Book Review: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 3

In finishing the third volume of Sir Charles, I have only a few notes to make. First of all, I was fortunate to be directed to another online version of Sir Charles Grandison, at Blackmask. This version does seem to be somewhat different than the version I am using, but it has saved me some degree of typing time. My version of this volume should be on Project Gutenberg before too long; I’ll provide the link when it is.

As far as the contents of this volume, the main plot of Harriet’s concealed love for Sir Charles continues. She has the wholehearted support of Sir Charles’s sisters, as well as her own family, but continues to feel herself unworthy of his attention. There are some developments in the story of Emily Jervois, Sir Charles’s ward, but the main event is the discovery of Sir Charles’s Italian affair with Clementina della Porretta, an aristocratic young woman from Bologna. As it might be imagined, it is revealed (largely through a series of excerpts from Sir Charles’s previous letters to Dr. Bartlett) that his intentions were entirely honorable, and possibly founded as much—or more—on compassion as love. The revelation (naturally) causes Harriet to take Clementina’s part more than her own.

I found the most interesting aspect of this volume to be the strong references to Shakespeare. Sir Charles first knows Clementina as a sort of voluntary English “tutor,” and Clementina specifically refers to both Hamlet and Twelfth Night, even quoting from the latter. Further than this, however, Clementina’s story seems to have many purposeful parallels to that of Ophelia in Hamlet: torn between her duty to family and religion and her love for the foreign “heretic” Sir Charles, Clementina goes gently mad. Other specific references to Hamlet: Clementina’s parents, on several occasions, arrange for Sir Charles to speak with her, eavesdropping on their conversations first without his knowledge, then with it; later, Clementina, thinking herself refused by Sir Charles, desires to “go her ways to a nunnery.” Very interesting stuff; I haven’t read Twelfth Night yet (sad to say), but I believe one of the characters is called Olivia, as is a spiteful Italian lady in Sir Charles.

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