Letter XXVII


I have not patience with any of the people you are with. I know not

what to advise you to do. How do you know that you are not punishable

for being the cause, though to your own loss, that the will of your

grandfather is not complied with?--Wills are sacred things, child.

You see, that they, even they, think so, who imagine they suffer by a

will, through the distinction paid you in it.

I allow of all your noble reasonings for what you did at the time:

But, since such a charming, such a generous instance of filial duty is

to go thus unrewarded, why should you not resume?

Your grandfather knew the family-failing. He knew what a noble spirit

you had to do good. He himself, perhaps, [excuse me, my dear,] had

done too little in his life-time; and therefore he put it in your

power to make up for the defects of the whole family. Were it to me,

I would resume it. Indeed I would.

You will say, you cannot do it, while you are with them. I don't know

that. Do you think they can use you worse than they do? And is it

not your right? And do they not make use of your own generosity to

oppress you? Your uncle Harlowe is one trustee; your cousin Morden is

the other: insist upon your right to your uncle; and write to your

cousin Morden about it. This, I dare say, will make them alter their

behaviour to you.

Your insolent brother--what has he to do to controul you?--Were it me

[I wish it were for one month, and no more] I'd shew him the

difference. I would be in my own mansion, pursuing my charming

schemes, and making all around me happy. I would set up my own

chariot. I would visit them when they deserved it. But when my

brother and sister gave themselves airs, I would let them know, that I

was their sister, and not their servant: and, if that did not do, I

would shut my gates against them; and bid them go and be company for

each other.

It must be confessed, however, that this brother and sister of yours,

judging as such narrow spirits will ever judge, have some reason for

treating you as they do. It must have long been a mortification to

them (set disappointed love on her side, and avarice on his, out of

the question) to be so much eclipsed by a younger sister. Such a sun

in a family, where there are none but faint twinklers, how could they

bear it! Why, my dear, they must look upon you as a prodigy among

them: and prodigies, you know, though they obtain our admiration,

never attract our love. The distance between you and them is immense.

Their eyes ache to look up at you. What shades does your full day of

merit cast upon them! Can you wonder, then, that they should embrace

the first opportunity that offered, to endeavour to bring you down to

their level?

Depend upon it, my dear, you will have more of it, and more still, as

you bear it.

As to this odious Solmes, I wonder not at your aversion to him. It is

needless to say any thing to you, who have so sincere any antipathy to

him, to strengthen your dislike: Yet, who can resist her own talents?

One of mine, as I have heretofore said, is to give an ugly likeness.

Shall I indulge it?--I will. And the rather, as, in doing so, you

will have my opinion in justification of your aversion to him, and in

approbation of a steadiness that I ever admired, and must for ever

approve of, in your temper.

'I was twice in this wretch's company. At one of the times your

Lovelace was there. I need not mention to you, who have such a pretty

curiosity, (though at present, only a curiosity, you know,) the

unspeakable difference.

'Lovelace entertained the company in his lively gay way, and made

every body laugh at one of his stories. It was before this creature

was thought of for you. Solmes laughed too. It was, however, his

laugh: for his first three years, at least, I imagine, must have been

one continual fit of crying; and his muscles have never yet been able

to recover a risible tone. His very smile [you never saw him smile, I

believe; never at least gave him cause to smile] is so little natural

to his features, that it appears to him as hideous as the grin of a

man in malice.

'I took great notice of him, as I do of all the noble lords of the

creation, in their peculiarities; and was disgusted, nay, shocked at

him, even then. I was glad, I remember, on that particular occasion,

to see his strange features recovering their natural gloominess;

though they did this but slowly, as if the muscles which contributed

to his distortions, had turned upon rusty springs.

'What a dreadful thing must even the love of such a husband be! For

my part, were I his wife! (But what have I done to myself, to make

such a supposition?) I should never have comfort but in his absence,

or when I was quarreling with him. A splenetic woman, who must have

somebody to find fault with, might indeed be brought to endure such a

wretch: the sight of him would always furnish out the occasion, and

all her servants, for that reason, and for that only, would have cause

to blame their master. But how grievous and apprehensive a thing it

must be for his wife, had she the least degree of delicacy, to catch

herself in having done something to oblige him?

'So much for his person. As to the other half of him, he is said to

be an insinuating, creeping mortal to any body he hopes to be a gainer

by: an insolent, overbearing one, where he has no such views: And is

not this the genuine spirit of meanness? He is reported to be

spiteful and malicious, even to the whole family of any single person

who has once disobliged him; and to his own relations most of all. I

am told, that they are none of them such wretches as himself. This

may be one reason why he is for disinheriting them.

'My Kitty, from one of his domestics, tells me, that his tenants hate

him: and that he never had a servant who spoke well of him. Vilely

suspicious of their wronging him (probably from the badness of his own

heart) he is always changing.

'His pockets, they say, are continually crammed with keys: so that,

when he would treat a guest, (a friend he has not out of your family),

he is half as long puzzling which is which, as his niggardly treat

might be concluded in. And if it be wine, he always fetches it

himself. Nor has he much trouble in doing so; for he has very few

visiters--only those, whom business or necessity brings: for a

gentleman who can help it, would rather be benighted, than put up at

his house.'

Yet this is the man they have found out (for considerations as sordid

as those he is governed by) for a husband, that is to say, for a lord

and master, for Miss Clarissa Harlowe!

But, perhaps, he may not be quite so miserable as he is represented.

Characters extremely good, or extremely bad, are seldom justly given.

Favour for a person will exalt the one, as disfavour will sink the

other. But your uncle Antony has told my mother, who objected to his

covetousness, that it was intended to tie him up, as he called it, to

your own terms; which would be with a hempen, rather than a

matrimonial, cord, I dare say. But, is not this a plain indication,

that even his own recommenders think him a mean creature; and that he

must be articled with--perhaps for necessaries? But enough, and too

much, of such a wretch as this!--You must not have him, my dear,--that

I am clear in--though not so clear, how you will be able to avoid it,

except you assert the independence to which your estate gives you a



Here my mother broke in upon me. She wanted to see what I had

written. I was silly enough to read Solmes's character to her.

She owned, that the man was not the most desirable of men; and that he

had not the happiest appearance: But what, said she, is person in a

man? And I was chidden for setting you against complying with your

father's will. Then followed a lecture on the preference to be given

in favour of a man who took care to discharge all his obligations to

the world, and to keep all together, in opposition to a spendthrift or

profligate. A fruitful subject you know, whether any particular

person be meant by it, or not.

Why will these wise parents, by saying too much against the persons

they dislike, put one upon defending them? Lovelace is not a

spendthrift; owes not obligations to the world; though, I doubt not,

profligate enough. Then, putting one upon doing such but common

justice, we must needs be prepossessed, truly!--And so perhaps we are

put upon curiosities first, that is to say, how such a one or his

friends may think of one: and then, but too probably, comes in a

distinguishing preference, or something that looks exceedingly like


My mother charged me at last, to write that side over again.--But

excuse me, my good Mamma! I would not have the character lost upon

any consideration; since my vein ran freely into it: and I never wrote

to please myself, but I pleased you. A very good reason why--we have

but one mind between us--only, that sometimes you are a little too

grave, methinks; I, no doubt, a little too flippant in your opinion.

This difference in our tempers, however, is probably the reason that

we love one another so well, that in the words of Norris, no third

love can come in betwixt. Since each, in the other's eye, having

something amiss, and each loving the other well enough to bear being

told of it (and the rather perhaps as neither wishes to mend it); this

takes off a good deal from that rivalry which might encourage a little

(if not a great deal) of that latent spleen, which in time might rise

into envy, and that into ill-will. So, my dear, if this be the case,

let each keep her fault, and much good may do her with it: and what an

hero or heroine must he or she be, who can conquer a constitutional

fault? Let it be avarice, as in some I dare not name: let it be

gravity, as in my best friend: or let it be flippancy, as in--I need

not say whom.

It is proper to acquaint you, that I was obliged to comply with my

mother's curiosity, [my mother has her share, her full share, of

curiosity, my dear,] and to let her see here-and-there some passages

in your letters--

I am broken in upon--but I will tell you by-and-by what passed between

my mother and me on this occasion--and the rather, as she had her

GIRL, her favourite HICKMAN, and your LOVELACE, all at once in her

eye, in her part of the conversation.

Thus it was.

'I cannot but think, Nancy, said she, after all, that there is a

little hardship in Miss Harlowe's case: and yet (as her mother says)

it is a grating thing to have a child, who was always noted for her

duty in smaller points, to stand in opposition to her parents' will in

the greater; yea, in the greatest of all. And now, to middle the

matter between both, it is pity, that the man they favour has not that

sort of merit which a person of a mind so delicate as that of Miss

Harlowe might reasonably expect in a husband.--But then, this man is

surely preferable to a libertine: to a libertine too, who has had a

duel with her own brother; fathers and mothers must think so, were it

not for that circumstance--and it is strange if they do not know


And so they must, thought I, from their experience, if no little dirty

views give them also that prepossession in one man's favour, which

they are so apt to censure their daughters for having in another's-- and if, as I may add in your case, they have no creeping, old, musty

uncle Antonys to strengthen their prepossessions, as he does my

mother's. Poor, creeping, positive soul, what has such an old

bachelor as he to do, to prate about the duties of children to

parents; unless he had a notion that parents owe some to their

children? But your mother, by her indolent meekness, let me call it,

has spoiled all the three brothers.

'But you see, child, proceeded my mother, what a different behaviour

MINE is to YOU. I recommend to you one of the soberest, yet politest,

men in England--'

I think little of my mother's politest, my dear. She judges of honest

Hickman for her daughter, as she would have done, I suppose, twenty

years ago, for herself.

'Of a good family, continued my mother; a fine, clear, and improving

estate [a prime consideration with my mother, as well as with some

other folks, whom you know]: and I beg and I pray you to encourage

him: at least not to use him the worse, for his being so obsequious to


Yes, indeed! To use him kindly, that he may treat me familiarly--but

distance to the men-wretches is best--I say.

'Yet all will hardly prevail upon you to do as I would have you. What

would you say, were I to treat you as Miss Harlowe's father and mother

treat her?

'What would I say, Madam!--That's easily answered. I would say

nothing. Can you think such usage, and to such a young lady, is to be


'Come, come, Nancy, be not so hasty: you have heard but one side; and

that there is more to be said is plain, by your reading to me but

parts of her letters. They are her parents. They must know best.

Miss Harlowe, as fine a child as she is, must have done something,

must have said something, (you know how they loved her,) to make them

treat her thus.

'But if she should be blameless, Madam, how does your own supposition

condemn them?'

Then came up Solmes's great estate; his good management of it--'A

little too NEAR indeed,' was the word!--[O how money-lovers, thought

I, will palliate! Yet my mother is a princess in spirit to this

Solmes!] 'What strange effects, added she, have prepossession and love

upon young ladies!'

I don't know how it is, my dear; but people take high delight in

finding out folks in love. Curiosity begets curiosity. I believe

that's the thing.

She proceeded to praise Mr. Lovelace's person, and his qualifications

natural and acquired. But then she would judge as mothers will judge,

and as daughters are very loth to judge: but could say nothing in answer

to your offer of living single; and breaking with him--if--if-- [three or four if's she made of one good one, if] that could be

depended on.

But still obedience without reserve, reason what I will, is the burden

of my mother's song: and this, for my sake, as well as for yours.

I must needs say, that I think duty to parents is a very meritorious

excellence. But I bless God I have not your trials. We can all be

good when we have no temptation nor provocation to the contrary: but

few young persons (who can help themselves too as you can) would bear

what you bear.

I will now mention all that is upon my mind, in relation to the

behaviour of your father and uncles, and the rest of them, because I

would not offend you: but I have now a higher opinion of my own

sagacity, than ever I had, in that I could never cordially love any

one of your family but yourself. I am not born to like them. But it

is my duty to be sincere to my friend: and this will excuse her Anna

Howe to Miss Clarissa Harlowe.

I ought indeed to have excepted your mother; a lady to be reverenced:

and now to be pitied. What must have been her treatment, to be thus

subjugated, as I may call it? Little did the good old viscount think,

when he married his darling, his only daughter, to so well-appearing a

gentleman, and to her own liking too, that she would have been so much

kept down. Another would call your father a tyrant, if I must not:

all the world that know him, do call him so; and if you love your

mother, you should not be very angry at the world for taking that


Yet, after all, I cannot help thinking, that she is the less to be

pitied, as she may be said (be the gout, or what will, the occasion of

his moroseness) to have long behaved unworthy of her birth and fine

qualities, in yielding so much as she yields to encroaching spirits

[you may confine the reflection to your brother, if it will pain you

to extend it]; and this for the sake of preserving a temporary peace

to herself; which was the less worth endeavouring to preserve, as it

always produced a strength in the will of others, which subjected her

to an arbitrariness that of course grew, and became established, upon

her patience.--And now to give up the most deserving of her children

(against her judgment) a sacrifice to the ambition and selfishness of

the least deserving!--But I fly from this subject--having I fear, said

too much to be forgiven--and yet much less than is in my heart to say

upon the over-meek subject.

Mr. Hickman is expected from London this evening. I have desired him

to inquire after Lovelace's life and conversation in town. If he has

not inquired, I shall be very angry with him. Don't expect a very

good account of either. He is certainly an intriguing wretch, and

full of inventions.

Upon my word, I most heartily despise that sex! I wish they would let

our fathers and mothers alone; teasing them to tease us with their

golden promises, and protestations and settlements, and the rest of

their ostentatious nonsense. How charmingly might you and I live

together, and despise them all!--But to be cajoled, wire-drawn, and

ensnared, like silly birds, into a state of bondage, or vile

subordination; to be courted as princesses for a few weeks, in order

to be treated as slaves for the rest of our lives. Indeed, my dear,

as you say of Solmes, I cannot endure them!--But for your relations

[friends no more will I call them, unworthy as they are even of the

other name!] to take such a wretch's price as that; and to the cutting

off of all reversions from his own family:--How must a mind but

commonly just resist such a measure!

Mr. Hickman shall sound Lord M. upon the subject you recommend. But

beforehand, I can tell you what he and what his sisters will say, when

they are sounded. Who would not be proud of such a relation as Miss

Clarissa Harlowe?--Mrs. Fortescue told me, that they are all your very

great admirers.

If I have not been clear enough in my advice about what you shall do,

let me say, that I can give it in one word: it is only by re-urging

you to RESUME. If you do, all the rest will follow.

We are told here, that Mrs. Norton, as well as your aunt Hervey, has

given her opinion on the implicit side of the question. If she can

think, that the part she has had in your education, and your own

admirable talents and acquirements, are to be thrown away upon such a

worthless creature as Solmes, I could heartily quarrel with her. You

may think I say this to lessen your regard for the good woman. And

perhaps not wholly without cause, if you do. For, to own the truth,

methinks, I don't love her so well as I should do, did you love her so

apparently less, that I could be out of doubt, that you love me


Your mother tells you, 'That you will have great trials: that you are

under your father's discipline.'--The word is enough for me to despise

them who give occasion for its use.--'That it is out of her power to

help you!' And again: 'That if you have any favour to hope for, it

must be by the mediation of your uncles.' I suppose you will write to

the oddities, since you are forbid to see them. But can it be, that

such a lady, such a sister, such a wife, such a mother, has no

influence in her own family? Who, indeed, as you say, if this be so,

would marry, that can live single? My choler is again beginning to

rise. RESUME, my dear: and that is all I will give myself time to say

further, lest I offend you when I cannot serve you--only this, that I


Your truly affectionate friend and servant, ANNA HOWE.