- New Essays on Samuel Richardson, and: The Work(s) of Samuel Richardson, and: Speaking in Hunger: Gender, Discourse, and Consumption in “Clarissa”, and: Samuel Richardson’s New Nation: Paragons of the Domestic Sphere and “Native” Virtue
Two common factors unite these diverse books on Samuel Richardson: their expansion of the traditional Richardsonian canon and their lack of engagement with the field’s formerly dominant critical methodologies. Indeed, these two factors may be related, in that the receding tide of Marxist and Deconstructionist theory may be revealing new contours in the landscape of Richardson studies. Three of the four books explore beyond Pamela and Clarissa: they devote significant attention to Richardson’s lesser-known Grandison and to his private correspondence, dare repeatedly to venture into the relatively uncharted realms of Pamela II and The Apprentice’s Vade Mecum, and even consider the significance of physical Richardsoniana such as waxworks, fans, and paintings. [End Page 471]
New Essays on Samuel Richardson, edited by Albert J. Rivero, represents the best of the new perspective. It is a deep vein of outstanding scholarship which should be mined by anybody with an interest in Richardson. The absence of overarching theoretical frameworks in these essays (Jocelyn Harris’ invocation of theories of the carnivalesque is an exception) places a premium upon precise analysis and argument, and it is a premium that these essays deliver. It also encourages the contributors to look at Richardson from new angles. Three essays present Richardson in a guise other than printer-novelist: Peter Sabor gives an account of the autobiographical revelations and inventions in the correspondence with Johannes Stinstra; Kevin L. Cope probes and problematizes Richardson as an aphorist; and Howard D. Weinbrot positions Richardson as a satirist by investigating the portrait of Elias Brand. In complimenting studies of literary influence, Florian Stuber asserts that Richardson, like Fielding, draws upon Cervantes in his Pamela II, while Joseph F. Bartolomeo reveals how Clarissa, in turn, influences Lennox’s The Female Quixote. Two essays concern Richardson’s mentoring of young female writers: Tom Keymer chronicles the author’s relationship with Jane Collier while John A. Dussinger speculates about Richardson’s contributions to a novel by Anna Meades. A final pair of essays reflect on closure in Grandison: Lois A. Chaber draws eloquently upon the sister arts of landscape and music in her discussion of the novel’s subversive ending, while Rivero posits Clementina’s ultimate association with “unnatural” romance.
The volume also highlights what has emerged as a key critical tension in mainstream Richardson studies—the reading of sex and gender issues that animate the novels. John Allen Stevenson and Jocelyn Harris, for example, both focus on the ghastly carcass of Mrs. Sinclair in their discussions of physicality (90, 102). But while Stevenson deploys Sinclair’s death to illustrate a gnostic rejection of sex and the body that unites Lovelace and Clarissa, Harris connects the Sinclair passage to classical and modern literary templates for pornographic sexuality. Similarly, Jerry C. Beasley and Michael F. Suarez illustrate the critical debate over feminism in Richardson. On the one had, anyone who would argue the proto-feminism of Richardson will have to address Beasley’s claims that the author robs his heroines of their radicalism by reintegrating them into patriarchy through marriage (albeit as Christ’s bride in Clarissa). On the other hand, Suarez’s contrary reading of Clarissa asserts that the heroine’s assertion of negative power—“nay-saying” and, ultimately, death—allows her a form of feminist triumph over the “patterns of infantilization” in the novel (69). It is at such points...