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LYDIA MELFORD AND THE ROLE OF THE CLASSICAL BODY IN SMOLLETT'S 'HUMPHRY CLINKER.'.

In Smollett's Humphry Clinker, Jery Melford describes his sister Lydia as "a fine tall girl, of seventeen, with an agreeable person; but remarkably simple, and quite ignorant of the world" (April 2, p. 10) and Charles Dennison (the person in the novel for whom Matthew Bramble reserves his highest regard) calls her "one of the most lovely creatures I have ever beheld" (Matthew, October 11, p. 314). (1) In her physical appearance, Lydia is unlike most of the other characters in the novel, in that she is deformed neither by disease (Bramble and Bullford), by injury (Lishmahago), nor by affectation (Tabitha, MacKilligut). Near the end of the novel, Lydia is protected from the wedding night hijinks because, as Jery observes, she and George Dennison are not "judged suitable objects of mirth" (November 8, p. 333). In the following essay, I will argue that quite apart from questions of Lydia's conventionality as a stock romantic heroine, Smollett uses Lydia and her distinct physical nature to focus themes concerned with the interrelated ideals of simplicity and rural retirement.

In "An Essay on the Knowledge of the Characters of Men," Fielding writes:
   Nothing can, in Fact, be more foreign to the Nature of Virtue than
   Ostentation. It is truly said of Virtue, that could Men behold her Naked,
   they would be all in Love with her. Here it is implied, that this is a
   Sight very rare or difficult to come at; and indeed there is always a
   modest Backwardness in true Virtue to expose her naked Beauty. She is
   conscious of her innate Worth, and little desirous of exposing it to the
   publick View. It is the Harlot Vice who constantly endeavours to set off
   the Charms she counterfeits, in order to attract Men's Applause, and to
   work her sinister Ends by gaining their Admiration and their Confidence.
   (P. 174)(2)


This is an image to which Fielding returns frequently, and it is based on a commonplace having its roots in Plato's Phaedrus, where as Fielding puts it in the "Essay on Conversation," Plato "draws Virtue in the Person of a fine Woman" (p. 143).(3) It is an image that shows up near the end of Joseph Andrews as Fanny Goodwill, Joseph's new wife, is prepared for the wedding bed:
   She was soon undrest; for she had no Jewels to deposit in their Caskets,
   nor fine Laces to fold with the nicest Exactness. Undressing to her was
   properly discovering, not putting off Ornaments: For as all her Charms were
   the Gifts of Nature, she could divest herself of none. How, Reader, shall I
   give thee an adequate Idea of this lovely young Creature! the Bloom of
   Roses and Lilies might a little illustrate her Complexion, or their Smell
   her Sweetness: but to comprehend her entirely, conceive Youth, Health,
   Bloom, Beauty, Neatness, and Innocence in her Bridal-Bed. (4.16.343)(4)


The virtuous body to which Fielding repeatedly returns bears relation to what Bakhtin invokes as the classical body in his influential Rabelais and His World.(5) The classical body is the centerpiece of "the new bodily canon," a manner of constructing the body that is a heritage of the late Renaissance (p. 319). "The new bodily canon," he writes,
   presents an entirely finished, completed, strictly limited body, which is
   shown from the outside as something individual. That which protrudes,
   bulges, sprouts, or branches off when a body transgresses its limits and a
   new one begins is eliminated, hidden, or moderated. All orifices of the
   body are closed. The basis of the image is the individual, strictly limited
   mass, the impenetrable facade. (P. 320)


The significance of the classical body as a site for the organization of ideological expression has been further refined by Stallybrass and White in The Politics and Poetics of Transgression.(6) There they connect the classical body with the body of statuary: "the classical statue is the radiant centre of a transcendent individualism, `put on a pedestal,' raised above the viewer and the commonality and anticipating passive admiration from below. We gaze up at the figure and wonder" (p. 21). Stallybrass and White provide a clearer account than Bakhtin of the social force of the new bodily canon:
   the classical body was far more than an aesthetic standard or model. It
   structured, from the inside as it were, the characteristically `high'
   discourses of philosophy, statecraft, theology and law, as well as
   literature, as they emerged from the Renaissance. In the classical
   discursive body were encoded those regulated systems which were closed,
   homogeneous, monumental, centred and symmetrical. (P. 22)


This is a highly suggestive account of the importance of the classical body, particularly as it may be made to serve as a context for examining the manner in which Smollett closely associates the attractive, desirable young Lydia Melford with ideals of simplicity and purity.(7)

Certainly the literal embodiment of moral ideals in the person of the beautiful heroine is not new to Smollett when he comes to create the character of Lydia Melford. But she may be regarded as the furthest development of Smollett's treatment of the romantic heroine. For the most part, Smollett's heroines share the distinguishing characteristics of Fielding's Fanny Goodwill: beauty and passivity. Roderick Random's Narcissa is a "fair angel" (57:33) graced with "meekness, innocence and beauty" (56:343).(8) In Ferdinand Count Fathom, "every feature" of the long-suffering Serafina is "elegantly perfect ... ravishing and delightful" (43:200).(9) Launcelot Greaves' inamorata, Aurelia Darnel, is "something more than a human creature ... a cherubim of beauty" (13:111).(10) And like Fielding's Fanny Goodwill, rather than initiating action, these characters often expose the intemperate lusts of various male characters, while their own sexual identity is safely confined within the pale of virtuous wedlock. Their bodies are therefore important sites where virtues of charity and constancy are preserved.

This role is emphasized by the recurrent device, initiated with Roderick Random, of removing the heroine from the reader's attention for a significant portion of the action, and then returning her to serve as a reward for the morally matured and socially transformed hero near the end of the novel.(11) And if there is a development in Smollett's treatment of his heroine, it is in the increasing degree to which the protagonist's attention is directed toward the female paragon, and his behavior guided by his consideration of her character. In Peregrine Pickle, when Peregrine is reunited with Emily after his travels on the Continent, the corruption of his character is exposed to him by the manner in which she responds to his proud advances. Returning from the Continent where he has been transformed into a conceited fop, he assumes the rake's role and plots Emilia's conquest, laying "down the honest resolution of visiting her in all the splendour of his situation, in order to practise upon her virtue with all his art and address, to the utmost extent of his influence and fortune" (80:397).(12) Emilia, however, summarily exposes Peregrine's "execrable scheme" (82:408); and he must undergo a series of profound humiliations before he is reunited with her virtually at the end of the novel.

It is with the character of Fathom that Smollett most fully explores this demonic sexual hubris; and the zenith of the Count's wickedness is the attempted seduction of Monimia, from which she flees into a pseudo-death. However, upon her reappearance and the consolidation of her appropriate union with Renaldo, Monimia acts as a nearly heavenly minister of forgiveness as she becomes the principal instrument of Ferdinand's reformation.

Smollett's peculiarly idealized heroine achieves its highest incarnation in Aurelia Darnel. However, unlike the separation to which Smollett's other lovers are consigned, Greaves' almost continual pursuit of Aurelia keeps her before the reader, and both Greaves' persistence and Aurelia's courage and long-suffering unite their dramatic destinies more effectively than Smollett has been able to achieve in earlier couples. Indeed, the extent to which they embody norms of rationality and virtue in contrast to a corrupt world is dramatized both by their being held in a madhouse against their wills, and by the terms in which their final union is described: "the perfect and uninterrupted felicity of the knight and his endearing consort, diffused itself through the whole adjacent country, as far as their example and influence could extend" ("Chapter the Last," p. 210). With Aurelia Darnel, Smollett finds a means of moving his heroine into closer dramatic proximity with the norms pursued by the hero. The union of Greaves with the beautiful Aurelia represents an important thematic consummation: having left the ridiculous trappings of the picaresque knight behind, he may move securely within the sphere of Aurelia's virtuous sensuality, and together they may be translated quite beyond the physical into a wholly moral realm.(13)

Lydia Melford is a further refinement of this concentration of significance, of this diffused moral influence. In this she is somewhat like Emilia whose virtue exposes Peregrine's intemperance, and like Serafina whose thoroughgoing goodness first frustrates Fathom's vicious sexual appetite and finally influences his reform. Where Lydia is distinct from Smollett's other heroines is in the brevity with which Smollett treats her physical appearance. The physical idealization of the classical body, a staple of Fielding and the earlier Smollett, receives little attention with Lydia. The physical appearance of his young lovers in Humphry Clinker is presented in an evocative shorthand. Aside from Charles Dennison's observation of Lydia's loveliness and Jery's of the "agreeableness" of her "person," and the "elegance" of young Dennison, at no point in the narrative does Smollett pause to present a careful physical portrait of his two lovers. Nor does the erotic component of their relationship receive particular attention. In fact, they seem to be distinguished from the other characters by virtue of their thoroughgoing inoffensiveness; while Lismahago and Tabitha and Humphry and Win are comically demonstrative in acknowledging the success of their wedding nights, Lydia and George, Jery tells us, "are too delicate to exhibit any strong-marked signs of their mutual satisfaction" (November 8, p. 334). Instead, Lydia is, with George, a preserve of decorum in the middle of a veritable pandemonium of grotesques. Bakhtin writes of "the closed, smooth, and impenetrable surface" of the classical body" (p. 318) (as was quoted above, he also calls the classical body an "impenetrable facade"), and it is precisely in Lydia's habitually decorous behavior that this characteristic impenetrability of the classical body is evidenced. Save for her rather passive participation in the several coach accidents over the course of the family's travels (in each case, a single sentence is given to the account of her rescue [Jery, May 24, p. 76; Jery (October), p. 301]), Lydia is never involved in incidents in which she is made a ridiculous physical spectacle. Her distinction in this respect is made quite clear by the contrast between her behavior and the behavior of her aunt Tabitha and Tabitha's maid, Winifred Jenkins, at Bath. While Tabitha and Win take to the waters with characteristically farcical results--Win loses her clothing and becomes completely discomposed, she "was fluttered all day; so that we could hardly keep her from going into hysterics" (April 26, p. 39)--Lydia is content merely to sip the waters. Certainly this virgin modesty is to be expected of Lydia, but the care with which Smollett disposes Lydia's body does nevertheless constitute a very important measure of her special status in the novel.

It is, however, Lydia's characteristic inoffensiveness that seems to be behind the traditional tendency to question her effectiveness as a dramatic character. John V. Price, for example, writes that "Lydia is little more than a paradigm of the romantic heroine, ready to die at any slight misfortune and to regard herself as afflicted and forlorn."(14) And Price regards Smollett's treatment of her as fundamentally satiric (p. 42). Paul Gabriel Bouce calls Lydia "a contrite little ninny" (p. 194) and writes, "Jery's final opinion of his sister, `she is really an amiable creature' ... does no more than justice to this heroine, not outstandingly intelligent, but not devoid of the charm of emotional freshness" (p. 225).(15) These limited views of Lydia have been echoed in Robert Donald Spector's survey of Smollett's work.(16)

Still more recently in his Smollett's Women, however, Spector has treated Lydia's character with new sensitivity and sympathy. Spector finds that Lydia's letters to her friend Letty and to her governess Mrs. Jermyn "display a more fully developed character than has been suggested by modern critics who have found in the early letters especially a naive, altogether innocent young woman" (p. 61).(17) Smollett's treatment of his heroine, Spector argues, is intelligent and evocative. In the episode of Lydia's dream in which Wilson is married to Tabitha by Mr. Barton while Lydia sees herself standing "weeping in a corner, half naked, and without shoes and stockings" (June 10, p. 132), Smollett is said to display "a Richardsonian sensitivity to the conflict between a young woman's desires and the repressive conventions of her society" (p. 69). But Spector's analysis is sometimes questionable. Lydia's good sense and complexity, it appears, are largely evidenced in the sense of discretion and decorum she shows in taking care about who she trusts with her confidence--giving Letty, for example, details of her feelings for Dennison/ Wilson which she does not give to Mrs. Jermyn (p. 62). Spector elevates Lydia's discretion to the level of "political sense" (p. 62), but surely Bouce is more accurate claiming that "Lydia is not lacking in a certain basic feminine duplicity" (p. 194). This observation of the conventionality of Lydia's discretion is closer to the mark than Spector's unwarranted exaggeration of its significance. Nevertheless, Spector's sense of the unexamined complexity of Lydia's character is fundamentally sound. He points to the obvious thematic importance of her desire for George Dennison (pp. 72-73), her apparent place as Mrs. Dennison's successor (p. 80), and to her role in preserving and developing the desire for rural retirement also so important to Matthew Bramble (p. 76). Most importantly, Spector gives pause to the dismissiveness that has traditionally informed the criticism surrounding the character of Lydia Melford.

As I said earlier, the care with which Smollett disposes of Lydia's person suggests her importance in the novel. This importance is developed through the different ways Lydia is associated with the novel's two most prominent characters, Humphry Clinker and Matthew Bramble. It is in respect of qualities of simplicity and seriousness that Lydia is connected with Humphry; and through her articulation of the value of rural retirement that she is connected with Matthew. It is my contention that Lydia Melford is the locus of the classical body in the novel, and that Smollett, by associating her with values attached to both Humphry and Matthew, uses her to center the novel's most important themes. Over the course of the remainder of this paper, I will examine Lydia Melford first in relation to Humphry and then in relation to her uncle, Matthew Bramble.

Lydia is, as Jery puts it, "remarkably simple." Simplicity is Lydia's most characteristic trait; Matthew calls her "a good-natured simpleton" (April 16, p. 13), and Win observes that Lydia is "as innocent as the child unborn" (April 26, p. 41). It can be argued that this simplicity is entirely consistent with the conventionality of Lydia's character; her purpose as a stock romantic heroine being to do little more than repine vacuously for an absent lover. But the fact that she shares this trait of simplicity with the novel's eponymous hero suggests that Smollett intends her to be taken more seriously. Humphry Clinker calls himself "innocent as the babe unborn" (Jery, May 24, p. 85), precisely echoing Win's comment about Lydia; and Bramble says of Clinker that he is "the very picture of simplicity" (Matthew, June 12, p. 143) and that his "character is downright simplicity" (June 14, p. 150). Jery observes that Clinker is "a surprising compound of genius and simplicity" (July 10, p. 180). Humphry's simplicity is the basis of his goodness; perpetually charitable and useful, he moves effortlessly and unaffectedly in an environment of laborers and felons. Naively drawn to Methodism, Humphry is nevertheless empowered by his fundamental simplicity to transmit truths whose morality transcends the stigma Bramble attaches to the sect. When Bramble rebukes Humphry for his preaching, sarcastically arguing that to rid the language of the lower classes of profanity would be to remove a necessary external sign of class status, Humphry correctly replies that "at the day of judgment, there will be no distinction of persons" (Jery, June 2, p. 98). Lydia's own simplicity can likewise be seen as positively informing her moral timber. Of the women who attend Humphry's preaching, Lydia is the only one who does not go out of self-interest, but in response to simple spiritual striving. She is "persuaded" by Tabitha and Win (June 10, p. 132). Attending Humphry's preaching quite by accident, she is nevertheless thrown into real spiritual turmoil by her apparent insensitivity to "those inward motions, these operations of grace, which are the signs of a regenerated spirit" (June 10, p. 133). The irrational excesses of Methodism are of course subject to Smollett's satire through the character of Bramble. Bramble refers to the spontaneous revelation as "reveries of a disturbed imagination" and an imposition "upon silly women, and others of crazed understanding" (Jery, June 10, p. 135). However, Lydia's simplicity puts her precisely in the same relation to Methodism as Clinker: "poor Liddy," reports Jery, "said she had no right to the title of a devotee; that she thought there was no harm in hearing a pious discourse, even if it came from a footman" (June 10, p. 134). For Lydia, as for Humphry, it is not the form of Methodism that is important, but simply its status as "pious discourse." In their spiritual innocence, they simply do not know any better, and are absolved from Bramble's condemnation by their simplicity. It is notable, as well, that though Lydia prays "fervently to be enlightened" (June 10, p. 133), she is not.(18) She is incapable of the spiritual pride, much less the distinctly sublunary self-interest that carry Tabitha and Lady Griskin into Humphry's motley congregation. It is through Humphry and Lydia--both by nature "simple"--that the restlessness of the family is transformed into explicitly spiritual striving.

Coupled with Lydia's laudable simplicity is her seriousness. The simplicity of Lydia's encounter with Methodism does not become ridiculous because Lydia's piety is also quite serious. When she records that "I have prayed fervently to be enlightened," she is expressing a genuine impulse that suggests aspects of her character pointing quite beyond the conventional to the seriousness of the novel's themes. Near the end of the novel, Jery contrasts his sister with her friend, the delightful Miss Willis. Miss Willis "is gay, frank, a little giddy, and always good-humoured"; and Jery plainly prefers her character to that of his sister whom he judges to be "rather too grave and sentimental" (Jery, November 8, p. 330). Lydia's gravity renders her humorless, and it is by virtue of her gravity that she is set apart from the misadventures of most of the other characters in the novel. The colorlessness of her relationship with George Dennison proceeds directly from her gravity and sentimentality; far from passionate, Lydia is rather unfailingly correct and decorous. And her desire for the young man is regularly contextualized by her sense of obedience to her family. When we first hear her voice in the novel, its tone is humble and penitent:
   I confess I have given just cause of offence by my want of prudence and
   experience. I ought not to have listened to what the young man said; and it
   was my duty to have told you all that passed, but I was ashamed to mention
   it; and then he behaved so modest and respectful, and seemed to be so
   melancholy and timorous, that I could not find it in my heart to do any
   thing that would make him miserable and desperate. (Lydia, April 6, p. 11)


Lydia's solicitude for George's peace of mind is framed by her recognition of her duty to those around her. Her passion for George is nothing if not responsible. Finally, Jery's report of Lydia's conduct toward Humphry upon the discovery of his relationship to Matthew provides an entirely characteristic view of her sobriety:
   Liddy seemed much pleased with this acquisition to the family.--She took
   him by the hand, declaring she should always be proud to own her connexion
   with a virtuous young man, who had given her so many proofs of his
  gratitude and affection to her uncle. (Jery, October 4, p. 306)


Critics have tended to disregard the seriousness of Lydia's character and therefore the serious tone of many of the things she says.(19) She is instead remembered as a foil to Matthew's irascibility. She observes in the present moment and place the wonders to which Bramble is constitutionally blind. "I find nothing but disappointment at Bath" (April 23, p. 34), Bramble complains to Dr. Lewis. But for Lydia, "Bath is to me a new world--All is gayety, good-humour, and diversion" (April 26, p. 38). Similarly, Bramble regards London as "an overgrown monster" (May 29, p. 86), while Lydia finds herself "quite in a maze of admiration" (May 31, p. 90). This optimism and receptivity is entirely consistent with the character of an inexperienced girl, but Lydia's impressionability is carefully qualified by more mature sentiments--sentiments directed toward her appreciation of friendship, solitude, and the natural world. Despite the attractions of the fascinating cities, Lydia is quick to assure Letty of her loyalty: "neither Bath, nor London, nor all the diversions of life, shall ever be able to efface the idea of my dear Letty, from the heart of her ever affectionate" Lydia (Lydia, April 26, p. 41). And this fundamental companionability has its special setting:
   I wish my weak head may not grow giddy in the midst of all this gallantry
   and dissipation; though, as yet, I can safely declare, I could gladly give
   up all these tumultuous pleasures, for country solitude, and a happy
   retreat with those we love. (Lydia, May 31, p. 93)


Lydia's "as yet" is an empty apprehension; she maintains her desire for a social solitude as consistently as she does her desire for George Dennison. She first acknowledges the attractions of solitude early in the novel, "I begin to be in love with solitude" (April 21, p. 27), she writes from Hot Well just before the family moves on to Bath; and she will write at length of the merits of solitude near the end of the family's peregrinations:
   Nature never intended me for the busy world--I long for repose and
   solitude, where I can enjoy that disinterested friendship which is not to
   be found among crouds, and indulge those pleasing reveries that shun the
   hurry and tumult of fashionable society--Unexperienced as I am in the
   commerce of life, I have seen enough to give me a disgust to the generality
   of those who carry it on--There is such malice, treachery, and
   dissimulation, even among professed friends and intimate companions, as
   cannot fail to strike a virtuous mind with horror; and when Vice quits the
   stage for a moment, her place is immediately occupied by Folly, which is
   often too serious to excite any thing but compassion. (October 4, p. 296)


This last observation is significant not merely for its profound seriousness, but for the way in which its moral force so closely follows her uncle's own observations. In London, Matthew fumes, "Every thing I see, and hear, and feel, in this great reservoir of folly, knavery, and sophistication, contributes to enhance the value of a country life" (Matthew, June 2, p. 104); and he expresses a longing for "my solitude and mountains" (May 29, p. 89).

Matthew and Lydia's coinciding sympathies are extensively elaborated over the course of the novel. They have similar experiences of the crowds at Bath. Matthew is overcome by what he describes as "pestilential vapours"; Lydia is affected in much the same way. She writes of her sensations in the crowd of one of the public rooms: "The place was so hot, and the smell so different from what we are used to in the country, that I was quite feverish when I came away. Aunt says it is the effect of a vulgar constitution, reared among woods and mountains; and, that as I become accustomed to genteel company, it will wear off" (Lydia, April 26, p. 41). This passage manages to strike many of the thematic chords associated with Lydia. Like her uncle, she exhibits a physical sensitivity that has a latent moral component; she experiences the crowd in terms of its odor. Additionally, Tabitha's opposition of gentility and provinciality takes place in terms of an explicit invocation of the natural order. Tabitha's constitutional affectation injects the correcting irony into her opinion, with the result that the practised gentility she commends is ridiculed and the atmosphere of rural retreat, woods, and mountains--the atmosphere in which Lydia's apparent provinciality places her--is given approval.

The terms in which Lydia describes her fondness for the Downs at Hot Well also bears comparison with the objects of Matthew's observation. Lydia writes:
   I begin to be in love with solitude, and this is a charming romantic place.
   The air is so pure; the Downs are so agreeable; the furze in full blossom;
   the ground enamelled with daisies, and primroses, and cowslips; all the
   trees bursting into leaves, and the hedges already clothed in their vernal
   livery; the mountains covered with flocks of sheep, and tender bleating
   wanton lambs playing, frisking and skipping from side to side ... Then, for
   variety, we go down to the nymph of the Bristol stream, where the company
   is assembled before dinner; so good-natured, so free, so easy; and there we
   drink the water so clear, so pure, so mild, so charmingly maukish. (April
   21, pp. 27-28)


In Scotland, having praised the "transparent, pastoral, and delightful" water of the Leven, Matthew proceeds to describe Lough-Lomond:
   Nor are the banks destitute of beauties, which even partake of the sublime.
   On this side they display a variety of woodland, corn-field, and pasture,
   with several agreeable villas emerging as it were out of the lake, till, at
   some distance, the prospect terminates in huge mountains covered with
   heath, which being in bloom, affords a very rich covering in purple. Every
   thing here is romantic beyond imagination. (August 28, p. 241)


And this structure is repeated again only a few pages later:
   Above that house [of Cameron] is a romantic glen or clift of a mountain,
   covered with hanging woods, having at bottom a stream of fine water that
   forms a number of cascades in its descent to join the Leven; so that the
   scene is quite enchanting. (September 6, p. 243)


Matthew's observation of the sublime mountain scenery in northern Scotland is a climactic moment in the novel:
   This country is amazingly wild, especially towards the mountains, which are
   heaped upon the backs of one another, making a most stupendous appearance
   of savage nature, with hardly any signs of cultivation, or even of
   population. All is sublimity, silence, and solitude. (September 6, p. 244)


Matthew's rhapsody on natural beauty exactly parallels Lydia's own. Lydia's affinity with the unsophisticated natural order is to her credit; solitude is a space where the moral life may achieve its most complete state, and solitude's special natural environment is the space toward which the narrative inevitably makes its most poetic gestures. Significantly, the appreciation of natural solitude seems natural to Lydia; her enchantment at Hot Well comes before the journeys through Bath and London, where the innocence of her vision is largely preserved. Matthew, on the other hand, achieves the rhapsodic vision only after having suffered through the corruptions of Bath and London. For Lydia, the capacity for enchantment is innate; for Matthew, it comes as part of a process of purgation.(20)

This connection between Lydia and her uncle is dramatized by the increasingly close and affectionate relationship between them. At the novel's outset, they are united almost circumstantially. Matthew views his niece with grouchy irritation: "Those children of my sister are left me for a perpetual source of vexation" (Matthew, April 2, p. 7), and it is left to Jery to provide a more useful picture of Lydia's character. Before long, however, Matthew is writing, "She is one of the best hearted creatures I ever knew, and gains upon my affection every day" (Matthew, May 5, p. 52). By October, when Bramble is almost drowned in the coach accident, Smollett renders one of the most sentimental scenes in the novel as Lydia is reunited with her uncle:
   she ran thither half naked, with the wildest expression of eagerness in her
   countenance--Seeing the `squire sitting up in the bed, she sprang forwards,
   and throwing her arms about his neck, exclaimed in a most pathetic tone,
   "Are you--Are you indeed my uncle--My dear uncle !--My best friend! My
   father!" (Jery, October 4, p. 302)


This demonstrative scene of family affection is not, however, without its peculiarities. By paralleling the family's search for health and peace with Lydia's romantic quest, Smollett is able to eroticize the desire that animates the family's expedition. In this scene of reunion, the detail concerning Lydia's state of undress, while it serves to establish her precipitancy at this moment, is also voyeuristic and so briefly tinges the moment with a discernible eroticism, though it is an eroticism carefully limited by the fact of Lydia's relationship to Matthew and by the sentimentality that gives the scene its predominant tone. It is a brief view of Lydia that participates somewhat in the commonplace of virtue undressed so frequently exploited by Fielding. John P. Zomchick argues that one goal of the family's quest is to enlist "excess energies (chiefly identified as erotic) under the banner of the domestic household. Tabitha's lust, Lydia's romance, and Win's vitality are bound to their husbands."(21) Similarly, Aileen Douglas claims that "the `cure' of Matthew Bramble requires the containment of female sexuality."(22) Both points are true enough; the disorder experienced by the family is partially attributable to erotic energy. But it is also true that this same erotic energy, especially as it is released through Lydia, is a means of using the decorums attached to the classical body to authorize the desire for beneficial ends, whether they be union with George Dennison or the natural delights and perfections coincident with rural retirement.

It may be argued against my reading of the importance of Lydia's affiliation with values attached to the classical body that her apparent inconsequence in the novel suggests Smollett's resistance to the force of the kind of convention so well exemplified by, as I pointed out earlier, Fielding's use of a character like Fanny Goodwill. Matthew himself frequently determines the antithetical relations of the classical and grotesque bodies. The figures he employs to ridicule society are typical of his habit of passing judgment in physical terms. In one place he writes: "the mob is a monster I never could abide, either in its head, tail, midriff, or members" (April 23, p. 37); and in another: "the diversions of the times are not ill suited to the genius of this incongruous monster, called the public. Give it noise, confusion, glare, and glitter; it has no idea of elegance and propriety" (Matthew, May 20, p. 88). In contrast to this grotesquerie stands Matthew's own rigid self-consciousness. He can't, he writes of himself, "bear thoughts of affording a spectacle to the multitude" (July 4, p. 177). One of the chief attributes of the classical body, it will be recalled, is its impenetrability; and it is in assuming this very impenetrability that Matthew might indeed be said to represent the self-consciousness of the classical body, a self-consciousness aimed at keeping the moral self carefully contained within the limits of a body closed to the outside world. In recounting the episode of Bramble's treatment by Clinker on the beaches at Scarborough, Jery observes that his uncle "has the most extravagant ideas of decency and decorum in the oeconomy of his own person" (July 10, p. 180). In Scarborough, the decorums coincident with the classical body are violated when the overzealous Humphry, believing his master to be drowning, hauls him naked onto the shore of the popular bathing spot. Appropriately for one who cultivates physical reserve, Bramble's response is typically outrageous: "I was so exasperated by the pain of my ear, and the disgrace of being exposed in such an attitude, that, in the first transport, I struck him down" (July 4, p. 179). The picture he draws of himself in his embarrassment makes the immediate connection between excessive physical display and the unnatural: "I cannot walk the street without being pointed at, as the monster that was hauled naked a--shore upon the beach" (p. 179). In the absence of the decorums associated with the unobtrusive life of the classical body, Matthew sees himself as thoroughly grotesque.

Bramble's progress represents a more comprehensive exploration and validation of the thematic axis of the classical body than does Lydia's. While Lydia "wears" the classical body almost emblematically, much in the same way as Fanny Goodwill near the end of Joseph Andrews, Bramble, physically imperfect as he is, painfully attempts to live the ideal of the decorum represented by the classical body. Much of the difficulty that Matthew experiences is a result of this attempted perfection of physical reserve--"the oeconomy of his own person" that Jery notices, and the consolidation of physical peacefulness in the midst of a chaotic, perpetually invasive environment. What results is Matthew's peculiar, victimized passivity; and it is by virtue of this passivity that Bramble is further associated with his niece. As I pointed out earlier, both Matthew and Lydia are overcome by the close atmosphere indoors at Bath. But while Lydia merely becomes feverish, Matthew is completely overcome, and he faints. Of the episode, Jery remarks that "Mr. Bramble is extravagantly delicate in all his sensations, both of soul and body" (May 10, p. 64). Matthew Bramble's moral purity seems validated by his constitutional weakness, and he exhibits curious and continued lapses into what I have called his victimized passivity; he faints at Bath, is embarrassed in Scarborough, contracts a chill during the false fire alarm at the house of Sir Thomas Bullford (Jery, October 3, p. 294), and is almost drowned in the stagecoach accident. One need only call to mind the sufferings of Fielding's Fanny, or Richardson's Pamela and Clarissa to realize what fictional company Matthew Bramble so strangely keeps. By virtue of his delicacy, Bramble is lent a curious femininity, and it is by virtue of this femininity that his association with Lydia is reinforced.(23) Contrary to that view of the novel that would see Lydia progressively more responsive to Matthew's values, on this reading, Lydia, by virtue of the influence of her body and the values inherent in it, stands as an immovable center radiating significance.(24)

At the beginning of this paper, I used the example of Fielding to demonstrate how what Bakhtin calls the classical body genders and literally incarnates specific values. My interest in this paper, particularly through my examination of Lydia Melford, has been to demonstrate Smollett's reliance on the discursive efficiency of the classical body in Humphry Clinker. While it is certainly the case that in comparison with Fielding's treatment of Fanny Goodwill in Joseph Andrews, Smollett's treatment of the details of Lydia's person is slight, the disposition of her character does partake of the iconic transcendence of the classical body invoked by Stallybrass and White. Lydia stands outside the compass of the novel's satire and ridicule. She is simple and serious, modest and reserved, and she repeatedly affirms the values of friendship and rural retirement. And she is lovely. Her existence in the novel confirms the utility of the classical body as a structure around which values may be meaningfully organized. The further demonstration of this utility comes from a curious angle. For as I have also argued, the attribution of qualities of delicacy and passivity to Matthew Bramble associate him not only with the embodied moral rectitude of Lydia, but also with the pantheon of typically long-suffering eighteenth-century fictional heroines. What ultimately shows through the often ferocious scatological satire of Smollett's final novel is the continually refining presence of those ineffable desires that surround the "classical," ideal human body, and which urge Smollett's characters toward the rewards of love, companionship, and the easy peace of retirement within the environs of Brambleton-hall.

NOTES

I would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada which made the research for this article possible. I would also like to thank Particia Bruckmann, John Baird, and Rick Asals for their comments on earlier versions of this article.

(1) References are to The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, eds. Thomas R. Preston and O M Brack (Athens: The Univ. of Georgia Press, 1990).

(2) Miscellanies by Henry Fielding, esq; Volume One, ed. Henry Knight Miller (Middleton: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1972).

(3) Miscellanies by Henry Fielding, esq; Volume One. See Martin Battestin, The Providence of Wit: Aspects of Form in Augustan Literature and the Arts (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1974), p. 80, n. 36.

(4) Joseph Andrews, ed. Martin C. Battestin (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1967).

(5) Trans. Helene Iswolsky (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1984).

(6) London: Methuen, 1986.

(7) The usefulness of Stallybrass and White's refinement of Bakhtin has been recently demonstrated both by Jocelyn Harris in "Grotesque, Classical, and Pornographic Bodies in Clarissa" (New Essays on Samuel Richardson, ed. Albert J. Rivero [St. Martin's Press, 1996], pp. 101-16) and by Denise S. Sechelski in "Garrick's Body and the Labor of Art in Eighteenth-Century Theatre" (Eighteenth-Century Studies 29.4 [1996]: 369-89).

(8) The Adventures of Roderick Random, ed. Paul-Gabriel Bouce (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1979).

(9) The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom, eds. Jerry C. Beasley and O M Brack (Athens: The Univ. of Georgia Press, 1988).

(10) The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves, ed. David Evans (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973).

(11) This point sheds some light on an aspect of the uses of the classical body which lies somewhat outside the scope of my examination of the character of Lydia Melford. In speaking of the manner in which the classical body encodes "those regulated systems which were closed, homogeneous, monumental, centred and symmetrical," Stallybrass and White center a broad range of cultural phenomena on the classical body. Certainly one such phenomenon is the social hierarchy which gathered power, wealth, and influence among the higher ranks. But it is customary for Smollett, as for example it is for Fielding as well, to dramatize the revelation of influential social position in the narrative development of the romantic hero. This is made particularly clear by Roderick Random's incredibly hasty acquisition of his entire personal fortune in the last several chapters of the novel; Roderick's goodness is crowned by wealth in a very necessary dramatic afterthought ("the grand finale of financial felicity" as Bouce puts it in his introduction to the novel [p. xxix]). In Humphry Clinker, George Dennison acquires a kind of retroactive social radiance by the revelation of his rank (after spending much of the novel maligning Dennison's rank, Jery gushes that young Dennison is "one of the most accomplished young fellows in England" [October 14, pp. 317-18]); and it will be remembered that for both Matthew and Jery the problem of George's identity is very closely connected with the issue of his rank (Matthew, April 17, p. 15; Jery, April 2, p. 10; Jery, August 8, p. 216). Whatever other "systems" the classical body may encode, it is certainly in the elegant persons of his romantic protagonists that Smollett centers the normative force, characterized by wealth and influence, of social rank. Lydia, as I will be showing, embodies other desirable, but less quantifiable cultural values.

(12) References are to The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, ed. James L. Clifford (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1964).

(13) Robert Spector examines each of Smollett's heroines in great detail in his Smollett's Women: A Study in an Eighteenth-Century Masculine Sensibility (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 18-80.

(14) Tobias Smollett: "The Expedition of Humphry Clinker" (London: Edward Arnold Limited, 1973), p. 41.

(15) The Novels of Tobias Smollett, trans. Antonia White (London: Longman Group Limited, 1976).

(16) Tobias George Smollett (Boston: Twayne, 1989).

(17) Spector, Smollett's Women.

(18) Sekora connects Smollett's satire on Methodism with his antipathy for the mob (Luxury: The Concept in Western Thought [Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1977], p. 237). In his introduction to the Georgia edition of the novel, Preston points out that Samuel Foote's The Minor (1760) may have suggested Methodism as an object of satire (p. xxv, n. 20).

(19) Bouce explains Lydia's pessimism as an otherwise unaccountable effect of the "atmosphere of moral derangement" that obtains in the novel (p. 238).

(20) As has been amply pointed out by many commentators, Smollett makes important use of the myth of rural retirement, the beatus ille tradition rooted in Horace's second epode, in Humphry Clinker. Thomas Preston takes note of the role of the tradition in his Introduction to the novel, paying particular attention to the contrast between the estates of Baynard and Charles Dennison (pp. xxvi-xxviii). Jeffrey Duncan compares Fielding's and Smollett's use of the convention of rural retirement at some length and like Preston examines the role of Dennison's estate in Smollett's treatment of the convention ("The Rural Ideal in Eighteenth-Century Fiction," Studies in English Literature 8 [1968]: 520-24). Edward Copeland, on the other hand, calls Smollett's novel "a comic pastoral poem in prose" ("Humphry Clinker: A Comic Pastoral in Prose?", Texas Studies in Literature and Language 16.3 [1974]: 493), connecting it, inaccurately in light of Duncan's essay, with the older Greek tradition. For the relation of Horace to the convention, see Maren-Sofie Rostvig's The Happy Man: Studies in the Metamorphoses of a Classical Ideal 1600-1700 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1954), pp. 47-49, 71-74.

(21) "Social Class, Character, and Narrative Strategy in Humphry Clinker," Eighteenth-Century Life 10.3 (1986): 181.

(22)Uneasy Sensations: Smollett and the Body (Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1995), p. 170.

(23) James P. Carson ("Commodification and the Figure of the Castrato in Smollett's Humphry Clinker," Eighteenth-Century Theory and Interpretation 33 [1992]: 24-46) tantalizingly points out that "Smollett accords moral value to the figure of the `feminized' benevolent man" (p. 25), but only connects this feminization with the relation of benevolence to sentimentality (p. 40).

(24) Bouce sees Lydia increasingly influenced by Bramble's pessimism over the course of the novel (p. 238).
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Date:Dec 22, 1998
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