I made a promise to myself back in August 2010 to finally read Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, this promise made after reading Laurel Ann’s Austenprose interview with Lynn Shepherd. Shepherd is the author of the Austen-inspired mystery Murder at Mansfield Park, but also a Samuel Richardson scholar and author of Clarissa’s Painter: Portraiture, Illustration, and Representation in the Novels of Samuel Richardson (Oxford University Press, 2009].
I have had Clarissa sitting on my bedside table for years – a friend gave it to me as a joke, daring me to read the thing – I was tempted to tear it into nine parts [an easy thing to do!] and have each of my book group buddies read their piece of the book and report on it – an easy way to lessen the pain of reading this rather large tome – my copy [the Penguin edition of 1985 with introduction and notes by Angus Ross] measures 9 x 6 x 2.75″ with a total of 1534 pages, a heady feast of endless words in very small print! But alas! I could not go the book destruction route, it’s not in my genetic makeup, and so have just stared at this thing for years, dusting it occasionally, contemplating its use as a doorstop or such [it weighs 2 lbs, 11oz!], but somewhat guilty all the while… an English major who cleverly avoided this book or any Richardson for that matter because everything is just so long and not to mention depressing! And despite Richardson being Jane Austen’s favorite author, and that she read and re-read his works and was greatly influenced by him, I just haven’t done it… until now…
So when I read Lynn Shepherd’s post and saw the brilliant suggestion to read Clarissa in ‘real time’, starting on January 10th, and finishing on December 18th, I thought this was a perfect solution, nearly a whole year to finish the thing, not much time to be spent on a daily basis – how bad can it possibly be? So, Dear Readers, I have begun – January 10th, with already a welcome reprieve as the next letter is not until January 13th…
When I told my gifting friend that I was finally going to read the thing – she wondered how I would be able to put it down and not read ahead – I told her I did not think that would be a problem in this case – and indeed it seems not to be so far!
I welcome anyone else who would like to join me in this – there have been group reads of Clarissa on other listservs – I am not going to post about the book, just periodic updates of my reading progress. My only concern is I am already looking forlornly at Richardson’s other book on my shelf, Pamela, a much shorter and happier exercise in reading what Jane Austen read… – so wish me luck and join me if you can!
Further reading on Samuel Richardson:
- Literary History.com
- Richardson at NNDB
- Burial site
- Etexts at Project Gutenberg
- Pamela – Google Books
- Richardson – Rambler 97
- Richardson Bibliography at Ellen Moody’s site
- Richardson Society Facebook page
- Richardson Society Discussion Group
- Wikipedia on Richardson
- Wikiquote on Richardson
- Article on Richardson and Austen: “The Source of “dramatized consciousness”: Richardson, Austen, and Stylistic Influence ” by Joe Bray, Style, Spring, 2001.
- Spark Notes on Clarissa !
Copyright @ 2011 Deb Barnum, Jane Austen in Vermont