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This is Volume 3 of Samuel Richardson’s classic novel; Clarissa. Pressured by her unscrupulous family to marry a wealthy man she detests, the young Clarissa Harlowe is tricked into fleeing with the witty and debonair Robert Lovelace and places herself under his protection. Lovelace, however, proves himself to be an untrustworthy rake whose vague promises of marriage are accompanied by unwelcome and increasingly brutal sexual advances. And yet, Clarissa finds his charm alluring, her scrupulous sense of virtue tinged with unconfessed desire. Told through a complex series of interweaving letters, Clarissa is a richly ambiguous study of a fatally attracted couple and a work of astonishing power and immediacy. A huge success when it first appeared in 1747, it remains one of the greatest of all novels.
MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TUESDAY, NINE O’CLOCK.
I write, because you enjoin me to do so. Love you still!–How can I help it, if I would? You may believe how I stand aghast, your letter communicating the first news–Good God of Heaven and Earth!–But what shall I say?–I am all impatient for particulars.
Lord have mercy upon me!–But can it be?
My mother will indeed be astonished!–How can I tell it her!–It was but last night (upon some jealousies put into her head by your foolish uncle) that I assured her, and this upon the strength of your own assurances, that neither man nor devil would be able to induce you to take a step that was in the least derogatory to the most punctilious honour.
But, once more, can it be? What woman at this rate!–But, God preserve you!
Let nothing escape you in your letters. Direct them for me, however, to Mrs. Knolly’s, till further notice.
Observe, my dear, that I don’t blame you by all this–Your relations only are in fault!–Yet how you came to change your mind is the surprising thing.
How to break it to my mother, I know not. Yet if she hear it first from any other, and find I knew it before, she will believe it to be my connivance!–Yet, as I hope to live, I know not how to break it to her.
But this is teasing you.–I am sure, without intention.
Let me now repeat my former advice–If you are not married by this time, be sure delay not the ceremony. Since things are as they are, I wish it were thought that you were privately married before you went away. If these men plead AUTHORITY to our pain, when we are theirs–Why should we not, in such a case as this, make some good out of the hated word, for our reputation, when we are induced to violate a more natural one?
Your brother and sister [that vexes me almost as much as any thing!] have now their ends. Now, I suppose, will go forward alterations of wills, and such-like spiteful doings.
Miss Lloyd and Miss Biddulph this moment send up their names. They are out of breath, Kitty says, to speak to me–easy to guess their errand;–I must see my mother, before I see them. I have no way but to shew her your letter to clear myself. I shall not be able to say a word, till she has run herself out of her first breath.–Forgive me, my dear–surprise makes me write thus. If your messenger did not wait, and were not those young ladies below, I could write it over again, for fear of afflicting you.
I send what you write for. If there be any thing else you want that is in my power, command without reserve
Your ever affectionate ANNA HOWE.