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.