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Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded [Paperback]

Samuel Richardson

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Book Description

July 12 2008 019953649X 978-0199536498
Thomas Keymer is a 2011 Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada. 'Pamela under the Notion of being a Virtuous Modest Girl will be introduced into all Familes, and when she gets there, what Scenes does she represent? Why a fine young Gentleman endeavouring to debauch a beautiful young Girl of Sixteen.' (Pamela Censured, 1741)

One of the most spectacular successes of the burgeoning literary marketplace of eighteeent-century London, Pamela also marked a defining moment in the emergenceof the modern novel. In the words of one contemporary, it divided the world 'into two different Parties, Pamelists and Antipamelists', even eclipsing the sensational factional politics of the day. Preached up for its morality, and denounced as pornography in disguise, it vividly describes a young servant's long resistance to the attempts of her predatory master to seduce her. Written in the voice of its low-born heroine, but by a printer who fifteen years earlier had narrowly escaped imprisonment for the seditious output of his press, Pamela is not only a work of pioneering psychological complexity, but also a compelling and provocative study of power and its abuse.

Based on the original text of 1740, from which Richardson later retreated in a series of defensive revisions, this edition makes available the version of Pamela that aroused such widespread controversy on its first appearance.

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Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded + Penguin Classics Evelina + Joseph Andrews and Shamela
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (July 12 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019953649X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536498
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 12.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #85,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


`with this edition of Pamela, which will surely become the standard text, we can see more clearly why Richardson's first novel mattered so much' John Mullan, London Review of Books

About the Author

Thomas Keymer's books include Richardson's Clarissa and the Eighteenth Century Reader (1992) and the OWC edition of Fielding's Joseph Andrews and Shamela.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early Classic of the Novel Oct. 12 2008
By S. Pactor - Published on
This is one of those books that people should take some time to read solely for it's historical significance, since it truly is a touchstone in the development of the novel as a distinct literary form. Released in 1740, it created a tidal wave of what we would now characterize as "media attention" and "popularity." Pamela was the right book at the right time and this confluence of time/place/text adds importance to the book itself.

The author, Samuel Richardson, was a commoner, without the aristocratic background of his rival, Henry Fielding or contemporary Tobias Smolett:

UNLIKE his great contemporary and rival, Henry
Fielding, Samuel Richardson could boast of no connection, however remote, with an aristocratichouse. He himself has informed us that he came
of a family " of middling note," in the county of Surrey, from which we may conjecture that his ancestors were small landed gentry or respectable yeomen. (<a href="[...]">Samuel Richardson
By Clara Linklater Thomson</a>)

Thomson's biography mentions that in the 1740's, people were still a tad fuzzy on the concept of a fictional story, "Richardson was at once overwhelmed with
letters from eager readers who longed to know
whether the story was true." (Thomson, Samuel Richardson) It is against this back drop that you need to consider the development of the english novel as a real step forward in terms of the cultural sophistication of the readers. You can literally see the human mind moving away from the simplicity of the middle ages (and its literary forms.)

I think it's fair to say that the contribution of Pamela, in a nut shell, is the depth of psychological complexity of the characters. That is what the novel is all about: adding psychological depth to the depiction of character.

And so it is that the reader finds himself/herself relating to these characters, written three hundred plus years ago. Pamela tells the story of Pamela Edwards, a serving girl of 16. Her mistress dies and his son takes over the estate. The son has a thing for Pamela, so after she rejects a couple clumsy advances, he does what any 18th century nobleman would do: Has her kidnapped and imprisoned at his remote estate.

Now, anyone reading the above will understand that the activities depicted aren't in any way contemporary, but the depiction of character is. What we are witnessing in Pamela is the birth of literary consciousness of self and identity. It's interesting to read about but at the same time at 500 pages Pamela turns into a slog at time. You can see where it is an EARLY version of the novel as literary form- sine there is a resolution/climax half way through the book, followed by 200 pages of material that would no doubt not reach print these days.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pamela, by Samuel Richardson May 3 2010
By Donald Van Siclen - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read Pamela after learning that Samuel Richardson was Charlotte Bronte's favorite author - and that Richardson is considered to be one of the originators of the English novel. Pamela is a lovely tale,but how the girl does go on about her virtue...and virtually everything else.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it! Nov. 27 2010
By Adrienne Sadovsky - Published on
I love this book! I read it in my early twenties and have read it quite often through the years. It may not be everyone's cup-of-tea but as an avid reader of romance novels it's interesting to see how the genre has changed over the centuries. Richardson meant the work to be a parable for why women should hold on to their virtue, but over the centuries it has become more of a romance than a parable. This is not as graphic as Clarissa (no rape), which makes this a much better book. Anyway, it's worth a read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious Beyond Belief Oct. 31 2013
By C. Vaudreuil - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Let me start by saying that I love British literature. I've waded through most of the classics, including more obscure works. I can handle a dry book that takes a while to pick up momentum. But good lord, Pamela is trying my patience. I admit I haven't finished it yet, though I will. If by some miracle it improves, I'll update my comment. Seems unlikely, though. Pamela has spent the last 200 pages saying the same things over and over again: poor Pamela; oh my precious virtue; my wicked master; I want my parents; poor Pamela. I get the historical significance, but that doesn't make this any more pleasant to read. It is so painfully boring.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reading against the grain May 29 2012
By augustan_man - Published on
I admit that I did something of a schizoid reading with "Pamela." Reading it "against the grain" gave me great pleasure; or at least perverse pleasure. On several occasions, I may even have taken the point of view of Pamela's evil seducer's, Mr.B. I recommend reading this book with a highly prurient angle. This book is more pornography than pornography itself. A little bit of ironic distance is probably healthy.

Most people find a more conventional reading rather boring--a secular context for the enactment of various Protestant ideas about virtue, honesty, etc. Richardson's social and moral universe is essentially the same, although much less refined and subtle, as that of Jane Austen. From a literary point of view, it's rather fun to see the beams poking out and hear the wheels creaking (a mechanism more exposed in some places in the book than in others) which provide the foundations for the novel as a genre of writing.

"Pamela" is divided into two volumes: the first describes Pamela's seduction by Mr.B., which is indeed full of suspense, not to mention all the twisted sexuality, seeing that her chastity is at stake; the second is about Pamela's attempt to assimilate into her newly-acquired upper social standing while maintaining her integrity, desiring to appear worthy of her new riches and preserving what she regards as her privileged standing under God. The stakes for her are just as high in the second volume as in the first.

Pamela sounds like a lawyer (God's advocate?) when parsing her and others' emotional and psychological motivations. This can produce some interesting dialogue, full or retorts and counter-retorts (though not nearly as interesting as in "Clarissa")She is clever and priggish at the same time.

The Oxford Classics version of "Pamela" contains the first printed edition (before it was censored and its wild prose tamed), also preserving its archaic spelling, punctuations, etc. The introduction is good and the footnotes are a blessing. You also get a selection of Richardson's fables, adapted from Aesop, and Richardson's commentaries thereon, all of which provide a lively picture of the moral universe of the novel.

Definitely read this book before you read "Clarissa," which I shouldn't have to convince anyone is a masterpiece.

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