Letter XVI


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

her lips!

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

your duty.

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,

unbidden, resists.

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

conversation afterwards?

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

virtuous man.

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

give hope--

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.