Lovelace is Approached by Hickman (L346)

Just returned from an interview with this Hickman: a precise fop of a fellow, as starched as his ruffles.
Thou knowest I love him not, Jack; and whom we love not we cannot allow a merit to! perhaps not the merit they should be granted. However, I am in earnest, when I say, that he seems to me to be so set, so prim, so affected, so mincing, yet so clouterly in his person, that I dare engage for thy opinion, if thou dost justice to him, and to thyself, that thou never beheldest such another, except in a pier-glass. . . .
Well, Mr. Hickman, I must interrupt you at this place. In what I wrote to Miss Howe, I distinguished the word KNOW. I had a reason for it. Miss Howe has been very free with my character. I have never done her any harm. I take it very ill of her. And I hope, Sir, you come in her name to make excuses for it.
Miss Howe, Sir, is a very polite young lady. She is not accustomed to treat any man’s character unbecomingly.
Then I have the more reason to take it amiss, Mr. Hickman.
Why, Sir, you know the friendship—
No friendship should warrant such freedoms as Miss Howe has taken with my character. . . .
Even as you make it, Mr. Lovelace, this matter is not a light one. But I fear it is a great deal heavier than as you put it.
What reasons have you to fear this, Sir? What has the lady said? Pray let me know. I have reason to be so earnest.
Why, Sir, Miss Howe herself knows not the whole. The lady promises to give her all the particulars at a proper time, if she lives; but has said enough to make it out to be a very bad affair.
I am glad Miss Harlowe has not yet given all the particulars. And, since she has not, you may tell Miss Howe from me, that neither she, nor any woman in the world can be more virtuous than Miss Harlowe is to this hour, as to her own mind. Tell her, that I hope she never will know the particulars; but that she has been unworthily used: tell her, that though I know not what she has said, yet I have such an opinion of her veracity, that I would blindly subscribe to the truth of every tittle of it, though it make me ever so black. Tell her, that I have but three things to blame her for; one, that she won’t give me an opportunity of repairing her wrongs: the second, that she is so ready to acquaint every body with what she has suffered, that it will put it out of my power to redress those wrongs, with any tolerable reputation to either of us. Will this, Mr. Hickman, answer any part of the intention of this visit?

8 thoughts on “Lovelace is Approached by Hickman (L346)

  1. Megan

    I feel like I just can't quite nail down what it is Lovelace thinks about himself. He has shown some regret for what he did to Clarissa, but in this interaction with Hickman, he is more perturbed by Anna's descriptions of him than anything else. What do you guys think?

  2. Kendra

    How much of the regret that Lovelace has shown can be considered genuine? Last class we mentioned that Lovelace knows he has an audience in Belford. Paired with his love and flair for the dramatic, I don't think he really knows what to think of himself other than as being more important than everyone else. Lovelace certainly loves himself and if he does feel regret, it's only momentary because the only other thing that he seems to love is avenging slights to his character (real or imagined). Also, I felt a bit bad for Hickman in this letter. He's mocked by Lovelace for being so formal and Lovelace says things to him to just to see his reactions. The most interesting part of this letter was when Lovelace tells Hickman Clarissa has another suitor — Death. Lovelace even goes so far as to claim that it is Clarissa who is wooing Death. He manipulates Hickman's reactions just as he manipulates everything and everyone else he comes into contact with. It appears that Lovelace even manipulates his own feelings.

  3. Rachel Gramer

    As much as Lovelace seems to declare regret for Clarissa, or desire to repair the broken trust, I think he is very good at compartmentalizing. When he is alone, in his room, writing to Belford, he can choose what he wants to say, which part of his experience he wants to attend to–which of course is why writing works so well for him. But I think he can do it in person, too; when he meets with Hickman, I don't see him thinking about Clarissa at all really.

    Instead, he seems to want to: 1) continue to build an arsenal of Anna's abuse, 2) take a few shots at Anna and Clarissa as women, 3) put Hickman in his place big time, and 4) shock Hickman with his manners or lack thereof while, at the same time, offering up a version of his side of things to counter Clarissa's.

    When Lovelace writes, “I believe he began to wish he had not come near me,” I thought this was probably true for a lot of people Lovelace met. Because he then has the audacity to suggest that Clarissa was “asleep” (establishing a counter-narrative to her drug-induced assertion).

    And then Lovelace gives “the List” of things he blames Clarissa for, even numbering them. Three! 1) she won't accept his apology; 2) she keeps telling people what he already confessed he did to her and says is true, if she says it is; and 3) she is love with…DEATH. Really?! (Although actually, his drawing out of this last one was funny–especially watching Hickman try to think of as many reasons as possible for why Clarissa wouldn't be in love with anyone else, especially someone as ugly as Lovelace was describing, and Hickman can only say that Clarissa wouldn't be in love with a “Jew, or miserly citizen…[or] Some East-India governor.” Yikes.)

  4. Keri Mathis

    I thought this interaction with Hickman was interesting, too – if nothing else, it serves to show how different Anna and Clarissa’s suitors truly are. In one part of the letter, Hickman explains that he believes women, above anyone else, deserve to be told the truth (oh, how different Lovelace and Hickman are!).

    Like Kendra and Rachel, I noticed that Lovelace was attempting to put Hickman in his place, but I was particularly impressed by Hickman’s willingness to point out to Lovelace that he was not truly doing justice to the matter when Lovelace tries once again to compare Clarissa’s drug-induced state to other women falling into similar situations after drinking alcohol when they find themselves thirsty “after a fatigue in this very warm weather” (!!!). Hickman responds to this ludicrous comparison saying, “Even as you make it, Mr. Lovelace, this matter is not a light one. But I fear it is a great deal heavier than as you put it.” While Lovelace portrays Hickman as an idiot throughout most of letter, Hickman does make several comments throughout the letter that put _Lovelace_ in his place.

  5. anthony o'keeffe

    Hickman certainly gains some ground with us in this exchange–both for approaching Lovelace and for being strong in his reactions to and judgment of him. As Kendra points out, there's no love lost between Lovelace and Lovelace–how could the “rakiest rake” not be so taken with himself? And let me add an echoing “Yikes!” to all that Rachel said to provoke that final word.
    Keri–for me–quotes one of the most unsettling and awful moments in their conversation–basely comparing his drugging of Clarissa with a fatigued woman drinking a bit intemperately. And he follows this with his usual defense: is Clarissa “the only lady that was ever taken at such advantage?” Ugh.

  6. Megan

    I wonder how much his ability to manipulate his own feelings gets back to that idea that Lovelace has no interiority, no innate central self?

  7. Megan

    I think the passage Tony and Keri mentioned was one where I, as I have many times before, became even more frustrated with contemporary conversations about men and women and rape that echo these EXACT eighteenth-century ideas. Good thing we've come soooo far.

    But back to Clarissa – You guys bring up several good points about Lovelace. He really seems to be the epitome of a character who does whatever is necessary to the story at the time, BUT it works for him. I get really frustrated when this type of character is portrayed on television, because it generally shows a lack of understanding of the character by the writer. However, I think Lovelace was set up in this fashion to be a master manipulator and actor, able to fit himself in perfectly in so many different situations. In addition, he becomes less interested in Clarissa in order to prove a few points to Hickman, especially about Anna. How quickly he forgets the woman this is all supposed to be about! He continues not to grasp the heavy implications of his actions even as he maintains his guilt and regret. How can he expect forgiveness when he is joking about Clarissa's impending death?

  8. Steve

    I'd like to follow up on Megan's thoughts about Lovelace's irritation at Anna's “freedoms” with his character, and add to Kendra's thoughts about Belford as Lovelace's audience. Early on in our discussion of the novel, we talked a bit about Clarissa's concern for her reputation. I seem to remember that we discussed how, although Clarissa is adept at constructing herself through her writing (and, as it turns out, the whole novel has become a device, in a way, to preserve Clarissa's reputation posthumously) other's narrative constructions of her are a powerful force in shaping her life. Her parents' decision, for instance, to see her as stubborn and “perverse” despite her best written efforts shapes what happens to her for the rest of the novel.

    Here's why I think this is important for Lovelace: Lovelace likes to pretend he doesn't care what other people think. When he writes to Belford about how he eschews conventional morals because they don't make sense, or when he flaunts his bad behavior at the party with Anna, he's arguing that his reputation as a rake is deserved and that he doesn't care to change it. Except he does. His reputation has real effects on the shape of events in his life. Not that he seems willing to change his behavior or admit to experiencing shame, but his reputation does make it harder for him to manipulate people. He's always having to work around it. He's very, very good at working around it, but nevertheless I think part of his irritation with Anna is an acknowledgment, on some level, that she's making it harder for him to go around being the “rakiest rake.” The more she talks, the more his reputation suffers, and the more work he has to do to overcome it in encounters where it suits him to do so.

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