Clarissa in September

Well, September is the last month with a lot of letters. 65 letters. About five things happens in this book – and one of these is in this month. As with all readalong posts, there will be spoilers below.

As she was in August, Clarissa is preparing to die. She’s very ill and just gets more and more ill as the days pass. Her coffin is ordered and has arrived to her room. She has written and signed her will and is spending her time, preparing mentally for death and finds herself blessed with a gradual, sensible dead. She wishes to see no one from her family, not even mrs. Norton.

Lovelace is still Lovelace. He thinks Clarissa has triumphed more over him than she has suffered from him and calls everything that has passed between them a jest. Even though he still don’t believe that she’s that ill – or at least hopes it’s a plot to punish him – he dares not visit her for fear it will kill her. His friend Belford asks her to let Lovelace visit her so she can personally forgive him but she refuses. Which is a good thing, since Lovelace never learns. Even late, late in the novel, he only thinks himself guilty of a common theft…!

Meanwhile, in Clarissa’s family, Cousin Morden is furious with them, especially her brother. He is determined to not stay under the same roof as any in her family and he wants to make her his heir – if she lives.

But all the hopes of Lovelace, all the efforts from cousin Morden, all the non-believing from Clarissa’s family don’t matter. Clarissa was seriously ill and so, she dies. As usual in this book, when something exciting happens, you are not told directly or in very many details at first. You have to read on for that.

After her death, letters come from both mrs. Norton and Clarissa’s sister. Mrs Norton tells her that the entire family is now in her favor and that they have no conditions for seeing her anymore and even her sister’s letter is very kind. However – it’s too late. Clarissa herself leaves letters for her entire family and friends – and even Lovelace. Her letters are meant to give comfort and are filled with love. She begs both her brother and her cousin Morden to not do anything about Lovelace – she doesn’t want her fault to be continued after her death. And then she asks them to rejoice with her since she’s in a better place, she’s happy.

Lovelace on the other hand is devastated. He’s almost insane with grief and writes one letter where he wants her embalmed and wants to keep her heart in spirits where he always can see it. Because he considers himself her husband, he wants to take care of everything and wants to interpret her will as he sees fit. Her family too wants Belford to step down as executors but he resists and carries through everything in her will to the letter – which is a good thing since her siblings have some issues with the will. But finally, her parents step up and overrules her brother so they do their part in getting her will carried out exactly as she wanted.

Even her brother has regrets now: ‘I meant nothing but the honour of the family; yet have I all the weight thrown upon me.’ (41340-47)

Cousin Morden takes her coffin home and makes sure she’s buried as she wanted to be, by the foot of her grandfather’s coffin. Her brother swears revenge on her dead hand and Anna comes to see Clarissa one last time.

Clarissa’s posthumous letter to Lovelace is written with the intent to save her soul and right after her death, Lovelace is devastated. He recovers quickly, though, and soon, he hopes to be what he was ‘/…/ once more the plague of a sex that has been my plague and will be every man’s plague, at one time or other of his life.’ (42908-15)

Even though I have enjoyed this book more in this second half, it still has major faults. Now, I’m not going to comment at this point on the goodness of Clarissa and the evilness of Lovelace – both being total with no shades of grey – I just want to mention the lack of editing and a sense of what to include and what to omit on Richardson’s part. He writes Clarissa’s entire will – and she has thought of everything. It just gets sooooooooo boring to read on and on and on what she wants to give to whom and why. The true shortcoming of this novel is simply put that everything takes too long. Every letter is too long, every thing that has happened is penned out in so many details that even the exciting things gets less so.

“And thus died Miss CLARISSA HARLOWE, in the blossom of her youth and beauty: and who, her tender years considered, has not left behind her her superior in extensive knowledge, and watchful prudence; nor hardly her equal for unblemished virtue, exemplary piety, sweetness of manners, discreet generosity, and true Christian charity: and these all set off by the most graceful modesty and humility; yet on all proper occasions manifesting a noble presence of mind and true magnanimity: so that she may be said to have been not only an ornament to her sex, but to human nature.” (40837-42)

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