Woo-hoo! Guess what I did yesterday? Finished Clarissa! It only took me just over three years, but by gumbo, I did it. It is appropriate that the bookmark I used for this book has turtles on it. To celebrate I visited the chiropractor this morning and he popped out all the kinks I got from reading the book. 1,499 pages. No other book will ever seem so long.
Before I leave Clarissa, I have to tell you about how she spends her days. You see, I found out at the end that she kept an account book and her friend Miss Howe came into possession of it after Clarissa’s death. Mr. Belford asked Miss Howe for a character sketch of her friend and an attempt at an explanation on how one so young (Clarissa was only 19) could achieve such heights of virtue. Clarissa’s daily schedule runs thus:
- Six hours for sleep, no more, but oftentimes less.
- Three hours upon rising in the morning for dressing, studying, and writing letters.
- Two hours throughout the day dedicated to domestic management that includes going over the housekeeper’s bills on behalf of her mother.
- Five hours a day dedicated to needlework, drawing, music, etc., during which she also had visits from friends and neighbors.
- Two hours a day for meals.
- One hour a day for dinner time conversation.
- One hour a day to make visits to the neighborhood poor.
- The four hours remaining she used as a sort of fund in case her time spent doing any of her other things ran over.
Sundays of course were spent at church and making other devotions. Of course during the book she did not stick to such a schedule, extenuating circumstances and all that.
The book was originally published in separate volumes and at the end Richardson has a “postscript” in which he feels compelled to justify the length of the book. He says he has received complaints and there must have been reviews in the paper as well. He says the book is not a “mere novel or romance,” and those who think the first part of the book too long and too slow when Clarissa is still with her family just don’t understand. The first part of the book is the “foundation of the whole.” He goes on:
The letters and conversations, where the story makes the slowest progress, are presumed to be characteristic. They give occasion likewise to suggest many interesting personalities, in which a good deal of the instruction essential to a work of this nature is conveyed. And it will, moreover, be remembered that the author at his first setting out, apprised the reader, that the story was to be looked upon as the vehicle only to the instruction.
So take that critics!
Richardson in his postscript is also made to justify killing off Clarissa. He got lots of letters from people saying that he absolutely could not kill the girl. But, Richardson says, he wanted his book to be true to life and while the good people living and the bad people dying would have been poetic justice, real life is not like that. In real life good people suffer and bad people get away with things. What matters is that the good use their suffering to become even more virtuous and pious and they shall receive their reward in heaven.
For all the time it took to get through this book I did enjoy it. I did not think I would for a while there when every time I sat down with it I felt like I was wrestling my way through. I am glad I stuck with it.