Alchemy in Clarissa

"One way to read Clarissa is as Blake read Milton: on the side of energy, release, the "daimon" within us that throws (away) the twisted conventions people use to keep one another at bay (family, institutions, "manners")..."

   from the Masterpiece video

 (THE original Clarissa letter... the purple prose is, of course, mine.)

Actually it was our neg-cap Lovelace discussion that started all this.

I'd written Ellen and the other moderator of her 18th C list re Clarissa. I wasn't sure my "I AM Lovelace" letter was right for a scholarly list -- but she replied back on the list, also with a personal note.

Very heartening. And kind.


Deborah Mattingly Conner

ps. no idea how this blogpost got listed on prayer warrior blog.

----- Original Message -----

From: "Ellen Moody"

Sent: Saturday, May 05, 2001 5:40 AM

Subject: Clarissa May 3rd, Lovelace, the daimon and that old sado-masochistic strain

Partly as a reaction to the material on my website on Clarissa, someone has written to me today a truly richly suggestive piece on Clarissa. It's about Lovelace and Clarissa, admitting what few will say openly: how alluring he is. I would like this one not to land in the oblivion of cyberspace but be shared by others as it is filled with good insights and poetry of language. When I read it, I remembered how I opened my dissertation on Clarissa with telling of how he was part of my dream life, talking of him as the animus that allures many women -- and men too. In his book The Romantic Agony, Mario Praz aligns Lovelace with the Romantic poets, with the rebels. One way to read Clarissa is as Blake read Milton: on the side of energy, release, the "daimon" within us that throws the twisted conventions people use to keep one another at bay (family, institutions, "manners"). The poetry of the language is something I can't myself write:

"I think of the Romantic poets who sprang up from this landscape. Their words and sentiments are noble; they love truth and beauty and drink women like wine, discarding them like empty bottles. They're rational, enlightened, and they are ruled by old planets -- Saturn, Venus, and above all, Mercury (ah, there he is, beginning the letter of May Day). The pagans, the Greeks, the old orphic mysteries inhabit Lovelace. And -- oh, how I hate to see all that pass away. Thus, my sympathy.

Where does a man with a sword go when the world turns away from him? When his tenancy and cunning are no longer needed? These aggressive souls who kill the beast at the door play some role, are of some use, to our species. Lovelace is that great mystery of maleness to me. Those beguiling young boys killing frogs at the pond. Torturing things.

The story is certainly about sex. Beyond all the tantric Unus Mundus mumbo jumbo I love so well, it's people living at close quarters, mediating instinct by decorum. But what is more erotic than yielding to the strange, the forbidden? Than any two bonded in stealth? Eros was the child of resource and poverty, cunning and need. Who embodies these better than Lovelace? He stands in the flame. He is part Sileni; a daimon of fields and rocks and thick woods."

I did go over to my site and discovered that I too on this day heard the siren lure of "That Old Sado-Masochistic Strain"

In Letter 170, Lovelace to Belford, Wednesday, May 3rd  (Ross Penguin pp 556-8) we read:
I own with thee, and with the poet, that sweet are the joys that come with willingness--but is it to be expected that a woman of education, and a lover of orms, will yield before she is attacked?--And have I so much as summoned this to surrender? I doubt not but I shall meet with difficulty. I must therefore make my first effort by surprize. There may possibly be some cruelty necessary. But there may be consent in struggle; there may be yielding in resistance. But the first conflict over, whether the following may not be weaker and weaker, till willingness follow, is the point to be tried ...

He then carries on with his bird similes.

Unless I am mistaken this kind of thing occurs more frequently once we arrive at Sinclair's house: the barnyard with its cock and hens, the fowler dig, dig, digging, the elephant "snuffing the moon" with his "proboscis." It turns from a occasional image into a connecting skein. On first reading it might seem as the problem with Colonel Morden's letter (Letter 173.1, Florence, April 13, Ross, Penguin pp 561-4) is that he rigidly ignores this aspect of experience, refuses to acknowledge it (and it is real enough in Solmes, as we have seen), but even here we find sentences like:
Your duty, your interest, your temporal, and your eternal welfare, do, and may all depend upon this single point, the morality of a husband. A wife cannot always have it : in her power to be good, or to do good, if she has a wicked husband ...

I think he refers, however guardedly, however abstractly, to what Clarissa's sex life with Lovelace is going to be like. (He conveniently forgets Solmes, with the implication that "a moral" man will anyway not go out to others, and she can find delight and practice what Johnson called with "art of forgetting" with her "politer studies" and "politer amusements.")

This kind of language is in direct conflict with the plangent skeins Clarissa begins to produce of her self as a kind of lost bewildered not-guilty soul in a labyrinth not very well lighted.

My friend off list wrote of Clarissa most beautifully:

"Above all, they fascinate because they each are so ambivalent. And they help us confront the ambiguities within ourselves. Why do we have more sympathy for Clary than we have for the whores of Dover Street? And though we love her for her mind and her virtue, her goodness and her beauty -- how very much we want Lovelace to win.

When has Clary ever NOT been a prisoner?

She does love him, admit it or not. Demons exist to fascinate, and I'm sure those who believe in them dream wonderfully mad things, remember it or no.

I'm always trying to get into Richardson's head, to see how he moves the miniscule plot along and takes us through to the depths of these people. It was written in another time, but the voices still speak to us of our own. That's always stunning to me."

What I have always loved about Clary is her plangent tone, her absoluteness, that towards the end of the book she too turns towards space well outside society. Of course she is driven there. Oddly enough her vile family -- instinctively how such types often hit on hard truths but then present them so coarsely they are utterly changed -- is right to see in Clarissa towards the end a deep love for Belford. He is Kindness; he is her creator. Richardson's alter ego who loves her.

I bring these up because I think the book allures people for reasons having nothing to do with its professed morality. Perhaps one reason we have trouble on lists discussing our reading experience of Clarissa is because when it "works" for us, it works outside the public realm I talked about with respect to Johnson and Boswell yesterday. Lovelace and Clarissa, they allure people, in French, offer the core of the novel experience, the novel which began as a love story (Longus's _Daphnis and Chloe_, 3rd century AD) "le frisson du roman" but in this case packed "avec d'horreur."

Ellen (Moody)


The following is an ongoing distillation of a series of letters... 
and--to tell the truth--a bit of an exorcism.
It thrives close to the dragon


 O ecstasy! My heart will burst my breast, To leap into her bosom.

THE OPUS. What are the raw materials of the work? A young woman full of promise, awareness, and strength. A family that could be called dysfunctional, neurotic. The father is selfish, blind to others; the mother is loving, but yields to her position in the culture. Into this brew comes a man with great energy and charisma, possessed by books, art, myth, the psychology of his day. With his fateful acts of carrying off the daughter, imprisoning her, and attempting to subjugate her will--body and soul--to his own, all are transformed. By dying to his own nature, he is reborn to Hers. The characters are archetypal. The story is:
 Jane Campion's Holy Smoke. But LONG before that, it was

It's the same old story *... for whatever the disguise, what is taking place is the creative eros connecting with an awakening psyche...*

I picture Samuel Richardson, full of good intentions, sitting down to write a tale that might instruct parents, lovers, and children. And, just as in Clary's story of the lady who kept the pet lion, mind what followed: Mr. Richardson let loose his daemons and created Lovelace, a beguiling tormentor for his CLARISSA. In spite of himself, the artist, the very human man seeped through into his novel. He "resumed his nature" -- and wrote a masterpiece. CLARISSA fascinates because the leads are so ambivalent. And they help us confront the ambivalence within ourselves. Though we love Clarissa Harlowe for her mind and her virtue, her goodness and her beauty, part of us really wants Lovelace to win.

We sense the deepest stirrings in this pair of lovers. To see their conflict as a mere value judgment against Enlightenment "evils" and the necessary triumph of "morality" is to limit, to assume, to obscure. The psyche strives towards wholeness, and just as in Clarissa, a simple purgative response proves destructive. This pair is really two pairs: the conscious pair and its shadowy unconscious twin. Like a quadrille locked in a dance of death and life, they represent the libido--the force of life--in its paradoxical twists of creation and destruction. Just as with dream, we must ask what compensation will arise in the unconscious for every conscious step that's made. In doing so, we flesh out the times as they lived.

There's a view that Romanticism compensated an irrational, intuitive age as it gave way to a positivistic rationalism that persists even now in matters of religion. As Clarissa writes, "What a worse than Moloch-deity is that which expects an offering of reason, duty and discretion to be made to its shrine!" True. I think of the Romantic poets who sprang up from that landscape. Their words and sentiments are noble; they love the truth of beauty, yet seek to drink it like wine, discarding the empty bottles. They're ruled by old planets--Saturn, Venus, and above all, Mercury. (Ah, there he is, beginning the letter of ~May Day.) The old paradoxical mysteries inhabit Lovelace--as his day saw them, anyway. And oh, how I hate to see all that passion pass away. Thus, my sympathy.

Think of all the verse, the tragic heroines Lovelace loves so well. The books, the poets, the plays he devours define him moment by moment. He's always weaving them into his own drama. That's what life is to him: a drama written in all those letters.
Lovelace, the great mystery of maleness. Where does a man with a sword go when his tenancy and cunning are no longer needed? These aggressive souls who kill the beast at the door--surely they play some role, are of some use, to our species. SEAN BEAN played Robert Lovelace in the movie version of Clarissa in England--and did it so perfectly that he became the national Animus. Did them all good, I think. They're reaching for something with this Full Monty business. Something Lovelace started and Lawrence's Mellors/Parkin brought back to life. Something that has been lost. Odd that Sean Bean has played them both. But that's archetype at work:
The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him.
~CGJung, Modern Man In Search Of A Soul

Lovelace's fierce relentlessness also seems in compensation to something. He IS the last of his line. And what might that be?

On an unconscious level, he suggests an old aristocracy bound to the land, organic in everyway. The feeling is one of rule in harmony with nature, an earthy territoriality over flora and fauna. You see it in his easy, playful attitude toward servants, kissing the dairymaids; their pecking order is unquestioned and symbiotic. (Have we forgotten that in the old ways, it was a noble's birthright to take a bride's maidenhead?) His consciousness is the center of that old mythology, and he defines himself from that perspective--that which is passing away.

What seems to get him most is the lack of homage the new fangled Harlowes show him. His rage is the wounded pride of the old gods at not getting their fruit basket. It's all that going-on about Arcady, the romantic mask. Their very speech is the Roman thee-ing and thou-ing.

Those harlequin figurines, their masks and bold dress. How odd they make me feel--alluring, frightening, from someplace between awake and asleep.
What is Lovelace's obsession for Clary? The charming frost-piece, he calls her. He judges her by his projections: "she" as a lover of the Forms -- and "she" who rejects him. Contraries, yes? He also judges her by his experiences with other women.
"...NOT a man who improves upon acquaintance."

Where else have we heard that? Lovelace is wished and wielded into Mr. Darcy and Willoughby .

As for the "trial" he puts Clarissa through, is that not the same modus operandi of all the fathers of heaven and earth she so dutifully tries to please? And if Lovelace is making a fine drama of this in his phantasy--the mythic reality where we truly live--does she not trump him with her magnificent death?

In a novel, we have the characters, the action, and all the personal baggage we bring with us along for the ride. We're also aware that the writer is always sitting there, too. Often with a smile. But like Clary and Lovelace, the artist isn't aware of all that's been set in motion--the forces that move the work. Richardson revised his novel with an eye toward making Lovelace pure villain. Don't you believe it. It's a lie. If it were true, he wouldn't be half as interesting.
How the God within her exalted her...
In Letter 248, Lovelace, ever "endeavoring to penetrate to her very soul," writes of Clarissa: "Her whole person was informed by her sentiments. She seemed to be taller than before. How the God within her exalted her, not only above me, but above herself."

from Robert Lloyd Mitchell's Hymn to Eros A Reading of Plato's Symposium:
Alcibiades speaks of Socrates by means of images. Socrates, he says, is like those figures of Silenus, made by craftsmen, which sit in carver's shops: the kind that portray the satyr with a pipe or flute in his hand, but are made so they can be opened, revealing images of gods within. . . .
. . . .Here the word for 'image' is *agalmata*: originally, images specifically of the gods, though eventually coming to refer to statues generally. But it did so out of an original meaning of 'praise', 'exultation', 'rejoicing'. In other words, these images do not just stand there like our 'sta-tues', 're-presenting' their object. Instead, they glory the gods, they rejoice them. * It is out of this activity that the gods come to visibility in these images. *
    the emblem Clarissa wants on her coffin, likely the one Richdson used.
(inscription: ~ everlasting season (or the "right time") or lasting for an age.
eternal        and    in season or at the right time

"eternal and always timely" (and even 'apposite' )


The symbols of the circle and the quaternity, the hallmarks of the individuation process, point back, on the one hand, to the original and primitive order of human society, and forward on the other to the inner order of the psyche. It is as though the psyche were the indispensable instrument in the reorganization of a civilized community as opposed to the collectives which are so much in favor today.... CGJUNG The Psychology of Transference.

These are complex psychological characters. To side with one is the throw the other away.
"If you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. But you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment." ~Samuel Johnson by way of Boswell.
The 'knowledge of the heart' is the ambivalence of real life. In Samuel Richardson's time, there were no psychologists. Instead, they had books, myths, parables for mirrors. CLARISSA has been read for ~250 years because the psyche of the novel is so fully drawn. Art plays on and defines Lovelace as he makes himself up from the theater and poetry of his age, becoming the myth, the archetype that grounds them. Their plots become his plots, directing his reality, guiding his actions, just aspunctilio defines and guides Clary. Everyone in this drama has an inner script--and how it plays each against each. It enriches and also blinds, tightly woven as it is in their decisions and misunderstandings. And readers --and now viewers-- become bound the same way by the sides they take.
"Oh LOVELACE! LOVELACE! had I doubted it before, I should now be convinced that there must be a WORLD AFTER THIS, to do justice to injured merit, and to punish such a barbarous perfidy! Could the divine SOCRATES, and the divine CLARISSA, otherwise have suffered?"

"Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other..." --CGJung, The Problem of the Attitude-Type, CW7

The rape of Clarissa Harlowe is an expression of power, love's shadow. The inevitable and necessary turning point follows: the knife at the jugular, pictured here in the video version of the novel. This is a betrothal of death. There's a greater rape in the story as well, one that persists to this day.  CLARISSA's original title was THE LADY'S LEGACY. We know where the Harlowes lead us with their conceit that man is master of Nature, rather than part of it: into smoke stacks, slavery, strip mining, eternal militarization, all without the awareness that Nature can only heal herself when she's in balance. You can't help but sense that there's more to the tale, other directions, other concerns, other axes to grind. History, after all, is written by the victors. Fascination, ambivalence, seduction--things that shift balance, always moving. These are the forces, the grand torque of the work. As in any meeting of opposites, there must be tempering, some center ground where such passions can meet and play out. Thwarted, they become erratic, even dangerous, their transforming powers turning in unpredictable directions. 'Yielding' is said to be what will 'prove' Clarissa 'angel' or 'woman' for Lovelace, and either way, on her terms, she loses.
[The world] makes demands on the masculinity of a man, on his ardour, above all on his courage and resolution when it comes to throwing his whole being into the scales. For this he would need a faithless Eros, one capable of forgetting his mother and undergoing the pain of relinquishing the first love of his life.[The Syzygy: Anima and Animus," CGJUNG CW 9ii, par. 22.]<
...capable of forgetting his mother and undergoing the pain of relinquishing the first love of his life. Lovelace will do neither. His failings are obvious:
"When people are powerful, they tend to fall into habits of acting as if they were divine. The cliché, of course, is power corrupts. But what the Greeks are noticing is that it corrupts in a very particular way. You think that you can't go wrong. You think that you can't be mistaken. You think that because you are not likely to be mistaken, you don't have to listen to other people. And those are all signs of tyranny and they're all signs of hubris. They all indicate a lack of respect for the difference between human beings and gods, which is the essence of reverence." ~PAUL WOODRUFF
And our girl, our Clary (as Richardson called her)? How often we hear sentiments such as "virtue/honor is dearer to me than life!".... "I would rather die than xyz!" Be it Lovelace's 'reformation', her own superior purity ("....if she has come out pure gold from the assay..."), her obedience to her pathological family, or the standard bill of fare from the President of the Immortals, she also frames things in terms of trial. In some ways, it seems she shares the flaw of Antigone, becoming so certain of her sense of justice that she becomes a force, a law unto herself.
"Her story reminds us, however, of how difficult it is to recognize hubris in our heroes or in ourselves. Upon the discovery of a certain truth, there is a great temptation to believe one has access to all truth. To say it in traditional religious terms, it is a weakness of human beings to believe that, once they have access to one of God' s truths, they know the full mind of God. From here it becomes ever so easy to mistake one's own will for the will of God."   -- Antigone's Flaw, Patricia M. Lines
". . . . It is this lofty, high reaching, transcendent brand of spirituality that gains a monopoly and bruises the soul. When a spirit is imagined as above human life, ... as abstracting and distancing, and as pure and uncontaminated, the soul is particularly denigrated. For soul is always in the thick of things: in the repressed, in the shadow, in the messes of life, in illness, and in the pain and confusion of love. Spirituality often seeks to transcend these lowly conditions of the soul. But to transcend them is to lose touch with the soul, and a split-off spirituality, with no influence from the soul, readily falls into extremes of literalism and destructive fanaticism." ~James Hillman in A BLUE FIRE.*

Jacques Barzun speaks of the 'physical and mental repression' of the 'ascetic ideal'. What strikes me is how much it still infects us. I have no fascination with rape. My fascination is with fascination. As for rape, again, this reading is poetic. The act of cleaving spirit and flesh, mind and body: To leave out the soul/heart, the mediator of life, is the rape of being.
With sex, too, we run into spiritual materialism. We take sex to be a physical act, at best the expression of love between two people. But sexuality is far more subtle. It permeates the whole of the personality and life. Its qualities of love, passion, sensuality, beauty, and pleasure play a role in every aspect of life, all of which are connected by the sexual or erotic dynamic. Suppress or deny the sexual at one level, and you suffer a loss of all the qualities that give life its vitality and power. ~Thomas Moore

Clarissa could have brought, in time, this ultimate sensibility to Lovelace if he were only capable of trusting her. And her ever-present prison exists because her world proposes that the acceptance of the single, asexual life is the highest life; that her purity should be given only in sacrifice rather than celebration.

The ancient church in its ritual mystery of the mass celebrated the union of the spiritual and physical (see Jung, C. G., "Transformation Symbolism in the Mass," CW 11). It drew from rituals and mysteries still older. The masculine and feminine are metaphorical, representative of the nature of the living cosmos.
Muther (Geschichte der Malerei II) says, in his chapter on "The First Spanish Classics": "Tieck once wrote : 'Sexuality is the great mystery of our being, sensuality the first cog in our machinery. It stirs our whole being and makes it alive and joyful. All our dreams of beauty and nobility have their source here. Sensuality and sexuality constitute the essence of music, of painting, and of all the arts. All the desires of mankind revolve around this centre like moths round a flame. The sense of beauty and artistic feeling are only the other dialects, other expressions. They signify nothing more than the urge of mankind. I regard even piety as a diverted channel for the sexual impulse.' This clearly expresses what one should never forget when judging the old ecclesiastical art, ... the struggle to efface the boundaries between earthly and heavenly love, to blend them into each other imperceptibly."
This is urge is 'libido'--libido in the Jungian rather than Freudian sense; it's life force in the psychological sense. And Eros is its messenger and motivator and receptor.

The concept of libido in psychology has functionally the same significance as the concept of energy in physics since the time of Robert Mayer. --CGJung, CW5, SYMBOLS OF TRANSFORMATION
And with energy, we're back to ambivalence [German Ambivalenz : Latin ambi-, both, around + Latin valentia, vigor (from valent-, to be strong; see wal, to be strong, to rule)] : energy gradients and opposing forces.

As in Eros. DANTE tells us EROS is the force that moves the sun and all the stars...
As in a wheel in even motion driven...
Love and Death...

Eros, mediator of the Forms and their creations, is of Eternity, timeless time, and its material dependent, time itself. As for death, we find a connecting metaphor as Eros was used in the Anthesteria...
When the divine fields of motley flowers
Into the shady grove receive with open arms
The Bacchic dances performed by tender virgins...
The divine fields, the shores of Okeanos where Persephone was picking flowers... you can extrapolate the Bacchic Anthesteria festival and its mystery-wedding from this:
A happy and unique find is a krater in the Naples Museum, because the painting is clarified by an inscription. A winged youth throws a colorful embroidered ball to a hesitant woman. Looking outward but at the same time inward, she is resting one hand on a stele which bears the inscription. This stele is a horos, a boundary stone, and here it probably marks the boundary of the hesitant woman's home country, which she, wearing no ornament and lightly clad, must now leave. She does not reach for the ball, but looks with her shadow of a sly smile at the messenger who has thrown it to her. She will go. On the other side stands a woman with a grave expectant face, holding out to her a mirror and a tainia, a festive ribbon. The woman who thus hesitates is not a hetaira; she is a bride-to-be, but one who already knows. She would prefer not to travel this road.
Who the winged youth is and what the ball means we are told in a well-known poem by Anakreon:
Eros with the golden curls
Throws me the purple ball
And calls me to play with
The girl with the bright colored sandals.
It is Eros--golden curled in Anakreon, here dark-haired--who summons the girl to the game of love with the ball. The ball is an erotic message. Whence and wither? Eros is only the intermediary. What the hesitant woman thinks we are told on the inscription on the boundary stone: "They have thrown me the ball" --"they" in the plural, not any definite individual, even if the bridegroom is waiting in the background. The plural does not befit the language of ancient erotic poetry, but it does that of sepulchral epigrams: "The goddess of fate . . . led me down to Hades." Ordinarily they sent a messenger to act as guide, in this case, Eros. Often it was Hermes, the guide of souls. The woman to whom the daimon of love has been sent as messenger and guide hesitates to accept death fully, though it has already taken possession of her. She is unwilling, but she goes nevertheless to the great erotic adventure. For such was death in the atmosphere of the Anthesteria. Eros with the ball is an aspect of death. ~from The Greek Dionysian Religion of Late Antiquity in Kerenyi's DIONYSOS 365-367)
He is the god of love, EROS:

He is bold and forward and strenuous, always devising tricks like a cunning huntsman; he yearns after knowledge and is full of resource and is a lover of wisdom all his life, a skillful magician, an alchemist, a true sophist.... but on one and the same day he will live and flourish, and also meet his death; and then come to life again through the force of his father's nature." ~Plato, Symposium

"... the Love-god, golden-haired, stretches his charmed bow with twin arrows, and one is aimed at happiness, the other at life's confusion." ~Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 549

The idealizations which Eros tends always to constellate can be counterbalanced: creativity expresses itself also as destruction. Love's torture may not always lead to the happy ending of our tale. The idealizations may further be weighted by recalling the connections in Hesiod, the Orphics, and renaissance Neoplatonism between eros and chaos.
Eros is born of Chaos, implying that out of every chaotic moment the creativity of which we have been speaking can be born. Further more, Eros will always hearken back to its origins in chaos and will seek it for revivification. ... Eros will attempt again and again to create those dark nights and confusions which are its nests. It renews itself in affective attacks, jealousies, fulminations, and turmoils. It thrives close to the dragon." --James Hillman (Love's Torturous Enchantment, A BLUE FIRE)
If that is not Lovelace! He becomes his own weird as Robert Graves might put it. Every time he comes close to his marriage, his own Hieros Gamos, he acts to destroy it.

Eros is a questionable fellow and will always remain so . . . . He belongs on one side to man's primordial animal nature which will endure as long as man has an animal body. On the other side he is related to the highest forms of the spirit. But he thrives only when spirit and instinct are in right harmony ~CGJung CW 7.
Right Harmony. That pair so important in ancient music and extrapolated into all the arts onward; the eternal, orderly and unified Apollo and the diverse and unpredictable Dionysos: the latter had the ability to make the head spin, to overwhelm, to make mad... so that one did not drink wine alone, but in a group, and only one person drinking from the vessel at a time. The idea of the fire and the moving flame, then, is reflected in the pair. And Eros is the movement, the stirring. 

There is simply no abiding, no sitting still, no resolution of opposites in the field of time, especially for the force, the energy, that moves it (not to mention the sun and all the stars). This ambivalence, this two-faced nature, both creative/destructive has been intuited and personified in metaphor as far back as we can remember... And later, as the mythology morphs and mutates, we find Venus wed to Hephaestus--Venus, variously mother or sister of Eros; Eros, shooter of arrows, mover of stars, and Love itself--the ultimate fascination:
[Latin fascin³re, fascin³t-, to cast a spell on, from fascinum, an evil spell, a phallic-shaped amulet.]

In these same early myths, that creative fire inside the earth, that union of opposite forces, made and projected the stars that make our very bodies. (Fascinating, the way we've always known this.) The source of starlight was Hades, that place of paradox and inversion.

Originally, daemons (and please --I've never regarded Lovelace as 'demon lover' in any modern or medieval sense) were messengers, inter-mediators between man and deity; time and eternity.

The Greek poet Hesiod tells us Eros is born of Chaos at the same time as Earth and the Tartarus. He's the comrade of Aphrodite from the moment of her birth. And he's not merely the god of sensual love. He's much more:

Eros is the power that forms the world by the inner union of the separated elements...
Throughout Plato's Symposium, speakers relate mythical accounts of Eros.  There are two opposing mythologies of the origin of Eros.  The opening speaker, Phaedrus (light-bringer), the “Father of Logic," introduces Eros as the first god according to the story in Hesiod.  In this view, Earth and Eros are born of the whirling (“dynos”) chaos.  Eros is not a personification, but a cosmological force or ordering principle (“kosmos” meaning “order”).  It is as though in Hesiod’s account, matter and order are born of Chaos, are the inchoate elements of the universe in which all life originates.  According to this view, Eros is a primordial cosmological mechanism.
The account of Eros as the youngest god depicted in traditional Greek mythology appears in Pausanius’ speech.  Pausanius, reputed for little other than being Agathon’s lover, presents the famous dichotomy between Uranian love and Pandemic love.  Pausanius shares the view that Eros is the youngest god, son of Aphrodite.  There are differing accounts, however, of the nature of Aphrodite’s birth corresponding to the two different types of love:  Uranian (heavenly) and Pandemic (earthly).  According to the Uranian account, Aphrodite is born of the castration of Uranus.  In contrast, Pandemic love derives from the view of Aphrodite as the child of Zeus and a mortal.  It is here that the system of romantic relationships between an older man and a younger man, lover and beloved, is described.  Ideally, says Pausanius, this relationship is to represent Uranian (heavenly) love in that the older man, or lover, is a teacher and mentor to the youth (beloved), as opposed to the older man lasciviously desiring the youth only to leave him once his beauty fades.  The Uranian lover is a lifelong friend to his beloved, remaining dedicated to him after the flower of youth.
It is one of the oft-mentioned facts of the Symposium that Socrates’ speech is, oddly enough, an account of love that he received from a woman.  This woman, Diotima the Delphic Priestess of Mantinea, gives an original mythical description of Eros and his parentage.  In contrast to the views of Eros as both the oldest and youngest god, according to Diotima, Eros is the child of Resource (Poros) and Poverty (Penia).  Because Eros’ mother is destitute, she sleeps with Resource and conceives Eros on the night of Aphrodite’s feast day.  The result is an offspring who is ever in search of objects but unable to maintain them.  Like his mother, Eros is ever craving, restless and desirous, yet he possesses the charms and know-how of his father.  Because of his relentless conniving to possess what he does not have and his inability to maintain it, Eros is said to be a daimon.  Daimon, in the Greek, means something like an intermediary or spirit, a messenger between gods and humankind.
In this exposition, Diotima also establishes that Eros is like a philosopher because he constantly seeks to find what he lacks.  One cannot desire what one already possesses.  If one already possesses something, one cannot desire it in itself, though one may desire the maintenance of this possession.  A philosopher desires wisdom because he recognizes that he lacks it.  The gods, on the other hand, do not seek wisdom as they already possess it.  It is also established that though humans do not possess immortality, humankind seeks to possess deathlessness.  There is a drive within humanity for different types of immortality.  Procreation is a type of yearning for bodily immortality, but as it is limited to the body, it is the lowest sort of love.  The highest type of love is that which, inspired by beauty, ascends to a vision of the Forms. Socrates’ account of love is as a spirit guiding one, through the experience of Beauty, to a vision of the Idea of the Good, or the Form of all Forms, the origin of all that exists in the universe.

The charming frost piece
In Letter 248, Lovelace, ever "endeavoring to penetrate to her very soul," writes of Clarissa: "Her whole person was informed by her sentiments. She seemed to be taller than before. How "the God within her exalted her , not only above me, but above herself."

"The idealizations which Eros tends always to constellate can be counterbalanced: creativity expresses itself also as destruction. Love's torture may not always lead to the happy ending of our tale. The idealizations may further be weighted by recalling the connections in Hesiod, the Orphics, and renaissance Neoplatonism between eros and chaos."Eros is born of Chaos, implying that out of every chaotic moment the creativity of which we have been speaking can be born. Further more, Eros will always hearken back to its origins in chaos and will seek it for revivification. ... Eros will attempt again and again to create those dark nights and confusions which are its nests. It renews itself in affective attacks, jealousies, fulminations, and turmoils. It thrives close to the dragon." ~James Hillman (Love's Torturous Enchantment, A BLUE FIRE)
"Purity of the soul depends on her being clarified by a life that is divided, and on her entering into a life of unity." ~Meister Eckhart, On Death

IN Marie Robert's BRITISH POETS AND SECRET SOCIETIES, there is the following curious note:

J.L.Carr, "Gorgons, Gormogons, Medusists and Masons," Modern Language Review, LVIII (Jan. 1963), pp.73-8. The Gormogons were a body of malcontent Masons who formed themselves into a society in order to mimic and disparage the parent society. The Order was founded by Sir Philip Wharton who had also established the society for the advancement of flirtation. Wharton, who had been Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England, may have been the model for Lovelace in Richardson's Clarissa Harlowe (1747-8). See T.C. Duncan Eaves and Ben D. Kimpel, Samuel Richardson: A Biography (Oxford, 1971), p.267.
I can't pretend to know what Freemasonry might be now, but Mackey's 19th C Encyclopedia of Freemasonry says the following: " Freemasonry and alchemy have sought the same results (the lesson of Divine Truth and the doctrine of immortal life), and they have both sought it by the same method of symbolism. It is not, therefore, strange that in the eighteenth century, and perhaps before, we find an incorporation of much of the science of alchemy into that of Freemasonry."

If we closely investigate the lives of the individuals who were active in shaping speculative Freemasonry out of its operative roots, and particularly examine their connections to older occult societies and traditions, it becomes clear that speculative Freemasonry was designed to be foremost an initiatic institution through which men could recognize their true spiritual potential.
The courtly philosophical climate of sixteenth and seventeenth century Britain, where it did not follow strictly Puritan or Anglican trends, was strongly influenced by the underground tradition sometimes referred to as Arcadia, which encompassed within its philosophy elements of Gnostic, Neo-Platonic, Hermetic, and Kabalistic thought. As Rosicrucianism surfaced in the early seventeenth century it also showed an affinity to the Arcadian stream of thought.
A close study of the literary works produced during this period reveals a distinct current of symbolism embedded inside seemingly mainstream publications. And to those well versed in masonic symbolism the central themes of the initiatic tradition become quickly evident upon examination of this literature. ~Dennis Chornenky in Freemasonry Today

 Materia Prima Lapidis Philosophrum
manuscript, early 18th century

Lovelace is a creature of art on all levels, a harbinger of the Romantic. Alchemy's Gnostic/Neoplatonic poetry would certainly appeal and be known to him. He is also a creature of author Samuel Richardson's 18th Century psyche, and the psyche, like Alchemy, has always operated with the timeless logic system of dream.

Recall what Samuel Johnson said about reading Richardson: "...read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment."

". . .The intercourse of . . . leads to his immediate death. For (she) rises above (him), and encloses him in her womb...So great is her love that she has absorbed him entire into her nature and divided him into invisible parts." ~the Rosarium philosophorum

Like a chemical equation, Lovelace and Clary act and react in stages, project and personify, drive each other on -- as if unconscious forces direct their actions and reactions. Alchemy, mother of chemistry, is not about turning base metals into gold.Alchemy is about transformation.

"....IF she has come out pure gold from the assay..." , Lovelace writes. Clary is imprisoned, tried, perfected through his torments, becoming ultimately the Lapis Philosophorum through which he is driven to seek his own perfecting.

"An unseen hand makes all our moves--For destiny plays us all!" . . . as Lovelace quotes. He is driven. He CANNOT turn away. The alchemist is always part of his experiment. Aware or unawares, he is inextricably bound to the process.

"Looks like he's holding a flask with the white stone coming to flower..." ~mike dickman

Clarissa's very name means crystalline, another name for the alchemical prima materia , as is orphan -- and Clary is said to belong to no one . Obvious symbols are the ouroboros she wants on her coffin, the constant references made to trials and reformations, to her proving 'gold', the lightening /whitening as she approaches death. The whole captive bird thing is classic. As is the image of Clary in her coffin, seeming split in two -- and the flaming/red salamander eyes, the implied dismemberment / putrifactio of Ms. Sinclair. (That last name is significant; in itself, and as St. Claire .) We hear about Lions who tear ladies apart. . . Clary's uniting with Lovelace in her father's house . All these images speak the alchemical language of dissolve and coagulate .
 Rosarium Philosophorum, emblem 6

Letter 152, April 24, Lovelace to Belford: " But I am not angry with thee, Jack. I love opposition. As gold is tried in fire and virtue by temptation; so is sterling wit by opposition." It strikes me: Belford doth also drive this reaction. He makes the wager. He is catalyst -- and more than catalyst. Like Eros's brother Anteros, the 'avenger of unrequited love or the opposer of love', he functions as Lovelace's complement/counterpoise.

And Anna, catalyst to Clary... and Arabella, Clarissa's sister; the name ara bella translates as altar of beauty. Arabella acts as an overall catalyst to the very end.

". . . you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment..." There is a thread to be followed. Things that feed the imaginal mythos/the ineffable mysteries of Becoming (coming to 'being') -- and that is the function of Art.

"The ouroboros ... represents the closing in of a process upon itself, forming an integral ring of being." ~ Adam McLean

Adam (McLean) has a nice introductory essay on alchemical symbols -- the first paragraph and (especially) the last third gives an excellent feel for the allegory. Alchemy, though now too often thrown off as mumbo jumbo into the bin of things occult, was a well-known symbol system in Richardson's time. I see it as a form of meditation, where mind and body, spirit and matter meet in the dream-language of archetype.

Usually expressed as image, Archetype is the psyche's analog to the 'knowledge' / matrix intrinsic within matter: the 'memory' of hydrogen bonding in water that ' knows' to form ice, the crystal lattice that forms diamonds from carbon. Not the compound, not the image per se -- but the matrix behind, within.

"Jung never held that the archaic contents rise up in modern man with all their original coherence and consistency, like a massive and fully visible mountain, but only that enduring elements of forgotten myths emerge, like the summits of of sunken mountain ranges." ELEUSIS, Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter by Carl Kerenyi

Psychologist, poet, author, Alice O Howell defines archetype as "personifications of processes both in the outer and inner worlds, which to the ego are opposites, but ... are one in the unus mundus." Also see Jung. (and don't miss Sharp's lexicon.)

Long before Archetype theory developed, there was myth, story, novel -- creations spawn of fascination. Thus--CLARISSA.

    "Although we still mistake the space of the mind ... for the space outside, we are learning the former is no less powerful than the latter. Identity, power, and historical truth have their roots in these imaginative realms. Every individual thinks part of a tradition and therefore is thought by it..."
    ~Ioan Culiano
We're so quick to see it all Clary's way--she who sits dutifully as the minister rants on about the woman and her snake. But there, the ouroboros: She mutates eden's snake with her death, even as it transforms her.

She is absolutely an Anima figure for Lovelace. The Anima is always of the Eternal: Persephone as Night, the feminine unconscious. Yin/Yang as wings of black and white, female and male each containing the seed of their opposite. And I think this is what Lovelace finally understands.

  Let this expiate!

Expiate is the word Lovelace uses as he dies. Expiate: Atone. At-one.

ATONE: [Middle English atonen, to be reconciled, from at one, in agreement : at, at; AT1 + one, one; see ONE.]

And so they are at one: the consummation of this marriage. And it's a wrap, honey.

Neither let there be found among you any one that shall expiate his son or daughter, making them to pass through the fire. ~Deut. xviii. 10 (Douay version)

James Hillman writes:
"At first the entanglements which Eros constellates seem personal, as if all of love hung on the right word or move at the magical right time, as if it were a matter of effort and doing. But then the entanglements become reflections of archetypal patterns that appear in everyone's life. The images (eidola) are what everyone has experienced in his psyche through loving. In this way Eros leads to the archetypes behind the patterns, and we are played into myth after myth: now a hero, now a virgin running, now a satyr who must clutch, now blind, now soaring. Precisely this mythical awareness and enactment result from psychological creativity.
"Thus we begin to recognize in ourselves that eros and psyche are not mere figures in a tale, not merely configurations of archetypal components, but are two ends of every psychic process*. They always imply and require each other. We cannot view anything psychologically without it entering our soul. By experiencing an event psychologically, we tend to feel a connection with it; in feeling and desire we tend to realize the importance of something for the soul. Desire is holy, as D.H. Lawrence, the romantics, the Neoplatonists insisted, because it touches and moves the soul. Reflection is never enough."
(*Ouroboros again.)

Odd stray spec: Lovelace as Mars ruled by Venus. He says he loves revenge, loves his warfare; he says he is ruled by Love (see end of Letter 31). Even his name says this: Love-lace, that is, love- noose ; love- snare [ LACE: a cord, a tie. (F.-L.) M.E. las, laas. -- O.F. las, laqs, a snare, noose -- L. laqueus, a noose, snare, knot. Allied to L. lacere , to allure ; cf. E. elicit, delight. ]. He's both noun and verb. He calls marriage the shackle . And he does want the shackle game. (See Letter 107.) Sort of. (Ambi-valence is classic Eros.) He's Roman: thee and thou-ing. He doth fear Eos (Dawn/Aurora -- how many times he mentions dawn!) and so acts out the goddess's part. Just as in the Roman wedding the groom acted out an abduction of the bride. A magic to control what you fear, the hocus-pocus.

And I am -- and I'd say thou art listing that way as well -- more Greek and Orphic than Roman. As Oscar Wilde says:

"When the gods choose to punish us, they merely answer our prayers."  

~A good novel expands time sideways. Go for it.~

So there. My misunderstanding of the classic. Hal Bloom in his Yeats book talks about every artist drawing what their heart will from the artists they love, and in their misinterpretations and twisted misunderstandings, they create totally new art. Of course, there's more to Richardson's novel. This is only what I personally draw from it as a reader with passions and interests of my own, enamored as I am by all that Tantric Unus Mundus mumbo jumbo.

A deep reading of CLARISSA reveals a depth of influences that only proves the characters all the more rich and complex. A few excellent resources: Ellen Moody's real time reading of Clarissa , Richardson from U Oxford, and C18L , 'an international, interdisciplinary forum for discussing all aspects of 18th-century studies -- that is, the "long 18th century," which extends roughly from 1660 to 1830.'

Re the Hermetic tradition (reflected in Alchemy, Masonry, and Jung), the essay by Peter Kingley: Knowing Beyond Knowing: THE HEART OF HERMETIC TRADITION.

Summa Felicitas,



(note: I don't pretend to be a muse. It was the title of my first work, and promoting it, it became my email because of a related website. Alas.) 




Angelic Muse:

Know ye that we simple mortals of the Last Thursday are honored that
you would select our humble electrons to help illuminate in any way your
most scholarly capturing of Clarissa. We are here but to serve.

Hell, we live in the desert in New Mexico, what else can we do?

Use us as you wish,
Dispose of us as you desire,
We are but the dust of yesteryear,
Once bright, twice alight with fire.

Most Appreciatively,
The Last Thursday Book Club
"feo, fuente, y formal"

I'd written:

Dear Last Thursday-ite,

It seems I've spontaneously given you a link from my page.
Please say it is all right for it to stay. The Johnson was
just so wonderful. (Better rephrase that.) The dialogue
between Johnson and Boswell fit so perfectly.

Thank you, whichever way you decide.

"esse est percipere"