Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LVI


Be comforted; be not dejected; do not despond, my dearest and best-beloved friend. God Almighty is just and gracious, and gives not his assent to rash and inhuman curses. Can you think that Heaven will seal to the black passions of its depraved creatures? If it did, malice, envy, and revenge would triumph; and the best of the human race, blasted by the malignity of the worst, would be miserable in both worlds.

This outrageousness shows only what manner of spirit they are of, and how much their sordid views exceed their parental love. ’Tis all owing to rage and disappointment—disappointment in designs proper to be frustrated.

If you consider this malediction as it ought to be considered, a person of your piety must and will rather pity and pray for your rash father, than terrify yourself on the occasion. None bug God can curse; parents or others, whoever they be, can only pray to Him to curse: and such prayers can have no weight with a just and all-perfect Being, the motives to which are unreasonable, and the end proposed by them cruel.

Has not God commanded us to bless and curse not? Pray for your father, then, I repeat, that he incur not the malediction he has announced on you; since he has broken, as you see, a command truly divine; while you, by obeying that other precept which enjoins us to pray for them that persecute and curse us, will turn the curse into a blessing.

My mother blames them for this wicked letter of your sister; and she pities you; and, of her own accord, wished me to write to comfort you, for this once: for she says, it is pity your heart, which was so noble, (and when the sense of your fault, and the weight of a parent’s curse are so strong upon you,) should be quite broken.

Lord bless me, how your aunt writes!—Can there be two rights and two wrongs in palpable cases!—But, my dear, she must be wrong: so they all have been, justify themselves now as they will. They can only justify themselves to themselves from selfish principles, resolving to acquit, not fairly to try themselves. Did your unkind aunt, in all the tedious progress of your contentions with them, give you the least hope of their relenting?—Her dark hints now I recollect as well as you. But why was any thing good or hopeful to be darkly hinted?—How easy was it for her, who pretended always to love you; for her, who can give such flowing license to her pen for your hurt; to have given you one word, one line (in confidence) of their pretended change of measures!

But do not mind their after-pretences, my dear—all of them serve but for tacit confessions of their vile usage of you. I will keep your aunt’s secret, never fear. I would not, on any consideration, that my mother should see her letter.

You will now see that you have nothing left but to overcome all scrupulousness, and marry as son as you have an opportunity. Determine to do so, my dear.

I will give you a motive for it, regarding myself. For this I have resolved, and this I have vowed, [O friend, the best beloved of my heart, be not angry with me for it!] ’That so long as your happiness is in suspence, I will never think of marrying.’ In justice to the man I shall have, I have vowed this: for, my dear, must I not be miserable, if you are so? And what an unworthy wife must I be to any man who cannot have interest enough in my heart to make his obligingness a balance for an affliction he has not caused!

I would show Lovelace your sister’s abominable letter, were it to me. I enclose it. It shall not have a place in this house. This will enter him of course into the subject which you now ought to have most in view. Let him see what you suffer for him. He cannot prove base to such an excellence. I should never enjoy my head or my senses should this man prove a villain to you!—With a merit so exalted, you may have punishment more than enough for your involuntary fault in that husband.

I would not have you be too sure that their project to seize you is over. The words intimating that it is over, in the letter of that abominable Arabella, seem calculated to give you security.—She only says she believes that design is over.—And I do not yet find from Miss Lloyd that it is disavowed. So it will be best, when you are in London, to be private, and, for fear of the worst, to let every direction to be a third place; for I would not, for the world, have you fall into the hands of such flaming and malevolent spirits by surprize.

I will myself be content to direct you at some third place; and I shall then be able to aver to my mother, or to any other, if occasion be, that I know not where you are.

Besides, this measure will make you less apprehensive of the consequences of their violence, should they resolve to attempt to carry you of in spite of Lovelace.

I would have you direct to Mr. Hickman, even your answer to this. I have a reason for it. Besides, my mother, notwithstanding this particular indulgence, is very positive. They have prevailed upon her, I know, to give her word to this purpose—Spiteful, poor wretches! How I hate in particular your foolish uncle Antony.

I would not have your thought dwell on the contents of your sister’s shocking letter; but pursue other subjects—the subjects before you. And let me know your progress with Lovelace, and what he says to this diabolical curse. So far you may enter into this hateful subject. I expect that this will aptly introduce the grant topic between you, without needing a mediator.

Come, my dear, when things are at worst they will mend. Good often comes when evil is expected.—But if you despond, there can be no hopes of cure. Don’t let them break your heart; for that is plain to me, is now what some people have in view for you to do.

How poor to withhold from you your books, your jewels, and your money! As money is all you can at present want, since they will vouchsafe to send your clothes, I send fifty guineas by the bearer, enclosed in single papers in my Norris’s Miscellanies. I charge you, as you love me, return them not.

I have more at your service. So, if you like not your lodgings or his behaviour when you get to town, leave both them and him out of hand.

I would advise you to write to Mr. Morden without delay. If he intends for England, it may hasten him. And you will do very well till he can come. But, surely Lovelace will be infatuated, if he secure not his happiness by your consent, before that of Mr. Morden’s is made needful on his arrival.

Once more, my dear, let me beg of you to be comforted. Manage with your usual prudence the stake before you, and all will still be happy. Suppose yourself to be me, and me to be you, [you may—for your distress is mine,] and then you will add full day to these but glimmering lights which are held out to you by

Your ever affectionate and faithful ANNA HOWE.

I hurry this away by Robert. I will inquire into the truth of your aunt’s pretences about the change of measures which she says they intended in case you had not gone away.