2NovelEnlightRichFieldSterne - THE ENGLISH NOVEL: Samuel...

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THE ENGLISH NOVEL: Samuel Richardson (1680 – 1761) The enthusiasm prompted by Defoe's best novels demonstrated the growing readership for innovative prose narrative. Samuel Richardson, a prosperous London printer, was the next major author to respond to the challenge. His Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded (1740, with a less happy sequel in 1741), using (like all Richardson's novels) the epistolary form, tells a story of an employer's attempted seduction of a young servant woman, her subsequent victimization, and her eventual reward in virtuous marriage with the penitent exploiter. Its moral tone is self-consciously rigorous and proved highly controversial. Its main strength lies in the resourceful, sometimes comically vivid imagining of the moment-by-moment fluctuations of the heroine's consciousness as she faces her ordeal. Pamela herself is the sole letter writer, and the technical limitations are strongly felt, though Richardson's ingenuity works hard to mitigate them. But Pamela's frank speaking about the abuses of masculine and gentry power sounds the skeptical note more radically developed in Richardson's masterpiece, Clarissa: or, the History of a Young Lady (1747-48), which has a just claim to being considered the most reverberant and moving tragic fiction in the English novel tradition. Clarissa uses multiple narrators and develops a profoundly suggestive interplay of opposed voices. At its centre is the taxing soul debate and eventually mortal combat between the aggressive, brilliantly improvisatorial libertine Lovelace and the beleaguered Clarissa, maltreated and abandoned by her family but abiding sternly loyal to her own inner sense of probity. The tragic consummation that grows from this involves an astonishingly ruthless testing of the psychological natures of the two leading characters. After such intensities, Richardson's final novel, The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753-54), is perhaps inevitably a less ambitious, cooler work, but its blending of serious moral discussion and a comic ending ensured it an influence on his successors, especially Jane Austen. After Defoe’s fictitious autobiographies, the next great advance came again from the lower middle class: Samuel Richardson. He had been asked to compile a manual of letter-writing for the use of the semi-literate and he had the bright idea that the sample letters could be used to convey a moral message and the result was the writing and publishing of Pamela (1741) . The purpose behind this is the same moral didacticism as with Defoe but didacticism built on emotions. Pamela the plot is simple, like drama – a young educated servant girl attracts the son of the house; he wants to make her his mistress, but she rejects him, so he tries different means of persuasion but when he sees that nothing else will move her, he marries her = Pamela’s virtue is rewarded. The form: the story is told at very great length and with an immense amount of detail, in epistolary
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This note was uploaded on 12/13/2011 for the course LITERATURE 105 taught by Professor Stevens during the Winter '11 term at Mitchell Community College.

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2NovelEnlightRichFieldSterne - THE ENGLISH NOVEL: Samuel...

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