Degree Granting Department
Laura Runge, Ph.D.
Samuel Richardson, Eliza Haywood, Gardens, Temptation, Milton
Gardens in Eliza Haywood's The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, and Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, or a History of a Young Lady provide a place for the characters to gain knowledge; but without preparation to receive this knowledge - if restrained behind the veil of decorum - they come to harm, rather than constructive awareness. A fine line exists between innocence and experience in these works. The ways in which the characters negotiate this line illustrates the complexities involved in the eighteenth-century understanding of virtue and how society attempted to mediate this issue. This negotiation can be seen largely in specific garden scenes in these two novels. In Clarissa, Clarissa's flight with Lovelace early in the novel demonstrates this negotiation; while in Betsy Thoughtless, this demonstration lies in the garden scene at the end with Betsy and Trueworth.
Richardson and Haywood present alternate endings for a virtuous heroine tempted by sex and trapped by domestic politics. The different fates of Clarissa Harlowe and Betsy Thoughtless result from not only the difference between tragedy and comedy, but from the differing views of temptation. I wish to investigate the possible didactic messages behind these alternate endings. In investigating the two treatments of the temptation of the virtuous heroine, I hope to provide new material by asserting the importance of flight from the garden as representative of the fallen woman in Richardson's novel, and the triumphantly virtuous in Haywood's. Clarissa's fall out of the garden proves a previous sin punished, while Betsy's flight from the garden proves her virtue. Since both Clarissa and Betsy Thoughtless, and their authors, are seen as groundbreaking, an abundance of scholarship is available. However, little has been done in connecting the two garden scenes to definitions of temptation.
Furthermore, though connections between Milton's Satan and Richardson's Lovelace have been drawn and re-drawn, little critical attention has been devoted to the way in which the Paradise Lost expulsion from the garden may mirror the important flights from the gardens that both Clarissa and Betsy experience.
Scholar Commons Citation
Kinsley, Jamie, "Garden doors: Tempting the virtuous heroine in Clarissa and Betsy thoughtless" (2008). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.