Thursday, March 1, 2012

Clarissa Volume 3 by Samuel Richardson

Clarissa or The History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson
Vol 3: Letters 93 - 154
Published: 1748
Rating: 5
Vol 1 post
Vol 2 post
Other posts: 2012 Year long reading co-hosted by Terri and JoAnn.  Post at Delaisse.
Challenge: The English Novel 

I have switched to reading the ginormous paperback bought a few weeks ago at a local library sale, mainly because the previous owned is like me, a "scribbler" (one of Richardson's favorite ways to describe his heroine's need for writing): underlining sentences, writing in the margins, circling words, writing the major theme of the page at the top, asking questions and displaying emotion with the occasional swear word, explained below.  I find it fascinating to see what another reader thought of the work.

This is my favorite volume - I couldn't read it fast enough.  In the first two volumes, the story is told primarily from Clarissa and her best friend, Anna's point of view with only 3 letters from Lovelace.  We are left dangling at the end of volume 2, when C confesses to A that she has run away with LL.  In volume 3, roughly one-third of the letters are from LL to his friend, John Belford.  So now, we are privy to his point of view - the cad and rogue.  Richardson has chosen to show the villain LL in all his vain, conceited and ugly glory (can you tell I can't stand the guy?)

I have been wracking my brains for the past few days to think of another villain in literature that is as bad as LL and had to resort to a Google search for help.  Here is a list called the "50 Greatest Villains In Literature", in which LL ranks six, beat out by 1) Satan in Paradise Lost, by John Milton, 2) Samuel Whiskers from The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, by Beatrix Potter, 3) Cruella de Vil from The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith, 4) Iago from Othello, by William Shakespeare and 5) Voldemort from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.  To round out the top ten, the villains that follow are 7) Ambrosio from The Monk, by M G Lewis, 8) Claudius from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, 9) Mr Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad and 10) Vindice from The Revenger's Tragedy, by Thomas Middleton.

The only book I have read from this list is Harry Potter and would agree that Voldemort's cruelty and disregard for human life surpasses LL.  Some of these books are on my TBR so as time goes on, I will be able to form my own opinion on the order.  Suffice it to say, to be in the top ten is pretty bad.  Surprisingly, one character who did not make this list is the ultra creepy, self-justifying pedophile, Humbert Humbert from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.  More interesting is that another character from the book, Clare Quilty is ranked 34.  I did read Lolita and do not remember Quilty so had to read the Wikipedia synopsis.  To me, HH should be in the list in lieu of Quilty and ranked higher.

Why is LL so bad and noted as a bastard several times by the previous owner of my book?  He is a pathological liar who reminds me of a sly, cunning, hungry cat that ultimately plans to kill and eat the poor, naive, innocent mouse but thoroughly enjoys toying and playing with it before delivering the fatal blow.  What follows are quotes that make my blood boil.

He proudly admits to manipulating C's entire family with the sole purpose of driving her to utter and total dependence upon himself.
I knew that the whole stupid family were in a combination to do my business for me....working for me, like so many underground moles; and still more blind than the moles...unknowing that they did so, I myself, the director of their principal motions; which falling in with the malice of their little hearts, they took to be all their own (Letter 97: LL to Belford).
To LL, it is all a game with Clarissa as the prize.
It was her character that drew me to her, and it was her beauty and good sense that riveted my chains, and now all together make me think her a subject worthy of my attempts, worthy of my ambition (Letter 110: LL to B).
In the midst of his game, he must show self-control but it is hard.  He dreams of the day when he can do what he wants.
....will kiss her when I please; and not stand trembling, as now, like a hungry hound who sees a delicious morsel within his reach (the froth hanging about his vermilion jaws), yet does not leap at it for his life (Letter 115: LL to B). 
The lies he tells to C are too many to note.  Then he writes this to Belford in Letter 127:
I love when I dig a pit, to have my prey tumble in with secure feet and open eyes; then a man can look down upon her, with an oh-ho charmer!  How came you there!
And even more horridly in Letter 152:
Here, I have been at work, dig, dig, dig, like a cunning miner at one time and spreading my snares like an artful fowler at another, and exulting in my contrivances to get this inimitable creature absolutely into my power.
Poor Clarissa!  She is intuitive enough to know that LL is not one who can be fully trusted but because of the increased estrangement from her family, largely due to LL's "contrivances", she has no choice but to rely upon him; a most unfortunate place to be.

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