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MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE.
Tuesday, July 11. Forgive you, my dear!—most cordially do I forgive you—will you forgive me for some sharp things I wrote in return to yours of the 5th? You could not have loved me as you do, nor had the concern you have always shewn for my honour, if you had not been utterly displeased with me, on the appearance which my conduct wore to you when you wrote that letter. I most heartily thank you, my best and only love, for the opportunity you gave me of clearing it up: and for being generously ready to acquit me of intentional blame, the moment you had read my melancholy narrative.
As you are so earnest to have all the particulars of my sad story before you, I will, if life and spirits be lent me, give you an ample account of all that has befallen me, from the time you mention. But this, it is very probable, you will not see, till after the close of my last scene: and as I shall write with a view to that, I hope no other voucher will be wanted for the veracity of the writer, be who will the reader.
I am far from thinking myself out of the reach of this man's further violence. But what can I do? Whither can I fly ?—Perhaps my bad state of health (which must grow worse, as recollection of the past evils, and reflections upon them, grow heavier and heavier upon me) may be my protection. Once, indeed, I thought of going abroad; and had I the prospect of many years before me, I would go—but, my dear, the blow is given.—Nor
have you reason, now, circumstanced as I am, to be concerned that it is. What a heart must I have, if it be not broken!—And indeed, my dear friend, I do so earnestly wish for the last closing scene, and with so much comfort find myself in a declining way, that I even sometimes ungratefully regret that naturally healthy constitution, which used to double upon me all my enjoyments.
As to the earnestly recommended prosecution, I may possibly touch upon it more largely hereafter, if ever I shall have better spirits: for they are at present extremely sunk and low. But, just now, I will only say, that I would sooner suffer every evil (the repetition of the capital one excepted) than appear publicly in a court to do myself justice*. And I am heartily grieved, that your mdther prescribes such a measure as the condition of our future correspondence: for the continuance of your friendship, my dear, and the desire I had to correspond with you to my life's end, were all my remaining hopes and consolation. Nevertheless, as that friendship is in the power of the heart, not of the handonly, I hope I shall not forfeit that.
0 my dear! what would I give to obtain a revocation of my father's malediction! A reconciliation is not to be hoped for. You, who never loved my father, may think my solicitude on this head a weakness: but the motive for it, sunk as my spirits at times are, is not always weak.
# # *
1 Approve of the method you prescribe for the conveyance of our letters ; and have already caused the porter of the inn to be engaged to bring to me
* Dr. Lewen, in Letter lviii. of Vol. VII. presses her to this public prosecution, by arguments worthy of his character; which she answers in a manner worthy of hers. See Letter lis. of that Volume.
yours, the moment that Collins arrives with them. And the servant of the house where I am, will be permitted to carry mine to Collins for you.
I have written a letter to Miss Rawlins of Hampstead; the answer to which, just now received, has helped me to the knowledge of the vile contrivance, by which this wicked man got your letter of June the 10th. I will give you the contents of both.
In mine to her, I briefly acquainted her, 'with what had befallen me, through the vileness of the women who had been passed upon me, as the aunt and cousin of the wickedest of men ; and own, that I never was married to him. I desire her to make particular inquiry, and to let me know, who it was at Mrs. Moore's, that on Sunday afternoon, June 11, while I was at church, received a letter from Miss Howe, pretending to be me, and lying on a couch: —which letter, had it come to my hands, would have saved me from ruin. I excuse myself (on the score of the delirium, which the horrid usage I had received threw me into, and from a confinement as barbarous as illegal) that I had not before applied to Mrs. Moore, for an account of what I was indebted to her: which account I now desired. And, for fear of being traced by Mr. Lovelace, I directed her to superscribe her answer, To Mrs. Mary Atkins; to be left till called for, at the Belle Sauvage-inn, on Ludgate Hill.'
In her answer, she tells me, 'that the vile wretch prevailed upon Mrs. Bevis to personate me, [a sudden motion of his, it seems, on the appearance of your messenger] and persuaded her to lie along on a couch: a handkerchief over her neck and face; pretending to be ill; the credulous woman drawn in by false notions of your ill offices to keep up a variance between a man and his wife—and so taking the letter from your messenger as me. 3
* Miss Rawlins takes pains to excuse Mrs. Bevis's intention. She expresses their astonishment and concern at what I communicate: but is glad, however, and so they are all, that they know in time the vileness of the base man; the two widows and herself having, at his earnest invitation, designed me a visit at Mrs. Sinclair's; supposing all to be happy between him and me; as he assured them was the case. Mr. Lovelace, she informs me, had handsomely satisfied Mrs. Moore. And Miss Rawlins concludes with wishing to be favoured with the particulars of so extraordinary a story, as these particulars may be of use, to let her see what wicked creatures (women as well as men) there are in the world.'
I thank you, my dear, for the draughts of your two letters which were intercepted by this horrid man: I see the great advantage they were of to him, in the prosecution of his villanous designs against the poor wretch whom he has so long made the sport of his abhorred inventions.
Let me repeat, that I am quite sick of life; and of an earth, in which innocent and benevolent spirits are sure to be considered as aliens, and to be made sufferers by the genuine sons and daughters of that earth. <
How unhappy, that those letters only which could have acquainted me with his horrid views, and armed me against them, and against the viler ness of the base women, should fall into his hands! —Unhappier still, in that my very escape to Hampstead, gave him the opportunity of receiving them!
Nevertheless I cannot but still wonder, how it was possible for that Tomlinson to know what passed between Mr. Hickman and my uncle Harlowe*; a circumstance, which gave the vile impostor most of his credit with me.
How the wicked wretch himself could find me out at Hampstead, must also remain wholly a mystery to me. He may glory in his contrivance.— He, who has more wickedness than wit, may glory in his contrivances !—But, after all, I shall, I humbly presume to hope, be happy, when he, poor wretch, will be—alas !—who can say what?
Adieu, my dearest friend !—may you be happy! —and then your Clarissa cannot be wholly miserable,
MISS HOWE TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE.
Wedn. night, July If. I Write, my dearest creature, I cannot but write, to express my concern on your dejection. Let me beseech you, my charming excellence, let me beseech you, not to give way to it.
Comfort yourself, on the contrary, in the triumphs of a virtue unsullied; a will wholly faultless. Who could have withstood the trials that you have surmounted?—Your cousin Morden will soon come. He will see justice done you, I make no doubt, as well with regard to what concerns your person as your estate. And many happy days may you yet see: and much good may you still do, if you will not heighten unavoidable accidents into guilty despondency.
But why, my dear, this pining solicitude continued after a reconciliation with relations as unwor
* See the note at the bottom of p. 191.