Secrets and selves: theorizing a "Grandisonian" self.
This article is about the way Richardson represents the self in Grandison. Grandisons emphasis on secret sharing troubles Richardson's earlier vision of the self--the vision of a heroic individualized self that historians of the novel like Ian Watt have traditionally privileged. Pamela Andrews and Clarissa Harlowe carve out for themselves vital and impenetrable interior spaces where the true work of the self occurs. This sort of self-work is what individualism emphasizes, and the history of this work has been much explored by critics like Watt, Michael McKeon, and Nancy Armstrong. Harriet, however, finds that this private space, when closed and closely guarded, holds secrets that hinder the growth of a self that finds its fullest expression in the larger circles of family and affective community. Harriet is not Grandison's only secret-keeper, however, and variations of the secret-sharing scene recur throughout the novel. In each of these scenes, the exposure of the heart's secrets profoundly influences the surrounding affective circles; the individual self, opening its private interior space to scrutiny, sends ripples throughout the community that either disrupt or deepen the self's commitments to others. This disruption or deepening is important because, as Rebecca Barr argues, Grandison is about community, and about the ways that community is both created and maintained. It is the individual who poses the greatest threat to the community, and who must be "flattened," so to speak, in order to fit into society. Recently, the idea that the eighteenth century conceived selves as inwardly oriented subjectivities has been challenged by Deidre Lynch, Dror Warhman, and Jonathan Kramnick, and alternative theories of the self have been suggested, theories that replace inwardness with ideas of causation or of types and roles in society. But while Richardson's final novel appears to suggest an "anti-individualistic subjectivity," (2) as Rebecca Barr calls it, I want to suggest that Grandison attempts to navigate a third path between the full-blown poles of "individualism" and "anti-individualism": instead of rejecting individualism it attempts to reconcile the individual to community. In this article I use two of Grandison's many narratives about secrets--Clementina della Porretta's secret love for Sir Charles and Charlotte Grandison's secret entanglement with an unworthy lover--to theorize an alternative self, a "Grandisonian" self that, unlike the heroic "Clarissean" self, fits into affective communal structures, but only after a process of disclosing and discovering the secrets of the heart has shaped it and made it fit for community.
"CLARISSEAN" AND "GRANDISONIAN"
While Grandison may not be a critical hotbed, recent scholarship has attempted to intervene and recuperate a sense of the novel's importance to Richardson's body of fiction, to the period, and to the history of the novel. Bonnie Latimer, Helen Thompson, and Emily Friedman, for instance, all suggest that reexamining Grandison dramatically alters the sense we have of Richardson as a novelist. (3) This regained sense of Grandison's importance, and of the ways Richardson intervened in his own work to modify and expand his fiction, opens up new avenues of investigation and offers new opportunities for rethinking Richardson's fiction. Grandison, I therefore suggest in the spirit of reexamination, radically alters Richardson's representation and characterization of the self: it relocates the self, inviting it in from its position as heroic outsider and reembedding it within the affective structures of family and community This innovation I describe as a shift from a "Clarissean" self to a "Grandisonian" one.
The "Clarissean" self, broadly speaking, is the heroic individual maintaining (or struggling to maintain) its integrity and sense of unity; it is the highly interiorized self that locates its worth and value primarily in its inward dimension. It is, in other words, the canonical self, the individual as individualism imagines her. I call this self "Clarissean" partly as a convenient way to chart Richardson's evolving representation of the self, and partly because Clarissa seems to be the novel that most clearly establishes the individuality and interiority that define this self. "But I will... wrap myself up in my own innocence," Clarissa famously declares, "(and then she passionately folded her arms about herself)." (4) "Only leave me myself" she another time declares.(5) Everything about the world she lives in forces Clarissa to maintain a defensive posture; everything reinforces that she is, finally, alone. Cursed by her family, persecuted and raped by Lovelace, she is forced to turn inward and to develop a sense of self that functions independently of the sundered relationships around her.(6) This independent self is the self that histories of the novel tend to privilege. Ian Watt's influential The Rise of the Novel, for instance, places the heroic individual at the center of the canon. The novel's "primary criterion," Watt declares, "was truth to individual experience--individual experience which is always unique and therefore new."(7) "Individual experience" grounds the novel in what we call realism: the everyday, the probable, and the particular, as opposed to the generalized, the allegorical, or the romantic. The nature of experience was changing in the eighteenth century, however. David Hume, for instance, was arguing that selves are collections of experienced impressions, and that the mind, rather than being an essential substance, is "nothing but a heap or collection of different impressions." (8) With no common substance or substrate of "mind," selves become unique and particular individuals, since each point of perception is unique and no two heaps of experience could ever be the same. But such heaps are also not perceivable by others: the body and organs of sensation are not the self itself, but merely its receptors. Interiority, the sense of inwardness, becomes the primary space of the unique perceiving self: who someone really is--what she thinks or feels, what her motives and desires are--becomes private, potentially unknowable by others, and covered up by an exterior surface that is (most of the time) carefully crafted and performed. (9) The trick of making characters appear as if they, too, have an inside and an outside, is the novel's grand achievement. Novels, Watt argues, allow readers to "get inside" characters' minds, which is important since now "inside" the mind is where the self truly is. (10) Clarissa is Watt's centerpiece; Clarissa is "the heroic representation of all that is free and positive in the new individualism"; she "proves that no individual and no institution can destroy the inner inviolability of the human personality." (11) This "heroic representation of all that is free and positive" is what I call the "Clarissean" self.
This version of the self appears again and again in criticism and histories of the novel. Michael McKeon, William Warner, and Nancy Armstrong, for instance, though they will expand the field and suggest alternative versions of the self, all build on what Watt establishes, and the individual, though altered in each reading, retains familiar features. (12) Nancy Armstrong, for instance, following Watt, writes that the "history of the novel and the history of the modern subject are... the same." (13) Charles Taylor, too, offers a history of the self, one that, superficially at least, seems to follow Watt. For Taylor, "modern identity" (i.e., the self) develops along several Wattian lines, such as "inwardness, the sense of ourselves as beings with inner depths" and the "affirmation of ordinary life," (14) both of which are enshrined in Watt's theory of formal realism. However, Taylor argues that the self does not--cannot--actually develop independently, but that, however else it may later develop or attempt to kick itself free, it always begins within what he calls "webs of interlocution." (15) "One is a self only among other selves," Taylor argues; "A self can never be described without reference to those who surround it." (16) This is because the self, unlike other objects, is primarily a discursive object, created and maintained by language, and these "webs of interlocution"--the discursive webs of language and social connection--are, in a sense, the self's native environment. Taylor's argument sounds remarkably Richardsonian. Language, as William Warner, Terry Eagleton, and Terry Castle all point out, is where Clarissa and Lovelace live and where they create who they are. (17) But a truly independent self, one with no relation to the others or to the language surrounding it, would not only be unable to articulate itself to others but would itself suffer deep "inner confusion." (18) What Taylor shows, especially when placed alongside Watt, is that the same material--interiority, the "affirmation of ordinary life"; formal realism--can be arranged to create two different versions of the self, one that appears heroically independent and one that lives firmly embedded within the webs that create it.
Another stream of thought has recently troubled the "Clarissean" selfmostly because it denies her existence. Diedre Lynch, Dror Wahrman, and
Jonathan Kramnick have variously challenged the prevailing notion that the eighteenth century conceived the self in recognizably modern terms. (19) Instead of being highly individuated and inwardly oriented, the self was conceived in material terms, as objects or matter in motion, as things subject to predictable laws of cause and effect, or as performed character types that function within a coherent social whole. The so-called modern self is, in this reading, a retrospective insertion, a recoloring of the past in light of the present (a criticism often aimed at Watt). I hesitate to rebut this thesis in terms of the period as a whole; however true it may be of the period, though, in Richardson's fiction something specifically individual and interior is taking place, and it seems this way to me for no other reason than that we can often detect fissures or gaps between what a character says and writes and what she/he actually thinks or feels. These fissures run far deeper than the (relatively) shallow notion of dissembling or disguise and suggest something very much akin to what we now call the subconscious. (20) Whether this interior something in Richardson's fiction is a deliberate representation of an already-established (or perhaps just nascent) modern realization of the self (leaning towards the individualist thesis), or whether it is merely a prescient prelude to later developments (leaning towards an anti-individualist one) is, I suppose, debatable; certainly the nineteenth century would explore this territory more fully than Richardson's own contemporaries. If Lynch, Wahrman, and Kramnick are right, however, and the eighteenth-century individual was not the inwardly oriented subjectivity she is often assumed to be, Richardson may be more of an outlier than he is normally considered--not just an innovator of the novel but a radical innovator of the self.
But it seems unhelpful to reduce the question to simple either-or propositions, and these brief sketches of different selves should, I hope, suggest the multiple ways the self was being theorized and represented. While certainly helping to establish the canonical "Clarissean" self, Richardson also develops its "Grandisonian" counterpart, but the two do not represent negating opposites. Characters in Grandison remain unique individuals; the novel does not retreat from this version of the self; instead, it pushes this self forward. It may be better to think of self here in terms of evolution, rather than revolution, or to see Richardson as engaged in a constant inquiry into the workings of the self, an inquiry whose findings and theories, instead of calcifying into brittle certainty, remains fluid and flexible. (21) In Clarissa the individual lives (and mostly suffers) within an oppressive forge that hammers out the heroic self; in Grandison, that same heroic individual is rescued from her solitary martyr's fate and refitted into a more friendly, genial context: a society-in-miniature, a family of the heart--a circle.
Jerrold Seigel suggests that there are three "dimensions" of the self--the bodily/material, the relational, and the reflective. (22) A "one-dimensional" theory sees the self as the product of only one of these, while a "multidimensional" theory sees all three at play in the creation and formation of a self. (23) The reflective dimension, the self's ability to make itself an object of its own consideration, is the "Clarissean" self's dominant dimension. (24) One of the reasons the life of the individual in Richardson's novel is so fraught, so vexed and challenging, is that the individual lives in the pressure of a "multi-dimensional" nexus, where body, society, and reflection are all felt, and felt constantly. Clarissa prioritizes the reflective; Grandison, on the other hand, prioritizes the relational dimension, which sees the self as created in its interaction with those around it, in those "webs of interlocution" that Taylor describes. This greater attention to the relational in no way negates the "Clarissean" self or its reflective dimension; Richardson's theory of the self remains multidimensional; it does, however, establish a new set of relationships among the dimensions.
Richardson valorizes the self but he does so in order to slot that self back into a familial, affective circle. Tita Chico writes that Grandison "meditates upon the mechanisms through which affective communities are constructed." (25) I follow her lead here and examine these mechanisms, paying special attention to the ways these mechanisms alter and affect the individual. (26) Richardsonian community, like the Richardsonian self, is not an accidental phenomenon but is carefully constructed and moderated. Reflective selves engage in rigorous and often difficult acts of self-creation; Grandison applies such rigor to community--not to society at large, the world, which remains a fallen place, but to societies in miniature, where a circulatory system of sentiments and feelings unite individuals in an affective circle.
Harriet writes that "families are little communities" and that "there are but few solid friendships out of them" (1.25), a statement that appears to reentrench blood's traditional status except that "family" in Grandison is plastic and expanding. Harriet, an orphan, makes Sir Rowland Meredith and his son Mr. Fowler her father and brother (partly to avoid making them father-in-law and husband), and Sir Charles, immediately after rescuing her from Sir Hargrave Pollexfen, calls Harriet his sister. These are not wholly fictive or merely playful designations, as Harriet worries, but serious recognitions that enlarge the affective circle. The Grandison circle, for instance, which has at its core the Sir Charles-Caroline-Charlotte triad, includes the reverend Dr. Bartlett (Sir Charles's monitor and mentor), Lord L (Caroline's husband), Lord G (Charlotte's suitor and then husband), Emily Jervois (Sir Charles's young ward), and Everard Grandison (the wayward cousin); it adopts Harriet as a sister; it then expands outwards to include the Reeves (Harriets cousins in London), and eventually the entire Selby-Shirley circle (Harriet's blood relations).
What binds these individuals together more than blood is the experience of shared sentiments. Sir Charles explains that there "is a kind of magnetism in goodness":
Bad people will indeed find out bad people, and confederate with them, in order to keep one another in countenance; but they are bound together by a rope of sand; while trust, confidence, love, sympathy, and a reciprocation of beneficent action, twist a cord which ties men to good men, and cannot be easily broken. (2:45)
Having a cord twisted around the heart can be painful, however. There is a double impulse in Grandison: individuals oscillate between desires for inclusion and for exclusion, and that unique independent self, as much as it longs to be fitted into a circle, also kicks against the circle's demands that it conform--or rather, that it be transformed. Sharing sentiments is not merely agreeing with someone else or admiring them for their moral actions and utterances; admiration, after all, follows Sir Charles wherever he goes, but Pollexfen, Bagenhall, and the rakish fraternity are hardly going to find a place within the circle simply because they recognize his worth. True inclusion within the circle comes from submission. Submission, in this sense, is not the recognition of authority or the suspension of an independent will, though these certainly are parts of it; rather, submission to the circle means limiting, controlling, and mastering the self and the self's natural impulse to be selfish. Selves are dangerous things capable of egregious acts of solipsism. Lovelace is of course the prime example: a self relentlessly and violently organizing the world according to its own vision. Sir Charles is himself a sort of negative image--that is, the positive version--of Lovelace. "I am naturally passionate," Sir Charles tells Mr. Reeves; "You know not the pains it has cost me, to keep my passion under" (1:205). "I am naturally choleric," he another time says; "yet in this article, I hope I have pretty much subdued myself" (1:255). For Sir Charles, as it was for Clarissa, the self is a wild beast and in constant need of vigilant surveillance. But whereas Clarissa was forced to survey the self alone, Sir Charles and the circle constantly survey both their own selves and others'. Selfish impulses disrupt not only the individual but the group, and so those with cords twisted around their hearts are involved in a constant self- and other-examination. The hearts of other selves, however, are difficult to survey, and it is precisely the interior, that "Clarissean" space of secrets, that most threatens the harmony of the circle.
There are many different sorts of secrets. A character can keep secret the contents of her heart, as Clementina attempts to keep secret her love for Sir Charles. A character can keep secret his plans and motions, as Sir Charles does when he goes to Canterbury. A character can keep secret information that he or she feels may hurt or upset someone else, as the Selbys do when they agree to keep Harriet s abduction secret from her Grandmother Shirley. Broadly, though, I distinguish between secrets of the heart and secrets of the body--that is (to recall Seigel's helpful vocabulary), secrets that involve the contents of a reflective self's private experience and secrets that involve the material actions and movements of a body or bodies. In other words, secrets about what a person thinks and feels and secrets about what a character does. Both types are involved in an affective community; secrets of the heart, however, are the more important since it is the sense of shared sentiment and feeling that binds a circle together.
For Richardson's characters (in Pamela, Clarissa, and Grandison) secrets of the heart are the inevitable by-product of the felt gap between interior and exterior states of being. The interior is, by definition, a secret place; it is closed and covered over by an opaque exterior surface. A secret of the heart is not necessarily a secret kept from others by conscious design, however, though it certainly can be that, too. That which cannot be perceived in an other--what someone actually thinks or feels instead of merely what they say--is secret, up until it is disclosed or discovered (in a letter, for instance, or by an unguarded expression or action). Secrets and the sense of self, then, though not the same thing, are closely related in the individualized interiorized subject. Charlotte and Caroline tell Harriet that Dr. Bartlett "knew all the secrets of their brothers heart" (1:384), which is to say that nobody knows Sir Charles as well as Dr. Bartlett does. To possess or to be entrusted with someone's secrets is to know that person, to understand her authentic inner self.
Self is a term slightly out of time here. "Self" was not, for Richardson and his contemporaries, a word primarily designating that ontological complex of consciousness, feelings, perceptions, memory, and desires that, when gathered into an individual point, we call a person, though it was becoming this. Self, instead, at least in Richardson, usually refers to the impulse within a person to be selfish. Harriet declares that "Self... is a very wicked thing; a sanctifier, if one would give way to its partialities, of actions, which, in others, we should have no doubt to condemn" (2:1); self is a term more often bound up with an ethical evaluation of an independent being than with that independent being's designation. The term Richardson most often uses, and that most closely approximates the modern usage of self, is "heart." Though heart is itself also a semantically unstable term, in Richardson it often points towards that essential element of a person that others cannot directly perceive. Grandison therefore distinguishes between who someone really is, which is difficult to determine, and who someone appears to be, which is easier, by making a distinction between heart and character. "Well, this is in character from you, Miss Byron" (1:109), Mr. Reeves tells Harriet when she explains why she cannot accept either Mr. Orme or Mr. Fowler as suitors. Character, as Ahnert and Manning point out, " [does] not exist outside society because it [is] constituted and created by the perceptions of others." (27) Character is the empirical side of the self, that which can be observed, measured, and judged by others. When Mr. Reeves says Harriet is "in character" he is making a judgment based on a history of perception that has established how Harriet acts and behaves. Judgments like this are based on externals--actions, words, dispositions, et cetera--that, as they coalesce into discernible habits and patterns, establish a set of expectations about who someone probably is.
Between heart and character, then, there is a gap, and within this gap are all the secrets of the heart. Sir Charles's character is indisputable, yet much of the early speculation about him comes from what might lie hidden in his heart. "Strange, methinks," Harriet writes about Sir Charles, "that these secrets lie so deep!" (1:384). They are deep because they lie beyond perception. The secrets of the heart are, at least in a sense, the material of the authentic self. They are the feelings, impulses, desires, and sentiments that constitute the self and that animate the external character others perceive. Richardson's characters, the virtuous ones at least, all attempt to reduce the gap between interior and exterior states of being, and to establish a clear continuity between heart and character.
Helen Thompson's argument that Sir Charles collapses the distinction between primary and secondary qualities is useful here. In Locke's empiricism, the perceiving subject does not have access to an object's primary reality, only to his or her secondary perceptions of it. Applied to character and other selves, this would mean that the true self, the primary interior reality, is beyond perception. By collapsing the real-but-not-perceived interior with the perceived-but-not-real exterior, Sir Charles embodies a Richardsonian ideal that defies Locke: no gap at all between heart and character. Thompson, as she says, focuses on "Grandison's formal attributes rather than its plot"; (28) absent from her analysis, then, is a discussion about how difficult a position primary-secondary continuity actually is for characters to maintain; it also elides much of the early discussion about what and who
Sir Charles actually is (those deep secrets Harriet wonders about) and about the mystery of his time in Italy. Sir Charles, as much as anyone in the novel, conceals; he also struggles, as he himself tells it, to control his passions (he is naturally passionate and choleric). These are not the actions and behaviours of someone for whom continuity between inner and outer experience comes naturally. The ideal, however, that continuity should exist, and that it can exist for the self, remains.
To have a secret is to be a self; or, rather, to be a self with an active interiority and therefore a gap between heart and character is necessarily to have secrets; to share those secrets is to be in relationship with others. These secrets can be shared freely; they can also be drawn out. Secret-sharing scenes recur throughout Grandison, and each of these scenes represents a significant change--positive or negative--in both the life of the self and the life of the community.
The most dramatic and disruptive of these secret-sharing scenes is Clementina della Porretta's confession of her love for Sir Charles. The story of Sir Charles's and Clementina's relationship is, significantly, an interpolated retroversion, narrated to Harriet by Dr. Bartlett through a series of letters he (Dr. Bartlett, or rather Dr. Bartlett's amanuensis) transcribes from original letters by Sir Charles to his mentor. The convoluted epistolary movements here are important, since they establish that sentiments and secrets can be transmitted through various mediums and remain both intact and potent. The sequence of transcribed letters that contains Clementina's story also reveals Sir Charles's history, and the blank that had been his time in Italy, and is therefore itself an act of secret-sharing, one that follows Sir Charles's first partial attempt to tell Harriet about the state of his heart. The retroversion also helps "place" Clementina's story; though not first in the telling, Clementina's secret-sharing moment is first in the fabula, and its trauma helps illuminate the dynamics at play in other secret-sharing scenes.
Sir Charles had been introduced to the Italian della Porretta family through his friendship with Jeronymo, Clementina's brother, whose life (and morals) Sir Charles had saved. Grateful to him for his assistance, the devoutly Roman Catholic della Porrettas welcomed the staunchly Protestant Sir Charles into their home and made him an honourary "fourth brother" (much like Harriet became the Grandisons' "third sister"); he also became Clementina's tutor in English, teaching her to read such things as Paradise Lost. Clementina, of course, falls in love with Sir Charles, but the internal conflict between love and religious duty proves too much for her and she takes a "melancholy turn" (2:151). This melancholy turn, as both the family and Sir Charles suspect, is caused by "a Secret fast locked up in your own heart" (2:152), and the della Porrettas recruit Sir Charles to discover this secret. Clementina obviously cannot confess to Sir Charles that she loves him; her love for an English Protestant would be embarrassing. "Pray, Sir, tell me, invent for me, a Secret that is fit for me to own" (2:152), she begs of Sir Charles. Sir Charles, however, does not wish to make himself master of Clementina's secrets. Instead of coercing her into trusting him with her secrets, he exhorts her to reveal them to her own mother, a more proper secret-keeper. "I do not hope, madam," he tells her, "that you should place so much confidence in your fourth brother as to open your mind to him: All I beg is, that you will relieve the anxious, the apprehensive heart of the best of mothers; and, by so doing, enable her to relieve the equally-anxious heart of the best of fathers" (2:152). Sir Charles is imagining here a path for secrets, a proper movement of sentiment from daughter to mother to father, a sort of circulatory system of secrets--a system for sharing experience not unlike the epistolary format. Like the constant interplay of letters, in which experience is shared by the letter writer with the "venerable circle" (Harriet's phrase) of correspondents who read aloud and together these documents of the heart, the sharing of secrets is integral to the sort of community and family Richardson envisions.
It is not Sir Charles, however, but rather Mrs. Beaumont, a family friend to whom the della Porrettas send the melancholy Clementina, who finally draws out the secret. "I have made myself mistress of the dear young Lady's Secret," Mrs. Beaumont writes to the Marchioness della Porretta (2:164). The della Porrettas commissioned her to find this out. At the family's behest, Mrs. Beaumont becomes a "managing person" and spends her time "ingratiating myself into the favour of your Clementina" (2:164). "I am persuaded, my dear Clementina," she tells her young visitor, genuinely enough, it seems, but also certainly manipulatively, "that the mutual unbosoming of secrets is the cement of faithful Friendship"; "what a gloom, what a darkness, must possess that mind that can trust no friend with its inmost thoughts! The big secret, when it is of an interesting nature, will swell the heart till it is ready to burst" (2:165). Unlike Sir Charles, who attempts to convince Clementina to open her mind to those to whom she can properly reveal her secret, Mrs. Beaumont attempts to assume the role of secret-keeper by putting herself into a false relationship with Clementina. Clementina resists. Mrs. Beaumont's strategies shift back and forth. She makes several guesses at the man Clementina must love. She mentions Sir Charles and Clementina "coloured at his name" (2:167). Still, Clementina resists. Mrs. Beaumont then shifts to slandering Sir Charles, which provokes a warm response from Clementina. Mrs. Beaumont then shifts to high praise. Clementina folds: "I can no longer resist you. I own, I own, that I have no heart but for Mr. Grandison" (2:169).
This "unbosoming" of her secret seems to make Clementina easy, at least for a while. Mrs. Beaumont writes to the Marchioness, "I will only add, That since the secret which had so long preyed upon her fine spirits, is revealed, she appears to be much more easy than before" (2:172). Clementina has undergone a sort of psychic operation: that which was inside her (preying on her fine spirits) has been drawn out into the open. In fact, Mrs. Beaumont's drawing out of Clementinas secret resembles the famous bloodletting scene that closely follows. With the secret out, the della Porrettas decide that the only cure is to propose marriage to Sir Charles, provided he convert. Sir Charles, however, refuses to abandon his religion and declines the offer. This causes an uproar in the della Porretta family. They force Clementina to see her confessor, who urges her to marry instead Count Belvedere, a Roman Catholic. All this hurry and uproar is too much for Clementina, who turns from melancholic silence to manic speech: "She now talks; She raves: She starts: She neither sits nor stands with quietness," Jeronymo tells Sir Charles (2:185). While the two friends converse, Clementina bursts into the room. The blood letting had been interrupted mid-operation: "She had felt the lancet; but did not bleed more than two or three drops" (2:190). "See! see!" she exclaims, "and she held out her lovely arm a little bloody" (2:190). Sir Charles, the Marchioness, and Jeronymo persuade Clementina to let the operation continue. She agrees, but only because she imagines Sir Charles himself will be comforted by seeing her bleed. "Come then," she says, "be comforted; I will bleed" (2:193). Clementina faints and is carried to her room; the operation appears to have been a success, and she is temporarily calm.
The bleeding of Clementina is the physical equivalent of drawing out her secret; it is a recreation in and on the body of a psychic event: something inside her has been violently removed. Richardson charges, almost overcharges, the bloodletting scene with an abundance of physical detail: Clementina's "lovely arm a little bloody," which she throws about her mother's neck; the way she looks at Sir Charles "with her face held out"; the way Sir Charles "snatched her hand, and pressed it with my lips" (2:191). It is Clementina who articulates the close alliance between the exterior and the interior: "Do you wish to see me wounded?" she asks Sir Charles; "To see my heart bleeding at my arm" (2:193). For Clementina, and for Richardson, all of this--the drawing out of her secret, the letting of her blood--is of a piece.
Mrs. Beaumont, very much treating Clementina like a patient, recommends that the della Porrettas treat her tenderly now that her secret is out. Tender care, unfortunately, is not Clementinas fate. After an initial tenderness, the family's importunities and attempts to coerce Clementina into marriage with the Count finally end in protracted psychological warfare similar to that suffered by Clarissa at the hands of the Harlowes. The harsher of the della Porrettas--her brother the General, her cousin Laurana, and aunt Lady Sforza especially--exacerbate the conflict between love and duty and accelerate her madness--a madness that, significantly, resembles Clarissas madness after Lovelace rapes her. Both Clarissa and Clementina experience disordered heads and an inability to stitch together thoughts and images in a coherent manner. Clarissa experiences this suddenly and as the result of gross violation; Clementina experiences this gradually, her malady gaining over time. It would be easy, but also crass, to emphasize too strongly the comparison here. Mrs. Beaumont is no Lovelace; she is a friend, and importantly an older female friend, someone more properly suited than Sir Charles to share in the secrets of a young lady's heart. She certainly manipulates Clementina, but quite possibly in a way that more closely resembles a surgeon than a rapist. Still, the resemblance persists. The ideal affective community is based on the circulation and sharing of sentiments, but there is a proper as well as an improper way to open up a heart.
This system of secrets resembles an epistolary correspondence. To be trusted with the freely given documents of the heart is one thing; to pry into someone else's letters is a violation. Early in the novel, Charlotte steals some of Sir Charles's letters and tempts Harriet to read them, a temptation Harriet indignantly (though with difficulty) refuses. Harriet, too, though she writes to a "venerable circle" (1:208) of friends and family who read her letters aloud to each other, keeps secrets. She and Lucy "write for all to see what we write" (1:178), but even she does not want the whole state of her heart revealed, and so marks certain passages in her letters that Lucy is to keep to herself and not to read aloud (1:290). Mrs. Beaumont, in drawing out a secret Clementina would rather keep, has, in a sense, opened a letter not meant for her, and this, along with the fact that Clementina is struggling between love and duty, puts Clementina at variance not only with herself but her whole family. For the rest of the novel, up until the ambiguous ending that suspends final resolution, the della Porretta family will experience nothing but disruption, a glaring contradiction to the expanding Grandi-son-Selby circle, which grows in harmony.
Charlotte Grandison also keeps a secret, and though her secret-sharing scene is not as traumatic as Clementina's, it too holds the potential to disrupt the affective community. The entire Grandison circle is gathered for an evening of conversation. When the conversation turns to Sir Charles's frequent mysterious visits to Canterbury, Charlotte, sure that "there was a lady in the case" (1:394), half-playfully accuses him of keeping secrets. Sir Charles reveals that a friend had died and that he had been made executor; he tells them this, but not before half-playfully accusing Charlotte of loving "to puzzle, and find out secrets where none are intended" (1:394). "It is for your Sex, Charlotte, to be very chary of such secrets" (1:394), he tells her. Charlotte's liveliness gets the better of her and she demands to know what her brother means, and thus begins Charlotte's "tryal." "I wish, Harriet, I had opened my whole heart to you," she whispers as the trial begins; "One should be courted out of some sort of secrets" (1:396-97). And yet, though this is a trial, the judge, Sir Charles declares, will be "Your own heart" (1:397).
The matter is this: Sir Charles, upon his return to England after his father's death, inquired into the states of his sisters' hearts, wanting to do them all the justice their father had failed to do. Caroline and Lord L quickly married, but Charlotte had told Sir Charles that her heart was "absolutely free" (1:397). He did not quite believe her: he had received "an early intelligence" that her heart might be engaged (1:397). Sir Charles, who would spare Charlotte whatever embarrassment might come from this trial, says, "I have said enough to point your fault to your own heart" (1:401); Charlotte, however, insists he reveal the source of his intelligence. "Name your man, Sir!--," Charlotte demands; "Not my man, Charlotte--Captain Anderson is not my man" (1:402). Charlotte is stunned. After taking several moments to recover from the shock that Sir Charles already knows her secret, or at least knows the name of the man involved, and realizing she might have lost her brother's "good opinion" by persisting in not telling him her situation, Charlotte hopes that now "my ingenuousness shall make atonement for that error" (1:403) and tells the circle the story of her embarrassing entanglement with Captain Anderson, a man she does not love but to whom she made a rash promise. "I have been detected in real faults," Charlotte declares; "I have been generously treated; and repent of my fault" (1:415). The trial--which began humourously, progressed to something more earnest, drew out her embarrassing secrets, and exposed her to the real danger of judgment--concluded not as an exercise in alienation, as it did with Clementina, but rather in a reaffirmation of familial ties and affections. She is relieved of a burdensome secret that had been oppressing her and reassured of her place within a family willing to treat her generously and forgivingly.
A short digression to look at Sir Charles and his subjectivity will help explicate what is happening to Charlotte during her trial. Critics have been quick to point out how Sir Charles appears to be less of a character with a real subjectivity and more of an abstracted ideal. Mark Kinkead-Weekes calls Sir Charles, who we rarely read from the "inside," an "imaginative failure"; (29) Tassie Gwilliam insists that he "lacks the rich psychic lives of Lovelace and Clarissa." (30) He is not, in other words, sufficiently "Clarissean." (32) This lack of a rich psychic life, however, is neither accidental nor a failure but part of Richardson's attempt to limit the proportions of the heroic self. Rebecca Barr finds in Grandison an emphasis on an "anti-individualistic subjectivity;" (32) what she calls "anti-individualistic" I would soften to call "Grandisonian." Barr sees in Grandison a "totalitarian fiction," (33) and examines the ways the novel produces ideal subjects to live in its moral Utopia. Though I do not see Sir Charles as a tyrant, moral or otherwise, the way Barr reimagines the place of the individual within community is something I want to pursue. Characters in Grandison tend toward homogeneity; they, like Charlotte, are reshaped in order to be refitted into the circle, a process that requires the self to conform to, or be transformed by, a shared moral standard. The reflective self, in other words, accepts the limitations and mandates placed on it by the relational other; it looks outward, as well as inward, to define and set limitations upon itself. This sort of conformation/transformation necessarily "flattens" character, so to speak. It produces similar, though not identical, subjects; it draws attention away from "Clarissean" interiority and diminishes the intensity of characters' internal dramas. These dramas persist, especially as secrets, and remain essential components of Richardsonian characterization; they are, however, now registered negatively as that which separates self from self rather than positively as that which creates self. Self expands; it distorts. Self requires continual communal surveillance and, if necessary, correction. Surveillance, Barr argues, is the foundation of the familial, sentimental circle: the novel's "infiltration and negation of the private space of the individual is the very ground upon which its moral community, and its moral subjects, are founded." (34) Her trial, then, is an attempt to refit Charlotte, who has been dislocated by her secret, back into the affective circle. (35)
E. M. Forster's distinction between flat and round characters lurks in my use of "flattens," but is not the primary reason I use this term. The "flat" character "fits" better within a communal circle because it has undergone a reshaping process. Flat, then, in my use of the term, is not an evaluation of a character's psychological complexity but a material metaphor for a refitting/reshaping process that psychologically complex characters accept. It echoes Forster but, more importantly for my purposes, also echoes Adam Smith. When discussing sympathy, Smith writes that the sufferer (of whatever violent passion), if he is to find sympathy with the spectator, must begin by "lowering his passion to that pitch, in which the spectators are capable of going along with him":
He must flatten, if I may be allowed to say so, the sharpness of its natural tone, in order to reduce it to harmony and concord with the emotions of those who are about him. What they feel, will, indeed, always be, in some respects, different from what he feels, and compassion can never be exactly the same with original sorrow; because the secret consciousness that the change of situations, from which the sympathetic sentiment arises, is but imaginary, not only lowers it in degree, but, in some measure, varies it in kind, and gives it a quite different modification. These two sentiments, however, may, it is evident, have such a correspondence with one another, as is sufficient for the harmony of society. Though they will never be unisons, they may be concords, and this is all that is wanted or required. (36)
Smith's metaphors are musical rather than material, but the sense is similar. "Flattening" the passions is, for Smith, essential for the "harmony of society." Something similar is happening in Charlotte's trial, and in the seemingly bland character of Sir Charles. They are flattening themselves, smoothing the "sharpness" of their passions and characters; they do not want to disrupt the harmony of their family choir, to pursue Smith's metaphor. Those who cannot find the right pitch, those tone-deaf souls like Sir Hargrave Pollexfen, whose passions run off with him (and nearly with Harriet as well), and Lady Olivia, who attempts to stab Sir Charles because he will not love her, do not sing in harmony. They produce discord. Smith is not saying that character must be eliminated or effaced; he is suggesting, however, that the passions' "natural tone" is too sharp to produce harmony. In Charlotte's trial, Richardson is suggesting something similar.
It is important to note that Charlotte willingly participates in this refitting. Any independent self will, in one point or another, find itself at odds with its surroundings, and a heroic subjectivity like Clarissa's will hardly ever fit. But Charlotte is not Clarissa, nor does she want to be. The trial flattens Charlotte; it makes her less "Clarissean," more "Grandisonian"--that is, less of a heroic subjectivity excluded from the circle by its disruptive "roundness" and more of an affective subjectivity that desires inclusion, even at the cost of self. Sir Charles himself is flat in this way. His subjectivity may not be as interesting or as intense as those of Richardson's previous characters; Clarissa's intense interiority, it should be remembered however, is predicated on disruption, trauma, self-conflict, and a lack of self-awareness--impossible foundations for affective community. Charlotte's self-abasement during her trial, then, her willingness to expose herself to witnesses and judges, comes from an intense desire to belong to an affective, familial circle, even at the cost of self; this impulse, Richardson assumes in all his fiction, lies implicit in the self, and is the foundation of true society.
Charlotte, of course, is not completely flattened; her trial and the exposure of her secret is one incident in a gradual process of refitting the self that extends throughout the novel, and which intensifies with her marriage to Lord G. Her liveliness--her mocking, teasing spirit; her ability also to penetrate beneath surfaces and expose what is underneath--will cause significant disruptions in her marriage, which in turn disrupts the extended circle. Her refitting is gradual, but ends in domestic idealism when she gives birth to her first child and assumes the role of mother. This reading of Charlotte's "flattening" accounts also for another sticking point in Richardson criticism: Charlottes diminishment. "In creating her," Juliet McMaster writes, "and dramatizing her independent spirit, her wit, and her rebellion against a patriarchal society, Richardson is an accomplished feminist. Of course in working out her story and taming her at the last he ceases to be one." (37) McMaster here reads Charlotte's "taming," what I have called her "flattening," through gender; I have read it through Richardson's "Grandisonian" sense of self. Charlottes "taming," then, is not so much only a question of a satiric female voice being "reformed," or of a spirited young women becoming a proper settled mother (though it is, certainly, also these things); her "taming" is part of a flattening process that Grandison imagines all characters, male or female, must both endure and welcome.
Clementina's and Charlotte's scenes are the most disruptive versions of the secret-sharing scene. They are not the only such scenes, though, and both Harriet and Emily have theirs. Richardson structures these scenes in a chronologically broken sequence: Charlottes appears first in the novel, and is shortly followed by her and Lady Ls "sudden attack" on Harriet; Clementina's, though the first in the fabula, is narrated after these scenes. If the scenes are arranged in chronological order, a sequence emerges. Each scene of secret-sharing becomes less traumatic, for both self and community. Clementina's secret is drawn out violently and against her will, Charlottes is exposed in a trial she herself demands, and Harriet's is teased out of her by "sisters" who love her and support her love for their brother. The sequence also narrows the audience for revelation as it progresses: the entire della Porretta family, including confessors, distant relatives, family friends, and potential suitors, are involved in Clementina's secret; a drawing room gathering is involved in Charlotte's; two sisters in Harriet's. Though the audience narrows, however, the dynamics, along with the potential for the unfitted self to disrupt the affective community, remain much the same.
This sequence of secret-sharing scenes culminates in Emilys scene. Her secret love for her guardian is not drawn or teased out from her, however, but freely confessed to Harriet. For most of the novel, Emily happily exists in a sort of innocent unreflective state, unaware of her own feelings or the state of her heart. When Harriet and Sir Charles marry, however, Emily finds her feelings changing, and she is forced to become "Clarissean" and engage in that familiar activity of reflective self-examination. Emily, though she knows the risks involved in such a confession, tells Harriet of her secret love, and Harriet, who sees in Emily not a rival but a younger sister oppressed by her own heart, remains her sympathetic friend. "My heart," Emily says, "will be easier for having found a confident, such a confident, however, as no girl ever found before" (3:322). Harriet had previously wondered "if Lady Clementina... had had such a true, such a soothing friend, to whom she could have revealed the secret that oppressed her noble heart, while her passion was young, it would have been attended with such a de-privation of her reason" (3:105).
Emilys story encapsulates Grandisons theory of the self. As an emerging self-reflective individual, she must examine her own heart and become the "Clarissean" self. As a self in relationship to others, however, and who wants to remain in relationship with them (with a cord twisted around her heart), Emily must also become the "Grandisonian" self, disclose her potentially disruptive secrets, and submit to the demands of the affective community (in this case, not to love Sir Charles). Emily, like Charlotte, must "flatten" herself, and give up that which has defined her for nearly the whole novel--her not-so-secret, innocent-but-inappropriate love. This divestment, though painful and degrading at the moment of exposure, opens up an expanded range of possibilities for the self. In Grandison, those heroic independent individuals who arrange their selves around selfish principles--Pollexfen, Lady Olivia, characters whose actions can be read as parodic examples of romantic heroism--find the field of the self narrowed and their ability to maintain affective relationships impaired; their stories end in bitterness, pity, and regret. Clementina, on the other hand, though her particular experience of secret-sharing was emotionally violent and led her through a course of madness, recovers a sense of self built on the affective circle's reaffirmation of love and sympathy, and her story concludes by anticipating her marriage to Count Belvedere. Charlotte, though her self-imposed trial is humiliating, and though her lively spirit continues to disrupt the circle for much of the novel, eventually submits to her role within the circle when she becomes a mother, something both she and the novel regard as a happy ending. Harriet, of course, eventually marries Sir Charles. These narratives began with the disclosure of secrets; each involves the secret-keeper limiting her sense of self and submitting it to the affective circle's scrutiny. The seeming paradox of the "Grandisionian" self is that limitation leads to expansion, exposure to protection, and submission to freedom.
I do not wish to suggest that the "Grandisonian" self resolves all conflicts, or that the process of becoming "Grandisonian" ends in perfection--moral, individual, communal, or otherwise. Lois A. Chaber helpfully notes that "Grandisons unresolved ending, in which Clementina's marriage to her long-suffering suitor Count Belvedere is left dangling as a future possibility, is surely appropriate to a novel whose text discloses the permanent insecurity bred of humanity's existence within this temporality" (38) Insecurity, I would add, is a permanent condition in Richardson's fiction (only Clarissa escapes it); becoming "Grandisonian" and embedded within an affective community, where sympathetic surveillance and support creates a state of contingent interdependence, provides a measure of security for the individual.
As the final secret-keeper in Grandisons secret-sharing sequence, Emily inherits the affective and sentimental structures already established--Clementina, Charlotte, and Harriet have all come before her, and their disruptions and struggles have prepared the way for a smoother transition from self to self-in-community. Over the course of the novel the affective circle has learned what it means to be a self with a secret, and learned how best to disclose and manage those secrets, so that Emily's secret-sharing moment, far from being the disruptive event Clementinas was, is a quiet moment of sympathetic reaffirmation. In training his ideal affective community this way, Richardson of course hopes to train his readers as well. Richardson, it seems to me, intuitively felt that the modern individual--the "Clarissean" individual he helped create--was here to stay; the trajectory of eighteenth-century philosophical, political, and economic thought made that inevitable. Grandison demonstrates, however, that the eighteenth-century novel did not just produce this one canonized heroic individual self; it produced multiple versions of the self, and these alternatives are worth examining. That heroic self, if unfettered, creates Lovelaces, Pollexfens, atomistic egoists, and isolated monomaniacs: it separates selves from selves. Grandison is Richardson's response to this, his answer to the problematics of the modern self, and his attempt to both recognize the self's new modern form and to ensure it remain in relationship to the circle.
(1) Samuel Richardson, The History of Sir Charles Grandison, 3 vols, ed. Jocelyn Harris (Oxford U. Press, 1972), 1:418. Hereafter cited parenthetically by volume and page number.
(2) Rebecca Barr, "Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison and the Symptoms of Subjectivity," The Eighteenth Century 51 (2010): 392.
(3) Bonnie Latimer, Making Gender, Culture, and the Self in the Fiction of Samuel Richardson (Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2013); Helen Thompson, "Secondary Qualities and Masculine Form in Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison" Eighteenth-Century Fiction 24.2 (2012).195-226; Emily Friedman, "The End(s) of Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison" SEL 52.3 (2012):651-67.
(4) Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady, ed. Angus Ross (London: Penguin, 2004), 797.
(5) Richardson, Clarissa, 319.
(6) Much more could/should, of course, be said to establish Clarissa's representation of the self, but since this reading is more or less standard, and in the interest of space, I will severely truncate it.
(7) Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (London: Chatto &Windus),13.
(8) David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, vol. 1, ed. David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2011), 137.
(9) I say most of the time since part of the Richardsonian ideal (in both the "Clarissean" and "Grandisonian" mode) seems to be establishing harmony between the inner and the outer aspects of the self.
(10) Watt, Rise of the Novel, 175.
(11) Watt, Rise of the Novel, 222, 225.
(12) Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740 (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1988); William Warner, Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750 (U of California Press, 1998); Nancy Armstrong, How Novels Think: The Limits of Individualism from 1719-1900 (Columbia U. Press, 2005).
(13) Armstrong, How Novels Think, 5.
(14) Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge U. Press, 1989), x.
(15) Taylor, Sources of the Self, 36.
(16) Taylor, Sources of the Self 35.
(17) William Warner, Reading Clarissa: The Struggles of Interpretation (Yale U. Press, 1979); Terry Eagleton, The Rape of Clarissa: Writing, Sexuality, and Class Struggle in Samuel Richardson (Oxford: Blackwell, 1982); and Terry Castle, Clarissa's Ciphers: Meaning and Disruption in Richardson's "Clarissa" (Cornell U. Press, 1982).
(18) Taylor, Sources of the Self 37.
(19) Deidre Lynch, The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (U. of Chicago Press, 1998); Dror Warhman, The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century English (Yale U. Press, 2004); Jonathan Kramnick, Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson (Stanford U. Press, 2010).
(20) Consider, for example, the way Anna Howe detects in Clarissas letters a latent love for Lovelace, a love that even Clarissa herself does not recognize. This is a masterful stroke of psychological realism, one not possible without some idea of the interior as a confused and confusing space. If Clarissa is sample group, it is unsurprising that the "Clarissean" self seems self-evident.
(21) In my reading, Richardson, far from being the severe didacticist disseminating moral dictates that he has sometimes been figured as, is rather a deeply inquisitive theorist of the self, one with the remarkable capacity to alter his own theories novel to novel (though he was still remarkably didactic about some things).
(22) Jerrold Seigel, The Idea of the Self: Thought and Experience in Western Europe Since the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge U. Press, 2005), 5-6.
(23) Seigel, Idea of the Self 7. Seigel writes, "These various considerations about the relations between reflectivity on the one hand, and bodily and social existence on the other, provide grounds for holding that the three dimensions identified at the start constitute genuine aspects both of real selves, and of any credible theory of the self" (31). Richardson would agree, and none of the three dimensions are ever far from consideration in his fiction.
(24) A "multi-dimensional" account of the self would not necessarily see the material, the relational, and the reflective as equal parts; it could prioritize one dimension, even while making that privileged dimension dependent upon the other two.
(25) Tita Chico, "Details and Frankness: Affective Relations in 'Sir Charles Grandison,"' Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 38 (2009): 45.
(26) Chico, "Details and Frankness," 63, focuses on Richardson's (and Harriet's) narrative use of details, and on the way Grandison's ideal affective community is "organized around the admiration of hero and the almost relentless frankness of the heroine."
(27) Thomas Ahnert and Susan Manning, eds. Character, Self, and Sociability in the Scottish Enlightenment (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 10.
(28) Thompson, "Secondary Qualities and Masculine Form," 225.
(29) Mark Kinkead-Weekes, Samuel Richardson: Dramatic Novelist (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1973), 211.
(30) Tassie Gwilliam, Samuel Richardson's Fictions of Gender (Stanford U. Press, 1993), 113.
(31) This has been the standard reading of Sir Charles. Recently, however, Sir Charles's seeming blandness has, instead of being seen as a failure, been understood as a deliberate feature of the text and an important part of Sir Charles's characterization. James Robert Wood, "Richardson's Hands,' Eighteenth-Century Fiction 26.3 (Spring 2014):337, for instance, points out that Sir Charles's "colorlessness" facilitates his work or labor, which is "the formation and maintenance of social relationships."
(32) Barr, "Symptoms of Subjectivity," 392.
(33) Barr, "Symptoms of Subjectivity," 393.
(34) Barr, "Symptoms of Subjectivity," 393.
(35) The disruption here, beyond the reserves and disguises that secrets can create, involves Sir Charles's ability to encourage or discourage possible suitors for Charlotte. Sir Charles has been approached by several men seeking his encouragement and assistance; not knowing the state of Charlotte's heart, however, he does not know how to proceed, and finds one of his primary responsibilities to the circle frustrated.
(36) Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed D. D. Raphael and A. L. MacFie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 22.
(37) Juliet McMaster, "Sir Charles Grandison: Richardson on Body and Character," Eighteenth-Century Fiction 1 (1989): 99.
(38) Lois Chaber, "'Sufficient to the Day': Anxiety in Sir Charles Grandison" in Passion and Virtue: Essays on the Novels of Samuel Richardson, ed. David Blewett (U. of Toronto Press, 2001), 290.
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|Title Annotation:||The History of Sir Charles Grandison|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2017|
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