Clarissa’s last letter to Lovelace (L510)

I told you, in the letter I wrote to you on Tuesday last, that you should have another sent you when I had got into my father’s house.
I presume to say, that I am now, at your receiving of this, arrived there; and I invite you to follow me, as soon as you are prepared for so great a journey.
Not to allegorize farther—my fate is now, at your perusal of this, accomplished. My doom is unalterably fixed; and I am either a miserable or happy being to all eternity. If happy, I owe it solely to the Divine mercy; if miserable, to your undeserved cruelty.—And consider not, for your own sake, gay, cruel, fluttering, unhappy man! consider, whether the barbarous and perfidious treatment I have met with from you was worthy the hazard of your immortal soul…
In time then, once more, I wish you to consider your ways. Your golden dream cannot long last. Your present course can yield you pleasure no longer than you can keep off thought or reflection. A hardened insensibility is the only foundation on which your inward tranquillity is built…
Reflect, Sir, that I can have no other motive, in what I write, than your good, and the safety of other innocent creatures, who may be drawn in by your wicked arts and perjuries. You have not, in my wishes for future welfare, the wishes of a suppliant wife, endeavouring for her own sake, as well as for yours, to induce you to reform those ways. They are wholly as disinterested as undeserved. But I should mistrust my own penitence, were I capable of wishing to recompense evil for evil—if, black as your offences have been against me, I could not forgive, as I wish to be forgiven.
I repeat, therefore, that I do forgive you. And may the Almighty forgive you too! Nor have I, at the writing of this, any other essential regrets than what are occasioned by the grief I have given to parents, who, till I knew you, were the most indulgent of parents; by the scandal given to the other branches of my family; by the disreputation brought upon my sex; and by the offence given to virtue in my fall.
As to myself, you have only robbed me of what once were my favourite expectations in the transient life I shall have quitted when you receive this. You have only been the cause that I have been cut off in the bloom of youth, and of curtailing a life that might have been agreeable to myself, or otherwise, as had reason to be thankful for being taken away from the evil of supporting my part of a yoke with a man so unhappy; I will only say, that, in all probability, every hour I had lived with him might have brought with it some new trouble. And I am (indeed through sharp afflictions and distresses) indebted to you, secondarily, as I humbly presume to hope, for so many years of glory, as might have proved years of danger, temptation, and anguish, had they been added to my mortal life.
So, Sir, though no thanks to your intention, you have done me real service; and, in return, I wish you happy. But such has been your life hitherto, that you can have no time to lose in setting about your repentance. Repentance to such as have lived only carelessly, and in the omission of their regular duties, and who never aimed to draw any poor creatures into evil, is not so easy a task, nor so much in our own power, as some imagine. How difficult a grace then to be obtained, where the guilt is premeditated, wilful, and complicated!
To say I once respected you with a preference, is what I ought to blush to own, since, at the very time, I was far from thinking you even a mortal man; though I little thought that you, or indeed any man breathing, could be—what you have proved yourself to be. But, indeed, Sir, I have long been greatly above you; for from my heart I have despised you, and all your ways, ever since I saw what manner of man you were.
Nor is it to be wondered that I should be able so to do, when that preference was not grounded on ignoble motives. For I was weak enough, and presumptuous enough, to hope to be a mean, in the hand of Providence, to reclaim a man whom I thought worthy of the attempt.
Nor have I yet, as you will see by the pains I take, on this solemn occasion, to awaken you out of your sensual dream, given over all hopes of this nature.
Hear me, therefore, O Lovelace! as one speaking from the dead.—Lose no time—set about your repentance instantly—be no longer the instrument of Satan, to draw poor souls into those subtile snares, which at last shall entangle your own feet. Seek not to multiply your offences till they become beyond the power, as I may say, of the Divine mercy to forgive; since justice, no less than mercy, is an attribute of the Almighty.
…may you be enabled to escape the fate denounced against the abandoned man, and be entitled to the mercies of a long suffering and gracious God, is the sincere prayer of

7 thoughts on “Clarissa’s last letter to Lovelace (L510)

  1. Rachel Gramer

    In Clarissa's last letter to Lovelace, we see many themes we've discussed throughout the novel: Providence, repentance, and of course forgiveness.

    What do you think of Clarissa's last letter to Lovelace? Does it ring true to her character and his? Or does it, too, ascend to the level of didacticism? Or both?

  2. Megan

    I think in many ways it does ring true to Clarissa. I liked that toward the beginning of the letter, she writes, “If happy, I owe it solely to the Divine mercy: if miserable, to your undeserved cruelty.” I appreciate that Richardson doesn't have her pulling any punches when writing to Lovelace. Yes, she forgives him, and she prays that God will forgive him, but she definitely holds him responsible for her fate. I think this letter shows several sides of Clarissa, in the best way possible. We see some of her wit and strength in the beginning part when she writes about her impending death, but she is very kind and forgiving later on.

  3. Debra

    And it cuts to his soul. He constantly re-reads her will and her last letter. I believe at the end Lovelace does understand what he did, and her letter is one of the things that virtually drives him to suicide (the duel with Morden).

  4. Keri Mathis

    While I was reading this letter, I couldn't help but think of our discussions of what Lovelace is “missing.” I still don't really know what Lovelace's “blank space” is, but for Clarissa, it seems to be that Lovelace lacks religion and the compulsion to repent.

  5. Steve

    There is a lot of Clarissa here; I can't think of another character who is capable of this kind of intense self-awareness. When she owns that she was “weak enough” and “presumptuous enough” to believe it possible she might be an instrument of providence, she is artfully walking a very, very thin line between victim blaming and surrendering agency entirely in a way that I think only “a Clarissa” can.

  6. Jessica

    Her letter is generous – this is the mindset she put herself in before death. She emphasizes what he did to her: “As to myself, you have only robbed me of what once were my favourite expectations in the transient life I shall have quitted when you receive this.” Yet she emphasizes that she forgives him, which is simultaneously admirable and upsetting. But what would hatred even do for her at this point? This is where I see the Clarissa whom everyone believes is an “angel,” some perfect being who seems unreal. What *would* it take to forgive someone who made you suffer and ultimately robbed you of your life? It's an astounding gesture, one I can hardly comprehend.

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