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Clarissa Harlowe,
or The History of a Young Lady

by Samuel Richardson
The original, squashed down to read in about 30 minutes


Samuel Richardson (19 August 1689 - 4 July 1761) was a printer and publisher from Derbyshire in England. He lost his first wife and their five sons, but eventually remarried.

"Clarissa Harlowe," written after "Pamela," brought Richardson a European reputation. The first four volumes of the novel appeared in 1747, the last four in 1748, and during the next few years translations were being executed in French and German.

Abridged: JH

For more works by Samuel Richardsont, see The Index

Clarissa Harlowe

I. - At Harlowe Place

CLARISSA is persecuted by her family to marry Mr. Roger Solmes, but favours Richard Lovelace, who is in love with her. That her grandfather had left Clarissa a considerable estate accounts mainly for the hostility of the family to Clarissa's desire for independence.

Clarissa writes to her friend, Miss Howe:

"January 15. The moment, my dear, that Mr. Lovelace's visits were mentioned to my brother on his arrival from Scotland he expressed his disapprobation, declaring he had ever hated him since he had known him at college, and would never own me for a sister if I married him.

"This antipathy I have heard accounted for in this manner:

"Mr. Lovelace was always noted for his vivacity and courage, and for the surprising progress he made in literature, while for diligence in study he had hardly his equal. This was his character at the university, and it gained him many friends, while those who did not love him, feared him, by reason of the offence his vivacity made him too ready to give, and of the courage he showed in supporting it. My brother's haughtiness could not bear a superiority; and those whom we fear more than love we are not far from hating. Having less command of his passions than the other, he was evermore the subject of his ridicule, so that they never met without quarrelling, and everybody siding with Lovelace, my brother had an uneasy time of it, while both continued in the same college.

"Then on my brother's return he found my sister (to whom Lovelace had previously paid some attention) ready to join him in his resentment against the man he hated. She utterly disclaimed all manner of regard for him.

"Their behaviour to him when they could not help seeing him was very disobliging, and at last they gave such loose rein to their passion that, instead of withdrawing when he came, they threw themselves in his way to affront him.

"Mr. Lovelace, you may believe, ill brooked this, but contented himself by complaining to me, adding that, but for my sake, my brother's treatment of him was not to be borne.

"After several excesses, which Mr. Lovelace returned with a haughtiness too much like that of the aggressor, my brother took upon himself to fill up the doorway once when he came, as if to oppose his entrance; and, upon his asking for me, demanded what his business was with his sister.

"The other, with a challenging air, told him he would answer a gentleman any question. Just then the good Dr. Lewin, the clergyman, came to the door, and, hearing the words, interposed between, both gentlemen having their hands upon their swords, and, telling Mr. Lovelace where I was, the latter burst by my brother to come to me, leaving him chafing, he said, like a hunted boar at bay.

"After this, my father was pleased to hint that Mr. Lovelace's visits should be discontinued, and I, by his command, spoke a great deal plainer; but no absolute prohibition having been given, things went on for a while as before, till my brother again took occasion to insult Mr. Lovelace, when an unhappy recontre followed, in which my brother was wounded and disarmed, and on being brought home and giving us ground to suppose he was worse hurt than he was, and a fever ensuing, everyone flamed out, and all was laid at my door.

"Mr. Lovelace sent twice a day to inquire after my brother, and on the fourth day came in person, and received great incivilities from my two uncles, who happened to be there.

"I fainted away with terror, seeing everyone so violent; hearing his voice swearing he could not depart without seeing me, my mamma struggling with my papa, and my sister insulting me. When he was told how ill I was, he departed, vowing vengeance.

"He was ever a favourite with our domestics; and on this occasion they privately reported his behaviour in such favourable terms that those reports and my apprehensions of the consequences, induced me to 'read a letter' he sent me that night imploring me 'to answer' it some days after.

"To this unhappy necessity is owing our correspondence; meantime I am extremely concerned to find that I am become the public talk."

"February 20. Alas, my dear, I have sad prospects! My brother and sister have found another lover for me; he is encouraged by everybody. Who do you think it is? No other than that Solmes. They are all determined too, my mother with the rest.

"Yesterday, Mr. Solmes came in before we had done tea. My uncle Antony presented him as a gentleman he had a particular friendship for. My father said, 'Mr. Solmes is my friend, Clarissa Harlowe.' My mother looked at him, and at me; and I at her, with eyes appealing for pity, while my brother and sister sir'd him at every word."

"February 24. They drive on at a furious rate. The man lives here. Such terms, such settlements. That's the cry. I have already stood the shock of three of this man's visits.

"What my brother and sister have said of me, I cannot tell. I am in heavy disgrace with my papa.

"March 9. I have another letter from Mr. Lovelace, although I have not answered his former one. He knows all that passes here, and is excessively uneasy upon what he hears, and solicits me to engage my honour to him never to have Mr. Solmes. I think I can safely promise him that.

"I am now confined to my room; my maid has been taken away from me. In answer to my sincere declaration, that I would gladly compound to live single, my father said angrily that my proposal was an artifice. Nothing but marrying Solmes should do."

"April 5. I must keep nothing by me now; and when I write lock myself in that I may not be surprised now they think I have no pen and ink.

"I found another letter from this diligent man, and he assures me they are more and more determined to subdue me.

"He sends me the compliments of his family, and acquaints me with their earnest desire to see me amongst them. Vehemently does he press for my quitting this house while it is in my power to get away, and again craves leave to order his uncle's chariot-and-six to attend my commands at the stile leading to the coppice adjoining to the paddock.

"Settlements he again offers; Lord M. and Lady Sarah and Lady Betty to be guarantees of his honour.

"As to the disgrace a person of my character may be apprehensive of on quitting my father's house, he observes, too truly I doubt, that the treatment I meet with is in everybody's mouth, that all the disgrace I can receive they have given me. He says he will oppose my being sent away to my uncle's. He tells me my brother and sister and Mr. Solmes design to be there to meet me; that my father and mother will not come till the ceremony is over, and then to try to reconcile me to my odious husband.

"How, my dear, am I driven!"

April 8. Whether you will blame me or not I cannot tell. I have deposited a letter to Mr. Lovelace confirming my resolution to leave this house on Monday next. I tell him I shall not bring any clothes than those I have on, lest I be suspected. That it will be best to go to a private lodging near Lady Betty Lawrance's that it may not appear to the world I have refuged myself with his family; that he shall instantly leave me nor come near me but by my leave, and that if I find myself in danger of being discovered and carried back by violence, I will throw myself into the protection of Lady Betty or Lady Sarah.

"Oh, my dear, what a sad thing is the necessity forced upon me for all this contrivance!"

II. - In London

Clarissa, after staying in lodgings at St. Albans, is persuaded by Lovelace that she will be safer from her family in London. After refusing a proposal for an immediate marriage, she therefore moves to London to lodge in a house recommended as thoroughly respectable by Lovelace, but which in reality is kept by a widow, Mrs. Sinclair, of no good repute, who is in the pay of Lovelace.

Clarissa to her friend, Miss Howe:

"April 26. At length, my dear, I am in London. My lodgings are neatly furnished, and though I like not the old gentlewoman, yet she seems obliging, and her kinswomen are genteel young people.

"I am exceedingly out of humour with Mr. Lovelace, and have great reason to be so. He began by letting me know that he had been to inquire the character of the widow. It was well enough, he said, but as she lived by letting lodgings and had other rooms in the houses which might be taken by the enemy, he knew no better way than to take them all, unless I would remove to others.

"It was easy to see he spoke the slighter of the widow to have a pretence to lodge here himself, and he frankly owned that if I chose to stay here he could not think of leaving me for six hours together. He had prepared the widow to expect that we should be here only a few days, till we could fix ourselves in a house suitable to our condition.

"'Fix ourselves in a house, Mr. Lovelace?' I said. 'Pray in what light?'

"'My dearest life, hear me with patience. I am afraid I have been too forward, for my friends in town conclude me to be married.'

"'Surely, sir, you have not presumed - - '

"'Hear me, dearest creature. You have received with favour my addresses, yet, by declining my fervent tender of myself you have given me apprehension of delay. Your brother's schemes are not given up. I have taken care to give Mrs. Sinclair a reason why two apartments are necessary for us in our retirement.'

"I raved at him. I would have flung from him, yet where could I go?

"Still, he insisted upon the propriety of appearing to be married. 'But since you dislike what I have said, let me implore you,' he added, 'to give a sanction to it by naming an early day - would to Heaven it were to-morrow!'

"What could I say? I verily believe, had he urged me in a proper way, I should have consented to meet him at a more sacred place than the parlour below.

"The widow now directs all her talk to me as 'Mrs. Lovelace,' and I, with a very ill-grace, bear it."

"April 28. Mr. Lovelace has returned already. 'My dearest life,' said he. 'I cannot leave you for so long a time as you seem to expect I should. Spare yourself the trouble of writing to any of your friends till we are married. When they know we are married, your brother's plots will be at an end, and they must all be reconciled to you. Why, then, would you banish me from you? Why will you not give the man who has brought you into difficulties, and who so honourably wishes to extricate you from them, the happiness of doing so?'

"But, my dear although the opportunity was so inviting, he urged not for the day. Which is the more extraordinary, as he was so pressing for marriage before we came to town."

After some weeks, Clarissa succeeds in escaping from Mrs. Sinclair's house and takes lodgings at Hampstead. But Lovelace finds out her refuge, and sends two women, who pretend to be his relatives, Lady Betty and Lady Sarah, and Clarissa is beguiled back to Mrs. Sinclair's for an interview. Once inside the house, however, she is not allowed to leave it. Her health is now seriously injured, and her letters home have been answered by her father's curse.

Lovelace to his friend, John Belford:

"June 18. I went out early this morning, and returned just now, when I was informed that my beloved, in my absence, had taken it into her head to attempt to get away.

"She tripped down, with a parcel tied up in a handkerchief, her hood on, and was actually in the entry, when Mrs. Sinclair saw her.

"'Pray, madam,' whipping between her and the street-door, 'be pleased to let me know whither you are going?'

"'Who has a right to control me?' was the word.

"'I have, madam, by order of your spouse, and I desire you will be pleased to walk up again.'

"She would have spoken, but could not; and, bursting into tears, turned back, and went to her chamber.

"That she cannot fly me, that she must see me, are circumstances greatly in my favour. What can she do but rave and exclaim?

"To-night, as I was sitting with my pen in my chamber, she entered the dining-room with such dignity in her manner as struck with me great awe, and prepared me for the poor figure I made in the subsequent conversation. But I will do her justice. She accosted me with an air I never saw equalled.

"'You see before you, sir, the wretch whose preference of you to all your sex you have rewarded as it deserved to be rewarded. Too evident is it that it will not be your fault, villainous man, if the loss of my soul as well as my honour, which you have robbed me of, will not be completed. But, tell me - for no doubt thou hast some scheme to pursue, - since I am a prisoner in the vilest of houses, and have not a friend to protect me, what thou intendest shall become of the remnant of a life not worth keeping; tell me if there are more evils reserved for me, and whether thou hast entered into a compact with the grand deceiver, in the person of the horrid agent of this house, and if the ruin of my soul is to complete the triumphs of so vile a confederacy? Say, if thou hast courage to speak out to her whom thou hast ruined; tell me what further I am to suffer from thy barbarity.'

"I had prepared myself for raving and execrations. But such a majestic composure - seeking me - whom yet, it is plain, by her attempt to get away, she would have avoided seeing. How could I avoid looking like a fool, and answering in confusion?

"'I - I - I - cannot but say - must own - confess - truly sorry - upon my soul I am - and - and - will do all - do everything - all that - all that you require to make amends!'

"'Amends, thou despicable wretch! And yet I hate thee not, base as thou art, half as much as I hate myself, that I saw thee not sooner in thy proper colours, that I hoped either morality, gratitude, or humanity from one who defies moral sanction. What amends hast thou to propose? What amends can such a one as thou make to a person of spirit or common sense for the evils thou hast made me suffer?'

"'As soon, madam; as soon as - - '

"'I know what thou wouldst tell me. But thinkest thou that marriage will satisfy for a guilt like thine? Destitute as thou hast made me both of friends and fortune, I too much despise the wretch who could rob himself of his wife's honour, to endure the thoughts of thee in the light thou seemest to hope I will accept thee. Had I been able to account for myself and your proceedings, a whole week should not have gone over my head before I had told you what I now tell you, that the man who has been the villain to me you have been shall never make me his wife. All my prospects are shut in. I give myself up for a lost creature as to this world. Hinder me not from entering upon a life of penitence. Let me try to secure the only hope I have left. This is all the amends I ask of you. I repeat, am I now at liberty to dispose of myself as I please?'

"Now comes the fool, the miscreant, hesitating in his broken answer. 'My dearest love, I am quite confounded. There is no withstanding your eloquence. If you can forgive a repentant villain, I vow by all that's sacred - and may a thunderbolt strike me dead at your feet if I am not sincere - that I will, by marriage, before to-morrow noon, without waiting for anybody, do you all the justice I can. And you shall ever after direct me as you please till you have made me more worthy of your angelic purity. Nor will I presume so much as to touch your garment till I can call so great a blessing lawfully mine.'

"'Oh, thou guileful betrayer! Hadst thou not seemed beyond the possibility of forgiveness, I might have been induced to think of taking a wretched chance with a man so profligate. But it would be criminal to bind my soul in covenant to a man allied to perdition.'

"'Allied to perdition, madam?'

"But she would not hear me, and insisted upon being at her own disposal for the remainder of her short life. She abhorred me in every light; and more particularly in that in which I offered myself to her acceptance.

"And saying this she flung from me, leaving me shocked and confounded at her part of a conversation which she began with such severe composure, and concluded with such sincere and unaffected indignation. Now, Jack, to be thus hated and despised."

III. - The Death of Clarissa

In the absence of Lovelace from London Clarissa manages to escape from Mrs. Sinclair's, and takes refuge in the house of Mrs. Smith, who keeps a glove shop in King Street, Covent Garden. Her health is now ruined beyond recovery, and she is ready to die. Belford discovers her retreat, and protects her from Lovelace.

Mr. Mowbray, a friend, to Robert Lovelace, Esq.:

"June 29. Dear Lovelace, - I have plaguey news to acquaint thee with. Miss Harlowe is gone off. Here's the devil to pay. I heartily condole with thee. But it may turn out for the best. They tell me thou wouldst have married her had she staid. But I know thee better.

    "Thine heartily,

Belford to Lovelace:

"June 29. Thou hast heard the news. Bad or good I know not which thou wilt deem it.

"How strong must be her resentment of the barbarous treatment she has received, that has made her hate the man she once loved, and rather than marry him to expose her disgrace to the world!"

Lovelace to Belford:

"June 30. I am ruined, undone, destroyed.

"If thou canst find her out, and prevail upon her to consent, I will, in thy presence, marry her. She cannot be long concealed; I have set all engines at work to find her out, and if I do, who will care to embroil themselves with a man of my figure, fortune, and resolution?"

Belford to Lovelace:

"August 31. When I concluded my last, I hoped that my next attendance upon this surprising lady would furnish me with some particulars as agreeable as now could be hoped for from the declining way she is in; but I think I was never more shocked in my life than on the occasion I shall mention.

"When I attended her about seven in the evening, she had hardly spoken to me, when she started, and a blush overspread her sweet 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. '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.'

"Before I could speak in came Mrs. Smith. 'Oh, madam,' said she, 'what have you done?'

"' Lord have mercy upon me, madam,' cried I, 'what have you done?' For she, stepping at the instant to the door, Mrs. Smith told me it was a coffin. Oh, Lovelace that thou hadst been there at the moment! Thou, the causer of all these shocking scenes! Surely thou couldst not have been less affected than I, who have no guilt as to her to answer for.

"With an intrepidity of a piece with the preparation, having directed them to carry it into her bed-chamber, she returned to us. 'They were not to have brought it till after dark,' said she. 'Pray excuse me, Mr. Belford; and don't you be concerned, Mrs. Smith. Why should you? There is nothing more in it than the unusualness of the thing. Why may we not be as reasonably shocked at going to the church where are the monuments of our ancestors, as to be moved at such a sight as this.'

"How reasonable was all this. But yet we could not help being shocked at the thoughts of the coffin thus brought in; the lovely person before our eyes who is in all likelihood so soon to fill it."

Belford to Lovelace:

"September 7. I may as well try to write, since were I to go to bed I should not sleep; and you may be glad to know the particulars of her happy exit. All is now hushed and still. At four o'clock yesterday I was sent for. Her cousin, Colonel Mordern, and Mrs. Smith were with her. She was silent for a few minutes. Her breath grew shorter. Her sweet voice and broken periods methinks still fill my ears, and never will be out of my memory. 'Do you, sir,' turning her head towards me, 'tell your friend that I forgive him, and I pray to God to forgive him. Let him know how happily I die, and that such as my own I wish to be his last hour.'

"With a smile of charming serenity overspreading her face, she expired.

"Oh, Lovelace, but I can write no more."

* * * * *

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