ENL 6236 – Eighteenth-Century Novel and Theory                                        Dr. Runge



2/27                 Pamela --  Volume II (pp 279-516)



                        Critical reception paper – Lina


For discussion this week, I would like to address the following topics:


1)      how volume two answers (or fails to answer) the expectations of the first volume (literary, aesthetic, moral, political);

2)      what role reading plays within the novel and its relationship to the Pamela phenomenon which followed its publication;

3)      what strategies Richardson employs to resolve the conflict between older, aristocratic, “patriarchal” – to use Watt’s sense of the word – family structure and the newer, bourgeois, companionate or sentimental family, and the extent of their success.




I.                    Formal elements


What criteria will we use to evaluate the novel?  Begin with Watt, but also draw from your experience as readers of other literature.


Recall what Daniel Schwartz writes about Watt: “the extent to which a novel signifies the complexity of the historical, sociological, and cultural aspects in which the author lives becomes an aesthetic standard” (66).


In what ways might you apply this to Pamela?  What are the historical, sociological and cultural aspects of Richardson’s world which come into play?  How does the novel succeed?  How does it fail?


Try to put in your own words a summary statement of the aesthetic standard for a novel from McKeon's  and Warner’s theories (as Schwartz did for Watt).  To what extent does Pamela embody these standards?


Note that the epistolary method, while still important to the action of the novel in the second volume, all but breaks down as an aesthetic model.  What does this tell you about Richardson’s art?  What might it imply about epistolary strategies?


One dominant theme of the novel, as the subtitle suggests, is “Virtue rewarded.”  In what sense is virtue rewarded?  How does the second half of the novel fulfill or fail to fulfill the moral promise of the first volume?  How does Pamela’s character change/develop from one to the other?  How does Mr. B’s character change/develop from one to the other? 


Another theme that emerges somewhat against Richardson’s intention is that “a reformed rake makes the best husband.”  What are the problems inherent in this reading?


“In Clarissa, Richardson contradicted the conclusion of Pamela ‘that a reformed rake makes the best husband.’  His recantation was a grand one, since he attributed his first, highly publicized conclusion to ‘the author of all delusion, ‘ identifying himself with the devil.  But the notion – that a reformed rake makes the best ‘husband’ – remained a preoccupation among eighteenth-century writers because it encapsulated the great reform goal characterizing the culture of sensibility.  The question of making ‘the best husband’ assumed that women’s interest was fundamental.  That the conversion of rake to husband was laden with religious and moral values stemming ultimately from Protestantism was signified by the word ‘reformed.’ It also connoted the possibilities for dramatic personality change.  The appeal of this idea, ‘empowering’ women, to use Richardson’s own term in Pamela, must be connected to that novel’s great popularity.  And while Clarissa’s attempt to convert Lovelace literally fails, she has the entire moral victory over him.  The novel of which Clarissa is the heart symbolized the same aspiration as Pamela” (Barker-Benfield, Culture of Sensibility, p. 251).


How does Pamela “empower” women?


Return to Doody’s political analysis: Pamela represents rebellion in her resistance, a rebellion made possible by the emergent values of the bourgeois and philosophy of individualism.  Doody claims that “Richardson’s own novel in the end draws back, as it had to draw-back in order to be acceptable enough to read, from such questions as these.  It leaves them trembling in the air” (in Richetti, p. 104).  In the end, whose property is Pamela?  On how many levels does she herself understand the concept of ownership?  How satisfactory is this conclusion to the conflict generated in the earlier pages of her confinement?


Return to the issue of amorous novels by women writers – Behn, Haywood, Barker, Davys.  To what extent does Richardson borrow from the plot-lines of these novels?  What changes can you see?  How might you express the debt Richardson has to these women writers?


II.         On Reading


Mr. B writes to Mr. Andrews:  “And she [Pamela] has been as free to others, as to you (young girls know no bounds to their vanity!) for she is become a mighty letter-writer” (125).


After reading the middle section of Pamela’s narrative, Mr. B demands to have the rest: “As I have furnished you with a subject, I think I have a title to see how you manage it.  Besides, there is such a pretty air of romance, as you tell your story, in your plots, and my plots, that I shall be better directed how to wind up the catastrophe of the pretty novel” (268).


After the second installment, he tells Pamela: “If my mind hold, and I can see these former papers of yours, and that these in my pocket give me no cause to alter my opinion, I will endeavour to defy the world, and the world’s censures, and, if it be in the power of my whole life, make my Pamela amends for all the hardships she has undergone by my means” (276-77).


When Pamela is at the inn waiting to return to her parents she receives a letter from Mr. B indicating a change of heart: “I find it in vain, my Pamela, to struggle against my affection for you. After you were gone, I ventured to look into your journal.  Mrs. Jewkes’s bad usage of you, after your dreadful temptations and bruises, affected me greatly:  but when in one place I read the unexpected declaration of your generous concern for me, on hearing how narrowly I escaped drowning ….and in another, your most agreeable confession, that notwithstanding all my hard usage of you, you could not hate me; and that expressed in so sweet, so innocent a manner, that I flatter myself you may be brought to love me, I began to regret parting with you….” (285).


“I enjoin you, Pamela, to continue your narrative, as you have opportunity; and though your father be here, write to your mother, that your story may be perfect, and that we, your friends, may read and admire you more and more.” (335)


Mr. B. reports to Mr. Perry in front of Pamela: “I assure you, that my Pamela’s person, lovely as you see it, is far short of her mind.  It was indeed her person that first attracted me, and made me her lover; but they were the beauties of her mind, that made me her husband” (427).


After receiving universal praise from company, Pamela records: “and upon my disclaiming a right to this extraordinary compliment, Mrs. Jones was pleased to say, ‘My dear Mrs. B., you deserve more than I can express; for to all who know your story, you must appear to be a matchless person” (430).


When Lady Davers finally listens to Pamela, she concludes: “There is such a sweet simplicity in thy story, as thou tellest it; such an honest artlessness in thy mind, and such an amiable humility in thy deportment, that I believe I shall be forced to love thee, whether I will or not.  The sight of your papers, I dare say, will crown the work” (475).


Upon her visiting the local church, she is offered compliments by Mr. Martin: “’You are … an ornament to your sex, an honour to your husband, and a credit to religion.  Every body is saying so,’ added he; ‘for you have, by your piety, edified the whole church’” (507).


How does the novel represent reading?  What role does reading play for Mr. B?  What role does Pamela’s story play for Mr. B?  What effect does it have on the local gentry?  What effect does it have on Lady Davers?  What effect does it have on the entire community?


Samuel Johnson advised James Boswell to read Richardson despite Boswell's objection to the novelist's “tediousness”:  “You must read him for the sentiment . . . .  consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment” (Quoted in John Mullan, “Sentimental Novels” in Richetti’s Cambridge Guide to the Eighteenth-century Novel, p. 245).


John Mullan contends that “sentiment” according to the OED meant both “feeling” – to read Richardson in order to be touched by emotion – and “premise” – to read Richardson in order to be instructed.  Mullan argues that Richardson purposefully conflated to two meanings, and in doing so set the trend for sentimental fiction.


Mullan:  “Advocates and (eventually) critics of sentimental texts were equally conscious that these texts supposedly allowed the properly sensitive consumer to experience, in the very activity of reading, those ‘refined and elevated feelings’ to which the OED refers.  Richardson had made it possible to believe that delicate feelings were morally admirable, and could be tested and enlivened by reading” (247).


“Richard Griffin records his grandmother poring over Pamela as if she were reading her Bible, a connection that was in perfect accord with Richardson’s express intention to bring about a ‘reformation’ by conveying ‘the great doctrines of Christianity’ by way of the novel.  Redirecting the century’s widespread belief in the power of reading, sentimental novelists presented their texts as agents of conversion, just as sentimental dramatists did” (Barker-Benfield, Culture of Sensibility, p. 259).


How does the novel model this form of reading?  What are some of the effects historically?  In terms of literary production?  What are some of the problems with this model of reading/morality to which Pamela points?


Who is the audience for Pamela’s letters?  What do the readers of Pamela’s letters desire?  How do the letters construct desire?


How does this analysis of reading in the novel alter or affect Watt’s understanding of Pamela as an expression of formal realism?  To what extent does this novel, as he claims, “serve a fictional initiation rite into the most fundamental mystery of its society” (Rise of the Novel, p. 172).


How does the novel serve the ends of didacticism?  Might we argue that sentimentalism in the didactic novel was desired by eighteenth-century readers?


III.       Progressive versus Conservative, or the persistence of aristocracy


In some ways Richardson resolves the conflict between the old, aristocratic and patriarchal family and the newer, bourgeois, companionate marriage in the novel, an argument that Nancy Armstrong will claim in Desire and Domestic Fiction, and which, according to Armstrong, became the model for all domestic fiction.  In what respect does the novel resolve the conflict?  We might think of the conflict in terms of McKeon's ideologies – progressive and conservative.


Some critics contend that Richardson would have been better served if he concluded the novel with the marriage of Pamela and Mr. B rather than extending it into the first stage of their marriage.  Why?  What are the flaws of the novel as it is?  What has the representation of marriage to do with these flaws?


The preface suggests that the novel will offer “practical examples, worthy to be followed in the most critical and affecting cases, by the virgin, the bride, and the wife” (31).  What does the novel have to say about the latter two conditions?  What might the reader understand as appropriate behavior for each?  What does Richardson’s acknowledgment indicate about the nature of his project? 


Wherein does the conflict between older, aristocratic, patriarchal values and newer, bourgeois (Puritan) values take place?  What is the nature of the “rebellion” in this text?


If “rebellion” does take place, what is broken or discarded as a consequence?  What notion of “family” ultimately prevails?  What new or residual class ideologies operate in the conclusion?  What new or residual gender ideologies operate?


Examine Mr. B’s “rules” for Pamela and her comments on them (see pp. 467-471).  What is the nature of their relationship?  What ‘power’ does Pamela exert (materially or textually)?  What power does Mr. B possess?