Gender and Verse Citation

Although Richardson was not the only mid-century author to cite verse in his prose, the frequency and gendered weight of verse citation in Clarissa suggest he well understood and wanted to highlight the implications of prose appropriating—or kidnapping—other forms to promote itself.

Catherine Ingrassia, Authorship, Commerce, and Gender in Early Eighteenth-Century England: A Culture of Paper Credit (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998).

Ingrassia discusses Richardson’s use of Eliza Haywood’s work specifically. Richardson “draws on her recognizable narrative tradition and manipulates it to fit his own aims”; he “subsumes” Haywood’s “style, language, and seductive fictional situations” and “reconstructs” them to make them “more palatable to readers from the middle classes,” which “diminishes Haywood’s cultural currency … while creating a privileged space for Richardson and the newly re-formed novel” (p. 149).

G. Gabrielle Starr, Lyric Generations: Poetry and the Novel in the Long Eighteenth Century (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2015).

See especially the introduction and chap. 1, “Clarissa and the Lyric,” Starr identifies what she characterizes as Richardson’s turn toward the religious lyric, arguing that “Clarissa’s aesthetic practice manipulates” the lyric traditions of John Donne, George Herbert, and the Book of Job and finds that a “structural relationship” exists between “the lyric paradigm of Herbert’s poetry” and Clarissa’s letters (pp. 18 and 29). Starr also helpfully observes Clarissa’s identification with the seventeenth-century religious lyric and Lovelace’s alignment with—and citation of—seventeenth-century libertine verse, although that distinction does not account for Clarissa’s choice of Lovelace’s oft-cited libertine poets in the fragments of paper 10 (p. 24).

Leah Price, The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: From Richardson to George Eliot (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000).

While G. Gabrielle Starr thoroughly attends to the lyric mode in Clarissa, the recurrence of citations of poetry throughout the novel remains under-explored. Leah Price, analyzing the anthologizing of eighteenth-century novels, gets closest to the subject when she asks of Richardson’s later works, “why do their characters spend so much time excerpting texts? And why have the novels themselves been so energetically excerpted?” (p. 14). Price posits that one possible explanation to the latter question lies in the fact that the novels themselves “are already anthologies,” yet she does not discuss how or why Richardson’s novels—particularly Clarissa—function as anthologies not only of letters but also of poems (p. 14). Together, Clarissa and Richard Lovelace alone cite verse at least forty-five times throughout the novel. Examining the relationship between the act of citation itself—here defined as a character quoting a poem in his or her letter—and the networks of gendered power—specifically between and among Clarissa, Lovelace, and John Belford—in the novel begins to generate insights.

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