Adventures in Reading

Austen’s Contemporaries: Samuel Richardson
October 12, 2007, 5:23 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

“…gluttonous and sycophantic clergymen, tyrannical fathers, wastrel eldest sons, or comic plots favoring the romantic energies of the young over the inflexibility and greed of the old.” – Claudia L. Johnson’s Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel

Just a quick note that I am giving up on Richardson’s Clarissa. Perhaps in the future I will return to it but, particularly compared to Austen’s move lively writing style, he is a bit dull and I am doing just about everything I can to avoid reading him. Part of me always feels guilty for leaving books unfinished, however, now I can move on to Maria Edgeworth!

But first a final commentary:

A line from Mansfield Park caught my attention as to how it applies to Clarissa: “…for although there doubtless are such unconquerable young ladies of eighteen (or one should not read about them) as are never to be persuaded into love against their judgment by all that talent, manner, attention, and flattery can do, I have no inclination to believe Fanny one of them, or to think that with so much tenderness of disposition, and so much taste as belonged to her, she could have escaped heart-whole from … courtship” (551). This passage describes Crawford’s conquest of Fanny Price, and if Austen is not specifically referring to Samuel Richardson she is certainly having a laugh at novels with similar plots to Clarissa.

I believe it was in the introduction to Clarissa that I read the book is less about the actual characters and more about this moral being who stands up under such sinful and immoral onslaughts. I am barely a third of the way into the book and thus far Clarissa has suffered house arrest (at increasing degrees) inflicted willingly by her family and abducted by the foul fiend Lovelace. All of this force is intended to make her marry Solmes (on her family’s behalf) or Lovelace (on his own behalf), and would not a modest and unworldly girl have already fallen under such excess? But Clarissa nobly stands! I do not entirely mean to poke fun at Clarissa, but it very clearly is more of a moral lesson than a story in contrast with Austen whom is more fiction than moral. Richardson preaches while Austen amuses.

This is not to say that Austen does not have a moral lesson, as I believe she does, but Austen provides her morals with excess padding to make the journey more comfortable.


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