Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXXV


I cannot conceal from you any thing that relates to yourself so much as the enclosed does. You will see what the noble writer apprehends from you, and wishes of you, with regard to Miss Harlowe, and how much at heart all your relations have it that you do honourably by her. They compliment me with an influence over you, which I wish with all my soul you would let me have in this article.

Let me once more entreat thee, Lovelace, to reflect, before it be too late (before the mortal offence be given) upon the graces and merits of this lady. Let thy frequent remorses at last end in one effectual remorse. Let not pride and wantonness of heart ruin the fairer prospects. By my faith, Lovelace, there is nothing but vanity, conceit, and nonsense, in our wild schemes. As we grow older, we shall be wiser, and looking back upon our foolish notions of the present hour, (our youth dissipated,) shall certainly despise ourselves when we think of the honourable engagements we might have made: thou, more especially, if thou lettest such a matchless creature slide through thy fingers. A creature pure from her cradle. In all her actions and sentiments uniformly noble. Strict in the performance of all her even unrewarded duties to the most unreasonable of fathers; what a wife will she make the man who shall have the honour to call her his!

What apprehensions wouldst thou have had reason for, had she been prevailed upon by giddy or frail motives, for which one man, by importunity, might prevail, as well as another?

We all know what an inventive genius thou art master of: we are all sensible, that thou hast a head to contrive, and a heart to execute. Have I not called thine the plotting’st heart in the universe? I called it so upon knowledge. What woulds’t thou more? Why should it be the most villainous, as well as the most able?—Marry the lady; and, when married, let her know what a number of contrivances thou hadst in readiness to play off. Beg of her not to hate thee for the communication; and assure her, that thou gavest them up for remorse, and in justice to her extraordinary merit: and let her have the opportunity of congratulating herself for subduing a heart so capable of what thou callest glorious mischief. This will give her room for triumph; and even thee no less: she, for hers over thee; thou, for thine over thyself.

Reflect likewise upon her sufferings for thee. Actually at the time thou art forming schemes to ruin her, (at least in her sense of the word,) is she not labouring under a father’s curse laid upon her by thy means, and for thy sake? and wouldst thou give operation and completion to that curse, which otherwise cannot have effect?

And what, Lovelace, all the time is thy pride?—Thou that vainly imaginest that the whole family of the Harlowes, and that of the Howes too, are but thy machines, unknown to themselves, to bring about thy purposes, and thy revenge, what art thou more, or better, than the instrument even of her implacable brother, and envious sister, to perpetuate the disgrace of the most excellent of sisters, to which they are moved by vilely low and sordid motives?—Canst thou bear, Lovelace, to be thought the machine of thy inveterate enemy James Harlowe?—Nay, art thou not the cully of that still viler Joseph Leman, who serves himself as much by thy money, as he does thee by the double part he acts by thy direction?—And further still, art thou not the devil’s agent, who only can, and who certainly will, suitably reward thee, if thou proceedest, and if thou effectest thy wicked purpose?

Could any man but thee put together upon paper the following questions with so much unconcern as thou seemest to have written them?—give them a reperusal, O heart of adamant! ’Whither can she fly to avoid me? Her parents will not receive her. Her uncles will not entertain her. Her beloved Norton is in their direction, and cannot. Miss Howe dare not. She has not one friend in town but ME—is entirely a stranger to the town.’*—What must that heart be that can triumph in a distress so deep, into which she has been plunged by thy elaborate arts and contrivances? And what a sweet, yet sad reflection was that, which had like to have had its due effect upon thee, arising from thy naming Lord M. for her nuptial father? her tender years inclining her to wish for a father, and to hope a friend.—O my dear Lovelace, canst thou resolve to be, instead of the father thou hast robbed her of, a devil?

* See Letter XXI. of this volume.

Thou knowest, that I have no interest, that I can have no view, in wishing thee to do justice to this admirable creature. For thy own sake, once more I conjure thee, for thy family’s sake, and for the sake of our common humanity, let me beseech thee to be just to Miss Clarissa Harlowe.

No matter whether these expostulations are in character from me, or not. I have been and am bad enough. If thou takest my advice, which is (as the enclosed will shew thee) the advice of all thy family, thou wilt perhaps have it to reproach me (and but perhaps neither) that thou art not a worse man than myself. But if thou dost not, and if thou ruinest such a virtue, all the complicated wickedness of ten devils, let loose among the innocent with full power over them, will not do so much vile and base mischief as thou wilt be guilty of.

It is said that the prince on his throne is not safe, if a mind so desperate can be found, as values not its own life. So may it be said, that the most immaculate virtue is not safe, if a man can be met with who has no regard to his own honour, and makes a jest of the most solemn vows and protestations.

Thou mayest by trick, chicane, and false colours, thou who art worse than a pickeroon in love, overcome a poor lady so entangled as thou hast entangled her; so unprotected as thou hast made her: but consider, how much more generous and just to her, and noble to thyself, it is, to overcome thyself.

Once more, it is no matter whether my past or future actions countenance my preachment, as perhaps thou’lt call what I have written: but this I promise thee, that whenever I meet with a woman of but one half of Miss Harlowe’s perfections, who will favour me with her acceptance, I will take the advice I give, and marry. Nor will I offer to try her honour at the hazard of my own.

In other words, I will not degrade an excellent creature in her own eyes, by trials, when I have no cause for suspicion. And let me add, with respect to thy eagleship’s manifestation, of which thou boastest, in thy attempts upon the innocent and uncorrupted, rather than upon those whom thou humourously comparest to wrens, wagtails, and phyl-tits, as thou callest them,* that I hope I have it not once to reproach myself, that I ruined the morals of any one creature, who otherwise would have been uncorrupted. Guilt enough in contributing to the continued guilt of other poor wretches, if I am one of those who take care she shall never rise again, when she has once fallen.

* See Letter XVII. of this volume.

Whatever the capital devil, under whose banner thou hast listed, will let thee do, with regard to this incomparable woman, I hope thou wilt act with honour in relation to the enclosed, between Lord M. and me; since his Lordship, as thou wilt see, desires, that thou mayest not know he wrote on the subject; for reasons, I think, very far from being creditable to thyself: and that thou wilt take as meant, the honest zeal for thy service, of

Thy real friend, J. BELFORD.