MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE THURSDAY MORNING, MARCH 2.
Indeed you would not be in love with him for the world!--Your servant,
my dear. Nor would I have you. For, I think, with all the advantages
of person, fortune, and family, he is not by any means worthy of you.
And this opinion I give as well from the reasons you mention (which I
cannot but confirm) as from what I have heard of him but a few hours
ago from Mrs. Fortescue, a favourite of Lady Betty Lawrance, who knows
him well--but let me congratulate you, however, on your being the
first of our sex that ever I heard of, who has been able to turn that
lion, Love, at her own pleasure, into a lap-dog.
Well but, if you have not the throbs and the glows, you have not: and
are not in love; good reason why--because you would not be in love;
and there's no more to be said.--Only, my dear, I shall keep a good
look-out upon you; and so I hope you will be upon yourself; for it is
no manner of argument that because you would not be in love, you
therefore are not.--But before I part entirely with this subject, a
word in your ear, my charming friend--'tis only by way of caution, and
in pursuance of the general observation, that a stander-by is often a
better judge of the game than those that play.--May it not be, that
you have had, and have, such cross creatures and such odd heads to
deal with, as have not allowed you to attend to the throbs?--Or, if
you had them a little now and then, whether, having had two accounts
to place them to, you have not by mistake put them to the wrong one?
But whether you have a value for Lovelace or not, I know you will be
impatient to hear what Mrs. Fortescue has said of him. Nor will I
keep you longer in suspense.
An hundred wild stories she tells of him from childhood to manhood:
for, as she observed, having never been subject to contradiction, he
was always as mischievous as a monkey. But I shall pass over these
whole hundred of his puerile rogueries (although indicative ones, as I
may say) to take notice as well of some things you are not quite
ignorant of, as of others you know not, and to make a few observations
upon him and his ways.
Mrs. Fortescue owns, what every body knows, 'that he is notoriously,
nay, avowedly, a man of pleasure; yet says, that in any thing he sets
his heart upon or undertakes, he is the most industrious and
persevering mortal under the sun. He rests it seems not above six
hours in the twenty-four--any more than you. He delights in writing.
Whether at Lord M.'s, or at Lady Betty's, or Lady Sarah's, he has
always a pen in his fingers when he retires. One of his companions
(confirming his love of writing) has told her, that his thoughts flow
rapidly to his pen:' And you and I, my dear, have observed, on more
occasions than one, that though he writes even a fine hand, he is one
of the readiest and quickest of writers. He must indeed have had
early a very docile genius; since a person of his pleasurable turn and
active spirit, could never have submitted to take long or great pains
in attaining the qualifications he is master of; qualifications so
seldom attained by youth of quality and fortune; by such especially of
those of either, who, like him, have never known what it was to be
'He had once it seems the vanity, upon being complimented on these
talents (and on his surprising diligence, for a man of pleasure) to
compare himself to Julius Caesar; who performed great actions by day,
and wrote them down at night; and valued himself, that he only wanted
Caesar's out-setting, to make a figure among his contemporaries.
'He spoke of this indeed, she says, with an air of pleasantry: for she
observed, and so have we, that he has the art of acknowledging his
vanity with so much humour, that it sets him above the contempt which
is due to vanity and self-opinion; and at the same time half persuades
those who hear him, that he really deserves the exultation he gives
But supposing it to be true that all his vacant nightly hours are
employed in writing, what can be his subjects? If, like Caesar, his
own actions, he must undoubtedly be a very enterprising and very
wicked man; since nobody suspects him to have a serious turn; and,
decent as he is in his conversation with us, his writings are not
probably such as would redound either to his own honour, or to the
benefit of others, were they to be read. He must be conscious of
this, since Mrs. Fortescue says, 'that in the great correspondence by
letters which he holds, he is as secret and as careful as if it were
of a treasonable nature;--yet troubles not his head with politics,
though nobody knows the interests of princes and courts better than he
is said to do.'
That you and I, my dear, should love to write, is no wonder. We have
always, from the time each could hold a pen, delighted in epistolary
correspondencies. Our employments are domestic and sedentary; and we
can scribble upon twenty innocent subjects, and take delight in them
because they are innocent; though were they to be seen, they might not
much profit or please others. But that such a gay, lively young
fellow as this, who rides, hunts, travels, frequents the public
entertainments, and has means to pursue his pleasures, should be able
to set himself down to write for hours together, as you and I have
heard him say he frequently does, that is the strange thing.
Mrs. Fortescue says, 'that he is a complete master of short-hand
writing.' By the way, what inducements could a swift writer as he
have to learn short-hand!
She says (and we know it as well as she) 'that he has a surprising
memory, and a very lively imagination.'
Whatever his other vices are, all the world, as well as Mrs.
Fortescue, says, 'he is a sober man. And among all his bad qualities,
gaming, that great waster of time as well as fortune, is not his
vice:' So that he must have his head as cool, and his reason as clear,
as the prime of youth and his natural gaiety will permit; and by his
early morning hours, a great portion of time upon his hands to employ
in writing, or worse.
Mrs. Fortescue says, 'he has one gentleman who is more his intimate
and correspondent than any of the rest.' You remember what his
dismissed bailiff said of him and of his associates.* I don't find
but that Mrs. Fortescue confirms this part of it, 'that all his
relations are afraid of him; and that his pride sets him above owing
obligations to them. She believes he is clear of the world; and that
he will continue so;' No doubt from the same motive that makes him
avoid being obliged to his relations.
* Letter IV.
A person willing to think favourably of him would hope, that a brave,
a learned, and a diligent, man, cannot be naturally a bad man.--But if
he be better than his enemies say he is (and if worse he is bad
indeed) he is guilty of an inexcusable fault in being so careless as
he is of his reputation. I think a man can be so but from one of
these two reasons: either that he is conscious he deserves the ill
spoken of him; or, that he takes a pride in being thought worse than
he is. Both very bad and threatening indications; since the first must
shew him to be utterly abandoned; and it is but natural to conclude
from the other, that what a man is not ashamed to have imputed to him,
he will not scruple to be guilty of whenever he has an opportunity.
Upon the whole, and upon all I could gather from Mrs. Fortescue, Mr.
Lovelace is a very faulty man. You and I have thought him too gay,
too inconsiderate, too rash, too little an hypocrite, to be deep. You
see he never would disguise his natural temper (haughty as it
certainly is) with respect to your brother's behaviour to him. Where
he thinks a contempt due, he pays it to the uttermost. Nor has he
complaisance enough to spare your uncles.
But were he deep, and ever so deep, you would soon penetrate him, if
they would leave you to yourself. His vanity would be your clue.
Never man had more: Yet, as Mrs. Fortescue observed, 'never did man
carry it off so happily.' There is a strange mixture in it of
humourous vivacity:--Since but for one half of what he says of
himself, when he is in the vein, any other man would be insufferable.
Talk of the devil, is an old saying. The lively wretch has made me a
visit, and is but just gone away. He is all impatience and resentment
at the treatment you meet with, and full of apprehensions too, that
they will carry their point with you.
I told him my opinion, that you will never be brought to think of such
a man as Solmes; but that it will probably end in a composition, never
to have either.
No man, he said, whose fortunes and alliances are so considerable,
ever had so little favour from a woman for whose sake he had borne so
I told him my mind as freely as I used to do. But whoever was in
fault, self being judge? He complained of spies set upon his conduct,
and to pry into his life and morals, and this by your brother and
I told him, that this was very hard upon him; and the more so, as
neither his life nor morals perhaps would stand a fair inquiry.
He smiled, and called himself my servant.--The occasion was too fair,
he said, for Miss Howe, who never spared him, to let it pass.--But,
Lord help the shallow souls of the Harlowes! Would I believe it! they
were for turning plotters upon him. They had best take care he did
not pay them in their own coin. Their hearts were better turned for
such works than their heads.
I asked him, If he valued himself upon having a head better turned
than theirs for such works, as he called them?
He drew off: and then ran into the highest professions of reverence
and affection for you.
The object so meritorious, who can doubt the reality of his
Adieu, my dearest, my noble friend!--I love and admire you for the
generous conclusion of your last more than I can express. Though I
began this letter with impertinent raillery, knowing that you always
loved to indulge my mad vein; yet never was there a heart that more
glowed with friendly love, than that of
Your own ANNA HOWE.