Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XVIII


I know that thou art so abandoned a man, that to give thee the best reasons in the world against what thou hast once resolved upon will be but acting the madman whom once we saw trying to buffet down a hurricane with his hat. I hope, however, that the lady’s merit will still avail her with thee. But, if thou persistest; if thou wilt avenge thyself on this sweet lamb which thou hast singled out from a flock thou hatest, for the faults of the dogs who kept it: if thou art not to be moved by beauty, by learning, by prudence, by innocence, all shining out in one charming object; but she must fall, fall by the man whom she has chosen for her protector; I would not for a thousand worlds have thy crime to answer for.

Upon my faith, Lovelace, the subject sticks with me, notwithstanding I find I have not the honour of the lady’s good opinion. And the more, when I reflect upon her father’s brutal curse, and the villainous hard- heartedness of all her family. But, nevertheless, I should be desirous to know (if thou wilt proceed) by what gradations, arts, and contrivances thou effectest thy ingrateful purpose. And, O Lovelace, I conjure thee, if thou art a man, let not the specious devils thou has brought her among be suffered to triumph over her; yield to fair seductions, if I may so express myself! if thou canst raise a weakness in her by love, or by arts not inhuman; I shall the less pity her: and shall then conclude, that there is not a woman in the world who can resist a bold and resolute lover.

A messenger is just now arrived from my uncle. The mortification, it seems, is got to his knee; and the surgeons declare that he cannot live many days. He therefore sends for me directly, with these shocking words, that I will come and close his eyes. My servant or his must of necessity be in town every day on his case, or other affairs; and one of them shall regularly attend you for any letter or commands. It will be charity to write to me as often as you can. For although I am likely to be a considerable gainer by the poor man’s death, yet I cannot say that I at all love these scenes of death and the doctor so near me. The doctor and death I should have said; for that is the natural order, and generally speaking, the one is but the harbinger to the other.

If, therefore, you decline to oblige me, I shall think you are displeased with my freedom. But let me tell you, at the same, that no man has a right to be displeased at freedoms taken with him for faults he is not ashamed to be guilty of.