Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXXV


He gives, in several letters, the substance of what is

contained in the last seven of the Lady’s.

He tells his friend, that calling at The Lawn, in his way to

M. Hall, (for he owns that he went not to Windsor,) he

found the letters from Lady Betty Lawrance, and his cousin

Montague, which Mrs. Greme was about sending to him by a

special messenger.

He gives the particulars, from Mrs. Greme’s report, of what

passed between the Lady and her, as in Letter VI. and

makes such declarations to Mrs. Greme of his honour and

affection to the Lady, as put her upon writing the letter to

her sister Sorlings, the contents of which are in Letter


He then accounts, as follows, for the serious humour he

found her in on his return:

Upon such good terms when we parted, I was surprised to find so solemn a brow upon my return, and her charming eyes red with weeping. But when I had understood she had received letters from Miss Howe, it was natural to imagine that that little devil had put her out of humour with me.

It is easy for me to perceive, that my charmer is more sullen when she receives, and has perused, a letter from that vixen, than at other times. But as the sweet maid shews, even then, more of passive grief, than of active spirit, I hope she is rather lamenting than plotting. And, indeed, for what now should she plot? when I am become a reformed man, and am hourly improving in my morals?—Nevertheless, I must contrive some way or other to get at their correspondence—only to see the turn of it; that’s all.

But no attempt of this kind must be made yet. A detected invasion, in an article so sacred, would ruin me beyond retrieve. Nevertheless, it vexes me to the heart to think that she is hourly writing her whole mind on all that passes between her and me, I under the same roof with her, yet kept at such awful distance, that I dare not break into a correspondence, that may perhaps be a mean to defeat all my devices.

Would it be very wicked, Jack, to knock her messenger on the head, as he is carrying my beloved’s letters, or returning from Miss Howe’s?—To attempt to bribe him, and not succeed, would utterly ruin me. And the man seems to be one used to poverty, one who can sit down satisfied with it, and enjoy it; contented with hand-to-mouth conveniencies, and not aiming to live better to-morrow, than he does to-day, and than he did yesterday. Such a one is above temptation, unless it could come clothed in the guise of truth and trust. What likelihood of corrupting a man who has no hope, no ambition?

Yet the rascal has but half life, and groans under that. Should I be answerable in his case for a whole life?—But hang the fellow! Let him live. Were I king, or a minister of state, an Antonio Perez,* it were another thing. And yet, on second thoughts, am I not a rake, as it is called? And who ever knew a rake stick at any thing? But thou knowest, Jack, that the greatest half of my wickedness is vapour, to shew my invention; and to prove that I could be mischievous if I would.

* Antonio Perez was first minister of Philip II. king of Spain, by whose

command he caused Don Juan de Escovedo to be assassinated: which brought

on his own ruin, through the perfidy of his viler master.—Gedde’s


When he comes to that part where the Lady says (Letter

XXIX.) in a sarcastic way, waving her hand, and bowing,

’Excuse me, good Mr. Lovelace, that I am willing to think

the best of my father,’ he gives a description of her air

and manner, greatly to her advantage; and says,

I could hardly forbear taking her into my arms upon it, in spite of an expected tempest. So much wit, so much beauty, such a lively manner, and such exceeding quickness and penetration! O Belford! she must be nobody’s but mine. I can now account for and justify Herod’s command to destroy his Mariamne, if he returned not alive from his interview with Caesar: for were I to know that it were but probable that any other man were to have this charming creature, even after my death, the very thought would be enough to provoke me to cut that man’s throat, were he a prince.

I may be deemed by this lady a rapid, a boisterous lover—and she may like me the less for it: but all the ladies I have met with, till now, loved to raise a tempest, and to enjoy it: nor did they ever raise it, but I enjoyed it too!—Lord send us once happily to London!

Mr. Lovelace gives the following account of his rude

rapture, when he seized her hand, and put her, by his WILD

manner, as she expresses it, Letter XXXIX. into such terror.

Darkness and light, I swore, were convertible at her pleasure: she could make any subject plausible. I was all error: she all perfection. And I snatched her hand; and, more than kissed it, I was ready to devour it. There was, I believe, a kind of phrensy in my manner, which threw her into a panic, like that of Semele perhaps, when the Thunderer, in all his majesty, surrounded with ten thousand celestial burning-glasses, was about to scorch her into a cinder.

Had not my heart misgiven me, and had I not, just in time, recollected that she was not so much in my power, but that she might abandon me at her pleasure, having more friends in that house than I had, I should at that moment have made offers, that would have decided all, one way or other.—But, apprehending that I had shewn too much meaning in my passion, I gave it another turn.—But little did the charmer think that an escape either she or I had (as the event might have proved) from that sudden gust of passion, which had like to have blown me into her arms.—She was born, I told her, to make me happy and to save a soul.——

He gives the rest of his vehement speech pretty nearly in

the same words as the Lady gives them: and then proceeds:

I saw she was frighted: and she would have had reason had the scene been London, and that place in London, which I have in view to carry her to. She confirmed me in my apprehension, that I had alarmed her too much: she told me, that she saw what my boasted regard to her injunctions was; and she would take proper measures upon it, as I should find: that she was shocked at my violent airs; and if I hoped any favour from her, I must that instant withdraw, and leave her to her recollection.

She pronounced this in such a manner as shewed she was set upon it; and, having stepped out of the gentle, and polite part I had so newly engaged to act, I thought ready obedience was the best atonement. And indeed I was sensible, from her anger and repulses, that I wanted time myself for recollection. And so I withdrew, with the same veneration as a petitioning subject would withdraw from the presence of his sovereign. But, O Belford! had she had but the least patience with me—had she but made me think she would forgive this initiatory ardour—surely she will not be always thus guarded.—

I had not been a moment by myself, but I was sensible that I had half forfeited my newly-assumed character. It is exceedingly difficult, thou seest, for an honest man to act in disguises: as the poet says, Thrust Nature back with a pitchfork, it will return. I recollected, that what she had insisted upon was really a part of that declared will before she left her father’s house, to which in another case (to humble her) I had pretended to have an inviolable regard. And when I had remembered her words of taking her measures accordingly, I was resolved to sacrifice a leg or an arm to make all up again, before she had time to determine upon any new measures.

How seasonably to this purpose have come in my aunt’s and cousin’s letters!

I have sent in again and again to implore her to admit me to her presence. But she will conclude a letter she is writing to Miss Howe, before she will see me.—I suppose to give her an account of what has just passed.

Curse upon her perverse tyranny! How she makes me wait for an humble audience, though she has done writing for some time! A prince begging for her upon his knees should not prevail upon me to spare her, if I can but get her to London—Oons! Jack, I believe I have bit my lip through for vexation!—But one day her’s shall smart for it.

Mr. Lovelace, beginning a new date, gives an account of his

admittance, and of the conversation that followed: which

differing only in style from that of the Lady gives in the

next letter is omitted.

He collects the lady’s expressions, which his pride cannot

bear: such as, That he is a stranger to the decorums which

she thought inseparable from a man of birth and education;

and that he is not the accomplished man he imagines himself

to be; and threatens to remember them against her.

He values himself upon his proposals and speeches, which he

gives to his friend pretty much to the same purpose that

the Lady does in her four last letters.

After mentioning his proposal to her that she would borrow a

servant from Miss Howe, till Hannah could come, he writes

as follows:

Thou seest, Belford, that my charmer has no notion that Miss Howe herself is but a puppet danced upon my wires at second or third hand. To outwit, and impel, as I please, two such girls as these, who think they know every thing; and, by taking advantage of the pride and ill-nature of the old ones of both families, to play them off likewise at the very time they think they are doing me spiteful displeasure; what charming revenge!—Then the sweet creature, when I wished that her brother was not at the bottom of Mrs. Howe’s resentment, to tell me, that she was afraid he was, or her uncle would not have appeared against her to that lady!—Pretty dear! how innocent!

But don’t think me the cause neither of her family’s malice and resentment. It is all in their hearts. I work but with their materials. They, if left to their own wicked direction, would perhaps express their revenge by fire and faggot; that is to say, by the private dagger, or by Lord Chief Justices’ warrants, by law, and so forth: I only point the lightning, and teach it where to dart, without the thunder. In other words, I only guide the effects: the cause is in their malignant hearts: and while I am doing a little mischief, I prevent a great deal.

Thus he exalts on her mentioning London:

I wanted her to propose London herself. This made me again mention Windsor. If you would have a woman do one thing, you must always propose another, and that the very contrary: the sex! the very sex! as I hope to be saved!—Why, Jack, they lay a man under a necessity to deal doubly with them! And, when they find themselves outwitted, they cry out upon an honest fellow, who has been too hard for them at their own weapons.

I could hardly contain myself. My heart was at my throat.—Down, down, said I to myself, exuberant exultation! A sudden cough befriended me; I again turned to her, all as indifferenced over as a girl at the first long-expected question, who waits for two more. I heard out the rest of her speech: and when she had done, instead of saying any thing to her for London, I advised her to send for Mrs. Norton.

As I knew she would be afraid of lying under obligation, I could have proposed to do so much for the good woman and her son, as would have made her resolve that I should do nothing: this, however, not merely to avoid expense. But there was no such thing as allowing of the presence of Mrs. Norton. I might as well have had her mother or her aunt Hervey with her. Hannah, had she been able to come, and had she actually come, I could have done well enough with. What do I keep fellows idling in the country for, but to fall in love, and even to marry those whom I would have them marry? Nor, upon second thoughts, would the presence of her Norton, or of her aunt, or even of her mother, have saved the dear creature, had I decreed her fall.

How unequal is a modest woman to the adventure, when she throws herself into the power of a rake! Punctilio will, at any time, stand for reason with such an one. She cannot break through a well-tested modesty. None but the impudent little rogues, who can name the parson and the church before you think of either, and undress and go to bed before you the next hour, should think of running away with a man.

I am in the right train now. Every hour, I doubt not, will give me an increasing interest in the affections of this proud beauty. I have just carried unpoliteness far enough to make her afraid of me; and to shew her, that I am no whiner. Every instance of politeness, now, will give me double credit with her. My next point will be to make her acknowledge a lambent flame, a preference of me to all other men, at least: and then my happy hour is not far off. An acknowledged reciprocality in love sanctifies every little freedom: and little freedoms beget greater. And if she call me ungenerous, I can call her cruel. The sex love to be called cruel. Many a time have I complained of cruelty, even in the act of yielding, because I knew it gratified the fair one’s pride.

Mentioning that he had only hinted at Mr. Belford’s lodgings as an instance to confirm what he had told her, that he knew of none in

London fit for her, he says,

I had a mind to alarm her with something furthest from my purpose; for (as much as she disliked my motion) I intend nothing by it: Mrs. Osgood is too pious a woman; and would have been more her friend than mine.

I had a view, moreover, to give her an high opinion of her own sagacity. I love, when I dig a put, to have my prey tumble in with secure feet, and open eyes: then a man can look down upon her, with an O-ho, charmer, how came you there?


I have just now received a fresh piece of intelligence from my agent, honest Joseph Leman. Thou knowest the history of poor Miss Betterton of Nottingham. James Harlowe is plotting to revive the resentments of her family against me. The Harlowes took great pains, some time ago, to endeavour to get to the bottom of that story. But now the foolish devils are resolved to do something in it, if they can. My head is working to make this booby ’squire a plotter, and a clever fellow, in order to turn his plots to my advantage, supposing his sister shall aim to keep me at arm’s length when in town, and to send me from her. But I will, in proper time, let thee see Joseph’s letter, and what I shall answer to it.* To know in time a designed mischief, is, with me, to disappoint it, and to turn it upon the contriver’s head.

* See Letters XLVII., XLVIII. of this volume.

Joseph is plaguy squeamish again; but I know he only intends by his qualms to swell his merits with me. O Belford! Belford! what a vile corruptible rogue, whether in poor or rich, is human nature!