Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LVIII


I am sorry you sent back my Norris. But you must be allowed to do as you please. So must I, in my turn. We must neither of us, perhaps, expect absolutely of the other what is the rightest thing to be done: and yet few folks, so young as we are, better know what the rightest is. I cannot separate myself from you; although I give a double instance of my vanity in joining myself with you in this particular assertion.

I am most heartily rejoiced that your prospects are so much mended; and that, as I hoped, good has been produced out of evil. What must the man have been, what must have been his views, had he not taken such a turn, upon a letter so vile, and upon a treatment so unnatural, himself principally the occasion of it?

You know best your motives for suspending: but I wish you could have taken him at offers so earnest.* Why should you not have permitted him to send for Lord M.’s chaplain? If punctilio only was in the way, and want of a license, and of proper preparations, and such like, my service to you, my dear: and there is ceremony tantamount to your ceremony.

* Mr. Lovelace, in his next Letter, tells his friend how extremely ill

the Lady was, recovering from fits to fall into stronger fits, and

nobody expecting her life. She had not, he says, acquainted Miss Howe

how very ill she was.—In the next Letter, she tells Miss Howe, that her

motives for suspending were not merely ceremonious ones.

Do not, do not, my dear friend, again be so very melancholy a decliner as to prefer a shroud, when the matter you wish for is in your power; and when, as you have justly said heretofore, persons cannot die when they will.

But it is a strange perverseness in human nature that we slight that when near us which at a distance we wish for.

You have now but one point to pursue: that is marriage: let that be solemnized. Leave the rest to Providence, and, to use your own words in a former letter, follow as that leads. You will have a handsome man, a genteel man; he would be a wise man, if he were not vain of his endowments, and wild and intriguing: but while the eyes of many of our sex, taken by so specious a form and so brilliant a spirit, encourage that vanity, you must be contented to stay till grey hairs and prudence enter upon the stage together. You would not have every thing in the same man.

I believe Mr. Hickman treads no crooked paths; but he hobbles most ungracefully in a straight one. Yet Mr. Hickman, though he pleases not my eye, nor diverts my ear, will not, as I believe, disgust the one, nor shock the other. Your man, as I have lately said, will always keep up attention; you will always be alive with him, though perhaps more from fears than hopes: while Mr. Hickman will neither say any thing to keep one awake, nor yet, by shocking adventures, make one’s slumbers uneasy.

I believe I now know which of the two men so prudent a person as you would, at first, have chosen; nor doubt I that you can guess which I would have made choice of, if I might. But proud as we are, the proudest of us all can only refuse, and many of us accept the but half-worthy, for fear a still worse should offer.

If men had chosen their mistresses for spirits like their own, although Mr. Lovelace, at the long run, may have been too many for me, I don’t doubt but I should have given heart-ach for heart-ach, for one half-year at least; while you, with my dull-swift, would have glided on as serenely, as calmly, as unaccountably, as the succeeding seasons; and varying no otherwise than they, to bring on new beauties and conveniencies to all about you.

I was going on in this style—but my mother broke in upon me with a prohibitory aspect. ’She gave me leave for one letter only.’—She had just parted with your odious uncle, and they have been in close conference again.

She has vexed me. I must lay this by till I hear from you again, not knowing whither to send it.

Direct me to a third place, as I desired in my former.

I told my mother (on her challenging me) that I was writing indeed, and to you: but it was only to amuse myself; for I protested that I knew not where to send to you.

I hope that your next may inform me of your nuptials, although the next to that were to acquaint me that he was the most ungratefullest monster on earth; as he must be, if not the kindest husband in it.

My mother has vexed me. But so, on revising, I wrote before.—But she has unhinged me, as you call it: pretended to catechise Hickman, I assure you, for contributing to our supposed correspondence. Catechised him severely too, upon my word!—I believe I have a sneaking kindness for the sneaking fellow, for I cannot endure that any body should treat him like a fool but myself.

I believe, between you and me, the good lady forgot herself. I heard her loud. She possibly imagined that my father was come to life again. Yet the meekness of the man might have soon convinced her, I should have thought; for my father, it seems, would talk as loud as she, I suppose, (though within a few yards of each other,) as if both were out of their way, and were hallooing at half a mile’s distance, to get in again.

I know you’ll blame me for this sauciness—but I told you I was vexed; and if I had not a spirit, my parentage on both sides might be doubted.

You must not chide me too severely, however, because I have learned of you not to defend myself in an error: and I own I am wrong: and that’s enough: you won’t be so generous in this case as you are in every other, if you don’t think it is.

Adieu, my dear! I must, I will love you, and love you for ever! So subscribes your