Lovelace marks Anna’s letter for vengeance (L229)

A letter is put into my hands by Wilson himself.—Such a letter!
A letter from Miss Howe to her cruel friend!—
I made no scruple to open it.
It is a miracle that I fell not into fits at the reading of it; and at the thought of what might have been the consequence, had it come into the hands of this Clarissa Harlowe. Let my justly-excited rage excuse my irreverence. […]
Oh this devilish Miss Howe;—something must be resolved upon and done with that little fury! […]
Thou wilt see the margin of this cursed letter crowded with indices [>>>]. I put them to mark the places which call for vengeance upon the vixen writer, or which require animadversion. Return thou it to me the moment thou hast perused it.
Read it here; and avoid trembling for me, if thou canst.

LETTER 229.1

[…]  >>> It was plain to me, indeed, to whom you communicated all that you knew of your own heart, though not all of it that I found out, that love had pretty early gained footing in it.
>>> And this you yourself would have discovered sooner than you did, had not his alarming, his unpolite, his rough conduct, kept it under. […]
>>> As this man’s vanity had made him imagine, that no woman could be proof against love, when his address was honourable; no wonder that he struggled, like a lion held in toils, against a passion that he thought not returned.  And how could you, at first, show a return in love, to so fierce a spirit, and who had seduced you away by vile artifices, but to the approval of those artifices. […]

LETTER 229.2

[…] Many a little villain have I punished for knowing more than I would have her know, and that by adding to her knowledge and experience. What thinkest thou, Belford, if, by getting hither this virago, and giving cause for a lamentable letter from her to the fair fugitive, I should be able to recover her? Would she not visit that friend in her distress, thinkest thou, whose intended visit to her in her’s brought her into the condition from which she herself had so perfidiously escaped?
Let me enjoy the thought!
Shall I send this letter?—Thou seest I have left room, if I fail in the exact imitation of so charming a hand, to avoid too strict a scrutiny. Do they not both deserve it of me? Seest thou now how the raving girl threatens her mother? Ought she not to be punished? And can I be a worse devil, or villain, or monster, that she calls me in the long letter I enclose (and has called me in her former letters) were I to punish them both as my vengeance urges me to punish them? And when I have executed that my vengeance, how charmingly satisfied may they both go down into the country and keep house together, and have a much better reason than their pride could give them, for living the single life they have both seemed so fond of! […]
But this, Belford, I hope—that if I can turn the poison of the enclosed letter into wholesome ailment; that is to say, if I can make use of it to my advantage; I shall have thy free consent to do it.
I am always careful to open covers cautiously, and to preserve seals entire. I will draw out from this cursed letter an alphabet. Nor was Nick Rowe ever half so diligent to learn Spanish, at the Quixote recommendation of a certain peer, as I will be to gain the mastery of this vixen’s hand.

9 thoughts on “Lovelace marks Anna’s letter for vengeance (L229)

  1. Kendra

    I feel that while humorous due to the indignation Lovelace felt, this letter shows how both vindictive and threatened Lovelace is with regard to Anna. He places markers beside nearly every sentence from Anna's letter — the marks being made as reminders for his vengeance and so that he can criticize them. The letter also highlights Lovelace's cunning because he is able to open the letter without anyone knowing. Lovelace also notes that he draw out an alphabet from Anna's letter. Why go to such lengths to learn Anna's handwriting? Is this another "masturbatory" way for Lovelace to show off his "talents"?

  2. anthony o'keeffe

    I think his forgery work actually goes beyond the "masturbatory" nature of his typical writing, which commonly allows him just to control the narrative of his situation with Clarissa (pure writerly power) and create new, imagined schemes through which to exercise his "real-world" power over her and others. In taking over Anna's epistolary "voice," I think he moves beyond the mere masturbatory pleasures of turning his life into well-written narrative, and manages to combine his epistolary AND his "real-world" power–he is now creating letters that directly manipulate Anna's identity, and Clarissa's identity as Anna's friend and his own prisoner. A new kind of textual power within the novel.

  3. Debra

    I also think it's funny how virtually every line is marked. It's like the student who has highlighted everything in the textbook, or like my copy of Clarissa, in which I have often underlined almost every line on a page. This sense of excess–so much energy, so much complication, so much rhetorical power–seems a central attribute of this book. It is Richardson's "excess" as well as Lovelace's (and perhaps Clarissa's as well) that powers through this book like an engine.

  4. Jessica

    "Thou wilt see the margin of this cursed letter crowded with indices. I put them to mark the places devoted for vengeance." This moment in the letter was bizarrely humorous (but not for long). The way he explains the markings to Belford, as if annotating other people's letters as reminders for vengeance is a typical practice – it's so self-evident it hardly needs explained with more than a sentence. Is this a bit like angrily defacing someone's photograph out of anger? Perhaps the markings are even more bizarre because, though angry, the markings are a conscious practice, showing that Lovelace is apprehending the letter as a source of evidence and dutifully checking off the most persuasive? Of course, the markings stopped being funny, and as Kendra mentioned, we're reminded of how dangerous Lovelace is. I see the "excess" Debra mentions in the markings, and I see excess in the practice, too. In some moments of the letter there are greater numbers of markings, which (looking closely) seem to correspond with how angry or energetic Anna is, where of course she throws the word "wretch" around even more.

  5. Megan

    Who copies a letter into another letter and marks the parts that makes them mad? Seriously? That line (the one Kendra bolded and Jessica pointed to) actually did make me laugh. It seems almost farcical! It almost seems like the kind of practice found in a Monty Python sketch or something (yes, I'm equating it with the Ministry of Silly Walks). In all seriousness, I like how you've pointed to the excessive nature of the practice, Debra. That's the perfect word for it, and it fits Lovelace so well. He does everything to the furthest extent possible (he is the rakiest of rakes, after all). Here though, it really is such a dangerous moment. Lovelace takes the time to do such a seemingly ridiculous practice in all seriousness! It's really pretty scary when you think about it for more than a brief moment.

  6. Keri Mathis

    All of these comments are so insightful, and I also really like this idea of “excess” you all have presented here. When I was reading this letter, I really was just drawn to how invasive Lovelace’s presence was in this letter – so invasive, in fact, that I could not get the image of him reading this letter and maniacally defacing it (as Jessica noted) out of my mind. It was a really weird, kind of disorientating way to read Anna’s letter.What also interested me about this letter is that it presented kind of a culmination of Lovelace’s intrusion into Anna and Clarissa’s intimate friendship. We have seen him become more and more a part of their correspondence after he acquires several of Anna’s letters from Dorcas, but now his presence in their relationship and correspondences with one another is even more apparent. As Kendra and Tony both noted, the fact that Lovelace is now creating an alphabet of Anna’s letterforms shows how invested he has become in partaking in these letter exchanges and assuming Anna’s identity. As our discussions of manuscript cultures a few weeks ago showed, handwriting practices were extremely personal and served to connect the body, self, and letter (Kvande). In this way, then, Lovelace’s decision to learn Anna’s hand marks yet another moment when he oversteps important boundaries – only this time, it is Anna who is the victim.

  7. Rachel Gramer

    I appreciate what everyone's already located here, so much excess, and I like Keri's term “invasive” as well. This is right in keeping with what we've discussed of the power Lovelace has: it is, in more ways than one, excessive.

    His privilege gives him excesses of power: gender, race, status, wealth. And he takes these up in ways that add to our perceptions of his excessive nature: personality, charm, wit, language, writing, rakery, etc.

    He and Clarissa have working within them such interesting conceptions of “excess”–she is too beautiful, good, moral, obedient (previously)–that they make a disastrous pair to analyze through any lens.

  8. Rachel Gramer

    Megan, your question “Seriously?” reminds me just how Lovelace does take this all–SO seriously. He's full of contradictions: in knowing that he works so hard at creating a drama out of every moment, he takes others' words and actions so seriously. In seeming to find so much humor in the horrors he would perpetrate (and has in the past), he finds so little humor in any affront to his ego. I wonder if this seems in line with what we were discussing last week, but I'm not up to date on all of the official sociopathic tendencies.

  9. Debra

    I am intrigued with the analogy of defacing a photograph. Yes, it is excessive to copy a letter only to deface it, as Jessica notes, but there seems some real importance of materiality going on here. Defacing Anna' direct representation of herself–even in a copy–suggests something about how Lovelace regards the relation between “self” and representations of that self.

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