Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), Clarissa (1747-8), class 2

Arguments and Abduction (148-410)

We will read from p. 148-410, and focus this week on reading Clarissa and maintaining the reading journal.

As you read this portion of the novel, keep a list of passages related to a particular character, or one of the thematic clusters, or both:

1.  Love, Sexuality, Property

2.  Class, Rank, Legitimacy

3.  Morality, Sensibility, Indifference

4.  Happiness and/or Pleasure

Before Monday’s class, post the most important, most pivotal passage for this character or thematic cluster. We’ll discuss your lists in class.

Take care, and see you Monday on Teams.



Author: Dave Mazella

I am an Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston, Department of English, specializing in 18th-century British literature.

6 thoughts on “Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), Clarissa (1747-8), class 2”

  1. I chose to focus on Lovelace while looking for passages from this section. I chose the below quote because I think it shows a side of Lovelace that we do not see in other parts of the book. Here we see his desire for the good treatment of women and sparing them from rape, yet this desire is quite exclusive in him. This passage hints at a possible future reform of Lovelace, adding to the suspense of the novel as the likelihood of Lovelace being reformed seems to shift back and forth. In this passage, we also see that Lovelace does have some degree of morality: he desires that his own heart be as innocent as his Rosebud or her Johnny; he also sees the wrongdoing in ruining women, even if it is only limited to someone as poor as this Rosebud.

    “What would I give [by my soul, my angel will indeed reform me, if her friends’ implacable folly ruin us not both!—What would I give] to have so innocent and so good a heart, as either my Rose-bud’s, or Johnny’s!

    I have a confounded mischievous one—by nature too, I think!—A good motion now-and-then rises from it: but it dies away presently—a love of intrigue—an invention for mischief—a triumph in subduing—fortune encouraging and supporting—and a constitution—What signifies palliating? But I believe I had been a rogue, had I been a plough-boy.

    But the devil’s in this sex! Eternal misguiders. Who, that has once trespassed with them, ever recovered his virtue? And yet where there is not virtue, which nevertheless we freelivers are continually plotting to destroy, what is there even in the ultimate of our wishes with them?—Preparation and expectation are in a manner every thing: reflection indeed may be something, if the mind be hardened above feeling the guilt of a past trespass: but the fruition, what is there in that? And yet that being the end, nature will not be satisfied without it.

    See what grave reflections an innocent subject will produce! It gives me some pleasure to think, that it is not out of my power to reform: but then, Jack, I am afraid I must keep better company than I do at present—for we certainly harden one another. But be not cast down, my boy; there will be time enough to give the whole fraternity warning to choose another leader: and I fancy thou wilt be the man.

    Mean time, as I make it my rule, whenever I have committed a very capital enormity, to do some good by way of atonement; and as I believe I am a pretty deal indebted on that score, I intend, before I leave these parts (successfully shall I leave them I hope, or I shall be tempted to double the mischief by way of revenge, though not to my Rose-bud any) to join an hundred pounds to Johnny’s aunt’s hundred pounds, to make one innocent couple happy.—I repeat therefore, and for half a dozen more therefores, spare thou my Rose-bud.” Letter 34 p.163


  2. The passages I marked mainly have to do with Clarissa herself, and of those I found the following one perhaps the most important. There’s a lot I find interesting here–the acknowledgement that she finds herself in a situation which she is unable to argue or reason her way out of, and the ensuing discussion of fate. I like that this fate is applied not only to herself, but equally to the ones who are oppressing her. There almost seems to be some acknowledgement of the author’s hand here, though ultimately she attributes this fate as springing from themselves.

    “I should have been very little the better for the conversation-visits with the good Dr. Lewen used to honour me with, and for the principles wrought (as I may say) into my earliest mind by my pious Mrs. Norton, founded on her reverend father’s experience, as well as on her own, if I could not thus retrospect and argue, in such a strange situation as we are in. Strange, I may well call it; for don’t you see, my dear, that we seem all to be impelled, as it were, by a perverse fate, which none of us are able to resist?—and yet all arising (with a strong appearance of self-punishment) from ourselves? Do not my parents see the hopeful children, from whom they expected a perpetuity of worldly happiness to their branching family, now grown up to answer the till now distant hope, setting their angry faces against each other, pulling up by the roots, as I may say, that hope which was ready to be carried into a probable certainty?

    Your partial love will be ready to acquit me of capital and intentional faults:—but oh, my dear! my calamities have humbled me enough to make me turn my gaudy eye inward; to make me look into myself.—And what have I discovered there?—Why, my dear friend, more secret pride and vanity than I could have thought had lain in my unexamined heart.

    If I am to be singled out to be the punisher of myself and family, who so lately was the pride of it, pray for me, my dear, that I may not be left wholly to myself; and that I may be enabled to support my character, so as to be justly acquitted of wilful and premeditated faults. The will of Providence be resigned to in the rest: as that leads, let me patiently and unrepiningly follow!—I shall not live always!—May but my closing scene be happy!” L82, p. 333


  3. The passage I chose is the letter where Anna Howe explains–in her most Anna Howe way–the nature of the marriage market in 18th century England. This particular passage struck me as an important moment where all of the cards are on the table regarding her own and Clarissa’s situation, and consequently provides a framework for how to interpret their moral, social, and familial decisions for the remainder of the story. It’s also an interesting point of reference for thinking through some of Anna’s contradictory advice regarding Lovelace.

    “Strange! that these sober fellows cannot have a decent sprightliness, a modest assurance with them! Something debonair; which need not be separated from that awe and reverence when they address a woman, which should show the ardour of their passion, rather than the sheepishness of their nature; for who knows not that love delights in taming the lion-hearted? That those of the sex, who are most conscious of their own defect in point of courage, naturally require, and therefore as naturally prefer, the man who has most of it, as the most able to give them the requisite protection? That the greater their own cowardice, as it would be called in a man, the greater is their delight in subjects of heroism? As may be observed in their reading; which turns upon difficulties encountered, battles fought, and enemies overcome, 4 or 500 by the prowess of one single hero, the more improbably the better. In short, that their man should be a hero to every one living but themselves; and to them know no bound to his humility. A woman has some glory in subduing a heart no man living can appall; and hence too often the bravo assuming the hero, and making himself pass for one, succeeds as only a hero should” (209).


  4. My chosen passage is from a letter from Clarissa to Anna Howe, in which Clarissa expresses her gratefulness to Anna for helping her make/confirming the decisions she’s forced to make due to the unbending will of both her family and Lovelace. Although we do have a number of moments before in which Clarissa acknowledges the futility of her family in trying to get her to marry Solmes, or the disregard she has for Lovelace and his actions to keep her interested in him, this moment helps the reader better understand Clarissa’s internal struggle to conform to her family’s wishes vs. stay true to herself, and she credits Anna for being the one person who can steer her in the right direction (via metaphor).

    “You have taught me what to say to, and what to think of, Mr. Lovelace. You have, by agreeable anticipation, let mee know how it is probable he will apply to me to be excused. I will lay everything before you that shall pass on the occasion, if he does apply, that I may take your advice when it can come in time; and when it cannot, that I may receive your correction, or approbation, as I may happen to merit either. Only one thing must be allowed for me; that whatever course I shall be permitted or be forced to steer, I must be considered as a person out of her own direction. Tossed to and fro by the high winds of passionate control, and, as I think, unreasonable severity, I behold the desired port, the single state, which I would fain steering into; but am kept off by the foaming billows of a brother’s and sister’s envy; and by the raging winds of a supposed invaded authority; while I see in Lovelace, the rocks on one hand, and in Solmes, the sands on the other; and tremble lest I should split upon the former, or strike upon the latter.

    But you, my better pilot, what a charming hope do you bid me aspire to, if things come to extremity! —I will not, as you caution me, too much depend upon your success with your mamma, in my favour: for well I know her high notions of implicit duty in a child—But yet I will hope too—because her seasonable protection may save me perhaps from a greater rashness and, in this case, she shall direct all my ways: I will do nothing but by her orders, and by her advice and yours: not see anybody: nor write to anybody: not shall ay living soul, but by her direction ad yours, know where I am. I any cottage place me, I will never stir out, unless, disguised as your servant, I am now and then permitted a evening walk with you: ad this private protection to be grated me for no longer time than till my cousin Morden comes; which, as I hope, cannot be long. (p. 280-281).”


  5. I chose this passage from letter 39 mainly to demonstrate Clarissa’s opinions toward marriage. She begins by discussing Lovelace from two aspects: the personal (Lovelace’s social standing and personality), and the familial (if her marriage with Lovelace will hamper her position in her family.) From the personal level, Lovelace is generous, intelligent, brave (as opposed to the stingy, ill-educated, craven Solmes), he doesn’t gamble or drink, he is rich and aristocratic. But he is still unsuitable as a partner because of his lack of heart: without a heart, a man can never be changed for the better. From the familial level, marriage with Lovelace would mean breaking away from her family. She also emphasizes her worries about Lovelace expecting more obedience from her if she chooses him as her husband (the pros and cons of arranged vs free marriage?).

    “Sometimes we have both thought him one of the most undesigning merely witty men we ever knew; at other times one of the deepest creatures we ever conversed with. So that when in one visit we have imagined we fathomed him, in the next he has made us ready to give him up as impenetrable. This impenetrableness, my dear, is to be put among the shades in his character. Yet, upon the whole, you have been so far of his party, that you have contested that his principal fault is over-frankness, and too much regardlessness of appearances, and that he is too giddy to be very artful: you would have it, that at the time he says any thing good, he means what he speaks; that his variableness and levity are constitutional, owing to sound health, and to a soul and body [that was your observation] fitted for and pleased with each other. And hence you concluded, that could this consentaneousness [as you call it] of corporal and animal faculties be pointed by discretion; that is to say, could his vivacity be confined within the pale of but moral obligations, he would be far from being rejectable as a companion for life.

    But I used then to say, and I still am of opinion, that he wants a heart: and if he does, he wants every thing. A wrong head may be convinced, may have a right turn given it: but who is able to give a heart, if a heart be wanting? Divine Grace, working a miracle, or next to a miracle, can only change a bad heart. Should not one fly the man who is but suspected of such a one? What, O what, do parents do, when they endeavour to force a child’s inclination, but make her think better than otherwise she would think of a man obnoxious to themselves, and perhaps whose character will not stand examination?”


  6. I have chosen this passage from Letter 33 to demonstrate Clarissa’s character as multi-faceted despite her insistent characterization as highly moral and submissive to paternal figures, Clarissa reveals herself to be somewhat petty and judgmental in regards to Mr. Roger Solmes, her potential suitor. In this letter, Clarissa judges Solmes’s poor spelling to Anna, in a moment which reveals her to have complexity as a character that, while dedicated to the task of seeking everyone’s approval around her, also does have a certain standard or expectation in terms of wit and intellectual ability. This passage also serves to highlight the importance of the act of writing in the novel, and the weight that good writing carries in Clarissa’s eyes, which in some ways makes her suited for Lovelace.

    “Miss Clarissa Harlowe, To Miss Howe.
    Thursday, March 16.

    Having met with such bad success in my application to those of my own family, I have taken a step that will surprise you. It is no other than writing a letter to Mr. Solmes himself. I sent it; and have his answer. He had certainly help in it. For I have seen a letter of his; as indifferently worded, as poorly spelt. Yet the superscription is of his dictating, I dare say; for he is a formal wretch. With these, I shall inclose one from my brother to me, on occasion of mine to Mr. Solmes. I did think that it was possible to discourage this man from proceeding; and that would have answer’d all my wishes. It was worth the trial. But you’ll see nothing will do. My brother has taken his
    measures too securely.”


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