Turret Love and Cottage Hate: Coming Down to Earth in Pamela 2 and The Female Quixote

  • Marea Mitchell
  • Dianne Osland


Richardson’s continuation of Pamela in Pamela 2 and Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote may seem an odd pairing — one so sober and earnest, the other so mischievous — but they are both explicitly addressing the question that Pamela herself asks in Pamela 2: ‘what is the instruction, that can be gathered’ from romance ‘for the conduct of common life?’ (P2, IV: 425). Lennox’s novel, in which a young woman almost destroys herself by believing rather too literally in the romances on which her imagination has fed, reminds us that the question is itself symptomatic of the disease it addresses, since it assumes that fiction does, and even should, provide models for life that readers can imitate. The dangers that novels might represent for young, and particularly for female, readers were perceived with an escalating anxiety in the eighteenth century, due in part to the fact that the format in which much fiction was now published — in volumes small enough to be carried around and read in private, and cheap enough to be purchased from a personal allowance — meant that it was much more difficult to control what was being read.1 The realism of novelistic techniques also fostered a literalism in reading strategies, on the part of both the novel’s critics and its supposed victims, that was extrapolated beyond the novel to fiction in general and romance in particular.


Eighteenth Century Reading Strategy Ordinary Life Romantic Love Common Life 
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    Elizabeth Montagu, The Letters of Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu, with Some of the Letters of her Correspondents, ed. Matthew Montagu, 4 vols (1809; rpt. New York: AMS Press, 1974), II: 87–88.Google Scholar
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    Betty A. Schellenberg, ‘Enclosing the Immovable: Structuring Social Authority in Pamela 2’, in Passion and Virtue: Essays on the Novels of Samuel Richardson, ed. David Blewett (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), p. 90.Google Scholar
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    Scott Paul Gordon, ‘The Space of Romance in Lennox’s Female Quixote’, Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 38.3 (1998): 501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Clara Reeve, The Progress of Romance, 2 vols (1785; rpt. New York: The Facsimile Text Society, 1930), I: 68.Google Scholar

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© Marea Mitchell and Dianne Osland 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marea Mitchell
  • Dianne Osland

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