MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE SAT. AFTERNOON.
The expected conference is over: but my difficulties are increased.
This, as my mother was pleased to tell me, being the last persuasory
effort that is to be attempted, I will be particular in the account of
it as my head and my heart will allow it to be.
I have made, said she, as she entered my room, a short as well as
early dinner, on purpose to confer with you: and I do assure you, that
it will be the last conference I shall either be permitted or inclined
to hold with you on the subject, if you should prove as refractory as
it is imagined you will prove by some, who are of opinion, that I have
not the weight with you which my indulgence deserves. But I hope you
will convince as well them as me of the contrary.
Your father both dines and sups at your uncle's, on purpose to give us
this opportunity; and, according to the report I shall make on his
return, (which I have promised shall be a very faithful one,) he will
take his measures with you.
I was offering to speak--Hear, Clarissa, what I have to tell you, said
she, before you speak, unless what you have to say will signify to me
your compliance--Say--Will it?--If it will, you may speak.
I was silent.
She looked with concern and anger upon me--No compliance, I find!-- Such a dutiful young creature hitherto!--Will you not, can you not,
speak as I would have you speak?--Then [rejecting me as it were with
her hand] continue silent.--I, no more than your father, will bear
your avowed contradiction.
She paused, with a look of expectation, as if she waited for my
I was still silent; looking down; the tears in my eyes.
O thou determined girl!--But say--Speak out--Are you resolved to stand
in opposition to us all, in a point our hearts are set upon?
May I, Madam, be permitted to expostulate?--
To what purpose expostulate with me, Clarissa? Your father is
determined. Have I not told you there is no receding; that the honour
as well as the interest of the family is concerned? Be ingenuous: you
used to be so, even occasionally against yourself:--Who at the long
run must submit--all of us to you; or you to all of us?--If you intend
to yield at last if you find you cannot conquer, yield now, and with a
grace--for yield you must, or be none of our child.
I wept. I knew not what to say; or rather how to express what I had
Take notice, that there are flaws in your grandfather's will: not a
shilling of that estate will be yours, if you do not yield. Your
grandfather left it to you, as a reward of your duty to him and to us --You will justly forfeit it, if--
Permit me, good Madam, to say, that, if it were unjustly bequeathed
me, I ought not to wish to have it. But I hope Mr. Solmes will be
apprised of these flaws.
This is very pertly said, Clarissa: but reflect, that the forfeiture
of that estate, through your opposition, will be attended with the
total loss of your father's favour: and then how destitute must you
be; how unable to support yourself; and how many benevolent designs
and good actions must you give up!
I must accommodate myself, Madam, in the latter case, to my
circumstance: much only is required where much is given. It becomes
me to be thankful for what I have had. I have reason to bless you,
Madam, and my good Mrs. Norton, for bringing me up to be satisfied
with little; with much less, I will venture to say, than my father's
indulgence annually confers upon me.--And then I thought of the old
Roman and his lentils.
What perverseness! said my mother.--But if you depend upon the favour
of either or both of your uncles, vain will be that dependence: they
will give you up, I do assure you, if your father does, and absolutely
I am sorry, Madam, that I have had so little merit as to have made no
deeper impressions of favour for me in their hearts: but I will love
and honour them as long as I live.
All this, Clarissa, makes your prepossession in a certain man's favour
the more evident. Indeed, your brother and sister cannot go any
where, but they hear of these prepossessions.
It is a great grief to me, Madam, to be made the subject of the public
talk: but I hope you will have the goodness to excuse me for
observing, that the authors of my disgrace within doors, the talkers
of my prepossession without, and the reporters of it from abroad, are
originally the same persons.
She severely chid me for this.
I received her rebukes in silence.
You are sullen, Clarissa: I see you are sullen.--And she walked about
the room in anger. Then turning to me--You can bear the imputation of
sullenness I see! --You have no concern to clear yourself of it. I
was afraid of telling you all I was enjoined to tell you, in case you
were to be unpersuadable: but I find that I had a greater opinion of
your delicacy, of your gentleness, than I needed to have--it cannot
discompose so steady, so inflexible a young creature, to be told, as I
now tell you, that the settlements are actually drawn; and that you
will be called down in a very few days to hear them read, and to sign
them: for it is impossible, if your heart be free, that you can make
the least objection to them; except it will be an objection with you,
that they are so much in your favour, and in the favour of all our
I was speechless, absolutely speechless. Although my heart was ready
to burst, yet could I neither weep nor speak.
I am sorry, said she, for your averseness to this match: [match she
was pleased to call it!] but there is no help. The honour and
interest of the family, as your aunt has told you, and as I have told
you, are concerned; and you must comply.
I was still speechless.
She folded the warm statue, as she was pleased to call me, in her
arms; and entreated me, for heaven's sake, to comply.
Speech and tears were lent me at the same time.--You have given me
life, Madam, said I, clasping my uplifted hands together, and falling
on one knee; a happy one, till now, has your goodness, and my papa's,
made it! O do not, do not, make all the remainder of it miserable!
Your father, replied she, is resolved not to see you, till he sees you
as obedient a child as you used to be. You have never been put to a
test till now, that deserved to be called a test. This is, this must
be, my last effort with you. Give me hope, my dear child: my peace is
concerned: I will compound with you but for hope: and yet your father
will not be satisfied without an implicit, and even a cheerful
obedience--Give me but hope, child!
To give you hope, my dearest, my most indulgent Mamma, is to give you
every thing. Can I be honest, if I give a hope that I cannot confirm?
She was very angry. She again called me perverse: she upbraided me
with regarding only my own prepossessions, and respecting not either
her peace of mind or my own duty:--'It is a grating thing, said she,
for the parents of a child, who delighted in her in all the time of
her helpless infancy, and throughout every stage of her childhood; and
in every part of her education to womanhood, because of the promises
she gave of proving the most grateful and dutiful of children; to
find, just when the time arrived which should crown their wishes, that
child stand in the way of her own happiness, and her parents'
comfort,and, refusing an excellent offer and noble settlements, give
suspicions to her anxious friends, that she would become the property
of a vile rake and libertine, who (be the occasion what it will)
defies her family, and has actually embrued his hands in her brother's
'I have had a very hard time of it, said she, between your father and
you; for, seeing your dislike, I have more than once pleaded for you:
but all to no purpose. I am only treated as a too fond mother, who,
from motives of a blamable indulgence, encourage a child to stand in
opposition to a father's will. I am charged with dividing the family
into two parts; I and my youngest daughter standing against my
husband, his two brothers, my son, my eldest daughter, and my sister
Hervey. I have been told, that I must be convinced of the fitness as
well as advantage to the whole (your brother and Mr. Lovelace out of
the question) of carrying the contract with Mr. Solmes, on which so
many contracts depend, into execution.
'Your father's heart, I tell you once more, is in it: he has declared,
that he had rather have no daughter in you, than one he cannot dispose
of for your own good: especially if you have owned, that your heart is
free; and as the general good of his whole family is to be promoted by
your obedience. He has pleaded, poor man! that his frequent gouty
paroxysms (every fit more threatening than the former) give him no
extraordinary prospects, either of worldly happiness, or of long days:
and he hopes, that you, who have been supposed to have contributed to
the lengthening of your grandfather's life, will not, by your
disobedience, shorten your father's.'
This was a most affecting plea, my dear. I wept in silence upon it.
I could not speak to it. And my mother proceeded: 'What therefore can
be his motives, Clary Harlowe, in the earnest desire he has to see
this treaty perfected, but the welfare and aggrandizement of his
family; which already having fortunes to become the highest condition,
cannot but aspire to greater distinctions? However slight such views
as these may appear to you, Clary, you know, that they are not slight
ones to any other of the family: and your father will be his own judge
of what is and what is not likely to promote the good of his children.
Your abstractedness, child, (affectation of abstractedness, some call
it,) savours, let me tell you, of greater particularity, than we aim
to carry. Modesty and humility, therefore, will oblige you rather to
mistrust yourself of peculiarity, than censure views which all the
world pursues, as opportunity offers.'
I was still silent; and she proceeded--'It is owing to the good
opinion, Clary, which your father has of you, and of your prudence,
duty, and gratitude, that he engaged for your compliance, in your
absence (before you returned from Miss Howe); and that he built and
finished contracts upon it, which cannot be made void, or cancelled.'
But why then, thought I, did they receive me, on my return from Miss
Howe, with so much intimidating solemnity?--To be sure, my dear, this
argument, as well as the rest, was obtruded upon my mother.
She went on, 'Your father has declared, that your unexpected
opposition, [unexpected she was pleased to call it,] and Mr.
Lovelace's continued menaces and insults, more and more convince him,
that a short day is necessary in order to put an end to all that man's
hopes, and to his own apprehensions resulting from the disobedience of
a child so favoured. He has therefore actually ordered patterns of
the richest silks to be sent for from London--'
I started--I was out of breath--I gasped, at this frightful
precipitance--I was going to open with warmth against it. I knew
whose the happy expedient must be: female minds, I once heard my
brother say, that could but be brought to balance on the change of
their state, might easily be determined by the glare and splendour of
the nuptial preparations, and the pride of becoming the mistress of a
family.--But she was pleased to hurry on, that I might not have time
to express my disgusts at such a communication--to this effect: 'Your father therefore, my Clary, cannot, either for your sake, or his
own, labour under a suspense so affecting to his repose. He has even
thought fit to acquaint me, on my pleading for you, that it becomes
me, as I value my own peace, [how harsh to such a wife!] and as I
wish, that he does not suspect that I secretly favour the address of a
vile rake, (a character which all the sex, he is pleased to say,
virtuous and vicious, are but too fond of!) to exert my authority over
you: and that this I may the less scrupulously do, as you have owned
[the old string!] that your heart is free.'
Unworthy reflection in my mother's case, surely, this of our sex's
valuing a libertine; since she made choice of my father in preference
to several suitors of equal fortune, because they were of inferior
reputation for morals!
'Your father, added she, at his going out, told me what he expected
from me, in case I found out that I had not the requisite influence
upon you--It was this--That I should directly separate myself from
you, and leave you singly to take the consequence of your double
disobedience--I therefore entreat you, my dear Clarissa, concluded
she, and that in the most earnest and condescending manner, to signify
to your father, on his return, your ready obedience; and this as well
for my sake as your own.'
Affected by my mother's goodness to me, and by that part of her
argument which related to her own peace, and to the suspicions they
had of her secretly inclining to prefer the man so hated by them, to
the man so much my aversion, I could not but wish it were possible for
me to obey, I therefore paused, hesitated, considered, and was silent
for some time. I could see, that my mother hoped that the result of
this hesitation would be favourable to her arguments. But then
recollecting, that all was owing to the instigations of a brother and
sister, wholly actuated by selfish and envious views; that I had not
deserved the treatment I had of late met with; that my disgrace was
already become the public talk; that the man was Mr. Solmes; and that
my aversion to him was too generally known, to make my compliance
either creditable to myself or to them: that it would give my brother
and sister a triumph over me, and over Mr. Lovelace, which they would
not fail to glory in; and which, although it concerned me but little
to regard on his account, yet might be attended with fatal mischiefs-- And then Mr. Solmes's disagreeable person; his still more disagreeable
manners; his low understanding--Understanding! the glory of a man, so
little to be dispensed with in the head and director of a family, in
order to preserve to him that respect which a good wife (and that for
the justification of her own choice) should pay him herself, and wish
every body to pay him.--And as Mr. Solmes's inferiority in this
respectable faculty of the human mind [I must be allowed to say this
to you, and no great self assumption neither] would proclaim to all
future, as well as to all present observers, what must have been my
mean inducement. All these reflections crowding upon my remembrance;
I would, Madam, said I, folding my hands, with an earnestness in which
my whole heart was engaged, bear the cruelest tortures, bear loss of
limb, and even of life, to give you peace. But this man, every moment
I would, at you command, think of him with favour, is the more my
aversion. You cannot, indeed you cannot, think, how my whole soul
resists him!--And to talk of contracts concluded upon; of patterns; of
a short day!--Save me, save me, O my dearest Mamma, save your child,
from this heavy, from this insupportable evil!--
Never was there a countenance that expressed so significantly, as my
mother's did, an anguish, which she struggled to hide, under an anger
she was compelled to assume--till the latter overcoming the former,
she turned from me with an uplifted eye, and stamping--Strange
perverseness! were the only words I heard of a sentence that she
angrily pronounced; and was going. I then, half-frantically I
believe, laid hold of her gown--Have patience with me, dearest Madam!
said I--Do not you renounce me totally!--If you must separate yourself
from your child, let it not be with absolute reprobation on your own
part!--My uncles may be hard-hearted--my father may be immovable--I
may suffer from my brother's ambition, and from my sister's envy!--But
let me not lose my Mamma's love; at least, her pity.
She turned to me with benigner rays--You have my love! You have my
pity! But, O my dearest girl--I have not yours.
Indeed, indeed, Madam, you have: and all my reverence, all my
gratitude, you have!--But in this one point--Cannot I be this once
obliged?--Will no expedient be accepted? Have I not made a very fair
proposal as to Mr. Lovelace?
I wish, for both our sakes, my dear unpersuadable girl, that the
decision of this point lay with me. But why, when you know it does
not, why should you thus perplex and urge me?--To renounce Mr.
Lovelace is now but half what is aimed at. Nor will any body else
believe you in earnest in the offer, if I would. While you remain
single, Mr. Lovelace will have hopes--and you, in the opinion of
Permit me, dearest Madam, to say, that your goodness to me, your
patience, your peace, weigh more with me, than all the rest put
together: for although I am to be treated by my brother, and, through
his instigations, by my father, as a slave in this point, and not as a
daughter, yet my mind is not that of a slave. You have not brought me
up to be mean.
So, Clary! you are already at defiance with your father! I have had
too much cause before to apprehend as much--What will this come to?-- I, and then my dear mamma sighed--I, am forced to put up with many
That you are, my ever-honoured Mamma, is my grief. And can it be
thought, that this very consideration, and the apprehension of what
may result from a much worse-tempered man, (a man who has not half the
sense of my father,) has not made an impression upon me, to the
disadvantage of the married life? Yet 'tis something of an
alleviation, if one must bear undue controul, to bear it from a man of
sense. My father, I have heard you say, Madam, was for years a very
good-humoured gentleman--unobjectionable in person and manners--but
the man proposed to me--
Forbear reflecting upon your father: [Did I, my dear, in what I have
repeated, and I think they are the very words, reflect upon my
father?] it is not possible, I must say again, and again, were all men
equally indifferent to you, that you should be thus sturdy in your
will. I am tired out with your obstinacy--The most unpersuadable
girl--You forget, that I must separate myself from you, if you will
not comply. You do not remember that you father will take you up,
where I leave you. Once more, however, I will put it to you,--Are you
determined to brave your father's displeasure?--Are you determined to
defy your uncles?--Do you choose to break with us all, rather than
encourage Mr. Solmes?--Rather than give me hope?
Dreadful alternative--But is not my sincerity, is not the integrity of
my heart, concerned in the answer? May not my everlasting happiness
be the sacrifice? Will not the least shadow of the hope you just now
demanded from me, be driven into absolute and sudden certainty? Is it
not sought to ensnare, to entangle me in my own desire of obeying, if
I could give answers that might be construed into hope?--Forgive me,
Madam: bear with your child's boldness in such a cause as this!-- Settlements drawn!--Patterns sent for!--An early day!--Dear, dear
Madam, how can I give hope, and not intend to be this man's?
Ah, girl, never say your heart is free! You deceive yourself if you
think it is.
Thus to be driven [and I wrung my hands through impatience] by the
instigations of a designing, an ambitious brother, and by a sister,
How often, Clary, must I forbid your unsisterly reflections?--Does not
your father, do not your uncles, does not every body, patronize Mr.
Solmes? And let me tell you, ungrateful girl, and unmovable as
ungrateful, let me repeatedly tell you, that it is evident to me, that
nothing but a love unworthy of your prudence can make you a creature
late so dutiful, now so sturdy. You may guess what your father's
first question on his return will be. He must know, that I can do
nothing with you. I have done my part. Seek me, if your mind change
before he comes back: you have yet a little more time, as he stays
supper. I will no more seek you, nor to you.--And away she flung.
What could I do but weep?
I am extremely affected on my mother's account--more, I must needs
say, than on my own. And indeed, all things considered, and
especially, that the measure she is engaged in, is (as I dare say it
is) against her own judgment, she deserves more compassion than
myself.--Excellent woman! What pity, that meekness and condescension
should not be attended with the due rewards of those charming graces! --Yet had she not let violent spirits (as I have elsewhere observed
with no small regret) find their power over hers, it could not have
But here, run away with my pen, I suffer my mother to be angry with me
on her own account. She hinted to me, indeed, that I must seek her,
if my mind changed; which is a condition that amounts to a prohibition
of attending her: but, as she left me in displeasure, will it not have
a very obstinate appearance, and look like a kind of renunciation of
her mediation in my favour, if I go not down before my father returns,
to supplicate her pity, and her kind report to him?
I will attend her. I had rather all the world should be angry with me
than my mamma!
Mean time, to clear my hands from papers of such a nature, Hannah
shall deposit this. If two or three letters reach you together, they
will but express from one period to another, the anxieties and
difficulties which the mind of your unhappy but ever affectionate
friend labours under.