Alistair Cooke Introductions


Episode One Intro:

Good evening, I'm Alistair Cooke.

Tonight we begin a very ambitious television dramatization: to distill to three one-hour episodes a classic 18th-century novel which the original ran to a million words. How do I know? Well, every book of reference says that Samuel Richardson's Clarissa was one million words long. And I take their word for it - gratefully.

Now the original was published in seven volumes, the last one at the end of 1748. Now who was this extraordinary man who combined 18th-century elegance with 19th-century industry? He was Samuel Richardson, son of a cabinet-maker with a very limited education, but he had two passions from boyhood on. He wanted to be a printer, and became a very famous one, in time being given the commission to print the journal of the House of Commons; their Congressional Record, so to speak.

The other passion was much in vogue in the rnid-18th-century, the writing of letters, not only of your own. Young women who wanted to appear sophisticated would get literary men to answer the letters they received from lovers and Richardson himself did much of this in his spare time.

He came to write a manual of letter writing, letters suitable for a maidservant, for a farmer, or a father counseling his daughter against designing young men. Now this was a favorite theme, almost a neurosis, with Richardson.

And then he told the story of a girl who resisted just such advances, told it through the letters she wrote to her parents, this emerged as a novel, his first, Pamela. Eight years later when he was crowding 60 he published the monumental work we begin tonight.

Clarissa, the story of a young lady, this too is told through letters, but not hers alone, several other characters and the plot emerges through the letters and the letters express the intimate thoughts and the motives that fuel the plot, which is a very simple one.

A tyrannical, bourgeois family commands their daughter Clarissa to marry a harmless young dandy she detests, and for better or worse she seeks sympathy from a handsome rake. Clarissa, Episode One.


Episode Two Intro:

Good evening, I'm Alistair Cooke.

Tonight we are at the second - the middle - episode of Clarissa, the three-hour version that the BBC dared to make of Samuel Richardson's one million word novel, published 1747 - 1748, seven fat volumes in 13 months - which must be some sort of record in the quill pen stakes.

Until the publication of Clarissa, Richardson's name was that only of a famous printer, because his first novel Pamela, was published anonymously, it's subtitle was "Virtue Rewarded" and to Richardson it applauded the triumph of a young girl besieged by her master, but one who yet held out for marriage.

But the critics accused him of hypocrisy and barely disguised pornography, which did the sales in five languages no harm. Yet Richardson was deeply affected, he was a very moral man and this second novel, Clarissa, is a kind of cautionary sequel to Pamela.

It's about a young woman of unquestioned virtue, who cannot bear the idea of marrying a young ninny that her family has picked out for her. The ninny is rich and both the novel and the film bare the strong implication that the family is authoritarian, materialistic, and several other things which were usually attacked only by Methodist clergyman.

Well, in the first episode we saw Clarissa first shocked by her family' s proposal of marriage to this popinjay, Mr. Soames - then outraged at her father's insistence that it was her duty to obey him and her rather modem response, "Have I no duty to myself?" And finally the night before the wedding we saw her run off with a young aristocrat Mr. Lovelace - with whom she's been corresponding. She has her suspicions about him, but he shares her outrage at her family and appears to be a gallant type who, "may improve upon acquaintance." Clarissa, Episode Two.


Episode Three Intro:

Good evening, I'm Alistair Cooke.

Tonight the final episode of Clarissa. The BBC's adaptation of what shall we say, the essence of one million words which constitute the original novel by Samuel Richardson. Contemporary of Henry Fielding and Hogarth, friend of Dr. Johnson, but mainly a prosperous printer, who leased a fine house in Hammersmith and spent the rest of his life there writing, entertaining his friends, especially a flock of admiring young women, who were known as "Richardson's Garden of Ladies."

Now apparently today it is difficult to credit a relationship between a man and a woman that is warm and intimate without sexual contact. But I believe our investigative snoopers would have have found nothing culpable in Richardson if they'd worked on him in shifts, like coal miners.

Well, Clarissa refusing to be forced into marriage with a man she detests, has gone off to London under the protection of a Mr. Lovelace, who has installed her in a nice house which is supposedly the home of a widow and her daughters. Clarissa, however, finds out that it is in fact a high-toned brothel, she takes off alone, destination unknown, Clarissa final episode.

 

Episode Three Extro:

Richardson was everywhere described as a sweet-tempered amiable man and you may wonder how he could have knowledge as such a thing as Clarissa's tragedy. He was well acquainted with grief - by his first wife he had six children, five died in infancy, the sixth at the age of four. And in his immediate family 11 other deaths in two years, much feuding and betrayal. But he kept these things to himself, only to two or three who were very close to him, did he ever reveal the dark underside of his smiling surface and they did not wonder how he could come to write this - the one tragic novel - of his time. Alistair Cooke, MASTERPIECE THEATRE, Good-night.


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