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thee, because of the ill usage thou receivest from her family. But now, that the case is altered, let me press the matter home to thee from other considerations.
And let me tell thee, Lovelace, that in this lady's situation, the trial is not à fair trial. Considering the depth of thy plots and contrivances : considering the opportunities which I see thou must have with her, in spite of her own heart; all her relations' follies acting in concert, though unknown to themselves, with thy wicked scheming head : considering how destitute of protection she is : considering the house she is to be in, where she will be surrounded with thy implements; specious, well-bred, and genteel creatures, not easily to be detected when they are disposed to preserve appearances, especially by a young, unexperienced lady wholly unacquainted with the town: considering all these things, I say, what glory, what cause of triumph, wilt thou have, if she should be overcome ?Thou, too, a man born for intrigue, full of invention, intrepid, remorseless, able patiently to watch for thy opportunity ; not hurried, as most men, by gusts of violent passion, which often nip a project in the bud, and make the snail that was just putting out its horns to meet the inviter, withdraw into its shell—a man who has no regard to his word or oath to the sex; the lady scrupulously strict to her word, incapable of art or design ; apt therefore to believe well of others—it would be a miracle if she stood such an attempter, such attempts, and such snares, as I see will be laid for her. And after all, I see not when men are so frail without importunity, that so much should be expected from women, daughters of the same fathers and mothers, and made up of the same brittle compounds (education all the difference), nor where the triumph is in subduing them.
May there not be other Lovelaces, thou askest, who, attracted by her beauty, may endeavour to prevail with her ?
No; there cannot, I answer, be such another man, person, mind, fortune, and thy character, as above given, taken in. If thou imaginest there could, such is thy pride, that thou wouldst think the worse of thyself.
That she loves thee, wicked as thou art, and cruel as a panther, there is no reason to doubt. Yet, what a command has she over herself, that such a penetrating self-flatterer as thyself, is sometimes ready to doubt it! Though persecuted on the one hand, as she was, by her own family, and attracted on the other, by the splendour of thine ; every one of whom courts her to rank herself among them!
Wicked as the sober world accounts you and me, we have not yet, it is to be hoped, got over all compunction. Although we find religion against us, we have not yet presumed to make a religion to suit our practices. We despise those who do. And we know better than to be even doubters. In short, we believe a future state of rewards and punishments. But as we have so much youth and health in hand, we hope to have time for repentance. That is to say, in plain English (nor think thou me too grave, Lovelace : thou art grave sometimes, though not often) we hope to live to sense, as long as sense can relish, and purpose to reform when we can sin no longer.
And shall this admirable woman suffer for her generous endeavours to set on foot thy reformation ; and for insisting upon proofs of the sincerity of thy professions before she will be thine ?
I suppose you will soon be in town. Without the lady, I hope. Farewell.
Be honest, and be happy.
MRS. HERVEY TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE.
Saturday, April 22. YEAR NIECE,—It would be hard not to write a
few lines, so much pressed to write, to one I ever Le loved. Your former letter I received; yet was not at liberty to answer it. I break my word to answer you now.
Strange informations are every day received about you. The wretch you are with, we are told, is every hour triumphing and defying—must not these informations aggravate ? You know the uncontrollableness of the man. He loves his own humour better than he loves you— though so fine a creature as you are! I warned you over and over: no young lady was ever more warned !-Miss Clarissa Harlowe to do such a thing!
You did not design to go, you say. Why did you meet him then, chariot-and-six, horsemen, all prepared by him? O, my dear, how art produces art !—Will it be believed ? -If it would, what power will be be thought to have had over you !—He !—Who? Lovelace !—The vilest of libertines !—Over whom ?-A Clarissa :—Was your love for such a man above your reason? Above your resolution ? What credit would a belief of this, if believed, bring you ?
-How mend the matter ?-Oh! that you had stood the next meeting!
It would be very grievous, you say, to be precipitated upon measures, that may make the desirable reconciliation more difficult. It is now, my dear, a time for you to be afraid of being precipitated ? At present, if ever, there can be no thought of reconciliation. The upshot of your precipitation must first be seen. There may be murder yet, as far as we know. Will the man you are with part willingly with you? If not, what may be the consequence? If he will-Lord bless me! what shall we think of his reasons for it?-I will fly this thought. I know your purity—but, my dear, are you not out of all protection ?
-Are you not unmarried ?-Have you not (making your daily prayers useless) thrown yourself into temptation ? And is not the man the most wicked of plotters ?
No answer, I beseech you. I hope your messenger will not tell anybody that I have written to you. And I dare say you will not show what I have written to Mr. Lovelace—for I have written with the less reserve, depending upon your prudence.
You have my prayers.
My Dolly knows not that I write. Nobody does. Not even Mr. Hervey.
Dolly would have several times written : but having defended your fault with heat, and with a partiality that alarmed us (such a fall as yours, my dear, must be alarming to all parents), she has been forbidden, on pain of losing our favour for ever : and this at your family's request, as well as by her father's commands.
You have the poor girl's hourly prayers, I will, however, tell you, though she knows not that I do, as well as those of
Your truly afflicted aunt,
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE.
Saturday, April 22. HAVE just now received the inclosed from my
aunt Hervey. Be pleased, my dear, to keep her
secret of having written to the unhappy wretch her niece.
I may go to London, I see, or where I will. No matter what becomes of me.
I was the willinger to suspend my journey thither, till I heard from Harlowe Place. I thought, if I could be encouraged to hope for a reconciliation, I would let this man see, that he should not have me in his power, but upon my own terms, if at all.
But I find I must be his, whether I will or not; and perhaps through still greater mortifications than those great ones which I have already met with—and must I be so absolutely thrown upon a man, with whom I am not at all satisfied !
And now, to know that my father, an hour before he received the tidings of my supposed flight, owned that he loved me as his life: that he would have been all condescension : that he would—Oh! my dear, how tender, how mortifyingly tender, now in him! My aunt need not have been afraid, that it should be known that she has sent me such a letter as this !-A father to kneel to his child !—There would not indeed have been any bearing of that !—What I should have done in such a case, I know not. Death would have been much more welcome to me than such a sight, on such an occasion, in behalf of a man so very, very disgustful to me!
There may be murder, my aunt says. This looks as if she knew of Singleton's rash plot. Such an upshot, as she calls it, of this unhappy affair, Heaven avert !
She flies a thought, that I can less dwell upon-a cruel thought—but she has a poor opinion of the purity she compliments me with, if she thinks that I am not, by God's grace, above temptation from this sex. Although I never saw a man, whose person I could like, before this man; yet his faulty.character allowed me but little merit from the indifference I pretended to on his account. But I like him less than ever.
You will say I rave : forbidden to write to my aunt, and taught to despair of reconciliation, you, my dear, must be troubled with my passionate resentments. What a wretch was I to give him a meeting, since by that I put it out of my power to meet my assembled friends !--All would now, if I had met them, have been over; and who.