MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE MONDAY, MARCH 12.
This letter will account to you, my dear, for my abrupt breaking off
in the answer I was writing to yours of yesterday; and which,
possibly, I shall not be able to finish and send you till to-morrow or
next day; having a great deal to say to the subjects you put to me in
it. What I am now to give you are the particulars of another effort
made by my friends, through the good Mrs. Norton.
It seems they had sent to her yesterday, to be here this day, to take
their instructions, and to try what she could do with me. It would,
at least, I suppose they thought, have this effect; to render me
inexcusable with her; or to let her see, that there was no room for
the expostulations she had often wanted to make in my favour to my
The declaration, that my heart was free, afforded them an argument to
prove obstinacy and perverseness upon me; since it could be nothing
else that governed me in my opposition to their wills, if I had no
particular esteem for another man. And now, that I have given them
reason (in order to obviate this argument) to suppose that I have a
preference to another, they are resolved to carry their schemes into
execution as soon as possible. And in order to this, they sent for
this good woman, for whom they know I have even a filial regard.
She found assembled my father and mother, my brother and sister, my
two uncles, and my aunt Hervey.
My brother acquainted her with all that had passed since she was last
permitted to see me; with the contents of my letters avowing my regard
for Mr. Lovelace (as they all interpreted them); with the substance of
their answers to them; and with their resolutions.
My mother spoke next; and delivered herself to this effect, as the
good woman told me.
After reciting how many times I had been indulged in my refusals of
different men, and the pains she had taken with me, to induce me to
oblige my whole family in one instance out of five or six, and my
obstinacy upon it; 'O my good Mrs. Norton, said the dear lady, could
you have thought, that my Clarissa and your Clarissa was capable of so
determined an opposition to the will of parents so indulgent to her?
But see what you can do with her. The matter is gone too far to be
receded from on our parts. Her father had concluded every thing with
Mr. Solmes, not doubting her compliance. Such noble settlements, Mrs.
Norton, and such advantages to the whole family!--In short, she has it
in her power to lay an obligation upon us all. Mr. Solmes, knowing
she has good principles, and hoping by his patience now, and good
treatment hereafter, to engage her gratitude, and by degrees her love,
is willing to overlook all!--'
[Overlook all, my dear! Mr. Solmes to overlook all! There's a word!]
'So, Mrs. Norton, if you are convinced, that it is a child's duty to
submit to her parents' authority, in the most important point as well
as in the least, I beg you will try your influence over her: I have
none: her father has none: her uncles neither: although it is her
apparent interest to oblige us all; for, on that condition, her
grandfather's estate is not half of what, living and dying, is
purposed to be done for her. If any body can prevail with her, it is
you; and I hope you will heartily enter upon this task.'
The good woman asked, Whether she was permitted to expostulate with
them upon the occasion, before she came up to me?
My arrogant brother told her, she was sent for to expostulate with his
sister, and not with them. And this, Goody Norton [she is always
Goody with him!] you may tell her, that the treaty with Mr. Solmes is
concluded: that nothing but her compliance with her duty is wanting;
of consequence, that there is no room for your expostulation, or hers
Be assured of this, Mrs. Norton, said my father, in an angry tone,
that we will not be baffled by her. We will not appear like fools in
this matter, and as if we have no authority over our own daughter. We
will not, in short, be bullied out of our child by a cursed rake, who
had like to have killed our only son!--And so she had better make a
merit of her obedience; for comply she shall, if I live; independent
as she thinks my father's indiscreet bounty has made her of me, her
father. Indeed, since that, she has never been like she was before.
An unjust bequest!--And it is likely to prosper accordingly!--But if
she marry that vile rake Lovelace, I will litigate every shilling with
her: tell her so; and that the will may be set aside, and shall.
My uncles joined, with equal heat.
My brother was violent in his declarations.
My sister put in with vehemence, on the same side.
My aunt Hervey was pleased to say, there was no article so proper for
parents to govern in, as this of marriage: and it was very fit mine
should be obliged.
Thus instructed, the good woman came up to me. She told me all that
had passed, and was very earnest with me to comply; and so much
justice did she to the task imposed upon her, that I more than once
thought, that her own opinion went with theirs. But when she saw what
an immovable aversion I had to the man, she lamented with me their
determined resolution: and then examined into the sincerity of my
declaration, that I would gladly compound with them by living single.
Of this being satisfied, she was so convinced that this offer, which,
carried into execution, would exclude Lovelace effectually, ought to
be accepted, that she would go down (although I told her, it was what
I had tendered over-and-over to no purpose) and undertake to be
guaranty for me on that score.
She went accordingly; but soon returned in tears; being used harshly
for urging this alternative:--They had a right to my obedience upon
their own terms, they said: my proposal was an artifice, only to gain
time: nothing but marrying Mr. Solmes should do: they had told me so
before: they should not be at rest till it was done; for they knew
what an interest Lovelace had in my heart: I had as good as owned it
in my letters to my uncles, and brother and sister, although I had
most disingenuously declared otherwise to my mother. I depended, they
said, upon their indulgence, and my own power over them: they would
not have banished me from their presence, if they had not known that
their consideration for me was greater than mine for them. And they
would be obeyed, or I never should be restored to their favour, let
the consequence be what it would.
My brother thought fit to tell the good woman, that her whining
nonsense did but harden me. There was a perverseness, he said, in
female minds, a tragedy-pride, that would make a romantic young
creature, such a one as me, risque any thing to obtain pity. I was of
an age, and a turn [the insolent said] to be fond of a lover-like
distress: and my grief (which she pleaded) would never break my heart:
I should sooner break that of the best and most indulgent of mothers.
He added, that she might once more go up to me: but that, if she
prevailed not, he should suspect, that the man they all hated had
found a way to attach her to his interest.
Every body blamed him for this unworthy reflection; which greatly
affected the good woman. But nevertheless he said, and nobody
contradicted him, that if she could not prevail upon her sweet child,
[as it seems she had fondly called me,] she had best draw to her own
home, and there tarry till she was sent for; and so leave her sweet
child to her father's management.
Sure nobody had ever so insolent, so hard-hearted a brother, as I
have! So much resignation to be expected from me! So much arrogance,
and to so good a woman, and of so fine an understanding, to be allowed
She nevertheless told him, that however she might be ridiculed for
speaking of the sweetness of my disposition, she must take upon
herself to say, that there never was a sweeter in the sex: and that
she had ever found, that my mild methods, and gentleness, I might at
any time be prevailed upon, even in points against my own judgment and
My aunt Hervey hereupon said, It was worth while to consider what Mrs.
Norton said: and that she had sometimes allowed herself to doubt,
whether I had been begun with by such methods as generous tempers are
only to be influenced by, in cases where their hearts are supposed to
be opposite to the will of their friends.
She had both my brother and sister upon her for this: who referred to
my mother, whether she had not treated me with an indulgence that had
hardly any example?
My mother said, she must own, that no indulgence had been wanting from
her: but she must needs say, and had often said it, that the reception
I met with on my return from Miss Howe, and the manner in which the
proposal of Mr. Solmes was made to me, (which was such as left nothing
to my choice,) and before I had an opportunity to converse with him,
were not what she had by any means approved of.
She was silenced, you will guess by whom,--with, My dear!--my dear!-- You have ever something to say, something to palliate, for this rebel
of a girl!--Remember her treatment of you, of me!--Remember, that the
wretch, whom we so justly hate, would not dare persist in his
purposes, but for her encouragement of him, and obstinacy to us.--Mrs.
Norton, [angrily to her,] go up to her once more--and if you think
gentleness will do, you have a commission to be gentle--if it will
not, never make use of that plea again.
Ay, my good woman, said my mother, try your force with her. My sister
Hervey and I will go up to her, and bring her down in our hands, to
receive her father's blessing, and assurances of every body's love, if
she will be prevailed upon: and, in that case, we will all love you
the better for your good offices.
She came up to me, and repeated all these passages with tears. But I
told her, that after what had passed between us, she could not hope to
prevail upon me to comply with measures so wholly my brother's, and so
much to my aversion. And then folding me to her maternal bosom, I
leave you, my dearest Miss, said she--I leave you, because I must!-- But let me beseech you to do nothing rashly; nothing unbecoming your
character. If all be true that is said, Mr. Lovelace cannot deserve
you. If you can comply, remember it is your duty to comply. They
take not, I own, the right method with so generous a spirit. But
remember, that there would not be any merit in your compliance, if it
were not to be against your own liking. Remember also, what is
expected from a character so extraordinary as yours: remember, it is
in your power to unite or disunite your whole family for ever.
Although it should at present be disagreeable to you to be thus
compelled, your prudence, I dare say, when you consider the matter
seriously, will enable you to get over all prejudices against the one,
and all prepossessions in favour of the other: and then the obligation
you will lay all your family under, will be not only meritorious in
you, with regard to them, but in a few months, very probably, highly
satisfactory, as well as reputable, to yourself.
Consider, my dear Mrs. Norton, said I, only consider, that it is not a
small thing that is insisted upon; not for a short duration; it is for
my life: consider too, that all this is owing to an overbearing
brother, who governs every body. Consider how desirous I am to oblige
them, if a single life, and breaking all correspondence with the man
they hate, because my brother hates him, will do it.
I consider every thing, my dearest Miss: and, added to what I have
said, do you only consider, that if, by pursuing your own will, and
rejecting theirs, you should be unhappy, you will be deprived of all
that consolation which those have, who have been directed by their
parents, although the event prove not answerable to their wishes.
I must go, repeated she: your brother will say [and she wept] that I
harden you by my whining nonsense. 'Tis indeed hard, that so much
regard should be paid to the humours of one child, and so little to
the inclination of another. But let me repeat, that it is your duty
to acquiesce, if you can acquiesce: your father has given your
brother's schemes his sanction, and they are now his. Mr. Lovelace, I
doubt, is not a man that will justify your choice so much as he will
their dislike. It is easy to see that your brother has a view in
discrediting you with all your friends, with your uncles in
particular: but for that very reason, you should comply, if possible,
in order to disconcert his ungenerous measures. I will pray for you;
and that is all I can do for you. I must now go down, and make a
report, that you are resolved never to have Mr. Solmes--Must I?-- Consider, my dear Miss Clary--Must I?
Indeed you must!--But of this I do assure you, that I will do nothing
to disgrace the part you have had in my education. I will bear every
thing that shall be short of forcing my hand into his who never can
have any share in my heart. I will try by patient duty, by humility,
to overcome them. But death will I choose, in any shape, rather than
I dread to go down, said she, with so determined an answer: they will
have no patience with me.--But let me leave you with one observation,
which I beg of you always to bear in mind:--
'That persons of prudence, and distinguished talents, like yours, seem
to be sprinkled through the world, to give credit, by their example,
to religion and virtue. When such persons wilfully err, how great
must be the fault! How ungrateful to that God, who blessed them with
such talents! What a loss likewise to the world! What a wound to
virtue!--But this, I hope, will never be to be said of Miss Clarissa
I could give her no answer, but by my tears. And I thought, when she
went away, the better half of my heart went with her.
I listened to hear what reception she would meet with below; and found
it was just such a one as she had apprehended.
Will she, or will she not, be Mrs. Solmes? None of your whining
circumlocutions, Mrs. Norton!--[You may guess who said this] Will she,
or will she not, comply with her parents' will?
This cut short all she was going to say.
If I must speak so briefly, Miss will sooner die, than have--
Any body but Lovelace! interrupted my brother.--This, Madam, this,
Sir, is your meek daughter! This is Mrs. Norton's sweet child!--Well,
Goody, you may return to your own habitation. I am empowered to
forbid you to have any correspondence with this perverse girl for a
month to come, as you value the favour of our whole family, or of any
individual of it.
And saying this, uncontradicted by any body, he himself shewed her to
the door,--no doubt, with all that air of cruel insult, which the
haughty rich can put on to the unhappy low, who have not pleased them.
So here, my dear Miss Howe, am I deprived of the advice of one of the
most prudent and conscientious women in the world, were I to have ever
so much occasion for it.
I might indeed write (as I presume, under your cover) and receive her
answers to what I should write. But should such a correspondence be
charged upon her, I know she would not be guilty of a falsehood for
the world, nor even of an equivocation: and should she own it after
this prohibition, she would forfeit my mother's favour for ever. And
in my dangerous fever, some time ago, I engaged my mother to promise
me, that, if I died before I could do any thing for the good woman,
she would set her above want for the rest of her life, should her eyes
fail her, or sickness befall her, and she could not provide for
herself, as she now so prettily does by her fine needle-works.
What measures will they fall upon next?--Will they not recede when
they find that it must be a rooted antipathy, and nothing else, that
could make a temper, not naturally inflexible, so sturdy?
Adieu, my dear. Be you happy!--To know that it is in your power to be
so, is all that seems wanting to make you so.