Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796), p. 308

Nobody dies of mere grief; Of this Antonia was an instance. Aided by her youth and healthy constitution, She shook off the malady, which her Mother's death had occasioned; But it was not so easy to remove the disease of her mind. Her eyes were constantly filled with tears: Every trifle affected her, and She evidently nourished in her bosom a profound and rooted melancholy. The slightest mention of Elvira, the most trivial circumstance recalling that beloved Parent to her memory, was sufficient to throw her into serious agitation. How much would her grief have been increased, had She known the agonies which terminated her Mother's existence!

Clarissa Harlowe dies of mere grief, doesn't she? In this passage, Antonia is figured as a less-disordered Clarissa, one whose sensibility renders her susceptible to ailment, though not of the fatal variety. Her ability to feel leads to both a disturbed mind and a diseased body; her head and her heart, as well as her other organs, are in communication-- in sympathy-- with one another: "It is this 'sympathy' which integrates all parts of the body and allows the 'nervous disorder,' which may originate in the most obscure recess of the body, to declare itself as a repertoire of signs" (Mullan, 229). Perhaps the final line of the passage points to the differences between Antonia's and Clarissa's maladies and the griefs that cause them. It can be argued that Clarissa dies of a grief that is not "mere," but "utter," in the sense that she is grieving not just for the loss of her honor or for the loss of her family, but for the loss of the world. This world is not lost to her because she is dying, but because it is so corrupt as to be irretrievable to one such as her. Antonia, however, does not possess the kind of knowledge of the world that Clarissa has gained through her ordeal with Lovelace. She neither knows how her mother died, nor can imagine how her own life will end, and because of this, her grief remains "mere" and manageable.

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography