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Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 4, 1986

ISBN-13: 978-0140432152 ISBN-10: 0140432159 Edition: Reprint
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson, published in 1747-48. Richardson first presents the heroine, Clarissa Harlowe, when she is discovering the barely masked motives of her family, who want to force her into a loveless marriage to improve their fortunes. When Lovelace, a romantic who holds the code of the Harlowes in contempt, offers her protection, she runs off with him. She is physically attracted by if not actually in love with Lovelace, but she is to discover that he wants her only on his own terms and she refuses to marry him. In Lovelace's letters to his friend Belford, Richardson shows that what is driving him to conquest and finally to rape is really revenge for her family's insults and his sense of Clarissa's moral superiority. For Clarissa, however, accepting marriage as a convenience is no better than accepting the opportunistic moral code of her family. As the novel comes to its long-drawn-out close, she is removed from the world of both the Harlowes and the Lovelaces, and she dies true to herself to the end. -- The Merriam-Webster Encylopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 1534 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (February 4, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140432159
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140432152
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 2.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 120 people found the following review helpful By mp on September 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
Samuel Richardson's massive 1747-8 novel, "Clarissa," is not only the longest novel I've ever read, but one of the best and most complex. Much like Richardson's first novel, "Pamela," "Clarissa" deals with the torments of a virtuous young lady abducted by a rake/libertine (in modern parlance, a rapist) who submits the heroine to a series of trials. Unlike Pamela, a lower class maiden, Clarissa is a member of an established and wealthy family. This change in social situation allows Richardson to explore a host of new issues, with the primary goal of moral didacticism remaining intact between the two.
Clarissa Harlowe, the most beautiful and exemplary of her sex, is being imposed upon by her implacable family to marry one Mr. Solmes, a man of no mean fortune, but whose ethics, especially with regard to his own family, are suspect. Simultaneously, Clarissa's sister, Arabella, has just rejected a proposal from one Robert Lovelace, the heir of a nobleman, educated and refined, but known for his libertinism - his tendency and enjoyment of seducing young women and then abandoning them. Lovelace falls in love, or in lust, with Clarissa, and after he and Clarissa's brother James, heir to the Harlowe fortune, engage in a near fatal duel, Clarissa's continued correspondence with Lovelace becomes a major thorn in the side of the Harlowes' plans for Clarissa. The Harlowes continue to urge the addresses of Mr. Solmes while vilifying Lovelace - Clarissa not approving of either - and when her family's insitence becomes insupportable to Clarissa, the utterly demonic Lovelace takes advantage, whisking her away from a seemingly inevitable union with Solmes.
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87 of 93 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
The UNABRIDGED Clarissa (Penguin ed.) is a powerful, moving eighteenth-century English masterpiece, the first great psychological novel. Its length may seem daunting and it does take at least six weeks to read, but you will be rewarded by finding yourself immersed in the minds of Clarissa and Lovelace. You will feel as though you are living in their world, facing their moral dilemmas, deciding on courses of action, predicting consequences. However, if you accidentally pick up the Sherburn ABRIDGEMENT of Clarissa, you will NOT be able to savor Richardson's famous "writing to the moment." If you doubt me, take a look at Mary Anne Doody and Florian Stuber's article, "Clarissa Censored," in the journal Modern Language Studies (1988). The abridgement is a travesty of Richardson's greatest novel.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7, 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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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Dick Johnson VINE VOICE on July 6, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a group of despicable characters! By page 500, I was hoping every character would be put to the rack. By page 1000, I was hoping for a mass hanging. By page 1500, I was willing to grant clemency to a few.

Dozens of times I nearly relegated this book to the pile of books to be sent to an enemy - BUT - each time would pick it up again because I had to know if my hopes would be realized.

Should you read Clarissa? By all means; if for no other reason than to serve as penance for all past sins of omission or commission wreaked on others.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
...you'll probably appreciate (and perhaps even enjoy)this novel. As other reviewers have noted, it is impossible to read many novels post-1750 without acknowledging the impact that Richardson's novel has had on English literature.
It should be noted that the abridged version is indeed unacceptable for the simple reason that it attempts to purge letters or portions of letters that do not "advance" the plot. Clarissa is not at all about "plot", and if you read it for that purpose you will probably give up long before the conclusion of its 1,500 pages. (I think Samuel Johnson had something to say about that, too...). The unabridged version allows you to form a more nuanced view of many of the characters (including Clarissa herself). If you read the abridged version, prepare to be disappointed at the one-dimensional characterizations.
The (unabridged) novel is, aside from its literary significance, good but not great. If it was a 300 or 400 page novel, I would absolutely encourage people to read the novel. Since it is 1500 pages in length, however, it is really not worth the time that is required to plod through it. If you ARE an English student, by all means spend a summer reading the unabridged version. (You'll probably end up having to read it for class, anyway...I did). For everyone, else, though the unabridged version is just not worth the time, and the abridged version is a poor subsitute.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jasia Mouline on April 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Oh Clarissa, Clarissa, Clarissa...where to begin. Besides pointing out the great length of this work, it would be wise to say that if you're looking for a quick, fast-moving read, choose something else right now! It has been said by various literary critics that one must read Clarissa for the sentiment, not the story. I read it because I liked Pamela (Richardson's first major work) and truthfully, because I had the time to do so. Though perhaps many readers would wish for a truncated version of the book ,I found the length of the book to be in harmony with the style it is written in. Though Richardson tries at various times to clip a few letters for the sake of not irritating the reader, the letters themselves act as a mode of insight into the character's personalities and foibles. Each character's identity becomes discernable throughout the epistolary, adding a much richer and mellifluous effect for the reader.
Though the story deals with the ideologies of 18th century English society, the story delves deeper into a moral scheme where intentions rather than effects are the primary focus. Richardson takes his readers, through the character of Lovelace, into a tricky labyrinth of multi-varied designs. Lovelace, usually thought of as a villian, portrays the yearning that this society secretly engaged in behind closed doors, but shuddered to even consider in the public eye. Lovelace, all polite manners and graces on the surface, is seething with disquiet in his angst driven soul. All is topsy-turvy in reality and he barely can contian himself. Clarissa, his foil, is the ultimate ideal in every expressible way...ie...in terms of her character, person, soul. Of course in reality the ideal never exists, and as such Clarissa, "the earthly angel" makes haste to the otherworld, where she unfortunately, belongs.
If you're looking for a happier (and much shorter) version of pretty much the same story, read Pamela.
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