The Suspected Seduction of 'pretty Betsy, aka Rosebud'

The following was written by Adele Fasick on Tuesday, 4 April 1995 after there had been some discussion of Clarissa's jealousy ("No letter yet from this man!" Ross Penguin, p 284) over the farmer's daughter, and the heightened reaction of both Anna Howe and Clarissa to the rumor that Lovelace had seduced a girl of the lower classes and then the confirmation that, on the contrary, he was enabling her to marry.

From: Adele Fasick

Subject: Seduction

It seems to me that Clarissa and Anne Howe's reactions to Lovelace's suspected seduction of the teenage girl at the inn are entirely understandable and don't indicate that they were against sex. We are too likely to forget the different context of the times concerning sex before marriage. The penalties faced by a girl like that whose sexual initiation is likely to lead to pregnancy, the birth of a bastard child, complete foreclosure of any chance of legitimate marriage, and quite possibly prostitution are unmbelievably severe. Lovelace, in this respect, is exactly analogous to a man who hangs around a high school giving cocaine to teenagers. While this may lead only to a pleasant high, the probabilities of it leading to a life on the margins of the criminal world, prostitution, povery and an early death are fairly high. The same thing was true in the 18th century for girls who "fell" and became social outcasts. Clarissa and Anne were only expressing a normal sympathy for someone whose future might easily have been ruined by Lovelace's thoughtless seduction. We shouldn't introduce late-20th century notions two centuries before they became current.

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