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Volume 2 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.
My dear father and mother,
We arrived here last night, highly pleased with our journey, and the occasion of it. May God bless you both with long life and health, to enjoy your sweet farm, and pretty dwelling, which is just what I wished it to be. And don’t make your grateful hearts too uneasy in the possession of it, by your modest diffidence of your own unworthiness: for, at the same time, that it is what will do honour to the best of men, it is not so very extraordinary, considering his condition, as to cause any one to censure it as the effect of a too partial and injudicious kindness for the parents of one whom he delighteth to honour.
My dear master (why should I not still call him so, bound to reverence him as I am, in every light he can shine in to the most obliging and sensible heart?) still proposes to fit up the large parlour, and three apartments in the commodious dwelling he calls yours, for his entertainment and mine, when I pay my duty to you both, for a few happy days; and he has actually given orders to that effect; and that the three apartments be so fitted up, as to be rather suitable to your condition, than his own; for, he says, the plain simple elegance, which he will have observed in the rooms, as well as the furniture, will be a variety in his retirement to this place, that will make him return to his own with the greater pleasure; and, at the same time, when we are not there, will be of use for the reception of any of your friends; and so he shall not, as he kindly says, rob the good couple of any of their accommodations.
The old bow-windows he will have preserved, but will not have them sashed, nor the woodbines, jessamines, and vines, that run up against them, destroyed: only he will have larger panes of glass, and more convenient casements to let in the sweet air and light, and make amends for that obstructed by the shades of those fragrant climbers. For he has mentioned, three or four times, how gratefully they dispensed their intermingled odours to us, when, the last evening we stood at the window, to hear the responsive songs of two warbling nightingales, one at a distance, the other near, which delighted us for above two hours, and the more, as we thought their season had been over. And when they had done, he made me sing him one, for which he rewarded me with a kiss, saying, “How greatly do the innocent pleasures I now hourly taste, exceed the guilty tumults that used formerly to agitate my unequal mind!–Never talk, my Pamela, as you frequently do, of obligation to me: one such hour as I now enjoy is an ample reward for all the benefits I can confer on you and yours in my whole life!”
The parlour will indeed be more elegant; though that is to be rather plain than rich, as well in its wainscot as furniture, and to be new-floored. The dear gentleman has already given orders, and you will soon have workmen to put them in execution. The parlour-doors are to have brass-hinges and locks, and to shut as close, he tells them, as a watch-case: “For who knows,” said he, “my dear, but we shall have still added blessings, in two or three charming boys and girls, to place there in their infancy, before they can be of age to be benefited by your lessons and example? And besides, I shall no doubt entertain there some of my chosen friends, in their excursions for a day or two.”
How am I, every hour of my life, overwhelmed with instances of God Almighty’s goodness and his! O spare, blessed Father of Mercies, the precious life of this excellent man; increase my thankfulness, and my worthiness;–and then–But what shall I say?–Only that I may continue to be what I am; for more blessed and happy, in my own mind, I cannot be.