A Last Meditation Upon the Encounter

Letters 39-40 (Mon, Mar 20) are the final coda to Clarissa's encounter in the "haunted garden" with her dark lover. Certainly, as John Dussinger reminds us, the strong Gothic quality as well as Clarissa's fear of sex are central to this scene; but I wonder if it's fear of sex or fear of sex with Lovelace because she knows he won't be under her control or the control of her family. One of Uncle Tony's arguments to Clary over Solmes is that the family will be able to control him, as they will not control Lovelace. Uncle writes:

the one [Solmes] you make tremble [for now anyway]; the other will make you quake--mind that--and you will not be able to help yourself. And remember that if there should be any misunder- standing between _one_ of them [Solmes], we should all interpose

He also says they will control Solmes through money. Lovelace regards Harlowes & money with equal contempt.

There is the sense in her meditation also that for the first time she has a real man whom she will have to meet on his own terms. She will not have her family to turn to. This of course is implicit in all Uncle Anthony says, though she may wonder (and is right to) how they will be able to do anything, and whether they really care.

One problem though with these two letter to Anna is she doesn't deal with Lovelace's physical attraction for her at all. She's willing to talk of how repugnant Solmes is, but not how attractive she finds Lovelace, and especially in comparson. When she talks of "figure" she slips off from a man's looks to a woman's, with the worldly justification that after all the world honors presentable people, or this at least is what I understand her to mean. So she wants to impress others at dinner with how he looks? She then feels sorry for poor women who so pride themselves on ephemeral looks, scorns men who are so "effeminate" as to be vain of their looks. She insists "_mere person_ in a man, is a despicable consideration." But if he has learning, morals, talents (&c), then looks are an additon. Well, well. Worth how much she does not say.

Still what she really can't bear about Solmes is his physical presence; he's loathesome to her; yetl one must sympathize to some extent with her inability to discuss this; what the family plays on is the idea (unexpressed explicitly) that anyone who marries for love is somehow vile. Why should she not obey her family they repeat over and over; to get her to admit she loves Lovelace is to get her to admit to something dirty.

The rest of the letter is honest and true and has some noble decent ideals, and several times a beautiful quiet tone emerges. Is Richardson remembering Pope on Chloe does anyone think in the following:

I still am of the opinion, that he wants a _heart_: and if he does, he wants everything...

Ellen Moody

Other posts under this date in the novel:
             A Preparatory Interlude and then the First Encounter

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