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!
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. FRIDAY, SEPT. 22.
The undeserved sufferings of Miss Clarissa Harlowe, her exalted merit, her exemplary preparation, and her happy end, will be standing subjects with us [i.e., Belford and Mrs. Lovick].
She shall read to me, when I have no company; write for me, out of books, passages she shall recommend. Her years (turned of fifty,) and her good character, will secure me from scandal; and I have great pleasure in reflecting that I shall be better myself for making her happy.
Then, whenever I am in danger, I will read some of the admirable lady’s papers: whenever I would abhor my former ways, I will read some of thine, and copies of my own.
The consequence of all this will be, that I shall be the delight of my own relations of both sexes, who were wont to look upon me as a lost man. I shall have good order in my own family, because I shall give a good example myself. I shall be visited and respected, not perhaps by Lovelace, by Mowbray, and by Tourville, because they cannot see me upon the old terms, and will not, perhaps, see me upon the new, but by the best and worthiest gentlemen, clergy as well as laity, all around me. I shall look upon my past follies with contempt: upon my old companions with pity. Oaths and curses shall be for ever banished my mouth: in their place shall succeed conversation becoming a rational being, and a gentleman. And instead of acts of offence, subjecting me perpetually to acts of defence, will I endeavour to atone for my past evils, by doing all the good in my power, and by becoming an universal benefactor to the extent of that power.
Now tell me, Lovelace, upon this faint sketch of what I hope to do, and to be, if this be not a scheme infinitely preferable to the wild, the pernicious, the dangerous ones, both to body and soul, which we have pursued?
I wish I could make my sketch as amiable to you as it appears to me. I wish it with all my soul: for I always loved you. It has been my misfortune that I did: for this led me into infinite riots and follies, of which, otherwise, I verily think I should not have been guilty.
I told you, in the letter I wrote to you on Tuesday last, that you should have another sent you when I had got into my father’s house.
I presume to say, that I am now, at your receiving of this, arrived there; and I invite you to follow me, as soon as you are prepared for so great a journey.
Not to allegorize farther—my fate is now, at your perusal of this, accomplished. My doom is unalterably fixed; and I am either a miserable or happy being to all eternity. If happy, I owe it solely to the Divine mercy; if miserable, to your undeserved cruelty.—And consider not, for your own sake, gay, cruel, fluttering, unhappy man! consider, whether the barbarous and perfidious treatment I have met with from you was worthy the hazard of your immortal soul…
In time then, once more, I wish you to consider your ways. Your golden dream cannot long last. Your present course can yield you pleasure no longer than you can keep off thought or reflection. A hardened insensibility is the only foundation on which your inward tranquillity is built…
Reflect, Sir, that I can have no other motive, in what I write, than your good, and the safety of other innocent creatures, who may be drawn in by your wicked arts and perjuries. You have not, in my wishes for future welfare, the wishes of a suppliant wife, endeavouring for her own sake, as well as for yours, to induce you to reform those ways. They are wholly as disinterested as undeserved. But I should mistrust my own penitence, were I capable of wishing to recompense evil for evil—if, black as your offences have been against me, I could not forgive, as I wish to be forgiven.
I repeat, therefore, that I do forgive you. And may the Almighty forgive you too! Nor have I, at the writing of this, any other essential regrets than what are occasioned by the grief I have given to parents, who, till I knew you, were the most indulgent of parents; by the scandal given to the other branches of my family; by the disreputation brought upon my sex; and by the offence given to virtue in my fall. Continue reading
I [Morden to Belford] have been employed in a most melancholy task: in reading the will of the dear deceased.
The unhappy mother and Mrs. Norton chose to be absent on the affecting occasion. But Mrs. Harlowe made it her earnest request that every article of it should be fulfilled… . . …
I was obliged to stop at the words, ‘That she was nobody’s.’. . . .…
You remember, Sir, on our first reading of the will in town, the observations I made on the foul play which it is evident the excellent creature met with from this abandoned man, and what I said upon the occasion. I am not used to repeat things of that nature.
The dear creature’s noble contempt of the nothing, as she nobly calls it, about which she had been giving such particular directions, to wit, her body; and her apologizing for the particularity of those directions from the circumstances she was in—had the same, and as strong an effect upon me, as when I first read the animated paragraph; and, pointed by my eye, (by turns cast upon them all,) affected them all.
Indeed, the mutual upbraidings and grief of all present, upon those articles in which everyone was remembered for good, so often interrupted me, that the reading took up above six hours. But curses upon the accursed man were a refuge to which they often resorted to exonerate themselves.
How wounding a thing, Mr. Belford, is a generous and well-distinguished forgiveness! What revenge can be more effectual, and more noble, were revenge intended, and were it wished to strike remorse into a guilty or ungrateful heart! But my dear cousin’s motives were all duty and love. She seems indeed to have been, as much as a mortal could be, LOVE itself. Love sublimed by a purity, by a true delicacy, that hardly any woman before her could boast of. O Mr. Belford, what an example would she have given in every station of life, (as wife, mother, mistress, friend,) had her lot fallen upon a man blessed with a mind like her own!…
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
TO THE EVER-HONOURED JAS. HARLOWE, SEN. ESQ.
MOST DEAR SIR,
With exulting confidence now does your emboldened daughter come into your awful presence by these lines, who dared not, but upon this occasion, to look up to you with hopes of favour and forgiveness; since, when this comes to your hands, it will be out of her power ever to offend you more.
Still on her knees, let your poor penitent implore your forgiveness of all her faults and follies; more especially of that fatal error which threw her out of your protection.
TO THE EVER-HONOURED MRS. HARLOWE
The last time I had the boldness to write to you, it was with all the consciousness of a self-convicted criminal, supplicating her offended judge for mercy and pardon. I now, by these lines, approach you with more assurance; but nevertheless with the highest degree of reverence, gratitude, and duty. The reason of my assurance, my letter to my papa will give; and as I humbly on my knees implored his pardon, so now, in the same dutiful manner, do I supplicate your’s, for the grief and trouble I have given you.
But HE, I presume to hope, has forgiven me; and, at the instant this will reach your hands, I humbly trust, I shall be rejoicing in the blessed fruits of his forgiveness. And be this your comfort, my ever-honoured Mamma, that the principal end of your pious care for me is attained, though not in the way so much hoped for.…
[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.
Mrs Smith, stepping up before us, bid Mrs Lovick and the nurse not stir when we entered: and then we went up softly together.
We beheld the lady in a charming attitude. Dressed, as I told you before, in her virgin white, she was sitting in her elbow-chair, Mrs Lovick close by her in another chair, with her left arm round her neck, supporting it as it were; for it seems the lady had bid her do so, saying she had been a mother to her, and she would delight herself in thinking she was in her mamma’s arms; for she found herself drowsy; perhaps, she said, for the last time she should ever be so.
One faded cheek rested upon the good woman’s bosom, the kindly warmth of which had overspread it with a faint, but charming flush; the other paler, and hollow, as if already iced over by death. Her hands, white as the lily, with her meandering veins more transparently blue than ever I had seen even hers (veins so soon, alas! to be choked up by the congealment of that purpose stream, which already so languidly creeps rather than flows through them!), her hands hanging lifelessly, one before her, the other grasped by the right hand of the kind widow, whose tears bedewed the sweet face which her motherly bosom supported, though unfelt by the fair sleeper; and either insensibly to the good woman, or what she would not disturb her to wipe off, or to change her posture. Her aspect was sweetly calm and serene: and though she started now and then, yet her sleep seemed easy; her breath indeed short and quick; but tolerably free, and not like that of a dying person.
…she started, and a blush overspread her face, on hearing, as I also did, a sort of lumbering noise upon the stairs, as if a large trunk were bringing up between two people: and looking upon me with an eye of concern, Blunderers! said she, they have brought in something two hours before the time — Don’t be surprised, sir: it is all to save you trouble.
We all remaining silent, the women having their aprons at their eyes — Why this concern for nothing at all, said she? — If I am to be blamed for anything, it is for showing too much solicitude, as it may be thought, for this earthly part. I love to do everything for myself that I can do. I ever did. Every other material point is so far done and taken care of, that I have had leisure for things of lesser moment. Minutenesses may be observed where greater articles are not neglected for them. I might have had this to order, perhaps, when less fit to order it. I have no mother, no sister, no Mrs Norton, no Miss Howe, near me. Some of you must have seen this in a few days, if not now; perhaps have had the friendly trouble of directing it. And what is the difference of a few days to you, when I am gratified rather than discomposed by it? — I shall not die the sooner for such a preparation — Should not everybody make their will, that has anything to bequeath? And who that makes a will, should be afraid of a coffin? — My dear friends (to the women), I have considered these things; do not give me reason to think you have not, with such an object before you as you have had in me, for weeks.