Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded is an epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson. It tells the story of a beautiful 15-year old maidservant named Pamela Andrews, whose country landowner master, Mr. B, makes unwanted advances towards her after the death of his mother, whose maid Pamela had been since age 12. Mr. B is infatuated with her, first by her looks and then her innocence and intelligence, but his high rank hinders him from proposing marriage. He abducts her, locks her up in one of his estates, and attempts to seduce and rape her. She rejects him continually, but starts to realise that she is falling in love with him. He intercepts her letters to her parents; reading them, he becomes even more enamored by her innocence, intelligence, and continuous escape attempts. Her virtue is eventually rewarded when he sincerely proposes an equitable marriage to her. In the novel's second part, Pamela attempts to build a successful relationship with him and to acclimatise to upper class society. The story, a best-seller of its time, was very widely read but criticised for its perceived licentiousness.
Since most publishers ofPamelahave preferred to print Richardson’s table of contents from the sixth edition, his complete introduction (his preface, together with letters to the editor and comments) is missing even from some of our best collections. Occasionally one finds the preface and the first two letters, but only four publishers since Richardson have attempted to reprint the full introduction. Harrison (London, 1785) -- who omits the first letter -- and Cooke (London, 1802-3) both follow Richardson’s eighth edition; Ballantyne (Edinburgh, 1824) uses the fourth; the Shakespeare Head (Oxford, 1929), the third. And even these printings leave one dissatisfied. The Shakespeare Head gives the fullest text, but naturally omits Richardson’s revisions; Cooke gives the introduction in its final form, but one misses the full text which accompanied the book in its heyday; and rarely are both Cooke and Shakespeare Head to be found in the same library.
One of the first great British novels, Samuel Richardson’s classic tale became a legend to his own age and remains so today.
Defying her parents’ desire for her to marry a loathsome man for his wealth, the virtuous Clarissa escapes into the dangerous arms of the charming rogue Lovelace, whose intentions are much less than honorable. This thought-provoking work, written entirely in intimate letters, exposes the delicacy and complexity of affairs of the human heart. The fatal attraction between villain and victim builds and unfolds into a relationship that haunts the imagination as fully as that of Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Isolde.
Abridged and with an Introduction by Sheila Ortiz-Taylor and a New Afterword by Lynn Shepherd
Pressured by her unscrupulous family to marry a wealthy man she detests, the young Clarissa Harlowe is tricked into fleeing with the witty and debonair Robert Lovelace and places herself under his protection. Lovelace, however, proves himself to be an untrustworthy rake whose vague promises of marriage are accompanied by unwelcome and increasingly brutal sexual advances. And yet, Clarissa finds his charm alluring, her scrupulous sense of virtue tinged with unconfessed desire. Told through a complex series of interweaving letters, Clarissa is a richly ambiguous study of a fatally attracted couple and a work of astonishing power and immediacy. A huge success when it first appeared in 1747, and translated into French and German, it remains one of the greatest of all European novels.
For a fascinating glimpse into eighteenth-century morals and values, take a look at Samuel Richardson's Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. A blockbuster of a bestseller in its day, Pamela recounts the tribulations of a poor housekeeper who is forced constantly to fend off the prurient advances of her employer. Her reward? Pamela is offered -- and accepts -- her lustful master's hand in marriage and is thrust into upper-class society.
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