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Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady (Classics) [Paperback]

Samuel Richardson , Angus Ross
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Aug 1985
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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1536 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (29 Aug 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140432159
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140432152
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 14.5 x 6.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 69,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Samuel Richardson (1689 - 1761) was born in Derbyshire, the son of a joiner. He received little formal education and in 1706 was apprenticed to a printer in London. Thirteen years later he set himself up as a stationer and printer and became of the leading figures in the trade. He printed political material, newspapers and literature. He began writing Pamela as a result of a suggestion from friends that he should compile a book of model letters for use by unskilled writers. Pamela was a great success and went on to write Clarissa, one of the masterpieces of European literature.

Angus Ross is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Sussex. He writes on eighteenth-century and other literature and has edited Swift as well as a number of anthologies.


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Once you've read this book, you can barely read anything written in England post-1750 without finding and feeling Richardson's influence. An English epic, a sometimes infuriatingly detailed exploration of men and women under pressure, a masterfully crafted depiction of bewilderment, betrayal, and the kind of religious ecstasy that's difficult to read. Don't miss Letter 246. Stay with this book, even if it takes you weeks (it took me 7)--it's well worth it, a one-of-a-kind reading experience.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
On first seeing this novel one is intially amazed at its length. This may be disconcerting at first, but it undoubtedly adds to the richness of the work;which is full of conflict, drama, beautifully written (and convincing dialogue)and of course well delineated characters. The characters are in fact so well delineated they eventually assume a life of their own, and seem to act out their roles almost independant of their creator. This is a splendid example of how effective the epistolary form could be, in moments of tension and inner conflict. Richardson probes his characters minds until the reader knows them inside out. A powerful and tragic work it deeply influenced succsessive authors well into the 19th century, and can still do so today
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish it were longer! 19 Jun 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What an epic novel. Thoroughly engrossing from the first letter of Anna Howe to Clarissa Harlowe until the conclusion penned by the reformed Jack Belford, I loved every minute of it. Even at the last couple of pages I had my heart in my mouth awaiting the outcome of a long awaited encounter between two of the characters. I feel quite satisfied at having seen this book through to its conclusion, and was rewarded duly. One of my best reads for a very long time. (Unabridged Penguin Classics Version)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it 30 Oct 2010
By Marcus
Format:Paperback
This edition is the complete unabridged text of the first edition, with a useful though short introduction and notes. The reviewers who complain about editing must be referring to a different edition.

This is a stunning book, on many levels. The four central characters are all depicted with deep empathy (though according to the introduction, this is less true of the later editions). Even Lovelace, who is in some ways a pantomime villain, is a fully three dimensional character. It feels almost as if Richardson created a masterpiece by mistake. His own views as expressed in the novel tend to be conservative, religiously puritanical and strict about what he thinks is woman's place. Yet the epistolary form forces him to give voices to his characters, and he allows all of them to be open and ingenuous in their writing, even when they are justifying actions that contradict Richardson's own moral stance. For example, Richardson the male chauvinist has ended up writing a feminist book. Coleridge describes Richardson as having "so very vile a mind, so oozy, so hypocritical, praise-mad, canting, envious, concupiscent!" yet acknowledges Clarissa to be a masterpiece.

Four fully rounded characters interact with each other almost entirely through the letters we are reading. One effect is to make the book very long, though Richardson is right that any abridgement would remove the soul from the book. It is because we are party to all the communication that we fully understand the characters and feel it so strongly when the action of the novel eventually starts to happen. There is incredible complexity in the way the misunderstandings and evasions of the letters dance around each other. Yet there is also profound emotional content.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I have to confess to reading this novel partly out of guilt, since I kept coming across references to it elsewhere. While I did enjoy it, it was largely this literary conscience that kept me going. It is indeed a superb novel, and you can read the other reviews to see why, but it is very slow and I think I'm not the only one who found it quite a slog, or got frustrated from time to time by Clarissa's unspeakable virtuousness (although her distraught state after the rape is portrayed most movingly).
As a comparison, read Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses, one of my favourite novels and one which makes one wonder why the epistolary form was abandoned. A beautifully structured, enthralling study of sexual intrigue in eighteenth-century France, it is far more exciting and the characterisation is extraordinary, exploring both good and vicious characters with great depth and achieving the rare feat of making characters at both ends of the scale human, realistic and sympathetic. One of the main differences, apart from the driven plot of Les Liaisons against the thoughtful consideration of what in Clarissa is, classically, basically an expansion of one incident, is that Laclos explored human depravity with such rigorous honesty and fascinated sympathy that he caused a great scandal and got himself banned; Richardson, on the other hand, always had an eye out for the moral lesson (he gives everyone their just deserts at the end in quite a scrupulous manner) and to my mind his portrayal of human nature is less believable, and certainly less interesting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality
No problems with the quality of the item. The corner of the back cover is ripped but it does not affect the reading quality so I'm not bothered by it.
Published on 30 July 2012 by Charmaine
5.0 out of 5 stars World Classic, Yes
This novel ought to be read by everyone, particularly by every girl reaching puberty and every woman who is still single. Read more
Published on 26 May 2011 by G. Charles Steiner
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarissa
I ordered this book for my daughter who's doing her PhD. She was very happy to receive it.
Published on 7 Feb 2009 by Mrs. Frances G. Chadwick
4.0 out of 5 stars Stick with it, it's worth it!
This copy is the abridged version but it is well worth reading the full text - if you don't enjoy it at least you can feel proud that you've read a book bigger than 'War and... Read more
Published on 30 Aug 2006 by J. Ormond
4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps inadvertent feminist classic
Well, I've just finished all 1499 pages of the unabridged version (ISBN 0-140-43215-9) based upon the first edition and not by any means the longest. Read more
Published on 4 Jan 2006 by J. I. De Beresford
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book - but don't you want the non abridged version
I just thought i'd point out to other buyers that the edition shown here is not in fact the whole book - it's abridged which i don't think is made clear. Read more
Published on 9 April 2005
5.0 out of 5 stars A perceptive account of a young girl's unwilling corruption
This is a stupendous book, both in size and in scope.Richardson is a master of the epistolary genre, and readers have been uneasily navigating Clarissa's self-perpetuated... Read more
Published on 23 Dec 1998
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