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So much for a close look at a cross section of the changes in the second edition of Clarissa. To evaluate Richardson's efforts in 1749, several distinct issues must be tackled directly. Patently any claim that he revised primarily because of criticism from an audience that was sentimental, careless or superficial must be reassessed. Given the extent and range of his tiny and large revisions at this time, covering thousands of nuanced difference in tone and content, designed for very different functions, purposes and effects, it is clear that only some of them (and a rather small proportion at that) can be pinpointed with any certainty as specifically governed by his reaction to his contemporary readers.

Kinkead-Weekes may be right that many of the "editorial" footnotes, and certain insertions into the text, that darken Lovelace's character and defend Clarissa's delicacy, were probably prompted by criticisms Richardson received during the long intervals between installments of his first edition. But these obvious revisions are only a small part of his total — they form only one compact group amid the thousands of instances resulting from the thorough overhauling of the first four volumes in 1749. In fact, they constitute an even smaller part of all the changes Clarissa repeatedly underwent from the time this novel was in its first manuscript form.[24] They certainly should not be treated out of proportion to their role in the entire scope of Richardson's complex endeavor.

A second assumption which has clouded discussion of Richardson's revisions implies that if he introduced a certain footnote or line into his text to meet a specific criticism from his readers, he must have made all changes of the same kind for the same reason. On the contrary, each revision must be judged independently in light of its own evidence. The dangers of not doing so are visible in Philip Stevick's new version of Clarissa for the Rinehart Press. His introduction, and a footnote on page 223, indicate that his abridgement is based on the first edition, with one exception — a letter in which Lovelace describes to Belford his projected scheme to rape Anna, Mrs. Howe, and their maid, and to throw Hickman overboard, during a trip to the Isle of Wight. Stevick claims that "Richardson wrote the letter for inclusion in the revised third edition," and he explains that it serves in his abridgement to provide his readers first-hand experience with "one of the more obvious and sustained efforts Richardson made, in revising, to darken the character of Lovelace" (p. 223).


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Ironically, this one sample was not at all written specifically for the third edition (1751), nor can it truly exemplify even those post-publication revisions which Richardson invented in response to criticism from an adverse audience. It was written at least five years earlier and then cut from his manuscript during Richardson's struggles to shorten Clarissa for his first printing. We know it existed in the earliest versions of the novel, because it is one of the scenes that Miss Sophia Wescomb, on April 14, 1746, suggested the author might eliminate when he appealed for her help in condensing and correcting his work.[25]

A third problem any editor or scholar of Clarissa must face, and face squarely, is that Richardson's changes taken as a whole are not uniformly successful, but they do reveal, as his novel does too, both his considerable strengths and his particular weaknesses as an artist. It is special pleading to set aside certain revisions that seem crude, by arguing that they do not represent his true intentions (because they are his response to an allegedly inferior audience) while others do. For better or worse, all his changes in 1749 represent his conscious and deliberate intentions as a craftsman. Indeed, they mark another important stage in a persistent practice of revising that began many years earlier.

This is confirmed by the fact that some patterns of change are not confined to Clarissa alone, for they originate with his very first novel. In their thorough examination of Richardson's revisions in Pamela, Eaves and Kimpel have noted that "85 mentions of God were either cut or altered by changing the word 'God' to 'Heaven.'"[26] This, as well as other patterns that continue, shows that certain kinds of change made as early as 1741 recur in Clarissa eight and ten years later, for he altered six examples of this sort in 1749 and seven more in 1751. In other words, as a serious independent artist Richardson made certain decisions that not only transcended particular audiences and times but particular works as well. Nor did he passively rely on the many persons whose suggestions he sought. As Eaves and Kimpel have concluded from their study of the evolution of Clarissa before publication, he rarely followed most of the advice he received.[27]

Lastly, it is tempting to separate the small changes from the large, give credit to the former but dismiss them as relatively unimportant, and marshal one's ammunition against the "large revisions." While it


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can be useful to separate these two groups for purposes of discussion, as I have done in this paper, there is no separation of them in the novel. Because they are interwoven, any theory that focuses on one group with only nodding attention to the other is headed for difficulty: it vastly oversimplifies and distorts the data relevant to a careful evaluation of Richardson's art. Quantitatively, Richardson's revisions form a continuum from the very tiny to the very large, and certain patterns of qualitative strengths and weaknesses, certain stylistic features peculiar to him, certain goals that he set himself, turn up at many different points throughout this continuum.

The quality of Richardson's efforts in 1749 can also best be viewed as a continuum ranging from poor to excellent, with a subtle range of distinctions in between. Richardson did succeed in purifying his heroine of certain vexing weaknesses, and this enhances her character. But he also gave her further opportunities for moralizing and chiding. These do not warm a reader's heart, and many such signs of her character could have been more advantageously pruned from the work even in its original form. The finer distinctions introduced to harden Mrs. Harlowe against Clarissa solidify the family's opposition, completing the heroine's domestic isolation in Books I and II, with consequences that operate indirectly throughout the rest of the novel, especially during its denouement, when she is utterly alone. This subtle tightening in one important thread of his plot is certainly to Richardson's credit, for it partakes of the stuff that tragedies are made of, the pain caused by seeing a close relationship reversed, with someone suffering undeservedly as a result.

In regard to that group of revisions which I have purposely excluded from my discussion because other scholars have treated them (the "editorial" footnotes and the textual insertions that expose Lovelace), it is a pity that Richardson did not trust his own better instincts to let the final installment speak for itself, without encumbering his novel with these changes. Lady Bradshaigh, like so many other readers who wrote to him throughout 1748, could not have anticipated exactly how he would bring his heroine through the ordeal of being raped, nor how he would make her death an appropriate, desired, and satisfying conclusion to his fiction.

Surely he was on sound ground when he urged Lady Bradshaigh to wait until Volume V before she made up her mind about the catastrophe. "But after all," he argued, "it is the Execution must either condemn or acquit me."[28] Whatever may be his ineptitude in retouching


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Lovelace, it must not make us forget his fiercely creative independence in resisting the most radical request of all voiced by his readers: that he give his work a happy ending. His retouching is flawed, but this pales by comparison with his impeccable sense that the structure of a masterpiece is no arbitrary thing — probabilities of character and action must be followed out even to their stark ending in humiliation and death.

His refusal to give up his catastrophe is consistent with his perceptive argument (in the Postscript to the first edition) against the widespread contemporary clamor for happy endings (VII, 428). He singled out Nahum Tate's popular script of King Lear, but his charge held for other works as well. Whether the preference to act on the English stage an altered version of King Lear is due "to the false Delicacy or affected Tenderness of the Players, or to that of the Audience," Richardson did not claim to know, but he urged that the "Public Taste" should be tried upon the original once again. Coming from one who is so often thought of as the sentimental novelist par excellence at the mid-century, this clear-eyed disenchantment with ruling fashions in taste is a pointed reminder that Richardson was as independent and surprisingly different as most great men of any age or time.