Clarissa Harlowe LETTER VI


This Captain Tomlinson is one of the happiest as well as one of the best men in the world. What would I give to stand as high in my beloved’s opinion as he does! but yet I am as good a man as he, were I to tell my own story, and have equal credit given to it. But the devil should have had him before I had seen him on the account he came upon, had I thought I should not have answered my principal end in it. I hinted to thee in my last what that was.

But to the particulars of the conference between my fair-one and me, on her hasty messages; which I was loth to come to, because she has had an half triumph over me in it.

After I had attended the Captain down to the very passage, I returned to the dining-room, and put on a joyful air, on my beloved’s entrance into it—O my dearest creature, said I, let me congratulate you on a prospect so agreeable to your wishes! And I snatched her hand, and smothered it with kisses.

I was going on; when interrupting me, You see, Mr. Lovelace, said she, how you have embarrassed yourself by your obliquities! You see, that you have not been able to return a direct answer to a plain and honest question, though upon it depends all the happiness, on the prospect of which you congratulate me!

You know, my best love, what my prudent, and I will say, my kind motives were, for giving out that we were married. You see that I have taken no advantage of it; and that no inconvenience has followed it. You see that your uncle wants only to be assured from ourselves that it is so—

Not another word on this subject, Mr. Lovelace. I will not only risk, but I will forfeit, the reconciliation so near my heart, rather than I will go on to countenance a story so untrue!

My dearest soul—Would you have me appear—

I would have you appear, Sir, as you are! I am resolved that I will appear to my uncle’s friend, and to my uncle, as I am.

For one week, my dearest life! cannot you for one week—only till the settlements—

Not for one hour, with my own consent. You don’t know, Sir, how much I have been afflicted, that I have appeared to the people below what I am not. But my uncle, Sir, shall never have it to upbraid me, nor will I to upbraid myself, that I have wilfully passed upon him in false lights.

What, my dear, would you have me say to the Captain to-morrow morning? I have given him room to think—

Then put him right, Mr. Lovelace. Tell the truth. Tell him what you please of the favour of your relations to me: tell him what you will about the settlements: and if, when drawn, you will submit them to his perusal and approbation, it will show him how much you are in earnest.

My dearest life!—Do you think that he would disapprove of the terms I have offered?


Then may I be accursed, if I willingly submit to be trampled under foot by my enemies!

And may I, Mr. Lovelace, never be happy in this life, if I submit to the passing upon my uncle Harlowe a wilful and premeditated falshood for truth! I have too long laboured under the affliction which the rejection of all my friends has given me, to purchase my reconciliation with them now at so dear a price as this of my veracity.

The women below, my dear—

What are the women below to me?—I want not to establish myself with them. Need they know all that passes between my relations and you and me?

Neither are they any thing to me, Madam. Only, that when, for the sake of preventing the fatal mischiefs which might have attended your brother’s projects, I have made them think us married, I would not appear to them in a light which you yourself think so shocking. By my soul, Madam, I had rather die, than contradict myself so flagrantly, after I have related to them so many circumstances of our marriage.

Well, Sir, the women may believe what they please. That I have given countenance to what you told them is my error. The many circumstances which you own one untruth has drawn you in to relate, is a justification of my refusal in the present case.

Don’t you see, Madam, that your uncle wishes to find that we are married? May not the ceremony be privately over, before his mediation can take place?

Urge this point no further, Mr. Lovelace. If you will not tell the truth, I will to-morrow morning (if I see Captain Tomlinson) tell it myself. Indeed I will.

Will you, Madam, consent that things pass as before with the people below? This mediation of Tomlinson may come to nothing. Your brother’s schemes may be pursued; the rather, that now he will know (perhaps from your uncle) that you are not under a legal protection.—You will, at least, consent that things pass here as before?—

To permit this, is to go on in an error, Mr. Lovelace. But as the occasion for so doing (if there can be in your opinion an occasion that will warrant an untruth) will, as I presume, soon be over, I shall the less dispute that point with you. But a new error I will not be guilty of, if I can avoid it.

Can I, do you think, Madam, have any dishonourable view in the step I supposed you would not scruple to take towards a reconciliation with your own family? Not for my own sake, you know, did I wish you to take it; for what is it to me, if I am never reconciled to your family? I want no favours from them.

I hope, Mr. Lovelace, there is no occasion, in our present not disagreeable situation, to answer such a question. And let me say, that I shall think my prospects still more agreeable, if, to-morrow morning you will not only own the very truth, but give my uncle’s friend such an account of the steps you have taken, and are taking, as may keep up my uncle’s favourable intentions towards me. This you may do under what restrictions of secrecy you please. Captain Tomlinson is a prudent man; a promoter of family-peace, you find; and, I dare say, may be made a friend.

I saw there was no help. I saw that the inflexible Harlowe spirit was all up in her.—A little witch!—A little—Forgive me, Love, for calling her names! And so I said, with an air, We have had too many misunderstandings, Madam, for me to wish for new ones: I will obey you without reserve. Had I not thought I should have obliged you by the other method, (especially as the ceremony might have been over before any thing could have operated from your uncle’s intentions, and of consequence no untruth persisted in,) I would not have proposed it. But think not, my beloved creature, that you shall enjoy, without condition, this triumph over my judgment.

And then, clasping my arms about her, I gave her averted cheek (her charming lip designed) a fervent kiss.—And your forgiveness of this sweet freedom [bowing] is that condition.

She was not mortally offended. And now must I make out the rest as well as I can. But this I will tell thee, that although her triumph has not diminished my love for her, yet it has stimulated me more than ever to revenge, as thou wilt be apt to call it. But victory, or conquest, is the more proper word.

There is a pleasure, ’tis true, in subduing one of these watchful beauties. But by my soul, Belford, men of our cast take twenty times the pains to be rogues than it would cost them to be honest; and dearly, with the sweat of our brows, and to the puzzlement of our brains, (to say nothing of the hazards we run,) do we earn our purchase; and ought not therefore to be grudged our success when we meet with it—especially as, when we have obtained our end, satiety soon follows; and leaves us little or nothing to show for it. But this, indeed, may be said of all worldly delights.—And is not that a grave reflection from me?

I was willing to write up to the time. Although I have not carried my principal point, I shall make something turn out in my favour from Captain Tomlinson’s errand. But let me give thee this caution; that thou do not pretend to judge of my devices by parts; but have patience till thou seest the whole. But once more I swear, that I will not be out-Norris’d by a pair of novices. And yet I am very apprehensive, at times, of the consequences of Miss Howe’s smuggling scheme.

My conscience, I should think, ought not to reproach me for a contrivance, which is justified by the contrivances of two such girls as these: one of whom (the more excellent of the two) I have always, with her own approbation, as I imagine, proposed for my imitation.

But here, Jack, is the thing that concludes me, and cases my heart with adamant: I find, by Miss Howe’s letters, that it is owing to her, that I have made no greater progress with my blooming fair-one. She loves me. The ipecacuanha contrivance convinces me that she loves me. Where there is love there must be confidence, or a desire of having reason to confide. Generosity, founded on my supposed generosity, has taken hold of her heart. Shall I not now see (since I must forever be unhappy, if I marry her, and leave any trial unessayed) what I can make of her love, and her newly-raised confidence?—Will it not be to my glory to succeed? And to her’s and to the honour of her sex, if I cannot?—Where then will be the hurt to either, to make the trial? And cannot I, as I have often said, reward her when I will by marriage?

’Tis late, or rather early; for the day begins to dawn upon me. I am plaguy heavy. Perhaps I need not to have told thee that. But will only indulge a doze in my chair for an hour; then shake myself, wash and refresh. At my time of life, with such a constitution as I am blessed with, that’s all that’s wanted.

Good night to me!—It cannot be broad day till I am awake.—Aw-w-w-whaugh—pox of this yawning!

Is not thy uncle dead yet?

What’s come to mine, that he writes not to my last?—Hunting after more wisdom of nations, I suppose!—Yaw-yaw-yawning again!—Pen, begone!