MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE FRIDAY, MARCH 10.
You will permit me, my dear, to touch upon a few passages in your last
letter, that affect me sensibly.
In the first place, you must allow me to say, low as I am in spirits,
that I am very angry with you, for your reflections on my relations,
particularly on my father and mother, and on the memory of my
grandfather. Nor, my dear, does your own mother always escape the
keen edge of your vivacity. One cannot one's self forbear to write or
speak freely of those we love and honour, when grief from imagined
hard treatment wrings the heart: but it goes against one to hear any
body else take the same liberties. Then you have so very strong a
manner of expression where you take a distaste, that when passion has
subdued, and I come (upon reflection) to see by your severity what I
have given occasion for, I cannot help condemning myself.
But least of all can I bear that you should reflect upon my mother.
What, my dear, if her meekness should not be rewarded? Is the want of
reward, or the want even of a grateful acknowledgement, a reason for
us to dispense with what we think our duty? They were my father's
lively spirits that first made him an interest in her gentle bosom.
They were the same spirits turned inward, as I have heretofore
observed,* that made him so impatient when the cruel malady seized
him. He always loved my mother: And would not LOVE and PITY
excusably, nay laudably, make a good wife (who was an hourly witness
of his pangs, when labouring under a paroxysm, and his paroxysms
becoming more and more frequent, as well as more and more severe) give
up her own will, her own likings, to oblige a husband, thus afflicted,
whose love for her was unquestionable?--And if so, was it not too
natural [human nature is not perfect, my dear] that the husband thus
humoured by the wife, should be unable to bear controul from any body
else, much less contradiction from his children?
* See Letter V.
If then you would avoid my highest displeasure, you must spare my
mother: and, surely, you will allow me, with her, to pity, as well as
to love and honour my father.
I have no friend but you to whom I can appeal, to whom I dare
complain. Unhappily circumstanced as I am, it is but too probable
that I shall complain, because it is but too probably that I shall
have more and more cause given me for complaint. But be it your part,
if I do, to sooth my angry passions, and to soften my resentments; and
this the rather, as you know what an influence your advice has upon
me; and as you must also know, that the freedoms you take with my
friends, can have no other tendency, but to weaken the sense of my
duty to them, without answering any good end to myself.
I cannot help owning, however, that I am pleased to have you join with
me in opinion of the contempt which Mr. Solmes deserves from me. But
yet, permit me to say, that he is not quite so horrible a creature as
you make him: as to his person, I mean; for with regard to his mind,
by all I have heard, you have done him but justice: but you have such
a talent at an ugly likeness, and such a vivacity, that they sometimes
carry you out of verisimilitude. In short, my dear, I have known you,
in more instances than one, sit down resolved to write all that wit,
rather than strict justice, could suggest upon the given occasion.
Perhaps it may be thought, that I should say the less on this
particular subject, because your dislike of him arises from love to
me: But should it not be our aim to judge of ourselves, and of every
thing that affects us, as we may reasonably imagine other people would
judge of us and of our actions?
As to the advice you give, to resume my estate, I am determined not to
litigate with my father, let what will be the consequence to myself.
I may give you, at another time, a more particular answer to your
reasonings on this subject: but, at present, will only observe, that
it is in my opinion, that Lovelace himself would hardly think me worth addressing, were he to know this would be my resolution. These men,
my dear, with all their flatteries, look forward to the PERMANENT.
Indeed, it is fit they should. For love must be a very foolish thing
to look back upon, when it has brought persons born to affluence into
indigence, and laid a generous mind under obligation and dependence.
You very ingeniously account for the love we bear to one another, from
the difference in our tempers. I own, I should not have thought of
that. There may possibly be something in it: but whether there be or
not, whenever I am cool, and give myself time to reflect, I will love
you the better for the correction you give, be as severe as you will
upon me. Spare me not, therefore, my dear friend, whenever you think
me in the least faulty. I love your agreeable raillery: you know I
always did: nor, however over-serious you think me, did I ever think
you flippant, as you harshly call it. One of the first conditions of
our mutual friendship was, each should say or write to the other
whatever was upon her mind, without any offence to be taken: a
condition, that is indeed indispensable in friendship.
I knew your mother would be for implicit obedience in a child. I am
sorry my case is so circumstanced, that I cannot comply. It would be
my duty to do so, if I could. You are indeed very happy, that you
have nothing but your own agreeable, yet whimsical, humours to contend
with, in the choice she invites you to make of Mr. Hickman. How happy
I should be, to be treated with so much lenity!--I should blush to
have my mother say, that she begged and prayed me, and all in vain, to
encourage a man so unexceptionable as Mr. Hickman.
Indeed, my beloved Miss Howe, I am ashamed to have your mother say,
with ME in her view, 'What strange effects have prepossession and love
upon young creatures of our sex!' This touches me the more sensibly,
because you yourself, my dear, are so ready to persuade me into it.
I should be very blamable to endeavour to hide any the least bias upon
my mind, from you: and I cannot but say--that this man--this Lovelace --is a man that might be liked well enough, if he bore such a
character as Mr. Hickman bears; and even if there were hopes of
reclaiming him. And further still I will acknowledge, that I believe
it possible that one might be driven, by violent measures, step by
step, as it were, into something that might be called--I don't know
what to call it--a conditional kind of liking, or so. But as to the
word LOVE--justifiable and charming as it is in some cases, (that is
to say, in all the relative, in all the social, and, what is still
beyond both, in all our superior duties, in which it may be properly
called divine;) it has, methinks, in the narrow, circumscribed,
selfish, peculiar sense, in which you apply it to me, (the man too so
little to be approved of for his morals, if all that report says of
him be true,) no pretty sound with it. Treat me as freely as you will
in all other respects, I will love you, as I have said, the better for
your friendly freedom. But, methinks, I could be glad that you would
not let this imputation pass so glibly from your pen, or your lips, as
attributable to one of your own sex, whether I be the person or not:
since the other must have a double triumph, when a person of your
delicacy (armed with such contempts of them all, as you would have one
think) can give up a friend, with an exultation over her weakness, as
a silly, love-sick creature.
I could make some other observations upon the contents of your last
two letters; but my mind is not free enough at present. The occasion
for the above stuck with me; and I could not help taking the earliest
notice of them.
Having written to the end of my second sheet, I will close this
letter, and in my next, acquaint you with all that has happened here
since my last.