a man, with whom I am not at all satisfied!

My letter is sent, you see, to Harlowe-place. My heart aches for the reception it may meet with there.

One comfort only arises to me from its being sent; that my aunt will clear herself, by the communication, from the supposition of having corresponded with the poor creature whom they have all determine to reprobate. It is no small part of my misfortune that I have weakened the confidence one dear friend has in another, and made one look cool upon another. My poor cousin Dolly, you see, has reason to regret on this account, as well as my aunt. Miss Howe, my dear Miss Howe, is but too sensible of the effects of my fault, having had more words with her mother on my account, than ever she had on any other. Yet the man who has drawn me into all this evil I must be thrown upon!—Much did I consider, much did I apprehend, before my fault, supposing I were to be guilty of it: but I saw it not in all its shocking lights.

And now, to know that my father, an hour before he received the tidings of my supposed flight, owned that he loved me as his life: that he would have been all condescension: that he would—Oh! my dear, how tender, how mortifyingly tender now in him! My aunt need not have been afraid, that it should be known that she has sent me such a letter as this!—A father to kneel to his child!—There would not indeed have been any bearing of that!—What I should have done in such a case, I know not. Death would have been much more welcome to me than such a sight, on such an occasion, in behalf of a man so very, very disgustful to me!—But I had deserve annihilation, had I suffered my father to kneel in vain.

Yet, had but the sacrifice of inclination and personal preference been all, less than KNEELING should have been done. My duty should have been the conqueror of my inclination. But an aversion—an aversion so very sincere!—The triumph of a cruel and ambitious brother, ever so uncontroulable, joined with the insults of an envious sister, bringing wills to theirs, which otherwise would have been favourable to me: the marriage-duties, so absolutely indispensable, so solemnly to be engaged for: the marriage-intimacies (permit me to say to you, my friend, what the purest, although with apprehension, must think of) so very intimate: myself one who has never looked upon any duty, much less a voluntary-vowed one, with indifference; could it have been honest in me to have given my hand to an odious hand, and to have consented to such a more than reluctant, such an immiscible union, if I may so call it?—For life too!—Did not I think more and deeper than most young creatures think; did I not weigh, did I not reflect, I might perhaps have been less obstinate.—Delicacy, (may I presume to call it?) thinking, weighing, reflection, are not blessings (I he not found them such) in the degree I have them. I wish I had been able, in some very nice cases, to have known what indifference was; yet not to have my ignorance imputable to me as a fault. Oh! my dear! the finer sensibilities, if I may suppose mine to be such, make not happy.

What a method had my friends intended to take with me! This, I dare say, was a method chalked out by my brother. He, I suppose, was to have presented me to all my assembled friends, as the daughter capable of preferring her own will to the wills of them all. It would have been a sore trial, no doubt. Would to Heaven, however, I had stood it—let the issue have been what it would, would to Heaven I had stood it!

There may be murder, my aunt says. This looks as if she knew of Singleton’s rash plot. Such an upshot, as she calls it, of this unhappy affair, Heaven avert!

She flies a thought, that I can less dwell upon—a cruel thought—but she has a poor opinion of the purity she compliments me with, if she thinks that I am not, by God’s grace, above temptation from this sex. Although I never saw a man, whose person I could like, before this man; yet his faulty character allowed me but little merit from the indifference I pretended to on his account. But, now I see him in nearer lights, I like him less than ever. Unpolite, cruel, insolent!—Unwise! A trifler with his own happiness; the destroyer of mine!—His last treatment—my fate too visibly in his power—master of his own wishes, [shame to say it,] if he knew what to wish for.—Indeed I never liked him so little as now. Upon my word, I think I could hate him, (if I do not already hate him) sooner than any man I ever thought tolerably of—a good reason why: because I have been more disappointed in my expectations of him; although they never were so high, as to have made him my choice in preference to the single life, had that been permitted me. Still, if the giving him up for ever will make my path to reconciliation easy, and if they will signify as much to me, they shall see that I never will be his: for I have the vanity to think my soul his soul’s superior.

You will say I rave: forbidden to write to my aunt, and taught to despair of reconciliation, you, my dear, must be troubled with my passionate resentments. What a wretch was I to give him a meeting, since by that I put it out of my power to meet my assembled friends!—All would now, if I had met them, been over; and who can tell when my present distresses will?—Rid of both men, I had been now perhaps at my aunt Hervey’s or at my uncle Antony’s; wishing for my cousin Morden’s arrival, who might have accommodated all.

I intended, indeed, to have stood it: And, if I had, how know I by whose name I might now have been called? For how should I have resisted a condescending, a kneeling father, had he been able to have kept his temper with me?

Yet my aunt say he would have relented, if I had not. Perhaps he would have been moved by my humility, before he could have shown such undue condescension. Such temper as he would have received me with might have been improved upon in my favour. And that he had designed ultimately to relent, how it clears my friends (at least to themselves) and condemns me! O why were my aunt’s hints (I remember them now) so very dark?—Yet I intended to have returned after the interview; and then perhaps she would have explained herself.—O this artful, this designing Lovelace—yet I must repeat, that most ought I to blame myself for meeting him.

But far, far, be banished from me fruitless recrimination! Far banished, because fruitless! Let me wrap myself about in the mantle of my own integrity, and take comfort in my unfaulty intention! Since it is now too late to look back, let me collect all my fortitude, and endeavour to stand those shafts of angry Providence, which it will not permit me to shun! That, whatever the trials may be which I am destined to undergo, I may not behave unworthily in them, and may come out amended by them.

Join with me in this prayer, my beloved friend; for your own honour’s sake, as well as for love’s sake, join with me in it; lest a deviation on my side should, with the censorious, cast a shade upon a friendship which has no levity in it; and the basis of which is improvement, as well in the greater as lesser duties.