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Clarissa's grandfather dies and leaves her, the youngest female, a large estate (compared to others) because he liked her the most. The family realise that she needs to be married off to a man good enough to run such an estate and who would be great to have connections with, so they decide on Roger Solmes, who Clarissa despises. As this is happening, Lovelace (a man of questionable standards) declares interest in Clarissa and leaves her sister, Bella, to seduce her which ends in a fight to the death with the eldest brother, James - Lovelace wins, injuring James. At Clarissa's refusal to marry Roger Solmes her family decide to lock her in the house until she complies but she manages to sneak out secret messages to her dearest friend, Anna.

Clarissa Or A History Of A Young Lady was Samuel Richardson's last novel and told entirely by letters between various characters.

It's also the longest novel in the English language (making it number five behind four French novels). Published in 1747-8 and part of the public domain can be read here for free.

There was a television adaption in 1991 starring Sean Bean as Lovelace and Saskia Wickman as Clarissa.


Tropes Appearing in This Novel

  • Abduction Is Love: That's how Lovelace does it.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Roger Solmes, the man the family wants to pair Clarissa up with.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Deconstructed. Clarissa's initial fascination with Lovelace wears off very quickly.
  • Arranged Marriage: Clarissa with Roger Solmes. While he is happy about this, she absolutely despises him and refuses marry him - meaning she gets locked in the house until she does.
  • Big Brother Bully: James is constantly rude to Clarissa but claims he's being over protective. This quickly gets out of hand and he and Bella are soon causing Clarissa serious harm.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Bella, who also accuses Clarissa of being such.
  • Blessed with Suck: Clarissa gets left a huge amount of money from her grandfather's will! Oh, she has to marry somebody the family decides is suitable.
  • Character Title
  • Dead Man Writing: Clarissa's final letters to her family and friends, all intended to be read after her death.
  • Death Seeker: Lovelace, after he reads Clarissa's will and suffers a Villainous BSOD.
  • Does Not Like Men: Anna; she compares all men to baboons.
  • Domestic Abuse: In those days locking your disobedient daughter wasn't so bad but it's abuse now.
  • Doorstopper: Longest book in the English language.
  • Double Standard: Given the time of writing it's understandable.
  • Duel to the Death: Lovelace and James Harlowe; Lovelace and Col. Morden. In the second duel, Lovelace intentionally gets himself killed.
  • Epistolary Novel: The novel counts the amount at over five hundred letters.
  • Final Speech: "LET THIS EXPIATE!"
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Nor did it appear that [Lovelace] was so bad a man as had been represented; wild indeed, but it was at a gay time of life."
  • Late Arrival Spoiler: The blurb on the back of the 1985 Penguin Classic edition spoils the ending.
  • Morton's Fork: Clarissa has the choice between Solmes and Lovelace.
  • Prince Charmless: Lovelace.
  • Rape as Drama
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Between Clarissa and Anna.
  • Take a Third Option: As Clarissa is worrying about her decision between marrying Solmes or running away with Lovelace, Anna suggests she comes with her to London. It doesn't happen.
  • Villainous BSOD: Lovelace after he sees Clarissa's will.
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue
  • Will: Clarissa's grandfather's will is the main plot point at the start of the story, leaving her a large estate and, later on, Clarissa's will deeply affects Lovelace.
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