Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XLV

MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.

The next letter is of such a nature, that, I dare say, these proud rouges would not have had it fall into my hands for the world.*

* See Letter XXXIV. of this volume.

I see by it to what her displeasure with me, in relation to my proposals, was owing. They were not summed up, it seems, with the warmth, with the ardour, which she had expected.

This whole letter was transcribed by Dorcas, to whose lot it fell. Thou shalt have copies of them all at full length shortly.

’Men of our cast,’ this little devil says, ’she fancies, cannot have the ardours that honest men have.’ Miss Howe has very pretty fancies, Jack. Charming girl! Would to Heaven I knew whether my fair-one answers her as freely as she writes! ’Twould vex a man’s heart, that this virago should have come honestly by her fancies.

Who knows but I may have half a dozen creatures to get off my hands, before I engage for life?—Yet, lest this should mean me a compliment, as if I would reform, she adds her belief, that she ’must not expect me to be honest on this side my grand climacteric.’ She has an high opinion of her sex, to think they can charm so long a man so well acquainted with their identicalness.

’He to suggest delays,’ she says, ’from a compliment to be made to Lord M.!’—Yes, I, my dear.—Because a man has not been accustomed to be dutiful, must he never be dutiful?—In so important a case as this too! the hearts of his whole family are engaged in it!—’You did, indeed,’ says she, ’want an interposing friend—but were I to have been in your situation, I would have torn his eyes out, and left it to his heart to furnish the reason for it.’ See! See! What sayest thou to this, Jack?

’Villain—fellow that he is!’ follow. And for what? Only for wishing that the next day were to be my happy one; and for being dutiful to my nearest relation.

’It is the cruelest of fates,’ she says, ’for a woman to be forced to have a man whom her heart despises.’—That is what I wanted to be sure of.—I was afraid, that my beloved was too conscious of her talents; of her superiority! I was afraid that she indeed despises me.—And I cannot bear to think that she does. But, Belford, I do not intend that this lady shall be bound down to so cruel a fate. Let me perish if I marry a woman who has given her most intimate friend reason to say, she despises me!—A Lovelace to be despised, Jack!

’His clenched fist to his forehead on your leaving him in just displeasure’—that is, when she was not satisfied with my ardours, if it please ye!—I remember the motion: but her back was towards me at the time.* Are these watchful ladies all eye?—But observe what follows; ’I wish it had been a poll-axe, and in the hands of his worst enemy.’—

* She tells Miss Howe, that she saw this motion in the pier-glass. See Letter XXXIII. of this volume.

I will have patience, Jack; I will have patience! My day is at hand.— Then will I steel my heart with these remembrances.

But here is a scheme to be thought of, in order to ’get my fair prize out of my hands, in case I give her reason to suspect me.’

This indeed alarms me. Now the contention becomes arduous. Now wilt thou not wonder, if I let loose my plotting genius upon them both. I will not be out-Norris’d, Belford.

But once more, ’She has no notion,’ she says, ’that I can or dare to mean her dishonour. But then the man is a fool—that’s all.’—I should indeed be a fool, to proceed as I do, and mean matrimony!—’However, since you are thrown upon a fool,’ says she, ’marry the fool at the first opportunity; and though I doubt that this man will be the most unmanageable of fools, as all witty and vain fools are, take him as a punishment, since you cannot as a reward.’—Is there any bearing this, Belford?

But, ’such men as myself, are the men that women do not naturally hate.’ —True as the gospel, Jack!—The truth is out at last. Have I not always told thee so? Sweet creatures and true christians these young girls! They love their enemies. But rakes in their hearts all of them! Like turns to like; that’s the thing. Were I not well assured of the truth of this observation of the vixen, I should have thought it worth while, if not to be a good man, to be more of an hypocrite, than I found it needful to be.

But in the letter I came at to-day, while she was at church, her scheme is further opened; and a cursed one it is.

[Mr. Lovelace then transcribes, from his short-hand notes, that part of

Miss Howe’s letter, which relates to the design of engaging Mrs.

Townsend (in case of necessity) to give her protection till Colonel

Morden come:* and repeats his vows of revenge; especially for these

words; ’That should he attempt any thing that would make him obnoxious

to the laws of society, she might have a fair riddance of him, either

by flight or the gallows, no matter which.’ He then adds]—

* See Letter XLII. of this volume.

’Tis my pride to subdue girls who know too much to doubt their knowledge; and to convince them, that they know too little, to defend themselves from the inconveniencies of knowing too much.

How passion drives a man on! (proceeds he).—I have written a prodigious quantity in a very few hours! Now my resentments are warm, I will see, and perhaps will punish, this proud, this double-armed beauty. I have sent to tell her, that I must be admitted to sup with her. We have neither of us dined. She refused to drink tea in the afternoon: and I believe neither of us will have much stomach to our supper.