Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LXI


All hands at work in preparation for London.—What makes my heart beat so strong? Why rises it to my throat in such half-choking flutters, when I think of what this removal may do for me? I am hitherto resolved to be honest, and that increases my wonder at these involuntary commotions. ’Tis a plotting villain of a heart: it ever was—and ever will be, I doubt. Such a joy when any roguery is going forward!—I so little its master!—A head, likewise, so well turned to answer the triangular varlet’s impulses!—No matter—I will have one struggle with thee, old friend; and if I cannot overcome thee now, I never will again attempt to conquer thee.

The dear creature continues extremely low and dejected. Tender blossom! how unfit to contend with the rude and ruffling winds of passion, and haughty and insolent control!—Never till now from under the wing (it is not enough to say of indulging, but) of admiring parents; the mother’s bosom only fit to receive this charming flower!

This was the reflection, that, with mingled compassion, and augmented love, arose to my mind, when I beheld the charmer reposing her lovely face upon the bosom of the widow Sorlings, from a recovered fit, as I entered soon after she had received her execrable sister’s letter. How lovely in her tears!—And as I entered, her uplifted face significantly bespeaking my protection, as I thought. And can I be a villain to such an angel!—I hope not—But why, Belford, why, once more, puttest thou me in mind, that she may be overcome? And why is her own reliance on my honour so late and so reluctantly shown?

But, after all, so low, so dejected, continues she to be, that I am terribly afraid I shall have a vapourish wife, if I do marry. I should then be doubly undone. Not that I shall be much at home with her, perhaps, after the first fortnight, or so. But when a man has been ranging, like the painful bee, from flower to flower, perhaps for a month together, and the thoughts of home and a wife begin to have their charms with him, to be received by a Niobe, who, like a wounded vine, weeps her vitals away, while she but involuntary curls about him; how shall I be able to bear that?

May Heaven restore my charmer to health and spirits, I hourly pray—that a man may see whether she can love any body but her father and mother! In their power, I am confident, it will be, at any time, to make her husband joyless; and that, as I hate them so heartily, is a shocking thing to reflect upon.—Something more than woman, an angel, in some things; but a baby in others: so father-sick! so family-fond!—What a poor chance stands a husband with such a wife! unless, forsooth, they vouchsafe to be reconciled to her, and continue reconciled!

It is infinitely better for her and for me that we should not marry. What a delightful manner of life [O that I could persuade her to it!] would the life of honour be with such a woman! The fears, the inquietudes, the uneasy days, the restless nights; all arising from doubts of having disobliged me! Every absence dreaded to be an absence for ever! And then how amply rewarded, and rewarding, by the rapture-causing return! Such a passion as this keeps love in a continual fervour—makes it all alive. The happy pair, instead of sitting dozing and nodding at each other, in opposite chimney-corners, in a winter evening, and over a wintry love, always new to each other, and having always something to say.

Thou knowest, in my verses to my Stella, my mind on this occasion. I will lay those verses in her way, as if undesignedly, when we are together at the widow’s; that is to say, if we do not soon go to church by consent. She will thence see what my notions are of wedlock. If she receives them with any sort of temper, that will be a foundation—and let me alone to build upon it.

Many a girl has been carried, who never would have been attempted, had she showed a proper resentment, when her ears, or her eyes were first invaded. I have tried a young creature by a bad book, a light quotation, or an indecent picture; and if she has borne that, or only blushed, and not been angry; and more especially if she has leered and smiled; that girl have I, and old Satan, put down for our own. O how I could warn these little rogues, if I would! Perhaps envy, more than virtue, will put me upon setting up beacons for them, when I grow old and joyless.


If you are in London when I get thither, you will see me soon. My charmer is a little better than she was: her eyes show it; and her harmonious voice, hardly audible last time I saw her, now begins to cheer my heart once more. But yet she has no love—no sensibility! There is no addressing her with those meaning, yet innocent freedoms (innocent, at first setting out, they may be called) which soften others of her sex. The more strange this, as she now acknowledges preferable favour for me; and is highly susceptible of grief. Grief mollifies, and enervates. The grieved mind looks round it, silently implores consolation, and loves the soother. Grief is ever an inmate with joy. Though they won’t show themselves at the same window at one time; yet they have the whole house in common between them.