Notes and References

Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki's illustration for Richardson's "Clarissa"


1 Clarissa has been remediated many times. For example, it was adapted as a play by Robert Buchanan in 1890, as an opera by Robin Hollway in 1990, and as BBC series in 1991. Clarissa was also widely illustrated in the eighteenth century. All the pictures in this webtext are eighteenth-century images of Clarissa and other characters in the novel. For identification of specific images see Pictures below.

2 The work of this seminar was greatly enriched by the fact that almost all of the participants were simultaneously enrolled in Dr. Carolyn Miller’s Thomas R. Watson seminar on genre theory.

3 We read Clarissa in the 1985 Penguin edition which presents Richardson’s first edition, and we use the numbering system for letters in that edition. However, we quote from the Project Gutenberg edition in the public domain that collects all versions and uses a different numbering system for letters. All quotes in the blog (though taken from Project Gutenberg digital text) correspond to Penguin edition and are identified by the letter number in the Penguin text. (This confusion about editions is an historical legacy of Clarissa; see Eaves & Kimpel, 1968; Stuber & Doody, 1999.)

4 Phelan (1989) distinguished among three character components: the “mimetic” character as person, the “thematic” character as idea, and the “synthetic” character as artificial construct. Clarissa is generally presented as a mimetic character, though many people in her life-world often see her as a “thematic” character, particularly in her embodiment of spiritual and physical perfection. The possibility that Clarissa is a “synthetic” character was highlighted in deconstructive criticism of the 1970s and 1980s, but that view subsequently received much critical dissent. See, for example, Eagleton’s response to William Warner’s 1979 claim that “rape is the most cogent response to Clarissa’s fictional projection of herself as a whole unified body ‘full of light'” (qtd. in Eagleton, 1982, p. 67).

5 Although our seminar contained some scholarship on Clarissa, our work was guided primarily by narrative theory. Thus, we present what we acknowledge is, for the most part, an ahistorical reading of Clarissa. Missing from our analysis is any sustained attention to Richardson’s experience as a printer, Richardson’s contemporary readers, the development of the novel as a genre and material object, among other important topics. These lapses are the inevitable consequence not only of the limited time over which a course runs but also the choices made by the instructor in order to focus on narrative theory. That is, we offer this webtext as a response by twenty-first century readers who read Clarissa with a primary interest in how it illustrates issues of narrative construction of the self. See also Jayne Lewis (2006) for a similar view in her discussion of teaching Clarissa: “what Richardson’s novel [Clarissa] offers is what we might call experiential relevance, for it confronts its reader with an arduousness that uncannily replicates the difficulty of the inner lives it represents” (p. 114). Lewis also offered “ways in which Clarissa might be made relevant to today’s relatively naive and unsuspecting reader” (p. 113).


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Barchas, Janine. (1996). The engraved score in Clarissa: An intersection of music, narrative, and graphic design. Eighteenth-Century Life, 20 (2), 1-20.

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“Introduction.” The Harlowe Family (1745-1747). Joseph Highmore. Yale Center for British Art.

“Letters as Blogs.” Paper X, Letter 261, as originally printed in Clarissa (1748). Samuel Richardson.

“Clarissa’s Blog.” Clarissa Harlowe in the Prison Room of the Sheriff’s Office (1833). Charles Landseer. Tate Gallery.

“Lovelace’s Blog.” Lovelace Preparing to Abduct Clarissa Harlowe (1753). Francis Hayman. Southhampton City Art Gallery.

“Summary. Illustration to Clarissa Harlowe, Vol. III Letter IV. (1784). Thomas Stothard. British Museum.

“Narrative Writing and the Self. ” Theophila Palmer Reading Clarissa. Sir Joshua Reynolds. (1771).

“Notes and References.” Illustration for Richarson’s Clarissa. (1785). Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.