Looking Clarissa Right in The Eye

American post-war and contemporary artist Gelah Penn continues her abstract contemplation on Samuel Richardson's 18th-century epistolary novel with the second installment of "Notes on Clarissa"  opening at Cornwall Library in Cornwall, Conn., on Saturday, Sept. 16. Each piece corresponds to a letter in the novel.

"Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady" was Richardson's follow-up to his smash-hit "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded," a publication  whose significance can't be understated. Considered to be the first modern English novel (and the first novel printed in America), the unfolding saga was read by clergymen and rural countrymen alike, transfixed by its suspense, its psychological love story, and its instruction on maintaining defined gender roles within marriage and English society at large.

While "Pamela" ends in what is considered to be a triumph in the marriage plot novel — the maid weds the master of the house — the 1,500 pages of letters that make up the story of Clarissa Harlowe are ripe with tragedy. Beautiful Clarissa, aged eighteen, becomes the object of pursuit by the charming yet emotionally corrupt Lovelace, a wealthy libertine whose seductive words entice her to elope. Although she swiftly recognizes her error, her family disowns her, and in Lovelace's grasp, exhausted by attempts to manipulate her into truly loving him, he rapes her. The profound emotional distress that ensues leads to her untimely demise.

Dark sexuality and a battles of wills in a treacherous game of morality ensnared audiences then, and the weighty tome is still considered to be Richardson's opus. It's bleakness is its appeal, as Clarissa realizes what a dangerous time it is to be a girl in the world.

'II XXV' by Gelah Penn Cornwall Library

Latest News

Thru hikers linked by life on the Appalachian Trail

Riley Moriarty


Of thousands who attempt to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, only one in four make it.

The AT, completed in 1937, runs over roughly 2,200 miles, from Springer Mountain in Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest to Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park of Maine.

Keep ReadingShow less
17th Annual New England Clambake: a community feast for a cause

The clambake returns to SWSA's Satre Hill July 27 to support the Jane Lloyd Fund.


The 17th Annual Traditional New England Clambake, sponsored by NBT Bank and benefiting the Jane Lloyd Fund, is set for Saturday, July 27, transforming the Salisbury Winter Sports Association’s Satre Hill into a cornucopia of mouthwatering food, live music, and community spirit.

The Jane Lloyd Fund, now in its 19th year, is administered by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and helps families battling cancer with day-to-day living expenses. Tanya Tedder, who serves on the fund’s small advisory board, was instrumental in the forming of the organization. After Jane Lloyd passed away in 2005 after an eight-year battle with cancer, the family asked Tedder to help start the foundation. “I was struggling myself with some loss,” said Tedder. “You know, you get in that spot, and you don’t know what to do with yourself. Someone once said to me, ‘Grief is just love with no place to go.’ I was absolutely thrilled to be asked and thrilled to jump into a mission that was so meaningful for the community.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Getting to know our green neighbors

Cover of "The Light Eaters" by Zoe Schlanger.


This installment of The Ungardener was to be about soil health but I will save that topic as I am compelled to tell you about a book I finished exactly three minutes before writing this sentence. It is called “The Light Eaters.” Written by Zoe Schlanger, a journalist by background, the book relays both the cutting edge of plant science and the outdated norms that surround this science. I promise that, in reading this book, you will be fascinated by what scientists are discovering about plants which extends far beyond the notions of plant communication and commerce — the wood wide web — that soaked into our consciousnesses several years ago. You might even find, as I did, some evidence for the empathetic, heart-expanding sentiment one feels in nature.

A staff writer for the Atlantic who left her full-time job to write this book, Schlanger has travelled around the world to bring us stories from scientists and researchers that evidence sophisticated plant behavior. These findings suggest a kind of plant ‘agency’ and perhaps even a consciousness; controversial notions that some in the scientific community have not been willing or able to distill into the prevailing human-centric conceptions of intelligence.

Keep ReadingShow less