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Read Clarissa Harlowe; or the history of a young lady Volume IV Part 10

Clarissa Harlowe; or the history of a young lady is a web novel made by Samuel Richardson.
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To pursue the comparison–If the disappointment of the captivated lady be very great, she will threaten, indeed, as I said: she will even refuse her sustenance for some time, especially if you entreat her much, and she thinks she gives you concern by her refusal. But then the stomach of the dear sullen one will soon return. ‘Tis pretty to see how she comes to by degrees: pressed by appet.i.te, she will first steal, perhaps, a weeping morsel by herself; then be brought to piddle and sigh, and sigh and piddle before you; now-and-then, if her viands be unsavoury, swallowing with them a relishing tear or two: then she comes to eat and drink, to oblige you: then resolves to live for your sake: her exclamations will, in the next place, be turned into blandishments; her vehement upbraidings into gentle murmuring–how dare you, traitor!–into how could you, dearest! She will draw you to her, instead of pushing you from her: no longer, with unsheathed claws, will she resist you; but, like a pretty, playful, wanton kitten, with gentle paws, and concealed talons, tap your cheek, and with intermingled smiles, and tears, and caresses, implore your consideration for her, and your constancy: all the favour she then has to ask of you!–And this is the time, were it given to man to confine himself to one object, to be happier every day than another.

Now, Belford, were I to go no farther than I have gone with my beloved Miss Harlowe, how shall I know the difference between her and another bird? To let her fly now, what a pretty jest would that be!–How do I know, except I try, whether she may not be brought to sing me a fine song, and to be as well contented as I have brought other birds to be, and very shy ones too?

But now let us reflect a little upon the confounded partiality of us human creatures. I can give two or three familiar, and if they were not familiar, they would be shocking, instances of the cruelty both of men and women, with respect to other creatures, perhaps as worthy as (at least more innocent than) themselves. By my soul, Jack, there is more of the savage on human nature than we are commonly aware of. Nor is it, after all, so much amiss, that we sometimes avenge the more innocent animals upon our own species.

To particulars:

How usual a thing is it for women as well as men, without the least remorse, to ensnare, to cage, and torment, and even with burning knitting-needles to put out the eyes of the poor feather’d songster [thou seest I have not yet done with birds]; which however, in proportion to its bulk, has more life than themselves (for a bird is all soul;) and of consequence has as much feeling as the human creature! when at the same time, if an honest fellow, by the gentlest persuasion, and the softest arts, has the good luck to prevail upon a mew’d-up lady, to countenance her own escape, and she consents to break cage, and be set a flying into the all-cheering air of liberty, mercy on us! what an outcry is generally raised against him!

Just like what you and I once saw raised in a paltry village near Chelmsford, after a poor hungry fox, who, watching his opportunity, had seized by the neck, and shouldered a sleek-feathered goose: at what time we beheld the whole vicinage of boys and girls, old men, and old women, all the furrows and wrinkles of the latter filled up with malice for the time; the old men armed with p.r.o.ngs, pitch-forks, clubs, and catsticks; the old women with mops, brooms, fire-shovels, tongs, and pokers; and the younger fry with dirt, stones, and brickbats, gathering as they ran like a s…o…b..ll, in pursuit of the wind-outstripping prowler; all the mongrel curs of the circ.u.mjacencies yelp, yelp, yelp, at their heels, completing the horrid chorus.

Rememebrest thou not this scene? Surely thou must. My imagination, inflamed by a tender sympathy for the danger of the adventurous marauder, represents it to my eye as if it were but yesterday. And dost thou not recollect how generously glad we were, as if our own case, that honest reynard, by the help of a lucky stile, over which both old and young tumbled upon one another, and a winding course, escaped their brutal fury, and flying catsticks; and how, in fancy, we followed him to his undiscovered retreat; and imagined we beheld the intrepid thief enjoying his dear-earned purchase with a delight proportioned to his past danger?

I once made a charming little savage severely repent the delight she took in seeing her tabby favourite make cruel sport with a pretty sleek bead- eyed mouse, before she devoured it. Egad, my love, said I to myself, as I sat meditating the scene, I am determined to lie in wait for a fit opportunity to try how thou wilt like to be tost over my head, and be caught again: how thou wilt like to be parted from me, and pulled to me.

Yet will I rather give life than take it away, as this barbarous quadruped has at last done by her prey. And after all was over between my girl and me, I reminded her of the incident to which my resolution was owing.

Nor had I at another time any mercy upon the daughter of an old epicure, who had taught the girl, without the least remorse, to roast lobsters alive; to cause a poor pig to be whipt to death; to sc.r.a.pe carp the contrary way of the scales, making them leap in the stew-pan, and dressing them in their own blood for sauce. And this for luxury-sake, and to provoke an appet.i.te; which I had without stimulation, in my way, and that I can tell thee a very ravenous one.

Many more instances of the like nature could I give, were I to leave nothing to thyself, to shew that the best take the same liberties, and perhaps worse, with some sort of creatures, that we take with others; all creatures still! and creatures too, as I have observed above, replete with strong life, and sensible feeling!–If therefore people pretend to mercy, let mercy go through all their actions. I have heard somewhere, that a merciful man is merciful to his beast.

So much at present for those parts of thy letter in which thou urgest to me motives of compa.s.sion for the lady.

But I guess at thy princ.i.p.al motive in this thy earnestness in behalf of this charming creature. I know that thou correspondest with Lord M. who is impatient, and has long been desirous to see me shackled. And thou wantest to make a merit with the uncle, with a view to one of his nieces.

But knowest thou not, that my consent will be wanting to complete thy wishes?–And what a commendation will it be of thee to such a girl as Charlotte, when I shall acquaint her with the affront thou puttest upon the whole s.e.x, by asking, Whether I think my reward, when I have subdued the most charming woman in the world, will be equal to my trouble?– Which, thinkest thou, will a woman of spirit soonest forgive; the undervaluing varlet who can put such a question; or him, who prefers the pursuit and conquest of a fine woman to all the joys of life? Have I not known even a virtuous woman, as she would be thought, vow everlasting antipathy to a man who gave out that she was too old for him to attempt?

And did not Ess.e.x’s personal reflection on Queen Elizabeth, that she was old and crooked, contribute more to his ruin than his treason?

But another word or two, as to thy objection relating to my trouble and reward.

Does not the keen fox-hunter endanger his neck and his bones in pursuit of a vermin, which, when killed, is neither fit food for men nor dogs?

Do not the hunters of the n.o.ble game value the venison less than the sport?

Why then should I be reflected upon, and the s.e.x affronted, for my patience and perseverance in the most n.o.ble of all chases; and for not being a poacher in love, as thy question be made to imply?

Learn of thy master, for the future, to treat more respectfully a s.e.x that yields us our princ.i.p.al diversions and delights.

Proceed anon.

LETTER XVII

MR. LOVELACE [IN CONTINUATION.]

Well sayest thou, that mine is the most plotting heart in the world.

Thou dost me honour; and I thank thee heartily. Thou art no bad judge.

How like Boileau’s parson I strut behind my double chin! Am I not obliged to deserve thy compliment? And wouldst thou have me repent of a murder before I have committed it?

‘The Virtues and Graces are this Lady’s handmaids. She was certainly born to adorn the age she was given to.’–Well said, Jack–‘And would be an ornament to the first dignity.’ But what praise is that, unless the first dignity were adorned with the first merit?–Dignity! gew-gaw!– First dignity! thou idiot!–Art thou, who knowest me, so taken with ermine and tinsel?–I, who have won the gold, am only fit to wear it.

For the future therefore correct thy style, and proclaim her the ornament of the happiest man, and (respecting herself and s.e.x) the greatest conqueror in the world.

Then, that she loves me, as thou imaginest, by no means appears clear to me. Her conditional offers to renounce me; the little confidence she places in me; ent.i.tle me to ask, What merit can she have with a man, who won her in spite of herself; and who fairly, in set and obstinate battle, took her prisoner?

As to what thou inferrest from her eye when with us, thou knowest nothing of her heart from that, if thou imaginest there was one glance of love shot from it. Well did I note her eye, and plainly did I see, that it was all but just civil disgust to me and to the company I had brought her into. Her early retiring that night, against all entreaty, might have convinced thee, that there was very little of the gentle in her heart for me. And her eye never knew what it was to contradict her heart.

She is, thou sayest, all mind. So say I. But why shouldst thou imagine that such a mind as hers, meeting with such a one as mine, and, to dwell upon the word, meeting with an inclination in hers, should not propagate minds like her own?

Were I to take thy stupid advice, and marry; what a figure should I make in rakish annals! The lady in my power: yet not have intended to put herself in my power: declaring against love, and a rebel to it: so much open-eyed caution: no confidence in my honour: her family expecting the worst hath pa.s.sed: herself seeming to expect that the worst will be attempted: [Priscilla Partington for that!] What! wouldst thou not have me act in character?

But why callest thou the lady innocent? And why sayest thou she loves me?

By innocent, with regard to me, and not taken as a general character, I must insist upon it she is not innocent. Can she be innocent, who, by wishing to shackle me in the prime and glory of my youth, with such a capacity as I have for n.o.ble mischief,* would make my perdition more certain, were I to break, as I doubt I should, the most solemn vow I could make? I say no man ought to take even a common oath, who thinks he cannot keep it. This is conscience! This is honour!–And when I think I can keep the marriage-vow, then will it be time to marry.

* See Vol. III. Letter XXIII. Paragr. 4.

No doubt of it, as thou sayest, the devils would rejoice in the fall of such a woman. But this is my confidence, that I shall have it in my power to marry when I will. And if I do her this justice, shall I not have a claim of her grat.i.tude? And will she not think herself the obliged, rather than the obliger? Then let me tell thee, Belford, it is impossible so far to hurt the morals of this lady, as thou and thy brother varlets have hurt others of the s.e.x, who now are casting about the town firebrands and double death. Take ye that thistle to mumble upon.

A short interruption. I now resume.

That the morals of this lady cannot fail, is a consideration that will lessen the guilt on both sides. And if, when subdued, she knows but how to middle the matter between virtue and love, then will she be a wife for me: for already I am convinced that there is not a woman in the world that is love-proof and plot-proof, if she be not the person.

And now imagine (the charmer overcome) thou seest me sitting supinely cross-kneed, reclining on my sofa, the G.o.d of love dancing in my eyes, and rejoicing in every mantling feature; the sweet rogue, late such a proud rogue, wholly in my power, moving up slowly to me, at my beck, with heaving sighs, half-p.r.o.nounced upbraidings from murmuring lips, her finger in her eye, and quickening her pace at my Come hither, dearest!

One hand stuck in my side, the other extended to encourage her bashful approach–Kiss me, love!–sweet, as Jack Belford says, are the joys that come with willingness.

She tenders her purple mouth [her coral lips will be purple then, Jack!]: sigh not so deeply, my beloved!–Happier hours await thy humble love, than did thy proud resistance.

Once more bent to my ardent lips the swanny glossiness of a neck late so stately.–

There’s my precious!

Again!

Obliging loveliness!

O my ever-blooming glory! I have tried thee enough. To-morrow’s sun–

Then I rise, and fold to my almost-talking heart the throbbing-bosom’d charmer.

And now shall thy humble pride confess its obligation to me!

———-

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