London: Printed for S. Richardson: And Sold by A. Millar…, 1748. Item #04514
"The First Book in the World For the Knowledge it Displays of the Human Heart" (Samuel Johnson)
RICHARDSON, Samuel. Clarissa. Or, the History of a Young Lady: Comprehending The most Important Concerns of Private Life. And particularly shewing, The Distresses that may attend the Misconduct Both of Parents and Children, In Relation to Marriage. Published by the editor of Pamela. London: Printed for S. Richardson: and sold by A. Millar, over-against Catharine-Street in the Strand: J. and Ja. Rivington, in St. Paul's Church-Yard: John Osborn, in Pater-Noster Row; and by J. Leake, at Bath. 1748.
First edition. Seven octavo volumes (6 5/16 x 3 3/4 inches; 161 x 95 mm). [i-ii, title], iii-xii, 312; [2, title], 309, [1, ad]; [2, title], vi, 366; [2, title], 362; [2, title], 378; [2, title], 405, [1, blank]; [2, title], 432 pp. With folding plate of engraved music facing D1 verso in volume II.
Contemporary speckled half calf over marbled boards, expertly rebacked to style, retaining original corners. Smooth spines ruled and numbered in gilt, gilt red morocco spine labels. Near-contemporary owner's signature on front pastedown of each volume. Occasional spotting or light staining, primarily marginal. One small, clean one inch tear to outer edge of leaf R8 of volume V. A near fine set of the longest novel in the English language.
This is a notably attractive first edition of what is arguably Richardson's greatest achievement, one of the earliest novels and a masterpiece of English literature. Although it is written as a series of letters, a style that characterized much mid-eighteenth century fiction, and its plot is not a particularly remarkable one (the story famously centers around the villainous Lovelace's attempted seduction of the virtuous Clarissa), owing to its complexity and richness Clarissa attained an instantaneous popularity that resulted in a myriad of editions, translations, and imitations within just several years of its publication.
Clarissa is as well-known for its prodigious length as much as for its singular place in literary history, and it in fact remains the longest novel in the English language. Dr. Johnson famously called Clarissa "the first book in the world for the knowledge it displays of the human heart," though he also observed of the novel that "if you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself." Today, most critics and general readers agree that Clarissa's length is actually a crucial component of the novel's greatness, lending to the dark, repressive mood of the work and allowing for comprehensive, detailed examinations of its two main characters' moral, emotional, and psychic dilemmas.
Grolier, 100 English, 47. Rothschild v. II p. 470.