As earlier chapters have demonstrated, friendship in British novels signifies a considerable variety of social values, moral qualities, and compelling virtues. The analyses have made evident that the longing for friendship, for compassionate guidance and human companionship, was a popular and versatile theme in novels of the later Hanoverian period. In addition, friendship allowed characters to gain access to different socio-economic domains and so to participate in the experiences of others; as a novelistic means, it contributed to establishing different narrative perspectives as an attribute of the genre. The latter aspect in particular shows that friendship was not restricted to thematic innovations: as an element of novels’ design, it also gave direction to formal qualities that were crucial for the diversification of the genre. One of the developments influenced by friendship is a plot structured by causal coherence rather than by consecutive episodes. This correlation has so far received little consideration in criticism because the impact of friendship on the plot has been blurred by the often more dramatic narration of heterosexual love stories. For example, the significant influence of Anna Howe on Clarissa Harlowe has attracted critical attention, but synopses of the plot of Richardson’s masterpiece tend to focus on the marriage conflict and the rape.2 In her study on female friendships in

eighteenth-century literature, Janet Todd concedes that a novel’s ‘sentiment may be centered in female friendship’, but even though ‘female relationships can nudge the romantic from center stage, [they remain] incidental to the plot.’3 Emma Donoghue, who analyses male-female friendships in mideighteenth-century novels, confirms the less dominant presence of friendship in narrative action, but she reappraises the significance of friendly bonds when she states that the value of friendship ‘is not how long or well it lasts, [. . .] but the amount of discussion, controversy, narrative energy and originality it generates. At their most interesting, these fictional attempts at different forms of friendship between the sexes undermine the edifice of compulsory, conventional heterosexuality.’4