Clarissa Swept Away In Today's Heat?

Justine reminds us all the areas of the earth do not have the same weather. For example, in Washington D.C. on Saturday we beat a "record" (it's amazing how cheerfully the weather people talk, you'd think it was a contest), and hit 119 Heat Index . Yesterday and today were a bit better, but not much. Now this summer it has been "quite hot" in England--this is the word my British relatives use in their letters--hot here meaning 90 degrees fahrenheit in London I gather. I continue to have this curious piquant feeling when I compare how I am spending a said day and what is happening in the book because the days are numbered the same in the year imagined for Clarissa and this 1995. Thus for me it's Tuesday too.

Which, of course, gets me to Clarissa and Anna's frantic and moving letter to Miss Charlotte Montague dated Tuesday morning, July 18 (Letter 329, Ross Penguin, pp 1045-6). What would the weather have been for her today hauled away in terror to a debtors' jail? This period is still part of the official "little ice age," the Thames freezing over regularly and all that. I have read some descriptions of debtors' jails in my readings up on The Beggar's Opera. Anyone have any thoughts on this aspect of our heroine's deep misery just as she is swept away.

Richardson often hits this universal note of terror. The world is so large, people so small and against other people who have more energy, money, power helpless. They may be engulfed and never heard of again. This is a fear people have when their children set forth for school. It's one we sturdily repress, but it's never all that far from consciousness. The sense that daily our mission is simply to survive, that we are working at that all the time too, that a watchfulness characterizes our behavior, a watchfulness which is not always enough is what the plangent note of Anna's heart beat plays upon. The pathos of the passage also derives from its concision and simple vocabulary:

She went out about six that morning; only intending, as they believe, to go to morning prayers at Covent Garden church, just by her lodgings, as she had done divers times before. Went on foot!--Left word she should be back in an hour--Very poorly in health! (Ross Penguin, p 1045)


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