But, perhaps, a time of probation may be required. It may be impossible for you, as well from indisposition as doubt, so soon to receive me to absolute favour as my heart wishes to be received. In this case, I will submit to your pleasure; and there shall be no penance which you can impose that I will not cheerfully undergo, if you will be pleased to give me hope that, after an expiation, suppose of months, wherein the regularity of my future life and actions shall convince you of my reformation, you will at last be mine.
Let me beg then the favour of a few lines, encouraging me in this conditional hope, if it must not be a still nearer hope, and a more generous encouragement.
If you refuse me this, you will make me desperate. But even then I must, at all events, throw myself at your feet, that I may not charge myself with the omission of any earnest, any humble effort, to move you in my favour: for in you, Madam, in your forgiveness, are centred my hopes as to both worlds: since to be reprobated finally by you, will leave me without expectation of mercy from above! For I am now awakened enough to think that to be forgiven by injured innocents is necessary to the Divine pardon; the Almighty putting into the power of such, (as is reasonable to believe,) the wretch who causelessly and capitally offends them. And who can be entitled to this power, if you are not?
Your cause, Madam, in a word, I look upon to be the cause of virtue, and, as such, the cause of God. And may I not expect that He will assert it in the perdition of a man, who has acted by a person of the most spotless purity as I have done, if you, by rejecting me, show that I have offended beyond the possibility of forgiveness.
I do most solemnly assure you that no temporal or worldly views induce me to this earnest address. I deserve not forgiveness from you. Nor do my Lord M. and his sisters from me. I despise them from my heart for presuming to imagine that I will be controuled by the prospect of any benefits in their power to confer. There is not a person breathing, but yourself, who shall prescribe to me. Your whole conduct, Madam, has been so nobly principled, and your resentments are so admirably just, that you appear to me even in a divine light; and in an infinitely more amiable one at the same time than you could have appeared in, had you not suffered the barbarous wrongs, that now fill my mind with anguish and horror at my own recollected villany to the most excellent of women.
I repeat, that all I beg for the present is a few lines to guide my doubtful steps; and, if possible for you so far to condescend, to encourage me to hope that, if I can justify my present vows by my future conduct, I may be permitted the honour to style myself,
Miss Clarissa Harlowe, to lord M. And to the ladies of his house [in reply to miss Montague’s of Aug. 7. See letter LXXVI. Of this volume.] Tuesday, Aug. 8.