Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XX


A letter is put into my hands by Wilson himself.—Such a letter!

A letter from Miss Howe to her cruel friend!—

I made no scruple to open it.

It is a miracle that I fell not into fits at the reading of it; and at the thought of what might have been the consequence, had it come into the hands of this Clarissa Harlowe. Let my justly-excited rage excuse my irreverence.

Collins, though not his day, brought it this afternoon to Wilson’s, with a particular desire that it might be sent with all speed to Miss Beaumont’s lodgings, and given, if possible, into her own hands. He had before been here (at Mrs. Sinclair’s with intent to deliver it to the lady with his own hand; but was told [too truly told!] that she was abroad; but that they would give her any thing he should leave for her the moment she returned.) But he cared not to trust them with his business, and went away to Wilson’s, (as I find by the description of him at both places,) and there left the letter; but not till he had a second time called here, and found her not come in.

The letter [which I shall enclose; for it is too long to transcribe] will account to thee for Collins’s coming hither.

O this devilish Miss Howe;—something must be resolved upon and done with that little fury!


Thou wilt see the margin of this cursed letter crowded with indices [>>>]. I put them to mark the places which call for vengeance upon the vixen writer, or which require animadversion. Return thou it to me the moment thou hast perused it.

Read it here; and avoid trembling for me, if thou canst.



You will perhaps think that I have been too

long silent. But I had begun two letters at differ-

ent times since my last, and written a great deal

>>> each time; and with spirit enough, I assure you;

incensed as I was against the abominable wretch you

are with; particularly on reading your’s of the 21st

of the past month.*

* See Vol. IV. Letter XLVI.

>>> The first I intended to keep open till I could

give you some account of my proceedings with Mrs.

Townsend. It was some days before I saw her:

and this intervenient space giving me time to re-

peruse what I had written, I thought it proper to lay

>>> that aside, and to write in a style a little less fervent;

>>> for you would have blamed me, I know, for the free-

dom of some of my expressions. [Execrations, if

you please.] And when I had gone a good way

in the second, the change in your prospects, on his

communicating to you Miss Montague’s letter, and

his better behaviour, occasioning a change in your

mind, I laid that aside also. And in this uncer-

tainty, thought I would wait to see the issue of

affairs between you before I wrote again; believing

that all would soon be decided one way or other.

I had still, perhaps, held this resolution, [as every

appearance, according to your letters, was more and

more promising,] had not the two passed days fur-

nished me with intelligence which it highly imports

you to know.

But I must stop here, and take a little walk, to

try to keep down that just indignation which rises

to my pen, when I am about to relate to you what

I must communicate.


I am not my own mistress enough—then my

mother—always up and down—and watching as if

I were writing to a fellow. But I will try if I can

contain myself in tolerable bounds.

The women of the house where you are—O my

dear, the women of the house—but you never

thought highly of them—so it cannot be very sur-

>>> prising—nor would you have staid so long with

them, had not the notion of removing to one of your

own, made you less uneasy, and less curious about

their characters, and behaviour. Yet I could now

wish, that you had been less reserved among them

>>> —But I tease you—In short, my dear, you are

certainly in a devilish house!—Be assured that the

woman is one of the vilest women—nor does

she go to you by her right name—[Very true!]—

Her name is not Sinclair, nor is the street she lives

in Dover-street. Did you never go out by your-

self, and discharge the coach or chair, and return

>>> by another coach or chair? If you did, [yet I

don’t remember that you ever wrote to me, that

you did,] you would never have found your way to

the vile house, either by the woman’s name, Sin-

clair, or by the street’s name, mentioned by that

Doleman in his letter about the lodgings.*

* Vol. III. Letters XXXVIII. and XXXIX.

The wretch might indeed have held out these

false lights a little more excusably, had the house

been an honest house; and had his end only been

to prevent mischief from your brother. But this

contrivance was antecedent, as I think, to your

brother’s project; so that no excuse can be made

>>> for his intentions at the time—the man, whatever he

may now intend, was certainly then, even then, a

villain in his heart.


>>> I am excessively concerned that I should be pre-

vailed upon, between your over-niceness, on one

hand, and my mother’s positiveness, on the other, to

be satisfied without knowing how to direct to you

at your lodgings. I think too, that the proposal

that I should be put off to a third-hand knowledge,

or rather veiled in a first-hand ignorance, came from

him, and that it was only acquiesced in by you, as

it was by me,* upon needless and weak considera-

tions; because, truly, I might have it to say, if

challenged, that I knew not where to send to you!

I am ashamed of myself!—Had this been at first

excusable, it could not be a good reason for going

on in the folly, when you had no liking to the

>>> house, and when he began to play tricks, and delay

with you.—What! I was to mistrust myself, was

I? I was to allow it to be thought, that I could

>>> not keep my own secret?—But the house to be

>>> taken at this time, and at that time, led us both on

>>> —like fools, like tame fools, in a string. Upon my

life, my dear, this man is a vile, a contemptible

villain—I must speak out!—How has he laughed

in his sleeve at us both, I warrant, for I can’t tell

how long!

* See Vol. III. Letter LVI. par. 12. and Letter LVIII. par. 12.—Where the reader will observe, that the proposal came from herself; which, as it was also mentioned by Mr. Lovelace, (towards the end of Letter I. in Vol. IV.) she may be presumed to have forgotten. So that Clarissa had a double inducement for acquiescing with the proposed method of carrying on the correspondence between Miss Howe and herself by Wilson’s conveyance, and by the name of Laetitia Beaumont.

And yet who could have thought that a man of

>>> fortune, and some reputation, [this Doleman, I

mean—not your wretch, to be sure!] formerly a

rake, indeed, [I inquired after him long ago; and

so was the easier satisfied;] but married to a

woman of family—having had a palsy-blow—and,

>>> one would think, a penitent, should recommend

such a house [why, my dear, he could not inquire

of it, but must find it to be bad] to such a man as

Lovelace, to bring his future, nay, his then supposed,

bride to?


>>> I write, perhaps, with too much violence, to be

clear, but I cannot help it. Yet I lay down my

pen, and take it up every ten minutes, in order to

write with some temper—my mother too, in and

out—What need I, (she asks me,) lock myself in,

if I am only reading past correspondencies? For

>>> that is my pretence, when she comes poking in with

her face sharpened to an edge, as I may say, by a

curiosity that gives her more pain than pleasure.—

>>> The Lord forgive me; but I believe I shall huff

her next time she comes in.


Do you forgive me too, my dear—my mother

ought; because she says, I am my father’s girl; and

because I am sure I am her’s. I don’t kow what

to do—I don’t know what to write next—I have

so much to write, yet have so little patience, and so

little opportunity.

But I will tell you how I came by my intelli-

>>> gence. That being a fact, and requiring the less

attention, I will try to account to you for that.

Thus, then, it came about: ’Miss Lardner

(whom you have seen at her cousin Biddulph’s)

saw you at St. James’s Church on Sunday was fort-

night. She kept you in her eye during the whole

time; but could not once obtain the notice of your’s,

though she courtesied to you twice. She thought to

pay her compliments to you when the service was

over, for she doubted not but you were married—

>>> and for an odd reason—because you came to church

by yourself. Every eye, (as usual, wherever you

are, she said,) was upon you; and this seeming to

give you hurry, and you being nearer the door than

she, you slid out, before she could get to you.—But

she ordered her servant to follow you till you were

housed. This servant saw you step into a chair,

which waited for you; and you ordered the men to

carry you to the place where they took you up.

’The next day, Miss Lardner sent the same

servant, out of mere curiosity, to make private in-

quiry whether Mr. Lovelace were, or were not,

with you there.—And this inquiry brought out,

>>> from different people, that the house was suspected

to be one of those genteel wicked houses, which

receive and accommodate fashionable people of both


’Miss Lardner, confounded at this strange intel-

ligence, made further inquiry; enjoining secrecy

to the servant she had sent, as well as to the gentle-

>>> man whom she employed; who had it confirmed

from a rakish friend, who knew the house; and

told him, that there were two houses: the one in

which all decent appearances were preserved, and guests

rarely admitted; the other, the receptacle of those

who were absolutely engaged, and broken to the

vile yoke.’

>>> Say—my dear creature—say—Shall I not exe-

crate the wretch?—But words are weak—What

can I say, that will suitably express my abhorrence

of such a villain as he must have been, when he

meditated to carry a Clarissa to such a place!

’Miss Lardner kept this to herself some days,

not knowing what to do; for she loves you, and

admires you of all women. At last she revealed it,

but in confidence, to Miss Biddulph, by letter.

Miss Biddulph, in like confidence, being afraid it

would distract me, were I to know it, communi-

cated it to Miss Lloyd; and so, like a whispered

scandal, it passed through several canals, and then

it came to me; which was not till last Monday.’

I thought I should have fainted upon the surpris-

ing communication. But rage taking place, it blew

away the sudden illness. I besought Miss Lloyd

to re-enjoin secrecy to every one. I told her that

>>> I would not for the world that my mother, or any

of your family, should know it. And I instantly

caused a trusty friend to make what inquiries he

could about Tomlinson.

>>> I had thoughts to have done it before I had this

intelligence: but not imagining it to be needful, and

little thinking that you could be in such a house, and

as you were pleased with your changed prospects, I

>>> forbore. And the rather forbore, as the matter is

so laid, that Mrs. Hodges is supposed to know

nothing of the projected treaty of accommodation;

but, on the contrary, that it was designed to be a

secret to her, and to every body but immediate

parties; and it was Mrs. Hodges that I had pro-

posed to sound by a second hand.

>>> Now, my dear, it is certain, without applying to

that too-much-favoured housekeeper, that there is

not such a man within ten miles of your uncle.—

Very true!—One Tomkins there is, about four miles

off; but he is a day-labourer: and one Thompson,

about five miles distant the other way; but he is a

parish schoolmaster, poor, and about seventy.

>>> A man, thought but of £.800 a year, cannot come

from one country to settle in another, but every

body in both must know it, and talk of it.

>>> Mrs. Hodges may yet be sounded at a distance,

if you will. Your uncle is an old man. Old men

imagine themselves under obligation to their para-

>>> mours, if younger than themselves, and seldom

keep any thing from their knowledge. But if we

suppose him to make secret of this designed treaty,

it is impossible, before that treaty was thought of,

but she must have seen him, at least have heard

your uncle speak praisefully of a man he is said to

be so intimate with, let him have been ever so little

a while in those parts.

>>> Yet, methinks, the story is so plausible—Tom-

linson, as you describe him, is so good a man, and

so much of a gentleman; the end to be answered

>>> by his being an impostor, so much more than neces-

sary if Lovelace has villany in his head; and as

>>> you are in such a house—your wretch’s behaviour

to him was so petulant and lordly; and Tomlin-

son’s answer so full of spirit and circumstance;

>>> and then what he communicated to you of Mr.

Hickman’s application to your uncle, and of Mrs.

Norton’s to your mother, [some of which particu-

>>> lars, I am satisfied, his vile agent, Joseph Leman,

could not reveal to his vile employer;] his press-

ing on the marriage-day, in the name of your

uncle, which it could not answer any wicked pur-

>>> pose for him to do; and what he writes of your

uncle’s proposal, to have it thought that you were

married from the time that you have lived in one

house together; and that to be made to agree with

the time of Mr. Hickman’s visit to your uncle.

>>> The insisting on a trusty person’s being present at

the ceremony, at that uncle’s nomination—These

things make me willing to try for a tolerable construc-

tion to be made of all. Though I am so much

puzzled by what occurs on both sides of the ques-

>>> tion, that I cannot but abhor the devilish wretch,

whose inventions and contrivances are for ever em-

ploying an inquisitive head, as mine is, without

affording the means of absolute detection.

But this is what I am ready to conjecture, that

Tomlinson, specious as he is, is a machine of Love-

>>> lace; and that he is employed for some end, which

has not yet been answered. This is certain, that

not only Tomlinson, but Mennell, who, I think,

attended you more than once at this vile house,

must know it to be a vile house.

What can you then think of Tomlinson’s declar-

ing himself in favour of it upon inquiry?

Lovelace too must know it to be so; if not

before he brought you to it, soon after.

>>> Perhaps the company he found there, may be the

most probable way of accounting for his bearing

with the house, and for his strange suspensions of

marriage, when it was in his power to call such an

angel of a woman his.—

>>> O my dear, the man is a villain!—the greatest

of villains, in every light!—I am convinced that he

is.—And this Doleman must be another of his


>>> There are so many wretches who think that to

be no sin, which is one of the greatest and most

ungrateful of all sins,—to ruin young creatures of

our sex who place their confidence in them; that

the wonder is less than the shame, that people, of

appearance at least, are found to promote the horrid

purposes of profligates of fortune and interest!

>>> But can I think [you will ask with indignant

astonishment] that Lovelace can have designs upon

your honour?

>>> That such designs he has had, if he still hold

them or not, I can have no doubt, now that I know

the house he has brought you to, to be a vile one.

This is a clue that has led me to account for all his

behaviour to you ever since you have been in his


Allow me a brief retrospection of it all.

We both know, that pride, revenge, and a delight

to tread in unbeaten paths, are principal ingredients

in the character of this finished libertine.

>>> He hates all your family—yourself excepted:

and I have several times thought, that I have seen

>>> him stung and mortified that love has obliged him

to kneel at your footstool, because you are a Har-

lowe. Yet is this wretch a savage in love.—Love

>>> that humanizes the fiercest spirits, has not been able

to subdue his. His pride, and the credit which a

>>> few plausible qualities, sprinkled among his odious

ones, have given him, have secured him too good

a reception from our eye-judging, our undistinguish-

ing, our self-flattering, our too-confiding sex, to

make assiduity and obsequiousness, and a conquest

of his unruly passions, any part of his study.

>>> He has some reason for his animosity to all the

men, and to one woman of your family. He has

always shown you, and his own family too, that he

>>> prefers his pride to his interest. He is a declared

marriage-hater; a notorious intriguer; full of his

inventions, and glorying in them: he never could

draw you into declarations of love; nor till your

>>> wise relations persecuted you as they did, to receive

his addresses as a lover. He knew that you pro-

fessedly disliked him for his immoralities; he could

not, therefore, justly blame you for the coldness

and indifference of your behaviour to him.

>>> The prevention of mischief was your first main

view in the correspondence he drew you into. He

ought not, then, to have wondered that you declared

your preference of the single life to any matrimonial

engagement. He knew that this was always your

>>> preference; and that before he tricked you away

so artfully. What was his conduct to you

afterwards, that you should of a sudden change


Thus was your whole behaviour regular, con-

sistent, and dutiful to those to whom by birth you

owed duty; and neither prudish, coquettish, nor

tyrannical to him.

>>> He had agreed to go on with you upon those

your own terms, and to rely only on his own merits

and future reformation for your favour.

>>> It was plain to me, indeed, to whom you com-

municated all that you knew of your own heart,

though not all of it that I found out, that love had

pretty early gained footing in it. And this you

yourself would have discovered sooner than you

>>> did, had not his alarming, his unpolite, his rough

conduct, kept it under.

>>> I knew by experience that love is a fire that is

not to be played with without burning one’s fingers:

I knew it to be a dangerous thing for two single

persons of different sexes to enter into familiarity

and correspondence with each other: Since, as to

the latter, must not a person be capable of premedi-

tated art, who can sit down to write, and not write

from the heart?—And a woman to write her heart

to a man practised in deceit, or even to a man of

some character, what advantage does it give him

over her?

>>> As this man’s vanity had made him imagine, that

no woman could be proof against love, when his

address was honourable; no wonder that he

struggled, like a lion held in toils, against a passion

that he thought not returned. And how could

you, at first, show a return in love, to so fierce

a spirit, and who had seduced you away by vile

artifices, but to the approval of those artifices.

>>> Hence, perhaps, it is not difficult to believe, that

it became possible for such a wretch as this to give

way to his old prejudices against marriage; and to

that revenge which had always been a first passion

with him.

This is the only way, I think, to account for his

horrid views in bringing you to a vile house.

And now may not all the rest be naturally

accounted for?—His delays—his teasing ways—

his bringing you to bear with his lodging in the

same house—his making you pass to the people of

>>> it as his wife, though restrictively so, yet with hope,

no doubt, (vilest of villains as he is!) to take you

>>> at an advantage—his bringing you into the com-

pany of his libertine companions—the attempt of

imposing upon you that Miss Partington for a

bedfellow, very probably his own invention for

the worst of purposes—his terrifying you at many

different times—his obtruding himself upon you

when you went out to church; no doubt to prevent

your finding out what the people of the house were

—the advantages he made of your brother’s foolish

project with Singleton.

See, my dear, how naturally all this follows from

>>> the discovery made by Miss Lardner. See how

the monster, whom I thought, and so often called,

>>> a fool, comes out to have been all the time one of

the greatest villains in the world!

But if this is so, what, [it would be asked by

an indifferent person,] has hitherto saved you?

Glorious creature!—What, morally speaking, but

your watchfulness! What but that, and the

majesty of your virtue; the native dignity, which,

in a situation so very difficult, (friendless, destitute,

passing for a wife, cast into the company of crea-

tures accustomed to betray and ruin innocent hearts,)

has hitherto enabled you to baffle, over-awe, and

confound, such a dangerous libertine as this; so

habitually remorseless, as you have observed him

to be; so very various in his temper, so inventive,

so seconded, so supported, so instigated, too pro-

bably, as he has been!—That native dignity, that

heroism, I will call it, which has, on all proper

occasions, exerted itself in its full lustre, unmingled

>>> with that charming obligingness and condescending

sweetness, which is evermore the softener of that

dignity, when your mind is free and unapprehen-


>>> Let me stop to admire, and to bless my beloved

friend, who, unhappily for herself, at an age so

tender, unacquainted as she was with the world, and

with the vile arts of libertines, having been called

upon to sustain the hardest and most shocking trials,

from persecuting relations on one hand, and from

a villanous lover on the other, has been enabled to

give such an illustrious example of fortitude and

prudence as never woman gave before her; and

who, as I have heretofore observed,* has made a

far greater figure in adversity, than she possibly

could have made, had all her shining qualities been

exerted in their full force and power, by the con-

>>> tinuance of that prosperous run of fortune which

attended her for eighteen years of life out of


* See Vol. IV. Letters XXIV.


>>> But now, my dear, do I apprehend, that you

are in greater danger than ever yet you have been

in; if you are not married in a week; and yet stay

in this abominable house. For were you out of it,

I own I should not be much afraid for you.

These are my thoughts, on the most deliberate

>>> consideration: ’That he is now convinced, that

he has not been able to draw you off your guard:

that therefore, if he can obtain no new advantage

over you as he goes along, he is resolved to do you

all the poor justice that it is in the power of such a

wretch as he to do you. He is the rather induced to

this, as he sees that all his own family have warmly

engaged themselves in your cause: and that it is

>>> his highest interest to be just to you. Then the

horrid wretch loves you (as well he may) above all

women. I have no doubt of this: with such a love

>>> as such a wretch is capable of: with such a love as

Herod loved his Marianne. He is now therefore,

very probably, at last, in earnest.’

I took time for inquiries of different natures, as

I knew, by the train you are in, that whatever his

designs are, they cannot ripen either for good or

>>> evil till something shall result from this device

of his about Tomlinson and your uncle.

Device I have no doubt that it is, whatever this

dark, this impenetrable spirit intends by it.

>>> And yet I find it to be true, that Counsellor

Williams (whom Mr. Hickman knows to be a man

of eminence in his profession) has actually as good

>>> as finished the settlements: that two draughts of

them have been made; one avowedly to be sent to

one Captain Tomlinson, as the clerk says:—and I

find that a license has actually been more than once

endeavoured to be obtained; and that difficulties

have hitherto been made, equally to Lovelace’s

>>> vexation and disappointment. My mother’s proctor,

who is very intimate with the proctor applied to

by the wretch, has come at this information in

confidence; and hints, that, as Mr. Lovelace is a

man of high fortunes, these difficulties will probably

be got over.

But here follow the causes of my apprehension of

your danger; which I should not have had a thought

>>> of (since nothing very vile has yet been attempted)

but on finding what a house you are in, and, on that

discovery, laying together and ruminating on past


’You are obliged, from the present favourable

>>> appearances, to give him your company whenever

he requests it.—You are under a necessity of for-

getting, or seeming to forget, past disobligations;

and to receive his addresses as those of a betrothed

lover.—You will incur the censure of prudery and

affectation, even perhaps in your own apprehension,

if you keep him at that distance which has hitherto

>>> been your security.—His sudden (and as suddenly

recovered) illness has given him an opportunity to

find out that you love him. [Alas! my dear, I

knew you loved him!] He is, as you relate, every

>>> hour more and more an encroacher upon it. He

has seemed to change his nature, and is all love and

>>> gentleness. The wolf has put on the sheep’s cloth-

ing; yet more than once has shown his teeth, and

his hardly-sheathed claws. The instance you have

given of his freedom with your person,* which you

could not but resent; and yet, as matters are

circumstanced between you, could not but pass

over, when Tomlinson’s letter called you into his

>>> company,** show the advantage he has now over

you; and also, that if he can obtain greater, he

will.—And for this very reason (as I apprehend) it

>>> is, that Tomlinson is introduced; that is to say, to

give you the greater security, and to be a mediator,

if mortal offence be given you by any villanous

attempt.—The day seems not now to be so much

in your power as it ought to be, since that now

partly depends on your uncle, whose presence, at

your own motion, he has wished on the occasion.

A wish, were all real, very unlikely, I think, to be


* She means the freedom Mr. Lovelace took with her before the fire-plot. See Vol. V. Letter XI. When Miss Howe wrote this letter she could not know of that. ** See Vol. V. Letter XII.

>>> And thus situated, should he offer greater free-

doms, must you not forgive him?

I fear nothing (as I know who has said) that

devil carnate or incarnate can fairly do against a

>>> virtue so established.*—But surprizes, my dear, in

such a house as you are in, and in such circum-

stances as I have mentioned, I greatly fear! the

>>> man one who has already triumphed over persons

worthy of his alliance.

>>> What then have you to do, but to fly this house,

this infernal house!—O that your heart would let

you fly the man!

>>> If you should be disposed so to do, Mrs. Towns-

end shall be ready at your command.—But if you

meet with no impediments, no new causes of doubt,

I think your reputation in the eye of the world,

>>> though not your happiness, is concerned, that you

should be his—and yet I cannot bear that these

libertines should be rewarded for their villany with

the best of the sex, when the worst of it are too

good for them.

But if you meet with the least ground for

suspicion; if he would detain you at the odious

house, or wish you to stay, now you know what

>>> the people are; fly him, whatever your prospects

are, as well as them.

In one of your next airings, if you have no other

>>> way, refuse to return with him. Name me for your

intelligencer, that you are in a bad house, and if you

think you cannot now break with him, seem rather

>>> to believe that he may not know it to be so; and

that I do not believe he does: and yet this belief

in us both must appear to be very gross.

But suppose you desire to go out of town for the

air, this sultry weather, and insist upon it? You

may plead your health for so doing. He dare not

>>> resist such a plea. Your brother’s foolish scheme,

I am told, is certainly given up; so you need not

be afraid on that account.

If you do not fly the house upon reading of this,

or some way or other get out of it, I shall judge of

his power over you, by the little you will have over

either him or yourself.

>>> One of my informers has made such slight inquiries

concerning Mrs. Fretchville. Did he ever name

to you the street or square she lived in?—I don’t

>>> remember that you, in any of your’s, mentioned the

place of her abode to me. Strange, very strange,

this, I think! No such person or house can be

found, near any of the new streets or squares, where

the lights I had from your letters led me to imagine

>>> her house might be.—Ask him what street the

house is in, if he has not told you; and let me

>>> know. If he make a difficulty of that circumstance,

it will amount to a detection.—And yet, I think,

you will have enough without this.

I shall send this long letter by Collins, who

changes his day to oblige me; and that he may try

(now I know where you are) to get it into your

own hands. If he cannot, he will leave it at

Wilson’s. As none of our letters by that convey-

ance have miscarried when you have been in more

apparently disagreeable situations than you are in at

present. I hope that this will go safe, if Collins

should be obliged to leave it there.

>>> I wrote a short letter to you in my first agitations.

It contained not above twenty lines, all full of fright,

alarm, and execration. But being afraid that my

vehemence would too much affect you, I thought it

better to wait a little, as well for the reasons already

hinted at, as to be able to give you as many par-

ticulars as I could, and my thoughts upon all. And

as they have offered, or may offer, you will be

sufficiently armed to resist all his machinations, be

what they will.

>>> One word more. Command me up, if I can be

of the least service or pleasure to you. I value

not fame; I value not censure; nor even life itself,

I verily think, as I do your honour, and your friend-

ship—For, is not your honour my honour? And

is not your friendship the pride of my life?

May Heaven preserve you, my dearest creature,

in honour and safety, is the prayer, the hourly

prayer, of

Your ever-faithful and affectionate ANNA HOWE.


written all night


How you have shocked, confounded, surprised, astonished me, by your dreadful communication!—My heart is too weak to bear up against such a stroke as this!—When all hope was with me! When my prospects were so much mended!—But can there be such villany in men, as in this vile principal, and equally vile agent!

I am really ill—very ill—grief and surprise, and, now I will say, despair, have overcome me!—All, all, you have laid down as conjecture, appears to me now to be more than conjecture!

O that your mother would have the goodness to permit me the presence of the only comforter that my afflicted, my half-broken heart, could be raised by. But I charge you, think not of coming up without her indulgent permission. I am too ill at present, my dear, to think of combating with this dreadful man; and of flying from this horrid house!— My bad writing will show you this.—But my illness will be my present security, should he indeed have meditated villany.—Forgive, O forgive me, my dearest friend, the trouble I have given you!—All must soon—But why add I grief to grief, and trouble to trouble?—But I charge you, my beloved creature, not to think of coming up without your mother’s love, to the truly desolate and broken-spirited


Well, Jack!—And what thinkest thou of this last letter? Miss Howe values not either fame or censure; and thinkest thou, that this letter will not bring the little fury up, though she could procure no other conveyance than her higgler’s panniers, one for herself, the other for her maid? She knows whither to come now. Many a little villain have I punished for knowing more than I would have her know, and that by adding to her knowledge and experience. What thinkest thou, Belford, if, by getting hither this virago, and giving cause for a lamentable letter from her to the fair fugitive, I should be able to recover her? Would she not visit that friend in her distress, thinkest thou, whose intended visit to her in her’s brought her into the condition from which she herself had so perfidiously escaped?

Let me enjoy the thought!

Shall I send this letter?—Thou seest I have left room, if I fail in the exact imitation of so charming a hand, to avoid too strict a scrutiny. Do they not both deserve it of me? Seest thou now how the raving girl threatens her mother? Ought she not to be punished? And can I be a worse devil, or villain, or monster, that she calls me in the long letter I enclose (and has called me in her former letters) were I to punish them both as my vengeance urges me to punish them? And when I have executed that my vengeance, how charmingly satisfied may they both go down into the country and keep house together, and have a much better reason than their pride could give them, for living the single life they have both seemed so fond of!

I will set about transcribing it this moment, I think. I can resolve afterwards. Yet what has poor Hickman done to deserve this of me!—But gloriously would it punish the mother (as well as daughter) for all her sordid avarice; and for her undutifulness to honest Mr. Howe, whose heart she actually broke. I am on tiptoe, Jack, to enter upon this project. Is not one country as good to me as another, if I should be obliged to take another tour upon it?


But I will not venture. Hickman is a good man, they tell me. I love a good man. I hope one of these days to be a good man myself. Besides, I have heard within this week something of this honest fellow that shows he has a soul; when I thought, if he had one, that it lay a little of the deepest to emerge to notice, except on very extraordinary occasions; and that then it presently sunk again into its cellula adiposa.—The man is a plump man.—Didst ever see him, Jack?

But the principal reason that withholds me [for ’tis a tempting project!] is, for fear of being utterly blown up, if I should not be quick enough with my letter, or if Miss Howe should deliberate on setting out, to try her mother’s consent first; in which time a letter from my frighted beauty might reach her; for I have no doubt, wherever she has refuged, but her first work was to write to her vixen friend. I will therefore go on patiently; and take my revenge upon the little fury at my leisure.

But in spite of my compassion for Hickman, whose better character is sometimes my envy, and who is one of those mortals that bring clumsiness into credit with the mothers, to the disgrace of us clever fellows, and often to our disappointment, with the daughters; and who has been very busy in assisting these double-armed beauties against me; I swear by all the dii majores, as well as minores, that I will have Miss Howe, if I cannot have her more exalted friend! And then, if there be as much flaming love between these girls as they pretend, will my charmer profit by her escape?

And now, that I shall permit Miss Howe to reign a little longer, let me ask thee, if thou hast not, in the enclosed letter, a fresh instance, that a great many of my difficulties with her sister-toast are owing to this flighty girl?—’Tis true that here was naturally a confounded sharp winter air; and if a little cold water was thrown into the path, no wonder that it was instantly frozen; and that the poor honest traveller found it next to impossible to keep his way; one foot sliding back as fast as the other advanced, to the endangering of his limbs or neck. But yet I think it impossible that she should have baffled me as she has done (novice as she is, and never before from under her parents’ wings) had she not been armed by a virago, who was formerly very near showing that she could better advise than practise. But this, I believe, I have said more than once before.

I am loth to reproach myself, now the cruel creature has escaped me; For what would that do, but add to my torment? since evils self-caused, and avoidable, admit not of palliation or comfort. And yet, if thou tellest me, that all her strength was owing to my weakness, and that I have been a cursed coward in this whole affair; why, then, Jack, I may blush, and be vexed; but, by my soul, I cannot contradict thee.

But this, Belford, I hope—that if I can turn the poison of the enclosed letter into wholesome ailment; that is to say, if I can make use of it to my advantage; I shall have thy free consent to do it.

I am always careful to open covers cautiously, and to preserve seals entire. I will draw out from this cursed letter an alphabet. Nor was Nick Rowe ever half so diligent to learn Spanish, at the Quixote recommendation of a certain peer, as I will be to gain the mastery of this vixen’s hand.