Tag Archives: VI

Lovelace’s reaction to Clarissa’s letter on the rape (L261B)

I will not bear thy heavy preachments, Belford, upon this affecting letter. So, not a word of that sort! The paper, thou’lt see, is blistered with the tears even of the hardened transcriber; which has made her ink run here and there.
Mrs. Sinclair is a true heroine, and, I think, shames us all. And she is a woman too! Thou’lt say, the beset things corrupted become the worst. But this is certain, that whatever the sex set their hearts upon, they make thorough work of it. And hence it is, that a mischief which would end in simple robbery among men rogues, becomes murder, if a woman be in it.
I know thou wilt blame me for having had recourse to art. But do not physicians prescribe opiates in acute cases, where the violence of the disorder would be apt to throw the patient into a fever or delirium? I aver, that my motive for this expedient was mercy; nor could it be any thing else. For a rape, thou knowest, to us rakes, is far from being an undesirable thing. Nothing but the law stands in our way, upon that account; and the opinion of what a modest woman will suffer rather than become a viva voce accuser, lessens much an honest fellow’s apprehensions on that score. Then, if these somnivolencies [I hate the word opiates on this occasion,] have turned her head, that is an effect they frequently have upon some constitutions; and in this case was rather the fault of the dose than the design of the giver.
But is not wine itself an opiate in degree?—How many women have been taken advantage of by wine, and other still more intoxicating viands?— Let me tell thee, Jack, that the experience of many of the passive sex, and the consciences of many more of the active, appealed to, will testify that thy Lovelace is not the worst of villains. Nor would I have thee put me upon clearing myself by comparisons.
If she escape a settled delirium when my plots unravel, I think it is all I ought to be concerned about. What therefore I desire of thee, is, that, if two constructions may be made of my actions, thou wilt afford me the most favourable. For this, not only friendship, but my own ingenuousness, which has furnished thee with the knowledge of the facts against which thou art so ready to inveigh, require of thee.

Clarissa’s “Mad Letters” (L261)

PAPER I (Torn in two pieces.)


O what dreadful, dreadful things have I to tell you! But yet I cannot tell you neither. But say, are you really ill, as a vile, vile creature informs me you are?
But he never yet told me truth, and I hope has not in this: and yet, if it were not true, surely I should have heard from you before now!—But what have I to do to upbraid?—You may well be tired of me!—And if you are, I can forgive you; for I am tired of myself: and all my own relations were tired of me long before you were.
How good you have always been to me, mine own dear Anna Howe!—But how I ramble!
I sat down to say a great deal—my heart was full—I did not know what to say first—and thought, and grief, and confusion, and (O my poor head) I cannot tell what—and thought, and grief and confusion, came crowding so thick upon me; one would be first; another would be first; all would be first; so I can write nothing at all.—Only that, whatever they have done to me, I cannot tell; but I am no longer what I was-in any one thing did I say? Yes, but I am; for I am still, and I ever will be,
Your true——
Plague on it! I can write no more of this eloquent nonsense myself; which rather shows a raised, than a quenched, imagination: but Dorcas shall transcribe the others in separate papers, as written by the whimsical charmer: and some time hence when all is over, and I can better bear to read them, I may ask thee for a sight of them. Preserve them, therefore; for we often look back with pleasure even upon the heaviest griefs, when the cause of them is removed.

PAPER II (Scratch’d through, and thrown under the table.)

—And can you, my dear, honoured Papa, resolve for ever to reprobate your poor child?—But I am sure you would not, if you knew what she has suffered since her unhappy—And will nobody plead for your poor suffering girl?—No one good body?—Why then, dearest Sir, let it be an act of your own innate goodness, which I have so much experienced, and so much abused. I don’t presume to think you should receive me—No, indeed!—My name is—I don’t know what my name is!—I never dare to wish to come into your family again!—But your heavy curse, my Papa—Yes, I will call you Papa, and help yourself as you can—for you are my own dear Papa, whether you will or not—and though I am an unworthy child—yet I am your child—


A Lady took a great fancy to a young lion, or a bear, I forget which—but a bear, or a tiger, I believe it was. It was made her a present of when a whelp. She fed it with her own hand: she nursed up the wicked cub with great tenderness; and would play with it without fear or apprehension of danger: and it was obedient to all her commands: and its tameness, as she used to boast, increased with its growth; so that, like a lap-dog, it would follow her all over the house. But mind what followed: at last, some how, neglecting to satisfy its hungry maw, or having otherwise disobliged it on some occasion, it resumed its nature; and on a sudden fell upon her, and tore her in pieces.—And who was most to blame, I pray? The brute, or the lady? The lady, surely!— For what she did was out of nature, out of character, at least: what it did was in its own nature. Continue reading

Lovelace answers Belford on the rape (L259)

Let me alone, you great dog, you!—let me alone!—have I heard a lesser boy, his coward arms held over his head and face, say to a bigger, who was pommeling him, for having run away with his apple, his orange, or his ginger-bread.
So say I to thee, on occasion of thy severity to thy poor friend, who, as thou ownest, has furnished thee (ungenerous as thou art!) with the weapons thou brandishest so fearfully against him.—And to what purpose, when the mischief is done? when, of consequence, the affair is irretrievable? and when a CLARISSA could not move me?
Well, but, after all, I must own, that there is something very singular in this lady’s case: and, at times, I cannot help regretting that ever I attempted her; since not one power either of body or soul could be moved in my favour; and since, to use the expression of the philosopher, on a much graver occasion, there is no difference to be found between the skull of King Philip and that of another man.
But people’s extravagant notions of things alter not facts, Belford: and, when all’s done, Miss Clarissa Harlowe has but run the fate of a thousand others of her sex—only that they did not set such a romantic value upon what they call their honour; that’s all.

Lovelace on the verge of rape (L256)

In short, we are here, as at Hampstead, all joy and rapture—all of us except my beloved; in whose sweet face, [her almost fainting reluctance to re-enter these doors not overcome,] reigns a kind of anxious serenity! —But how will even that be changed in a few hours!
Methinks I begin to pity the half-apprehensive beauty!—But avaunt, thou unseasonably-intruding pity! Thou hast more than once already well nigh undone me! And, adieu, reflection! Begone, consideration! and commiseration! I dismiss ye all, for at least a week to come!—But remembered her broken word! Her flight, when my fond soul was meditating mercy to her!—Be remembered her treatment of me in her letter on her escape to Hampstead! Her Hampstead virulence! What is it she ought not to expect from an unchained Beelzebub, and a plotting villain?
Be her preference of the single life to me also remembered!—That she despises me!—That she even refuses to be my WIFE!—A proud Lovelace to be denied a wife!—To be more proudly rejected by a daughter of the Harlowes!—The ladies of my own family, [she thinks them the ladies of my family,] supplicating in vain for her returning favour to their despised kinsman, and taking laws from her still prouder punctilio!
Be the execrations of her vixen friend likewise remembered, poured out upon me from her representations, and thereby made her own execrations!
Be remembered still more particularly the Townsend plot, set on foot between them, and now, in a day or two, ready to break out; and the sordid threatening thrown out against me by that little fury!
Is not this the crisis for which I have been long waiting? Shall Tomlinson, shall these women be engaged; shall so many engines be set at work, at an immense expense, with infinite contrivance; and all to no purpose?
Is not this the hour of her trial—and in her, of the trial of the virtue of her whole sex, so long premeditated, so long threatened?—Whether her frost be frost indeed? Whether her virtue be principle? Whether, if once subdued, she will not be always subdued? And will she not want the crown of her glory, the proof of her till now all-surpassing excellence, if I stop short of the ultimate trial?
Now is the end of purposes long over-awed, often suspended, at hand. And need I go throw the sins of her cursed family into the too-weighty scale?
[Abhorred be force!—be the thoughts of force!—There’s no triumph over the will in force!] This I know I have said.* But would I not have avoided it, if I could? Have I not tried every other method? And have I any other resource left me? Can she resent the last outrage more than she has resented a fainter effort?—And if her resentments run ever so high, cannot I repair by matrimony?—She will not refuse me, I know, Jack: the haughty beauty will not refuse me, when her pride of being corporally inviolate is brought down; when she can tell no tales, but when, (be her resistance what it will,) even her own sex will suspect a yielding in resistance; and when that modesty, which may fill her bosom with resentment, will lock up her speech.