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Clarissa

Samuel Richardson

Letters 471–537, Conclusion, Postscript

Letters 397–457

Letters 471–537, Conclusion, Postscript, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary

The doctor and apothecary take leave of Clarissa, not expecting to see her again. Anna is about to set out for London but waits for Clarissa’s answer before she does. Clarissa is too weak to write but dictates a letter telling Anna to rejoice in the joy Clarissa is heading for. Morden visits Clarissa and Belford escorts him to her room, describing the tableau he sees there. Clarissa is dressed in white, asleep in a chair, leaning on Mrs. Lovick (a fellow lodger at the Smiths’) so that the cheek pressed against her is flushed, while the other is already as pale as death. Morden is horrified by her condition. Clarissa takes a miniature of Anna from around her neck and asks that it be sent to Hickman.

Lovelace is riding back and forth, awaiting word on Clarissa from messengers. He demands news. Belford sends a short and cryptic note, and Mowbray, who has joined Lovelace on Belford’s orders, writes back because Lovelace is incapable. Mowbray, completely insensitive and wondering what all the fuss is about, describes Lovelace’s frenzy upon reading the note. Belford sends the details of Clarissa’s death. She spent her last moments expressing gratitude to God and sending final messages to her friends. Finally she blessed everyone and died with the words, “Oh come—blessed Lord—Jesus!”. Shortly after her death, letters arrive from the Harlowes to tell Clarissa that she is to be welcomed back into the family. Mrs. Norton arrives to see Clarissa, but of course it is too late.

Belford begins his job as executor. Clarissa has asked to be buried at her grandfather’s feet, so her corpse is prepared for the journey. Locks of hair are to be given to Morden, Mrs. Norton, Anna, and Mrs. Harlowe. She has also written eleven letters to be distributed after her death to the important people in her life. They both beg and extend forgiveness to each person and ask each to rejoice in her ascension. One of the letters is to Lovelace, fulfilling the promise she had made in her allegorical letter. Belford tells Lovelace about it but does not send it, doubting that Lovelace could bear to read it. He tells Lovelace that Mrs. Sinclair has broken her leg and is in danger of death from infection as a result. In great pain and fear she has sent to beg Clarissa’s forgiveness.

Lovelace writes in a delirium. He commands that Clarissa be embalmed and her heart given to him. He requests a lock of her hair. He forbids Belford and Morden from interfering with her and demands a copy of her will as well as all of her papers. He calls her “my Clarissa Lovelace.” Belford instructs Mowbray to pacify Lovelace with a false lock of hair. He writes to Lovelace and describes the horrible scene at Mrs. Sinclair’s house. She, more monstrous then ever and terrified of death, was howling like an animal. Her whores surrounded her, half-dressed and with their makeup disgustingly streaked. Doctors decide to amputate her leg, more as an experiment than with any hope of saving her life. Belford reflects on the horrors of the whorehouse and the viciousness of the men who send women there. He blames the idea that “a reformed rake makes the best husband” for tricking so many women into this situation.

The Harlowe family is shattered, blaming each other and Lovelace. The corpse arrives amid much ceremony. The servants and poor people of the village pay their respects to Clarissa, as do most of the family, but Mr. and Mrs. Harlowe cannot stand to look in the casket. Anna arrives to see Clarissa. She will not see any of the Harlowes. She kisses Clarissa and, on seeing the emblems on the coffin, immediately understands their meaning. The funeral is held. Solmes is lurking, half-hidden, at the back, in tears.

The Harlowes make some trouble about Belford’s role as executor, insisting that the family should execute the will. Belford insists on following Clarissa’s instructions, and Morden backs him. The will is included in his letter. It includes a large provision for the support of the poor. It also specifies that Belford should collect her letters and arrange them to tell her story. The family is not content with some of Clarissa’s allocations but they eventually agree to follow her instructions.

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