Samuel Richardson's epistolary novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, published in 1740, tells the story of a young woman's resistance to the desires of her predatory master. Pamela is determined to protect her virginity and remain a paragon of virtue; however, the heroine's moral principles only strengthen the resolve of Mr. B and Pamela soon finds herself imprisoned against her will. The young woman's affection for her captor gradually grows and she becomes aware of a love that combines eros and agape.
Richardson's classic novel created a sensation upon its publication: the novel's radical departure from the traditional comic plot violated convention and its portrayal of a young female servant daring to assert herself proved to be even more controversial. Clare Corbett and cast read from the original, unrevised text that left an indelible mark on the conscience of an entire nation.
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Six hours too long
The one, the only, Pamela!
The turning point of this massive comic novel novel is when Mr. B. morphs from lascivious villain into romantic hero. (If you know Richardson, it's when he transforms from Lovelace into Sir Charles Grandison.) But the most memorable aspect of the novel itself is Pamela's transformation from potential victim to powerful Sheherazade, enrapturing her would-be seducer with the art and charm of her writing, which opens a window into her fine character and witty mind. Before we are done, not only Mr. B., but his sister (in herself a fascinating character) are breathlessly awaiting new installments of Pamela's story in letters, as a rarified form of entertainment. This was the first really great age of novels and compulsive letter writing, and Pamela reflects these cultural trends exquisitely. In addition, the dialog is as good as a play.
No. But I will happily buy her reading other classics as they appear. She was superb.
The whole book is moving, entertaining, instructive and fun. It's a slice of 18th century life, complete with descriptions of what they ate, wore, how they recreated, what they read, how they conducted their social rituals, and most importantly, how they spoke. It's a valentine to the elegance and precision of the English language.
Unless you adore 18th century novels and have read quite a few, the groundbreaking qualities of this one won't be apparent. There's a reason why ministers across England preached against this naughty and subversive book, that suggested the possibility of upward social mobility through marriage with the gentry, and thus infuriated so many. The flirtatious and sly eroticism of the book is amply counterbalanced by religious and ethical lessons and codes of proper behavior, effectively shielding Richardson from the accusation of corruptor of public morals.
- Eve Howard