That Old Sado-Masochistic Strain

In Letter 170, Loveace to Belford, Wednesday, May 3rd (Ross Penguin pp 556-8) we read:

I own with thee, and with the poet, that sweet are the joys that come with willingness--but is it to be expected that a woman of education, and a lover of orms, will yield before she is attacked?--And have I so much as summoned this to surrender? I doubt not but I shall meet with difficulty. I must therefore make my first effort by surprize. There may possibly be some cruelty necessary. But there may be consent in struggle; there may be yielding in resistance. But the first conflict over, whether the folowing may not be weaker and weaker, till willingness follow, is the point to be tried ...

He then carries on with his bird similes.

Unless I am mistaken this kind of thing occurs more frequently once we arrive at Sinclair's house: the barnyard with its cock and hens, the fowler dig, dig, digging, the elephant "snuffing the moon" with his "proboscis." It turns from a occasional image into a a connecting skein. On first reading it might seem as the problem with Colonel Morden's letter (Letter 173.1, Florence, April 13, Ross, Penguin pp 561-4) is that he rigidly ignores this aspect of experience, refuses to acknowledge it (and it is real enough in Solmes, as we have seen), but even here we find sentences like:

Your duty, your interest, your temporal, and your eternal welfare, do, and may all depend upon this single point, the morality of a husband. A wife cannot always have it in her power to begood, or to do good, if she has a wicked husband ...

I think he refers, however guardedly, however abstractly, to what Clarissa's sex life with Lovelace is going to be like. (He conveniently forgets Solmes, with the implication that "a moral" man will anyway not go out to others, and she can find delight and practice what Johnson called with "art of forgetting" with her "politer studies" and "politer amusements.")

This kind of language is in direct conflict with the plangent skeins Clarissa begins to produce of her self as a kind of lost bewildered not-guilty soul in a labyrinth not very well lighted.

I bring these up because I think the former, Lovelace's, is one reason the book allures people, in French, "le frisson du roman, mais pas d'horreur." It is also one reason the book raises hackles when people really discuss the core content.


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