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Formatting and Judgement in Humphry Clinker

So far for me, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker has brought a number of things to my attention and differentiates itself from other novels. First is this the format of this novel, through letters, is a very interesting idea. In most novels, jumping between a few characters can often get confusing and messy, this idea makes it much more organized but it also works well to seamlessly integrate from a variety of perspectives. In the case of the book, this variety of perspectives is at times humorous, while at the same time for me it actually got a bit tedious. While I found it interesting how the stories varied from person to person, the retelling of specific instances I wish was handled a bit differently at some points. In this varying of perspectives I found myself thinking about how often this happens in every day life. People oftentimes have their own view of a situation and this often is a result due to people seeing things through the lens of through their own preconceived notions beforehand. This had the effect of making me more cognizant of both myself and my actions and as well of the variety of perspectives all around.

Another thing the novel has made apparent is the strong amount of dislike perpetuated by some of the characters. For me, a lot of what was said in between the letters felt very “gossipy” and obviously this dislike comes from a limited perspective. So far I think this has been one of the most difficult reads to get into in the semester. At times I found the novel really brings to light the darker side of human nature, and the strong judgmental attitudes really come to light. A dissatisfaction with society is highlighted by Matt, stating “Heark ye, Lewis, my misanthropy increases every day — The longer I live, I find the folly and the fraud of mankind grow more and more intolerable” (28). 

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2 thoughts on “Formatting and Judgement in Humphry Clinker

  1. Hi Brian – I’m glad you posted about the format because it surprised me so much that after I read the first few letters and realized the rest of the book was letters, I did a search of Google to make sure I was reading the right book. That being said, I totally agree with your comment that it gets tedious, and I found the book pretty slow at first. The story about the carriage overturning and Matt bolting “through the window, as nimble as a grasshopper, having made use of poor Win’s posteriors as a step to rise in his ascent,” made me laugh out loud and from there I thought it became much better. Additionally, I like your observation that the letters visually organize and integrate the stories, and now that we’ve seen how much the characters gossip about each other, no wonder the publisher was so apprehensive about printing them!

  2. Pingback: RE: “Formatting and Judgement in Humphry Clinker” « History and Literature of Georgian England

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