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Ecclesiasticus, the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Psalms, and in a preface purporting to be prepared by herself she is said to have reaped great consolation from them. The book is necessarily one of which not much need be said in this place; but it enforces the sincerity of Richardson's attitude as a moralist, and what is perhaps more interesting still, illustrates the extraordinary way in which he identified, and continued to identify, himself with his characters. To a reader who should happen upon the little volume without further knowledge, it must certainly appear to bear all the marks of that genuineness which the author endeavoured to suggest.
Various attempts, even from the outset, appear to have been made to shorten Clarissa. Prévost's translation of 1753 was really an abridgment. Nine years later, after Prévost's death, Panckoucke the publisher invited Rousseau to make further reductions. But Rousseau, whose indolence was great, whose knowledge of English was nil, and who perhaps (as M. Texte suggests) was not particularly anxious to magnify further a rival author already sufficiently popular, put aside the task which, upon a hint of Villemain, was eventually performed by Jules Janin in 1846. M. Janin prefixed an interesting introduction to his work. The latest experiment in this kind is apparently that of M. Ernest Guillemot, who, in 1875, squeezed Clarissa's eight volumes into a pamphlet of some 150 pages. In English the first compressed edition was that by J. H. Emmert in the Novelist, 1792. In 1868 appeared two abbreviated editions,one in the "Railway Library" by Mrs. Ward, the other by E. S. Dallas. Mr. Dallas, acting upon Scott's
opinion that Clarissa might have been a good deal abridged at the beginning- an opinion which, from the author's Postscript, was shared by his contemporaries
- has contrived to bring it within the limits of a rather closely printed three-volume novel. It was also condensed at New York in 1874. The late Edward FitzGerald, an ardent Richardsonian, frequently refers in his letters to the length of the book, which, shorn of what he termed its "pedantry," by which presumably he means its preachments, would in his opinion (and favourite capitals) be "one of the great, original, Works of the World." There was an impression that FitzGerald had actually treated it after his favourite fashion by cutting out the surplusage, and binding up the rest; but his editor, Mr. Aldis Wright, in a letter to the Athenæum for 29th June 1901, stated that he had failed to trace any effort of the kind.
But why abridge at all? Why not leave the "large, still, Book," as Tennyson called it, intonsis capillis,— with locks unshorn of the shearer? Any retrenchment must be mutilation. And why mutilate to please the modern reader who, when all is said and done, will probably prefer a modern performance? Clarissa is of its author, and of its time; it can never be of us, or of our time. Richardson was fully alive to his prolixity, and fought doggedly against it. Consistently with his aim and his purpose, he himself curtailed as much as he thought his book would bear. Why not leave a great artist who was true to his instincts in small things to be also true to his instincts in great things? His genuine lovers will never be contented th a compressed Clarissa; and for the much-considered "modern reader" he must e'en be left to the fate which Johnson
foresaw for those who study their Richardson for the story and the story alone. At the same time, it may be permitted to doubt whether, in the present year of grace, he will ever find an admirer fervent enough to peruse him, like his " sincerely obliged" Miss Margaret Collier, four several times; still less to read Clarissa, like Mr. Edwards of Turrick, "at least once a year," in addition to Pamela and Grandison.
THE "lewd and ungenerous engraftment" on Pamela of Fielding's Joseph Andrews had naturally been a terrible thorn in Richardson's side. If to this be added that, rightly or wrongly, he also saw in him the anonymous author of Shamela, the offence must certainly have "smelt to heaven." Of late, however, Fielding had made some overtures towards an amende honorable. In the Jacobite's Journal, he had cordially praised the first two volumes of Clarissa. "Such Simplicity, such Manners, such deep Penetration into Nature; such Power to raise and alarm the Passions, few Writers, either ancient or modern, have been possessed of," — he had declared. And then he had made an apposite quotation from Horace,' which quotation (with a line or two more to show that he had consulted the original) Richardson subsequently inserted in his Postscript, and an admirer turned into the first quatrain of an introductory sonnet to Clarissa's history:
"O Master of the heart! whose magic skill
1 "Pectus inaniter angit,
Irritat, mulcet, falsis terroribus implet
and so forth. As we have seen, Fielding had also been among the advocates of a "happy ending," which was an additional testimony to his interest in the book. But in February 1749 he unhappily sinned again, and this time beyond the possibility of pardon. He published Tom Jones.
It is probable that the publication of Tom Jones annoyed Richardson far more than the publication either of Shamela or of Joseph Andrews. For these he could always console himself by real or pretended contempt, and by what, in many cases, was the genuine sympathy of his friends. But with Tom Jones, Fielding appeared as a definite rival in fiction, professing like himself to administer a "new Province of Writing," and having a public of recognised and enthusiastic supporters. The young ladies of her neighbourhood, "Mrs. Belfour" told the sensitive author of Clarissa, were for ever talking about their favourites as their "Tom Joneses," and the gentlemen on their side had their Sophias, one of them going so far as to give that honoured name to his "Dutch mastiff puppy." In a flutter of jealous apprehension, Richardson turned to his sympathetic friends, Astræa and Minerva at Plaistow. What did they think of this "coarse-titled " book, with its "spurious brat"? He had not read it himself, not he. But he evidently knew a good deal about its contents. Astræa and Minerva took him literally; and gave a very business-like, and far too favourable report of their impressions of Mr. Fielding's performance. Indeed, upon the whole, they blessed rather than cursed. They discovered in it "a double Merit, both of Head, and Heart." They praised its construction. They held that the events of the fable