The Convincing Note of an Imagined Male Presence

I thought I would first record that in the last series of letters (Lets 198-203, Sunday May 21 to Tuesday May 23, Ross Penguin, pp 632-62) Lovelace seems to me very real. Partly it's the sharp use of externalized pictures which carry their own story, and I suggest if one did not read carefully (as many of Richardson's early readers he thought did not) you would take Lovelace's view of his distanced encounters with Clarissa as the valid. The passage beginning "Pray, Mr Lovelace, do not grasp my hands so hard ... " with his reiterated spontaneous "You hate me, madam ..." is brilliant. We really beel the pressure of Lovelace's grasp on Clary's hands. We feel her trying to retract her hands.

Richardson never wrote more brilliantly than in these scenes; and they are utterly non-didactic. For example, in the above scene, we are led to grasp on our pulses how people see so differently the same event, even if they are its main actors: "Cruel creature, thought I, to expose me thus to the derision of the women below." Derision is perfect. I also admired the raised tone of "What weather is it, Dorcas, said she, as regardless of me, as if I had not been present./ A little lowering, madam--The sun is gone in --It was very fine half an hour ago./I had no patience ...

I put in the diagonals as this is a sort of poetry. So is their an intensity of felt life and convincing multiple perspectives in the scene which includes the famous sudden irritated outburst: "My soul is above thee, man! ... Uge me not to tell thee how sincerely I think my soul above thee! ... Thou hast a proud heart to contend with!" Now it is not she who reluctantly retracts her hand; now she asserts her strength and controls him, makes him draw back.

It was in Letter 202 recording the events of Tuesday morning, May 23 (Ross Penguin, pp 653-8), in which Lovelace includes a letter to him from Clarissa, that I thought Richardson hit the convincing note of a male presence. What happens here is Richardson grants Lovelace depths because Richardson suddenly brings forward Lovelace's inward life in such a way as to grants him a moral conscience. The tone and sentence structures in this letter in which Lovelace responds directly to Clarissa in front of Belford gave a sense of a complicated real person who is not a lurid stereotype at all. There is a poignant playfulness, a rueful tone we can ourselves identify with: "Yet 'tis poor too, to think myself a macine--I am no macine--Lovelace, thou aret base to thyself, to to suppose thyself a machine (Ross Penguin, p 658). Richardson's Lovelace may be at his worst when he presents an amalgam of allusion: one problem is that he becomes so artificial. (Does anyone have any thoughts on this? That Richardson strains too strongly than on style?) Another may be that Richardson himself finds people to be less sincere or authentic and more amoral when they are imitating or modelling themselves on books. There is a certain irony here.

I have a question. Maybe someone will answer it. In the following dialogue I don't understand what Lovelace means when he says Clary may have "overshot" herself:

Curse upon the heart of the little devil, said I, who instigates you to think so hardly of the faithfullest heart in the world!
How dare you, sir?--And there she stopped, having almost overshot herself, as I designed she should.
How dare I -What_, madam? And I looked with meaning. How dare I what?
Vile man!--and do you--and there again she stopped.
Do I what, madam! --and why vile man
? How dare you to curse anybody in my presence?
Oh the sweet receder!--But that was not to go off so with a Lovelace.
Why then, dearest creature, is there anybody that instigates you?--If there be, again I curse them, be they who that will.
She was in a charming pretty passion--And this was the first time that I had the odds in my favour.
Well, madam, it is just as I thought. And now I know how to account for a temper, that I hope is not natural to you.

I know the 1st & last lines refer to Miss Howe; Miss Howe is instigating her; what did Anna almost say she should not have said? What is so vile?

I would like to point out the brilliant effect the interweaving of the letters creates in the whole of this sequence: Uncle Anthony's proposals mirror Lovelace's: he too thinks fair and square he'll offer money and talk up front about who gets what, quite fairly too; no day is mentioned; and Mrs Annabella Howe knows just how to take him and how to get herself off the hook. No day needed to be mentioned. The letter of Charlotte is a masterpiece too; we feel again a real genuine presence trying to cope with grandfather and cousin, and the pleasant view of the grandfather's decent motives is well done. The old man is rightly shy of showing his heart to Lovelace; here we have a parallel with Clary.


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