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Poor in Everything But Will: Richardson’s Pamela

  • Marea Mitchell
  • Dianne Osland

Abstract

Writing to Sophia Westcomb in 1746, Samuel Richardson observed that ‘the Pen is almost the only Means a very modest and diffident Lady (who in Company will not attempt to glare) has to shew herself, and that she has a Mind. … By this means she can assert and vindicate her Claim to Sense and Meaning’.1 The heroine of Richardson’s Pamela, a young maidservant whose letters detailing her ordeals at the hands of her rapacious master constitute the substance of the novel, is able not only ‘to shew herself, and that she has a Mind’, but also to show herself through her mind, exercising a level of control over her experience that amounts to a surrogate agency — no substitute, to be sure, for the power to act on an autonomous will, but sufficient, it proves, for a servant to keep what is rightfully hers (including, though not confined to, her virginity) until she chooses, on proper terms, to surrender it. From the time it was first published, Richardson’s novel was celebrated for its probing of the ‘inmost Recesses’ of Pamela’s mind,2 but the letters also allow Richardson’s heroine to assert a proprietary interest beyond her body and to contest the space of representation.

Keywords

Romantic Love Strategic Manoeuvring Great Reverence Romance Convention True Love 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Samuel Richardson, Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson, ed. John Carroll (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), pp. 67–8.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    T. C. Duncan Eaves and Ben D. Kimpel, ‘Richardson’s Revisions of Pamela’, Studies in Bibliography 20 (1967): 88. Even given speculation about the authority of revisions not published in Richardson’s lifetime, our preference for the final revised edition has also been guided by the principle of allowing the author the last word on what book he wanted to write.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Walter Allen, The English Novel (1954; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), p. 25.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Jacob Leed, ‘Richardson’s Pamela and Sidney’s’, AUMLLA 40 (1973): 240–5.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Gillian Beer, ‘Pamela: Rethinking Arcadia’, in Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays, ed. Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor, pp. 23–39 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), p. 23.Google Scholar
  6. 16.
    See, for example, Richard Steele, The Tender Husband: or, The Accomplish’’d Fools, II. ii, in The Plays of Richard Steele, ed. Shirley Strum Kenny (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 238. In what looks very much like a rearguard action, this play becomes the object of some scathing observations from Richardson’s Pamela in Pamela 2.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    Murray L. Brown, ‘Learning to Read Richardson: Pamela, ‘Speaking Pictures’, and the Visual Hermeneutic’, Studies in the Novel 25.2 (1993): 141.Google Scholar
  8. 25.
    Margaret Anne Doody, A Natural Passion: A Study of the Novels of Samuel Richardson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 58.Google Scholar
  9. 27.
    Peter Shaw, The Reflector (London: Printed for T. Longman, 1750), p. 14, quoted in Ivor Indyk, ‘Interpretative Relevance, and Richardson’s Pamela’, Southern Review 16 (1983): 32.Google Scholar
  10. 30.
    Betty Rizzo, ‘Renegotiating the Gothic’, in Revising Women: Eighteenth-Century ‘Women’s Fiction’ and Social Engagement, ed. Paula Backscheider (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), p. 65.Google Scholar
  11. 31.
    Janine Barchas, The Annotations in Lady Bradshaigh’s Copy of Clarissa (Victoria: University of Victoria, 1998), p. 85.Google Scholar
  12. 40.
    William B. Warner, Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684–1750 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), p. 187.Google Scholar
  13. 44.
    Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (New York: Norton, 1995), p. 7.Google Scholar
  14. 48.
    Tassie Gwilliam, Samuel Richardson’s Fictions of Gender (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 33.Google Scholar
  15. 55.
    Robert Greene, Pandosto: The Triumph of Time, in The Descent of Euphues: Three Elizabethan Romance Stories, ed. James Winny (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957), pp. 97–101. Richardson certainly knew Dorastus and Fawnia by name. In Clarissa, the rake, Lovelace, blames this story for the threat of fire that in the middle of the night persuades Clarissa to unbolt, unbar, and unlock her door, defending himself against the suspicion that the fire was staged in order, as Clarissa puts it, to frighten her ‘almost naked into his arms’ (754), by insisting that the fire was real: ‘all owing to the carelessness of Mrs Sinclair’s cook-maid, who, having sat up to read the simple history of Dorastus and Faunia, when she should have been in bed, set fire to an old pair of calico window-curtains (723). The Historie of Dorastus and Fawnia was the running title of Greene’s Pandosto and was frequently known by this name in reprintings and broadside redactions.Google Scholar
  16. 56.
    Richard Gooding, ‘Pamela, Shamela, and the Politics of the Pamela Vogue’, Eighteenth-Century Fiction 7.2 (1995): 120, 121–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 57.
    Winfried Schleiner, ‘Rank and Marriage: A Study of the Motif of “Woman Willfully Tested”’, Comparative Literature Studies 9 (1972): 365. A number of critics have argued that the Griselda motif seems to inform Richardson’s depiction of his heroine’s trials. See, for example, Bueler, p. 157Google Scholar
  18. James R. Foster, History of the Pre-Romantic Novel in England (1949; rpt. NY: Kraus Reprint Corporation, 1966), p. 109Google Scholar
  19. Mark Kinkead-Weekes, Samuel Richardson: Dramatic Novelist (London: Methuen, 1973), p. 11Google Scholar
  20. Barbara Belyea, ‘Romance and Richardson’s Pamela’, English Studies in Canada 10.4 (1984): 409.Google Scholar
  21. 58.
    Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (London: Chatto and Windus, 1973), p. 113.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Marea Mitchell and Dianne Osland 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marea Mitchell
  • Dianne Osland

There are no affiliations available

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