Thursday, May 31, 2012

Clarissa: May Progress Notes

Terri and I are co-hosting a yearlong group read of Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. Links to May update posts are being collected here.

Have we really been reading Clarissa for five months? As you might have guessed, I'm still lagging behind schedule. Around mid-month I set a goal of finishing the April letters by the end of May but, despite a strong last minute push, fell short of success and only made it to L130. With 85 June letters (282 pages) added to the 57 May letters (160 pages), it's safe to assume I won't be catching up next month either.

My feelings about Clarissa can be summed up in a single word - neutral.
I generally enjoy reading the book, but never mind putting it aside either. There was a single "just let me read one more letter" period during the high family drama at Harlowe place, but since then I haven't exactly looked forward to my evening letter-reading.

Some random observations:
Richardson could have used a good editor.
My sympathy for Clarissa increases as her situation worsens.
It seems odd that Clarissa refers to her family as her 'friends'.
I'm glad I live in the 21st century.
The letters are slowly revealing Lovelace's character... not to his advantage.

Lovelace's entire discussion of virtue in letter 110 is very enlightening.
"For is not a wife the keeper of a man's honour? And do not her faults bring more disgrace upon a husband than even upon herself."
"Virtue then is less to be dispensed with in the woman than in the man."
"And now, if I have not found a virtue that cannot be corrupted, I will swear that there is not one such in the whole sex. Is not then the whole sex concerned that this trial should be made? -and who is it that knows her, that would not stake upon her head the honour of the whole? -Let her who would refuse it, come forth and desire to stand in her place."
Lovelace to John Belford, L117
"Poor Hickman! I pity him for the prospect he has with such a virago! -But the fellow's a fool, God wot! And now I think of it, it is absolutely necessary for complete happiness in the married state, that one should be a fool..."
Now back to reading...


  1. I try to keep in mind that when these books were wrote there wasn't a lot of things to do for entertainment so writing a book that took forever to get through. I'm sorry though to hear that your feelings on this one are neutral so far. 5 months is a long time to invest in reading!

    1. Staci - I'm pretty sure this will never be a favorite, but it will be nice to say I read it. Who knows, maybe it will get better...

  2. I think maybe your tolerance reading for his writing go up while reading it. I struggled through some earlier months but enjoyed it in May. And yeah, I wondered about the use of the word friends for her family too - seems a bit weird. Still - you have some funny letters to look forward to in May - at least two funny ones ...!

    1. Christina - I certainly hope so! I'll put Clarissa aside for a week or so now, but will look forward to some humor in May.

  3. I think you'll find you'll move faster through May which I enjoyed far more than the previous two months. More variety of letter writers and many between Lovelace & Belford which held my interest.
    Neutral probably describes how I feel too.

    1. Cat - I'm glad to hear that... am especially interested in more of Lovelace and Belford's communication.

  4. I agree with some of the others, May is a bit easier. And I think it's building to something big happening in June (at least I'm hoping!).

  5. Lindsey Sparks - I'll keep my fingers crossed, too ;-)


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