Alexander Santiago'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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Apr 27, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: english-literature-history, europa
Read in February, 2007

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. Solmes, a man who Clarissa finds disagreeable, ugly, unintelligent and, through willful disobedience and procrastination, refuses to consent to the marriage, much to the consternation and chagrin of her parents and family. Thrown in the mix is Richard Lovelace, a libertine whose exploits and appetites are known far and wide and a non-believer of the virtue of women, who has attracted the eye of the chaste and virtuous Clarissa, and sets out to prove his theory by duplicitous means. Of course, this attention from Lovelace incites the ire and fury of her family.

Forbidden to correspond wih the libertine Lovelace, though she continues to do so clandestinely, she is subjected to a form of 'house arrest' by her parents to keep her away from Lovelace and to induce her to marry Solmes. This leads her into being tricked to escape with Lovelace by his conniving machinations, setting forth a series of unfortunate events for Clarissa: her ostracization from her family and a 'curse' from her father; Lovelace's continued mendacity and duplicity regarding their impending "marriage" and feigned betrothal to strangers; her 'imprisonment' and violent ruination in a house of ill repute; all the while corresponding with her dear friend, Anna Howe, and becoming even more fervent in her sense of virtue and religious devotions, leading her to, willingly, succumb and leave the harsh realities of earthly realm to be with the Father of the heavenely realm.

"Clarissa" is an exciting, if not cerebral (and very long, at 1400 plus pages) novel of an innocent young woman who, though tempted, resists temptation and stays steadfast to what she believes in, only to 'sacrifice' herself in the end because of the immorality, amorality and unforgiving nature of man. Highly recommended!
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Noran (new) - added it

Noran Miss Pumkin Thank you for your excellent review on this book!


Alexander Santiago You are very welcome, and thank you for the compliment. I will say that, at times, the book was a challenge, what with some of the letters being rather lengthy (and the book is a hefty 1500 plus pages). There is an awesome BBC adaption of this novel of the same name starring Saskia Wickham in the titular role (it is about 4 hours long) that you may be interested in viewing.


message 3: by Noran (new) - added it

Noran Miss Pumkin I so love books like this.


Alexander Santiago As do I! If you haven't done so, read Choderlos de Laclos' "Dangerous Liaisons (Les Liaisons Dangereuses)", as it is written in the same time (comprised of nothing but letters). It is a rather wicked read, as it is about two debauched aristocrats who set into motions to bring about the downfall and ruination of two people: a young girl from a convent, and a married woman. It is said that the book, upon being first published, endured a public burning by the French government, as it was deemed obscene; and it was reputed that Marie Antoinette kept a private, leather-bound copy in her private library. Aahhh, the French! LOL :)


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