Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XL


I have a piece of intelligence to give you, which concerns you much to know.

Your brother having been assured that you are not married, has taken a resolution to find you out, waylay you, and carry you off. A friend of his, a captain of a ship, undertakes to get you on ship-board, and to sail away with you, either to Hull or Leith, in the way to one of your brother’s houses.

They are very wicked: for in spite of your virtue they conclude you to be ruined. But if they can be assured when they have you that you are not, they will secure you till they can bring you out Mrs. Solmes. Mean time, in order to give Mr. Lovelace full employment, they talk of a prosecution which will be set up against him, for some crime they have got a notion of, which they think, if it do not cost him his life, will make him fly his country.

This is very early news. Miss Bell told it in confidence, and with mighty triumph over Lovelace, to Miss Lloyd, who is at present her favourite, though as much you admirer as ever. Miss Lloyd, being very apprehensive of the mischief which might follow such an attempt, told it to me, with leave to apprize you privately of it—and yet neither she nor I would be sorry, perhaps, if Lovelace were to be fairly hanged—that is to say, if you, my dear, had no objection to it. But we cannot bear that such an admirable creature should be made the tennis-ball of two violent spirits—much less that you should be seized, and exposed to the brutal treatment of wretches who have no bowels.

If you can engage Mr. Lovelace to keep his temper upon it, I think you should acquaint him with it, but not to mention Miss Lloyd. Perhaps his wicked agent may come at the intelligence, and reveal it to him. But leave it to your own discretions to do as you think fit in it. All my concern is, that this daring and foolish project, if carried on, will be a mean of throwing you more into his power than ever. But as it will convince you that there can be no hope of a reconciliation, I wish you were actually married, let the cause for prosecution hinted at be what it will, short of murder or a rape.

Your Hannah was very thankful for your kind present. She heaped a thousand blessings upon you for it. She has Mr. Lovelace’s too by this time.

I am pleased with Mr. Hickman, I can tell you:—for he has sent her two guineas by the person who carries Mr. Lovelace’s five, as from an unknown hand: nor am I, or you, to know it. But he does a great many things of this sort, and is as silent as the night in his charities; for nobody knows of them till the gratitude of the benefited will not let them be concealed. He is now and then my almoner, and, I believe, always adds to my little benefactions.

But his time is not come to be praised to his face for these things; nor does he seem to want that encouragement.

The man certainly has a good mind. Nor can we expect in one man every good quality. But he is really a silly fellow, my dear, to trouble his head about me, when he sees how much I despise his whole sex; and must of course make a common man look like a fool, were he not to make himself look like one, by wishing to pitch his tent so oddly. Our likings and dislikings, as I have often thought, are seldom governed by prudence, or with a view to happiness. The eye, my dear, the wicked eye, has such a strict alliance with the heart—and both have such enmity to the judgment!—What an unequal union, the mind and body! All the senses, like the family at Harlowe-place, in a confederacy against that which would animate, and give honour to the whole, were it allowed its proper precedence.

Permit me, I beseech you, before you go to London to send you forty-eight guineas. I mention that sum to oblige you, because, by accepting back the two to Hannah, I will hold you indebted to me fifty.—Surely this will induce you! You know that I cannot want the money. I told you that I had near double that sum, and that the half of it is more than my mother knows I am mistress of. You are afraid that my mother will question me on this subject; and then you think I must own the truth. But little as I love equivocation, and little as you would allow of it in your Anna Howe, it is hard if I cannot (were I to be put to it ever so closely) find something to say that would bring me off, as you have, what can you do at such a place as London?—You don’t know what occasion you may have for messengers, intelligence, and suchlike. If you don’t oblige me, I shall not think your stomach so much down as you say it is, and as, in this one particular, I think it ought to be.

As to the state of things between my mother and me, you know enough of her temper, not to need to be told that she never espouses or resents with indifference. Yet will she not remember that I am her daughter. No, truly, I am all my papa’s girl.

She was very sensible, surely, of the violence of my poor father’s temper, that she can so long remember that, when acts of tenderness and affection seem quite forgotten. Some daughters would be tempted to think that controul sat very heavy upon a mother, who can endeavour to exert the power she has over a child, and regret, for years after death, that she had not the same over a husband.

If this manner of expression becomes not me of my mother, the fault will be somewhat extenuated by the love I always bore to my father, and by the reverence I shall ever pay to his memory: for he was a fond father, and perhaps would have been as tender a husband, had not my mother and he been too much of a temper to agree.

The misfortune was, in short, that when one was out of humour, the other would be so too: yet neither of their tempers comparatively bad. Notwithstanding all which, I did not imagine, girl as I was in my father’s life-time, that my mother’s part of the yoke sat so heavy upon her neck as she gives me room to think it did, whenever she is pleased to disclaim her part of me.

Both parents, as I have often thought, should be very careful, if they would secure to themselves the undivided love of their children, that, of all things, they should avoid such durable contentions with each other, as should distress their children in choosing their party, when they would be glad to reverence both as they ought.

But here is the thing: there is not a better manager of affairs in the sex than my mother; and I believe a notable wife is more impatient of controul than an indolent one. An indolent one, perhaps, thinks she has some thing to compound for; while women of the other character, I suppose, know too well their own significance to think highly of that of any body else. All must be their own way. In one word, because they are useful, they will be more than useful.

I do assure you, my dear, were I man, and a man who loved my quiet, I would not have one of these managing wives on any consideration. I would make it a matter of serious inquiry beforehand, whether my mistress’s qualifications, if I heard she was notable, were masculine or feminine ones. If indeed I were an indolent supine mortal, who might be in danger of perhaps choosing to marry for the qualifications of a steward.

But, setting my mother out of the question, because she is my mother, have I not seen how Lady Hartley pranks up herself above all her sex, because she knows how to manage affairs that do not belong to her sex to manage?—Affairs that do no credit to her as a woman to understand; practically, I mean; for the theory of them may not be amiss to be known.

Indeed, my dear, I do not think a man-woman a pretty character at all: and, as I said, were I a man, I would sooner choose a dove, though it were fit for nothing but, as the play says, to go tame about house, and breed, than a wife that is setting at work (my insignificant self present perhaps) every busy our my never-resting servants, those of the stud not excepted; and who, with a besom in her hand, as I may say, would be continually filling my with apprehensions that she wanted to sweep me out of my own house as useless lumber.

Were indeed the mistress of a family (like the wonderful young lady I so much and so justly admire) to know how to confine herself within her own respectable rounds of the needle, the pen, the housekeeper’s bills, the dairy for her amusement; to see the poor fed from superfluities that would otherwise be wasted, and exert herself in all the really-useful branches of domestic management; then would she move in her proper sphere; then would she render herself amiably useful, and respectably necessary; then would she become the mistress-wheel of the family, [whatever you think of your Anna Howe, I would not have her be the master-wheel,] and every body would love her; as every body did you, before your insolent brother came back, flushed with his unmerited acquirements, and turned all things topsy-turvy.

If you will be informed of the particulars of our contention, after you have known in general that your unhappy affair was the subject, why then, I think I must tell you.

Yet how shall I?==I feel my cheek glow with mingled shame and indignation.—Know then, my dear,—that I have been—as I may say—that I have been beaten—indeed ’tis true. My mother thought fit to slap my hands to get from me a sheet of a letter she caught me writing to you; which I tore, because she should not read it, and burnt it before her face.

I know this will trouble you: so spare yourself the pains to tell me it does.

Mr. Hickman came in presently after. I would not see him. I am either too much a woman to be beat, or too much a child to have an humble servant—so I told my mother. What can one oppose but sullens, when it would be unpardonable so much as to think of lifting up a finger?

In the Harlowe style, She will be obeyed, she says: and even Mr. Hickman shall be forbid the house, if he contributes to the carrying on of a correspondence which she will not suffer to be continued.

Poor man! He stands a whimsical chance between us. But he knows he is sure of my mother; but not of me. ’Tis easy then for him to choose his party, were it not his inclination to serve you, as it surely is. And this makes him a merit with me, which otherwise he would not have had; notwithstanding the good qualities which I have just now acknowledged in his favour. For, my dear, let my faults in other respects be what they may, I will pretend to say, that I have in my own mind those qualities which I praised him for. And if we are to come together, I could for that reason better dispense with them in him.—So if a husband, who has a bountiful-tempered wife, is not a niggard, nor seeks to restrain her, but has an opinion of all she does, that is enough for him: as, on the contrary, if a bountiful-tempered husband has a frugal wife, it is best for both. For one to give, and the other to give, except they have prudence, and are at so good an understanding with each other as to compare notes, they may perhaps put it out of their power to be just. Good frugal doctrine, my dear! But this way of putting it is middling the matter between what I have learnt of my mother’s over-prudent and your enlarged notions.—But from doctrine to fact—

I shut myself up all that day; and what little I did eat, eat alone. But at night she sent up Kitty with a command, upon my obedience, to attend her at supper.

I went down; but most gloriously in the sullens. YES, and NO, were great words with me, to every thing she asked, for a good while.

That behaviour, she told me, should not do for her.

Beating should not do for me, I said.

My bold resistance, she told me, had provoked her to slap my hand; and she was sorry to have been so provoked. But again insisted that I would either give up my correspondence absolutely, or let her see all that passed in it.

I must not do either, I told her. It was unsuitable both to my inclination and to my honour, at the instigation of base minds to give up a friend in distress.

She rung all the maternal changes upon the words duty, obedience, filial obligation, and so forth.

I told her that a duty too rigorously and unreasonably exacted had been your ruin, if you were ruined.

If I were of age to be married, I hope she would think me capable of making, or at least of keeping, my own friendships; such a one especially as this, with a woman too, and one whose friendship she herself, till this distressful point of time, had thought the most useful and edifying that I had ever contracted.

The greater the merit, the worse the action: the finer the talents, the more dangerous the example.

There were other duties, I said, besides the filial one; and I hoped I need not give up a suffering friend, especially at the instigation of those by whom she suffered. I told her, that it was very hard to annex such a condition as that to my duty; when I was persuaded, that both duties might be performed, without derogating from either: that an unreasonable command (she must excuse me, I must say it, though I were slapped again) was a degree of tyranny: and I could not have expected, that at these years I should be allowed now will, no choice of my own! where a woman only was concerned, and the devilish sex not in the question.

What turned most in favour of her argument was, that I desired to be excused from letting her read all that passes between us. She insisted much upon this: and since, she said, you were in the hands of the most intriguing man in the world, and a man who had made a jest of her favourite Hickman, as she had been told, she knows not what consequences, unthought of by your or me, may flow from such a correspondence.

So you see, my dear, that I fare the worse on Mr. Hickman’s account! My mother might see all that passes between us, did I not know, that it would cramp your spirit, and restrain the freedom of your pen, as it would also the freedom of mine: and were she not moreover so firmly attached to the contrary side, that inferences, consequences, strained deductions, censures, and constructions the most partial, would for ever to be haled in to tease me, and would perpetually subject us to the necessity of debating and canvassing.

Besides, I don’t choose that she should know how much this artful wretch has outwitted, as I may call it, a person so much his superior in all the nobler qualities of the human mind.

The generosity of your heart, and the greatness of your soul, full well I know; but do offer to dissuade me from this correspondence.

Mr. Hickman, immediately on the contention above, offered his service; and I accepted of it, as you will see by my last. He thinks, though he has all honour for my mother, that she is unkind to us both. He was pleased to tell me (with an air, as I thought) that he not only approved of our correspondence, but admired the steadiness of my friendship; and having no opinion of your man, but a great one of me, thinks that my advice or intelligence from time to time may be of use to you; and on this presumption said, that it would be a thousand pities that you should suffer for want of either.

Mr. Hickman pleased me in the main of his speech; and it is well the general tenor of it was agreeable; otherwise I can tell him, I should have reckoned with him for his word approve; for it is a style I have not yet permitted him to talk to me in. And you see, my dear, what these men are—no sooner do they find that you have favoured them with the power of doing you an agreeable service, but they take upon them to approve, forsooth, of your actions! By which is implied a right to disapprove, if they think fit.

I have told my mother how much you wish to be reconciled to your relations, and how independent you are upon Lovelace.

Mark the end of the latter assertion, she says. And as to reconciliation, she knows that nothing will do, (and will have it, that nothing ought to do,) but your returning back, without presuming to condition with them. And this if you do, she says, will best show your independence on Lovelace.

You see, my dear, what your duty is, in my mother’s opinion.

I suppose your next, directed to Mr. Hickman, at his own house, will be from London.

Heaven preserve you in honour and safety, is my prayer.

What you do for change of clothes, I cannot imagine.

It is amazing to me what your relations can mean by distressing you, as they seem resolved to do. I see they will throw you into his arms, whether you will or not.

I send this by Robert, for dispatch-sake: and can only repeat the hitherto-rejected offer of my best services. Adieu, my dearest friend. Believe me ever

Your affectionate and faithful ANNA HOWE.