Is she pregnant? Is she taking up with Belford? Clary a thing something must be done about

I seem to have missed some posts while I was gone, but I was puzzled by the earlier postings on this topic so now will ask: what is the connection between the somewhat theological idea of one versus two bodies and Clarissa's possible pregnancy? The two don't seem to be connected at all. They are abstract theological ideas which have little relevance to the primitive thinking of average people, which is what Richardson presents. Mrs Harlowe talked of Clarissa's pregnancy as a something which will "perpetuate her stain"--it is a pollution the woman passes on to her child (Ross Penguin Sunday July 30, Let 376, p 1156). This is taboo "thinking" (or what passes for thought among the animal called human) brought before our eyes.

Clarissa's family suspects she may be pregnant; they think this because they suspect or believe she had full sexual intercourse with Lovelace either regularly or irregularly, and if irregularly or even apparently unwillingly, the result would be pregnancy. This is a period of no contraception worth the name (according to Braudel, among others, coitus interruptus_was known, but rarely practiced); and this is the end of a long series of centuries when people believed, according to Michael Mason's quotations from not much later treatises, that "so strong was a woman's response supposed to be that a powerful distaste for intercourse--as in a brutal seduction or a rape--was commonly said to be no bar to sexual arousal once contact with the genitilia had occurred" (p197). In this week's London Review of Books Lawrence Stone also states this idea in reverse fashion when he off-handedly refers to "the erroneous belief, clung to for millenia in the West, that a female orgasm is necessary for conception" (London Review of Books , 3 Aug 1995, p 20). What can this have to do with theoretical concepts of one and two bodies? Learned people live in another universe.

Also nowhere does Clarissa deny that Lovelace fucked her; she goes around telling everyone. If she does not use explicit language, neither is there explicit language about sex or pregnancy in any of the letters. (The PMLA article cited by John must be famous indeed as it sounds like a wilfull and self-interested or ideologically-motivated misreading.) Further, in Clary's reference to the "terrible scenes" the women witnessed I have wondered what else he did or demanded that she do, or more accurately, manipulated her body into doing. Oral sex is out because she was drugged to the point of nonsensibility and Joceyln Harris's point that there is something necrophiliac about Lovelace's pleasure is accurate. (Let us recall that dear Edgar Allan argued there is nothing so poetical as a dead lady.) This leaves anal or group sex around Clarissa's prostrate body. The whole point of her horror and detestation and refusal to marry him is lost if we refuse to think he penetrated and hurt her, was cruel, humiliated her &c &c. We are invited to let our imaginations loose upon the subject.

Lovelace's fantasies as I take it are the product of his desire to think she will marry him; the pregnancy will make her marry him. They are also the product of the belief stated by Mason; it didn't matter if she was not apparently aroused; she was "really" aroused according to the antifeminist passive theory Mason describes. The family divides up into different dispositions, but all suspect pregnancy. The mother's letter shows she is willing to forgive anyway. In this past week Uncle Harlowe asks not if Clary is pregnant, but "if you have any reason to think yourself with child by this villain" (Ross Penguin Let 402, Monday, August 7, p 1192), and says he is asking it because her mother and sister cannot get themselves to ask such a question.

I submit this is not the same question as, are you pregnant? it is, could you possbly be pregnant? and in a way is kinder than Uncle Anthony who asks the question not to forgive, not as a way of ascertaining what exactly was the relationship between Clary and Lovelace, but because, as Anthony hints, if she is pregnant, she will be treated far more harshly (Ross Penguin Let 406, Aug 12. pp1195-6). Perhaps she will be sent that plantation Mrs Norton speaks of in tonight's letter (Ross Penguin, Let 407, pp 1197-9). In fact John Harlowe is ever so delicately suggesting the family does not "buy into" the belief that any encounter if accompanied with orgasm can produce pregnancy, but believe, as most people do together, it takes continual encounters. The family does not seem to know she was raped; there is no knowledge in their letters that she was drugged. Let us give them that. He is saying he cannot believe she had continual enjoyable encounters with this man, or even one.

Though, of course, they could find it out if they wanted to, even if not from Clarissa whose reticence to them I admit is odd, except, of course, Richardson needs her not to tell them so his plot and characterizations will go on. Here the demands of plot overweigh the consistency of Clarissa's character. She tells everyone else, but not them because Richardson wants to keep the Harlowes apart. Let us imagine for argument's sake that Mrs Harlowe had the letter Clary sent Anna and Mrs Howe; or that even Uncle Harlowe had seen them. Both uncle and mother are more humane and reasonable than the others; the conclusion of a death all alone, with only Belford by her side, would be less probable. Richardson is ever alive to verisimilitude.

To remark on yesterday and today's letter the new element is the family's suspicion (even entertained by Mrs Norton) that something unacceptable is happening between Clary and Belford. Uncle Anthony thinks she's taken a second lover; Mrs Norton worries Clarissa is simply depressed and allowing Belford to visit her perhaps because he's in love, but not because she's in love. As usual, Clarissa has refused to act in accordance with the world's views. She knew such a thing as making Belford her friend and executor would not be accepted, but, as she says, who else is there?

Ellen To which Jocelyn Harris replied:

Ellen, just to recap. The relation between the one-body theory and women's responsiveness is that if a man and a woman have essentially similar organs, they will BOTH have to act in order for procreation to take place. To reverse the argument, if a woman gets pregnant, she must have had an orgasm, which is what Lovelace bizarrely tries to persuade himself -- and us.


To which I replied:

Then the importance of this theory is that it insists women must be sexually active too.

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