PEN AND INK
Of all the attachments set
forth in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, perhaps none is
stronger than that of the heroine to her writing implements. She
takes great care to possess these, partly because she has to--she
knows her parents may at any time seek to obstruct her by taking
them away--and part!y because she is just that kind of person; she
will always have pen and ink with her because she is always
Near the beginning of the story
she describes the measures she takes to persist in this, her
vocation; on April 5 she relates to Miss Howe:
I must write as I have opportunity; making use of my
concealed stores: for my pens and ink (all of each that they could
find) are taken from me; as I shall tell you more particularly by
and by (1).
Further in the same letter she reports Betty, the maid, as
saying, "I must carry down your pen and ink"; this is followed by
her cousin Dolly's regretfully insisting, "...You must--indeed you
must--deliver to Betty--or to me--your pen and ink" (2). Thus it
is established early on that Clarissa's writing tools are not only,
in her parents' eyes, instruments of her insubordination, but, in
the eyes of the reader, they become symbols of her dedication to
writing. Nothing can separate her from them, nor will she ever
allow herself, except in moments of utmost duress, to be without
the means, and the will, to use them.
For Clarissa's captors (first
her parents, and later Lovelace), her writing becomes a focus of
their inability to control her completely. Shortly after her pens
and ink are confiscated, her aunt tells her that the family is
convinced that "you still find means to write out of the house."(3)
Later, Lovelace determines that she will not be fully in his power
without his being able to monitor her correspondence; of the
letters between Clarissa and Anna Howe he writes (on May 8, to
I must, I must come
at them. This difficulty augments my curiosity. Strange, so much
as she writes, and at all hours, that not one sleepy or forgetful
moment has offered in our favour (4).
Clarissa, ever vigilant of her most prized activity, of course
suspects and even anticipates Lovelace's designs. On April 26 she
warns Miss Howe:
is so full of his contrivances and expedients, that I think it may
not be amiss to desire you to look carefully to the seals of my
letters, as I shall to those of yours (5).
Her wariness here does not prevent Lovelace from successfully
interfering, but it does demonstrate her determination to protect
Her primary determination, to
be engaged in the act of writing itself, is manifest in numerous
passages. On April 20, she observes to Miss Howe, "Indeed, my
dear, I know not how to forbear writing. I have now no other
employment or diversion" (6). To Mrs. Judith Norton she avers, "I
will write. But to whom is my doubt" (7). When it is suggested
that she should share a bed with Miss Partington, who will wait up
with Dorcas until Clarissa is done writing, she replies that
"...Miss Partington should be welcome to my whole bed, and I would
retire into the dining-room, and there, locking myself in, write
all the night" (8).
This last statement
reminds us that essential to the writer's vocation is the condition
of solitude, for which Clarissa displays a like determination.
"The single life," she observes on July 23 to Miss Howe, "...has
offered to me, as the life, the only life, to be chosen" (9). The
next day Lovelace reports to Belford:
The lady shut herself up at six o'clock yesterday
afternoon, and intends not to see company till seven or eight this;
not even her nurse--imposing upon herself a severe fast. And why?
It is her BIRTHDAY! (10).
Thus there is no greater present that Clarissa can give to
herself than solitude--and the opportunity to write.
When Mrs. Howe forbids her
daughter to receive further letters, Miss Howe over-rules her
mother, saying, "But be assured that I will not dispense with your
writing to me. My heart, my conscience, my honour, will not permit
it" (11). Clarissa, in response, declares:
I forego every other engagement, I suspend every
wish, I banish every other fear, to take up my pen, to beg of you
that you will not think of being guilty of such an act of Love as
I can never thank you for; but must for ever regret. If I must
continue to write to you, I must (12).
It appears that the regret expressed here is simply for
defying the parental authority of Mrs. Howe; Clarissa regrets not
at all Miss Howe's insistence on continuing to receive her letters.
And, incidentally, Mrs. Howe seems to have ambivalent feelings
about cutting off Clarissa's correspondence. Near the end Anna
You are, it seems (and that too much for your
health), employed in writing. I hope it is in penning down the
particulars of your tragical story. And my mother has put me in
mind to press you to it, with a view that one day, if it might be
published under feigned names, it would be of as much use as honour
to the sex. My mother says [...] she would be extremely glad to
have her advice of penning your sad story complied with
Evidently, whatever apprehensions Mrs. Howe has about the
corrupting influence of Clarissa upon her daughter are overcome by
an eagerness not to miss out on what Clarissa will write.
Clarissa's reputation as a writer is widespread. Lord M. comments
to Lovelace, "... for I am told that she writes well, and that all
her letters are full of sentence" (14). After she escapes
Lovelace, he complains to Belford, "I have no doubt, wherever she
has refuged, but her first work was to write to her vixen friend"
(15). Even Arabella jealously admits the power of her sister's
prose, beginning a letter (just a month before Clarissa's death) as
Sister Clary,--I wish you would not trouble me
within any more of your letters. You had always a knack at
writing; and depended upon making every one do what you would when
you wrote (16).
Clarissa maintains her
output until the very end, despite the difficulty it gives her.
Belford reports on August 28 to Lovelace, "Mrs. Lovick told me that
she had fainted away on Saturday, while she was writing, as she had
done likewise the day before" (17). The day before she dies,
Clarissa is too weak to hold a pen, but she dictates to Mrs. Lovick
what will be her last letter, for Miss Howe: "Although I cannot
obey you, and write with my pen, yet my heart writes by hers" (18).
It is tempting if not
entirely justifiable to see Clarissa as representing somewhat the
writer's condition. Besieged by the interfering forces of family,
suitors, and society, hailed as a paragon and regarded as an
oddity, abused, exploited, and made to suffer numerous hardships,
she nevertheless manages to demonstrate stamina and perseverance in
her chosen form of expression, her art.
It is doubtful, however,
that this was Richardson's intention. He wanted Clarissa to
represent moral, not literary, virtue. Her prolific letter-writing
is simply a by-product of
circumstance--what the situation demands--as well as an expedient
for telling the story in epistolary form.
This is too bad, for
otherwise her writing might have saved her. Richardson must have
had a grudge with the world, and decided to show that Clarissa was
too good for it. He let death stop her; he had her, in effect,
choose to die. But if Clarissa was what she seems, if she was as
attached to her vocation as she shows herself to be, would she have
done this? Could her troubles have killed her? No matter how ill
and dispirited she was, might she not have endured simply to avoid
relinquishing her pen and ink?
(1) Page 110. This and the following page references
are from Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, or The History of a Young
Lady, abridged and edited by George Sherburn, (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, Riverside Editions, 1962).
(2) Page 111.
(3) Page 124.
(4) Page 215.
(5) Page 197.
(6) Page 181.
(7) Page 345, from letter of July 6.
(8) Page 206, from letter or May 1.
(9) Page 393.
(10) Page 397.
(11) Page 207, from letter of May 3.
(12) Page 208, May 4.
(13) Page 407, letter of July 28.
(14) Page 247, letter of May 23.
(15) Page 277, letter of June 8.
(16) Page 420, August 3.
(17) Page 440.
(18) Page 467, September 6.
DECEPTION AND DISGUISE IN
A SICILIAN ROMANCE
by Ann-Marie Henry-Stephens
In naming her novel A
Sicilian Romance, Ann Radcliffe may have attempted to
deliberately deceive her readers by disguising the artistic
complexities of this novel with its simple title. This novel is
full of intrigue, suspense, tyranny, drama and villainy. It allows
the reader to experience emotions ranging from fear and disgust to
love and sympathy. Like the many characters who get lost in the
recesses of the castle, the forests, the monastery, the ruined
buildings, and the Sicilian landscape, so too do the readers get
lost to the outside world when engaged in the plots and sub-plots
of this novel. The Gothic elements( the haunted castle, the
possible supernatural presence, the decay, and the dark gloomy
environs) used in the novel help to enhance its richness and
mysteriousness. The characters themselves are the most
intriguing, for they embody the deceitfulness and the disguises
which force the readers to want to discover all that lies behind
the walls of the Mazzini castle.
Ferdinand, fifth marquis of
Mazzini, a ruthless, tyrannical leader, heartless father, and cruel
husband (to his first wife Louisa Bernini) was the personification
of deceit. He had power, and he used it mercilessly and
arrogantly. He ruled by overpowering, threatening, lying to, and
manipulating others. When he met and fell in love with Maria de
Vellerno, he sought to get rid of the woman he was already married
to, without care for her or for her children. He imprisoned the
ailing Louisa in the southern wing of the castle and then told
everyone that she was dead. The marquis further compounded his
deception by holding a funeral for Louisa "with all the pomp" due
to her rank. He enlisted the help of a servant, Vincent, who was
totally dependent on and in awe of him, to carry out his plans. In
relating the story of her imprisonment Louisa said of him, "My
prayers, my supplications, were ineffectual; the hardness of his
heart repelled my sorrows back upon myself; and as no entreaties
could prevail upon him to inform me where I was, or his reasons for
placing me here, I remained for many years ignorant of my vicinity
to the castle, and of the motive of my confinement" (177). In
fact, the marquis never told the marchioness why she was being
held, and she only gained this information through the 'softening'
of Vincent's heart.
The marquis' deceitfulness knew
no boundaries, for he went on to commit further acts that would
allow him to go undetected. He shut up the southern section of the
castle, left his daughters in the care of Madame de Menon, a dear
friend of his first wife, and went to live in Naples with his son
and new wife for many years. After the death of Vincent and his
subsequent return to the castle, he still tried to cover his
tracks. When Madame, the girls and the servants saw lights appear
in and heard sounds emitting from the southern section of the
castle, he dismissed their claims as, "the weak and ridiculous
fancies of women and servants..."(14). Later on, when his son
Ferdinand went to him with similar claims, he chose to attack his
mind and manhood. When Ferdinand persisted in his claims, his
father added to the mountain of lies, by telling him that the
building was haunted by the ghost of Henry della Campo, a rival of
his (the marquis') grandfather, who had been killed there many
years ago. Ferdinand was deceived, for he believed his father's
story, especially since the marquis claimed that he himself had
witnessed the horror of seeing the ghost. The marquis also sought
to deceive his superstitious and fearful servants, by taking them
to the southern section and showing them fallen stones, which he
claimed to be the cause of the sounds coming from that part of the
castle. He made sure to stop short of where his wife was hidden.
They, however, were not placated by his explanation.
The marquis was an ambitious
man and did not hesitate to use whatever or whoever he could to
achieve his ambitions. When the Duke de Luovo asked for his
daughter Julia's hand in marriage, the marquis saw an opportunity
for himself there and consented to the marriage solely on selfish
grounds. He saw this marriage as a chance to gain more "wealth,
honor and distinction" (56). He also saw a chance, at Julia's
expense and through the duke's means, to "involve himself in the
interests of the state" (188). The marquis sought to deceive the
Duke also, for after Julia succeeded in running away from the
castle and her nuptials, the marquis "carefully concealed from him
her prior attempt at elopement, and her consequent confinement,"
thereby enraging the duke whose pride was wounded by the insult.
They quarreled, but subsequently made up, allowing the marquis to
gain a strong ally in his endeavors.
The Duke de Luovo was very much
like the marquis in character. He loved power, and he exercised it
at the expense of everyone. He had a violent temper and a very
high opinion of himself and his authority. He pretended to care
deeply for Julia, when he was really only interested in acquiring
her because of her beauty. Once she revealed her true feelings to
him, he was humiliated and inflamed so, with her father's consent,
sought to have her anyway. After her flight he pursued her
mercilessly, simply because his passion for her "was heightened by
the difficulty which opposed it." Julia was just an object of his
desire and his pride.
The duke had another thing in
common with the marquis; he too had a child who had run away from
him. His son, Riccardo, had run away from him many years before,
and he had never been able to find him. When he finally did
encounter him, he was surprised to find him disguised as a
banditti. Ricardo, after running away from his father, "had placed
himself at the head of a party of banditti, and, pleased with the
liberty which till then he had never tasted, and with the power
which his new situation afforded him," was a contented young man
(88). He knew that as a member of the nobility, if at any time he
chose to shed this disguise and resume his rank, it could be
accomplished with minimal explanations and scrutiny. His father's
pride was devastated, and so he wished his son dead.
The true characters of "the men
of the cloth" in this novel were curiously hidden from the world
outside their monasteries. On his journey to find Julia, the duke
encountered a monastery full of rowdy friars and a drunken
Superior, whom he was initially told were "engaged in prayer," when
he sought refuge at their gate. The Abate, at the abbey of St.
Augustin, was another disguised individual. He used his position
and authority to control those around him, and to seek revenge on
those who opposed him. He was not the benevolent character that
one would expect to find in his position. He used his power to
defy Julia's father and he reveled in it. He accused Julia of
using "the disguise of virtue" to gain his protection, but he
instead tried to use her fear, her naivete, and her desperate
situation to force her to become a nun.
The "fairer sex" was equally
deceptive, but their reasons, for the most part, were based on love
and self-preservation. Julia deceived her father not out of
malice, but because of fear for the life she would have to live and
because of her love for Hippolitus. She also deceived her sister
Emilia, because of her love for her and her need to protect her
from the marquis. Julia's deceptiveness was not only in her
actions, but in her character, for she appeared to be a fragile
girl who fainted or cried at every unbearable thought or deed, but
she was in fact a very strong woman. She openly defied her father,
fully aware of the consequences of her actions. She spent a very
long time on the run, never really giving up hope, and never
returning to her father. She was determined never to give in. A
weaker woman might have returned home or committed suicide, rather
than live through her experiences, but Julia never entertained
those thoughts. She, however, found a woman like herself, who had
made certain choices in her life, but this woman was not able to
live with her choices.
Cordelia, Hippolitus' sister,
was in many ways disguising herself as a nun. She had decided to
"take the veil," but her heart was not in her vows. She was still
very much in love with an earthly presence, Angelo. She may have
succeeded in deceiving those around her, but she could not deceive
herself, hence her early demise.
The supreme mask was worn by
Maria de Mazzini, the wife of the marquis. This woman was able to
blind her shrewd and devoted husband. She was a beautiful woman,
with an explosive temper, a mean, jealous spirit, and the capacity
to manipulate. Her strong desire to have Hippolitus, and her
intense jealousy of Julia, drove her to encourage the marriage of
Julia and the Duke de Luovo. She also succeeded in having Madame
de Menon leave in order to save her reputation with her husband.
She wrongfully assumed that the Madame possessed the same spiteful
quality that she had. If anything, the marchioness was the
marquis' one weakness. She did not really love him, for a woman
like that could only truly love herself. She was able to convince
him of her devotion to him, even though she had had numerous
affairs while being married to him. She carried on these affairs
right under his very nose, but was never suspected by him. When he
finally discovered her treachery, via a servant, being so blinded
by his feelings for her, he was not able to carry out his initial
plan of killing her. He, instead, chose to reprimand her and this
she used against him. She committed suicide, left a note blaming
him for her act, and informed him of his own impending death by her
hand. She had been able to deceive him one last time, when she
poisoned his drink during their dinner the evening before.
The author's biggest deceptive
device though was the Mazzini castle, the focal point of the
mystery. This building served as perfect cover for the characters,
their actions, and the secrets within it. The walls were able to
hide much of what went on within them. The castle hid information
from the characters and from the readers. Madame de Menon, Julia,
Emilia, Ferdinand, and the servants did not know what was
responsible for the noises and lights in the southern section. The
children did not know that their mother was alive and living so
close to them. Ferdinand was not aware that as he was languishing
in the dungeon, his mother was within a stone's throw. Maria de
Mazzini did not know about the first marchioness. The marquis did
not know that Maria was having affairs right there in the castle.
He was not aware of her deceptiveness and her true character, which
enabled him to be killed by her. He was not able to prevent
Julia's escape from the castle and he was not aware of her return
to it. This castle was the ultimate mask, for the readers never
really see all of it and so cannot fully perceive all of its
secrets, and so it retains its air of mystery till the very end of
Radcliffe, Ann. A Sicilian
Romance. New York: Oxford, 1993.