Letter XVII


My mother, on her return, which was as soon as she had dined, was

pleased to inform me, that she told my father, on his questioning her

about my cheerul compliance (for, it seems, the cheerful was all that

was doubted) that she was willing, on so material a point, to give a

child whom she had so much reason to love (as she condescended to

acknowledge were her words) liberty to say all that was in her heart

to say, that her compliance might be the freer: letting him know, that

when he came up, she was attending to my pleas; for that she found I

had rather not marry at all.

She told me, that to this my father angrily said, let her take care-- let her take care--that she give me not ground to suspect her of a

preference somewhere else. But, if it be to ease her heart, and not

to dispute my will, you may hear her out.

So, Clary, said my mother, I am returned in a temper accordingly: and

I hope you will not again, by your peremptoriness, shew me how I ought

to treat you.

Indeed, Madam, you did me justice to say, I have no inclination to

marry at all. I have not, I hope, made myself so very unuseful in my

papa's family, as--

No more of your merits, Clary! You have been a good child. You have

eased me of all the family cares: but do not now give more than ever

you relieved me from. You have been amply repaid in the reputation

your skill and management have given you: but now there is soon to be

a period to all those assistances from you. If you marry, there will

be a natural, and, if to please us, a desirable period; because your

own family will employ all your talents in that way: if you do not,

there will be a period likewise, but not a natural one--you understand

me, child.

I wept.

I have made inquiry already after a housekeeper. I would have had

your good Norton; but I suppose you will yourself wish to have the

worthy woman with you. If you desire it, that shall be agreed upon

for you.

But, why, dearest Madam, why am I, the youngest, to be precipitated

into a state, that I am very far from wishing to enter into with any


You are going to question me, I suppose, why your sister is not

thought of for Mr. Solmes?

I hope, Madam, it will not displease you if I were.

I might refer you for an answer to your father.--Mr. Solmes has

reasons for preferring you--

And I have reasons, Madam, for disliking him. And why I am--

This quickness upon me, interrupted my mother, is not to be borne! I

am gone, and your father comes, if I can do no good with you.

O Madam, I would rather die, than--

She put her hand to my mouth--No peremptoriness, Clary Harlowe: once

you declare yourself inflexible, I have done.

I wept for vexation. This is all, all, my brother's doings--his

grasping views--

No reflections upon your brother: he has entirely the honour of the

family at heart.

I would no more dishonour my family, Madam, than my brother would.

I believe it: but I hope you will allow your father, and me, and your

uncles, to judge what will do it honour, what dishonour.

I then offered to live single; never to marry at all; or never but

with their full approbation.

If you mean to shew your duty, and your obedience, Clary, you must

shew it in our way, not in your own.

I hope, Madam, that I have not so behaved hitherto, as to render such

a trial of my obedience necessary.

Yes, Clary, I cannot but say that you have hitherto behaved extremely

well: but you have had no trials till now: and I hope, that now you

are called to one, you will not fail in it. Parents, proceeded she,

when children are young, are pleased with every thing they do. You

have been a good child upon the whole: but we have hitherto rather

complied with you, than you with us. Now that you are grown up to

marriageable years, is the test; especially as your grandfather has

made you independent, as we may say, in preference to those who had

prior expectations upon that estate.

Madam, my grandfather knew, and expressly mentioned in his will his

desire, that my father will more than make it up to my sister. I did

nothing but what I thought my duty to procure his favour. It was

rather a mark of his affection, than any advantage to me: For, do I

either seek or wish to be independent? Were I to be queen of the

universe, that dignity should not absolve me from my duty to you and

to my father. I would kneel for your blessings, were it in the

presence of millions--so that--

I am loth to interrupt you, Clary; though you could more than once

break in upon me. You are young and unbroken: but, with all this

ostentation of your duty, I desire you to shew a little more deference

to me when I am speaking.

I beg your pardon, dear Madam, and your patience with me on such an

occasion as this. If I did not speak with earnestness upon it, I

should be supposed to have only maidenly objections against a man I

never can endure.

Clary Harlowe!--

Dearest, dearest Madam, permit me to speak what I have to say, this

once--It is hard, it is very hard, to be forbidden to enter into the

cause of all these misunderstandings, because I must not speak

disrespectfully of one who supposes me in the way of his ambition, and

treats me like a slave--

Whither, whither, Clary--

My dearest Mamma!--My duty will not permit me so far to suppose my

father arbitrary, as to make a plea of that arbitrariness to you--

How now, Clary!--O girl!

Your patience, my dearest Mamma:--you were pleased to say, you would

hear me with patience.--PERSON in a man is nothing, because I am

supposed to be prudent: so my eye is to be disgusted, and my reason

not convinced--

Girl, girl!

Thus are my imputed good qualities to be made my punishment; and I am

to wedded to a monster--

[Astonishing!--Can this, Clarissa, be from you?

The man, Madam, person and mind, is a monster in my eye.]--And that I

may be induced to bear this treatment, I am to be complimented with

being indifferent to all men: yet, at other times, and to serve other

purposes, be thought prepossessed in favour of a man against whose

moral character lie just objections.--Confined, as if, like the

giddiest of creatures, I would run away with this man, and disgrace my

whole family! O my dearest Mamma! who can be patient under such


Now, Clary, I suppose you will allow me to speak. I think I have had

patience indeed with you.--Could I have thought--but I will put all

upon a short issue. Your mother, Clarissa, shall shew you an example

of that patience you so boldly claim from her, without having any


O my dear, how my mother's condescension distressed me at the time!-- Infinitely more distressed me, than rigour could have done. But she

knew, she was to be sure aware, that she was put upon a harsh, upon an

unreasonable service, let me say, or she would not, she could not,

have had so much patience with me.

Let me tell you then, proceeded she, that all lies in a small compass,

as your father said.--You have been hitherto, as you are pretty ready

to plead, a dutiful child. You have indeed had no cause to be

otherwise. No child was ever more favoured. Whether you will

discredit all your past behaviour; whether, at a time and upon an

occasion, that the highest instance of duty is expected from you (an

instance that is to crown all); and when you declare that your heart

is free--you will give that instance; or whether, having a view to the

independence you may claim, (for so, Clary, whatever be your motive,

it will be judged,) and which any man you favour, can assert for you

against us all; or rather for himself in spite of us--whether, I say,

you will break with us all; and stand in defiance of a jealous father,

needlessly jealous, I will venture to say, of the prerogatives of his

sex, as to me, and still ten times more jealous of the authority of a

father;--this is now the point with us. You know your father has made

it a point; and did he ever give up one he thought he had a right to


Too true, thought I to myself! And now my brother has engaged my

father, his fine scheme will walk alone, without needing his leading- strings; and it is become my father's will that I oppose; not my

brother's grasping views.

I was silent. To say the truth, I was just then sullenly silent. My

heart was too big. I thought it was hard to be thus given up by my

mother; and that she should make a will so uncontroulable as my

brother's, her will.--My mother, my dear, though I must not say so,

was not obliged to marry against her liking. My mother loved my


My silence availed me still less.

I see, my dear, said she, that you are convinced. Now, my good child --now, my Clary, do I love you! It shall not be known, that you have

argued with me at all. All shall be imputed to that modesty which has

ever so much distinguished you. You shall have the full merit of your


I wept.

She tenderly wiped the tears from my eyes, and kissed my cheek--Your

father expects you down with a cheerful countenance--but I will excuse

your going. All your scruples, you see, have met with an indulgence

truly maternal from me. I rejoice in the hope that you are convinced.

This indeed seems to be a proof of the truth of your agreeable

declaration, that your heart is free.

Did not this seem to border upon cruelty, my dear, in so indulgent a

mother?--It would be wicked [would it not] to suppose my mother

capable of art?--But she is put upon it, and obliged to take methods

to which her heart is naturally above stooping; and all intended for

my good, because she sees that no arguing will be admitted any where


I will go down, proceeded she, and excuse your attendance at afternoon

tea, as I did to dinner: for I know you will have some little

reluctances to subdue. I will allow you those; and also some little

natural shynesses--and so you shall not come down, if you chuse not to

come down. Only, my dear, do not disgrace my report when you come to

supper. And be sure behave as you used to do to your brother and

sister; for your behaviour to them will be one test of your cheerful

obedience to us. I advise as a friend, you see, rather than command

as a mother--So adieu, my love. And again she kissed me; and was


O my dear Mamma, said I, forgive me!--But surely you cannot believe, I

can ever think of having that man!

She was very angry, and seemed to be greatly disappointed. She

threatened to turn me over to my father and uncles:--she however bid

me (generously bid me) consider, what a handle I gave to my brother

and sister, if I thought they had views to serve by making my uncles

dissatisfied with me.

I, said she, in a milder accent, have early said all that I thought

could be said against the present proposal, on a supposition, that

you, who have refused several other (whom I own to be preferable as to

person) would not approve of it; and could I have succeeded, you,

Clary, had never heard of it. But if I could not, how can you expect

to prevail? My great ends in the task I have undertaken, are the

preservation of the family peace so likely to be overturned; to

reinstate you in the affections of your father and uncles: and to

preserve you from a man of violence.--Your father, you must needs

think will flame out upon your refusal to comply: your uncles are so

thoroughly convinced of the consistency of the measure with their

favourite views of aggrandizing the family, that they are as much

determined as your father: your aunt Hervey and your uncle Hervey are

of the same party. And it is hard, if a father and mother, and

uncles, and aunt, all conjoined, cannot be allowed to direct your

choice--surely, my dear girl, proceeded she [for I was silent all this

time], it cannot be that you are the more averse, because the family

views will be promoted by the match--this, I assure you, is what every

body must think, if you comply not. Nor, while the man, so obnoxious

to us all, remains unmarried, and buzzes about you, will the strongest

wishes to live single, be in the least regarded. And well you know,

that were Mr. Lovelace an angel, and your father had made it a point

that you should not have him, it would be in vain to dispute his will.

As to the prohibition laid upon you (much as I will own against my

liking), that is owing to the belief that you corresponded by Miss

Howe's means with that man; nor do I doubt that you did so.

I answered to every article, in such a manner, as I am sure would have

satisfied her, could she have been permitted to judge for herself; and

I then inveighed with bitterness against the disgraceful prohibitions

laid upon me.

They would serve to shew me, she was pleased to say, how much in

earnest my father was. They might be taken off, whenever I thought

fit, and no harm done, nor disgrace received. But if I were to be

contumacious, I might thank myself for all that would follow.

I sighed. I wept. I was silent.

Shall I, Clary, said she, shall I tell your father that these

prohibitions are as unnecessary as I hoped they would be? That you

know your duty, and will not offer to controvert his will? What say

you, my love?

O Madam, what can I say to questions so indulgently put? I do indeed

know my duty: no creature in the world is more willing to practise it:

but, pardon me, dearest Madam, if I say, that I must bear these

prohibitions, if I am to pay so dear to have them taken off.

Determined and perverse, my dear mamma called me: and after walking

twice or thrice in anger about the room, she turned to me: Your heart

free, Clarissa! How can you tell me your heart is free? Such

extraordinary prepossessions to a particular person must be owing to

extraordinary prepossessions in another's favour! Tell me, Clary, and

tell me truly--Do you not continue to correspond with Mr. Lovelace?

Dearest Madam, replied I, you know my motives: to prevent mischief, I

answered his letters. The reasons for our apprehensions of this sort

are not over.

I own to you, Clary, (although now I would not have it known,) that I

once thought a little qualifying among such violent spirits was not

amiss. I did not know but all things would come round again by the

mediation of Lord M. and his two sisters: but as they all three think

proper to resent for their nephew; and as their nephew thinks fit to

defy us all; and as terms are offered, on the other hand, that could

not be asked, which will very probably prevent your grandfather's

estate going out of the family, and may be a means to bring still

greater into it; I see not, that the continuance of your

correspondence with him either can or ought to be permitted. I

therefore now forbid it to you, as you value my favour.

Be pleased, Madam, only to advise me how to break it off with safety

to my brother and uncles; and it is all I wish for. Would to heaven,

the man so hated had not the pretence to make of having been too

violently treated, when he meant peace and reconciliation! It would

always have been in my own power to have broke with him. His reputed

immoralities would have given me a just pretence at any time to do so.

But, Madam, as my uncles and my brother will keep no measures; as he

has heard what the view is; and his regard for me from resenting their

violent treatment of him and his family; what can I do? Would you

have me, Madam, make him desperate?

The law will protect us, child! offended magistracy will assert


But, Madam, may not some dreadful mischief first happen?--The law

asserts not itself, till it is offended.

You have made offers, Clary, if you might be obliged in the point in

question--Are you really in earnest, were you to be complied with, to

break off all correspondence with Mr. Lovelace?--Let me know this.

Indeed I am; and I will. You, Madam, shall see all the letters that

have passed between us. You shall see I have given him no

encouragement independent of my duty. And when you have seen them,

you will be better able to direct me how, on the condition I have

offered, to break entirely with him.

I take you at your word, Clarissa--Give me his letters; and the copies

of yours.

I am sure, Madam, you will keep the knowledge that I write, and what I


No conditions with your mother--surely my prudence may be trusted to.

I begged her pardon; and besought her to take the key of the private

drawer in my escritoire, where they lay, that she herself might see

that I had no reserves to my mother.

She did; and took all his letters, and the copies of mine.-- Unconditioned with, she was pleased to say, they shall be yours again,

unseen by any body else.

I thanked her; and she withdrew to read them; saying, she would return

them, when she had.


You, my dear, have seen all the letters that passed between Mr.

Lovelace and me, till my last return from you. You have acknowledged,

that he has nothing to boast of from them. Three others I have

received since, by the private conveyance I told you of: the last I

have not yet answered.

In these three, as in those you have seen, after having besought my

favour, and, in the most earnest manner, professed the ardour of his

passion for me; and set forth the indignities done him; the defiances

my brother throws out against him in all companies; the menaces, and

hostile appearance of my uncles wherever they go; and the methods they

take to defame him; he declares, 'That neither his own honour, nor the

honour of his family, (involved as that is in the undistinguishing

reflection cast upon him for an unhappy affair which he would have

shunned, but could not) permit him to bear these confirmed

indignities: that as my inclinations, if not favourable to him, cannot

be, nor are, to such a man as the newly-introduced Solmes, he is

interested the more to resent my brother's behaviour; who to every

body avows his rancour and malice; and glories in the probability he

has, through the address of this Solmes, of mortifying me, and

avenging himself on him: that it is impossible he should not think

himself concerned to frustrate a measure so directly levelled at him,

had he not a still higher motive for hoping to frustrate it: that I

must forgive him, if he enter into conference with Solmes upon it. He

earnestly insists (upon what he has so often proposed) that I will

give him leave, in company with Lord M. to wait upon my uncles, and

even upon my father--and he promises patience, if new provocations,

absolutely beneath a man to bear, be not given:' which by the way I am

far from being able to engage for.

In my answer, I absolutely declare, as I tell him I have often done,

'That he is to expect no favour from me against the approbation of my

friends: that I am sure their consents for his visiting any of them

will never be obtained: that I will not be either so undutiful, or so

indiscreet, as to suffer my interests to be separated from the

interests of my family, for any man upon earth: that I do not think

myself obliged to him for the forbearance I desire one flaming spirit

to have with others: that in this desire I require nothing of him, but

what prudence, justice, and the laws of his country require: that if

he has any expectations of favour from me, on that account, he

deceives himself: that I have no inclination, as I have often told

him, to change my condition: that I cannot allow myself to correspond

with him any longer in this clandestine manner: it is mean, low,

undutiful, I tell him; and has a giddy appearance, which cannot be

excused: that therefore he is not to expect that I will continue it.

To this in his last, among other things, he replies, 'That if I am

actually determined to break off all correspondence with him, he must

conclude, that it is with a view to become the wife of a man, whom no

woman of honour and fortune can think tolerable. And in that case, I

must excuse him for saying, that he shall neither be able to bear the

thoughts of losing for ever a person in whom all his present and all

his future hopes are centred; nor support himself with patience under

the insolent triumphs of my brother upon it. But that nevertheless he

will not threaten either his own life, or that of any other man. He

must take his resolutions as such a dreaded event shall impel him at

the time. If he shall know that it will have my consent, he must

endeavour to resign to his destiny: but if it be brought about by

compulsion, he shall not be able to answer for the consequence.'

I will send you these letters for your perusal in a few days. I would

enclose them; but that it is possible something may happen, which may

make my mother require to re-peruse them. When you see them, you will

observe how he endeavours to hold me to this correspondence.


In about an hour my mother returned. Take your letters, Clary: I have

nothing, she was pleased to say, to tax your discretion with, as to

the wording of yours to him: you have even kept up a proper dignity,

as well as observed all the rules of decorum; and you have resented,

as you ought to resent, his menacing invectives. In a word, I see

not, that he can form the least expectations, from what you have

written, that you will encourage the passion he avows for you. But

does he not avow his passion? Have you the least doubt about what

must be the issue of this correspondence, if continued? And do you

yourself think, when you know the avowed hatred of one side, and he

declared defiances of the other, that this can be, that it ought to be

a match?

By no means it can, Madam; you will be pleased to observed, that I

have said as much to him. But now, Madam, that the whole

correspondence is before you, I beg your commands what to do in a

situation so very disagreeable.

One thing I will tell you, Clary--but I charge you, as you would not

have me question the generosity of your spirit, to take no advantage

of it, either mentally or verbally; that I am so much pleased with the

offer of your keys to me, made in so cheerful and unreserved a manner,

and in the prudence you have shewn in your letters, that were it

practicable to bring every one, or your father only, into my opinion,

I should readily leave all the rest to your discretion, reserving only

to myself the direction or approbation of your future letters; and to

see, that you broke off the correspondence as soon as possible. But

as it is not, and as I know your father would have no patience with

you, should it be acknowledged that you correspond with Mr. Lovelace,

or that you have corresponded with him since the time he prohibited

you to do so; I forbid you to continue such a liberty--Yet, as the

case is difficult, let me ask you, What you yourself can propose?

Your heart, you say, is free. Your own, that you cannot think, as

matters circumstanced, that a match with a man so obnoxious as he now

is to us all, is proper to be thought of: What do you propose to do?-- What, Clary, are your own thoughts of the matter?

Without hesitation thus I answered--What I humbly propose is this:-- 'That I will write to Mr. Lovelace (for I have not answered his last)

that he has nothing to do between my father and me: that I neither ask

his advice nor need it: but that since he thinks he has some pretence

for interfering, because of my brother's avowal of the interest of Mr.

Solmes in displeasure to him, I will assure him (without giving him

any reason to impute the assurance to be in the least favourable to

himself) that I will never be that man's.' And if, proceeded I, I may

never be permitted to give him this assurance; and Mr. Solmes, in

consequence of it, be discouraged from prosecuting his address; let

Mr. Lovelace be satisfied or dissatisfied, I will go no farther; nor

write another line to him; nor ever see him more, if I can avoid it:

and I shall have a good excuse for it, without bringing in any of my


Ah! my love!--But what shall we do about the terms Mr. Solmes offers?

Those are the inducements with every body. He has even given hopes to

your brother that he will make exchanges of estates; or, at least,

that he will purchase the northern one; for you know it must be

entirely consistent with the family-views, that we increase our

interest in this country. Your brother, in short, has given a plan

that captivates us all. And a family so rich in all its branches, and

that has its views to honour, must be pleased to see a very great

probability of taking rank one day among the principal in the kingdom.

And for the sake of these views, for the sake of this plan of my

brother's, am I, Madam, to be given in marriage to a man I can never

endure!--O my dear Mamma, save me, save me, if you can, from this

heavy evil.--I had rather be buried alive, indeed I had, than have

that man!

She chid me for my vehemence; but was so good as to tell me, That she

would sound my uncle Harlowe, who was then below; and if he encouraged

her (or would engage to second her) she would venture to talk to my

father herself; and I should hear further in the morning.

She went down to tea, and kindly undertook to excuse my attendance at


But is it not a sad thing, I repeat, to be obliged to stand in

opposition to the will of such a mother? Why, as I often say to

myself, was such a man as this Solmes fixed upon? The only man in the

world, surely, that could offer so much, and deserve so little!

Little indeed does he deserve!--Why, my dear, the man has the most

indifferent of characters. Every mouth is opened against him for his

sordid ways--A foolish man, to be so base-minded!--When the difference

between the obtaining of a fame for generosity, and incurring the

censure of being a miser, will not, prudently managed, cost fifty

pounds a year.

What a name have you got, at a less expense? And what an opportunity

had he of obtaining credit at a very small one, succeeding such a

wretched creature as Sir Oliver, in fortunes so vast?--Yet has he so

behaved, that the common phrase is applied to him, That Sir Oliver

will never be dead while Mr. Solmes lives.

The world, as I have often thought, ill-natured as it is said to be,

is generally more just in characters (speaking by what it feels) than

is usually apprehended: and those who complain most of its

censoriousness, perhaps should look inwardly for the occasion oftener

than they do.

My heart is a little at ease, on the hopes that my mother will be able

to procure favour for me, and a deliverance from this man; and so I

have leisure to moralize. But if I had not, I should not forbear to

intermingle occasionally these sorts of remarks, because you command

me never to omit them when they occur to my mind: and not to be able

to make them, even in a more affecting situation, when one sits down

to write, would shew one's self more engaged to self, and to one's own

concerns, than attentive to the wishes of a friend. If it be said,

that it is natural so to be, what makes that nature, on occasions

where a friend may be obliged, or reminded of a piece of instruction,

which (writing down) one's self may be the better for, but a fault;

which it would set a person above nature to subdue?