MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE [HER PRECEDING NOT AT THAT TIME RECEIVED.] FRIDAY, MARCH 3.
O my dear friend, I have had a sad conflict! Trial upon trial;
conference upon conference!--But what law, what ceremony, can give a
man a right to a heart which abhors him more than it does any living
I hope my mother will be able to prevail for me.--But I will recount
it all, though I sit up the whole night to do it; for I have a vast
deal to write, and will be as minute as you wish me to be.
I concluded my last in a fright. It was occasioned by a conversation
that passed between my mother and my aunt, part of which Hannah
overheard. I need not give you the particulars; since what I have to
relate to you from different conversations that have passed between my
mother and me, in the space of a very few hours, will include them
all. I will begin then.
I went down this morning when breakfast was ready with a very uneasy
heart, from what Hannah had informed me of yesterday afternoon;
wishing for an opportunity, however, to appeal to my mother, in hopes
to engage her interest in my behalf, and purposing to try to find one
when she retired to her own apartment after breakfast: but, unluckily,
there was the odious Solmes, sitting asquat between my mother and
sister, with so much assurance in his looks!--But you know, my dear,
that those we love not, cannot do any thing to please us.
Had the wretch kept his seat, it might have been well enough: but the
bend and broad-shouldered creature must needs rise, and stalk towards
a chair, which was just by that which was set for me.
I removed it to a distance, as if to make way to my own: and down I
sat, abruptly I believe; what I had heard all in my head.
But this was not enough to daunt him. The man is a very confident, he
is a very bold, staring man!--Indeed, my dear, the man is very
He took the removed chair, and drew it so near mine, squatting in it
with his ugly weight, that he pressed upon my hoop.--I was so offended
(all I had heard, as I said, in my head) that I removed to another
chair. I own I had too little command of myself. It gave my brother
and sister too much advantage. I day say they took it. But I did it
involuntarily, I think. I could not help it.--I knew not what I did.
I saw that my father was excessively displeased. When angry, no man's
countenance ever shews it so much as my father's. Clarissa Harlowe!
said he with a big voice--and there he stopped. Sir! said I,
trembling and courtesying (for I had not then sat down again); and put
my chair nearer the wretch, and sat down--my face, as I could feel,
all in a glow.
Make tea, child, said my kind mamma; sit by me, love, and make tea.
I removed with pleasure to the seat the man had quitted; and being
thus indulgently put into employment, soon recovered myself; and in
the course of the breakfasting officiously asked two or three
questions of Mr. Solmes, which I would not have done, but to make up
with my father.--Proud spirits may be brought to! Whisperingly spoke
my sister to me, over her shoulder, with an air of triumph and scorn:
but I did not mind her.
My mother was all kindness and condescension. I asked her once, if
she were pleased with the tea? She said, softly, (and again called me
dear,) she was pleased with all I did. I was very proud of this
encouraging goodness: and all blew over, as I hoped, between my father
and me; for he also spoke kindly to me two or three times.
Small accidents these, my dear, to trouble you with; only as they lead
to greater, as you shall hear.
Before the usual breakfast-time was over, my father withdrew with my
mother, telling her he wanted to speak with her. Then my sister and
next my aunt (who was with us) dropt away.
My brother gave himself some airs of insult, which I understood well
enough; but which Mr. Solmes could make nothing of: and at last he
arose from his seat--Sister, said he, I have a curiosity to shew you.
I will fetch it. And away he went shutting the door close after him.
I saw what all this was for. I arose; the man hemming up for a
speech, rising, and beginning to set his splay-feet [indeed, my dear,
the man in all his ways is hateful to me] in an approaching posture.-- I will save my brother the trouble of bringing to me his curiosity,
said I. I courtesied--Your servant, sir--The man cried, Madam, Madam,
twice, and looked like a fool.--But away I went--to find my brother,
to save my word.--But my brother, indifferent as the weather was, was
gone to walk in the garden with my sister. A plain case, that he had
left his curiosity with me, and designed to shew me no other.
I had but just got into my own apartment, and began to think of
sending Hannah to beg an audience of my mother (the more encouraged by
her condescending goodness at breakfast) when Shorey, her woman,
brought me her commands to attend me in her closet.
My father, Hannah told me, was just gone out of it with a positive
angry countenance. Then I as much dreaded the audience as I had
wished for it before.
I went down however; but, apprehending the subject she intended to
talk to me upon, approached her trembling, and my heart in visible
She saw my concern. Holding out her kind arms, as she sat, Come kiss
me, my dear, said she, with a smile like a sun-beam breaking through
the cloud that overshadowed her naturally benign aspect--Why flutters
my jewel so?
This preparative sweetness, with her goodness just before, confirmed
my apprehensions. My mother saw the bitter pill wanted gilding.
O my Mamma! was all I could say; and I clasped my arms round her neck,
and my face sunk into her bosom.
My child! my child! restrain, said she, your powers of moving! I dare
not else trust myself with you.--And my tears trickled down her bosom,
as hers bedewed my neck.
O the words of kindness, all to be expressed in vain, that flowed from
Lift up your sweet face, my best child, my own Clarissa Harlowe!--O my
daughter, best beloved of my heart, lift up a face so ever amiable to
me!--Why these sobs?--Is an apprehended duty so affecting a thing,
that before I can speak--But I am glad, my love, you can guess at what
I have to say to you. I am spared the pains of breaking to you what
was a task upon me reluctantly enough undertaken to break to you.
Then rising, she drew a chair near her own, and made me sit down by
her, overwhelmed as I was with tears of apprehension of what she had
to say, and of gratitude for her truly maternal goodness to me--sobs
still my only language.
And drawing her chair still nearer to mine, she put her arms round my
neck, and my glowing cheek wet with my tears, close to her own: Let me
talk to you, my child. Since silence is your choice, hearken to me,
and be silent.
You know, my dear, what I every day forego, and undergo, for the sake
of peace. Your papa is a very good man, and means well; but he will
not be controuled; nor yet persuaded. You have sometimes seemed to
pity me, that I am obliged to give up every point. Poor man! his
reputation the less for it; mine the greater: yet would I not have
this credit, if I could help it, at so dear a rate to him and to
myself. You are a dutiful, a prudent, and a wise child, she was
pleased to say, in hope, no doubt, to make me so: you would not add, I
am sure, to my trouble: you would not wilfully break that peace which
costs your mother so much to preserve. Obedience is better than
sacrifice. O my Clary Harlowe, rejoice my heart, by telling me that I
have apprehended too much!--I see your concern! I see your
perplexity! I see your conflict! [loosing her arm, and rising, not
willing I should see how much she herself was affected]. I will leave
you a moment.--Answer me not--[for I was essaying to speak, and had,
as soon as she took her dear cheek from mine, dropt down on my knees,
my hands clasped, and lifted up in a supplicating manner]--I am not
prepared for your irresistible expostulation, she was pleased to say.
I will leave you to recollection: and I charge you, on my blessing,
that all this my truly maternal tenderness be not thrown away upon you.
And then she withdrew into the next apartment; wiping her eyes as she
went from me; as mine overflowed; my heart taking in the whole compass
of her meaning.
She soon returned, having recovered more steadiness.
Still on my knees, I had thrown my face across the chair she had sat
Look up to me, my Clary Harlowe--No sullenness, I hope!
No, indeed, my ever-to-be-revered Mamma.--And I arose. I bent my
She raised me. No kneeling to me, but with knees of duty and
compliance. Your heart, not your knees, must bend. It is absolutely
determined. Prepare yourself therefore to receive your father, when
he visits you by-and-by, as he would wish to receive you. But on this
one quarter of an hour depends the peace of my future life, the
satisfaction of all the family, and your own security from a man of
violence: and I charge you besides, on my blessing, that you think of
being Mrs. Solmes.
There went the dagger to my heart, and down I sunk: and when I
recovered, found myself in the arms of my Hannah, my sister's Betty
holding open my reluctantly -opened palm, my laces cut, my linen
scented with hartshorn; and my mother gone. Had I been less kindly
treated, the hated name still forborne to be mentioned, or mentioned
with a little more preparation and reserve, I had stood the horrid
sound with less visible emotion--But to be bid, on the blessing of a
mother so dearly beloved, so truly reverenced, to think of being MRS.
SOLMES--what a denunciation was that!
Shorey came in with a message (delivered in her solemn way): Your
mamma, Miss, is concerned for your disorder: she expects you down
again in an hour; and bid me say, that she then hopes every thing from
I made no reply; for what could I say? And leaning upon my Hannah's
arm, withdrew to my own apartment. There you will guess how the
greatest part of the hour was employed.
Within that time, my mother came up to me.
I love, she was pleased to say, to come into this apartment.--No
emotions, child! No flutters!--Am I not your mother?--Do not
discompose me by discomposing yourself! Do not occasion me
uneasiness, when I would give you nothing but pleasure. Come, my
dear, we will go into your closet.
She took my hand, led the way, and made me sit down by her: and after
she had inquired how I did, she began in a strain as if she supposed I
had made use of the intervening space to overcome all my objections.
She was pleased to tell me, that my father and she, in order to spare
my natural modesty, had taken the whole affair upon themselves--
Hear me out; and then speak.--He is not indeed every thing I wish him
to be: but he is a man of probity, and has no vices--
No vices, Madam!--
Hear me out, child.--You have not behaved much amiss to him: we have
seen with pleasure that you have not--
O Madam, must I not now speak!
I shall have done presently.--A young creature of your virtuous and
pious turn, she was pleased to say, cannot surely love a profligate:
you love your brother too well, to wish to marry one who had like to
have killed him, and who threatened your uncles, and defies us all.
You have had your own way six or seven times: we want to secure you
against a man so vile. Tell me (I have a right to know) whether you
prefer this man to all others?--Yet God forbid that I should know you
do; for such a declaration would make us all miserable. Yet tell me,
are your affections engaged to this man?
I knew not what the inference would be, if I said they were not.
You hesitate--You answer me not--You cannot answer me.--Rising--Never
more will I look upon you with an eye of favour--
O Madam, Madam! Kill me not with your displeasure--I would not, I
need not, hesitate one moment, did I not dread the inference, if I
answer you as you wish.--Yet be that inference what it will, your
threatened displeasure will make me speak. And I declare to you, that
I know not my own heart, if it not be absolutely free. And pray, let
me ask my dearest Mamma, in what has my conduct been faulty, that,
like a giddy creature, I must be forced to marry, to save me from-- From what? Let me beseech you, Madam, to be the guardian of my
reputation! Let not your Clarissa be precipitated into a state she
wishes not to enter into with any man! And this upon a supposition
that otherwise she shall marry herself, and disgrace her whole family.
Well then, Clary [passing over the force of my plea] if your heart be
O my beloved Mamma, let the usual generosity of your dear heart
operate in my favour. Urge not upon me the inference that made me
I won't be interrupted, Clary--You have seen in my behaviour to you,
on this occasion, a truly maternal tenderness; you have observed that
I have undertaken the task with some reluctance, because the man is
not every thing; and because I know you carry your notions of
perfection in a man too high--
Dearest Madam, this one time excuse me!--Is there then any danger that
I should be guilty of an imprudent thing for the man's sake you hint
Again interrupted!--Am I to be questioned, and argued with? You know
this won't do somewhere else. You know it won't. What reason then,
ungenerous girl, can you have for arguing with me thus, but because
you think from my indulgence to you, you may?
What can I say? What can I do? What must that cause be that will not
bear being argued upon?
Again! Clary Harlowe!
Dearest Madam, forgive me: it was always my pride and my pleasure to
obey you. But look upon that man--see but the disagreeableness of his
Now, Clary, do I see whose person you have in your eye!--Now is Mr.
Solmes, I see, but comparatively disagreeable; disagreeable only as
another man has a much more specious person
But, Madam, are not his manners equally so?--Is not his person the
true representative of his mind?--That other man is not, shall not be,
any thing to me, release me but from this one man, whom my heart,
Condition thus with your father. Will he bear, do you think, to be
thus dialogued with? Have I not conjured you, as you value my peace-- What is it that I do not give up?--This very task, because I
apprehended you would not be easily persuaded, is a task indeed upon
me. And will you give up nothing? Have you not refused as many as
have been offered to you? If you would not have us guess for whom,
comply; for comply you must, or be looked upon as in a state of
defiance with your whole family.
And saying this, she arose and went from me. But at the chamber-door
stopt; and turned back: I will not say below in what a disposition I
leave you. Consider of every thing. The matter is resolved upon. As
you value your father's blessing and mine, and the satisfaction of all
the family, resolve to comply. I will leave you for a few moments. I
will come up to you again. See that I find you as I wish to find you;
and since your heart is free, let your duty govern it.
In about half an hour, my mother returned. She found me in tears.
She took my hand: It is my part evermore, said she, to be of the
acknowledging side. I believe I have needlessly exposed myself to
your opposition, by the method I have taken with you. I first began
as if I expected a denial, and by my indulgence brought it upon
Do not, my dearest Mamma! do not say so!
Were the occasion for this debate, proceeded she, to have risen from
myself; were it in my power to dispense with your compliance; you too
well know what you can do with me.
Would any body, my dear Miss Howe, wish to marry, who sees a wife of
such a temper, and blessed with such an understanding as my mother is
noted for, not only deprived of all power, but obliged to be even
active in bringing to bear a point of high importance, which she thinks
ought not to be insisted upon?
When I came to you a second time, proceeded she, knowing that your
opposition would avail you nothing, I refused to hear your reasons:
and in this I was wrong too, because a young creature who loves to
reason, and used to love to be convinced by reason, ought to have all
her objections heard: I now therefore, this third time, see you; and
am come resolved to hear all you have to say: and let me, my dear, by
my patience engage your gratitude; your generosity, I will call it,
because it is to you I speak, who used to have a mind wholly
generous.--Let me, if your heart be really free, let me see what it
will induce you to do to oblige me: and so as you permit your usual
discretion to govern you, I will hear all you have to say; but with
this intimation, that say what you will, it will be of no avail
What a dreadful saying is that! But could I engage your pity, Madam,
it would be somewhat.
You have as much of my pity as of my love. But what is person, Clary,
with one of your prudence, and your heart disengaged?
Should the eye be disgusted, when the heart is to be engaged?--O
Madam, who can think of marrying when the heart is shocked at the
first appearance, and where the disgust must be confirmed by every
This, Clary, is owing to your prepossession. Let me not have cause to
regret that noble firmness of mind in so young a creature which I
thought your glory, and which was my boast in your character. In this
instance it would be obstinacy, and want of duty.--Have you not made
objections to several--
That was to their minds, to their principles, Madam.--But this man--
Is an honest man, Clary Harlowe. He has a good mind. He is a
He an honest man? His a good mind, Madam? He a virtuous man?--
Nobody denies these qualities.
Can he be an honest man who offers terms that will rob all his own
relations of their just expectations?--Can his mind be good--
You, Clary Harlowe, for whose sake he offers so much, are the last
person who should make this observation.
Give me leave to say, Madam, that a person preferring happiness to
fortune, as I do; that want not even what I have, and can give up the
use of that, as an instance of duty--
No more, no more of your merits!--You know you will be a gainer by
that cheerful instance of your duty; not a loser. You know you have
but cast your bread upon the waters--so no more of that!--For it is
not understood as a merit by every body, I assure you; though I think
it a high one; and so did your father and uncles at the time--
At the time, Madam!--How unworthily do my brother and sister, who are
afraid that the favour I was so lately in--
I hear nothing against your brother and sister--What family feuds have
I in prospect, at a time when I hoped to have most comfort from you
God bless my brother and sister in all their worthy views! You shall
have no family feuds if I can prevent them. You yourself, Madam,
shall tell me what I shall bear from them, and I will bear it: but let
my actions, not their misrepresentations (as I am sure by the
disgraceful prohibitions I have met with has been the case) speak for
Just then, up came my father, with a sternness in his looks that made
me tremble.--He took two or three turns about my chamber, though
pained by his gout; and then said to my mother, who was silent as soon
as she saw him--
My dear, you are long absent.--Dinner is near ready. What you had to
say, lay in a very little compass. Surely, you have nothing to do but
to declare your will, and my will--But perhaps you may be talking of
the preparations--Let us have you soon down--Your daughter in your
hand, if worthy of the name.
And down he went, casting his eye upon me with a look so stern, that I
was unable to say one word to him, or even for a few minutes to my
Was not this very intimidating, my dear?
My mother, seeing my concern, seemed to pity me. She called me her
good child, and kissed me; and told me that my father should not know
I had made such opposition. He has kindly furnished us with an excuse
for being so long together, said she.--Come, my dear--dinner will be
upon table presently--Shall we go down?--And took my hand.
This made me start: What, Madam, go down to let it be supposed we were
talking of preparations!--O my beloved Mamma, command me not down upon
such a supposition.
You see, child, that to stay longer together, will be owning that you
are debating about an absolute duty; and that will not be borne. Did
not your father himself some days ago tell you, he would be obeyed? I
will a third time leave you. I must say something by way of excuse
for you: and that you desire not to go down to dinner--that your
modesty on the occasion--
O Madam! say not my modesty on such an occasion: for that will be to
And design you not to give hope?--Perverse girl!--Rising and flinging
from me; take more time for consideration!--Since it is necessary,
take more time--and when I see you next, let me know what blame I have
to cast upon myself, or to bear from your father, for my indulgence to
She made, however, a little stop at the chamber-door; and seemed to
expect that I would have besought her to make the gentlest
construction for me; for, hesitating, she was pleased to say, I
suppose you would not have me make a report--
O Madam, interrupted I, whose favour can I hope for if I lose my
To have desired a favourable report, you know, my dear, would have
been qualifying upon a point that I was too much determined upon, to
give room for any of my friends to think I have the least hesitation
about it. And so my mother went down stairs.
I will deposit thus far; and, as I know you will not think me too
minute in the relation of particulars so very interesting to one you
honour with your love, proceed in the same way. As matters stand, I
don't care to have papers, so freely written, about me.
Pray let Robert call every day, if you can spare him, whether I have
any thing ready or not.
I should be glad you would not send him empty handed. What a
generosity will it be in you, to write as frequently from friendship,
as I am forced to do from misfortune! The letters being taken away
will be an assurance that you have them. As I shall write and deposit
as I have opportunity, the formality of super and sub-scription will
be excused. For I need not say how much I am
Your sincere and ever affectionate, CL. HARLOWE.