Book Review—Reading Clarissa ~ By Richard McGee
For the last few years I have been trying to read as many of the literature classics as I can. It has been an interesting effort with a wide variety of subjects. I have reread some that I had first seen many years ago in college and I have discovered some new ones that I had not heard of before.
“Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady” is one I was unaware of. Written by Samuel Richardson, it was published in 1748. In 2015 the BBC rated Clarissa 14th on its list of the 100 greatest British novels.
The story revolves around Clarissa Harlowe, whose quest for virtue is challenged by a libertine, Robert Lovelace, who strives to compromise her morals to prove that virtuous women do not exist. Mistrust, jealousy, and greed by her family are the biggest impediments for her and push her toward Lovelace. The author makes us care about Clarissa and we feel the angst as she is pressured from all sides. The novel is unusual as the entire story is told in letters between the characters. It was interesting to see this different way of relating the tale.
This was a challenge for me to read. Clarissa is among the longest novels written in the English language. The digital copy for my Kindle was nine volumes for the complete book. The other challenge is to get a copy of the book. You probably will not find a copy of it in your bookstore. Amazon recently made it available in print and kindle editions but they appear to be condensed versions. I downloaded mine from the Project Gutenberg website where 59,000 books with copyright expired are available for free. When you have time, I recommend you read this one.