MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1.
You both nettled and alarmed me, my dearest Miss Howe, by the
concluding part of your last. At first reading it, I did not think it
necessary, said I to myself, to guard against a critic, when I was
writing to so dear a friend. But then recollecting myself, is there
not more in it, said I, than the result of a vein so naturally lively?
Surely I must have been guilty of an inadvertence. Let me enter into
the close examination of myself which my beloved friend advises.
I do so; and cannot own any of the glow, any of the throbs you
mention.--Upon my word I will repeat, I cannot. And yet the passages
in my letter, upon which you are so humourously severe, lay me fairly
open to your agreeable raillery. I own they do. And I cannot tell
what turn my mind had taken to dictate so oddly to my pen.
But, pray now--is it saying so much, when one, who has no very
particular regard to any man, says, there are some who are preferable
to others? And is it blamable to say, they are the preferable, who
are not well used by one's relations; yet dispense with that usage out
of regard to one's self which they would otherwise resent? Mr.
Lovelace, for instance, I may be allowed to say, is a man to be
preferred to Mr. Solmes; and that I do prefer him to that man: but,
surely, this may be said without its being a necessary consequence
that I must be in love with him.
Indeed I would not be in love with him, as it is called, for the
world: First, because I have no opinion of his morals; and think it a
fault in which our whole family (my brother excepted) has had a share,
that he was permitted to visit us with a hope, which, however, being
distant, did not, as I have observed heretofore,* entitle any of us to
call him to account for such of his immoralities as came to our ears.
Next, because I think him to be a vain man, capable of triumphing
(secretly at least) over a person whose heart he thinks he has
engaged. And, thirdly, because the assiduities and veneration which
you impute to him, seem to carry an haughtiness in them, as if he
thought his address had a merit in it, that would be more than an
equivalent to a woman's love. In short, his very politeness,
notwithstanding the advantages he must have had from his birth and
education, appear to be constrained; and, with the most remarkable
easy and genteel person, something, at times, seems to be behind in
his manner that is too studiously kept in. Then, good-humoured as he
is thought to be in the main to other people's servants, and this even
to familiarity (although, as you have observed, a familiarity that has
dignity in it not unbecoming to a man of quality) he is apt sometimes
to break out into a passion with his own: An oath or a curse follows,
and such looks from those servants as plainly shew terror, and that
they should have fared worse had they not been in my hearing: with a
confirmation in the master's looks of a surmise too well justified.
* Letter III.
Indeed, my dear, THIS man is not THE man. I have great objections to
him. My heart throbs not after him. I glow not, but with indignation
against myself for having given room for such an imputation. But you
must not, my dearest friend, construe common gratitude into love. I
cannot bear that you should. But if ever I should have the misfortune
to think it love, I promise you upon my word, which is the same as
upon my honour, that I will acquaint you with it.
You bid me to tell you very speedily, and by the new-found expedient,
that I am not displeased with you for your agreeable raillery: I
dispatch this therefore immediately, postponing to my next the account
of the inducements which my friends have to promote with so much
earnestness the address of Mr. Solmes.
Be satisfied, my dear, mean time, that I am not displeased with you:
indeed I am not. On the contrary, I give you my hearty thanks for
your friendly premonitions; and I charge you (as I have often done)
that if you observe any thing in me so very faulty as would require
from you to others in my behalf the palliation of friendly and partial
love, you acquaint me with it: for methinks I would so conduct myself
as not to give reason even for an adversary to censure me; and how
shall so weak and so young a creature avoid the censure of such, if my
friend will not hold a looking-glass before me to let me see my
Judge me, then, my dear, as any indifferent person (knowing what you
know of me) would do. I may be at first be a little pained; may glow
a little perhaps to be found less worthy of your friendship than I
wish to be; but assure yourself, that your kind correction will give
me reflection that shall amend me. If it do not, you will have a
fault to accuse me of, that will be utterly inexcusable: a fault, let
me add, that should you not accuse me of it (if in your opinion I am
guilty) you will not be so much, so warmly, my friend as I am yours;
since I have never spared you on the like occasions.
Here I break off to begin another letter to you, with the assurance,
mean time, that I am, and ever will be,
Your equally affectionate and grateful, CL. HARLOWE.