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Samuel Richardson


Letters 397–457

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A clergyman named Mr. Brand is sent by the Harlowes to examine Clarissa’s situation. He is extremely pompous and pedantic. Clarissa sends a letter to Lovelace to prevent his visit. She tells him she writes only to avoid a greater evil, but that because of her religion she forgives him and wishes him well. In response to Clarissa’s letter to her mother, Uncle Harlowe sends a nasty letter bluntly asking if she is pregnant. Clarissa writes another “meditation” and stitches it to this letter with black silk. She writes back and in answer to the “cruel question” says “a little, a very little time will better answer than I can.” She asks again for a last blessing. An even crueler letter arrives from Uncle Antony, suggesting that they have heard bad things about her. Mrs. Norton explains this: Mr. Brand had given a bad report about Clarissa, centered around Belford’s frequent visits. The family resolves to send Clarissa to Pennsylvania. Colonel Morden arrives in England.

Lovelace is very sick. He is miserable, but as he recovers, manages to trick his family into thinking he has been converted by reading them one of Clarissa’s meditations that had been sent by Belford. He is back on good terms with them and more determined than ever to see Clarissa. Belford tells Lovelace again not to come near Clarissa, but he will have to leave her unprotected because he must go attend the dying Belton. He sends Clarissa a letter to warn her, and Lovelace immediately proceeds to London. He forces his way up to Clarissa’s room, but she is not there. He then puts on a comical but insulting performance in the Smiths’ shop, terrifying everyone but also making them laugh.

Lovelace has a dream that he is saved from a fight with Morden by Clarissa, who is then surrounded by angels and taken to heaven; just then the floor starts to sink under Lovelace and he tumbles into a bottomless pit. This frightens him at first, but he soon explains it away. He keeps trying to see Clarissa, but she is never home. Even a Meditation called “On being hunted after by the enemy of my soul” fails to stop him. Finally a letter from Clarissa arrives, saying she has good news: she is setting out for her father’s house and will not have time to see Lovelace in the midst of her preparations. She tells him he can see her there and says she will send him a letter when she gets there. Lovelace is in ecstasy. He immediately leaves for Lord M.’s to wait for her letter.

Belford writes several letters about the pitiable Belton and reminds Lovelace that he one day must die too. Belton eventually dies, miserably, and Belford returns to Clarissa. He finds that she is very ill after having stayed out in carriages and boats to avoid Lovelace. She receives letters from Mrs. Norton saying that Morden had decided to visit Lovelace, because the family did not believe that he was in fact willing to marry Clarissa. This worries her, and she writes to Anna and explains that her letter to Lovelace was allegorical, that it was about her journey to heaven and not to her literal father’s house. She worries that this deception, while not really a lie, might have been wrong. Belford explains the allegory to Lovelace.

Morden visits Lovelace and, after some initial hostilities, they get along well. Morden is convinced of Lovelace’s love for and good intentions toward Clarissa. Morden writes a kind letter to Clarissa, recommending that she marry Lovelace. Clarissa is overjoyed at his kindness but tells him she cannot marry Lovelace; she can forgive him, but that is because she has risen above him. She hints that he will understand when he knows the whole story, but she asks him not to do anything for vengeance. Lovelace is furious at Clarissa’s deception and says that it is just as bad a lie as any he told.

One day while Belford is visiting Clarissa some men arrive and bring a coffin up to her room. Clarissa is embarrassed and explains that she bought it with the money from her clothes to save trouble after she dies. Everyone is shocked, but she tells them that familiarity will make them more comfortable with the coffin’s presence. She had designed the coffin’s decorations, which include several Bible verses, a winged hourglass, an urn, and a lily with the flower snapped off. She becomes very sick, and Belford predicts that she will never again leave her room. Lovelace is distraught and writes with more seriousness and humanity than usual. Clarissa recovers and hurries to finish her will.

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