Siegel Report

Samuel Richardson


I. Textual History

There were four editions of _Clarissa_ printed in Richardson's lifetime:

1st edition: 7 volumes (1747-8)

2nd edition: volumes 1-4 revised (1749)

3rd edition: 8 volumes (1751) (With this, Richardson published a textually identical deluxe octavo edition)

4th edition: 8 volumes (1759)

Though the 2nd and 3rd editions deleted some text from the first, most of the changes were additions, often of long passages, extended editorial footnotes, or entire letters. Therefore the third edition was some 200 pages longer than the first. When he published the third edition in 1751, Richardson also published a volume entitled _Letters and Passages Restored from the Original Manuscripts of the History of Clarissa_, in order to make the new material available to purchasers of the first edition. The prefaces and postcript were changed for the second edition, and a (useful) index of letters was added.

Since Mark Kinkead-Weekes wrote "_Clarissa_ Restored?" in 1959, scholars have agreed that Richardson's revisions (between the 1st and 2nd, and 2nd and 3rd editions) contained, in part, a didactic purpose. In Kinkead-Weekes's words, "they serve to emphasize the darker side of Lovelace, to throw light on the problem of Clarissa's 'delicacy', and to underline the novel's moral teaching" (156). These thematic aspects of the textual changes have been matched with Richardson's repeated complaints in his correspondence that his audience had misread his story, leading K-W to conclude that the new passages were not restored from the original manuscripts at all, but newly written and added to the text as a way of better educating the public response. K-W notes that if he is right, "we are faced with the earliest example of the effect upon a novel of audience reactions in the course of publication" (157).

Richardson notes over a hundred significant changes between the first and second editions in an unpublished memorandum; Shirley Van Marter claims to have found two hundred more. These are primarily additions which cast Clarissa's motives (in refusing Solmes, running away with Lovelace, and refusing to marry him) as more entirely spiritual and just. In some places, Richardson seems to have changed his attitude toward the story itself. For instance, the author's correspondence reveals that as he wrote the first edition, he put great stock in Clarissa's feelings for Lovelace, saying rather straightforwardly that good behavior on Lovelace's part would have led to a strong assent from Clarissa. Richardson was upset that some readers had taken this to be a moral fault of Clarissa's, and in the second edition he tried to dampen the strength of Clarissa's affection for Lovelace by changing the word "Love" to "A conditional kind of liking," by eliminating passages where the topic is addressed, and by allowing Clarissa to chastise him at even greater length.

Richardson tried hard to remove any traces of blame from Clarissa's behavior at Harlowe Place. The following "deception" is removed: "For fear they should have an earlier day in their intention, than that which will too soon come, I will begin to be very ill. Nor need I feign much; for indeed, I am extremely low, weak, and faint." It is replaced by, "And who knows, but they may have a still earlier day in their intention, than that which will too soon come?" Additionally, the second edition magnifies the Harlowes' culpability, if such a thing is possible. Anna, for instance, responds in disgust to news of James Harlowe's curse. There are also more dramatic scenes in the second edition than the first.

Altogether, seven letters were printed (five in the second edition, two in the third) which hadn't appeared in the first edition. Four of them are particularly interesting. The first comes just after Clarissa has sent down her proposal to give up Lovelace and her grandfather's estate if she need not marry Solmes. In this letter, Clarissa anticipates that her proposal will be accepted, and imagines her reconciliation with her family. Instead, Bella bursts in to announce the proposal's rejection, and comes off as cleverer than usual (although still deplorable) in the ensuing dialogue:

Well, well, Bella; I am the less obliged to you; that's all. I was willing to think that I had still a brother and sister. But I find I am mistaken. PRETTY MOPSY-EYED SOUL!--was her expression!--And was it willing to think it had still a BROTHER and SISTER? And why don't you go on, Clary? [mocking my half weeping accent] I thought I had a FATHER, and MOTHER, TWO UNCLES, and an AUNT: BUT I AM MIS--TAKEN, THAT'S ALL--COME, Clary, say this, and it will in part true, because you have thrown off their authority, and because you respect one vile wretch more than them all.

The next two additional letters are an exchange between Hickman and Mrs. Howe, where Hickman intends to call off his courtship: "...forgive me if I say that Miss Howe's treatment of me does no credit either to her education or fine sense." Wow. Mrs. Howe pulls no punches in her response:

It may be you have seen somebody else--it may be you would wish to change mistresses with that gay wretch Mr. Lovelace. It may be too, that, in that case, Nancy would not be sorry to change loves--The TRULY ADMIRABLE Miss Clarissa Harlowe: and the EXCELLENT Miss Clarissa Harlowe!--Good lack!--but take care, Mr. Hickman, that you do not praise any woman living, let her be as admirable and as excellent as she will, above your own mistress.

Perhaps this needed to be said; it is hard to see, though, how it fulfills Richardson's supposed purpose of improving Hickman's image, and we might question the kinds of polemical conclusions which are sometimes drawn from these additions. The last interesting new letter is Lovelace's famous revenge plot against the Howes. Even more disturbing (if that's possible) than Lovelace's plot to board a steamer with his friends, push Hickman overboard, and rape Miss Howe, Mrs. Howe, and their maidservant, is Lovelace's vision of what the consequences would be if he did so and was brought to trial: namely, a complete acquittal, accompanied by a triumphal procession as he left the courtroom. Believe it? You should; look at the ease with which he wins the sympathies of Mrs. Moore and her friends in Hampstead, and becomes a favorite at Smith's in London.

The shorter revisions in the second edition generally serve to sharpen and clarify Richardson's language; however, Van Marter points out certain thematic considerations as well. Primary among these was a seemingly new awareness on Richardson's part of social distinctions. Clarissa's characteristic "mamma" and "papa" are stiffened to "Mother" and "Father" (this is a HUGE difference). "His aunt Lawrance" and "his aunt Sadleir" become "Lady Betty" and "Lady Sadleir." Anna refers to "Hickman" as "Mr. Hickman." Lovelace refers to "Mrs. Howe," not "Goody Howe," etc. The first edition also coined many new words, and took liberties with some old ones. These were standardized in the second edition. Van Marter uses this kind of evidence to assert that Richardson was doing more than reacting to the public in his early revisions; he was making independant artistic decisions.

The changes made in the third edition, as far as I can tell, are not different in kind than those made in the second, so I won't discuss them here. It is worthwhile to spend some time with the new passages, particularly the new letters; it gives you an eerie sense that the story could somehow grow OUT interminably, even in unpredictable ways (i.e. Hickman's complaint).

By the end of the eighteenth century, sixteen complete editions of _Clarissa_ had been published, some of them deluxe. Some of these were corrected; all were, as far as I know, based on the third edition. The eighteenth century also saw eight abridged editions, and three translated into other languages. I've only found a handful of editions published in the nineteenth century, again some abridged and some translated. Two of the abdridgments came out in the same year (1868); one sparked new interest in the book, and the other was extremely short and focused on the last three months of Clarissa's life. The five or so editions published in this century have, until the Penguin in 1985, chosen to reprint the third edition. Kinkead-Weekes argues that the third edition is rather ridiculous, and that the first should be generally favored, although he says one might consider creating an eclectic edition, despite the "dangers" of such a work. Van Marter argues in favor of the artistic value of the third edition. A late chapter in this story involves the 1962 Riverside (Sherburn) abridgment, which Margaret Doody claims to have "effectually replaced Richardson's own _Clarissa_ in the canon" (74). Doody says that Sherburn has virtually edited out the scenes at Harlowe Place and at Smith's, leaving some revised version of the middle half of the novel, which Sherburn has translated into some kind of eighteenth-century version of courtly love. "Sherburn's version," says Doody, "should never be taught in any reputable college or university."


In _Sex and Enlightenment_, Rita Goldberg puts _Clarissa_ in the tradition of the Puritan conduct books. These should be distinguished from the secular conduct books of the eighteenth century, which focused primarily on manner, rather than conscience. Puritan conduct books were of an older breed; they explored "humble and active Christian piety" under duress. The later of these were attuned to the ambiguities of worldly positions, and considered problem situations, such as the responsibilities of a child to a tyrannical parent. Goldberg argues that the first and last sections of _Clarissa_ are written in the style of a Puritan conduct book, and they cradle the exploratory (bourgeois) individualism/internalism of the second part. While the conduct books of the early 17th century were fairly egalitarian in scope, those of the later 17th and early 18th centuries were directed to women; women's chastity was moved into the spotlight of Puritan conduct writing for the first time. At the same time, misogynistic secular writing was becoming more common, as exemplified by _Venice Preserved_.

Katherine Hornbeak claims (1938) that Richardson's _Familiar Letters_ is very simply a Puritan conduct book draped with fiction. She identifies these symptomatic themes among others: the subjection of wife to husband, filial obedience to parents and guardians, clandestine address, and duties between servants and masters. Her argument might be transferred from the _Familiar Letters_ to _Clarissa_. There has been much critical argument about the nature of the Puritan ethic in _Clarissa_. Dussinger believes that the novel is essentially "perfectionist." Harvey says there is nothing Puritan about Richardson's preoccupation with female virginity; rather, it is simultaneously sensationalistic and indicative of a recent phenomenon, where the marriage market had become the "virginity market." Hensley believes that both secular and religious readings of the text engage in a dialectic which was professed by the religious authorities that Richardson included in his circle.

To understand the Harlowe family's special investment in Solmes (as opposed to Lovelace), it is necessary to acknowledge the rise of "property marriage" as an early eighteenth century practice. While a marriage between Arabella and Lovelace would be a connection to the Harlowe family which might help it (James) gain a peerage, a marriage between Clarissa and Lovelace would not. Clarissa has, to the dismay of the enterprising capitalist portion of the Harlowe family, inherited her grandfather's estate, and it is important that she marry someone who will agree to let that property revert back to the Harlowe family. Solmes is such a man. He has little concern for increasing the estates of his own family; he looks out only for himself, and will consequently pay a great deal to be allied to a landed family such as the Harlowes. It is hard to see Richardson's politics as anything but a critique of those among the landed classes who would willingly compromise their aristocratic connections for material gain, by allying themselves to mercantile wealth. Landed aristocrats had been forced to make political concessions to other kinds of wealth since 1660 and 1688. This all supports Doody's claim that Richardson had a strong Tory bias, and was greatly disappointed by the suppression of the 1745 Jacobite Revolution.

I've put bibliographies in your boxes at Bryan Hall. Add Hunter, P., _Before Novels_ (New York: Norton, 1990) for backgrounds of didactic literature.


1. How do dramatic moments in the letters affect the reading of this novel? When Bella visits Clarissa (L42) and listens to her proposal, she asks to see it in writing; there is a moment when the slightest bit of sensibility on Bella's part might at least bridge a gap between the sisters, and at most give Clarissa another advocate downstairs, at least for a time. Instead, Bella looks at the letter and laughs. This laugh is mortifying; it's as if Bella effectually damns herself irrecoverably. The potency of this episode does not come from the style in which it is depicted, and it may be useful to consider style/form and story as competing to elicit a response from the reader. There is also a sense in which, if these letters are dressed-up sermons, the excitement associated with incident should be suppressed/suppressible. For instance, when James Jr. reveals the plot to remove Clarissa to Uncle Antony's, and Clarissa objects that she will be vulnerable there to a forced marriage, James replies, "if we intended to use force, we could have the ceremony pass in your chamber as well as anywhere else." Do these intrigues weaken a discourse on filial obedience, or is story/circumstance necessary to make such a discourse viable?

2. Clarissa defends (to Anna) her tendency to make instructional statements even when she is personally distressed, by saying that "not to be able to make them...would show one's self more engaged to SELF and one's OWN concerns, then attentive to the wishes of a friend. If it be said that it is NATURAL so to be, what makes that NATURE, on occasions where a friend may be obliged or reminded of a piece of instruction, which, writing down, one's self may be the better for, but a FAULT; which it would set a person above nature to subdue?" (p.101) Clarissa believes that friends give not consolation but instruction to one another. Anna believes differently; her operative mode is to console Clarissa by way of judging her oppressors harshly. Which is the better friend? Clarissa signs L14, "Yours more than my own;" it is possible that corresponding with Anna gives Clarissa a stage of action/narration where she can escape the circuit of self-reflection (narcissism) vs. duty (renunciation).

I'd better stop. -Danny