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- Note: For other articles related to Clarissa, see Clarissa (disambiguation)
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady is the title of an epistolary novel published by Samuel Richardson in 1748. Another form of the title is Clarissa Harlowe; or the History of a Young Lady.
Clarissa is an exceptionally long novel; excepting novel sequences, it may well be the longest novel in the English language. The full volume of its third edition, the edition most extensively revised by Richardson, spans over one million words. The first edition alone contains nearly 969,000 words.
Clarissa Harlowe, the tragic heroine of Clarissa, is a beautiful and virtuous young lady whose family has become very wealthy only in recent years and is now eager to become part of the aristocracy by acquiring estates and titles through advantageous pairings. Clarissa's relatives attempt to force her to marry a rich but heartless man against her will and, more importantly, against her own sense of virtue. Desperate to remain free, she is tricked by a young gentleman of her acquaintance, Lovelace, into escaping with him. However, she refuses to marry him, longing — unusually for a girl in her time — to live by herself in peace. Lovelace, in the meantime, has been trying to arrange a fake marriage all along, and considers it a sport to add Clarissa to his long list of conquests. However, as he is more and more impressed by Clarissa, he finds it difficult to keep convincing himself that truly virtuous women do not exist. The continuous pressure he finds himself under, combined with his growing passion for Clarissa, forces him to extremes and eventually he rapes her. Clarissa manages to escape from him, but remains dangerously ill. When she dies, however, it is in the full consciousness of her own virtue, and trusting in a better life after death. Lovelace, tormented by what he has done but still unable to change, dies in a duel with Clarissa's cousin. Clarissa's relatives finally realise the misery they have caused, but discover that they are too late and Clarissa has already died.
The BBC adapted the novel as a television series in 1991, starring Sean Bean.
- Sir Charles Grandison
- Clarissa Sealy
- Clarissa (1991) at the Internet Movie Database