Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The list of books at the bottom of p. 525
Smallpox (p. 659)
Private marriages (p. 668 and elsewhere)
Breast-feeding (p. 706)
"internuncioship" (p. 731)
The mechanics of keys, locks and keyholes in this period (p. 739)
Richardson's use of "indices" (p. 743)
"Clocked stockings" (p. 766)
Chancery (p. 784)
"Elopement" - the word and the practice (p. 804)
Tacit consent (p. 845)
"Private vices, public benefits" and Bernard Mandeville's works and reputation (p. 847)
Marriage licenses (p. 871)
Witches and demonology (p. 924)
Monday, March 24, 2008
This is kind of a useless post, but some might find it amusing, I hope. Near the end of Stendhal's autobiography (Chap. 38), The Life of Henry Brulard, Stendhal writes about how he hates Paris, especially its cuisine. He has a pithy explanation for his dislike of the Parisian cuisine: "It was the moral constraint which was killing me." Then he goes on -
He goes on. And incredibly, despite his complaint about going out to "society," it seems that Stendhal actually met the woman after whom Mme de Merteuil of Les Liaisons dangereuses was conceived!
"I had met with society, and then only at long range, only at Mme de Montmaur's, the original of Mme de Merteuil in Les Liaisons dangereuses. She was by then old, rich and lame. Of that I am sure; as for morality, she objected to them giving me only half a crystallized nut when I went to see her in Le Chevallon, she always made them give me a whole one. 'Children take it to heart so," she used to say... This detail about Mme de Montmaur, the original of Mme de Merteuil, is out of place here perhaps, but I wanted to use the anecdote of the crystallized nut to show what I knew of society."
It's bizarre, this anecdote about the crystallized nut. Funny, too. But there's also something tricky & profound in this anecdote of the crystallized nut, in Mme de Montmaur/Mme de Merteuil's insistence on "them" giving Stendhal a whole crystallized nut. I haven't unraveled it yet, but it seems that Stendhal is trying to say something about art & love. How would this apply to Clarissa, or Les Liaisons, if at all? No idea yet. I'm just rambling so far.
But the notion of "crystallization" is a pivotal idea in Stendhal's aesthetics. It first appears in Stendhal's Love, another autobiographical/essayistic book about his unrequited love for a woman named Mathilde Dembowski. In Chapter 2 of Love, Stendhal describes a couple of lovers throwing a twig into the salt mines of Salzburg -
"Two or three months later they pull it out covered with a shining deposit of crystals. The smallest twig, no bigger than a tom-tit's claw, is studded with a galaxy of scintillating diamonds. The original branch is no longer recognizable... What I have called crystallization is a mental process which draws from everything that happens new proofs of the perfection of the loved one."
Simply put: it's seeing your loved one everywhere, in everything. Then through the process, an ordinary person (a twig) becomes perfected in the lover's eyes (as crystals). But Stendhal extends this metaphor into his theories on art & on literature... the process of making art, too, the evocative power of the artist, is a crystallization according to Stendhal. In a weirdly related manner, Sir Thomas Browne's Garden of Cyrus is literally about this process of crystallization: his crystal is the quincunx, a perfect shape which could be found in all animate and inanimate things, which reflects the perfect design of God. In our own times, the late German writer W. G. Sebald would obsess about the crystals (mentions both Browne & Stendhal's crystals) extensively throughout his works.
I'm going to think about this further and see how it relates to Les Liaisons specifically, and maybe to Clarissa, as Stendhal mentions both by name.
How do you crack a crystallized nut? (Sorry for the poor joke.)
Saturday, March 22, 2008
After reading this in political philosophy I re-read it recently and found it was particularly relevant to our discussion of Clarissa's sense of duty to her family. Because Clarissa has such a strong sense of familial duty, I wondered how many women felt compelled to have the same sense of duty to their parents and to what extent. Because Mary Wolstonecraft was an educated female writing during the 18th century I found her words relevant to our discussion. Below you will find the section on parental duty contained in A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Written only 50 years or so after Clarissa
Duty to Parents.
There seems to be an indolent propensity in man to make prescription always take place of reason, and to place every duty on an arbitrary foundation. The rights of kings are deduced in a direct line from the King of kings; and that of parents from our first parent.
Why do we thus go back for principles that should always rest on the same base, and have the same weight to-day that they had a thousand years ago-and not a jot more? If parents discharge their duty they have a strong hold and sacred claim on the gratitude of their children; but few parents are willing to receive the respectful affection of their offspring on such terms. They demand blind obedience, because they do not merit a reasonable service: and to render these demands of weakness and ignorance more binding, a mysterious sanctity is spread round the most arbitrary principle; for what other name can be given to the blind duty of obeying vicious or weak beings merely because they obeyed a powerful instinct?
The simple definition of the reciprocal duty, which naturally subsists between parent and child, may be given in a few words: The parent who pays proper attention to helpless infancy has a right to require the same attention when the feebleness of age comes upon him. But to subjugate a rational being to the mere will of another, after he is of age to answer to society for his own conduct, is a most cruel and undue stretch of power; and, perhaps, as injurious to morality as those religious systems which do not allow right and wrong to have any existence, but in the Divine will.
I never knew a parent who had paid more than common attention to his children, disregarded;62 on the contrary, the early habit of relying almost implicitly on the opinion of a respected parent is not easily shook, even when matured reason convinces the child that his father is not the wisest man in the world. This weakness, for a weakness it is, though the epithet amiable may be tacked to it, a reasonable man must steel himself against; for the absurd duty, too often inculcated, of obeying a parent only on account of his being a parent, shackles the mind, and prepares it for a slavish submission to any power but reason.
I distinguish between the natural and accidental duty due to parents.
The parent who sedulously endeavours to form the heart and enlarge the understanding of his child, has given that dignity to the discharge of a duty, common to the whole animal world, that only reason can give. This is the parental affection of humanity, and leaves instinctive natural affection far behind. Such a parent acquires all the rights of the most sacred friendship, and his advice, even when his child is advanced in life, demands serious consideration.
With respect to marriage, though after one and twenty a parent seems to have no right to withhold his consent on any account; yet twenty years of solicitude call for a return, and the son ought, at least, to promise not to marry for two or three years, should the object of his choice not entirely meet with the approbation of his first friend.
But, respect for parents is, generally speaking, a much more debasing principle; it is only a selfish respect for property. The father who is blindly obeyed, is obeyed from sheer weakness, or from motives that degrade the human character.
A great proportion of the misery that wanders, in hideous forms, around the world, is allowed to rise from the negligence of parents; and still these are the people who are most tenacious of what they term a natural right, though it be subversive of the birth-right of man, the right of acting according to the direction of his own reason.
I have already very frequently had occasion to observe, that vicious or indolent people are always eager to profit by enforcing arbitrary privileges; and, generally, in the same proportion as they neglect the discharge of the duties which alone render the privileges reasonable. This is at the bottom a dictate of common sense, or the instinct of self-defence, peculiar to ignorant weakness; resembling that instinct, which makes a fish muddy the water it swims in to elude its enemy, instead of boldly facing it in the clear stream.
From the clear stream of argument, indeed, the supporters of prescription, of every denomination, fly; and, taking refuge in the darkness, which, in the language of sublime poetry, has been supposed to surround the throne of Omnipotence, they dare to demand that implicit respect which is only due to His unsearchable ways. But, let me not be thought presumptuous, the darkness which bides our God from us, only respects speculative truths-it never obscures moral ones, they shine clearly, for God is light, and never, by the constitution of our nature, requires the discharge of a duty, the reasonableness of which does not beam on us when we open our eyes.
The indolent parent of high rank may, it is true, extort a shew of respect from his child, and females on the continent are particularly subject to the views of their families, who never think of consulting their inclination, or providing for the comfort of the poor victims of their pride. The consequence is notorious; these dutiful daughters become adulteresses, and neglect the education of their children, from whom they, in their turn, exact the same kind of obedience.
Females, it is true, in all countries, are too much under the dominion of their parents; and few parents think of addressing their children in the following manner, though it is in this reasonable way that Heaven seems to command the whole human race. It is your interest to obey me till you can judge for yourself; and the Almighty Father of all has implanted an affection in me to serve as a guard to you whilst your reason is unfolding; but when your mind arrives at maturity, you must only obey me, or rather respect my opinions, so far as they coincide with the light that is breaking in on your own mind.
A slavish bondage to parents cramps every faculty of the mind; and Mr. Locke very judiciously observes, that 'if the mind be curbed and humbled too much in children; if their spirits be abased and broken much by too strict an hand over them; they lose all their vigour and industry.' This strict hand may in some degree account for the weakness of women; for girls, from various causes, are more kept down by their parents, in every sense of the word, than boys. The duty expected from them is, like all the duties arbitrarily imposed on women, more from a sense of propriety, more out of respect for decorum, than reason; and thus taught slavishly to submit to their parents, they are prepared for the slavery of marriage. I may be told that a number of women are not slaves in the marriage state. True, but they then become tyrants; for it is not rational freedom, but a lawless kind of power resembling the authority exercised by the favourites of absolute monarchs, which they obtain by debasing means. I do not, likewise, dream of insinuating that either boys or girls are always slaves, I only insist that when they are obliged to submit to authority blindly, their faculties are weakened, and their tempers rendered imperious or abject. I also lament that parents, indolently availing themselves of a supposed privilege, damp the first faint glimmering of reason, rendering at the same time the duty, which they are so anxious to enforce, an empty name; because they will not let it rest on the only basis on which a duty can rest securely: for unless it be founded on knowledge, it cannot gain sufficient strength to resist the squalls of passion, or the silent sapping of self-love. But it is not the parents who have given the surest proof of their affection for their children, or, to speak more properly, who by fulfilling their duty, have allowed a natural parental affection to take root in their hearts, the child of exercised sympathy and reason, and not the over-weening offspring of selfish pride, who most vehemently insist on their children submitting to their will merely because it is their will. On the contrary, the parent, who sets a good example, patiently lets that example work; and it seldom fails to produce its natural effect-filial reverence.
Children cannot be taught too early to submit to reason, the true definition of that necessity, which Rousseau insisted on, without defining it; for to submit to reason is to submit to the nature of things, and to that God, who formed them so, to promote our real interest.
Why should the minds of children be warped as they just begin to expand, only to favour the indolence of parents, who insist on a privilege without being willing to pay the price fixed by nature? I have before had occasion to observe, that a right always includes a duty, and I think it may, likewise, fairly be inferred, that they forfeit the right, who do not fulfil the duty.
It is easier, I grant, to command than reason; but it does not follow from hence that children cannot comprehend the reason why they are made to do certain things habitually: for, from a steady adherence to a few simple principles of conduct flows that salutary power which a judicious parent gradually gains over a child's mind. And this power becomes strong indeed, if tempered by an even display of affection brought home to the child's heart. For, I believe, as a general rule, it must be allowed that the affection which we inspire always resembles that we cultivate; so that natural affections, which have been supposed almost distinct from reason, may be found more nearly connected with judgment than is commonly allowed. Nay, as another proof of the necessity of cultivating the female understanding, it is but just to observe, that the affections seem to have a kind of animal capriciousness when they merely reside in the heart.
It is the irregular exercise of parental authority that first injures the mind, and to these irregularities girls are more subject than boys. The will of those who never allow their will to be disputed, unless they happen to be in a good humour, when they relax proportionally, is almost always unreasonable. To elude this arbitrary authority girls very early learn the lessons which they afterwards practise on their husbands; for I have frequently seen a little sharp-faced miss rule a whole family, excepting that now and then mamma's angry will burst out of some accidental cloud;-either her hair was ill dressed,63 or she had lost more money at cards, the night before, than she was willing to own to her husband; or some such moral cause of anger.
After observing sallies of this kind, I have been led into a melancholy train of reflection respecting females, concluding that when their first affection must lead them astray, or make their duties clash till they rest on mere whims and customs, little can be expected from them as they advance in life. How indeed can an instructor remedy this evil? for to teach them virtue on any solid principle is to teach them to despise their parents. Children cannot, ought not, to be taught to make allowance for the faults of their parents, because every such allowance weakens the force of their parents, because every such allowance weakens the force of reason in their minds, and makes them still more indulgent to their own. It is one of the most sublime virtues of maturity that leads us to be severe with respect to ourselves, and forbearing to others; but children should only be taught the simple virtues, for if they begin too early to make allowance for human passions and manners, they wear off the fine edge of the criterion by which they should regulate their own, and become unjust in the same proportion as they grow indulgent.
The affections of children, and weak people, are always selfish; they love their relatives, because they are beloved by them, and not on account of their virtues. Yet, till esteem and love are blended together in the first affection, and reason made the foundation of the first duty, morality will stumble at the threshold. But, till society is very differently constituted, parents, I fear, will still insist on being obeyed, because they will be obeyed, and constantly endeavour to settle that power on a Divine right which will not bear the investigation of reason.
 Dr. Johnson makes the same observation.
 I myself heard a little girl once say to a servant, 'My mama has been scolding me finely this morning, because her hair was not dressed to please her.' Though this remark was pert, it was just. And what respect could a girl acquire for such a parent without doing violence to reason?
Just struck me as interesting
After reading an article by
I was struck by the exchanges of power which take place throughout the novel. Not only do Clarissa and Lovelace exchange places of power midway through the novel, as Clarissa but the exchange of power can almost be read as a chain of people and the types of power exerted over others. However, it is not the exchanges of power which I found to be most interesting, but the idea that these exchanges of power act as catalysts for the majority of action in the novel, which is especially evident when Clarissa runs away from Lovelace and we enter the most dramatic and action packed events of the novel.
As for the types of power, each character exerts various types of power at different times throughout the novel. The two main types of power are obviously physical power and mental power. In addition if we include the letters and
From the beginning of the novel as Clarissa exchanges letters concerning the duel between her brother and Lovelace the reader gets the first glimpse of the exchange of physical power. As the novel continues Clarissa’s family exerts its own power over Clarissa in the form of familial duty and guilt(mental power) to try to gain her consent to marry Solmes. In addition there is the power of fear which at times becomes one of the most vital sources of power acting as a catalyst for the characters’ actions.
Throughout the rest of the novel Each character has his or her own way of gaining, losing or exerting power over others, or having the force exerted upon them. It seems that no character no matter how minute their part in the novel has a n experience with power.
While lovelace deal mostly in manipulation of the mind and physical power over Clarissa during the rape…Clarissa is mostly driven by fear. Fear of loss. Losing her virtue, her family, her reputation and above all the fear of living an unhappy life. In the of the novel it is Clarissa’s power, her fear, and her physical power(illness) which leads to her demise.
The article references several letters to look at.
113,182,339,320,289,479,493,494,415,419 – just to mention a few
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Juliet McMaster, "Reading the Body in Clarissa" (189-212), on theories of acting and the expression of emotions in eighteenth-century psychology
Isobel Grundy, "Seduction Pursued by Other Means? The Rape in Clarissa" (256-67), on the intellectual, legal and literary contexts for Richardson's use of the term and concept of "rape"
Saturday, March 8, 2008
In the last class we discussed the terms Fate and Error as they are used in letter 178. In this letter Miss Howe states that she has often told Clarissa there is a “kind of fate in her error, if an error.”
While we discussed both terms in biblical contexts and in relation to ancient writing I thought a definition from OED would be helpful here in understanding the multiple meanings of both words.
Below is the OED definitions of Fate. As Prof Davidson stated, in the case of this particular letter and time period the term is associated with wandering from one’s path or wandering from a righteous or harmless path to something more harmful or as the definition states “devious.”In addition there are numerous terms associated with error such as erroneous which also mean harmful wandering or include in their definition the word HARM or HARMFUL.
Below the definition of Error you will find the various definitions of fate. The negative connotation of the word and its association with the evil or diabolical is not particularly surprising considering how many words are associated with the letters FATE. However, in relation to the passage from Clarissa it becomes a moment of foreshadowing or warning as Miss Howe tells Clarissa that she is once again commenting on the fact that there is a kind of absolute negative conclusion a fate of death or evil in her wandering. As she continues Miss Howe also states that “had you never erred” which can also mean not only had she not made several mistakes in judgment, but had she not wandered off her destined or harmless path then perhaps she would not be suffering. Considering Clarissa’s ultimate fate in this novel accurate definitions of both terms proved to be very helpful especially as both terms are associated with death, evil or harm.
I. 1. The action of roaming or wandering; hence a devious or winding course, a roving, winding. Now only poet.
The primary sense in Latin; in Fr. and
[A common use in OF.; cf.
1460 J. CAPGRAVE Chron. 252 The bischoppis..opened no mouth to berk ageyn these erroneous doggis.
. Of an individual, an empire, etc.: The predestined or appointed lot; what a person, etc. is fated to do or suffer.
4. a. What will become of, or has become of (a person or thing); ultimate condition; destiny. Often in to decide, fix, seal one's fate. a fate worse than death: see
5. attrib. and Comb. a. simple attrib., as fate-spell; also fate-like adj.; b. objective, as fate-denouncing, -foretelling, -scorning ppl. adjs.; c. instrumental, as fate-environed, -fenced (implied in fate-fencedness), -folden, -furrowed, -menanced, -stricken adjs.
2. Moral or ethical unsuitableness; unbecoming or unseemly behaviour; impropriety; with pl., an unseemly act, an impropriety, an offence. Obs.
4. b. with pl. An inconvenient circumstance; something that interferes with ease or comfort, or causes trouble; a disadvantage, a discomfort.
In this case, it is only the interference of virtue that causes Lovelace trouble in his seduction of Clarissa considering her knowledge of virtue would make her complicit in any consensual act. To eliminate her knowledge would eliminate the interference.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
"Four letters are written by Mr Lovelace from the date of his last, giving the state of affairs between him and the lady, pretty much the same as in hers in the same period allowing for the humour in his; and for his resentments expressed with vehemence on her resolution to leave him, if her friends could be prevailed upon. A few extracts from them will only be given...
(After violent threatenings and vows of revenge, he says--)...
(Thus triumphing in his unpolite cruelty he says--)" (L 187.1-4, 601)
Monday, March 3, 2008
What interested me in this week's reading was the debate surrounding Clarissa's arguments that her virtue had been destroyed and Lovelace's claims of her "hardness of heart and over-delicacy" (831). Captain Tomlinson, Widow Bevis, Miss Rawlins, and Mrs. Moore all weigh in on this perpetual tension. In issues like this one and in other moral dilemmas that Clarissa faces, there's usually a curious disconnect between Clarissa's sense of morality, her family's, and society's. Sometimes these perspectives align, but Clarissa seems increasingly radical in her conception of her virtue.
I looked around online, and an ECCO search yielded this work called The virgin’s nosegay, or, the duties of Christian virgins: digested into succinct chapters, ... To which is added, Advice to a new married lady. I've included the title page, table of contents, and a couple particularly interesting passages that might flesh out the context in which Clarissa was wrestling with herself and Lovelace.
Note the correlation the author draws between suppression of romantic/lustful passion and the suppression of hunger/appetite and its application to Clarissa's anorexia. If less food consumption results in less passionate impulses, Clarissa is certainly mistress of her passions! Below on the left is an excerpt from "Of Pleasure" and on the right is an excerpt from "On Unchastity." I'm struck by the language of contagion the author ascribes to vices ("infection," "deformity"), as if mental transgressions can somehow translate to somatic manifestations.
Here's the link for the full "manual" for virgins:
The Virgin's Nosegay
The interesting thing about Richardson's manual is not the way in which it seeks to create some standard for letter-writing, but how it sees letters as a way of promoting moral improvement in the recipient(s) of the letters. This is effected through a very precise use of language. For instance, Richardson has specific rules about what kinds of passions can be expressed (and to what degree they can be expressed) in different situations so that the moral message is not obscured.
Anyway, this article made me think about the extent to which Clarissa might be a giant letter-writing manual. I think the introduction to our version of Clarissa mentions that Richardson was commissioned to write Familiar Letters (or some other letter-writing manual, I'll have to look it up), and that it eventually evolved into Pamela. I think our attention to language in this class reveals that Richardson still has some of those letter-writing manual concerns in mind, in terms of how precise one's language must be to convey one's point, etc.
Here's a link to Myers's article if you want to read it: