Conclusion and Postscript

I thought I would write a comment on the conclusion and postscript on the same day as F. J. De La Tour's letter.

I find the conclusion more than a bit lugubrious. Everyone who deserves to, ends miserably. Interestingly as in Fielding's Tom Jones or Austen's Mansfield Park their punishment is to carry on being them, and the consequences of their actions are to be seen writ large in the very choices they originally made. Curiously, though Anna exults in Lovelace's death, and is herself not much changed except in appreciating Hickman, Mr and Mrs Hickman are seen as happy in the end,

Since more than one person on Clary-L has mentioned the rivalry between Belford and Lovelace, the irony that Belford not only marries Lovelace's cousin, Miss Charlotte Montague, but Belford's child by her ends up inheriting the estate that was to have been Lovelace's will not be lost. We are of course in the ridiculous situation of Genesis which Thomas Paine so long ago pointed out: as Moses describes his death to us, so Belford describes his fate and that of others as if he were the book's voice of God.

The postscript is more happily unattributed to anyone so we must suppose our "editor" wrote it. It is of interest in the light of one of the recent queries on the general 18th century list.

Richardson deplores what he calls the generally accepted notion of poetical justice. He says the meting out of rewards to all the good people and punishments to all the bad is not true to life. Furthermore, this literalist interpretation of poetic justice goes against the Christian scheme, for do we not see that in life that "good and evil happen alike to ALL MEN on this side of the grave."

Richardson then footnotes with his discussion with a note expressing his astonishment that Shakespeare's Lear should have been replaced by Tate's, and casts about blaming false notions of poetical justice as well as "false delicacy or affected tenderness in the players" or the "audience," not to admit cowardice on the part of the theatrical management and just plain inertia. He quotes Addison at length and adds his own idea that tragedy (rightly understood) strengthens the mind, but in order to have it both ways, he backtracks suddenly and says anyway my villain was punished, with the implication that if there's anyone who regrets this or Clarissa's death there must be something lacking not only in their taste (and all of the above), but their "profession of Christianity."

Not content with this, he defends the length of his piece; the argument goes if something's good, how can you see there is too much of it.

And so Clarissa or the History of a Young Lady... Published by the Editor of Pamela comes to an end.

Ellen Moody

Other posts under this date in the novel:
             A Parody of Clarissa

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