Indeed, indeed, Belford, I am, and shall be, to my latest hour, the most miserable of beings. Such exalted generosity!. . . . Nothing but my cursed devices stood in the way of my happiness. Remembrest thou not how repeatedly, from the first, I poured cold water upon her rising flame, by meanly and ungratefully turning upon her the injunctions, which virgin delicacy, and filial duty, induced her to lay me under before I got her into my power.Did she not tell me, and did I not know it, if she had not told me, that she could not be guilty of affectation or tyranny to the man whom she intended to marry?. I knew, as she once upbraided me, that from the time I had got her from her father’s house, I had a plain path before me..True did she say, and I triumphed in the discovery, that from that time I held her soul in suspense an hundred times. My ipecacuanha trial alone was enough to convince an infidel that she had a mind in which love and tenderness would have presided, had I permitted the charming buds to put forth and blow.She would have had no reserve, as once she told me, had I given her cause of doubt.. And did she not own to thee, that once she could have loved me; and, could she have made me good, would have made me happy? O, Belford! here was love; a love of the noblest kind! A love, as she hints in her posthumous letter,. that extended to the soul; and which she not only avowed in her dying hours, but contrived to let me know it after death, in that letter filled with warnings and exhortations, which had for their sole end my eternal welfare!
I am incapable of doing justice to the character of my beloved friend; and that not only from want of talents, but from grief; which, I think, rather increases than diminishes by time; and which will not let me sit down to a task that requires so much thought, and a greater degree of accuracy than I ever believed myself mistress of. And yet I so well approve of your motion, that I will throw into your hands a few materials, that may serve by way of supplement, as I may say, to those you will be able to collect from the papers themselves… She was a wonderful creature from her infancy: but I suppose you intend to give a character of her at those years when she was qualified to be an example to other young ladies, rather than a history of her life.
You may, if you touch upon this subject, throw in these sentences of her, spoken at different times, and on different occasions:
‘Who can be better, or more worthy, than they should be? And, who shall be proud of talents they give not to themselves?’
‘The darkest and most contemptible ignorance is that of not knowing one’s self; and that all we have, and all we excel in, is the gift of God.’
‘There is but one pride pardonable; that of being above doing a base or dishonourable action.’ Continue reading
Ever since the fatal seventh of this month, I have been lost to myself, and to all the joys of life. I might have gone farther back than that fatal seventh; which, for the future, I will never see anniversarily revolve but in sables; only till that cursed day I had some gleams of hope now-and-then darting in upon me.
They tell me of an odd letter I wrote to you. I remember I did write. But very little of the contents of what I wrote do I remember.
I have been in a cursed way. Methinks something has been working strangely retributive. I never was such a fool as to disbelieve a Providence; yet am I not for resolving into judgments everything that seems to wear an avenging face. Yet if we must be punished either here or hereafter for our misdeeds, better here, say I, than hereafter. Have I not then an interest to think my punishment already not only begun but completed since what I have suffered, and do suffer, passes all description?
I am kept excessively low; and excessively low I am. This sweet creature’s posthumous letter sticks close to me. All her excellencies rise up hourly to my remembrance.
Yet dare I not indulge in these melancholy reflections. I find my head strangely working again—Pen, begone!
I, CLARISSA HARLOWE, now, by strange melancholy accidents, lodging in the parish of St. Paul, Covent-garden, being of sound and perfect mind and memory, as I hope these presents, drawn up by myself, and written with my own hand, will testify, do, [this second day of September,*] in the year of our Lord ——,** make and publish this my last will and testament, in manner and form following:
In the first place, I desire that my body may lie unburied three days after my decease, or till the pleasure of my father be known concerning it. But the occasion of my death not admitting of doubt, I will not, on any account that it be opened; and it is my desire, that it shall not be touched but by those of my own sex.
I have already given verbal directions, that, after I am dead, (and laid out in the manner I have ordered,) I may be put into my coffin as soon as possible: it is my desire, that I may not be unnecessarily exposed to the view of anybody; except any of my relations should vouchsafe, for the last time, to look upon me.
And I could wish, if it might be avoided without making ill will between Mr. Lovelace and my executor, that the former might not be permitted to see my corpse. But if, as he is a man very uncontrollable, and as I am nobody’s, he insist upon viewing her dead, whom he ONCE before saw in a manner dead, let his gay curiosity be gratified. Let him behold, and triumph over the wretched remains of one who has been made a victim to his barbarous perfidy: but let some good person, as by my desire, give him a paper, whist he is viewing the ghastly spectacle, containing these few words only,—’Gay, cruel heart! behold here the remains of the once ruined, yet now happy, Clarissa Harlowe!—See what thou thyself must quickly be;—and REPENT!—’
Yet, to show that I die in perfect charity with all the world, I do most sincerely forgive Mr. Lovelace the wrongs he has done me. Continue reading
I think it absolutely right that my ever-dear and beloved lady should be opened and embalmed. It must be done out of hand this very afternoon. Your acquaintance, Tomkins, and old Anderson of this place, I will bring with me, shall be the surgeons. I have talked to the latter about it.
I will see everything done with that decorum which the case, and the sacred person of my beloved require.
Everything that can be done to preserve the charmer from decay shall also be done. And when she will descend to her original dust, or cannot be kept longer, I will then have her laid in my family-vault, between my own father and mother. Myself, as I am in my soul, so in person, chief mourner. But her heart, to which I have such unquestionable pretensions, in which once I had so large a share, and which I will prize above my own, I will have. I will keep it in spirits. It shall never be out of my sight. And all the charges of sepulture too shall be mine.
Surely nobody will dispute my right to her. Whose was she living?—Whose is she dead but mine?—Her cursed parents, whose barbarity to her, no doubt, was the true cause of her death, have long since renounced her. She left them for me. She chose me therefore; and I was her husband. What though I treated her like a villain? Do I not pay for it now? Would she not have been mine had I not? Nobody will dispute but she would. And has she not forgiven me?—I am then in statu quo prius with her, am I not? as if I had never offended?—Whose then can she be but mine?
I will free you from your executorship, and all your cares.…
[Belford to Lovelace] I broke it open accordingly, and found in it no less than eleven letters, each sealed with her own seal, and black wax, one of which was directed to me.
The other letters are directed to her father, to her mother, one to her two uncles, to her brother, to her sister, to her aunt Hervey, to her cousin Morden, to Miss Howe, to Mrs. Norton, and lastly one to you, in performance of her promise, that a letter should be sent you when she arrived at her father’s house!——I will withhold this last till I can be assured that you will be fitter to receive it than Tourville tells me you are at present.
Copies of all these are sealed up, and entitled, Copies of my ten posthumous letters, for J. Belford, Esq.; and put in among the bundle of papers left to my direction, which I have not yet had leisure to open.
No wonder, while able, that she was always writing, since thus only of late could she employ that time, which heretofore, from the long days she made, caused so many beautiful works to spring from her fingers. It is my opinion, that there never was a woman so young, who wrote so much, and with such celerity. Her thoughts keeping pace, as I have seen, with her pen, she hardly ever stopped or hesitated; and very seldom blotted out, or altered. It was a natural talent she was mistress of, among many other extraordinary ones. I gave the Colonel his letter, and ordered Harry instantly to get ready to carry the others. Mean time (retiring into the next apartment) we opened the will. We were both so much affected in perusing it, that at one time the Colonel, breaking off, gave it to me to read on; at another I gave it back to him to proceed with; neither of us being able to read it through without such tokens of sensibility as affected the voice of each.
[Belford to Lovelace] I may as well try to write; since, were I to go to bed, I shall not sleep. I never had such a weight of grief upon my mind in my life, as upon the demise of this admirable woman; whose soul is now rejoicing in the regions of light.
You may be glad to know the particulars of her happy exit. I will try to proceed; for all is hush and still; the family retired; but not one of them, and least of all her poor cousin, I dare say, to rest.
The lady had been silent a few minutes, and speechless, as they thought, moving her lips without uttering a word; one hand, as I said, in her cousin’s. But when Mrs. Lovick, on my approach, pronounced my name, O Mr. Belford, said she, with a faint inward voice, but very distinct nevertheless—Now!—Now! [in broken periods she spoke]—I bless God for his mercies to his poor creature—all will soon be over—a few—a very few moments—will end this strife—and I shall be happy!
Comfort here, Sir—turning her head to the Colonel—comfort my cousin —see! the blame—able kindness—he would not wish me to be happy —so soon!
Here she stopt for two or three minutes, earnestly looking upon him. Then resuming, My dearest Cousin, said she, be comforted—what is dying but the common lot?—The mortal frame may seem to labour—but that is all!—It is not so hard to die as I believed it to be!—The preparation is the difficulty—I bless God, I have had time for that—the rest is worse to beholders, than to me!—I am all blessed hope—hope itself.
She was silent for a few moments, lifting up her eyes, and the hand her cousin held not between his. Then, O Death! said she, where is thy sting! [the words I remember to have heard in the burial-service read over my uncle and poor Belton.] And after a pause—It is good for me that I was afflicted! Words of scripture, I suppose.
Then turning her head towards me—Do you, Sir, tell your friend that I forgive him!—And I pray to God to forgive him!—Again pausing, and lifting up her eyes as if praying that He would. Let him know how happily I die:—And that such as my own, I wish to be his last hour.
I subjoin a list of the papers or letters I shall enclose. You must return them all when perused.
I am very much tired and fatigued — with — I don’t know what — with writing, I think — but most with myself, and with a situation I cannot help aspiring to get out of, and above!
Oh, my dear, ’tis a sad, a very sad world! — While under our parents’ protecting wings, we know nothing at all of it. Book-learned and a scribbler, and looking at people as I saw them as visitors or visiting, I thought I knew a great deal of it. Pitiable ignorance! — Alas! I knew nothing at all!
You will see by these several letters, written and received in so little a space of time (to say nothing of what I have received and written, which I cannot show you), how little opportunity or leisure I can have for writing my own story.
Curse upon thy hard heart, thou vile caitiff! How hast thou tortured me, by thy designed abruption! ’tis impossible that Miss Harlowe should have ever suffered as thou hast made me suffer, and as I now suffer!
That sex is made to bear pain. It is a curse that the first of it entailed upon all her daughters, when she brought the curse upon us all. And they love those best, whether man or child, who give them most—But to stretch upon thy d——d tenter-hooks such a spirit as mine—No rack, no torture, can equal my torture!
And must I still wait the return of another messenger?
Confound thee for a malicious devil! I wish thou wert a post-horse, and I upon the back of thee! how would I whip and spur, and harrow up thy clumsy sides, till I make thee a ready-roasted, ready-flayed, mess of dog’s meat; all the hounds in the country howling after thee, as I drove thee, to wait my dismounting, in order to devour thee piece-meal; life still throbbing in each churned mouthful!
Give this fellow the sequel of thy tormenting scribble.
Dispatch him away with it. Thou hast promised it shall be ready. Every cushion or chair I shall sit upon, the bed I shall lie down upon (if I go to bed) till he return, will be stuffed with bolt-upright awls, bodkins, corking-pins, and packing needles: already I can fancy that, to pink my body like my mind, I need only to be put into a hogshead stuck full of steel-pointed spikes, and rolled down a hill three times as high as the Monument.
But I lose time; yet know not how to employ it till this fellow returns with the sequel of thy soul-harrowing intelligence!
What a cursed piece of work hast thou made of it, with the most excellent of women! Thou mayest be in earnest, or in jest, as thou wilt; but the poor lady will not be long either thy sport, or the sport of fortune!
I will give thee an account of a scene that wants but her affecting pen to represent it justly; and it would wring all the black blood out of thy callous heart.
Thou only, who art the author of her calamities, shouldst have attended her in her prison. I am unequal to such a task: nor know I any other man but would.
This last act, however unintended by thee, yet a consequence of thy general orders, and too likely to be thought agreeable to thee, by those who know thy other villanies by her, has finished thy barbarous work. And I advise thee to trumpet forth every where, how much in earnest thou art to marry her, whether true or not.
Thou mayest safely do it. She will not live to put thee to the trial; and it will a little palliate for thy enormous usage of her, and be a mean to make mankind, who know not what I know of the matter, herd a little longer with thee, and forbear to hunt thee to thy fellow-savages in the Lybian wilds and deserts . . .