Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LIX


I have been making inquiry, as I told you I would, whether your relations had really (before you left them) resolved upon that change of measures which your aunt mentions in her letter; and by laying together several pieces of intelligence, some drawn from my mother, through your uncle Antony’s communications; some from Miss Lloyd, by your sister’s; and some by a third way that I shall not tell you of; I have reason to think the following a true state of the case.

’That there was no intention of a change of measures till within two or three days of your going away. On the contrary, your brother and sister, though they had no hope of prevailing with you in Solmes’s favour, were resolved never to give over their persecutions till they had pushed you upon taking some step, which, by help of their good offices, should be deemed inexcusable by the half-witted souls they had to play upon.

’But that, at last, your mother (tired with, and, perhaps, ashamed of the passive part she had acted) thought fit to declare to Miss Bell, that she was determined to try to put an end to the family feuds, and to get your uncle Harlowe to second her endeavours.

’This alarmed your brother and sister, and then a change of measures was resolved upon. Solmes’s offers were, however, too advantageous to be given up; and your father’s condescension was now to be their sole dependence, and (as they give it out) the trying of what that would do with you, their last effort.’

And indeed, my dear, this must have succeeded, I verily think, with such a daughter as they had to deal with, could that father, who never, I dare say, kneeled in his life but to his God, have so far condescended as your aunt writes he would.

But then, my dear, what would this have done?—Perhaps you would have given Lovelace this meeting, in hopes to pacify him, and prevent mischief; supposing that they had given you time, and not hurried you directly into the state. But if you had not met him, you see that he was resolved to visit them, and well attended too: and what must have been the consequence?

So that, upon the whole, we know not but matters may be best as they are, however disagreeable that best is.

I hope your considerate and thoughtful mind will make a good use of this hint. Who would not with patience sustain even a great evil, if she could persuade herself that it was kindly dispensed, in order to prevent a still greater?—Especially, if she could sit down, as you can, and acquit her own heart?

Permit me one further observation—Do we not see, from the above state of the matter, what might have been done before by the worthy person of your family, had she exerted the mother, in behalf of a child so meritorious, yet so much oppressed?

Adieu, my dear. I will be ever yours. ANNA HOWE.

[Clarissa, in her answer to the first of the two last letters, chides

her friend for giving so little weight to her advice, in relation to her

behaviour to her mother. It may be proper to insert here the

following extracts from that answer, though a little before the time.]

You assume, my dear, says she, your usual and ever-agreeable style in what you write of the two gentlemen,* and how unaptly you think they have chosen; Mr. Hickman in addressing you, Mr. Lovelace me. But I am inclinable to believe that, with a view to happiness, however two mild tempers might agree, two high ones would make sad work of it, both at one time violent and unyielding. You two might, indeed, have raqueted the ball betwixt you, as you say.** But Mr. Hickman, by his gentle manners, seems formed for you, if you go not too far with him. If you do, it would be a tameness in him to bear it, which would make a man more contemptible than Mr. Hickman can ever deserve to be made. Nor is it a disgrace for even a brave man, who knows what a woman is to vow to him afterwards, to be very obsequious beforehand.

* See Letter XXXV. and Letter XXXVI. of this volume.

** See Letter XXXVI. of this volume.

Do you think it is to the credit of Mr. Lovelace’s character that he can be offensive and violent?—Does he not, as all such spirits must, subject himself to the necessity of making submissions for his excesses far more mortifying to a proud heart than those condescensions which the high-spirited are so apt to impute as a weakness of mind in such a man as Mr. Hickman?

Let me tell you, my dear, that Mr. Hickman is such a one as would rather bear an affront from a lady, than offer one to her. He had rather, I dare say, that she should have occasion to ask his pardon than he her’s. But my dear, you have outlived your first passion; and had the second man been an angel, he would not have been more than indifferent to you.

My motives for suspending, proceeds she, were not merely ceremonious ones. I was really very ill. I could not hold up my head. The contents of my sister’s letters had pierced my heart. Indeed, my dear, I was very ill. And was I, moreover, to be as ready to accept his offer as if I were afraid he never would repeat it?

I see with great regret that your mamma is still immovably bent against our correspondence. What shall I do about it?—It goes against me to continue it, or to wish you to favour me with returns.—Yet I have so managed my matters that I have no friend but you to advise with. It is enough to make one indeed wish to be married to this man, though a man of errors, as he has worthy relations of my own sex; and I should have some friends, I hope:—and having some, I might have more—for as money is said to increase money, so does the countenance of persons of character increase friends: while the destitute must be destitute.—It goes against my heart to beg of you to discontinue corresponding with me; and yet it is against my conscience to carry it on against parental prohibition. But I dare not use all the arguments against it that I could use—And why?—For fear I should convince you; and you should reject me as the rest of my friends have done. I leave therefore the determination of this point upon you.—I am not, I find, to be trusted with it. But be mine all the fault, and all the punishment, if it be punishable!—And certainly it must, when it can be the cause of the letter I have before me, and which I must no farther animadvert upon, because you forbid me to do so.

[To the second letter, among other things, she says,]

So, my dear, you seem to think that there was a fate in my error. The cordial, the considerate friendship is seen in the observation you make on this occasion. Yet since things have happened as they have, would to Heaven I could hear that all the world acquitted my father, or, at least, my mother! whose character, before these family feuds broke out, was the subject of everyone’s admiration. Don’t let any body say from you, so that it may come to her ear, that she might, from a timely exertion of her fine talents, have saved her unhappy child. You will observe, my dear, that in her own good time, when she saw there was not likely to be an end to my brother’s persecutions, she resolved to exert herself. But the pragmatical daughter, by the fatal meeting, precipitated all, and frustrated her indulgent designs. O my love, I am now convinced, by dear experience, that while children are so happy as to have parents or guardians whom they may consult, they should not presume (no, not with the best and purest intentions) to follow their own conceits in material cases.

A ray of hope of future reconciliation darts in upon my mind, from the intention you tell me my mother had to exert herself in my favour, had I not gone away. And my hope is the stronger, as this communication points out to me that my uncle Harlowe’s interest is likely, in my mother’s opinion, to be of weight, if it could be engaged. It will behove me, perhaps, to apply to that dear uncle, if a proper occasion offer.