Morality of Pamela and Richardson
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Many of the objections to Samuel Richardson's Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded have come about because of its alleged middle-class morality. Responsibility for the early propagation of this idea can be traced to Henry Fielding's brilliant satire of the work, Shamela. The purpose of this paper is to examine both the morality of Pamela and its most influential criticism in light of the purpose of the book and the personality of its author. Also examined is the effect of the epistolary form of writing on the clarity of Richardson's ideas. Samuel Richardson wrote Pamela as an example of the value of moral behavior. Believing in the direct intervention of God, Richardson felt that virtuous actions led to success on earth as well as in heaven. Much of his justification for this theory came from his own experience. Richardson was already a successful printer when he undertook the writing of his first novel. That success, he felt, came through honest business practices and the resultant help of God. Richardson's novel was certainly liable to the criticism of Fielding, but to make a satiric point the intended emphasis of Pamela was changed to show Pamela as a calculating female instead of an example of virtue. A close examination of Richardson's work reveals that he did espouse middle-class values; but those values were not necessarily detrimental to the purpose of his writing.
Richardson, Samuel -- 1689-1761 -- Pamela