Belford Becomes Clary's Truest Friend & Her Possible Pregnancy

Before I went away I caught Caroline's posting about Belford; she wrote, among other things, that "[Belford] replaces Lovelace as the rake Clarissa would reform, gaining the esteem Lovelace has forever lost." Many readers don't pay much attention to Belford except as a spokesman for Richardson, and to see him as a character caught up in the action makes the book much more dramatic. I don't know how far Clarissa is aware of her turning the rake's friend into the reformed rake she had always dreamed of--except that Belford is ugly, a point Lovelace, perhaps spitefully, earlier made again and again--but Belford is certainly aware that he has replaced Lovelace as Clarissa's protector and this comes up in this part of the novel in all sorts of ways. Though I don't know if we should necessarily criticize Belford for this; to see this as merely "topping" his friend is to see it from Lovelace's point of view. Belford is, after all, doing good deeds. He is proud to be doing them, and there is a truth in his comment: "she has not a single friend to stand by her, if I do not" (Penguin Ross 1188). Where is Anna anyway? Where Hickman? They remind me of Gay's Hare and His Many Friends.

It is also Calvinistic to demand that people do good deeds without any self-interest before we praise them for it. Lovelace is a Calvinist (as we have seen); so too Clary: "There's no merit in performing a duty, says she to Lovelace in the enforced letter (Let 401, Fri, Aug 11, Penguin Ross 1191), but this is a stringent standard most of us can't meet and can't expect of others.

This past week's letters (Nos 393-407, Sat Aug 5th- Sun Aug 13th) bring before us the Harlowes once again; we have the issue of Clary's possible pregnancy, Uncle Anthony Harlowe's refusal to believe that she did not sleep with Lovelace from the time she entered the Sinclair house; the Reverend Brand who sees it is in his interest to badmouth Clary (like many an assistant he tells the boss what the boss wants to hear) and whose sycophancy is only matched by his sneering snobbery and disdain for women; we see the Lovelace clan give over their hope of an "alliance" (which shows them to be more decent than the Harlowes in their respect for an individual's views); and Lovelace's inability to blame himself or feel real remorse yet his desperation: there is something touching about his "if SHE abandon me, GOD will, and it is no matter then what becomes of..." (Penguin Ross 1184).

It was asked (or at least the question was implied by someone on our list), why did Clary just not deny the pregnancy? Why avoid the topic or refuse to discuss it (Let 407, Aug 13, to Uncle Anthony)? She seems to suggest it is the Harlowe's way of insulting her--it should be noted that although she defends her relatives to others, in her letters to them she can call a spade a spade. They are cruel just to ask this, she says; why are not others things asked about seems to be the idea or why was not her mother or sister allowed to ask the question more generally. But if her point is the latter it's curious or unrealistic: what would she have preferred? Could Mrs Harlowe have asked her in a "delicate way if she slept with him or is not feeling too well nowadays (ahem).

On the Outer Banks of North Carolina (where Duck is I now know) I would say it's not a bit like Fire Island; more like Outer Fairfax; well we performed our parental figure roles admirably on the beach--he held the sun umbrella down against all wind, and daily did I wash much sand, mud, and grit out of the soaked web of long hair upon one little female's head; I all patience, she all fortitude; and next year I'm going to light out for Alaska.

Ellen To CLARY-L September 23rd, 1995: RE: John Belford Today's letter from Colonel Morden to Belford (519, Sat, Sept 23) brought home again to me what Caroline first called our attention to--how important it is to read Belford also as a character in his own right instead of as merely a mouth-piece for Richardson's views. In Morden's letter Richardson suggests that one element holding Morden back from challenging Lovelace at this point is his friendship with Belford. An understandable bond has grown between the two men which began as they together watched Clarissa die; here Morden is controlling himself because his friend's views of Lovelace and his friend's reminder of Clarissa's character and her desires are influencing him. Morden respects Belford's goodness and although he is glad to dismiss his own in order to free himself cannot yet break off from Belford in order to murder the man Belford says is his friend. In one of the essays in the _Tercentary_ volume edited by Doody and Sabor, David Robinson has an interesting essay on "male friendship in Richardson's novels: "Unravelling the 'cord which ties good men to good men," wherein, among other things, he discusses the change and various elements in the bond between Lovelace and Belford (and quotes to great effect some touching scenes, particularly their parting, which we have not yet got to); he does say, though that critics have paid attention to female friendships and not to male. I will qualify this. If you look at recent books, yes, particularly since feminist criticism has come to dominate academia (in some ways and some quarters at least). But if you look out more broadly, and farther afield into romantic prose narrative, that's not so. I'm sure people will say this is far-fetched, but for a moment consider the relationship in the "father" of all romantic prose narratives, that of Lancelot and Arthur in Malory. There we find the heart of the tragedy as much in the relationship between the two men as in their differing love of Guenevere; here we have erotic obsession (Lancelot for Guenevere) creating disloyalty and anger between the two close male companions (Arthur and Lancelot); indeed, in Malory at any rate, Arthur is far more upset by his loss of Lancelot than his loss of Guenevere. The nobility of the tale is in part the description of the destruction of good impulses in the two men and their friendship by the evil impulses in at least one (Lancelot in his continual helpless fornication with and then and lying about Guenevere). Other male friendships in the romantic tradition are found in Sidney's romance which Richardson knew, and perhaps some people on our list can think of some others. What's interesting to me is the conflict between erotic entanglement on the one hand and close male bonding on the other which is found in this earlier romantic matter of Arthur and again found in Richardson, and in a sort of slanted mirror that's the conflict between Morden and Belford. Each thinks he is the natural protector of Clarissa but Belford's is the truly moral position, the selfless (especially when we remember how spiteful and insulting are some of Lovelace's crowing letters over him) while Morden is the amoral passionate man who feels "deprived" of the woman he now says he had hoped to build his life around. John is a neutral name and Belford has pleasant connotations of beauty and building bridges between people as in "let's ford over that river together, shall we, here are some stones, take my hand...". Anyway to begin to see Belford as a character is to make the novel much more interesting, and see other relationships of _Clarissa_ with other books which people haven't looked into so much. Ellen Moody

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