Do feelings vary between different times, or different cultures? How are feelings learned? Would it be possible to write a history of the development of feelings, or have they always had some basic vocabulary which does not change? Such questions occur when one reads something like the following letter, written to the novelist Samuel Richardson by one of his regular correspondents, Lady Dorothy Bradshaigh. Lady Bradshaigh had already read, several months earlier, the first four volumes of Richardson’s Clarissa, and, like all Richardson’s other readers, had been waiting for him to complete the novel. At the end of Volume IV, Clarissa had escaped the clutches of her would-be seducer, Lovelace, but he had found her hiding place and, on the last page, was keenly and exultingly in pursuit of her. For eight months, readers had had to wait for the final instalment of the huge novel-many of them writing to Richardson with pleas or suggestions about its ending. Now Lady Bradshaigh had received the final three volumes, sent to her by the author himself, and was obeying her promise to him that she would read to the end of the book and write to him with her opinions on it. Here is what she told Richardson, in a letter of January 1749:
I verily believe I have shed a pint of tears…. When alone in agonies would I lay down the Book, take it up again, walk about the Room, let fall a Flood of Tears, wipe my Eyes, read again, perhaps not three Lines, throw away the Book crying out excuse me good Mr. Richardson, I cannot go on. It is your Fault you have done more than I can bear…. [I] threw myself upon my Couch to compose, recol-lecting my Promise (which a thousand times I wished had not been made) again I read, again acted the same Part. Sometimes agreeably interrupted by my dear [husband], who was at that Time labouring through the Sixth Volume with a Heart capable of Impressions equal to my own, tho’ the effects shewn in a more justifiable Manner, which I believe may be compared to what Mr.