Letter XLIV


My aunt Hervey lay here last night, and is but just gone from me. She

came up to me with my sister. They would not trust my aunt without

this ill-natured witness. When she entered my chamber, I told her,

that this visit was a high favour to a poor prisoner, in her hard

confinement. I kissed her hand. She, kindly saluting me, said, Why

this distance to your aunt, my dear, who loves you so well?

She owned, that she came to expostulate with me, for the peace-sake of

the family: for that she could not believe it possible, if I did not

conceive myself unkindly treated, that I, who had ever shewn such a

sweetness of temper, as well as manners, should be thus resolute, in a

point so very near to my father, and all my friends. My mother and

she were both willing to impute my resolution to the manner I had been

begun with; and to my supposing that my brother had originally more of

a hand in the proposals made by Mr. Solmes, than my father or other

friends. In short, fain would my aunt have furnished me with an

excuse to come off my opposition; Bell all the while humming a tune,

and opening this book and that, without meaning; but saying nothing.

After having shewed me, that my opposition could not be of

signification, my father's honour being engaged, my aunt concluded

with enforcing upon me my duty, in stronger terms than I believe she

would have done, (the circumstances of the case considered), had not

my sister been present.

It would be repeating what I have so often mentioned, to give you the

arguments that passed on both sides.--So I will only recite what she

was pleased to say, that carried with it a new face.

When she found me inflexible, as she was pleased to call it, she said,

For her part, she could not but say, that if I were not to have either

Mr. Solmes or Mr. Lovelace, and yet, to make my friends easy, must

marry, she should not think amiss of Mr. Wyerley. What did I think of

Mr. Wyerley?

Ay, Clary, put in my sister, what say you to Mr. Wyerley?

I saw through this immediately. It was said on purpose, I doubted

not, to have an argument against me of absolute prepossession in Mr.

Lovelace's favour: since Mr. Wyerley every where avows his value, even

to veneration, for me; and is far less exceptionable both in person

and mind, than Mr. Solmes: and I was willing to turn the tables, by

trying how far Mr. Solmes's terms might be dispensed with; since the

same terms could not be expected from Mr. Wyerley.

I therefore desired to know, whether my answer, if it should be in

favour of Mr. Wyerley, would release me from Mr. Solmes?--For I owned,

that I had not the aversion to him, that I had to the other.

Nay, she had no commission to propose such a thing. She only knew,

that my father and mother would not be easy till Mr. Lovelace's hopes

were entirely defeated.

Cunning creature! said my sister.

And this, and her joining in the question before, convinced me, that

it was a designed snare for me.

Don't you, dear Madam, said I, put questions that can answer no end,

but to support my brother's schemes against me.--But are there any

hopes of an end to my sufferings and disgrace, without having this

hated man imposed upon me? Will not what I have offered be accepted?

I am sure it ought--I will venture to say that.

Why, Niece, if there be not any such hopes, I presume you don't think

yourself absolved from the duty due from a child to her parents?

Yes, said my sister, I do not doubt but it is Miss Clary's aim, if she

does not fly to her Lovelace, to get her estate into her own hands,

and go to live at The Grove, in that independence upon which she

builds all her perverseness. And, dear heart! my little love, how

will you then blaze away! Your mamma Norton, your oracle, with your

poor at your gates, mingling so proudly and so meanly with the ragged

herd! Reflecting, by your ostentation, upon all the ladies in the

county, who do not as you do. This is known to be your scheme! and

the poor without-doors, and Lovelace within, with one hand building up

a name, pulling it down with the other!--O what a charming scheme is

this!--But let me tell you, my pretty little flighty one, that your

father's living will shall controul your grandfather's dead one; and

that estate will be disposed of as your fond grandfather would have

disposed of it, had he lived to see such a change in his favourite.

In a word, Miss, it will be kept out of your hands, till my father

sees you discreet enough to have the management of it, or till you can

dutifully, by law, tear it from him.

Fie, Miss Harlowe! said my aunt: this is not pretty to your sister.

O Madam, let her go on. This is nothing to what I have borne from

Miss Harlowe. She is either commissioned to treat me ill by her envy,

or by an higher authority, to which I must submit.--As to revoking the

estate, what hinders, if I pleased? I know my power; but have not the

least thought of exerting it. Be pleased to let my father know, that,

whatever be the consequence to myself, were he to turn me out of

doors, (which I should rather he would do, than to be confined and

insulted as I am), and were I to be reduced to indigence and want, I

would seek no relief that should be contrary to his will.

For that matter, child, said my aunt, were you to marry, you must do

as your husband will have you. If that husband be Mr. Lovelace, he

will be glad of any opportunity of further embroiling the families.

And, let me tell you, Niece, if he had the respect for you which he

pretends to have, he would not throw out defiances as he does. He is

known to be a very revengeful man; and were I you, Miss Clary, I

should be afraid he would wreak upon me that vengeance, though I had

not offended him, which he is continually threatening to pour upon the


Mr. Lovelace's threatened vengeance is in return for threatened

vengeance. It is not every body will bear insult, as, of late, I have

been forced to bear it.

O how my sister's face shone with passion!

But Mr. Lovelace, proceeded I, as I have said twenty and twenty times,

would be quite out of question with me, were I to be generously


My sister said something with great vehemence: but only raising my

voice, to be heard, without minding her, Pray, Madam, (provokingly

interrogated I), was he not known to have been as wild a man, when he

was at first introduced into our family, as he now is said to be? Yet

then, the common phrases of wild oats, and black oxen, and such-like,

were qualifiers; and marriage, and the wife's discretion, were to

perform wonders--but (turning to my sister) I find I have said too


O thou wicked reflecter!--And what made me abhor him, think you, but

the proof of those villainous freedoms that ought to have had the same

effect upon you, were you but half so good a creature as you pretend

to be?

Proof, did you say, Bella! I thought you had not proof?--But you know


Was not this very spiteful, my dear?

Now, Clary, said she, would I give a thousand pounds to know all that

is in thy little rancorous and reflecting heart at this moment.

I might let you know for a much less sum, and not be afraid of being

worse treated than I have been.

Well, young ladies, I am sorry to see passion run so high between you.

You know, Niece, (to me,) you had not been confined thus to your

apartment, could your mother by condescension, or your father by

authority, have been able to move you. But how can you expect, when

there must be a concession on one side, that it should be on theirs?

If my Dolly, who has not the hundredth part of your understanding,

were thus to set herself up in absolute contradiction to my will, in a

point so material, I should not take it well of her--indeed I should


I believe not, Madam: and if Miss Hervey had just such a brother, and

just such a sister [you may look, Bella!] and if both were to

aggravate her parents, as my brother and sister do mine--then,

perhaps, you might use her as I am used: and if she hated the man you

proposed to her, and with as much reason as I do Mr. Solmes--

And loved a rake and libertine, Miss, as you do Lovelace, said my


Then might she [continued I, not minding her,] beg to be excused from

obeying. Yet if she did, and would give you the most solemn

assurances, and security besides, that she would never have the man

you disliked, against your consent--I dare say, Miss Hervey's father

and mother would sit down satisfied, and not endeavour to force her


So!--[said my sister, with uplifted hands] father and mother now come

in for their share!

But if, child, replied my aunt, I knew she loved a rake, and suspected

that she sought only to gain time, in order to wire-draw me into a


I beg pardon, Madam, for interrupting you; but if Miss Hervey could

obtain your consent, what further would be said?

True, child; but she never should.

Then, Madam, it would never be.

That I doubt, Niece.

If you do, Madam, can you think confinement and ill usage is the way

to prevent the apprehended rashness?

My dear, this sort of intimation would make one but too apprehensive,

that there is no trusting to yourself, when one knows your


That apprehension, Madam, seems to have been conceived before this

intimation, or the least cause for it, was given. Why else the

disgraceful confinement I have been laid under?--Let me venture to

say, that my sufferings seem to be rather owing to a concerted design

to intimidate me [Bella held up her hands], (knowing there were too

good grounds for my opposition,) than to a doubt of my conduct; for,

when they were inflicted first, I had given no cause of doubt: nor

should there now be room for any, if my discretion might be trusted


My aunt, after a little hesitation, said, But, consider, my dear, what

confusion will be perpetuated in your family, if you marry this hated


And let it be considered, what misery to me, Madam, if I marry that

hated Solmes!

Many a young creature has thought she could not love a man, with whom

she has afterwards been very happy. Few women, child, marry their

first loves.

That may be the reason there are so few happy marriages.

But there are few first impressions fit to be encouraged.

I am afraid so too, Madam. I have a very indifferent opinion of light

and first impressions. But, as I have often said, all I wish for is,

to have leave to live single.

Indeed you must not, Miss. Your father and mother will be unhappy

till they see you married, and out of Lovelace's reach. I am told

that you propose to condition with him (so far are matters gone

between you) never to have any man, if you have not him.

I know no better way to prevent mischief on all sides, I freely own

it--and there is not, if he be out of the question, another man in the

world I can think favourably of. Nevertheless, I would give all I

have in the world, that he were married to some other person--indeed I

would, Bella, for all you put on that smile of incredulity.

May be so, Clary: but I will smile for all that.

If he be out of the question! repeated my aunt--So, Miss Clary, I see

how it is--I will go down--[Miss Harlowe, shall I follow you?]--And I

will endeavour to persuade your father to let my sister herself come

up: and a happier event may then result.

Depend upon it, Madam, said my sister, this will be the case: my

mother and she will both be in tears; but with this different effect:

my mother will come down softened, and cut to the heart; but will

leave her favourite hardened, from the advantages she will think she

has over my mother's tenderness--why, Madam, it is for this very

reason the girl is not admitted into her presence.

Thus she ran on, as she went downstairs.