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Read Clarissa Harlowe; or the history of a young lady Volume III Part 19

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* Mr. Lovelace is as much out in his conjecture of Solomon, as of Socrates. The pa.s.sage is in Ecclesiasticus, chap. xxv.

Come, come, Jack, you and I are not so very bad, could we but stop where we are.

He then gives the particulars of what pa.s.sed between him and the Lady on his menaces relating to her brother and Mr. Solmes, and of his design to punish Betty Barnes and Joseph Leman.

LETTER XXIV

MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE FRIDAY, APR. 14.

I will now give you the particulars of a conversation that has just pa.s.sed between Mr. Lovelace and me, which I must call agreeable.

It began with his telling me, that he had just received intelligence that my friends were on a sudden come to a resolution to lay aside all thoughts of pursuing me, or of getting me back: and that therefore he attended me to know of my pleasure; and what I would do, or have him do?

I told him, that I would have him leave me directly; and that, when it was known to every body that I was absolutely independent of him, it would pa.s.s, that I had left my father’s house because of my brother’s ill usage of me: which was a plea that I might make with justice, and to the excuse of my father, as well as of myself.

He mildly replied, that if we could be certain that my relations would adhere to this their new resolution, he could have no objection, since such was my pleasure; but, as he was well a.s.sured that they had taken it only from apprehensions, that a more active one might involve my brother (who had breathed nothing but revenge) in some fatal misfortune, there was too much reason to believe that they would resume their former purpose the moment they should think they safely might.

This, Madam, said he, is a risque I cannot run. You would think it strange if I could. And yet, as soon as I knew they had so given out, I thought it proper to apprize you of it, and take your commands upon it.

Let me hear, said I, (willing to try if he had any particular view,) what you think most advisable?

‘Tis very easy to say that, if I durst–if I might not offend you–if it were not to break conditions that shall be inviolable with me.

Say then, Sir, what you would say. I can approve or disapprove, as I think fit.

Had not the man a fine opportunity here to speak out?–He had. And thus he used it.

To wave, Madam, what I would say till I have more courage to speak out [More courage,–Mr. Lovelace more courage, my dear!]–I will only propose what I think will be most agreeable to you–suppose, if you choose not to go to Lady Betty’s, that you take a turn cross the country to Windsor?

Why to Windsor?

Because it is a pleasant place: because it lies in the way either to Berkshire, to Oxford, or to London: Berkshire, where Lord M. is at present: Oxford, in the neighbourhood of which lives Lady Betty: London, whither you may retire at your pleasure: or, if you will have it so, whither I may go, you staying at Windsor; and yet be within an easy distance of you, if any thing should happen, or if your friends should change their new-taken resolution.

This proposal, however, displeased me not. But I said, my only objection was, the distance of Windsor from Miss Howe, of whom I should be glad to be always within two or three hours reach of by messenger, if possible.

If I had thoughts of any other place than Windsor, or nearer to Miss Howe, he wanted but my commands, and would seek for proper accommodations: but, fix as I pleased, farther or nearer, he had servants, and they had nothing else to do but to obey me.

A grateful thing then he named to me–To send for my Hannah, as soon as I shall be fixed;* unless I would choose one of the young gentlewomen here to attend me; both of whom, as I had acknowledged, were very obliging; and he knew I had generosity enough to make it worth their while.

* See his reasons for proposing Windsor, Letter XXV.–and her Hannah, Letter XXVI.

This of Hannah, he might see, I took very well. I said I had thoughts of sending for her, as soon as I got to more convenient lodgings. As to these young gentlewomen, it were pity to break in upon that usefulness which the whole family were of to each other; each having her proper part, and performing it with an agreeable alacrity: insomuch, that I liked them all so well, that I could even pa.s.s my days among them, were he to leave me; by which means the lodgings would be more convenient to me than now they were.

He need not repeat his objections to this place, he said: but as to going to Windsor, or wherever else I thought fit, or as to his personal attendance, or leaving me, he would a.s.sure me (he very agreeably said) that I could propose nothing in which I thought my reputation, and even my punctilio, concerned, that he would not cheerfully come into. And since I was so much taken up with my pen, he would instantly order his horse to be got ready, and would set out.

Not to be off my caution. Have you any acquaintance at Windsor? said I.–Know you of any convenient lodgings there?

Except the forest, replied he, where I have often hunted, I know the least of Windsor of any place so noted and so pleasant. Indeed I have not a single acquaintance there.

Upon the whole, I told him, that I thought his proposal of Windsor, not amiss; and that I would remove thither, if I could get a lodging only for myself, and an upper chamber for Hannah; for that my stock of money was but small, as was easy to be conceived and I should be very loth to be obliged to any body. I added, that the sooner I removed the better; for that then he could have no objection to go to London, or Berkshire, as he pleased: and I should let every body know my independence.

He again proposed himself, in very polite terms, for my banker. But I, as civilly, declined his offer.

This conversation was to be, all of it, in the main, agreeable. He asked whether I would choose to lodge in the town of Windsor, or out of it?

As near the castle, I said, as possible, for the convenience of going constantly to the public worship; an opportunity I had been very long deprived of.

He should be very glad, he told me, if he could procure me accommodations in any one of the canon’s houses; which he imagined would be more agreeable to me than any other, on many accounts. And as he could depend upon my promise, Never to have any other man but himself, on the condition to which he had so cheerfully subscribed, he should be easy; since it was now his part, in earnest, to set about recommending himself to my favour, by the only way he knew it would be done. Adding, with a very serious air–I am but a young man, Madam; but I have run a long course: let not your purity of mind incline you to despise me for the acknowledgement. It is high time to be weary of it, and to reform; since, like Solomon, I can say, There is nothing new under the sun: but that it is my belief, that a life of virtue can afford such pleasures, on reflection, as will be for ever blooming, for ever new!

I was agreeably surprised. I looked at him, I believe, as if I doubted my ears and my eyes. His aspect however became his words.

I expressed my satisfaction in terms so agreeable to him, that he said, he found a delight in this early dawning of a better day to him, and in my approbation, which he had never received from the success of the most favoured of his pursuits.

Surely, my dear, the man must be in earnest. He could not have said this; he could not have thought it, had he not. What followed made me still readier to believe him.

In the midst of my wild vagaries, said he, I have ever preserved a reverence for religion, and for religious men. I always called another cause, when any of my libertine companions, in pursuance of Lord Shaftesbury’s test (which is a part of the rake’s creed, and what I may call the whetstone of infidelity,) endeavoured to turn the sacred subject into ridicule. On this very account I have been called by good men of the clergy, who nevertheless would have it that I was a practical rake, the decent rake: and indeed I had too much pride in my shame, to disown the name of rake.

This, Madam, I am the readier to confess, as it may give you hope, that the generous task of my reformation, which I flatter myself you will have the goodness to undertake, will not be so difficult a one as you may have imagined; for it has afforded me some pleasure in my retired hours, when a temporary remorse has struck me for any thing I have done amiss, that I should one day delight in another course of life: for, unless we can, I dare say, no durable good is to be expected from the endeavour. Your example, Madam, must do all, must confirm all.*

* That he proposes one day to reform, and that he has sometimes good motions, see Vol.I. Letter x.x.xIV.

The divine grace, or favour, Mr. Lovelace, must do all, and confirm all. You know not how much you please me, that I can talk to you in this dialect.

And I then thought of his generosity to his pretty rustic; and of his kindness to his tenants.

Yet, Madam, be pleased to remember one thing; reformation cannot be a sudden work. I have infinite vivacity: it is that which runs away with me. Judge, dearest Madam, by what I am going to confess, that I have a prodigious way to journey on, before a good person will think me tolerable; since though I have read in some of our perfectionists enough to make a better man than myself either run into madness or despair about the grace you mention, yet I cannot enter into the meaning of the word, nor into the modus of its operation. Let me not then be checked, when I mention your example for my visible reliance; and instead of using such words, till I can better understand them, suppose all the rest included in the profession of that reliance.

I told him, that, although I was somewhat concerned at his expression, and surprised at so much darkness, as (for want of another word) I would call it, in a man of his talents and learning, yet I was pleased with his ingenuousness. I wished him to encourage this way of thinking. I told him, that his observation, that no durable good was to be expected from any new course, were there was not a delight taken in it, was just; but that the delight would follow by use.

And twenty things of this sort I even preached to him; taking care, however, not to be tedious, nor to let my expanded heart give him a contracted or impatient blow. And, indeed, he took visible pleasure in what I said, and even hung upon the subject, when I, to try him, once or twice, seemed ready to drop it: and proceeded to give me a most agreeable instance, that he could at times think both deeply and seriously.–Thus it was.

He was once, he said, dangerously wounded in a duel, in the left arm, baring it, to shew me the scar: that this (notwithstanding a great effusion of blood, it being upon an artery) was followed by a violent fever, which at last fixed upon his spirits; and that so obstinately, that neither did he desire life, nor his friends expect it: that, for a month together, his heart, as he thought, was so totally changed, that he despised his former courses, and particularly that rashness which had brought him to the state he was in, and his antagonist (who, however, was the aggressor) into a much worse: that in this s.p.a.ce he had thought which at times still gave him pleasure to reflect upon: and although these promising prospects changed, as he recovered health and spirits, yet he parted with them with so much reluctance, that he could not help shewing it in a copy of verses, truly blank ones, he said; some of which he repeated, and (advantaged by the grace which he gives to every thing he repeats) I thought them very tolerable ones; the sentiments, however, much graver than I expected from him.

He has promised me a copy of the lines; and then I shall judge better of their merit; and so shall you. The tendency of them was, ‘That, since sickness only gave him a proper train of thinking, and that his restored health brought with it a return to his evil habits, he was ready to renounce those gifts of nature for those of contemplation.’

He farther declared, that although these good motions went off (as he had owned) on his recovery, yet he had better hopes now, from the influence of my example, and from the reward before him, if he persevered: and that he was the more hopeful that he should, as his present resolution was made in a full tide of health and spirits; and when he had nothing to wish for but perseverance, to ent.i.tle himself to my favour.

———-

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