Lovelace’s new plot to keep Clarissa a prisoner (L279)

And yet I have promised, as thou seest, that she shall set out to Hampstead as soon as she pleases in the morning, and that without condition on her side.
Dost thou ask, What I meant by this promise?
No new cause arising, was the proviso on my side, thou’lt remember. But there will be a new cause.
Suppose Dorcas should drop the promissory note given her by her lady? Servants, especially those who cannot read or write, are the most careless people in the world of written papers. Suppose I take it up?— at a time, too, that I was determined that the dear creature should be her own mistress?—Will not this detection be a new cause?—A cause that will carry with it against her the appearance of ingratitude!
That she designed it a secret to me, argues a fear of detection, and indirectly a sense of guilt. I wanted a pretence. Can I have a better? —If I am in a violent passion upon the detection, is not passion an universally-allowed extenuator of violence? Is not every man and woman obliged to excuse that fault in another, which at times they find attended with such ungovernable effects in themselves?
The mother and sisterhood, suppose, brought to sit in judgment upon the vile corrupted—the least benefit that must accrue from the accidental discovery, if not a pretence for perpetration, [which, however, may be the case,] an excuse for renewing my orders for her detention till my return from M. Hall, [the fault her own,] and for keeping a stricter watch over her than before; with direction to send me any letters that may be written by her or to her.—And when I return, the devil’s in it if I find not a way to make her choose lodgings for herself, (since these are so hateful to her,) that shall answer all my purposes; and yet I no more appear to direct her choice, than I did before in these.
Thou wilt curse me when thou comest to this place. I know thou wilt. But thinkest thou that, after such a series of contrivance, I will lose this inimitable woman for want of a little more? A rake’s a rake, Jack! —And what rake is withheld by principle from the perpetration of any evil his heart is set upon, and in which he thinks he can succeed?— Besides, am I not in earnest as to marriage?—Will not the generality of the world acquit me, if I do marry? And what is that injury which a church-rite will not at any time repair? Is not the catastrophe of every story that ends in wedlock accounted happy, be the difficulties in the progress of it ever so great.

5 thoughts on “Lovelace’s new plot to keep Clarissa a prisoner (L279)

  1. anthony o'keeffe

    The novel is full of scenes imagined by Lovelace–what do you make of this particular one? What does it tell you about his own sense of identity ten days after the rape?

  2. Debra

    I think at this point, he is starting to come to terms with the fact that she will not marry him. If he goes to M Hall, she will leave. So if he has any hope (ridiculous of course) of keeping her from leaving, he has to find an “expedient” that will “justify” him to her. Of course this all nonsense, but I think what happens in the next several letters is motivated by his growing recognition that she is not going to play his game.

  3. anthony o'keeffe

    And yet?
    It's interesting that the Gutenberg version misses the fact that this whole sequence of questions ends in a question mark (it should be “ever so great?”
    Perhaps the fact that it's all questions suggests that Lovelace himself is not as sure as he once was that he's right to be certain about how his own and the patriarchy's ideology works . . . I'm just saying.

  4. Rachel Gramer

    I thought the “dream” sequence in Letter 271 was particularly interesting, too–in which he imagines a nightmare for them both: Clarissa is “rescued” by someone who “morphs” into Lovelace–and then they are reunited so that Lovelace becomes a “common” husband, happily ever after. Unless I'm reading that dream wrong…

  5. Keri Mathis

    Yes, I find that Clarissa's keen observation has put Lovelace in an interesting position at this point in the novel and lets him know, as you said Debra, “that she is not going to play his game.” I think perhaps this growing realization leads Lovelace to his various imaginings and contrivances.

    I have also been trying to wrap my mind around all of his plots and his need for them, and I think that the quote that helped me understand Lovelace's motivations the most comes from a letter earlier in this volume when he says, “I am confoundedly out of conceit with myself. If I give up my contrivances, my joy in stratagem and plot, and invention, I shall be but a common man; such another dull heavy creature as thyself.” What we see in his dreams, imaginings, and contrivances is, I think, motivated by this fear of being “common.” He cannot give them up, just like he cannot give up writing. Again, thinking about last week's word “excess” could be useful in thinking about all of these moments as a whole and how they contribute to Lovelace's identity even after the rape.

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