Religion and the Mind (L207)

A principal consolation arising from these favourable appearances, is, that I, who have now but one only friend, shall most probably, and if it be not my own fault, have as many new ones as there are persons in Mr. Lovelace’s family; and this whether Mr. Lovelace treat me kindly or not. And who knows, but that, by degrees, those new friends, by their rank and merit, may have weight enough to get me restored to the favour of my relations? till which can be effected, I shall not be tolerably easy. Happy I never expect to be. Mr. Lovelace’s mind and mine are vastly different; different in essentials. 
But as matters are at present circumstanced, I pray you, my dear friend, to keep to yourself every thing that might bring discredit to him, if revealed.—Better any body expose a man than a wife, if I am to be his; and what is said by you will be thought to come from me.
It shall be my constant prayer, that all the felicities which this world can afford may be your’s: and that the Almighty will never suffer you nor your’s, to the remotest posterity, to want such a friend as my Anna Howe has been to

6 thoughts on “Religion and the Mind (L207)

  1. Keri Mathis

    Richardson includes this excerpt at the end of Lovelace's letter (**See also his excerpt from Letter 207**). I find it interesting that most of what we hear from Clarissa at this point in the novel occurs in this manner. We rarely see letters that she has written directly to Anna at the end of Volume IV; instead, they are included in Lovelace's letters to Belford. What do these editorial choices tell us about Clarissa's agency? Furthermore, Clarissa has commented a number of times on the differences between her own mind and Lovelace's mind, as she does here. What do these constant references to their minds indicate about Clarissa values in a spouse? What do you think she means by these differences? Another noteworthy item here is Clarissa's reference to "the Almighty." We are beginning to see more references to religion as she becomes more isolated and desperate. Feel free to comment on the importance of religion in shaping Clarissa's identity here or at any other moments in the novel you have noticed.

  2. Kendra

    I think the fact that letters to Anna are now shown through Lovelace definitely speaks to her loss of agency. Lovelace limits what we as readers see, somewhat eliminating the agency we had as readers — being able to read all of Clarissa's thoughts from her own letters. I think it also highlights Lovelace's control over the (limited) aspects of her life.In regard to the differences between Clarissa and Lovelace's minds, I suppose that Clarissa values a spouse that shares the same virtues and self-control that she has. Lovelace is temperamental and passionate whereas Clarissa is composed and virtuous at all times, we're constantly reminded how she shines even as she is suffering. I think it is noteworthy that Clarissa references the Almighty and becomes increasingly religious. When she was first confined to her parent's house she was denied the ability to go to church, and judging from her reaction at being denied going to church, it's safe to assume that Clarissa is devoutly religious. It only makes sense that as she becomes more and more isolated from other people Clarissa would become more religious. One's personal relationship with God is important for much of Christianity and because Clarissa really has no one to talk to, God's the only one she can have a conversation with/talk to. It's like a coping mechanism for her to keep her sanity and to help her keep faith that she has done everything she can in her situation.

  3. Megan

    Good thoughts so far, guys! I especially like what you have pointed to in her referencing of God. I'm guessing that will continue to grow as her situation becomes more dire. I was personally very intrigued with the way Richardson chose to eliminate Clarissa's voice. I definitely noticed through the end of vol IV and the beginning of vol V that we were seeing fewer and fewer of her letters. I kept expecting to see one as I continued on, only to hear more and more from Lovelace. Clarissa is certainly falling more and more under Lovelace's power the longer she is with him, and one way that this is shown is through her lack of voice. We've talked several times before about how despite the way Clarissa seems to be unable to make a choice for herself in any important matters, she has always had her writing to fall back on it to act as an agent for herself. Now, Richardson is denying her of even that. I'm assuming Clarissa is still writing constantly to Anna, but the reader is denied the viewing of those letters, except in small excerpts such as this one that are framed by Lovelace's letters.

  4. Jessica

    Keri, I like that you bring up the "mode" of Clarissa's letters now. It's an important shift. Earlier in the novel we encountered Clarissa's letters "first-hand." We became used to the familiar heading "Miss Clarissa Harlowe to Miss Anna Howe." Richardson's choice to use these headings helped build the fiction that we readers haven't just stumbled on a collection of letters, but that we're also "insiders" – it's the illusion of direct access. We've troubled the idea of "direct access" though (by questioning the "accuracy" of characters' representations of themselves and others). Still, when reading Clarissa's letters as excerpts within Lovelace's letters, that fiction of direct access dissolves away. Where we might have felt that we were reading the private correspondences between Clarissa and Anna, now we have to understand their only form of communication as text that Lovelace is scrutinizing so that he can better understand how to control Clarissa. Clarissa used to write to Anna to forward her purpose of constructing an even better self. Now that Lovelace reads and analyzes their correspondence, we're reminded that he has appropriated Clarissa's project of self-discovery. How could writing possibly function that way for her now?

  5. Steve

    This IS an interesting shift. I know it's not possible to definitively answer the question of why Richardson would make this choice, but it's definitely fun to think about. As far as the question of differences of mind — yes, I think there are many important differences (such as Clarissa's possession of a moral compass), but I wonder that she doesn't see that there are some important similarities, too. They're both fascinated and in possession of a great facility with language, which Clarissa has noted before. And they're both prideful in their own ways, which Clarissa has also noted before. I wonder if this isn't also an attempt at convincing herself?

  6. Keri Mathis

    I am sensing a general consensus here that Richardson's editorial decisions (namely, in including Clarissa's letters within Lovelace's) mark a loss of her voice and her agency. As both Jessica and Kendra noted, we see Clarissa only as a subject through Lovelace's narrative lens. I was particularly struck by Jessica's comment that Lovelace “has appropriated Clarissa's project of self-discovery.” Clarissa no longer has the agency to construct her own identity because he has acquired access to her writing which is such an intimate act. We do, however, see through her references to the Almighty that perhaps she has achieved a new sense of agency through her religious devotion.

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