MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE
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
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
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
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
* 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
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
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
MY DEAR BROTHER,
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
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
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.
MONDAY NIGHT, ELEVEN O'CLOCK.
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.
TO MISS CLARY HARLOWE [ENCLOSED IN THE PRECEDING.]
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
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.