Clarissa Describes a Happy Marriage (L320)

I am extremely concerned, my dear Miss Howe, for being primarily the occasion of the apprehensions you have of this wicked man’s vindictive attempts. What a wide-spreading error is mine!——
If I find that he has set foot on any machination against you, or against Mr. Hickman, I do assure you I will consent to prosecute him, although I were sure I could not survive my first appearance at the bar he should be arraigned at.
The man’s name at whose house I belong, is Smith—a glove maker, as well as seller. His wife is the shop-keeper. A dealer also in stockings, ribbands, snuff, and perfumes. A matron-like woman, plain-hearted, and prudent. The husband an honest, industrious man. And they live in good understanding with each other: a proof with me that their hearts are right; for where a married couple live together upon ill terms, it is a sign, I think, that each knows something amiss of the other, either with regard to temper or morals, which if the world knew as well as themselves, it would perhaps as little like them as such people like each other. Happy the marriage, where neither man nor wife has any wilful or premeditated evil in their general conduct to reproach the other with!— for even persons who have bad hearts will have a veneration for those who have good ones.

7 thoughts on “Clarissa Describes a Happy Marriage (L320)

  1. Megan

    Two things I really liked about this letter were Clarissa's evident devotion to her friendship with Anna and her description of a good and happy marriage. How does this description of marriage echo our previous posts and conversations about the subject?

    And what else did you guys find interesting here? What do you think of Clarissa and Anna's renewed friendship and correspondence?

  2. Debra

    “Happy the marriage, where neither man nor wife has any wilful or premeditated evil in their general conduct to reproach the other with!” Well, who could argue with that! Clearly this is an ideal of marriage based on mutual respect, a state quite different from her parents' marriage. And quite different from what she could expect form Lovelace

  3. Kendra

    The description of a good marriage was interesting especially since it sounds like the type of marriage that Clarissa wanted, or did want with Lovelace. She wants a relationship where she and her husband understand each other — essentially everything that is the opposite of what she has going on with Lovelace. Of the letter, I think that the renewed friendship and correspondence is giving Clarissa a little comfort as she moves toward the death that she has longed for. It's important that Clarissa tries to make some sort of amends and she finally thanks Anna for her advice and consultation. This letter struck me as the beginning of a series of goodbye letters to Anna, her last link to her old life, and last person who could really contact her family and update them.

  4. Rachel Gramer

    Debra touched on the one thing I thought of when I read this: this is not the marriage that Clarissa's parents had. Might that be part of the reason that Clarissa herself seemed to be writing, from the beginning, about wanting to be free to remain single rather than marry at all?

    She clearly has an ideal image of what a happy, pleasant, mutually beneficial marriage can be. And yet she writes rather vehemently from the beginning of the book that she would rather remain single–because she is aware of how highly unlikely a match like this would be.

  5. anthony o'keeffe

    There's also a nice assertion revealing why she could never marry Lovelace now: a couple cannot be happy where “each knows something amiss of the other, either with regard to temper or morals.” Lovelace THINKS he knows Clarissa to be guilty of pride, or over-niceness, or hard-heartedness, or whatever. But certainly she, more perhaps than anyone, knows the depths of what is amiss in him.

  6. Megan

    Excellent comments, guys!

    I absolutely agree that Clarissa has high hopes, probably too high, for marriage, and there's a strong possibility that it comes from witnessing her parents' unhappy marriage. Tony brings up some good points about how her description measures up to the situation with Lovelace. I love that Clarissa is “guilty of pride, or over-niceness, or hard-heartedness, or whatever.” That made me laugh, but it's true, as well. Lovelace thinks he knows Clarissa because he covets her, but he is constantly making up faults for her. She has faults, but he can't pin down what they are. I'm guessing this is partially because he does not see her as an equal human being and partially because he just doesn't take the time to get to know her. However, Clarissa does indeed know him, especially at this point in the book.

  7. Megan

    Do you think she is already planning out her death? I know based on some of the articles that we read that her death is rather prolonged, but I wasn't sure that it had already started. Since she hasn't been talking about going to the insane asylum anymore, I was hoping that her escape had given her some hope, but perhaps not.

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