Letter XV


I have both your letters at once. It is very unhappy, my dear, since

your friends will have you marry, that a person of your merit should

be addressed by a succession of worthless creatures, who have nothing

but their presumption for their excuse.

That these presumers appear not in this very unworthy light to some of

your friends, is, because their defects are not so striking to them as

to others.--And why? Shall I venture to tell you?--Because they are

nearer their own standard--Modesty, after all, perhaps has a concern

in it; for how should they think that a niece or sister of theirs [I

will not go higher, for fear of incurring your displeasure] should be

an angel?

But where indeed is the man to be found (who has the least share of

due diffidence) that dares to look up to Miss Clarissa Harlowe with

hope, or with any thing but wishes? Thus the bold and forward, not

being sensible of their defects, aspire; while the modesty of the

really worthy fills them with too much reverence to permit them to

explain themselves. Hence your Symmes's, your Byron's, your

Mullins's, your Wyerley's (the best of the herd), and your Solmes's,

in turn, invade you--Wretches that, looking upon the rest of your

family, need not despair of succeeding in an alliance with it--But to

you, what an inexcusable presumption!

Yet I am afraid all opposition will be in vain. You must, you will, I

doubt, be sacrificed to this odious man. I know your family. There

will be no resisting such baits as he has thrown out. O, my dear, my

beloved friend! and are such charming qualities, is such exalted

merit, to be sunk in such a marriage!--You must not, your uncle tells

your mother, dispute their authority. AUTHORITY! what a full word is

that in the mouth of a narrow-minded person, who happened to be born

thirty years before one!--Of your uncles I speak; for as to the

paternal authority, that ought to be sacred.--But should not parents

have reason for what they do?

Wonder not, however, at your Bell's unsisterly behaviour in this

affair: I have a particular to add to the inducements your insolent

brother is governed by, which will account for all her driving. You

have already owned, that her outward eye was from the first struck

with the figure and address of the man whom she pretends to despise,

and who, 'tis certain, thoroughly despises her: but you have not told

me, that still she loves him of all men. Bell has a meanness in her

very pride; that meanness rises with her pride, and goes hand in hand

with it; and no one is so proud as Bell. She has owned her love, her

uneasy days, and sleepless nights, and her revenge grafted upon her

love, to her favourite Betty Barnes--To lay herself in the power of a

servant's tongue! Poor creature!--But LIKE little souls will find one

another out, and mingle, as well as LIKE great ones. This, however,

she told the wench in strict confidence: and thus, by way of the

female round-about, as Lovelace had the sauciness on such another

occasion, in ridicule of our sex, to call it, Betty (pleased to be

thought worthy of a secret, and to have an opportunity of inveighing

against Lovelace's perfidy, as she would have it to be) told it to one

of her confidants: that confidant, with like injunctions of secrecy,

to Miss Lloyd's Harriot--Harriot to Miss Lloyd--Miss Lloyd to me--I to

you--with leave to make what you please of it.

And now you will not wonder to find Miss Bell an implacable rival,

rather than an affectionate sister; and will be able to account for

the words witchcraft, syren, and such like, thrown out against you;

and for her driving on for a fixed day for sacrificing you to Solmes:

in short, for her rudeness and violence of every kind.

What a sweet revenge will she take, as well upon Lovelace as upon you,

if she can procure her rival sister to be married to the man that

sister hates; and so prevent her having the man whom she herself loves

(whether she have hope of him or not), and whom she suspects her

sister loves!

Poisons and poniard have often been set to work by minds inflamed by

disappointed love, and actuated by revenge.--Will you wonder, then,

that the ties of relationship in such a case have no force, and that a

sister forgets to be a sister?

Now I know this to be her secret motive, (the more grating to her, as

her pride is concerned to make her disavow it), and can consider it

joined with her former envy, and as strengthened by a brother, who has

such an ascendant over the whole family; and whose interest (slave to

it as he always was) engaged him to ruin you with every one: both

possessed of the ears of all your family, and having it as much in

their power as in their will to misrepresent all you say, all you do;

such subject also as to the rencounter, and Lovelace's want of morals,

to expatiate upon: your whole family likewise avowedly attached to the

odious man by means of the captivating proposals he has made them;-- when I consider all these things, I am full of apprehensions for you. --O my dear, how will you be able to maintain your ground;--I am sure,

(alas! I am too sure) that they will subdue such a fine spirit as

yours, unused to opposition; and (tell it not in Gath) you must be

Mrs. Solmes!

Mean time, it is now easy, as you will observe, to guess from what

quarter the report I mentioned to you in one of my former, came, That

the younger sister has robbed the elder of her lover:* for Betty

whispered it, at the time she whispered the rest, that neither

Lovelace nor you had done honourably by her young mistress.--How

cruel, my dear, in you, to rob the poor Bella of the only lover she

only had!--At the instant too that she was priding herself, that now

at last she should have it in her power not only to gratify her own

susceptibilities, but to give an example to the flirts of her sex**

(my worship's self in her eye) how to govern their man with a silken

rein, and without a curb-bridle!

* Letter I. ** Letter II.

Upon the whole, I have now no doubt of their persevering in favour of

the despicable Solmes; and of their dependence upon the gentleness of

your temper, and the regard you have for their favour, and for your

own reputation. And now I am more than ever convinced of the

propriety of the advice I formerly gave you, to keep in your own hands

the estate bequeathed to you by your grandfather.--Had you done so, it

would have procured you at least an outward respect from your brother

and sister, which would have made them conceal the envy and ill-will

that now are bursting upon you from hearts so narrow.

I must harp a little more upon this string--Do not you observe, how

much your brother's influence has overtopped yours, since he has got

into fortunes so considerable, and since you have given some of them

an appetite to continue in themselves the possession of your estate,

unless you comply with their terms?

I know your dutiful, your laudable motives; and one would have

thought, that you might have trusted to a father who so dearly loved

you. But had you been actually in possession of that estate, and

living up to it, and upon it, (your youth protected from blighting

tongues by the company of your prudent Norton, as you had proposed,)

do you think that your brother, grudging it to you at the time as he

did, and looking upon it as his right as an only son, would have been

practising about it, and aiming at it? I told you some time ago, that

I thought your trials but proportioned to your prudence:* but you will

be more than woman, if you can extricate yourself with honour, having

such violent spirits and sordid minds in some, and such tyrannical and

despotic wills in others, to deal with. Indeed, all may be done, and

the world be taught further to admire you for your blind duty and

will-less resignation, if you can persuade yourself to be Mrs. Solmes.

* Letter I.

I am pleased with the instances you give me of Mr. Lovelace's

benevolence to his own tenants, and with his little gift to your

uncle's. Mrs. Fortescue allows him to be the best of landlords: I

might have told you that, had I thought it necessary to put you into

some little conceit of him. He has qualities, in short, that may make

him a tolerable creature on the other side of fifty: but God help the

poor woman to whose lot he shall fall till then! women, I should say,

perhaps; since he may break half-a-dozen hearts before that time.--But

to the point I was upon--Shall we not have reason to commend the

tenant's grateful honesty, if we are told, that with joy the poor man

called out your uncle, and on the spot paid him in part of his debt

those two guineas?--But what shall we say of that landlord, who,

though he knew the poor man to be quite destitute, could take it; and,

saying nothing while Mr. Lovelace staid, as soon as he was gone, tell

of it in praise of the poor fellow's honesty?--Were this so, and were

not that landlord related to my dearest friend, how should I despise

such a wretch?--But, perhaps, the story is aggravated. Covetous

people have every one's ill word: and so indeed they ought; because

they are only solicitous to keep that which they prefer to every one's

good one.--Covetous indeed would they be, who deserved neither, yet

expected both!

I long for your next letter. Continue to be as particular as

possible. I can think of no other subject but what relates to you and

to your affairs: for I am, and ever will be, most affectionately,

Your own, ANNA HOWE.