30. Samuel Richardson - Clarissa (1748)
After you read Clarissa, Pamela looks like a sketch for this thicker and better book. When I say thicker I mean that my edition is almost A4 sized, very small print and fills almost 1500 pages. I would say that it is possibly the largest single volume I've ever read, with the possible exception of A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.
You are tempted to believe that Samuel Richardson could have done with a good editor, and sometimes it feels like that, but a large part of the strength of this novel is in the size itself. It is so long that the characters become a part of your life, as it is an epistolary novel it also means that you are constantly seeing the characters in their own mind, in first person narration shifting from character to character. Again a technique for identification.
Robert Lovelace the villain of the work is the best villain to date on this list, he is charming and terrifying, in love and a rapist all at the same time. Definitely the most psychologically complex character in the novel.
Richardson's story is again one of psychological horror and claustrophobia but the horror is heightened incredibly from that attempted in Pamela, unlike Mr. B, Lovelace is supremely intelligent and in Clarissa it is all heightened by her family's complicity in her disgrace. This is a book you will read once, it is draining and demands a lot of commitment but ultimately it is worth it. If you read it you will know why I was so delayed with this blog.
Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady epistolary novel, published in 1748, tells the tragic story of a heroine whose quest for virtue is continually thwarted by her family. It is commonly cited as the longest novel in the English language.