Your sincere friend and servant,
Mrs. Harlowe, to Mrs. Norton [not communicated till the letters came to be collected.] Saturday, may 13.
I return an answer in writing, as I promised, to your communication. But take no notice either to my Bella’s Betty, (who I understand sometimes visits you,) or to the poor wretch herself, nor to any body, that I do write. I charge you don’t. My heart is full: writing may give some vent to my griefs, and perhaps I may write what lies most upon my heart, without confining myself strictly to the present subject.
You know how dear this ungrateful creature ever was to us all. You know how sincerely we joined with every one of those who ever had seen her, or conversed with her, to praise and admire her; and exceeded in our praise even the bounds of that modesty, which, because she was our own, should have restrained us; being of opinion, that to have been silent in the praise of so apparent a merit must rather have argued blindness or affectation in us, than that we should incur the censure of vain partiality to our own.
When therefore any body congratulated us on such a daughter, we received their congratulations without any diminution. If it was said, you are happy in this child! we owned, that no parents ever were happier in a child. If, more particularly, they praised her dutiful behaviour to us, we said, she knew not how to offend. If it were said, Miss Clarissa Harlowe has a wit and penetration beyond her years; we, instead of disallowing it, would add—and a judgment no less extraordinary than her wit. If her prudence was praised, and a forethought, which every one saw supplied what only years and experience gave to others—nobody need to scruple taking lessons from Clarissa Harlowe, was our proud answer.
Forgive me, O forgive me, my dear Norton—But I know you will; for yours, when good, was this child, and your glory as well as mine.
But have you not heard strangers, as she passed to and from church, stop to praise the angel of a creature, as they called her; when it was enough for those who knew who she was, to cry, Why, it is Miss Clarissa Harlowe! —as if every body were obliged to know, or to have heard of Clarissa Harlowe, and of her excellencies. While, accustomed to praise, it was too familiar to her, to cause her to alter either her look or her pace.
For my own part, I could not stifle a pleasure that had perhaps a faulty vanity for its foundation, whenever I was spoken of, or addressed to, as the mother of so sweet a child: Mr. Harlowe and I, all the time, loving each other the better for the share each had in such a daughter.
Still, still indulge the fond, the overflowing heart of a mother! I could dwell for ever upon the remembrance of what she was, would but that remembrance banish from my mind what she is!