Friday, August 26, 2016

to have recourse

Harriet asking to delay her wedding, Clementina wanting to repel marriage and become a nun, this is another mirroring that I can’t parse, the two women parallel, both struggling against a vise (vol. 6, many ch.). The tenor of the book runs a) with the desires of the vises, but also b) with the feelings of the women since it will not criticise their unreason except through a questionable polyphony. Unreason here is as the vises perceive it. The value of this secret unreason is preached by the book, but hopelessly, the book forming the parallel as a kind of protest, like an extended, begging hand. It is sympathetic to Harriet, showing her dread, and Harriet says that Clementina should be allowed to follow her inspiration, though she is not speaking to the other woman’s face, never having met her. Harriet believes the longing, as a longing, should be heeded. And the reader might recall the aspiring rapist Pollexfen ignoring Harriet's own distress long ago in vol. 1, ch. 33: “he now and then made apologies for the cruelty, to which, he said, he was compelled by my invincible obstinacy, to have recourse.” Now the Pollexfen situation is replicated insidiously by people the author has more or less labelled good. Here is a high point of Richardson’s ambiguity.

Here is one undertone in him: women are always in captivity.


  1. his attitude toward ladies was so ingrained into the culture at the time, that it undoubtedly never occurred to him to question it... if feminists hadn't started raising hell toward the end of the nineteenth c., male attitudes would be the same now as it was then... humans don't like to think; they just want to do things they way they've always been done... no wonder things are going to hell in a handbasket, as someone once said...

    1. He doesn't say that they should be in captivity, or that this is somehow absolutely necessary to their morals; in fact he argues that a controlling, imprisoning, bullying environment is a kind of distressing torture that affects a person's judgment. Imprisoned people should not be blamed when they react against their imprisonment. Charlotte Grandison's father should not have made her life so miserable that she was willing to romance an implausible idiot.

      Richardson's philosophy of personal conduct seems to me to go like this:

      1. All people should be as free as possible.

      2. All free people should want to be rational, kind, modest, prosperous, and self-governing.

    2. i stand corrected. i never read the book, so i was going by your post; it's been interesting, by the by...

    3. Just saying "captivity" does make it sound as if he puts them there himself, and of course he does -- he's the author -- but other authors around him were making the same observations (e.g., that a woman moving around outside the house in a carriage was vulnerable) -- not in the way he does, though.