Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: Glaring Example of Epistolary Novel

Samuel Richardson is the father of the first modern English novel. And his Pamela or, Virtue Rewarded (1740) is the frost regular novel in the literature. It is the first novel in which character is more important than situation. Again Richardson’s Pamela is a glaring example of epistolary novel, a novel based on a series of exchanging letters by way of unfolding the plot of the novel and the psychology of the protagonists. The novel describes Pamela’s experience as a maid servant, how she resists the immoral advances of his master’s son against all treats and temptations, till in the end when he wins her heart by being reformed and marries her. The novel was written as a series of letters exchanged by the characters. Here we can find a sample of her letter:

Letter XXI Pamela writes to her parents about Mr. B., the master of the house and Mrs. Jervis , the housekeeper

Now I will tell you what passed between Mrs Jervis and me. She hoped, she said, seeing me in a little hurry, on her coming in, that she was not unwelcome. She could not endure that I should be so much by myself.

'I always,' said I,' rejoice to see my dear Mrs Jervis.'

'I have had,’ said she, ‘a world of talk with my master about you.' 'I am sorry,' said I, 'that I am made of so much consequence as to be talked of by him.' 'O,' replied she, 'I must not tell you all; but you are of more consequence to him than you think for—'

'Or wish for,' said I; 'for the fruits of being of consequence to him, might be to make me of none to myself, or any body else.

'But I suppose,' proceeded I, 'that I am of so much consequence to him as to vex him, if it be but to think, he can't make a fool of such a one as I; and that is a rebuke to the pride of his high condition, which he did not expect, and knows not how to put up with.'

'There may be something in that,' said she; 'but indeed, Pamela, he is very angry with you too; and calls you perverse; wonders at his own folly for having taken so much notice of you! He was willing to shew you the more favour, he says, because of his mother's love for you, and recommendation; and he had thoughts of continuing it to you for your own sake, could you have known how to comport yourself as you ought to do. But he saw that too much notice—'

'Too much notice, indeed, Mrs Jervis,' said. I. 'Do you think I should ever have forgot my duty as a servant, if he had not forgot his as a master?’

Here in this novel we find the plot simple and domestic but the analysis of motives and passions is no doubt subtle and superb. But the novel suffers a defect. From the point of letter-writing, Pamela’s letters would be a good stock for the country fellow which was the primary goal of writing Pamela, it is a super set. But improbability lies in the worthy letters. On the other land, the renitent in these novel centimes to be cheap and the moral continues to be more conventional and utilitarian than growing out of the realities of life.

Question- 1. What is called epistolary novel & what are its shortcomings?

2. Who wrote a novel in burlesquing Pamela and what is the name of the novel?

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert      


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