Group read - Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
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Some of are starting Samuel Richardson's Clarissa this year. We are following the dates of the letters in the book, so we will be starting on 10 January with the first letter. If anyone would like to join the group read, then please post!
At least two of us are using the Penguin edition, referred to in the touchstone above, which is the unabridged one.
If anyone with experience of group reads wants to add anything at this point, please feel free!
Fun idea! I've been meaning to read this for a while. I've just ordered a copy, and will join in when it arrives!
I think I will be joining you... I have been wanting to read more classics in 2012, and Clarissa would seem like a great book to start. I see the unabridged Penguin edition is available for Kindle, so I will be shelling out a couple extra dollars for that one. :)
#3 I downloaded the sample of the Penguin edition and the formatting seemed a bit iffy, which I might accept in a cheaper version but not a full price version. If you do decide to splash out on the kindle version let me know what you think. I had resigned myself to straining my wrists with the paper version.
>4 souloftherose:, Ooh, I was bad and bought without sampling. I will let you know what I think of the formatting... I looked at it on the computer screen and it seemed okay, but I haven't tried it on my actual Kindle yet. I had some money left on a Christmas gift card, though, so it only ended up costing me $1.79, so the price is less of an issue than if I were paying the whole price. I definitely don't think I could handle it in paper. Part of the reason I keep giving up on my beautiful edition of War and Peace is because it is simply too heavy and unwieldy for me to deal with.
I don't think I can take that one on at the moment - I did read the Penguin version from the library about 20 years ago (along with War and Peace. Good luck.
I'm in - e-reader (7 files worth) at the ready!
We are all officially certifiable though...
My copy's ordered and on its way!
#8 "We are all officially certifiable though..." Yeah...
Hey, if Johnson (I think it was him!) can read Clarissa every year, we can do it once! I wonder how much time he had for dinner and family and grad school, though.
I'm in! Thanks for setting up the thread. And my version (Kindle, so I won't have to carry that tome around with me) seems to be the revised, extra-long edition.
Can I post the link on the 1001 group? There were some more people interested in reading Clarissa this year.
Welcome, everyone! I am hoping my copy will arrive today. Nathalie, please go ahead and post to the 1001 group - the more people we have, the more likely we are to stay on track and motivated!
Saw the link in the 1001 group and I'm in too! Got my massive paperback ready to go. I think it's the Penguin edition, but I'm not at home so can't check. Anyway, excited to get going. :)
I read the introduction in the Penguin edition last night... It was quite intense! Hopefully the book itself will be more enjoyable. I don't know if I will have actually benefited at all from the intro but I guess it was worth a shot.
My book arrived this morning, yay! I'm going to read the introduction over the weekend, but also look around for any online commentary that might be useful, and I'll post some links if I find any.
I heard about this in the 1001 group, and I think it sounds like fun. Count me in!
So, I started this morning. I tried to read the introduction last night and quickly gave up. The first letter was quite short and easier to read, and now it looks like I'll have a break till Friday. Happy Reading to you all!
I've also read the first letter, which I agree was easy to read. I did read through the introduction on the weekend and found it more difficult, but perhaps things will become clearer once we've read a bit more.
I found a note on the Spark notes website in case it's of interest to anyone http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/clarissa/context.html
It's also available to buy as an ebook without all the ads.
I am wondering if we are all reading the same edition? I followed your link, Susan, and there are some slight spoilers concerning the perception of the characters by the readers, depending on the edition. As far as I know I have the third edition on my Kindle, i.e. the one that's 200 pages longer and has the moralistic 'improvements'.
If we have readers with the older and shorter versions, their protagonists are likely to behave differently. I am expecting interesting discussions! :-)
I actually don't know what edition I'm using. I got the free Kindle Version of Volume 1 after seeing that all the later volumes could also be gotten for free later on. The first letter had a couple typos in it, but nothing unmanagable. I don't know if it says the edition, though.
*potters of to check her own copy*
I've just got the Gutenberg version - it's not really clear which one it is actually is though.
On the negative - I've just kicked off and read the first letter - and I already don't like this Anna Howe... I hope there aren't too many of her letters!
#20 I have the Penguin, based on the first edition, I think a few of us do.
#22-Uh oh, I hate to tell you, but there are more of hers!
Read the first letter (I have read about 100 pages of Clarissa before). I'm ready for the action to start!
I quite like the reading-by-day thing ... adds a bit of mystery to it that reading straight through wouldn't! My copy didn't arrive quite on time, so I found the first letter in a 1784 edition online, but it should arrive before the next letter's up.
#23 I've got the Penguin edition too - from the introduction I think there are a few extra letters in the later versions as well as some expanded passages and lots of added footnotes.
I was slightly confused by the ending of Letter 1 where Anna Howe has signed off with a question mark after her name. Is this just the grammatical ending to her long question before (Yet, why should I
say, pardon me? etc)? I'm assuming she's not doubting whether she is, in fact, Anna Howe.
Otherwise so far, so good and I only had to look up one word in the dictionary (rencounter). :-)
Did she ask a question in the last sentence of her letter? It might have been a "run-on" question mark. (Don't have a copy to hand, so I can't check.)
#26 Yes, I think it was a run-on question mark after a very long question.
I read the preface & the first letter. So far I quite like it and am intrigued enough that it'll be hard to wait til Friday to read the next one.
>22 BekkaJo:, BekkaJo, why don't you like Anna Howe? Is there something particular you dislike about her from the one letter?
For me it felt like the book begins in the middle of the story, and Anna's 'job' in the first letter is to ask Clarissa for a wrap-up of things that happened so far. No idea if it was good manners at that time to ask for the exact clauses of a will that doesn't concern the asking person.
#29 - No kidding eh? :)
Read the preface and the first letter as well, and I'm interested enough to continue, so....good sign, right? Hehe.
I have the book, but I haven't started yet. I hope to start tonight and catch up.
My copy just arrived. Holy monster book, Batman! I knew it was long, but wow!
Friday 13, letter 2:
I also want a Dairy House of my own, whatever it is, it sounds nice, especially if it is admired for its elegant simplicity and convenience.
Okay, I don't know if this is a typo, but in the notes to my edition it says it was a diary-house (which doesn't make much sense either) which was then later called the 'Dairy-house'. And no, I didn't confuse the 'i's and 'a's here. So what is it? Milk or journal or neither?
Apart from this little confusion I love the 2nd letter, it's so bitchy. And it's also like an early He's just not that into you. "He's just shy, he's sure going to call. He respects you too much", etc. I had to look up "bashfulness" and added it to my vocabulary, I like its sound: "He's just being bashful".
Also nice: "if love has not taken root deep enough to cause it to shoot out into declaration, if an opportunity be fairly given for it, there is little room to expect, that the blighting winds of anger or resentment will bring it forward"
The next letter is dated Jan 13,14. Can I read it today?
#32: Yes, it's a bit daunting, isn't it? I had mine sent to the office, and my roomie looked at me as though I was insane when I opened it and showed it to him. Fortunately he is too polite to say anything :-)
#33: I haven't done my reading for today yet, but I will check what my edition says on the diary/dairy point. I think you can read the next one today. It is already 14 January in New Zealand, so that must count for something!
#33 My edition just says dairy-house so I can't really help - I wonder if that means it was a later correction?
I went ahead and read letter 3 - I'm enjoying it so far.
Mine says dairy house as well. I want one! Whatever it is. It sounds like an office, since Clarissa was there 'doing her accounts'. I bet she was really in there reading a schlocky novel, pretending to enter stuff into Quicken when someone knocked. :) She really does seem to be trying to impress Miss Howe.
I've found this article about the role of the dairy-house in Clarissa: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/ecf/vol22/iss1/2/ This is the abstract page, and if you click "download" at the top of the page, you can see the whole article.
I'm caught up on the letters now, and I like the slower pace of the reading. I tend to read very fast, which works for me with modern language, but eighteenth-century English is very different, and I need to slow right down and pay more attention. Knowing I only have a couple of pages to read means that I can do that without feeling like I'm going to fall behind.
OMG, I just found this group. I read the abridged Riverside edition (abridged by George Sherburn) years ago and loved it. When I was finished, I ran out and bought the Penguin Classics edition, "Edited with an Introduction and notes by Angus Ross." It's been sitting on my shelf for about 10 years, all 1499 pages of it. What a great opportunity this group will be to finally get to this book. Is the longer Penguin edition what most people are reading?
I think the idea to read the letters by date is brilliant. Now I have to catch up. I love the comments so far.
Welcome to the group, Becky! I think few of us are reading the Penguin edition you have, and there have only been three letters so far, so not much to catch up on. There is a gap now until tomorrow, and then until Friday (I peeked ahead :-) )
#38 Welcome Becky.
I found this schedule on someone's blog for the timings of the letters in Clarissa. It looks like March onwards is going to be quite busy...
#40: and it looks like we'll have some long breaks in January and February. I have a really bad memory for names, I hope I won't have to start all over again then in March. Oh - and more breaks to come from October on, but then I could just read on if necessary.
#37: thanks for that great link. I downloaded it, haven't had the time to read it yet. So I guess the 'diary' house in my edition (which also exists in the gutenberg html version I saw) was just a typo.
#38: Welcome Becky! Wow, 1499 pages! No wonder my Kindle tells me that after introduction and 3 letters I am still under 1%.
#42 Make some notes of the main characters. There aren't too many so far.
Aha! The plot thickens! No wonder there's such animosity between siblings.
Yes, now at least it's understandable why Clarissa had more suitors so far (okay, she is also prettier than Arabella), when she is bringing a whole estate into the marriage.
I only wonder if the brother was not informed while everyone was waiting for Lovelace to propose to Arabella. Would that marriage have been accepted by the family without objection?
Thanks for the welcome. The schedule of letters is very helpful.
I love Richardson's thumbnail sketches of the characters at the beginning of the book.
>33 Deern:. Deern, I like your thoughts about the 2nd letter--"bitchy"--ha, exactly, I think.
Jan. 13, Clarissa to Miss Howe. Just as in Austen, we can know a lot about a character if we know how much per year he or she has to live on. Clarissa reports that Mr. Lovelace is in possession of 2,000 pounds per year. If you've read Pride and Prejudice, you'll remember that Mrs. Bennett, working hard to marry off her daughters, looked at Mr. Bingley in terms of how much per year: "A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!" Of course we're looking at Richardson's book published in 1748 vs. Austen's published in 1813--but that's close. Austen's novels are full of these details of how many pounds per year, and her readers would have been able to place each character in his or her class based on that number.
The 2,000 per year would have been the yearly income of the interest of Mr. Lovelace's estate--about 4% per year of the total is what it amounted to. This information about Mr. L is what the family has been told; he is also believed to be a presumptive heir of a nobleman's large estate--a man with "great expectations."
Do I understand this right: that Clarissa's grandfather had bequeathed her an estate? What about her sister? If her sister had no such bequest, then Mr. Lovelace's 2000 would have been much more important to her than it was to Clarissa, remembering that marriage at that time was based on property and money. If Arabella had no money of her own, then she had to marry money. Additionally, Arabella is the elder sister, so she would be expected to marry first. So Clarissa has some explaining to do. Clarissa tells her friend Miss Howe that she will relate "facts only" about the younger sister robbing the elder--what a howler.
>45 Deern:. My take on it is that the family would have accepted a proposal for Arabella from a man like Lovelace with 2,000 a year, for the reasons I've said--of Arabella not having her own money.
So I have to wonder at this point: what did Mr. Lovelace know about the Harlowe sisters and their financial position? Clarissa says she wasn't around when Mr. L was "making love" to her sister; so was Lovelace playing for time until she got back? But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.
I was surprised that Clarissa's grandfather had been able to bestow a whole estate on her - remembering Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice where it was not possible to pass the estate on to any of the daughters. Now I read on wiki that in Austen's cases it was not the estate itself, but a lifelong lease (interest) and that right couldn't be passed to a daughter. So here Clarissa's grandfather owned the estate and could freely decide whom to leave it?
If I remember correctly the will said something like 'Arabella's father will sufficiently provide for her', so you're probably right, Arabella had to marry, and maybe the family would have accepted Lovelace as her husband, but not as the master of one of the numerous family estates. That family must be almost ridiculously rich!
I have caught up with the letters and am enjoying the story immensely so far. I think it is kind of nice to start in slowly and get involved with the characters before the reading speed takes off. Thanks for the links above!
I don't think the brother would have approved of Arabella marrying Lovelace either. He was constantly telling her that she did the right thing.
Great idea for a group read!
I, too, am enjoying the pace that this group read is promoting. Will definitely be interesting to have to come back to it after a month or so away, when the big gaps between letters start appearing.
I was also reading Sense and Sensibility this weekend, and find I have to make an effort to separate the 'rakes' in my mind when thinking back - Lovelace, Willoughby...I forget who is in which book! So labwriter's comments is apt. :)
I was looking at the letters and their dates and trying to figure out a strategy for reading this so that I don't end up reading 300 pages in one weekend or something. The pagination is from the Penguin Classics edition.
Jan 20: Letter 5 and 6 (54-58.
Feb 20: Letter 7 (58-61)
Feb 24-25: Letter 8 (61-65)
Feb 26: Letter 9 (65-67)
Feb 27: Letter 10 (67-71)
So for the rest of January and February, if we stick to this schedule, then we'll be reading 17 pages total.
Mar 1: Letter 11 (72-73)
Mar 2: Letter 12 (73-76)
Mar 1: Letter 13 (76-83)
Mar 2: Letter 14 (83-84)
Mar 3: Letter 15 (84-87)
Mar 3: Letter 16 (87-94)
Mar 3: Letter 17 (94-102)
Then the first 3 days of March, we'll be reading 30 pages.
Mar 4: Letter 18 (102-103)
Mar 4: Letter 19 (104-106)
Mar 4: Letter 20 (107-113)
Mar 4: Letter 21 (113-116)
Mar 5: Letter 22 (116-119)
Mar 6: Letter 23 (119-120)
Mar 6: Letter 24 (120-121)
Mar 7: Letter 25 (122-126)
The next 4 days, we'll be reading 24 pages.
I'm fine with sticking to the schedule as is, but that means there will be times when the reading for this book, in order to keep up, may be a bit heavy. Plus, as someone pointed out, we'll be away from the book for a month, from the end of Jan. to the end of Feb.
#46 I had a look at the National Archive website and £1 in 1750 would be worth just over £85 in 2005 (those were the closest dates I could enter and inflation hasn't been that high since 2005). So that puts Lovelace on over £170k a year by today's standards.
By comparison, Mr Darcy's £10k a year gives him £340k a year by today's standards (£1 from 1810 is worth £34 today - this is assuming Jane Austen updated his income to reflect when P&P was published rather than when she wrote it). So you're right, Lovelace was a Mr Bingley - quite a catch!
Given Lovelace's income, I'm actually more surprised that the Harlowe's think he's not an appropriate match for either daughter (although I think Clarissa mentions in one of her letters that they believe his estate has debts so he might not be worth as much?)
If anyone else wants to play around the National Archive calculator is here (click on 'Convert old money into new')
#47 Regarding the grandfather's estate, you're right (I think) he'd inherited it himself (or created it I suppose) and could freely dispose of it. Often when estates were inherited at that time there would be conditions attached as to how they could subsequently be disposed of (as in the case of the Bennetts' and Dashwoods' estates where only a male heir could inherit). I think this practice started so that estates could stay with the family name. If Clarissa marries then the estate she's inherited from her grandfather would become her husbands and therefore no longer a Harlowe estate.
#50 Thanks for the summary of the date of the letters and page numbers. I'd like to try sticking to the schedule as far as possible. The only funny seems to be that there's a letter dated March 2nd before the second letter dated March 1st.
50- My initial thought is that the fluctuations in the reading schedule will make it more challenging, and probably more fun, or at least interesting. Of course, if I'm really starting to get into it and have to stop for a whole month I can possibly see myself getting annoyed or frustrated. I've stuck to the schedule so far, so personally, I'm just going to continue and see how it goes!
Kind of glad we get almost all Feb off!Now i have a reason to get this school work done way ahead of time. (Whatever motivation it takes, right?)
From the books I have read, it sounds like maybe Clarissa's brother might have been cranky about Lovelace, money or not. Seems like a lot of people (in books) let issues get in the way of a good marriage for money. I don't know how realistic that is. I don't thing everyone could be a Mrs. Bennet!
So - I read the two letters dated Jan 20 and now am done for a full month. I will keep reading chronologically, simply because I am already totally over-booked for the next 4-6 weeks.
Right now, my sympathies are with Clarissa and somehow with Lovelace. I don't expect him to be a nice guy, but the hate expressed by that annoying Harlowe family makes him look better in comparison. Maybe that's part of what makes him attractive in the eyes of Clarissa.
And Clarissa is not permitted to 'enjoy' her heritage and has handed its administration over to her father. What a sad situation.
And quite a cliffhanger at the end of the last letter. I am sure we can expect Lovelace to turn up at the Howes'.
I'm keeping to 'letter time' in my reading and I'm finding it better that I am slowed down. I started by reading at my own pace, which tends to be quite fast - too fast sometimes - and I wasn't really taking it all in.
I've just read the first 20th Jan letter (quickly and rather naughtily in the bookshop whilst waiting for hubby) and I loved this line;
"For, if I may say to you, my dear, what I would not to any other person living, it is my opinion, that had she been of a temper that would have borne less, she would have had ten times less to bear, than she has had."
It pretty much sums up how I often feel about my Mum - and probably fairly often about myself :/
I didn't expect her narrative voice to be so good really.
>56 BekkaJo:. That seems like a pretty strong statement for Clarissa to make against the one person in her family who seems to be on her side, her mother.
>54 Deern:. the hate expressed by that annoying Harlowe family
Hi Nathalie. I really enjoy your comments. I guess one thing I would say is that all we really have to go on so far is Clarissa's point of view for the events that are taking place. This early into the book, it's hard to know how much we can trust statements from Clarissa. We know how she feels about her family, but so far that's about all we know. Does Richardson mean for us to take everything she says at face value? I imagine that if we had letters from her sister Arabella, we might have a very different take on the family.
I feel like at last (the book has been sitting on my shelf for about 10 years) I have a pretty good start on this book, and I would hate to set it aside for a month. So my plan is to read about a letter per day, and two if they're short. That pace won't be burdensome at any point, plus it will get me through the book in less than a year. I'm afraid that if I skip a month now, then I'll be forced to skim through 300 pages some week later on, and I'd rather not do that.
I'll be interested to follow the posts here and to read people's comments, but it probably wouldn't be fair for me to post here if I'm reading ahead.
Happy reading, everyone!
58- I think that the author intends for us to make our own opinions about the family based on their actions. Clarissa loves her family and seems to want to think well of them, but she can't avoid acknowledging that her friend doesn't like some members (like her brother) and that they don't always treat her very well. I think that it's a tribute to Clarissa's character that she wants to speak well of them and have her friend like them rather than a testament to THEIR characters.
I'm generalizing here because I don't feel that I know quite enough to judge the characters of every member of the family, but as of the last letter I really don't like Clarissa's brother, and I've been a bit annoyed at her sister for a while.
I decided to go ahead and jump in on this, since I'm also theoretically trying to read the 1001 Books blah blah blah. I've read through the Jan. 20 letter, and so far I've most enjoyed how people in the past were able to really say terrible things about people while sounding nothing but polite.
#60: Hi ursula, welcome to the GR.
I've most enjoyed how people in the past were able to really say terrible things about people while sounding nothing but polite.
You know, this is exactly what I thought and wasn't able to put into English words.
The Clarissa character sounds surprisingly modern to me so far, especially knowing that the author is a man. Women characters in classic books tend to be one-dimensional, and if I remember well I found the only believable women in books by female authors (Austen, Eliot, the Brontes). Even Dickens' what-was-her-name in Bleak House was almost too good to be true. Clarissa has layers, she has a bitchy side and I am looking forward to see more of her.
#61 Ditto - I was actually quite upset that I won't get to read any more till February. I did not expect to feel like that!
I know that people who are reading this book in real time are taking a break--it was supposed to be a fortnight, but Clarissa stretched it out longer until she was finally called home. You might want to budget plenty of reading time around the first week in March--just sayin'.
Anyway, I'd like to suggest that people in the group might want to find a way to set themselves up with access to the Oxford English Dictionary. Richardson uses words in ways that to us in 2012 are either obscure or obsolete. One particular example that comes up over and over is "condescension"--definitely used by Richardson differently than we use it today, and clearly explained by the OED.
What I'm using is my county library's online subscription to the OED that my tax dollars pay for (while this is money well-spent, I refuse to think of it as "free"). It's very convenient, and if you're not familiar with the online version, it's easy to use.
The link to the main site is here.
Many people are connected in some way to a university library, either as students or alumni, which is another good source for the online OED. If you don't have any other access, it's possible to pay for an inidvidual subscription--I think the monthly fee is about $30--but that's probably only for die-hard word geeks. Additionally, I think you can set yourself up with a free 30-day trial.
I actually cheated and read today's letter last week already (yeah I know, shame on me!). It took me only that one letter to be annoyed by the family again, especially brother and sister Harlowe, although to some point I understand their concerns. Didn't we all know Clarissa would see Lovelace? But threatening her to challenge the testament if she doesn't obey is a little harsh.
I am reading on the Kindle, so I have not the OED, but the New Oxford American dictionary with me. I love that feature!
I read the Feb. 20 letter last night. I know we're seeing it all through Clarissa's eyes, but wow her family is something else. Of course, Clarissa continues to say the most impolite things herself: "The poor Bella has, you know, a plump high-fed face, if I may be allowed the expression."
It is almost as if the family is driving her to him by their unbelievable behavior.
#66 That's so true! I can't wait to see what is so wrong with Mr Solmes though...
#64 " It took me only that one letter to be annoyed by the family again, especially brother and sister Harlowe" - me too! I had forgotten who Mr Solmes was though.
Okay, what do we think about today's letter? Subterfuge! Letters under the floorboards!
I did wonder how the letters were going to continue with Clarissa forbidden contact with Anna! I have read today's, and Anna has quite a different style, which I found harder to understand. I think I'll have to read it again. There are certainly a few busy days coming up. Obviously the floorboard letter box idea works out for them :-)
#70: the same goes for me - definitely harder to read. Clarissa spoiled us. She is also a bit of a matchmaker, that Anna. I'm not yet sure if I like her. Her letters might plant feelings for Lovelace into Clarissa's heart which had not been there before. She seems to enjoy all the fun of the secrecy and not see the real danger for her friend.
And how many insults she put into that first floorboard letter, I'd surely have written a very harmless test letter first.
#71 "And how many insults she put into that first floorboard letter, I'd surely have written a very harmless test letter first." - Yes, that did seem a bit risky, but then I get the impression that Miss Anna Howe probably doesn't worry about that sort of thing.
I was relieved to see that Anna was struggling to understand why Clarissa's mother and aunt were in favour of her marrying Mr Solmes because that had confused me too. Her mother seemed to be on Clarissa's side before she visited Anna.
Whilst I found her letter harder to read than Clarissa's, I loved Anna's attitude - it's the whole you've kinda bought it on yourself by letting people think that they can get away with it.
I also thought that her comment 'had she been as good-natured as your plump ones generally are' was hilarious!
Anna's writing is definitely denser than Clarissa's. I liked how she suggested Clarissa must be as dumb as her family if she thought that Anna would encourage a marriage to Mr. Solmes.
Anyone else get a smidge peeved when they read Anna's March 2nd letter, only to find the next (long) letter was 1st March again??
I'm presuming it wasn't just by version? I'm a day behind due to having been out yesterday evening. And just scanning through then next few pages I have myself a huge chunk to get through tonight. Ah well...
#75 I agree re her writing - I think I like her character better, but her writing much less, if that makes sense!
I was actually surprised it was the first time Clarissa and Anna had crossed letters. It's easier to follow if they don't, of course, but highly likely that it would happen, it seems to me.
They need to get their footmen onto a more regular schedule. I find that helps with my own correspondence :-) I am a few days behind and might try and catch up this evening, as I don't seem to be making much progress with my other book.
Hmmm, I'm not caught up. I just thought I'd confess unless anyone else was feeling that they should - ahem- stop watching 90210 and do their reading. I'm up to the part where Clarissa is telling Anna about her interview with her mother, and her father's appearance to tell them to come down to dinner, so that people didn't think there was any doubt that the wedding would go ahead. I know we're supposed to be thinking of it in terms of historical fiction, but there are uncomfortable parallels with this century for a lot of girls, in places where forced marriage is still an issue (which includes the UK).
I am really glad we have this GR which a) forces me to take breaks and read more attentively than I usually do and b) forces me to read on when I am so annoyed with the Harlowe family that I'd prefer to put the book back on the (virtual Kindle) shelf.
What an envious, greedy bunch of people. And this ridiculous insistence on the prepossession of Clarissa's heart! I can't follow the logic here. At least mother Harlowe for a moment was honest enough to admit it is all about money and reputation. Poor girl!
I am also glad of the group read, and the fact that we're doing it in real time, because it would be a long read if I was doing it all at once! I am up to date now, but I see there are a few pages for tomorrow, and I might read ahead a bit because this week is going to be busy. Nathalie, you are so right about that awful family!
Enter Lovelace - finally! And what a wicked guy he is!
Did anyone else have the feeling that his letter was a little inconsistent? I read that Richardson did some heavy editing between the two versions because too many readers had been siding with Lovelace. Maybe this letter is the first example. I'd like to know if the older version also gives away his bad intentions so clearly?
I am already reading the 14th today, always trying to stay one day ahead now. Catching up on the first week of March was really hard, and I realized we are only 100 pages (of 1500?) in.
He is, isn't he! I thought it was all going to turn out to be hearsay and he'd be all good etc (normally the way these things go) but he is delightfully naughty.
I may have to start the 14th one as well - it looks rather long...
After reading your comments about Lovelace, I figured I must have missed something. I was all focused on how he said that he loved Clarissa and was like, oh, that's kind of nice. Looking back a moment ago, though, I realized your point. Taking revenge on all women because one was unfaithful to him! I don't know how I could have minimized that.
Okay now - when she is so watched and 'confined to her rooms' all the time, how can she spend such a long time looking after those hens/ talking for hours with Lovelace without being found out?
Lovelace might become my favorite villain in classic English literature (right now I believe he is a villain here, not a romantic hero). I so loved his second letter!
I thought exactly the same re the room thing last night!
Oh and she so blatently does like him...
I have to say I much prefer her letters - Lovelace's are ok but he does go on a bit. But Anna's are just rather convoluted - linguistically anyway.
I finished vol 1 today which ends with March 22nd, so I am only 2 days ahead. Just had a look at vol 2 and decided I will advance-read a little more. My parents will be with me for Easter, and looking at the number and length of the letters covering the end of March and the first 1,5 weeks in April I'd never be able to catch up again if I don't gain some ground now. There will also be some date-crossing again.
God, I am so annoyed with this family. This whole thing seems so exaggerated - complete deadlock for what must now have been about 150 pages. How much longer will this go on - Clarissa offering single life, no-one believing her intentions. And after today's letter it's clear they have successfully driven her into liking Lovelace much more than before.
I was also reading ahead, since I didn't want to go on hiatus for a month in Feburary. Now I find that I'm just barely ahead of real time, reading letter #50 from March 22. Are your letters numbered? I'm reading a one-volume version, Penguin edition, tiny print that Penguin is noted for, 1499 pages. This version numbers the letters and also numbers the ones that are added into another letter (like when Clarissa sends Anna a copy of one of her brothers letters) using "50.1," etc.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I share your annoyance with this family. I'm struck by what a cad her brother is, James Harlowe, Junior. He seems like the real villain at this point in the story. He's everything that Richardson tells us he is in his "Cast of Principal Characters": proud, fierce, uncontrollable and ambitious, jealous of Clarissa's inheritance from their grandfather, bitter and irreconcilable enemy of Mr. Lovelace. Her father seems to be letting the son do his dirty work for him. I'd like to like her mother, but I can't, since she won't or can't stand up for herself.
Several have mentioned Anna's letters as perhaps being more difficult to read than Clarissa's. I think what Anna gives us right now is another take on Lovelace--we see him through her eyes in Letter #49, March 23. I won't say much about it, since the group is reading in real time, so they won't get to that letter until Friday; however, it's an important letter, not to be missed.
I am in a little panic when I look over all those letters to be read in the next couple of days. I'll start letter I in vol. 2 today, it's still March 22nd, and there are some more to come with this date. My edition starts with letter I again in every volume, but I have now read 44.
What I hate especially is the constant assurance from the family that they will "love her again if only she does them that one little favor of marrying Solmes". I wouldn't believe them a single word anymore, it's obvious they do not love her, with the exception of her weak mother.
Instead she goes and offers them her estate! And to live as a servant with her brother. Can she get anymore submissive? Is this "virtue"? I'd like to shake her and tell her to get her estate and leave that horrible bunch of "friends" without looking back (I know... those were different times, but I can't help myself).
Loved the exchange(s) with Bella!
Completely agree about feeling annoyed with Clarissa's family, but I also feel like Clarissa is trapped. They won't accept any of her offers and I really can't think what else a young lady at that time could do (which I suppose is why the storyline works out the way it does - don't want to spoil it if people don't know what happens). I feel like I've stopped enjoying this so much because Clarissa's situation feels so intolerable that I can't stand reading about it anymore!
Anyway, I will plod on. I was really tired last week and got behind with the letters - I won't do that again if I can avoid it, it was so much work to catch up.
I am two days ahead now (saving for the Easter weekend!). I also roughly know what is going to happen, and it scares me that this bit of plot will be dragged over another 1250 pages (hey - we are 1/6 in!!).
I have considered taking a break. But I won't, I fear I'd never get started again.
I guess once we are in vol. 3 and certain things have happened, there will be a wild exchange of letters from everyone to everyone else, retelling the story from 100 different viewpoints.
What I really don't like are the additional comments by the author which turned up now in vol.2 in the revised edition. Those are massive spoilers! I'd prefer to find out myself just how vile Lovelace is and have at least a little bit of surprise. I read one of those comments today and Richardson actually accuses the readers of the first edition that they hadn't read attentively and completely misunderstood LL's intentions, so that he is now forced to explain them everything in detail.
Wow - so glad I don't have that - I'm reading the Gutenberg version and so far haven't seen any. I'm trying to keep two days ahead as well - so afraid of slipping behind again.
Please tell me there are no more of Mrs Howe's letters... she reads as if she wants to underline every other word. Ick...
Scratch my last - I've now read the section with Richardson's footnote. That really is irritating.
I'm back, trying to catch up. The last quarter of school was murder, but now-Clarissa!
"Clarissa" kills me - okay, drains me - emotionally. I had to take a 2day break after half of the Solmes episode.
I'd love to know what reaction Richardson expected from his readers. Was it
a) "Poor poor girl! Disgusting family!! They should all die!!! Her brother first!!!!"
or was it
b) "Perverse girl! Why can't she obey in this one trifle matter and marry Mr Solmes? Anybody would love her dearly again. I admire the family's patience with her"
If I were Clarissa I'd spend the day knocking my own head against the wall until being unconscious, unless I could get hold of any other heads, that is. This book is wrecking my nerves!
Edit: when you are there - the first sentence of letter 35 of April 5th in vol. 2 doesn't make any sense, given the events she just described at the end of the previous letter imo.
I'm actually getting a little tired of the book by this point, too. It helps that I'm just reading a little bit at a time, otherwise I don't think I would ever finish it. I'm just tired of waiting for something to happen. It's been forever since her parents started trying to force her into marrying Solmes, and they keep saying things that make you think they've run out of patience and then they just draw it out some more! I mean, how long has it been since they said she was going to her uncle's house whether she liked it or not, and it hasn't happened yet! I hope that we're finally approaching the end of this dilly-dallying one way or another.
#96 + 97 You guys are totally right - something just HAPPEN already! We're nearly to vol 3 - hopefully something will change? Because vol2 has really been awful.
I can also tell that it's about to suffer my Evelina issue - I think I mentioned this on Nathalie's thread - the 'how in the hell is she writing so much when she only has a tiny bit of hidden ink' issue...
A quote I have to share - it's from April 7th, but not really a spoiler, as it could have been part of any letter in the 2nd volume. Richardson obviously knew what he was doing to the reader. Clarissa writes:
We are with you here, Clarissa!
I am nearly caught up, after falling about 200 pages behind over the last few weeks. I agree that it really is time for something to happen. But I think it will happen soon. I am likely to fall behind again this week but from then I should be able to keep up. BekkaJo, I know exactly what you mean about the tiny bit of hidden ink! The poor girl must suffer from permanent writer's cramp. I suppose today she would just send a text message, although maybe 140 characters would never be enough for Clarissa. Perhaps she would have a blog, and they would just turn off the wireless broadband.
I have a sinking feeling - something has finally happened but I think it'll just go straight back to the same darn argument/discussions in a different place. We'll see...
There aren't many books where you can read 400 pages and the story really hasn't progressed much :-) I got interrupted yesterday so I am behind again.
I read a bit today where Richardson claims to have shortened a letter not to become repetitive! And there was another remark yesterday about readers who haven't read well enough and therefore misunderstood.
O, and I guess today I stopped caring about Clarissa's fate. She's all virtuous, you know?
Anna is my friend. And I can't help "liking" LL (as a book character, not as a person).
#101: since reading your post I am picturing Clarissa frantically typing her long texts into her mobile phone, and Anna being scolded my her mother at the dinner table because of the constant 'beep' of the sms signal. At least C. wouldn't have to write all those copies and could instead just forward her texts to everyone.
Will April 13th ever end?
Oh no - don't say that :( I've lost my couple of days aheadness due to a virus and being too miserable to read C. Sigh...
I fell behind last weekend, and it's been taking me forever to catch up! I think I'm just about there... (fingers crossed)
To get back to Clarissa's story (I finally caught up again): I can't belive just how vile Richardson portrayed LL. Can one single person really be so manipulative? Why don't we get Belford's reply letters to read?
Clarissa now seems to be trapped with no way out. No money, no friends, no invitations from LL's female relatives, completely depending on LL. And not a single extra dress to change into. I hope she brought some perfume with her.
In one of Anna's letters she actually says 'I don't know how you manage without a change' or words to that effect... I was wondering too!
Also, Lovelace really is turning into more of a villain...
'I went into mourning for her, though abroad at the time. A distinction I have ever paid to those worthy creatures who dies in childbed by me.'
And this is him in his own defense!
I've really got behind with this and I'm doing little more than skim-reading to catch up. I won't give up though because every time I decide to I come across something to keep me interested.
#112: I missed that! Or maybe I'm behind, I only read Anna's remark re. clothes yesterday.
I think I'm going to read 3-4 letters a day now without looking at the dates. There's too much date-crossing in the remaining part of vol. 3.
#113: you are absolutely right. And we are almost a third in now, so I am determined not to give up. I also skim-read some of Clarissa's letters. Anna's are too interesting with the news from the family. And LL's are often so wonderfully wicked. Interesting that he sees in Anna his most dangerous opponent. In a different world (novel) they'd be a great match.
LL reminds me of this guy in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Valmont?). Wonderful characters.
I think it's a bit ahead of you then - it's when the letters suddenly dip back to the 15th and 17th (I spotted this was coming so tried to read myself a buffer.)
I'm too invested to give up - that is invested in time, not in interest. 600 odd pages down - I refuse to let it be in vain!
#115: I just read that bit. Wow. He's so considerate. How could anyone think bad of him?
Edit: I have to add that Lemann's letters, amusing as they might be, are almost completely incomprehensible for me. I hope there won't be too many of them.
So, I finished vol. 3 and started vol. 4. I am not happy about LL's development in those last few letters. He doesn't seem to know what he wants. I prefer him to be a manipulating villain, not someone who changes his mind on every second letter between 'I love her and will marry her, only she is worth marrying' and 'I'll seduce her and let her fall as a revenge to the Harlowe family and to all women on earth'.
I have fallen behind again, but I'm up to April 14 now, I think, and I have devised a way to catch up and to stay caught up (fingers crossed). I am reading the giant Penguin edition at home, but it is too big to take anywhere with me, and quite uncomfortable to read in bed. So I have downloaded volume 3 of the Kindle freebie version, and I have made quite a bit of progress with it over the last couple of days. I can swap back to the paperback when I am at home, but even a few pages read on the Kindle in the morning on the way to work helps.
Lovelace is a rotter, and Clarissa is turing out to be pretty whiny and annoying. I would like to know more about Anna, but I doubt it's going to happen.
That is a relief! I hate novels where they overlook things like that. I read a romance a year or two ago in which the heroine, who had never previously left the UK, was whisked away at a moment's notice to various exotic locations by the hero, and all I could think was "You don't have a passport!" Poor Clarissa, wearing the same outfit for all those hundreds of pages.
May is a little slower and I am grateful for it. I read to the 13th some days ago and took a short break again then. I can't believe she still expects mercy from her "friends" and offers them her estate yet again! Feels like I'm in a time warp. But hey - the cousin Morden exists!!
Yes, I think 'trudging' is probably the right word. I'm so far behind that I'm only skim reading but i'm not going to give up.
I'm caught up, and have another couple to read tomorrow, I think. I'm determined not to fall behind again.
The horrible Lovelace reminds me of another book that I read a couple of years ago, which is set about 30 years after Clarissa (assuming Clarrisa to be 1732, as the introduction in my copy suggests), and which shows what could happen to women's property even when they were respectably married. The book is Wedlock by Wendy Moore, which is the (true) story of Britain's richest heiress and her marriage to a terrible, terrible man, and what happened next. In the UK it is subtitled "How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match" but I think the link here goes to the US version, which has a different subtitle, although it's the same book. Personally I think it should be recommended reading for every teenage girl (and this will happen when I run the world :-) ). I keep thinking about it while I'm reading Clarissa, so I thought I'd mention it for anyone else interested in the period. It's one of the best books I've read in the last few years.
I finished the 4th volume today, and I see that vol. 5 again covers only two weeks and has date crossings again, so I'll just read on and try to stay a week or so ahead. I so need more action in the story!
Is it wrong to think that Clarissa and Lovelace are both so whiny, smug and irritating that actually they are perfect for one another?!
Hey - my island gets a mention! At one point Lovelace mentions sailing in the Jersey area.
How sad am I that this renewed my interest for a page or so?
Phew! I'm finally caught up! I got about over a month behind because of finals, and ever since I've been reading and reading and reading. Should be easier to keep up now!
Anybody else think that if Anna had married Hickman a long time ago, none of this would have ever happened? Clarissa could have stayed with them, problem solved! No Solmes, no running off with Lovelace, 1000 fewer pages to read because the story would be over!
Yes, I think you're right :-) I also wonder whether Clarissa really couldn't go back to her family once she'd run away with Lovelace. Would they really have refused to have her back in the house? The answer might well be "yes" but equally she does seem to be one of those people who can make a drama out of the smallest thing. I have to read today's pages but otherwise I am managing to stay up to date after falling quite far behind.
You must be very pleased to have your finals over!
Yes, I'm very happy that they're done! It was very stressful for a while.
I don't think Clarissa could go back unless she accepted their terms, if I remember correctly. Right after she ran, I think they told her what it would take, and she wasn't pleased with some part of it, maybe that they still wanted her to marry Solmes? Whatever, there's so much negotiating that never turns into anything substantial in this book ('I'll give up Lovelace if you let me be single!", "We'll force you to your uncle's house unless you cooperate!", etc.) that I mix things up after a while.
#130: yes - I thought of it at some point, "if Anna could just finally marry Hickman and invite Clarissa over". I'm sure she will marry him at some point though.
Congrats on finishing your finals!
I didn't read for some days now but am still a bit in advance, June 6th. I just want to get to the half-point. How can a man be as wordy as LL? He was such an interesting villain in vols 1 and 2, now he is just evil psycho guy.
#125: I just got the Kindle sample of Wedlock. Not that I am particularly interested in the period, but this "It's one of the best books I've read in the last few years." got me. :-)
It will however be a while till I get to it.
I haven't read any Clarissa for weeks - I think I'm at least a month behind now but I am going to get reading again. Thanks for the recommendation for Wedlock Susan, I'm going to get it out of the library and hope it will inspire me to start reading Clarissa again!
I've also thought that Anna marrying Hickman would have been the best solution. He's starting to seem quite nice by comparison with the other men in the book...
Finally finished Vol5 last night - so happy to get another one down. Anyone else realised how long the June 11th chunk is though? I've just scrolled through it and it seems to be about a quarter of vol6! Agh!
#136: little spoiler coming for June 11th: there's so much villainy in those first letters that at least it wasn't boring. But on the other hand LL made me so angry that I had to take several breaks to take deep calming breaths.
Worst villain ever!
137- I agree! And yet the further we go the more hints we get that maybe there's hope for him yet, like how he let Clarissa go after the fire. That makes it even more frustrating when he comes back worse than ever!
aaargh... my head hurts from reading LL's "logic". Will Belford EVER send him an answer, or how many of those horrible letters of his will I still have to read? I have no idea where I am in the book datewise, it has been days since a letter started with a date, it's only ever 'Morning' or 'Late night' or 'Continued'. Almost half through vol. 6 with 39% left to go.
Btw when I read today's letter (some days ago) I wouldn't have known what it means, had I not read spoilers from the sparknotes link in #19.
*trying to avoid spoilers*
I'm about half way through vol 6- so around 20th. Did anyone actually think that the thing that happened at the beginning of this volume was going to happen? Having read quite a few of this style of novel I really didn't... interested to see what happens next. Or I was till I realised it's pretty much just LL - as Nathalie said above, whining for the forseable future.
I accidentally read a spoiler somewhere, so I knew it was coming, but otherwise I probably wouldn't have. Although you have to wonder how they could spin out another gazillion pages without something happening! I am up to date. And very smug about it :-)
I didn't expect it to happen either! Even after, I found myself reading ahead quite a bit to make sure it really was what it seemed like. I'm questioning what they're supposed to do now. I don't have any idea how this book might end anymore.
*not so silently crying in desperation*
Can Belford PLEASE finally send a response to LL? I NEED to read someone else's 'voice', but preferably not Clarissa's. It seems we'll now get "Please marry me!"/ "I will never marry you" for the remaining 3.5 volumes.
See I thought that - then I read one from him and... oof - I re-iterate my comment of 134. Dislike his letters enormously.
I really want this volume out the way in the hope that the next one is better - I'm in the same position as you Nathalie. Just thoroughly frustrated with the eternal loop of LLs thoughts. Gah!
I had got a few days behind after the weekend, so tried to catch up last night, and it was all Lovelace, Lovelace, Lovelace. I read for about 45 minutes without getting up to anyone else, and I'm still not quite caught up. Something to look forward to for tonight! But I'm past page 900 in the giant Penguin edition now, which is something...
I am 10 days ahead, but this shouldn't be a spoiler:
Reading this book, especially now after "it" has happened, often requires much mental strength from the modern reader, don't you agree? The thought alone that Clarissa is still expected to accept LL and that his actions are almost regarded as a forgivable prank, as long as he marries her! And still he is plotting!
I agree! I can't work out whether they are supposed to marry for the sake of propriety and then never see one another, or whether it is supposed to be a "normal" marriage. It certainly makes you glad of all the advances in law and education that have benefited women (Western women, anyway) and given them choices. The book is long and probably too tedious to interest a modern teenager, but in a way it should almost be required reading for all girls.
I agree - though if she is forced to accept him at any point I will be throwing this out of the window and screaming.
Better be careful if you throw the Penguin version, Bekka - you could kill someone with it!
It's ok - digital throwing only since I only have it on my reader. Delete delete delete. It just doesn't have the impact of book hitting wall does it?
No, but I did have a satisfying evening once when I finally had time to go through some freebie romances, and deleted five in a row. But muttering at the Kindle just isn't the same. It would have worked better on the bus, where at least I would have got a seat to myself.
My husband has decided that I am getting stockholm syndrome since I am starting to enjoy this again - after all my whinging at him ;)
Having decided I just want this over and done with I've ploughed along... just finished book 8. For those not there yet, the beginning of vol 9 brings a much needed 'finally!' moment...
Having decided I just want this over and done with I've ploughed along... just finished book 8. For those not there yet, the beginning of vol 9 brings a much needed 'finally!' moment...
I am so far behind...Not sure I'll ever get back to it, and I got so close!
I'm a few days behind, about 75% through volume 7. I'll probably catch up today, if all the days aren't super long. Is everyone else sticking with it?
FYI y'all - my 'finally' is morally atrocious and purely inflicted by the length of this novel. I am a bad bad person. You'll get it soon...
I am 2 days behind now, very early in book 8.
#160 Yup. 'fraid so. Including one insanely long one from Anna Howe which is just awful. It's about 15 pages long - I want to cry with frustration by the end of it!
I know I went off track on this and read ahead (bad rebel me)... but I'm so happy right now. Finally, finally finished. So to everyone still struggling - it is do-able and. I think, totally worth it.
A lot of these novels merge into one - Pamela, Evelina etc and you can't really remember what happened. At least this one, due to it's sheer immensity, stays with you.
Good luck all.
Yay! Congratulations on finishing. I haven't fallen behind again, but I have another 300 pages to go, and I can't see myself finishing soon, but maybe on time.
Wow, congratulations Bekka! This will give me a boost to read another couple of pages today.
Hey, if you guys want, you can check out the slideshow that I made about Clarissa recently. I posted it on my new blog, and I'd love to hear what you guys think.
Very funny! I like the representation of Lovelace, in particular :-)
I read 50 pages today. I'm having a Clarissa boot-camp.
I read and read and read, and there's still 1.5 vols to go... at least I now made it past Kindle location 30,000 (of 35,637) and I reached August 30th.
Might be a spoiler:
Still wondering what the illness is. Just grief? So she doesn't eat, doesn't sleep much and just writes and worries and writes some more and is ill and faints a lot.
Where's that line between committing suicide by jumping from a window or drinking poison (which is a mortal sin and gets you straight into the deepest parts of hell) or just giving yourself up until you're almost dead/ maybe even die in the end (which apparently makes you an angel/ a saint)? In both cases you are refusing the life God (she is such a faithful Christian!) gave to you, and you decide it should end prematurely. I don't really see the difference.
Okay, you could say "she delivers herself into God's hands". But what should God do if you deliberately stop eating and sleeping and refuse just considering any alternatives that might get you out of your misery? And if she were pregnant which she never clearly denied, wouldn't the sin be even greater if she let not just herself die, but also the unborn child?
#165 dste: I love your slideshow! Are you planning to continue it?
168- Well, the author does make it a point to say that Clarissa's trying to take care of herself. Forcing herself to eat, etc. I think he would have us believe that she's simply lost the will to live and would have died a while ago if she hadn't had her religion. But apparently being able to fully recover is beyond her control? I don't know.
I'm also wondering whether she might be pregnant. What would she do if she did live long enough to have a baby? Would she marry Lovelace just for the sake of that child? (Because in those times being born in wedlock made life terrible for the child, right?) Or would she die in childbirth? Just speculating.
I'm glad you liked the slideshow. I wasn't planning on continuing, but I certainly could.
Reading on.. it would be a very bad idea to play a drinking game around the mentioning of the word 'angel' in "Clarissa".
Possible small spoilers for those who are a bit behind the actual date with the letters:
Yes, at times she forces herself to eat... maybe a bite of bread just 'for the show'? The doctor said early on that there was no physical illness, yet she started to talk about 'dying soon' immediately when her senses returned after the rape and the arrest.
I understand that she doesn't see a way out of her misery but death, that she has lost the will to live on, given the time and circumstances. She doesn't want to witness in a trial and doesn't want to marry LL, has no financial means, all connections with the family being broken. If she were Catholic she could take the veil, but in her situation, if she wants her 'mental virtue' intact, the only clean way out must be a natural death. So she wishes for it and brings herself closer to it.
My head is just not able to process the difference between suicide and her behaviour and the whole sinner - angel thing.
Edit: Spoiler: just reading LL's letter of Aug. 31st.
Later: just started vol. 9. Wow. Richardson lays it on thick. I can't decide if I should be moved or find it ridiculous. Given that it has been written in the 1700s I guess I should be moved.
I'll try to finish it before month end, it would make my August stats look so much better with its 1,500 pages. And I haven't finished a 1001 book since June.
LOL - you are having so many of the same issues as me! I just couldn't understand how this wasn't considered by everyone as her killing herself. I know it's all relative to the time etc but good grief!
Just started the last 1,000 of 35,600 Kindle 'locations' - this means less than 50 pages left tbr! :-)
Not a spoiler, but a word of encouragement: the last volume is an easy and at least for me highly enjoyable read with the pages/ locations just flying by. I haven't got yet to that extra-long letter Bekka mentioned, but most of the other letters are either short or at least interesting.
Done, DONE, DONE!!! :-))
It will be a while before I start Pamela...
I've been continuing on with the by-day reading thing, but I'm thinking that around the middle of September I may just finish off the last few pages. I can't say I'm surprised at the course things have taken, but it sure has taken a long time to get there :-)
I feel sad that there are so many exasperated responses here about the length of this book and skimming through the letters. I think many of you would have liked the abridged edition much better, known as the Sherburn abridgement. It's only about 500 pages.
It is exasperating but at the same time I do loathe abridgements of anything - it always seems insulting to the author (just my point of view, no offence meant). And with Clarissa, despite all our whinging I actually found the length of it very rewarding in the end since it works on you so slowly and stays with you so clearly.
That aside, hats off to Susan who also finished recently! Anyone else done?
I loathe abridgements as well, particularly this one of Clarissa. I had to read it in school, and while I enjoyed it, since at the time I had nothing to compare it to, I am loving this edition (reading the 1985 Penguin edition). It does not seem like many here particularly loved the full edition. In fact, you seem to be the only one who has expressed the sentiment of finding the length of it "very rewarding" (and ditto--no offence meant).
I've been reading the book for awhile now again, since stopping for awhile because of a class I was taking, and I've been putting my comments on my own 75 thread. However, I don't want those comments to become spoilers for anyone following my thread who might decide to read the book. So I'm coming back here to post my comments, even though I know that most people here are either far ahead of me (I'm in April) or have moved on. Feel free to ignore my posts, although I'd love it if those of you who have read the book would jump in if you have something to say.
As I said, I'm in April--letter 94 and 98 to be exact, the letters in which Clarissa describes to Anna how it all came to be that she ran away with a man. As I'm reading this letter, I'm reminded of Elizabeth Bennet's foolish younger sister in Pride and Prejudice, Lydia, the one who ran off with Mr. Wickham. What I remember is the disgrace the family suffered because Lydia ran off with a man. Austen definitely shows Lydia to be a complete ninny ("Wholly inattentive to her sister's feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless ecstacy, calling for everyone's congratulations, and laughing and talking with more violence than ever"). Elizabeth pleads with her father not to let her sister go to Brighton on a visit with the wife of the Colonel of the regiment (a visit during which Lydia will be properly chaperoned): "'If you were aware,' said Elizabeth, 'of the very great disadvantage to us all, which must arise from the public notice of Lydia's unguarded and imprudent manner; nay, which has already arisen from it, I am sure you would judge differently in the affair.'" Austen is having some fun with her Lydia character, but Lydia's actions and behavior are quite serious, both for Lydia and for her family. And if we recall, P&P was published in 1813, Clarissa much earlier in 1747. We know what a big theme marriage was for Austen in all of her novels--for good reason.
I think it's hard to judge from a 21st-century perspective just how shocking it was, to everyone, for Clarissa to have gone off with a man. Anna can't receive letters from her, asking her "for the time being" not to send them to her home, but instead to an alternate address. Clearly Clarissa is devastated and deeply ashamed, and is becoming aware of the irrevocability of her act. She "longs" but she also dreads to hear what is being said of her, and yet "They cannot, however, say worse of me than I will of myself."
An interesting article about the views of marriage in the eighteenth-century for upper and middling classes in England by Laura E Thomason, "Hester Chapone as a Living Clarissa in Letters on Filial Obedience and A Matrimonial Creed" is found here. The full article can be found in pdf format with a Google search.
Added: Another article (actually someone's dissertation) about the inheritance novel, including Clarissa, Evelina, and Pride and Prejudice can be found with a Google search of the title: The Inheritance Novel: The Power of Strict Settlement Language in Clarissa, Evelina, and Pride and Prejudice, by Linda Kane Scott.
Hm... I don't know whether I would have liked an abridgment better or not. What I do know is that I'm almost done! The last time I stopped I was at September 26th, halfway through volume nine. Once I finish, I know I'll get a huge feeling of accomplishment! I'm sure it will have been worth it.
Oh, that's great--good for you! My edition doesn't break the work into volumes, so I don't even know how many volumes there are. Although I guess that also depends on what edition you're reading.
I'm reading the free kindle version, which has nine volumes total. That means I'm over halfway through the last one. (I caught up to the current date today)
I wouldn't have liked to read an abridgement, I generally don't read them. In this case I might (!) one day read the original shorter version, just to see why Richardson thought it necessary to add 600 pages. I didn't have an issue with the length of 1,500 pages, I've already read very long books and like the challenge.
The writing was very very good. There were just some bits where it seemed Richardson wanted to hammer it into the reader's head that Lovelace is VILE and Clarissa is VIRTUOUS. It seems that the first much shorter edition left too much room for interpretation and that's why I'd like to compare. Maybe. The additional length and the empasis he put on making one character real bad (though Lovbelace loved Clarissa, but not in a good way) and the other one almost a saint resulted in repetitive argumentation in many places, and I admit I sometimes thought 'I got it why you can't marry the guy, so please please don't list those arguments again!'
And you just have to wonder just how those people managed to write that much, even though they didn't have anything else to do. They even made copies of their letters!
You're right, you definitely have to keep the historical context in mind. Reading P&P I often thought what Lydia's behaviour might have meant for the family without Darcy's interference. 5 unmarried daughters I guess and complete disgrace for the family. And Lydia ending up somewhere in the streets.
CONGRATULATIONS to Susan for finishing!!
This morning I've read Clarissa's letter #98 and Lovelace's letter #99 (April 12). She says she's at a loss of what to make of Lovelace, but that now she is fearful of him, "knowing the power my indiscretion has given him over me." So it would seem that she's starting to figure out, fairly early on here, that she might be in some trouble. So far, however, she seems more concerned about her reputation that any physical harm that might come to her--not that she shouldn't be worried about her reputation. She's right--it's ruined. Even if her family were to take her back, by running away with this man, she has made herself unmarriageable.
I think Lovelace's Letter #99 would have struck Richardson's readers as being almost pornographic. The tone of the letter is creepy, as he goes into detail about her fair skin and hair, and her "bounding heart" beneath her dress.
He says she's made him, an "honest fellow," look like a hypocrite--"what a false little rogue she has been." Does she not deserve to pay for all this? he asks. Have I not vowed revenge upon the faithless charmer?
He reminds me in this letter of the character in the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon--Snidely Whiplash--a cartoonish stock character taken from silent movies, complete with a cape, a top hat, and a long handlebar mustache which he curls while he leers at "my goddess, my charmer."
I guess I'm having trouble taking him seriously--and yet it's pretty obvious that Clarissa is in some serious trouble.
Letters 101 and 102 today, April 11 & 12 or so. I don't know how other editions number the letters, especially editions that break the book into volumes. Both are from Clarissa, one to her friend Anna and one to her sister Bella.
Clarissa tells Anna that she's going to continue to try to restore herself to her family's favour, since that will give her less to reproach herself with. Yet inexplicably, the person in her family she reaches out to is her heartless sister, Bella. Is Clarissa just a glutton for punishment? There's been absolutely no indication, in any of her dealings with her sister, that Bella has a heart or any sort of kind feelings for anyone, and especially for her sister.
She's asked Bella to send her the 50 guineas that is in her escritoire (key enclosed), her clothes, and her jewels "if it be thought fit."
Oh, let me take a wild guess at Bella's reply.
Is Clarissa just a glutton for punishment?
I guess we are wll with you here...
I'm wondering what others who are reading/have read the book think of Anna? Anna is the only person within the community who knows what really happened to Clarissa, who knows what is happening to her now, and who knows where she is. Doesn't Anna have an obligation to let someone in Clarissa's family know what she knows?
She seems to excuse herself for not doing so in letter 100 (April 12), but her reasons seem lame--who would believe her if she told them that Clarissa didn't intend to go off with Lovelace or that Clarissa was tricked? I'm not buying it. I think she has a responsibility to tell someone what she knows.
#189: it is difficult to give you an answer here without spoiling anything for you.
Let me say there will be more interaction between the other characters later in the book.
>188 Deern:. Well, I'm not saying she is or she isn't. I'm asking the question. Is there another motivation for her to reach out to her sister Bella? If so, I'm not seeing it. Maybe there's no one else. She figures her mother is too beaten down to go against her father. Her father, of course, is constantly in the throes of a rage against her. Her uncles? They don't seem to be any help. But Bella?
I think the idea that anyone in her family could be any help to her is just plain wrong-headed. At this point, Anna seems to be the most helpful in offering to send her money (which of course Clarissa would pay back once this horrible situation she finds herself in is fixed) and clothes.
But Anna is also the one who is saying, if all else fails, if she can't get herself set up in an independent situation, then Clarissa should marry Lovelace. Yikes. But maybe it's impossible, in that place and time, for Anna to have seen any other solution.
>189 labwriter:. Well, I hope there's more interaction with the characters, since I have 1,000 pages left to read--ha. I guess I was hoping to hear how the character of Anna struck people here at the time they were reading about her. Silly question, I guess. These are just questions that occur to me as I'm reading.
Well, I just assumed that Clarissa's writing to her sister was an attempt to show that she wanted to try to mend fences. I don't think she expected it to receive a positive answer, but she had to try anyway. And I assumed her sister was chosen simply because of her position in the family as a daughter, which makes her lowest on the totem pole as it were. I just got this humility vibe like Clarissa felt that she couldn't dare address her parents after this. I could be totally wrong, but that's what I thought.
As far as Anna goes, it's well known that she dislikes the Harlowe family except for Clarissa. Clarissa has reprimanded her basically throughout for being too harsh on them. And, again, there's the fact that she's just a girl. So, yeah, I think she should try to tell them the truth, but even if she did, would they listen to her based on her clear bias and lack of "authority"? (I put authority in quotes because I think that her access to the facts gives her clear authority, but people of the time would assume authority from social position, I think.)
I don't know, it's been a long time since I read those letters. Does Clarissa discourage her from sharing what she knows? I know that later Clarissa expresses a desire that Anna not say anything to her family unless Clarissa first asks her to do so because Anna's dislike combined with her spirit can cause problems (with the family feeling insulted and so forth).
>193 dste:. I really like your post. I think what you say about Clarissa's choice of Bella as the family member to write to makes a lot of sense. And I think you're right about Anna--they wouldn't have listened to her. Although, on the other hand, "if" things go badly, at least Anna wouldn't be blamed for keeping the information to herself if she had tried to tell them. It would have been the family's fault for not listening to her, rather than Anna's fault for not telling what she knew.
I don't remember, so far, Clarissa telling Anna not to reveal where she is or what's going on with her. However, knowing Anna from her letters, if she thought it was right to give out information about Clarissa's whereabouts, I don't think she would let words from Clarissa stop her. So far Anna has pleaded with Clarissa to accept money and clothes from her--which at this point Clarissa has declined to do.
>194 labwriter: Good point. It would be the family's fault for not listening to her if she tried to tell them.
Letter 103 from Lovelace to his pal John Belford, April 13.
Here we are again with Lovelace, the 18th-century version of Snidely Whiplash. I know Clarissa is in big trouble, but Lovelace is such a caricature of eee-vil that I sometimes find myself laughing out loud at him.
One thought I had as I read the current letter to Belford is that Lovelace probably has never come up against a female like Clarissa before--smart and confrontational. He is getting increasingly worked up about her attitude--"a believed superiority of talents" that she demonstrates when she speaks to him. Why, she ought to be cowed and cowering before his superiority over her!
Writes Lovelace, "Thou has heard me often expatiate upon the pitiful figure a man must make, whose wife has, or believes she has, more sense than himself." He says he almost wishes himself to be honest, but instead is drawn to intrigue, strategem, and enterprise when he thinks about his plans for her. If he can subdue this lady--"Such a triumph over the whole sex!"
At this point, Lovelace and Clarissa are locked in a battle of wills. Lovelace justifies any bad behaviour because of the "pains" he's "suffered" for her.
Oh gross--his description of their "first kiss." We don't know if that actually happened, but he's telling his pal Belford all about it. He says the kiss with her delighted him more than the "ultimatum" with any other woman. This guy is a disgusting pig--in any century.
Note: Today is Jane Austen's "natal day." Happy Birthday, Jane. What do you think of the cult that has grown up around your writing?
I'm still quietly, slowly reading along in this book, which I've been reading off and on since January. I tried to "assign" myself to read 15 pages per day (that's in the 1499-page Penguin edition, with the size 5 tiny font), but I very soon found that I couldn't keep up that pace. So I've resigned myself to simply reading as much as I can, always trying to read "something" every day.
Reading this book at such a slow pace (at this point, approximately at the rate that Clarissa and Anna wrote their letters to each other--one or two a day, three or four a week, just depending), I get a very real sense of the frustration that Clarissa feels about her fate at this point in the novel (I'm at about page 600 or so--getting towards the end of May). Lovelace is wildly inconsistent; he won't commit to a wedding date, but he continues to push for the marriage. Clarissa has no one to guide her; she knows that she is losing her reputation day by day.
One of the interesting aspects of the novel at this point is how the reader is let in on the way Clarissa and Lovelace view the same events so differently.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.