What pain, my dearest friend, does your kind solicitude for my welfare give me! How much more binding and tender are the ties of pure friendship, and the union of like minds, than the ties of nature! Well might the sweet-singer of Israel, when he was carrying to the utmost extent the praises of the friendship between him and his beloved friend, say, that the love of Jonathan to him was wonderful; that it surpassed the love of women! What an exalted idea does it give of the soul of Jonathan, sweetly attempered for the sacred band, if we may suppose it but equal to that of my Anna Howe for her fallen Clarissa?—But, although I can glory in your kind love for me, think, my dear, what concern must fill a mind, not ungenerous, when the obligation lies all on one side. And when, at the same time that your light is the brighter for my darkness, I must give pain to a dear friend, to whom I delighted to give pleasure; and not pain only, but discredit, for supporting my blighted fame against the busy tongues of uncharitable censures!
This is that makes me, in the words of my admired exclaimer, very little altered, often repeat: ‘Oh! that I were as in months past! as in the days when God preserved me! when his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness! As I was in the days of my childhood—when the Almighty was yet with me: when I was in my father’s house: when I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil.’
You set before me your reasons, enforced by the opinion of your honoured mother, why I should think of Mr. Lovelace for a husband.
I must abide by what I have already declared—and that is, [don’t be angry at me, my best friend,] that I have much more pleasure in thinking of death, than of such a husband. In short, as I declared in my last, that I cannot [forgive me, if I say, I will not] ever be his.
‘But you will expect my reasons; I know you will: and if I give them not, will conclude me either obstinate, or implacable, or both: and those would be sad imputations, if just, to be laid to the charge of a person who thinks and talks of dying. And yet, to say that resentment and disappointment have no part in my determination, would be saying a thing hardly to be credited. For I own I have resentment, strong resentment, but not unreasonable ones, as you will be convinced, if already you are not so, when you know all my story—if ever you do know it—for I begin to fear (so many things more necessary to be thought of than either this man, or my own vindication, have I to do) that I shall not have time to compass what I have intended, and, in a manner, promised you. . . .
‘I once indeed hoped, little thinking him so premeditatedly vile a man, that I might have the happiness to reclaim him: I vainly believed that he loved me well enough to suffer my advice for his good, and the example I humbly presumed I should be enabled to set him, to have weight with him; and the rather, as he had no mean opinion of my morals and understanding: But now what hope is there left for this my prime hope?—Were I to marry him, what a figure should I make, preaching virtue and morality to a man whom I had trusted with opportunities to seduce me from all my own duties!—And then, supposing I were to have children by such a husband, must it not, think you, cut a thoughtful person to the heart; to look round upon her little family, and think she had given them a father destined, without a miracle, to perdition; and whose immoralities, propagated among them by his vile example, might, too probably, bring down a curse upon them? And, after all, who knows but that my own sinful compliances with a man, who might think himself entitled to my obedience, might taint my own morals, and make me, instead of a reformer, an imitator of him?—For who can touch pitch, and not be defiled?
‘The single life, at such times, has offered to me, as the life, the only life, to be chosen. But in that, must I not now sit brooding over my past afflictions, and mourning my faults till the hour of my release? And would not every one be able to assign the reason why Clarissa Harlowe chose solitude, and to sequester herself from the world? Would not the look of every creature, who beheld me, appear as a reproach to me? And would not my conscious eye confess my fault, whether the eyes of others accused me or not? One of my delights was, to enter the cots of my poor neighbours, to leave lessons to the boys, and cautions to the elder girls: and how should I be able, unconscious, and without pain, to say to the latter, fly the delusions of men, who had been supposed to have run away with one?