Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Body and Mind

I have been interested, in the course of my reading, how often Clarissa--and other characters for that matter--refer to the relationship between mind and body.

When referring to the scathing letter from Arabella, Clarissa tells Anna:
"I think is has touched my head as well as my heart." (512)

Clarissa seems to credit something greatly when it touches both intellectual and emotional chords. As to Lovelace, she chides:

"For pride, as I believe I have heretofore observed, is an infallible sign of weakness; of something wrong in the head or heart" (561)

Clarissa asserts: "that a fine person is seldom paired by a fine mind" (601)

There is a disconnect, then, between mind and body, and yet a togetherness of the two entities that creates a sublime harmony. Clarissa bemoans the absence of a sound mind in the agreeable "person" or body/appearance of Lovelace, suggesting that one often appears without the other (ie, a beautiful person with little intellect or integrity, or an ingenious person with little physical appeal).

Belford: "For why, in short, should not the work of bodies be left to mere bodies"?

This quote really interested me. Belford is persuading Lovelace not to constrict Clarissa to the chains of motherhood and domesticity. Because she is of sound mind and wit, he believes her body should be kept in tact. The use of the phrase "mere bodies" suggests that manual work is below the work of the mind, and thus childbirth is ignoble and base.

Lovelace: "Oh Belford! she is a lion-hearted lady...Yet her charming body is not equally organized...But had the same soul informed a masculine body, never would there have been a truer hero." (647)

This is a very strange sentiment of the part of Lovelace toward Clarissa. It seems that he is both praising her and wishing her more masculine. Her temperament, he seems to think, is ill-suited to her body. It seems her "charming body" cannot contain the wrath that he inspires within it.

I would think that discussion of the body was taboo in 18th century aristocratic circles. Particularly the bodies of women were most likely not spoken about, but rather ignored in the light of common decency. It intrigues me to hear Clarissa use the word "body," even in a non-sexual sense in regular writing, and to use it in a dichotomoy with "mind."

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