We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
“I was also absent at my dairy-house”: The Representation and Symbolic Function of the Dairy House in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa


Exploring the symbolic function of the dairy house in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa helps to unearth the novel’s commentary on the relation between garden buildings and concepts of self. An examination of recent work on the role of space in the novel and eighteenth-century architectural manuals and images reveals how Richardson’s representation of the dairy house intersects with contemporary ideas of self and interiority. Richardson employs the dairy house’s removed location at her grandfather’s estate and the reason for its construction (her grandfather constructed it for Clarissa in honour of her skills in dairy house management) to emphasize Clarissa’s independence, self-sufficiency, and command of space. He draws on the dairy house’s association with Arcadian rural simplicity and wholesome purity to underline Clarissa’s exemplary piety and pastoral innocence. As a symbol, her dairy house also reinforces the distance between Clarissa and the Harlowes’ economic ambitions.