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Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady by…

Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady (original 1747; edition 2004)

by Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross (Editor)

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1,114227,423 (3.52)1 / 275
Title:Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady
Authors:Samuel Richardson (Author)
Other authors:Angus Ross (Editor)
Info:London : Penguin, 2004
Collections:Your library, Use for recommendations, Read in 2012
Tags:18th century fiction, British author, Epistolary, Penguin Classics, Guardian 1000 (love), 1001, #dimensions checked, Published: 1747, Acquired in 2012, Sentimental, 2012 75 books challenge, TIOLI, Location: spare room - classic fiction

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Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson (1747)


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English (21)  French (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Well, after finishing U.S.A. at 1,300 pages or so, what better way to follow it up than to write a review of a novel that's even bigger?

What surprised me most about this novel is how readable it is. For its size and the era in which it was written, this is one of the most readable novels I've tackled. That is very definitely something to be thankful for.

The story basically revolves around the eponymous heroine Clarissa who, being the sole inheritor of her grandfather's estate, finds herself the victim of family plotting when they attempt to force her to marry a man she has absolutely no feelings for.

Resolutely standing her ground only results in Clarissa being completely isolated by her so-called family who virtually imprison her in solitary confinement within the family home.

Fearing that she will be dragged to the alter and committed against her will, she seeks escape and the supposed safe house offered by Lovelace, a man who comes across as a valiant aide in time of trouble. We readers however, are aware of his ulterior motives as Richardson relates his tale entirely in letters between various of the characters.

Clarissa's frying pan becomes Clarissa's fire as she discovers Lovelace's true purpose. And while this plot is enough to drive the novel on for well over 1,000 pages, quite unbelievably, it culminates in a living room scene that is as damp as a damp squib can be. I honestly thought I'd perhaps missed segment of the audio version I listened to on Librivox (which I recommend actually). Quite inexplicable.

Still, Richardson's novel is a masterful study of misogyny. Lovelace (the pronunciation of whose name is no coincidence) writes some absolutely writhing letters to his friends in which you can't help but see Richardson's criticism of his contemporary "rake." It's scathing.

And through it all, of course, Clarissa's virtue remains a bastion of impregnability. If this had been written by a woman, it would be a seminal feminist text. But it wasn't, so it isn't. Too bad. ( )
  arukiyomi | Oct 13, 2015 |
This was written as a collection of letters from the parties concerned. A playboy and a virtuous maiden. He is determined to conquer her and ingratiates himself upon her family who is looking for advancement in their social standing. She sees him for the devious corrupt man that he really is and desperately tries to avoid him. He is so charismatic that everyone seems to be against Clarissa. Kidnapping is involved. Can Clarissa maintain her virtue when the world is against her? A wonderful read. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
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. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Review: It says a lot that out of the 1499 pages of this novel, I only though the last 100 superfluous. If you like melodrama you will adore this novel. Completely comprised of letters between the characters, the minutiae of their psychological/spiritual motivations are enumerated beautifully. The characters are everything here. Clarissa, the virtuous maiden, Lovelace, the villain, and a host of both true-hearted and villainous minor players inhabit these pages. I absolutely loved this, with the exception that I think the ending was unnecessarily drawn out. ( )
  hemlokgang | Oct 2, 2013 |
I read this thing in its epistolary-entirety over the summer before learning that only sections of it were assigned. I think I got a bit more out of it than my classmates and was impressed by how the character of Lovelace overpowered Richardson. ( )
  KidSisyphus | Apr 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richardson, Samuelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ross, AngusEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I am extremely concerned, my dearest friend, for the disturbances that have happened in your family.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140432159, Paperback)

‘Oh thou savage-hearted monster! What work hast thou made in one guilty hour, for a whole age of repentance!’

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.

In his introduction, Angus Ross examines characterization, the epistolary style, the role of the family and the position of women in Clarissa. This edition also includes a chronology, suggestions for further reading, tables of letters, notes, a glossary and an appendix on the music for the ‘Ode to Wisdom’.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Based on the 18th century novel by Samuel Richardson, this is the original tale of fatal attraction and dangerous liasons. A wealthy young heiress, famed for her virtue, is sought by a man wishing to seduce her and destroy her reputation. For the first time in his life he becomes genuinely infatuated with his prey, and sows the seeds of his own fate.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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