Lovelace plans (and struggles with himself) a night-time visit to Clarissa (L224)

Faith, Jack, thou hadst half undone me with thy nonsense, though I would not own it on my yesterday’s letter: my conscience of thy party before.— But I think I am my own man again.
So near to execution my plot; so near springing my mine; all agreed upon between the women and me; or I believe thou hadst overthrown me.I have time for a few lines preparative to what is to happen in an hour or two; and I love to write to the moment. We have been extremely happy. How many agreeable days have we known together!—What may the next two hours produce.When I parted with my charmer, (which I did, with infinite reluctance, half an hour ago,) it was upon her promise that she would not sit up to write or read. For so engaging was the conversation to me, (and indeed my behaviour throughout the whole of it was confessedly agreeable to her,) that I insisted, if she did not directly retire to rest, that she should add another happy hour to the former.
To have sat up writing or reading half the night, as she sometimes does, would have frustrated my view, as thou wilt observe, when my little plot unravels. […]
What—What—What now!—Bounding villain! wouldst thou choke me?— 
I was speaking to my heart, Jack!—It was then at my throat.—And what is all this for?—These shy women, how, when a man thinks himself near the mark, do they tempest him! […]
Is all ready, Dorcas? Has my beloved kept her word with me?—Whether are these billowy heavings owing more to love or to fear? I cannot tell, for the soul of me, of which I have most. If I can but take her before her apprehension, before her eloquence, is awake—
Limbs, why thus convulsed?—Knees, till now so firmly knit, why thus relaxed? why beat you thus together? Will not these trembling fingers, which twice have refused to direct the pen, fail me in the arduous moment?
Once again, why and for what all these convulsions? This project is not to end in matrimony, surely!
But the consequences must be greater than I had thought of till this moment—my beloved’s destiny or my own may depend upon the issue of the two next hours!
I will recede, I think!— […]
Soft, O virgin saint, and safe as soft, be thy slumbers!
I will now once more turn to my friend Belford’s letter. Thou shalt have fair play, my charmer. I will reperuse what thy advocate has to say for thee. Weak arguments will do, in the frame I am in!—
But, what, what’s the matter!—What a double—But the uproar abates!—What a double coward am I!—Or is it that I am taken in a cowardly minute? for heroes have their fits of fear; cowards their brave moments; and virtuous women, all but my Clarissa, their moment critical
But thus coolly enjoying the reflection in a hurricane!—Again the confusion is renewed—
What! Where!—How came it!
Is my beloved safe—
O wake not too roughly, my beloved!

6 thoughts on “Lovelace plans (and struggles with himself) a night-time visit to Clarissa (L224)

  1. Kendra

    Clarissa has had a considerable affect on Lovelace, and while he has acknowledged how much she has influenced him previously, we see in this letter that his body and heart are working against him. He is conflicted about what he plans to do to Clarissa in her bedroom. There appears to be hope for Lovelace to become reformed as we have slowly seen Belford reform. Interesting that he portrays himself as a man of action, but when it comes time for him to act he cannot. Is it possible for Lovelace to be reformed or has he come too far to turn back now?

  2. Debra

    I have bolded some parts of the letter Kendra quotes to make it easier to recognize what I think has become standard Lovelace patter. Back and forth, back and forth. I think at one level this is genuine (he does love Clarissa more than he admits) but it has become such a verbal game that is hard to know where he really is at any given moment. When he talks at the end of his "convulsed limbs" and when he addresses Clarissa "Soft O virgin saint" and then "O wake not too roughly my beloved!" the language is so obviously parody of a certain kind of literary language. I really do see Bakhtin here. And the cleverness of it all–what I think is what drives Lovelace the most–is made even more apparent in his aside to Bedford, "I love to write to the moment."

  3. Keri Mathis

    I also noted the moment where Lovelace claims, "I love to write to the moment." He also loves to dramatize the moment, however, and I think that this is where we find ourselves as readers conflicted when trying to understand what is actually happening. Often, his letters do not read like letters at all; instead, they read (as Kendra noted previously) as plays. As I noted in a previous comment, I find it interesting that Lovelace rarely hears from Belford but continues to write to him about his plots — even when he knows at this point that those plots are going to be met with displeasure from his reader. It all goes back to the fact that Lovelace needs to write, but why he continues to write to Belford, I'm still not sure.

  4. Meghan Hancock

    I guess we should ask who Lovelace might write to about his plots with Clarissa instead of Belford. It couldn't be Joseph Leman because Lovelace considers himself too much above him, and Joseph is too intertwined in the plot with Clarissa. He could write to his other fellow "rakes," but I think Lovelace might actually like the fact that Belford disapproves of his actions. It seems like Lovelace has a perverse need for that kind of push back–without someone telling him that what he is doing to Clarissa is immoral, it would take all the fun out of it.

  5. Kendra

    It seems we agree that this letter is telling of Lovelace as a writer. Lovelace enjoys the back and forth banter that Debra points out as "standard Lovelace patter." She also note being able to see Bakhtin in this particular letter. Both Keri and Debra note the comment that Lovelace makes "I love to write to the moment." He has dramatized the moments that he writes about and Meghan questions who he "might write to about his plots with Clarissa instead of Belford."

  6. Steve

    I'd like to build on Debra's comment about Bakhtin here. Not just because I think this is a place where it's easy to see Lovelace's language as the “language of others” (?) invested with his own intention at the moment of writing, but because I think it's important to look at what languages are in play here (both visible in the text and in the conflict Lovelace is experiencing as evident in the text). The language of the letter, as Debra indicates, is strongly evocative of a certain “literary” language — what it calls to mind for me is the soliloquy, where a character expresses some internal conflict out loud. Lovelace choosing this form to express himself here is not an accident, the language of the soliloquy lends itself to communicating the kind of conflict that he's feeling.

    I think that particular conflict is also rooted in discourse. So many times, Lovelace alternately identifies himself as a “rake” and as a “lover,” where the two are mutually exclusive. I think in expressing these identities through language, Lovelace has implicated himself, in a Bakhtinian way, in the discourse of the rake and the discourse of the lover — discourses which, as they are so starkly defined for him, create a difficulty; they can't be synthesized. He is clearly quite capable of strategically deploying both, but not both together. And so, I think, we get these moments where he doesn't know quite what language to choose, what of the “language(s) of others” he can consist in and re-pupose.

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