Clary sets an 'Ode to Wisdom' to Music: A Gothic Dream-Tracery

John Dussinger's commentary on the musical setting of Elizabeth Carter's "Ode to Wisdom," brings to mind all the many picturesque details in Clarissa which add up to something more than picturesqueness. One of Margaret Doody's essays, "Deserts, Ruines and Troubled Waters: Female Dreams in Fiction and the Development of the Gothic Novel," Genre 10 [1977], 529-72), picks up numbers of "Gothic" details in Grandison, particularly dreams and madness and connects them to later Gothic fictions. She does mention Clarissa, but focuses on Grandisonbecause she wants to go into " female dreams," of which Harriet has one spectacular one, and Clementina one not-so-spectacular but interesting one. Although it's "in the margins" of the book (so to speak), not in the center, as in The Recesswhich Doody discusses, all the many details of the "haunted garden," its coppice, its great cascade, the ivy summer house, an "ivy-cavern" in the coppice, convenient stones under the which letters are left; all the details of time of day and night given to the letters, as midnight, daybreak, noon, meditations through closed windows and behind shut doors, and then Clary at the harpsichord (a lyric soprano, says Noel Chevalier firmly), then going on about the "recesses" of her mind and heart--all lent the book a depth of psychological and dream-like reality which makes part of its power. It does adumbrate the Gothic of the later century.

Ellen Moody

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