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Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady

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Pressured by her unscrupulous family to marry a wealthy man she detests, the young Clarissa Harlowe is tricked into fleeing with the witty and debonair Robert Lovelace and places herself under his protection. Lovelace, however, proves himself to be an untrustworthy rake whose vague promises of marriage are accompanied by unwelcome and increasingly brutal sexual advances. A Pressured by her unscrupulous family to marry a wealthy man she detests, the young Clarissa Harlowe is tricked into fleeing with the witty and debonair Robert Lovelace and places herself under his protection. Lovelace, however, proves himself to be an untrustworthy rake whose vague promises of marriage are accompanied by unwelcome and increasingly brutal sexual advances. And yet, Clarissa finds his charm alluring, her scrupulous sense of virtue tinged with unconfessed desire. Told through a complex series of interweaving letters, "Clarissa" is a richly ambiguous study of a fatally attracted couple and a work of astonishing power and immediacy. A huge success when it first appeared in 1747, and translated into French and German, it remains one of the greatest of all European novels. Its rich ambiguities - our sense of Clarissa's scrupulous virtue tinged with intimations of her capacity for self-deception in matters of sex; the wicked and amusing faces of Lovelace, who must be easily the most charming villain in English literature - give the story extraordinary psychological momentum. .


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Pressured by her unscrupulous family to marry a wealthy man she detests, the young Clarissa Harlowe is tricked into fleeing with the witty and debonair Robert Lovelace and places herself under his protection. Lovelace, however, proves himself to be an untrustworthy rake whose vague promises of marriage are accompanied by unwelcome and increasingly brutal sexual advances. A Pressured by her unscrupulous family to marry a wealthy man she detests, the young Clarissa Harlowe is tricked into fleeing with the witty and debonair Robert Lovelace and places herself under his protection. Lovelace, however, proves himself to be an untrustworthy rake whose vague promises of marriage are accompanied by unwelcome and increasingly brutal sexual advances. And yet, Clarissa finds his charm alluring, her scrupulous sense of virtue tinged with unconfessed desire. Told through a complex series of interweaving letters, "Clarissa" is a richly ambiguous study of a fatally attracted couple and a work of astonishing power and immediacy. A huge success when it first appeared in 1747, and translated into French and German, it remains one of the greatest of all European novels. Its rich ambiguities - our sense of Clarissa's scrupulous virtue tinged with intimations of her capacity for self-deception in matters of sex; the wicked and amusing faces of Lovelace, who must be easily the most charming villain in English literature - give the story extraordinary psychological momentum. .

30 review for Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I would never recommend this book to anyone. I will say that first off, despite my love of it, despite the fact that it will remain present in my consciousness a long time, and I may write things on it, may deliberately continue my interaction with the text in the way that one sometimes does after finishing a book that has had such an impact upon them. For it was a completely devestating eight hundred closely written pages, letter after letter after letter. One knew from very early on where the pl I would never recommend this book to anyone. I will say that first off, despite my love of it, despite the fact that it will remain present in my consciousness a long time, and I may write things on it, may deliberately continue my interaction with the text in the way that one sometimes does after finishing a book that has had such an impact upon them. For it was a completely devestating eight hundred closely written pages, letter after letter after letter. One knew from very early on where the plot was going, but yet it still managed to wreck havoc with my emotions up through the very last page. It is, in the simplest form, the chronicle of a young woman with a startlingly, unusually, poignantly strong sense of personal integrity, both physical and moral, and the way that the world, from all angles, goes out of its way to destroy that integrity. I do not read it as a tragedy about 'virtue'/chastity, or a reflection of the larger position of women in society at the time, though Clarissa's helplessness certainly does serve as an example of that, for to me it is plainly and simply the story of an individual. As an individual tragedy it is, as I have said, devestating. The craft of the epistolary novel, though one unfamiliar to most modern readers, is perfectly demonstrated here, as Clarissa and Lovelace's letters reveal plot and character with pitch-perfect pacing and tone. They are both very complicated individuals, perfect creations of a talented author, and the epistolary format was no doubt the most effective one to show that. I loved this book. I loved this book entirely and intensely. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. Either it would be as devestating to them as it was to me, or they would find the style dull and tiresome. Neither outcome would be particularly profitable to the reader (though, if you like books of this sort and are willing to spend a few days wrapped in the intensity of it...how can I dissuade you?).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    For people who haven't seen the haiku version:To Miss Howe: send help! I've been ravished in Book Six with three more to go

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a nun or a convict. In my romanticized view, both situations provided a room and isolation. What more could anyone want? Space and isolation: the perfect ingredients to read endlessly and without interruption. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and my notions about being a convict were particularly skewed. There’s nothing romantic about being imprisoned, and Clarissa--more than most fictional characters would have much to say on the t When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a nun or a convict. In my romanticized view, both situations provided a room and isolation. What more could anyone want? Space and isolation: the perfect ingredients to read endlessly and without interruption. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and my notions about being a convict were particularly skewed. There’s nothing romantic about being imprisoned, and Clarissa--more than most fictional characters would have much to say on the topic. * * * There are characters who float away almost as soon as you’ve put down the book, while others, even years later, remain vivid. I’m not sure what accounts for this. The unabridged version of Clarissa exceeds 1500 pages, and yet the novel doesn’t seem that long. Though critics, such as V. S. Pritchett, have coolly and dismissively categorized the book as exemplifying the “principle of procrastinated rape,” the plot is secondary; Clarissa’s character animates this novel. In contrast to a heroine like Moll Flanders bustling about in her world, Clarissa’s movements are small, and we perceive her world as though through a microscope. Clarissa is ill equipped to deal with her hostile environment – a world of materialism and hypocrisy. Clarissa doesn’t have the flexible morality that would serve her well. She operates by a strict code of moral conduct, and her disinclination to adapt guarantees her downfall--at least by the norms of her society. The details of Clarissa’s setting are scant. Richardson creates here a mindscape rather than a landscape. In this blank world, the details that remain—a desk, a key, a lock, a room, a coffin, etc.—gain a heightened significance. From the beginning, the images used form a pattern of obstruction and closure. The female code of conduct in the eighteenth century creates blockage as well. For example, women were not able to able to express their feelings during courtship. A humorous illustration of the problem this code creates occurs with Arabella and Lovelace. Lovelace initially courts Arabella but has become attracted to Clarissa. He cannot simply “dump” Arabella without causing serious offense. Cleverly, Lovelace uses punctilio to his advantage. He asks Arabella some question requiring immediate consent (we are not told what), since he knows—to not appear overeager—Arabella must deny him. While Arabella mistakenly believes Lovelace is simply playing the courtship game, Lovelace is now free to act as though he thought Arabella’s denial was final and move on. Not surprisingly, the choice of a woman’s suitor depended largely on what her family dictated. But Clarissa cannot acquiesce. Her family’s choice, Mr. Solmes, is unthinkable. To Clarissa, he is the antithesis of subtlety and decorum, a “monster in her eye.” Marriage to him would represent a bondage so extreme Clarissa declares, “I would rather be buried alive, indeed I had, than have that man!” However, in this instance and in others throughout the book, Clarissa may as well have been speaking in a foreign tongue. Her mother ignores the remark, apparently interpreting it as babble. Significantly, none of the other characters understand Clarissa either. Even her closest friend, Anne Howe, often underestimates her strength of will, and advises her to marry Lovelace long after Clarissa has rejected him entirely, having judged his actions unspeakable. Clarissa moves toward further alienation. Her actions--deriving from a moral code far above that of her society--create a situation where she is continuously misunderstood. Further, Clarissa becomes literally alienated as her setting becomes more confined. Her main activity—writing in her closet—illustrates her isolation. When she again refuses to marry Solmes, her family’s restrictions effectively turn her bedroom into a prison. Her family’s confinement underscores their naïve belief that by shutting her up they may appropriate her person. Unlike Solmes and her family, Lovelace operates on a higher plane. He realizes Clarissa exists as a plenitude of one, a world within herself, hermetically sealed and inviolable. Lovelace’s aim is more demonic. He wants to shatter her resolve, for it is just this self-sufficiency that maddens and threatens him. Even Lovelace, though, cannot destroy her. It is Clarissa’s character that makes this story compelling. In the face of pressure and humiliation, her fineness remains intact, and she never yields.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Once you accept the lugubrious plot of the longest English novel (pure and innocent girl is Wronged, fades away into angelic death) this book is fascinating on so many levels. Apparently Richardson worked on it for years. And that includes after initial publication--he amended it significantly twice, after reading both published and private reviews. Unfortunately his emendations mostly were additions to hammer the point home that no, Clarissa realio trulio was saintly and pure and good and submis Once you accept the lugubrious plot of the longest English novel (pure and innocent girl is Wronged, fades away into angelic death) this book is fascinating on so many levels. Apparently Richardson worked on it for years. And that includes after initial publication--he amended it significantly twice, after reading both published and private reviews. Unfortunately his emendations mostly were additions to hammer the point home that no, Clarissa realio trulio was saintly and pure and good and submissive (and therefore must die), and Lovelace a devil in thin disguise, adding on massive wordcount to shove readers firmly into accepting his judgment. He was appalled that many readers liked Lovelace, and wanted a happy ending for them both. The thing is, the book is great--still great--in spite of that hammer. First of all, the reader can watch the invention of the English modern novel as this book develops. Richardson plays around with narrative voice, POV, dialogue and dialogue attributions as he tries to juggle the inner and outer lives of all his characters. The result, I think, is fascinating: narrative commentary, footnotes, play format, stream of consciousness, omniscient narrator, third person limited, and of course first person epistolary make up a splendid tapestry of narrative experimentation made lively by irony here, passion there. Then there is the historical context. The close reader will discover customs and attitudes of the time that all the characters accept as givens, but which we will find peculiar, enlightening, horrifying, and sometimes bewildering. Expressions we think we understand have origin meanings now forgotten, for example, "raising a family." Very, very important concept--but it's not about educating one's children so much as using education as one of the many tools to boost one's family into a higher social realm. So children are expected, as their duty to their parents, to raise the family--boys by doing great things in the world and girls by marrying up. Finally, and most intriguingly, there is the battle of the sexes. When the reader reflects on the central turning point of the book being a rape, suddenly Richardson's quaint language and people in their wigs and laces transform into moderns, facing the complex tensions of male-female relations now. Richardson wants us to believe that a good girl is obedient and submissive, first to her father (and brothers) and then to her husband. Her purity is her single most important commodity. If we look past that absurdity (which we have been struggling against for the centuries since), what we have here is a novel about agency. Jane Austen picked up on this when she began writing, with her assumption that what women think matters--that their lives are not solely about holding onto their "purity" until marriage. I say "picked up" because Jane Austen's work is in dialogue with Richardson's; he, though a male author, possessed enough sympathy and understanding of women to have created a cast of interesting females. However much we might roll our eyes at Clarissa's six hundred pages of dedicated "I have lost my purity so I must die" at the end of the novel, we can still feel for her because Richardson created a smart character with wit and determination. At the wise age of eighteen she tries to be submissive to her parents--in the very beginning, we learn that her grandfather had left her a significant fortune, which she promptly signs over to her father because she is a good, submissive girl. Unfortunately for Clarissa, her father is a pompous fatwit, and her brother is even worse--his letters to her are full of innuendo about how she must submit to the loathsome Soames, that she must be mastered, that marriage will snuff out her pertness . . . using the language of rape. Readers of the time were riveted; letters and memoirs then, and since, are full of oblique references to what goes on in the family home when brothers are taught that they are the masters of young sisters, until Virginia Woolf decided to spell it out bluntly. And that's the key, I think: in the parade of twits and hypocrites and spiteful sisters and overbearing parents and vile sneaks (who once, when young, had hopes of a good life but were tricked and lied to) we find the traces of people, and problems, we know now. Pretending they don't exist doesn't make them go away. At the novel's center is the vexing snarl of questions about the nature of love, attraction, obsession and possession, and above all, trust. Clarissa might eventually have been wooed into loving Lovelace--she did find him handsome and witty--but he betrayed her trust, and he could never be made to understand that. And his reasons for the rape are more complicated than you'd think. Obviously it takes time to read. That's daunting to today's life in the fast lane. But I believe every literature lover ought to read it once, and do it when there are others to discuss it with. And you might find it a whole lot more entertaining than you would have thought: it was not only a best-seller in England, but it was fast translated into other European languages, and had a profound effect on a variety of artists, including Mozart. (Listen to Don Giovanni again after reading this book.) Though the language and customs are so very mid-eighteenth century, the emotions and motivations are resonantly relevant, and the book can spark endless debate. And thereby--one hopes--enlightenment. We humans certainly have a long way to go.

  5. 4 out of 5

    J

    The experience of reading this book is akin to being dragged though a bog of broken glass and tobasco sauce. Face down. By a very slow mule. The story's intent is to show that the ultimate virtue a girl can have is passivity no matter what awfulness the world sends her way. I read the 600 page ABRIDGED version for school and was so traumatized I didn't read another book for a year. Samuel Richardson should be boycotted out of the Canon. Wolstonecraft kicked his ass.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I’ve been reading this for about 20 years (well ... six months) and have finally reached the end with the aid of smelling salts and Kendal mint cake. This is a massive book, over a million words; 1500 closely packed pages. It is, of course, a classic and a milestone in the history of the novel. It is told in epistolary form and is in actuality a very simple story. The central character, Clarissa is 19, trying to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage set up by her newly rich family. She unwisely ac I’ve been reading this for about 20 years (well ... six months) and have finally reached the end with the aid of smelling salts and Kendal mint cake. This is a massive book, over a million words; 1500 closely packed pages. It is, of course, a classic and a milestone in the history of the novel. It is told in epistolary form and is in actuality a very simple story. The central character, Clarissa is 19, trying to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage set up by her newly rich family. She unwisely accepts the protection of Lovelace a notorious rake and aristocrat who has fallen out with her family. She is virtuous and holds onto her virtue for as long as she can. He becomes impatient and rapes her. She dies a noble death a couple of months later and various retributions are meted out. It is a lot more complex than that with many players. Richardson has plenty of time to develop characters, but Clarissa still manages to be too good to be true and Lovelace a spoilt, emotionally stunted thug. In reality there is enough material for a brief novella. It is a morality tale with good triumphing over evil, plenty of repentance, villains getting their comeuppance and page upon page of soul-searching. It was an interesting enough book, revolutionary and rather shocking in its time and worth a read if you break a leg and can’t move for about six weeks.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Update 10/15 Oh my god you guys, did you know Goodreads has a character limit for reviews? And I seem to have run up against it. HOW APPROPRIATE. Continued here. Update 10/1 Not much progress, but I’m updating again because last night I had my first Clarissa-related dream – and it was a nightmare, about Lovelace coming to get me. I don’t remember much about it. I woke up, was pissed off, went back to sleep, and then the damn thing started up again. So, this seems like as good a time as any to post Update 10/15 Oh my god you guys, did you know Goodreads has a character limit for reviews? And I seem to have run up against it. HOW APPROPRIATE. Continued here. Update 10/1 Not much progress, but I’m updating again because last night I had my first Clarissa-related dream – and it was a nightmare, about Lovelace coming to get me. I don’t remember much about it. I woke up, was pissed off, went back to sleep, and then the damn thing started up again. So, this seems like as good a time as any to post a plot update. After they left the inn, Lovelace tricked Clarissa into taking an apartment at a notorious whorehouse, run by an older woman and her two daughters, both of whom Lovelace had previously ‘ruined.’ These ladies were impatient for him to similarly ‘ruin’ Clarissa. They helped him copy and steal all of her letters, preventing her friend’s rescue schemes. Lovelace also hired someone to pretend to be an emissary from Clarissa's less-shitty uncle, ostensibly pursuing a family reconciliation if she’s a married woman – but this was all to make her comfortable and drop her guard, because he has only fleeting intentions of actually marrying her. Lovelace took ipecac to make himself sick so she would rush to his bedside, and he set fire to the living room curtains so he would have an excuse to rush to hers. Clarissa did not appreciate being molested in her PJs after the curtains incident, and that’s when she escaped, planning to hide out for a while and then go be somebody’s gentlewoman companion in America. (I really wish this had taken place, actually. Fan fic opportunity?) Now Lovelace has tracked her down at her little boardinghouse, where he has somehow, despite her obvious fright at seeing him, convinced the women of the house to help his cause by saying he’s her poor, neglected husband. Is it any wonder I’m having nightmares? But I think I'm finally understanding why readers liked Lovelace -- he's funny. He just is. He's rude to his pen pals, snide to his family, and afraid of Clarissa's friend like she's the boogeyman in the closet. He's immensely proud of himself, but also touchingly self-aware. It's disconcerting because he's also obviously a big rapey bastard. Clarrisa’s Faint Count: We’re up to 5. She passed out twice when Lovelace found her at her new lodgings. Can’t blame her. Update 9/26 Clarissa got out! She did was I was just complaining she hadn't done -- she crawled out the window and hailed a cab. I am so excited! [5 minutes later] Aaaaaand Lovelace just found her. Turns out she took that cab to a really obvious place. Oh well. Good effort! Update 9/25, page 705. What an action movie would look like if it starred Clarissa. Evil Villain (locking Clarissa in room): I have you in my power now, Clarissa! You’ll never escape. Clarissa: Indeed I will. If you don’t unlock the door, I will use this key my maid gave me. Evil Villain: What?! (Shoots maid, takes key, ties Clarissa to a chair.) Clarissa: Woe is me! Evil Villain: Now you’ll never escape. Clarissa: (Silently works free of the ties, then takes a seat at her writing table.) Evil Villain: What are you doing?! Clarissa: Writing a letter about how I’m going to escape. Evil Villain: Oh, cursed charmer! (Re-ties Clarissa to the chair.) The back of the book says that, despite Lovelace’s ‘unwelcome and increasingly brutal sexual advances’ (stay tuned, I suppose), Clarissa ‘finds his charm alluring, her scrupulous sense of virtue tinged with unconfessed desire.’ Needless to say, I have not noticed any of this unconfessed desire, except maybe in her repeated inability to make an escape. Is that what her ineffectualness is about? She secretly likes him, and wants to stay? Contemporary readers would have known, I suppose, but I don’t. I can’t tell what would have seemed possible for a woman in this time period (Crawl out the window? Hail a cab?) and I’m constantly trying to read it through that lens. But maybe all this is just flirting? To catch you up on plot…nah, nevermind. Next time. Vocabulary that really should come back in style. Saucebox – a sassy female. I encourage anyone with a teenage daughter to try this word. See what happens. Fetch – a provocation. See e.g., everything Chelsea Handler says. Frost Piece – for if you’re ever tempted to call someone an ‘ice queen’ but want to mix it up a little. Questionable Lesson 5: Save all your letters. What’s the harm? It’s not like Lovelace will sneak into your room and read them or anything like that. Update 9/12. On page 529, but hey, who’s counting. In Of Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham told us exactly how much money his hero had at all times. When that guy ordered an omelet and a beer, I knew how far it would eat into his total capital. When he took an apartment, I had an informed opinion about whether he could afford it. You would think these mundane details would get boring, but instead they made me more invested in the story. Something similar must be happening here. You can’t have the finer points of someone’s conduct endlessly re-hashed without developing an opinion, whether you want to or not. In its day, reactions to this book were probably not unlike our endless conversations about Miley Cyrus. It would be better, though, if we got a little less information -- if we just listened to Clarissa and her friend debate Lovelace’s conduct, and never heard Lovelace’s own explanations -- which the author has thoughtfully footnoted, btw, so that we can refer back to corroborating passages in earlier letters. (Who would flip back and check those?? I have a superstitious fear that if I flip back in this book I’ll have to read my way forward again.) If we didn’t hear Lovelace’s thoughts on the situation, there would be more mystery and danger. With Lovelace weighing in all the time, it feels like every third letter Richardson is giving us the answer to a math problem. Miscellany: The only thing Clarissa and her friend (hereafter C&F) fear more than marriage is -- scratch that, they don’t fear anything more than marriage. They view it as the final surrender of the tiny bit of power and control they’ve managed to maintain in their family homes. What’s surprising to me is not that C&F should feel this way, but that it should be so clear. Which is just one more reason I think this book was secretly written by Richardson’s wife. Clarissa’s friend, in one letter, seems to echo the spirit behind The Game, that shabby memoir/instruction manual about how to pick up girls at bars. “So that, sometimes to make us fear, and even, for a short space, to hate the wretch, is productive of the contrary extreme.” Although I guess in The Game they spent more time insulting girls to attract their attention than inspiring any kind of fear. Fear of herpes, maybe. As I type this I realize I’ve read a lot of stupid shit. Questionable Lesson 4: Don’t borrow money from your friends, ever. (I would argue, when someone sends you money so you can escape, don’t send it back on principle. Because now you have no money! Every page of this book is like the scene in a horror movie where the girl walks down the rickety stairs into a dark basement and you’re saying “No! Bad idea!”) Clarissa’s faint count: Clocking in at 3. She got a mean letter from her sister and passed out twice in a row. Update 8/30 Did you know that if you google ‘Samuel Richardson’ and ‘Sadomasochism,’ you get results? Actual results, JSTOR results. People are making an academic living hating on this book and here I am doing it for free. They publish, I perish. Anyway. Page 467. Clarissa is still stuck at the inn. Turns out that her friend did convince her to marry Lovelace, but he hasn’t proposed in a clear enough way that she could actually say ‘yes.’ Which is intentional on his part, because having got Clarissa in a bad spot, Lovelace would now like to ‘test her virtue’ for some length of time to make sure she really is the angel on earth that he thought he was. How stressing her out further is supposed to prove her ‘purity’ I don’t know, because the one thing this character has never expressed in all her pages of letters is any shred of sexual desire. Or perhaps she did, and I missed it. Having read Pamela, I’m going to set the over-under on ‘number of times Lovelace dresses like her maid and creeps into her bed’ at…oh, I don’t know…3. That only happened twice in Pamela but it was a shorter book. And, btw, I’m going to read the introduction now. And whatever else I can find. I need a Rosetta Stone for this uneventful epic. Are you curious what Clarissa looks like? You would only have to wait until page 400 to find out, in a letter that Lovelace writes to his wingman. She has ringlets. (Which, interestingly, I assumed were blonde, but going back I find that’s not specified.) She has “wax-like flesh” through which “every meandering vein is to be seen in all the lovely parts of her which custom permits to be visible.” And then…the rest of the description is about her outfit. We hear about her “head-dress” (a “Brussels lace mob” with a “sky-blue riband.”) We hear that her coat matches her shoes. (Blue, both.) We hear about the embroidery on her sleeves, “a running pattern of violets and their leaves; the light in the flowers silver; gold in the leaves.”) And apparently she made her muff-glove things, “of her own invention, for she makes and gives fashions as she pleases.” And that is not even all about the clothes – I am leaving stuff out. Off to sew myself a pair of muff-gloves. Update 8/21 Last night I saw an ad for the movie Lovelace and I said "That must be about Clarissa!" and J.R. said "No...it's not." Clarissa is out! She has flown the coop. She snuck out the backyard of her parents' house to meet Lovelace and tell him to go away. After a long, fraught argument about whether she would let him 'enter her garden,' he tricked her into thinking they were about to be caught together, and they jumped into his carriage and raced off. Somewhere along the line, Clarissa started to like Lovelace, although she doesn't like his reputation. Now she's holed up at an inn she describes only as 'inconvenient,' and methinks she'd be in less danger if she would just agree to marry him, but she won't, because she says her heart is too pure to marry someone of his shady morals. You can't exactly blame her. But it does bring us to our next teachable moment. Questionable Lesson 3: The lesser of two evils is still too evil. Whatever happens next, it's bound to be a) bad for poor Clarissa and b) more entertaining than what's gone before. So in this spirit of optimism, I'd like to take a moment to call out some bright spots in the dim landscape of the book's first 379 pages. Richardson's plots are painful, but he does sometimes have a way with words. Here's some vocab. Flusterations Anything that makes you blush and flutter your fan. The man has very ready knees Kneeling is common. Before its life as a dance floor admonition, 'get low' was apparently a motto for romantic heroes. 'Throbs and glows' Has there been sex in this book, you ask? Ha. No. This describes a crush. 'Who, I, sir, to find you bowels you naturally have not?' This is Clarissa asking Solmes if he wants her to grow a pair so he can borrow them. Clarissa's faint count to date still stands at 1. She's had several near misses, but with the aid of a chair back or a strong arm, she's always recovered. I'm proud of her, really. Update 8/13 Questionable Lesson 2: Never have an argument just once when you can have it over and over again. Here is the state of affairs, which has been pretty static for a while. Lovelace, a known playboy, likes Clarissa. Clarissa doesn’t like Lovelace, but her family really hates him, for reasons that are explained but remain unclear. Because they are afraid Clarissa will marry Lovelace, her mother, father, sister, brother, and countless shitty uncles all try to force her to marry Solmes, whom she likes even less than Lovelace. They say if she refuses to marry Solmes it must be because she secretly likes Lovelace and is plannning to marry him instead. She denies this. And on we go. Odinarily I’d be tempted to clumsily analyze this convoluted bit of plotting for past notions of women’s rights and perceived agency, but I actually think it’s just a device to force Richardson's main character to run away from home and into compromising situations. Richardson, it should already be clear, is a strange cat. Anyone who can bang this misshapen drum for so long…but, well, I guess that’s why I’m reading, because I already know he’s a weirdo and I’m curious. Books I could have finished in the 200 pages it has taken me to dutifully wade through Clarissa's letters to date: The Great Gatsby The Communist Manifesto The Stranger The Old Man and the Sea Civilization and Its Discontents Lord of the Flies Half of the 9/11 Commission Report Can I please have permission to skip ahead? I think I’m going to skip ahead. Update 8/8 COURTESY REMINDER: The items listed below are due soon. PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL. AUTHOR: Richardson, Samuel, TITLE: Clarissa, or, The history of a young lady CALL NO: FIC RICHARDSO BARCODE: 31454111671535 Fiction DUE: 08-08-13 Ha, ha. I will never return this book. I will keep it around me always, reading a few pages at a time and using it to kill spiders. (It's quite good at that.) I shouldn't even be updating; I've made ridiculously small progress. On page 130 or so. Clarissa is still writing to her friend and her friend is still writing back. In my defense, the type is quite small, and each page is choking on exclamation points and em dashes. I like a good em dash as much as the next person, but sometimes it's hard to get the sense out of a sentence. I'm also perhaps paying over-careful attention because in a small way, I can relate to poor Clarissa. I, too, have a friend with whom I obsessively correspond. If the past few pages of the novel were emails between my friend and me, here's how it would go. Me: I seriously will never marry that guy. Friend: He's gross. Me: Now my parents have locked me in my room. Wtf? Friend: You really need to get control of your inheritance so you can move out. Me: Yeah, good idea. It's too soon to tell, but it does not seem that Clarissa is going to heed her friend's advice. Which brings us to what may be the first questionable lesson of Clarissa Explains It All at Great Length. Questionable Lesson 1: It is better to cry about a problem than to solve it. Clarissa's faint count to date: 1 and a half. (She almost went down, but someone brought her the smelling salts.) Update 7/30 I'm on page 80 or so, feeling like I've just taken the first bite of one of those 72 oz steaks at some joint off the interstate where "If you can finish it, it's free!" But I know I voluntarily chose to start the world's longest novel, despite the fact that, as my mother told me, "Nobody reads Clarissa." I do want you to know that I put this book on my bathroom scale and was surprised to see it weighs only 2 pounds. But its body fat ratio is 38 percent. So far, all that is happening is that Clarissa is writing to her friend and her friend is writing back. These women are prolific. If television or Candy Crush had been available, this story could never have happened. Also, it seems they live just down the street from each other, so even though I recognize the need for long letters in an epistolary novel, it occurs to me her friend should just come over. The book reads right now like a classroom note intercepted mid-passage by a junior high teacher, but Richardson is already turning up the heat. Poor, perfect Clarissa has a crappy family, who are all in league against her. I imagine them as having big, scary heads like the characters in that Genesis video. They're literally forcing her to marry this old man in a funny hat, whom she hates. He is vividly described. He doesn't sit, he "squats with his ugly weight." When he's getting ready to propose, he "sets his splay feet in an approaching posture." When the going gets tough, a Richardson heroine passes out. Clarissa's faint count to date: 1. 7/20/13 I read his earlier work, Pamela, which was so offensive, so disarmingly bizarre, that it was like having an out-of-body experience. It was like being on shrooms. I figure Clarissa could be a good way to recapture that shroomy sensation without having to explain myself to an emergency room doctor. And, since it's an instructional novel of morals and ladylike conduct, I'd like to know if it has anything to say to me across the centuries. Go ahead, Richardson: preach. Clarissa clocks in at 1533 tissue-thin pages. I have opted to skip the introduction and go in blind, which may be a mistake, given my copy is a blend of the author's three editions and contains footnotes, endnotes, various charts and graphs, and sheet music. (Seriously, sheet music.) Richardson spent almost the entire preface justifying the book's length...maybe because it was the longest novel written in English. Readers appreciated Clarissa when it was first published. Samuel Johnson, for instance, called it "the first book in the world for the knowledge it displays of the human heart." But he also said: "If you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself." Here we go.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Wu

    A lot of nonsense is talked about Clarissa. It's essentially a rape fantasy, ending in the death of the victim. Condense it down to 60,000 words, stick a distressed nude on the cover and, if it isn't banned, it would sell like hot cakes on Amazon. According to Lord Macaulay, once entered in Clarissa, you are infected by her and can't leave off for a minute. On the other hand, says Samuel Johnson, if you were to read this for the story you would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. So, t A lot of nonsense is talked about Clarissa. It's essentially a rape fantasy, ending in the death of the victim. Condense it down to 60,000 words, stick a distressed nude on the cover and, if it isn't banned, it would sell like hot cakes on Amazon. According to Lord Macaulay, once entered in Clarissa, you are infected by her and can't leave off for a minute. On the other hand, says Samuel Johnson, if you were to read this for the story you would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. So, there you are. Rape, murder, galloping gonorrhea and suicide. So much for "Virtue Rewarded." What do you think? This story is nearly a million words long, so I always give a copy at Christmas to people who I don't want to meet again for a while.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    What a shame it is that due to the practicalities of page-count, it's Richardson's Pamela which always turns up on university 'history of the novel' courses rather than the far superior Clarissa - discounted by its unwieldy 1500 pages. While both share an epistolary style, and a narrative turning on the sexual pursuit of an innocent girl by a predatory man, Pamela's marriage turns one into a comedy (albeit one with dark shades of gender at its heart) while Clarissa maintains a tragic intensity t What a shame it is that due to the practicalities of page-count, it's Richardson's Pamela which always turns up on university 'history of the novel' courses rather than the far superior Clarissa - discounted by its unwieldy 1500 pages. While both share an epistolary style, and a narrative turning on the sexual pursuit of an innocent girl by a predatory man, Pamela's marriage turns one into a comedy (albeit one with dark shades of gender at its heart) while Clarissa maintains a tragic intensity to the end. The first 300 or so pages (and the last 150-200) require patience from the reader (or judicious skimming) as they're slow and largely repetitive: the young, beautiful and virtuous Clarissa is besieged by her nouveau riche family to marry the repellent Solmes to consolidate their new social status. Locking her in the house, sometimes in her room, and striving to cut Clarissa off from her epistolary friendship with Anna Howe, her family instead succeed in thrusting Clarissa into the arms of the machiavellian rake, Robert Lovelace. And this is where Richardson complicates the familiar C18th narrative of female virtue under siege by libertine masculinity: for not just is Lovelace the most charming of rogues, he's also a man, it seems, genuinely in love with Clarissa and awkwardly in thrall to the idea of the very virtue in her which he seeks to stain and steal. The tension that drives the book forward from this point is not just the battle between Clarissa and Lovelace, but the one within Lovelace's own soul. He knows himself to be the archetypal villain but he could oh so easily be something very different - the vacillations, the moments when he decides to seduce Clarissa, by violence if necessary, only to find his own body rejecting his brutal aims are masterpieces of fiction and give Lovelace a psychological complexity that we don't expect from the self-admitted scoundrel of the piece - or, indeed, from the novel form so early in its evolution. Clarissa, while having less room to grow given Richardson's moralistic portrait of virtuous, angelic femininity, yet reveals a complicity in her fate: for she reacts to Lovelace's attractiveness in the same way as we do, and there are intimations of desire, however unadmitted, on her side which serve to complicate the narrative. At around p.900 we have a sensational development: (view spoiler)[ Lovelace finally drugs and rapes Clarissa, an event which is recounted in few words and an aura of overawed silence: 'I can go no farther. The affair is over. Clarissa lives.' Clarissa's own response is equally telling: we have a series of ragged and torn letters (known to critics as the 'mad papers') which articulate her brokenness. (hide spoiler)] But this is far from the end - with still 600pp to go, Richardson ekes out the situation and now the moral equation gets turned on its head: Lovelace's allies and acquaintances start to side with Clarissa... Richardson's use of the letter format is masterly once Clarissa has run away to London with Lovelace: letters proliferate to include inserts to and from other writers, complicating ideas of communication, ownership and story-telling. They also serve to keep the dramatic tension high throughout with their immediacy and lack of teleology - at the time of writing the ending is not known. Throughout, Richardson employs motifs of enclosure and entrapment in relation to Clarissa, from the literal doors and keys that keep her inside to the violated body which enfolds her virtuous soul. A long book, then, and one which takes its very leisurely time to get where it's going: there are places at the beginning and the sort of epilogue to the long-drawn out end where I found myself skimming impatiently, but alongside the historicised ideology of the virtuous woman who has to keep herself pure for the patriarchy are more complicated versions of masculinity and femininity, desire and sexuality, power and impotence.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David Rain

    One may as well admit it at once: this is not a novel everyone will enjoy. Some will find it intolerable. At a million words, it’s the longest novel in the English language, and very slow-moving, perhaps the most slow-moving novel ever written, even considering Proust and The Magic Mountain. It’s hard to read, or at least to start. But once this book grips you, you are gripped. There’s nothing else like it in literature. The sheer narrative power is overwhelming. By the time you’ve finished this One may as well admit it at once: this is not a novel everyone will enjoy. Some will find it intolerable. At a million words, it’s the longest novel in the English language, and very slow-moving, perhaps the most slow-moving novel ever written, even considering Proust and The Magic Mountain. It’s hard to read, or at least to start. But once this book grips you, you are gripped. There’s nothing else like it in literature. The sheer narrative power is overwhelming. By the time you’ve finished this book, you’ve lived through emotions as real as life. Reading Clarissa becomes an epoch in your experience. The story, in its outlines at least, is simple. The Harlowes, a grasping, social-climbing family in eighteenth-century England, decide to force their beautiful daughter Clarissa to marry the repulsive, but very rich, Mr Solmes. Clarissa refuses. The family persecute her, determined to have their way. But meanwhile the handsome, sinister rake, Robert Lovelace, has his eyes on Clarissa. Pretending to be on her side, he persuades her to run away with him. This she does, but only to find herself in a dilemma worse by far. Imprisoned in a brothel in London, Clarissa must fight against Lovelace’s advances. But Lovelace is no ordinary rake. He doesn’t just want to rape Clarissa; he wants to break her will, forcing her to accept him as her lover. Told entirely in the form of letters, this relentless, operatic tragedy is one of the greatest European novels, a masterpiece of characterisation and psychological insight.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meredi

    Make no mistake, this is 1494 pages of Clarissa declaring, “Indeed, indeed, I never can marry thee (vilest of wretches)!” And yet, and yet it’s weirdly compelling although I think it loses momentum around page 1359 and becomes plaguy preachy. This is Extreme Unrequited Love, 18th century epistolary style with enough scandal and froth to make it an easy holiday read. Few favourite quotes: “I do assure thee, Jack, that thou less deservest praise than an horse-pond…” (Lovelace) “And I believe that an Make no mistake, this is 1494 pages of Clarissa declaring, “Indeed, indeed, I never can marry thee (vilest of wretches)!” And yet, and yet it’s weirdly compelling although I think it loses momentum around page 1359 and becomes plaguy preachy. This is Extreme Unrequited Love, 18th century epistolary style with enough scandal and froth to make it an easy holiday read. Few favourite quotes: “I do assure thee, Jack, that thou less deservest praise than an horse-pond…” (Lovelace) “And I believe that anatomists allow that women have more watery heads than men.” (Lovelace) “Only that all men are monkeys more or less, or else that you and I should have such baboons as these to choose out of is a mortifying thing, my dear.” (Anna Howe) “I have excellent gloves and wash-balls, madam; rappee, Scots, Portugal, and all sorts of snuff.” (Lovelace)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    Bettie's Books https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je9l5... Four part TV series from 1991. It didn't make me change my star rating any, yet was enjoyable enough to view.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    4.5 stars "I cannot go on." Frankly, for how often people in this novel write this, the reader themselves may find themselves staring at the 1,400+ tightly-packed remaining pages in horror, and thinking, if only you bloody hadn't. No, I did not read it all. I think my abridgement probably totalled over 1,00 pages though, which, in three days, is not bad. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this once I started. It's a surprisingly modern novel in many ways; though Clarissa may be a perfec 4.5 stars "I cannot go on." Frankly, for how often people in this novel write this, the reader themselves may find themselves staring at the 1,400+ tightly-packed remaining pages in horror, and thinking, if only you bloody hadn't. No, I did not read it all. I think my abridgement probably totalled over 1,00 pages though, which, in three days, is not bad. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this once I started. It's a surprisingly modern novel in many ways; though Clarissa may be a perfect, luminous "angel" - aren't many of the eighteenth-century heroines? - Richardson spares no blushes in his totalling of Clarissa's treatment and the novel was bizarrely addictive. It's thrilling in places, Clarissa is no passive fool, and the dialogue sparkles between Clarissa and her best friend, Anna, and particularly Clarissa and the horrible Lovelace, a preening, self-indulgent, narcissistic villain of whom writers of twenty-first century psychological thrillers would be proud. It really does feel like a pioneering classic in places, stretching its use of form and Richardson's talents. Until it pushes its conceit too far. After the immediate fallout from Lovelace's sexual assault of Clarissa, the novel just seems to run out of steam, a sad thing given that there were still at least 500 pages to go. I read an abridgement of the Penguin edition that my supervisor recommended and, despite missing out chunks of the text, when Belford repented his actions and Clarissa levelled up so completely in sainthood that one could be forgiven for expecting her to suddenly grow wings at any moment, it seemed like I had missed absolutely nothing. (Unlike earlier in the text, where I could tell that I was missing nuances of the plot by skipping letters.) Nevertheless, I'm giving this one 4 stars because...it's the classic, okay? I enjoyed this one a lot more - and read it a hell of a lot faster - than Richardson's other novel, Pamela, despite the fact that Pamela is about 1/3 of the length (still no mean feat - you will wonder if anybody in the eighteenth century experienced hand cramp.) In many ways, they could almost be two different variants on the same story, both featuring a virtuous young woman being pursued by a rakish and seemingly unreliable potential lover. However, while Pamela is stilted, dry, dull, and slow, Clarissa is dark, mesmerising, and fluent in its sustained skill. Its main dark topic - rape - is handled with a sensitivity, comprehension, and quiet devastation that many modern authors could learn from. Am I really giving 4 stars to a book for it not being Pamela? Yes. Yes, I am.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Our long national nightmare is over. After two months of sheer torture, I'm finally free, and it is good to know that I can never have a worse reading experience as long as I live. It isn't possible. Why do I say that? Because this is the longest novel in the English language (by words: 969,000), and even if something sucks as hard, I won't have to deal with it for so long. And besides, the long novels I know are on my horizon due to my 1,001 Book Reading Project are more likely than not to be o Our long national nightmare is over. After two months of sheer torture, I'm finally free, and it is good to know that I can never have a worse reading experience as long as I live. It isn't possible. Why do I say that? Because this is the longest novel in the English language (by words: 969,000), and even if something sucks as hard, I won't have to deal with it for so long. And besides, the long novels I know are on my horizon due to my 1,001 Book Reading Project are more likely than not to be of higher quality, because, seriously, how can it get worse than this? It was so awful, I had to resort to audibooks to absorb it all, so my daily treadmill runs, which I enjoy immensely, fatigued me to death as the narrator droned on. How dreadful was the audibook material? I swear, on multiple occasions, the reader yawned. I'm not kidding. That's how bad it was. Clearly, what Richardson was trying to do was to take his original piece-of-crap epistolary novel, Pamela, and amp it up with more complexity and intrigue. Problem is: he filled it up with a family of assholes and pyschosexual torture. Who finds this entertaining? Certainly not me. The introduction of the book actually claims this is Richardson's masterpiece. Ha! I'll be the judge of that! I declare that it is about as far from a masterpiece as any piece of literature can be. I call it a disasterpiece, and as such, it is the greatest disasterpiece of them all. It was a complete waste of my time, but I'm committed to my project, and because of the depth of the misery of experiencing this trashpile, I feel it's all downhill from here. Wheeeee!

  15. 4 out of 5

    G.G.

    What an astonishing novel! It has taken me the best part of a year to read Clarissa, yet despite its great length and the fact I knew the outlines of the story before I began, the principal emotion I felt throughout was tension—what would happen next? Richardson is a master at postponement—given the novel’s subject, perhaps we might even call it seduction—spinning things out until suddenly there is resolution and the story moves on. The first section of the novel, for example, principally an exch What an astonishing novel! It has taken me the best part of a year to read Clarissa, yet despite its great length and the fact I knew the outlines of the story before I began, the principal emotion I felt throughout was tension—what would happen next? Richardson is a master at postponement—given the novel’s subject, perhaps we might even call it seduction—spinning things out until suddenly there is resolution and the story moves on. The first section of the novel, for example, principally an exchange of letters between Clarissa Harlowe and her confidante Anna Howe, is devoted to the attempts of our heroine’s family to force her to marry Roger Solmes, whose lands are contiguous with theirs. Clarissa’s disgust at “the odious Solmes sitting asquat between my mamma and sister… [then] rising and beginning to set his splay feet…in an approaching posture” (Letter 16) is sickeningly believable. Anna’s skewering of what is at stake for a woman contemplating marriage is also sympathetically described: “But to be cajoled, wire-drawn, and ensnared, like silly birds, into a state of bondage or vile subordination; to be courted as princesses for a few weeks, in order to be treated as slaves or the rest of our lives…” (Letter 27) A way out of this deadlock appears in the form of Robert Lovelace, notorious rake, who has begun to pay court to Clarissa. Despite her misgivings, Clarissa confesses to Anna that “I like him better than I ever thought I should like him; and, those faults considered, better perhaps than I ought to like him…were he now but a moral man, I would prefer him to all the men I ever saw.” (Letter 40) Will she elope with him or won’t she? Just when one is fed up with the unending machinations of the Harlowe family, suddenly Clarissa is bundled into Lovelace’s waiting “chariot” and whisked away to London. In the next section of the novel, Clarissa is imprisoned in the back rooms of a brothel so that Lovelace can begin to batter away at her virtue. Part of his twisted “Rake’s Code” is that a woman must give herself to him of her own accord: “by stratagem, art, and contrivance, [he must] prevail.” (Letter 223) All of Clarissa’s correspondents urge her agree to marry Lovelace as the only way to save her reputation, but this she refuses to do. Finally, Lovelace drugs and rapes her (Letter 257). It is an error that proves fatal to both of them. “What is it of vile that you have not made me?” Clarissa writes (Letter 260); “I shall never be myself again.” (Letter 261) She decides that “…the man who has been the villain to me you have been shall never make me his wife.” (Letter 263) Despicable though Lovelace is—deceitful, violent, and callous (“when all’s done, Miss Clarissa Harlowe has but run the fate of a thousand others of her sex,” Letter 259)—in the end he is the most interesting character in the novel. As Angus Ross, editor of the edition I read, points out in his Introduction, “the tension between the attractive side of Lovelace and his corrupt and villainous behaviour…is a very powerful one. […] The tension is increased because Richardson has so completely imagined himself into the role of Lovelace that most of his letters are tours-de-force, amusing and skilful.” One slow afternoon at work, I began leafing through Clarissa on the Continent and was fascinated to discover that readers have generally divided into two groups: those who favor Clarissa, and those who favor Lovelace. It was dismaying to find myself in the latter camp. This is an eighteenth-century novel and so of course Lovelace gets his comeuppance: “Oh that I had been honest!—What a devil are all my plots come to! What do they end in, but one grand plot upon myself, and a title to eternal infamy and disgrace!” he laments. (Letter 285) It is hard to feel much sympathy for him, until this: “Having lost her, my whole soul is a blank: the whole creation round me, the elements above, beneath, and everything I behold (for nothing can I enjoy) is a blank without her.” (Letter 321) Perhaps what irks him the most is that he can no longer control her: “Can she be any man’s but mine? Will I be any woman’s but hers? I never will! I never can!” (Letter 350) But Clarissa has escaped his clutches and determines her own end: “I have much more pleasure in thinking of death, than of such a husband,” she writes to Anna Howe (Letter 359). Clarissa’s end is hard for us moderns to take—finding herself pregnant (so Lovelace believes: see Letter 371, and Clarissa’s exchange with her uncle, Letters 402-3) she gives every appearance of willing herself to die. Her properly Christian death, described to Lovelace (Letter 481) is beautifully done. For a time, Lovelace is unrepentant: “Surely nobody will dispute my right to her. Whose was she living? Whose is she dead, but mine?” (Letter 497) But after a time he too appears to throw his life away, in a duel with Clarissa’s cousin, expressly forbidden in her last letters to them both. In the end, I found Clarissa a haunting tale; but perhaps that is the case with any long novel one lives with for months on end. Still, I have the feeling that I will return to this one. It really is a masterpiece that all lovers of English literature should read at least once in their lives.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mitch

    I am thrilled at the prospect of completing this novel. I've read a great deal of fiction and this - the longest novel ever written, I believe, - is better than much of it. It is so subtle, so complete in its awareness of gender and human nature; the syntax and style seems to anticipate what I love in Henry James, that I will be sorry when it is done and I have to bid farewell to Lovelace, Harlowe and company, above all their magnificent correspondence. This novel to end or begin all novels asks I am thrilled at the prospect of completing this novel. I've read a great deal of fiction and this - the longest novel ever written, I believe, - is better than much of it. It is so subtle, so complete in its awareness of gender and human nature; the syntax and style seems to anticipate what I love in Henry James, that I will be sorry when it is done and I have to bid farewell to Lovelace, Harlowe and company, above all their magnificent correspondence. This novel to end or begin all novels asks so many questions is fired with great moral purpose. Like Shakespeare, Richardson sees all and anticipates all of our second guesses only to transcend them. I recommend it for anyone under any fashionable spell that the dilemma of gender admits of any answers, easy or otherwise. It is June 20th and I have finally finished this extraordinary novel. Not enough good can be said about it. Lovelace and Harlowe represent all the best and worst in their respective genders and yet, though the strictures of their world are fierce, their fates are wholly due to their natures and characters: it cannot sufficiently be blamed on larger forces or social structures. Again, as in Shakespeare, character is supreme above all. Reading Richardson is like reading the fully uncensored drama of the male and female sexes in all of its complexity and ultimately its mystery. Richardson cannot be pigeonholed: he is wary of human perfectibility to not be unlike the tories and yet is as merciless in his attack upon what the traditional patriarchal family structure does to women as any twentieth century female and feminist author. And yet...Richardson is but a beginning. An introduction, an invitation to reflect upon our lives in their whole. What do you think, dear reader??

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This book was a text I needed to read for one of my English courses, and I'm happy that I got to read it. It was interesting to read an epistolary form of literature. The reader gets deeply involved with the characters (especially Clarissa). I fell for Lovelace even though he was a horrible character, but his wickedness was attractive in an odd sort of way. There were two things that took away the two stars (contains spoilers): 1. Length. I read the abridged version which was ridiculously long. I This book was a text I needed to read for one of my English courses, and I'm happy that I got to read it. It was interesting to read an epistolary form of literature. The reader gets deeply involved with the characters (especially Clarissa). I fell for Lovelace even though he was a horrible character, but his wickedness was attractive in an odd sort of way. There were two things that took away the two stars (contains spoilers): 1. Length. I read the abridged version which was ridiculously long. I couldn't believe how much Clarissa had to say. It seemed like she would literally pause in mid-action to write down what was happening. Sometimes, really, less is more. 2. Death. This is the first time where I was actually attached to the main character, but by the end, wanted death. Clarissa takes so long to die that, by the end of it, I'm yelling at the book for her to finally be offed. She gets sick, gets better, gets sick again, gets a bit better, on her death bed, recovers - just die already! It is clear that there is no way for Clarissa to survive at the end of this book, so it would have been nicer if she had died 100 pages beforehand. Anyway, for an older drama, it is still rather good! If I plan to read it again, I'll be skipping a lot of pages towards the end, though. I really don't feel like reading about Clarissa on her death bed again. Too boring for me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Free download available at [email protected] And the audio version at LibriVox.. From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial: Dramatisation by Hattie Naylor of the 1748 novel by Samuel Richardson. The beautiful young heiress Clarissa Harlowe is dangerously attracted by the wiles of the notorious libertine Robert Lovelace. Threatened by an imminent marriage arranged with the odious suitor her family have found for her, Lovelace persuades Clarissa to flee with him. Clarissa Harlowe ...... Zoe Waites Robert Lovel Free download available at [email protected] And the audio version at LibriVox.. From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial: Dramatisation by Hattie Naylor of the 1748 novel by Samuel Richardson. The beautiful young heiress Clarissa Harlowe is dangerously attracted by the wiles of the notorious libertine Robert Lovelace. Threatened by an imminent marriage arranged with the odious suitor her family have found for her, Lovelace persuades Clarissa to flee with him. Clarissa Harlowe ...... Zoe Waites Robert Lovelace ...... Richard Armitage James Harlowe ...... Oliver Milburn Solmes ...... Stephen Critchlow Bella Harlowe ...... Sophie Thompson Lady Harlowe ...... Alison Steadman Lord Harlowe ...... John Rowe Mrs Norton ...... Deborah Findlay Anna Howe ...... Cathy Sara Directed by Marilyn Imrie

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

    It is extremely surprising to think that this book was written by the same author as "Pamela." Sure, this one can get a bit preachy in spots and can dwell on a few things that don't really advance the plot, but the difference is astonishing. This is the far superior work. It is actually moving, very developed, human characters who really come alive and engage the soul. Though I think "Pamela" would have been better if cut from 500 pages down to 150 or 200, I find very little here that I would cu It is extremely surprising to think that this book was written by the same author as "Pamela." Sure, this one can get a bit preachy in spots and can dwell on a few things that don't really advance the plot, but the difference is astonishing. This is the far superior work. It is actually moving, very developed, human characters who really come alive and engage the soul. Though I think "Pamela" would have been better if cut from 500 pages down to 150 or 200, I find very little here that I would cut. I don't know if the lesson stuck, but Richardson apparently learned quite a bit between "Pamela" and this book. "Pamela" is more of a curiosity piece in my view, but this is a truly wonderful early example of what the English language novel could accomplish. I have to admit, Richardson redeemed himself.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Noran Miss Pumkin

    I cannot resist thick books, and this one is 1,536 pages!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Petal Eggs

    4.5 stars. Deserves a great review. If you like Trollope, you'll like Richardson too.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    Let's be clear about this: this book is far, far too long for modern reading habits. Not all that much happens in its 1500 pages (pages which are, I would guess, maybe one and a half to twice as long as normal pages). If you want to read it, don't sit down and try to read the whole thing straight. It's really not that much fun. I heard somewhere that in the 18th century people treated books the way we treat TV programs: pick it up, put it down, come in in the middle, have a conversation while yo Let's be clear about this: this book is far, far too long for modern reading habits. Not all that much happens in its 1500 pages (pages which are, I would guess, maybe one and a half to twice as long as normal pages). If you want to read it, don't sit down and try to read the whole thing straight. It's really not that much fun. I heard somewhere that in the 18th century people treated books the way we treat TV programs: pick it up, put it down, come in in the middle, have a conversation while you're reading it etc... No need to read it through in a handful of sittings, pondering every last word. That said, it's a pretty good story, and great for academics, of which I am one. This might be *the* novel of modernity. It's all here: issues of sexuality; issues of independence and autonomy; the odd relationship between the nobility and the newly arriving bourgeoisie; the role of religion in all of this; bizarre accounting practices (tell me again how many minutes a day Clarissa spent at her various tasks?) And it's a masterpiece in literary terms as well. Richardson's prose is lovely, and the main characters all have distinct voices and personalities; he plays around with his narrative in very interesting ways and stretches the epistolary novel to its bursting point. He is to epistolary novels as Wagner is to classical music. The difference is that people generally find what came after Wagner to be unlistenable, whereas what came after Richardson - especially from Austen forward - is far, far more readable and enjoyable. Not sure why anyone would read this, though, unless they had an interest in literary history, or the type of personality which just wants to do the hardest thing out there. If you just want a good story about a virtuous young woman (no shame in that), I don't know, maybe try the BBC mini-series version.

  23. 5 out of 5

    skein

    I love this book. I don't care what anyone says. I love Pamela, too, and was thoroughly angry at Shamela. (I read & own the condensed version of Clarissa, for time's sake, although I read the first four books of the long version - does that matter?) Clarissa is a far cry from Pamela's moralizing moral morality, that's for damn sure. The characters are dark & intense: Clarissa's vile family, Lovelace's obsession and desire and - I believe it - love; even Anna Howe seems a little too inter I love this book. I don't care what anyone says. I love Pamela, too, and was thoroughly angry at Shamela. (I read & own the condensed version of Clarissa, for time's sake, although I read the first four books of the long version - does that matter?) Clarissa is a far cry from Pamela's moralizing moral morality, that's for damn sure. The characters are dark & intense: Clarissa's vile family, Lovelace's obsession and desire and - I believe it - love; even Anna Howe seems a little too interested in her friend's abduction and seduction. Clarissa herself is amazing - not nearly as pure and ladylike as she imagines herself to be - she takes huge risks and brushes them off quickly - apparently unable to face herself. Her mourning and moaning is overdone because she is totally obsessed with her own guilt - and - possibly - her own desires. ... there are so many veins going on beneath the skin of this book, it's hard to remember them all. The most under-rated (and possibly most brilliant) is the friendship between Lovelace and Belford. Belford! Who condemns Lovelace, admires Clarissa, and yet - yet ... in one of the final episodes, after Lovelace calls him a "monkey", he admits: "I do love him." The complexity of friendship is great. I must compare Clarissa to Les Liaisons Dangereuses, because they are the only two books of this sort that I know: and, although de Laclos is by far the better author, the compliment is not undeserved.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Mowry

    Reading this book was a transformative experience. It may be the longest book written in English, but I didn't want it to end and grieved when it did. I went into a sort of stupor afterward and couldn't find anything satisfying enough to pick up and read next. It is an epistolary novel, mostly letters between just four people. One might wonder how such a thing can spread to 1,000 pages, and rightly so. Ben Jonson said you want to hang yourself reading it, and sometimes that's true, but don't wor Reading this book was a transformative experience. It may be the longest book written in English, but I didn't want it to end and grieved when it did. I went into a sort of stupor afterward and couldn't find anything satisfying enough to pick up and read next. It is an epistolary novel, mostly letters between just four people. One might wonder how such a thing can spread to 1,000 pages, and rightly so. Ben Jonson said you want to hang yourself reading it, and sometimes that's true, but don't worry, you won't hang yourself, and you'll be glad you stuck with it if you can. I read this on my Kindle while walking my grandson in an Ergo carrier in the summer, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to hold the book in my arthritic hands.

  25. 5 out of 5

    M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews

    Well. It's better than Pamela, at least. I suppose we can be grateful that the author learned something from the backlash he received from writing Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. This book is twice as long as Pamela, but the story is much more believable. Pamela had a huge case of Stockholm Syndrome, and the ending was one huge cliche, but Clarissa is more tragic and believable. Don't get me wrong - it can be frustrating. This is 2017, almost 300 years after this book was written, and things for wome Well. It's better than Pamela, at least. I suppose we can be grateful that the author learned something from the backlash he received from writing Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. This book is twice as long as Pamela, but the story is much more believable. Pamela had a huge case of Stockholm Syndrome, and the ending was one huge cliche, but Clarissa is more tragic and believable. Don't get me wrong - it can be frustrating. This is 2017, almost 300 years after this book was written, and things for women have changed since, thankfully. Had Clarissa had the same options as a modern-day woman, her story could have ended up better.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ghost of the Library

    review to follow - first impression - charming, but not for everyone, the fact its written as a letter exchange between characters should be pointed out to unsuspecting readers before they choose this one ;)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    I actually liked Pamela as an undergraduate so I went on to Clarissa which I liked even more.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Santiago

    Written entirely in the epistolary style (comprised of nothing but letters between the protagonists, a first for a modern novel, and as the insipiration for de Laclos' "Les Liasons Dangereuses" over 30 years later), Clarissa Harlowe, the much beloved and golden daughter of the wealthy Harlowe family, is the sole heir(ess) of a large fortune upon the death of her grandfather. Thinking of the prosperity of the family and the family name, her parents are inducing her to marry the very wealthy Mr. S Written entirely in the epistolary style (comprised of nothing but letters between the protagonists, a first for a modern novel, and as the insipiration for de Laclos' "Les Liasons Dangereuses" over 30 years later), Clarissa Harlowe, the much beloved and golden daughter of the wealthy Harlowe family, is the sole heir(ess) of a large fortune upon the death of her grandfather. Thinking of the prosperity of the family and the family name, her parents are inducing her to marry the very wealthy Mr. Solmes, a man who Clarissa finds disagreeable, ugly, unintelligent and, through willful disobedience and procrastination, refuses to consent to the marriage, much to the consternation and chagrin of her parents and family. Thrown in the mix is Richard Lovelace, a libertine whose exploits and appetites are known far and wide and a non-believer of the virtue of women, who has attracted the eye of the chaste and virtuous Clarissa, and sets out to prove his theory by duplicitous means. Of course, this attention from Lovelace incites the ire and fury of her family. Forbidden to correspond wih the libertine Lovelace, though she continues to do so clandestinely, she is subjected to a form of 'house arrest' by her parents to keep her away from Lovelace and to induce her to marry Solmes. This leads her into being tricked to escape with Lovelace by his conniving machinations, setting forth a series of unfortunate events for Clarissa: her ostracization from her family and a 'curse' from her father; Lovelace's continued mendacity and duplicity regarding their impending "marriage" and feigned betrothal to strangers; her 'imprisonment' and violent ruination in a house of ill repute; all the while corresponding with her dear friend, Anna Howe, and becoming even more fervent in her sense of virtue and religious devotions, leading her to, willingly, succumb and leave the harsh realities of earthly realm to be with the Father of the heavenely realm. "Clarissa" is an exciting, if not cerebral (and very long, at 1400 plus pages) novel of an innocent young woman who, though tempted, resists temptation and stays steadfast to what she believes in, only to 'sacrifice' herself in the end because of the immorality, amorality and unforgiving nature of man. Highly recommended!

  29. 5 out of 5

    RA Sci-Fi

    It's Clarissa. There's no loving it, there's no hating it. There's only sitting there with mingled feelings of frustration, awe, and utter exhaustion. I think any serious student of literature needs to read this novel, and not because I'm into reinforcing canonical BS, but because it really is a phenomenal achievement that ought to be read, discussed, written about, and more. I think feminist critics especially would find this an important read to consider. But I think beyond that---you really pr It's Clarissa. There's no loving it, there's no hating it. There's only sitting there with mingled feelings of frustration, awe, and utter exhaustion. I think any serious student of literature needs to read this novel, and not because I'm into reinforcing canonical BS, but because it really is a phenomenal achievement that ought to be read, discussed, written about, and more. I think feminist critics especially would find this an important read to consider. But I think beyond that---you really probably shouldn't read this unless you're (a) really ambitious and want to read one of the longest novels in the English language or (b) really into eighteenth-century literature--like really into it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Cox

    The unabridged version. This is going to be awhile... Five months later and I'm 1/3 of the way through. I have been wishing violence on her for at least the past three months. This is not good in a heroine.

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