Friday, February 17, 2012

in which I discuss my current Friday routine, and, Clarissa

You should know that for the past several weeks, I have been reading Clarissa in my Eighteenth-Century Literature class. Clarissa is, quite possibly the longest book in the English language, at about 1500 pages in length. To add to this length, I should tell you--and you will see in a photo later in the post--that the book is also abnormally tall. So when I tell you that it is 1500 pages in length, those are 1500 extraordinarily tall pages I'm referring to.

Clarissa is an epistolary novel (i.e. told exclusively in letters) that relates the (mis)adventures of Miss Clarissa Harlowe, a beautiful eighteen-year-old girl who, her entire life has been prematurely wise and the absolute paragon of virtue. She is an example to all the young women in her county, the pride of her parents and two unmarried uncles--and, after her grandfather dies and leaves her the bulk of his estate, the object of hateful envy for her elder brother an sister. A man by the name of Lovelace comes into the county and begins to pursue her. He has quite a history, and is thought generally to be a seductive rake of the worst caliber. When Clarissa's brother returns home and finds Lovelace paying compliments to her, he essentially goes ape-shit; they have a bit of a duel, where young Harlowe, fever-ridden, tries to fight Lovelace, but obviously is too sick to do so, and Lovelace generously spares him his life and mostly just wounds his pride.

But the entire Harlowe family is aghast, and Clarissa is forbidden from seeing Lovelace. She doesn't mind all that much. But then, out of fear of Lovelace's pursuance, and under tyrannous pressure from the envious brother, Clarissa's family begins to push a Mr. Solmes (odious man; think Mr. Collins) at her. She refuses to marry him. And for months a siege on Clarissa takes place in which she is confined to her bedroom and forbidden to come into the company of any of her family. She takes her meals alone in her room, and her servant is dismissed. The family begins to be so awful to her that she suddenly finds herself verily trapped--at which point Lovelace jumps in and offers her his protection. She is tempted to take his protection to avoid Solmes, but ultimately decides against it... however, when meeting Lovelace outside the garden to decline his offer once and for all, he TRICKS her and ABDUCTS her!

And so she is thought to have 'run off' with this vile rake, who proves himself to be even more vile than originally thought in all of his contrivances to get her completely into his power and submit herself to him. This means, bluntly speaking, that he attempts by mind games to get her into bed. But Clarissa, in all of her virtue, will not be taken in so easily. Unhappy girl! Villainous man! Oh, the melodrama! The sentiment! The addiction! --and yet, also: O, the speed at which I must read!

The book is highly sentimental and theatrical. And oh, how I love it. Though I do find that after reading it for hours upon hours on end (as I have done, every Friday), and having no human interaction to mediate the experience, I will myself speak in flowery 'old-fashioned' vernacular to R on the phone in the evening. I've less than 500 pages to go now, and have only two more class periods to read for. Then it's on to Tristram Shandy, a much shorter read. I'll have to then shake up my Fridady routine, for as it is I have spent the past 4 Fridays reading 200+ pages of Clarissa with Mondrian, my Squishable t-rex, and drinking copious amounts of tea.

And, let it be known, that I eat at least about 2 peanut butter and banana sandwiches a week.

[cardigan: JCrew, t-shirt: Oregon Coast Aquarium, cut off jeans: who knows, tights: Target]

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