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tion for granted as fact upon which to give us a lecture, is dearly bought. His moralising would be intrusive, even if inspired by veritable history; it becomes an intolerably tedious and solemn joke when it starts from fiction. It was regarded as a mistake in days when there were scarcely any good novels but his own in existence; in our days, when our literature teems with good novels, which avoid homily, the preaching of the author, far from tending to illusion, is at once detected as a trick. We resent the artifice of bringing God and his commandments into a story that we may give it a Credo. In epic poetry, we have, it is true, the so-called machinery of deities, one great purpose of which is precisely that of Richardson—to give the sanction of religion to the tale; and modern poets, who attempt the epic, make a grand mistake when they introduce machinery which no one believes in, and which, therefore, is powerless to invest the fictions they encumber with the faith of the soul. But the use of machinery—the use, that is, of religion in art as an instrument of sensation and as a means of pumping up faith in the story—is now obsolete ; and the mild form of machinery employed by Richardson, where conscience with its monitions, or a preacher with his texts, takes the place of Jove and his decrees, defeats its end. We are not edified; we are not convinced; we are not awe-struck. Weary as we should be of advice, even if its sole object were the good of our souls, we laugh it to scorn when we find that it has the further object of tricking the imagination. In this view I have felt myself free to apply the knife to a good deal of Richardson's preaching. He has so interwoven it with the story that it is impossible to cut out all. But wherever it seemed to be superfluous it has been excised, and enough has been omitted in this way to save the reader many pages of unprofitable exhortation.
Richardson's prolixity, however, is most of all apparent in the exigencies of the epistolary style of writing into which he threw his narrative. The story is told in the correspondence of the leading characters, who are addicted to letter-writing, surely as correspondents never were before, nor have been since: Some of them write so copiously that it is hard to understand how they find time for sleep or for meals, not to speak of the business which the letters record. By resorting to this method of telling his story the author undoubtedly gained not a little. He made his readers very familiar with the hearts of the several correspondents in their secret workings; he ensured the continuity of our interest in these correspondents; and in the way of illusion he gained whatever was to be gained by keeping himself (the showman) out of sight, and VOL. I.
by impressing the details of the story in repeated narratives. It is this last point that here especially demands our attention. A story once told may go in at one ear and out at the other. But when we find several witnesses vouching for it, and each repeating it after his own fashion, with those little differences of statement which always seem to betoken candour, it gains upon us. Nothing so convincing as manifold assertion. Tell a story twice, and it begins to take. Out of the mouth of two witnesses the world is convinced. Richardson knew this well, and liked to give importance to an event by telling it over and over again with variations. Who could doubt the reality of an event which was attested by several witnesses, and which all were anxious to relate with a minute accuracy wonderful to behold? This evident painstaking to ascertain the truth and this iteration had, and still have, their effect. No stories have ever imposed upon the reader so much as those of Richardson; and it is not to be denied that an abridgement of Clarissa, which deprives it of many repetitions, goes to deprive the author of his power of imposition. But then arises the question—Is imposition the chief thing to be desired in art? or is it the chief thing to be admired in Richardson's art? I have thought not; and have accordingly made bold in many instances to get rid of repetitions, or, where they could not well be dispensed with altogether, to curtail them. It is difficult to calculate how far this process of thinning the narrative may diminish the chances of a reader's credulity; for perhaps in the present day, when we are all sceptical, all inured to novel reading, and all accustomed every morning in the newspapers to distinguish between fact and fiction, these chances may not be very great. Whether great or not, it was necessary to make a choice. I am in hopes that whatever was imposing in Richardson's narrative has not suffered much at my hands; but I am sure that without abridgement he is not to be read at all.
I may add, as bearing on this point, that Richardson himself put forth his work as an abridgement. He knew the wild luxuriance of his vine, which threw out superabundant branches, and disported itself in wanton tendrils, in a waste of foliage, and in numberless small grapes, that, useless in themselves, crowded the clusters and exhausted the tree. He was aware that his story, told in the form of correspondence, had fallen into the most voluminous, indeed into an interminable method, of narrative; and he had to omit so many letters, and to be content to give the gist of so many more, that he reduced to eight volumes the correspondence of which the original bulk was ten. Surely it is no heresy to suggest that he might well have carried this process of elimination still further; and accordingly I have acted on the suggestion of Sir Walter Scott, which I have placed as a motto on the title page. “A modern reader," he says, “may be permitted to wish that Clarissa had been a good deal abri at the beginning and Sir Charles Grandison at the end; that the last two volumes of Pamela had been absolutely cancelled, and the second much com
But, after all, and in spite of the prolixity on which, perhaps, I have dwelt too long because I have been anxious to justify the liberty I have taken with the work of a great master—what words can do justice to the dexterity, the pathos, and the sublimity of this tale, which ranks above all others in prose, and is indeed facile princeps ? I have hitherto referred in particular only to its dexterity - to the wonderful skill with which Richardson contrived so to enlist our interest in his heroes and heroines that we seem to know them, they seem to belong to us, and all the fictions in which they move and have their being are accepted for fact. Voltaire laughed at the notion of an author devoting thousands upon thousands of pages all to show how a young lady in her teens was ensnared; and he declared that all