C’est parce que le Nom propre s’offre à une analyse d’une richesse infinie, qu’il est possible de dire que, poétiquement, toute la Recherche est sortie de quelques noms (Roland Barthes, « Proust et les noms », 71).
- 1 Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady, ed. A. Ross (1748; Harmondsworth: Pen (...)
- 2 The title page indirectly identifies the authority responsible for publication as “the editor of P (...)
- 3 Ian Watt, “The Naming of Characters in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding,” The Review of English Stu (...)
1The dramatis personae presented at the onset of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa is not only a gallery of portraits but also one of names. It emphasizes the arbitrariness of the name in the novel. Thus, CAPT. TOMLISON, we are told, is “the assumed name of a vile and artful pander to the debaucheries of Mr. Lovelace” while MRS SINCLAIR is “the pretended name of a private brothel keeper in London”.1 This nameless novel, Richardson’s patronym not appearing on the title page,2 emphasizes from the start the importance of the convention of naming. It reminds us, along with Ian Watt, that characters are christened and baptized―and that their names may not be as arbitrary as ours.3
- 4 Philippe Hamon, Le Personnel du roman: le système des personnages dans les Rougon-Macquart d'Emile (...)
- 5 Linda Kaufman, Discourses of Desire, Genre and Epistolary Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell University Pres (...)
- 6 Roland Barthes, “Proust et les noms,” Nouveaux essais critiques, Œuvres complètes IV, (Paris: Seui (...)
2The name and the associated process of naming are in Clarissa not only a point of contention but also the very goal of the narrative. It has to do with what one might call along with Philippe Hamon diffuse speech,4 as opposed to direct, inasmuch as it is a means of indirectly characterizing participants of the action through their connection to the signifier. The name, just like rumor and money, circulates and is exchanged. It speaks the character just as it is spoken by him or her: the documentary function is doubled by a pragmatic one. The characters in Clarissa tear each other apart to assert its pre-eminence. The eponymous character’s very crime, according to Linda Kaufman, lies precisely in her pretention to name herself: “Her transgression lies not only in her defying her father's authority but in being an author to herself, attempting to name, to define herself to others”.5 This incisive remark does not however lead Kaufman to a thorough examination of the name―the capacity of naming being equated to that of writing. If poetically speaking, according to Roland Barthes, the whole of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past has arisen from but a few names,6 names in Clarissa play a role that is yet to be ascertained.
3A debate on the nature of the signifier stems, rather indirectly, from the many discussions on marriage in the novel. The struggles between the characters within the diegesis betray social constructions regarding both women and language that are emblematic of a social class, the then evolving bourgeois class. The theory of the name exposed by the Harlowes is to be opposed to the mastery of the signifier that is Lovelace’s, which allows him both to seduce through speech, draping himself with the signifier to deceive his victims, and to manipulate the name. The Harlowes’ politics of the name is counterbalanced by a performative fiction: the name that is inherited and transmitted down the lineage can therefore be opposed to the disposable name characters use when needed, but also to the rake’s ability of naming things ex nihilo into existence.
- 7 Henry Fielding, The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams ( (...)
- 8 Naomi Tadmor believes that Lovelace’s “derogation does not amount to a reliable social description (...)
4The Harlowes owe their wealth to a recent good fortune which saw them rise from tilling the land and trading to idle bourgeoisie. Harlowe Place, the very site the Harlowes baptized with their name, is erected on the remnants of their farming condition: “Everybody knows Harlowe Place―For, like Versailles, it is sprung up from a dunghill within every elderly person's remembrance” (161), remarks Lovelace in a somewhat peremptory manner. The Harlowes owe both their existence and their fortune to a dunghill that suggests their indirect attachment to the land and to its exploitation. Unlike the aristocracy, who draw their patronym from the land they own, the Harlowes do not have this connection with the soil: they are not named after their holdings. “Autokopros,” or according to Henry Fielding’s definition in Joseph Andrews, “sprung from a dunghill,”7 they are not “autochtones”, or sprung from the earth. Whatever one may say about Clarissa’s social background, the name of the Harlowes is the unmistakable sign of their bourgeois condition.8
- 9 Janet Altman draws an interesting parallel between Clarissa’s two places of seclusion that rests o (...)
5The simile with the royal palace of Versailles suggests an indirect but overt critique of the Harlowes’ taste for ostentation. There is actually nothing royal about the Harlowes, except their knack for decreeing, naming and making spring forth a princely manor. Concerned with appearances and desirous to make their ascension glaringly obvious to everyone, the Harlowes are yet wary of the symbolic charge of their name. Its sonority not conducive to respectful silence,9 it is the object of their jealous attention. Anna Howe underlines in a letter to Clarissa her siblings’ attitude towards their name and draws a parallel with another royal family―a British one this time―which sheds a new light on the linguistic policy of the Harlowes:
I know the pride they have always taken in calling you a Harlowe [...]―Your mother has learnt it of them―and as in marriage, so in will, has been taught to bury her own superior name and family in theirs. I have often thought that the same spirit governed them, in this piece of affectation, and others of the like nature (as Harlowe Place, and so-forth, though not the elder brother's or paternal seat), as governed the tyrant Tudor, who marrying Elizabeth, the heiress of the house of York, made himself a title to a throne, which he would not otherwise have had (being but a base descendant of the Lancaster line); and proved a gloomy and vile husband to her; for no other cause, than because she had laid him under obligations which his pride would not permit him to own. (211)
- 10 As Michael Ragussis makes clear in Acts of Naming: the Family Plot in Fiction (Oxford: Oxford Univ (...)
- 11 Florian Stuber, “On Fathers and Authority in Clarissa,” Studies in English Literature 3 (1985): 55 (...)
6The dynamics of naming thus exposed by Anna Howe underlines the importance Clarissa holds in the eyes of the Harlowes. The imposition of the patronym, the name of the father, is the means of the commodification of the young woman.10 Mr. Harlowe, Florian Stuber notes, “is reduced [...] to his voice [...]―the voice of authority which insists on being obeyed.”11 While agreeing with Stuber, one might feel tempted to add that the name also plays an important part in his characterization: Mr. Harlowe is first and foremost a name. Through the sole mention of the name “Harlowe”, Clarissa is called back to an essence, a propriety she embodies but that does not belong to her.
- 12 Lawrence Stone underlines that “it was a very long time before a woman’s right of veto came to be (...)
7Naming as a process underlines the subaltern quality of the daughter as well as that of the married woman, her mother, whose maiden name gives way for the reproduction of the name of the Harlowes. Superior though it may be, the name of the maiden is firmly buried in the foundations of a new lineage. Although her maiden name is never mentioned, we know that Mrs Harlowe came from a rather distinguished family: she is the daughter of a Viscount (132). Her name is swept underfoot and disappears just like the dung that the Harlowes’ manor and fortune sprang from. Anna draws a parallel between the act of naming of the young woman and other symbolic acts, among which the baptizing of the manor (inappropriate, or rather usurped as it is, the building neither housing the eldest brother nor the father), which she considers equally affected and far too solemn. She concludes with a reference to Henry VII and calls attention to the role of marriage in the latter’s ascension, overtly accusing the Harlowes of the same ambition, if not of sharing with him an outdated view of marriage.12 Anna’s parallel is clearly satiric: comparing the 15th-century Tudor king to the 18th-century Harlowes produces a mock-heroic effect that ridicules the latters’ pretentions as selfish, outdated, and out of place.
8Beyond the received name is the given name and the joining of the Christian name Clarissa with the surname Harlowe clearly has oxymoric overtones. The name of the heroine, Ian Watt underlines, “has a [...] remote religious flavour, well suited to Richardson’s chaste bride of Christ, from the Clarisse, an order of nuns” (330). He adds that “it combines an emphatic romance ancestry with mingled overtones of fashionable gallantry, religious abnegation, and the pathos of an early and tragic death” (330). In the apparent opposition of her name and surname, the young woman embodies both the family politics of the Harlowes and the sexualization of roles within the lineage: women bring a grace that the patronym clearly lacks, before assimilating them.
- 13 “And when Mr. Solmes can introduce you to us, in the temper we wish to behold you in, we may perha (...)
9Clarissa’s linguistic vulnerability, her being open to citation through the mere mention of her name, is nowhere as obvious as in her parents’ precipitation to rename her. Fearing she might succumb to Lovelace’s temptations, Clarissa is pressed by Mr. and Mrs. Harlowe to marry Solmes, and is given an ultimatum. She will only be reintegrated into the society of her family members when she has changed her name and accepted Solmes’s, once she has taken him for a husband.13
- 14 For the notion of symbolic violence, see Pierre Bourdieu, La Domination masculine (Paris: Seuil, 1 (...)
10According to Mr. Harlowe’s terms, the translation must be approved (“till you have changed your name to my liking”) before the excommunicated daughter can be given back the right to speak along with her father’s forgiveness. The father watches the mutation of the signifier, the possessive adjective here underlining the absence of the mother from the process. If the wife can hope to be granted her father’s forgiveness, the daughter never shall. Her guilt can only be erased through a redemptive marriage. Clarissa becomes invisible, her father refusing to meet her, to hear her, or to read any letters that might come from her. She is relegated to the outskirts of the manor and to the servants’ staircase, walled in. The father is endowed with the right of social death over his daughter: he can talk and choose not to listen, he can seemingly name and unname at will. There is an obvious symbolic violence14 in the performing of such acts of language that go well beyond his authority.
- 15 “It enables her to make demands, to implore, to insist on mutuality, and even to oppose her 'frien (...)
- 16 John Allen Stevenson (“‘A Geometry of his own’: Richardson and the marriage ending,” Studies in En (...)
11If, as Naomi Tadmor contends, “the language of friendship is used by Clarissa as an expressive (though unfortunately mostly ineffectual) idiom of communication”,15 the language that Clarissa’s friends use with her makes clear that the terms of their friendship need to be renegotiated. Deprived of her maiden name by the father who originally gave it to her, Clarissa can only hope to regain a voice by marrying into a name her father agrees with. Marriage is indeed considered here in its indirectly chosen linguistic aspect, as a mere change of name,16 or even as a second christening: the young spouse abandons through a ceremony her right to her father’s name in order to don her husband’s. Clarissa’s particularity is that she is orphaned of her patronym before the ceremony meant to rename her.
12Mr. Harlowe’s restrictedly linguistic understanding of marriage clashes with Clarissa’s. For her, marriage implies a renouncement she can never willingly submit to:
Marriage is a very solemn engagement […]. To be given up to a strange man; to be engrafted into a strange family; to give up her very name, as a mark of her becoming his absolute and dependent property; to be obliged to prefer this strange man to father, mother―to every body: ―and his humours to all her own […]. To go nowhere; to make acquaintance; to give up acquaintance; to renounce even the strictest friendships, perhaps; all at his pleasure, whether she thinks it reasonable to do so or not. Surely, Sir, a young creature ought not to be obliged to make all these sacrifices but for such a man as she can love. If she be, how sad must be the case! How miserable the life, if it can be called life! (148)
- 17 See Lawrence Stone, Road to Divorce: England 1530-1987 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).
13The linguistic mutation testifies to the transfer of the woman from the authority of the father to that of the husband. It is the sign or rather the mark of her commodification. The woman is appropriated through the name that brands her: giving up her name involves pledging allegiance to a stranger, a process that cannot be undone. The road to divorce has not yet been cleared and will not be for another two hundred years.17 Clarissa’s views marriage as an act of submission and renouncement for the woman, who moves from a dependency upon her father to a form of self-abasement to the husband. This self-imposed degradation begins with the giving up of her maiden name, even though her renunciation is not supposed to be merely linguistic but total. Only love can, according to Clarissa, justify what one might call this voluntary servitude. The forced marriage has an extensive impact: it not only deprives the woman of her maiden name, it also endangers the very foundations of the linguistic community and of language itself, as Clarissa’s musing on the meaning of the word “life” suggest.
- 18 John Zomchick, Family and the Law in Eighteenth-Century Fiction: the Public Conscience in the Priv (...)
- 19 See Pierre Bourdieu, Raisons pratiques (Paris: Seuil, 1994) 161.
- 20 Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1812) illustrates the drama of primogeniture within the Bennet f (...)
- 21 Ruth Perry, Novel Relations: the Transformation of Kinship in English Literature and Culture, 1748 (...)
14John Zomchick has underlined the paradoxical attitude of the Harlowes: “[They] subordinate everything to their material interests, ruthlessly ignoring individual rights and needs. As they deny Clarissa her right to make the best deal (as she sees it), they reveal their disregard for the principles that enabled their own ascent.”18 Clarissa is not so much an individual as a woman about to be exchanged for an alliance with a man. Being the very object of the barter, she is not in a bargaining position. Through their theory of marriage, the Harlowes expound a politics of the name that distinguishes between male and female heirs, the latter being arguably less well served than the former. Thus, while Clarissa is to be condemned to a forced wedding, her family is willing to sacrifice itself to the making of a name: “My father himself [...] very often [...] gave way to [my brother], as to an only son who was to build up the name, and augment the honour of it” (80). The only male heir, encumbered with two sisters, James Jr. is entrusted with the task of increasing the symbolic weight of the name. The name is nothing other than a form of symbolic capital,19 an inherited good whose value can be increased through careful management before it is passed on from one generation to the next. Along with landed property, the name passes from father to son while the daughters are given away.20 In Ruth Perry’s words, “like an economic morality play, the action of this novel demonstrates the combined effects of primogeniture and capital accumulation for female offspring in landowning families.”21 The debate over both naming and the name is one of the symptoms of the dispossession of the woman that this drama hinges on.
- 22 R. Perry brings to light the dynamics of wealth at Harlowe Place: “With the important exception of (...)
- 23 “I have heretofore said, that you have offered as much as you ought, in offering to live single. I (...)
- 24 Ruth Perry notes that “the dowry inflation of the early eighteenth century [...] drove a wedge bet (...)
- 25 Mary Vermillion, “Clarissa and the marriage act,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 9 (1997): 395-412, 40 (...)
15Clarissa’s forced marriage with Solmes is a consequence of the will that made her into a landed proprietor.22 The land cannot belong to a woman anymore than her name. Her grandfather’s heiress, Clarissa is now a potential danger to the estate. As Zomchick puts it, “because the grandfather’s devise to Clarissa does not effect the consolidation of real property (and thus power in the hands of a single magnate), it appears to go against the actual trends of the time” (62). Her marriage with Solmes can be understood, as Anna Howe suggests, as an indirect and rather hazardous way for her family to reappropriate the land her grandfather gave away in his will.23 Anna reminds her friend of the legal procedure that stipulates that in the event of her dying unmarried the land would revert back to James Jr. and thus underlines the tyranny of the latter: he wants to exchange his sister for an early return of the land willed away by his grandfather.24 This is in keeping with his belief that women are “chickens for the tables of other men” (77). “The Harlowes,” Mary Vermillion underlines, “reduce to absurdity the dynastic belief that property should be kept within élite families at the expense of an individual owner’s freedom.”25
- 26 For the notion of performative see John L. Austin, How to do Things with Words (New York: Oxford U (...)
16Clarissa sees an immediate obstacle to the metamorphosis prompted by the name that her father alludes to, the only event capable of reinstating her with a voice. The veto she opposes is categorical: she will not sign the documents her father hands her. Refusing to write her name for her father, the name-giver, prompts a paroxystic crisis: “She further hinted, that my father himself would bring up the settlements for me to sign. O my dear! what a trial will this be!―How shall I be able to refuse my father the writing of my name?―To my father, from whose presence I have been so long banished!” (347). For the marriage to be valid, Clarissa must thus recognize her new name by the apposition of her signature: her parents not being in a position to declare her a wife, the signing of the proper name is endowed with the performative power of turning her into one.26 The Harlowes do not insist so much on her consent during the ceremony as on her good will thereafter. The written word seems in this context to take precedence over the spoken one: if Clarissa’s verbal consent can apparently be overlooked, her signature is a legal sine qua non. Her resistance anchors itself in the necessity of the autonymous, in the demand that she name herself. The conditions of felicity not being met, incapable of naming her by proxy,Clarissa’s parents contemplate the utopia of a transitory place between the maiden name and the married wife’s name:
the ceremony will probably be performed before Wednesday night:―but this, also, I will tell you, although beyond my present commission, that Mr. Solmes will be under an engagement (if you should require it of him as a favour) after the ceremony is passed, and Lovelace's hopes thereby utterly extinguished, to leave you at your father's, and return to his own house every evening, until you are brought to a full sense of your duty, and consent to acknowledge your change of name. (347-48)
17What the Harlowes offer her is the non-consummation of the marriage, a fiction between two states in which Clarissa would be neither daughter nor wife, and this until her married state is acknowledged linguistically through the recognition in writing of the name of the husband. The Harlowes’ unreasonable demands prompt Clarissa’s departure. She flees both the prospect of an odious name and a stasis of the narrative.
- 27 Limbos and purgatory are not part of the Protestant faith.
- 28 The parallel with the ceremony of baptism may seem surprising. It is nevertheless confirmed by a r (...)
18To borrow a metaphor from the Catholic faith,27 Clarissa errs in what one might call the limbo, or margins, of the name. “Limbus puerorum”, refuge of the children who died before they could be baptized, the limbo also houses the just before their redemption. It is both as a child orphaned of her name, unbaptized, and as a just that Clarissa is granted access here.28 The Harlowes are at the origin of this intermediary state, this purgatory the young woman roams until her death. Thus doing, as M. Ragussis underlines, Clarissa inverses traditional narrative patterns: “Clarissa, with family intact at the beginning, reverses what is one of the most characteristic plots of fiction: the course of the novel describes not the orphan's or bastard's discovery of family and name, but the orphaning and unnaming of the child” (20-21). Clarissa treads a path that is the opposite of Tom Jones’s, the symbolic degradation consecutive to the loss of the family name not being made up for by the ascension through marriage. Not only does Clarissa not marry either Lovelace or Solmes, she is also abused by the fictions of the name before she is herself forced into using borrowed names to cover her erring tracks: the name is for Clarissa a fruitless quest interspersed with obstacles.
19By making communication between the characters depend on a mutation of the name, the Harlowes bring about the threat of the stasis of the narrative. A hostage of speech, the patronym does not circulate any more than words do: all communication has become impossible due to the refusal of the circulation of the signifier. Nomination and communication, two processes at work in the writing of the novel, are diegetically problematized through the forced marriage theme. It is one the great paradoxes of the novel that Lovelace should rescue the narrative from its doom as communication and the flow of the narrative will require the subversion of the name by the rake.
- 29 “Master of words” is the rendering of Genette’s “logothète” in Thaïs E. Morgan’s translation of Mi (...)
- 30 The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson. ed. Anna Laetitia Barbauld (London: Phillips, 1804) 6. 71 (...)
20“Why, Sir! whether changing names be arbitrary or not does not signify; for, in this, positively I will have my own humour; and that, whether I can give the BEST REASONS for it or not.”30 What but the capacity to name can legitimate and justify the changing of the name, Lady Bradshaigh asks in a letter to Richardson, after baptizing her correspondent anew? Her right to rename is arbitrary, its process autocratic. She claims it as such. In a gesture reminiscent of Lovelace, which Richardson will not fail to underline, Lady Bradshaigh has just renamed her correspondent with the simple modification of the tag that identifies his painted portrait so people cannot find out she is exchanging letters with a writer of fiction. Lady Bradshaigh, who had first borrowed the name of Belfour to address the author of Clarissa, associates to the signifier Richardson―the latter’s portrait―a signified that is clearly foreign to it so as to be able to carry on the correspondence secretly. She forces the signifier to undergo a mutation that nothing legitimates or authorizes, neither the power of the law nor that of the writer. Richardson admits himself incapable of doing anything about it:
I am satisfied, Madam, with what you say about changing of names. I may as well be satisfied, as to be assured that, if I am not, I have no remedy; “and that you do not care, and that positively you will have your own humour.” Upon my word, Madam!―But, pray tell me, have you not all this time appeared to me in disguise? [...] Be pleased, however, to remember that you have done this without act of parliament, and that you have not very good example for it. Lovelace was a great name-changer. (Correspondence, 6. 81)
- 31 “Yes, said my sister, I do not doubt but it is Miss Clary's aim, if she does not fly to her Lovela (...)
21“Name-changer,” always ready to don names of his own creation, just like Clarissa but without ever submitting to the process of nomination, Lovelace corrupts and subverts the Harlowes’politics of the name. He represents, as Arabella underlines, a threat to the name that Clarissa has been elevating by her good works.31 While the Harlowes strive to increase the weight and the symbolic carriage of their name, Lovelace’s sole end, as he acknowledges, is to assimilate it through metamorphosis: “Harlowe!—How that hated word sticks in my throat—but I shall give her for it, the name of love” (144). A footnote from the editor makes his words explicit: the name of love is nothing else but Lovelace’s very name. To the name he can neither pronounce nor swallow, Lovelace wishes to simply substitute his own. Are we to understand that he wishes to marry Clarissa? What is the nature of this operation on the name?
- 32 “Characteristically, Clarissa infers identity from a specific linguistic element—the proper name. (...)
- 33 In Genette’s words, “un métier (re)connu et répertorié” (Gérard Genette, Mimologiques, Voyage en C (...)
22Terry Castle opposes what she calls Clarissa’s nominalism to a quality of Lovelace’s she describes without naming.32 I would suggest, following Genette’s lead, onomaturgy or name-making. It is not quite yet, as Genette underlines, “a set and established profession.”33 Naming the name-maker is nothing less than the “hypostasing of a function without specifying to whom it belongs” (10). How does one become a name-maker? Where does one learn the trade of making names? What does one do with it?
- 34 See Austin, How to do Things with Words (III).
- 35 M. Ragussis underlines the dynamics of the name in literature by generalizing what may constitute (...)
23Lovelace changes his name at will, as he matter-of-factly acknowledges: “I have changed my name: changed it without an act of parliament. ‘Robert Huntingford’ it is now” (417). Lovelace knows how do things with words: for being implicit, or deprived of a verb or expression naming the act, the performative is nevertheless quite effective.34 The rake assumes, just like Lady Bradshaigh, the rights of parliament by renaming himself momentarily with a patronym whose aim is to preserve his anonymity. He hurries to communicate it to his correspondent so that his letters can reach him. The borrowed name is not usurped but rather invented to be a cover. Interestingly, it both disguises and reveals at the same time. The rake often portrays himself as a hunter, and the adoption of the alias of “Huntingford” is an acknowledgement of his libertine desires. Far from being arbitrary, the name is partly motivated. It must be acknowledged that Lovelace does not abuse this prerogative: a disguise usually suffices to mask his identity without his having to change names. Constrained by her fugitive condition, Clarissa will change names much more often but use disguise very seldom.35
- 36 On fatherhood, see Florian Stuber, who remarks that “Mr Harlowe is the most prominent of only four (...)
24The parliament’s power of nomination evoked by Lovelace is mentioned on two occasions in the novel: once by himself and once by Lord M. In both cases, the changing of the name is associated with a kind of day-dreaming. A legalist, Lord M. wishes to hand down his name to Lovelace’s offspring to come: “May this marriage be crowned with a great many fine boys (I desire no girls) to build up again a family so antient! The first boy shall take my surname by act of parliament. That is my will” (787). If Clarissa loses her name in marriage, her descendence will acquire one that will be neither hers nor Lovelace’s. The desire of assimilation of the name is to be explained, as far as Lord M.—a peer whose name is, to say the least, cryptic and will remain so until the very end—is concerned by the necessity to see that the lineage not disappear. While the Harlowes want to “build up the name”, Lord M. wishes to “build up [the] family.” However Lord M. does share with the Harlowes the same desire to reproduce the name through the birth of a male heir who will inherit his patronym and fortune, indirectly disinheriting his own father.36
- 37 Lord M. and Lovelace seem to be aware of the times’ rather unfavorable dynamics: “the high infant- (...)
25If Lord M. contemplates a strictly male descendence, Lovelace quite literally dreams of a female one (922). Lovelace’s dream sees Clarissa’s daughter marrying Anna Howe’s son, before changing name by an act of parliament so as to be in a position to receive his estate. In both cases, it is the male who is called upon to change his name—and not the female.37 This detail is important enough since it is precisely that which distinguishes Lord M. and Lovelace from the Harlowes, who seem to have no other solution than to modify their daughter’s name through a forced marriage. Calling upon the parliament is one of the peer’s privileges. The bourgeois Harlowes have to be satisfied with an alliance contracted through marriage. Both Mr. Harlowe and Lovelace share, however, in Mary Vermillion’s words, “the monstrous vision of fathers who seek to control their children’s choice” (407). The sway they hold over the naming process is one of their instruments of control.
26Lovelace is not only a name-maker in that he renames himself at will or contemplates legal means of assimilating a third party to his identity. If he does not abuse the changing of names, as mentioned above, he is the only character empowered to rename topography according to his wishes(472). By the act of renaming “Dover Street the artery Mrs. Sinclair’s house is located in, through his intermediary Doleman, Lovelace quite literally creates ex nihilo a utopia. The place one cannot name has no existence. Conversely, a place only exists through its name. The letter is the instrument of the rake’s performative ability to name places into existence. Naming Dover Street enables Lovelace to shut Clarissa into a fiction without her being aware of it while preventing her being located in this liminal space: both Clarissa and the Widow Sinclair are now invisible. The novel becomes a prison, its communications doomed to wander and err endlessly.
27Lovelace’s linguistic power is not limited to his own patronym or even to topography. It is to all appearances absolute, the power of the demiurge he calls for himself being superior to that of the monarch:
But who is Capt. Mennell? methinks thou askest: I never heard of such a man as Captain Mennell.
Very likely. But knowest thou not young Newcomb, honest Doleman's nephew?
O-ho! Is it he?
It is. And I have changed his name by virtue of my own single authority. Knowest thou not, that I am a great name-father? Preferments I bestow, both military and civil. I give estates, and take them away at my pleasure. Quality too I create. And by a still more valuable prerogative, I degrade by virtue of my own imperial will, without any other act of forfeiture than my own convenience. What a poor thing is a monarch to me! (569)
- 38 As confirms his assertion that “many a sweet dear has answered [him] a letter for the sake of owni (...)
- 39 Tom Keymer, Richardson’s Clarissa and the Eighteenth-Century Reader (Cambridge: Cambridge Universi (...)
28Lovelace engenders names as he gives birth to fictions. He is a self-professed and self-styled “name-father”. The prerogatives he claims here go beyond both parliament’s and the monarch’s to equal only the fiction writer’s—at least when the latter admits being such a writer, which as we know is not the case with Richardson. Lovelace’s power to name surpasses that of the priest (“No parson ever gave more real names, than I have given fictitious ones” ): his capacity to rename is undoubtedly part of the seduction he instills in his communication with women.38 It also surpasses the very Creator’s, language being for Lovelace a cornu copia from which pour treasures that only exist by virtue of their nomination. The change of name of a third person is to be likened to an insemination of language: Lovelace breeds names as well as honors (“preferments […], both military and civil”) and dishonors. His authority is at once divine, civil and lord-like. While the monarch only reigns in the limited world of goods and people, Lovelace commands over the potentially boundless universe of words and language. Tom Keymer’s remark that the rake’s “coinages and double entendres amount to a literary libertinism, a repudiation of linguistic law” could also include his particular relationship to the name.39 Lovelace does not so much repudiate onomastic laws as he makes them.
- 40 “While fiction recharges with power the names of people, it does so most profoundly by claiming no (...)
- 41 See Julie Park: “As a ‘lover of lace’, Lovelace’s name signifies either a love of snares and nets (...)
29As M. Ragussis underlines, Lovelace belongs to a category of characters who distinguish themselves by their capacity to manipulate the name.40 Thus Lovelace is characterized more by his power of nomination, which makes him a demiurgic character, than by whatever property is attached to his name as a “lover of lace”,41 or “loveless” individual. More than a tag, the name is a stake, a dynamics that questions the very foundations of fiction and of the narrative act. The proof of this lies in the staging of Lovelace and Clarissa’s supposed relationship in front of a witness that bears testimony to the ingenuity of the rake and to the helplessness of the young woman (388). The fiction of the brother enables Lovelace to momentarily don himself with a legitimacy he has been lacking. It is lawful, as a brother wishing to preserve the honor of his family, to carry Clarissa away before her marrying without the approbation of her parents. The fiction thus created by the admission of a very partial truth explains that the young woman is deprived of her belongings. It also constitutes a scenario or script known by all—by both Clarissa and her hosts—in which the various characters come to play a role. Finally, it is an alternative, a branch the narrative did not engage in but that still remains likely at this stage (James is thinking of organizing an expedition to reclaim Clarissa). Through this fiction, Lovelace preempts the narrative and the right to narrate and to legitimate himself thanks to the circulating of stories.
- 42 Clarissa is probably alluding here to the scene that Lovelace describes to Belford: “I topped the (...)
30The fiction of the brother rests on Clarissa’s silent consent, who only agrees because the events have both literally and metaphorically made her speechless. By explaining away Clarissa’s dependency, the fiction of the brother enables Lovelace to account for her silence. She consents and dresses herself in the guilty garments of a woman about to marry secretly, revealing a structural weakness on her part: a genuine Proteus, but whose metamorphosis is here merely linguistic, Lovelace moves effortlessly from one character to the next while the ingenuous Clarissa, incapable of lying, remains without a voice: “A wretch!—How naturally did he fall into the character, although I was so much out of mine!” (389).42 This scene, which repeats itself, is important in many respects. The first of a series, it inaugurates a scheme that Clarissa will soon become aware of. It is but shortly thereafter that Clarissa will call Lovelace a “wicked story-teller” (395), a qualification that comes back several times. Lovelace, as he glorifies himself in his own version of this very episode, possesses a characteristic that had up to now escaped the investigations of the Harlowe family and that will play an important part in what is to come. If his knowledge of everything that happens assimilates him to the omniscient narrator, his practice of the sign and his propensity to impose his meaning through narration are not without evoking the powers of the author, as he underlines with pleasure:
Ovid was not a greater master of metamorphoses than thy friend. To the mistress of the house I instantly changed her into a sister, brought off by my surprise from a near relation’s (where she had wintered), to prevent her marrying a confounded rake (I love always to go as near the truth as I can), whom her father and mother, her elder sister and all her loving uncles, aunts, and cousins, abhorred. This accounted for my charmer’s expected sullens; for her displeasure when she was to join me again, were it to hold; for her unsuitable dress upon a road; and, at the same time, gave her a proper and seasonable assurance of my honourable views. (412)
31Lovelace pinpoints the link that unites him with an author―not to another character. In other words, he claims a connection to Ovid and not to Proteus. Only one other character in Clarissa quotes Ovid: the pedant Brand, to authorize his discourse (the famous “recantation letters,” added to the third edition). This coincidence is productive. While Brand convokes Ovid in Latin to give weight to his speech, Lovelace draws a parallel that qualifies him indirectly as author: it is his own speech, his fictions, that authorize Lovelace. Lovelace not only applies his mastery of metamorphosis to himself. He also possesses the ability to transform Clarissa in the eyes of others through language: he is a master of words.
32Logically, it is another writer of antiquity that Lovelace convokes to account for his assaults on Clarissa’s virtue:
As gold is tried by fire, and virtue by temptation, so is sterling wit by opposition. Have I not, before thou settest out as an advocate for my fair-one, often brought thee in, as making objections to my proceedings, for no other reason than to exalt myself by proving thee a man of straw? As Homer raises up many of his champions, and gives them terrible names, only to have them knocked on the head by his heroes. (519)
33The commentary is also metanarrative. Underlining a connection between the name of the character in the epic poem and the trials he will have to undergo, the most formidable names being promised to the greatest perils, Lovelace implicitly suggests a parallel with Clarissa. The name of Clarissa will have to be measured against the trials that Lovelace, the author of this text, intends to submit her to. The trials victoriously undergone by Clarissa will enable Lovelace to weigh the signifier she claims for herself: “There must be something more than a name in virtue!” (930).
- 43 Tzvetan Todorov, Poétique de la prose (Paris: Seuil, 1971). My translation.
34“There are,” Todorov writes, “two main kinds of speech, whose properties are so different that one can wonder whether they belong to the same phenomenon: namely speech as action and speech as narrative action.”43 Speech as action precedes the accomplishment of a deed and can be more or less dangerous. If speech as action is risk, speech as narrative is art “on the part of the speaker, as well as a pleasure to both participants in the communication” (70). Lovelace purposefully mistakes speech as action and speech as narrative, his narrative―and that is not the least of his particularities―becoming action, actually performing what it tells.
- 44 On cursing see Peter Hynes: “Curses, Oaths, and Narrative in Richardson’s Clarissa,” English Liter (...)
35We have seen the linguistic theory the Harlowes attach to the ceremony of marriage. Clarissa’s resistance to the name of Solmes finds its counterpart in her refusal of Lovelace’s. Clarissa is thus characterized by her linguistic immutability within the frame of marriage. The rake’s apparently unlimited power of metamorphosis through naming stops at Clarissa: “―Harlowe!―Curse upon the name!―and curse upon myself for not changing it, as I might have done!” (1428). Lovelace curses44 the name he failed to modify, the fiction of the name crumbling with the stumbling block of Clarissa’s adamant will to preserve what she calls her honor. Leaving a universe of heretofore consensual meanings, the parental roof under which she was a daughter, a sister or a cousin, she exposes herself to the vagaries of the signifier. London is for her but a world of empty signifiers (“But were I even to get safely to London, I know nobody there but by name; and those the tradesmen to our family” ). Her escape from Harlowe Place has left her without protection, and therefore highly vulnerable. It has moreover left her nameless in a transitory space between the house of the father and that of the husband. The transitoriness of her condition is underlined by the celebrated metaphor of the cipher (“I am but a cipher, to give him significance, and myself pain!” ), which singles her out as a linguistic martyr and a nonentity.
- 45 This intention clearly is the sign of the rake. Thus, Pamela’s Mr. B. acknowledges: “I doubted not (...)
- 46 No Name (1862), interestingly enough, happens to be the title of a novel by Wilkie Collins. It is (...)
- 47 C1 uses “lady” where C3 prefers “wife.”
36Lovelace unwillingly echoes the Harlowes’ theory when he tells Belford about his hope of gaining Clarissa’s favors without modifying her name: “what an immense pleasure to a marriage-hater, what rapture to thought, to be able to prevail upon such a woman as Miss Clarissa Harlowe to live with him, without real change of name!” (431).45 At the beginning, Lovelace wishes to consume the marriage without the linguistic mutation that characterizes it and that precedes the consummation. Hating the very word of marriage, he wishes to possess Clarissa without branding her with the sign of his property. He refuses the capacity the law empowers him with to transform Clarissa into a spouse by marriage. Clarissa’s drama, after narrowly escaping a forced marriage, is precisely to have no name,46 and no ensuing metamorphosis, imposed on her. Refusing to abide by the law of men, Lovelace proposes to act according to the law of discourse through language. After the fiction of the brother, Lovelace linguistically imposes this other fiction of marriage by calling Clarissa his spouse47 and by publicly vesting her with his name:
Well then, here are―let me see―How many persons are there who, after Monday night, will be able to swear that she has gone by my name, answered to my name, had no other view in leaving her friends but to go by my name? her own relations neither able nor willing to deny it.―[...] No less than four worthy gentlemen of fortune and family, who were all in company such a night particularly, at a collation to which they were invited by Robert Lovelace, of Sandoun Hall, in the county of Lancaster, esquire, in company with Magdalen Sinclair, [...] when the said Robert Lovelace addressed himself to the said lady, on a multitude of occasions, as his lady; as they and others did, as Mrs. Lovelace; every one complimenting and congratulating her upon her nuptials; and that she received such their compliments and congratulations with no other visible displeasure or repugnance, than such as a young bride, full of blushes and pretty confusion, might be supposed to express upon such contemplative revolvings as those compliments would naturally inspire. (539)
37Lovelace stages a performative ceremony of the imposition of the name that lacks nothing but the tacit agreement of Clarissa. He dispenses with the exchange of vows to force the lady to consent to give a reality to the fiction of the name. The communication staged by Lovelace must linguistically sanction their marriage. Clarissa is married, were it only because she answers questions addressed to her as Mrs Lovelace, as if through an indirect act of language. The dynamics of interlocution is advanced as proof of a putative state. Ironically, the witnesses mentioned by Lovelace, that is to say Mrs. Sinclair, her nieces and the pretended Miss Partington are nothing but fiction, empty signifiers. Onomastics prompts us to exclude Mrs. Sinclair from this last category, both her name and her surname ringing of prostitution. Lovelace’s oculary evidence rests on nothing but groundless identities, his own creations, his fellow-rakes excepted. By immersing Clarissa in a communication that the Harlowes refused their daughter, Lovelace has nevertheless managed to obtain her mute consent.
- 48 Rebecca Probert, “The Impact of the Marriage Act of 1753: Was it Really "A Most Cruel Law for the (...)
38Lovelace’s endeavor stems from a keen awareness on his part of the legal process. Thus, Rebecca Probert underlines “the fact that the two parties lived together and were reputed to be husband and wife could raise a presumption that the parties had in fact married”. She concludes: “where the marriage had existed for a long time, it could be upheld even where the original marriage could not be proved”.48 The action of Clarissa takes place before the Harwicke Act (1753), prior to which, as Probert notes, marriage had been validated by canon law, the exchange of promises between the spouses being “sufficient to constitute a marriage” (247). It looks as if in Lovelace vs. Harlowe, the plaintiff intends to have his marriage upheld on the basis of having shared a roof with the defendant: he seems not to ignore that he can dispense with her consent, just like he did when he subdued her spirit to take advantage of her.
39The very epistolary material itself, the letter, apparently sides with the rake in betraying Clarissa into a marriage with Lovelace. Thus, the latter replays this self-same process of performative imposition of the name when he sends Clarissa letters addressed to Mrs Lovelace (“superscribed, to Mrs Lovelace”). Letters 282, 283, 284 et 288 are supplications to Clarissa. Lovelace has resigned himself to marriage (“I will press her with letters for the Thursday—She shall yet be mine, legally mine” ), a perspective to which Clarissa opposes a categorical no. These letters contradict Lovelace unbeknownst to him, for even though he claims his desire to possess Clarissa legally, he persists in his attempts to possess her linguistically through the written word of the epistle. This scene is contrapuntal: it must be read in contrast to the two scenes of imposition of the name studied previously, enabling us to see the failure of Lovelace after Clarissa’s coming to awareness. Clarissa refrains from sanctioning the fiction of the address not only by not answering Lovelace’s pressing written injunctions in his letters but also by opposing a silence that suggests a mistake in the address.
- 49 Lovelace, as Belford underlines, must marry or resolve to the loss of the name he bears with his d (...)
40Lovelace is conscious of the supplement in the message that an answer from Clarissa would convey. He presses her to write him the name of the church the ceremony is supposed to take place in (955). Aware that she can only refuse him the name she has not granted her own father, Lovelace only demands the writing of a place. Thus, even though he names Clarissa and endows her with the function of wife, he does not ask at this crucial moment that she give her consent with the writing of her name. Lovelace attempts once more to impose a construction that rests solely on the reality of the communication: he solicits, through the question regarding the place, an answer that will indirectly confirm the reality of the address of “Mrs Lovelace.” The absence of an answer suggests that Clarissa is conscious at this stage of the linguistic strategy at work and that she is in a position to shelter herself from it―as her subsequent evasion confirms. Her refusal of the name of Lovelace condemns the rake, without his being apparently aware of it, to the extinction of the patronym.49Curiously, it is the signature of her maiden name, the name she is refused, that will explode the fiction of the marriage:
For here (wouldst thou have thought it?) taking advantage of Dorcas's compassionate temper, and of some warm expressions which the tender-hearted wench let fall against the cruelty of men, and wishing to have it in her power to serve her, has she given her the following note, signed by her maiden name: for she has thought fit, in positive and plain words, to own to the pitying Dorcas that she is not married. (917)
41The illocutionary force of Lovelace’s statements is rebutted by Clarissa’s determination not to be renamed against her will. She refuses the tacit acknowledgement of the fiction of marriage carried by the letter to assert the truth of her identity with the signature of her name. The fictions of the name the rake undertakes to impose on his victim make one wonder about the very name of Clarissa. Has the latter, as Anna suggested (1152) modified the names of the protagonist of this history? Is the history we have just read Clarissa Harlowe’s? “Do we conclude”, writes Terry Castle, “that the names in the very ‘History’ we read […] have in fact been changed? […] the possibility emerges that we do not know the real names of the correspondents in the collection, but like Clarissa and Mrs Sinclair’s, have been fooled by a succession of pseudonyms” (158). Indeed, what if Clarissa were not Richardson’s work, but Lovelace’s?
- 50 Roland Barthes S/Z (Paris: Seuil, 1976) 126-27.
42Roland Barthes distinguishes between so-called idyllic communication and narrative communication in this that while the former is devoid of noise, in the cybernetic sense of the word, the latter is necessarily anything but idyllic: its lines of communication are the very stuff the spectacle of the text is made of.50 Or, to paraphrase Tolstoy, all idyllic communications are alike while every narrative communication is narrative in its own way. Or, as far as Clarissa is concerned, all communications were idyllic within the family, until they became objects of spectacle with the intrusion of the rake as parasite.
- 51 Lovelace underlines that Captain Tomlison is “Belforded over” (823). His own conscience “Mennell[s (...)
43Lovelace can aptly be described as a noise producer, a corrupter of names, as bears proof his tendency to antonomasis.51 The fiction that without him might have run the risk of being idyllic, despite its represented scenes, acquires through his subterfuges its narrativity. His practice of the name and his opposition to that of the Harlowes turn the lines of communication into a show, or into a cacography, in Roland Barthes’s words (S/Z, 139). Marriage and the linguistic policies attached to it are the instrument through which noise enters Richardson’s great novel. Its pragmatics coincides with a poetics of the name that informs the narrative and gives it its definite shape.