Clarissa Harlowe LETTER VII


Now have I established myself for ever in my charmer’s heart.

The Captain came at seven, as promised, and ready equipped for his journey. My beloved chose not to give us her company till our first conversation was over—ashamed, I suppose, to be present at that part of it which was to restore her to her virgin state by my confession, after her wifehood had been reported to her uncle. But she took her cue, nevertheless, and listened to all that passed.

The modestest women, Jack, must think, and think deeply sometimes. I wonder whether they ever blush at those things by themselves, at which they have so charming a knack of blushing in company. If not; and if blushing be a sign of grace or modesty; have not the sex as great a command over their blushes as they are said to have over their tears? This reflection would lead me a great way into female minds, were I disposed to pursue it.

I told the Captain, that I would prevent his question; and accordingly (after I had enjoined the strictest secrecy, that no advantage might be given to James Harlowe, and which he had answered for as well on Mr. Harlowe’s part as his own) I acknowledged nakedly and fairly the whole truth—to wit, ’That we were not yet married. I gave him hints of the causes of procrastination. Some of them owing to unhappy misunderstandings: but chiefly to the Lady’s desire of previous reconciliation with her friends; and to a delicacy that had no example.’

Less nice ladies than this, Jack, love to have delays, wilful and studied delays, imputed to them in these cases—yet are indelicate in their affected delicacy: For do they not thereby tacitly confess, that they expect to be the greatest estgainers in wedlock; and that there is self-denial in the pride they take in delaying?

’I told him the reason of our passing to the people below as married—yet as under a vow of restriction, as to consummation, which had kept us both to the height, one of forbearing, the other of vigilant punctilio; even to the denial of those innocent freedoms, which betrothed lovers never scruple to allow and to take.

’I then communicated to him a copy of my proposal of settlement; the substance of her written answer; the contents of my letter of invitation to Lord M. to be her nuptial-father; and of my Lord’s generous reply. But said, that having apprehensions of delay from his infirmities, and my beloved choosing by all means (and that from principles of unrequited duty) a private solemnization, I had written to excuse his Lordship’s presence; and expected an answer every hour.

’The settlements, I told him, were actually drawing by Counsellor Williams, of whose eminence he must have heard—’

He had.

’And of the truth of this he might satisfy himself before he went out of town.

’When these were drawn, approved, and engrossed, nothing, I said, but signing, and the nomination of my happy day, would be wanting. I had a pride, I declared, in doing the highest justice to so beloved a creature, of my own voluntary motion, and without the intervention of a family from whom I had received the greatest insults. And this being our present situation, I was contented that Mr. John Harlowe should suspend his reconciliatory purposes till our marriage were actually solemnized.’

The Captain was highly delighted with all I said: Yet owned, that as his dear friend Mr. Harlowe had expressed himself greatly pleased to hear that we were actually married, he could have wished it had been so. But, nevertheless, he doubted not that all would be well.

He saw my reasons, he said, and approved of them, for making the gentlewomen below [whom again he understood to be good sort of people] believe that the ceremony had passed; which so well accounted for what the lady’s maid had told Mr. Harlowe’s friend. Mr. James Harlowe, he said, had certainly ends to answer in keeping open the breach; and as certainly had formed a design to get his sister out of my hands. Wherefore it as much imported his worthy friend to keep this treaty as secret, as it did me; at least till he had formed his party, and taken his measures. Ill will and passion were dreadful misrepresenters. It was amazing to him, that animosity could be carried so high against a man capable of views so pacific and so honourable, and who had shown such a command of his temper, in this whole transaction, as I had done. Generosity, indeed, in every case, where love of stratagem and intrigue (I would excuse him) were not concerned, was a part of my character.

He was proceeding, when, breakfast being ready, in came the empress of my heart, irradiating all around her, as with a glory—a benignity and graciousness in her aspect, that, though natural to it, had been long banished from it.

Next to prostration lowly bowed the Captain. O how the sweet creature smiled her approbation of him! Reverence from one begets reverence from another. Men are more of monkeys in imitation than they think themselves.—Involuntarily, in a manner, I bent my knee—My dearest life—and made a very fine speech on presenting the Captain to her. No title myself, to her lip or cheek, ’tis well he attempted not either. He was indeed ready to worship her;—could only touch her charming hand.

I have told the Captain, my dear creature—and then I briefly repeated (as if I had supposed she had not heard it) all I had told him.

He was astonished, that any body could be displeased one moment with such an angel. He undertook her cause as the highest degree of merit to himself.

Never, I must need say, did an angel so much look the angel. All placid, serene, smiling, self-assured: a more lovely flush than usual heightening her natural graces, and adding charms, even to radiance, to her charming complexion.

After we had seated ourselves, the agreeable subject was renewed, as we took our chocolate. How happy should she be in her uncle’s restored favour!

The Captain engaged for it—No more delays, he hoped, on her part! Let the happy day be but once over, all would then be right. But was it improper to ask for copies of my proposals, and of her answer, in order to show them to his dear friend, her uncle?

As Mr. Lovelace pleased.—O that the dear creature would always say so!

It must be in strict confidence then, I said. But would it not be better to show her uncle the draught of the settlements, when drawn?

And will you be so good as to allow of this, Mr. Lovelace?

There, Belford! We were once the quarrelsome, but now we are the polite, lovers.

Indeed, my dear creature, I will, if you desire it, and if Captain Tomlinson will engage that Mr. Harlowe shall keep them absolutely a secret; that I may not be subjected to the cavil and controul of any others of a family that have used me so very ill.

Now, indeed, Sir, you are very obliging.

Dost think, Jack, that my face did not now also shine?

I held out my hand, (first consecrating it with a kiss,) for her’s. She condescended to give it me. I pressed it to my lips: You know not Captain Tomlinson, (with an air,) all storms overblown, what a happy man—

Charming couple! [his hands lifted up,] how will my good friend rejoice! O that he were present! You know not, Madam, how dear you still are to your uncle Harlowe!

I am still unhappy ever to have disobliged him!

Not too much of that, however, fairest, thought I!

The Captain repeated his resolution of service, and that in so acceptable a manner, that the dear creature wished that neither he, nor any of his, might ever want a friend of equal benevolence.

Nor any of this, she said; for the Captain brought it in, that he had five children living, by one of the best wives and mothers, whose excellent management made him as happy as if his eight hundred pounds a year (which was all he had to boast of) were two thousand.

Without economy, the oracular lady said, no estate was large enough. With it, the least was not too small.

Lie still, teasing villain! lie still.—I was only speaking to my conscience, Jack.

And let me ask you, Mr. Lovelace, said the Captain; yet not so much from doubt, as that I may proceed upon sure grounds—You are willing to co-operate with my dear friend in a general reconciliation?

Let me tell you, Mr. Tomlinson, that if it can be distinguished, that my readiness to make up with a family, of whose generosity I have not had reason to think highly, is entirely owing to the value I have for this angel of a woman, I will not only co-operate with Mr. John Harlowe, as you ask; but I will meet with Mr. James Harlowe senior, and his lady, all the way. And furthermore, to make the son James and his sister Arabella quite easy, I will absolutely disclaim any further interest, whether living or dying, in any of the three brothers’ estates; contenting myself with what my beloved’s grandfather had bequeathed to her: for I have reason to be abundantly satisfied with my own circumstances and prospects—enough rewarded, were she not to bring a shilling in dowry, in a woman who has a merit superior to all the goods of fortune.—True as the Gospel, Belford!—Why had not this scene a real foundation?

The dear creature, by her eyes, expressed her gratitude, before her lips could utter it. O Mr. Lovelace, said she—you have infinitely—And there she stopt.

The Captain run over in my praise. He was really affected.

O that I had not such a mixture of revenge and pride in my love, thought I!—But, (my old plea,) cannot I make her amends at any time? And is not her virtue now in the height of its probation?—Would she lay aside, like the friends of my uncontending Rosebud, all thoughts of defiance—Would she throw herself upon my mercy, and try me but one fortnight in the life of honour—What then?—I cannot say, What then—

Do not despise me, Jack, for my inconsistency—in no two letters perhaps agreeing with myself—Who expects consistency in men of our character?—But I am mad with love—fired by revenge—puzzled with my own devices—my invention is my curse—my pride my punishment—drawn five or six ways at once, can she possibly be so unhappy as I?—O why, why, was this woman so divinely excellent!—Yet how know I that she is? What have been her trials? Have I had the courage to make a single one upon her person, though a thousand upon her temper?—Enow, I hope, to make her afraid of ever more disobliging me more!—


I must banish reflection, or I am a lost man. For these two hours past have I hated myself for my own contrivances. And this not only from what I have related to thee; but for what I have further to relate. But I have now once more steeled my heart. My vengeance is uppermost; for I have been reperusing some of Miss Howe’s virulence. The contempt they have both held me in I cannot bear.

The happiest breakfast-time, my beloved owned, that she had ever known since she had left her father’s house. [She might have let this alone.] The Captain renewed all his protestations of service. He would write me word how his dear friend received the account he should give him of the happy situation of our affairs, and what he thought of the settlements, as soon as I should send him the draughts so kindly promised. And we parted with great professions of mutual esteem; my beloved putting up vows for the success of his generous mediation.

When I returned from attending the Captain down stairs, which I did to the outward door, my beloved met me as I entered the dining-room; complacency reigning in every lovely feature.

’You see me already,’ said she, ’another creature. You know not, Mr. Lovelace, how near my heart this hoped-for reconciliation is. I am now willing to banish every disagreeable remembrance. You know not, Sir, how much you have obliged me. And O Mr. Lovelace, how happy I shall be, when my heart is lightened from the all-sinking weight of a father’s curse! When my dear mamma—You don’t know, Sir, half the excellencies of my dear mamma! and what a kind heart she has, when it is left to follow its own impulses—When this blessed mamma shall once more fold me to her indulgent bosom! When I shall again have uncles and aunts, and a brother and sister, all striving who shall show most kindness and favour to the poor outcast, then no more an outcast—And you, Mr. Lovelace, to behold all this, with welcome—What though a little cold at first? when they come to know you better, and to see you oftener, no fresh causes of disgust occurring, and you, as I hope, having entered upon a new course, all will be warmer and warmer love on both sides, till every one will perhaps wonder, how they came to set themselves against you.’

Then drying her tears with her handkerchief, after a few moments pausing, on a sudden, as if recollecting that she had been led by her joy to an expression of it which she had not intended I should see, she retired to her chamber with precipitation; leaving me almost as unable to stand it as herself.

In short, I was—I want words to say how I was—my nose had been made to tingle before; my eyes have before been made to glisten by this soul-moving beauty; but so very much affected, I never was—for, trying to check my sensibility, it was too strong for me, and I even sobbed— Yes, by my soul, I audibly sobbed, and was forced to turn from her before she had well finished her affecting speech.

I want, methinks, now I have owned the odd sensation, to describe it to thee—the thing was so strange to me—something choking, as it were, in my throat—I know not how—yet, I must needs say, though I am out of countenance upon the recollection, that there was something very pretty in it; and I wish I could know it again, that I might have a more perfect idea of it, and be better able to describe it to thee.

But this effect of her joy on such an occasion gives me a high notion of what that virtue must be [What other name can I call it?] which in a mind so capable of delicate transport, should be able to make so charming a creature, in her very bloom, all frost and snow to every advance of love from the man she hates not. This must be all from education too—Must it not, Belford? Can education have stronger force in a woman’s heart than nature?—Sure it cannot. But if it can, how entirely right are parents to cultivate their daughters’ minds, and to inspire them with notions of reserve and distance to our sex: and indeed to make them think highly of their own! for pride is an excellent substitute, let me tell thee, where virtue shines not out, as the sun, in its own unborrowed lustre.