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Richardson, Samuel. Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded.

[In a series of familiar letters from a beautiful young damsel to her parents. Now first published in order to cultivate the principles of virtue and religion in the minds of the youth of both sexes. A narrative which has its foundation in truth and nature; and at the same time that it agreeably entertains, by a variety of curious and affecting incidents, is entirely divested of all those images, which, in too many pieces calculated for amusement only, tend to inflame the minds they should instruct.]


Book I

Pamela Andrews, a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl, has been serving as a waiting-maid to Lady B. of Bedfordshire for three years. The good lady provided her with genteel education in reading, music, and needlework. After the lady's death, her son and Pamela's new master considers sending the girl to wait on his sister, Lady Davers. He drops the design, apparently to avoid exposing the beautiful maid to the danger embodied by the lady's nephew. After about a year in Esquire B.'s service, Pamela becomes the object of her master's amorous inclinations. He surprises her in a summer-house and kisses her against her will. Pamela starts sleeping in one bed with Mrs Jervis, the house-keeper, out of fear of being undone by her master. Pamela wonders that her genteel master demeans himself so as to think of a low-born maid. Pamela's parents, John and Elizabeth Andrews, would have their daughter lose her life rather than her honour and Pamela has the same preference. Mr B. calls Pamela to the late lady's dressing room where he takes her on his knees and kisses her again despite her protests. Pamela manages to escape in another room and lock herself in, after which she suffers a fainting fit. Pamela decides to return home to share poverty with her parents in order to preserve her innocence.

Before she can be dismissed, Pamela must finish flowering a waistcoat for her master. She prepares herself for her departure and gets herself a set of modest clothes which will better fit the humble condition to which she returns than the rich dresses that she got to wear from her lady. When she presents herself in her new clothes to Mrs Jervis, she does not recognize Pamela at first. Mrs Jervis forces her to Mr B. in a jest, thinking that he will not recognize Pamela either. He does recognize the girl but makes use of the occasion to call her Pamela's sister and kisses her again. In the night Mr B. hides himself in a closet in Mrs Jervis's room and when Mrs Jervis and Pamela undress and go to sleep, he leaps into their bed. He kisses Pamela but when he puts his hand into her bosom, she suffers a fainting fit. Mrs Jervis manages to protect her from any further harm. In the morning Mrs Jervis decides to leave her service together with Pamela, despite her needing the employment to pay off debts on behalf of her children. Mrs Jervis was born a gentlewoman but she fell in misfortunes. Pamela is happy when Mr B. eventually takes Mrs Jervis back but she refuses to stay herself.

Pamela packs her things and invites Mrs Jervis to see that she does not take anything which is not her own. Mr B. watches the scene hidden in a closet. He approaches Pamela and declares his admiration for her. He promises to support Pamela's father if she consents to his proposals and suggests that she might get a husband in the person of pastor Arthur Williams from Lincolnshire. He accompanies his proposals with kisses. Pamela is frightened and pleads to be returned to her parents. Mr B. reproaches her as impertinent and indiscreet, for she prefers her honesty to obedience to her master and writes about him in letters to her parents. Mr B. owes that he read her letters but does not mention that he kept her last letters describing his advances to Pamela instead of sending them to her parents.

Pamela is dismissed and a chaise is prepared to take her home. Instead of driving Pamela to her parents, the coachman abducts her according to the orders of his master to Mr B.'s Lincolnshire estate. Pamela is kept captive and guarded by the heartless and rough Mrs Jewkes. Pamela's father is alarmed when his daughter fails to arrive and walks to Mr B.'s estate to inquire after her. Mr B. claims that he sent Pamela to the family of a London bishop in order to save her from an affair with the young but poor clergyman Mr Williams. Pamela receives a letter from her master who assures her of his honest intentions and prescribes her a letter that she is to write to Mrs Jervis. The letter is to be forwarded to Pamela's parents and is to assure them of her safety. Pamela secretly receives a letter from John Arnold, the footman who carried out the correspondence between Pamela and her parents. He confesses that he was paid to deliver all her letters to her master first and reproaches himself for being the tool of Pamela's ruin.

Pamela engages in a secret correspondence with the sympathetic Mr Williams. They hide their letters under loose tiles near the sunflower in the garden. Pamela frequents the place under the pretext that she plants beans to occupy herself. Mr Williams applies successively to Lady Jones, Lady Darnford, and Mr Peters the clergyman to help deliver Pamela from her captivity. All of them refuse because they are dependent on Mr B. for living. Mr Williams proposes to Pamela both out of enchantment with her and as a means to help her escape. Mr B. writes a letter to Pamela and once again suggest her marriage to Mr Williams. Mr Williams is to be promoted to a higher post vacated by the decease of his predecessor. He rejoices at the promotion which will help him to support a wife sufficiently, now that he has encouragement from his master to marry Pamela. Pamela however does not think of becoming a wife, she prefers the duty to her parents. Mr Williams sets out to deliver a bundle of Pamela's letters to her parents for Pamela keeps on writing secretly to them in her captivity. On his way he is robbed and Pamela's letters, in which she plans her escape, are found on him. The robbery was arranged by Mr B. who falls in rage at Pamela's conduct and calls her an artful and deceitful creature.

Mr B. writes a letter to Mrs Jewkes in which he orders her to guard Pamela even more carefully than before. Pamela's fate will be decided within three weeks, when he returns from a visit to relatives in London. The letter to Mrs Jewkes and another one to Pamela are accidentally swapped so that Pamela learns about Mrs Jewkes's instructions. Another person, the Swiss Monsieur Colbrand, is sent to guard Pamela. Mr Williams is thrown in prison and the penitent footman John, who was also ready to assist Pamela in her escape, is turned away. Out of fear from Mr B., Pamela decides to try to escape on her own. She has got a key to the back-door in the garden from Mr Williams so in the night she steals out of her bed to the garden. She finds that the lock at the door was changed and a new padlock added. She tries to climb the wall but the bricks crumble and she falls back and hurts herself. She considers drowning herself in a pond but then she recalls the duty to her parents and the inviolability of life given to her by God. She is found exhausted and injured lying in a garden hut the next morning and is brought to bed.

Mr B. arrives, torn between love and hatred for Pamela. He tries to belittle her by ordering her to serve him dinner but Pamela trembles so much that she cannot do so. He procures a series of written articles to which he expects a written reply. In the articles he makes Pamela swear that she never encouraged Mr Williams's proposals. Then he promises to provide for her and her parents generously under the condition that she consents to live with him as his mistress. If he continues to like her still after a year, he may marry her afterwards. Pamela confirms that she favours neither Mr Williams nor any other man but refuses the rest of the articles. Mr B. pretends that has must depart on business but he stays in the house and steals himself in Pamela's chamber. He dresses himself as Nan, the maid with whom Pamela shares the bed, and in the night he takes Pamela by surprise. Mrs Jewkes, Pamela's other bedfellow, helps him to hold her hands. Pamela is frightened so much that she falls into a fainting fit. When she recovers, she is assured that her innocence was preserved. Mr B. realizes that violence is ineffective with Pamela so he changes his behaviour completely and begins to court her.

Book II

Pamela secretly receives an anonymous letter warning her against a sham marriage which is supposedly planned by Mr B. After the total of some five or six weeks of Pamela's confinement and her diligent letter writing, Mrs Jewkes gets hold of Pamela's letters and hands them over to Mr B. Pamela is obliged to give up all the letters that she has on her for Mr B. to read. The letters convince Mr B. of Pamela's genuine innocence and move him so as to release her immediately. When she is on the way to her parents in a chariot provided by Mr B., Pamela is reached by a letter from him expressing his passionate love for her and begging her to return. Pamela realizes her own love for Mr B. and returns immediately. She finds Mr B. feverish and sick out of love to her. Mr B. repents his former behaviour to Pamela and proposes to her. She accepts despite the feelings of her own unworthiness of her generous master. She pleads for Mr Williams who suffered unjustly for her and Mr B. has him released from prison.

Pamela's father arrives to inquire after his daughter because he could not believe the letter in which she intimated him the happy news of her planned marriage. He is ready to disown Pamela if she turns out to be undone but is overjoyed to find her still innocent. A private chapel in the garden is prepared for the marriage service. It is inaugurated by a Sunday service held by Mr Williams and assisted by Pamela's father, who is a clergyman, as a clerk. The marriage of Pamela and her master is secret for Mr B. does not wish to introduce Pamela sooner than they return to his estate in Bedfordshire. Pamela pleads for her former fellow servants who fell from her master's favour by assisting her. Mr B. consents and takes all of them back, that is Mrs Jervis the house-keeper, Jonathan the butler, John the footman, and also Mr Longman who wrote the anonymous warning to Pamela.

Mr B. introduces Pamela to the neighbouring gentry in Lincolnshire, including Sir Simon and Lady Darnford with their two daughters, Mr Peters with spouse, and others. Pamela immediately wins affection of all by her virtuousness, beauty, and natural gracefulness. Mr B. must depart on business and during his absence Lady Davers, his sister, arrives together with Jackey, her rakish nephew. The strong-headed and proud Lady abhors both the ideas of the low-born Pamela being her brother's mistress or being his wife. She treats Pamela harshly, insults her, and would have beaten her if Mrs Jewkes had not interposed. Following her husband's instructions, Pamela must not tell her openly that she is Mr B.'s wife, yet at the same time she must not demean herself. Lady Davers refuses to let Pamela leave for Sir Simon's house where she is expected to meet her husband. In order to keep her engagement, Pamela jumps out of a window, for the parlour is in the basement, and manges to get away.

Mr B. and Lady Davers argue passionately about Pamela for Lady Davers refuses to acknowledge her as Mr B.'s wife. Mr B. falls in rage and gets angry even with Pamela herself when she seeks him out in the garden to plead for his sister. They are eventually all reconciled. Pamela draws from this incident several lessons which she writes down in her journal as a series of four dozen injunctions to follow in matrimony. Pamela accidentally gets acquainted with young Miss Goodwin, a six or seven year old girl who is the illegitimate daughter of her husband. Mr B. seduced Miss Sally Godfrey, a daughter from a genteel family, who gave birth to the child and left her in custody while she moved to Jamaica where she is now happily married. Pamela immediately likes the child and wishes to bring her up as her own. Pamela makes a highly favourable impression on the neighbouring gentry also in Bedfordshire, which is her new home. Mr B. pays off the debts of Pamela's parents which were left behind by Pamela's two wicked brothers, now both dead. He intends to settle the parents in his Kentish estate and to provide them with stock and annual rent. Pamela intends to make use of her rise to assist the poor and less fortunate than her.

Pamela's letters come to an end. The editor briefly concludes her story and draws moral lessons. Pamela made a charming wife to her reformed husband and they brought up a number of children. Young Miss Goodwin came to live with them and was herself married to a virtuous man of fortune. Pamela continued to serve as the best example of Christian morality to all of her neighbours.



Pamela starts rather as passive victim. At the beginning of her master's approaches, she does little more than crying, curtsying, and fainting. Later during her constraint, she defends her innocence with such eloquence and carefully constructed arguments that would be fitting more to a priest than to a sixteen-year-old girl servant. She writes verses, sings hymns whose words she adapted to her situation, she tries to move the conscience of her persecutors. After her marriage, she becomes a true model of Christian morality by not forgetting her humble position, continuing her virtuous life, and serving as an example to others.

Pamela is perfection personified. She does not have a single flaw, not even an innocent one. When she writes to her parents, it is not idle occupation but observing her duty and finding pleasure in it. When she watches herself in the mirror in her new clothes, it is not to admire her beauty but to be grateful that the modest dress makes her look fitter to her humble position. When she indulges in reading, it is not to divert but to instruct herself.

Pamela manifests all the virtues of Christian morality. She is dutiful to her parents and loves them second only to God. She shows Christian forbearance and is ready to forgive all who wronged her, however great their guilt. She values her life as a gift provided to her by God which she has no right to terminate and relies on divine Providence to deliver her. She loves even her enemies and keeps on praying for them and wishing them well. She is a model of Christian charity, she gives most of the money she gets away to the poor. She perceives all of her difficulties as trials by which God tests her worthiness.

Pamela's example of virtuousness makes others take delight in being virtuous themselves. She wins affection wherever she goes, she reforms the rake of her husband who ends up intent on imitating Pamela's virtuousness himself. Pamela makes a bridge between the rich and the poor not only by being a waiting-maid who married her master but also by relieving the suffering of the poor by her continuing charity after she rises to the position of wealth and status. She removes her husband's pride of aristocratic condition by convincing him in herself that it is not birth or appearance but rather personal qualities that make one a person of merit.


  • Author

    Samuel Richardson. (1689 - 1761).
  • Full Title

    Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded
  • First Published

    London: C. Rivington and J. Osborn, 1740.
  • Form

    Epistolary novel.

Works Cited

Richardson, Samuel. Pamela. 1740. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.


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