Nothing Clarissa Holds Dear is Really Valued by Anyone Else, Not Even Belford

This past week's letters, Monday, September 18th through Friday September 22, Lets 511-8, which includes Clarissa's letter just before written before and to Morden, begging Morden not to murder Lovelace in revenge, and Lovelace's letter written Tues Sept 26, bring before us once again the curious truth that nothing that Clarissa values is finally really valued by anyone else; nothing she wants someone else to do is done by that individual is done unless something or someone coerces that individual into it by the threat of something else even more unpleasant. They all say they love her for her values, but their conduct tells us otherwise.

The most obvious example throughout the novel is Anna. She may say she loves and respects and honors Clarissa for her values, but she is always advising Clarissa to go against her conscience. Really now Clary should have gone to court against her parents; she should have gotten Lovelace to marry her upon running off; she should have been more friendly with the women--or escaped with unknown ruffians; and then after the rape, after a period given over to grief, Clarissa should have marrried Lovelace quickly. To me the most telling thing about Anna is what she does not do. She never visited Clarissa until after her death, and she echoes Lovelace when she sees the body:

why... was she sent hither? why not to me?--she has no father, no mother, no relations not one!... and had not I the best right to my dear creature's remains?... (Ross Penguin Let 502, Monday afternoon, Sept 11, p 1403)

No-one stopped her from going to Clarissa alive had she really wanted to. She is the world's creature is Anna. If she had loved Clarissa, she would have gone to her. She risks nothing.

The second great example before us is Mordren who only came to see her die. In this sequence the question is, of course, the coming murder of Lovelace. Clarissa begs her cousin not to revenge her death, and we see she's not to have her way on this one either. Belford tells him, if the lady forgave Lovelace and does not want to be avenged, who is he murdering Lovelace for? for whose sake? the answer clearly is of course Morden.

Morden murders Lovelace out of his own lust for blood because this woman who shared his genes, who came out of the flesh of his relatives like him and is therefore somehow his, has been sexually possessed by another man who had not only "no right" to her, but cheated her out of it. The savage or magical mind then says well then he's cheated me, for she was of my blood. And Morden will murder Lovelace.

Another way to see it is to use Lovelace's little banking fable; Miser A (Clary) had this gold hidden away and wanted too big a price; her accountant (Morden) is indignant it was taken unfairly. Morden's mad the game's rules were not observed. If he loved Clarissa, he would not kill.

It will be said, what about Belford? When Clarissa has died, of her family only her mother is determined to carry out the will, and were it not for Belford and Morden she would have given in, even though she now says that for momentary peace she gave up all peace. Like her daughter she shrinks from violence of any kind, and her son knows it. Clarissa has known no-one but Belford will carry out her will, allow her to be the person everyone says they value so.

The problem here is interesting. To be brief, he loves her, there is rivalry between him and Lovelace who had always taunted Belford with his ugly face, and so while what Belford holds firm to comes out of his own essentially deeply kind or humane nature (when aroused, whence his love for Lovelace), like good Calvinists we must find his virtue not pure, for he looks for and gets a great deal out of it himself. We must remember he never showed until after the rape, and patiently read the scenes wherein he learned of how Lovelace then sought to rape Clarissa again and break her will. He also came because there was no-one else. I suppose this is something, but he came at the behest of Lovelace; Lovelace called upon him because Clarissa could really no longer bear to have Lovelace near her, and Lovelace knew it. His becoming an agent of Clarissa is also a product of his intense rivalry with Lovelace.

I don't say Richardson should have made these people come; I don't say he should have presented a sentimental romance. I do say we should recognize what is in front of us.

And I'll conclude with the ambiguous representation of Clary herself. She wants to die. Clarissa may hold out, stand alone, but she too has appetites, her ostentatious Christian forgiveness is a form of revenge, and she refuses to recognize the depth and complexity of her own many ambivalent decisions. She was not tricked out of herself; her fate is her character too.

Ellen p>To this Caroline Brashears replied:

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

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