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.


erring, ppl. a. erringly, adv. erroneosity erroneous erroneously, adv. erroneousness erronist error error, v. errorful errorious, a. errorist

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 Eng. it occurs only as a conscious imitation of Lat. usage.

1594 DANIEL Compl. Rosamond Wks. (1717) 50 Intricate innumerable Ways, With such confused Errors. 1610 J. GUILLIM Heraldry xvi. (1660) 201 Being by error lost, they [dogs] have refused meat. 1636 B. JONSON Discov. Wks. (ed. Rtldg.) 765 1 His error by sea, the sack of Troy, are put not as the argument of the work. 1654 R. CODRINGTON tr. Ivstine 318 But Archagathus was taken by them, who had lost his Father in the error of the night. 1667 MILTON P.L. IV. 239 The crisped Brooks, Rowling..With mazie error under pendant shades. 1673 Lady's Call. I. iv. {page}13. 30 [The moon] has a kind of certainty even in her planetary errors. 1743 R. BLAIR Grave 99 Where has slid along In grateful errors through the underwood. 1720 GAY Poems (1745) I. 13 If an enormous salmon chance to spy The wanton errors of the floating fly. 1872 TENNYSON Gareth & Lynette 1183 The damsel's headlong error thro' the wood.

II. {dag}2. Chagrin, fury, vexation; a wandering of the feelings; extravagance of passion. Obs.
[A common use in OF.; cf. IROUR, a. OF. irour anger, which may have been confused with this word.]

c1320 Sir Beues 1907 Tho was Beues in strong erur. c1325 Coer de L. 5937 Kyng Richard pokyd [? {th}o kyd] gret errour, Wrathe dede hym chaung colour. c1450 Merlin xx. 318 A-boute his herte com so grete errour that it wete all his visage with teeres of his yien. 1460 Lybeaus Disc. 1081 The lord wyth greet errour Rod hom to hys tour.

{dag}b. A mistake in the making of a thing; a miscarriage, mishap; a flaw, malformation. nature's error = lusus naturæ. Obs.

1398 TREVISA Barth. De P.R. V. i. (1495) 101 This wonderfull errour [abortion] happyth moost in shepe and geete. 1413 LYDG. Pilgr. Sowle IV. xxx. (1483) 78 Hit behoueth..that it [a statue] be fourged right withoute ony errour. 1697 DRYDEN (J.), He look'd like Nature's errour, as the mind And body were not of a piece design'd. 1791 BOSWELL Johnson (1816) I. 87 Sure, thou art an errour of nature.

1460 J. CAPGRAVE Chron. 252 The bischoppis..opened no mouth to berk ageyn these erroneous doggis. 1667 MILTON P.L. VII. 20 On th' Aleian Field I fall Erroneous, there to wander and forlorne. 1704 NEWTON Optics (1721) 91 This Circle, by being placed here, stopped much of the Erroneous Light. a1777 FAWKES tr. Halley's Eulogy on Newton, With what proportion'd force The Moon impels, erroneous in her course, The refluent main.

{dag}b. Straying from the proper course. Obs. rare.

1731 ARBUTHNOT Aliments 165 An erroneous Circulation (that is, when the Blood strays into the Vessels destin'd to carry Serum or Lymph).

{dag}2. Straying from the path of right or virtue, morally faulty, criminal. Obs. or arch.

1593 SHAKES. 3 Hen. VI, II. v. 90 What Stragems? how fell? how Butcherly? Erreoneous, mutinous, and vnnaturall. 1634 SIR T. HERBERT Trav. 55 The Prophet used to lay this stone on the shoulders of the erronious. 1777 DODD in Boswell Johnson (1848) 542 My life for some few unhappy years has been dreadfully erroneous. a1797 H. WALPOLE Mem. Geo. II (1845) I. vii. 95 The probability was, that himself had been erroneous. 1819 BYRON Juan III. xii, Shut The book which treats of this erroneous pair.

{dag}3. Straying from the ways of wisdom or prudence; under the influence of error, misguided. Obs. or arch.

1512 Act 4 Hen. VIII, c. 19 Pream., The seid Frensche kyng..abydyng in his..erronyous mynde. 1526 Pilgr. Perf. (W. de W. 1531) 55 He..sleeth by confessyon the wormes of the scrupulous and erronyous conscience. 1594 SHAKES. Rich. III, I. iv. 200 Erroneous Vassals. 1640 Lond. Petit. in Rushw. Hist. Coll. (1692) I. 94 The great encrease of..Ignorant and Erroneous Men in the Ministry. 1684 BUNYAN Pilgr. II. 64 marg., 'Tis difficult getting of good Doctrine in erroneous Times. 1685 BAXTER Paraphr. N.T. (1701) Matt. vi. 22 If thy judgment then be blind which must guide thee, what a miserable erroneous wretch wilt thou be. 1759 GOLDSMITH Miscell. Wks. (1837) III. 246 Leibnitz..being very erroneous himself, cannot be expected to have bequeathed precision to his followers. 1775 JOHNSON Tax. no Tyr. 87 That erroneous clemency. 1810 CRABBE Borough xx, And should have strengthened an erroneous heart. 1829 SOUTHEY Sir T. More I. 133 He who shows himself grievously erroneous upon one important point must look to have his opinions properly distrusted upon others.


1601 CORNWALLYES Ess. II. xxix. (1631) 42 He will never instruct the erronious for a frowning reply quailes him. 1649 Alcoran 188 God prolongeth the life of the erroneous.


Fatah, n. fatal, a. fatalism fatalist fatalistic, a. fatality fatalize, v. fatally, adv. fatalness fata Morgana fatary fatation fatch, n. fate, n. fate, v. fated, ppl. a. fateful, a.

. Of an individual, an empire, etc.: The predestined or appointed lot; what a person, etc. is fated to do or suffer.

c1374 CHAUCER Troylus v. 209 He curseth..His byrthe, hym self, his fate, and ek nature. 1559 Mirr. Mag., Dk. of Clarence lv, To flye theyr fate. 1603 B. JONSON Sejanus I. ii, How blest a fate were it to us. 1647 CLARENDON Hist. Reb. II. (1843) 57/2 By a very extraordinary fate [he had] got a very particular many worthy men. 1668 LADY CHAWORTH in 12th Rep. Hist. MSS. Comm. App. v. 10 Mr. Ho..deserves a better fate. a1717 BP. O. BLACKALL Wks. (1723) I. 25 It has been commonly their Fate to fare hardlier. 1848 MACAULAY Hist. Eng. I. 164 The general fate of sects is to obtain a high reputation for sanctity while they are oppressed. 1848 W. H. BARTLETT Egypt to Pal. iv. (1879) 68 A noteworthy comment on the fate of human pride.

c. In etymological sense: An oracle or portent of doom.

1850 MRS. BROWNING Poems II. 50 The solemn knell fell in with the tale of life and sin, Like a rhythmic fate sublime.

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 DEATH n. 17b.

1768-74 TUCKER Lt. Nat. (1852) I. 584 The lover waits for the decision of his mistress to fix his fate. 1793 SMEATON Edystone L. §322 Anxiety for the fate of the Edystone. 1797 MRS. RADCLIFFE Italian xii, If she is now discovered her fate is certain. 1838 LYTTON Leila I. ii, The base misers..deserve their fate. 1841 ELPHINSTONE Hist. Ind. II. 581 It only remained to the brothers to decide on the fate of its tenant. 1856 FROUDE Hist. Eng. (1858) I. ii. 163 He was obliged to bear the..fate of a minister, who..had thwarted the popular will. 1888 BRYCE Amer. Commw. III. xc. 246 More of it may share the same fate. 1891 E. PEACOCK N. Brendon II. 142 Plumer's fate was sealed.

b. Death, destruction, ruin.

c1430 LYDG. Bochas III. xxvi. (1554) 97b, Cirus was passed into fate. 1635 SHIRLEY Coronat. IV, Will you assist, and run a fate with us. 1643 DENHAM Cooper's H. 114 In the Common Fate, The adjoyning Abby fell. 1701 ROWE Amb. Step-Moth. I. i, Thousand vulgar fates Which their Drugs daily hasten. 1852 C. M. YONGE Cameos I. xl. 345 Their fate has been well sung by Lord Houghton.

c. An instrument of death or destruction. poet.

1700 DRYDEN Iliad I. 74 He..Feather'd Fates among the Mules and Sumpters sent. 1715-20 POPE Iliad I. 68 Hissing fly the feather'd fates.

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.

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