MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE FEB. 27
What odd heads some people have!--Miss Clarissa Harlowe to be
sacrificed in marriage to Mr. Roger Solmes!--Astonishing!
I must not, you say, give my advice in favour of this man!--You now
convince me, my dear, that you are nearer of kin than I thought you,
to the family that could think of so preposterous a match, or you
would never have had the least notion of my advising in his favour.
Ask for his picture. You know I have a good hand at drawing an ugly
likeness. But I'll see a little further first: for who knows what may
happen, since matters are in such a train; and since you have not the
courage to oppose so overwhelming a torrent?
You ask me to help you to a little of my spirit. Are you in earnest?
But it will not now, I doubt, do you service.--It will not sit
naturally upon you. You are your mother's girl, think what you will;
and have violent spirits to contend with. Alas! my dear, you should
have borrowed some of mine a little sooner;--that is to say, before
you had given the management of your estate into the hands of those
who think they have a prior claim to it. What though a father's!--Has
not the father two elder children?--And do they not both bear more of
his stamp and image than you do?--Pray, my dear, call me not to
account for this free question; lest your application of my meaning,
on examination, prove to be as severe as that.
Now I have launched out a little, indulge me one word more in the same
strain--I will be decent, I promise you. I think you might have know,
that Avarice and Envy are two passions that are not to be satisfied,
the one by giving, the other by the envied person's continuing to
deserve and excel.--Fuel, fuel both, all the world over, to flames
insatiate and devouring.
But since you ask for my opinion, you must tell me all you know or
surmise of their inducements. And if you will not forbid me to make
extracts from your letters for the entertainment of my aunt and cousin
in the little island, who long to hear more of your affairs, it will
be very obliging.
But you are so tender of some people who have no tenderness for any
body but themselves, that I must conjure you to speak out. Remember,
that a friendship like ours admits of no reserves. You may trust my
impartiality. It would be an affront to your own judgment, if you did
not: For do you not ask my advice? And have you not taught me that
friendship should never give a bias against justice?--Justify them,
therefore, if you can. Let us see if there be any sense, whether
sufficient reason or not in their choice. At present I cannot (and
yet I know a good deal of your family) have any conception how all of
them, your mother and your aunt Hervey in particular, can join with
the rest against judgments given. As to some of the others, I cannot
wonder at any thing they do, or attempt to do, where self is
You ask, Why may not your brother be first engaged in wedlock? I'll
tell you why: His temper and his arrogance are too well known to
induce women he would aspire to, to receive his addresses,
notwithstanding his great independent acquisitions, and still greater
prospects. Let me tell you, my dear, those acquisitions have given
him more pride than reputation. To me he is the most intolerable
creature that I ever conversed with. The treatment you blame, he
merited from one whom he addressed with the air of a person who
presumes that he is about to confer a favour, rather than to receive
one. I ever loved to mortify proud and insolent spirits. What, think
you, makes me bear Hickman near me, but that the man is humble, and
knows and keeps his distance?
As to your question, Why your elder sister may not be first provided
for? I answer, Because she must have no man, but one who has a great
and clear estate; that's one thing. Another is, Because she has a
younger sister. Pray, my dear, be so good as to tell me, What man of
a great and clear estate would think of that eldest sister, while the
younger were single?
You are all too rich to be happy, child. For must not each of you, by
the constitutions of your family, marry to be still richer? People
who know in what their main excellence consists, are not to be blamed
(are they) for cultivating and improving what they think most
valuable?--Is true happiness any part of your family view?--So far
from it, that none of your family but yourself could be happy were
they not rich. So let them fret on, grumble and grudge, and
accumulate; and wondering what ails them that they have not happiness
when they have riches, think the cause is want of more; and so go on
heaping up, till Death, as greedy an accumulator as themselves,
gathers them into his garner.
Well then once more I say, do you, my dear, tell me what you know of
their avowed and general motives; and I will tell you more than you
will tell me of their failings! Your aunt Hervey, you say,* has told
you: Why must I ask you to let me know them, when you condescend to
ask my advice on the occasion?
* See Letter VIII.
That they prohibit your corresponding with me, is a wisdom I neither
wonder at, nor blame them for: since it is an evidence to me, that
they know their own folly: And if they do, is it strange that they
should be afraid to trust one another's judgment upon it?
I am glad you have found out a way to correspond with me. I approve
it much. I shall more, if this first trial of it prove successful.
But should it not, and should it fall into their hands, it would not
concern me but for your sake.
We have heard before you wrote, that all was not right between your
relations and you at your coming home: that Mr. Solmes visited you,
and that with a prospect of success. But I concluded the mistake lay
in the person; and that his address was to Miss Arabella. And indeed
had she been as good-natured as your plump ones generally are, I
should have thought her too good for him by half. This must certainly
be the thing, thought I; and my beloved friend is sent for to advise
and assist in her nuptial preparations. Who knows, said I to my
mother, but that when the man has thrown aside his yellow full-buckled
peruke, and his broad-brimmed beaver (both of which I suppose were Sir
Oliver's best of long standing) he may cut a tolerable figure dangling
to church with Miss Bell!--The woman, as she observes, should excel
the man in features: and where can she match so well for a foil?
I indulged this surmise against rumour, because I could not believe
that the absurdest people in England could be so very absurd as to
think of this man for you.
We heard, moreover, that you received no visiters. I could assign no
reason for this, except that the preparations for your sister were to
be private, and the ceremony sudden, for fear this man should, as
another man did, change his mind. Miss Lloyd and Miss Biddulph were
with me to inquire what I knew of this; and of your not being in
church, either morning or afternoon, the Sunday after your return from
us; to the disappointment of a little hundred of your admirers, to use
their words. It was easy for me to guess the reason to be what you
confirm--their apprehensions that Lovelace would be there, and attempt
to wait on you home.
My mother takes very kindly your compliments in your letter to her.
Her words upon reading it were, 'Miss Clarissa Harlowe is an admirable
young lady: wherever she goes, she confers a favour: whomever she
leaves, she fills with regret.'--And then a little comparative
reflection--'O my Nancy, that you had a little of her sweet
No matter. The praise was yours. You are me; and I enjoyed it. The
more enjoyed it, because--Shall I tell you the truth?--Because I think
myself as well as I am--were it but for this reason, that had I twenty
brother James's, and twenty sister Bell's, not one of them, nor all of
them joined together, would dare to treat me as yours presume to treat
you. The person who will bear much shall have much to bear all the
world through; it is your own sentiment,* grounded upon the strongest
instance that can be given in your own family; though you have so
little improved by it.
* Letter V.
The result is this, that I am fitter for this world than you; you for
the next than me:--that is the difference.--But long, long, for my
sake, and for hundreds of sakes, may it be before you quit us for
company more congenial to you and more worthy of you!
I communicated to my mother the account you give of your strange
reception; also what a horrid wretch they have found out for you; and
the compulsory treatment they give you. It only set her on magnifying
her lenity to me, on my tyrannical behaviour, as she will call it
[mothers must have their way, you know, my dear] to the man whom she
so warmly recommends, against whom it seems there can be no just
exception; and expatiating upon the complaisance I owe her for her
indulgence. So I believe I must communicate to her nothing farther-- especially as I know she would condemn the correspondence between us,
and that between you and Lovelace, as clandestine and undutiful
proceedings, and divulge our secret besides; for duty implicit is her
cry. And moreover she lends a pretty open ear to the preachments of
that starch old bachelor your uncle Antony; and for an example to her
daughter would be more careful how she takes your part, be the cause
ever so just.
Yet is this not the right policy neither. For people who allow
nothing will be granted nothing: in other words, those who aim at
carrying too many points will not be able to carry any.
But can you divine, my dear, what the old preachment-making, plump- hearted soul, your uncle Antony, means by his frequent amblings
hither?--There is such smirking and smiling between my mother and him!
Such mutual praises of economy; and 'that is my way!'--and 'this I
do!'--and 'I am glad it has your approbation, Sir!'--and 'you look
into every thing, Madam!'--'Nothing would be done, if I did not!'--
Such exclamations against servants! Such exaltings of self! And dear
heart, and good lack!--and 'las a-day!--And now-and-then their
conversation sinking into a whispering accent, if I come across them!
--I'll tell you, my dear, I don't above half like it.
Only that these old bachelors usually take as many years to resolve
upon matrimony as they can reasonably expect to live, or I should be
ready to fire upon his visits; and to recommend Mr. Hickman to my
mother's acceptance, as a much more eligible man: for what he wants in
years, he makes up in gravity; and if you will not chide me, I will
say, that there is a primness in both (especially when the man has
presumed too much with me upon my mother's favour for him, and is
under discipline on that account) as make them seem near of kin: and
then in contemplation of my sauciness, and what they both fear from
it, they sigh away! and seem so mightily to compassionate each other,
that if pity be but one remove from love, I am in no danger, while
they are both in a great deal, and don't know it.
Now, my dear, I know you will be upon me with your grave airs: so in
for the lamb, as the saying is, in for the sheep; and do you yourself
look about you; for I'll have a pull with you by way of being
aforehand. Hannibal, we read, always advised to attack the Romans
upon their own territories.
You are pleased to say, and upon your word too! that your regards
(a mighty quaint word for affections) are not so much engaged, as some
of your friends suppose, to another person. What need you give one to
imagine, my dear, that the last month or two has been a period
extremely favourable to that other person, whom it has made an obliger
of the niece for his patience with the uncles.
But, to pass that by--so much engaged!--How much, my dear?--Shall I
infer? Some of your friends suppose a great deal. You seem to own a
Don't be angry. It is all fair: because you have not acknowledged to
me that little. People I have heard you say, who affect secrets,
always excite curiosity.
But you proceed with a kind of drawback upon your averment, as if
recollection had given you a doubt--you know not yourself, if they be
[so much engaged]. Was it necessary to say this to me?--and to say it
upon your word too?--But you know best.--Yet you don't neither, I
believe. For a beginning love is acted by a subtle spirit; and
oftentimes discovers itself to a by-stander, when the person possessed
(why should I not call it possessed?) knows not it has such a demon.
But further you say, what preferable favour you may have for him to
any other person, is owing more to the usage he has received, and for
your sake borne, than to any personal consideration.
This is generously said. It is in character. But, O my friend,
depend upon it, you are in danger. Depend upon it, whether you know
it or not, you are a little in for't. Your native generosity and
greatness of mind endanger you: all your friends, by fighting against
him with impolitic violence, fight for him. And Lovelace, my life for
yours, notwithstanding all his veneration and assiduities, has seen
further than that veneration and those assiduities (so well calculated
to your meridian) will let him own he has seen--has seen, in short,
that his work is doing for him more effectually than he could do it
for himself. And have you not before now said, that nothing is so
penetrating as the eye of a lover who has vanity? And who says
Lovelace wants vanity?
In short, my dear, it is my opinion, and that from the easiness of his
heart and behaviour, that he has seen more than I have seen; more than
you think could be seen--more than I believe you yourself know, or
else you would let me know it.
Already, in order to restrain him from resenting the indignities he
has received, and which are daily offered him, he has prevailed upon
you to correspond with him privately. I know he has nothing to boast
of from what you have written: but is not his inducing you to receive
his letters, and to answer them, a great point gained? By your
insisting that he should keep the correspondence private, it appears
there is one secret which you do not wish the world should know: and
he is master of that secret. He is indeed himself, as I may say, that
secret! What an intimacy does this beget for the lover! How is it
distancing the parent!
Yet who, as things are situated, can blame you?--Your condescension
has no doubt hitherto prevented great mischiefs. It must be
continued, for the same reasons, while the cause remains. You are
drawn in by a perverse fate against inclination: but custom, with such
laudable purposes, will reconcile the inconveniency, and make an
inclination.--And I would advise you (as you would wish to manage on
an occasion so critical with that prudence which governs all your
actions) not to be afraid of entering upon a close examination into
the true springs and grounds of this your generosity to that happy
It is my humble opinion, I tell you frankly, that on inquiry it will
come out to be LOVE--don't start, my dear!--Has not your man himself
had natural philosophy enough to observe already to your aunt Hervey,
that love takes the deepest root in the steadiest minds? The deuce
take his sly penetration, I was going to say; for this was six or
seven weeks ago.
I have been tinctured, you know. Nor on the coolest reflection, could
I account how and when the jaundice began: but had been over head and
ears, as the saying is, but for some of that advice from you, which I
now return you. Yet my man was not half so--so what, my dear--to be
sure Lovelace is a charming fellow. And were he only--but I will not
make you glow, as you read--upon my word I will not.--Yet, my dear,
don't you find at your heart somewhat unusual make it go throb, throb,
throb, as you read just here?--If you do, don't be ashamed to own it-- it is your generosity, my love, that's all.--But as the Roman augur
said, Caesar, beware of the Ides of March!
Adieu, my dearest friend.--Forgive, and very speedily, by the new
found expedient, tell me that you forgive,
Your ever-affectionate, ANNA HOWE.