Samuel Richardson, the first, in order of time, of the great English novelists, was born in 1689 and died at London in 1761. He was a printer by trade, and rose to be master of the Stationers’ Company. That he also became a novelist was due to his skill as a letter-writer, which brought him, in his fiftieth year, a commission to write a volume of model “familiar letters” as an aid to persons too illiterate to compose their own. The notion of connecting these letters by a story which had interested him suggested the plot of “Pamela” and determined its epistolary form—a form which was retained in his later works. This novel (published 1740) created an epoch in the history of English fiction, and, with its successors, exerted a wide influence upon Continental literature. It is appropriately included in a series which is designed to form a group of studies of English life by the masters of English fiction. For it marked the transition from the novel of adventure to the novel of character—from the narration of entertaining events to the study of men and of manners, of motives and of sentiments. In it the romantic interest of the story (which is of the slightest) is subordinated to the moral interest in the conduct of its characters in the various situations in which they are placed. Upon this aspect of the “drama of human life” Richardson cast a most observant, if not always a penetrating glance. His works are an almost microscopically detailed picture of English domestic life in the early part of the eighteenth century.
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
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.
In a series of letters to her parents, 15-year-old Pamela Andrews recounts her tribulations as a servant in the house of Mr. B. The infatuated master's repeated attempts at seduction―foiled again and again by the quick-witted maid―lead to Pamela's abduction and imprisonment in a remote country house, where the unlikely couple truly come to know one another. Samuel Richardson, one of England's early novelists, published Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded anonymously in 1740. The first bestseller in English fiction, Pamela excited a storm of controversy, in which it was both denounced as thinly veiled pornography and praised for setting an example of righteous conduct. Its publication marks a defining moment in the development of the modern novel, in which the genre suddenly and irrevocably developed the potential for moral seriousness. Three centuries later, Richardson's novel remains an engaging tale of psychological complexity.
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