Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXXII


Mr. Lovelace has sent me, by Dorcas, his proposals, as follow:

’To spare a delicacy so extreme, and to obey you, I write: and the rather that you may communicate this paper to Miss Howe, who may consult any of her friends you shall think proper to have intrusted on this occasion. I say intrusted; because, as you know, I have given it out to several persons, that we are actually married.

’In the first place, Madam, I offer to settle upon you, by way of jointure, your whole estate: and moreover to vest in trustees such a part of mine in Lancashire, as shall produce a clear four hundred pounds a year, to be paid to your sole and separate use quarterly.

’My own estate is a clear not nominnal 2000l. per annum. Lord M. proposes to give me possession either of that which he has in Lancashire, [to which, by the way, I think I have a better title than he has himself,] or that we call The Lawn, in Hertfordshire, upon my nuptials with a lady whom he so greatly admires; and to make that I shall choose a clear 1000l. per annum.

’My too great contempt of censure has subjected me to much slander. It may not therefore be improper to assure you, on the word of a gentleman, that no part of my estate was ever mortgaged: and that although I lived very expensively abroad, and made large draughts, yet that Midsummer-day next will discharge all that I owe in the world. My notions are not all bad ones. I have been thought, in pecuniary cases, generous. It would have deserved another name, had I not first been just.

’If, as your own estate is at present in your father’s hands, you rather choose that I should make a jointure out of mine, tantamount to yours, be it what it will, it shall be done. I will engage Lord M. to write to you, what he proposes to do on the happy occasion: not as your desire or expectation, but to demonstrate, that no advantage is intended to be taken of the situation you are in with your own family.

’To shew the beloved daughter the consideration I have for her, I will consent that she shall prescribe the terms of agreement in relation to the large sums, which must be in her father’s hands, arising from her grandfather’s estate. I have no doubt, but he will be put upon making large demands upon you. All those it shall be in your power to comply with, for the sake of your own peace. And the remainder shall be paid into your hands, and be entirely at your disposal, as a fund to support those charitable donations, which I have heard you so famed for out of your family, and for which you have been so greatly reflected upon in it.

’As to clothes, jewels, and the like, against the time you shall choose to make your appearance, it will be my pride that you shall not be beholden for such of these, as shall be answerable to the rank of both, to those who have had the stupid folly to renounce a daughter they deserved not. You must excuse me, Madam: you would mistrust my sincerity in the rest, could I speak of these people without asperity, though so nearly related to you.

’These, Madam, are my proposals. They are such as I always designed to make, whenever you would permit me to enter into the delightful subject. But you have been so determined to try every method for reconciling yourself to your relations, even by giving me absolutely up for ever, that you seemed to think it but justice to keep me at a distance, till the event of that your predominant hope could be seen. It is now seen! —and although I have been, and perhaps still am, ready to regret the want of that preference I wished for from you as Miss Clarissa Harlowe, yet I am sure, as the husband of Mrs. Lovelace, I shall be more ready to adore than to blame you for the pangs you have given to a heart, the generosity, or rather, the justice of which, my implacable enemies have taught you to doubt: and this still the readier, as I am persuaded that those pangs never would have been given by a mind so noble, had not the doubt been entertained (perhaps with too great an appearance of reason); and as I hope I shall have it to reflect, that the moment the doubt shall be overcome, the indifference will cease.

’I will only add, that if I have omitted any thing, that would have given you farther satisfaction; or if the above terms be short of what you would wish; you will be pleased to supply them as you think fit. And when I know your pleasure, I will instantly order articles to be drawn up comformably, that nothing in my power may be wanting to make you happy.

’You will now, dearest Madam, judge, how far all the rest depends upon yourself.’

You see, my dear, what he offers. You see it is all my fault, that he has not made these offers before. I am a strange creature!—to be to blame in every thing, and to every body; yet neither intend the ill at the time, nor know it to be the ill too late, or so nearly too late, that I must give up all the delicacy he talks of, to compound for my fault!

I shall now judge how far the rest depends upon myself! So coldly concludes he such warm, and, in the main, unobjectionably proposals: Would you not, as you read, have supposed, that the paper would conclude with the most earnest demand of a day?—I own, I had that expectation so strong, resulting naturally, as I may say, from the premises, that without studying for dissatisfaction, I could not help being dissatisfied when I came to the conclusion.

But you say there is no help. I must perhaps make further sacrifices. All delicacy it seems is to be at an end with me!—but, if so, this man knows not what every wise man knows, that prudence, and virtue, and delicacy of mind in a wife, do the husband more real honour in the eye of the world, than the same qualities (were she destitute of them) in himself, do him: as the want of them in her does him more dishonour: For are not the wife’s errors the husband’s reproach? how justly his reproach, is another thing.

I will consider this paper; and write to it, if I am able: for it seems now, all the rest depends upon myself.