Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXIII


I am now here, and here have been this hour and half.—What an industrious spirit have I!—Nobody can say that I eat the bread of idleness. I take true pains for all the pleasure I enjoy. I cannot but admire myself strangely; for certainly, with this active soul, I should have made a very great figure in whatever station I had filled. But had I been a prince, (to be sure I should have made a most noble prince!) I should have led up a military dance equal to that of the great Macedonian. I should have added kingdom to kingdom, and despoiled all my neighbour sovereigns, in order to have obtained the name of Robert the Great! And I would have gone to war with the Great Turk, and the Persian, and Mogul, for the seraglios; for not one of those eastern monarchs should have had a pretty woman to bless himself with till I had done with her.

And now I have so much leisure upon my hands, that, after having informed myself of all necessary particulars, I am set to my short-hand writing in order to keep up with time as well as I can; for the subject is now become worthy of me; and it is yet too soon, I doubt, to pay my compliments to my charmer, after all her fatigues for two or three days past. And, moreover, I have abundance of matters preparative to my future proceedings to recount, in order to connect and render all intelligible.

I parted with the Captain at the foot of the hill, trebly instructed; that is to say, as to the fact, to the probable, and to the possible. If my beloved and I can meet, and make up without the mediating of this worthy gentleman, it will be so much the better. As little foreign aid as possible in my amorous conflicts has always been a rule with me; though here I have been obliged to call in so much. And who knows but it may be the better for the lady the less she makes necessary? I cannot bear that she should sit so indifferent to me as to be in earnest to part with me for ever upon so slight, or even upon any occasion. If I find she is—but no more threatenings till she is in my power—thou knowest what I have vowed.

All Will.’s account, from the lady’s flight to his finding her again, all the accounts of the people of the house, the coachman’s information to Will., and so forth, collected together, stand thus:

’The Hampstead coach, when the dear fugitive came to it, had but two passengers in it. But she made the fellow to go off directly, paying for the vacant places.

’The two passengers directing the coachman to set them down at the Upper Flask, she bid him set her down there also.

’They took leave of her, [very respectfully, no doubt,] and she went into the house, and asked, if she could not have a dish of tea, and a room to herself for half an hour.

’They showed her up to the very room where I now am. She sat at the very table I now write upon; and, I believe, the chair I sit in was her’s.’ O Belford, if thou knowest what love is, thou wilt be able to account for these minutiae.

’She seemed spiritless and fatigued. The gentlewoman herself chose to attend so genteel and lovely a guest. She asked her if she would have bread and butter with her tea?

’No. She could not eat.

’They had very good biscuits.

’As she pleased.

’The gentlewoman stept out for some, and returning on a sudden, she observed the sweet little fugitive endeavouring to restrain a violent burst of grief to which she had given way in the little interval.

’However, when the tea came, she made the landlady sit down with her, and asked her abundance of questions, about the villages and roads in the neighbourhood.

’The gentlewoman took notice to her, that she seemed to be troubled in mind.

’Tender spirits, she replied, could not part with dear friends without concern.’

She meant me, no doubt.

’She made no inquiry about a lodging, though by the sequel, thou’lt observe, that she seemed to intend to go no farther that night than Hampstead. But after she had drank two dishes, and put a biscuit in her pocket, [sweet soul! to serve for her supper, perhaps,] she laid down half-a-crown; and refusing change, sighing, took leave, saying she would proceed towards Hendon; the distance to which had been one of her questions.

’They offered to send to know if a Hampstead coach were not to go to Hendon that evening.

’No matter, she said—perhaps she might meet the chariot.’

Another of her feints, I suppose: for how, or with whom, could any thing of this sort have been concerted since yesterday morning?

’She had, as the people took notice to one another, something so uncommonly noble in her air, and in her person and behaviour, that they were sure she was of quality. And having no servant with her of either sex, her eyes, [her fine eyes, the gentlewoman called them, stranger as she was, and a woman!] being swelled and red, they were sure there was an elopement in the case, either from parents or guardians; for they supposed her too young and too maidenly to be a married lady; and were she married, no husband would let such a fine young creature to be unattended and alone; nor give her cause for so much grief, as seemed to be settled in her countenance. Then at times she seemed to be so bewildered, they said, that they were afraid she had it in her head to make away with herself.

’All these things put together, excited their curiosity; and they engaged a peery servant, as they called a footman who was drinking with Kit. the hostler, at the tap-house, to watch all her motions. This fellow reported the following particulars, as they re-reported to me:

’She indeed went towards Hendon, passing by the sign of the Castle on the Heath; then, stopping, looked about her, and down into the valley before her. Then, turning her face towards London, she seemed, by the motion of her handkerchief to her eyes, to weep; repenting [who knows?] the rash step she had taken, and wishing herself back again.’

Better for her, if she do, Jack, once more I say!—Woe be to the girl who could think of marrying me, yet to be able to run away from me, and renounce me for ever!

’Then, continuing on a few paces, she stopt again—and, as if disliking her road, again seeming to weep, directed her course back towards Hampstead.’

I am glad she wept so much, because no heart bursts, (be the occasion for the sorrow what it will,) which has that kindly relief. Hence I hardly ever am moved at the sight of these pellucid fugitives in a fine woman. How often, in the past twelve hours, have I wished that I could cry most confoundedly?

’She then saw a coach-and-four driving towards her empty. She crossed the path she was in, as if to meet it, and seemed to intend to speak to the coachman, had he stopt or spoken first. He as earnestly looked at her.—Every one did so who passed her, (so the man who dogged her was the less suspected.’)—Happy rogue of a coachman, hadst thou known whose notice thou didst engage, and whom thou mightest have obliged!—It was the divine Clarissa Harlowe at whom thou gazest!—Mine own Clarissa Harlowe!—But it was well for me that thou wert as undistinguishing as the beasts thou drovest; otherwise, what a wild-goose chace had I been led?

’The lady, as well as the coachman, in short, seemed to want resolution; —the horses kept on—[the fellow’s head and eyes, no doubt, turned behind him,] and the distance soon lengthened beyond recall. With a wistful eye she looked after him; sighed and wept again; as the servant who then slyly passed her, observed.

’By this time she had reached the houses. She looked up at every one as she passed; now and then breathing upon her bared hand, and applying it to her swelled eyes, to abate the redness, and dry the tears. At last, seeing a bill up for letting lodgings, she walked backwards and forwards half a dozen times, as if unable to determine what to do. And then went farther into the town, and there the fellow, being spoken to by one of his familiars, lost her for a few minutes: but he soon saw her come out of a linen-drapery shop, attended with a servant-maid, having, as it proved, got that maid-servant to go with her to the house she is now at.*

* See Letter XXI. of this volume.

’The fellow, after waiting about an hour, and not seeing her come out, returned, concluding that she had taken lodgings there.’

And here, supposing my narrative of the dramatic kind, ends Act the first. And now begins

ACT II SCENE.—Hampstead Heath continued. ENTER MY RASCAL.

Will. having got at all these particulars, by exchanging others as frankly against them, with which I had formerly prepared him both verbally and in writing.—I found the people already of my party, and full of good wishes for my success, repeating to me all they told him.

But he had first acquainted me with the accounts he had given them of his lady and me. It is necessary that I give thee the particulars of his tale, and I have a little time upon my hands: for the maid of the house, who had been out of an errand, tells us, that she saw Mrs. Moore, [with whom must be my first business,] go into the house of a young gentleman, within a few doors of her, who has a maiden sister, Miss Rawlins by name, so notified for prudence, that none of her acquaintance undertake any thing of consequence without consulting her.

Meanwhile my honest coachman is walking about Miss Rawlin’s door, in order to bring me notice of Mrs. Moore’s return to her own house. I hope her gossip’s-tale will be as soon told as mine—which take as follows:—

Will. told them, before I came, ’That his lady was but lately married to one of the finest gentlemen in the world. But that he, being very gay and lively, she was mortal jealous of him; and, in a fit of that sort, had eloped from him. For although she loved him dearly, and he doated upon her, (as well he might, since, as they had seen, she was the finest creature that ever the sun shone upon,) yet she was apt to be very wilful and sullen, if he might take liberty to say so—but truth was truth;—and if she could not have her own way in every thing, would be for leaving him. That she had three or four times played his master such tricks; but with all the virtue and innocence in the world; running away to an intimate friend of her’s, who, though a young lady of honour, was but too indulgent to her in this only failing; for which reason his master has brought her to London lodgings; their usual residence being in the country: and that, on his refusing to satisfy her about a lady he had been seen with in St. James’s Park, she had, for the first time since she came to town, served his master thus, whom he had left half-distracted on this account.’

And truly well he might, poor gentleman! cried the honest folks, pitying me before they saw me.

’He told them how he came by his intelligence of her; and made himself such an interest with them, that they helped him to a change of clothes for himself; and the landlord, at his request, privately inquired, if the lady actually remained at Mrs. Moore’s, and for how long she had taken the lodgings?—which he found only to be for a week certain; but she had said, that she believed she should hardly stay so long. And then it was that he wrote his letter, and sent it by honest Peter Patrick, as thou hast heard.’

When I came, my person and dress having answered Will.’s description, the people were ready to worship me. I now-and-then sighed, now-and-then put on a lighter air; which, however, I designed should show more of vexation ill-disguised, than of real cheerfulness; and they told Will. it was such a thousand pities so fine a lady should have such skittish tricks; adding, that she might expose herself to great dangers by them; for that there were rakes every where—[Lovelaces in every corner, Jack!] and many about that town, who would leave nothing unattempted to get into her company; and although they might not prevail upon her, yet might they nevertheless hurt her reputation; and, in time, estrange the affections of so fine a gentleman from her.

Good sensible people these!—Hey, Jack!

Here, Landlord, one word with you.—My servant, I find, has acquainted you with the reason of my coming this way.—An unhappy affair, Landlord! —A very unhappy affair!—But never was there a more virtuous woman.

So, Sir, she seems to be. A thousand pities her ladyship has such ways— and to so good-humoured a gentleman as you seem to be, Sir.

Mother-spoilt, Landlord!—Mother-spoilt!—that’s the thing!—But [sighing] I must make the best of it. What I want you to do for me is to lend me a great-coat.—I care not what it is. If my spouse should see me at a distance, she would make it very difficult for me to get at her speech. A great-coat with a cape, if you have one. I must come upon her before she is aware.

I am afraid, Sir, I have none fit for such a gentleman as you.

O, any thing will do!—The worse the better.

Exit Landlord.—Re-enter with two great-coats.

Ay, Landlord, this will be best; for I can button the cape over the lower part of my face. Don’t I look devilishly down and concerned, Landlord?

I never saw a gentleman with a better-natured look.—’Tis pity you should have such trials, Sir.

I must be very unhappy, no doubt of it, Landlord.—And yet I am a little pleased, you must needs think, that I have found her out before any great inconvenience has arisen to her. However, if I cannot break her of these freaks, she’ll break my heart; for I do love her with all her failings.

The good woman, who was within hearing of all this, pitied me much.

Pray, your Honour, said she, if I may be so bold, was madam ever a mamma?

No—[and I sighed.]—We have been but a little while married; and as I may say to you, it is her own fault that she is not in that way. [Not a word of a lie in this, Jack.] But to tell you truth, Madam, she may be compared to the dog in the manger—

I understand you, Sir, [simpering,] she is but young, Sir. I have heard of one or two such skittish young ladies, in my time, Sir.—But when madam is in that way, I dare say, as she loves you, (and it would be strange if she did not!) all this will be over, and she may make the best of wives.

That’s all my hope.

She is a fine lady as I ever beheld.—I hope, Sir, you won’t be too severe. She’ll get over all these freaks, if once she be a mamma, I warrant.

I can’t be severe to her—she knows that. The moment I see her, all resentment is over with me, if she gives me but one kind look.

All this time I was adjusting the horseman’s coat, and Will. was putting in the ties of my wig,* and buttoning the cape over my chin.

* The fashionable wigs at that time.

I asked the gentlewoman for a little powder. She brought me a powder- box, and I slightly shook the puff over my hat, and flapt one side of it, though the lace looked a little too gay for my covering; and, slouching it over my eyes, Shall I be known, think you, Madam?

Your Honour is so expert, Sir!—I wish, if I may be so bold, your lady has not some cause to be jealous. But it will be impossible, if you keep your laced clothes covered, that any body should know you in that dress to be the same gentleman—except they find you out by your clocked stockings.

Well observed—Can’t you, Landlord, lend or sell me a pair of stockings, that will draw over these? I can cut off the feet, if they won’t go into my shoes.

He could let me have a pair of coarse, but clean, stirrup stockings, if I pleased.

The best in the world for the purpose.

He fetch’d them. Will. drew them on; and my legs then made a good gouty appearance.

The good woman smiling, wished me success; and so did the landlord. And as thou knowest that I am not a bad mimic, I took a cane, which I borrowed of the landlord, and stooped in the shoulders to a quarter of a foot less height, and stumped away cross to the bowling-green, to practise a little the hobbling gait of a gouty man.—The landlady whispered her husband, as Will. tells me, He’s a good one, I warrant him —I dare say the fault lies not at all of one side. While mine host replied, That I was so lively and so good-natured a gentleman, that he did not know who could be angry with me, do what I would. A sensible fellow!—I wish my charmer were of the same opinion.

And now I am going to try if I can’t agree with goody Moore for lodgings and other conveniencies for my sick wife.

’Wife, Lovelace?’ methinks thou interrogatest.

Yes, wife, for who knows what cautions the dear fugitive may have given in apprehension of me?

’But has goody Moore any other lodgings to let?’

Yes, yes; I have taken care of that; and find that she has just such conveniencies as I want. And I know that my wife will like them. For, although married, I can do every thing I please; and that’s a bold word, you know. But had she only a garret to let, I would have liked it; and been a poor author afraid of arrests, and made that my place of refuge; yet would have made shift to pay beforehand for what I had. I can suit myself to any condition, that’s my comfort.


The widow Moore returned! say you?—Down, down, flutterer!—This impertinent heart is more troublesome to me than my conscience, I think. —I shall be obliged to hoarsen my voice, and roughen my character, to keep up with its puppily dancings.

But let me see, shall I be angry or pleased when I am admitted to my beloved’s presence?

Angry to be sure.—Has she not broken her word with me?—At a time too when I was meditating to do her grateful justice?—And is not breach of word a dreadful crime in good folks?—I have ever been for forming my judgment of the nature of things and actions, not so much from what they are in themselves, as from the character of the actors. Thus it would be as odd a thing in such as we to keep our words with a woman, as it would be wicked in her to break her’s to us.

Seest thou not that this unseasonable gravity is admitted to quell the palpitations of this unmanageable heart? But still it will go on with its boundings. I’ll try as I ride in my chariot to tranquilize.

’Ride, Bob! so little a way?’

Yes, ride, Jack; for am I not lame? And will it not look well to have a lodger who keeps his chariot? What widow, what servant, asks questions of a man with an equipage?

My coachman, as well as my other servant, is under Will.’s tuition.

Never was there such a hideous rascal as he has made himself. The devil only and his other master can know him. They both have set their marks upon him. As to my honour’s mark, it will never be out of his dam’d wide mothe, as he calls it. For the dog will be hanged before he can lose the rest of his teeth by age.

I am gone.