Epistolarity: Thematic and Psychological Juxtaposition of letters using Calendared Time

I'd like to suggest from today's letters that, if it be that Richardson actually thought in terms of calendared letters--which I have been trying to suggest he didn't always at least while he was first writing them, but only interwove them together later--if it be Richardson worked in terms of the calendar, thought about real time, he wrote these letters in order to present a juxtaposition Lovelace's letter to Belford with the exchange of Clary and the commonplace cruelty (and therefore all the more riveting) of Mrs Howe.

How cruel is Mrs Howe, and how in character with the world: the nasty dig at the end: _mistofrtune makes people plaintive_ says it all. Yet she likes to think well of herself, her motives being of the best, so signs "Your compassionating well-wisher..." The breathless frank letter of Clarissa juxtaposed to this cold heart renews our sympathy for her heroine. Is she yet safe? We do not know.

Lovelace, on the other hand, is himself. The letter gives is another virtuouso performance like the one in which he imagined himself paraded through town. Instead of understanding that what he has on his hands is a traumatized, isolated, anguished and self-lacerated human being, he thinks of Clarissa as a kind of doll, "pretty little miss;" whatever truth he does capture about her pride, it's not much compared to his, and again, as before, she's not really human to him, a thing, a toy; again we are with the morality of a child and many people. He says again he would marry her if she would, but a motive here is to cover up his lies and the rape, saying he's not anxious to duel with any member of her family, not he's not unwilling neither. His hatred of them shows how far he is from understanding what would make her happy, which, more than slightly incomprehensible as it is to this reader, includes living within the bosom of this family. Then there's his regret over Lord M's recovery. He went down to take over, and notices that now that Lord M's recovered, he's _Cousin Bobby_ again. Probably true, but Richardson expects us to notice his lack of feeling for his uncle. By-the-bye he's not Bob to his relatives or to his rakish friends, but Bobby. Belford calls him Lovelace, he calls himself Bob to Belford. So Bobby and Clary. It struck me yesterday that I have never read any considered criticism of Belford as a more than a virtuous hero (in the manner of Golden). Belford is in a way the real hero of the book; he replaces Lovelace. In the book this is psychologically persuasive, for there is competition between them throughout; but he also is more than a mouthpiece for Richardson. I find him appealing--and can see why David Nokes gave him the roles Mordren ought to have played, had Morden been a more humane sensitive and enlightened man.. Belford does become Clarissa's one real friend, in some ways a better friend than Anna for he has a more realistic idea of the world. He's also the rake turned sober, but far more convincingly than 5th act repentances in order to win the heroine. Perhaps he ought to be more studied both as to presentation, history, and the values he embodies by the end of the book. Would it have been hot in England on June 30th? In the years I lived there June was a very chancy month; it was often as not, to me at least, cold. I remember Virginia Woolf talking of fires in June. At any rate, Richardson makes very little of the weather; it's not an element in the story at all. We have been usually cool this past week in Virginia, and today back to heat again. Ellen To this Caroline Brashears replied: Caroline Breashears Subject: Belford and Lovelace I think from the beginning Richardson has underscored the competitive nature of this friendship. In the midst of his schemes, Lovelace repeatedly called on Belford to admire and acknowledge his superiority; he even assembled the fraternity at Sinclair's to exhibit his prize. A Clarissa added heightened his consequence. Now Belford enjoys humiliating Lovelace. He dwells on Clarissa's horror of Lovelace and her confidence in him. He replaces Lovelace as the rake Clarissa would reform, gaining the esteem Lovelace has forever lost. Finally, he assumes the role of the master writer, rendering his correspondent dependent and impotent. It's fitting that Lovelace's decline in literary prowess follows the downward slope of his sexual career. Clarissa's role in this is, as I have suggested, suspicious. She must enjoy converting her enemy's bosom friend, must delight in transforming Lovelace's representative into her own champion. I don't mean she's a villain--far from it. I'm suggesting that Richardson writes convincingly of the complexities of relationships. Caroline Brashears

Other posts under this date in the novel:
             The Aftermath of Rape

Home Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 10 January 2003