MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE JAN. 15.
Such, my dear, was the situation Mr. Lovelace and I were in when my
brother arrived from Scotland.
The moment Mr. Lovelace's visits were mentioned to him, he, without
either hesitation or apology, expressed his disapprobation of them. He
found great flaws in his character; and took the liberty to say in so
many words, that he wondered how it came into the heads of his uncles
to encourage such a man for either of his sisters: At the same time
returning his thanks to my father for declining his consent till he
arrived, in such a manner, I thought, as a superior would do, when he
commended an inferior for having well performed his duty in his
He justified his avowed inveteracy by common fame, and by what he had
known of him at college; declaring, that he had ever hated him; ever
should hate him; and would never own him for a brother, or me for a
sister, if I married him.
That early antipathy I have heard accounted for in this manner:
Mr. Lovelace was always noted for his vivacity and courage; and no
less, it seems, for the swift and surprising progress he made in all
parts of literature: for diligence in his studies in the hours of
study, he had hardly his equal. This it seems was his general
character at the university; and it gained him many friends among the
more learned; while those who did not love him, feared him, by reason
of the offence his vivacity made him too ready to give, and of the
courage he shewed in supporting the offence when given; which procured
him as many followers as he pleased among the mischievous sort.--No
very amiable character, you'll say, upon the whole.
But my brother's temper was not more happy. His native haughtiness
could not bear a superiority so visible; and whom we fear more than
love, we are not far from hating: and having less command of his
passions than the other, he was evermore the subject of his perhaps
indecent ridicule: so that every body, either from love or fear,
siding with his antagonist, he had a most uneasy time of it while both
continued in the same college.--It was the less wonder therefore that
a young man who is not noted for the gentleness of his temper, should
resume an antipathy early begun, and so deeply rooted.
He found my sister, who waited but for the occasion, ready to join him
in his resentments against the man he hated. She utterly disclaimed
all manner of regard for him: 'Never liked him at all:--His estate was
certainly much incumbered: it was impossible it should be otherwise;
so entirely devoted as he was to his pleasures. He kept no house; had
no equipage: Nobody pretended that he wanted pride: the reason
therefore was easy to be guessed at.' And then did she boast of, and
my brother praised her for, refusing him: and both joined on all
occasions to depreciate him, and not seldom made the occasions; their
displeasure against him causing every subject to run into this, if it
began not with it.
I was not solicitous to vindicate him when I was not joined in their
reflection. I told them I did not value him enough to make a
difference in the family on his account: and as he was supposed to
have given much cause for their ill opinion of him, I thought he ought
to take the consequence of his own faults.
Now and then indeed, when I observed that their vehemence carried them
beyond all bounds of probability in their charges against him, I
thought it but justice to put in a word for him. But this only
subjected me to reproach, as having a prepossession in his favour
which I would not own.--So that, when I could not change the subject,
I used to retire either to my music, or to my closet.
Their behaviour to him, when they could not help seeing him, was very
cold and disobliging; but as yet not directly affrontive. For they
were in hopes of prevailing upon my father to forbid his visits. But
as there was nothing in his behaviour, that might warrant such a
treatment of a man of his birth and fortune, they succeeded not: And
then they were very earnest with me to forbid them. I asked, what
authority I had to take such a step in my father's house; and when my
behaviour to him was so distant, that he seemed to be as much the
guest of any other person of the family, themselves excepted, as
mine?--In revenge, they told me, that it was cunning management
between us; and that we both understood one another better than we
pretended to do. And at last they gave such a loose to their
passions, all of a sudden* as I may say, that instead of withdrawing,
as they used to do when he came, they threw themselves in his way
purposely to affront him.
* The reason of this their more openly shown animosity is given in
Mr. Lovelace, you may believe, very ill brooked this: but nevertheless
contented himself to complain of it to me: in high terms, however,
telling me, that but for my sake my brother's treatment of him was not
to be borne.
I was sorry for the merit this gave him in his own opinion with me:
and the more, as some of the affronts he received were too flagrant to
be excused: But I told him, that I was determined not to fall out with
my brother, if I could help it, whatever faults he had: and since they
could not see one another with temper, should be glad that he would
not throw himself in my brother's way; and I was sure my brother would
not seek him.
He was very much nettled at this answer: But said, he must bear his
affronts if I would have it so. He had been accused himself of
violence in his temper; but he hoped to shew on this occasion that he
had a command of his passions which few young men, so highly provoked,
would be able to shew; and doubted not but it would be attributed to a
proper motive by a person of my generosity and penetration.
My brother had just before, with the approbation of my uncles,
employed a person related to a discharged bailiff or steward of Lord
M. who had had the management of some part of Mr. Lovelace's affairs
(from which he was also dismissed by him) to inquire into his debts,
after his companions, into his amours, and the like.
My aunt Hervey, in confidence, gave me the following particulars of
what the man had said of him.
'That he was a generous landlord: that he spared nothing for solid and
lasting improvements upon his estate; and that he looked into his own
affairs, and understood them: that he had been very expensive when
abroad; and contracted a large debt (for he made no secret of his
affairs); yet chose to limit himself to an annual sum, and to decline
equipage, in order to avoid being obliged to his uncle and aunts; from
whom he might have what money he pleased; but that he was very jealous
of their controul; had often quarrels with them; and treated them so
freely, that they were all afraid of him. However, that his estate
was never mortgaged, as my brother had heard it was; his credit was
always high; and the man believed, he was by this time near upon, if
not quite, clear of the world.
'He was a sad gentleman, he said, as to women:--If his tenants had
pretty daughters, they chose to keep them out of his sight. He
believed he kept no particular mistress; for he had heard newelty,
that was the man's word, was every thing with him. But for his
uncle's and aunt's teazings, the man fancied he would not think of
marriage: he was never known to be disguised with liquor; but was a
great plotter, and a great writer: That he lived a wild life in town,
by what he had heard: had six or seven companions as bad as himself;
whom now and then he brought down with him; and the country was always
glad when they went up again. He would have it, that although
passionate, he was good-humoured; loved as well to take a jest as to
give one; and would rally himself upon occasion the freest of any man
he ever knew.'
This was his character from an enemy; for, as my aunt observed, every
thing the man said commendably of him came grudgingly, with a must
needs say--to do him justice, &c. while the contrary was delivered
with a free good-will. And this character, as a worse was expected,
though this was bad enough, not answering the end of inquiring after
it, my brother and sister were more apprehensive than before, that his
address would be encouraged, since the worst part of it was known, or
supposed, when he was first introduced to my sister.
But, with regard to myself, I must observe in his disfavour, that,
notwithstanding the merit he wanted to make with me for his patience
upon my brother's ill-treatment of him, I owed him no compliments for
trying to conciliate with him. Not that I believe it would have
signified any thing if he had made ever such court either to him or to
my sister: yet one might have expected from a man of his politeness,
and from his pretensions, you know, that he would have been willing to
try. Instead of which, he shewed such a contempt both of my brother
and my sister, especially my brother, as was construed into a defiance
of them. And for me to have hinted at an alteration in his behaviour
to my brother, was an advantage I knew he would have been proud of;
and which therefore I had no mind to give him. But I doubted not that
having so very little encouragement from any body, his pride would
soon take fire, and he would of himself discontinue his visits, or go
to town; where, till he came acquainted with our family, he used
chiefly to reside: And in this latter case he had no reason to expect,
that I would receive, much less answer, his Letters: the occasions
which had led me to receive any of his, being by this time over.
But my brother's antipathy would not permit him to wait for such an
event; and after several excesses, which Mr. Lovelace still returned
with contempt, and a haughtiness too much like that of the aggressor,
my brother took upon himself to fill up the door-way once when he
came, as if to oppose his entrance: And upon his asking for me,
demanded, what his business was with his sister?
The other, with a challenging air, as my brother says, told him, he
would answer a gentleman any question; but he wished that Mr. James
Harlowe, who had of late given himself high airs, would remember that
he was not now at college.
Just then the good Dr. Lewen, who frequently honours me with a visit
of conversation, as he is pleased to call it, and had parted with me
in my own parlour, came to the door: and hearing the words,
interposed; both having their hands upon their swords: and telling Mr.
Lovelace where I was, he burst by my brother, to come to me; leaving
him chafing, he said, like a hunted boar at bay.
This alarmed us all. My father was pleased to hint to Mr. Lovelace,
that he wished he would discontinue his visits for the peace-sake of
the family: And I, by his command, spoke a great deal plainer.
But Mr. Lovelace is a man not easily brought to give up his purpose,
especially in a point wherein he pretends his heart is so much
engaged: and no absolute prohibition having been given, things went on
for a little while as before: for I saw plainly, that to have denied
myself to his visits (which however I declined receiving as often as I
could) was to bring forward some desperate issue between the two;
since the offence so readily given on one side was brooked by the
other only out of consideration to me.
And thus did my brother's rashness lay me under an obligation where I
would least have owed it.
The intermediate proposals of Mr. Symmes and Mr. Mullins, both (in
turn) encouraged by my brother, induced him to be more patient for a
while, as nobody thought me over-forward in Mr. Lovelace's favour; for
he hoped that he should engage my father and uncles to approve of the
one or the other in opposition to the man he hated. But when he found
that I had interest enough to disengage myself from the addresses of
those gentlemen, as I had (before he went to Scotland, and before Mr.
Lovelace visited here) of Mr. Wyerley's, he then kept no measures: and
first set himself to upbraid me for supposed prepossession, which he
treated as if it were criminal; and then to insult Mr. Lovelace in
person, at Mr. Edward Symmes's, the brother of the other Symmes, two
miles off; and no good Dr. Lewen being there to interpose, the unhappy
rencounter followed. My brother was disarmed, as you have heard; and
on being brought home, and giving us ground to suppose he was much
worse hurt than he really was, and a fever ensuing, every one flamed
out; and all was laid at my door.
Mr. Lovelace for three days together sent twice each day to inquire
after my brother's health; and although he received rude and even
shocking returns, he thought fit on the fourth day to make in person
the same inquiries; and received still greater incivilities from my
two uncles, who happened to be both there. My father also was held by
force from going to him with his sword in his hand, although he had
the gout upon him.
I fainted away with terror, seeing every one so violent, and hearing
Mr. Lovelace swear that he would not depart till he had made my uncles
ask his pardon for the indignities he had received at their hands; a
door being held fast locked between him and them. My mother all the
time was praying and struggling to with-hold my father in the great
parlour. Meanwhile my sister, who had treated Mr. Lovelace with
virulence, came in to me, and insulted me as fast as I recovered. But
when Mr. Lovelace was told how ill I was, he departed; nevertheless
He was ever a favourite with our domestics. His bounty to them, and
having always something facetious to say to each, had made them all of
his party: and on this occasion they privately blamed every body else,
and reported his calm and gentlemanly behaviour (till the provocations
given him ran very high) in such favourable terms, that those reports,
and my apprehensions of the consequence of this treatment, induced me
to read a letter he sent me that night; and, it being written in the
most respectful terms (offering to submit the whole to my decision,
and to govern himself entirely by my will) to answer it some days
To this unhappy necessity was owing our renewed correspondence, as I
may call it; yet I did not write till I had informed myself from Mr.
Symmes's brother, that he was really insulted into the act of drawing
his sword by my brother's repeatedly threatening (upon his excusing
himself out of regard to me) to brand me ir he did not; and, by all
the inquiry I could make, that he was again the sufferer from my
uncles in a more violent manner than I have related.
The same circumstances were related to my father and other relations
by Mr. Symmes; but they had gone too far in making themselves parties
to the quarrel either to retract or forgive; and I was forbidden to
correspond with him, or to be seen a moment in his company.
One thing however I can say, but that in confidence, because my mother
commanded me not to mention it:--That, expressing her apprehension of
the consequences of the indignities offered to Mr. Lovelace, she told
me, she would leave it to my prudence to do all I could to prevent the
impending mischief on one side.
I am obliged to break off. But I believe I have written enough to
answer very fully all that you have required of me. It is not for a
child to seek to clear her own character, or to justify her actions,
at the expense of the most revered ones: yet, as I know that the
account of all those further proceedings by which I may be affected,
will be interesting to so dear a friend (who will communicate to
others no more than what is fitting) I will continue to write, as I
have opportunity, as minutely as we are used to write to each other.
Indeed I have no delight, as I have often told you, equal to that which
I take in conversing with you by letter, when I cannot in person.
Mean time, I cannot help saying, that I am exceedingly concerned to
find, that I am become so much the public talk as you tell me I am.
Your kind, your precautionary regard for my fame, and the opportunity
you have given me to tell my own story previous to any new accident
(which heaven avert!) is so like the warm friend I have ever found in
my dear Miss Howe, that, with redoubled obligation, you bind me to be
Your ever grateful and affectionate, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
Copy of the requested Preamble to the clauses in her Grandfather's
Will: inclosed in the preceding Letter.
As the particular estate I have mentioned and described above, is
principally of my own raising: as my three sons have been uncommonly
prosperous; and are very rich: the eldest by means of the unexpected
benefits he reaps from his new found mines; the second, by what has,
as unexpectedly, fallen in to him on the deaths of several relations
of his present wife, the worthy daughter by both sides of very
honourable families; over and above the very large portion which he
received with her in marriage: my son Antony by his East-India
traffic, and successful voyages: as furthermore my grandson James will
be sufficiently provided for by his grandmother Lovell's kindness to
him; who, having no near relations, hath assured me, that she hath, as
well by deed of gift as by will, left him both her Scottish and
English estates: for never was there a family more prosperous in all
its branches, blessed be God therefore: and as my said son James will
very probably make it up to my grand-daughter Arabella; to whom I
intend no disrespect; nor have reason; for she is a very hopeful and
dutiful child: and as my sons, John and Antony, seem not inclined to a
married life; so that my son James is the only one who has children,
or is likely to have any. For all these reasons; and because my
dearest and beloved grand-daughter Clarissa hath been from her infancy
a matchless young creature in her duty to me, and admired by all who
knew her, as a very extraordinary child; I must therefore take the
pleasure of considering her as my own peculiar child; and this without
intending offence; and I hope it will not be taken as any, since my
son James can bestow his favours accordingly, and in greater
proportion, upon his son James, and upon his daughter Arabella.--
These, I say, are the reasons which move me to dispose of the above- described estate in the precious child's favour; who is the delight of
my old age: and, I verily think, has contributed, by her amiable duty
and kind and tender regards, to prolong my life.
Wherefore it is my express will and commandment, and I enjoin my said
three sons, John, James, and Antony, and my grandson James, and my
grand-daughter Arabella, as they value my blessing, and will regard my
memory, and would wish their own last wills and desires to be fulfilled
by their survivors, that they will not impugn or contest the following
bequests and devises in favour of my said grand-daughter Clarissa,
although they should not be strictly conformable to law or to the forms
thereof; nor suffer them to be controverted or disputed on any pretence
And in this confidence, &c. &c. &c.