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from novels, so much of good and of evil, has undertaken on our behalf to make it
- so very many of the details of everyday less so. We will acknowledge, as we pass life are done honestly or dishonestly, self- on, that he has so far done his task well, ishly or unselfishly, in a manner divine or that he has omitted nothing necessary to diabolical, as the mind of the doer may the story, and that, in the three volumes have been operated upon beneficially or in- now under notice, Clarissa" is a better juriously by the novelist's art, that the pro- novel than it was as left by Richardson. duction and possession of good novels We will not pause to assert that an author instead of bad, that is of novels that will should be judged by his works as he himteach good lessons instead of novels that self leaves them, and will acknowledge, will teach bad lessons, is a matter of vital also, as we proceed, that the world of importance to the nation. We think that readers is indebted to the editor or comwe are right in asserting that the novels of mentator who will make that which fitted the day have more effect on the national the taste of one age fit also for the taste of mind than either the sermons or the poetry ; later ages by his labours. But we venture more probably than any other branch of to express our opinion that, even in this literature with the exception of newspapers, abridgment, “Clarissa” is so prolix, that - even if we except them. In speaking of the impatience of the times will not endure the novels of the day, we mean the novels the book; and also that, as a work of art, which are now read, and should count Rich- it is not only prolix, but is so replete with ardson's among those if they were in daily other faults which have been condemned by use. If this be so, it would be a great the ever-advancing literary education of the thing to redeem from darkness and bring day, that it can never again become popuout into meridian light a work, of which the lar. lessons are undoubtedly moral, if that There are those, among whom, however, work be, as it is asserted, of all novels the we do not think that we should reckon Mr. best and most charming.
Dallas, - lovers of literature too, who It is confessed that nobody reads " Clar- will tell us that our education and taste as issa.” Richardson's novels must, indeed, to that which we read have gone backwards ; be classed among those standard national that men and women who prefer Macaulay works of literature with which men in gen- to Burnet, Tennyson to Dryden, or Thackeral think it no harm to profess an acquain- eray to Richardson, do so because to their tance, although they have never read a line attenuated intellects and sickly judgments of them, and have never opened the volume. tinsel shines brighter than gold. These are There are many such national works. We the “ lauditores temporis acti," the Conserdon't mean to say that men and women lie vatives in literature, for there are Conabout them. If asked to put their hands servatives in literature as in politics, men on their hearts and say whether they had who are very serviceable to us in saving us perused this or that book from end to end, from too quick a desertion of things that the truth would come from them clearly and are old, because they are old, — the drag rapidly. But in the ordinary conversation upon our wheels which might otherwise run of the world, it is customary to presume an down the hill too quickly. But we hold acquaintance with these happy literary own- them to be altogether wrong in their judgers of brevet rank. Beaumont and Fletcher ment of men's intellects. As age succeeds are a great example. We are disposed to age, that which is most worthy keeps its believe that Spenser might be named in the hold upon us. As it is in matters political, list; Bunyan's “ Pilgrim's Progress " should so it is also in matters of literature. Trial be inserted; and De Foe's writings, with by jury remains, and is likely to remain, the exception of "Robinson Crusoe.” Dry- let Messrs. Beales and Odgers be ever so den's poems, Chesterfield's letters, and Dr. triumphant; and Shakspeare is still known Johnson's works, -- of course we do not in- to us at least as intimately as in any previelude his dictionary, - may be added. In ous age. The very admission that “Clarthis catalogue Richardson's novels must issa ” is not read, is of itself proof to us certainly find a place. All these are books that “ Clarissa" is unreadable. which it is assumed that every man has Mr. Dallas admits that this work is proread, which all men have on their book- lix, and endeavours to cure the fault. But shelves, but which nobody ever reads. If unfortunately the book is weighted with a “ Clarissa” is so pre-eminently the best of double prolixity. It is prolix in all its novels, and as novels are now more popu- parts, as well as in its whole. Cut it to lar than ever, why is “ Clarissa" among pieces as you will, and it will still be prolix. the books that are never opened ?
The telling of every incident is done with a Mr. Dallas tells us that it is prolix, and I prolixity that to us is amazing; and, as the
whole story is told in letters, it strikes us there is no touch of natural life in it from as being as impossible as it is cumbersome. beginning to end. The least critical reader knows that the Clarissa Harlowe is the daughter of a writing of such letters must have been im- wealthy gentleman, and is one of a possible. The twenty-four hours of the large and united family, with whom, up to day were not long enough for the transcrib- the period at which the story begins, she ing of all the words which men and women was loved, not only in family amity, but as are supposed to have thrown into their let- a favoured one, a pet, and an idol. She ters, written, - say, between Monday and has father, mother, brother, sister, and two Tuesday morning: Mr. Dallas will proba- uncles who have all adored her; and she bly tell us that if the letters so written be has had a grandfather who has left to her a in themselves charming, this inconsistency large fortune. She has also a friend, Miss should be held to be venial. Even with Howe, who worships her; and she has two this we cannot agree. The reader feels that lovers, - one, the notorious Lovelace, who there is a trespass made upon his judgment is the villain of the book; and the other, when he is asked to accept that as true one Solmes, who is the object of her early which he feels to have been impossible. disgust. Of these two lovers, the first has But independently of that, letters so written managed to get himself refused by Clarissa's must in themselves be prolix, — prolix, sister, who is, nevertheless, frightfully jealthough a week were allowed for the writing ous when the lover transfers himself to of them. When two or three prolix letters Clarissa. The other is favoured by all the have given accounts, equally prolix, of the Harlowe family, as being one who will not same circumstance, Mr. Dallas has been give trouble, either by profligacy or in moable to omit one or two of the number; and ney matters. Clarissa, of course, loves the reader is so far spared. But the ques- Lovelace, — though, throughout the whole tion should be one, not of sparing, but of story, so much is never admitted by her, — delight; and a story told with prolixity is and protests loudly that she will have not delightful even when told but once. nothing to say to Solmes. Then the
We will attempt very shortly to analyse whole family go to work to force her to the story of “Clarissa," and to show, in marry the man she hates, and make scruple doing so, that its faults, independently of of no tyranny to drive her to compliance. its prolixity, are such as to forbid its ever Her brother and her sister become fiends of being restored to general popularity; We malice. Her father removes himself away will begin by admitting that the tale pos- as an offended god, but as a god who knows sesses in the highest degree the highest no mercy; and her uncles are stormy, cruel, merit which a work of prose fiction can and devilish. Clarissa, in the meantime, possess. It is pre-eminently pathetic. They manages to keep up a correspondence with who can make their way through it, - and, Lovelace, and at last elopes with him. Up even in the three volume form in which Mr. to this point the mind of the reader is solely Dallas has given it to us, it is about twice intent on getting on with his work. The as long as an ordinary novel, — will find whole story is told in letters, — chiefly, up that their feelings are harrowed by the suf- to this point, passing between Clarissa and ferings of the heroine, and that their indig- her friend, Miss Howe. The minutest denation is stirred by the iniquity of the chief tails are told, but all these details are untransgressor. Such cruel usage, and borne natural. There is not a letter among them with such angelic heroism, - such barbar- that any girl could have written in any age. ity, and planned with such devilish art, is Anna Howe herself is detestable. She has not perhaps to be found in the whole range a respectable lover, whom she marries at of novels with which our shelves and those last, and in respect of whom her letters are of our circulating libraries are laden. And full of the most absurd abuse. She relates this great virtue belongs admittedly and of to her friend all her ill-treatment of this tradition so absolutely to “Clarissa,” that lover, down to the very words she uses. its existence is in itself the strongest proof Yet not once does she profess affection for of the faults of the book in other respects. him. And yet she marries him. In depictThere is no virtue in novels so generally in ing Anna Howe and her lover, Richardson demand as the virtue of pathos; and yet, has intended to be humorous, but even Mr. though the existence of this virtue in Dallas will not, we think, break a lance in “ Clarissa” is admitted on all hands, al- defence of his author's humour. And, in though it has become an acknowledged fact describing the manner in which Anna Howe in literature, neither men nor women will did get married and Clarissa Harlowe did read it. They will not read it, because not, Richardson has adhered to his stiff,
ungainly, puritanical idea as to women, comes most intricate, but the letters which that a woman till she is married should be tell the plot are continued throughout, and ashamed ever to own that she loves. We are so written that the reader is never for a may be told that such was the idea among moment permitted to feel that his story is well brought-up women of the time: but we being told to him by the person who should renture to assert that the poetry, plays, tell it. That young ladies should be laboriand tales of the day tell us that this was not ous, persistent, and long-winded in their so; and that women then, if less demonstra- letters to their friends, is perhaps an idea so tive, and therefore less natural than now, well established in the minds of novel readwere still known to speak their minds. ers, as to make it seem possible that eight Richardson desired to teach virtue as he saw or ten hours a day should be devoted to the it; and, in doing so, has repudiated all hu- purpose; but when young men about town, man nature, — as is done by so many who, gay rakes, fellows who fight, and drink, and in these days, endeavour to teach us virtue gamble, and notoriously spend their hours in godly but false little books, about godly in the pursuit of pleasure, — when such as Lut false little people.
these are found to cover quires of paper We may here point out the impracticabil- daily, not only with their own productions ity of telling, by means of letters between to their own correspondents, but in copying correspondents, a story in which the details them to send to others, and in copying the of life are to be given and the intricacies of production of others to send to their corresa wide plot evolved. Novelists who have pondents, – the patience of the reader gives attempted this have usually begun their way, and he feels that too much is demanded work with epistles which might possibly of him. have been written, — with letters which as Clarissa elopes, and after various advenletters are not altogether absurd, - with tures with her lover, is taken to a house of simple statements of facts and expressions ill fame, and is there detained a prisoner of feeling and opinion, of wishes and fears; by Lovelace with the aid of a bevy of vile but they have invariably found themselves women, and by the assistance outside of driven to use the straitened form of narra- men as vile. In arranging this, Richardson tive with which they have provided them- has been forced to continue intricacies of selves in a manner of which epistolary cor- plot so minute, so detailed, so dove-tailed, respondence can know no real example, re- as to create continually the feeling of impeating whole conversations, and, on occa- possibility. Letters go astray, and don't sions, conversations which have reached the go astray, get into wrong hands, and into writer second-hand, heaping letter upon let- right hands, with equal improbability. A ter, one after another in the same day, and diplomate in the old days of diplomacy presuming at last that the writers of them cozening all Europe, a Talleyrand or a wrote as thongh they themselves were in- Metternich carrying out a scheme for imtentionally fabricating, the novel which has posing or deposing an emperor, were as to be given to the public. Scott tried this nothing in intrigue to Lovelace managing mode of structure in “ Redgauntlet," and the ruin of a young woman, whom, to do Scott failed. In this novel the great master him justice, he is generally quite ready to gradually escapes from the narrow confines marry, and who has eloped with him clearly of fumiliar epistles to the still cramped mode with the purpose of marrying him. Plot of a diary, and from that to a narrative, thickens upon plot. Forgery, perjury, with which he ends his story ; — and even rape, and murder are executed or proposed with this resource ends a story that has with the freest volubility; and to every been spoilt in the telling. “Evelina” is such crime, or scheme for crime, women of perhaps the best instance we have of a novel the town, domestic servants, and ruffians told by letters; and this is so, not because hired for the occasion, are made privy with the letters are at all natural, but because no compunction. There could have been Miss Burney in concocting them has thrown no law in the land, and yet Richardson is over all idea of fashioning the letters to the writing of the reign of George II. It is minds and natural language of the writers, known to her friends that Clarissa is in the and has allowed herself to write them as hands of a villain ; - it is even known durthough she herself had forgotten her own ing the story that she is with villainous traminels. When the reader comes to women ;- but no one comes to help her. “Evelina in continuation," it is to him sim- Her devoted Anna Howe writes letters by ply the beginning of a new chapter. But the dozen, but never appears on the scene, Richardson has provided for himself no such even when she hears the whole story of her refuge from his difficulty as was found either friend's tragedy. During the greater porby Miss Burney or by Scott. The plot be- tion of this part of the book the reader
LIVING AGE. VOL. XI. 460
finds himself detained at the house of ill lace. Belford is admitted to the intimacy fame in company with women of the town of Clarissa, and is named her executor. In whose conversation is given at length, this position he becomes acquainted with and is given as repeated by Clarissa to a all the details of her life, which he communigentleman who is the chief correspondent cates to his friend in letters eight, ten, and of Lovelace! Will Mr. Dallas tell us that twelve pages in length, writing sometimes Clarissa Harlowe's life at Mrs. Sinclaire's two a day. In the last months of poor will ever be popular among English novel Clarissa's life, Mr. Belford had almost more readers? It is very moral and not ob- than man could do in looking after her, and scene ; – but it is nasty, altogether unnatu- telling the history of her life to her seral, and wanting in all the elements of dra- ducer; but during all this time he never matic effect.
quarrels with his friend or is stirred to From this den she escapes to Hampstead, avenge Clarissa. This is done some and is brought back again by contrivances months after the lady's death by a military which are surely the most clumsy which cousin who has had much dealing with ever a novelist used. She was a lady of Lovelace, dealing that was frank and alexcellent education, of high intellect, used most friendly, and that after he had learned to society, and able to talk down an arch- the story of the poor girl's fate; but who bishop on any matter of discourse. In con- at last, after full consideration, conceives it versation it is impossible to have her at a to be his duty to follow Lovelace, and to loss. Her manners and wit are as perfect challenge him with all courtesy, and to as her beauty. And yet she is cajoled shoot him. Of hot anger, of passionate inaway from her refuge at Hampstead by two dignation, of that feeling which would have women of the town who represent them- driven almost any man — nay, almost any selves, at Lovelace's instance, to be ladies of woman - - to clutch at Lovelace, and to title, and his near relations! By them she is tear him to pieces, there is not a word, taken back to her former prison, - and The first question to be asked as to every there she is drugged and violated. And novel is whether it will please. There are upon this the violator writes the only short various other questions to be asked, which letter in the book. “And now, Belford, are also very important. Will it be injuriI can go no further. The affair is over, ous to its readers? If so, though it be Clarissa lives. And I am,-your humble ever so full of delight, let it be banished servant.” We will admit here that the pa- from our rooms. Is it well written? If it thos is so great and overwhelming as to be not, even though it please, it is open to banish from the reader's mind for the mo- just censure. Is it untrue to nature? If ment the remembrance that no man that it be false to nature, let the critics say so, ever lived could in such circumstances have even though the charm of the work be comwritten such a letter.
plete. Let all and every fault be pointed And now the author is so vilely crippled out,- for the benefit of readers and of by the fashion of his narrative that he can writers too. These novels are so far good make but little of the picture of his heroine. that the readers seek them and delight in Clarissa, half-crazy, as she well might be, them. So much is true of them, though we writes a letter to Anna Howe, and a letter acknowledge that they might have been betto Lovelace, -- which Lovelace copies and ter. But a novel that will not please is sends to his friend! But the injured woman naught. The world will not have it if there herself cannot be brought on the scene, be more of trouble than of pleasure in the the two letters seem to have tried too reading of it. Now, to our thinking, the higbly the novelist's powers. “Oh, Love- world of the present day cannot be made to lace," she says, "you are Satan himself, take delight in “Clarissa.” Every reader or he helps you out himself in everything, that does read it will acknowledge its wonand that's as bad. But have you really and derful power of harrowing up the feelings, truly sold yourself to him?' and for how its surpassing pathos, its terrible picture of long? What duration is your reign to Virtue suffering all things but debasement have?” After this she escapes again; gets under the hands of Vice. But no reader into good hands; is then arrested by the will rise and feel that in the reading of the bad women, not at the instance of Love- book he has passed happy hours. It is lace, but on his behalf; again escapes, is quite true that readers who have commenced grandly persistent in her refusal to marry may be unable not to finish the volumes, him, and dies unvisited by any of her near that readers may find themselves compelled relations or by her darling friend.
to get through the work by some mixed The latter part of the story is chiefly told process of reading and skipping; but the in the letters of Belford to his friend Love-1 desire will always be to reach the end in
order that the labour may be over. Through- men have changed. The novels of the out the story there is no one to love or sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are even to like, save only Clarissa. The per- now absolutely unreadable by us, and we sonages with whom the reader will become do not think that any abridgment would acquainted are for the most part either make them pleasant to us. Those of the gloomy and tyrannical, or vicious and abom- eighteenth stand their ground with a cerinable. And with Clarissa herself the read- tain amount of life. We have acknowler forms no pleasant acquaintance. She edged that men desire to have Richardson never smiles, and we must admit, indeed, on their shelves, and almost persuade themthat she has little reason for smiling. She selves that they have read “Sir Charles is always among wretches, and from first Grandison.” But no force from the outto last we never see what Clarissa would side will draw people back upon them. We have been with pleasant friends around her, do not think much of the admiration of or with a lover whom she loved. Main- Diderot, of Scott, or of Macaulay, as extained misery may please through a short pressed for Richardson. The enthusiasm story; but the world of readers is averse of an individual, let him be who he may, or to being steeped in wretchedness through a the enthusiasm of a certain hour in that inlong series of volumes.
dividual's life, is but slender proof of the It has not been so much our intention to excellence of anything. If we found that criticise Richardson's story, which as we the volumes of Richardson were frequently have said, is indeed an old tale, as to call taken down from our shelves, that the bookin question the conclusion of Mr. Dallas sellers dealt in them widely, and that the with the view of inquiring whether that novels were sold at the railway stores for a which he has done will resuscitate a lost shilling apiece, we should think more of popularity. When Richardson wrote nov- such evidence than of that of the Governorels were scarce, and of those which were General, and Secretary, and Commanderwritten few were deemed to be fit reading in-chief in India, with their wives and famifor young and modest women. That “Clar- lies, as given by Macaulay to Thackeray in issa” should have been so esteemed some- the drawing-room of the Athenæum. But what astonishes us, as in no novel that we we will not close these remarks, widely opknow is a fouler brood of low characters | posed as they are to the views of Mr. Dalintroduced than in Clarissa ; "— but the las, without again expressing our admiramoral teaching was supposed to be good, tion for the literary zeal of an Editor who and the book was undoubtedly accepted. has been willing to give so much labour As we look back to the literature of past and time to an old tale, simply because it ages we see that the tastes of men and wo-Ihas moved him deeply.
lake, and I proposed to take the little girl, for [TO THE EDITOR OF THE “SPECTATOR.") whose loneliness I could not help feeling a good SIR,-I am reminded by your article on the deal of pity, on the water. She would like very children whom one meets with on the Continent much to go, but she could not leave Minnie. As of an American family whom I met with in a I could not bear to deprive my little friend of pension on the Lake of Geneva, where I spent what was evidently a great pleasure, I asked two days. The party consisted of a girl of about whether Minnie would be good, and having retwelve and two younger children; they had no ceived the elder sister's promise that she would, nurse or servant. The eldest girl was left in I suggested taking her too, though an unknown charge, while the father and mother were, I be- child of five in a boat is rather anxious work. lieve, making a tour in Switzerland for a fort- Minnie was perfectly good, and we returned in night. I did not hear that any express cause safety. had taken them away. The little girl's manage I have often thought since of the eldest girl. ment of the younger ones was such as many a I wonder whether bers is an exceptional case, or mother might have envied. The boy and an- whetber there are many American children like other little boy had been out playing till after her. The strange and, to English ideas, preposdinner was ready, and rushed in while we were terous notion of leaving a girl of twelve without at table. One of the young culprits was adjured any elder friend, and without any special recomby his mother several times in persuasive, drawl- mendation to the mistress of the pension, did not ing tones, “Do brush your hair, Tommy, you're surprise me more than the manner of the little not fit to be seen, do go and brush it." When girl herself, gentle, childlike, unassuming to the other appeared his sister said very gently, strangers; very gentle yet very decided to the “ You have forgotten to brush your hair, Char- younger ones; staid and quiet she naturally was, lie, you cannot sit down to table so," and Char- but there was not a particle of self-conceit, or lie was off to make himself tidy.
presumption, or self-sufficiency in her bearing.In the evening we were going for a row on the I am, Sir, &c.,
E, G. T. F.