Samuel Richardson vs. the ‘High Life Men’
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The vast body of texts that swiftly accumulated around Pamela following its publication in 1740 might appear to be a tribute to the overwhelming impact of the new genre of the novel, which Richardson is often held to have inaugurated. In other ways, however, Pamela does not represent a break with the past, but rather a culmination of the issues I have been discussing within a new context. At first sight, in fact, the Arcadia and Pamela provide particularly fitting bookends for a discussion of prose continuations. Dennis Kay writes that ‘The transition [between ‘romance’ and ‘novel’] ‖ could hardly be neater’ as ‘many of the characteristics of responses to Sidney in the preceding generation were smoothly transferred to Richardson’ (32). This apparent neatness is due not only to the fact that both works led to the writing of multiple continuations, but because Pamela itself can be seen as the last of the reactions to the Arcadia. Richardson had helped to print the 1725 edition of Sidney’s Works, and its last eighteenth-century reissue was published in 1739, a year before Richardson’s novel. Gillian Beer even argues that the 1725 edition, which includes Richard Belling’s Sixth Booke, might ‘particularly have drawn Richardson’s attention to the possibility of extending and rethinking Sidney’s great work’ (23). Unlike Belling, however, Richardson did not choose to continue the Arcadia — indeed, his work may be seen as a type of discontinuation in a new generic form and social context.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Book Trade Title Page Literary Property Commercial Motive
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