Clarissa has an impressive history in literary fiction. The name features in no less than three of the best novels written in English (according to the Guardian’s 2013 survey of the 100 best novels written in English). In two of those books Clarissa is the leading character.
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
‘What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with this extraordinary excitement? It is Clarissa, he said. For there she was.’
Clarissa inhabits Mayfair in ways comparable to James Joyce’s Ulysses, which details Leopold Bloom’s existence in Dublin. Published in 1925, Woolf depicts one day in the life of Mrs Clarissa Dalloway.
‘…she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.’
Bloom’s Day is June 16th and is celebrated in literary circles worldwide.
Dalloway Day is June 13th. It’s a private affair.
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
‘Miss Clarissa never moved her arms. She sometimes played tunes upon them with her fingers—minuets and marches I should think—but never moved them.’
Published in 1861 as The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account), these are the serialised adventures of our eponymous hero. He meets the maiden aunts Clarissa and Lavinia Spenlow in chapter 41.
‘They were both upright in their carriage, formal, precise, composed and quiet.’
Clarissa Harlowe; or, The History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson
‘Tired of myself longing for what I have not’
This 1748 novel, sometimes simply known as Clarissa, relates the great misfortunes of an admired and innocent young woman who is brought down by the iniquities of her family and society. It is an epistolary novel and the collected letters that tell her tale are intended as an example to protect other women from a similarly tragic fate.
‘I know not my own heart if it be not absolutely free.’
Clarissa! a play by Terry Victor, with cinematic visuals by Christian Britten.
‘I was an easily acquired taste if you moved in the right circles.’
Virginia Woolf has a significant part to play in the celebrated life of this Clarissa, which premieres on December 13th 2018 at the Seligman Theatre in Chapter, Cardiff.
‘Have you never been young? Have you ever stayed up all night, just being adored?’