Clarissa

by: Samuel Richardson

Letters 333–396

Her health worsens. Belford sends Lovelace a “meditation” Clarissa has written, composed of lines from the Bible. He is impressed by Clarissa’s equanimity in the face of death, especially when he compares it to Belton’s terror. Hickman visits Clarissa, and Belton is impressed by him.

Lovelace attends a ball where he knows he will meet Anna and Hickman. Anna had shown her fury at him, snapping her fan in his face. Mrs. Howe and the rest of their acquaintances, however, are convinced by Lovelace’s protestations of repentance and think Clarissa should marry him. Clarissa again explains her reasons for refusing and, finally, Anna is convinced. She relays Clarissa’s answer to Lovelace’s relations, who have been waiting for it. Anna tells Clarissa she should write down her story as a service to the young women who might read it.

Lovelace suspects that Clarissa’s ill health might be due to pregnancy. He is overjoyed at the thought, which would both remove the threat of death and ensure that Clarissa would marry him.

Mrs. Norton tries to influence Clarissa’s mother in her favor. Mrs. Harlowe replies that once again she is unable to change anything, but that Mr. Harlowe has indeed revoked his curse. Clarissa is grateful for this, although saddened by her mother’s distress, as well as by a harsh reply from Arabella. In response to Anna’s concerns, Clarissa writes that although she wants to die, she considers it her duty to try to stay alive. Nevertheless, she begins making arrangements for death. She decides that Belford will be her executor, showing great trust in him. She also asks Belford to send her some of Lovelace’s letters, so that she can compile a collection that will reveal her story after she’s dead. Because Lovelace and Belford always write to each other in a secret shorthand, Belford transcribes some letters for her. Clarissa is glad to see that Lovelace preserved some degree of decency as well as a strict honesty, and that the letters will be able to fill the gaps left by hers.

Arabella writes another cruel letter, which has bad effects on Clarissa’s health. In turn, she writes a humble letter to her mother, imploring forgiveness. Lovelace’s family is convinced by Clarissa’s reasoning and offers her an estate and an annuity as some kind of recompense for Lovelace’s treatment. Clarissa is touched, but she refuses. Lovelace is furious at Belford for giving Clarissa his letters and also for accepting the commission as executor. He is still intent on marrying Clarissa and threatens to visit her if she will not answer a letter from him.

Analysis

Lovelace and Belford are treading opposite tracks at this point. As Belford begins to see the criminal life as both less happy in life and horrific after death, Lovelace keeps defending his wicked ways, fending off Belford’s moralizing with witticisms and insults. Although his nature both as a man and as Lovelace’s friend make Clarissa suspicious of him at first, Belford is admitted into her company and becomes her friend and the executor of her will. Lovelace, having finally recognized and resolved to do justice to Clarissa’s worth, is kept away from her, although he complains that there is nothing worth writing about in his life when she is out of it. He is more possessive of her than ever, however, ranting at Belford when he becomes Clarissa’s executor and insisting that only he, Lovelace, should do anything for Clarissa.