Letter XX


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

consenting answer.

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

to say.

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

renounce you.

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

others, inclinations.

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

been thus.

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.

CL. H.