‘Clarissa’ and ‘ Pamela’ by Samuel Richardson

Samuel Richardson wrote two best-selling novels – Clarissa and Pamela in the 1740′s, published whilst he was living at Parson’s Green in Fulham, a close neighbour of the Earl of Peterborough and his mansion, Peterborough House. Clarissa tells the story of Clarissa Harlowe, a young girl whose family are newly come into a fortune.

The Harlowe Family, from Samuel Richardson's "Clarissa" by Joseph Highmore (Yale Centre for British Art)
The Harlowe Family, from Samuel Richardson’s “Clarissa” by Joseph Highmore (Yale Centre for British Art)

First betrothed to Richard Lovelace in anticipation of the Earldom he will inherit, she is then forced by her family to marry a man she loathes, Roger Solmes.  Lovelace, intent on marrying her to avenge himself on her family as well as wanting to possess her, tricks Clarissa into running away with him before she can marry Solmes; she is subsequently held prisoner by his before being drugged and raped. Pamela was published slightly earlier tells the story of a maidservant Pamela Andrews whose master Mr B made unwanted advances toward her.

Pamela in the Bedroom with Mrs Jewkes and Mr B. by Joseph Highmore, 1743-4, The Tate
Pamela in the Bedroom with Mrs Jewkes and Mr B. by Joseph Highmore, 1743-4, The Tate

Mr B was infatuated with her looks and her innocence and intelligence, but his position in society prevented him from marrying her, so instead, he abducted her and locked him up in one of his houses, during which time he attempted to seduce and rape her. She, of course, resisted, but over time fell in love with him. He intercepted letters she wrote to her parents, eventually, she tried to escape. Her virtue was finally rewarded when he proposed marriage to her. In the second part of the novel, Pamela attempts to build a successful relationship with him and to acclimate to upper-class society.

Pamela is Married by Joseph Highmore, 1743-4, The Tate
Pamela is Married by Joseph Highmore, 1743-4, The Tate

The reason for mentioning this is that there are many similarities between Richardson’s stories and one of our future books. It does raise the question was our heroine telling the truth or had she actually read his fictional stories and decided that her life story would be more interesting if there had been more drama in it? You’d have to read our book for the answer to that question.

Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa Harlow by Francis Hayman, 1753
Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa Harlow by Francis Hayman, 1753

Header image:

Samuel Richardson, the Novelist (1684-1761), Seated, Surrounded by his Second Family by Francis Hayman, 1740-41; Tate

6 thoughts on “‘Clarissa’ and ‘ Pamela’ by Samuel Richardson

  1. Pingback: Phil's Emotional Manipulation and Gaslighting Begin in Full Force--College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke--March 1994, Part 3 | Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

  2. Interesting to read that someone else has ploughed through these volumes. Sadly, I found Pamela fully as sly and hypocritical as the earlier critics say: The volumes of ‘Clarissa’ almost defeated me: Ricardson never says in two sentences what he can say in 200. ; As for ‘Pamela in Her Exulted Condition’ – words fail me. I wrote a couple of blog posts on them;
    [[https://sophieandemile.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/samuel-richardsons-pamela-calico-purity-and-underclothes-excitement-purelity-and-mr-bs-supposed-reform]]

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    1. Sarah Murden

      Thank you so much Lucinda for your comments. We ploughed our way through them as the stories bore many similarities to the tale told by our ‘Georgian Heroine’ The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs. Hers was a true story, but we did wonder if some of the facts were taken from one of Richardson’s tales, especially as she had links with Peterborough House, at which Richardson had been a frequent visitor a generation previously.

      Liked by 1 person

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