Clarissa in April

Even though the April letters have been much more enjoyable than the ones in March, I’m having a hard time balancing Clarissa and the other novels I read. I somewhat like Clarissa – for the most part – but it’s not like I’m dying to pick it up again when I put it down. I still think it’s way too long. And repetitive.

But with that being said, April started with a bang. Well, not right away. It starts out with Clarissa still sitting in her chamber, trying to avoid being married off to Mr. Solmes. She has agreed to meet him and her entire family thinks that’s her first step to accepting him. When she meets him, her family leaves the room so she can be alone with him.She tells him off really harshly and when her uncle Anthony comes into the room, she begs him to be free of the marriage. He tells her, that the more she opposes it, the worse it shall be for her. She replies that she will suffer the cruelest death rather than be miserable for life but her uncle doesn’t care and tells her she will be married within a week. Her brother enters and prevent her from leaving and tells Solmes to keep persisting because after two or three more struggles, she will be his. As Clarissa rightly points out about Solmes and why she now wants to marry him even less, ‘/…/ for he that can see a person he pretends to value, thus treated, and approve of it, must be capable of treating her thus himself.’ (loc 8968-73).

Things escalate from here and even though Solmes says he will give her up, her father insists that they shall marry and then her siblings support him. Of course. She argues with her brother and uncle and Solmes intervenes. Clarissa thinks it was designed so to make her see him in a better light. Still, her father is so angry he wants her to leave immediately without packing. Her room is searched and when they doesn’t find anything, she’s allowed to stay a little longer. But when she leaves, she will no longer be allowed pen and paper – and thus, she will be completely without options.

Clarissa is desperately trying to find a way out of the marriage and the whole situation. Lovelace has let her family know that if they force her to go to her uncle’s, he will stop them. To avoid that, they want to have the marriage in her chambers. Her family prepares for the wedding and doesn’t care if she’s ill – they think she fakes it. Uncle Anthony visits Anna Howe’s mother to ensure that they don’t interfere – and don’t allow Anna to help Clarissa. Leaving her without any other options than Lovelace.

So she’s corresponding with Lovelace, arranging to go live with his aunt – or at least, just leave. Lovelace tells her that all he wants, is to free her and she trusts him. They agree on an escape plan but then, Clarissa has second thoughts. She writes a letter to cancel – he doesn’t pick it up, though, so she’s forced to meet with him to tell him in person. However, when she meets him, she goes off with him, tricked by the clever Lovelace. (Finally some action!)

So now, Clarissa is on the run. Lovelace stays close because he clames to be afraid of what her family will do to get her back. He offers to get her old maid back but knows she’s sick and can’t come. He goes to Windsor to look at lodgings for her or so he says but in reality, he doesn’t. There’s a sinister reason for every nice suggestion he makes. He plays her all the time. Even though he at times seem to have second thoughts and seems to really care about her, he is trying to test her virtue and always scheming. ‘If I can have her without [marriage], who can blame me for trying?’ (12676-82) It’s really interesting to see their letters detailing the same conversations, Clarissa always trying to find out if she can trust him and Lovelace constantly being one step ahead, planning mischief. They’re trying to outsmart each other and are two wills battling it out. And he’s not only playing her. He’s still playing her entire family, making her brother intend to kidnap her back and getting uncle Anthony to go to Anna Howe’s home and make sure there’s no help for Clarissa from that source.

Still, he asks her to marry him and eventually, she accepts. But even though they’re not married, he gives that impression in their new lodgings in London – lodgings, she thinks she chose but which in reality he chose and with people running it, that he knows and pays. He wants to trap her pretending to be his wife in front of witnesses. She’s mad at him for this but he persuades her.

Lovelace is really starting to show his true colors. So much in fact, that his friend is urging him to treat Clarissa well. I really like his bigger involvement in the story. He is the master schemer and it really shows now.

So – the letters in this months saw a huge change. Clarissa escaped her home and is now entirely in the clutches of Lovelace. She’s at his mercy. Things can still go either way. She has not played all her cards but she is running out of options. April consisted of the letters from 73 to 160 so there was a lot of reading to do and at times, it was riveting and exciting and really enjoyable. But I’m having trouble picking up the book. I enjoy it while reading it but when I put it down, I don’t feel like picking it back up.

This is a story of a sheltered woman who has always been pampered and have had everyone catering to her every need. Now, she’s suddenly on her own, experiencing real life for the first time, struggling with the biggest player of her time. She’s eloped and has left her family. Thrilling stuff, right? No … not really. I don’t know how Richardson did it but he made all this so so so very boring. If this novel had been only half as long, it would have definitely improved it. I know he tries to show how few choices Clarissa had and by having her write letter after letter, he wants to underline her anguish of not being able to both please her family and her heart even though she desperately tries to find another option. So yes, I get what he wants to do – but he could have done it in a lot fewer pages.

Finally, yes, I know that I’m so very late with this post but after finally finishing the April letters, I had to pluck up my courage to actually write about it. But here it is. Now, halfway through May, I still have to start reading the letters from this month …

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4 thoughts on “Clarissa in April

  1. Your first paragraph describes my experience with Clarissa, too! I’m still not finished with the April letters (haven’t picked it up in over a week now), so I didn’t read your post very closely. Wonder if I can finish those April letters by the end of May?

    • I haven’t picked it up in almost two weeks … I don’t think I’m going to pick it up again until I’ve finished ‘Dragonfly in Amber’. I’m crossing my fingers and hopping you can finish April letters in the next two weeks – and that I can get started on May’s!

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