HAD this edition of Richardson's celebrated novel been issued in a handsomer form, we should have looked upon it as a literary counterpart of the eighteenth-century revival which has shown itself in female dress, in houses and furniture, and on the walls of the Academy. Perhaps a railway novel in painfully small type with a gaudy cover must be referred to a more casual origin, but we are, at any rate, glad to have the book, which, though it may be found in libraries, is so scarce, that we ourselves have never till now seen a copy for sale, except a wretched reprint, which omits two-thirds of the work, and ends with Pamela's marriage. Indeed, we suspect that many of the present generation have no idea that the story goes beyond that point, and to such this edition will be a pleasant surprise ; for the development of the heroine's character after marriage and her experiences therein are no leas important, and are perhaps more powerfully written than the adventures by which the story is best known. Such a dry analysis as we could give within the limits of our space would dull the interest of the tale, without giving any idea of the extraordinary vigour with which its scenes are worked up, and any reader whom this notice may attract to it will not be sorry to make its acquaintance at first-hand.
We believe he will find that, though written in the tiresome form of letters, it is still able to hold its own against its rivals of the bookstall. The reader's sympathy is enlisted on behalf of Pamela from the very first, and though, as in all cases where a difficulty is created in order that it may be overcome, there are points in the web woven round her which in real life would have been broken through, the circumstances are quite probable enough to carry on the progress of the story, taking into consideration the manners and morals of the period. Whether the source of the tale be a real incident, as Richardson professed, or not, it is sufficiently in har- mony with the time to gain acceptance, and those who search the old volumes of the Annual Register will be at no loss for instances of attempts on female honour of an equally determined kind. The chief characters of the story are drawn by numberless minute touches, but the vigorous sketches of minor personages show that Richardson was a master of both kinds of portraiture. Taking Pamela all in all, as maid and wife, she is one of the most charming women we know in fiction ; and if there be points in which she fails in conduct, they are such as affect our estimate of her judgment more than of her character. Compared with her sister heroine, Clarissa, she is of less delicate material, less thoroughly consistent in her self-defence, more full of little tricks and ingenuities of demeanour, and probably less dignified and more prone to jealousy under similar circum- stances. In short, Clarissa is a high-bred lady who might easily have existed, while Pamela is an entirely exceptional person, whose possible existence, with her gifts of principle, good sense, wit, shrewdness, education, and talent, all united in the person of a cottage-born waiting-maid, must be conceded to the author, before we can thoroughly appreciate his story. Pamela is not only charming, she is also thoroughly individual. Her peculiar and methodical ways, with „her " three parcels of clothes " when she means to quit her service, and her three chairs made into a " bar" when she pleads before her husband ; the suspicion of coquetry which attaches to her movements about the house before the attack upon her is fairly began ; her occasional pertness, as in the two petitions which during her imprisonment she suggests should be read in church for herself and her persecutor ; her letter to Miss Darnford about the latter's father throwing a book at her head ; her correspondence with Mr. Williams, and her little stratagems to deceive Mrs. Jewkes and the gardener, all make up a portrait which in its combination of piquant innocence, shrewd wit, and womanly feeling has never been rivalled save by its own author.
The character of " Mr. B."—for Richardson never favours us with more of his name than this—Pamela's master and then husband, is touched in with less charm, though with almost equal skill. Except in his sobriety and his literary tastes, he does not strike us as so exceptional to the period as his friends in the book consider him. He is a rake and a libertine, but a far less hardened one than Lovelace, who never swerves for a moment from his purpose. " Mr. B." is human, after all, and not a fiend, and nothing is more remarkable in the high art of this novel than the way in which, at the first touch of relenting in his pursuit, and the dawn * Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. By Samuel Richardson. A New Edition. London: Rontledge. 'of a purer feeling towards its object, the air seems to clear and the horizon to expand. As in all strong natures, the passion of a real love brings out all that is good in the man ; like Troilus in Chaucer's poem, and Dante in his Vita Nuova, he becomes full of longing after virtue, and of good-will and charity to all the world. Pamela, on her side, is filled with what may be called a passion of gratitude, which, combined with the attraction towards her lover that has been working within her, effaces at once all the humiliations she has been made to suffer. This Griselda-like attitude of mind, which would be inconceivable in a Clarissa, is in harmony with all else that we are told of Pamela, and the reader is prepared for it by her unconscious revelations to her parents, even during her persecution, of her growing feeling towards her persecutor.
The two most interesting portions of the book are the narrative of Pamela's attempts to escape from the vigilance of Jewkes, and that of her sufferings while she is in suspense as to how matters will end between her husband and the lady of the masquerade. In the former portion, Richardson, true to his ethical attitude, never for a moment interests us on the wrong side, as " fast " modern novelists often do, or try to do. We follow the vicissitudes of Pamela's defence with an eager anxiety for her safety, which makes us angry at her placing herself again in the snare of the fowler, when a way of escape is at last open to her. In the latter situation the interest is heightened to a tragic complexion, and the reader is made to share in the suspense. There rises up gradually, but surely, such a tide of misery as recalls the sympathies and interests which flagged in the hitherto calm sea of prosperity and goodness. The pathos is here more real and intense than it has been throughout the book ; Pamela suffers with all the fullness of her nature all that the vacillation of her husband enables him to inflict. The interview with Lady S., which he forces upon her, constitutes as great a degree of humiliation as blows and ill-usage would be to a woman of another temper ; and her demeanour after their departure is one of the most purely natural scenes in the book. Nothing can be finer than the harsh contrast between the former lives of those who have loved each other with such intensity and their present divided attitude. "He basting into another parlour to put on his sword and take his hat, I followed him. ' Sir ! Sir ! ' with my arms expanded, was all I could say ; but he avoided me, putting on his hat with an air, and bidding Abraham follow him." In the succeeding letters she runs through the whole gamut of pain, till sickening suspense tarns into deadly certainty. The rest should be read in her own touching letters ; where Richard- son is at his best, be does not bear abridgment. There is one sentence which shows the elasticity of Pamela's mind, which has already enabled her to bear so much :—" I hope I am calmer a great deal. For being disappointed in twenty agreeable schemes and projects, I am now forming new ones with as much pleasure to myself as I may. It is one's duty, you know, Madam, to suit one's mind to one's condition." In the great scene which follows on her husband's return, Pamela behaves with a nervous energy which fairly carries him away, turns the tables on him as a judge, and subdues him beneath the dignity of an injured woman's righteous indignation. Her speech, though glowing with passion, as logical and as well arranged as her paper of reasons in answer to the dishonourable proposals of the carat part of the story, and the imaginative cast she puts upon the whole interview is in the spirit of true tragedy.
When Mr. B. has returned to his allegiance, we follow the story with less excitement, but with undiminished interest, to its close. As far as Richardson is open with us, there is no further backsliding, and we leave Pamela and her husband going through the minuet of life, she more matronly with a family (perhaps too numerous for a heroine), he with a foreshadowing of the middle- aged gentleman, alms-giving, church-going, violin-playing,—in short, hi the words of the author, "adorning the married life with all the warmth of elegant tenderness."
In praising Pamela so far, we do not in the least forget that we have against us the authority of. Thackeray and Coleridge, the former of whom, in his Lectures on the Humouri,sts, speaking through the mask of Fielding, but in his own voice, calls Richard- son a " tnilksop," a "molly-coddle," "a puny Cockney book- seller," fed en "muffins and bohea," for whom a man who writes Tom Jones and drinks sack-posset can have no feeling but contempt. And Coleridge, in a well-known passage of his Literary RemainS, not only appears to defend that episode of "Tom Jones" which is usually given up by his greatest admirers—at least, he makes no distinction between it and Jones's other amours—but he condemns the rival author for "poisoning the imagination of the young with doses of tinot. lyttte," and insists on the strong contrast
of Fielding's work, " with the close, hot, day-dreamy continuity of Richardson."
We cannot say we feel as if there was much to answer in Thackeray's rollicking criticism, which is rather of the man than his works, and does little justice to author or critic. Though Richardson was not a humourist in that sense of the term in which the irony of life and fate is the thing chiefly dwelt upon, his title to be a " week-day preacher," at any rate, is indisputable ;, while, if we take his characters separately, Pamela and Clarissa are at least as well worth consideration as Fielding's Amelia, on. whom Thackeray dilates with so much enthusiasm. For these reasons, as well as on account of the place he occupies in English literature, we have always thought that the omission of Richardson. from Thackeray's series greatly impairs its completeness as a sur- vey of the period ; at any rate, it was an injustice to dismiss him in a single sneering paragraph. As writers of fiction, Fielding and: Richardson had different objects. The purpose of the one was. simply to amuse, and in that he thoroughly succeeded ; let him, in addition, have any amount of credit for his characters, his humour, his scorn of meanness and hypocrisy, and all the rest of it. Richardson's object was an ethical one, and his success in that way, as well as in interesting the reader, is not to be summarily dis- posed of by calling him a milksop. We ourselves can enjoy Fielding and sack-posset, or whatever represents it in these days; but in this• question we are on the side of the bohea and the muffins, and must try to bear the consequences. What does it matter now with whom Richardson consorted, or what he was ? There is his book, fall of live characters and strong situations, rising to a refinement of art to which Fielding, and we may add, Thackeray himself, never- attained, and written in a style of nervous idiomatic English which even at the present day would be as good a model for a foreigner' as any book we could point out. Of the defects which we should' set against these merits we will speak presently ; at present, there is nothing to show that Thackeray appreciated either the one or
It is with much more diffidence that we dispute the authority of Coleridge on any literary question, but we can see as little groan& for the severe sentence he passes on Richardson as for his very lenient censure of Tom Jones. We suppose no one would think or charging either writer with any wish to promote immorality, but there is the fact that Fielding did no more than laugh at it in a, genial sort of way, while Richardson thoroughly bated it._ Whether, as Coleridge says, Tom Jones could hurt no one who was. not already thoroughly corrupt, we take leave to doubt ; at all: events, it might deepen previous impressions, and in the passage. of Thackeray succeeding our quotation there is an implicit admis- sion that the tendency of the book is to let off the sinner on wonderfully easy terms. As to the accusation against Richardson of "poisoning the minds of the young by continual doses of tinct« lyttm"—which is something that Coleridge would not have ventured to describe in plain English— we can see no ground for it whatever. Will anyone who has read Clarissa or Pamela honestly say that at any moment they suggested temptation, or caused him to sympa- thise with the pursuer rather than the victim ? -" Thou art a. devil," is the language of Lovelace's confidant, and it finds an. echo in every reader who is not a Lovelace already. " Thou art a. wild animal that ought to be chained up" might equally be said of Mr. B. while his dishonourable passion continues. The "close,, hot, day-dreamy continuity " which Coleridge ascribes to the author of Pamela, is a phrase to which it is difficult to attach a. definite meaning. We suppose Coleridge thought that the con- stant direction of the mind throughout the novel to one purpose, and that an immoral one, and the creation of an interest in its. success or failure, had a tendency to corrupt, and it would not be difficult to suppose cases in which this would be true. But the- case before us is not one of them. The object of pursuit once known, what the mind dwells on is the pursuit itself, irrespective of what. it may lead to, and in this respect the interest of the "retard- ing element" is the same as that of any ordinary novel, only much better kept up. We could name more than one novel of the present day to which the rest of Coleridge's epithets would be perfectly applicable, but in Richardson we see nothing to justify them.
We have thought ourselves bound to deal with the opinions of Coleridge and Thackeray, as a counsel is bound to nullify the evidence of two highly respectable witnesses for the prosecution. But at the present day, the question of Richardson's or Fielding's morality is a very unpractical one. Both may shock us by their freedom of speech, but neither has anything dike the power for evil that might be found in a basketful of modern novels. We do not preach, we only state facts. While we tolerate each hooka as the Ordeal of Richard Feverel and " Ouida's " earlier novels, and go to the opera to see the Traciata, do not let us be such arrant humbugs as to strain at the novels of a past age which was in the habit of calling things by their right names, and in which the safeguards which Pamela and Clarissa attempted to supply to female virtue were certainly far from unnecessary. There is a novel publishing in a popu- lar magazine which commences with an account of a care- less seduction (that is not the right term, but we don't see what other decent name to give it), and of the consequences thereof, in which the indelicacy of suggestion far exceeds anything for which Fielding or Richardson have to answer, but which is thrown in the way of girls who would be forbidden to read either of those writers. Publishers, doubtless, know their public ; but an age which tolerates this kind of thing need not be squeamish about " Mr. B."
In defending Richardson against Coleridge and Thackeray we have no intention of holding up Pamela as a faultless work. There is a spirit of moral casuistry running through it, a perpetual discussion of trifling points of character, a plethora of arguments pro and con, which may be compared to the refinements of a mediaeval schoolman, and which are calculated to produce the same spirit of self-consciousness in a reader which is engendered by a course of modern High-Church novels. There is, perhaps, some relation between this characteristic of Richardson and the preaching of his time, which occupied itself more with the inculcation of separate virtues and the discouragement of particular sins, than in laying a strong grasp on the conscience, or establishing in the heart a great central principle of Christian faith and conduct.
This tendency to consider moral actions separately, and judge them according to their external value, rather than as the products of a certain character, may be connected also with some features of the story which are the most difficult to get over. The reader who follows the details of Pamela's persecution takes her part so strongly, comes to hate Mr. B. so much, that he wonders how they can ever become friends, or how such love as had sprung up could fail to be crushed by such a load of dislike.. How this diffi- culty is solved in the case of Mr. B. himself we have already shown ; but what is to be said of the odious Jewkes, who is wholly forgiven and continued in her confidential employment? After the revelations of this creature's character—who has been origin- ally recommended to Mr. B. for her "fidelity," by a brother rake, and had executed her office of gaoler not simply with the vigilance required by her orders, but with a gusto as to the intended purpose of them which led her to try and corrupt Pamela by her conversation—the tenderness with which she is afterwards treated amounts to mawkishness. Though Mr. B. might declare that he and his servant were " equally in need of pardon," there are few women, we imagine, who, even if they forgave the prime offender, would like to set eyes on the instru- ment of his tyranny again. The same remark applies to Colbrand, the valet—a sort of assistant-turnkey—and in a modified degree to Lady Davers, to Mr. H., and to Lady S., all of whom had stood in such relations to Pamela as surely must have made subsequent intimacy with them a matter of considerable awkwardness. Nor, with whatever thickness of skin we may credit the ladies and gentlemen of that period, can the publicity given to Pamela's diary fail to suggest that characters which are best fitted to endure this sort of moral microscope are precisely those by whom it is felt to be least endurable. She and her friends must thenceforward have lived in a Palace of Truth, than which nothing more foreign to the artificiality of the day could well be imagined.
Nor is this the only false position in which she is placed. Her knowledge of her husband's character inspires her with a well- founded jealousy for the future, but that jealousy of the past which is its correlative appears to be deficient in her constitution, or she could never have acted towards his bastard child and its mother as she is described to have done. The sentimental feeling which has induced her to bring up the former along with her own family, must have obliged her to tell a lie now and then about its parentage ; while her having mixed herself up in the matter so far as to corre- spond with the mother—who has married, as a pretended widow, a respectable Mr. Wrightson in Jamaica—renders her an accom- plice in the life-long deception of him which his wife carries on.
To what extent Richardson was in advance of popular morality may be seen not only from his treatment of the situation just described, but from other passages in the book. On the one hand, the re- fusal of Sir Simon Darnford to interfere on behalf of Pamela, on the ground that it is only a case of a master " having a mind to
mother's waiting-maid," and that Mr. B. "hurts no family by this," is placed in the mouth of a man whose morals are supposed to be of the laxest order ; and Pamela's resolution to live apart from her husband, should his affair with Lady S. prove an accom- plished fact, is a protest against that doctrine about the veniality of a husband's unfaithfulness which is expressed in a well-known conversation of Johnson. On the other hand, this moral principle does not seem robust enough to protect the honour of poor Mr. Wrightson in his distant colony, or to enable Pamela, in the outset of the story, to brush away her lover's dishonest proposals by a simple refusal, instead of refuting them by an elaborate, however valid, train of arguments. Chateau qui park et femme qui scouts is an old and sound maxim, to which she is a brilliant exception, but one hardly safe to follow.
Of the abundant illustration of the manners, as well as the morals, of the time which is to be found in the pages of Pamela we have no space to say anything, nor is it necessary, for such points will strike all readers. The question of its fitness for being generally read now is one which will probably be answered in the negative, both by those who think that such subjects are wholly unfitted. for fiction, and by those who approve of the way in which they are treated of by the novelists of to-day. We will not attempt to prescribe to either class. The indelicacy for which Richardson has been censured is little more than that of an old nurse ; if he is tedious, it is yet difficult to skip any of the particulars on which• he dwells, and if, judged by our present standard of manners, he• is sometimes immodest, he is never either designedly or carelessly immoral. What degree of interest or attractiveness he may pre- sent, apart from these considerations, we hope we have in some' degree succeeded in making apparent.