Samuel Richardson, Clarissa (1747-8), p. 596 (L 185)

Clarissa to Anna Howe; responding to Anna's urging that she encourage Lovelace's proposals of marriage:

You, my dear, have accused me of having modestied away, as you phrase it, several opportunities of being--Being what, my dear?--Why, the wife of a libertine: and what a libertine and his wife are, my cousin Morden's letter tells us--Let me here, once for all, endeavor to account for the motives of my behavior to this man, and for the principles I have proceeded upon, as they appear to me upon a close self-examination.

Be pleased then to allow me to think that my motives on this occasion arise not altogether from maidenly niceness; nor yet from the apprehension of what my present tormentor, and future husband, may think of a precipitate compliance, on such a disagreeable behavior as his. But they arise principally from what offers to my own heart, respecting, as I may say, its own rectitude, its own judgement of the fit and the unfit; as I would without study answer for myself to myself, in the first place; to him and to the world, in the second only. Principles, that are in my mind; that I found there; implanted, no doubt, by the first gracious Planter: which therefore impel me, as I may say, to act up to them, that thereby I may to the best of my judgement be enabled to comport myself worthily in both states (the single and the married), let others act as they will by me.

I hope, my dear, I do not deceive myself, and instead of setting about rectifying what is amiss in my heart, endeavor to find excuses for habits and peculiarities which I am unwilling to cast off or overcome. The heart is very deceitful: do you, my dear friend, lay open mine (but surely it is always open before you!) and spare me now, if you find or think it culpable.

Clarissa argues for an innate moral sense derived from the dictates of the "heart." The principles she draws from her heart are God-given and inviolate. Yet, interestingly, after this emphatic statement she moves into a more general description of the heart as the seat of the emotions and therefore of potentially deceitful passions--a seemingly inconsistent use of the metaphor, but indicative of the term's complexity. Finally, in telling Anna that her heart is "always open before you," she turns the heart into a figure for her innermost self.

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
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