Mitch's Reviews > Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady

Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson
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Jun 19, 09

Read in June, 2009

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 so many questions is fired with great moral purpose. Like Shakespeare, Richardson sees all and anticipates all of our second guesses only to transcend them. I recommend it for anyone under any fashionable spell that the dilemma of gender admits of any answers, easy or otherwise.

It is June 20th and I have finally finished this extraordinary novel. Not enough good can be said about it. Lovelace and Harlowe represent all the best and worst in their respective genders and yet, though the strictures of their world are fierce, their fates are wholly due to their natures and characters: it cannot sufficiently be blamed on larger forces or social structures. Again, as in Shakespeare, character is supreme above all. Reading Richardson is like reading the fully uncensored drama of the male and female sexes in all of its complexity and ultimately its mystery. Richardson cannot be pigeonholed: he is wary of human perfectibility to not be unlike the tories and yet is as merciless in his attack upon what the traditional patriarchal family structure does to women as any twentieth century female and feminist author. And yet...Richardson is but a beginning. An introduction, an invitation to reflect upon our lives in their whole. What do you think, dear reader??
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