Clarissa Asks Belford to be the Executor of Her Will (L389)

I must own, in his favour, that he has observed some decency in his accounts to you of the most indecent and shocking actions. And if all his strangely-communicative narrations are equally decent, nothing will be rendered criminally odious by them, but the vile heart that could meditate such contrivances as were much stronger evidences of his inhumanity than of his wit: since men of very contemptible parts and understanding may succeed in the vilest attempts, if they can once bring themselves to trample on the sanctions which bind man to man; and sooner upon an innocent person than upon any other; because such a one is apt to judge of the integrity of others’ hearts by its own.
I find I have had great reason to think myself obliged to your intention in the whole progress of my sufferings. It is, however, impossible, Sir, to miss the natural inference on this occasion that lies against his predetermined baseness. But I say the less, because you shall not think I borrow, from what you have communicated, aggravations that are not needed. . . .
And now, Sir, acknowledging gratefully your favour in the extracts, I come to the second request I had to make you; which requires a great deal of courage to mention; and which courage nothing but a great deal of distress, and a very destitute condition, can give. But, if improper, I can but be denied; and dare to say I shall be at least excused. Thus, then, I preface it:
‘You see, Sir, that I am thrown absolutely into the hands of strangers, who, although as kind and compassionate as strangers can be wished to be, are, nevertheless, persons from whom I cannot expect any thing more than pity and good wishes; nor can my memory receive from them any more protection than my person, if either should need it.
‘If then I request it, of the only person possessed of materials that will enable him to do my character justice;
‘And who has courage, independence, and ability to oblige me;
‘To be the protector or my memory, as I may say;
‘And to be my executor; and to see some of my dying requests performed;
‘And if I leave it to him to do the whole in his own way, manner, and time; consulting, however, in requisite cases, my dear Miss Howe;
‘I presume to hope that this my second request may be granted.’
And if it may, these satisfactions will accrue to me from the favour done me, and the office undertaken:
‘It will be an honour to my memory, with all those who shall know that I was so well satisfied of my innocence, that, having not time to write my own story, I could intrust it to the relation which the destroyer of my fame and fortunes has given of it.

8 thoughts on “Clarissa Asks Belford to be the Executor of Her Will (L389)

  1. Megan

    We get yet another glimpse into Clarissa's unchanged feelings for Lovelace. She will not be persuaded to see anything good in him. While that is interesting, I am more interested in her changed feelings for Belford. How exactly has she come so far as to trust one of Lovelace's friends to handle her will? What does this tell us about Belford's character?

  2. Debra

    I am of two minds about Belford. I think he is very sincere; he even gives Clarissa Lovelace's letters. So I think we are supposed to think he is reformed. We trust him, partly because Clarissa trusts him.

    But I can't forget that there are two people who could really have saved Clarissa:

    Anna could have married Hickman and offered Clarissa protection as a married woman.
    Belford could have rescued her when he was reading Lovelace's accounts of her trying to escape. He is in London the day she does escape, to take notes. Why couldn't he have done something earlier?

  3. anthony o'keeffe

    Clearly Clarissa trusts Belford because he is indeed reformed–and that most consciously by his attendance on his dying uncle (she is herself, of course, being re-formed in a different sense of that word by her feeling that death grows closer to her every day).
    As to Debra's questions about Anna and the earlier Belford, we probably all know that once she was in Lovelace's grasp, she could not escape to Mr. Hickman's protection. Belford, I think, kept out of Lovelace's way because he hoped that Clarissa and Lovelace would eventually marry, and then reform would follow. (After all, Lovelace keeps babbling on about how her “trials” will lead eventually to marriage, once Clarissa has “proved” herself; and if he can delude himself that much, convincing Belford was probably much easier).

  4. Meghan Hancock

    Like Debra said, Clarissa's belief in Belford's sincerity must have something to do with the fact that he has shared some of his previous letters with Belford with Clarissa. I thought this was a very big deal. I would imagine there has to be quite a bit of satisfaction for Clarissa in being able to peer into Lovelace's private correspondences, as he has violated her so much in the past. It gives her some of the power back (though not much), especially when we find out how angry Lovelace is with Belford for sharing this with Clarissa.

  5. Megan

    I have spent most of this volume pondering the same questions, Debra! Especially, could Belford not have saved Clarissa earlier?

    If she's as great as everyone says, how could he not have realized it when he met her previously? Was it because Clarissa was so closed off during that visit by the rakes? Did it take Clarissa's downfall for Belford to see how great she is?

    It's very frustrating to me that this whole thing could have been solved long ago had Belford physically stepped in and taken action instead of warning Lovelace off his intended actions through letters.

  6. Meghan Hancock

    This might be a long shot, but do we think Belford was ever afraid of Lovelace, and maybe that might explain why he didn't take actions to save Clarissa earlier? He knew about Lovelace wounding James, and he also knew about Lovelace's obsession with revenge. Belford certainly doesn't seem scared now (especially considering that he's made such bold moves like showing Clarissa Lovelace's letters to him), but this is a very bold, more gutsy Belford from the one we got to know earlier in the novel.

  7. Steve

    I think one thing we might be overlooking here is Belford's concern for his own reputation — and for the relationships he considers most important to preserving it. I think Belford didn't step in earlier because he still identified as a rake, and if that's the identity he is choosing to carry around, part of it is working in solidarity with other rakes. I might've misread, but it seems to me the change in Belford's identity comes not from a pity for Clarissa (although that does come later) but from coming to terms with his own mortality at is (father's?) deathbed.

  8. Jessica

    I agree with Megan that Clarissa has arrived at a state of unchanged feelings for Lovelace. It seems that Clarissa's and Lovelace's feelings for each other, while opposed, both seem static. This is consistent with how Clarissa sees herself…she is steadfast and uncompromising about “right” and “wrong,” while Lovelace follows desire as his compass.

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