The Case of the Charming Monster vs Calls for the Didactic Reward of Virtue and the Punishment of Vice

Sumei Karen Anne Tan, United Kingdom, ID LLCE2016-304;       The character of Robert Lovelace, in Richardson’s Clarissa (1748) seems to highlight concerns, not to say moral panic, about the effects of charming villains on young people. In 1750, Johnson’s influential essay in The Rambler (No 4) calls for the didactic reward of virtue and the punishment of vice. Although Johnson intended to allude to Richardson as his model, in fact, there are troubling elements in the moral system of Clarissa.  This paper traces just how far the Johnsonian model of fiction, as material deemed suitable for young readers has been followed in Richardson’s Clarissa (and its subsequent revisions), a work which has been cited as an inspiration for Gothic heroes/ monsters. This paper will treat Lovelace as the prototypical Gothic monster/hero and asks what it is about Clarissa and similar texts in the Gothic genre that continue to dazzle and attract new readers or audiences. After all, beyond a well-written prose, an intriguing plot and controversial characters, what is it about these texts that attracted earlier audiences (e.g. Richardson’s Clarissa) and audiences now to draw parallels and distinctions into their lives? In investigating Gothic’s allure from its beginnings in the 18th century to contemporary teen Gothic, this paper hopes to explore the question of why Gothic literature still provides much scope for heated, on-going debate in contemporary culture.