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Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740)

Related: 1740s - British literature - epistolary novel - novel - Samuel Richardson

Title page from Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) - Samuel Richardson

Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) - Samuel Richardson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

According to Colin Wilson, true pornography began in the mid-1700s with Samuel Richardson's voyeuristic novels Pamela and Clarissa

Marquis de Sade who was a well-read man wrote Justine, the misfortunes of virtue as a commentary on Pamela, Virtue Rewarded.

Many were swift to condemn the novel for its prurience and voyeurism, particularly in what became known as the “warm scenes” in which Mr. B. observes Pamela undressing. In an important episode in the novel, Mr. B attempts to rape Pamela, but she “conveniently” faints.

In the year 1740, a printer named Samuel Richardson wrote the first novel - in our modern sense of the word - Pamela, about a pretty maidservant whose boss is determined to get her into bed. This was followed quickly by the novels of Fielding, Smollett and Sterne, as well as by the first pornographic novel, Cleland's Fanny Hill. And sudddenly, England became 'a nation of readers'. Bored housewives - and their husbands and children - could now 'escape' from life by diving into a novel like someone jumping into bed and pulling the covers over his head. Rousseau's Julie, or The New Heloise and Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther completed the revolution, and lending libraries and cheap books made the new drug available to everybody who could read. --Colin Wilson

"I also happen to think that the novel is the greatest modern invention after the wheel because when the novel was invented in about 1740 by Samuel Richardson, for the first time in history people were carried away like on a magic carpet, escaping and living another person's life." --Colin Wilson

See also: fiction - Pamela - modern novel


Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded is a novel by Samuel Richardson, first published in 1740. The name, "Pamela", now a popular forename in English-speaking countries, was invented by Richardson. The novel is in epistolary form, consisting of letters and a diary.

The heroine, Pamela Andrews, is a maid, whose master makes unwanted advances towards her. She rejects him until he shows his sincerity by proposing to her. The remainder of the book is concerned with her efforts to become accepted in upper-class society and builds a successful relationship with her husband.

The story was widely mocked at the time for its perceived sexual hypocrisy, and it inspired Henry Fielding to write two parodies, Shamela (about Pamela's less virtuous sister) and Joseph Andrews (which exposes the hypocrisy by keeping the plot but switching the sexes of the protagonists). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamela [Dec 2004]

From the title page:
Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded. In a Series of Familiar Letters from a Beautiful Young Damsel, to her Parents: Now first Published In order to cultivate the Principles of Virtue and Religion in the Minds of the Youth of Both Sexes. A Narrative which has its Foundation in Truth and Nature: and at the same time that it agreeably entertains, by a Variety of curious and affecting Incidents, is intirely divested of all those Images, which, in too many Pieces calculated for Amusement only, tend to inflame the Minds they should instruct. In Two Volumes

The old design of title pages changed: New novels no longer pretended to sell fictions whilst threatening to betray real secrets. Nor did they appear as false "true histories". The new title pages pronounced their works to be fictions, and indicated how the public might discuss them. Samuel Richardson’s Pamela or Virtue Rewarded (1740) was one of the titles which brought the old novel-title with its "[...] or [...]" formula offering an example into the new format. The title page made it clear that the work was crafted by an artist aiming at a certain effect—yet to be discussed by the critical audience. A decade later novels, needed no other status than that of being novels, fiction. Present-day editions of novels simply state "Fiction" on the cover. It had become prestigious to be sold under the label, asking for discussion and thought. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novel [Sept 2005]

Reconstructing the Gaze: Voyeurism in Richardson’s Pamela

Straub, Kristina. "Reconstructing the Gaze: Voyeurism in Richardson’s Pamela." Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture. V. 18 (419-431). Baltimore: Colleagues Press, 1988.

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