Samuel Richardson, Pamela


Samuel Richardson, Pamela


  • Intro

    The author and printer Samuel Richardson was one of the earliest English novelists. Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, which was published anonymously in 1740-1, was his first novel. Written as a series of letters, it tells the story of the 15-year old servant Pamela Andrews, who is left without protection after the death of her mistress Lady B. Pamela is pursued by Lady B's son, Mr B, who is infatuated with her and has her imprisoned in his remote house in Lincolnshire. During her imprisonment Pamela keeps a journal recording her feelings for Mr B: although she rejects him at first and resists his advances, she eventually falls in love with him and the two are united after admitting both their faults and their affection for each other. The reward Pamela gains for her virtue is therefore access to upper-class society, and to circles she could never otherwise have entered.


    The novel’s epistolary style allows the reader access to Pamela’s thoughts and feelings, and was praised by contemporary critics for its psychological realism. Pamela was extremely popular, although some readers criticised it for its heroine’s transcending of class barriers and rise to high status. It sparked many parodies, including Henry Fielding’s novel Shamela (1741), whose heroine is a manipulative social climber.

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