After this past week's letters 53-33, Lovelace to Belford, Paris, Octob. 14-25, to Belford to Lovelace, London, October 26, only 6 letters left.
We may sum up the action of the three vast phases of the novel, using the modern way of dividing the original 8 volumes into 4 thus:
Vol I: Clary against her family (society);
What can be left?
I agreed with Murray Brown's comment on C18-L that Richardson's novels derive much of their intense sense of a pulsing movement and their drive forward from menace. In the epilogue we witness the truth of this observation once again. What's left is the coming encounter of Morden and Lovelace. Morden menaces Lovelace and Lovelace rises to the challenge.
But what I find moving in these letters is not the repeat use of thrust and counterthrust. Rather what is touching here is these letters between Lovelace and Belford show Lovelace is without a goal in life now. Clarissa had become his raison d'etre and over this long space of hundreds of letters has made indelible impression on Lovelace's mind and by extension body which Lovelace, try as he might, cannot easily shake off. He feels, to him curiously, empty.
The interesting irony of these final letters to me is that Clarissa's values remain irrelevant to everyone who said they loved her. Morden clearly doesn't care. For him and for Lovelace it is the world's opinion of them that is them. Lovelace will not allow the world to so much as imagine he is avoiding Morden. Indeed, Lovelace says in order to avoid this inference, he will seek Morden (precisely why Richardson gives us Belford's advice), and of couse Morden will for similar reasons (as well as a primal need for revenge) not shun Lovelace.
The working out of God's will continues in the use of Joseph Leman as the instrument; in _Lear_ Edgar says: "The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices/Make instruments to plague us." While in some ways not so different from another sense Shakespeare's characters testify to elsewhere, that we avidly drink down the very poison that destroys us. I always thought Edgar's comment peculiarly ugly because it is said to his father as Edgar looks at his ravaged eyesockets; I suppose we are not to "read" this psychologically as tactless or priggish, but rather as a choral voice intoning the ironic moral of the play in yet another forma. It is another interesting idea Richardson is holding to in this final epilogue. Everyone is dying, and Leman brings to Lovelace the very rumor that will lead Lovelace to find death. The difference between Shakespeare and Richardson is of course that Richarsdon means us to take this version of the idea as solemn poetic justice while in King Lear I hear ironic savage laughter.
Still God does not work to a neat schedule. Richardson keeps the clock ticking and the novel maintains the feel of serendipity of life; things go on. Lovelace resettles himself, makes plans, and it's almost as if he needn't have met Morden had he chosen not to. There's nothing necessarily inevitable about it. The BBC Clarissa by having Belford kill Lovelace almost immediately loses this insight or perception which is built into the date order of these last few letters.
We have but 6 left.