Samuel Richardson, Clarissa (1747), p. 543

But indeed I have seen ladies, of whom I have had a better opinion than I can say I have of Mrs. Sinclair, who have allowed gentlemen and themselves too, in greater liberties of this sort, than I have thought consistent with that purity of manners which ought to be the distinguishing characteristic of our sex: for what are words but the body and dress of thought? And is not the mind indicated strongly by its outward dress?

Clarissa goes on to catalogue not the words of Lovelace's fellow-rakes, but, indeed, their bodies and their dress, indicating that the outward dress of words (and, hence, of the mind) is actually outward dress-- the body, physiognomically and sartorially speaking. The body (and its dressings) is a sign for the word which is a sign for the mind (or the soul?), which is either pure intelligibility itself, or a sign (a mark, handwriting to be deciphered) of God. The body takes on meaning, then, not in itself, but as a theological marker at three removes from God-- it is useful as a sign, but it is degraded because it is not pure and cannot offer an unmediated interiority. Derrida would call Clarissa logocentric, and he would be right. Clarissa should care about the difference between dress, body, word, and mind-- but she doesn't: she only cares about the face of God.

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography