'by these extracts, thou hast I doubt made her bar up the door of her heart'

Again the letters are sparse and time is moving slowly as Richardson prepares us for a possible coming new encounter between hero and heroine, one the heroine now dreads. He also brings to the fore the intense rivalry between Belford and Lovelace as each makes her the repository of his finest self, the self Belford wants to be, the self Lovelace denies.

Sat. morn. Aug 19, Letter 414 (Ross Penguin, p 1208): First, Richardson removes Belford from the scene. This prevents possible bloodshed, also removes from Clarissa's presence a protector with a sword who himself the equal of Lovelace in class (an important consideration in the 18th century) and knows how to use it. We see Belford urging Clary to accept the visit; the daylight common sense mind speaks: it won't be so bad; you'll listen, and he'll go away. Of course, Clary is so traumatized that this is impossible to her. She could not bear it, and must run from him. At the same time the letter followed by Lovelace's of Sunday, Aug. 20, No 415 (Ross Penguin, p 1208) leaves the impression a duel between Lovelace & Belford may eventually ensure. I'd like to say here that David Nokes in his screenplay for the BBC Clarissa picked up on this thread which Richardson himself decided at length not to use; the duel will be between---but we must not give it away for those who have not read on--and suspense is a significant device which Richardson uses to keep us reading, at least the first time.

Sunday, Aug 20, Let 415 (Ross Penguin pp 1208-9). Now that Belford is cleared out of the way, this letter lets us know Lovelace will go to Mr and Mrs Smith's immediately he has the strength. The epistolary technique here makes the letter itself the actor, the voice. The letter itself is written in a sharp tone of common sense and refutation. It reinforces what would be the robust personality's response of "why not?" Why should Lovelace not visit Clarisssa? Lord M sees nothing wrong with such a visit, and when his cousins are assured he will behave with "decency and respect," they do not object vehemently. In a previous letter it's just been reported Morden (death as the well-known article has it) is in Southampton; Lovelace brings him up as another obstacle beyond Belford between him and his "beloved." We hear Morden has had his women too: the letter acts as a release valve for anyone who does not respond to all this from a sensitive standpoint. Lovelace is tired of all this hypocritical moralizing and these intensities of feeling. So too would many people be--and are, for there are not many who can read Clarissa with the sympathy and tact it demands. But thus Lovelace:

a man cannot be ill or vapourish, but thou liftest up thy shriek-owl note and killest him immediately. None but a fellow who is fit for a drummer in death's forlorn-hope could take so much delight, as thou dost, in beating a dead-march with thy goose-quills (Ross Penguin p 1209).

Here also, self-reflexively, is Richardson laughing at himself, for is not Belford the character in the novel closest to Richardson himself--or at least that aspect of himself which was moral.

Lovelace's final paragraph renews the very real possibility that Belford and Lovelace may well murder one another:

I shall call thee seriously to account ... An hundred times have I known a woman deny, yet comply at last: but by these extracts, thou hast I doubt made her bar up the door of her heart, as she used to do her chamber-door, against me--This therefore is a disloyalty that friendship cannot bear, nor honour allow me to forgive (Ross 1209).
What is also good is is his memory of her barring up the chamber door against him. This is how a real mind would work. It is striking how he keeps insisting most women don't mean no when they say no, but to me the most interesting aspect of the whole section is how Belford has replaced Lovelace, handed Clarissa the evidence which had she thoughts at all of relenting (which I see no sign of, but let's grant this for argument's sake), she now never will do. No will now mean no forever. And this paves the way for Belford to make her his beloved.

Ellen To this Caroline Breashears and then John Dussinger replied as follows:

Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 20:57:53 -0400

From: "C. D. Breashears"

Subject: 19 JULY

After another short vacation, I again follow Ellen Moody's comments with interest. Like Ellen, I find the sponging house distasteful. It brings to mind--of all people--Henry Fielding. Critics usually contrast the rivals, but here we might see their similarity, their moral outrage at this inane practice. Richardson points to a social evil Fielding will later condemn on a larger scale in _Amelia_. The class bias influences both, too--anger that the divine Clarissa must kneel beneath a smoky ceiling; exasperation that the well-born Booth must endure the impertinence of a Bondum.

Today's letters raise other issues. Again, I agree with Ellen's assessment of Lovelace. Lovelace's writing shows how right Clarissa is to refuse marriage to such a man, a rake who has failed yet learned nothing from his mistake. Lovelace concludes not that he was mistaken in his notion of woman, but that he was mistaken in thinking Clarissa a woman. She isn't even an exception to the rule--she is beyond such rules, a paragon, an angel. If she refuses him, Lovelace resolves to act on his former notion of woman, to

resume my usual gaiety of heart, and show others of the misleading sex that I am not discouraged by the difficulties I have met with from this sweet individual of it, from endeavouring to make myself as acceptable to them as before. (Letter 341)

What's disturbing about the novel is that it never proves Lovelace wrong. The moral is not for rakes, but for their potential victims. Clarissa's exclamation to Anna neatly sums it up: "Oh my dear! What risks may poor giddy girls run when they throw themselves out of the protection of their natural friends, and into the wide world?" (Letter 313)

Poor Clarissa has learned her lesson, even if Lovelace hasn't. At this point, however, I find two aspects of Clarissa's behavior repugnant, too. The first is her pride. She insists that the doctor accept her fee: "If I am poor, sir, I am proud. I will not be under obligation" (Letter 340). I suppose we are meant to admire this right kind of pride, yet it seems false when juxtaposed with her role as the lady almoner, the divine benefactress giving aid to "her poor."

Clarissa's use of Belford also disturbs me. On one hand, it's clever: she uses Lovelace's closest friend to protect her from the man she most fears. On the other, it's slightly sinister. She figuratively seduces Belford, gains him to her side, knowing that in so doing she pains Lovelace. While Belford remains with her, Lovelace can't forget her, nor can he overcome his jealousy of the friend who sees what he cannot. Clarissa knows that everything she says will be transcribed faithfully for her enemy. She gets the final say, without interruptions. It's about time--but her method unsettles me.


Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 21:06:10 -0500

From: "John A. Dussinger"

Subject: Re: 19 JULY

I can't think of anything to add to both Ellen's and Caroline's recent commentaries, except perhaps to ask for a response to the rather ridiculously trivial matter of unpaid bills and unauthorized charges at a time the victim is on the verge of death! The power of money in the mid-eighteenth-century English culture must have been so much revered that even Johnson could exonerate Richard Savage for his murder of a man at a tavern because of his sudden act of charity to the same prostitute who had testified against him at the murder trial.

About the uniqueness of Clarissa, however, as victim, it would be well to consider Richardson's Postscript to CLARISSA of 1751, where he plainly stresses the heroine as a social type: "It must be confessed, that we are not to look for CLARISSA's among the constant frequenters of Ranelagh and Vaux-hall . . . . we know there are some, and we hope there are many, in the British dominions [or they are hardly any-where in the European world] who, as far as occasion has called upon them to exert the like humble and modest, yet steady and useful, virtues, have reached the perfections of a Clarissa" [3rd edition, 8:298]. This kind of external commentary may be just what authors should not practice. Can you think of any authors today, for example, who would come out so bluntly and promote this story as national propaganda? That's what makes the 18th-century world so interesting, its utterly naive way of managing things in the name of virtue!

John Dussinger

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