HENRY FIELDING, LETTER TO SSAMUEL RICHARDSON
October 15, 1748
I have read over your 5th Vol. In all the Accounts which Loveless Gives of the Transactions at Hampstead, you preserve the same vein of Humour which hath run through the preceding Volumes. The new Characters you Introduce are natural and entertaining, and there is much of the true Comic Force in the Widow Bevis. I have seen her often, and I Promise you, you have drawn her with great exactness. The Character of Loveless is heightened with great judgment. His former Admirers must lose all Regard for him on his Perseverance, and as this Regard Ceases, Compassion for Clarissa rises in the same Proportion. Hence we are admirably prepared for what is to follow.–Shall I tell you? Can I tell you what I think of the latter part of your Volume? Let the Overflowings of a Heart which you have filled brimfull speak for me.
"When Clarissa returns to her Lodgings at St. Clairs the Alarm begins, and here my Heart begins its Narrative. I am Shocked; my Terrors are raised, and I have the utmost Apprehensions for the poor betrayed Creature.–But when I see her enter with the Letter in her Hand, and after some natural Effects of Despair, clasping her Arms about the Knees of the Villain, call him her Dear Lovelace, desirous and yet unable to implore his Protection or rather his mercy; I then melt into Compassion, and find what is called an Effeminate Relief for my Terror, to continue to the End of the Scene. When I read the next Letter I am Thunderstruck; nor can many Lines explain what I feel from Two.
"What I shall say of holding up the Licence? I will say a finer Picture was never imagined. He must be a Glorious Painter who can do it justice on Canvas, and a most wretched one indeed who could not do much on such a Subject. The Circumstance of the Fragments is Great and Terrible; but her Letter to Lovelace is beyond any thing I have ever read. God forbid that the Man who reads this with dry Eyes should be alone with my Daughter when she hath no Assistance within Call. Here my Terror ends and my Grief begins which the Cause of all my Tumultuous Passions soon changes into Raptures of Admiration and Astonishment by a Behaviour the most Elevated I can possibly conceive, and what is at the same time most Gentle and most natural. This Scene I have heard hath been often objected to. It is well for the Critick that My Heart is now writing and not my Head. During the Continuance of this Vol. my Compassion is often moved; but I think my Admiration more. If I had rec'd no Hint or Information of what is to succeed I should perceive you paving the way to load our admiration of your Heroine to the Highest Pitch, as you have before with wonderfull Art prepared us for both Terror and Compassion on her Account. This last seems to come from the Head. Here then I will end: for I assure you nothing but my Heart can force me to say Half of what I think of the Book. And yet what hinders me? I cannot be suspected of Flattery. I know the Value of that too much to throw it away, where I have no Obligation, and where I expect no Reward. And sure the World will not suppose me inclined to flatter one whom they will suppose me to hate if they will be pleased to recollect that we are Rivals for that coy Mrs. Fame. Believe me however if your Clarissa had not engaged my Affections more than this Mrs. [Fame] all your Art and all your Nature had not been able to extract a single Tear: for as to this Mrs. I have ravished her long ago, and live in a settled cohabitation with her in defiance of that Public Voice which is supposed to be her Guardian, and to have alone the Power of giving her away. To explain this Riddle. It is not that I am less but more addicted to Vanity than others; so much that I can wrap my self up as warmly in my own vanity, as the Ancient could involve himself in his Virtue. If I have any Merit I certainly know it and if the World will not allow it me, I will allow it my self. I would not have you think (I might say know) me to be so dishonest as to assert that I despise Fame; but this I solemnly aver that I love her as coldly, as most of us do Heaven, so that I will sacrifice nothing to the Pursuit of her. much less would I bind my self, as all her Passionate Admirers do, to harbour in my Bosom that monster Envy which of all Beings either real or imaginary I most heartily and sincerely abhor. You will begin to think I believe, that I want not much external Commendation. I will conclude then with assuring you. That I heartily wish you Success. That I sincerely think you in the highest manner deserve it. And that if you have it not, it would be in me unpardonable Presumption to hope for Success, and at the same time almost contemptible Humility [not?] to desire it.
"I am Dear Sr. yrs. most Affectionately Hen. Fielding
"I beg you to send me immediately the two remaining Vols:"
|Day 15 (M, Oct. 28)
||Richardson, Clarissa, pp. xix-86
Overview of Richardson and Clarissa
Political Readings of Clarissa
|Day 16 (W, Oct. 30)
||Richardson, Clarissa, pp. 86-172
|Day 17 (M, Nov. 4)
||Richardson, Clarissa, pp. 172-288
|Day 18 (W, Nov. 6)
||Richardson, Clarissa, pp. 288-360
Flight and Rape
|Day 19 (M, Nov. 11)
||Richardson, Clarissa, pp. 360-433
The End: Clarissa
|Day 20 (W, Nov. 13)
||Richardson, Clarissa, pp. 434-516
Second paper due