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Studies of Richardson's Clarissa


The 1991 BBC Clarissa opens and closes on Harlowe House"

This part of my website is intended to make available to anyone interested the various materials I (and sometimes others with me) have written about the mid-18th century masterpiece epistolary novel, Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson, and a 1991 mini-series adaptation of Clarissa by Robert Bierman, David Nokes, Janet Barron (to mention just the director and screenplay writers).

To put the most recent work first, here is a paper on rape in Clarissa, and its proposal; a film study of the 1991 BBC Clarissa, and its accompanying transcription of three scenes between Lovelace (Sean Bean) and Clarissa (Saskia Wickham), which I could not include in the paper and dramatize core clashes of values between them; a detailed comparison of the film's parts and scenes with Richardson's novel; a list of letters in the film (which formed the evidence for my argument that the film makes continual use of filmic epistolarity); and my first proposal.

I follow this with an updated bibliography intended for practical use for college students, people beginning a serious reading of Richardson, and the common reader.

An explanation: this may serve as a preface to the he postings the group of people on Clary-l wrote over the course of 1995. Some of these take the form of essays, others are debates, and still others comments and responses to the text; they constitute a conversation on the novel at that time. The dates are the dates in the novel.

In 1979, I was granted a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York after finishing a long dissertation, one third of which was a study of Richardon's second and third epistolary novels, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison. I called it Richardson, Romance, and Reverie: A Dissertation. It's a study of the psychological bases of romance as genre particularly appealing to women as readers and writers; of the close connections between romance and the creative state behind novel-writing called reverie; and of epistolary narrative as a dramatic and pictorial technique which naturally emerges when this genre and imaginative state combine.

I got onto the Net around 1994 and subscribed to an academic 18th century listserv community, then and now known as C18-l. During the next year, 1995, a group of us then on C18-l also organized ourselves into a smaller listserv community called Clary-l. Its purpose was to read Richardson's Clarissa in "real time", that is, we read the letters on the dates the characters in the novel are said to have written them, commenting on the letters in real time as we went.

I first became interested in studying film adaptations of high status novels in 1998 when I was asked to review a collection of film studies on the mid-1990s film adaptations of Jane Austen's novels. My interest grew as I found myself asked again to review a book of films studies of adaptations of 19th century novels by women (see "Taking Sides"), and myself began to read many film studies (theoretical and practical) and study the Jane Austen films and film adaptations of Anthony Trollope's novels on my own. It was inevitable that I should turn to study the landmark film of the early 1990s, the 1991 BBC/WBGH Clarissa. I wrote a paper on the film for an 18th century conference in held in Richmond, 2009, which had three panels on 18th century films. While doing that I found myself reading and catching up on much scholarship over the last 20 years.




After the rape, Lovelace says he's "truly, truly sorry" and asks her to "believe" he "loves" her. She replies "Again? As I believed Captain Tomlinson? and Lady Betty? How you all must have laughed. Such a witty masquerade." Readers hold her anger against her

January 10

             On Epistolary Narrative

January 14

             A Prospectus of What's To Come

January 17

             Who Do We Sympathize With and More on Editions

January 20

             Bibliography of Illustrations of Richardson's Novels.

January 29

             The Importance of Reading the Third Edition whenever feasible

February 20

             On Brothers In Lieu of Fathers Trading the Women
             Not Like a Real Letter

February 24

             The Novel Set in a Leapyear & Clary's Voice

March 1

             The Year 1732
             Letters become more genuine and are written as a dialogue

March 2

             How Ugly and Harsh

March 4

             The Deepening Struggle Between the Mother and Daughter
             Clary and her Mother

March 5

             The Novel Set in a Leapyear & Letters As Working Units

March 8

             To what extent is Mrs Harlowe controlled by a supposed conventional ideology?
             Mrs Charlotte Harlowe and Stella Kowalski
             What is Mrs Charlotte Harlowe so scared of? What is she threatened with?

March 9

             The Puzzle of Clarissa's Loyalty to Her Family

March 10

             Why Not Litigate?

March 11

             Uncle Tony: A Mind like a Sewer

March 13

             A Magnificent Entrance, a Virtuoso Letter

March 14

             'Psychological Dream-like Subjectivity:' A Characteristic of Letter-Novels & Romance

March 19

             A Chilling Dislike for Kind, Gentle, and Moral People

March 20

             A Last Meditation Upon the Encounter
             A Preparatory Interlude and then the First Encounter

March 21

             The Assault Begins Again, and this time it's Clary versus her sister

March 22

             In Defense of Anna

March 23

             The Brother as the Brutal Male Not An Obsolete Role At All

March 24

             The Emblematic Traditions
             Clary sets an 'Ode to Wisdom' to Music: A Gothic Dream-Tracery

March 26

             On Solmes as a Substitute Way of Raping Clarissa

March 28

             Genuine Epistolarity Demands We Read in Psychological Not Calendar Time
             The Lady and the Maid

March 29

             More on the Parallel between Solmes and Lovelace

March 30

             A Calm Before the Final Storm which sweeps Clarissa away

March 31

             The Suspected Seduction of 'pretty Betsy, aka Rosebud'

April 3

             Family Violence in Clarissa and other novels

April 6

             One Last Determined Assault

April 9

             'The Wonderful Variety of Sounds:' Interlace in Clarissa
             Clarissa's family's malices and her curious contradictory responses to Lovelace
             The Crisis of Clarissa's Fate: The Irretrievable 'Escape'

April 12

             Punctilio, Love, and Brothers

April 17

             Lovelace as a Literary Concoction: 'The Affair of Miss Betterton'
             In the Throes of Genuine Epistolarity: Quietude in Calendar vs Psychological Time
             On Lovelace as a Literary Concoction Rather than Believable Character

April 23

             On Role Playing and Refusing to Marry: Just Prior to London

April 24

             Lovelace's and Everyone's Nonchalant Cruelty, Children and Adults

April 25

             The Yearned-For Reconciliation
             Anna's Norris: One Thread in a Tapestry of Allusions to retirement poetry

April 28

             Sinclair's House

May 1

             Clary's Response to the Men as opposed to the Women in the Brothel
             Miss Partington: Does Clarissa shy away from all physical contact?

May 3

             That Old Sado-Masochistic Strain

May 9

             The Quarrelsome Lovers

May 15

             Clarissa as a psychological novel

May 16

             The Sticking Point: Fear of the Sexual Encounter

May 21

             Richardson's Anti-Feminism: The Portrait of Thomasine

May 23

             The Convincing Note of an Imagined Male Presence

June 7

             Romance, Married Names, and the Dread of the Liminal Wedding Night

June 8

             Thursday morning: Heavy petting mutual, Clarissa responds

June 9

             Clary's Mind Slips Back and Forth over the Edge

June 10

             The Emotional Temperature of Clarissa

June 11

             How the Mind Slips Away Under the Impetus of Unrelieved Pressure

June 13

             Rape in Clarissa and Middleton's Women Beware Women
             The Rape: The Effects of Epistolary Rearrangement
             A Symphony and New Phase
             The Most Distasteful Aspect of the Rape That Clarissa was Drugged and Held Down
             Rape As Attack

June 14

             The Limits of Lovelace's Brutality, Yet a Sponging-house, Bedlam, the Grave Preferable

June 17

             Is the Rape actionable?

June 24

             The Lady and the Penknife

June 28

             'ONCE more have I escaped--'

June 30

             Epistolarity: Thematic and Psychological Juxtaposition of letters using Calendared Time
             The Aftermath of Rape

July 6

             Going Public as Raped: Clary Ahead of Our Time
             The Unspeakable: Raped Before Others After a Public Supplication

July 9

             Lady Sarah Sadleir: another thoroughly believable character thrown off

July 11

             'The Blow is given--'

July 15

             Are Some Acts Irretrievable?

July 17

             The Sponging-House: What's Wrong with This Deeply Moving Scene vs. Election/Damnation

July 18

             Clarissa Swept Away In Today's Heat?

July 20

             Her Longing for Death, for Escape, for Nature or God to Take Her
             Epistolary Narrative: Strengths and Weaknesses

July 23

             Anna's No and the Conservative Imagination

July 25

             Anna's Spirited Letter

July 27

             Clarissa Regaining Strength Among Friends, Belford's Voice & More on Epistolary Technique

July 30

             Marking Time: Lovelace a Truer Aeneas, but Clarissa no Dido
             'She may be with child!': Pregnancy A Sign of Orgasm

August 12

             Is she pregnant? Is she taking up with Belford? Clary a thing something must be done about

August 13

             Belford Becomes Clary's Truest Friend & Her Possible Pregnancy

August 16

             The Influence of Richardson: On Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, Edith Wharton

August 20

             'by these extracts, thou hast I doubt made her bar up the door of her heart'

August 22

             To Prosecute or Not to Prosecute?

August 30

             Psychological Depths & Complexity: Absolute for Death--and Terror

September 4

             A Note of Urgency struck twice
             Colonel Morden Not Much Different from Lovelace in His Views

September 7

             And So We are Come to Clarissa's Dying, or, Has it Been Suicide?

September 10

             The Corpse Is Brought Home

September 16

             The Incompatibility of Pleasure with Tragedy, Realism, & Christian Didacticism

September 22

Appropriate final still, Clarissa's gravestone, from the BBC 1991 film adaptation, Clarissa


             Nothing Clarissa Holds Dear is Really Valued by Anyone Else, Not Even Belford

October 2

             Anna's Strength and Integrity Fills the Vaccuum After Clary's Death

October 12

             Scenes of Sympathetic Affection: Richardson at His Best and Worst

October 26

             Epilogue

November 25

             Is Lovelace Damned for All Eternity?

December 2

             Death or Morden's Cold Rage Set in Context of Life's Ongoingness and Serendipity

December 9

             Antepenultimate

December 18

             Conclusion and Postscript
             A Parody of Clarissa
             Finis

As for my dissertation, nowadays this is available from University Microfilms International. It is too long for me to put on the Net. I have however written many essays and commentaries on books and film in the form of postings about some of the themes and issues I dealt with in my dissertation. Beyond the above writing on Clarissa, film and book, I've written romance in women's writing Gothic and l'ecriture femme, and on epistolarity in the novels of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope and real women's lives in the Renaissance. Bibliographies are included. The one area I've neglected is my theory that reverie is that special pictorial state out of which novels are created: that the interested reader can find in the chapter on Trollope's Autobiography in my published book, Trollope on the 'Net.


During his duel with Belford (Sean Pertwee) Lovelace ((Sean Bean)shouts: "No. Don't play the moralist with me. A rake's a rake, Jack. We're two of a kind you and I."

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