Clarissa

by: Samuel Richardson

Letters 471–537, Conclusion, Postscript

Belford writes to Lord M., encouraging him to get Lovelace out of the country before anyone seeks vengeance. He agrees. Belford finally sends Lovelace Clarissa’s letter to him. She blames him for her misery but says she is now happy and urges him to reform and repent. He is moved and tormented by his conscience, but in his next letter to Belford he is ashamed of these feelings. He says he has taken his uncle’s suggestion to go traveling and is preparing to leave England. News arrives about Tomlinson. He had been caught in one of his criminal schemes and died in jail, repenting for his behavior to Clarissa. Belford is beginning his reform. He has made amends to some people he had injured in his wilder days. Lovelace mocks him for this and doubts he will be able to keep it up once faced with temptation. He also blames Belford for not rescuing Clarissa, saying his loyalty as a friend should not have stopped him from preventing such an awful crime.

Belford writes to Morden to dissuade him from taking vengeance on Lovelace. Clarissa’s posthumous letter to her cousin asked the same thing, and Morden agrees to comply with her wishes. Lovelace leaves for France, saying he will reform when he gets back. Morden leaves for the Continent as well, and at their parting he and Belford name each other as executors. Joseph Leman sends a letter to Lovelace, warning him that Morden might attack him. Lovelace writes to Morden to ask his purpose. Belford notes the irony of Leman, Lovelace’s puppet, being perhaps the instrument of Lovelace’s fall. He asks Lovelace to avoid Morden in order to respect Clarissa’s memory. Morden writes back to Lovelace and fixes a place and time to meet. Lovelace, on his way there, writes Belford a repentant letter, blaming his contrivances for standing in the way of his happiness. He imagines what a good wife Clarissa would have been. He asks Belford to be his executor.

Morden and Lovelace meet at Trent. Lovelace is confident of victory in the duel, but he resolves not to kill Morden if he can help it. The next letter is from Lovelace’s French valet. He describes the duel: Morden had fatally wounded Lovelace, and afterward they had spoken to each other in French. Morden admitted that he may regret this vengeance and says he would not have taken it if he had not received the letter from Lovelace. Lovelace said fate must have been directing their actions. Lovelace is delirious for a while before he dies, and he finally says the word “Blessed—” then, “LET THIS EXPIATE!” After his death Lovelace’s valet has his body emboweled and put in a vault until he hears from England what to do with it.

The Conclusion is not a letter, but it is labeled “supposed to be written by Mr. Belford.” It summarizes the fates of the remaining characters. Mr. and Mrs. Harlowe both died within three years of Clarissa. James married, against his parents’ wishes, a woman of good family but bad personality. The woman’s property turned out to be contested, and James was embroiled in lawsuits for the rest of his life. Arabella married a man with a title, who married her only for her money and was unfaithful to her. The marriage also caused a rift between Arabella and James, because the latter thought the marriage settlements were unfair. They became each other’s worst tormenters. Mowbray and Tourville were shocked enough by Lovelace’s death to move into the country and live quietly. After Sinclair’s death Sally and Polly managed the house until a man was killed there and they had to go work at another house. There, Sally died of a fever and Polly of a cold. Anna, after mourning for six months, married Hickman, and they are happy together. They named their first daughter Clarissa. Belford reformed successfully, married Lovelace’s cousin Charlotte, and raised a son who eventually inherited Lord M.’s estate, which was formerly promised to Lovelace himself.

In the Postscript, Richardson addresses letters he had received before the completion of Clarissa, which begged for a happy ending. He explains that Christianity mandates a different ending than would poetic justice, and that in a Christian parable the justice must take place in heaven, not on earth. He includes a lengthy passage by Joseph Addison that discusses the uses of tragedy. Finally, Richardson notes that some people had complained about the novel’s length and slow pace, but he insists that he was under “a necessity to be very circumstantial and minute” in order to write realistically. He concludes that if the novel is a good one, the length can only add to the reader’s pleasure.

Analysis

The end of Clarissa is reminiscent of the end of a tragic play, in which the curtain closes on a stage littered with bodies. Within this section, Clarissa, Mrs. Sinclair, Tomlinson, and Lovelace die, and the conclusion notes the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Harlowe, Sally, and Polly. The poetic justice represented by each death is made explicit, often commented on by Belford. Clarissa’s death is a solemn but glorious event: She is well prepared for it, having spent the previous several weeks contemplating the state of her soul, endeavoring to forgive those who have hurt her, and putting her earthly affairs in order. She dies painlessly, surrounded by people who love and admire her, embracing death as the opening of a wonderful new life.