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Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  4,520 ratings  ·  176 reviews
Pressured by her unscrupulous family to marry a wealthy man she detests, the young Clarissa Harlowe is tricked into fleeing with the witty and debonair Robert Lovelace and places herself under his protection. Lovelace, however, proves himself to be an untrustworthy rake whose vague promises of marriage are accompanied by unwelcome and increasingly brutal sexual advances. A ...more
Paperback, 1534 pages
Published August 29th 1985 by Penguin Classics (first published 1748)
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Community Reviews

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I would never recommend this book to anyone.

I will say that first off, despite my love of it, despite the fact that it will remain present in my consciousness a long time, and I may write things on it, may deliberately continue my interaction with the text in the way that one sometimes does after finishing a book that has had such an impact upon them.

For it was a completely devestating eight hundred closely written pages, letter after letter after letter. One knew from very early on where the pl

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a nun or a convict.

In my romanticized view, both situations provided a room and isolation. What more could anyone want? Space and isolation: the perfect ingredients to read endlessly and without interruption.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and my notions about being a convict were particularly skewed. There’s nothing romantic about being imprisoned, and Clarissa--more than most fictional characters would have much to say on the t
Jul 28, 2010 Manny marked it as to-read
For people who haven't seen the haiku version:
To Miss Howe: send help!
I've been ravished in Book Six
with three more to go
I’ve been reading this for about 20 years (well ... six months) and have finally reached the end with the aid of smelling salts and Kendal mint cake. This is a massive book, over a million words; 1500 closely packed pages. It is, of course, a classic and a milestone in the history of the novel. It is told in epistolary form and is in actuality a very simple story.
The central character, Clarissa is 19, trying to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage set up by her newly rich family. She unwisely ac
Oct 15, 2013 Kate is currently reading it
Update 10/15

Oh my god you guys, did you know Goodreads has a character limit for reviews? And I seem to have run up against it. HOW APPROPRIATE.

Continued here.

Update 10/1

Not much progress, but I’m updating again because last night I had my first Clarissa-related dream – and it was a nightmare, about Lovelace coming to get me. I don’t remember much about it. I woke up, was pissed off, went back to sleep, and then the damn thing started up again.

So, this seems like as good a time as any to post
Make no mistake, this is 1494 pages of Clarissa declaring, “Indeed, indeed, I never can marry thee (vilest of wretches)!” And yet, and yet it’s weirdly compelling although I think it loses momentum around page 1359 and becomes plaguy preachy. This is Extreme Unrequited Love, 18th century epistolary style with enough scandal and froth to make it an easy holiday read.

Few favourite quotes:

“I do assure thee, Jack, that thou less deservest praise than an horse-pond…” (Lovelace)

“And I believe that an
Vanessa Wu
A lot of nonsense is talked about Clarissa. It's essentially a rape fantasy, ending in the death of the victim. Condense it down to 60,000 words, stick a distressed nude on the cover and, if it isn't banned, it would sell like hot cakes on Amazon.

According to Lord Macaulay, once entered in Clarissa, you are infected by her and can't leave off for a minute.

On the other hand, says Samuel Johnson, if you were to read this for the story you would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself.

So, t
Free download available at eBooks@Adelaide.

And the audio version at LibriVox..

From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial:
Dramatisation by Hattie Naylor of the 1748 novel by Samuel Richardson.

The beautiful young heiress Clarissa Harlowe is dangerously attracted by the wiles of the notorious libertine Robert Lovelace. Threatened by an imminent marriage arranged with the odious suitor her family have found for her, Lovelace persuades Clarissa to flee with him.

Clarissa Harlowe ...... Zoe Waites
Robert Lovel
This book was a text I needed to read for one of my English courses, and I'm happy that I got to read it. It was interesting to read an epistolary form of literature. The reader gets deeply involved with the characters (especially Clarissa). I fell for Lovelace even though he was a horrible character, but his wickedness was attractive in an odd sort of way.

There were two things that took away the two stars (contains spoilers):

1. Length. I read the abridged version which was ridiculously long. I
Noran Miss Pumkin
Nov 28, 2012 Noran Miss Pumkin marked it as to-read
I cannot resist thick books, and this one is 1,536 pages!
David Rain
One may as well admit it at once: this is not a novel everyone will enjoy. Some will find it intolerable. At a million words, it’s the longest novel in the English language, and very slow-moving, perhaps the most slow-moving novel ever written, even considering Proust and The Magic Mountain. It’s hard to read, or at least to start. But once this book grips you, you are gripped. There’s nothing else like it in literature. The sheer narrative power is overwhelming. By the time you’ve finished this ...more
Alexander Santiago
Written entirely in the epistolary style (comprised of nothing but letters between the protagonists, a first for a modern novel, and as the insipiration for de Laclos' "Les Liasons Dangereuses" over 30 years later), Clarissa Harlowe, the much beloved and golden daughter of the wealthy Harlowe family, is the sole heir(ess) of a large fortune upon the death of her grandfather.

Thinking of the prosperity of the family and the family name, her parents are inducing her to marry the very wealthy Mr. S
It is extremely surprising to think that this book was written by the same author as "Pamela." Sure, this one can get a bit preachy in spots and can dwell on a few things that don't really advance the plot, but the difference is astonishing. This is the far superior work. It is actually moving, very developed, human characters who really come alive and engage the soul. Though I think "Pamela" would have been better if cut from 500 pages down to 150 or 200, I find very little here that I would cu ...more
The experience of reading this book is akin to being dragged though a bog of broken glass and tobasco sauce. Face down. By a very slow mule. The story's intent is to show that the ultimate virtue a girl can have is passivity no matter what awfulness the world sends her way. I read the 600 page ABRIDGED version for school and was so traumatized I didn't read another book for a year. Samuel Richardson should be boycotted out of the Canon. Wolstonecraft kicked his ass.
Justin Evans
Let's be clear about this: this book is far, far too long for modern reading habits. Not all that much happens in its 1500 pages (pages which are, I would guess, maybe one and a half to twice as long as normal pages). If you want to read it, don't sit down and try to read the whole thing straight. It's really not that much fun. I heard somewhere that in the 18th century people treated books the way we treat TV programs: pick it up, put it down, come in in the middle, have a conversation while yo ...more
I am thrilled at the prospect of completing this novel. I've read a great deal of fiction and this - the longest novel ever written, I believe, - is better than much of it. It is so subtle, so complete in its awareness of gender and human nature; the syntax and style seems to anticipate what I love in Henry James, that I will be sorry when it is done and I have to bid farewell to Lovelace, Harlowe and company, above all their magnificent correspondence. This novel to end or begin all novels asks ...more
I love this book. I don't care what anyone says. I love Pamela, too, and was thoroughly angry at Shamela. (I read & own the condensed version of Clarissa, for time's sake, although I read the first four books of the long version - does that matter?)

Clarissa is a far cry from Pamela's moralizing moral morality, that's for damn sure. The characters are dark & intense: Clarissa's vile family, Lovelace's obsession and desire and - I believe it - love; even Anna Howe seems a little too inter
Reading this book was a transformative experience. It may be the longest book written in English, but I didn't want it to end and grieved when it did. I went into a sort of stupor afterward and couldn't find anything satisfying enough to pick up and read next. It is an epistolary novel, mostly letters between just four people. One might wonder how such a thing can spread to 1,000 pages, and rightly so. Ben Jonson said you want to hang yourself reading it, and sometimes that's true, but don't wor ...more
It took me about 14 months, but I did it! I read the longest novel in the English language. And it was so worth it! You have to take your time reading it, but this story is nothing short of haunting.

"Clarissa" is an epistolary novel. So I (attempted) to read at least one letter a day. For a year, these people were part of my life. They started to seem real. Their problems and the things they were doing seemed real.

I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5, not because it's so long, but because the
Helen (Helena/Nell)
This review will be in four volumes, one published at the end of each of the next four decades.

I loved this book. I may be one of the few people in the Western World to have read it several times, but the last of these several times was decades ago, when I still thought I would complete a doctoral thesis on Richardson. But since then, I have NOT done a whole set of things I thought I would do.

Richardson is not widely renowned for his sense of humour. But his irony is a precursor of Jane Austen,
Ok it was reallllllly long but i couldnt put it down. I loved it. I dont think we have enough examples of purity, charity, falial duty and general goodness. Modern writers are always trying to make their characters more 'real'. Well I dont like the way most real people behave so I like examples I would like to follow. Im allready 'real' enough myself. I dont need any help in that direction. Anyway total classic. If you dont believe me read some of the other reviews on goodreads. Tons of people r ...more
I have to offer a dissenting opinion. I thought it was a delight, a great romp, an imaginative work of wit. It makes me want to carry hartshorn around with me. So he's not Tolstoy. Someone called Richardson "literary cod liver oil." I had to smile. But I remember really enjoying this as a bedside book....sort of a (much) lighter version of De Laclos. And who doesn't like De Laclos? Well, this is Goodreads so a LOT of you, no doubt lol.
Spencer Cox
Sep 28, 2012 Spencer Cox is currently reading it
The unabridged version. This is going to be awhile...

Five months later and I'm 1/3 of the way through. I have been wishing violence on her for at least the past three months. This is not good in a heroine.
May 26, 2014 David added it
I don't anticipate ever again sitting down to read Samuel Richardson's 1,500-page masterpiece "Clarissa" ever again, but at this point -- having lived with it and inside it for five years, reading the first third or so twice and the entire thing once -- it will be impossible to evict her from that part of my imagination where literary giants reside. Clarissa Harlowe and Lovelace (and, to a lesser degree, Belford and Anna Howe) take up residence with Hamlet, Prospero, Ishmael, William Stoner, etc ...more
People sometimes avoid this book because of its length (about 3000 pages in very small print!). It is, however, thoroughly compelling, and, astonishingly, as relevant to debates about gender and violence as it was in 1748, when it was written. Although, unlike quite a few works of the period, it is not written by a female author, Richardson was famous for inviting the participation of his female friends in the revisions of the work, and it shows: the psychology is profoundly insightful, and the ...more
"The pleasures of the mighty are obtained by the tears of the poor."

THE LONGEST BOOK in the English language. Seriously. The 18th century novel about a young girl who is promised to a man she does not love, then is tricked into running away with a scoundrel of a man named Lovelace, is the longest book ever written. I read the abridged version but it was still a long read. I rather enjoyed it, even though it ends sadly.

Spoiler alert!
Poor Clarissa. Evil Lovelace. Ridiculously stupid Harlowe family
[These notes were made in 1981:]. Read in an 8-volume, 1785 edition. Having given so much of my life to this not-so-little masterpiece, I feel a certain sense of accomplishment merely in having reached the last page of the last volume. But, surprisingly enough (for I was not terribly enamoured of Pamela, especially the first time round), I got quite caught up. The first two volumes were indisputably very slow, but it picked up gradually, and by the rape in the 5th/6th volume, I was eagerly antic ...more
Clarissa is one of the longest novels in the English language. Even the full title is staggeringly long: Comprehending The Most Important Concerns of Private Life, And particularly showing The distress that may attend the Misconduct both of parents and children, In relation to Marriage. I can't remember why and when I was inspired to read this (possibly a curiosity towards controversial classics?), but I knew it wasn't going to be easy. It sure wasn't, but it was still somewhat rewarding, and I' ...more
Rilla Z
I love a story that makes a character come alive. Richardson's "Clarissa" characters are all so detailed and well-portrayed. I almost felt like they were real letters. The plot transitions slowly. It is the vehicle that carries the changes of thought and motive, and it makes the situations Clarissa finds herself in impossible for the reader not to go along with her. (It is one of those pet peeves for me when a character reacts differently from his/her nature to move the plot along...You know, li ...more
John Purcell
Jun 18, 2010 John Purcell rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The Worthy
Recommended to John by: Posterity
I think Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa : Or the History of a Young Lady is one of the greatest works ever penned, possibly even the greatest ever…. (Yes, even greater than Shakespeare!)

But at over 1536 exquisite, finely wrought pages I know it is not for everyone…

If you like the best this world can offer and if you are willing to devote your full attention to the product of an exceptional genius then Clarissa : Or the History of a Young Lady is the book for you.
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i loved this novel 22 24 Nov 22, 2013 07:08AM  
All About Books: Week 4 - Clarissa by Samuel Richardson 26 37 Oct 21, 2013 05:47AM  
18th Century Enth...: Clarissa by Samuel Richardson 1 6 Oct 19, 2012 05:06AM  
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Samuel Richardson was a major English 18th century writer best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and Sir Charles Grandison (1753).

Richardson had been an established printer and publisher for most of his life when, at the age of 51, he wrote his first novel and immediately became one of the most popular and adm
More about Samuel Richardson...
Pamela. Or, Virtue Rewarded The History Of Sir Charles Grandison Bart Clarissa, Or The History of a Young Lady: (Abridged Edition) Clarissa Harlowe: Or, The History of a Young Lady, Vol. 1 (of 9) Pamela : Volume 2

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“I know not my own heart if it be not absolutely free.” 28 likes
“Tired of myself longing for what I have not” 14 likes
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