Letter XXXI


In vain dost thou* and thy compeers press me to go to town, while I am

in such an uncertainty as I am in at present with this proud beauty.

All the ground I have hitherto gained with her is entirely owing to

her concern for the safety of people whom I have reason to hate.

*These gentlemen affected what they called the Roman style (to wit,

the thee and the thou) in their letters: and it was an agreed rule

with them, to take in good part whatever freedoms they treated each

other with, if the passages were written in that style.

Write then, thou biddest me, if I will not come. That, indeed, I can

do; and as well without a subject, as with one. And what follows

shall be a proof of it.

The lady's malevolent brother has now, as I told thee at M. Hall,

introduced another man; the most unpromising in his person and

qualities, the most formidable in his offers, that has yet appeared.

This man has by his proposals captivated every soul of the Harlowes-- Soul! did I say--There is not a soul among them but my charmer's: and

she, withstanding them all, is actually confined, and otherwise

maltreated by a father the most gloomy and positive; at the

instigation of a brother the most arrogant and selfish. But thou

knowest their characters; and I will not therefore sully my paper with


But is it not a confounded thing to be in love with one, who is the

daughter, the sister, the niece, of a family, I must eternally

despise? And, the devil of it, that love increasing with her--what

shall I call it?--'Tis not scorn:--'Tis not pride:--'Tis not the

insolence of an adored beauty:--But 'tis to virtue, it seems, that my

difficulties are owin; and I pay for not being a sly sinner, an

hypocrite; for being regardless of my reputation; for permittin

slander to open its mouth against me. But is it necessary for such a

one as I, who have been used to carry all before me, upon my own

terms--I, who never inspired a fear, that had not a discernibly- predominant mixture of love in it, to be a hypocrite?--Well says the


He who seems virtuous does but act a part;

And shews not his own nature, but his art.

Well, but it seems I must practise for this art, if it would succeed

with this truly-admirable creature; but why practise for it?--Cannot I

indeed reform?--I have but one vice;--Have I, Jack?--Thou knowest my

heart, if any man living does. As far as I know it myself, thou

knowest it. But 'tis a cursed deceiver; for it has many a time

imposed upon its master--Master, did I say? That I am not now; nor

have I been from the moment I beheld this angel of a woman. Prepared

indeed as I was by her character before I saw her: For what a mind

must that be, which, though not virtuous itself, admires not virtue in

another?--My visit to Arabella, owing to a mistake of the sister, into

which, as thou hast heard me say, I was led by the blundering uncle;

who was to introduce me (but lately come from abroad) to the divinity,

as I thought; but, instead of her, carried me to a mere mortal. And

much difficulty had I, so fond and forward my lady! to get off without

forfeiting all with a family I intended should give me a goddess.

I have boasted that I was once in love before:--and indeed I thought I

was. It was in my early manhood--with that quality jilt, whose

infidelity I have vowed to revenge upon as many of the sex as shall

come into my power. I believe, in different climes, I have already

sacrificed an hecatomb to my Nemesis, in pursuance of this vow. But

upon recollecting what I was then, and comparing it with what I find

myself now, I cannot say that I was ever in love before.

What was it then, dost thou ask me, since the disappointment had such

effects upon me, when I found myself jilted, that I was hardly kept in

my senses?--Why, I'll grant thee what, as near as I can remember; for

it was a great while ago:--It was--Egad, Jack, I can hardly tell what

it was--but a vehement aspiration after a novelty, I think. Those

confounded poets, with their terrenely-celestial descriptions, did as

much with me as the lady: they fired my imagination, and set me upon a

desire to become a goddess-maker. I must needs try my new-fledged

pinions in sonnet, elogy, and madrigal. I must have a Cynthia, a

Stella, a Sacharissa, as well as the best of them: darts and flames,

and the devil knows what, must I give to my cupid. I must create

beauty, and place it where nobody else could find it: and many a time

have I been at a loss for a subject, when my new-created goddess has

been kinder than it was proper for my plaintive sonnet that she should


Then I found I had a vanity of another sort in my passion: I found

myself well received among the women in general; and I thought it a

pretty lady-like tyranny [I was then very young, and very vain!] to

single out some one of the sex, to make half a score jealous. And I

can tell thee, it had its effect: for many an eye have I made to

sparkle with rival indignation: many a cheek glow; and even many a fan

have I caused to be snapped at a sister-beauty; accompanied with a

reflection perhaps at being seen alone with a wild young fellow who

could not be in private with both at once.

In short, Jack, it was more pride than love, as I now find it, that

put me upon making such a confounded rout about losing that noble

varletess. I thought she lo9ved me at least as well as I believed I

loved her: nay, I had the vanity to suppose she could not help it. My

friends were pleased with my choice. They wanted me to be shackled:

for early did they doubt my morals, as to the sex. They saw, that the

dancing, the singing, the musical ladies were all fond of my company:

For who [I am in a humour to be vain, I think!]--for who danced, who

sung, who touched the string, whatever the instrument, with a better

grace than thy friend?

I have no notion of playing the hypocrite so egregiously, as to

pretend to be blind to qualifications which every one sees and

acknowledges. Such praise-begetting hypocrisy! Such affectedly

disclaimed attributes! Such contemptible praise-traps!--But yet,

shall my vanity extend only to personals, such as the gracefulness of

dress, my debonnaire, and my assurance?--Self-taught, self-acquired,

these!--For my parts, I value not myself upon them. Thou wilt say, I

have no cause.--Perhaps not. But if I had any thing valuable as to

intellectuals, those are not my own; and to be proud of what a man is

answerable for the abuse of, and has no merit in the right use of, is

to strut, like the jay, in borrowed plumage.

But to return to my fair jilt. I could not bear, that a woman, who

was the first that had bound me in silken fetters [they were not iron

ones, like those I now wear] should prefer a coronet to me: and when

the bird was flown, I set more value upon it, that when I had it safe

in my cage, and could visit in when I pleased.

But now am I indeed in love. I can think of nothing, of nobody, but

the divine Clarissa Harlowe--Harlowe!--How that hated word sticks in

my throat--But I shall give her for it the name of Love.*

* Lovelace.

CLARISSA! O there's music in the name,

That, soft'ning me to infant tenderness,

Makes my heart spring like the first leaps of life!

But couldst thou have believed that I, who think it possible for me to

favour as much as I can be favoured; that I, who for this charming

creature think of foregoing the life of honour for the life of

shackles; could adopt these over-tender lines of Otway?

I checked myself, and leaving the first three lines of the following

of Dryden to the family of whiners, find the workings of the passion

in my stormy soul better expressed by the three last:

Love various minds does variously inspire:

He stirs in gentle natures gentle fires;

Like that of incense on the alter laid.

But raging flames tempestuous souls invade:

A fire which ev'ry windy passion blows;

With pride it mounts, and with revenge it glows.

And with REVENGE it shall glow!--For, dost thou think, that if it were

not from the hope, that this stupid family are all combined to do my

work for me, I would bear their insults?--Is it possible to imagine,

that I would be braved as I am braved, threatened as I am threatened,

by those who are afraid to see me; and by this brutal brother, too, to

whom I gave a life; [a life, indeed, not worth my taking!] had I not a

greater pride in knowing that by means of his very spy upon me, I am

playing him off as I please; cooling or inflaming his violent passions

as may best suit my purposes; permitting so much to be revealed of my

life and actions, and intentions, as may give him such a confidence in

his double-faced agent, as shall enable me to dance his employer upon

my own wires?

This it is that makes my pride mount above my resentment. By this

engine, whose springs I am continually oiling, I play them all off.

The busy old tarpaulin uncle I make but my ambassador to Queen

Anabella Howe, to engage her (for example-sake to her princessly

daughter) to join in their cause, and to assert an authority they are

resolved, right or wrong, (or I could do nothing,) to maintain.

And what my motive, dost thou ask? No less than this, That my beloved

shall find no protection out of my family; for, if I know hers, fly

she must, or have the man she hates. This, therefore, if I take my

measures right, and my familiar fail me not, will secure her mine, in

spite of them all; in spite of her own inflexible heart: mine, without

condition; without reformation-promises; without the necessity of a

siege of years, perhaps; and to be even then, after wearing the guise

of merit-doubting hypocrisy, at an uncertainty, upon a probation

unapproved of. Then shall I have all the rascals and rascalesses of

the family come creeping to me: I prescribing to them; and bringing

that sordidly imperious brother to kneel at the footstool of my


All my fear arises from the little hold I have in the heart of this

charming frost-piece: such a constant glow upon her lovely features:

eyes so sparkling: limbs so divinely turned: health so florid: youth

so blooming: air so animated--to have an heart so impenetrable: and I,

the hitherto successful Lovelace, the addresser--How can it be? Yet

there are people, and I have talked with some of them, who remember

that she was born. Her nurse Norton boasts of her maternal offices in

her earliest infancy; and in her education gradatim. So there is full

proof, that she came not from above all at once an angel! How then can

she be so impenetrable?

But here's her mistake; nor will she be cured of it--She takes the man

she calls her father [her mother had been faultless, had she not been

her father's wife]; she takes the men she calls her uncles; the fellow

she calls her brother; and the poor contemptible she calls her sister;

to be her father, to be her uncles, her brother, her sister; and that,

as such, she owes to some of them reverence, to others respect, let

them treat her ever so cruelly!--Sordid ties!--Mere cradle

prejudices!--For had they not been imposed upon her by Nature, when

she was in a perverse humour, or could she have chosen her relations,

would any of these have been among them?

How my heart rises at her preference of them to me, when she is

convinced of their injustice to me! Convinced, that the alliance

would do honour to them all--herself excepted; to whom every one owes

honour; and from whom the most princely family might receive it. But

how much more will my heart rise with indignation against her, if I

find she hesitates but one moment (however persecuted) about

preferring me to the man she avowedly hates! But she cannot surely be

so mean as to purchase her peace with them at so dear a rate. She

cannot give a sanction to projects formed in malice, and founded in a

selfishness (and that at her own expense) which she has spirit enough

to despise in others; and ought to disavow, that we may not think her

a Harlowe.

By this incoherent ramble thou wilt gather, that I am not likely to

come up in haste; since I must endeavour first to obtain some

assurance from the beloved of my soul, that I shall not be sacrificed

to such a wretch as Solmes! Woe be to the fair one, if ever she be

driven into my power (for I despair of a voluntary impulse in my

favour) and I find a difficulty in obtaining this security.

That her indifference to me is not owing to the superior liking she

has for any other, is what rivets my chains. But take care, fair one;

take care, O thou most exalted of female minds, and loveliest of

persons, how thou debasest thyself by encouraging such a competition

as thy sordid relations have set on foot in mere malice to me!--Thou

wilt say I rave. And so I do:

Perdition catch my soul, but I do love her.

Else, could I hear the perpetual revilings of her implacable family?-- Else, could I basely creep about--not her proud father's house--but

his paddock and garden walls?--Yet (a quarter of a mile distance

between us) not hoping to behold the least glimpse of her shadow?-- Else, should I think myself repaid, amply repaid, if the fourth,

fifth, or sixth midnight stroll, through unfrequented paths, and over

briery enclosures, affords me a few cold lines; the even expected

purport only to let me know, that she values the most worthless person

of her very worthless family, more than she values me; and that she

would not write at all, but to induce me to bear insults, which unman

me to bear?--My lodging in the intermediate way at a wretched

alehouse; disguised like an inmate of it: accommodations equally vile,

as those I met with in my Westphalian journey. 'Tis well, that the

necessity for all this arise not from scorn and tyranny! but is first

imposed upon herself!

But was ever hero in romance (fighting with giants and dragons

excepted) called upon to harder trials?--Fortune and family, and

reversionary grandeur on my side! Such a wretched fellow my

competitor!--Must I not be deplorably in love, that can go through

these difficulties, encounter these contempts?--By my soul, I am half

ashamed of myself: I, who am perjured too, by priority of obligation,

if I am faithful to any woman in the world?

And yet, why say I, I am half ashamed?--Is it not a glory to love her

whom every one who sees her either loves, or reveres, or both? Dryden


The cause of love can never be assign'd:

'Tis in no face;--but in the lover's mind.

--And Cowley thus addresses beauty as a mere imaginary:

Beauty! thou wild fantastic ape,

Who dost in ev'ry country change thy shape:

Here black; there brown; here tawny; and there white!

Thou flatt'rer, who comply'st with ev'ry sight!

Who hast no certain what, nor where.

But both these, had they been her contemporaries, and known her, would

have confessed themselves mistaken: and, taking together person, mind,

and behaviour, would have acknowledged the justice of the universal

voice in her favour.

--Full many a lady

I've ey'd with best regard; and many a time

Th' harmony of their tongues hath into bondage

Brought my too-diligent ear. For sev'ral virtues

Have I liked several women. Never any

With so full a soul, but some defect in her

Did quarrel with the noblest grace she ow'd,

And put it to the foil. But SHE!--O SHE!

So perfect and so peerless is created,

Of ev'ry creature's best.


Thou art curious to know, if I have not started a new game? If it be

possible for so universal a lover to be confined so long to one

object?--Thou knowest nothing of this charming creature, that thou

canst put such questions to me; or thinkest thou knowest me better

than thou dost. All that's excellent in her sex is this lady!--Until

by MATRIMONIAL or EQUAL intimacies, I have found her less than

angel, it is impossible to think of any other. Then there are so many

stimulatives to such a spirit as mine in this affair, besides love:

such a field of stratagem and contrivance, which thou knowest to be

the delight of my heart. Then the rewarding end of all!--To carry off

such a girl as this, in spite of all her watchful and implacable

friends; and in spite of a prudence and reserve that I never met with

in any of the sex;--what a triumph!--What a triumph over the whole

sex!--And then such a revenge to gratify; which is only at present

politically reined in, eventually to break forth with greater fury--Is

it possible, thinkest thou, that there can be room for a thought that

is not of her, and devoted to her?


By the devices I have this moment received, I have reason to think,

that I shall have occasion for thee here. Hold thyself in readiness

to come down upon the first summons.

Let Belton, and Mowbray, and Tourville, likewise prepare themselves.

I have a great mind to contrive a method to send James Harlowe to

travel for improvement. Never was there a booby 'squire that more

wanted it. Contrive it, did I say? I have already contrived it;

could I but put it in execution without being suspected to have a hand

in it. This I am resolved upon; if I have not his sister, I will have


But be this as it may, there is a present likelihood of room for

glorious mischief. A confederacy had been for some time formed

against me; but the uncles and the nephew are now to be double- servanted [single-servanted they were before]; and those servants are

to be double armed when they attend their masters abroad. This

indicates their resolute enmity to me, and as resolute favour to


The reinforced orders for this hostile apparatus are owing it seems to

a visit I made yesterday to their church.--A good place I thought to

begin a reconciliation in; supposing the heads of the family to be

christians, and that they meant something by their prayers. My hopes

were to have an invitation (or, at least, to gain a pretence) to

accompany home the gloomy sire; and so get an opportunity to see my

goddess: for I believed they durst not but be civil to me, at least.

But they were filled with terror it seems at my entrance; a terror

they could not get over. I saw it indeed in their countenances; and

that they all expected something extraordinary to follow.--And so it

should have done, had I been more sure than I am of their daughter's

favour. Yet not a hair of any of their stupid heads do I intend to


You shall all have your directions in writing, if there be occasion.

But after all, I dare say there will be no need but to shew your faces

in my company.

Such faces never could four men shew--Mowbray's so fierce and so

fighting: Belton's so pert and so pimply: Tourville's so fair and so

foppish: thine so rough and so resolute: and I your leader!--What

hearts, although meditating hostility, must those be which we shall

not appall?--Each man occasionally attended by a servant or two, long

ago chosen for qualities resembling those of his master.

Thus, Jack, as thou desirest, have I written.--Written upon something;

upon nothing; upon REVENGE, which I love; upon LOVE, which I hate,

heartily hate, because 'tis my master: and upon the devil knows what

besides: for looking back, I am amazed at the length of it. Thou

mayest read it: I would not for a king's ransom. But so as I do but

write, thou sayest thou wilt be pleased.

Be pleased then. I command thee to be pleased: if not for the

writer's or written sake, for thy word's sake. And so in the royal

style (for am I not likely to be thy king and thy emperor in the great

affair before us?) I bid thee very heartily