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Samuel Richardson

1750 portrait by Joseph Highmore
Born 19 August 1689(1689-08-19)
Mackworth, Derbyshire, England
Died 4 July 1761 (aged 71)
Parson's Green, London, England
Occupation Writer, printer & publisher
Spouse(s) Martha Wilde, Elizabeth Leake

Samuel Richardson (19 August 1689 – 4 July 1761) was an 18th-century English writer and printer. He is best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753). Outside of his writing career, Richardson was an established printer and publisher for most of his life and printed almost 500 different works and various journals and magazines.

During his printing career, Richardson was to experience the death of his first wife along with their five sons, and eventually remarry. Although with his second wife he had four daughters who lived to become adults, they never had a male heir to continue running the printing business. Although his print shop slowly faded away, his legacy was certain 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.

He was surrounded by some of the leading figures in 18th century England, including Samuel Johnson and Sarah Fielding. Although he was known by most members of the London literary community, he was rivals with Henry Fielding, and the two started responding to each other's literary styles in their own novels.



Richardson, one of nine siblings, was born in 1689 in Mackworth, Derbyshire, to Samuel and Elizabeth Richardson.[1] It is unsure where in Derbyshire he was born because Richardson always concealed the location.[1] The older Richardson was, according to the younger:

"a very honest man, descended of a family of middling note, in the country of Surrey, but which having for several generations a large number of children, the not large possessions were split and divided, so that he and his brothers were put to trades; and the sisters were married to tradesmen."[2]

His mother, according to Richardson, "was also a good woman, of a family not ungenteel; but whose father and mother died in her infancy, within half-an-hour of each other, in the London pestilence of 1665".[3]

The trade his father pursued was that of a joiner (a type of carpenter, but Richardson explains that it was "then more distinct from that of a carpenter than now it is with us").[1] In describing his father's occupation, Richardson stated that "he was a good draughtsman and understood architecture", and it was suggested by Samuel Richardson's son-in-law that the senior Richardson was a cabinetmaker and an exporter of mahogany while working at Aldersgate-street.[1] The abilities and position of his father brought him to the attention of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth.[3] However this, as Richardson claims, was to Richardson senior's "great detriment" because the loss of the Monmouth Rebellion, which ended in the death of the Scott in 1685. After Scott's death, the elder Richardson was forced to abandon his business in London and live a modest life in Derbyshire.[3]


Early life

The Richardsons were not constantly exiled from London, but they eventually returned for the young Richardson was educated at Christ's Hospital grammar school.[4] The extent that he was educated at the school is uncertain, and Leigh Hunt wrote years later:

"It is a fact not generally known that Richardson... received what education he had (which was very little, and did not go beyond English) at Christ's Hospital. It may be wondered how he could come no better taught from a school which had sent forth so many good scholars; but in his time, and indeed till very lately, that foundation was divided into several schools, none of which partook of the lessons of the others; and Richardson, agreeably to his father's intention of bringing him up to trade, was most probably confined to the writing school, where all that was taught was writing and arithmetic."[5]

However, this conflicts with Richardson's nephew's account that "'it is certain that [Richardson] was never sent to a more respectable seminary' than 'a private grammar school" located in Derbyshire".[6]

I recollect that I was early noted for having invention. I was not fond of play, as other boys; my school-fellows used to call me Serious and Gravity; and five of them particularly delighted to single me out, either for a walk, or at their father's houses, or at mine, to tell them stories, as they phrased it. Some I told them, from my reading, as true; others from my head, as mere invention; of which they would be most fond, and often were affected by them. One of them particularly, I remember, was for putting me to write a history, as he called it, on the model of Tommy Pots; I now forget what it was, only that it was of a servant-man preferred by a fine young lady (for his goodness) to a lord, who was a libertine. All of my stories carried with them, I am bolt to say, an useful moral.
— Samuel Richardson on his storytelling.[6]

There is little known of Richardson's of his early years beyond the few things that Richardson was willing to share.[6] Although he was not forthcoming with specific events and incidents, he did talk about the origins of his writing ability; Richardson would tell stories to his friends and spent his youth constantly writing letters.[7] One such letter, when Richardson was almost 11, was directed to a woman in her 50s that would constantly criticize others, and, after "assuming the style and address of a person in years", wrote her a letter which cautioned her about her actions.[7] However, his handwriting was used to determine that it was the young Richardson's, and she complained to his mother.[7] The result was, as he explains, that "my mother chid me for the freedom taken by such a boy with a woman of her years" but also "commended my principles, though she censured the liberty taken".[7]

After his writing ability was known, he began to help others in the community write letters.[8] In particular, Richardson, at the age of thirteen, helped many of the girls that he associated with to write responses to various love letters that they received.[8] As Richardson claims, "I have been directed to chide, and even repulse, when an offence was either taken or given, at the very time that the heart of the chider or repulser was open before me, overflowing with esteem and affect".[8] Although this helped his writing ability, he cautioned in 1753 to the Dutch minister Stinstra to not draw to great a conclusion from these early actions:

"You think, Sir, you can account from my early secretaryship to young women in my father's neighbourhood, for the characters I have drawn of the heroines of my three works. But this opportunity did little more for me, at so tender an age, than point, as I may say, or lead my enquiries, as I grew up, into the knowledge of female heart."[9]

He continued to explain that he did not fully understand females until after he was writing Clarissa, and these letters were only a small beginning.[9]

Early career

The elder Richardson originally wanted his son to become a clergyman, but he was not able to afford the education that the younger Richardson would require, so he let his son pick his own profession.[9] He selected the profession of printing because he hoped to "gratify a thirst for reading, which, in after years, he disclaimed".[9] At the age of seventeen, in 1706, Richardson was bound in seven-year apprenticeship under John Wilde as a printer. Wilde's printing shop was in Golden Lion Court on Aldersgate Street, and Wilde had a reputation as "a master who grudged every hour... that tended not to his profit".[10]

I served a diligent seven years to it; to a master who grudged every hour to me that tended not to his profit, even of those times of leisure and diversion, which the refractoriness of my fellow-servants obliged him to allow them, and were usually allowed by other masters to their apprentices. I stole from the hours of rest and relaxation, my reading times for improvement of my mind; and, being engaged in correspondence with a gentleman, greatly my superior in degree, and of ample fortune, who, had he lived, intended high things for me; these were all the opportunities I had in my apprenticeship to carry it on. But this little incident I may mention; I took care that even my candle was of my own purchasing, that I might not, in the most trifling instance, make my master a sufferer (and who use to call me the pillar of his house) and not to disable myself by watching or sitting-up, to perform my duty to him in the day time.
— Samuel Richardson on his time with John Wilde.[11]

While working for Wilde, he met a rich gentleman who took an interest in Richardson's writing abilities and the two began to correspond with each other. When the gentleman died a few years later, Richardson lost a potential patron, which delayed his ability to pursue his own writing career. He decided to devote himself completely to his apprenticeship, and he worked his way up to a position as a compositor and a corrector of the shop's printing press.[12] In 1713, Richardson left Wilde to become "Overseer and Corrector of a Printing-Office".[10] This meant that Richardson was running his own shop, but the location of that shop is unknown.[10] It is possible that the shop was located in Staining Lane or may have been jointly run with John Leake in Jewin Street.[13]

In 1719, Richardson was able to take his freedom from being an apprentice and was soon able to afford to set up his own printing shop, which he did after he moved near the Salisbury Court district close to Fleet Street.[13] Although he claimed to business associates that he was working out of the well-known Salisbury Court, his printing shop was more accurately located on the corner of Blue Ball Court and Dorset Street in a house that later became Bell's Building.[13] On 23 November 1721 Richardson married Martha Wilde, the daughter of his former employer, and it was "prompted mainly by prudential considerations" although Richardson would claim later that there was a strong love-affair between him and Martha.[14] He soon brought her to live with him in the printing shop that served also as his home.[15]

Richardson's career expanded on 6 August 1722 when Richardson took on his first apprentices: Thomas Gover, George Mitchell, and Joseph Chrichley.[16] He would later take on William Price (2 May 1727), Samuel Jolley (5 September 1727), Bethell Wellington (2 September 1729), and Halhed Garland (5 May 1730).[17] One of Richardson's first major contracts to print came in June of 1723 when he began to print the bi-weekly The True Briton for Philip Wharton, 1st Duke of Wharton. This was a Jacobite political paper which attacked the government and was soon censored for printing "common libels". However, Richardson's name was not on the publication, and he was able to escape any of the negative fallout, although it is possible that Richardson participated in the papers as far as actually authoring one himself.[18] The only lasting effect from the paper would be the adoption of Wharton's libertine characteristics being incorporated into Richardson's Clarissa in the character of Robert Lovelace, although Wharton would be only one of many models of libertine behaviour that Richardson would find in his life.[19] In 1724, Richardson befriended Thomas Gent, Henry Woodfall, and Arthur Onslow, the latter of those would become the Speaker of the House of Commons.[20]

Over their ten years of marriage, the Richardsons had five sons and one daughter, and three of the boys were named Samuel after their father, but all of the boys died after just a few years.Soon after, William, their fourth child died, Martha died on 25 January 1731. Their youngest son, Samuel, was to live past his mother for a year longer, but succumbed to illness in 1732. After his final son died, Richardson attempted to move on with his life; he married Elizabeth Leake and the two moved into another house on Blue Ball Court. However, Elizabeth and his daughter were not the only ones living with him since Richardson allowed five of his apprentices to lodge in his home.[21] Elizabeth had six children (five daughters and one son) with Richardson; four of their daughters, Mary, Martha, Anne, and Sarah, reached adulthood and survived their father.[22] Their son, also a Samuel, was born in 1739, but soon died in 1740.[22]

In 1733, Richardson was granted a contract with the House of Commons, with help from Osnlow, to print the Journals of the House. [20] The twenty six volumes of the work soon improved his business.[21] Later in 1733, he wrote The Apprentice’s Vade Mecum, urging young men like himself to be diligent and self-denying.[23] The work was intended to "create the perfect apprentice".[23] Written in response to the "epidemick Evils of the present Age", the text is best known for its condemnation of popular forms of entertainment including theatres, taverns and gambling.[24] The manual targets the apprentice as the focal point for the moral improvement of society, not because he is most susceptible to vice, but because, Richardson suggests, he is more responsive to moral improvement than his social betters.[25] During this time, Richardson took on five more apprentices: Thomas Verren (1 August 1732), Richard Smith (6 February 1733), Matthew Stimson (7 August 1733), Bethell Wellington (7 May 1734), and Daniel Green (1 October 1734).[17] His total staff during the 1730s numbered 7, as his first three apprentices were free by 1728, and two of his apprentices, Verren and Smith, died soon into their apprenticeship.[17] The loss of Verren was particularly devastating to Richardson because Verren was his nephew and his hope for a male heir that would take over the press.[26]

First novel

Work continued to improve, and Richardson printed the Daily Journal between 1736 and 1737, and the Daily Gazetteer in 1738.[22] During his time printing the Daily Journal, he was also printer to the "Society for the Encouragement of Learning", a group that tried to help authors become independent from publishers, but collapsed soon after.[22] In December 1738, Richardson's printing business was successful enough to allow him to lease a house in Fulham.[21] This house, which would be Richardson's residence from 1739 to 1754, was later named "The Grange" in 1836.[27] In 1739, Richardson was asked by his friends Charles Rivington and John Osborn to write "a little volume of Letters, in a common style, on such subjects as might be of use to those country readers, who were unable to indite for themselves".[28] While writing this volume, Richardson was inspired to write his first novel.[29]

Title page of Pamela

Richardson transitioned from a master printer in Salisbury Court to novelist on 6 November 1740 with the publication of Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded.[30] Pamela was sometimes regarded as "the first English novel".[30] Richardson explained the origins of the work when he said:

"In the progress of [Rivington's and Osborn's collection], writing two or three letters to instruct handsome girls, who were obliged to go out to service, as we phrase it, how to avoid the snares that might be laid against their virtue, and hence sprung Pamela ... Little did I think, at first, of making one, much less two volumes of it ... I thought the story, if written in an easy and natural manner, suitably to the simplicity of it, might possibly introduce a new species of writing, that might possibly turn young people into a course of reading different from the pomp and parade of romance-writing, and dismissing the improbable and marvellous, with which novels generally abound, might tend to promote the cause of religion and virtue."[31]

After Richardson started the work on 10 November 1739, his wife and her friends became so interested in the story that he finished it on 10 January 1740.[32] Pamela Andrews, the heroine of Pamela, represented "Richardson's insistence upon well-defined feminine roles" and was part of a common fear held during the 18th century that women were "too bold".[33] In particular, her "zeal for housewifery" was included as a proper role of women in society.[34] Although Pamela and the title heroine were popular and gave a proper model for how women should act, they inspired "a storm of anti-Pamelas" (like Henry Fielding's Shamela and Joseph Andrews) because the character "perfectly played her part".[35]

Later that year, Richardson printed Rivington and Osborn's book which inspired Pamela under the title of Letters written to and for particular Friends, on the most important Occasions. Directing not only the requisite Style and Forms to be observed in writing Familiar Letters; but how to think and act justly and prudently, in the common Concerns of Human Life.[29] The book contained many anecdotes and lessons on how to live, but Richardson did not care for the work and it was never expanded even though it went into six editions during his life.[36] He went so far as to tell a friend, "This volume of letters is not worthy of your perusal" because they were "intended for the lower classes of people".[36]

In September 1741, a sequel of Pamela called Pamela's Conduct in High Life was published by Ward and Chandler.[37] Although the work lacks the literary merits of the original, Richardson was compelled to publish two more volumes in December 1741 to tell of further exploits of Pamela, the title heroine, while "in her Exalted Condition".[38] The public's interest in the characters was waning, and this was only furthered by Richardson's focusing on Pamela discussing morality, literature, and philosophy.[38]

Later career

After the failures of the Pamela sequels, Richardson began to compose a new novel.[39] It was not until early 1744 that the content of the plot was known, and this happened when he sent Aaron Hill two chapters to read.[39] In particular, Richardson asked Hill if he could help shorten the chapters because Richardson was worried about the length of the novel.[39] Hill refused, saying,

"You have formed a style, as much your property as our respect for what you write is, where verbosity becomes a virtue; because, in pictures which you draw with such a skilful negligence, redundance but conveys resemblance; and to contract the strokes, would be to spoil the likeness."[40]

Title page of Clarissa

In July, Richardson sent Hill a complete "design" of the story, and asked Hill to try again, but Hill responded, "It is impossible, after the wonders you have shown in Pamela, to question your infallible success in this new, natural, attempt" and that "you must give me leave to be astonished, when you tell me that you have finished it already".[41] However, the novel wasn't complete to Richardson's satisfaction until October 1746.[41] Between 1744 and 1746, Richardson tried to find readers who could help him shorten the work, but his readers wanted to keep the work in its entirety.[41] A frustrated Richardson wrote to Edward Young in November 1747:

"What contentions, what disputes have I involved myself in with my poor Clarissa through my own diffidence, and for want of a will! I wish I had never consulted anybody but Dr. Young, who so kindly vouchsafed me his ear, and sometimes his opinion."[42]

Richardson did not devote all of his time just to working on his new novel, but was busy printing various works for other authors that he knew.[43] In 1742, he printed the third edition of Daniel Defoe's Tour through Great Britain. He filled his new few years with smaller works for his friends until 1748, when Richardson started helping Sarah Fielding and her friend, Jane Collier to write novels.[44][45] By 1748, Richardson was so impressed with Collier that he accepted her as the governess to his daughters.[46] In 1753, she wrote An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting with the help of Sarah Fielding and possibly James Harris or Samuel Richardson[47], and it was Richardson who printed the work.[48] But Collier was not the only author to be helped by Richardson, as he printed an edition of Young's Night Thoughts in 1749.[43]

His novel, Clarissa, was finally printed in its seven volumes by 1748: two volumes in November 1747, two in April 1748, and three in December 1748.[49] Unlike the novel, the author was not doing as well as the work.[50] By August 1748, Richardson was in poor health.[51] He had a sparse vegetarian diet that consisted mostly of vegetables and drinking vasts amount of water, and he was not robust enough to prevent the effects of being bled upon the advice of various doctors throughout his life.[51] He was known for "vague 'startings' and 'paroxysms'", along with experiencing tremors.[50] Richardson once wrote to a friend that "my nervous disorders will permit me to write with more impunity than to read" and that writing allowed him a "freedom he could find nowhere else".[52]

Portrait of Richardson from 1750s by Mason Chamberlin

However, his condition did not stop him from continuing to release the final volumes Clarissa after November 1748.[49] To Hill he wrote: "The Whole will make Seven; that is, one more to attend these two. Eight crouded into Seven, by a smaller Type. Ashamed as I am of the Prolixity, I thought I owed the Public Eight Vols. in Quantity for the Price of Seven"[49] Richardson later made it up to the public with "deferred Restorations" of the fourth edition of the novel being printed in larger print with eight volumes and a preface that reads: "It is proper to observe with regard to the present Edition that it has been thought fit to restore many Passages, and several Letters which were omitted in the former merely for shortening-sake."[49]

The response to the novel was positive, and the public began to describe the title heroine as "divine Clarissa".[53] It was soon considered Richardson's "masterpiece", his greatest work,[54] and was rapidly translated into French[55] in part or in full, for instance by the abbé Antoine François Prévost, as well as into German.[56] In England there was particular emphasis on Richardson's "natural creativity" and his ability to incorporate daily life experience into the novel.[57] However, the final three volumes were delayed, and many of the readers began to "anticipate" the concluding story and some demanded that Richardson write a happy ending.[58] One such advocate of the happy ending was Henry Fielding, who previous wrote Joseph Andrews to mock Richardson's Pamela.[59] Although Fielding was originally opposed to Richardson, Fielding supported the original volumes of Clarissa and thought a happy ending would be "poetical justice".[59]

Others wanted Lovelace to be reformed and for Clarissa and he to become married, but Richardson would not allow a "reformed rake" to be her husband, and was unwilling to change the ending.[60] In a postscript to Clarissa, Richardson wrote:

"if the temporary sufferings of the Virtuous and the Good can be accounted for and justified on Pagan principles, many more and infinitely stronger reasons will occur to a Christian Reader in behalf of what are called unhappy Catastrophes, from a consideration of the doctrine of future rewards; which is every where strongly enforced in the History of Clarissa."[61]

Although few were bothered by the epistolary style, Richardson feels obligated to continue his postscript with a defense of the form based on the success of it in Pamela.[61]

Title page of Gradison

However, some did question the propriety of having Lovelace, the villain of the novel, act in such an immoral fashion.[62] The novel avoids glorifying Lovelace, as Carol Flyn puts it,

"by damning his character with monitory footnotes and authorial intrusions, Richardson was free to develop in his fiction his villain's fantasy world. Schemes of mass rape would be legitimate as long as Richardson emphasized the negative aspects of his character at the same time."[63]

But Richardson still felt the need to respond by writing a pamphlet called Answer to the Letter of a Very Reverend and Worthy Gentleman.[62] In the pamphlet defends his characterizations and explains that he took great pains to avoid any glorification of scandalous behaviour unlike many others that rely on characters of such low quality.[62]

In 1749, Richardson's female friends started asking him to create a male figure as virtuous as his heroines "Pamela" and "Clarissa" in order to "give the world his idea of a good man and fine gentleman combined".[64] Although he did not at first agree, he was pressured to this end in June 1750 and he complied.[65] Near the end of 1751, Richardson sent a draft of the novel The History of Sir Charles Grandison to Mrs Donnellan, and the novel was being finalized in the middle of 1752.[66] When the novel was being printed in 1753, Richardson discovered that Irish printers were trying to pirate the work.[67] He immediately fired those he suspected as giving the printers advanced copies of Grandison and relied on multiple London printing firms to help him produce an authentic edition before the pirated version was sold.[67] The first four volumes were published on 13 November 1753, and in December the next two would follow.[68] The remaining volume was published in March to complete a seven volume series while a six volume set was simultaneously published, and these were met with success.[69] In Grandison, Richardson was unwilling to risk having a negative response to any "rakish" characteristics that Lovelace embodied and degraded any of his immoral characters "to show those mischievous young admirers of Lovelace once and for all that the rake should be avoided".[70]


Bust of Richardson

In his final years, Richardson received visits from Archbishop Secker,other important political figures, and many London writers.[71] By that time, he enjoyed a high social position and was Master of the Stationers' Company.[71] In early November 1754, Richardson and his family moved from the Grange to a home at Parson's Green.[71] It was during this time that Richardson received a letter from Samuel Johnson asking for money to pay for a debt that Johnson was unable to afford.[72] On 16 March 1756, Richardson responded with more than enough money, and their friendship was certain by this time.[72]

Besides associating with important figures of the day, Richardson's career began to conclude.[73] Grandison was his final novel, and he stopped writing fiction afterwards.[73] However, he was continually prompted by various friends and admirers to continue to write along with suggested topics.[73] Richardson did not like any of the topics, and chose to spend all of his time composing letters to his friends and associates.[73] The only major work that Richardson would write would be A Collection of the Moral and Instruction Sentiments, Maxims, Cautions, and Reflexions, contained in the Histories of Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison.[74] Although it is possible that this work was inspired by Johnson asking for an "index rerum" for Richardson's novels, the Collection contains more of a focus on "moral and instructive" lessons than the index that Johnson was seeking.[74]

After June 1758, Richardson began to suffer from insomnia, and in June 1761, he was afflicted with apoplexy.[75] This moment was described by his friend, Miss Talbot, on 2 July 1761:

"Poor Mr. Richardson was seized on Sunday evening with a most severe paralytic stroke.... It sits pleasantly upon my mind, that the last morning we spent together was particularly friendly, and quiet, and comfortable. It was the 28th of May - he looked then so well! One has long apprehended some stroke of this kind; the disease made its gradual approaches by that heaviness which clouded the cheerfulness of his conversation, that used to be so lively and so instructive; by the encreased tremblings which unfitted that hand so peculiarly formed to guide the pen; and by, perhaps, the querulousness of temper, most certainly not natural to so sweet and so enlarged a mind, which you and I have lately lamented, as making his family at times not so comfortable as his principles, his study, and his delight to diffuse happiness, wherever he could, would otherwise have done"[76]

Two days later, 4 July 1761, Richardson died at Parson's Green and was buried at St. Bride's church near his first wife Martha.[77]

During Richardson's life, his printing press produced about 2349 items .[78] He wanted to keep the press in his family, but after the death of his four sons and a nephew, his printing press would be left in his will to his only surviving male heir, a second nephew.[79] This happened to be a nephew that Richardson did not trust and Richardson doubted his nephew's abilities as a printer.[79] Richardson's fears proved to be warranted for after his death, the press stopped producing quality works and eventually stopped printing all together.[79] Richardson owned copyrights to most of his works, and these were sold after his death.[80] They were sold in twenty-fourth shares, with Clarissa bringing in 25 pounds each, Grandison bringing in 20 pounds each, and Pamela, which only had sixteenth shares sold, received 18 pounds each.[80]

Epistolary novel

Richardson was a skilled letter writer and his talent traces back to his childhood.[7] Throughout his whole life, he would constantly write to his various associates.[73] Richardson had a "faith" in the act of letter writing, and believed that letters could be used to accurately portray character traits.[81] He quickly adopted the epistolary novel form, which granted him "the tools, the space, and the freedom to develop distinctly difference characters speaking directly to the reader".[81] The characters of Pamela, Clarissa, and Grandison are revealed in a personal way, with the first two using the epistolary form for "dramatic" purposes, and the last for "celebratory" purposes.[82]

In his first novel, Pamela, he explored the various complexities of the title character's life, and the letters allow the reader to witness her develop and progress over time.[83] The novel was an experiment, but it allowed Richardson to create a complex heroine through a series of her letters.[84] When Richardson wrote Clarissa, he had more experience in the form and expanded the letter writing to four different correspondents, which created a complex system of characters encouraging each other to grow and develop over time.[85] However, the villain of the story, Lovelace, is also involved in the letter writing, and this leads to tragedy.[86] Leo Braudy described the benefits epistolary form of Clarissa as, "Language can work: letters can be ways to communicate and justify".[87] By the time Richardson writes Grandison, he transforms the letter writing from telling of personal insights and explaining feelings into a means for people to communicate their thoughts on the actions of others and for the public to celebrate virtue.[88] The letters are no longer written for a few people, but are passed along in order for all to see.[89]



(see Bibliography section below for full references)

  1. ^ a b c d Dobson p. 1
  2. ^ Dobson p. 1-2
  3. ^ a b c Dobson p. 2
  4. ^ Dobson p. 3
  5. ^ Hunt, Leigh. London Journal Supplement No 2, 1834
  6. ^ a b c Dobson p. 4
  7. ^ a b c d e Dobson p. 5
  8. ^ a b c Dobson p. 6
  9. ^ a b c d Dobson p. 7
  10. ^ a b c Sale p. 7
  11. ^ Dobson p. 8-9
  12. ^ Dobson p. 9
  13. ^ a b c Sale p. 8
  14. ^ Dobson p. 10
  15. ^ Sale p. 9
  16. ^ Sale p. 15
  17. ^ a b c Sale p. 351
  18. ^ Dobson p. 12
  19. ^ Dobson p. 13
  20. ^ a b Dobson p. 14
  21. ^ a b c Sale p. 11
  22. ^ a b c d Dobson p. 15
  23. ^ a b Flynn p. 6
  24. ^ Flynn p. 7
  25. ^ Flynn p. 8
  26. ^ Sale p. 18
  27. ^ Dobson p. 17
  28. ^ Dobson p. 18
  29. ^ a b Dobson p. 19
  30. ^ a b Sale p. 1
  31. ^ Dobson p. 26
  32. ^ Dobson p. 27
  33. ^ Flynn p. 56
  34. ^ Flynn p. 67
  35. ^ Flynn p. 136
  36. ^ a b Dobson p. 25
  37. ^ Dobson p. 38
  38. ^ a b Dobson p. 39
  39. ^ a b c Dobson p. 73
  40. ^ Dobson p. 73-74
  41. ^ a b c Dobson p. 74
  42. ^ Dobson p. 75
  43. ^ a b Dobson p. 77
  44. ^ Letter from Collier to Richardson 4 October 1748
  45. ^ Sabor p. 150
  46. ^ Rizzo p. 45
  47. ^ Rizzo p. 46
  48. ^ Sabor p. 151
  49. ^ a b c d Dobson p. 83
  50. ^ a b Dobson p. 82
  51. ^ a b Dobson p. 81
  52. ^ Flynn p. 287
  53. ^ Dobson p. 86
  54. ^ Dobson p. 94
  55. ^ See Krake, "'He could go no farther'"; see also, for example, Greene.
  56. ^ Krake, How art produces art.
  57. ^ Flynn p. 286
  58. ^ Dobson p. 95-96
  59. ^ a b Dobson p. 96
  60. ^ Dobson p. 97
  61. ^ a b Dobson p. 99
  62. ^ a b c Dobson p. 101
  63. ^ Flynn p. 230
  64. ^ Dobson p. 141-142
  65. ^ Dobson p. 142
  66. ^ Dobson p. 144
  67. ^ a b Sale p. 26
  68. ^ Dobson p. 145
  69. ^ Dobson p. 146
  70. ^ Flynn p. 231
  71. ^ a b c Dobson p. 170
  72. ^ a b Dobson p. 177
  73. ^ a b c d e Dobson p. 178
  74. ^ a b Dobson p. 183
  75. ^ Dobson p. 186
  76. ^ Dobson p. 186-187
  77. ^ Dobson p. 187
  78. ^ Keith Maslen. Samuel Richardson of London, printer.  
  79. ^ a b c Sale p. 2
  80. ^ a b Sale p. 90
  81. ^ a b Flynn p. 235
  82. ^ Flynn p. 236
  83. ^ Flynn p. 237
  84. ^ Flynn p. 239
  85. ^ Flynn p. 243
  86. ^ Flynn p. 245
  87. ^ Braudy p. 203
  88. ^ Flynn p. 258
  89. ^ Flynn p. 259


  • Braudy, Leo. "Penetration and Impenetrability in Clarissa," New Approaches to Eighteenth-Century Literature: Selected Papers from the English Institute edited by Philip Harth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1974.
  • Dobson, Austin. Samuel Richardson. Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, 2003.
  • Flynn, Carol. Samuel Richardson: A Man of Letters. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.
  • Greene, Mildred Sarah. "The French Clarissa," Man and Nature: Proceedings of the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, edited by Christa Fell and James Leith. Edmonton: Academic Printing & Publishing, 1992). 89-98.
  • Krake, Astrid. "He could go no farther: The Rape of Clarissa in 18th-Century Translations", La traduction du discours amoureux (1660-1830), edited by Annie Cointre, Florence Lautel-Ribstein and Annie Rivara. Metz: CETT, 2006.
  • Krake, Astrid. How art produces art: Samuel Richardsons Clarissa im Spiegel ihrer deutschen Übersetzungen. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2000.
  • Rizzo, Betty. Companions Without Vows: Relationships Among Eighteenth-Century British Women. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1994. 439 pp.
  • Sale, William M. Samuel Richardson: Master Printer. Ithica, N. Y.:Cornell University Press, 1950.
  • Sabor, Peter. "Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Sarah Fielding", in The Cambridge companion to English literature from 1740 to 1830 edited by Thomas Keymer and Jon Mee, 139–156. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The heart that is able to partake of the distress of another, cannot wilfully give it.

Samuel Richardson (1689-08-191761-07-04) was one of the most admired fiction-writers of his day, both in his native England and across Europe. He is now considered one of the fathers of the novel.



Pamela (1740)

Quotations are cited from the Oxford World’s Classics edition (2001). ISBN 0192829602.
  • O! what a Godlike Power is that of doing Good! — I envy the Rich and the Great for nothing else!
    • Page 312
  • My Master said, on another Occasion, that those who doubt most, always erred least.
    • Page 332

Clarissa (1747 - 1748)

Quotations are taken from the Tauchnitz edition (1862)
  • That dangerous but too commonly received notion, that a reformed rake makes the best husband.
    • Vol. 1, p. 5; Preface.
  • The person who will bear much shall have much to bear, all the world through.
    • Vol. 1, p. 44; Letter 10.
  • The pleasures of the mighty are obtained by the tears of the poor.
    • Vol. 1, p. 286; Letter 43.
  • I am forced, as I have often said, to try to make myself laugh, that I may not cry: for one or other I must do.
    • Vol. 2, p. 231; Letter 92.
  • Love gratified, is love satisfied — and love satisfied, is indifference begun.
    • Vol. 2, p. 452; Letter 126.
  • Nothing can be more wounding to a spirit not ungenerous, than a generous forgiveness.
    • Vol. 2, p. 478; Letter 135.

Sir Charles Grandison (1753 - 1754)

Quotations are taken from the first edition.
  • Vast is the field of Science ... the more a man knows, the more he will find he has to know.
    • Vol. 1, letter 11.
  • The World, thinking itself affronted by superior merit, takes delight to bring it down to its own level.
    • Vol. 1, letter 36.
  • Women are so much in love with compliments that rather than want them, they will compliment one another, yet mean no more by it than the men do.
    • Vol. 1, letter 37.
  • Those who have least to do are generally the most busy people in the world.
    • Vol. 2, letter 3.
  • A feeling heart is a blessing that no one, who has it, would be without; and it is a moral security of innocence; since the heart that is able to partake of the distress of another, cannot wilfully give it.
    • Vol. 3, letter 32.
  • There hardly can be a greater difference between any two men, than there too often is, between the same man, a lover and a husband.
    • Vol. 4, letter 17.
  • Of what violences, murders, depredations, have not the epic poets, from all antiquity, been the occasion, by propagating false honour, false glory, and false religion?
    • Vol. 6, letter 45.
  • The mind can be but full. It will be as much filled with a small disagreeable occurrence, having no other, as with a large one.
    • Vol. 6, letter 46.


  • When his story of Pamela first came out, some extracts got into the public papers, and used by that means to find their way down as far as Preston in Lancashire, where my aunt who told me the story then resided. One morning as she rose, the bells were set singing and the flag was observed to fly from the great steeple. She rang her bell and inquired the reason of these rejoicings, when her maid came in bursting with joy, and said, "Why, madam, poor Pamela's married at last; the news came down to us in this morning's paper."

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SAMUEL RICHARDSON (1689-1761), English novelist, is a notable example of that "late-flowering" sometimes applied to Oliver Goldsmith. Born under William and Mary, the reign of the second George was well advanced before, at fifty years of age, he made his first serious literary effort - an effort which was not only a success, but the revelation of a new literary form. He was the son of a London joiner, who, for obscure reasons, probably connected with Monmouth's rebellion, had retired to an unidentified town in Derbyshire, where, in 1689, Samuel was born. At first intended for holy orders, and having little but the common learning of a private grammar school - for the tradition that upon the return of the family to the metropolis he went to Christ's Hospital cannot be sustained - he was eventually, as some compensation for a literary turn, apprenticed at seventeen to an Aldersgate printer named John Wilde. Here, like the typical "good apprentice" of his century, he prospered; became successively compositor, corrector of the press, and printer on his own account; married his master's daughter according to programme; set up newspapers and books; dabbled a little in literature by compiling indexes and "honest dedications," and ultimately proceeded Printer of the Journals of the House of Commons, Master of the Stationers' Company, and Law-Printer to the King. Like all well-to-do citizens, he had his city house of business and his "country box" in the suburbs; and, after a thoroughly "respectable" life, died on the 4th of July 1761, being buried in St Bride's Church, Fleet Street, close to his shop (now demolished), No. 11 Salisbury Court.

To this uneventful and conventional career one would scarcely look for the birth and growth of a fresh departure in fiction. Axd yet, although Richardson's manifestation of his literary gift was deferred for half a century, there is no life to which the Horatian "qualis ab incepto" can be more appropriately applied. From his youth this moralist had moralized; from his youth - nay, from his childhood - this letter-writer had written letters; from his youth this supreme delineator of the other sex had been the confidant and counsellor of women. In his boyhood he was secretary-general to all the love-sick girls of the neighbourhood; at eleven he addressed a hortatory epistle, stuffed with texts, to a scandal-loving widow; and whenever it was possible to correspond with any one he was as "corresponding" as even Horace Walpole could have desired. At last, when he was known to the world only as a steady business man, who was also a "dab at an index" and an invaluable compiler of the "puff prefatory," it occurred to Mr Rivington of St Paul's Churchyard and Mr Osborn of Paternoster Row, two bookselling friends who were aware of his epistolary gifts, to suggest that he should prepare a little model letter-writer for such "country readers" as "were unable to indite for themselves." Would it be any harm, he suggested in answer, if he should also "instruct them how they should think and act in common cases"? His friends were all the more anxious that he should set to work. And thus originated his first novel of Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. But not forthwith, as is sometimes supposed. Proceeding with the compilation of his model letter-writer, and seeking, in his own words, "to instruct handsome girls, who were obliged to go out on service. .. how to avoid the snares that might be laid against their virtue" - a danger which appears to have always abnormally preoccupied him - he came to recollect a story he had heard twenty years earlier, and had often proposed to other persons for fictitious treatment. It occurred to him that it would make a book of itself, and might moreover be told wholly in the fashion most congenial to himself, namely, by letters. Thereupon, with some domestic encouragement, he completed it in a couple of months, between the 10th of November 1739 and the 10th of January 1740. In November 1740 it was issued by Messrs Rivington & Osborn, who, a few weeks afterwards (January 1741), also published the model letterwriter under the title of Letters written to and for Particular Friends, on the most Important Occasions. Both books were anonymous. The letter-writer was noticed in the Gentleman's Magazine for January, which also contains a brief announcement as to Pamela, already rapidly making its way without waiting for the reviewers. A second edition, it was stated, was expected; and such was its popularity, that not to have read it was judged "as great a sign of want of curiosity as not to have seen the French and Italian dancers" - i.e. Mme Chateauneuf and the Fausans, who were then delighting the town. In February a second edition duly appeared, followed by a third in March and a fourth in May. At public gardens ladies held up the book to show they had got it; Dr Benjamin Slocock of Southwark openly commended it from the pulpit; Pope praised it; and at Slough, when the heroine triumphed, the enraptured villagers rang the church bells for joy. The other volume of "familiar letters"' consequently fell into the background in the estimation of its author, who, though it went into several editions during his lifetime, never acknowledged it. Yet it scarcely deserves to be wholly neglected, as it contains many useful details and much shrewd criticism of lower middle-class life.

For the exceptional success of Pamela there was the obvious excuse of novelty. People were tired of the old "mouthy" romances about impossible people doing impossible things. Here was a real-life story, which might happen to any one - a story which aroused curiosity and arrested attention - which was not exclusively about "high life," and which had, in addition, a moral purpose, since it was avowedly "published in order to cultivate the principles of virtue and religion in the minds of the youth of both sexes." Whether it had exactly this effect, or owed its good fortune chiefly to this proclamation, may be doubted. The heroine in humble life who resists the licentious advances of her master until he is forced to marry her, does not entirely convince us that her watchful prudence and keen eye for the main chance have not, in the long run, quite as much to do with her successful defence as her boasted innocence and purity. Nor is the book without passages which more than smack of an unpleasant pruriency. Nevertheless, in its extraordinary gift of minute analysis; in its intimate knowledge of feminine character; in the cumulative power of its shuffling, loose-shod style, and, above all, in the unquestionable earnestness and sincerity of the writer, Pamela had qualities which - particularly in a dead season of letters - sufficiently account for its favourable reception by the contemporary public.

Such a popularity, of course, was not without its drawbacks. That it would lead to Anti-Pamelas, censures of Pamela and all the spawn of pamphlets which spring round the track of a sudden success, was to be anticipated. One of the results to which its rather sickly morality gave rise was the Joseph Andrews (1142) of Fielding (q.v.). But there are two other works prompted by Pamela which need brief notice here. One is the Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews, a clever and very gross piece of raillery which appeared in April 1741, and by which Fielding is supposed to have preluded to Joseph Andrews. Fielding's own works contain no reference to Shamela. But Richardson in his Correspondence, both printed and unprinted, roundly attributes it to the writer who was to be his rival; and it is also assigned to Fielding by other contemporaries (Hist. MSS. Commn., Rept. 12, App. Pt. IX. p. 204). All that can be said is, that Fielding's authorship cannot be proved. If it could, it would go far to justify the after animosity of Richardson to Fielding - much farther, indeed, than what Richardson described as the "lewd and ungenerous engraftment" of Joseph Andrews. The second noteworthy result of Pamela was Pamela's Conduct in High Life (September 1741), a spurious sequel by John Kelly of the Universal Spectator. Richardson tried to prevent its appearance, and, having failed, set about two volumes of his own, which followed in December, and professed to depict his heroine "in her exalted condition." But the public interest in Pamela had practically ceased with her marriage, and the author's continuation, like other continuations - particularly continuations prompted by extraneous circumstances - attracted no permanent attention.

About 1744 we begin to hear something of the progress of Richardson's second and greatest novel, Clarissa; or, the History of a Young Lady, usually miscalled Clarissa Harlowe. The first edition was in seven volumes, two of which came out in November 1747, two more in April 1748 and the last three in December. Upon the title-page of this, of which the mission was as edifying as that of Pamela, its object was defined as showing the distresses that may attend the misconduct both of parents and children in relation to marriage. Virtue, in Clarissa, is not "rewarded," but hunted down and outraged. The heroine, no longer an opportunist servant-girl, is a most pure, refined and beautiful young woman, invested with every attribute to attract and charm, while her pursuer, Lovelace, the libertine hero of the hooka personage of singular dash and vivacity, in spite of his worthlessness - is drawn with extraordinary tenacity of power. The wronged Clarissa eventually dies of grief, and her coldblooded betrayer, whom strict justice would have hanged, is considerately killed in a duel by her soldier cousin. Of the genius of the story there can be no doubt. Nor is there any doubt as to the ability shown in the delineation of the two chief characters, to whom the rest are merely subordinate. The chief drawbacks of Clarissa are its merciless prolixity (seven volumes, which only cover eleven months); the fact that (like Pamela) it is told by letters; and a certain haunting and uneasy feeling that many of the heroine's obstacles are only molehills which should have been readily surmounted. As to its success, accentuated as this was by its piecemeal method of publication, there has never been any question. Clarissa's sorrows set all England sobbing, and her fame and her fate spread rapidly to the Continent.

Between Clarissa and Richardson's next work appeared the Tom Jones of Fielding - a rival by no means welcome to the elder writer, although a rival who generously (and perhaps penitently) acknowledged Clarissa's rare merits.

"Pectus inaniter angit Irritat, mulcet, falsis terroribus implet Ut Magus," Fielding had written in the Jacobite's Journal. But even this could not console Richardson for the popularity of the "spurious brat" whom Fielding had made his hero, and his next effort was the depicting of a genuine fine gentleman - a task to which he was incited by a chorus of feminine worshippers. In the History of Sir Charles Grandison, "by the Editor of Pamela and Clarissa" (for he still preserved the fiction of anonymity), he essayed to draw a perfect model of manly character and conduct. In the pattern presented there is, however, too much buckram, too much ceremonial - in plain words, too much priggishness - to make him the desired exemplar of propriety in excelsis. Yet he is not entirely a failure, still less is he to be regarded as no more than "the condescending suit of clothes" by which Hazlitt unfairly defines Miss Burney's Lord Orville. When Richardson delineated Sir Charles Grandison he was at his best, and his experiences and opportunities for inventing such a character were infinitely greater than they had ever been before. And he lost nothing of his gift for portraying the other sex. Harriet Byron, Clementina delta Porretta and even Charlotte Grandison, are no whit behind Clarissa and her friend Miss Howe. Sir Charles Grandison, in fine, is a far better book than Pamela, although M. Taine regarded the hero as only fit to be stuffed and put in a museum.

Grandison was published in 1753, and by this time Richardson was sixty-four. Although the book was welcomed as warmly as its predecessors, he wrote no other novel, contenting himself instead with indexing his works, and compiling an anthology of the "maxims," "cautions" and "instructive sentiments" they contained. To these things, as a professed moralist, he had always attached the greatest importance. He continued to correspond relentlessly with a large circle of worshippers, mostly women, whose counsels and fertilizing sympathy had not a little contributed to the success of his last two books. He was a nervous, highly strung little man, intensely preoccupied with his health and his feelings, hungry for praise when he had once tasted it, and afterwards unable to exist without it; but apart from these things, well meaning, benevolent, honest, industrious and religious. Seven vast folio volumes of his correspondence with his lady friends, and with a few men of the Young and Aaron Hill type, are preserved in the Forster Library at South Kensington. Parts of it only have been printed. There are several good portraits of him by Joseph Highmore, two of which are in the National Portrait Gallery.

Richardson is sometimes styled the "Father of the English Novel," .a title which has also been claimed for Defoe. It would be more accurate to call him the father of the novel of sentimental analysis. As Sir Walter Scott has said, no one before had dived so deeply into the human heart. No one, moreover, had brought to the study of feminine character so much prolonged research, so much patience of observation, so much interested and indulgent apprehension, as this twittering little printer of Salisbury Court. That he did not more materially control the course of fiction in his own country was probably owing to the new direction which was given to that fiction by Fielding and Smollett, whose method, roughly speaking, was synthetic rather than analytic. Still, his influence is to be traced in Sterne and Henry Mackenzie, as well as in Miss Burney and Miss Austen, both of whom, it may be noted, at first adopted the epistolary form. But it was in France, where the sentimental soil was ready for the dressing, that the analytic process was most warmly welcomed. Extravagantly eulogized by the great critic, Diderot, modified with splendid variation by Rousseau, copied (unwillingly) by Voltaire, the vogue of Richardson was so great as to tempt some modern French critics to seek his original in the Marianne of a contemporary analyst, Marivaux. As a matter of fact, though there is some unconscious consonance of manner, there is nothing whatever to show that the little-lettered author of Pamela, who was also ignorant of French, had the slightest knowledge of Marivaux or Marianne. In Germany Richardson was even more popular than in France. Gellert, the fabulist, translated him; Wieland, Lessing, Hermes, all imitated him, and Coleridge detects him even in the Robbers of Schiller. What was stranger still, he returned to England again under another form. Having given a fillip to the French comedic larmoyante, that comedy crossed the channel as the sentimental comedy of Cumberland and Kelly, which, after a brief career of prosperity, received its death-blow at the hands of Goldsmith and Sheridan.

A selection from Richardson's Correspondence was published by Mrs A. L. Barbauld in 1804, in six volumes, with a valuable Memoir. Recent lives are by Miss Clara L. Thomson, 1900, and by Austin Dobson ("Men of Letters"), 1902. A convenient reprint of the novels, with copies of the old illustrations by Stothard, Edward Burney and the rest, and an introducton by Mrs E. M. M. McKenna, was issued in 1901 in 20 volumes. (A. D.)

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