Samuel Richardson

From Academic Kids

Samuel Richardson (August 19, 1689July 4, 1761) was an eighteenth-century writer best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and Sir Charles Grandison (1753).

Richardson had been an established printer and publisher for most of his life when, at the age of 51, he wrote his first novel — and immediately became one of the most popular and admired writers of his time.

Pamela describes "virtue" in an 18th-century way that is foreign to our times. Pamela Andrews is a young maidservant in a wealthy household. The son of the household, Mr B., conceives a passion for her and repeatedly schemes with his servants to have his way with her. She protects her virtue successfully and B., moved in her favour when he reads the journal she has been keeping in secret, is forced to propose to her if he is to have her.

The popularity of Pamela was mainly due to the effective technique of revealing the story through letters written by the protagonist, an innovation that was the source of great pride for Richardson, combined with the moralistic nature of the story, which made it acceptable for a wide audience. The novel thus reinvented a literary genre that had developed a very questionable reputation. Nevertheless, many contemporary readers were shocked by the more graphic scenes and by some questionable behaviours of the characters; it was easy to regard Pamela, for example, as a scheming young woman trying to gain higher social status by making a nobleman marry her. Henry Fielding parodied Pamela twice: once anonymously using the same epistolary form in Shamela, and again with Joseph Andrews, which tells the story of Pamela's brother Joseph and his efforts to protect his virtue.

Richardson also wrote two later epistolary novels, Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and Sir Charles Grandison (1753). Of the three, Clarissa has generally been the most highly regarded by critics; in it Richardson uses the epistolary form with great effectiveness, creating characters that are psychologically convincing while reflecting on some of the most important moral questions of the 18th century. (See Clarissa for a summary of the novel.)

Sir Charles Grandison is Richardson's attempt to create a male model of virtue. Many modern critics have found that he was less successful here, noting that Sir Charles is not a very interesting or sympathetic character and that his confident sense of virtue can be cloying to the modern reader. In addition, the plot is relatively less eventful and the moral lessons less ambiguous than in Clarissa. However, in its own time Sir Charles Grandison was again a success.

Richardson was widely considered one of the most important novelists of his age, influencing writers such as Jane Austen, Goethe, and Richardson eo:Samuel RICHARDSON fr:Samuel Richardson nl:Samuel Richardson pl:Samuel Richardson sv:Samuel Richardson


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