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This is Volume 8 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 YARMOUTH, ISLE OF WIGHT, MONDAY, AUG. 7.
MY DEAREST CREATURE,
I can write but just now a few lines. I cannot tell how to bear the sound of that Mr. Belford for your executor, cogent as your reasons for that measure are: and yet I am firmly of opinion, that none of your relations should be named for the trust. But I dwell the less on this subject, as I hope (and cannot bear to apprehend the contrary) that you will still live many, many years.
Mr. Hickman, indeed, speaks very handsomely of Mr. Belford. But he, poor man! has not much penetration.–If he had, he would hardly think so well of me as he does.
I have a particular opportunity of sending this by a friend of my aunt Harman’s; who is ready to set out for London, (and this occasions my hurry,) and is to return out of hand. I expect therefore, by him a large packet from you; and hope and long for news of your amended health: which Heaven grant to the prayers of
Your ever-affectionate ANNA HOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE FRIDAY, AUG. 11.
I will send you a large packet, as you desire and expect; since I can do it by so safe a conveyance: but not all that is come to my hand–for I must own that my friends are very severe; too severe for any body, who loves them not, to see their letters. You, my dear, would not call them my friends, you said, long ago; but my relations: indeed I cannot call them my relations, I think!—-But I am ill; and therefore perhaps more peevish than I should be. It is difficult to go out of ourselves to give a judgment against ourselves; and yet, oftentimes, to pass a just judgment, we ought.
I thought I should alarm you in the choice of my executor. But the sad necessity I am reduced to must excuse me.
I shall not repeat any thing I have said before on that subject: but if your objections will not be answered to your satisfaction by the papers and letters I shall enclose, marked 1, 2, 3, 4, to 9, I must think myself in another instance unhappy; since I am engaged too far (and with my own judgment too) to recede.
As Mr. Belford has transcribed for me, in confidence, from his friend’s letters, the passages which accompany this, I must insist that you suffer no soul but yourself to peruse them; and that you return them by the very first opportunity; that so no use may be made of them that may do hurt either to the original writer or to the communicator. You’ll observe I am bound by promise to this care. If through my means any mischief should arise, between this humane and that inhuman libertine, I should think myself utterly inexcusable.
I subjoin a list of the papers or letters I shall enclose. You must return them all when perused.*
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.
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!
O my dear, the world we live in is 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 visiters or visiting, I thought I knew a great deal of it. Pitiable ignorance!–Alas! I knew nothing at all!
With zealous wishes for your happiness, and the happiness of every one dear to you, I am, and will ever be,
Your gratefully-affectionate CL. HARLOWE.