Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XLIII

MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE SAT. SUNDAY, MAY 20, 21.

Now, my dear, for the promised subject. You must not ask me how I came by the originals [such they really are] that I am going to present you with: for my mother would not read to me those parts of your uncle’s letter which bore hard upon myself, and which leave him without any title to mercy from me: nor would she let me hear but what she pleased of her’s in answer; for she has condescended to answer him—with a denial, however; but such a denial as no one but an old bachelor would take from a widow.

Any body, except myself, who could have been acquainted with such a fal-lal courtship as this must have been had it proceeded, would have been glad it had gone on: and I dare say, but for the saucy daughter, it had. My good mamma, in that case, would have been ten years the younger for it, perhaps: and, could I but have approved of it, I should have been considered by her as if ten years older than I am: since, very likely, it would have been: ’We widows, my dear, know not how to keep men at a distance—so as to give them pain, in order to try their love.—You must advise me, child: you must teach me to be cruel—yet not too cruel neither—so as to make a man heartless, who has no time, God wot, to throw away.’—Then would my behaviour to Mr. Hickman have been better liked; and my mother would have bridled like her daughter.

O my dear, how might we have been diverted by the practisings for the recovery of the long forgottens! could I have been sure that it would have been in my power to have put them asunder, in the Irish style, before they had come together. But there’s no trusting to the widow whose goods and chattels are in her own hands, addressed by an old bachelor who has fine things, and offers to leave her ten thousand pounds better than he found her, and sole mistress, besides, of all her notables! for these, as you will see by-and-by, are his proposals.

The old Triton’s address carries the writer’s marks upon the very subscription—To the equally amiable and worthy admired [there’s for you!] Mrs. ANABELLA HOWE, widow, the last word added, I suppose as Esquire to a man, as a word of honour; or for fear the bella to Anna, should not enough distinguish the person meant from the spinster: [vain hussy you’ll call me, I know:] And then follows;—These humbly present. —Put down as a memorandum, I presume, to make a leg, and behave handsomely at presenting it, he intending, very probably, to deliver it himself.

And now stand by—to see

ENTER OLD NEPTUNE.

His head adorned with sea-weed, and a crown of cockle-shells; as we see

him decked out in Mrs. Robinson’s grotto.

MONDAY, MAY 15. MADAM,

I did make a sort of resolution ten years ago never to marry. I saw in other families, where they lived best, you will be pleased to mark that, queernesses I could not away with. Then liked well enough to live single for the sake of my brother’s family; and for one child in it more than the rest. But that girl has turned us all off the hinges: and why should I deny myself any comforts for them, as will not thank me for so doing, I don’t know.

So much for my motives as from self and family: but the dear Mrs. Howe makes me go farther.

I have a very great fortune, I bless God for it, all of my own getting, or most of it; you will be pleased to mark that; for I was the youngest brother of three. You have also, God be thanked, a great estate, which you have improved by your own frugality and wise management. Frugality, let me stop to say, is one of the greatest virtues in this mortal life, because it enables us to do justice to all, and puts it in our power to benefit some by it, as we see they deserve.

You have but one child; and I am a bachelor, and have never a one—all bachelors cannot say so: wherefore your daughter may be the better for me, if she will keep up with my humour; which was never thought bad: especially to my equals. Servants, indeed, I don’t matter being angry with, when I please; they are paid for bearing it, and too-too often deserve it; as we have frequently taken notice of to one another. And, moreover, if we keep not servants at distance, they will be familiar. I always made it a rule to find fault, whether reasonable or not, that so I might have no reason to find fault. Young women and servants in general (as worthy Mr. Solmes observes) are better governed by fear than love. But this my humour as to servants will not effect either you or Miss, you know.

I will make very advantageous settlements; such as any common friend shall judge to be so. But must have all in my own power, while I live: because, you know, Madam, it is as creditable to the wife, as to the husband, that it should be so.

I am not at fine words. We are not children; though it is hoped we may have some; for I am a very healthy sound man. I bless God for it: and never brought home from my voyages and travels a worser constitution than I took out with me. I was none of those, I will assure you. But this I will undertake, that, if you are the survivor, you shall be at the least ten thousand pounds the better for me. What, in the contrary case, I shall be the better for you, I leave to you, as you shall think my kindness to you shall deserve.

But one thing, Madam, I shall be glad of, that Miss Howe might not live with us then—[she need not know I write thus]—but go home to Mr. Hickman, as she is upon the point of marriage, I hear: and if she behaves dutifully, as she should do, to us both, she shall be the better; for I said so before.

You shall manage all things, both mine and your own; for I know but little of land-matters. All my opposition to you shall be out of love, when I think you take too much upon you for your health.

It will be very pretty for you, I should think, to have a man of experience, in a long winter’s evening, to sit down by you, and tell you stories of foreign parts, and the customs of the nations he has consorted with. And I have fine curiosities of the Indian growth, such as ladies love, and some that even my niece Clary, when she was good, never saw. These, one by one, as you are kind to me, (which I make no question of, because I shall be kind to you,) shall be all yours. Prettier entertainment by much, than sitting with a too smartish daughter, sometimes out of humour; and thwarting, and vexing, as daughters will, (when women-grown especially, as I have heard you often observe;) and thinking their parents old, without paying them the reverence due to years; when, as in your case, I make no sort of doubt, they are young enough to wipe their noses. You understand me, Madam.

As for me myself, it will be very happy, and I am delighted with the thinking of it, to have, after a pleasant ride, or so, a lady of like experience with myself to come home to, and but one interest betwixt us: to reckon up our comings-in together; and what this day and this week has produced—O how this will increase love!—most mightily will it increase it!—and I believe I shall never love you enough, or be able to show you all my love.

I hope, Madam, there need not be such maiden niceties and hangings-off, as I may call them, between us, (for hanging-off sake,) as that you will deny me a line or two to this proposal, written down, although you would not answer me so readily when I spoke to you; your daughter being, I suppose, hard by; for you looked round you, as if not willing to be overheard. So I resolved to write: that my writing may stand as upon record for my upright meaning; being none of your Lovelaces; you will mark that, Madam; but a downright, true, honest, faithful Englishman. So hope you will not disdain to write a line or two to this my proposal: and I shall look upon it as a great honour, I will assure you, and be proud thereof. What can I say more?—for you are your own mistress, as I am my own master: and you shall always be your own mistress, be pleased to mark that; for so a lady of your prudence and experience ought to be.

This is a long letter. But the subject requires it; because I would not write twice where once would do. So would explain my sense and meaning at one time.

I have had writing in my head two whole months very near; but hardly knew how (being unpracticed in these matters) to begin to write. And now, good lady, be favourable to

Your most humble lover, and obedient servant, ANT. HARLOWE.

***

Here’s a letter of courtship, my dear!—and let me subjoin to it, that if now, or hereafter, I should treat this hideous lover, who is so free with me to my mother, with asperity, and you should be disgusted at it, I shall think you don’t give me that preference in your love which you have in mine.

And now, which shall I first give you; the answer of my good mamma; or the dialogue that passed between the widow mother, and the pert daughter, upon her letting the latter know that she had a love-letter?

I think you shall have the dialogue. But let me promise one thing; that if you think me too free, you must not let it run in your head that I am writing of your uncle, or of my mother; but of a couple of old lovers, no matter whom. Reverence is too apt to be forgotten by children, where the reverends forget first what belongs to their own characters. A grave remark, and therefore at your service, my dear.

Well then, suppose my mamma, (after twice coming into my closet to me, and as often going out, with very meaning features, and lips ready to burst open, but still closed, as if by compulsion, a speech going off in a slight cough, that never went near the lungs,) grown more resolute the third time of entrance, and sitting down by me, thus begin:

Mother. I have a very serious matter to talk with you upon, Nancy, when you are disposed to attend to matters within ourselves, and not let matters without ourselves wholly engross you.

A good selve-ish speech!—But I thought that friendship, gratitude, and humanity, were matters that ought to be deemed of the most intimate concern to us. But not to dwell upon words.

Daughter. I am now disposed to attend to every thing my momma is disposed to say to me.

M. Why then, child—why then, my dear—[and the good lady’s face looked so plump, so smooth, and so shining!]—I see you are all attention, Nancy!—But don’t be surprised!—don’t be uneasy!—But I have—I have— Where is it?—[and yet it lay next her heart, never another near it—so no difficulty to have found it]—I have a letter, my dear!—[And out from her bosom it came: but she still held it in her hand]—I have a letter, child.—It is—it is—it is from—from a gentleman, I assure you!— [lifting up her head, and smiling.]

There is no delight to a daughter, thought I, in such surprises as seem to be collecting. I will deprive my mother of the satisfaction of making a gradual discovery.

D. From Mr. Antony Harlowe, I suppose, Madam?

M. [Lips drawn closer: eye raised] Why, my dear!—I cannot but own— But how, I wonder, could you think of Mr. Anthony Harlowe?

D. How, Madam, could I think of any body else?

M. How could you think of any body else?—[angry, and drawing back her face]. But do you know the subject, Nancy?

D. You have told it, Madam, by your manner of breaking it to me. But, indeed, I question not that he had two motives in his visits—both equally agreeable to me; for all that family love me dearly.

M. No love lost, if so, between you and them. But this [rising] is what I get—so like your papa!—I never could open my heart to him!

D. Dear Madam, excuse me. Be so good as to open your heart to me.— I don’t love the Harlowes—but pray excuse me.

M. You have put me quite out with your forward temper! [angrily sitting down again.]

D. I will be all patience and attention. May I be allowed to read his letter?

M. I wanted to advise with you upon it.—But you are such a strange creature!—you are always for answering one before one speaks!

D. You’ll be so good as to forgive me, Madam.—But I thought every body (he among the rest) knew that you had always declared against a second marriage.

M. And so I have. But then it was in the mind I was in. Things may offer——

I stared.

M. Nay, don’t be surprised!—I don’t intend—I don’t intend—

D. Not, perhaps, in the mind you are in, Madam.

M. Pert creature! [rising again]——We shall quarrel, I see!—There’s no——

D. Once more, dear Madam, I beg your excuse. I will attend in silence. —Pray, Madam, sit down again—pray do [she sat down.]—May I see the letter?

No; there are some things in it you won’t like.—Your temper is known, I find, to be unhappy. But nothing bad against you; intimations, on the contrary, that you shall be the better for him, if you oblige him.

Not a living soul but the Harlowes, I said, thought me ill-tempered: and I was contented that they should, who could do as they had done by the most universally acknowledged sweetness in the world.

Here we broke out a little; but at last she read me some of the passages in the letter. But not the most mightily ridiculous: yet I could hardly keep my countenance neither, especially when she came to that passage which mentions his sound health; and at which she stopped; she best knew why—But soon resuming:

M. Well now, Nancy, tell me what you think of it.

D. Nay, pray, Madam, tell me what you think of it.

M. I expect to be answered by an answer; not by a question! You don’t use to be so shy to speak your mind.

D. Not when my mamma commands me to do so.

M. Then speak it now.

D. Without hearing the whole of the letter?

M. Speak to what you have heard.

D. Why then, Madam——you won’t be my mamma HOWE, if you give way to it.

M. I am surprised at your assurance, Nancy!

D. I mean, Madam, you will then be my mamma Harlowe.

M. O dear heart!—But I am not a fool.

And her colour went and came.

D. Dear Madam, [but, indeed, I don’t love a Harlowe—that’s what I mean,] I am your child, and must be your child, do what you will.

M. A very pert one, I am sure, as ever mother bore! And you must be my child, do what I will!—as much as to say, you would not, if you could help it, if I—

D. How could I have such a thought!—It would be forward, indeed, if I had—when I don’t know what your mind is as to the proposal:—when the proposal is so very advantageous a one too.

M. [Looking a little less discomposed] why, indeed, ten thousand pounds——

D. And to be sure of outliving him, Madam!

M. Sure!—nobody can be sure—but it is very likely that——

D. Not at all, Madam. You was going to read something (but stopped) about his constitution: his sobriety is well known—Why, Madam, these gentlemen who have used the sea, and been in different climates, and come home to relax from cares in a temperate one, and are sober—are the likeliest to live long of any men in the world. Don’t you see that his very skin is a fortification of buff?

M. Strange creature!

D. God forbid, that any body I love and honour should marry a man in hopes to bury him—but suppose, Madam, at your time of life——

M. My time of life?—Dear heart!—What is my time of life, pray?

D. Not old, Madam; and that you are not, may be your danger!

As I hope to live (my dear) my mother smiled, and looked not displeased with me.

M. Why, indeed, child—why, indeed, I must needs say—and then I should choose to do nothing (forward as you are sometimes) to hurt you.

D. Why, as to that, Madam, I can’t expect that you should deprive yourself of any satisfaction—

M. Satisfaction, my dear!—I don’t say it would be a satisfaction—but could I do any thing that would benefit you, it would perhaps be an inducement to hold one conference upon the subject.

D. My fortune already will be more considerable than my match, if I am to have Mr. Hickman.

M. Why so?—Mr. Hickman has fortune enough to entitle him to your’s.

D. If you think so, that’s enough.

M. Not but I should think the worse of myself, if I desired anybody’s death; but I think, as you say, Mr. Antony Harlowe is a healthy man, and bids fair for a long life.

Bless me, thought I, how shall I do to know whether this be an objection or a recommendation!

D. Will you forgive me, Madam?

M. What would the girl say? [looking as if she was half afraid to hear what.]

D. Only, that if you marry a man of his time of life, you stand two chances instead of one, to be a nurse at your time of life.

M. Saucebox!

D. Dear Madam!—What I mean is only that these healthy old men sometimes fall into lingering disorders all at once. And I humbly conceive, that the infirmities of age are uneasily borne with, where the remembrance of the pleasanter season comes not in to relieve the healthier of the two.

M. A strange girl!—Yet his healthy constitution an objection just now! —-But I have always told you, that you know either too much to be argued with, or too little for me to have patience with you.

D. I can’t but say, I should be glad of your commands, Madam, how to behave myself to Mr. Antony Harlowe next time he comes.

M. How to behave yourself!—Why, if you retire with contempt of him, when he comes next, it will be but as you have been used to do of late.

D. Then he is to come again, Madam?

M. And suppose he be?

D. I can’t help it, if it be your pleasure, Madam. He desires a line in answer to his fine letter. If he come, it will be in pursuance of that line, I presume?

M. None of your arch and pert leers, girl!—You know I won’t bear them. I had a mind to hear what you would say to this matter. I have not written; but I shall presently.

D. It is mighty good of you, Madam, (I hope the man will think so,) to answer his first application by letter.—Pity he should write twice, if once will do.

M. That fetch won’t let you into my intention as to what I shall write. It is too saucily put.

D. Perhaps I can guess at your intention, Madam, were it to become me so to do.

M. Perhaps I would not make Mr. Hickman of any man; using him the worse for respecting me.

D. Nor, perhaps, would I, Madam, if I liked his respects.

M. I understand you. But, perhaps, it is in your power to make me hearken, or not, to Mr. Harlowe.

D. Young men, who have probably a good deal of time before them need not be in haste for a wife. Mr. Hickman, poor man! must stay his time, or take his remedy.

M. He bears more from you than a man ought.

D. Then, I doubt, he gives a reason for the treatment he meets with.

M. Provoking creature!

D. I have but one request to make to you, Madam.

M. A dutiful one, I suppose. What is it, pray?

D. That if you marry, I may be permitted to live single.

M. Perverse creature, I’m sure!

D. How can I expect, Madam, that you should refuse such terms? Ten thousand pounds!—At the least ten thousand pounds!—A very handsome proposal!—So many fine things too, to give you one by one!—Dearest Madam, forgive me!—I hope it is not yet so far gone, that rallying this man will be thought want of duty to you.

M. Your rallying of him, and your reverence to me, it is plain, have one source.

D. I hope not, Madam. But ten thousand pounds——

M. Is no unhandsome proposal.

D. Indeed I think so. I hope, Madam, you will not be behind-hand with him in generosity.

M. He won’t be ten thousand pounds the better for me, if he survive me.

D. No, Madam; he can’t expect that, as you have a daughter, and as he is a bachelor, and has not a child!—Poor old soul!

M. Old soul, Nancy!—And thus to call him for being a bachelor, not having a child!—Does this become you?

D. Not old soul for that, Madam—but half the sum; five thousand pounds; you can’t engage for less, Madam.

M. That sum has your approbation then? [Looking as if she’d be even with me].

D. As he leaves it to your generosity, Madam, to reward his kindness to you, it can’t be less.—Do, dear Madam, permit me, without incurring your displeasure, to call him poor old soul again.

M. Never was such a whimsical creature!—[turning away to hide her involuntary smile, for I believe I looked very archly; at least I intended to do so]—I hate that wicked sly look. You give yourself very free airs—don’t you?

D. I snatched her hand, and kissed it—My dear Mamma, be not angry with your girl!—You have told me, that you was very lively formerly.

M. Formerly! Good lack!—But were I to encourage his proposals, you may be sure, that for Mr. Hickman’s sake, as well as your’s, I should make a wise agreement.

D. You have both lived to years of prudence, Madam.

M. Yes, I suppose I am an old soul too.

D. He also is for making a wise agreement, or hinting at one, at least.

M. Well, the short and the long I suppose is this: I have not your consent to marry.

D. Indeed, Madam, you have not my wishes to marry.

M. Let me tell you, that if prudence consists in wishing well to one’s self, I see not but the young flirts are as prudent as the old souls.

D. Dear Madam, would you blame me, if to wish you not to marry Mr. Antony Harlowe, is to wish well to myself?

M. You are mighty witty. I wish you were as dutiful.

D. I am more dutiful, I hope, than witty; or I should be a fool as well as a saucebox.

M. Let me be judge of both—Parents are only to live for their children, let them deserve it or not. That’s their dutiful notion!

D. Heaven forbid that I should wish, if there be two interests between my mother and me, that my mother postpone her own for mine!—or give up any thing that would add to the real comforts of her life to oblige me!— Tell me, my dear Mamma, if you think the closing with this proposal will?

M. I say, that ten thousand pounds is such an acquisition to one’s family, that the offer of it deserves a civil return.

D. Not the offer, Madam: the chance only!—if indeed you have a view to an increase of family, the money may provide—

M. You can’t keep within tolerable bounds!—That saucy fleer I cannot away with—

D. Dearest, dearest Madam, forgive me; but old soul ran in my head again!—Nay, indeed, and upon my word, I will not be robbed of that charming smile! And again I kissed her hand.

M. Away, bold creature! Nothing can be so provoking as to be made to smile when one would choose, and ought, to be angry.

D. But, dear Madam, if it be to be, I presume you won’t think of it before next winter.

M. What now would the pert one be at?

D. Because he only proposes to entertain you with pretty stories of foreign nations in a winter’s evening.—Dearest, dearest Madam, let me have all the reading of his letter through. I will forgive him all he says about me.

M. It may be a very difficult thing, perhaps, for a man of the best sense to write a love-letter that may not be cavilled at.

D. That’s because lovers in their letters hit not the medium. They either write too much nonsense, or too little. But do you call this odd soul’s letter [no more will I call him old soul, if I can help it] a love-letter?

M. Well, well, I see you are averse to this matter. I am not to be your mother; you will live single, if I marry. I had a mind to see if generosity govern you in your views. I shall pursue my own inclinations; and if they should happen to be suitable to yours, pray let me for the future be better rewarded by you than hitherto I have been.

And away she flung, without staying for a reply.—Vexed, I dare say, that I did not better approve of the proposal—were it only that the merit of denying might have been all her own, and to lay the stronger obligation upon her saucy daughter.

She wrote such a widow-like refusal when she went from me, as might not exclude hope in any other wooer; whatever it may do in Mr. Tony Harlowe.

It will be my part, to take care to beat her off the visit she half- promises to make him (as you will see in her answer) upon condition that he will withdraw his suit. For who knows what effect the old bachelor’s exotics [far-fetched and dear-bought you know is a proverb] might otherwise have upon a woman’s mind, wanting nothing but unnecessaries, gewgaws, and fineries, and offered such as are not easily to be met with, or purchased?

Well, but now I give you leave to read here, in this place, the copy of my mother’s answer to your uncle’s letter. Not one comment will I make upon it. I know my duty better. And here, therefore, taking the liberty to hope, that I may, in your present less disagreeable, though not wholly agreeable situation, provoke a smile from you, I conclude myself,

Your ever affectionate and faithful, ANNA HOWE.

MRS. ANNABELLA HOWE, TO ANTONY HARLY, ESQ.

MR. ANTONY HARLOWE, FRIDAY, MAY 19.

SIR,

It is not usual I believe for our sex to answer by pen and ink the first letter on these occasions. The first letter! How odd is that! As if I expected another; which I do not. But then I think, as I do not judge proper to encourage your proposal, there is no reason why I should not answer in civility, where so great a civility is intended. Indeed, I was always of opinion that a person was entitled to that, and not to ill usage, because he had a respect for me. And so I have often and often told my daughter.

A woman I think makes but a poor figure in a man’s eye afterwards, and does no reputation to her sex neither, when she behaves like a tyrant to him beforehand.

To be sure, Sir, if I were to change my condition, I know not a gentleman whose proposal could be more agreeable. Your nephew and your nieces have enough without you: my daughter has a fine fortune without me, and I should take care to double it, living or dying, were I to do such a thing: so nobody need to be the worse for it. But Nancy would not think so.

All the comfort I know of in children, is, that when young they do with us what they will, and all is pretty in them to their very faults; and when they are grown up, they think their parents must live for them only; and deny themselves every thing for their sakes. I know Nancy could not bear a father-in-law. She would fly at the very thought of my being in earnest to give her one. Not that I stand in fear of my daughter neither. It is not fit I should. But she has her poor papa’s spirit. A very violent one that was. And one would not choose, you know, Sir, to enter into any affair, that, one knows, one must renounce a daughter for, or she a mother—except indeed one’s heart were much in it; which, I bless God, mine is not.

I have now been a widow these ten years; nobody to controul me: and I am said not to bear controul: so, Sir, you and I are best as we are, I believe: nay, I am sure of it: for we want not what either has; having both more than we know what to do with. And I know I could not be in the least accountable for any of my ways.

My daughter indeed, though she is a fine girl, as girls go, (she has too much sense indeed for one of her sex, and knows she has it,) is more a check to me than one would wish a daughter to be: for who would choose to be always snapping at each other? But she will soon be married; and then, not living together, we shall only come together when we are pleased, and stay away when we are not; and so, like other lovers, never see any thing but the best sides of each other.

I own, for all this, that I love her dearly; and she me, I dare say: so would not wish to provoke her to do otherwise. Besides, the girl is so much regarded every where, that having lived so much of my prime a widow, I would not lay myself open to her censures, or even to her indifference, you know.

Your generous proposal requires all this explicitness. I thank you for your good opinion of me. When I know you acquiesce with this my civil refusal [and indeed, Sir, I am as much in earnest in it, as if I had spoken broader] I don’t know but Nancy and I may, with your permission, come to see your fine things; for I am a great admirer of rarities that come from abroad.

So, Sir, let us only converse occasionally as we meet, as we used to do, without any other view to each other than good wishes: which I hope may not be lessened for this declining. And then I shall always think myself

Your obliged servant, ANNABELLA HOWE.

P.S. I sent word by Mrs. Lorimer, that I would write an answer: but

would take time for consideration. So hope, Sir, you won’t think it a

slight, I did not write sooner.