In her remarks on Samuel Richardson’s celebrated second novel, Clarissa (1748), the novelist Sarah Fielding nds that ‘the gentle Clarissa’s death is the natural consequence of her innocent life; her calm and prepared spirit, like a so smooth stream, ows gently on, till it slides from her misfortunes, and she leaves the world free from fear, and animated only by a lively hope’.1 Although this panegyric typi- es the immediate critical reception of Richardson’s massive, seven-volume work, by the last decade of the eighteenth century the cult status of Richardson’s second novel had diminished just enough to expose its protagonist to the censure of critics. us, in her Letters on Education (1789), Catherine Macaulay summarily jettisons Clarissa from her canon of acceptable young adult reading material on the grounds that its heroine, ‘though represented as a paragon of piety and moral excellence, is positive and conceited; and all her distresses are brought upon her by the adhering to some very whimsical notions which she has entertained of duty and propriety of conduct’.2 In addition to this already scathing criticism, Macaulay identi es as Clarissa Harlowe’s chief o ense ‘her rigid adherence to the discipline of fasting, whilst under the alarming symptoms of a deep decline’.3 Needless to say, Macaulay’s intimation that Clarissa stages a voluntary death marks an extreme departure from the reception that Richardson’s most celebrated novel received at its mid-century publication. Given the pervasiveness of the belief in the existence of an ‘English Malady’, one might expect that Clarissa’s early readers would have been disposed to read the novel as a suicide narrative rather than otherwise. Yet Richardson’s rst readers register their dissatisfaction with his published ending by o ering up their revised scenes of reconciliation and consummated marriage plots in its stead, objecting not so much to Clarissa’s manner of dying as to the irrefutable facticity of her death itself.