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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 1, 2011

Herodian Love: Sex and Desire in Richardson's Clarissa

Rudolf Freiburg
From the journal


When Richardson published Clarissa in 17471748 the book met with an overwhelming reception that made its author famous all over Europe. Richardson's admirers among them Samuel Johnson, Henry Fielding, Edward Young, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock primarily praised him for his genius and his innovative style of writing in the sentimental vein, with which the great master of the human heart, the Shakespeare of Romance, as he was frequently called, presented a counterbalance to the predominance of rationality that had characterized the preceding Augustan Age. It is true that Richardson still paid tribute to reason, which in Samuel Johnson's famous words taught the passions to move at the command of virtue, but Richardson also concentrated on the pre- and subconscious aspects of human nature. He unfolds the tragic love story of Clarissa, the paragon of virtue in distress, and Lovelace, an 18th-century version of Milton's beautiful but extremely dangerous Satan, who seduces and rapes his pretty victim thus causing her untimely death. 150 years before Freud, Richardson delved deep into the hearts and souls of his protagonists revealing their most intimate and hidden wishes. It was precisely by telling his story of Herodian love, based on the history of Herod and Mariamne as it was handed down by Josephus that Richardson analysed the close affiliation between desire, sex, destruction and death.

Published Online: 2011-December
Published in Print: 2011-December