MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE [AFTER HER RETURN FROM HER.] HARLOWE-PLACE, FEB. 20.
I beg your excuse for not writing sooner. Alas! my dear, I have sad
prospects before me! My brother and sister have succeeded in all
their views. They have found out another lover for me; an hideous
one!--Yet he is encouraged by every body. No wonder that I was
ordered home so suddenly. At an hour's warning!--No other notice, you
know, than what was brought with the chariot that was to carry me
back.--It was for fear, as I have been informed [an unworthy fear!]
that I should have entered into any concert with Mr. Lovelace had I
known their motive for commanding me home; apprehending, 'tis evident,
that I should dislike the man they had to propose to me.
And well might they apprehend so:--For who do you think he is?--No
other than that Solmes--Could you have believed it?--And they are all
determined too; my mother with the rest!--Dear, dear excellence! how
could she be thus brought over, when I am assured, that on his first
being proposed she was pleased to say, That had Mr. Solmes the Indies
in possession, and would endow me with them, she should not think him
deserving of her Clarissa!
The reception I met with at my return, so different from what I used
to meet with on every little absence [and now I had been from them
three weeks], convinced me that I was to suffer for the happiness I
had had in your company and conversation for that most agreeable
period. I will give you an account of it.
My brother met me at the door, and gave me his hand when I stepped out
of the chariot. He bowed very low: pray, Miss, favour me.--I thought
it in good humour; but found it afterwards mock respect: and so he led
me in great form, I prattling all the way, inquiring of every body's
health, (although I was so soon to see them, and there was hardly time
for answers,) into the great parlour; where were my father, mother, my
two uncles, and sister.
I was struck all of a heap as soon as I entered, to see a solemnity
which I had been so little used to on the like occasions in the
countenance of every dear relation. They all kept their seats. I ran
to my father, and kneeled: then to my mother: and met from both a cold
salute: From my father a blessing but half pronounced: My mother
indeed called me child; but embraced me not with her usual indulgent
After I had paid my duty to my uncles, and my compliments to my
sister, which she received with solemn and stiff form, I was bid to
sit down. But my heart was full: and I said it became me to stand, if
I could stand, upon a reception so awful and unusual. I was forced to
turn my face from them, and pull out my handkerchief.
My unbrotherly accuser hereupon stood forth, and charged me with
having received no less than five or six visits at Miss Howe's from
the man they had all so much reason to hate [that was the expression];
notwithstanding the commands I had had to the contrary. And he bid me
deny it if I could.
I had never been used, I said, to deny the truth, nor would I now. I
owned I had in the three weeks passed seen the person I presumed he
meant oftener than five or six times [Pray hear me, brother, said I;
for he was going to flame out], but he always asked for Mrs. or Miss
Howe, when he came.
I proceeded, that I had reason to believe, that both Mrs. Howe and
Miss, as matters stood, would much rather have excused his visits; but
they had more than once apologized, that having not the same reason my
papa had to forbid him their house, his rank and fortune entitled him
You see, my dear, I made not the pleas I might have made.
My brother seemed ready to give a loose to his passion: My father put
on the countenance which always portends a gathering storm: My uncles
mutteringly whispered: And my sister aggravatingly held up her hands.
While I begged to be heard out:--And my mother said, let the child,
that was her kind word, be heard.
I hoped, I said, there was no harm done: that it became not me to
prescribe to Mrs. or Miss Howe who should be their visitors: that Mrs.
Howe was always diverted with the raillery that passed between Miss
and him: that I had no reason to challenge her guest for my visitor,
as I should seem to have done had I refused to go into their company
when he was with them: that I had never seen him out of the presence
of one or both of those ladies; and had signified to him once, on his
urging a few moments' private conversation with me, that, unless a
reconciliation were effected between my family and his, he must not
expect that I would countenance his visits, much less give him an
opportunity of that sort.
I told him further, that Miss Howe so well understood my mind, that
she never left me a moment while Mr. Lovelace was there: that when he
came, if I was not below in the parlour, I would not suffer myself to
be called to him: although I thought it would be an affectation which
would give him an advantage rather than the contrary, if I had left
company when he came in; or refused to enter into it when I found he
would stay any time.
My brother heard me out with such a kind of impatience as shewed he
was resolved to be dissatisfied with me, say what I would. The rest,
as the event has proved, behaved as if they would have been satisfied,
had they not further points to carry by intimidating me. All this
made it evident, as I mentioned above, that they themselves expected
not my voluntary compliance; and was a tacit confession of the
disagreeableness of the person they had to propose.
I was no sooner silent than my brother swore, although in my father's
presence, (swore, unchecked either by eye or countenance,) That for
his part, he would never be reconciled to that libertine: and that he
would renounce me for a sister, if I encouraged the addresses of a man
so obnoxious to them all.
A man who had like to have been my brother's murderer, my sister said,
with a face even bursting with restraint of passion.
The poor Bella has, you know, a plump high-fed face, if I may be
allowed the expression. You, I know, will forgive me for this liberty
of speech sooner than I can forgive myself: Yet how can one be such a
reptile as not to turn when trampled upon!
My father, with vehemence both of action and voice [my father has, you
know, a terrible voice when he is angry] told me that I had met with
too much indulgence in being allowed to refuse this gentleman, and the
other gentleman,; and it was now his turn to be obeyed!
Very true, my mother said:--and hoped his will would not now be
disputed by a child so favoured.
To shew they were all of a sentiment, my uncle Harlowe said, he hoped
his beloved niece only wanted to know her father's will, to obey it.
And my uncle Antony, in his rougher manner, added, that surely I would
not give them reason to apprehend, that I thought my grandfather's
favour to me had made me independent of them all.--If I did, he would
tell me, the will could be set aside, and should.
I was astonished, you must needs think.--Whose addresses now, thought
I, is this treatment preparative to?--Mr. Wyerley's again?--or whose?
And then, as high comparisons, where self is concerned, sooner than
low, come into young people's heads; be it for whom it will, this is
wooing as the English did for the heiress of Scotland in the time of
Edward the Sixth. But that it could be for Solmes, how should it
enter into my head?
I did not know, I said, that I had given occasion for this harshness.
I hoped I should always have a just sense of every one's favour to me,
superadded to the duty I owed as a daughter and a niece: but that I
was so much surprised at a reception so unusual and unexpected, that I
hoped my papa and mamma would give me leave to retire, in order to
No one gainsaying, I made my silent compliments, and withdrew;-- leaving my brother and sister, as I thought, pleased; and as if they
wanted to congratulate each other on having occasioned so severe a
beginning to be made with me.
I went up to my chamber, and there with my faithful Hannah deplored
the determined face which the new proposal it was plain they had to
make me wore.
I had not recovered myself when I was sent for down to tea. I begged
my maid to be excused attending; but on the repeated command, went
down with as much cheerfulness as I could assume; and had a new fault
to clear myself of: for my brother, so pregnant a thing is determined
ill-will, by intimations equally rude and intelligible, charged my
desire of being excused coming down, to sullens, because a certain
person had been spoken against, upon whom, as he supposed, my fancy
I could easily answer you, Sir, said I, as such a reflection deserves:
but I forbear. If I do not find a brother in you, you shall have a
sister in me.
Pretty meekness! Bella whisperingly said; looking at my brother, and
lifting up her lip in contempt.
He, with an imperious air, bid me deserve his love, and I should be
sure to have it.
As we sat, my mother, in her admirable manner, expatiated upon
brotherly and sisterly love; indulgently blamed my brother and sister
for having taken up displeasure too lightly against me; and
politically, if I may say so, answered for my obedience to my father's
will.--The it would be all well, my father was pleased to say: Then
they should dote upon me, was my brother's expression: Love me as well
as ever, was my sister's: And my uncles, That I then should be the
pride of their hearts.--But, alas! what a forfeiture of all these must
This was the reception I had on my return from you.
Mr. Solmes came in before we had done tea. My uncle Antony presented
him to me, as a gentleman he had a particular friendship for. My
uncle Harlowe in terms equally favourable for him. My father said,
Mr. Solmes is my friend, Clarissa Harlowe. My mother looked at him,
and looked at me, now-and-then, as he sat near me, I thought with
concern.--I at her, with eyes appealing for pity. At him, when I
could glance at him, with disgust little short of affrightment. While
my brother and sister Mr. Solmes'd him, and Sirr'd--yet such a
wretch!--But I will at present only add, My humble thanks and duty to
your honoured mother (to whom I will particularly write, to express
the grateful sense I have of her goodness to me); and that I am
Your ever obliged, CL. HARLOWE.