Friday, July 29, 2016

they had no reason to be dissatisfied with what they heard

The surprise of the hand interrupts the completeness of the surveillance that attempts to constitute the book, letters being written and characters showing their letters to other characters, and those characters then copying the letters into their own letters, till the story can occur for the reader with a more or less (but not completely) chronological distinctness, details filled in and characters saying words that seem mysterious but then we see a piece of information, an anecdote, that explains it: there is a network of sense that we will get to eventually, that is more or less one promise implicit in the History of Sir Charles Grandison: if we keep watching and explaining one another – if we read -- and so on, we will discover why things are said or done, and the quality of a character’s nature will be exposed, tested, and given additional verity; people will comment and others will reinforce their comments, the decency of Charles Grandison will be mentioned by everyone, his enemies will be converted to admirers (vol. 2, ch. 4), his sisters when they meet him after a long separation become his advocates (vol. 2), the parents of a young woman in vol. 3, ch. 20, will eavesdrop outside a room so that we can learn that they appreciate the respectability of his conversation, “they had no reason to be dissatisfied with what they heard me say to their daughter;” all of this as if the reader is a judge or interested enquirer who requires proof of some conjecture, or an answer to some question. Or not an answer to the question but a response. We won’t “get to it eventually,” there is no “it,” there is rather an increasing cluster of actions around a few core ideas, which seem to be represented in Grandison’s character and his unusually handsome appearance: his complexion, his hair, his fine mouth, all of which are mentioned, and praised. Clarissa Harlowe was beautiful too. Richardson is conscious of beauty. But you notice that he develops a more ostentatiously enthusiastic imagination when a character is ugly, with Emily's bad mother having a "complexion, sallowish, streaked with red [that] makes her face (which is not so plump as it once has been) look like a withering John-apple that never ripened kindly," (vol. 3, ch 5) and a corrupted clergyman entering the room behind "a nose now that hid half of [his pimply face], when he looked on one side, and he seldom looked fore-right when I saw him" (vol. 1, ch. 30).

Greville’s behaviour appears opaque against the dense mass of clarity around him.

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