This month we embarked on a yearlong project to read Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. The epistolary novel, published in 1748 and purported to be one of the longest novels in the English language, contains 537 letters written over the course of a year. The goal is to read the letters around their corresponding dates and discuss our progress at the end of each month. Terri and I will alternate monthly hosting duties.
Visit Tip of the Iceberg to leave your link and find collected January posts.
There are six letters written in January - all between Clarissa Harlowe and her dearest friend, Anna Howe. The first correspondence, initiated by Miss Howe, expresses concern for her friend over a recent incident that has wreaked havoc within the Harlowe family and incited public discussion. Miss Howe asks for a complete account of events from her friend's perspective. Clarissa obliges with a series of five letters.
Mr. Lovelace is presented to the Harlowe family as a suitor for Arabella, the elder daughter, but appears to show no real interest in her. He even takes her "consenting negative" as a final rebuff. Within a couple of weeks, his attention shifts to Clarissa. While Mr. Harlowe does nothing to discourage the match, Clarissa's older brother, James, arrives from Scotland and voices an intense dislike of Lovelace. He holds a grudge dating back to school days and has threatened to disown Clarissa if she marries Lovelace. Meanwhile, rumors of Lovelace's "faulty morals" abound. Clarissa claims she will not allow a relationship to divide her family.
Tensions escalate until James and Lovelace end up in a sword fight, with James sustaining a nonfatal injury. He will recover fully, but cannot rest until Clarissa is safely married. James bullies his father into discouraging Lovelace's advances. It is decided to send Clarissa to Miss Howe for a visit.
from Clarissa's final letter to Miss Howe:
"Will you engage, my dear, that the hated man shall not come near your house? - but what an inconsistence is this, when they consent to my going, thinking his visits here no otherwise to be avoided! But if he does come I charge you never leave us alone together."Thoughts and Impressions:
Although I'm still getting used to the language, Clarissa is much more readable than I expected. Starting with just six letters in the first month has been a nice way to ease into our project. The stage is now set... I'm anxious to see where things go from here.
Can Lovelace really be as bad as James thinks? And what about Clarissa? Will she abide by her family's wishes, or do I sense a streak of independence... and possibly deception?
The most important development this month was on a personal level. After reading these first six letters, it became obvious that my huge paperback poses a problem. Not only is it cumbersome, but the print is very small. To top it all off, I realized the pages are yellowing.
I took my Christmas gift certificates to Barnes & Noble and purchased a NOOK Simple Touch. I can't wait to read February's letters now!