Letter XXI


I have been down. I am to be unlucky in all I do, I think, be my

intentions ever so good. I have made matters worse instead of better:

as I shall now tell you.

I found my mother and sister together in my sister's parlour. My

mother, I fear, by the glow of her fine face, (and as the browner,

sullener glow in her sister's confirmed,) had been expressing herself

with warmth, against her unhappier child: perhaps giving such an

account of what had passed, as should clear herself, and convince

Bella, and, through her, my brother and uncles, of the sincere pains

she had taken with me.

I entered like a dejected criminal; and besought the favour of a

private audience. My mother's return, both looks and words, gave but

too much reason for my above surmise.

You have, said she [looking at me with a sternness that never sits

well on her sweet features] rather a requesting than a conceding

countenance, Clarissa Harlowe: if I am mistaken, tell me so; and I

will withdraw with you wherever you will.--Yet whether so, or not, you

may say what you have to say before your sister.

My mother, I thought, might have withdrawn with me, as she knows that

I have not a friend in my sister.

I come down, Madam, said I, to beg of you to forgive me for any thing

you may have taken amiss in what passed above respecting your honoured

self; and that you will be pleased to use your endeavours to soften my

papa's displeasure against me, on his return.

Such aggravating looks; such lifting up of hands and eyes; such a

furrowed forehead, in my sister!

My mother was angry enough without all that; and asked me to what

purpose I came down, if I were still so intractable.

She had hardly spoken the words, when Shorey came in to tell her, that

Mr. Solmes was in the hall, and desired admittance.

Ugly creature! What, at the close of day, quite dark, brought him

hither?--But, on second thoughts, I believe it was contrived, that he

should be here at supper, to know the result of the conference between

my mother and me, and that my father, on his return, might find us


I was hurrying away, but my mother commanded me (since I had come down

only, as she said, to mock her) not to stir; and at the same time see

if I could behave so to Mr. Solmes, as might encourage her to make the

favourable report to my father which I had besought her to make.

My sister triumphed. I was vexed to be so caught, and to have such an

angry and cutting rebuke given me, with an aspect much more like the

taunting sister than the indulgent mother, if I may presume to say so:

for she herself seemed to enjoy the surprise upon me.

The man stalked in. His usual walk is by pauses, as if (from the same

vacuity of thought which made Dryden's clown whistle) he was telling

his steps: and first paid his clumsy respects to my mother; then to my

sister; next to me, as if I was already his wife, and therefore to be

last in his notice; and sitting down by me, told us in general what

weather it was. Very cold he made it; but I was warm enough. Then

addressing himself to me: And how do you find it, Miss? was his

question; and would have taken my hand.

I withdrew it, I believe with disdain enough. My mother frowned. My

sister bit her lip.

I could not contain myself: I was never so bold in my life; for I went

on with my plea, as if Mr. Solmes had not been there.

My mother coloured, and looked at him, at my sister, and at me. My

sister's eyes were opener and bigger than ever I saw them before.

The man understood me. He hemmed, and removed from one chair to


I went on, supplicating for my mother's favourable report: Nothing but

invincible dislike, said I--

What would the girl be at, interrupted my mother? Why, Clary! Is

this a subject!--Is this!--Is this!--Is this a time--And again she

looked upon Mr. Solmes.

I am sorry, on reflection, that I put my mamma into so much confusion --To be sure it was very saucy in me.

I beg pardon, Madam, said I. But my papa will soon return. And since

I am not permitted to withdraw, it is not necessary, I humbly presume,

that Mr. Solmes's presence should deprive me of this opportunity to

implore your favourable report; and at the same time, if he still

visit on my account [looking at him] to convince him, that it cannot

possibly be to any purpose--

Is the girl mad? said my mother, interrupting me.

My sister, with the affectation of a whisper to my mother--This is-- This is spite, Madam, [very spitefully she spoke the word,] because

you commanded her to stay.

I only looked at her, and turning to my mother, Permit me, Madam, said

I, to repeat my request. I have no brother, no sister!--If I ever

lose my mamma's favour, I am lost for ever!

Mr. Solmes removed to his first seat, and fell to gnawing the head of

his hazel; a carved head, almost as ugly as his own--I did not think

the man was so sensible.

My sister rose, with a face all over scarlet; and stepping to the

table, where lay a fan, she took it up, and, although Mr. Solmes had

observed that the weather was cold, fanned herself very violently.

My mother came to me, and angrily taking my hand, led me out of that

parlour into my own; which, you know, is next to it--Is not this

behaviour very bold, very provoking, think you, Clary?

I beg your pardon, Madam, if it has that appearance to you. But

indeed, my dear Mamma, there seem to be snares laying in wait for me.

Too well I know my brother's drift. With a good word he shall have my

consent for all he wishes to worm me out of--neither he, nor my

sister, shall need to take half this pains--

My mother was about to leave me in high displeasure.

I besought her to stay: One favour, but one favour, dearest Madam,

said I, give me leave to beg of you--

What would the girl?

I see how every thing is working about.--I never, never can think of

Mr. Solmes. My papa will be in tumults when he is told that I cannot.

They will judge of the tenderness of your heart to a poor child who

seems devoted by every one else, from the willingness you have already

shewn to hearken to my prayers. There will be endeavours used to

confine me, and keep me out of your presence, and out of the presence

of every one who used to love me [this, my dear Miss Howe, is

threatened]. If this be effected; if it be put out of my power to

plead my own cause, and to appeal to you, and to my uncle Harlowe, of

whom only I have hope; then will every ear be opened against me, and

every tale encouraged--It is, therefore, my humble request, that,

added to the disgraceful prohibitions I now suffer under, you will

not, if you can help it, give way to my being denied your ear.

Your listening Hannah has given you this intelligence, as she does

many others.

My Hannah, Madam, listens not--My Hannah--

No more in Hannah's behalf--Hannah is known to make mischief--Hannah

is known--But no more of that bold intermeddler--'Tis true your father

threatened to confine you to your chamber, if you complied not, in

order the more assuredly to deprive you of the opportunity of

corresponding with those who harden your heart against his will. He

bid me tell you so, when he went out, if I found you refractory. But

I was loth to deliver so harsh a declaration; being still in hope that

you would come down to us in a compliant temper. Hannah has overheard

this, I suppose; and has told you of it; as also, that he declared he

would break your heart, rather than you should break his. And I now

assure you, that you will be confined, and prohibited making teasing

appeals to any of us: and we shall see who is to submit, you to us, or

every body to you.

Again I offered to clear Hannah, and to lay the latter part of the

intelligence to my sister's echo, Betty Barnes, who had boasted of it

to another servant: but I was again bid to be silent on that head. I

should soon find, my mother was pleased to say, that others could be

as determined as I was obstinate: and once for all would add, that

since she saw that I built upon her indulgence, and was indifferent

about involving her in contentions with my father, she would now

assure me, that she was as much determined against Mr. Lovelace, and

for Mr. Solmes and the family schemes, as any body; and would not

refuse her consent to any measures that should be thought necessary to

reduce a stubborn child to her duty.

I was ready to sink. She was so good as to lend me her arm to support


And this, said I, is all I have to hope for from my Mamma?

It is. But, Clary, this one further opportunity I give you--Go in

again to Mr. Solmes, and behave discreetly to him; and let your father

find you together, upon civil terms at least.

My feet moved [of themselves, I think] farther from the parlour where

he was, and towards the stairs; and there I stopped and paused.

If, proceeded she, you are determined to stand in defiance of us all-- then indeed you may go up to your chamber (as you are ready to do)-- And God help you!

God help me, indeed! for I cannot give hope of what I cannot intend-- But let me have your prayers, my dear Mamma!--Those shall have mine,

who have brought me into all this distress.

I was moving to go up--

And will you go up, Clary?

I turned my face to her: my officious tears would needs plead for me:

I could not just then speak, and stood still.

Good girl, distress me not thus!--Dear, good girl, do not thus

distress me! holding out her hand; but standing still likewise.

What can I do, Madam?--What can I do?

Go in again, my child--Go in again, my dear child!--repeated she; and

let your father find you together.

What, Madam, to give him hope?--To give hope to Mr. Solmes?

Obstinate, perverse, undutiful Clarissa! with a rejecting hand, and

angry aspect; then take your own way, and go up!--But stir not down

again, I charge you, without leave, or till your father's pleasure be

known concerning you.

She flung away from me with high indignation: and I went up with a

very heavy heart; and feet as slow as my heart was heavy.


My father is come home, and my brother with him. Late as it is, they

are all shut up together. Not a door opens; not a soul stirs.

Hannah, as she moves up and down, is shunned as a person infected.


The angry assembly is broken up. My two uncles and my aunt Hervey are

sent for, it seems, to be here in the morning to breakfast. I shall

then, I suppose, know my doom. 'Tis past eleven, and I am ordered not

to go to bed.


This moment the keys of every thing are taken from me. It was

proposed to send for me down: but my father said, he could not bear to

look upon me.--Strange alteration in a few weeks!--Shorey was the

messenger. The tears stood in her eyes when she delivered her


You, my dear, are happy--May you always be so--and then I can never be

wholly miserable. Adieu, my beloved friend!