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Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady (Classics) Paperback – 29 Aug 1985

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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: 14.5 x 6.1 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 147,626 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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I am extremely concerned, my dearest friend, for the disturbances that have happened in your family. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Mar. 1999
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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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Feb. 1999
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Great Scot on 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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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Klytemnestra on 16 Aug. 2000
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT on 26 May 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This novel ought to be read by everyone, particularly by every girl reaching puberty and every woman who is still single. This novel is a playbook on the many tricks an unscrupulous man uses to use and dump a woman. This novel also ought to be read by any young male teenager or single male who thinks his play-ah techniques are new, unique, and will lead him to be a bigger play-ah in the world scene. This novel is a masterful moral tale that the world still needs to read, particularly when you read of women in non-U.S. countries being killed for having been raped. Clarissa, the protagonist in the novel, is more than a survivor of rape.

This is also a great Christian novel that clearly depicts the lines of good and evil on an earthly and metaphysical scale. Whereas Clarissa starts out in life as a completely innocent but starchy and stuffy Christian, she grows throughout her trials in the novel, if not into an admirable woman in the end with the finest and firmest bonds to Christianity ever depicted in literature, then into a woman who becomes transfigured before the readers' eyes into a saint. The novel also shows what an earthly face of Satan might look like.

This novel requires patience. It builds its drama very slowly. It took me two and a half months to get through it, but I was completely satisfied in the end and want to reread it. Jonathan Franzen has nothing over Samuel Richardson.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. I. De Beresford VINE VOICE on 4 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
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. The fact that I've finished it attests partly to its quality, partly to my vanity. For me, it is pleasant to see how conscious the Georgians were of the unfairness (as we would see of it) of the marriage articles and the treatment of women by men generally. I can't really be sure exactly where Richardson stood but in the character of Anne Howe you have have a very plain speaking and intelligent feminist, surely... albeit that the author has her marry a man she doesn't fancy, apparently against her inclination. Indeed, one of the novel's many problems is it's improbabilities. I personally think that the characterisation of Lovelace is quite crude, the novel suffers from a lack of humour, the heroine dies of we know not quite what..On the other hand, the novel is still a major narrative achievement that makes good use of its length to render an often more realistic portrayal of life in many details. For anyone genuinely interested in reading the "classics" this is one that perhaps shouldn't be too far down the list. And in the first third of the book I simply couldn't help but be amused by the comic barbarity of the parents. Their unreasonableness in contrast to their beforehand reasonableness to her is another glaring inconsistency but it doesn't spoil the novel.
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