Thursday, July 27, 2017


I can assure you, Dear Reader, that if you tackle this very early British novel, you will have three reactions:

*You will want to throw up because of its sanctimoniousness.

*You will want to throw it into the trash because of its tediousness and repetitiveness.

*You will believe that either Samuel Richardson wrote the whole thing with tongue in cheek or that it is the most unbelievable drivel ever published.

This is the absurd plot:
Pamela is a 15-year-old maid in the household of gentry. Her Master lusts after her mightily, and proceeds to kiss her and put her on his knee. She protest that her Honesty (virginity) is the most important thing in the world to her. She says she will leave to go home to her parents, but decides to stay to finish embroidering flowers on a waistcoat. Then he further accosts her and even, as she says, "put his hand in my bosom." He promises not to do it again, so she stays. He kidnaps her and takes her to another of his houses, where he holds her prisoner. When she escapes from the walled garden, she decides not to flee because she sees two cows (which she says she thought to be bulls) and is afraid to cross the pasture. He attempts to rape her, with the help of his housekeeper, but she falls into a fit and he stops. He offers her all kinds of money to be his mistress, but she still refuses to sacrifice her Honesty. All throughout he has called her vile names and abused her, but then he decides that he really loves her mind (yeah, right) and, despite her low station, he proposes.

Reader, she marries him. Believe it or not.

Yes, after he has stalked her, kidnapped her, and attempted to rape her, not to mention cursing her and "calling her out of her name," she decides that she loves him and goes on and on about how much he has honored her by condescending to marry her. And we readers are supposed to believe that she was not coldly calculating to snare him the whole time, hoping that his lust would overcome his class consciousness.

Now for the sanctimoniousness--While Pamela tells us over and over how humble and non-prideful she is, she repeats ad nauseam conversation of others who praise her godliness and beauty. In addition, she flops to her knees at the slightest provocation, first in thankfulness for delivering her from her persecutor and later in thankfulness for his goodness and excellence in all things. God is mentioned on almost every page. Dear Pamela, thou doth protest too much, methinks.

This novel was a run-away best seller in its day. It had spin-off sequels, copy cats, and lampoons by other authors, and even spin-off products, such as Pamela fans and playing cards. I believe the reading audience must have been titillated by Pamela's close escapes from a "fate worse than death." It must have been the Fifty Shades of Grey of its time.

Not recommended as enjoyable reading. Kind of interesting in a historical way, because it was a big deal once upon a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment