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Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady (Classics) Paperback – 29 Aug 1985
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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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Top customer reviews
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.
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!