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Representations of the Domestic Parlour in Samuel Richardson's Clanssa, 1747-48 Karen Lipsedge With Richardson, we slip, invisible, into die domestic privacy of his characters, and hear and see every thing diat is said and done amongst them, whether it be interesting or otherwise, and whether it gratify our curiosity or disappoint it ... . We feel for [them] as for our private friends and acquaintance, with whose whole situation we are familiar.1 In his account of Richardson's epistolary metiiod, Francis Jeffrey describes the degree to which Richardson engages the reader. On reading his novels, the reader does not remain an outsider, but glides into the "domestic privacy" of his protagonists. As Ian Watt has observed, die term "domestic privacy" is significant. It not only refers to the private experience ofdie characters but also to their domestic interiors—that is, the houses tiiat they live in and how they inhabit diem.2 An understanding of die characters' domestic privacy is important for an appreciation of the novels of Richardson and his contemporaries because a distinction can be made between earlier types of prose fiction and novels from die early to mid-eighteentii century. In 1 FrancisJeffrey, "Edinburgh Review" (October 1804), in FrancisJeffrey, Contributions to the Edinburgh Review, 4 vols. (London, 1844), 1:321-22. 2 Ian Watt, The Rise ofthe Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (London: Hogarth Press, 1987), 175. EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY FICTION, Volume 17, Number 3, April 2005 392 EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY FICTION earlier forms, characters are usually depicted as "general human types" who act out conventional plots in a non-specific time and place.3 In the emergent novel, on the other hand, the attention tends to shift from the general to what Mrs Barbauld refers to as the "minute and circumstantial."4 Substantial detail is imparted not only about the characters—dieir sentiments, modes ofbehaviour, and attire—but also about their homes. The two are intimately related, for unlike earlier types ofprose fiction, the early to mid-eighteentii-century novel firmly situates characters in domestic space. Furthermore, the reader can only have a full understanding of die protagonists ifshe knows these interiors. As Watt notes, "die delineation of the domestic life and the private experience of the characters who belong to it ... go togedier—we get inside dieir minds as well as inside dieir houses."5 Or, to put it another way, only by entering their houses can we penetrate dieir minds. The intimate relationship between Richardson's novels and the domestic interior has generated increasing interest among social and literary historians. Christina Marsden Gillis, Cynthia Wall, and Philippa Tristram all consider die relationship between the novel and die domestic interior, paying particular attention to die early to mideighteenth -century Palladian country house and its depiction in Richardson's three novels.6 A weakness in these studies, however, concerns die interpretation of the spatial organization of the Palladian house and how diis influences an interpretation ofHarlowe Place. When considering the internal plan ofdie Palladian house, Gillis, for example, observes that the eighteenth centurywitnessed an "increased compartmentalization ofthe house into its private and public zones."7 She suggests Richardson found his model for Harlowe Place in diis specific type ofhouse. Tristram and Wall draw similar conclusions. To demonstrate how Richardson underlines this bipartite division of interior space, diese scholars examine the two rooms that receive the most attention in Clarissa: Clarissa's closet and her lesser parlour. 3 Watt, 15. 4 CorrespondenceofSamuelRichardson, ed. Anna Laetitia Barbauld, 6 voh. (London: R. Phillips, 1804), l:xx. 5 Watt, 15. 6 Christina Marsden Gillis, 77»* Paradox ofPrivacy: Epistolary Form in "Clarissa" (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1984); Cynthia Wall, "Gendering Rooms: Domestic Architecture and Literary Acts," Eighteenth-Century Fiction 5 (1993), 349-72; Philippa Tristram, LivingSpace in Fact andFiction (London and NewYork: Routledge, 1989). 7 Gillis, 7. THE DOMESTIC PARLOUR 393 Situated upstairs, adjacent to her bedchamber, Clarissa's closet is die only private room that she owns at Harlowe Place. This private upstairs room is contrasted widi its polar opposite, Clarissa's lesser parlour. Located downstairs (in what Tom Keymer refers to as die "communal" arena),8 Clarissa's lesser parlour is, for Wall, a "public room."9...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-0243
Print ISSN
0840-6286
Pages
pp. 391-423
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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