MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1.
I now take up my pen to lay before you the inducements and motive
which my friends have to espouse so earnestly the address of this Mr.
In order to set this matter in a clear light, it is necessary to go a
little back, and even perhaps to mention some things which you already
know: and so you may look upon what I am going to relate, as a kind
of supplement to my letters of the 15th and 20th of January last.*
* Letters IV. and V.
In those letters, of which I have kept memorandums, I gave you an
account of my brother's and sister's antipathy to Mr. Lovelace; and
the methods they took (so far as they had then come to my knowledge)
to ruin him in the opinion of my other friends. And I told you, that
after a very cold, yet not a directly affrontive behaviour to him,
they all of a sudden* became more violent, and proceeded to personal
insults; which brought on at last the unhappy rencounter between my
brother and him.
* See Letter IV.
Now you must know, that from the last conversation that passed between
my aunt and me, it comes out, that this sudden vehemence on my
brother's and sister's parts, was owing to stronger reasons than to
the college-begun antipathy on his side, or to slighted love on hers;
to wit, to an apprehension that my uncles intended to follow my
grandfather's example in my favour; at least in a higher degree than
they wish they should. An apprehension founded it seems on a
conversation between my two uncles and my brother and sister: which my
aunt communicated to me in confidence, as an argument to prevail upon
me to accept of Mr. Solmes's noble settlements: urging, that such a
seasonable compliance, would frustrate my brother's and sister's
views, and establish me for ever in the love of my father and uncles.
I will give you the substance of this communicated conversation, after
I have made a brief introductory observation or two, which however I
hardly need to make to you who are so well acquainted with us all, did
not the series or thread of the story require it.
I have more than once mentioned to you the darling view some of us
have long had of raising a family, as it is called. A reflection, as
I have often thought, upon our own, which is no considerable or
upstart one, on either side, on my mother's especially.--A view too
frequently it seems entertained by families which, having great
substance, cannot be satisfied without rank and title.
My uncles had once extended this view to each of us three children;
urging, that as they themselves intended not to marry, we each of us
might be so portioned, and so advantageously matched, as that our
posterity, if not ourselves, might make a first figure in our
country.--While my brother, as the only son, thought the two girls
might be very well provided for by ten or fifteen thousand pounds
a-piece: and that all the real estates in the family, to wit, my
grandfather's, father's, and two uncles', and the remainder of their
respective personal estates, together with what he had an expectation
of from his godmother, would make such a noble fortune, and give him
such an interest, as might entitle him to hope for a peerage. Nothing
less would satisfy his ambition.
With this view he gave himself airs very early; 'That his grandfather
and uncles were his stewards: that no man ever had better: that
daughters were but incumbrances and drawbacks upon a family:' and this
low and familiar expression was often in his mouth, and uttered always
with the self-complaisance which an imagined happy thought can be
supposed to give the speaker; to wit, 'That a man who has sons brings
up chickens for his own table,' [though once I made his comparison
stagger with him, by asking him, If the sons, to make it hold, were to
have their necks wrung off?] 'whereas daughters are chickens brought
up for tables of other men.' This, accompanied with the equally
polite reflection, 'That, to induce people to take them off their
hands, the family-stock must be impaired into the bargain,' used to
put my sister out of all patience: and, although she now seems to
think a younger sister only can be an incumbrance, she was then often
proposing to me to make a party in our own favour against my brother's
rapacious views, as she used to call them: while I was for considering
the liberties he took of this sort, as the effect of a temporary
pleasantry, which, in a young man, not naturally good-humoured, I was
glad to see; or as a foible that deserved raillery, but no other
But when my grandfather's will (of the purport of which in my
particular favour, until it was opened, I was as ignorant as they) had
lopped off one branch of my brother's expectation, he was extremely
dissatisfied with me. Nobody indeed was pleased: for although every
one loved me, yet being the youngest child, father, uncles, brother,
sister, all thought themselves postponed, as to matter of right and
power [Who loves not power?]: And my father himself could not bear
that I should be made sole, as I may call it, and independent; for
such the will, as to that estate and the powers it gave,
(unaccountably, as they all said,) made me.
To obviate, therefore, every one's jealousy, I gave up to my father's
management, as you know, not only the estate, but the money bequeathed
me (which was a moiety of what my grandfather had by him at his death;
the other moiety being bequeathed to my sister); contenting myself to
take as from his bounty what he was pleased to allow me, without
desiring the least addition to my annual stipend. And then I hoped I
had laid all envy asleep: but still my brother and sister (jealous, as
now is evident, of my two uncles' favour of me, and of the pleasure I
had given my father and them by this act of duty) were every
now-and-then occasionally doing me covert ill offices: of which,
however, I took the less notice, when I was told of them, as I thought
I had removed the cause of their envy; and I imputed every thing of
that sort to the petulance they are both pretty much noted for.
My brother's acquisition then took place. This made us all very
happy; and he went down to take possession of it: and his absence (on
so good an account too) made us still happier. Then followed Lord
M.'s proposal for my sister: and this was an additional felicity for
the time. I have told you how exceedingly good-humoured it made my
You know how that went off: you know what came on in its place.
My brother then returned; and we were all wrong again: and Bella, as I
observed in my letters abovementioned, had an opportunity to give
herself the credit of having refused Mr. Lovelace, on the score of his
reputed faulty morals. This united my brother and sister in one
cause. They set themselves on all occasions to depreciate Mr.
Lovelace, and his family too (a family which deserves nothing but
respect): and this gave rise to the conversation I am leading to,
between my uncles and them: of which I now come to give the
particulars; after I have observed, that it happened before the
rencounter, and soon after the inquiry made into Mr. Lovelace's
affairs had come out better than my brother and sister hoped it
* See Letter IV.
They were bitterly inveighing against him, in their usual way,
strengthening their invectives with some new stories in his disfavour,
when my uncle Antony, having given them a patient hearing, declared,
'That he thought the gentleman behaved like a gentleman; his niece
Clary with prudence; and that a more honourable alliance for the
family, as he had often told them, could not be wished for: since Mr.
Lovelace had a very good paternal estate; and that, by the evidence of
an enemy, all clear. Nor did it appear, that he was so bad a man as
he had been represented to be: wild indeed; but it was a gay time of
life: he was a man of sense: and he was sure that his niece would not
have him, if she had not good reason to think him reformed, or that
there was a likelihood that she could reform him by her example.'
My uncle then gave one instance, my aunt told me, as a proof of a
generosity in Mr. Lovelace's spirit, which convinced him that he was
not a bad man in nature; and that he was of a temper, he was pleased
to say, like my own; which was, That when he (my uncle) had
represented to him, that he might, if he pleased, make three or four
hundred pounds a year of his paternal estate, more than he did; he
answered, 'That his tenants paid their rents well: that it was a maxim
with his family, from which he would by no means depart, Never to
rack-rent old tenants, or their descendants; and that it was a
pleasure to him, to see all his tenants look fat, sleek, and
I indeed had once occasionally heard him say something like this; and
thought he never looked so well as at that time;--except once; and
that was in an instance given by him on the following incident.
An unhappy tenant of my uncle Antony came petitioning to my uncle for
forbearance, in Mr. Lovelace's presence. When he had fruitlessly
withdrawn, Mr. Lovelace pleaded his cause so well, that the man was
called in again, and had his suit granted. And Mr. Lovelace privately
followed him out, and gave him two guineas, for present relief; the
man having declared, that, at the time, he had not five shilling in
On this occasion, he told my uncle (but without any airs of
ostentation), that he had once observed an old tenant and his wife in
a very mean habit at church; and questioning them about it the next
day, as he knew they had no hard bargain in their farm, the man said,
he had done some very foolish things with a good intention, which had
put him behind-hand, and he could not have paid his rent, and appear
better. He asked him how long it would take him to retrieve the
foolish step he acknowledged he had made. He said, Perhaps two or
three years. Well then, said he, I will abate you five pounds a year
for seven years, provided you will lay it upon your wife and self, that
you may make a Sunday-appearance like MY tenants. Mean time,
take this (putting his hand in his pocket, and giving him five
guineas), to put yourselves in present plight; and let me see you next
Sunday at church, hand in hand, like an honest and loving couple; and
I bespeak you to dine with me afterwards.
Although this pleased me when I heard it, as giving an instance of
generosity and prudence at the same time, not lessening (as my uncle
took notice) the yearly value of the farm, yet, my dear, I had no
throbs, no glows upon it!--Upon my word, I had not. Nevertheless I
own to you, that I could not help saying to myself on the occasion,
'Were it ever to be my lot to have this man, he would not hinder me
from pursuing the methods I so much delight to take'--With 'A pity,
that such a man were not uniformly good!'
Forgive me this digression.
My uncle went on (as my aunt told me), 'That, besides his paternal
estate, he was the immediate heir to very splendid fortunes: that,
when he was in treaty for his niece Arabella, Lord M. told him (my
uncle) what great things he and his two half-sisters intended to do
for him, in order to qualify him for the title, which would be extinct
at his Lordship's death, and which they hoped to procure for him, or a
still higher, that of those ladies' father, which had been for some
time extinct on failure of heirs male: that it was with this view that
his relations were all so earnest for his marrying: that as he saw not
where Mr. Lovelace could better himself; so, truly, he thought there
was wealth enough in their own family to build up three considerable
ones: that, therefore, he must needs say, he was the more desirous of
this alliance, as there was a great probability, not only from Mr.
Lovelace's descent, but from his fortunes, that his niece Clarissa
might one day be a peeress of Great Britain:--and, upon that prospect
[here was the mortifying stroke], he should, for his own part, think
it not wrong to make such dispositions as should contribute to the
better support of the dignity.'
My uncle Harlowe, it seems, far from disapproving of what his brother
had said, declared, 'That there was but one objection to an alliance
with Mr. Lovelace; to wit, his faulty morals: especially as so much
could be done for Miss Bella, and for my brother too, by my father;
and as my brother was actually possessed of a considerable estate by
virtue of the deed of gift and will of his godmother Lovell.'
Had I known this before, I should the less have wondered at many
things I have been unable to account for in my brother's and sister's
behaviour to me; and been more on my guard than I imagined there was a
necessity to be.
You may easily guess how much this conversation affected my brother at
the time. He could not, you know, but be very uneasy to hear two of
his stewards talk at this rate to his face.
He had from early days, by his violent temper, made himself both
feared and courted by the whole family. My father himself, as I have
lately mentioned, very often (long before my brother's acquisition had
made him still more assuming) gave way to him, as to an only son who
was to build up the name, and augment the honour of it. Little
inducement, therefore, had my brother to correct a temper which gave
him so much consideration with every body.
'See, Sister Bella,' said he, in an indecent passion before my uncles,
on this occasion I have mentioned--'See how it is!--You and I ought to
look about us!--This little syren is in a fair way to out-uncle, as
she has already out-grandfather'd, us both!'
From this time (as I now find it plain upon recollection) did my
brother and sister behave to me, as to one who stood in their way; and
to each other as having but one interest: and were resolved,
therefore, to bend all their force to hinder an alliance from taking
effect, which they believed was likely to oblige them to contract
And how was this to be done, after such a declaration from both my
My brother found out the way. My sister (as I have said) went hand in
hand with him. Between them, the family union was broke, and every
one was made uneasy. Mr. Lovelace was received more and more coldly
by all: but not being to be put out of his course by slights only,
personal affronts succeeded; defiances next; then the rencounter: that,
as you have heard, did the business. And now, if I do not oblige them, my grandfather's estate is to be litigated with me; and I, who never designed
to take advantage of the independency bequeathed me, am to be as dependent
upon my father's will, as a daughter ought to be who knows not what is
good for herself. This is the language of the family now.
But if I will suffer myself to be prevailed upon, how happy (as they
lay it out) shall we all be!--Such presents am I to have, such jewels,
and I cannot tell what, from every one in the family! Then Mr.
Solmes's fortunes are so great, and his proposals so very
advantageous, (no relation whom he values,) that there will be
abundant room to raise mine upon them, were the high-intended favours
of my own relations to be quite out of the question. Moreover, it is
now, with this view, found out, that I have qualifications which of
themselves will be a full equivalent to Mr. Solmes for the settlements
he is to make; and still leave him under an obligation to me for my
compliance. He himself thinks so, I am told--so very poor a creature
is he, even in his own eyes, as well as in theirs.
These desirable views answered, how rich, how splendid shall we all
three be! And I--what obligations shall I lay upon them all!--And
that only by doing an act of duty so suitable to my character, and
manner of thinking; if, indeed, I am the generous as well as dutiful
creature I have hitherto made them believe I am.
This is the bright side that is turned to my father and uncles, to
captivate them: but I am afraid that my brother's and sister's design
is to ruin me with them at any rate. Were it otherwise, would they
not on my return from you have rather sought to court than frighten me
into measures which their hearts are so much bent to carry? A method
they have followed ever since.
Mean time, orders are given to all the servants to shew the highest
respect to Mr. Solmes; the generous Mr. Solmes is now his character
with some of our family! But are not these orders a tacit confession,
that they think his own merit will not procure him respect? He is
accordingly, in every visit he makes, not only highly caressed by the
principals of our family, but obsequiously attended and cringed to by
the menials.--And the noble settlements are echoed from every mouth.
Noble is the word used to enforce the offers of a man who is mean
enough avowedly to hate, and wicked enough to propose to rob of their
just expectations, his own family, (every one of which at the same
time stands in too much need of his favour,) in order to settle all he
is worth upon me; and if I die without children, and he has none by
any other marriage, upon a family which already abounds. Such are his
But were there no other motive to induce me to despise the upstart
man, is not this unjust one to his family enough?--The upstart man, I
repeat; for he was not born to the immense riches he is possessed of:
riches left by one niggard to another, in injury to the next heir,
because that other is a niggard. And should I not be as culpable, do
you think, in my acceptance of such unjust settlements, as he is in
the offer of them, if I could persuade myself to be a sharer in them,
or suffer a reversionary expectation of possessing them to influence
Indeed, it concerns me not a little, that my friends could be brought
to encourage such offers on such motives as I think a person of
conscience should not presume to begin the world with.
But this it seems is the only method that can be taken to disappoint
Mr. Lovelace; and at the same time to answer all my relations have
wish for each of us. And surely I will not stand against such an
accession to the family as may happen from marrying Mr. Solmes: since
now a possibility is discovered, (which such a grasping mind as my
brother's can easily turn into a probability,) that my grandfather's
estate will revert to it, with a much more considerable one of the
man's own. Instances of estates falling in, in cases far more
unlikely than this, are insisted upon; and my sister says, in the
words of an old saw, It is good to be related to an estate.
While Solmes, smiling no doubt to himself at a hope so remote, by
offers only, obtains all their interests; and doubts not to join to
his own the estate I am envied for; which, for the conveniency of its
situation between two of his, will it seems be of twice the value to
him that it would be of to any other person; and is therefore, I doubt
not, a stronger motive with him than the wife.
These, my dear, seem to me the principal inducements of my relations
to espouse so vehemently as they do this man's suit. And here, once
more, must I deplore the family fault, which gives those inducements
such a force as it will be difficult to resist.
And thus far, let matters with regard to Mr. Solmes and me come out as
they will, my brother has succeeded in his views; that is to say, he
has, in the first place, got my FATHER to make the cause his own, and
to insist upon my compliance as an act of duty.
My MOTHER has never thought fit to oppose my father's will, when once
he has declared himself determined.
My UNCLES, stiff, unbroken, highly-prosperous bachelors, give me leave
to say, (though very worthy persons in the main,) have as high notions
of a child's duty, as of a wife's obedience; in the last of which, my
mother's meekness has confirmed them, and given them greater reason to
expect the first.
My aunt HERVEY (not extremely happy in her own nuptials, and perhaps
under some little obligation) is got over, and chuses [sic] not to
open her lips in my favour against the wills of a father and uncles so
This passiveness in my mother and in my aunt, in a point so contrary
to their own first judgments, is too strong a proof that my father is
Their treatment of my worthy MRS. NORTON is a sad confirmation of it:
a woman deserving of all consideration for her wisdom, and every body
thinking so; but who, not being wealthy enough to have due weight in a
point against which she has given her opinion, and which they seem
bent upon carrying, is restrained from visiting here, and even from
corresponding with me, as I am this very day informed.
Hatred to Lovelace, family aggrandizement, and this great motive
paternal authority!--What a force united must they be supposed to have,
when singly each consideration is sufficient to carry all before it!
This is the formidable appearance which the address of this
disagreeable man wears at present.
My BROTHER and my SISTER triumph.--They have got me down, as Hannah
overheard them exult. And so they have (yet I never knew that I was
insolently up); for now my brother will either lay me under an obligation
to comply to my own unhappiness, and so make me an instrument of his
revenge upon Lovelace; or, if I refuse, will throw me into disgrace
with my whole family.
Who will wonder at the intrigues and plots carried on by undermining
courtiers against one another, when a private family, but three of
which can possibly have clashing interests, and one of them (as she
presumes to think) above such low motives, cannot be free from them?
What at present most concerns me, is, the peace of my mother's mind!
How can the husband of such a wife (a good man too!--But oh! this
prerogative of manhood!) be so positive, so unpersuadable, to one who
has brought into the family means, which they know so well the value
of, that methinks they should value her the more for their sake?
They do indeed value her: but, I am sorry to say, she has purchased
that value by her compliances; yet has merit for which she ought to be
venerated; prudence which ought of itself to be conformed to in every
But whither roves my pen? How dare a perverse girl take these
liberties with relations so very respectable, and whom she highly
respects? What an unhappy situation is that which obliges her, in her
own defence as it were, to expose their failings?
But you, who know how much I love and reverence my mother, will judge
what a difficulty I am under, to be obliged to oppose a scheme which
she has engaged in. Yet I must oppose it (to comply is impossible);
and must without delay declare my opposition, or my difficulties will
increase; since, as I am just now informed, a lawyer has been this
very day consulted [Would you have believed it?] in relation to
Were ours a Roman Catholic family, how much happier for me, that they
thought a nunnery would answer all their views!--How happy, had not a
certain person slighted somebody! All then would have been probably
concluded between them before my brother had arrived to thwart the
match: then had I a sister; which now I have not; and two brothers;-- both aspiring; possibly both titled: while I should only have valued
that in either which is above title, that which is truly noble in
But by what a long-reaching selfishness is my brother governed! By
what remote, exceedingly remote views! Views, which it is in the
power of the slightest accident, of a fever, for instance, (the seeds
of which are always vegetating, as I may say, and ready to burst
forth, in his own impetuous temper,) or of the provoked weapon of an
adversary, to blow up and destroy!
I will break off here. Let me write ever so freely of my friends, I
am sure of your kind construction: and I confide in your discretion,
that you will avoid reading to or transcribing for others such
passages as may have the appearance of treating too freely the
parental, or even the fraternal character, or induce others to censure
for a supposed failure in duty to the one, or decency to the other,
Your truly affectionate, CL. HARLOWE.