Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXII

MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE TUESDAY, MAY 9.

If, my dear, you approve of the application to my uncle Harlowe, I wish it to be made as soon as possible. We are quite out again. I have shut myself up from him. The offence indeed not so very great—and yet it is too. He had like to have got a letter. One of your’s. But never will I write again, or re-peruse my papers, in an apartment where he thinks himself entitled to come. He did not read a line of it. Indeed he did not. So don’t be uneasy. And depend upon future caution.

Thus it was. The sun being upon my closet, and Mr. Lovelace abroad—

She then gives Miss Howe an account of his coming by surprise upon her:

of his fluttering speech: of his bold address: of her struggle with

him for the letter, &c.

And now, my dear, proceeds she, I am more and more convinced, that I am too much in his power to make it prudent to stay with him. And if my friends will but give me hope, I will resolve to abandon him for ever.

O my dear! he is a fierce, a foolish, an insolent creature!—And, in truth, I hardly expect that we can accommodate. How much unhappier am I already with him than my mother ever was with my father after marriage! since (and that without any reason, any pretence in the world for it) he is for breaking my spirit before I am his, and while I am, or ought to be [O my folly, that I am not!] in my own power.

Till I can know whether my friends will give me hope or not, I must do what I never studied to do before in any case; that is, try to keep this difference open: and yet it will make me look little in my own eyes; because I shall mean by it more than I can own. But this is one of the consequences of all engagements, where the minds are unpaired—dispaired, in my case, I must say.

Let this evermore be my caution to individuals of my sex—Guard your eye: ’twill ever be in a combination against your judgment. If there are two parts to be taken, it will be for ever, traitor as it is, taking the wrong one.

If you ask me, my dear, how this caution befits me? let me tell you a secret which I have but very lately found out upon self-examination, although you seem to have made the discovery long ago: That had not my foolish eye been too much attached, I had not taken the pains to attempt, so officiously as I did, the prevention of mischief between him and some of my family, which first induced the correspondence between us, and was the occasion of bringing the apprehended mischief with double weight upon himself. My vanity and conceit, as far as I know, might have part in the inconsiderate measure: For does it not look as if I thought myself more capable of obviating difficulties than anybody else of my family?

But you must not, my dear, suppose my heart to be still a confederate with my eye. That deluded eye now clearly sees its fault, and the misled heart despises it for it. Hence the application I am making to my uncle: hence it is, that I can say (I think truly) that I would atone for my fault at any rate, even by the sacrifice of a limb or two, if that would do.

Adieu, my dearest friend!—May your heart never know the hundredth part of the pain mine at present feels! prays

Your CLARISSA HARLOWE.