Lovelace feigns illness (L209)

And now, Belford, what dost think? 
That thou art a cursed fellow, if— 
If—no if’s—but I shall be very sick to-morrow. I shall, ‘faith.
Sick!—Why sick? What a-devil shouldst thou be sick for?
For more good reasons than one, Jack.
I should be glad to hear but one.—Sick, quotha! Of all thy roguish inventions I should not have thought of this.
Perhaps thou thinkest my view to be, to draw the lady to my bedside. That’s a trick of three or four thousand years old; and I should find it much more to my purpose, if I could get to her’s. However, I’ll condescend to make thee as wise as myself.
I am excessively disturbed about this smuggling scheme of Miss Howe. I have no doubt, that my fair-one, were I to make an attempt, and miscarry, will fly from me, if she can. I once believed she loved me: but now I doubt whether she does or not: at least, that it is with such an ardour, as Miss Howe calls it, as will make her overlook a premeditated fault, should I be guilty of one.
And what will being sick do for thee?
Have patience. I don’t intend to be so very bad as Dorcas shall represent me to be. But yet I know I shall reach confoundedly, and bring up some clotted blood. To be sure, I shall break a vessel: there’s no doubt of that: and a bottle of Eaton’s styptic shall be sent for; but no doctor. If she has humanity, she will be concerned. But if she has love, let it have been pushed ever so far back, it will, on this occasion, come forward, and show itself; not only in her eye, but in every line of her sweet face.
I will be very intrepid. I will not fear death, or any thing else. I will be sure of being well in an hour or two, having formerly found great benefit by this astringent medicine, on occasion of an inward bruise by a fall from my horse in hunting, of which perhaps this malady may be the remains. And this will show her, that though those about me may make the most of it, I do not; and so can have no design in it.
Well, methinks thou sayest, I begin to think tolerably of this device.
I knew thou wouldst, when I explained myself. Another time prepare to wonder; and banish doubt.
Now, Belford, I shall expect, that she will show some concern at the broken vessel, as it may be attended with fatal effects, especially to one so fiery in his temper as I have the reputation to be thought to be: and the rather, as I shall calmly attribute the accident to the harasses and doubts under which I have laboured for some time past. And this will be a further proof of my love, and will demand a grateful return—
And what then, thou egregious contriver?
Why then I shall have the less remorse, if I am to use a little violence: for can she deserve compassion, who shows none?
And what if she shows a great deal of concern?
Then shall I be in hopes of building on a good foundation. Love hides a multitude of faults, and diminishes those it cannot hide. Love, when acknowledged, authorizes freedom; and freedom begets freedom; and I shall then see how far I can go.
Well but, Lovelace, how the deuce wilt thou, with that full health and vigour of constitution, and with that bloom in thy face, make any body believe thou art sick?
How!—Why, take a few grains of ipecacuanha; enough to make me reach like a fury.
Good!—But how wilt thou manage to bring up blood, and not hurt thyself?
Foolish fellow! Are there no pigeons and chickens in every poulterer’s shop?
Cry thy mercy.
But then I will be persuaded by Mrs. Sinclair, that I have of late confined myself too much; and so will have a chair called, and be carried to the Park; where I will try to walk half the length of the Mall, or so; and in my return, amuse myself at White’s or the Cocoa.
And what will this do?
Questioning again!—I am afraid thou’rt an infidel, Belford—Why then shall I not know if my beloved offers to go out in my absence?—And shall I not see whether she receives me with tenderness at my return? But this is not all: I have a foreboding that something affecting will happen while I am out. But of this more in its place.
And now, Belford, wilt thou, or wilt thou not, allow, that it is a right thing to be sick?—Lord, Jack, so much delight do I take in my contrivances, that I shall be half sorry when the occasion for them is over; for never, never, shall I again have such charming exercise for my invention.

5 thoughts on “Lovelace feigns illness (L209)

  1. Keri Mathis

    At the very end of Volume IV, Lovelace decides to feign illness as a part of his master plot to attain Clarissa's affection. What is most interesting to me here is Lovelace's conversation with himself. Earlier in the semester we discussed focalization, and we see a lot of that here with Lovelace imagining Belford's response to his new scheme. What do you think about the focalization here? Does this shed any light on Lovelace's identity and character formation? What do you make of this particular scheme in general?

  2. Kendra

    I think the focalization here is interesting because Lovelace appears to be the character with the most agency and power — he goes so far as to think and speak for Belford in a letter to Belford. Really it shows how intelligent and cunning Lovelace is with regard to understanding human psyche. He knows how people will react and respond — he's a master manipulator. The light that is shed on Lovelace's character is that he excitable (when it comes to his own cleverness) and needs to be in control. He is having a conversation with himself in a letter that includes interjections and argument against and for his plot. This particular scheme isn't one that is uncommon even today, which makes it sort of laughable. Of course, he's taking this "pretend to be sick and get affection/confirmation of feelings" act to the extreme. He's going to make it believable by using ipecacuanha and I think that makes him not only devoted 110% to his plans, but also dangerous because of how serious he is about making things believable. Lovelace is a proto-method actor for sure. The scheme is a good one because he will be able to tell how Clarissa feels about him when he sees her reaction upon seeing him and hears about her reaction of hearing about his illness from others.

  3. Debra

    The Bakhtinian aspects of this letter are fascinating. Lovelace constructs himself through a dialogue with the Bedford he has also constructed. I think we really feel the rhetorical resonance of Lovelace's writing. He is always in dialogue, either with himself or Clarissa or Belford or the Belford he has invented. Everything is to be worked out, practiced, performed. I think Lovelace loves these narrative spectacles, and he loves having an audience for them. Indeed, would he even have done all this without someone else knowing what is going on?

  4. Rachel Gramer

    This is a great question, Debra, that I hadn't thought of as in-depth as we discussed the "telling" of the story of Clarissa to Anna.This comes back to the issue of reputation for Lovelace, and, in his letters to Belford, he constantly references the others in the group of rakes: what they're doing, what they think of this plan (indicating he's been corresponding with them as well?), how they would or do react to him, casting them always in relation to Belford (whether through alignment or divergence).After all, reputation involves an inherently dialogic aspect: yes, as an actor in the scene, you have to do (or not do) something, but it also _has_ to be witnessed by others, interpreted, and disseminated. If Lovelace were engaged in all of these time-intensive plans for conquest of Clarissa, and then no one knew about it–what would be the value? The value seems to lie for him in the minds and perceptions of others, specifically in his social circle. (Another difference between him and Clarissa, who looks inward, to herself, to heaven or God, and outward to the extent of her family for the most part.)

  5. Keri Mathis

    What rich responses we have here. I think Kendra's analysis of the scene as Lovelace's attempt to take control of Belford through these imagined responses is quite interesting and certainly seems feasible based on what we have seen from Lovelace thus far.

    Similarly, Debra and Rachel's references to the Bakhtinian dialogic aspects here shed light on how Lovelace constructs his own identity through constructing his audience and dialogue with that audience.

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