Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XLIX


Well did I, and but just in time to conclude to have done with Mrs. Fretchville and the house: for here Mennell has declared, that he cannot in conscience and honour go any farther.—He would not for the world be accessory to the deceiving of such a lady!—I was a fool to let either you or him see her; for ever since ye have both had scruples, which neither would have had, were a woman to have been in the question.

Well, I can’t help it!

Mennell has, however, though with some reluctance, consented to write me a letter, provided I will allow it to be the last step he shall take in this affair.

I presumed, I told him, that if I could cause Mrs. Fretchville’s woman to supply his place, he would have no objection to that.

None, he says—But is it not pity—

A pitiful fellow! Such a ridiculous kind of pity his, as those silly souls have, who would not kill an innocent chicken for the world; but when killed to their hands, are always the most greedy devourers of it.

Now this letter gives the servant the small-pox: and she has given it to her unhappy vapourish lady. Vapourish people are perpetual subjects for diseases to work upon. Name but the malady, and it is theirs in a moment. Ever fitted for inoculation.—The physical tribe’s milch-cows. —A vapourish or splenetic patient is a fiddle for the doctors; and they are eternally playing upon it. Sweet music does it make them. All their difficulty, except a case extraordinary happens, (as poor Mrs. Fretchville’s, who has realized her apprehensions,) is but to hold their countenance, while their patient is drawing up a bill of indictment against himself;—and when they have heard it, proceed to punish—the right word for prescribe. Why should they not, when the criminal has confessed his guilt?—And punish they generally do with a vengeance.

Yet, silly toads too, now I think of it. For why, when they know they cannot do good, may they not as well endeavour to gratify, as to nauseate, the patient’s palate?

Were I a physician, I’d get all the trade to myself: for Malmsey, and Cyprus, and the generous product of the Cape, a little disguised, should be my principal doses: as these would create new spirits, how would the revived patient covet the physic, and adore the doctor!

Give all the paraders of the faculty whom thou knowest this hint.—There could but one inconvenience arise from it. The APOTHECARIES would find their medicines cost them something: but the demand for quantities would answer that: since the honest NURSE would be the patient’s taster; perpetually requiring repetitions of the last cordial julap.

Well, but to the letter—Yet what need of further explanation after the hints in my former? The widow can’t be removed; and that’s enough: and Mennell’s work is over; and his conscience left to plague him for his own sins, and not another man’s: and, very possibly, plague enough will give him for those.

This letter is directed, To Robert Lovelace, Esq. or, in his absence, to his Lady. She has refused dining with me, or seeing me: and I was out when it came. She opened it: so is my lady by her own consent, proud and saucy as she is.

I am glad at my heart that it came before we entirely make up. She would else perhaps have concluded it to be contrived for a delay: and now, moreover, we can accommodate our old and new quarrels together; and that’s contrivance, you know. But how is her dear haughty heart humbled to what it was when I knew her first, that she can apprehend any delays from me; and have nothing to do but to vex at them!

I came in to dinner. She sent me down the letter, desiring my excuse for opening it.—Did it before she was aware. Lady-pride, Belford! recollection, then retrogradation!

I requested to see her upon it that moment.—But she desires to suspend our interview till morning. I will bring her to own, before I have done with her, that she can’t see me too often.

My impatience was so great, on an occasion so unexpected, that I could not help writing to tell her, ’how much vexed I was at the accident: but that it need not delay my happy day, as that did not depend upon the house. [She knew that before, she’ll think; and so did I.] And as Mrs. Fretchville, by Mr. Mennell, so handsomely expressed her concern upon it, and her wishes that it could suit us to bear with the unavoidable delay, I hoped, that going down to The Lawn for two or three of the summer- months, when I was made the happiest of men, would be favourable to all round.’

The dear creature takes this incident to heart, I believe: She has sent word to my repeated request to see her notwithstanding her denial, that she cannot till the morning: it shall be then at six o’clock, if I please!

To be sure I do please!

Can see her but once a day now, Jack!

Did I tell thee, that I wrote a letter to my cousin Montague, wondering that I heard not from Lord M. as the subject was so very interesting! In it I acquainted her with the house I was about taking; and with Mrs. Fretchville’s vapourish delays.

I was very loth to engage my own family, either man or woman, in this affair; but I must take my measures securely: and already they all think as bad of me as they well can. You observe by my Lord M.’s letter to yourself, that the well-manner’d peer is afraid I should play this admirable creature one of my usual dog’s tricks.

I have received just now an answer from Charlotte.

Charlot i’n’t well. A stomach disorder!

No wonder a girl’s stomach should plague her. A single woman; that’s it. When she has a man to plague, it will have something besides itself to prey upon. Knowest thou not moreover, that man is the woman’s sun; woman is the man’s earth?—How dreary, how desolate, the earth, that the suns shines not upon!

Poor Charlotte! But I heard she was not well: that encouraged me to write to her; and to express myself a little concerned, that she had not, of her own accord, thought of a visit in town to my charmer.

Here follows a copy of her letter. Thou wilt see by it that every little monkey is to catechise me. They all depend upon my good-nature.


We have been in daily hope for a long time, I must call it, of hearing that the happy knot was tied. My Lord has been very much out of order: and yet nothing would serve him, but he would himself write an answer to your letter. It was the only opportunity he should ever have, perhaps, to throw in a little good advice to you, with the hope of its being of any signification; and he has been several hours in a day, as his gout would let him, busied in it. It wants now only his last revisal. He hopes it will have the greater weight with you, as it appear all in his own hand-writing.

Indeed, Mr. Lovelace, his worthy heart is wrapt up in you. I wish you loved yourself but half as well. But I believe too, that if all the family loved you less, you would love yourself more.

His Lordship has been very busy, at the times he could not write, in consulting Pritchard about those estates which he proposes to transfer to you on the happy occasion, that he may answer your letter in the most acceptable manner; and show, by effects, how kindly he takes your invitation. I assure you he is mighty proud of it.

As for myself, I am not at all well, and have not been for some weeks past, with my old stomach-disorder. I had certainly else before now have done myself the honour you wonder I have not done myself. Lady Betty, who would have accompanied me, (for we have laid it all out,) has been exceedingly busy in her law-affair; her antagonist, who is actually on the spot, having been making proposals for an accommodation. But you may assure yourself, that when our dear relation-elect shall be entered upon the new habitation you tell me of, we will do ourselves the honour of visiting her; and if any delay arises from the dear lady’s want of courage, (which considering her man, let me tell you, may very well be,) we will endeavour to inspire her with it, and be sponsors for you;—for, cousin, I believe you have need to be christened over again before you are entitled to so great a blessing. What think you?

Just now, my Lord tells me, he will dispatch a man on purpose with his letter to-morrow: so I needed not to have written. But now I have, let it go; and by Empson, who sets out directly on his return to town.

My best compliments, and sister’s, to the most deserving lady in the world [you will need no other direction to the person meant] conclude me

Your affectionate cousin and servant, CHARL. MONTAGUE.


Thou seest how seasonably this letter comes. I hope my Lord will write nothing but what I may show to my beloved. I have actually sent her up this letter of Charlotte’s, and hope for happy effects from it.

R.L. ***

[The Lady, in her next letter, gives Miss Howe an account of what passed

between Mr. Lovelace and herself. She resents his behaviour with her

usual dignity. But when she comes to mention Mr. Mennell’s letter,

she re-urges Miss Howe to perfect her scheme for her deliverance;

being resolved to leave him. But, dating again, on his sending up to

her Miss Montague’s letter, she alters her mind, and desires her to

suspend for the present her application to Mrs. Townsend.]

I had begun, says she, to suspect all he had said of Mrs. Fretchville and her house; and even Mr. Mennell himself, though so well-appearing a man. But now that I find Mr. Lovelace has apprized his relations of his intent to take it, and had engaged some of the ladies to visit me there, I could hardly forbear blaming myself for censuring him as capable of so vile an imposture. But may he not thank himself for acting so very unaccountably, and taking such needlessly-awry steps, as he had done, embarrassing, as I told him, his own meanings, if they were good?