Clarissa Harlowe and Her Times



Clarissa Harlowe seems to me one of the greatest of the unread novels. Its greatness derives in part from what it says, by implication, about society and about the relations of individuals with social institutions. But it is a paradoxical book, whose achievement is more profound than the author himself seems to have been aware. It is difficult to come to grips with the moral problems which Richardson presents unless we approach them historically, from the seventeenth century: unless we know something about Puritan attitudes towards society, marriage, and the individual conscience. But our starting point, in considering the structure of the novel, must be economic.


Seventeenth Century Parental Authority Young Lady Paradise Lost Marriage Settlement 
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© Christopher Hill 1997

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