Monday, January 30, 2012

Clarissa in January

JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing and Terri @ Tip of the Iceberg are hosting a year long group read of Clarissa by Samuel Richardson.
Clarissa is an epistolary novel composed of 537 letters dated from January 10th through to December 18th. The plan is to read the letters around their corresponding dates.   



 Clarissa,
or,
The History of
a
Young Lady :


Comprehending The Most Important Concerns of Private Life. And particularly showing, The Distresses that may attend the Misconduct Both of Parents and Children , in Relation to Marriage.

A very long title for a very long book (1500 pages). I began reading on January 10th with the expectation that its length combined with the 18th century language style and its tendency towards wordiness would mean a slow start and I would need some patience through the early pages. I was in for a surprise!
The first letter is written by Miss Anne Howe to her dear friend Clarissa Harlowe and begins.....
"I am extremely concerned, my dearest friend, for the disturbance that have happened in your family. I know how it must hurt you to become the subject of the public talk:.............I long to have the particulars from yourself. "
From the opening sentences the reader is thrust into the midst of a family drama that has become the subject of gossip and scandal. What Anne knows is what she has heard secondhand and she wants the true facts from her friend so she can defend her honestly. This letter leaves one in the same state of anticipation.....and having to wait three days before reading Clarissa's response.

The other five letters for January are all written by Clarissa to Anne over a period of a week and are really one long and very detailed account of the events which began at the time Robert Lovelace was introduced as a suitor to her sister, Arabella, leading to the confrontation between Lovelace and Clarissa's brother and poor Clarissa becoming the scapegoat and out of favour with her family. 

Clarissa is seen by others as a natural beauty and a 'paragon of virtue' but her letters reveal she is also young woman who is intelligent, well-read and with a sharp wit. In the intimacy of close friendship she doesn't hesitate to say exactly what she thinks about her parents and siblings and their behaviour. In her final letter she has been granted permission to accept an invitation to spend a few days staying with Anne. Which means no more correspondence until she returns and we must wait patiently until Feb 20! 

It does take some self-discipline to not read ahead so instead I reread each letter several times. I'm enjoying this because it helps in becoming used to the different language flow, I can check unfamiliar words in the dictionary and then focus on the story. One of my favourite parts is Clarissa's account of the 'courtship' between Lovelace and Arabella - it's very, very funny. 

A Quote I Liked: 
" Such a profound respect he seemed to shew her! A perfect reverence, she (Arabella) thought: she loved dearly that a man in courtship would shew a reverence to his mistress -- So indeed we all do, I believe: and with reason; since, if I may judge from what I have seen in many families, there is little enough of it shewn afterwards."  
Very entertaining and looking forward to more!


18 comments:

  1. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying this! I am tackling this one in the month of April, so it is good to see that those of you participating in the long readalong are having fun with it. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. I am enjoying it, Allie, and I'm sure you'll love it too. Glad I have a long time to read it though.

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oooh, so tempting to join in -- I've long wanted to read this one and there's something charming/interesting about reading it as a correspondence -- having to wait for responses, etc!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you'll join us, Audra. I doubt I'd ever have got around to reading it without a group read.

      Delete
    2. I think I'm going to dive in with the Feb letter -- the idea is too cool. I just need to remember to get it now...

      Delete
    3. It wouldn't take long to read the Jan letters - there's only six. Look forward to you joining us.

      Delete
  4. Oh, I loved the quote you shared! This month's letters have been surprisingly readable, and Arabella's 'courtship' provided some very funny moments. The family dynamics has proved very interesting, too. It's too bad we have weeks to wait for the next letter... I can't wait to get to know these people a little bit better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a lesson in patience having to wait so long! I agree - surpisingly readable.

      Delete
  5. Does your version have a letter for Feb 13? Mine is supposed to be unabridged and the next letter is Feb. 20. I hope I have the complete version! I'm glad you're enjoying it so far.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah! No it doesn't - my mistake which I've corrected and it means an even longer wait! Thanks for pointing it out.

      Delete
  6. I found it surprisingly easy to get into this story too. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens at Anne's house!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can't read it as you are, I'm too hooked on, how is it - reading in real time? Will you read the later letters corresponding to their times? (E.g, 4pm, 7pm...etc)

    I am very much enjoying how the personal Clarissa is such a fully fleshed, detailed and independent minded person, compared to the rather bland virtuous maiden she could have been (and others see her as).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm trying to stay with the original reading plan but these long waits are difficult. No way would I attempt corresponding times as well.

      Delete
  8. I absolutely loved Clarissa's duality: the juxtaposition of her "perfect" self and her admissions of her real frustrations. I found myself hoping that Miss Howe wouldn't betray her! Looking forward to your further thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
  9. It sounds like you've been very disciplined in reading the letters on the actual days. I'm going to try to do that for February. Too many book clubs/group reads for me in January and I ended up reading them all the last couple of days in January.
    Here depiction of Arabella is so humorous and so very sister-like!

    ReplyDelete