A Preparatory Interlude and then the First Encounter

Lets 34-8 (Fri, Mar 17 to Mon, Mar 20) seem to me a kind of interlude or exciting scene between the acts behind a curtain (the house); we get a rest from Harlowe attacks upon Clarissa and Lovelace's personality, more of Clarissa's and their mutual inability to move beyond distrust and manipulation begin to emerge.

Let 34, Fri, Mar 17, Lovelace to Belford: In this one Richardson seems to want to tone down his portrait and give the male protagonist depths of feeling and thought; Lovelace seems more decent and and less histrionic, not so much from the ironic parody of a pastoral contained in the Rosebud story as in his "grave reflections." as in

what is there even in the ultimate of our wishes with them? _Preparation_ and _expectation_ are in a manner everything: _reflection_ indeed may be something, if the mind be hardened above feeling the guilt of a past _trespass_: but the _fruition_, what is there in that? And yet that being the end, nature will not be satistied without it (Ross Penguin p 163)

Except for the last sentence, the above reminds me of the Balzac comment "Le degout, c'est voir juste. Apres la possession, l'amour voit juste chez les hommes."

Let 35, undated, Lovelace to Belford: this one takes us back to the theatrical manipulative figure of the first letter. But the intervening letter helps, and the allusions add more dimensions. I suggest a kind of Cain, an early Romantic wanderer adumbrated in Lovelace's "although for it I become an exile from my native country for ever." But maybe all the Miltonic and other picturesque stuff makes me overread.

Let 36 (Sat night, Mar18), Clarissa to Anna: now this is what we all have been waiting for. At long last we witness an encounter which occurs in the pretense tense. Up until this point it has been a matter of remembering the past. The gain in immediacy is apparent. They meet, and her basic reaction is fright. She is unnerved by him. In this scene we begin to see Clary's flaws with respect to coping with this man: she's loses her cool (as my daughter would say), yet she cannot respond with warmth which might evoke some more sincere response with him; she is distrustful and slightly sneering all too quickly; she begins by accusing, insulting, scolding him, and yet is listening and and partly seduced by,e.g., his argument her family is envious over the estate; there is something triumphant in her implied insult which he interupts ("it shouldnot be with the man they disliked.."); then she interrupts his objections. They talk past one another, but again and again she hears his words, believes; at one point she shows herself susceptible to obvious flattery; how she likes the sound of "Lady Sarah Sadlier" writing her a letter, wanting her "preferably to all the world." In fact he impresses her numbers of times ("this was not ungenerously said) and the reader sees he has much truth on his side, if we only could be sure it was not "a performance." I know some have objected on this list to my idea Clarissa is physically timid; but I see it here, when he becomes passionate, she is flustered, frightened, and responds with words in an attempt to control the situation; at this point there's an interesting allusion Ross does not catch (I finally found a used paperback 1st edition) to Othello: "perdition seize my soul if they shall!" She better watch out or he'll chop this innocent young Desdemona into messes. There is also the voice of a child in her "do you really hink Mr Lovelace can have a _very_ bad heart?"

Lets 37 and 38, Sun, Mar 19 and Mon, Mar 20: a genuine dialogue. Two voices interchange views over the dramatic narrative we have just been exhilarated by. Clarissa and Anna go back over the ground but with commentary which explores the nature of love, this time for both Anna & Clary (a previous story is alluded to about Anna). It seems to me at least Clarissa comes off very well in her letter: she is not denying she loves; she is moving slowly in this direction, and she admits she is trying to be "the person I ought to be." I think it's hard for the modern reader to understand why she is so loyal to these hardened relatives who are like dogs snarling and ready to devour the bear tied to a stake (Lovelace's allusion to Dryden's play with himself as devouring lion makes the image of her assaulted from all sides complete), but her ideas derive from a noble idea of people's relationships and the tone is appealing, e.g.,

I _intended not_ any reserve to you. I wrote my heart at the time; if I had had thoughts of disguising it, or been conscious, that there was _reason_ for doing so, perhaps I had not given you the opportunity to remarking upon my _curiosity_ after his relations' esteem for me; nor upon my _conditional liking_, and such like.

There's is a sense of going through folds of a mind back and forth, particularly in the last sharp self-reflexive reminder. Actually throughout her dialogue with Lovelace we also hear this tone & an essential decency, a willingness to doubt and to give of herself crop up repeatedly, only she shows this openly to Anna and not to Lovelace.

On the law again: in Clary's reporting on Lovelace's arguments to her, which she believes, we see a clear (?) indication that Clarissa & her family seem to believe that if Cousin Morden returns, he can simply give Clarissa the keys to the estate so to speak: "my brother continually buzzing in my father's ears that my Cousin Morden would soon arrive, and then would insist upon giving me possession of my grandfather's estate, in pursuance of the will; which would render me independent of my father." There's no reference to litigation here, no sense of years in court; maybe the idea is he'll put her there and possession is 9 points of the law; resume in haste, litigate at leisure?

Ellen Moody

Other posts under this date in the novel:
             A Last Meditation Upon the Encounter

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