The Unspeakable: Raped Before Others After a Public Supplication

On Patrick Leary's Victoria people have been trying to define what is the unspeakable, and have been posting what they take to be unspeakable scenes; some have also asked how is the unspeakable presented in literature. Well today on Clary-L on Sunday, July 6th,1995, we certainly have a good example of it before our eyes.

I will content myself with simply quoting:

"I kneeled, I prayed; yet know not what I prayed for: then ran out again. It was almost dark night, I said: where, where, was Mr Lovelace?"
"He terrified me with his looks, and with his violent suppressed emotions, as I have since recollected. Never say I his abominable eyes look as then they looked--triumph in them!--fierce and wild...
"I complained once or twice of thirst. My mouth seemed parched. at the time I supposed that it was my terror (gasping often as I did for breath) that parched up the roof of my mouth. I called for water: some table-beer was brought me. Beer, I supose, was a better vehicle (if I were not dosed enough before) for their potions. I told the maid that she knew I seldom tasted malt-liquor: yet, suspecting nothing of this nature, being extremely thirsty I drank it, as what came next: and instantly, as it were, found myself much worse than before; as if inebriated, I should fancy: I know not how."
"I remember, I pleased for mercy--I remember that that I said I would be his--Indeed I would be his--to obtain his mercy--But no mercy found I!--My strength, my intellects, failed me!--And then such scenes followed--Oh my dear, such dreadful scenes!--fits upon fits (faintly indeed and imperfectly remembered) procuring me no compassion-- but death was withheld from me... I was so senseless I dare not aver that the horrid cratures of the house were personally aiding and abetting; but some visionary remembrances I have of female figures flitting, as I may say, before my sight... (Ross Penguin Let 314, Thursday July 6, pp 1009-11).

The suggestiveness is part of what makes for the power of this. What does she refer to when she says her strength failed her, her mind? "Such scenes..." I have always wondered what he did to her and what he made her do and did the women participate too?

It is done as in retrospect, a piece from memory which she attempts to retrieve but cannot for psychologically it is finally too painful to call up with any further explicitness. Richardson of course did not dare make the scene graphic, but I would like to say that what is being done is probably in and of itself so physically a violation of a creature's body and pride that had he been able fully to put what we are drawn up to look at the scene would not have been pornographic but haunted with shame. This is a book which demands of the reader that he or she also grasp how terrible humiliation is, take it seriously.

Ellen Moody

Other posts under this date in the novel:
             Going Public as Raped: Clary Ahead of Our Time

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