Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Pamela. Samuel Richardson. 1740/1801. (Penguin) 540 pages.

My dear Father and Mother,
I have great trouble, and some comfort, to acquaint you with.

My introduction states, "When Pamela, Or Virtue Rewarded appeared in two volumes in November 1740 it was soon what we should call a 'best seller', the first example of that phenomenon in the history of English fiction. Everybody read it; there was a 'Pamela' rage, and Pamela motifs appeared on teacups and fans." It goes on to say, "Pamela has never ceased being a controversial work."

Who is Pamela? She's a nobody. She's young. She's beautiful. She's dutiful and virtuous. But socially speaking, she's a nobody. She was a young girl--a teen--taken into a great family out of charity. She was a waiting maid on the mistress of the house. A companion. When the lady dies, Pamela's fate becomes uncertain. For Mr. B, the lady's son, can't quite make up his mind what to do about Pamela. You see, he sees her and he wants her. He lusts after her. He feels he just has to have her. And since she is a nobody, who is really going to care if he takes her. Pamela cares. And, of course, Pamela's parents care. But because they're poor, they're nobodies too. Every attempt Mr. B makes on 'poor' Pamela's virtue fails. She protests. She faints if she must. She begs, she pleads, she falls on her knees, she falls on her face. She must be given her freedom, must be allowed to return home to her parents pure and chaste. Just when she thinks she's been granted this gift, she finds herself kidnapped. Because Mr. B must have his way.

How easy it is to go from bad to worse, when once people give way to vice! (102)

But I am now convinced that wickedness is folly with witness. (102)
Throughout all the drama, Pamela writes--both in her journal in letters home. She gives an account day by day of her ordeal. She finds herself a prisoner at one of Mr. B's estates. She finds all the men and women in the house in his pay. These servants are heartless, actively seeking Pamela harm. Though Pamela tries to find a friendly person to plead her case with, she finds almost everyone unconcerned. It seems the young girl's purity--her virtue--just isn't of much worth in the great scheme of things.

Eventually, Mr. B. himself arrives to see what he can do. Will he have his way with her? Will he be able to trick her into his bed? Or will her virtue be rewarded?

Did I like this one? I certainly found it compelling in places. I wanted to know what happened next. Not so much because I loved the characters, but because I was curious to see just how everything would unfold. Truth be told, I found Pamela difficult at times. Especially when I read that her parents would never ever want to see their daughter again if she lost her virtue.


I couldn't resist reading the ending of this one relatively early on. And I was a bit shocked. Why? The thought of Pamela having endured all the nasty attempts on Mr. B's part--all those hateful, cruel words, all those deceitful tricks and pranks--only to have her marry him?! How could the villain turn out to be the hero? He tries to rape her. Again and again. He tries to force her into a sexual relationship against her will. Despite all her protests. Despite all her fainting attempts. Despite all the dramatics. He is holding her against her will. He is controlling every move she makes. He is reading all her letters. He is reading her journals. He is forcing her into a place where she can't have a private thought in her head even. No doubt about it--even if the sexual assaults are just attempts, even if her virtue remains hers--Mr. B is abusive. The fact that he offers her money, offers her parents money, changes nothing. So my thought throughout as I was reading is this: when does Pamela go from seeing Mr. B as a devil-in-disguise, a wicked man who can't be trusted, to him being the love of her life and the man of her dreams? When does she go from seeing his attempts as vile and repulsive to being ever-grateful for his love and affection? To having no will but his?

I found my answer on page 283:
But to be sure, I must own to you, that I shall never be able to think of any body in the world but him! Presumption! you will say; and so it is: but love, I imagine, is not a voluntary thing--Love, did I say! But come, I hope not: at least it is not, I hope, gone so far, as to make me very uneasy: for I know not how it came, nor when it began; but it has crept, crept, like a thief, upon me; and before I knew what was the matter, it looked like love.
We see her on her wedding day:
And thus, my dearest, dear parents, is your happy, happy, thrice happy Pamela, at last married! And to whom? Why to her beloved, gracious master! the lord of her wishes! And thus the dear, once naughty assailer of her innocence, by a blessed turn of Providence is become the kind, the generous protector and rewarder of it. God be ever more blessed and praised! and make me not wholly unworthy of such an honour! And bless and reward the dear, dear man, who has thus exalted his unworthy servant, and given her a place, which the greatest ladies would think themselves happy in! (375)
But not every one is happy about the marriage. Mr. B has a sister, Lady Davers. She is just as cruel, just as abusive--verbally and physically--on Pamela when she drops in unexpectedly soon after the private wedding. The confrontation lasts a good while and is probably one of the most exciting--most dramatic--scenes of the whole novel. There are a few more surprises to be revealed before the book is done.

I thought the relationship between Pamela and Mr. B to be unhealthy. Even after the wedding. When he proceeds on giving her lectures and instructions. The lecture rambles for so long that Pamela ends up making an outline of 48 points to help her remember everything. (Not that Pamela is anything but grateful for these rules.) Mr. B is NOT my ideal by any stretch of the imagination! So as a romance, I found Pamela a bit problematic.

I am looking forward to reading Henry Fielding's Shamela and Joseph Andrews.

Other reviews: Bookphilia, Bibliographing part one, two, three, four.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Mel u 8:15 PM  

Excellent review-I read this work as well as his massive Clarrisa about ten years ago-as a reward to yourself for finishing Pamela you might enjoy Henry Fielding's hilarious parody Shamela

Michele 9:54 PM  

Holy cow. Okay, I admit I read your spoiler (couldn't help myself). If literature is a reflection the society is springs from, I'm going on record as saying I'm darn glad I wasn't alive in 1740.

Stephanie 11:18 AM  

This one is on my TBR list, I actually having it sitting in my box of books to read. Hmm your review makes it sound interesting, although the relationship will probably aggravate me as well.

Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge
Linked to sign up page

Family Tree Reading Challenge

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Link to sign-up page

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge
Linked To Sign Up Page

2018 Charity Challenge (Sign Up)

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge
Link to sign up page

2018 Picture Book Challenge

2018 Picture Book Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge
click image to go to sign up post

Good Rules Cheat List

Board books and picture books = new is anything published after 2013
Early readers and chapter books = new is anything published after 2013
Contemporary (general/realistic) = new is anything published after 2007
Speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy = new is anything published after 2007
Classics = anything published before 1968
Historical fiction = new is anything published after 2007
Mysteries = new is anything published after 1988
Nonfiction = new is anything published after 2007
Christian books = new is anything published after 2000
Bibles = new is anything published after 1989

My Blog List

(Old) Challenge Participants

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP