In the spirit of the Clarissa Project’s emphasis on primary texts and contexts, Clarissa: The Twentieth-Century Response, 1900–1950 brings together examples of the extensive and impressively varied reaction to Samuel Richardson’s second novel, starting in 1900, when a landmark monograph by Clara Thomson affirmed Samuel Richardson’s enduring position in literary history, and ending in the middle of the twentieth century, when Frank Kermode asserted Richardson’s superiority over rival novelist Henry Fielding.
The materials assembled by editor Janet Aikins Yount reveal that in the first half of the past century Clarissa was not relegated to literary oblivion, as a work infrequently read because of its length or perceived irrelevance to a new century. Instead, the novel was everywhere, serving as a touchstone for artists, literary scholars, and workers in a variety of professions. These two volumes chart Clarissa’s reception to illuminate the evolving cultural issues and changing political circumstances that shaped that very reception. Responses to Richardson’s work are drawn not only from literary scholars but also from public officials, novelists, a librarian, historians, journalists, and diverse social commentators—effectively offering readers a cultural and literary history of the early twentieth century displayed in the rich and varied response to a single novel.
Volume I, The Twentieth-Century Conversation about Clarissa, synthesizes the materials reprinted in Volume II in four chronologically arranged essays. The first identifies common themes in responses from 1900 to the outbreak of World War I, when Clarissa resonated with the women’s suffrage movement. The second discusses responses from the end of the Great War to 1930, when fascism was on the rise and readers of Richardson nostalgically yearned for a return to “the peace of the Augustans.” The third essay documents a new professionalism in Richardson scholarship, dating from 1931—with the appearance of the Shakespeare Head Edition of Clarissa—up to 1944, near the end of World War II. A final section covers the period from 1945 to 1950, highlighting anxieties felt during what scholars have called the “gray dawn of peace” or the start of the Cold War.
Volume II, Clarissa’s Reception, 1900–1950, presents more than sixty responses to Richardson’s novel, including an illustration by the Romanian poster artist Jean de Paléologue. In addition to English-language texts from Great Britain, the United States, and Canada, works translated for the first time from French, German, Russian, and Polish illuminate as never before the scope of this novel’s global reception in the first half of the twentieth century. Biographical headnotes on the individuals represented shed new light on many who have fallen into undeserved obscurity, among them Wilhelm Dibelius, whose reading of Richardson defined the English national character for his German compatriots at the time of Hitler’s rise.
Carol Houlihan Flynn and Edward Copeland, eds., Clarissa and Her Readers: New Essays for The Clarissa Project.
New York, 1999. LC 99-48633, ISBN 978-0-404-63631-9.
AMS Studies in the Eighteenth Century, No. 31. The Clarissa Project, Volume 9.
Susan Price Karpuk, Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa: An Index. Analyzing the Characters, Subjects, and Place Names (Based upon the Penguin Classics edition, 1985).
New York, 2000. LC 99-33015, ISBN 978-0-404-63534-3.
AMS Studies in the Eighteenth Century, No. 34.
Lois E. Bueler, ed., Clarissa: The Eighteenth-Century Response, 1747–1804.
New York, 2010. Volume 1: Reading Clarissa. Vol. 1 LC 2008030519. Volume 2: Rewriting Clarissa. Vol. 2 LC 20080540789.
Set ISBN-10: 0-404-64860-6, Set ISBN-13: 978-0-404-64860-2.
AMS Studies in the Eighteenth Century, Nos. 60 & 61.