Belford on Clarissa’s escape, Lovelace’s culpability (L293)

Where, Lovelace, can the poor lady be gone? And who can describe the distress she must be in?
By thy former letters, it may be supposed, that she can have very little money: nor, by the suddenness of her flight, more clothes than those she has on. And thou knowest who once said, ‘Her parents will not receive her. Her uncles will not entertain her. Her Norton is in their direction, and cannot. Miss Howe dare not. She has not one friend or intimate in town—entirely a stranger to it.’ And, let me add, has been despoiled of her honour by the man for whom she had made all these sacrifices; and who stood bound to her by a thousand oaths and vows, to be her husband, her protector, and friend!
How strong must be her resentment of the barbarous treatment she has received! how worthy of herself, that it has made her hate the man she once loved! and, rather than marry him, choose to expose her disgrace to the whole world: to forego the reconciliation with her friends which her heart was so set upon: and to hazard a thousand evils to which her youth and her sex may too probably expose an indigent and friendly beauty!
Rememberest thou not that home push upon thee, in one of the papers written in her delirium; of which, however it savours not?——
I will assure thee, that I have very often since most seriously reflected upon it: and as thy intended second outrage convinces me that it made no impression upon thee then, and perhaps thou hast never thought of it since, I will transcribe the sentence. ‘If, as religion teaches us, God will judge us, in a great measure! by our benevolent or evil actions to one another—O wretch! bethink thee, in time bethink thee, how great must be thy condemnation.’

6 thoughts on “Belford on Clarissa’s escape, Lovelace’s culpability (L293)

  1. Debra

    It is commendable that he argues so strongly for Clarissa. Yet he never renounces Lovelace. Later, when Lovelace is at Lord M's, and all is apparently lost, he writes to Lovelace, asking him for a letter.

    One question some readers have asked is why doesn't Belford act sooner? When she escapes the London house, he is there the next day, collecting all the details. But when he knows she is imprisoned there (yelling at people at the window to save her), he does nothing. Is it loyalty to Lovelace? Does he still believe Lovelace will marry her, until he gets the letter about the second trial? Since his voice does become so prominent at the novel proceeds, I wonder how much we should try to sort out his loyalty to Lovelace over Clarissa in the first two thirds of the novel.

  2. Jessica

    This letter raises new questions for me about Belford's friendship with Lovelace. He isn't just a confidant, someone for Lovelace to unload on in all his letters. Belford takes an active role here, going to the house and performing, like Mowbray says, “the significant air of a Middlesex Justice,” collecting all the details about Clarissa's escape. I don't see the point of Belford's presence that day, except to get material for antagonizing Lovelace. Does anyone else pick up on that? There's something about the ridiculous details of the account, and how much he writes on it, and especially his taunting demand to Lovelace – “rave most gloriously! — I shall be grievously disappointed if thou dost not” – that hints at (what might be?) a desire Belford has for Lovelace to go down in flames.

  3. anthony o'keeffe

    Since first meeting Clarissa, Belford has been her “advocate” with Lovelace; and Lovelace has actually seemed–at various moments–to really be capable of love and marriage. Bedford continues writing, I think, in part under the influence of that hope, and in part because (like Clarissa) he has begun to desire Lovelace's reformation as well. His attendance on his dying uncle has clearly impressed him in heart and head, has matured him–as his encounter with and concern for Clarissa are maturing him. Hence his voice will grow ever more powerful in its address to Lovelace–he is no longer merely the amusable audience, he is the critical and moral reader of the narrative that is Lovelace's unfolding life.

  4. Keri Mathis

    Like Jessica, I found Belford's narrative in this letter quite interesting. He has gone from a very passive reader to an active agent in the story. I began to question Richardson's choice here in choosing Belford to relay this detailed narrative to Lovelace. I think I ask this question probably too often, but why Belford?

    And to attempt to answer the question of Belford's delay with another question: do we think that perhaps Belford, as Tony hints at here, has come to Lovelace's aid because he has recently seen something of reform in Lovelace? But then again, why would Belford be so trusting when he has been subjected to Lovelace's performances and contrivances so often before now?

  5. Meghan Hancock

    Belford seems more and more rhetorically savvy as the book goes on, and I agree with others that this is an indication of his growing confidence in trying to condemn Lovelace for his actions. Here, he cites directly from one of Lovelace's past letters to him as evidence, reminding Lovelace that he must know how helpless Clarissa is on her own now. Belford revises this quotation from Lovelace's past letter, adding his own assertion that she is now on her own knowing that the man she was supposed to love and marry has betrayed her and robbed her of her honor. Belford also quotes directly from Clarissa's Paper 7 to remind Lovelace to reconsider and pay more attention to Clarissa's thoughts here to convince Lovelace of his guilt and how God will judge him for his actions. I really like Belford's use of evidence here as a different tactic to try with Lovelace to convince him to repent for his treatment of Clarissa. I remember Lovelace quoting from Belford's letters as a way to disprove him, but Belford's use of this tactic makes him seem like he is growing bolder in his attempts to reason with Lovelace.

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