Clarissa in September

Well, September is the last month with a lot of letters. 65 letters. About five things happens in this book – and one of these is in this month. As with all readalong posts, there will be spoilers below.

As she was in August, Clarissa is preparing to die. She’s very ill and just gets more and more ill as the days pass. Her coffin is ordered and has arrived to her room. She has written and signed her will and is spending her time, preparing mentally for death and finds herself blessed with a gradual, sensible dead. She wishes to see no one from her family, not even mrs. Norton.

Lovelace is still Lovelace. He thinks Clarissa has triumphed more over him than she has suffered from him and calls everything that has passed between them a jest. Even though he still don’t believe that she’s that ill – or at least hopes it’s a plot to punish him – he dares not visit her for fear it will kill her. His friend Belford asks her to let Lovelace visit her so she can personally forgive him but she refuses. Which is a good thing, since Lovelace never learns. Even late, late in the novel, he only thinks himself guilty of a common theft…!

Meanwhile, in Clarissa’s family, Cousin Morden is furious with them, especially her brother. He is determined to not stay under the same roof as any in her family and he wants to make her his heir – if she lives.

But all the hopes of Lovelace, all the efforts from cousin Morden, all the non-believing from Clarissa’s family don’t matter. Clarissa was seriously ill and so, she dies. As usual in this book, when something exciting happens, you are not told directly or in very many details at first. You have to read on for that.

After her death, letters come from both mrs. Norton and Clarissa’s sister. Mrs Norton tells her that the entire family is now in her favor and that they have no conditions for seeing her anymore and even her sister’s letter is very kind. However – it’s too late. Clarissa herself leaves letters for her entire family and friends – and even Lovelace. Her letters are meant to give comfort and are filled with love. She begs both her brother and her cousin Morden to not do anything about Lovelace – she doesn’t want her fault to be continued after her death. And then she asks them to rejoice with her since she’s in a better place, she’s happy.

Lovelace on the other hand is devastated. He’s almost insane with grief and writes one letter where he wants her embalmed and wants to keep her heart in spirits where he always can see it. Because he considers himself her husband, he wants to take care of everything and wants to interpret her will as he sees fit. Her family too wants Belford to step down as executors but he resists and carries through everything in her will to the letter – which is a good thing since her siblings have some issues with the will. But finally, her parents step up and overrules her brother so they do their part in getting her will carried out exactly as she wanted.

Even her brother has regrets now: ‘I meant nothing but the honour of the family; yet have I all the weight thrown upon me.’ (41340-47)

Cousin Morden takes her coffin home and makes sure she’s buried as she wanted to be, by the foot of her grandfather’s coffin. Her brother swears revenge on her dead hand and Anna comes to see Clarissa one last time.

Clarissa’s posthumous letter to Lovelace is written with the intent to save her soul and right after her death, Lovelace is devastated. He recovers quickly, though, and soon, he hopes to be what he was ‘/…/ once more the plague of a sex that has been my plague and will be every man’s plague, at one time or other of his life.’ (42908-15)

Even though I have enjoyed this book more in this second half, it still has major faults. Now, I’m not going to comment at this point on the goodness of Clarissa and the evilness of Lovelace – both being total with no shades of grey – I just want to mention the lack of editing and a sense of what to include and what to omit on Richardson’s part. He writes Clarissa’s entire will – and she has thought of everything. It just gets sooooooooo boring to read on and on and on what she wants to give to whom and why. The true shortcoming of this novel is simply put that everything takes too long. Every letter is too long, every thing that has happened is penned out in so many details that even the exciting things gets less so.

“And thus died Miss CLARISSA HARLOWE, in the blossom of her youth and beauty: and who, her tender years considered, has not left behind her her superior in extensive knowledge, and watchful prudence; nor hardly her equal for unblemished virtue, exemplary piety, sweetness of manners, discreet generosity, and true Christian charity: and these all set off by the most graceful modesty and humility; yet on all proper occasions manifesting a noble presence of mind and true magnanimity: so that she may be said to have been not only an ornament to her sex, but to human nature.” (40837-42)

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Clarissa in August

Well, I didn’t read any Clarissa in August which means that I had to read a lot in September instead. I’m starting to run out of intelligent new things to say – maybe I have been for a couple of months. It’s still long, it’s still repetitive (although not as much as in the first half), I still like it when I’ reading it but it’s a chore to pick it up. And so on and on, month after month. I’m nearing the end now and I’m looking forward to being finished. Especially after Lindsey Sparks, another participant in this read-along, finished it. (Read her take on it here.)

But let’s return to the task at hand. Let’s see what Clarissa was up to in August. In August, we have letters 382-456. All in all, Clarissa consists of 537 letters so I’m getting very close to the end!

Despite everything that has happened so far, Lovelace still wants Clarissa. Even if she is to die shortly, she shall die a Lovelace if he has anything to say about it. His family still pleads for Clarissa to marry him and to save his soul. However, Clarissa will not sanctify his wickedness by vowing at the altar, no matter who argues in his favor.

While Lovelace’s family are extremely kind to Clarissa and wish to include her in the family, her own family is still rather harsh. Not only do they send a young foolish man (who believes himself a very intelligent intellectual and flaunts it at all occasions) to spy on her, they also write her very harsh letters, asking her if she’s pregnant. A question, Clarissa doesn’t want to answer. The pregnancy rumor is started by this silly young man because he finds Clarissa ill and staying in bed… – a nice comment on how gossip begins! This rumor actually makes Clarissa’s family suggest that she leaves the country to go to a plantation in Pennsylvania.

Lovelace has still not learned. He wants Clarissa – and if he can’t have her, he considers molesting her or her friend, Anna Howe. Despite promising to stay away, he comes to visit her. Clarissa, however, has been warned by Belford and has left her lodgings. Lovelace still schemes, trying to get Clarissa’s landlords to like him so they will talk him up and let him in to visit her.

Clarissa gets some of Lovelace’s letters from Mr. Belford and despite liking the way, he portrays her, she still finds more satisfaction in the hope that she will be dead within a month than she does in thinking about all the pleasant things that will come from a marriage to Lovelace. She makes Belford her executor as well as the protector of her memory and seeing how well Lovelace writes about her, she decides not to write her own story, deciding to use her last time more useful in preparing for death.

She still wishes to be forgiven by her parents but it becomes less and less important to her for her own sake and more important to her for their sake. She doesn’t want to be visited by her family because their grief would disturb her too much. She is at peace with dying.

It is clear that she is becoming more and more ill by the amount of letters she writes. Most of the story in this month is told by Belford and Lovelace with a few letters between Mrs. Norton, Clarissa’s family, Anna Howe and Clarissa. She is even given last sacrament at one point. And has ordered her own coffin – and has it brought to her room!

It is very clear that she has no intention of seeing Lovelace before she dies. However, in a very cleverly written letter she gives Lovelace the impression that she will be reconciled with her father and go to his house soon and when there, she will meet Lovelace. This gets him out of town, happily so. For a brief moment, the reader thinks she has been tainted enough by Lovelace to start lying – but of course, the ever noble Clarissa could do no such thing. Lovelace is shocked that Clarissa might have lied to him – he thinks it very wrong for good people to break their word and finds it as bad as his attempts against her! And he definitely doesn’t want to be made to look a fool in front of his family to whom he has bragged about his soon reunion with Clarissa.

One thing that is really, really annoying me is that it seems like the publishers of my (kindle) edition didn’t think anyone would read this far. It seems like they’ve stopped editing the thing and the text is so full of mistakes. Names are spelled (very) wrong, there are suddenly numbers in the text instead of words – and it’s just so enervating to read something so full of errors!

All in all, not a month with a lot of things happening. Clarissa is declining rapidly throughout the month, Lovelace still wants her and is scheming to get her and Belford is becoming more and more in awe of her. Richardson’s writing is still too long and repetitive – for instance, the entire scene with Belford attending to his friend Belton’s death bed could have been shortened dramatically – or even cut.

Something big will come in September – and then, the book is almost over.

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Clarissa in June

June has been rather thrilling, at least for Clarissa. Or well, as thrilling as Clarissa ever gets. Much has been said by me about Clarissa and the struggle it is to finish it, the repetitiveness of it all, the need for an editor and more, but in June, I must say, Richardson stepped up his game. This has definitely been the best month so far! I have actually been wanting to pick up the book to continue with the story and find out what would happen! And that is because June is the month. This is the month everything has build up to and this is month that will definite everything that is to come.

As always, I start by summarizing what has happened this month but in this month, I’ll also draw some comparisons to Wilkie Collins’ novel The Woman in White. I can’t believe I haven’t thought about the similarities between these two novels earlier!

Lovelace is actually trying to  obtain a marriage license but also still trying to test Clarissa’s virtue and he still wants revenge for (perceived) grievances. Lucky for him, there’s a small fire in the house and Clarissa gets scared and he gets to be in her room while she’s in her bed, in her nightie. He allows himself some freedoms which makes Clarissa beg him to leave her – or to kill her, since her honor is dearer to her than her life. He leaves after extracting a promise of forgiveness from her – and is very impressed with her virtue.

Clarissa is shocked and very angry after this. She cares no longer what others think – Lovelace has made her vile to herself. Even though Lovelace thinks higher of her for her resistance, he still thinks she should forgive him as she promised. She writes him that she will not see him for a week – and he thinks she’s scheming and that if she insists on it, he will have her in his own way.

But for once, Clarissa catches a break. She manage to escape from Lovelace and Lovelace looses it, he’s mad about loosing her and even madder about being outwitted by her. But Clarissa’s escape definitely shows how young and inexperienced she is and it’s really easy for Lovelace to track her down and starts weaving his net again, telling stories to the women she’s staying with that will ensure their sympathy for him, not her. Still Clarissa is resisting him with everything she’s got – and her resistance is almost getting to be too much for Captain Tomlinson too. He’s also starting to have second thoughts and to feel that Lovelace is acting wrong when he pursues Clarissa in this way and don’t just marry her. But Lovelace isn’t done. Since Clarissa already resents him so much, he don’t think she can resent him even more for making one last – and final – attempt at her honor and virtue. And then, he wants her to forgive him – out of love for him…

Since Clarissa’s escape, Lovelace has stepped up his game. He has intercepted a letter from Anna Howe and starts faking letters between the two women, thereby adding to his hold on Clarissa. This has been even more necessary for him since Anna has found out that Clarissa has been living in a whorehouse and suspects Captain Tomlinson to be an impostor. He also succeeds in making the women in the house suspect Anna so they will help him prevent her letters reach Clarissa uninterrupted.

He has two women pretend to be his aunt and cousin and they come and visit Clarissa. They persuade her to come back to London with them to pick up her things. Once they’re back at Mrs. Sinclair’s brothel, they slip out and Clarissa is once again completely in the hands of Lovelace and the women in Mrs’ Sinclair’s house.

And now is the time to stop reading if you don’t want to know what happens because this is the key moment of the book.

Lovelace finally decides to put Clarissa to the ultimate test. He rapes her – with the aid of some kind of medication. He is astonished at her reaction. She sinks into a stupor so deep that he fears for her wit. She stays so for a week before she starts getting better. And when she does, Lovelace is shocked by her reaction. She’s not even close to forgiving him – which doesn’t come as any surprise for anyone who’ve read so far. Lovelace’s friend Bedford is even surprised that she has survived what Lovelace has done to her. And all she wants, is to be locked up in a private madhouse.

She tries to escape again and again. She is rather composed most of the time since she now hates herself more than she hates Lovelace, hates herself for not listening to her family and for not seeing his true colors earlier. But she despises him for robbing himself of his wife’s virtue and swears that she will never ever be his wife. He is mortified that she refuses him – but still schemes. Luckily, Clarissa doesn’t fall for his next scheme that would have made her fall in the hands of an even worse brothel madam than mrs. Sinclair.

When this fails and when Lovelace have to go to his sick uncle, he comes up with another huge scheme, involving all the ladies in the house. However, Clarissa outsmarts them all – and makes Lovelace wants her even more. He goes to his uncle and keeps sending messages to her, trying to get her to name a church.

However, when Clarissa is left on her own in the house with no Lovelace, she finally manages to escape. For good, we take it. And she starts writing letter after letter to find out to what extent Lovelace has tricked her. She writes her friend Anna, she writes Lovelace’s aunt, she writes her old nanny Mrs. Norton – and from everyone she hears, that what Lovelace told her was a lie.

So now we’re at a breaking point in the story. Clarissa has escaped Lovelace but she’s not at all well. She has lost what she valued the most, her virtue and the love of her family. I guess the rest of the book is about how she copes with this.

Incidentally, I just want to point out that for a ver very very wordy book, it sure doesn’t spend a lot of words on it’s climax. This is what Lovelace writes to his friend to announce what he has done: “And now, Belford, I can go no farther. The affair is over. Clarissa lives.” (letter 257). You will be in your full right to feel a bit cheated at this point! Still, the letters leading up to and down from this climax, are just amazing. The letters Clarissa writes in her madness just after, are so tragic and full of sentiment, just heartbreaking. I’m almost positive that this novel is actually worth reading!

How come I’ve never thought about the similarities between Clarissa and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins? The Woman in White was published in 1860, about 100 years after Clarissa. But there’s a lot of similarities in the stories (and of course in the epistolary format). In both, a women is kidnapped by a very charming scoundrel – and what my thoughts about the similarities have made me think more about, is the extent to which we can trust Clarissa. And Lovelace. What we know of what happens between them, is all told from their points of view – and can we trust that they don’t embellish at times to make themselves look better? Especially Clarissa, in fact, since she has the most to loose … Is Lovelace the only one to blame for Clarissa’s rape? Is it only naivety and a lack of knowledge of men and the world that made Clarissa think she could trust him – or did she think she had virtue enough to change him? Or was she just so much in love that she couldn’t see straight (Anna has several times tried to make her admit that she had fallen in love with him.)

(I know I didn’t write much about the similarities between The Woman in White and Clarissa but that’s because too much will ruin The Woman in White for those lucky ones who’ve never read it. I did write about some of the common themes in Moll FlandersFanny Hill and Clarissa in my recent post about Moll Flanders.)

These are my thoughts about June – and lo and behold, I’m actually looking forward to reading July’s letters!

You can see how the other participants in Terri and JoAnn’s read along are doing here.

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Clarissa in May

So Clarissa and I are still getting along. Somewhat. Or at least I’m still eaves-dropping on all her letters as well as those from her friends and others. I decided to try a different approach this month. Instead of trying to read the letters on the appropriate days, utterly failing and then playing catch-up for the last few days of the month or maybe in the first days of the next month, I  instead spent some days towards the middle of the month, reading nothing but Clarissa.

I’m still not quite sure about Clarissa. I mean, I like it when I read it (for the most part, that is) but when I put it down, I don’t particularly want to pick it up again. So that’s why I just wanted to read it in a few days and get into it instead of reading some pages every day but not really wanting to. And I must say it worked. I really enjoyed the few days I spent reading nothing but Clarissa.

Even though it’s not like Clarissa been up to a whole lot this month – she’s still living in the same house, still trying to figure out what to do.

In May, we got to read letters 161-219, so quite a few letters. We start of right after the disastrous dinner party where Lovelace lost a lot of the respect Clarissa had got for him. However, the dinner party has made all of Lovelace’s friends love her and they think it would be a shame and a pity to to ruin a lady liked this, a lady in whose fall none but devils can rejoice. Lovelace, however, still thinks she has to pay for her behavior at the dinner party and since he thinks that a woman of education will not yield before she is attacked: ‘There may possibly be some cruelty necessary. But there may be consent in struggle; there may be yielding in resistance.’ (16401-6) Oh, he’s so not a nice guy.

Clarissa tries again to patch things up with her family – she has Anna Howe try and reach out to them. Anna writes Mrs. Norton to have her talk to Clarissa’s mother but the answer is not positive: ‘we are stripped of our ornament, and are but a common family! Can the willful lapse of such a child be forgiven?’ (17255-60). Both the attempt to establish a better standing with Clarissa’s mother and favorite uncle fail.

Clarissa now knows that there’s nothing to do besides patch things up with Lovelace since marrying him is her only option. Yet she still argues with him. I do understand why he is annoyed with her at times. Especially since his pride can’t stand that she’s not equally in love with him and therefore, he wants revenge. I also think that Clarissa could solve the entire situation if she knew more about the world and of men, she could fix it all and make Lovelace love her for ever if she just showed him a little kindness.

Lovelace’s friends keep urging him to do the right thing and not do her brother’s work for him by ruining her. Lovelace’s uncle, Lord M,  also writes to Lovelace’s friend Belford because he and his family worry about her safety and Belford really tries to get Lovelace to stop all his tricks and just marry her.

After Lovelace has staged a conversation between the women of the house (the brothel) and himself, making sure that Clarissa overhears it, things are better between them than ever. But Lovelace still schemes, he steals her letters – and he gets so angry when he reads what Anna writes about him, so angry that he would love to break Anna’s spirit. Things go a bit downhill from here and the women in the house urge him to try greater familiarities with Clarissa, since things can’t possibly get worse between them. He tries but can’t bring himself to do it – even though she says she hates him. Still, his thoughts are not exactly kind:  ‘/…/ I can marry her when I will. And if I do, after prevailing (whether by surprise or reluctant consent), whom but myself shall I have injured?’ But even against his will, he is impressed with her when she stands her ground and talk about how matters shouldn’t go further between them if she hates him.

However, they patch things up and he does seem in earnest about wanting to make her happy. But it mortifies his pride that he would still rather live single than with him. Especially since he wants a wife who worships him and do his every bidding with a smile – including sending him her maid if she thinks he will like her…!

So he wants to try a few more tricks and see if he can have her before making her legally his. He makes himself sick to draw her to his bed. If she shows compassion, he will too. And it worked – she was concerned and cared. However, what he doesn’t know is that Clarissa feels very uneasy and feels like she exposed herself to him. She’s still unsure about whether she should leave him – especially since Anna Howe may have a contact that can give her a safe place to stay.

But now, something happens. A captain comes to their house and he scares Clarissa a lot. However, it turns out that he comes with a message from Clarissa’s uncle Harlowe. He wants to patch things up between them and later with the rest of her family. Clarissa is extremely happy – she talks about how wonderful it will be to be welcome back at Harlowe place and be able to bring Lovelace with her. But – it turns out that this is another trick: The captain is not real. I was so shocked by this! I thought he was real and that there maybe was a chance of reconciliation. So instead of things looking better than ever for Clarissa, they actually look worse. And that’s where we leave her in May, convinced of her future happiness but instead, things look darker for her than ever before.

There have been a few really good letters this month. I so enjoyed reading Uncle Anthony’s courtship letter to Mrs. Howe – and almost just as much reading the letter from Anna Howe to Clarissa, telling about the conversation she and her mother had had about it. This side story is a nice and humorous detour from the main plot that can be a bit same-same.

Still, I actually really enjoyed spending time with Clarissa this month. Even though I really liked the idea of reading each letter on it’s corresponding date, I don’t think the history really works being read that way. It need to be read more closely together than that so in June, I’ll try to read to it all together as well.

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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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Clarissa – month 3

So January and February was slow, slow, slow. So few letters. But March – wow. So many letters that I could hardly keep up. You can really tell that Clarissa is in so much trouble and is desperate, and that’s why she keeps writing and writing to her friend, Anna Howe. And Anna writes back because she’s so worried about her friend. Also, this is the month where we get to hear from Lovelace for the first time – the letters he writes to his friend.

I was so excited for this month. Finally we got to read a lot of letters and the story could really get going. Only thing is – it doesn’t get going. Nothing happens for the entire month of March. Yes, Clarissa writes and writes – but she just sits there in her chamber and begs her relatives to let her stay single and not marry Solmes.

This month we get to read the letters 11-71. So 60 letters all in all. Mostly, still, these are between Clarissa and Anna. I don’t like the letters from Anna that much anymore because the story only advances itself in Clarissa’s letters and since it moved so ever slowly in March, I only wanted to read the letters where there was a chance of something actually happening. Reading Clarissa became a struggle in March – which is also why I felt a bit behind this month and only finished March’s letters on April 3rd.

For this entire month, Clarissa is sitting in her room with her family trying to make her accept Solmes’ hand in marriage. Her father is raving around downstairs –  ‘I will have no child, but an obedient one.’ (location 1659-63) – and he’s getting angrier and angrier. Clarissa is visited by her various female relatives – her mother, sister and aunt who all try to get her to agree to marry Solmes. Her mother is trying to guilt Clarissa into marrying Solmes by letting her know that she can prevent her mother’s life from being miserable. ‘Say not all the blame and all the punishment is yours. I am as much blamed and as much punished as you are; yet am more innocent.’ (location 3424-29) Her mother visits several times, each time trying harder and harder to get Clarissa to agree until she finally gives up on her.

Clarissa is being pressured from all sides – ‘Who at the long run must submit – all of us to you; or you to all of us? – If you intend to yield at last if you find you cannot conquer, yield now and with a grace – for yield you must or be none of our child.’ (location 2928-30), as her mother says. As the month goes by, Clarissa is becoming more and more desperate and searches for a way out of the marriage even though the fabric for dresses has arrived, a contract has been made up and she is being told that she has to go to her Uncle Anthony’s where she will definitely meet Solmes – and probably be forced into marrying him since there’s a chapel at Uncle Anthony’s.

She knows that she has no alliances in her family – even her mother has given up on her: ‘/…/ it was doubtless much more eligible to give up a daughter, than to disoblige a husband, and every other person of the family.’ (location 3368-74) . She keeps up her correspondence with Anna and Lovelace by hiding the letters in the garden and that’s all the support she has. She writes letter after letter to her family – but as the month goes by, fewer and fewer of them care to receive her letters. She even tries writing Solmes, telling him off for robbing her of her peace of mind, her family and friends and she accuses him of being selfish since he makes her suffer so and still persists. Her letter only encourages Solmes to keep on wanting her.

Anna encourages her to take possession of the estate her grandfather left her and thereby claim her independence. Clarissa does not want to go against her family by doing so. She does at one point offer to give the estate to her sister so that she can marry Solmes instead – and promises that she will remain single and let all her possession go to her siblings when she dies. But nothing that she offers, is accepted. Her family will see her marry Solmes no matter what it takes. Her father states at one point, that he can never forgive his daughter but might forgive Mr. Solmes’ wife … – and her parents will not see her before she is married to Solmes.

Meanwhile, Clarissa receives occasional letters from Lovelace and she admits to having – at times – a conditional liking for him. With her family trying to force her into a marriage with a man she truly dislikes, Lovelace is looking better and better all the time. Lovelace seems to be a very clever man. Throughout the month, Clarissa switches between preferring him to Solmes and truly disliking him. Lovelace uses her family’s attempt to force her to his advantage and says at one point: ‘this stupid family are all combined to do my work for me’ (location 4028). But we know that he is not a nice guy – already in letter 35 he mentions, that if he can’t charm her to come willingly, he might consider kidnapping and raping her.

The entire situation becomes a battle of wills. Clarissa’s family is determined not to let her marry Clarissa and Lovelace is determined to have her to get his revenge on her family. Clarissa becomes a pawn in their game and no matter what she does, she just ends up worse off. Clarissa concludes at one point – correctly so, I think – that Lovelace has more malice towards her family than he has regard for her.

I’ve read that Samuel Richardson tried to make Clarissa shorter but failed. After finishing with the March letters, I must say I could easily shorten this book. It’s so repetitive! She writes the same arguments over and over and over. As the month progressed, I started hoping for her brother to come up and drag her out of there, put her into a carriage and off she goes, just to have something happen. I’m actually starting to feel that she should at least obey somewhat and meet Solmes – it seems that she has formed an opinion about him without ever really meeting and talking to him. He sounds awful, he sounds like he would be a terrible husband – but come on, meet the guy! Do something!

I still find her brother annoying – but the problem is, I find all the characters in this novel annoying by now. Her brother says that ‘To put it out of your power to ruin yourself is the only way left to prevent your ruin.’ (location 5635-40) but everything her siblings do seem to be in their own interest. Clarissa starts talking about preferring death to marriage to Solmes: ‘/…/ there is no misfortune I will not submit to rather than yield to give my hand to the man whom I can allow no share in my heart.’ (location 6480-86) Still, I hardly care anymore about what happens to her – just as long as something happens!

At several points, there is talk about Clarissa is to be married in two weeks or going to her Uncle’s in two days – but every time I got my hopes up for some action, these things were postponed. And even though Clarissa starts to prepare to leave her father’s house by sending linen and letters to Anna, there is still no call to action. She still thinks that she can get her family to change their opinion.

March has really and truly been a struggle. I’ve complained so much about Clarissa that my boyfriend is asking why I even read on. But I’m hoping for some good to come – after all, I did like it a lot in January and February. Here’s to hoping that something will happen in April, that Clarissa will not use as many letters to describe it and that I will start caring again.

Related posts:

Clarissa – month 2

Oh I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for it finally to be time to read this book again. I love the idea of reading the letters on the appropriate days and experiencing the same impatience as the characters do when they are waiting for the next letter. It has been so hard to wait for almost all of February to finally be allowed to read one letter on the 20th, and then a few more letters for the rest of February. 10 letters so far in total.

It’s so hard to wait to read on. But right now, I think it enhances my reading experience. Maybe later, I will read this like ‘a normal book’, just read when I feel like it and not sit around waiting for the dates to arrive but I will probably only do this when rereading it. For now, I’m actually glad to be doing it like this. Eagerly putting a note in my calendar on the date when the next letter is to be read, whenever I finish one letter. Looking forward to reading on. Learning more about these characters. I didn’t think I would like it all that much but I really do.

So in the February letters, we find Clarissa back at home. While she has been visiting her friend Anna, her family has conspired to find her a husband so that she wouldn’t marry Lovelace. This conspiracy is of course led by her brother who really hates Lovelace. Her brother practically takes on the role of presenting Mr. Solmes’ proposal to Clarissa since, as Clarissa states it, Mr. Solmes is only wooing her family and not her. When she avoids him and more, it’s put down to her being coy since everybody is assuming that she naturally will do as her parents asks (demands) and marry this man – whom she dislikes.

Of course, this whole thing is preposterous since Clarissa dislikes Lovelace so and only spends time with him when forced to by social conventions and etiquette – and never alone.

I must say that Clarissa’s constant objections to having any interest and feeling for Lovelace, is making me wonder if she does so after all. Haven’t we all strongly denied being interested in someone because we for some reason didn’t want to admit it, didn’t want others to know? Or maybe was ashamed of feeling so? And I can see – as I read further – that Clarissa’s best friend Anna is also having her doubts about how Clarissa truly feel for Lovelace and has also seen that the way her family is trying to force her to marry another man whom she detest, is thereby pushing her towards Lovelace.

Also, her brother continue to annoy me. I still really much fall into my own role as little sister when he’s in the book and immediately want to protest and disagree with everything he says – to the point of almost rooting for Lovelace. I mean, we don’t know anything really bad about Lovelace except what Clarissa’s brother has told us – and we don’t trust him, now, do we?

The funny thing is, after having written the paragraph above, I read further on and discovered that Clarissa felt exactly the same as me. She too was getting so annoyed by especially her brother’s behavior that she’s starting to consider Lovelace in a more positive light. This book was written back in 1748 and yet, Clarissa and I have the exact same emotions. Isn’t that what great literature is all about? It can be read so many years after it was written and still, we can connect emotionally to these characters.

This is really a great book!

Related posts:

Clarissa – first impressions

As you probably know, I’m participating in a year long read-a-long of Samuel Richardson’s novel Clarissa. The special thing with this read-a-long is that since Clarissa consists of letters, we read each letter on the date it is said to be written. I like this idea because you’re going to feel a bit like the protagonists in the novel – for instance, I’ve read the first 6 letters and now, I have to wait and not read the next letter until February 20th. I cheated a bit and read the first few lines where Clarissa apologizes that it has taken her so long to write – and this delay becomes more real to me because I too have waited for the letter. I like that. It makes the novel more real. I think I’ll have a hard time letting go when I’ve finished the last letter on December 7th!

Especially because so far I really enjoy this novel. It’s still in it’s preliminary stages so we’re still being introduced to the characters and seeing the conflicts slowly evolving. We already know a lot about the characters – even the ones not writing letters. We know that Lovelace’s pursuit of first Clarissa’s older sister and then Clarissa, has created a problem in the family. Even though Clarissa doesn’t encourage Lovelace and doesn’t even like him, her sister and brother don’t quite believe her and especially her brother is acting like he has the right to be the deciding factor of her life and is scheming to either make her go and be a house keeper in his house or marry her off to some rich man. (When I was reading about Clarissa’s relationship with her big brother and the way he acted, I couldn’t help but think that Richardson completely nailed this big brother-little sister relationship! I immediately hated her brother … Probably in no small part because I am a little sister with a big brother and can remember how annoying it was when he acted like he had something to say over my life!). Clarissa’s sister is probably suffering more from hurt pride than anything else since she actually wanted to marry Lovelace but pushed him a bit too far and made him reconsider his relationship with her and choose her sister instead. And of course, both Clarissa’s siblings are jealous since their grandfather willed an estate to Clarissa, making her (on paper at least) independent.

Her parents are also rather typical, I think. The mother who knows how she wants everything to be but is too weak to stand up for herself and therefore suffers more than she would if she was able to stand her ground. The angry father who’s trying to rule the entire family. And then some uncles who haven’t married because they ‘care so much about Clarissa and her siblings’. I can’t help but wonder if that’s the entire reason…

Luckily Clarissa has a really good friend in miss Anna Howe and in the last letter, Clarissa was getting ready to go on a short stay at the Howe’s.

I actually can’t wait to February 20th to read on in this novel but I’ll do my best to do so anyway. I’ve marked it in my calendar so there’s really not much else to do – but wait.

Related posts:

Samuel Richardson: Clarissa

So … Yeah … I think I’ve done it again. I’ve signed up for the Clarissa read-a-long. Yeah. Now I don’t know much about this book – except that it’s written in letters (537 of them) and it’s 1536 pages long. Supposedly it’s one of the greatest of all European novels. And it’s on the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die which I’m (slowly) working my way through. And it definitely count as a chunkster – oh, except for the tiny thing that I’m reading it on my Kindle and e-books are not allowed as part of the Chunkster Reading Challenge… So even though it’s 1500+ pages, I can’t use it for this challenge unfortunately. Oh well, then I get to read another huge book this year!

Clarissa was first published in 1748 and it’s about a young girl who after resisting an arranged marriage, is tricked into fleeing with a man called Lovelace. This turns out to be a rather bad idea and well, as far as I can gather, things go really downhill for Clarissa from there.

So the read-a-long I’ve signed up for is hosted by Terri at Tip of the Iceberg and JoAnn at Lakeside Musing. The thing about this Clarissa read-a-long that really made me want to do this is, that the read-a-long reads the letters at the corresponding days. The first letter is written on January 11th and the last on December 7th so if I can keep myself to reading the letters on the right days, I’ll have Clarissa as a companion for the entire year. Of course, I’m starting a couple of days late but not much so it will work out fine, I’m sure.

My plan is to post regular updates on this project as I read along, depending on how caught up in the story I get.

A couple of articles about Clarissa: