Letter XLII


An angry dialogue, a scolding-bout rather, has passed between my

sister and me. Did you think I could scold, my dear?

She was sent up to me, upon my refusal to see Mr. Solmes--let loose

upon me, I think!--No intention on their parts to conciliate! It

seems evident that I am given up to my brother and her, by general


I will do justice to every thing she said against me, which carried

any force with it. As I ask for your approbation or disapprobation of

my conduct, upon the facts I lay before you, I should think it the

sign of a very bad cause, if I endeavoured to mislead my judge.

She began with representing to me the danger I had been in, had my

father come up, as he would have done had he not been hindered--by Mr.

Solmes, among the rest. She reflected upon my Norton, as if she

encouraged me in my perverseness. She ridiculed me for my supposed

esteem for Mr. Lovelace--was surprised that the witty, the prudent,

nay, the dutiful and pi--ous [so she sneeringly pronounced the word]

Clarissa Harlowe, should be so strangely fond of a profligate man,

that her parents were forced to lock her up, in order to hinder her

from running into his arms. 'Let me ask you, my dear, said she, how

you now keep your account of the disposition of your time? How many

hours in the twenty-four do you devote to your needle? How many to

your prayers? How many to letter-writing? And how many to love?--I

doubt, I doubt, my little dear, was her arch expression, the latter

article is like Aaron's rod, and swallows up the rest!--Tell me; is it

not so?'

To these I answered, That it was a double mortification to me to owe

my safety from the effects of my father's indignation to a man I could

never thank for any thing. I vindicated the good Mrs. Norton with a

warmth that was due to her merit. With equal warmth I resented her

reflections upon me on Mr. Lovelace's account. As to the disposition

of my time in the twenty-four hours, I told her it would better have

become her to pity a sister in distress, than to exult over her-- especially, when I could too justly attribute to the disposition of

some of her wakeful hours no small part of that distress.

She raved extremely at this last hint: but reminded me of the gentle

treatment of all my friends, my mother's in particular, before it came

to this. She said, that I had discovered a spirit they never had

expected: that, if they had thought me such a championess, they would

hardly have ventured to engage with me: but that now, the short and

the long of it was, that the matter had gone too far to be given up:

that it was become a contention between duty and willfulness; whether

a parent's authority were to yield to a daughter's obstinacy, or the

contrary: that I must therefore bend or break, that was all, child.

I told her, that I wished the subject were of such a nature, that I

could return her pleasantry with equal lightness of heart: but that,

if Mr. Solmes had such merit in every body's eyes, in hers,

particularly, why might he not be a brother to me, rather than a


O child, says she, methinks you are as pleasant to the full as I am: I

begin to have some hopes of you now. But do you think I will rob my

sister of her humble servant? Had he first addressed himself to me,

proceeded she, something might have been said: but to take my younger

sister's refusal! No, no, child; it is not come to that neither!

Besides, that would be to leave the door open in your heart for you

know who, child; and we would fain bar him out, if possible. In short

[and then she changed both her tone and her looks] had I been as

forward as somebody, to throw myself into the arms of one of the

greatest profligates in England, who had endeavoured to support his

claim to me through the blood of my brother, then might all my family

join together to save me from such a wretch, and to marry me as fast

as they could, to some worthy man, who might opportunely offer

himself. And now, Clary, all's out, and make the most of it.

Did not this deserve a severe return? Do, say it did, to justify my

reply.--Alas! for my poor sister! said I--The man was not always so

great a profligate. How true is the observation, That unrequited love

turns to deepest hate!

I thought she would beat me. But I proceeded--I have heard often of

my brother's danger, and my brother's murderer. When so little

ceremony is made with me, why should I not speak out?--Did he not seek

to kill the other, if he could have done it? Would my brother have

given Lovelace his life, had it been in his power?--The aggressor

should not complain.--And, as to opportune offers, would to Heaven

some one had offered opportunely to somebody! It is not my fault,

Bella, the opportune gentleman don't come!

Could you, my dear, have shewn more spirit? I expected to feel the

weight of her hand. She did come up to me, with it held up: then,

speechless with passion, ran half way down the stairs, and came up


When she could speak--God give me patience with you!

Amen, said I: but you see, Bella, how ill you bear the retort you

provoke. Will you forgive me; and let me find a sister in you, as I

am sorry, if you had reason to think me unsisterly in what I have


Then did she pour upon me, with greater violence; considering my

gentleness as a triumph of temper over her. She was resolved, she

said, to let every body know how I took the wicked Lovelace's part

against my brother.

I wished, I told her, I could make the plea for myself, which she

might for herself; to wit, that my anger was more inexcusable than my

judgment. But I presumed she had some other view in coming to me,

than she had hitherto acquainted me with. Let me, said I, but know

(after all that has passed) if you have any thing to propose that I

can comply with; any thing that can make my only sister once more my


I had before, upon hearing her ridiculing me on my supposed character

of meekness, said, that, although I wished to be thought meek, I would

not be abject; although humble not mean: and here, in a sneering way,

she cautioned me on that head.

I replied, that her pleasantry was much more agreeable than her anger.

But I wished she would let me know the end of a visit that had

hitherto (between us) been so unsisterly.

She desired to be informed, in the name of every body, was her word,

what I was determined upon? And whether to comply or not?--One word

for all: My friends were not to have patience with so perverse a

creature for ever.

This then I told her I would do: Absolutely break with the man they

were all so determined against: upon condition, however, that neither

Mr. Solmes, nor any other, were urged upon me with the force of a


And what was this, more than I had offered before? What, but ringing

my changes upon the same bells, and neither receding nor advancing one


If I knew what other proposals I could make, I told her, that would be

acceptable to them all, and free me from the address of a man so

disagreeable to me, I would make them. I had indeed before offered,

never to marry without my father's consent--

She interrupted me, That was because I depended upon my whining tricks

to bring my father and mother to what I pleased.

A poor dependence! I said:--She knew those who would make that

dependence vain--

And I should have brought them to my own beck, very probably, and my

uncle Harlowe too, as also my aunt Hervey, had I not been forbidden

from their sight, and thereby hindered from playing my pug's tricks

before them.

At least, Bella, said I, you have hinted to me to whom I am obliged,

that my father and mother, and every body else, treat me thus harshly.

But surely you make them all very weak. Indifferent persons, judging

of us two from what you say, would either think me a very artful

creature, or you a very spiteful one--

You are indeed a very artful one, for that matter, interrupted she in

a passion: one of the artfullest I ever knew! And then followed an

accusation so low! so unsisterly!--That I half-bewitched people by my

insinuating address: that nobody could be valued or respected, but

must stand like ciphers wherever I came. How often, said she, have I

and my brother been talking upon a subject, and had every body's

attention, till you came in, with your bewitching meek pride, and

humble significance? And then have we either been stopped by

references to Miss Clary's opinion, forsooth; or been forced to stop

ourselves, or must have talked on unattended to by every body.

She paused. Dear Bella, proceed!

She indeed seemed only gathering breath.

And so I will, said she--Did you not bewitch my grandfather? Could

any thing be pleasing to him, that you did not say or do? How did he

use to hang, till he slabbered again, poor doting old man! on your

silver tongue! Yet what did you say, that we could not have said?

What did you do, that we did not endeavour to do?--And what was all

this for? Why, truly, his last will shewed what effect your smooth

obligingness had upon him!--To leave the acquired part of his estate

from the next heirs, his own sons, to a grandchild; to his youngest

grandchild! A daughter too!--To leave the family-pictures from his

sons to you, because you could tiddle about them, and, though you now

neglect their examples, could wipe and clean them with your dainty

hands! The family-plate too, in such quantities, of two or three

generations standing, must not be changed, because his precious

child,* humouring his old fal-lal taste, admired it, to make it all

her own.

* Alluding to his words in the preamble to the clauses in his will.

See Letter IV.

This was too low to move me: O my poor sister! said I: not to be able,

or at least willing, to distinguish between art and nature! If I did

oblige, I was happy in it: I looked for no further reward: my mind is

above art, from the dirty motives you mention. I wish with all my

heart my grandfather had not thus distinguished me; he saw my brother

likely to be amply provided for out of the family, as well as in it:

he desired that you might have the greater share of my father's favour

for it; and no doubt but you both have. You know, Bella, that the

estate my grandfather bequeathed me was not half the real estate he


What's all that to an estate in possession, and left you with such

distinctions, as gave you a reputation of greater value than the

estate itself?

Hence my misfortune, Bella, in your envy, I doubt!--But have I not

given up that possession in the best manner I could--

Yes, interrupting me, she hated me for that best manner. Specious

little witch! she called me: your best manner, so full of art and

design, had never been seen through, if you, with your blandishing

ways, have not been put out of sight, and reduced to positive

declarations!--Hindered from playing your little declarations!-- Hindered from playing your little whining tricks! curling, like a

serpent about your mamma; and making her cry to deny you any thing

your little obstinate heart was set upon!--

Obstinate heart, Bella!

Yes, obstinate heart! For did you ever give up any thing? Had you

not the art to make them think all was right you asked, though my

brother and I were frequently refused favours of no greater import!

I know not, Bella, that I ever asked any thing unfit to be granted. I

seldom asked favours for myself, but for others.

I was a reflecting creature for this.

All you speak of, Bella, was a long time ago. I cannot go so far back

into our childish follies. Little did I think of how long standing

your late-shewn antipathy is.

I was a reflector again! Such a saucy meekness; such a best manner;

and such venom in words!--O Clary! Clary! Thou wert always a

two-faced girl!

Nobody thought I had two faces, when I gave up all into my father's

management; taking from his bounty, as before, all my little

pocket-money, without a shilling addition to my stipend, or desiring


Yes, cunning creature!--And that was another of your fetches!--For did

it not engage my fond father (as no doubt you thought it would) to

tell you, that since you had done so grateful and dutiful a thing, he

would keep entire, for your use, all the produce of the estate left

you, and be but your steward in it; and that you should be entitled to

the same allowances as before? Another of your hook-in's, Clary!--So

that all your extravagancies have been supported gratis.

My extravagancies, Bella!--But did my father ever give me any thing he

did not give you?

Yes, indeed; I got more by that means, than I should have had the

conscience to ask. But I have still the greater part to shew! But

you! What have you to shew?--I dare say, not fifty pieces in the


Indeed I have not!

I believe you!--Your mamma Norton, I suppose--But mum for that!--

Unworthy Bella! The good woman, although low in circumstance, is

great in mind! Much greater than those who would impute meanness to a

soul incapable of it.

What then have you done with the sums given you from infancy to

squander?--Let me ask you [affecting archness], Has, has, has

Lovelace, has your rake, put it out at interest for you?

O that my sister would not make me blush for her! It is, however, out

at interest!--And I hope it will bring me interest upon interest!-- Better than to lie useless in my cabinet.

She understood me, she said. Were I a man, she should suppose I was

aiming to carry the county--Popularity! A crowd to follow me with

their blessings as I went to and from church, and nobody else to be

regarded, were agreeable things. House-top-proclamations! I hid not

my light under a bushel, she would say that for me. But was it not a

little hard upon me, to be kept from blazing on a Sunday?--And to be

hindered from my charitable ostentations?

This, indeed, Bella, is cruel in you, who have so largely contributed

to my confinement.--But go on. You'll be out of breath by-and-by. I

cannot wish to be able to return this usage.--Poor Bella! And I

believe I smiled a little too contemptuously for a sister to a sister.

None of your saucy contempts [rising in her voice]: None of your poor

Bella's, with that air of superiority in a younger sister!

Well then, rich Bella! courtesying--that will please you better--and

it is due likewise to the hoards you boast of.

Look ye, Clary, holding up her hand, if you are not a little more

abject in your meekness, a little more mean in your humility, and

treat me with the respect due to an elder sister--you shall find--

Not that you will treat me worse than you have done, Bella!--That

cannot be; unless you were to let fall your uplifted hand upon me--and

that would less become you to do, than me to bear.

Good, meek creature:--But you were upon your overtures just now!--I

shall surprise every body by tarrying so long. They will think some

good may be done with you--and supper will be ready.

A tear would stray down my cheek--How happy have I been, said I,

sighing, in the supper-time conversations, with all my dear friends in

my eye round their hospitable board.

I met only with insult for this--Bella has not a feeling heart. The

highest joy in this life she is not capable of: but then she saves

herself many griefs, by her impenetrableness--yet, for ten times the

pain that such a sensibility is attended with, would I not part with

the pleasure it brings with it.

She asked me, upon my turning from her, if she should not say any

thing below of my compliances?

You may say, that I will do every thing they would have me do, if they

will free me from Mr. Solmes's address.

This is all you desire at present, creeper on! insinuator! [What words

she has!] But will not t'other man flame out, and roar most horribly,

upon the snatching from his paws a prey he thought himself sure of?

I must let you talk in your own way, or we shall never come to a

point. I shall not matter in his roaring, as you call it. I will

promise him, that, if I ever marry any other man, it shall not be till

he is married. And if he be not satisfied with such a condescension,

I shall think he ought: and I will give any assurances, that I will

neither correspond with him, nor see him. Surely this will do.

But I suppose then you will have no objection to see and converse, on

a civil footing, with Mr. Solmes--as your father's friend, or so?

No! I must be permitted to retire to my apartment whenever he comes.

I would no more converse with the one, than correspond with the other.

That would be to make Mr. Lovelace guilty of some rashness, on a

belief, that I broke with him, to have Mr. Solmes.

And so, that wicked wretch is to be allowed such a controul over you,

that you are not to be civil to your father's friends, at his own

house, for fear of incensing him!--When this comes to be represented,

be so good as to tell me, what is it you expect from it!

Every thing, I said, or nothing, as she was pleased to represent it.-- Be so good as to give it your interest, Bella, and say, further, 'That

I will by any means I can, in the law or otherwise, make over to my

father, to my uncles, or even to my brother, all I am entitled to by

my grandfather's will, as a security for the performance of my

promises. And as I shall have no reason to expect any favour from my

father, if I break them, I shall not be worth any body's having. And

further still, unkindly as my brother has used me, I will go down to

Scotland privately, as his housekeeper [I now see I may be spared

here] if he will promise to treat me no worse than he would do an

hired one.--Or I will go to Florence, to my cousin Morden, if his stay

in Italy will admit of it. In either case, it may be given out, that

I am gone to the other; or to the world's end. I care not whither it

is said I am gone, or do go.'

Let me ask you, child, if you will give your pretty proposal in


Yes, with all my heart. And I stepped to my closet, and wrote to the

purpose I have mentioned; and moreover, the following lines to my



I hope I have made such proposals to my sister as will be accepted. I

am sure they will, if you please to give them your sanction. Let me

beg of you, for God's sake, that you will. I think myself very

unhappy in having incurred your displeasure. No sister can love a

brother better than I love you. Pray do not put the worst but the

best constructions upon my proposals, when you have them reported to

you. Indeed I mean the best. I have no subterfuges, no arts, no

intentions, but to keep to the letter of them. You shall yourself

draw up every thing into writing, as strong as you can, and I will

sign it: and what the law will not do to enforce it, my resolution and

my will shall: so that I shall be worth nobody's address, that has not

my papa's consent: nor shall any person, nor any consideration, induce

me to revoke it. You can do more than any body to reconcile my

parents and uncles to me. Let me owe this desirable favour to your

brotherly interposition, and you will for ever oblige

Your afflicted Sister, CL. HARLOWE.


And how do you think Bella employed herself while I was writing?--Why,

playing gently upon my harpsichord; and humming to it, to shew her


When I approached her with what I had written, she arose with an air

of levity--Why, love, you have not written already!--You have, I

protest!--O what a ready penwoman!--And may I read it?

If you please. And let me beseech you, my dear Bella, to back these

proposals with your good offices: and [folding my uplifted hands;

tears, I believe, standing in my eyes] I will love you as never sister

loved another.

Thou art a strange creature, said she; there is no withstanding thee.

She took the proposals and letter; and having read them, burst into an

affected laugh: How wise ones may be taken in!--Then you did not know,

that I was jesting with you all this time!--And so you would have me

carry down this pretty piece of nonsense?

Don't let me be surprised at your seeming unsisterliness, Bella. I

hope it is but seeming. There can be no wit in such jesting as this.

The folly of the creature!--How natural is it for people, when they

set their hearts upon any thing, to think every body must see with

their eyes!--Pray, dear child, what becomes of your father's authority

here?--Who stoops here, the parent, or the child?--How does this

square with engagements actually agreed upon between your father and

Mr. Solmes? What security, that your rake will not follow you to the

world's end?--Nevertheless, that you may not think that I stand in the

way of a reconciliation on such fine terms as these, I will be your

messenger this once, and hear what my papa will say to it; although

beforehand I can tell you, these proposals will not answer the

principal end.

So down she went. But, it seems, my aunt Hervey and my uncle Harlowe

were not gone away: and as they have all engaged to act in concert,

messengers were dispatched to my uncle and aunt to desire them to be

there to breakfast in the morning.


I am afraid I shall not be thought worthy--

Just as I began to fear I should not be thought worthy of an answer,

Betty rapped at my door, and said, if I were not in bed, she had a

letter for me. I had but just done writing the above dialogue, and

stept to the door with the pen in my hand--Always writing, Miss! said

the bold wench: it is admirable how you can get away what you write-- but the fairies, they say, are always at hand to help lovers.--She

retired in so much haste, that, had I been disposed, I could not take

the notice of this insolence which it deserved.

I enclose my brother's letter. He was resolved to let me see, that I

should have nothing to expect from his kindness. But surely he will

not be permitted to carry every point. The assembling of my friends

to-morrow is a good sign: and I will hope something from that, and

from proposals so reasonable. And now I will try if any repose will

fall to my lot for the remainder of this night.


Your proposals will be considered by your father and mother, and all

your friends, to-morrow morning. What trouble does your shameful

forwardness give us all! I wonder you have the courage to write to

me, upon whom you are so continually emptying your whole female

quiver. I have no patience with you, for reflecting upon me as the

aggressor in a quarrel which owed its beginning to my consideration

for you.

You have made such confessions in a villain's favour, as ought to

cause all your relations to renounce you for ever. For my part, I

will not believe any woman in the world, who promises against her

avowed inclination. To put it out of your power to ruin yourself is

the only way left to prevent your ruin. I did not intend to write;

but your too-kind sister has prevailed upon me. As to your going to

Scotland, that day of grace is over.--Nor would I advise, that you

should go to grandfather-up your cousin Morden. Besides, that worthy

gentleman might be involved in some fatal dispute, upon your account;

and then be called the aggressor.

A fine situation you have brought yourself to, to propose to hide

yourself from your rake, and to have falsehoods told, to conceal you! --Your confinement, at this rate, is the happiest thing that could

befal you. Your bravo's behaviour at church, looking out for you, is

a sufficient indication of his power over you, had you not so

shamelessly acknowledged it.

One word for all--Your parents and uncles may do as they will: but if,

for the honour of the family, I cannot carry this point, I will retire

to Scotland, and never see the face of any one of it more.



There's a brother!--There's flaming duty to a father, and mother, and

uncles!--But he sees himself valued, and made of consequence; and he

gives himself airs accordingly!--Nevertheless, as I said above, I will

hope better things from those who have not the interest my brother has

to keep open these unhappy differences.