Clarissa, Letters 16 – 30

by Charlotte Reads Classics

My standard Clarissa Commentary disclaimer: The first paragraph is plot. The rest is spoiler free!

Letters 16 – 30 : March 3rd – March 12th

As you can see from the timeframe, there is a lot more happening and letters are flying around everywhere. Clarissa receives several visits from her mother, who is lenient one moment and unwavering the next. What was previously  guesswork is confirmed: It is the wishes of her family to marry Solmes. There is a lot of discussion of duty and Clarissa’s ‘previously agreeable’ character is called into question. She is banished to her room for the foreseeable future, forbidden to speak to her family and only allowed to walk in the garden (supervised) when nobody else is there. Her faithful servant is dismissed for aiding in communication between Clarissa and Lovelace. For all her protesting that Lovelace is too forward and gives her unwanted attention, there must be something appealing in him, as it seems Clarissa would give up writing him letters if she truly didn’t like him. Miss Howe advises Clarissa to claim her inheritance and retire to her estate, but Clarissa doesn’t want to do this as it would further anger her family. This section finishes with a little show down in church: Lovelace is there and compliments Clarissa’s mother. She accepts. Presumably this will be Clarissa’s fault too…

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I was given some very good advice when I was struggling with the language of the book in the first part of my commentary. This was to keep reading because I would get the hang of it: It is true! I’m very happy to pass this on to other Clarissa readers. I really liked the idea of the Clarissa Readalong (see Terri and JoAnn) which was to read the book over a year on the dates the letters were written. I think this sounds brilliant because it would be like living the events of the novel with the characters, but I really needed to read a chunk of this to get into the language. I think if I ever re-read Clarissa (getting ahead of myself and seeing a time in the future where I will have finished it!) I would probably follow the dates.

The book as a historical artifact is really taking shape for me. The discussion of women’s duty and character is so interesting, because for a lot of women today arranged / forced marriages and male relatives taking control of your property isn’t an issue. It might be the epistolary form that highlights this – the novel and the letters were written to be a copy from life. I read in one of the many introductory pages that Richardson got the idea for Clarissa when he was asked to write a book / pamphlet to educate people in the correct letter writing style. I haven’t previously been particularly attracted to the epistolary novel but am finding it really readable. I reckon the form should make a comeback.

I’ve not completely warmed to Clarissa herself yet, she seems a little too good. I like Miss Howe who is maybe a little bit more satirical – she describes herself as flippant. Perhaps she seems more modern. Clarissa on the other hand – too forgiving? Too misguided? I’m not sure but she’s very much still a character to me, rather than a person.

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