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4.4 out of 5 stars19
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 7 March 1999
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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on 21 February 1999
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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on 19 June 2007
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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on 16 August 2000
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. Clarissa would have been far more likeable for a few faults (even Melanie in Gone with the Wind makes a sarcastic comment once), and the interaction with Lovelace would perhaps, I feel, have been deeper and more tragic if she had lowered her standards and communicated with him more.
Clarissa is a densely woven, lovingly detailed novel with a plot that can be summed up in one sentence, and I think that whether it appeals to you depends very much on whether or not this is to your taste. I certainly found it of great interest in relation to other literature and will no doubt dip into it again, but I couldn't face a re-read. One problem with boasting about having finished it is that even though it was much harder work than War and Peace (and twice as long), most people won't have heard of it!
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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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on 22 October 2015
Be aware that this is NOT the Penguin edition by Angus Ross - it appears to be some knock-off facsimile of an old out of print edition. It has spelling errors, is missing a lot of the important features of the text (italics etc.), has no notes, and worst of all appears to be only half the book (at 800ish pages). Given that Richardson revised the novel extensively in his lifetime (most people agree for the worse - the Penguin edition is based on the first published version) you'll want to make sure you know which version you're reading - this gives no indication.
Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a proper edition of Clarissa available on Amazon at the moment, so if you want to read this masterpiece (and you should) on your Kindle then your options are to either get one of the free open source editions that are available, wait until Penguin sort their act out or resort to the dubious legality of trying to convert an eBook bought elsewhere (the proper edition is available on Google Play for one - just saying). Whatever you decide don't waste your money on this.
Bit disappointing that Amazon allow this kind of scam false advertising on their platform to be honest.
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VINE VOICEon 4 January 2006
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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on 30 October 2010
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. I can think of no other novel where characters are introduced so sensitively and yet the action is so harrowing. Maybe Richardson needed to have a "vile mind" to be able to write such a moral sledgehammer of a book without breaking under the strain.

This is one of the most important novels in the English language. You do not have to be a student of literature to appreciate it. Buy it. Buy this edition, in fact.
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on 9 April 2005
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. i only found out when i ordered it having read a library copy of the non abridged version which i can't recommend enough!
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on 9 January 2016
Reputedly the longest novel written in English, I suspect that this eighteenth-century novel is now little read outside of those studying for an Eng Lit degree. And yet that is a pity, as certainly in the first part (volumes 1-6) the tension is built up grippingly as the Bullingdon-type rake Lovelace plots and tricks to lead the angelic nineteen-year-old Clarissa Harlowe to a fate worse than death. The story is told entirely by letters from each of the main characters, allowing the reader to look into their minds and to see the story unfold to each of them without the need for an omniscient narrator.
The second half of the novel may be a little sanctimonious for modern tastes and the eponymous heroine rather too perfect for credulity. Not many of us outside of religious sects believe in virtue rewarded in life after death. But it is still affecting nonetheless.
Being pre-Victorian, the novel is sexually open, but this is no bawdy romp like Tom Jones. I found it on the whole an enjoyable read.
I bought the Penguin version of the Kindle edition in the hope that paying a little extra would mean fewer typographical errors. Not having read the cheaper editions, I can't say whether this was the case, but there certainly were more typos than would be countenanced in a paper version. This seems to be a problem with the out-of-copyright classics that are available either free or at a low price on Kindle. I fail to see why we should not have the benefit of reasonable proof-reading for eBooks. Amazon need to improve on this. I recall that also the edition promised real page numbers. However, the page numbers gave out at page 853, a little over halfway through the book. Was the thinking that no-one would make it past there? Slipshod.
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