1759 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Richardson

James Beattie to John Ogilvie, 20 August 1759; William Forbes, Life and Writings of James Beattie (1806) 1:39-40.



On reading Clarissa, we immediately discover that its design is more to instruct than amuse. The author warns the reader of this design in his preface, and again repeats it in the postscript. It is for this reason, that they who read more for amusement than instruction will not be so much captivated with Clarissa as with some other English novels. I grant there are in the novel before us a great many passages of the most interesting kind, but these passages are few in comparison to the extent of the work. I cannot help thinking that our author is often tedious to a fault. In the first volumes there are, if I mistake not, many needless (and I had almost said nauseating) repetitions. I grant, such letters as fall under this censure are generally characteristical, are often humourous, often instructive, and might possibly please, if we were to read the book a second or third time, when we are acquainted with all the characters, and all the particulars of the story. But as there are not many readers who can afford leisure to read so long a romance twice or thrice over, I presume proper care ought to have been taken to blend amusement and instruction in such a manner, as that the one might be a heightening and seasoning to the other.