MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE SATURDAY, MARCH 18.
I have been frighted out of my wits--still am in a manner out of
breath--thus occasioned--I went down, under the usual pretence, in
hopes to find something from you. Concerned at my disappointment, I
was returning from the wood-house, when I heard a rustling as of
somebody behind a stack of wood. I was extremely surprised: but still
more, to behold a man coming from behind the furthermost stack. Oh!
thought I, at that moment, the sin of a prohibited correspondence!
In the same point of time that I saw him, he besought me not to be
frighted: and, still nearer approaching me, threw open a horseman's
coat: And who should it be but Mr. Lovelace!--I could not scream out
(yet attempted to scream, the moment I saw a man; and again, when I
saw who it was); for I had no voice: and had I not caught hold of a
prop which supported the old roof, I should have sunk.
I had hitherto, as you know, kept him at a distance: And now, as I
recovered myself, judge of my first emotions, when I recollected his
character from every mouth of my family; his enterprising temper; and
found myself alone with him, in a place so near a bye-lane, and so
remote from the house.
But his respectful behaviour soon dissipated these fears, and gave me
others; lest we should be seen together, and information of it given
to my brother: the consequences of which, I could readily think, would
be, if not further mischief, an imputed assignation, a stricter
confinement, a forfeited correspondence with you, my beloved friend,
and a pretence for the most violent compulsion: and neither the one
set of reflections, nor the other, acquitted him to me for his bold
As soon therefore as I could speak, I expressed with the greatest
warmth my displeasure; and told him, that he cared not how much he
exposed me to the resentment of all my friends, provided he could
gratify his own impetuous humour. I then commanded him to leave the
place that moment; and was hurrying from him, when he threw himself in
the way at my feet, beseeching my stay for one moment; declaring, that
he suffered himself to be guilty of this rashness, as I thought it, to
avoid one much greater:--for, in short, he could not bear the hourly
insults he received from my family, with the thoughts of having so
little interest in my favour, that he could not promise himself that
his patience and forbearance would be attended with any other issue
than to lose me for ever, and be triumphed over and insulted upon it.
This man, you know, has very ready knees. You have said, that he
ought, in small points, frequently to offend, on purpose to shew what
an address he is master of.
He ran on, expressing his apprehensions that a temper so gentle and
obliging, as he said mine was, to every body but him, (and a
dutifulness so exemplary inclined me to do my part to others, whether
they did theirs or not by me,) would be wrought upon in favour of a
man set up in part to be revenged upon myself, for my grandfather's
envied distinction of me; and in part to be revenged upon him, for
having given life to one, who would have taken his; and now sought to
deprive him of hopes dearer to him than life.
I told him, he might be assured, that the severity and ill-usage I met
with would be far from effecting the proposed end: that although I
could, with great sincerity, declare for a single life (which had
always been my choice); and particularly, that if ever I married, if
they would not insist upon the man I had an aversion to, it should not
be with the man they disliked--
He interrupted me here: He hoped I would forgive him for it; but he
could not help expressing his great concern, that, after so many
instances of his passionate and obsequious devotion--
And pray, Sir, said I, let me interrupt you in my turn;--Why don't you
assert, in still plainer words, the obligation you have laid me under
by this your boasted devotion? Why don't you let me know, in terms as
high as your implication, that a perseverance I have not wished for,
which has set all my relations at variance with me, is a merit that
throws upon me the guilt of ingratitude for not having answered it as
you seem to expect?
I must forgive him, he said, if he, who pretended only to a
comparative merit, (and otherwise thought no man living could deserve
me,) had presumed to hope for a greater share in my favour, than he
had hitherto met with, when such men as Mr. Symmes, Mr. Wyerley, and
now, lastly, so vile a reptile as this Solmes, however discouraged by
myself, were made his competitors. As to the perseverance I
mentioned, it was impossible for him not to persevere: but I must
needs know, that were he not in being, the terms Solmes had proposed
were such, as would have involved me in the same difficulties with my
relations that I now laboured under. He therefore took the liberty to
say, that my favour to him, far from increasing those difficulties,
would be the readiest way to extricate me from them. They had made it
impossible [he told me, with too much truth] to oblige them any way,
but by sacrificing myself to Solmes. They were well apprized besides
of the difference between the two; one, whom they hoped to manage as
they pleased; the other, who could and would protect me from every
insult; and who had natural prospects much superior to my brother's
foolish views of a title.
How comes this man to know so well all our foibles? But I more
wonder, how he came to have a notion of meeting me in this place?
I was very uneasy to be gone; and the more as the night came on apace.
But there was no getting from him, till I had heard a great deal more
of what he had to say.
As he hoped, that I would one day make him the happiest man in the
world, he assured me, that he had so much regard for my fame, that he
would be as far from advising any step that was likely to cast a shade
upon my reputation, (although that step was to be ever so much in his
own favour,) as I would be to follow such advice. But since I was not
to be permitted to live single, he would submit it to my
consideration, whether I had any way but one to avoid the intended
violence to my inclinations--my father so jealous of his authority:
both my uncles in my father's way of thinking: my cousin Morden at a
distance: my uncle and aunt Hervey awed into insignificance, was his
word: my brother and sister inflaming every one: Solmes's offers
captivating: Miss Howe's mother rather of a party with them, for
motives respecting example to her own daughter.
And then he asked me, if I would receive a letter from Lady Betty
Lawrance, on this occasion: for Lady Sarah Sadleir, he said, having
lately lost her only child, hardly looked into the world, or thought
of it farther than to wish him married, and, preferably to all the
women in the world, with me.
To be sure, my dear, there is a great deal in what the man said--I may
be allowed to say this, without an imputed glow or throb. But I told
him nevertheless, that although I had great honour for the ladies he
was related to, yet I should not choose to receive a letter on a
subject that had a tendency to promote an end I was far from intending
to promote: that it became me, ill as I was treated at present, to
hope every thing, to bear every thing, and to try ever thing: when my
father saw my steadfastness, and that I would die rather than have Mr.
Solmes, he would perhaps recede--
Interrupting me, he represented the unlikelihood there was of that,
from the courses they had entered upon; which he thus enumerated:-- Their engaging Mrs. Howe against me, in the first place, as a person I
might have thought to fly to, if pushed to desperation--my brother
continually buzzing in my father's ears, that my cousin Morden would
soon arrive, and then would insist upon giving me possession of my
grandfather's estate, in pursuance of the will; which would render me
independent of my father--their disgraceful confinement of me--their
dismissing so suddenly my servant, and setting my sister's over me-- their engaging my mother, contrary to her own judgment, against me:
these, he said, were all so many flagrant proofs that they would stick
at nothing to carry their point; and were what made him inexpressibly
He appealed to me, whether ever I knew my father recede from any
resolution he had once fixed; especially, if he thought either his
prerogative, or his authority concerned in the question. His
acquaintance with our family, he said, enabled him to give several
instances (but they would be too grating to me) of an arbitrariness
that had few examples even in the families of princes: an
arbitrariness, which the most excellent of women, my mother, too
severely experienced. He was proceeding, as I thought, with
reflections of this sort; and I angrily told him, I would not permit
my father to be reflected upon; adding, that his severity to me,
however unmerited, was not a warrant for me to dispense with my duty
He had no pleasure, he said, in urging any thing that could be so
construed; for, however well warranted he was to make such reflections
from the provocations they were continually giving him, he knew how
offensive to me any liberties of this sort would be. And yet he must
own, that it was painful to him, who had youth and passions to be
allowed for, as well as others, and who had always valued himself
under speaking his mind, to curb himself, under such treatment.
Nevertheless, his consideration for me would make him confine himself,
in his observations, to facts that were too flagrant, and too openly
avowed, to be disputed. It could not therefore justly displease, he
would venture to say, if he made this natural inference from the
premises, That if such were my father's behaviour to a wife, who
disputed not the imaginary prerogatives he was so unprecedently fond
of asserting, what room had a daughter to hope, that he would depart
from an authority he was so earnest, and so much more concerned, to
maintain?--Family-interests at the same time engaging; an aversion,
however causelessly conceived, stimulating my brother's and sister's
resentments and selfish views cooperating; and my banishment from
their presence depriving me of all personal plea or entreaty in my own
How unhappy, my dear, that there is but too much reason for these
observations, and for this inference; made, likewise, with more
coolness and respect to my family than one would have apprehended from
a man so much provoked, and of passions so high, and generally thought
Will you not question me about throbs and glows, if from such
instances of a command over his fiery temper, for my sake, I am ready
to infer, that were my friends capable of a reconciliation with him,
he might be affected by arguments apparently calculated for his
present and future good! Nor is it a very bad indication, that he has
such moderate notions of that very high prerogative in husbands, of
which we in our family have been accustomed to hear so much.
He represented to me, that my present disgraceful confinement was
known to all the world: that neither my sister nor my brother scrupled
to represent me as an obliged and favoured child in a state of actual
rebellion. That, nevertheless, every body who knew me was ready to
justify me for an aversion to a man whom every body thought utterly
unworthy of me, and more fit for my sister: that unhappy as he was, in
not having been able to make any greater impression upon me in his
favour, all the world gave me to him. Nor was there but one objection
made to him by his very enemies (his birth, his prospects all very
unexceptionable, and the latter splendid); and that objection, he
thanked God, and my example, was in a fair way of being removed for
ever: since he had seen his error, and was heartily sick of the
courses he had followed; which, however, were far less enormous than
malice and envy had represented them to be. But of this he should say
the less, as it were much better to justify himself by his actions,
than by the most solemn asseverations and promises. And then,
complimenting my person, he assured me (for that he always loved
virtue, although he had not followed its rules as he ought) that he
was still more captivated with the graces of my mind: and would
frankly own, that till he had the honour to know me, he had never met
with an inducement sufficient to enable him to overcome an unhappy
kind of prejudice to matrimony; which had made him before impenetrable
to the wishes and recommendations of all his relations.
You see, my dear, he scruples not to speak of himself, as his enemies
speak of him. I can't say, but his openness in these particulars
gives a credit to his other professions. I should easily, I think,
detect an hypocrite: and this man particularly, who is said to have
allowed himself in great liberties, were he to pretend to instantaneous
lights and convictions--at this time of life too. Habits, I am sensible,
are not so easily changed. You have always joined with me in remarking,
that he will speak his mind with freedom, even to a degree of
unpoliteness sometimes; and that his very treatment of my family is a
proof that he cannot make a mean court to any body for interest sake-- What pity, where there are such laudable traces, that they should have
been so mired, and choaked up, as I may say!--We have heard, that the
man's head is better than his heart: But do you really think Mr.
Lovelace can have a very bad heart? Why should not there be something
in blood in the human creature, as well as in the ignobler animals?
None of his family are exceptionable--but himself, indeed. The
characters of the ladies are admirable. But I shall incur the
imputation I wish to avoid. Yet what a look of censoriousness does
it carry in an unsparing friend, to take one to task for doing that
justice, and making those which one ought without scruple to do, and
to make, in the behalf of any other man living?
He then again pressed me to receive a letter of offered protection
from Lady Betty. He said, that people of birth stood a little too
much upon punctilio; as people of value also did (but indeed birth,
worthily lived up to, was virtue: virtue, birth; the inducements to a
decent punctilio the same; the origin of both one): [how came this
notion from him!] else, Lady Betty would write to me: but she would be
willing to be first apprized that her offer will be well received--as
it would have the appearance of being made against the liking of one
part of my family; and which nothing would induce her to make, but the
degree of unworthy persecution which I actually laboured under, and
had reason further to apprehend.
I told him, that, however greatly I thought myself obliged to Lady
Betty Lawrance, if this offer came from herself; yet it was easy to
see to what it led. It might look like vanity in me perhaps to say,
that this urgency in him, on this occasion, wore the face of art, in
order to engage me into measures from which I might not easily
extricate myself. I said, that I should not be affected by the
splendour of even a royal title. Goodness, I thought, was greatness.
That the excellent characters of the ladies of his family weighed more
with me, than the consideration that they were half-sisters to Lord M.
and daughters of an earl: that he would not have found encouragement
from me, had my friends been consenting to his address, if he had only
a mere relative merit to those ladies: since, in that case, the very
reasons that made me admire them, would have been so many objections
to their kinsman.
I then assured him, that it was with infinite concern, that I had
found myself drawn into an epistolary correspondence with him;
especially since that correspondence had been prohibited: and the only
agreeable use I could think of making of this unexpected and undesired
interview, was, to let him know, that I should from henceforth think
myself obliged to discontinue it. And I hoped, that he would not have
the thought of engaging me to carry it on by menacing my relations.
There was light enough to distinguish, that he looked very grave upon
this. He so much valued my free choice, he said, and my unbiassed
favour, (scorning to set himself upon a footing with Solmes in the
compulsory methods used in that man's behalf,) that he should hate
himself, were he capable of a view of intimidating me by so very poor
a method. But, nevertheless, there were two things to be considered:
First, that the continual outrages he was treated with; the spies set
over him, one of which he had detected; the indignities all his family
were likewise treated with;--as also, myself; avowedly in malice to
him, or he should not presume to take upon himself to resent for me,
without my leave [the artful wretch saw he would have lain open here,
had he not thus guarded]--all these considerations called upon him to
shew a proper resentment: and he would leave it to me to judge,
whether it would be reasonable for him, as a man of spirit, to bear
such insults, if it were not for my sake. I would be pleased to
consider, in the next place, whether the situation I was in, (a
prisoner in my father's house, and my whole family determined to
compel me to marry a man unworthy of me, and that speedily, and
whether I consented or not,) admitted of delay in the preventive
measures he was desirous to put me upon, in the last resort only. Nor
was there a necessity, he said, if I were actually in Lady Betty's
protection, that I should be his, if, afterwards, I should see any
thing objectionable in his conduct.
But what would the world conclude would be the end, I demanded, were
I, in the last resort, as he proposed, to throw myself into the
protection of his friends, but that it was with such a view?
And what less did the world think of me now, he asked, than that I was
confined that I might not? You are to consider, Madam, you have not
now an option; and to whom is it owing that you have not; and that you
are in the power of those (parents, why should I call them?) who are
determined, that you shall not have an option. All I propose is, that
you will embrace such a protection--but not till you have tried every
way, to avoid the necessity for it.
And give me leave to say, proceeded he, that if a correspondence, on
which I have founded all my hopes, is, at this critical conjuncture,
to be broken off; and if you are resolved not to be provided against
the worst; it must be plain to me, that you will at last yield to that
worst--worst to me only--it cannot be to you--and then! [and he put
his hand clenched to his forehead] How shall I bear this supposition? --Then will you be that Solmes's!--But, by all that's sacred, neither
he, nor your brother, nor your uncles, shall enjoy their triumph-- Perdition seize my soul, if they shall!
The man's vehemence frightened me: yet, in resentment, I would have
left him; but, throwing himself at my feet again, Leave me not thus-- I beseech you, dearest Madam, leave me not thus, in despair! I kneel
not, repenting of what I have vowed in such a case as that I have
supposed. I re-vow it, at your feet!--and so he did. But think not
it is by way of menace, or to intimidate you to favour me. If your
heart inclines you [and then he arose] to obey your father (your
brother rather) and to have Solmes; although I shall avenge myself on
those who have insulted me, for their insults to myself and family,
yet will I tear out my heart from this bosom (if possible with my own
hands) were it to scruple to give up its ardours to a woman capable of
such a preference.
I told him, that he talked to me in very high language; but he might
assure himself that I never would have Mr. Solmes, (yet that this I
said not in favour to him,) and I had declared as much to my
relations, were there not such a man as himself in the world.
Would I declare, that I would still honour him with my
correspondence?--He could not bear, that, hoping to obtain greater
instances of my favour, he should forfeit the only one he had to boast
I bid him forbear rashness or resentment to any of my family, and I
would, for some time at least, till I saw what issue my present trials
were likely to have, proceed with a correspondence, which,
nevertheless, my heart condemned--
And his spirit him, the impatient creature said, interrupting me, for
bearing what he did; when he considered, that the necessity of it was
imposed upon him, not by my will, (for then he would bear it
cheerfully, and a thousand times more,) but by creatures--And there he
I told him plainly that he might thank himself (whose indifferent
character, as to morals, had given such a handle against him) for all.
It was but just, that a man should be spoken evil of, who set no value
upon his reputation.
He offered to vindicate himself. But I told him, I would judge him by
his own rule--by his actions, not by his professions.
Were not his enemies, he said, so powerful, and so determined; and had
they not already shewn their intentions in such high acts of even
cruel compulsion; but would leave me to my choice, or to my desire of
living single; he would have been content to undergo a twelvemonth's
probation, or more: but he was confident, that one month would either
complete all their purposes, or render them abortive: and I best knew
what hopes I had of my father's receding--he did not know him, if I
I said, I would try every method, that either my duty or my influence
upon any of them should suggest, before I would put myself into any
other protection: and, if nothing else would do, would resign the
envied estate; and that I dared to say would.
He was contented, he said, to abide that issue. He should be far from
wishing me to embrace any other protection, but, as he had frequently
said, in the last necessity. But dearest creature, said he, catching
my hand with ardour, and pressing it to his lips, if the yielding up
of that estate will do--resign it--and be mine--and I will
corroborate, with all my soul, your resignation!
This was not ungenerously said: But what will not these men say to
obtain belief, and a power over one?
I made many efforts to go; and now it was so dark, that I began to
have great apprehensions. I cannot say from his behaviour: indeed, he
has a good deal raised himself in my opinion by the personal respect,
even to reverence, which he paid me during the whole conference: for,
although he flamed out once, upon a supposition that Solmes might
succeed, it was upon a supposition that would excuse passion, if any
thing could, you know, in a man pretending to love with fervour;
although it was so levelled, that I could not avoid resenting it.
He recommended himself to my favour at parting, with great
earnestness, yet with as great submission; not offering to condition
any thing with me; although he hinted his wishes for another meeting:
which I forbad him ever attempting again in the same place. And I
will own to you, from whom I should be really blamable to conceal any
thing, that his arguments (drawn from the disgraceful treatment I meet
with) of what I am to expect, make me begin to apprehend that I shall
be under an obligation to be either the one man's or the other's--and,
if so, I fancy I shall not incur your blame, were I to say which of
the two it must be: you have said, which it must not be. But, O my
dear, the single life is by far the most eligible to me: indeed it is.
And I hope yet to be permitted to make that option.
I got back without observation; but the apprehension that I should
not, gave me great uneasiness; and made me begin a letter in a greater
flutter than he gave me cause to be in, except at the first seeing him;
for then indeed my spirits failed me; and it was a particular
felicity, that, in such a place, in such a fright, and alone with him,
I fainted not away.
I should add, that having reproached him with his behaviour the last
Sunday at church, he solemnly assured me, that it was not what had
been represented to me: that he did not expect to see me there: but
hoped to have an opportunity to address himself to my father, and to
be permitted to attend him home. But that the good Dr. Lewen had
persuaded him not to attempt speaking to any of the family, at that
time; observing to him the emotions into which his presence had put
every body. He intended no pride, or haughtiness of behaviour, he
assured me; and that the attributing such to him was the effect of
that ill-will which he had the mortification to find insuperable:
adding, that when he bowed to my mother, it was a compliment he
intended generally to every one in the pew, as well as to her, whom he
If he may be believed, (and I should think he would not have come
purposely to defy my family, yet expect favour from me,) one may see,
my dear, the force of hatred, which misrepresents all things. Yet why
should Shorey (except officiously to please her principals) make a
report in his disfavour? He told me, that he would appeal to Dr.
Lewen for his justification on this head; adding, that the whole
conversation between the Doctor and him turned upon his desire to
attempt to reconcile himself to us all, in the face of the church; and
upon the Doctor's endeavouring to dissuade him from making such a
public overture, till he knew how it would be accepted. But to what
purpose his appeal, when I am debarred from seeing that good man, or
any one who would advise me what to do in my present difficult
I fancy, my dear, however, that there would hardly be a guilty person
in the world, were each suspected or accused person to tell his or her
own story, and be allowed any degree of credit.
I have written a very long letter.
To be so particular as you require in subjects of conversation, it is
impossible to be short.
I will add to it only the assurance, That I am, and ever will be,
Your affectionate and faithful friend and servant, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
You'll be so good, my dear, as to remember, that the date of your last
letter to me was the 9th.