I beg your pardon, my dearest friend, for having given you occasion to remind me of the date of my last. I was willing to have before me as much of the workings of your wise relations as possible; being verily persuaded, that one side or the other would have yielded by this time: and then I should have had some degree of certainty to found my observations upon. And indeed what can I write that I have not already written?—You know, that I can do nothing but rave at your stupid persecutors: and that you don’t like. I have advised you to resume your own estate: that you won’t do. You cannot bear the thoughts of having their Solmes: and Lovelace is resolved you shall be his, let who will say to the contrary. I think you must be either the one man’s or the other’s. Let us see what their next step will be.As to Lovelace, while he tells his own story (having also behaved so handsomely on his intrusion in the wood-house, and intended so well at church) who can say, that the man is in the least blameworthy?—Wicked people! to combine against so innocent a man!—But, as I said, let us see what their next step will be, and what course you will take upon it; and then we may be the more enlightened.As to your change of style to your uncles, and brother and sister, since they were so fond of attributing to you a regard for Lovelace, and would not be persuaded to the contrary; and since you only strengthened their arguments against yourself by denying it; you did but just as I would have done, in giving way to their suspicions, and trying what that would do—But if—but if—Pray, my dear, indulge me a little—you yourself think it was necessary to apologize to me for that change of style to them—and till you will speak out like a friend to her unquestionable friend, I must tease you a little—let it run therefore; for it will run—If, then, there be not a reason for this change of style, which you have not thought fit to give me, be so good as to watch, as I once before advised you, how the cause for it will come on—Why should it be permitted to steal upon you, and you know nothing of the matter?
When we get a great cold, we are apt to puzzle ourselves to find out when it began, or how we got it; and when that is accounted for, down we sit contented, and let it have its course; or, if it be very troublesome, take a sweat, or use other means to get rid of it. So my dear, before the malady you wot of, yet wot not of, grows so importunate, as that you must be obliged to sweat it out, let me advise you to mind how it comes on. For I am persuaded, as surely as that I am now writing to you, that the indiscreet violence of your friends on the one hand, and the insinuating address of Lovelace on the other, (if the man be not a greater fool than any body thinks him,) will effectually bring it to this, and do all his work for him.
But let it—if it must be Lovelace or Solmes, the choice cannot admit of debate. Yet if all be true that is reported, I should prefer almost any of your other lovers to either; unworthy as they also are. But who can be worthy of a Clarissa?
I wish you are not indeed angry with me for harping so much on one string. I must own, that I should think myself inexcusable so to do, (the rather, as I am bold enough to imagine it a point out of all doubt from fifty places in your letters, were I to labour the proof,) if you would ingenuously own—
Own what? you’ll say. Why, my Anna Howe, I hope you don’t think that I am already in love—!
No, to be sure! How can your Anna Howe have such a thought?—What then shall we call it? You might have helped me to a phrase—A conditional kind of liking!—that’s it.—O my friend! did I not know how much you despise prudery; and that you are too young, and too lovely, to be a prude—
But, avoiding such hard names, let me tell you one thing, my dear (which nevertheless I have told you before); and that is this: that I shall think I have reason to be highly displeased with you, if, when you write to me, you endeavour to keep from me any secret of your heart.
Let me add, that if you would clearly and explicitly tell me, how far Lovelace has, or has not, a hold in your affections, I could better advise you what to do, than at present I can. You, who are so famed for prescience, as I may call it; and than whom no young lady ever had stronger pretensions to a share of it; have had, no doubt, reasonings in your heart about him, supposing you were to be one day his: [no doubt but you have had the same in Solmes’s case: whence the ground for the hatred of the one; and for the conditional liking of the other.] Will you tell me, my dear, what you have thought of Lovelace’s best and of his worst?—How far eligible for the first; how far rejectable for the last?—Then weighing both parts in opposite scales, we shall see which is likely to preponderate; or rather which does preponderate. Nothing less than the knowledge of the inmost recesses of your heart, can satisfy my love and my friendship. Surely, you are not afraid to trust yourself with a secret of this nature: if you are, then you may the more allowably doubt me. But, I dare say, you will not own either—nor is there, I hope, cause for either. . . .