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Pamela (Virtue Rewarded) – Samuel Richardson



Posted May 7, 2016 by

Pamela (Virtue Rewarded) – Samuel Richardson – 1740

Note: This discussion includes comments on Pamela (Richardson), Clarissa (Richardson), Shamela (Fielding), Under the Volcano (Lowry) and 1001 Nights among other literary works.



Posted by Sterling on 7/3/2015, 11:53:42

Well, I’m actually trying to read Pamela. I got the Oxford edition, because it returns to Richardson’s original. The standard editions are based on later editions that were heavily edited both by Richardson and, apparently, by his daughters. I started the book in one of those Kindle “Collected Works” series. It was pretty dull and unremarkable. I then purchased the Oxford. It is much more difficult to read — 18th century capitalization of nouns, etc. The modern one has ordinary dialogue, set off by quotation marks. The original not only has dashes, but sets the dialogue between two individuals as a single paragraph, causing it to sometimes require very attentive reading to discern who is speaking.

But it is much better. The illusion that it was written by a rustic and only moderately well-educated (her father was a schoolmaster, I believe) servant girl is much more convincing. That they are real letters is much more believable. Pamela’s voice is sufficiently individual that her conventional pieties and pruderies seem those of her age and class. Her own spunk and resourcefulness shine through at times.

And yet…I’m a quarter of the way through, and I’m beginning to tire. I’m not sure that I want to go through several more weeks of this. Is it really good enough to devote that much time? While I do care about filling in my gaps, surely Pamela is so little read today that it would not be considered by most a necessity. I don’t know. I’ll try it awhile longer. At least I’ve read far enough to have a flavor of the thing, which must be worth something… :^)


Posted by Steven on 7/3/2015, 18:36:34, in reply to “Pamela”

I read the Oxford edition as well. I probably wasn’t much further along than you are when I began cheering for Mr. B’s side.

I hate to abandon books, especially when I know it is something I “should” read, so I stick with them by reading a little a day. I’m sure a case could be made for tasting five books of this sort in the time it would take to read one, but that’s not an approach to reading that appeals to me. Even when I was in college and we were assigned just selected chapters of a book, I always read the whole thing if there was time.


Posted by Joffre on 9/3/2015, 10:16:10, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

I also hate to abandon books. I seldom start a book I don’t think is worth finishing even if I don’t like it. But it’s been a hard slog through books like Melmoth the Wanderer. Fortunately, there haven’t been many of those. The only other that comes to mind right now is The Radetzky March, which you all know I only read a few months ago. At that time, I started doing something I’d resisted before, reading more than one novel at a time. I suppose I resisted that out of some idea that it would negatively affect my reading of both books, which seems ridiculous to me now. I think it actually helps. Right now I’m reading The Good Soldier, on Sterling’s recommendation – I don’t love it as much as he seems to have, but I like it well enough – and Carmilla by Sheridan le Fanu. Of course, it’s difficult to keep two books going unless you have a lot of free time. If I were working forty hours a week, I might well skip Pamela. I find it rather hard to believe that the principle interest in Pamela isn’t that it’s so much shorter than Clarissa.

The last book I remember abandoning was The God of Small Things, and after a few weeks, I did go back and finish it. That’s the kind of book, recent prize winners, that I will abandon if I’m not enjoying, but that is the only one I can remember abandoning. The style, which I found quite amusing for fifty pages or so, started to irritate me, and finally exasperated me.


Posted by Sterling on 9/3/2015, 16:05:31, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Well, I haven’t quit Pamela yet. My reason for reading it is not because it’s shorter than Clarissa. Indeed, it is my intention to read both. (In case it’s been forgotten, that is what I originally meant by “going full Steven” — rather than deciding between two or more books, just going ahead and reading all of them).

When I was younger I considered it a point of honor to complete every book that I started. To be fair, I might well read a few pages and decide that I was not in the mood, but I would never read deeply into a book and then set it aside.

Now I’m not so sure. I hear “Time’s winged chariot” behind me. To complete the Marvellian reference, “The grave’s a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there”…read. With intimations of my mortality all about me, I wonder if my reading time is well spent finishing lengthy novels that I’m not enjoying.


Posted by Joffre on 10/3/2015, 9:11:15, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

I didn’t mean to imply that you were dodging Clarissa, just that the only thing that keeps Pamela in print is its being shorter than Clarissa.

By the way, about The God of Small things. I know Lale, at least, is a big fan. I don’t mean to judge the book. Maybe it’s great. If Ulysses or Gravity’s Rainbow were as recent, with no more reputation than a Booker prize, I wouldn’t have put in the effort to get through them.


Posted by Sterling on 10/3/2015, 12:59:29, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

If I actually do wind up reading both, perhaps I can answer the question. I chose to read Pamela for basically two reasons. (1) To be able to appreciate Shamela and Joseph Andrews, and (2) because it’s the book, not Clarissa, that was the huge sensation of the 18th century. Also, Steven said that they’re not really about the same thing. As I recall, he said that Clarissa is about women’s rights, while Pamela is about class. (I can certainly attest to the latter.)

Incidentally, I never had much interest in reading The God of Small Things, but this discussion has made me interested. (Especially comparing it to two of my favorite novels of all time!)


Posted by Steven on 10/3/2015, 22:47:29, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

: I hear “Time’s winged

: chariot” behind me… With

: intimations of my mortality all about me, I wonder if

: my reading time is well spent finishing lengthy novels

: that I’m not enjoying.

I hope and trust your “intimations of my mortality” are nothing immediately ominous to your person. (You can tell I’ve been reading too many 18-19th century novels to write a sentence like that!) I’ve heard the wings beating myself of late. When the O.R. staff in the cardiac hospital start saying, “Hey, you’re back!” it’s time to start reassessing one’s priorities. So far, though, all I’ve managed to do is to slow down on buying new books. Most of my reading in recent years has been based on several chronological surveys I’m doing, none of which I’m likely to live to finish. At the beginning of the year I decided I would abandon them and start reading the most important or highly regarded books I had never read. So I read a few works like Song of Solomon, Nausea, and The Awakening. Though I liked them, I felt kind of at sea reading them out of the context of my other reading. So I’ve returned to the chronological approach, knowing full well that I may never again read a book published in my own lifetime. So I guess if I had Pamela and Clarissa still to read, I’d read them or die trying.


Posted by Sterling on 11/3/2015, 12:52:09, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Thank you for asking, Steven. No, although I have been feeling my age recently, the “intimations of mortality” was just my rather lame play on Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality.”

And Joffre, I was teasing you a little by taking you at your word when comparing The God of Small Things to Ulysses and Gravity’s Rainbow (although I did indeed first read the latter when it was newly published. I believe I had the first paperback edition.) You did succeed in making me more interested in reading Roy, however. Especially since Lale liked it. Lale, didn’t you especially like Mistry’s A Fine Balance? Or am I misremembering?

I have taken your advice, Joffre, as to reading more than one novel at a time. I started Tartt’s The Goldfinch to read in tandem with Pamela, so I don’t find myself avoiding reading altogether if I can’t face that particular poor damsel at risk of a fate worse than death.


Posted by Sterling on 11/3/2015, 13:03:16, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

P.S. — Steven, I’ve been trying to slow down on buying new books myself. God knows, if I actually read every book that I now own, it would last me several years. Especially if I threw in all the books that I have previously read but think I would like to re-read. But it’s hard to resist when the urge strikes me. The Kindle is an insidious invention. Formerly, I used to go to the bookstore and spend hours over whether to purchase a particular book. Now, my impulse control is poor. I simply click my mouse or tap my screen, and the book magically appears. Very bad for a book-buying addict. How would recovering alcoholics do if a bottle of vodka magically and instantly appeared in their homes with a simple mouse-click?


Posted by Steven on 11/3/2015, 20:43:13, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

I only feel a fraction of the guilt for buying Kindle books because they don’t take up shelf space. And those Kindle Daily Deals are just too tempting to pass up. I’ve cut back significantly on buying hardcopy books, but if you count ebooks I’m probably still buying them faster than I read them.


Posted by Joffre on 11/3/2015, 13:40:27, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Tell us about your chronological surveys. I sometimes feel that my own reading is too unsystematic. It is completely unsystematic. Sometimes I think I should read through at least the highlights of English (British, American, etc.) in order from Defoe up to at least something from the 60s, but I suppose I just don’t feel like doing it. I read this; I read that. I have an actual list that I made some years ago. The basis of it is Bloom’s Western Canon, but I’ve added books learned of from James Woods and other recommendations that sounded interesting. Sometimes I just add a book I became interested in while browsing. I think that was the case with the last book I added, Quincas Borba by Machado de Assis. Sometimes I’m interested enough to buy a book without ever adding it to the list. Last week I read Paris, Trance by Geoff Dyer on a Woods recommendation. I’m about to go finish The Good Soldier which I never thought much of reading before Sterling’s glowing recommendation. Despite adding things all the time, my list is shrinking. It’s down to about 35 books. Perhaps when I’ve exhausted it, I’ll begin some chronological surveys.

I’m not such a compulsive buyer of books. I was for a short while when I was at the university. Now I normally just wait till I’m ready for them. I do buy more now that I have kindle, but that’s partly because I don’t have much of a library to reread from here. I miss my books. I’m still rather puzzled about how to get them here. Also, I first have to make sure we are staying here.


Posted by Steven on 11/3/2015, 21:04:43, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

: Tell us about your chronological surveys.

I’m doing three chronological surveys with some consistency. There is a fourth that I’m pursuing with less intensity.

First is my “Western Classics” series, which is basically all the major works of the Greeks and Romans. I’m re-reading anything I read more than 15 years ago. So far I’ve read all of Homer, the Homeric Hymns, Hesiod, Sappho and the other lyric poets, Aesop, the Presocratic philosophers, Pindar, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Herodotus, and Thucydides. I’m about a third through Plato.

After Plato I will read Xenophon, Aristotle (perhaps just selections), Menander, Theocritus, Epicurus, Callimachus, Apollonius of Rhodes, and then on to the Romans. I’m tentatively planning to skip Demosthenes and the medical and mathematical writers, but I could change my mind.

I’ve also been reading the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.” I was skipping around, but last year I decided to take what was left on the list (I’m about half through) chronologically. I’m now reading Amelia by Henry Fielding.

I’m also reading the seminal works of science fiction, starting with Thomas More’s Utopia. I’ve read works by Tomasso Campanella, Sir Francis Bacon, Cyrano de Bergerac, Daniel Defoe, Voltaire, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, George Sand, Jules Verne, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, plus a lot of writers you probably haven’t heard of. I’m now up to the 1880s.

The one I’m not quite so sure about pursuing is a parallel reading of early works of fantasy and horror. I’ve only read a dozen here, mostly early Gothic works, and I’m just now getting into the 19th century.

Except obviously for the 1001 Books List, I’m not getting my reading ideas from any single source, but a variety of lists, reference books, publishers’ series, and things I run across that look like they belong.

At least half of my reading doesn’t come from any of these projects. I’m trying to finish some series that I’ve started, as well as reading for background to my forthcoming trip to the Aegean. I also belong to a group that reads books to celebrate centennials. For example, last night I finished Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope in celebration of his 200th birthday this year. We’re also celebrating Saul Bellow’s 100th.

Now you know it all.


Posted by Joffre on 13/3/2015, 11:03:40, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Anything stick out among those Greeks and Romans? Other than those most of us have read? Having finished the Iliad, I’ve read all the major epics, and all the major playrights. I’ve read Aristotles Aesthetics, and I’m planning to read Epicurus, The Art of Happiness. Oh, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses is one of the books I’ve not been able to finish. I still plan to try again. I suppose I’d better just start where I left off and read the stories between other things. If I reread the part about Phaeton, I’ll have that god-not-this-again feeling.

How is Amelia? Having liked Tom Jones quite well, I’d like to read something else good by Fielding, but I didn’t care for Joseph Andrews and most of what I’ve read about Amelia has been negative. I have something of the same problem with Thackeray. I like Vanity Fair very much, but The History of Henry Esmund doesn’t sound appealing.

I’m reading Sons and Lovers and to my pleasant surprise enjoying it quite well. I have avoided Lawrence since hating Women in Love. Before that I had read Lady Chatterly’s Lover and The Virgin and the Gypsy, both of which I found okay. If I continue enjoying S&L so much, I’ll probably give The Rainbow a try, and if I enjoy that, I’ll give WiL another go.


Posted by Steven on 13/3/2015, 18:32:01, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

It sounds like you’ve read as much or more of the Greeks than I have. I haven’t even started on the Romans yet, though I did read The Metamorphoses a few years ago, as well as Apuleius.

I’ve read only a few chapters of Amelia, but if you didn’t like Joseph Andrews, I wouldn’t bother with Amelia based on what I’ve read so far. Nothing compares with Tom Jones, though I really enjoyed Shamela.


Posted by Sterling on 14/3/2015, 11:54:50, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Interesting lists, Steven. I have been eyeing the 1001 Books list. Actually, I have it on my phone, as well as an edition of the book. The phone is handy because it gives all the editions to date, a composite “Complete” list, and an “Essential” list, which has only 703 books on it (which kind of defeats the “1001” point, but…) You can mark them as “read,” “reading,”, or “to be read.” I use the last to remind me of the books that most interest me. I’m also thinking of going chronologically, probably through the “Essential” list, with a detour into the other lists for books that really interest me. I would like to feel that I had attained a good grounding in the 18th century, which especially interests me. If I can accomplish that, I would move on to the 19th century. (The 20th century is much too overwhelming to contemplate any significant “dent.”)

I’ve read most of the Greeks that you mention. All the Greek tragedies that have survived, for instance. (On the other hand, I’m just not a comedy kind of guy. I managed to get an MFA degree in Directing without ever reading Aristophanes.) Most of Plato. Some Aristotle (Yuk. B-o-o-oring.) Homer, of course. Several times. Herodotus (chatty and fun) and Thucydides (surprisingly modern). I haven’t read much of the Romans, though. The Aeneid, of course. Some Seneca (which can’t hold a candle to any of the Greeks, in my opinion.) I’d like to read the Satyricon fragment and Lucretius. Maybe Suetonius. And, oh yeah, I’ve read a lot of Plutarch. I don’t know that I feel much need to fill in any other Classical authors, but if you run across anything you think extraordinary, Steven, please let me know. Also, I would be interested in simply hearing your reactions to any of your reading that you care to comment on. Or maybe just provide links to Amazon reviews or other websites.

I would have zero interest in your ancient science fiction novels. Heck, I don’t really have much use for so-called “Golden Age” science fiction, such as Asimov, Heinlein, or Clarke. Ray Bradbury is good, but he can be a little “twee” for my taste. I like Jack Vance a great deal and also Clifford D. Simak. Philip K. Dick is interesting, although not a very skillful writer. Alfred Bester and Fritz Leiber have done interesting things. Mostly, though, I want to read Gene Wolfe, John Crowley, Jeffrey Ford, some Paul Park, maybe Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Elizabeth Hand, and so on — what I call “literary” contemporary science fiction/fantasy.

Actually, early works of fantasy and horror are more interesting to me. It’s harder to draw the line there, since obviously fantasy and ghost stories have been told since the beginning of storytelling. But Lin Carter’s Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in the 1970’s introduced me to some great older fantasy, including Peake’s Gormenghast books, E.R. Eddison, David Lindsay, James Branch Cabell, William Morris, Lord Dunsany, George MacDonald, and the marvelous Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees, among others. Fantasy doesn’t date like science fiction. I can understand finding the very “datedness” of ancient science fiction to be part of the charm, but it’s not for me. I have recently been reading some anthologies of “weird” fiction — sometimes identifiably ghost stories, sometimes clearly tales of horror, sometimes merely disquieting and strange. I have recently been fascinated by some “strange stories” by Robert Aickman. Terrific, deeply disquieting stuff. I have a couple of lists of older “horror” novels that I’ve been considering, but having been somewhat underwhelmed by the famous classics (Frankenstein, Dracula, even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), I’m not sure that I want to spend my time on more obscure works. We’ll see.


Posted by Steven on 15/3/2015, 11:09:36, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

The 1001 list provides some interesting reading ideas, but I wouldn’t recommend it exclusively as a goal. I’m only following in any more because of the group I belong to. One of its members is the guy who wrote the iPhone app (which I haven’t bought). I hadn’t heard of the “essential” list before, but I assume it is a list of those books which have appeared on all four editions of 1001 Books. I wouldn’t think too highly of it, considering they dropped The Brothers Karamazov and The Sound and the Fury from the later editions of the list, so I assume they are not on the “essential” list.

As to the Greek classics, so far it looks like I haven’t read anything that you and Joffre haven’t already read tool. I guess I’m not digging as deeply as I thought.

I read most of the major “Golden Age” science fiction novels when I was in my teens and twenties. (It wasn’t called the “Golden Age” then, of course, as it was still going on.) I stopped reading science fiction around 1985 and have read only a handful of books published since then. The fantasy writers you mentioned are all on my to-read list, but I haven’t read anything by them so far. Most of my fantasy/horror reading so far has been of the Gothic genre.


Posted by Joffre on 15/3/2015, 16:55:08, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Maybe I inadvertently exaggerated my Greek reading. I said I’d read all the major epics. I meant the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeniad. There may be some other I don’t think of as major. I said I’d read the major playwrights. I’ve read the Orestia and the Oedipus cyle, and Fadiman’s recommendations for Euripedes and Aristophanes. I’ve read Aristotles Poetics (I called it Aesthetics). I forgot to mention Apuleius. I also forgot to mention that besides Epicurus, I plan to read Marcus Aurellius.

I’ve read none of the Hellenistic Greeks, and only the two Romans.


Posted by Sterling on 28/5/2015, 22:00:03

Just a sort of progress report. I’m still slogging my way through Pamela, although I have been spending a great deal of my reading time on other, more enjoyable, works.

I just found this quote from Samuel Johnson, “Why, Sir, if you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so fretted that you would hang yourself.”

And here I was assuming that my frustration and impatience with the agonizing slowness of the plot was a result of the perspective of the era in which I live. It’s comforting somehow to know that his contemporaries thought it dragged as well.


Posted by Joffre on 30/5/2015, 11:09:20, in reply to “Pamela”

I’m guessing that you’ve reconsidered the idea of going full Steven.

I’m reading Under the Volcano, but I’m not enjoying it much at all. I hardly know what’s going on.

When I finish that, I’ll go back to the 1001 Nights which I’ve taken a break from.


Posted by Sterling on 30/5/2015, 12:03:38, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

I have started a four-volume complete and unexpurgated 1001 Nights numerous times, but I always quit in the middle of the first volume. Not that it’s not enjoyable. There’s just too much of it. Perhaps it’s time to find a good, solid “Selections from…”

No, I’m still chipping away at Pamela. I am determined to finish it, and literally everybody agrees that Clarissa is more rewarding, so I intend to read it still.

In fact, my reading program for the next year is quite ambitious in the lengthy novel area. I just acquired All Men Are Brothers, Pearl Buck’s translation of The Water Margin, or Outlaws in the Marsh. I thought, there’s a translation by a Nobel Prize winner. Why not read that one?

By the same logic, I’ve also acquired The Tale of Genji, translated by Arthur Waley. I’ve already read Genji in a more academically approved translation without much pleasure. I’m going to try the translation that first enchanted the West.

I have started to acquire the translation of Dream of the Red Chamber known as The Story of the Stone. I read another translation years ago, which I enjoyed, but this translation is so well regarded that I thought I’d try it.

Of course, I won’t read all those Asian classics in a row. Other monumental works I’m considering (besides Clarissa) are JR by William Gaddis and the more recent set of translations of In Search of Lost Time. Plus there’s always Ching P’ing Mei, of which Roy apparently completed his translation. (No, I don’t have that set yet.)

So, I’ve set up some very ambitious reading. I plan to continue to read other, easier works at the same time, although that has been counterproductive for Pamela. The Goldfinch is so much more entertaining that it is hard to make myself return to Pamela.


Posted by Steven on 30/5/2015, 15:56:05, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

I just finished another 18th century girl: Amelia by Henry Fielding. Its lack of humor and its high moral tone are both surprising for Fielding, but it doesn’t lack for plot.

I read the 1001 Nights in a two-volume edition translated by Husain Haddawy. It was very good.

Sterling, which translation of Dream of the Red Chamber are you collecting? I read the one by David Hawkes.

I finally acquired all of the Roy translation of Ching P’ing Mei, mostly in Kindle editions, but I have no immediate plans for reading it.

I’ve been working on Trollope’s Palliser series this year, and I’m also in the middle of Lanark by Alasdair Gray.


Posted by Sterling on 30/5/2015, 22:09:25, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Yes, it is the David Hawkes translation of Dream of the Red Chamber that I am in the process of acquiring. (I can’t tell you what version I read back in the day. It seems to have not made the cut when I had to give books away in one of my many moves.)

The Arabian Nights that I’ve been trying to read for years is the Mardrus/Mathers version. I am aware of the scholarly shortcomings of this translation, but it came highly recommended for readability back in the day. (The four-volume set was a gift from my parents in the 1970s, before the Haddawy was published.)

A plan that I’ve had in the back of my head for a while is to read all the great 18th-century English novels. I may yet get to Amelia. We’ll see.

I thought Lanark was very intriguing.

It’s been many years since I read Under the Volcano, Joffre, although I remember certain scenes and images. I do recall that it was difficult, though. I may yet try it again as well.


Posted by Joffre on 30/5/2015, 22:24:30, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

I’m reading selections from 1001 Nights. About fifteen years ago, I read two volumes translated by Jack Zipes in Signet. Now I’m reading selections from Richard Burton’s translation.

I read and thoroughly enjoyed the Hawkes translation of Dream of the Red Chamber. And last year, I enjoyed the Chin P’ing Mei pretty well.


Posted by Steven on 31/5/2015, 9:17:25, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

: A plan that I’ve had in the back of my head for a

: while is to read all the great 18th-century English

: novels.

Do you have a list, in the back of your head or elsewhere, of the ones you intend to have read? I’ve probably read a higher percentage of prominent 18th century novels than of any other century.


Posted by Sterling on 31/5/2015, 18:17:27, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Well, I would say that the first edition of 1001 Books comes pretty close. Nothing too outré. I’ve read the important works of Swift and Sterne. I intend to read more Fielding (I’ve only read Tom Jones), Smollett (I’ve read Humphry Clinker, of course, and I read Roderick Random 40 years ago), and Defoe (I’ve read Robinson Crusoe and Journal of the Plague Year). I intend to read some of the Gothic classics. Perhaps Fanny Hill and maybe some de Sade. (Perhaps the word “all” was a little grandiose.)


Posted by Sterling on 4/6/2015, 21:29:09, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Okay, here’s my master list of 18th-century English novels, drawn mainly from 1001 Books. (Bloom apparently has little taste for the 18th-century English novel. His list is much shorter than 1001.) I have placed the authors in alphabetical order. I have marked an (x) after ones that I have read, and (?) after those I may skip. Please help me by pruning the list of anything that you don’t believe I should bother with or by making additional suggestion.

William Beckford – Vathek


Fanny Burney –


Cecilia (?)

Camilla (?)


John Cleland –

Fanny Hill


Daniel Defoe –

Robinson Crusoe (x)

Journal of the Plague Year (x)

Moll Flanders



Henry Fielding –


Joseph Andrews

Tom Jones (x)



William Godwin –

Caleb Williams


Oliver Goldsmith –

The Vicar of Wakefield (x)


Samuel Johnson –



Matthew Lewis –

The Monk


Ann Radcliffe –

The Mysteries of Udolpho


Samuel Richardson –



Sir Charles Grandison (?)


Tobias Smollett –

Roderick Random (x)

Peregrine Pickle

Humphry Clinker (x)


Laurence Sterne –

Tristram Shandy (x)

A Sentimental Journey


Jonathan Swift –

A Tale of a Tub

Gulliver’s Travels (x)

A Modest Proposal (x)


Horace Walpole –

The Castle of Otranto



Posted by Steven on 4/6/2015, 22:26:40, in reply to “Re: Pamela”


Is it just a coincidence that the three you have marked with “(?)” are the only ones that I haven’t read? All I know about them is that they are very long. I’m planning to read the two by Burney just because they are on the 1001 Books list, but I have no plans to read Sir Charles Grandison.

I highly recommend Love in Excess by Eliza Haywood. I’ll post my full review of it if you like, but it was a surprisingly unpredictable, frank, and entertaining novel.

I would add The Man of Feeling by Henry Mackenzie chiefly because it shows the influence of Tristam Shandy (and is very short).

If you can take more Gothic romance, Ann Radcliffe has two other novels worth considering. I read The Italian and found it suspenseful and entertaining, though not on the same level as The Mysteries of Udolpho. Her Sicilian Romance is also frequently recommended, but I haven’t read it.

I’m currently reading The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox. So far it’s very entertaining, though I’m afraid the joke will wear thin before too long.

If you want to add some proto-science fiction to your reading list, you might consider these titles, both from the 1750s:

The Life and Astonishing Adventures of John Daniel by Ralph Morris. A sailor shipwrecked on an uncharted island builds a flying machine to escape, but winds up accidentally flying to the moon.

The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins by Robert Paltock. Another shipwrecked sailor, only this one finds a polar entrance to a world inside our world where nations of winged men wage war in the twilit skies.


Posted by Steven on 4/6/2015, 23:21:32, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

After reading Guillermo’s remark about “impossible tasks” I thought I’d offer my suggestions in the opposite direction. Your list had 30 books. If you wanted to shorten it to 20, these are the 10 I would remove:





Shamela (but read it anyway for fun)


Sir Charles Grandison

Peregrine Pickle

A Tale of a Tub

A Modest Proposal

(the last two aren’t really novels, anyway)


Posted by Sterling on 5/6/2015, 13:11:35, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Thank you, Steven. I appreciate your input in both expanding and pruning my list.


Posted by Sterling on 8/6/2015, 23:16:17, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Sound the trumpets, I’ve finished Pamela!

Although it took me three months or so to read, I actually got seriously bogged down sometime in April. For about six weeks or so, I left it entirely alone, or only read a page or two before setting it aside.


It may seem absurd to put a spoiler alert in my brief discussion of Pamela. After all, Richardson signals how it will end with his subtitle, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. However, I don’t know that it is generally known that Mr. B— actually comes around to ask Pamela to marry him approximately halfway through the book. Then for about 100 pages or so, Pamela and Mr. B exchange compliments and vows. My guess is that this is Richardson’s attempt to convince the reader that this would-be rapist is a worthy fiancé for the virtuous Pamela. Having finally plowed through this tedium, I settled down, looking forward to Pamela’s trials at being accepted in Society. This starts out well with one of the more memorable scenes in the whole novel when Pamela’s sister-in-law catches her at home without her husband. But then Richardson fritters his opportunity away by deciding that absolutely everybody else is so convinced of the native merits of the serving maid that nobody is in the least offended by Mr B’s choice. This seems pretty unlikely (and boring) to me.

I did notice that several characters accuse Pamela of being manipulative. I briefly considered that Richardson might be having us on and that a parody like Shamela is unnecessary because Pamela may already be a sly and subtle satire. After all, we have the story only from Pamela’s point of view, and she would surely have represented herself in her letters to her parents as blameless. However, given that all his contemporaries, including the incisive Fielding, took the work at face value, I must conclude that such playfulness lies beyond Richardson’s intents (or, most probably, abilities).

Usually I am able to get a hint of why a work was considered revolutionary or ground-breaking or at least immensely popular even when it is now “old hat.” However, I find it impossible to imagine why Pamela was such a sensation.

PS – I just read Shamela immediately after completing Pamela. It is truly hilarious. It’s worth reading even if you haven’t read Pamela, but it’s delightful if you have read the original and get the “inside” jokes!


Posted by Steven on 9/6/2015, 9:32:22, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

Congratulations on being warmed up and ready for Clarissa !


I agree with you that there is no way there is any satirical intent in the novel. Richardson took himself seriously; he believed that a servant’s virtue could reform her master and that a former servant would be accepted into high society on account of it.

I think Pamela is one of those books you read strictly because it was important in its day and influenced what came after it, not because you expect to enjoy it. (Pilgrim’s Progress comes to mind.)

I wonder if Pamela had the impact it did because its seriousness and high moral tone allowed it to reach readers who would not have been permitted to read works like Moll Flanders (or would have been too embarrassed to say so). As I recall from the introductory material, some preachers were recommending the novel for moral instruction, rape scenes and all, while others were condemning it. Those abortive sex scenes were probably the most exciting thing ever read by many a young lady of the age. As “respectable porn,” Pamela may have been to the 1740s what Lady Chatterley’s Lover was to the 1960s.

As for Pamela forgiving and loving a would-be rapist, I think this just shows that prior centuries were more tolerant of men’s sexual urges than we are today. It apparently was widely accepted that men of the upper class would have their way with their female servants as a necessary form of relief. One analyst I read said that the most unrealistic part of the novel was that Pamela put any value on her chastity to begin with.

I’m glad you enjoyed Shamela. You’ll probably like Joseph Andrews as well. It is a broader attack on the amorality and hypocrisy of the upper class, not just on Pamela as a gold digger.


Posted by Sterling on 7/7/2015, 8:20:02, in reply to “Re: Pamela”

It was good advice when trying to get through Pamela to vary my reading with something else. However, The Goldfinch was not really a good alternate choice. TG is such a cracking good story, a real ripping yarn, that I found it difficult to drag myself back to boring old Pamela.

Accordingly, I decided to try a program in which I alternate between three ambitious works: Clarissa, The Thousand and One Nights, and The Golden Bough.

I think Clarissa and 1001 Nights are self-explanatory. I’ve already mentioned that I have a four-volume 1001, which I have never been able to get through, despite the high entertainment value. Clarissa is, well, Clarissa. The Golden Bough is a work that I’ve long wanted to read. I have the approved abridgment. (I’m certainly not going to attempt Frazier’s12 volumes!) But, as I think I’ve said many times, I almost never can make my way all the way through a non-fiction work. No matter how interesting the subject is to me, my interest always flags before the ending.

Actually, I doubt that this will work, but wish me luck!


Posted by Steven on 7/7/2015, 10:40:54, in reply to “Recent Reading Program”

I’ve never had the grit to sit down with a big, difficult book and read it straight through to the end, so I have always had a system of some sort for alternating my reading between 3-5 books of different types at the same time. To spend a week reading nothing but Clarissa would be like spending a week eating nothing but Brussels sprouts.


Posted by Sterling on 8/7/2015, 7:50:01, in reply to “Re: Recent Reading Program”

: To spend a week reading

: nothing but Clarissa would be like spending a week

: eating nothing but Brussels sprouts.

Hah! Great analogy! :^D



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