Study Guide

Clarissa Writing Style

By Samuel Richardson

Writing Style

Long-Winded, Self-Conscious

The first thing you need to know about Richardson is that the guy has a lot to say. Okay, okay, the book is 1,488 pages—that's not exactly a revolutionary statement. But R-man actually obsessed over the length of the book and his trademark long-winded style to the extent that he revised it for ten years.* That's a long time, Shmoopers!

What Richardson didn't totally get was that his readers would eat up that wordy style. Who would have thought that this sentence would get some engines running:

I dare not ask to go to my dairy-house, as my good grandfather would call it; for I am now afraid of being thought to have a wish to enjoy that independence to which his will has entitled me: and as matters are situated, such a wish would be imputed to my favour to the man whom they have now so great an antipathy to. (6.6)

Whew. Try saying that ten times fast. But if you think about it, that long-winded sentence conveys an awful lot about Clarissa's emotional state. She's self-conscious to the point of oversharing, and that makes for a pretty complex character. Richardson packs drama into each of his sentences, even if they're a little on the long side.

*Angus Ross, Introduction to First Edition, 1985.

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