Clarissa is an epistolary novel composed of 537 letters dated from January 10th through to December 18th. The plan is to read the letters around their corresponding dates.
Clarissa and I have had our ups and downs this month. The first week was fine - at last some progress, some action as Clarissa is whisked away from Harlow Place by Lovelace. Not her intention at all when she met him outside the garden gate and she leaves with nothing but the clothes she is wearing.
In a letter to his friend a bit later Lovelace describes what Clarissa was wearing in marvellous detail....
"Her head-dress was a Brussels-lace mob,peculiarly adapted to the charming air and turn of her features. A sky blue ribband illustrated that................Her morning gown was a pale primrose-coloured paduasoy: the cuffs and robins curiously embroidered by the fingers of this ever-charming Arachne, in a running pattern of violets and their leaves, the light in the flowers silver, gold in the leaves. A pair of diamond snaps in her ears. A white hankerchief.....her apron a flowered lawn. Her coat white sattin, quilted: blue satin her shoes, braided with the same colour."Suddenly Clarissa came to life in my mind and I realised how lacking this book is in any sort of setting or background description and how much I miss having it. If only Clarissa and Anna would discuss clothes or what they ate for dinner, the furniture, what they see outdoors - anything that would give a picture of 18th century life .
As Easter approached I read ahead a few days - it's becoming harder to do as so many of the letters are now undated -as I had ten days of family visiting and knew Clarissa would have to go on the backburner for a while. It was when I returned that the problems began. I had a pile of reading I wanted to get to but thought I'd better catch up with Clarissa first . Not a good idea - I was bored and increasingly resentful of not being able to read what I wanted to. I even began to think this might be where I gave up. Fortunately I went with my instincts and put it away, read a few other books, and tried again. This time all was well.
I'm enjoying the battle of wits between Clarissa and Lovelace although it makes me sad. She has been so sheltered, so loved and protected, that she has no idea what she's up against. With each letter Lovelace writes to his friend, Belford, he reveals more of his villainous true self and the lengths he's prepared to go with his nasty plotting and conniving. The more I loathe Lovelace the more I like Clarissa - for the first time since we began I feel involved in her story and emotionally invested in the outcome although I fear it's not going to be a happy ever after ending!
I will have finished April's letters by tomorrow and look forward to May's mail.