Clarissa Explains it All, and Victorine Receives a Gift!

Feel free to groan at the title of this post. If you don’t recognize it, the first half is actually the title of a Nickelodeon show from the early 90’s. I just wanted to get you to think of a different Clarissa, although she’s not the subject of today’s post.

A reader on another social media channel, Sandra (I will not share her last name in case she doesn’t want me to, but she’s more than welcome to claim her contribution in the comments section below) wondered in the comments if Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway could be based on Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa of the eponymous, epistolatory novel published in 1748.

I was thrilled and surprised by her comments. I haven’t read that novel since college. Actually, I’m pretty sure I took it and a blanket to a park and read part of it in the grass one early spring afternoon in the 90’s, listening to the chimes of the local bell tower in the background. To be perfectly honest, I never made the connection between the Clarissas, but I think she’s on to something.

Sandra’s comments:

“Hey, been enjoying your posts. In college I read Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa; or, The History of a Young Lady and I always wondered if Woolf chose Clarissa as Mrs. Dalloway’s first name as a reference to that character in regard to theme of living within expectations of morality. I agree with you that the use of Mrs. is a statement on women being looked upon as extension of husband and not as an independent person. Richardson’s Clarissa resisted at the cost of her own eventual death bring subdued by the (evil) man who was determined to marry and have her as his possession.”

Snooping around the internet tells me others have had the same thought. Guess I’m the last one on the bus. Hey, it doesn’t matter what stop you get on, as long as you hop aboard before the end of the line, am I right?

We know that Woolf based Clarissa on an acquaintance, Kitty Maxse, a socialite who died by falling over a staircase, leading Woolf to wonder if it had indeed been an accident. But how like Woolf it would be to add an exploration of the oppression of women and reinforce that with using names one (besides me I guess!) would associate with the topic.

What do you think? Have you read Richardson’s Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady? Do you think Woolf could have named what is arguably her most famous character after her?

In other news, Victorine received a generous gift in the mail from admirer Rob Hudson yesterday. This wonderful vintage of Chenin Blanc from Lang & Reed Wine Company will be saved for a special occasion, assuming V. will share with me! Many, many thanks, Rob! You’ve been a good friend to Victorine.

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