Clarissa to Anna, after escape (L295)

Once more have I escaped—But, alas! I, my best self, have not escaped! —Oh! your poor Clarissa Harlowe! you also will hate me, I fear!——
Yet you won’t, when you know all!
But no more of my self! my lost self. You that can rise in a morning to be blest, and to bless; and go to rest delighted with your own reflections, and in your unbroken, unstarting slumbers, conversing with saints and angels, the former only more pure than yourself, as they have shaken off the incumbrance of body; you shall be my subject, as you have long, long, been my only pleasure. And let me, at awful distance, revere my beloved Anna Howe, and in her reflect upon what her Clarissa Harlowe once was!
Forgive, O forgive my rambling. My peace is destroyed. My intellects are touched. And what flighty nonsense must you read, if you now will vouchsafe to correspond with me, as formerly!
O my best, my dearest, my only friend! what a tale have I to unfold!— But still upon self, this vile, this hated self!—I will shake it off, if possible; and why should I not, since I think, except one wretch, I hate nothing so much? Self, then, be banished from self one moment (for I doubt it will be for no longer) to inquire after a dearer object, my beloved Anna Howe!—whose mind, all robed in spotless white, charms and irradiates—But what would I say?——

9 thoughts on “Clarissa to Anna, after escape (L295)

  1. anthony o'keeffe

    In this letter, Clarissa seems caught between a “lost self” and a “vile . . . hated self.” Where do you think she is (and may be going) at this crucial moment in her life?

  2. Debra

    We see here a kind of incoherence of self we seldom witness in Clarissa. So many reasons. She is still recovering from being drugged and has a hard time putting a sentence together much less an account to Anna and an understanding for herself. There are many places later in the novel when she repeats that her will was never violated, and that thought keeps her the coherent person she wishes to be (and for the most part is) after the rape. But the reality remains that she was raped, and that physical assault must somehow be situated within the story of who she is–something she is struggling with here.

    I think trusts that the”tale she has to unfold” (nice Hamlet reference again, but this time from the Ghost) will exonerate and recuperate her in Anna's eyes. (And in her own.) But that she can't quite tell the tale yet suggests the rape has not yet been re-narrativzed into the new story. .

  3. Kendra

    Debra beat me to the Hamlet reference, but I agree with everything she said. I think that we see Clarissa trying to piece together everything and sometimes that is a maddening process in itself. For the novel to be written in the time period it was, Richardson accurately (and sympathetically) portrays the struggle with self that many rape and violence survivors experience. Clarissa thinks she is now not worthy of certain things and tells Anna that she is “blest” and can bless, as well as referring to the wholeness of Anna's mind. We've talked about Anna and Clarissa as mirrors of each other, and it resonates here as well. Anna is whole whereas Clarissa is broken — physically and mentally.

  4. Jessica

    You can really feel Clarissa's relief to be writing to Anna again. I'm moved by her line, “Forgive, O forgive my rambling. My peace is destroyed. My intellects are touched. And what flighty nonsense must you read, if you now will vouchsafe to correspond with me, as formerly!” As formerly. We're reminded of their early correspondences, before Lovelace kidnapped Clarissa, before Clarissa's family gradually distanced themselves from her. Though we never see the letters they wrote before Lovelace was a figure in their lives, there was still something innocuous about Lovelace's early advances; and Clarissa and Anna's letters to each other allowed Clarissa to entertain possibilities and to shut down others, all with the belief that her choices would soon be recognized as valid by those around her. Perhaps Clarissa wants to renew this writing relationship with Anna because it would make her feel less lost (Anna seems to have an anchoring effect on Clarissa), and perhaps less hated (by herself and others).

  5. Rachel Gramer

    I was reminded, at the end of this volume, just how much further Clarissa was isolated from the world once Lovelace intercepted letters meant for her, cutting her off from any contact that he did not authorize. So many of the letters he forged were to Anna, from Clarissa–to stave off any extreme action on Anna's part should her friend fall silent (which we see again in the end of this week's reading–Anna moves fast to suggest that Clarissa must be missing if she is not writing back, and she only waits 2 or 3 letters before writing Charlotte).

    So how isolated must Clarissa have been at this point–not only physically (after being locked away, tricked, moved from place to place by Lovelace's machinations), but also psychologically (having lost all contact with her family, Anna, and anyone who loves her).

    It's no wonder she writes, “But no more of my self! my lost self.” For she is not the Clarissa who once wrote to her loved ones, honored and cherished, and sure of their unconditional love and faithfulness.

    And it's no further wonder that all she can think of to do at this point is what she has been forbidden to do for so long: reach out, re-connect with those she loves. And so she writes to so many–Anna, Hannah, Mrs. Norton, Lady Betty–holding back on her story at first, inquiring about everyone's health, whereabouts, and how they might feel about her after such long silence. Heart-breaking.

  6. anthony o'keeffe

    Lots of fine ideas above, obviously. Debra's references to the early incoherence–covering so many strands of her “lost self”: textual control, moral integration, psychological wholeness–all blown apart by the long string of violences rachel enumerates (imprisonment, complex and sometimes confusing deceits, endless psychological manipulations, the culminating drug-saturated rape). Anna and Clarissa as mutually illuminating mirrors makes a fine metaphor to help us understand their future relationship. And all this makes it inevitable–as Jessica observes–that one cannot read this new voice of Clarissa, and watch it call out to lost friends and loved ones, without being moved.

  7. Keri Mathis

    While this letter (and those that follow to Mrs. Howe, Anna, Mrs. Norton, Lady Betty, etc) show, as you all mentioned, Clarissa's loss of self (or her fragmented self), it also once again highlights a renewed sense of agency that we see from Clarissa after the rape. I think I had a very similar response to Jessica in that I sensed a real sense of relief when Clarissa wrote this letter and the others to the other women. Perhaps these letters can be seen as Clarissa's attempt to regain her true sense of self (at least as much as she can). I see her attempting to do this when she writes, “I will shake it off, if possible,” as she tries to divorce one “vile” or “lost” self from the other. While she does have some incoherence here, I see her as very conscious of what's at stake and the beginnings of an attempt to regain herself, which I think she continues by corresponding with and questioning the other women in the following letters. Her ability to write to them now and question them for herself without Lovelace's interference shows a freedom (to write and to piece together the story for herself) that she has not had in quite some time.

  8. Meghan Hancock

    I think Clarissa's use of italics is important here, too, in distinguishing between her two selves. In the last paragraph quoted here, she uses an italicized “self” to stand in for the self she hates and finds “vile,” while she keeps her other self (whether that be the one that is simply “lost” I'm not so sure) un-italicized. At one point, she seems to have the two selves talking to each other, creating a kind of faux dialogue (which, again, might be a result of her incoherence, but I find it interesting nevertheless): “Self, then, be banished from self one moment (for I doubt it will be for no longer) to inquire after a dearer object, my beloved Anna..” So many selves!

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