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Composed in tears: the 'Clarissa' Project.

The Clarissa Project began as a series of chance encounters in the mid-and late 1980s among a group of scholars who had a like-minded sense that Richardson's Clarissa deserved a better modern text than the one most readers use. In a conversation, for example, I had with John Dussinger about the kinds of computer assistance I used both with The Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography and the Georgia Smollett edition, Dussinger asked if using large text analysis procedures would help establish what scholars did not have with Richardson's Clarissa, an authoritative edition. I said that this was an interesting question, and referred him to Florian Stuber's very fine article in Text, in which Stuber argued that scholars ought to reconsider their reliance on the first edition and instead turn to the third. Additionally, Peter Shillingsburg was developing a software collation program, CASE (Computer Assisted Scholarly Editing), for his Thackeray edition, with which he and I had been working to change the hardware requirements from his DEC mainframes in Mississippi and Australia to a broader based DOS environment, and I recommended to John that he direct some of his questions to Peter. Soon after that conversation, Florian wrote me about John's questions, enclosing an offprint of his Text article, and we met subsequently with Margaret Anne Doody at the 1986 meeting of The American Society for Eighteeenth-Century Studies to draw up our editorial board and the volume assignments. By 1987, The Clarissa Project had begun, with me as Project Director, Florian as General Editor, and Margaret as Associate Editor. We then wrote two NEH grant applications, both of which though favorably reviewed were denied at the Endowment's administrative level. I sought private venture funding from AMS Press, and, despite the extremely expensive aspects of publishing sixteen volumes of text and analysis, with CD-ROM and on-line access anticipated by the mid-1990s, AMS contracted to publish and distribute the volumes when they were submitted to press, and within a financially determined marketing schedule.

Any reader of the very long Clarissa (in the 1990 fascimile of The Clarissa Project's third edition, eight separate volumes of text and 3,029 pages) almost always stumbles over the problems caused by its size. But the textual history and Richardson's printing practices also generate problems for the unwary reader. The Clarissa Project's editorial board wishes to establish, in sixteen volumes, not only an authoritative text, but also an encyclopedic database of materials and electronic assistance for readers who want to read Clarissa and join the current Richardsonian debates in feminist theory, cultural history, audience response, narratology, and history of the novel.

Florian is very convincing in his Text argument, "On Original and Final Intentions, or Can There Be an Authoritative Clarissa?" He concludes, that of the five separate editions Richardson himself printed during his lifetime:

There would seem to be little question . . . as to which edition of Clarissa represents Richardson's final intentions. The third edition carries with it manifest signs of authority: its Preface recounts the history of Clarissa's publication and pronounces the third edition definitive; its apparatus is of the elaborate and finished sort one associates with an encyclopaedia; great pains were taken in the printing of the text - every line of restored or revised passages was prefixed by a "Dot, or inserted Full-point," and these passages were reprinted in Letters and Passages Restored so that owners of the first and second editions could possess a full and complete copy of Clarissa. Moreover, the third formed the basis for the last edition of the novel to appear during Richardson's lifetime. If a textual critic followed Richardson's example in printing an authoritative edition of Clarissa, the whole question of choosing a copy-text would become, in a manner, academic. By noting the material prefixed by the dots, a reader could, in effect, choose to read either the first, second, or third editions of the novel; he could then judge for himself whether the later restorations added to or detracted from the first version of Clarissa.(1)

Florian's determinations directly led the Board to another problem Clarissa as a text creates for a reader - finding a copy-text of the third edition to print as the introductory volumes of the Project. As Florian points out in his introduction to the first volume of our AMS fascimile:

This reprinting of the Third Edition of Samuel Richardson's Clarissa is a significant event. It is a text that few modern readers of Clarissa know since it is extremely rare. In North America it is particularly hard to find. The National Union Catalog lists only two copies in the Western Hemisphere (at the Yale Beinecke Library and at the University of Vancouver) although there are others: the copy the author presented to Mrs. David Garrick is in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, and a copy apparently owned by Mirabeau in 1792 when he was head of the National Assembly is at the University of Kentucky and was loaned to AMS Press for this reprinting. The Third Edition presents not only the most complete text of Clarissa but its typography and apparatus are unique and have not been printed as part of the novel since 1751. (Clarissa [New York: AMS Press, 1990], p. 1.1)

With the fascimile providing textual accessibility for the edition, the editorial board has now turned its attention to the "encyclopedic" part of the project, the eight supporting volumes. Volumes 9 was therefore set aside for Richardson's published commentary on Clarissa and supplementary material, 1747-1765, with Jocelyn Harris introducing Richardson's commentary and Tom Keymer providing the headnotes. Volume 10, Letters and Passages Restored from the Original Manuscript of the History of "Clarissa," will be introduced by Peter Sabor, with a bibliographic essay by O M Brack, Jr.; this volume is in final stages of preparation, thanks to the very kind assistance given the Project by Connie Thorson and the University of New Mexico Library. And Volume 11, A Collection of the Moral and Instructive Sentiments, Maxims, Cautions, and Reflections, Contained in the Histories of "Pamela," "Clarissa," and "Sir Charles Grandison", will be introduced by Dussinger and have an afterword by Ann Jessie Van Sant. Volumes 12-16 have been set aside for the anthologies which will trace the changing perceptions of the novel from its first publication to the present, with Volume 12, Clarissa's Reception in the Eighteenth Century, being edited by Doody; Volume 13, Clarissa's Reception in the Nineteenth Century, being edited by David C. Hensley; and Volumes 14 and 15, Clarissa's Reception in the Twentieth Century, being edited by Janet E. Aikins. Volume 16, edited and introduced by Edward Copeland and Carol Houlihan Flynn and introduced by Flynn, will present new essays for the occasion of the Project, not only new readings but also readings within various cultural contexts, ranging from Nancy Armstrong's "Reclassifying Clarissa: Fiction and the Making of the Modern Middle Class" and Jerry C. Beasley's "The English Popular Novel before Clarissa and Eighteenth-Century Women's Literature," to Rachel Trickett's "Clarissa and the English Poetic Tradition." All of these eight volumes are now in various stages of completion; given the demands of a publishing schedule constrained by the editors' academic obligations, and the support which can be offered by a private venture publishing house, the Project is doing quite well. It remains an expensive project (in 1989, we asked for over one million dollars in support from NEH), but the publisher remains enthusiastic about the work we are doing, and the remaining volumes should appear by the end of the 1990s.

In what way does the third differ from the previous editions so as to offer a reader a new perspective about this difficult novel? Let me propose one specific example, based upon the extraordinary "mad" letters in volume 5 Clarissa writes after the rape by Lovelace has occurred.

By the third edition, Richardson has dropped the apologetic tone most readers associate with the novel based upon his perhaps disingenuous preface to the first edition. The preface which Richardson wrote for the third edition is very different from the one which he wrote for the first, for by the third edition, Richardson has removed his genial reservations about his fears of offending the "fair sex" (1st, p. 35). Rather, he wishes for his novel to be considered a blunt exposition of physical and emotional abuse; in it he will describe the "Female Sex" (3rd, p. 1.vi) who "are thrown into their [professed Libertines'] power" (3rd, p. 1.vi). The first edition reads "the individuals who throw themselves into their power" (p. 35).(2) Other distinctions can be drawn from the different prefaces: in the paragraph preceeding the one I cite above from the first edition, in which Richardson modestly intones an introduction to a novel which will be, because of his censorship, "most acceptable to the public," Richardson directs the readers to consider "that the letters on both sides are written while the hearts of the writers must be supposed to be wholly engaged in their subject: the events at the time generally dubious - so that they abound not only with critical situations, but with what may be called instanteous descriptions and reflections" (1st, p. 35). To draw attention to the substantial alterations in the third edition, Richardson doesn't change much of this sentence, other than to make it the initial sentence of a new paragraph and to italicize "instanteous." But he does erase the remainder of the preface by writing a new series of paragraphs, most of which contain admonishments about "Instruction"(3) and editorial comments about the restored passages.(4)

In addition to putting aside the apologetic author-persona found in the first edition's preface, Richardson becomes by the third a boldly self-referential author who invites his readers to investigate the purpose of an apparently extravagant typography:

"Much more lively and affecting, says one of "the principal characters (Vol. VII. p. 73.) must "be the Style of those who write in the height "of a present distress; the mind tortured by the "pangs of uncertainty (the Events then hidden "in the womb of Fate); than the dry, narrative, "unanimated Style of a person relating "difficulties and dangers surmounted, can be; "the relater perfectly at ease; and if himself "unmoved by his own Story, not likely greatly "to affect the Reader."(5)

In the fifth volume of the third edition, the volume in which the rape actually takes place, Clarissa's epistolary style, and, as Richardson represents it, her very handwriting, respond to the outrage. She authors her "Mad [i.e., insane] Papers" which Lovelace himself transcribes in his own hand in the latter pages of that volume. The letters, and their transcription, present a problem and invite a contribution to the printed page by the readers, especially if a reader looks to "Paper X" in light of the new preface which Richardson has drawn up for the third edition. A daring reading of these letters, based upon the first edition, is Terry Castle's argument that Paper X is an example of "typographic pathos," a printerly disordered type which is "comically intrusive."(6)

Unlike some of her readers, I do not find Castle's evaluation condescending, nor in league with those readers who find Richardson's authorial pathos a bit silly; instead I think Castle quite originally flags Paper X as another instance of printerly intrusion at the composing table which continues Richardson's desire to publish a printed collection of letters. Richardson is an author/editor and printer who is printing "the whole in such a way as he should think would be most acceptable to the public" (Preface, 1st and 3rd). That the unusual typography found in Paper X is intrusive, and breaks a reader's expectations of following a linear text in espistolary form, does create a reader-response analogous to the emotional explosions caused by serious comedy (Castle terms these events in Clarissa "semantic defamiliarization"). But what Richardson invites by way of reader-response follows more appropriately from the new directives he gives in the third edition's preface: this is a story which should be read as a text created by Richardson's knowledge of his printing craft.

Richardson prefaces the deranged Clarissa's Paper X text in the fifth volume with other indications that his audience is reading a reader who is reading, and deciphering, and responding to a text. In an extraordinarily convoluted letter, letter 4 of the fifth volume, a letter also written by Lovelace to Belford which encloses (he does not write out a complete copy for Belford, "for it is too long to transcribe") the text of another letter (Anna Howe's), Lovelace after reading the missive is moved to write his correspondent much as he does a month later in letter 36, the one which contains Clarissa's "Mad Papers." Howe's letter has a fairly incredible provenance: Wilson has given Lovelace the June 7 epistle which has been addressed to a "Laetitia Beaumont," an addressee whom Richardson reminds the reader of the book in footnote b on page 32 is actually Clarissa, who has adopted the pseudonym in order to deceive Wilson so as to keep the letters from unfriendly readers. Outraged by the contents, and the two girls' strategy, for the text and its process threaten his efforts at other-person control, he directs particular attention to Howe's most offensive (to his eyes) passages, those which direct Clarissa to avoid Tomlinson and Lovelace, by using "indices," a marginal flag [marginal flag] by which Lovelace marks "the places which call for vengeance upon the vixen writer, and which require animadversion" (3rd, p. 5.30). Lovelace also flags by his angry indices Howe's own disordered emotions; one paragraph he marks anticipates Clarissa's mental and emotional disorder 32 letters later:

[marginal flag] I [Anna Howe] write, perhaps, with too much violence, to be clear. But I cannot help it. Yet I lay down my pen, and take it up every ten minutes, in order to write with some temper - My Mother too in and out - What need I (she asks me) lock myself in, if I am only reading past correspondencies? - for that is my pretense, when she comes poking with her face sharpened to an edge, as I may say, by a curiosity that gives her more pain than pleasure -. (3rd, p. 5.33)

The extra-marginal notations spur Lovelace into a reaffirmation of his vow of fate for Howe and her mother like the one he has planned for Clarissa, abduction and rape, a scheme he has already fantasized in volume 4.(7)

The re-ordering of Lovelace's reader-response occurs when he transcribes the fragments (including the "Mad Papers") that Dorcas brings him, when he treats the letter-text as a response text. That is, reading the fragments causes Lovelace to re-author the fragments, and in the process to share Clarissa's disorder, even to the extent of skewing the page sideways so as to represent Clarissa's mental processes. Lovelace, and one would assume Belford and eventually the reader of the novel, becomes "most confoundedly disturbed about it: for I [Lovelace] begin to fear, that her intellects are irreparably hurt" (3rd, p. 5.301). But even though his transcription will "shew thee how her [Clarissa's] mind works now," and though he knows that "I [Lovelace] am still furnishing thee [Belford] with new weapons against myself," Lovelace asks the reader to spare him a readerly response: "My own reflections render them needless" (3rd, p. 5.302). And, at the conclusion of his transcription, he notes that he has marked his text again with flags of his passionate feelings, though these marks are not typographic conventions (and are beyond a printer's representation):

I will not hear thy heavy preachments, Belford, upon this affecting Letter. So not a word of that sort! The paper, thou'lt see, is blistered with the tears even of the harden'd transcriber; which has made her ink run here-and-there. (3rd, p. 5.314)

The control which Richardson exercises over his material text extends beyond the text as process in order to become shared art. Readers still weep when they read Clarissa, and thereby compose unique variants for each copy of each edition. That Richardson dots his pages with iconic symbols (most now to be found in Character Set 4 in the ASCII Table Sets) invites each reader to "run the ink here-and-there." And here, as elsewhere in the novel, as in Paper X, reader, author, and character rewrite the printed page to create the distinctions which underscore Richardson's argument in the third edition that he has appropriately disordered the typography.

Richardson repeats such admonishments to his readers several times in his preface to the third edition: "From what has been said, considerate Readers will not enter upon the perusal of the Piece before them, as if it were designed only to divert and amuse" (3rd, p. 1.ix). Yet his directives set forth a very confused task for any modern reader poring over the large text; and because Richardson has not made the task of selection and deciphering easy, contemporary editors, with good reasons, accordingly shy away from a text like Clarissa. And it is because of the size of the text, and the large number of variants to which Richardson has asked his reader to attend, that the Clarissa Project editors are developing a CD-ROM version of the third edition, a task complicated by the poor quality of the typeface Richardson used for the third edition. The computerization of Clarissa, about which Dussinger asked a decade ago, also is in progress, with volumes one and two scanned and corrected. With an appropriate Standardized General Markup Language (SGML) coding, and a software access program like DynaText, eventually Clarissa will be sited in the Internet for readers who wish to surf Richardson's prose.

Why is a computer-accessible version of Clarissa necessary?

Shillingsburg, in Scholarly Editing in the Computer Age: Theory and Practice, while discussing the problems in selecting an "ideal text," cites Joyce Cary's complaint about language and the technique of the novel: "A painter can give you the whole of his conception in one glance of an eye; the musician conveys very complex emotions simultaneously; but the writer has to work in line, he has to say one thing after another. This is a very real limitation."(8) Cary, and most other authors, and almost all scholarly editors, Shillingsburg argues, consistently run up against a basic problem: "the confrontation of the multiple nature of literary works of art and the linear nature of texts"; it appears to him, then, "that the only way to present a work with a multiple form is in a multiple text - that is, not a linear text" (p. 91). Todd Bender's textual interests, Shillingsburg advises, may be developed into a solution for presenting a material text which is at once multiple in form and multiple in text: "for years, Todd Bender has been writing about the feasibility of the electronic book with variant texts stacked into a three-dimensional field on a computer screen."(9) What the reader might be reading if he/she follows Bender's approach is problematic: "First, it is questionable if any reader can read two, three, or more texts simultaneously. Second, if a reader could do that, what would he be reading - variant texts of documents or variant versions of a work?" (p. 91). Using technology to read a book based upon an author's knowledge of technology creates fascinating vistas and yet another arena for debate in Clarissa studies.

Here is the problem Clarissa presents a textual editor, problems not found in Richardson's other works, authoritative editions having been assembled for those titles.(10) It can be argued that the third edition could constitute the basic text for an authoritative edition, but acknowledging that Richardson considers this novel a book as a technology to be manipulated both by the printer and the reader still raises serious questions as to how the effects of his technology might be represented in an edition 240 years after its initial printing. For some answers to these questions, I recommend the eighteen volumes present and forthcoming of The Clarissa Project, and the CD-ROM disk of the third edition being developed by the Project editors.

LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY

NOTES

1 Florian Stuber, "On Original and Final Intentions, or Can There be an Authoritative Clarissa?" TEXT: Transactions of the Society for Textual Scholarship 2 (1985): 237-38. The "Dot or full point Insertion" by which Richardson marks new text frequently flags his authorial intrusion; an example of such an intervention is a Richardsonian footnote in a volume 4 letter from Clarissa to Anna Howe about the audience reception of the first edition:

And so much at present for Mr. Lovelace's proposals: Of which I desire your opinion (a).

* (a) We cannot forbear observing in this place, that the Lady has

* been particularly censured, even by some of her own Sex, as over-nice

* in her part of the above conversation. But surely this must be owing

* to want of attention to the circumstances she was in, and to her cha-

* racter, as well as to the character of the man she had to deal with: (Clarissa, p. 4.106-07)

2 All references to the first edition are to the Angus Ross Penguin edition; references to the third are to the AMS Press reprint in eight volumes of the University of Kentucky Library copy, ed. Jim Springer Borck, Margaret Anne Doody, and Florian Stuber (New York: AMS, 1990). For an extended discussion of the differences in prefaces for both volumes, see Stuber, "On Original and Final Intentions," pp. 229-44.

3 "From what has been said, considerate Readers will not enter upon the perusal of the Piece before them, as if it were designed only to divert and amuse. It will probably be thought tedious to all such as dip into it, expecting a light Novel, or transitory Romance; and look upon Story in it (interesting as that is generally allowed to be) as its sole end, rather than as a vehicle to the Instruction" (3rd, p. 1.ix).

4 "It is proper to observe, with regard to the present Edition, that it has been thought fit to restore many Passages, and several Letters, which were omitted in the former merely for shortening-sake; and which some Friends to the Work thought equally necessary and entertaining. These are distinguished by Dots or inverted Full-points. And will be printed separately, in justice to the Purchasers of the former Editions" (3rd, p. 1.ix).

5 3rd, p. viii. Here, as elsewhere, I have retained Richardson's line breaks, quotation marks and spacing, and the space sometimes found before his semicolons.

6 Clarissa's Ciphers: Meaning and Disruption in Richardson's "Clarissa" (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1982), p. 161.

7 3rd, pp. 4.252-61. This scheme does not appear in the first edition other than in an editorial summary, Sophia Westcomb recommending in 1746 that if Richardson wants to shorten his text, he might omit the fantasy. Richardson accordingly removes the passage, which might possibly offend the public, as Lovelace "does not intend to carry it into execution" (1st, p. 671), a comment which continues to bewilder critics. For a lucid summary of the confusion surrounding Lovelace's plan to injure Howe and her mother, see Stuber, "On Original and Final Intentions" (p. 238).

8 Shillingsburg's citation is on page 79 of Scholarly Editing In The Computer Age: Theory and Practice (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1986). His catalogue of the unresolvable questions about the constitution of an "ideal text" is found on page 81.

9 Bender, "Literary Texts in Electronic Storage: The Editorial Potential," Computers and the Humanities 10 (1976): 193-99; and, "Stable vs. Unstable Intention in Conrad: The View from the Database," Society for Textual Scholarship Convention, New York, April, 1985. See also Shillingsburg, Scholarly Editing, p. 91.

10 Peter Sabot and Margaret Anne Doody's Pamela (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980) represents Richardson's final version of the novel; for Sir Charles Grandison, see Jocelyn Harris's edition (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1972).

JIM SPRINGER BORCK, professor of English at Louisiana State University, is general editor of The Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography, project director for The Clarissa Project, technical editor for The Complete Works of Tobias Smollett, associate editor for The Shorter Prose Writings of Samuel Johnson, and co-general editor for The Stoke Newington Edition of the Works of Daniel Defoe.
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Author:Borck, Jim Springer
Publication:Studies in the Novel
Date:Sep 22, 1995
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