Anna’s farewell to Clarissa’s body (L502)

I think you told me, Sir, you never saw Miss Howe. She is a fine, graceful young lady. A fixed melancholy on her whole aspect, overclouded a vivacity and fire, which, nevertheless, darted now-and-then through the awful gloom. I shall ever respect her for her love to my dear cousin.
Never did I think, said she, as she gave me her hand, to enter more these doors: but, living or dead, Clarissa brings me after her anywhere!
She entered with me the little parlour; and seeing the coffin, withdrew her hand from mine, and with impatience pushed aside the lid. As impatiently she removed the face-cloth. In a wild air, she clasped her uplifted hands together; and now looked upon the corpse, now up to Heaven, as if appealing to that. Her bosom heaved and fluttered discernible through her handkerchief, and at last she broke silence:—O Sir!—See you not here!—the glory of her sex?—Thus by the most villanous of yours—thus—laid low!
O my blessed Friend!—said she—My sweet Companion!—My lovely Monitress! —kissing her lips at every tender appellation. And is this all!—Is it all of my CLARISSA’S story!
Then, after a short pause, and a profound sigh, she turned to me, and then to her breathless friend. But is she, can she be, really dead!—O no!—She only sleeps.—Awake, my beloved Friend! My sweet clay-cold Friend, awake: let thy Anna Howe revive thee; by her warm breath revive thee, my dear creature! And, kissing her again, Let my warm lips animate thy cold ones!
Then, sighing again, as from the bottom of her heart, and with an air, as if disappointed that she answered not, And can such perfection end thus! —And art thou really and indeed flown from thine Anna Howe!—O my unkind CLARISSA!
She was silent a few moments, and then, seeming to recover herself, she turned to me—Forgive, forgive, Mr. Morden, this wild phrensy!—I am not myself!—I never shall be!—You knew not the excellence, no, not half the excellence, that is thus laid low!—Repeating, This cannot, surely, be all of my CLARISSA’S story!
One more kiss, my Angel, my Friend, my ever-to-be-regretted, lost Companion! And let me fly this hated house, which I never loved but for thy sake!—Adieu then, my dearest CLARISSA!—Thou art happy, I doubt not, as thou assuredst me in thy last letter!—O may we meet, and rejoice together, where no villanous Lovelaces, no hard-hearted relations, will ever shock our innocence, or ruffle our felicity!
Again she was silent, unable to go, though seeming to intend it: struggling, as it were, with her grief, and heaving with anguish. At last, happily, a flood of tears gushed from her eyes—Now!—Now!—said she, shall I—shall I—be easier. But for this kindly relief, my heart would have burst asunder—more, many more tears than these are due to my CLARISSA, whose counsel has done for me what mine could not do for her!— But why, looking earnestly upon her, her hands clasped and lifted up—But why do I thus lament the HAPPY? And that thou art so, is my comfort. It is, it is, my dear creature! kissing her again.
Excuse me, Sir, [turning to me, who was as much moved as herself,] I loved the dear creature, as never woman loved another. Excuse my frantic grief. How has the glory of her sex fallen a victim to villany and to hard-heartedness!
Madam, said I, they all have it!—Now indeed they have it—
And let them have it;—I should belie my love for the friend of my heart, were I to pity them!—But how unhappy am I [looking upon her] that I saw her not before these eyes were shut, before these lips were for ever closed!—O Sir, you know not the wisdom that continually flowed from these lips when she spoke!—Nor what a friend I have lost!
Then surveying the lid, she seemed to take in at once the meaning of the emblems; and this gave her so much fresh grief, that though she several times wipes her eyes, she was unable to read the inscription and texts; turning, therefore, to me, Favour me, Sir, I pray you, by a line, with the description of these emblems, and with these texts; and if I might be allowed a lock of the dear creature’s hair——
I told her that her executor would order both; and would also send her a copy of her last will; in which she would find the most grateful remembrances of her love for her, whom she calls the sister of her heart.
Justly, said she, does she call me so; for we had but one heart, but one soul, between us; and now my better half is torn from me—What shall I do?
And here I will put an end to this letter, for indeed, Sir, the very recollection of this affecting scene has left me nearly as unable to proceed…

7 thoughts on “Anna’s farewell to Clarissa’s body (L502)

  1. Rachel Gramer

    We see the same sense of possessiveness here from Anna that we do from Lovelace–with entirely different connotations, of course. And overwhelming emotions from both Anna and Morden (again, sensibilities).

    I was most struck by Anna's lamentation–twice, both in caps–that this cannot “be all of my CLARISSA'S story.” What did you think of this direct mention to Clarissa's life as story, as Richardson is continuing to construct the narrative fallout from her death?

    Clearly, this isn't the conclusion Anna was hoping for. But how is what Anna sees as lack–asking, “is this it?”–more than that for Richardson? And for us as readers?

  2. Megan

    Although I didn't think of it at the time, I think Anna could be acting as a proxy for the audience at this time. We've talked a good deal about how readers wanted Lovelace to turn away from his problematic nature and love Clarissa properly. This was the more expected outcome, and I'm sure many people were wondering how it is that THIS could be the end of Clarissa's story.

    In addition, I can't help but think about our conversation last week regarding everyone's emotions surrounding Clarissa's death. Anna is also acting as a proxy in this. She is the only one who really treated Clarissa well throughout the entire story. She knows Clarissa just as well as we do. We see Lovelace, Belford, her family, and others all grieving Clarissa, but it is Anna who knows the same Clarissa who the readers know, and it is her grief that is most similar to the readers.

  3. Kendra

    So, I hate to admit that I was only marginally moved by all the sadness of the last volume. But this letter actually moved me to tears and I had to come back to it after I had stopped sobbing. This letter really struck a personal note with me but I digress. We see how dearly Anna loved Clarissa and it was heartbreaking to see her actions as witnessed/filtered through Morden. I think the direct mention of Clarissa's life as a story was sort of odd to say, as if Anna, like everyone else, had placed Clarissa on some sort of pedestal. But I suppose that mentioning of her life as a story also pointed out the didactic possibilities that could come out of reading about Clarissa's life.

    I agree with everything that Megan said, especially the idea that “it is Anna who knows the same Clarissa who the readers know.” Like Anna, the readers read and followed the ups and downs that Clarissa experienced. For “this” to be all there is to Clarissa's story is really quite tragic although very poignant. Clarissa suffered here on earth, but gets to be happy and free from pain and a ruined reputation in heaven. To me, the “is this it?” also seems to be a warning of sorts, a reminder to the readers that life is not a fairy tale and getting involved with a rake can only end in ruin.

  4. Debra

    I think there is something very powerful about Clarissa's dead body (the eyes closed, the mouth closed). The body seems, in part at least, the referent of “this.” Her story (as a living person) ends in this body. Although the text pushes us to assume Clarissa will somehow survive into heaven (as some version of herself), “this,” a corpse, is all that is left for those of us who knew her (as Anna did directly or as we did vicariously) in “life.”

  5. Meghan Hancock

    Megan, I think the idea of Anna acting as a proxy for readers makes a lot of sense here as well, and I think it's also an important scene in thinking about how Anna and Clarissa have shaped each other's narratives through out the novel.

    Anna mentions Clarissa as her “better half” and that they had “but one heart, but one soul, between [them].” We really get a sense of the intense connection between Anna and Clarissa here. In a way, Anna feels that she and Clarissa are two halves of the same person–anticipating each other's thoughts, writing to each other at every opportunity, and waiting to make decisions before consulting each other. Clarissa rarely acts without Anna's go-ahead, and Anna similarly asks Clarissa's advice. This might partially explain Anna's feeling of paralysis upon Clarissa's death. Anna laments that she is “not [herself]” and that she “never shall be!” and cries out, “What shall I do?”

    I think Anna's comments about her intense connection with Clarissa here also speak to the discussions we've had in class before about the possibility of Anna representing Clarissa's unconscious (I can't remember who brought that up).

  6. Jessica

    This letter just wrecked me as a reader. Almost the whole book I've been waiting on the scene I knew was coming, where Anna sees Clarissa's body. More than the scene of Clarissa's death, I dreaded this.

    The repetition Rachel points us to – this cannot “be all of my CLARISSA'S story” – struck me in a couple ways. I'm with Anna here, grieving over Clarissa's death. On top of this, there's probably nothing more appropriate at that moment than to call Clarissa's life a story. It reminds us of the narrative (the story of Clarissa, Lovelace, and the bad things that happen in this novel), but also of the exhaustive exercise that Clarissa joyfully undertook in composing her own narrative (and identity). That's over with her death.

    I also think Rachel's right that where Anna and others see “lack,” Richardson sees something else (it's a “something” at least). I don't think Richardson insensitively ends Clarissa's life to make a point about rakes. A point about rakes does need to be made, but perhaps weirdly, I wonder if Richardson really wanted to see what happens to the family and acquaintances in the aftermath of a woman's death. Clarissa's family has been torn apart. What happens to them? How do they respond? Lovelace is a wreck. What happens to him? I can imagine these as questions Richardson might have been wondering, purely from the standpoint of a storyteller who explores relationships, identity, and letter writing.

  7. anthony o'keeffe

    So many fine comments here that there's little to add–except that I was tremendously moved by this letter as well. We have all been waiting for Anna to appear once Clarissa is dead–after all, she's been our proxy on so many occasions. But it's simply marvelous how–in a novel filled with utterance, fueled by utterance–Richardson has the ability to wring our hearts with Anna's completely human and expressive words of grief.

Comments are closed.