Lovelace Hopes Clarissa is Pregnant (L371)

But now I have cleared myself of any intentional levity on occasion of my beloved’s meditation; which, as you observe, is finely suited to her case, (that is to say, as she and you have drawn her case;) I cannot help expressing my pleasure, that by one or two verses of it, [the arrow, Jack, and what she feared being come upon her!] I am encouraged to hope, what it will be very surprising to me if it do not happen: that is, in plain English, that the dear creature is in the way to be a mamma.
This cursed arrest, because of the ill effects the terror might have had upon her, in that hoped-for circumstance, has concerned me more than on any other account. It would be the pride of my life to prove, in this charming frost-piece, the triumph of Nature over principle, and to have a young Lovelace by such an angel: and then, for its sake, I am confident she will live, and will legitimate it. And what a meritorious little cherub would it be, that should lay an obligation upon both parents before it was born, which neither of them would be able to repay!—Could I be sure it is so, I should be out of all pain for her recovery: pain, I say; since, were she to die—[die! abominable word! how I hate it!] I verily think I should be the most miserable man in the world.

7 thoughts on “Lovelace Hopes Clarissa is Pregnant (L371)

  1. Megan

    Even as Lovelace shows excitement about the prospect of Clarissa being with child, he reflects little on the child itself or on his possible fatherhood. What does this say about both his feelings for Clarissa and his identity? Why does he seem to ignore how these changes could affect his life outside of his “love” for Clarissa?

  2. Kendra

    I think it's telling that Lovelace tells Belford that were Clarissa pregnant it “would be the pride of [his] life to prove […] the triumph of Nature over principle.” As has been discussed, it's not really a rape if she gets pregnant, after all for Lovelace no doesn't mean no. Her principles cannot fight Nature. The child would be a product of Clarissa, who he only sees as a “creature” and “angel.” He even refers to the child as “it” and a “cherub.” Lovelace's feelings for Clarissa are still obsessive and she appears to be nothing more than a “thing” that might produce another “thing” for him — a testament and reminder that he conquered the virtuous Clarissa and that she is still a woman, despite being unlike the other women he's known. He even talks about how he would be miserable should Clarissa die, and he sounds more like a petulant child who might lose their favorite toy. I think this is also a large part of why he ignores how those changes would affect his life. The child would link him to Clarissa and leave her no choice but to be wed to Lovelace. The child would be nothing more than another pawn in his plans to keep and dominate Clarissa. Lovelace will do whatever he wants to do, child or no child.

  3. Rachel Gramer

    I think Lovelace would, in time, realize what he could use the child for, as Kendra mentioned, as another pawn to move around in his game of trying to make life a more interesting adventure. But I think, in the end, he probably would reflect as little on the actual child as he does on the actual Clarissa. His “love” for them both would always have the same thing at the center: his own self-interest.

    But I do think he would find ways to transform his child into a fetishized object in the same way that he has to “a Clarissa Harlowe.” But I don't think even Lovelace could imagine how this would actually change his life because, ultimately, he has a rather small…imagination. He can plot–yes–but his contrivances are limited in both their scope and intent, consisting of mostly disguises and ruses with whores and rakes to convince innocent young women to trust him until he can conquer them.

    Perhaps that's why he's so resistant to the idea of a settled down life with a wife and children, as a patriarch in the family rather than the rake to be harnessed by that patriarch. It's a different role, unfamiliar challenge, something he's not already mastered. Plus, it just sounds more boring by comparison.

  4. Debra

    “It would be the pride of my life to prove, in this charming frost-piece, the triumph of Nature over principle, and to have a young Lovelace by such an :.” So interesting that childbirth is Natural and sexual fidelity is only (a?) principle. I don't think he plans to be a real father (even if he were an 18C hero, he probably wouldn't be involved in hands-on childcare). But there are so many reasons to want a child: to secure the patriarchy,AND to have the ultimate advantage over Clarissa.

  5. Keri Mathis

    I think what Debra noted is key here – that the child will allow him to regain his control over Clarissa. I think Clarissa realizes this, too, when in Letter 359, she writes:

    …and then, supposing I were to have children by such a husband, must it not, think you, cut a thoughtful person to the heart; to look round upon her little family, and think she had given them a father destined, without a miracle, to perdition; and whose immoralities, propagated among them by his vile example, might, too probably, bring down a curse upon them? And, after all, who knows but that my own sinful compliances with a man, who might think himself entitled to my obedience, might taint my own morals, and make me, instead of a reformer, an imitator of him?—For who can touch pitch, and not be defiled?

    In this letter, Clarissa demonstrates her fear that her children will become “little Lovelaces” and that her own morals, because she is their mother, might actually become tainted. In other words, becoming the mother of his children would lead to her ultimate defilement.

    Lovelace picks up on this notion (with much more excitement than Clarissa) in the excerpt included here when he exclaims, “…and then, for its sake, I am confident she will live, and will legitimate it. And what a meritorious little cherub would it be, that should lay an obligation upon both parents before it was born, which neither of them would be able to repay!” Here, he claims that they will both be obligated to the child even before he/she is born. Clarissa will be obligated to care for the “little cherub” because he/she is her child, and Lovelace will be obligated to him/her because the child offers him the desired control over Clarissa that he had no hope of regaining beforehand. Like many of you mentioned, Lovelace is not necessarily concerned with being a father; instead, he is fascinated by what the child represents – the ultimate reclaiming of his subject, Clarissa.

  6. Megan

    It also seems by this point that Lovelace has become more aware of the strong possibility of Clarissa's death, and he feels that it is a child that would save her from this fate. For if she became pregnant, she would have a reason to live…or something? We again see Lovelace's complete misunderstanding of Clarissa as evidenced by the excerpts Keri pointed to.

    For him, this is all a game. He believes a child could be another player on his side in the fight to overpower Clarissa.

    Good work, guys!

  7. Steve

    I'm in full agreement that Lovelace sees a child as a way to further control Clarissa, to tie her to him, or tie her to life. I'm not as confident as Lovelace is that Clarissa would consent to “legitimate” the hypothetical child when it's born. Is it reasonable to expect that she, after all this, would marry him in order to avoid having a baby out of wedlock? She's clearly willing to publicly discuss the loss of her honor, and to live the rest of her life single, whatever the consequences. Would adding a baby necessarily change that for her? I think there's an interesting possibility here to consider the depth of Clarissa's resolve not to have Lovelace. Nothing in her letters so far gives me room to think that she might marry him in any circumstance.

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