The Brother as the Brutal Male Not An Obsolete Role At All

Since I now have both the 1st and 3rd edtions as represented in the Angus Ross's penguin and John Butt's Everyman, I am struck by the adventitious quality of the footnotes damning Lovelace. It has seemed to me reading through this time the worst in the sense of the most determined, brutal, envious, ugly of the Harlowes is James, the brother.

Yesterday's letter from him to Clary is of a piece with the rest. He hates his sister with a hatred that is deadly. It appears the other relatives, even the father, would give in, and are particulary softened by Clary's letter supposed to the brother but for the eyes of her mother and father.

It is he who is most threatened by her inheritance. It is his duel with Lovelace that starts the book. It is he who writes a letter supporting the ugly letter by Solmes (in which Solmes seems to regard Clary as a piece of meat he's got in his teeth and will not yield); it is James who insults Mrs Norton; it is he who gleefully sneers at Aunt Hervey whose husband must be "grateful" to him for covering a mortgage; on Tuesday James it is who is up front "for having me turned out of the house that moment, to Lovelace, and to my evil destiny." It is true that the father is awful, his treatment of his wife and her abject response are condemned; still if we read his tone at times ("my dear!-- you have _ever_ something to say, something to palliate ..."), and the various scenes it is always James's interests, his character which has the driving force:

[father] I will litigate every shilling with her: tell her so; and that the Will _may be set aside, and _shall_. My uncles joined, with equal heat. My brother was violent in his declarations (Mar 20, Penguin Ross Let 39, p 177)

In other words, originally, in the 1st edition, the brutal ugly brother (with his references to love with a line he takes to mean it can be nothing but a vicious animal impulse in which all partners are the same) was in Richardson's mind the driving force, with Bella's hissing hatred backing him up, and then the father asserting his prerogative, and angry at his father for writing such a will. Then in the 3rd edition Richardson deflects this conception of James at the center to try to blacken Lovelace who has not indeed caused any of the above scenes. His was a lone soliloquy and one encounter, a bit part, as it were, in this original phase of _Clarissa_.

A number of Clarissa's letters support the original conception as I suggest it:

Letter 22.1 (Penguin Ross 118); Letter 24.2: "Sir, I will only say that you may congratulate yourself on having _so far_ succeeeded in all your views ... (Penguin Ross 121)

And James's letter too reveals him as the "puppeteer" (embroiled and foiled by his sister as yet) when he sees Clary is for the moment winning that if everyone gives into Clary over Solmes, when he writes: If, for the honour of the family, I cannot carry this point, I will. retire to Scotland, and never see the face of any one of it more ... (Ross Penguin, Let 42.1, p 198).

Her or me, that's James's point, and Clary sees it; that's why she offers to go to Scotland, as a hint he can have it (all the money & property), she doesn't want it; just leave her be. James won't; he wants her in effect dead. In Scotland she would still be very much there, and since this is a "realistic" book which deals in probabilities, poisoning and cutting up into messes won't do.

I'd also like to respond to Noel Chevalier's comment on my previous posting about the centrality of the brother's role in the early phase of Clarissa's agon, "so what?"

I was simply trying to prove that the brother was a motivating force in these early scenes, but, thinking about it, it seems to me the significance of her brother in Clary's life is indicative of a view of people which is alive and well in many cultures on our earth, and by no means dead and buried in our own.

Today in The Washington Post there was an article about women in Zimbabwe, and if you were to change the African names to Harlowe you would have variations on Clary's and her brother's battle. In Zimbabwe before a woman marries she is, to use James Jr's metaphor, a chicken for other men's tables; married, she is subservient to her husband's family; when her husband dies, she is kicked out ("disinherited"). If we listen in on the conversations reported by women, we hear the old Harlowe tone: one woman's husband died, and the family took her children, and out she went, and when she tried to find out about any of their doings, she was told, "He bought everything by himself, why are you asking about it." We have a widow whose assets are stripped by her dead husband's eldest brother (italics mine). Ugly harsh comments abound in these "family's values." Scenes which would fit right into Harlowe Place. The first-born son of the family is in charge, and the idea everyone (men and women in a given family) seem to agree upon is that people are things, to be used and abused for aggrandizement of those whom chance (born first, sex, inheritance of money or land) has put in power. Everyone agrees to support this system because they hope individually to profit themselves, or they are scared of reprisal (they will find themselves "out").

It is sometimes said that Clarissa is an obsolete book; I believe that was implied by someone on our larger 18th century list. It is true that if we compare, say, Fanny Price's ordeal (I am on a Jane Austen list) where the Bertram pere tries to compel her to marry Henry Crawford, the techniques are softened immeasurably (everyone should recall that is why she is sent home to the wretched Price home--to remind her), but when she holds out because, as she says, she cannot love Henry, Sir Thomas yields. Again in several Trollope books we see parents try to enforce their will on daughters and sons, but not to the death, and then the parent yields, and sometimes, of course, in Trollope anyway, the child learns maybe his or her love choice was not a good choice after all. A segment of Western society changed in the later 18th century, and individuals were no longer so harshly treated or sold to the highest bidder. Everyone will recall how Margaret Paston was literally beaten in marrying the man her family wanted her to marry (by her mother among others). So everyone says how unreal and ogreish are the Harlowes. Maybe not. Maybe it just rarely got into papers as reality so often fails to.

But just a segment of Western society changed, and not all the people who belong to this, and I would suggest that today many of those who pay lip service to the ideal of individualism don't necessarily mean it. James Harlowe Jr appears in new guises. I see my parents who act as if they owned their children in all sorts of ways. James Jr is the parent who pays $24,000 a year for the kid to go to college, and expects a good deal in return. He is the woman who herself now in turn is prepared to use other people to further her materialistic ends. We saw James in the person of the first woman Clinton nominated for Attorney General when she was prepared piously to say as how she was "acting like a mother," and that's why, oh yes, that's why when she makes $516,000.00 a year she hires an illegal woman for $222 a month! (day&night), not that she knew this woman would be at her beck and call and fear for disclosure of her status so that the hired woman would not only do all that was asked with respect to this child the powerful woman was so concerned over, but with respect to whatever else was needed at the moment; what ever happened to this Spanish lady? summarily deported. There's James Jr. & Goody Norton. Yes, indeed, alive and well and not only in Zimbabwe..

It is important to realize that Lovelace is a bit part in phase I; it is only after the elopement we really enter the sexual arena; I don't know that Richardson saw or would have wanted to see the full implication of his parable in Phase I. Again he's the conservative who is against abuses of institutions and social arrangements; he might have said the child must have the right of refusal (which is what Clary contends for); As I read the book I see an analysis which if thought about shows how custom and morality, whatever form they take, seem repeatedly to become guises for ruthless opportunism.

Diderot writes:

Hommes, venez apprendre de lui [Richardson] a vous reconcilier avec les maux de la vie; venez, nous pleurerons ensemble sur les personnages malheureux de ses fictions, et nous dirons: Si le sort nous accable, du moins les honnetes gens pleureron aussi sur nous.' Si Richardson s'est propose d'interesser, c'est pour les malheureux. Dans son ouvrage, common dans ce monde, les hommes sont partages en deux classes: ceux qui jouissent et ceux qui souffrent...

The problem is Diderot says, oh, cry for the helpless; this is the silly sentimentalism of the later 18th century (I hope no Diderot scholar is now hitting the ceiling; I mean only to comment on this one passage of this one piece by Diderot, and everyone, even Homer and geniuses nod) here Murray's right, no, get angry. to which I'll add, what Clary stands for is a refusal to play the game yourself, in whatever guise this game comes, and whatever the price.

Ellen Moody

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