Clarissa Harlowe LETTER LXII


At last my lucky star has directed us into the desired port, and we are safely landed.—Well says Rowe:—

The wise and active conquer difficulties,

By daring to attempt them. Sloth and folly

Shiver and shrink at sight of toil and hazard,

And make th’ impossibility they fear.

But in the midst of my exultation, something, I know not what to call it, checks my joys, and glooms over my brighter prospects: if it be not conscience, it is wondrously like what I thought so, many, many years ago.

Surely, Lovelace, methinks thou sayest, thy good motions are not gone off already! Surely thou wilt not now at last be a villain to this lady!

I can’t tell what to say to it. Why would not the dear creature accept of me, when I so sincerely offered myself to her acceptance? Things already appear with a very different face now I have got her here. Already have our mother and her daughters been about me:—’Charming lady! What a complexion! What eyes! What majesty in her person!—O Mr. Lovelace, you are a happy man! You owe us such a lady!’—Then they remind me of my revenge, and of my hatred to her whole family.

Sally was so struck with her, at first sight, that she broke out to me in these lines of Dryden:—

——Fairer to be seen

Than the fair lily on the flow’ry green!

More fresh than May herself in blossoms new!

I sent to thy lodgings within half an hour after our arrival, to receive thy congratulation upon it, but thou wert at Edgeware, it seems.

My beloved, who is charmingly amended, is retired to her constant employment, writing. I must content myself with the same amusement, till she shall be pleased to admit me to her presence: for already have I given to every one her cue.

And, among the rest, who dost thou think is to be her maid servant?—Deb. Butler.

Ah, Lovelace!

And Ah, Belford!—It can’t be otherwise. But what dost think Deb’s name is to be? Why, Dorcas, Dorcas Wykes. And won’t it be admirable, if, either through fear, fright, or good liking, we can get my beloved to accept of Dorcas Wykes for a bed-fellow?

In so many ways will it be now in my power to have the dear creature, that I shall not know which of them to choose!

But here comes the widow with Dorcas Wykes in her hand, and I am to introduce them both to my fair-one?

So, the honest girl is accepted—of good parentage—but, through a neglected education, plaguy illiterate: she can neither write, nor read writing. A kinswoman of Mrs. Sinclair—could not therefore well be refused, the widow in person recommending her; and the wench only taken till her Hannah can come. What an advantage has an imposing or forward nature over a courteous one! So here may something arise to lead into correspondencies, and so forth. To be sure a person need not be so wary, so cautious of what she writes, or what she leaves upon her table, or toilette, when her attendant cannot read.

It would be a miracle, as thou sayest, if this lady can save herself—And having gone so far, how can I recede? Then my revenge upon the Harlowes!—To have run away with a daughter of theirs, to make her a Lovelace—to make her one of a family so superior to her own—what a triumph, as I have heretofore observed,* to them! But to run away with her, and to bring her to my lure in the other light, what a mortification of their pride! What a gratification of my own!

Then these women are continually at me. These women, who, before my whole soul and faculties were absorbed in the love of this single charmer, used always to oblige me with the flower and first fruits of their garden! Indeed, indeed, my goddess should not have chosen this London widow’s! But I dare say, if I had, she would not. People who will be dealing in contradiction ought to pay for it. And to be punished by the consequences of our own choice—what a moral lies there!—What a deal of good may I not be the occasion of from a little evil!

Dorcas is a neat creature, both in person and dress; her continuance not vulgar. And I am in hopes, as I hinted above, that her lady will accept of her for her bedfellow, in a strange house, for a week or so. But I saw she had a dislike to her at her very first appearance; yet I thought the girl behaved very modestly—over-did it a little perhaps. Her ladyship shrunk back, and looked shy upon her. The doctrine of sympathies and antipathies is a surprising doctrine. But Dorcas will be excessively obliging, and win her lady’s favour soon, I doubt not. I am secure in one of the wench’s qualities however—she is not to be corrupted. A great point that! since a lady and her maid, when heartily of one party, will be too hard for half a score devils.

The dear creature was no less shy when the widow first accosted her at her alighting. Yet I thought that honest Doleman’s letter had prepared her for her masculine appearance.

And now I mention that letter, why dost thou not wish me joy, Jack?

Joy, of what?

Why, joy of my nuptials. Know then, that said, is done, with me, when I have a mind to have it so; and that we are actually man and wife! only that consummation has not passed: bound down to the contrary of that, by a solemn vow, till a reconciliation with her family take place. The women here are told so. They know it before my beloved knows it; and that, thou wilt say, is odd.

But how shall I do to make my fair-one keep her temper on the intimation? Why, is she not here? At Mrs. Sinclair’s?—But if she will hear reason, I doubt not to convince her, that she ought to acquiesce.

She will insist, I suppose, upon my leaving her, and that I shall not take up my lodgings under the same roof. But circumstances are changed since I first made her that promise. I have taken all the vacant apartments; and must carry this point also.

I hope in a while to get her with me to the public entertainments. She knows nothing of the town, and has seen less of its diversions than ever woman of her taste, her fortune, her endowments, did see. She has, indeed, a natural politeness, which transcends all acquirement. The most capable of any one I ever knew of judging what an hundred things are, by seeing one of a like nature. Indeed she took so much pleasure in her own chosen amusements, till persecuted out of them, that she had neither leisure nor inclination for the town diversions.

These diversions will amuse, and the deuce is in it, if a little susceptibility will not put forth, now she receives my address; especially if I can manage it so as to be allowed to live under one roof with her. What though the sensibility be at first faint and reluctant, like the appearance of an early spring-flower in frosty winter, which seems afraid of being nipt by an easterly blast! That will be enough for me.

I hinted to thee in a former,* that I had provided books for the lady’s in-door amusement. Sally and Polly are readers. My beloved’s light closet was their library. And several pieces of devotion have been put in, bought on purpose at second-hand.

* See Letter XXXIX. of this volume.

I was always for forming a judgment of the reading part of the sex by their books. The observations I have made on this occasion have been of great use to me, as well in England as out of it. The sagacious lady may possibly be as curious in this point as her Lovelace.

So much for the present. Thou seest that I have a great deal of business before me; yet I will write again soon.

[Mr. Lovelace sends another letter with this; in which he takes notice

of young Miss Sorlings’s setting out with them, and leaving them at

Barnet: but as its contents are nearly the same with those in the

Lady’s next letter, it is omitted.]