Are Some Acts Irretrievable?

Well, we'll all agree death is. But putting aside death, the point Richardson wants us to believe is that there are others things besides permanent physical destruction or maiming which one human being can do to another which cannot or ought not to be forgotten or forgiven. "The blow is given," says Clarissa (Ross Penguin Tuesday, July 11, p 1018).

Now we are getting longer sequences of letters again (Nos 322-27, Ross Penguin, Six Sat. morning, July 8 to Thursday night, July 13), at least one a day,which taking us through the Lovelace conclave on Saturday (last week) through to Anna's letter on today Thursday, urging Clarissa to forget.

It is all eminently sound, sane, and practical; this way lies safety, comfort.

Indeed, my dear, you must not hesitate: you must oblige them: the alliance is splendid and honourable. Very few will know anything of his brutal baseness to you. All must end in a little while in a genteel reconciliation; and you will be able to resume your course of doing good to every deserving object, which procured you blessings wherever you set your foot.

I a concerned to find that your father's rash wish affects you so much as it does. Indeed, my dear, your mind is grievously weakened...

But come, since what is past cannot be helped, let us look forward... Ross Penguin, Let 327, Thursday night, July 13, p 1043)

Equally importantly Richardson provides for Anna's strong soothing words the context of Lovelace's. It's clear he would make renewed attempts in the same style if he could; it's clear he's not thoroughly determined to marry. His letter (Ross Penguin Let 326, Wed. July 12, p 1040) is littered with "ifs," "if I marry," "if all my plots...end in wedlock," "if this is to be...;" he still does not regard her as a real individual. There is still there is this idea she stands for something rather than is. Still he talks of women who have used marriage in some ugly way. It is very common for peole to see others as standing for something rather than as themselves; why it is a complicated act to see an individual as simply herself (or himself) and not representing a category which the individual cares about is a subject which is not likely to get the scrutinty it deserves in our time when people are shouting from the rooftops they stand for this and that and so must have exceptions made for them or special privileges offered.

Lovelace as usual is given something to say for himself; he's a regular Calvinist in his ability to ferret out evil. He's right about the laws protecting nobility (obviously), but just as right when he writes:

"in compassionating the miseries of human nature, [the "unpenetrating world" means] but [to pity] themselves..."

Lovelace here recalls La Rochefoucauld. He also right that Clarissa's refusal to forgive, forget, and marry (with his family behind her forcing him) is the result of prideon Clarissa's part:

"that what she can't conceal from herself, she will publish to all the world" (Ross Penguin Let 324, [In continuation], p 1035).

Yet it is ture that some acts, nay some words once spoken, are irretrievable. The damage is done, and there's no going back. Feeling is not to be maniulated this way when it goes this deep. And I believe Richardson means to communicate this idea (even if he would express it differently) through Anna's insistence Clary has only been waylaid on her trip, maybe it's the tone and the exact words in statements like:

"Indeed, my dear, you must not hesitate..."

Who can switch one's feelings on and off like this? An emotion is not a position in a chessgame.

Yes "the unpenetrating world" would say short of death all things are retrievable. But I agree with Clary. Some things are not retrievable, and to attempt to manipulate someone into ignoring the past is useless. The past is in the present; the present grows out of the past. Especially if one has a soul, a depth and capacity for thought and feeling. I just differ with Clary on what these irretrievable things are.


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