First, I hope no-one minds my writing on night after night like this. If so, just delete or skip or ignore it; I got into this list almost despite myself (I have other obligations and two projects), but I find myself as of old drawn in deeply.
This series (Lets 18-21, Sat, Mar 4) deepens and strengthens the ongoing dialogue of mother and daughter. Clary also wins on several fronts: She is wittier: ("I hope Mr Solmes will be apprised of these flaws." Richarson creates a kind of still silhouette between them more than once in which the emotional pull & sense of two women distraught is on the page: "Good girl, distress me not thus! Dear, good girl, do not distress me! holding out her hand; but standing still likewise." I think Richardson also uses the mother as an object lesson to Clary of what she will become if she gives into the world's demands. Richardson emphasizes this several times, but most powerfully through the mother herself when she keeps urging Clary's to think of her mother's "peace." There was an dialogue on the general 18th century list which suggested that this book was obsolete in morality, but Clary's stand defying the centuries- old "right" of families to use their children for ambition and aggrandizement through marriage (not much different from today except todays it's one's "career") is part of new individualism & does look forward to the romantic age, Clary's is a radical demand:
is not my sincerity, is not the integrity of my heart, concerned in my answer?
The letters are divided into three phases, one for each part of the day, giving the impression that Clary goes upstairs after each encounter to scribble away; one of them is a direct point-by-point dialogue with an earlier letter by Anna. Thus the narrative is deepened, and made relative in yet more ways. I do believe epistolary narrative is best when it is an interlace of perspectives; Sidney Bidulph the like are inferior because they are diaries. the famed epistolary and erotic Five Love- Letters is after all short; the epistolary narrative justifies itself and uses its potentialities most strongly when there are voices. It's also simply more fun to hear all the presences as they come on stage; like a play; Richardson shows himself a virtuouso with the relatives. Also I have always thought Richardson felt one of the things wrong with Pamela which he was outgrowing and improving was the egotism of the one voiced diary. (What's "allo-erotic"?)
My edition lacks notes: does anyone know who "the old Roman and his lentils" refers to? Or which of Dryden's "clowns" so famously "whistled"?
There are lots of references to costumes & furniture too which might tell whether it's 1704 or 1732: Solmes wears a full yellow-buckled peruke and broad-brimmed beaver; Clary has wide hoop; Mrs Harlowe has a glass by her toilet (thin glass windows came in just after 1700 I believe; there is a poem by Ann Finch of about 1703 or so congratulating her nephew on the new windows; also she is fascinated by a glass mirror in a poem of about 1700; the Harlowes would, of course, want to show off immediately).
When I first read this crazy book at age 21 (my sophomore undergraduate days) I read it for 16 hours straight at a time; I'm fervently glad my life won't let me anymore.