Samuel Richardson's


Adapted by: Hattie Naylor
Directed by: Marilyn Imrie
Produced by: Catherine Bailey Limited

14 March 2010 - 4 April 2010 on BBC Radio 4

4 x 1 hour episodes


  • Clarissa Harlowe -

  • Robert Lovelace -
  • James Harlowe -

  • Solmes -

  • Bella Harlowe -

  • Lady Harlowe -

  • Lord Harlowe -

  • Mrs Norton -

  • Anna Howe -

Also featuring:

Miriam Margolyes
Julian Rhind-Tutt
Adrian Scarborough
Ellie Beaven
Lisa Hammond
Linda Broughton


    Samuel Richardson's Clarissa is a heartbreaking and compulsive piece of epistolary storytelling and one of the world's greatest novels. Published in 1747, it was the precursor to and inspiration for many of the great European novels which followed in its wake.

    Spoilers: The young and beautiful Clarissa is courted by the rake Lovelace, who tricks her into his power, carries her off to London, and rapes her. Clarissa then falls into decline. Lovelace becomes involved in an avenging duel with Clarissa's cousin, and Clarissa's family and friends must live with the guilt and shame of their own neglect and betrayal of her.


    Scroll down to 'Clips' to download all episodes

    From the Catherine Bailey Limited website:

    Writer Hattie Naylor says, “To me, Lovelace’s relentless and calculating pursuit of Clarissa as a possession, is utterly contemporary. Most of us know a Lovelace. He remains as irresistible and dangerous as ever. This is a very modern tale of vengeance and love.”

    “The first book in the world for the knowledge it displays of the human heart,” Samuel Johnson

    This drama is part of Radio 4's 'Classic Serial' programmes, defined as 'Adaptations of works which have achieved classic status'. More information is here on the Classic Serial webpage.


    Episode Synopsis

    In the first part, The Pursuit, beautiful young heiress Clarissa Harlowe is dangerously attracted by the wiles of the notorious libertine Robert Lovelace. Threatened by an imminent marriage arranged with the odious suitor her family have found for her, Lovelace persuades Clarissa to flee with him.

    In the second episode, entitled The Flight, Clarissa has been persuaded to flee with the notorious libertine Lovelace, escaping an arranged marriage. In London she begins to learn of the darker side of Lovelace's character as he secures her lodgings in a house of ill repute and begins to use lies, trickery and cruel delusions in an attempt to seduce her.

    The third episode, Imprisonment, sees Lovelace trick Clarissa into returning to Mrs Sinclair's house of ill repute, and after she has been drugged, he has his way with her.

    The fourth episode is entitled Freedom Regained, in which Clarissa hopes for reconciliation with her family, while an unrepentant Lovelace seeks once again to find her and conquer her soul.


    Broadcast Information

    This production has been serialised into four episodes lasting an hour each. It started on Sunday 14 March from 3.00 - 4.00pm and the final part aired on Sunday 4 April. Each episode was repeated the following Saturday from 9.00 - 10.00pm.


    Press Reviews

    The Radio Times 13-19 March 2010 has chosen Clarissa as one of 'Today's Choices' for Sunday 14 March. They also had a small header on another page with a picture of Richard as John Thornton. Click the scans below to enlarge.




    The Daily Mail Weekend magazine 13 March 2010 had this small scan promoting Clarissa (click to enlarge)



    15 Mar 10

    Guardian Online Classic Serial - Clarissa: The History of a Young Lady by Elisabeth Mahoney

    "everything you could possibly want from Sunday afternoon radio drama"

    15 Mar 10 'The BBC's monstrous downgrading of radio drama' by Gillian Reynolds

    "’s not the most gripping of reads. In Hattie Naylor’s lively adaptation as Radio 4’s new Sunday afternoon Classic Serial and in Marilyn Imrie’s bold and thoughtful production it positively crackles."

    22 Mar 10 

    The Stage Radio Drama by Moira Petty  

    "Richard Armitage took rakishness to new lubricious heights. I can hardly wait for all hell to be let loose when he uses and abuses poor Clarry."



    • Clip from Episode One (broadcast on 10 March 2010): mp3 clip
    • Clip 2 from Episode One: mp3 clip
    • Clip 3 from Episode One: mp3 clip
    • Lovelace singing from Episode Two: mp3 clip
    • All clips are also on the Sounds page
    • Interview on 28 March 2010 with director Marilyn Imrie by Mariella Frostrup of Radio 4's Open Book programme about adapting the novel into a radio play: mp3 clip
    • Clip from the Feedback programme on Radio 4, which read out two letters from listeners and included a brief interview with director Marilyn Imrie: mp3 clip




    BBC Radio 4 Classic Serial webpage

    BBC Press Office webpage


    Last updated 31 August 2011