In what ways is the character of Sir Clement Willoughby similar/different to Lovelace? How does he interact with Evelina and what strikes you as different about their relationship than the main characters in our previous novel? What are Evelina’s concerns in the coach on the way home from the Opera? And how do these concerns align with or detract from Clarissa’s similar concerns about her relationship with Lovelace? What precisely is at stake in this scene?
Volume 1, Letter XXI (Oxford World Classics, pp. 99–101)
“My dearest life,” cried he, “is it possible you can be so cruel? Can your nature and your countenance be so totally opposite? Can the sweet bloom upon those charming cheeks, which appears as much the result of good-humour as of beauty-”
“O, Sir,” cried I, interrupting him, “this is very fine; but I had hoped we had had enough of this sort of conversation at the ridotto, and I did not expect you would so soon resume it.”
“What I then said, my sweet reproacher, was the effect of a mistaken, a profane idea, that your understanding held no competition with your beauty; but now, now that I find you equally incomparable in both, all words, all powers of speech, are too feeble to express the admiration I feel of your excellencies.”
“Indeed,” cried I, “if your thoughts had any connection with your language, you would never suppose that I could give credit to praise so very much above my desert.”
This speech, which I made very gravely, occasioned still stronger protestations; which he continued to pour forth, and I continued to disclaim, till I began to wonder that we were not in Queen Ann Street, and begged he would desire the coachman to drive faster.
“And does this little moment,” cried he, “which is the first of happiness I have ever known, does it already appear so very long to you?”
“I am afraid the man has mistaken the way,” answered I, “or else we should ere now have been at our journey’s end. I must beg you will speak to him.”
“And can you think me so much my own enemy?-if my good genius has inspired the man with a desire of prolonging my happiness, can you expect that I should counteract its indulgence?”
I now began to apprehend that he had himself ordered the man to go a wrong way; and I was so much alarmed at the idea, that, the very instant it occurred to me, I let down the glass, and made a sudden effort to open the chariot-door myself, with a view of jumping into the street; but he caught hold of me, exclaiming, “For Heaven’s sake, what is the matter?”
“I-I don’t know,” cried I (quite out of breath), “but I am sure the man goes wrong; and if you will not speak to him, I am determined I will get out myself.”
“You amaze me,” answered he (still holding me), “I cannot imagine what you apprehend. Surely you can have no doubts of my honour?”
He drew me towards him as he spoke. I was frightened dreadfully, and could hardly say, “No, Sir, no,-none at all: only Mrs. Mirvan,-I think she will be uneasy.”
“Whence this alarm, my dearest angel?-What can you fear?-my life is at your devotion, and can you, then, doubt my protection?”
And so saying, he passionately kissed my hand.
Never, in my whole life, have I been so terrified. I broke forcibly from him, and, putting my head out of the window, called aloud to the man to stop. Where we then were, I know not; but I saw not a human being, or I should have called for help.
Sir Clement, with great earnestness, endeavoured to appease and compose me: “If you do not intend to murder me,” cried I, “for mercy’s, for pity’s sake, let me get out!”
“Compose your spirits, my dearest life,” cried he, “and I will do everything you would have me.” And then he called to the man himself, and bid him make haste to Queen Ann Street. “This stupid fellow,” continued he, “has certainly mistaken my orders; but I hope you are now fully satisfied.”
I made no answer, but kept my head at the window watching which way he drove, but without any comfort to myself, as I was quite unacquainted with either the right or the wrong.
Sir Clement now poured forth abundant protestations of honour, and assurances of respect, intreating my pardon for having offended me, and beseeching my good opinion: but I was quite silent, having too much apprehension to make reproaches, and too much anger to speak without.
In this manner we went through several streets, till at last, to my great terror, he suddenly ordered the man to stop, and said, “Miss Anville, we are now within twenty yards of your house; but I cannot bear to part with you, till you generously forgive me for the offence you have taken, and promise not to make it known to the Mirvan’s.”
I hesitated between fear and indignation.
“Your reluctance to speak redoubles my contrition for having displeased you, since it shews the reliance I might have on a promise which you will not give without consideration.”
“I am very, very much distressed,” cried I; “you ask a promise which you must be sensible I ought not to grant, and yet dare not refuse.”
“Drive on!” cried he to the coachman;-“Miss Anville, I will not compel you; I will exact no promise, but trust wholly to your generosity.”
This rather softened me; which advantage he no sooner received, than he determined to avail himself of; for he flung himself on his knees, and pleaded with so much submission, that I was really obliged to forgive him, because his humiliation made me quite ashamed: and, after that, he would not let me rest till I gave him my word that I would not complain of him to Mrs. Mirvan.
My own folly and pride, which had put me in his power, were pleas which I could not but attend to in his favour. However, I shall take very particular care never to be again alone with him.
When, at last, we arrived at our house, I was so overjoyed, that I should certainly have pardoned him then, if I had not before. As he handed me up stairs, he scolded his servant aloud, and very angrily, for having gone so much out of the way. Miss Mirvan ran out to meet me; -and who should I see behind her, but Lord Orville!
All my joy now vanished, and gave place to shame and confusion; for I could not endure that he should know how long a time Sir Clement and I had been together, since I was not at liberty to assign any reason for it.