This article uses Samuel Richardson's Clarissa (1747–48) as a case study in order to expose the relationship between dueling and suicide in eighteenth-century literature and culture. By examining the novel alongside contemporary documents concerning dueling, I make the case that Lovelace's fatal duel with Morden is a covert form of self-destruction, one that allows him to disguise and ultimately escape his sufferings while maintaining his masculine honor and reputation. While many critics have focused on Clarissa's suicide in Richardson's novel, few have considered the nature of Lovelace's own self-willed death at length. The following consideration of Lovelace's “gloomy scheme of death” reveals the violence necessary for performances of masculinity in the early to mid-eighteenth century and suggests that the duel is at the heart at such efforts at self-display.

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