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Volume 1 of Richardson’s classic Pamela. One of the most spectacular successes of the burgeoning literary marketplace of eighteeent-century London, Pamela also marked a defining moment in the emergence of the modern novel. In the words of one contemporary, it divided the world ‘into two different Parties, Pamelists and Antipamelists’, even eclipsing the sensational factional politics of the day. Preached up for its morality, and denounced as pornography in disguise, it vividly describes a young servant’s long resistance to the attempts of her predatory master to seduce her. Written in the voice of its low-born heroine, but by a printer who fifteen years earlier had narrowly escaped imprisonment for the seditious output of his press, Pamela is not only a work of pioneering psychological complexity, but also a compelling and provocative study of power and its abuse.
DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER,
I have great trouble, and some comfort, to acquaint you with. The trouble is, that my good lady died of the illness I mentioned to you, and left us all much grieved for the loss of her; for she was a dear good lady, and kind to all us her servants. Much I feared, that as I was taken by her ladyship to wait upon her person, I should be quite destitute again, and forced to return to you and my poor mother, who have enough to do to maintain yourselves; and, as my lady’s goodness had put me to write and cast accounts, and made me a little expert at my needle, and otherwise qualified above my degree, it was not every family that could have found a place that your poor Pamela was fit for: but God, whose graciousness to us we have so often experienced at a pinch, put it into my good lady’s heart, on her death-bed, just an hour before she expired, to recommend to my young master all her servants, one by one; and when it came to my turn to be recommended, (for I was sobbing and crying at her pillow) she could only say, My dear son!–and so broke off a little; and then recovering–Remember my poor Pamela–And these were some of her last words! O how my eyes run–Don’t wonder to see the paper so blotted.
Well, but God’s will must be done!–And so comes the comfort, that I shall not be obliged to return back to be a clog upon my dear parents! For my master said, I will take care of you all, my good maidens; and for you, Pamela, (and took me by the hand; yes, he took my hand before them all,) for my dear mother’s sake, I will be a friend to you, and you shall take care of my linen. God bless him! and pray with me, my dear father and mother, for a blessing upon him, for he has given mourning and a year’s wages to all my lady’s servants; and I having no wages as yet, my lady having said she should do for me as I deserved, ordered the housekeeper to give me mourning with the rest; and gave me with his own hand four golden guineas, and some silver, which were in my old lady’s pocket when she died; and said, if I was a good girl, and faithful and diligent, he would be a friend to me, for his mother’s sake. And so I send you these four guineas for your comfort; for Providence will not let me want: And so you may pay some old debt with part, and keep the other part to comfort you both. If I get more, I am sure it is my duty, and it shall be my care, to love and cherish you both; for you have loved and cherished me, when I could do nothing for myself. I send them by John, our footman, who goes your way: but he does not know what he carries; because I seal them up in one of the little pill-boxes, which my lady had, wrapt close in paper, that they mayn’t chink; and be sure don’t open it before him.
I know, dear father and mother, I must give you both grief and pleasure; and so I will only say, Pray for your Pamela; who will ever be
Your most dutiful DAUGHTER.
I have been scared out of my senses; for just now, as I was folding up this letter in my late lady’s dressing-room, in comes my young master! Good sirs! how was I frightened! I went to hide the letter in my bosom; and he, seeing me tremble, said, smiling, To whom have you been writing, Pamela?–I said, in my confusion, Pray your honour forgive me!–Only to my father and mother. He said, Well then, let me see how you are come on in your writing! O how ashamed I was!–He took it, without saying more, and read it quite through, and then gave it me again;–and I said, Pray your honour forgive me!–Yet I know not for what: for he was always dutiful to his parents; and why should he be angry that I was so to mine? And indeed he was not angry; for he took me by the hand, and said, You are a good girl, Pamela, to be kind to your aged father and mother. I am not angry with you for writing such innocent matters as these: though you ought to be wary what tales you send out of a family.–Be faithful and diligent; and do as you should do, and I like you the better for this. And then he said, Why, Pamela, you write a very pretty hand, and spell tolerably too. I see my good mother’s care in your learning has not been thrown away upon you. She used to say you loved reading; you may look into any of her books, to improve yourself, so you take care of them. To be sure I did nothing but courtesy and cry, and was all in confusion, at his goodness. Indeed he is the best of gentlemen, I think! But I am making another long letter: So will only add to it, that I shall ever be Your dutiful daughter, PAMELA ANDREWS.