Letters 1-5 Summary

Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady, written by Samuel Richardson, was first published in a serialized form beginning in 1747. There were several volumes, with the complete collection published in full in 1748. Clarissa is a tragic story and was meant to be read as a parable to provide a moral lesson for women in mid-eighteenth-century England.

The novel begins with a letter from Anna Howe sent to Clarissa. In this letter, Anna mentions that a Mr. Lovelace has wounded Clarissa's brother in the arm. Anna portrays Clarissa's brother as being in the wrong, having provoked the duel because of his short temper.

Anna also asks Clarissa about the rumors that are circulating about Lovelace having been a suitor whose attentions were once focused on Clarissa's older sister but may have been diverted later to Clarissa. Anna tells Clarissa that everyone pities her for the recent events. She asks that Clarissa offers her own explanation for what has happened.

In closing, Anna also requests that Clarissa send a copy of Clarissa's grandfather's will to Anna's Aunt Harman. Although this Aunt Harman is not acquainted with Clarissa, Anna states that her aunt has grown fond of Clarissa and believes that Clarissa deserves to be the favored heir of her grandfather's estate.

In Clarissa's response to Anna, Clarissa tells the story about her sister, Arabella, and her relationship to Mr. Lovelace. Lovelace was introduced to the family, supposedly for the purpose of meeting Arabella. Lovelace is described as very handsome with a bad reputation toward women.

At first Arabella feels she is not pretty enough for Lovelace, but later she decides her looks are passable and so her interest in Lovelace increases. However, she becomes discontent with the man because he pays very little attention to her when he visits.

Eventually Arabella turns down Lovelace's advances. Lovelace is not...

(The entire section is 594 words.)