Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, a Reading Journal

I have the extremely odd habit of saving drafts in the most random places, and so, I just stumbled upon this Clarissa reading journal that I wrote way back in 2007. I have to published it because it’s just so odd (it was, it seem, an assignment for school that I took really seriously), it’s in the same epistolary style, and because I’m so amused that I wrote it an forgot about it again. It seems to function as a sort of diary of my Clarissa reading experience, and if you have ever read the novel, I’m sure you understand why such a step is necessary. I hope you enjoy.

Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa Harlowe, by Francis Hayman
Week 1

Letter 1: Miss Pamela Coovert to Self at Future Date
4 September 2007

I’ve read through the Introduction to Clarissa and I can’t help but be a little worried, the Introduction is, theoretically, written by someone very fond of the book, but even their glowing terms can’t seem to mask what appears to be a staggering behemoth of a novel. I have unofficially assigned it tome status, which I like to give books more than 100 pages larger than a nice, round thousand. Apparently, every time Samuel Richardson went to edit it down he – in an act that makes it obvious that he was his own publisher – added to the book. Happily it seems that we are dealing with the first edition, which, it seems, is the smallest version. Also, the Introduction amusingly notes all of the far better known writers to slam the book (and Richardson in general) as time goes by, specifically, S. T. Coleridge. Still, Dr. Runge assures us that we are lucky to be among the few classes of graduate students who will ever get through the authentic version of this book; perhaps my pride would be more awakened at this thought were we reading James Joyce, at least then, at the end of the novel, I’d feel cool.

Continue reading

Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady

Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady Samuel Richardson’s 1748 Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady is just a diffacult thing to write about, it’s one of the longest novels in the English language, for one, but the plot is remarkably simple. How I managed to get through it I’m not even sure, I read 150 pages a week (they’re double pages, mind you) for 10 weeks and every week I was amazed that I had done it again. At some points I hated it, at some points I hated Richardson, but at some points I loved it, perhaps I fell prey to a sort of literary Stockholm Syndrome. The huge book came with me everywhere I went, including New York, and it suffered a heavy beating in the process. Needless to say, had I not taken an 18th century novel class with a particularly optimistic professor I doubt I would have ever read the thing, but having done it, I have no regrets, since that’s not my bag.

Continue reading