Lady Elizabeth Echlin, Lady Bradshaigh's sister, went one step further. She actually rewrote the book --eight years after it was published. Talk about an active reader. Why bother to introduce this bit of trivia? What would lead a reader to do something like this? How could a reader have the audacity to rewrite the ending to an acknowledged masterpiece? (She wrote in Reception History: The Alternative Ending to Clarissa
As we have already discussed, Richardson engaged in a very active correspondence with his readers while writing Clarissa. Many of Richardson's readers implored him to save Clarissa. Lady Bradshaigh, a member of his literary circle, proposed her own ending to the novel in a series of letter to Richardson. In her version, Lovelace is overcome with remorse and becomes desperately ill. Clarissa marries him on his deathbed in order to insure his salvation (Flynn, 139-140).
Lady Elizabeth Echlin, Lady Bradshaigh's sister, went one step further. She actually rewrote the book --eight years after it was published. Talk about an active reader. Why bother to introduce this bit of trivia? What would lead a reader to do something like this? How could a reader have the audacity to rewrite the ending to an acknowledged masterpiece? (She wrote in her preface that "tho' the work deserves admiration, it is not a faultless peice"[sic].) Most importantly, does she save Clarissa??? Lady Echlin's revisions -- what she leaves in, what she takes out, and why she might have decided to rewrite Richardson's novel -- shed some light on the sensibilities of Richardson's audience.
I would like to begin my report using Lady Echlin's rewrite as a frame of reference to discuss the relationship between novelist and reader and between reader and text, to investigate one of the most important topics of the final pages -- death and dying. The final pages are a litany of deaths -- Mrs. Sinclair, Belton, Captain Tomlinson, Clarissa, Lovelace, as well as the unnarrated deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Harlowe, Sally Martin, Betty Barnes, Joseph Leman. As there are far too many issues in the last quarter of Clarissa to discuss in one report, I have listed some of the major topics in my bibliography and cited sources for further reading in these areas. Finally, I also would like to look at some of Richardson's cultural and literary sources for his depiction of Clarissa's death and her friendship with Anna.
As far as I can tell, Lady Echlin never published her handwritten manuscript, which was apparently first published only in 1982. Lady Echlin begins her preface by explaining her reasons for the revision: "what I chiefly object against in Clarissa's story are these points -- from the time Lovelace finds her at Hamstead, her conduct is quite inconsistant with her character, and it is not possible that a sensible, discreet woman cou'd be deceived with childish imposition" [sic]. Her chief objection was Clarissa's rape, and she makes her case quite confidently. "my answer is -- this woman was effectually subdu'd without a vile, unlikely rape -- as you will see hereafter proved, pretty plainly I think." Lady Echlin's objectio were more than aesthetic differences of opinion, however. >From her preface, it seems clear that she took Clarissa's fate personally:
"at perusing those parts objected against in this wofull story, my mind was strangely agitated -- I felt Emotions not to be describ'd; and was too much oppresst, or distracted, to admitt a rational sensibility to take place -- but my heart fired with indignation at those passages so horribly shocking to humanity; I am offended also with what is done directly opposite to the Religious system" [sic] (Echlin, 172-3).In Richardson's reply to Lady Echlin, as in his postscript, he shows he is unwilling to alter Clarissa. He questions all of Lady Echlin's changes and points out parts of her ending that are inconsistant with the first half of his version. Richardson diplomatically ends his reply by complimenting Lady Echlin on her piety and the "Excellency of your heart."
The Harlowe family, however, believe the rumor that Clarissa has been drugged, raped, and seduced. Arabella Harlowe writes a particularly long and nasty letter to Clarissa, accusing her of being the mistress of Lovelace, Belford and every other man who lodges at the inn, as well "a most abominable slut" and "the whore of Babylon." Arabella obviously doesn't mince words in this version. Clarissa relocates to London to try to hide from Lovelace, but he and prostitute Sally Martin track her down. The sight of a weakened Clarissa reforms Sally, who pledges to beg on the street rather than go back to prostitution. Lovelace is also miraculously reformed and makes Clarissa executrix of his estate. Lovelace then turns to Dr. Christian (Lady Echlin's Bunyan-esque innovation) for spiritual guidance and tries to make amends by confessing everything to Mrs. Harlowe. Mrs. Harlowe cries tears of remorse, but there is no meeting or reconciliation between mother and daughter. Clarissa forgives Lovelace on the condiition that he leave her alone.
The attempted rape and her separation from her family eventually weaken Clarissa so much that she dies of grief. Surprisingly, the author never actually tells us that Clarissa has died. Instead, her death is narrated indirectly through several layers of letters. The reader infers that Clarissa has died when Hickman enters Anna's drawing room crying over a letter. Anna, seeing Hickman's distress, deciphers the cause and faints. We never see the actual letter, written by Belford, announcing her death. We are privy only to Hickman's reply, and are thus several times removed from Clarissa's death scene. Hickman, like others in the novel, freely weeps. "the sad story was read in my sorrowful look. I am not one of those flinty mortals -- who think -- it jll [sic] becomes a man to weep; on the contrary -- I allow, it is manly to shed tears, when poinant [sic] grief, or generous compassion, demand them from the human heart." In Lady Echlin's version, Hickman appears to be a man of great feeling and sensibiity. Significantly, Lovelace is also far more sympathetic. Echlin plays down his evil plans and emphasizes his contrition and guilt. Clarissa, who dies from the shame of an attempted rape, seems even more sensitive and sensibilious than Richardson's Clarissa. Lady Echlin, like many of Richardson's readers, was clearly very effected by Clarissa's death, perhaps explaining her reluctance to narrate it in detail.
Clarissa's will leaves everything to Mrs. Norton and her son, who marries Clarissa's cousin Hervey. Belford is presented more sentimentally, if I date to use that word, as well. He not only marries Lady Charlotte but addresses one of his letters to her, calling her "my Dear life" and "my lovly Charlotte." Arabella, we learn, elopes with an unsuitable husband, only to desert him for a pauper and is reduced to begging in the street. Clarissa's brother, rather than Colonel Morden, challenges Lovelace to a duel. James Jr., who never had a gift for swordplay, charges Lovelace and accidentally runs himself through on Lovelace's sword, greatly suprising Lovelace. (!!!) He dies shortly thereafter, but not before patching things up with Lovelace and forgiving all. The penitent, grief-stricken and newly religious Lovelace receives a flesh wound and appears on the verge of death in the final sentences of the revision. Lady Echlin evidently agrees with Professor Spacks that James deserves no sympathy, as she exacts even harsher poetic justice for James and Arabella than Richardson did.
So, was Lady Echlin a sensibilious reader? She told Richardson she was personally upset about the rape, and her decision not to narrate Lovelace's and Clarissa's death suggests that those scenes might have been too upsetting to narrate. Does being a reader of sensibility imply sympathy or just emotional attachment? She clearly has sympathy for Clarissa and Lovelace, but none whatsoever for James.
Our class has discussed how strongly many readers felt about _Clarissa_ and how many begged to save her. The fact that Lady Echlin would take matters into her own hands, to rewrite the ending Richardson denied his public, suggests just how strongly Richardson involved his readers. Lady Echlin's revision also shows that at least one reader regarded novels as relatively malleable in form. As Richardson notes in his postscript, however, it was not unprecedented for authors to revise literary classics. Richardson notes that Tate's "happy ending" to _King Lear_ was more frequently performed than the original.
Richardson deliberately crafted _Clarissa_ so as to give it the appearance of real exchanges. The type of Clarissa's delirious letters runs all over the page, as if a raving, suffering woman had created them. Characters apologize for sloppy handwriting or for cutting off in mid-letter. When Lovelace forges Anna Howe's letters, the implication is that Anna's original letters were real, rather than Richardson's creation (Flynn, 267-268).
In addition, Richardson published a collection of Clarissa's meditations alluded to in the novel. He introduces each meditation -- passages from the bible -- as well as the entire collection, and even adds a note signed by Clarissa herself (!), playing with the notion that Clarissa was a realperson.
"It was purely out of gratitude, and to oblige you, I read the three last volumes. I expected to suffer, but not to that degree I have suffered... Had you seen me, I surely would have moved your pity. When alone, in agonies would I lay down the book, take it up again, walk about the room, let fall a flood of tears, wipe my eyes, read again, perhaps not three lines, throw away the book, crying out, excuse me, good Mr. Richardson, I cannot go on; it is your fault -- you have done more to me than I can bear; threw myself around the couch." Flynn, 76A modern, skeptical reader might dismiss the idea that grown men would weep over Clarissa's death as mere exaggeration, and dismiss Lady Bradshaigh as simply melodramatic. But then how do we explain the passionate letters pleading to save Clarissa? Lady Echlin's manuscript shows that Richardson's readers were not simply being theatrical. Notice, however, how Lady Bradshaigh's passionate, pleading letter mirrors Clarissa's. The prostitute Sally Martin, of course, also imitated Clarissa's pleadings and tears in order to win over Lovelace. Who is imitating whom? Is Lady Bradshaigh imitating Clarissa's theatrics in order to express her own personal feelings? Or did Richardson -- who as a youth penned love letters for his female friends -- imitate women's language in order to make Clarissa seem more vivid? Perhaps someone who has read more sentimental fiction will know the answer.
Clarissa's approach to death seems very close to this passage from Job, cited in meditation XIII. Like Job, she longs for death, but rejects the sin of suicide: "O That thous wouldst hide me in the grave! That thou woudst keep me secret till thy wrath be past!/ ...My friends scorn me; but mine eye poureth out tears unto God.../ So that my soul chuseth strangling, and death rather than life./ I loath it! I would not live alway! Let me alone; for my days are vanity.../ And where now is my hope? -- /Yet all the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come" (Meditations, 28-29).
Clarissa becomes most religious after her rape, when she is at her lowest point. Yet she echoes Taylor's metaphors about eternal life and earthly dangers even in the first section of the novel. "Whatever course I shall be permitted or forced to steer, I must be considered as a person out of her own direction. Tossed to and fro by the high winds of passionate control... I behold the desired port, the single state, which I would fain steer into; but I am kept off by the foaming billows of a brother's and sister's envy, and by the raging winds of a suposed invaded auhtority; while I see in Lovelace the rocks on one hand, and in Solmes the sands upon the other; and tremble lest I should split upon the former or strike upon the latter." Her source for this passage could be _Holy Living and HOly Dying_. "God, having in this world placed us in a sea, and troubled the sea with a continual storm, hath appointed the church for a sh and religion to be the stern; but there is no haven or port but death" (Flynn, 120-121). Taylor's sermon, the unmentioned backdrop for Clarissa's metaphor, suggests that death is the third path between Lovelace and Solmes.
Clarissa patterns her life according to these same religious principles. Anna's late letter about Clarissa's virtues, right down to her daily schedule, also recall Taylor's suggestions for a pious life. The "First General Instrument of Holy Living" in Taylor's book is "Care of Our Time" (Taylor, 441). Anna's details of Clarissa's daily regimen (1470-1472) follow Taylor's suggestions for holy living: "Although it cannot be enjoined that the greatest part of our time be spent in the direct actions of devotion and religion, yet it will become not only a duty but also a great providence, to lay aside for the services of God and the businesses of the Spirit as much as we can; ...'no man is a better merchant than he that lays out his time upon God, and his money upon the poor" (Taylor, 440). Clarissa is therefore a better "merchant" than her parents and Solmes because of her devotion to God and her Poor Fund.
Taylor's second instrument of holy living is "purity of intention," which seems a central concept for Clarissa's view of her guilt concerning her rape and her escape from Harlowe Place. "Holy intention is to the actions of a man which the soul is to the body, or form to its matter, or the root to the tree ... for without these the body is a dead trunk" (Taylor, 45). To me, at least, the connection to Clarissa here seems clear. She views her body as a "dead trunk" after the rape and waits to shed it so that she may be free from it.
Taylor's instruction for holy dying are equally insightful. "My lord, it is a great art to die well, and to be learnt by men in health, by them that can discourse and consider" (Taylor, 466). Clarissa goes to great lengths to prepare for her own death, both in cleaning up her earthly affairs and in readying her soul for judgment. To think of Clarissa's preparation as an art, however, puts her final weeks in a whole new light. Are her coffin and her posthumous letters, her will and her final forgiveness of Lovelace all "art?" Or are they genuine? Is it possible for them to be both?
In class, we have noted that Clarissa "dies" several times, and that she marks on her coffin the day of her death as the day she left Harlowe Place and defied her father. Similarly, in "Of the State of Sickness, and the Temptations Incident to It, With Their Proper Remedies," Taylor writes that Adam died the same day he sinned -- not that his earthly body died, but that he died in the eyes of God. "That death therefore which God threatened to Adam, and which passed upon his posterity, is not the going out of this world, but the manner of going. If he had stayed in innocence, he should have gone from hence placidly and fairly,without vexatious and afflictive circumstances; he should not have died by sickness, misfortune, defect, or unwillingness: but when he fell, then he began to die; the "same day," so said God, and that must needs be true: and therefore must it mean that upon that very day he fell into an evil and dangerous condition, a state of change and affliction; then death began, that is, the man began to die by a natural diminution, and aptness to disease and misery" (Taylor, 494-5).
Clarissa's conversations with the minister before her death also follow Taylor's prescriptions. "When ministers of religion are come, first let them do their ordinary offices, that is, pray for grace to the sick man, for patience, for resignation...therefore the minister is to be sent for, not while the case is desperate, but before the sickness is come to its crisis or period. Let him discourse concerning the causes of sickness, and by a general instrument move him to consider concerning his condition. Let him call upon him to set his soul in order; to trim his lamp; to dress his soul; to renew acts of grace by way of prayer; to make amends in all the evils he hath done; and to supply all the defects of duty, as much as his past condition requires, and his present can admit" (Taylor, 503).
In contrast to Clarissa's blessed parting, Belton and Sinclair's deaths are ghastly. As Taylor puts it," When vicious men are dying, and scared with the affrighting truths of an evil conscience, they would give all the world for a year, for a month; nay, we read of some that called out with amazement, inducias usque ad mane, "truce but till the morning"...I have read of a melancholic person who saw hell but in a dream or vision, and the amazement was such that he would have chosen ten times to die rather than feel again so much of that horror" (Taylor, 484).
This report threatens to assume Richardsonian proportions, so I will finish here by introducing some questions and a bibliography.
2. Female Friendship. The novel begins with Anna and Clarissa's letters, and their correspondence actually becomes part of the action of the plot, rather than simply the form, when Lovelace steals Anna's letters and forges new ones, when their parents prohibit their letters, when Clarissa attempts to write during her delirium, etc. By the end of the novel, however, the two seem very distant. Anna never even visits Clarissa until after she is dead. What does this say about their friendship? Why is it necessary for their friendship to break down in this way?
3. Female perfection and virtue. The prostitutes who attend Mrs. Sinclair's death spasms are clearly meant to be hideous. Yet Belford tells us that rakes such as himself and Lovelace have brought formerly middle-class women such as Sally and Polly to their current degradation. What does this say about male and female virtue? Belford and Clarissa both say that fallen women are far worse than men. From where does female vice spring? From the corrupting influence of men, or from within their own uninhibited, unleashed sensuality? It seemsclear that by the Victorian era, women were seen as the virtuous sex. Are women in the mid-18th-century already the virtuous sex? Or are they vulnerable to sin because of their natural frailty?
4. Tragedy. Richardson defends HIS version of Clarissa in his postscript and cites several respected sources on tragedy. Is Clarissa a tragic heroine? Is her history a tragedy? Can such a happy death be considered tragic? If she is tragic, does that mean she has a "fatal flaw?" What would that be? Richardson quotes Addison's statement that, "Terror and commiseration leave a pleasing anguish in the mind" (1497). Is that catharsis or a Lovelacian, sadomasochistic delight on others' suffering? (Review Lady Bradshaigh's comments to Richardson for this reaction.) Is Rabin's take on tragedy closer to a reader's experience of Clarissa? "Tragedy, says he, makes man modest, by representing the great masters of the earth humbled; and it makes him tender and merciful, by showing him the strange accidents of life, and the unforeseen disgraces to which the most important persons are subject" (1497).
5. Deception. Lovelace resembles both Satan and Ovid's Jupiter in his ability to change shape and deceive his victims, dressing either as a gouty old man or woman. His self-fashioned role as libertine follows in the tradition of Restoration rakes, and even his "redemption" during Clarissa's final illness seems to be another act, that of the suffering lover. Yet Clarissa must use disguises herself to escape him and Mrs. Sinclair. What does this say about her virtue? Can one appropriate the devices of the wicked if the ends are just?
6. Death. Among his contemporary readers, one of the principal objections to Clarissa was the heroine's death. Yet Clarissa seems very much "fated" to die throughout the course of the novel. Is this because Clarissa realizes that she will never be free from Lovelace unless she dies? Even in death Lovelace attempts to objectify, violate and mutilate her by wishing he could embalm her heart to keep with him at all times. Death seems the only way to escape further violation, although Lovelace's Jeffrey Dahmer-like plans for her corpse and his rape of her unconscious body suggest he is demonically attracted even to a lifeless Clarissa. Anna tells Clarissa that she is more fit for this world, Clarissa for the next. Clarissa's values do indeed seem out of synch with the corrupt world Richardson describes. Does she die to regain control over her body and her narrative after losing both to Lovelace? Does she die in order to seek revenge on the family who has cast her out, as Richard Hannaford suggests in "Playing Her Dead Hand: Clarissa's Posthumous Letters."