As we move now to the left, now to the
right, so to speak, now listening to Lovelace,
now to Clarissa, slowly it is, after all Lovelace
who emerges as the vicious individual, and
while I'm still not sure he's believable, the
way he goes about things is believable. For
example, he never makes that act of imagination
which would allow him to enter into someone
else's case; people are all things to him; their
emotions are counters to play with (like so
many blocks). I was struck by the careless
cruelty of the following:
My beloved tells me she shall have her clothes sent her: she hopes also her jewels and some gold which she left behind. But Joseph says clothes only will be sent. I will not, however, tell her that. On the contrary, I say there is not doubt but they will send all she wrote for, of personals. The greater her disappointment from them, the greater must be her dpendence on me. (Ross Penguin Let 152, p 520).
Her pain means nothing to him. But then lots of people in the world are like this, just like this. It's clear to most adults that young children don't really treat one another as people, but rather as a handy doll; but many adults do the same, they just disguise it from themselves and others. To take homely examples to suggest the point: parents who use their children to aggrandize their self-esteem or live vicariously in various ways; many "bosses" with respect to their "employees." In particular, there are many curious ways in which people take advantage or exploit one another's weaknesses; lawyers are very good at finding these out in courts. Richardson has seen this and is writing it large for us to see. I think this is conscious with him, if some of the sexual insights are not.
If I may look forward in time four days, in Lovelace's letter dated Friday, April 28th (Ross's No 158.1), Richardson repeats the same curve in the above passage through the whole letter. Lovelace is planning a dinner with a group of nasty people who will he hopes further intimidate and depress Clarissa's spirits; it's not just that he longs to bring her down to the low level he lives on; he wants to enjoy the fall. (I would say he uses his male friends in the same way as does his whores, and that he despises both sets; the women are just more vulnerable.) Well, as he talks it's clear Clarissa's a kind of doll for him to use and abuse, and not take seriously. When one then turns to her solemn & thoughtful tone, it can either fill one with pity, or maybe in some moods make one laugh. I think there is a comic vein in the book, but not so much because Lovelace is ridiculous (which he sometimes is). People tend not to laugh at the knave, but the fool (Clarissa); it's a harsh thing because Lovelace's "friends" are all leering parodies of the acceptable world.