if you would clearly and explicitly tell me how far Lovelace has, or has not, a hold in your affections (L37)

I beg your pardon, my dearest friend, for having given you occasion to remind me of the date of my last. I was willing to have before me as much of the workings of your wise relations as possible; being verily persuaded, that one side or the other would have yielded by this time: and then I should have had some degree of certainty to found my observations upon. And indeed what can I write that I have not already written?—You know, that I can do nothing but rave at your stupid persecutors: and that you don’t like. I have advised you to resume your own estate: that you won’t do. You cannot bear the thoughts of having their Solmes: and Lovelace is resolved you shall be his, let who will say to the contrary. I think you must be either the one man’s or the other’s. Let us see what their next step will be.As to Lovelace, while he tells his own story (having also behaved so handsomely on his intrusion in the wood-house, and intended so well at church) who can say, that the man is in the least blameworthy?—Wicked people! to combine against so innocent a man!—But, as I said, let us see what their next step will be, and what course you will take upon it; and then we may be the more enlightened.As to your change of style to your uncles, and brother and sister, since they were so fond of attributing to you a regard for Lovelace, and would not be persuaded to the contrary; and since you only strengthened their arguments against yourself by denying it; you did but just as I would have done, in giving way to their suspicions, and trying what that would do—But if—but if—Pray, my dear, indulge me a little—you yourself think it was necessary to apologize to me for that change of style to them—and till you will speak out like a friend to her unquestionable friend, I must tease you a little—let it run therefore; for it will run—If, then, there be not a reason for this change of style, which you have not thought fit to give me, be so good as to watch, as I once before advised you, how the cause for it will come on—Why should it be permitted to steal upon you, and you know nothing of the matter?
When we get a great cold, we are apt to puzzle ourselves to find out when it began, or how we got it; and when that is accounted for, down we sit contented, and let it have its course; or, if it be very troublesome, take a sweat, or use other means to get rid of it. So my dear, before the malady you wot of, yet wot not of, grows so importunate, as that you must be obliged to sweat it out, let me advise you to mind how it comes on. For I am persuaded, as surely as that I am now writing to you, that the indiscreet violence of your friends on the one hand, and the insinuating address of Lovelace on the other, (if the man be not a greater fool than any body thinks him,) will effectually bring it to this, and do all his work for him.
But let it—if it must be Lovelace or Solmes, the choice cannot admit of debate. Yet if all be true that is reported, I should prefer almost any of your other lovers to either; unworthy as they also are. But who can be worthy of a Clarissa?
I wish you are not indeed angry with me for harping so much on one string. I must own, that I should think myself inexcusable so to do, (the rather, as I am bold enough to imagine it a point out of all doubt from fifty places in your letters, were I to labour the proof,) if you would ingenuously own—
Own what? you’ll say. Why, my Anna Howe, I hope you don’t think that I am already in love—!
No, to be sure! How can your Anna Howe have such a thought?—What then shall we call it? You might have helped me to a phrase—A conditional kind of liking!—that’s it.—O my friend! did I not know how much you despise prudery; and that you are too young, and too lovely, to be a prude—
But, avoiding such hard names, let me tell you one thing, my dear (which nevertheless I have told you before); and that is this: that I shall think I have reason to be highly displeased with you, if, when you write to me, you endeavour to keep from me any secret of your heart.
Let me add, that if you would clearly and explicitly tell me, how far Lovelace has, or has not, a hold in your affections, I could better advise you what to do, than at present I can. You, who are so famed for prescience, as I may call it; and than whom no young lady ever had stronger pretensions to a share of it; have had, no doubt, reasonings in your heart about him, supposing you were to be one day his: [no doubt but you have had the same in Solmes's case: whence the ground for the hatred of the one; and for the conditional liking of the other.] Will you tell me, my dear, what you have thought of Lovelace’s best and of his worst?—How far eligible for the first; how far rejectable for the last?—Then weighing both parts in opposite scales, we shall see which is likely to preponderate; or rather which does preponderate. Nothing less than the knowledge of the inmost recesses of your heart, can satisfy my love and my friendship. Surely, you are not afraid to trust yourself with a secret of this nature: if you are, then you may the more allowably doubt me. But, I dare say, you will not own either—nor is there, I hope, cause for either. . . .

5 thoughts on “if you would clearly and explicitly tell me how far Lovelace has, or has not, a hold in your affections (L37)

  1. Rachel Gramer

    I asked the same question, also wondering, though, how much Anna actually does trust it.Is their call for detail–always tell me everything, leave nothing out–really just a cry for empirical evidence so they can make their own judgments?And here, Anna asks her to give them all the details, not just her, urging Clarissa to share her experience with a group of others, which changes our conception of the group dynamic going on here (and also aligns us as a larger group of readers with their subject positions, getting lots of details, asking for more).

  2. Jessica

    I wondered that too, Rachel. Early in the letter Anna writes that Clarissa's family insisted on "attributing to [Clarissa] a regard for Lovelace and would not be persuaded to the contrary" and that Clarissa "only strengthened their arguments…by denying it." Saying back to Clarissa what she has been insisting seems one way for Anna to support her and say "I trust your judgment." But then later in the letter Anna writes, "Let me add, that if you would clearly and explicitly tell me, how far Lovelace has, or has not, a hold in your affections, I could better advise you what to do, than at present I can." I don't understand this. Clarissa has been so clear. Perhaps we're supposed to be baffled that no matter how strongly Clarissa insists, she can't persuade her family and friends that she isn't in love with Lovelace – another way that Clarissa's agency is gradually stifled. But the fact that Clarissa's closest friend has doubts about Clarissa's feelings for Lovelace makes me wonder what can't be known through letters alone. We've watched how Clarissa's discourse has its limits (her parents refuse to read her letters; and no matter how clear she is about her dislike for Lovelace, everybody thinks she's deploying fancy rhetoric to distract from her true feelings). Is there a context we're missing that is understood outside these letters? Or are Clarissa's family and friends really this profoundly wrong?

  3. Megan

    I think your last question is an important one, Jessica. We are getting farther than just casual teasing about Clarissa’s “true” feelings for Lovelace. Here, we get a couple of paragraphs discussing the matter:“Own what? You’ll say. Why, my Anna Howe, I hope you don’t think, that I am already in love!—No, to be sure! How can your Anna Howe have such a thought?—Love, though so short a word, has a broad sound with it. What then shall we call it? You have helped me to a phrase that has a narrower sound with it; but a pretty broad meaning, nevertheless. A conditional kind of liking!—that’s it—oh my friend! Did I not know how much you despise prudery; and that you are too young, and too lovely to be a prude—” The deep intimacy between the two friends has already been established. I wonder if Anna has a better understanding of Clarissa’s feelings and what she could be hiding in her letters. Despite the instructions to leave nothing out, these letters are a construction. Clarissa is purposely giving specific details at certain times. And perhaps some of her words let slip certain ideas that those who do not know her as well would not understand. Surely, her feelings for Lovelace are at least a bit more complicated than we can gather from her letters?Think about this statement from letter 36 – “I fancy, my dear, however, that there would hardly be a guilty person in the world, were each suspected or accused person to tell his or her own story, and be allowed any degree of credit”She certainly wouldn’t extend this type of leeway to Solmes or anyone else who she does not care for. Why does she give such consideration to Lovelace if she does not feel anything for him?

  4. Keri Mathis

    I’m writing this post after completing the novel, and I found these lines quite interesting now that we have gotten the “whole” of the story and of Lovelace’s character:

    “As to Lovelace, while he tells his own story (having also behaved so handsomely on his intrusion in the wood-house, and intended so well at church) who can say, that the man is in the least blameworthy?—Wicked people! to combine against so innocent a man!—But, as I said, let us see what their next step will be, and what course you will take upon it; and then we may be the more enlightened.”

    Clarissa has nothing of real substance at this point on which to base her judgments of Lovelace – she only has “his own story” with very little actual interaction with him. So, to answer previous questions, I think that a lot of the reason Clarissa feels compelled to write such a detailed account is exactly as Rachel suggests – to provide evidence on which to base her judgments.

    I also found the awareness of future “enlightenment” important here – it’s as if Clarissa knows that she doesn’t have it all until she and others choose their course in the matter. It sort of foreshadows the reflections on these scenes she’ll complete later, which is certainly an important part of the narrative and in understanding her own story.

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