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ever, who benefited by his moralities. | vealed to me their love-secrets, in order to induce The following incident shows the lad in a me to give them copies to write after, or correct, more curious light :for answers to their lovers' letters; nor did any one of them ever know that I was the secretary "From my earliest youth I had a love of let-to the others. I have been directed to chide, ter-writing. I was not eleven years old when and even repulse, when an offence was either wrote, spontaneously, a letter to a widow of taken or given, at the very time that the heart near fifty, who, pretending to a zeal for relig- of the chider or repulser was open before me, ion, and being a constant frequenter of church overflowing with esteem and affection, and the ordinances, was continually fomenting quarrels fair repulser, dreading to be taken at her word, and disturbances, by backbiting and scandal, directing this word, or that expression, to be among all her acquaintance. I collected from softened or changed. the Scripture texts that made against her. As with her lover's fervour and vows of everlasting One, highly gratified suming the style and address of a person in love, has said, when I have asked her direction, years, I exhorted her, I expostulated with her. I cannot tell you what to write; but (her heart But my handwriting was known. I was chal- on her lips), you cannot write too kindly;' all lenged with it, and owned the boldness; for she her fear was only that she should incur slight complained of it to my mother with tears. My for her kindness." mother chid me for the freedom taken by such a boy with a woman of her years; but knowing that her son was not of a pert or forward nature, but, on the contrary, shy and bashful, she commended my principles, though she censured the liberty taken."
chid " but
A certain delicious air of self-satisfaction in this narrative shows plainly enough that the mature moralist, in the height of his fame, approved, and was on the whole somewhat proud, of these doings of the baby prig. The little monster, we believe, might even now be matched in here and there a virtuous Low Church household. The reader will recollect a set of American novels, much repandu some fifteen or twenty years ago, in which the creature flourishes, and is not " adored for its pious impudence. Pleasanter incidents, however, are in the life of this droll little precocious adviser and sage. It is clear that he was born with an old head upon his young shoulders, and his success was great among women -a success of a character curiously out of tune with the manners of the time, and at which critics, born conservators of the sneers of all the ages, continue to jeer, notwithstanding that the cycle has run round again, and a Platonic counsellor of womankind has once
more become a favourite character in life and fiction. Here is a companion picture of a much more agreeable kind:
Never was a more distinct foreshadowing of the life to come. The quaint urchin, in his little coat and breeches, a wise little undergrown old man making his comments with the infinite complacency of precocious childhood, keeping the young women's secrets, knitting his soft brows over the composition of their love-letters, ready, no doubt, to go to the stake rather than betray one of his confiding friends, is a picture full of humour and pleasant sentiment. If it were not that it is the fashion to sneer at Richardson, one would say, indeed, that there could scarcely be a prettier picture. It is not, of course, the ordinary ideal of a boy of thirteen; but yet it is indisputable
that there is a kind of man for whom, from
his childhood, the society and confidence
he lived, intended high things for me," he
and therefore it is most right and just to
In the year 1706, Richardson began his active life as apprentice to a printer. "He thought it would gratify his thirst for reading," says Mrs. Barbauld: an interpretation of the motives of a " devil" which ought to make authors in general benevolent towards the imp. But the young printer did not find the facilities he had hoped for. His master naturally wanted him to work, and not to read; and he had to steal from sleep and amusement the time which he felt himself bound to devote to the improvement of his mind. He "engaged in a correspondence with a gentleman greatly my superior in degree, and of ample fortune, who, had
necessary accidental jobs in the launching of a book into the world. This knack, towards the year 1740, suggested to some enterprising publishers the idea of a homely little work, such as might be "useful" to the ignorant. The account of this suggestion, however, had better be given in Richardson's own words:
writing prefaces, and doing other humble encouraged me to prosecute it," says the unconscious novelist. But so little was he aware of any special merit in his work, that I had not the courage," he tells his friend Aaron Hill," to send the two volumes to your ladies, until I found the books well received by the public." "I had no leisure," he adds, to another correspondent, nor knew I that I had so much the writing of Pamela.' And besides, litinvention, till I almost accidentally slid into tle did I imagine that anything I could write would be so kindly received as my writings have been by the world."
The story is sufficiently well known to want little description; and at the same time it is so completely contrary to the taste of the present age, that it is with difficulty that we can comprehend the wild plaudits with which it seems to have been received. That young women should be taught to guard their " virtue," and yet that the brutal squire who permitted himself all kinds of attempts upon it was, after all, not such an offender but that he might be pardoned when his intentions" became "honourable," and married and made very happy ever after, is the astounding sentiment of the eighteenth century as expressed in Pamela." Those letters which the virtuous papa, in all the domestic purity of his slippers and his closet, read to his "worthyhearted wife" and her young lady friend, and which were written with the intention of turning "young people into a course of reading. which might tend to promote the cause of religion and virtue," abound in nauseous details as explicit as the frankest of French novels. To be sure, Pamela is spotless; and there is no dangerous seduction of sentiment to confound the reader's sense of right and wrong; but it does not seem to occur to the author that his heroine's delicacy of mind is in the slightest degree impaired by the assaults made upon her, or that the coarse contest is anything but a sublime trial and victory of feminine purity. Such, there is no doubt, was to a great extent the sentiment of the age. Why is old Lady So-and-So's staff like Pamela'?" said a pretty wit, in her patches and powder. "Because it is the prop of virtue!" Perhaps we are not so much better in reality as we think ourselves for is not the sensation novel a resurrection of nastiness? but yet we have advanced a little in our ideal of virtue and its props. No doubts on the subject, however, seem to have troubled the satisfaction of Pamela's original audience. The book was published anonymously in the year 1740. This It was received," says Mrs. Barbauld,
"Two booksellers, my particular friends, entreated me to write for them 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. Will it be any harm,' said I, in a piece you want to be written so low, if we should instruct them how they should think and act in common cases, as well as indite?' They were the more urgent with me to begin the little volume from this hint. I set about it, and in the progress of it, 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, the above story (one of structure somewhat similar to that of Pamela ') recurred to my thoughts."
From this slight origin sprang a whole world of literary efforts, and some of the most notable books in the English language. Nothing can be more characteristic of the `man who no more suspected himself of possessing that strange light of genius within his humdrum individuality than the whole world did. What the fatherly good soul meant was to assume in print the rôle which he had evidently come to by nature in the ordinary intercourse of life. He had daughters of his own, and preferred "I do not blush," he says "to confess it," the society of women; and what more just than that, when the pen was thus put into his hand, he should employ it in warning young women against those snares of which the world was full? In the simplest good faith the bonhomme began his homely labours. There is no touch of inspiration, no thrill of poetic frenzy, about the matter. A little pleasant natural complacency, something of that unctuous amiability which characterizes the giver of good advice, a little fuss, a pleasant excitement, and flutter of interest in the dutiful feminine household. Thus 'Pamela' came into the world. Richardson was over fifty by this time. He had all the settled habits of a punctual tradesman, and of a man early married and long habituated to the calm yoke of domestic life. His first critics were his wife and a young lady visitor, who used to come to my little closet every night with, Have you any more of" Pamela," Mr. R. ? – -we are come to have a little more of "Pamela." """
with a burst of applause from all ranks of tion. The spiteful meaning has all evapopeople." Its tendency was considered so rated by process of time; and perhaps the excellent that popular divines recommended highest claim of Pamela' to consideration it from the pulpit. Ladies at Ranelagh, in now is, that it was the occasion of producthe height of gaiety and fashion, held up ing another work of quality much less morthe slim volumes to each other "to show tal than itself. Fielding pays the kain or they had got the book that every one was toll to the devil - which seems to have talking of." “Mr. Pope says it will do more been exacted from that age, as it was from good than many volumes of sermons. I the medieval artificers, who built bridges have heard them (Pope and Allen) very and founded cities by the help of the Evil high in its praises, and they will not have One—with a certain jovial readiness. But any faults to be mentioned in the story. I disgusting as are his preliminary chapters, believe they have read it twice apiece at we are not sure that they are really worse least," says Richardson's brother-in-law. than Pamela's elaborate defence and de"Mr. Chetwynd says," adds the same au- tailed account of her various dangers; and thority, that if all other books were to be Richardson has nothing which can compare burnt, this book, next to the Bible, ought with the conception of Parson Adams. to be preserved." Other enthusiastic con- This wonderful, simple, patriarchal, wise, temporaries declare it to be "the best book and innocent and foolish priest — with his ever published." learning and his absence of mind, his tender heart, his spotless character, his sympathy and severity — is one of the first and finest figures in that gallery of worthies which has since expanded so widely. He stands between Sir Roger de Coverley and Uncle Toby, one of the earliest of those matchless pictures, made with a smile on the lip and a tear in the eye, which enrich English literature. And there are few greater marvels in literary history than the fact that such a conception was brought into the world, in the first place, by a rival's spiteful impatience of public approbation as shown to the author of the pioneer story the novel which had sounded the waters, and made the chart, and opened the dangerous yet triumphant way. Thanks to that alchemy of genius which works the base alloy out of the gold unawares, and defeats even its own evil motives when once its splendid activity is fully got to work, Fielding's book, which began in malice and filthiness, rapidly cleared into a real masterpiece of art. A greater compliment could not have been paid to Pamela. It is the grand distinction of that pretty, voluminous, simple, and prudent maiden.
The story was translated almost immediately into English and Dutch-that language, now so unknown, being then the familiar tongue of our closest allies. And it produced for Richardson a crowd of correspondents, and fame which was entirely beyond his expectations. A spurious continuation, called Pamela in High Life,' was published shortly after, and led the author to give forth two additional volumes, which, however, have fallen into utter oblivion. Warburton advised him, in his own name and that of Pope, to "make it a vehicle for satires upon the fashions and follies of the Great World, by representing the light in
"I opened this powerful little piece," says Aaron Hill, while still unaware, or affecting to be unaware, of its authorship, "with more expectation than from common designs of like promise, because it came from your hands for my daughters; yet who could have dreamed he would find, under the modest disguise of a novel, all the soul of religion, good-breeding, discretion, good-nature, wit, fancy, fine thoughts, and morality? It will live on through posterity with such unbounded extent of good consequences that twenty ages to come may be
the better and wiser for its influence."
Such was the reception afforded to a book which nowadays we should consider of very doubtful tendency, and upon which the most enthusiastic admirer would certainly never think of bringing up his son to virtue, as one of Richardson's admirers proposes. A still greater compliment was in reserve for it. Fielding, with a curious mixture of contempt and imitation, wrote his Joseph Andrews' avowedly as a parody upon, and trenchant satire of, the Waiting Gentlewoman, who had carried her purity to so good a market. The state of feeling which could permit such a proceeding is happily incomprehensible to ourselves. It is said the two men had been on good terms before, though there never could have been much friendship, one would imagine, between the struggling playright afloat amid all the dissipations of town, the ruined squire, with the best of blood in his veins but not a shilling in his pocket and the orderly sober citizen, warm and well-to-do, whose virtues and failings were alike respectable. Nobody except Richardson himself, who felt it deeply, seems to have considered that there was anything derogatory to the dignity of genius in this curious parody and adapta
which they would appear to the rustic Pa- | am such a sorry pruner, though greatly mela when she was introduced to them." But luxuriant, that I am apt to add three pages satire was not Richardson's forte; and the for one I take away! Altogether I am frecontinuation of Pamela is as dead as any quently out of conceit with it." But still of the other secondary novels of the day. the work went on. It gave all his friends a subject to write about, and added a zest to his homely life. During those tranquil passing years, which seem to go like so many days (the time of the '45, when Scotland was being rent in sunder, and Charles Edward going through his martyrdom, and the Scots lords being beheaded and quartered almost under the eyes of our placid novelist!) Richardsou, in his snug closet, after his day's work, went on slowly elaborating his story. Some parts of it appear to have been sent before publication for the criticism of his friends at a distance; and it was regularly read and submitted to the judgment of his home circle, which included a
After this curious blaze of sudden excitement and success, quiet fell once more upon the printing-office, with the printer's house over it, in Salisbury Court, and over the pleasanter home at Hammersmith. The good tradesman went back to his business; he opened his house hospitably to his intimates; he wrote his little letters, full of a soft purr of satisfaction and content. He was pleased with himself, pleased with his friends, and perhaps felt that the world itself could scarcely be so wicked, since ‘Pamela' had so lively a reception in it. The kindly simple heart of the man is very well expressed in his letters, nothwithstanding this purring of complacency. When he varying number of young ladies who seem hears that one of his friends has an unwhole- to have been in the habit of paying long vissome residence, and is subject to perpetual its at his hospitable house, and whom he illness in it, he puts his own country-house called his daughters, and corresponded with immediately at that friend's disposal. He in the most voluminous and sprightly mansends the young ladies copies of 'Pamela,' ner. and toy-books for the children. With a "He used to write in a little summer-house softer instinct still he consoles a dissatisfied or grotto, as it was called, within his garden, poet over the apparent failure of his works. before the family was up; and when they met at Your writings require thought to read and breakfast he communicated the progress of his to take in their whole force, and the world story, which by that means had every day a has no thought to bestow. I do not think,' fresh and lively interest. Then began the critihe adds, as so many benevolent critics have cisms, the pleadings for Harriet Byron or Clesaid with the same object, "that, were Mil- mentina; every turn and every incident was ton's Paradise Lost' to be now published eagerly canvassed, and the author enjoyed the as a new work, it would be well received. benefit of knowing beforehand how his situations Shakespeare, with all his beauties, would, would strike.” as a modern writer, be hissed off the stage." Everything he says is full of the same goodnature and bland patriarchal kindness. Success evidently had nothing but a softening effect upon him. The only touch of bitterness in all the six not over-lively volumes of his correspondence is directed against Fielding, of whom he speaks with a certain acrid offence which is quite comprehensible,
to say the least.
In this quietness, his biographer tells us, eight years were passed without any further appeal to popular sympathy and admiration. But the interval was not one of idleness. Within a year or two of his first publication, the plan of Clarissa' seems to have so far ripened in his mind that his correspondents were informed of it. In 1774 he informs Dr. Young (of the Night Thoughts') that "I have not gone so far as I thought to have done by this time; and then the unexpected success which attended the other thing," he adds, "instead of encouraging me, has made me more diffident. And I have run to such an egregious length, and
One of the members of this little conclave
thus describes the scene; "The grot, the garden," she exclaims, rush upon my view".
"And then a choir of listening nymphs appears
And by those conscious smiles confess them
The patriarch himself gives, however, a description of this pretty domestic life from a point of view less reverential and more consistent with the light-mindedness which is common, we fear, to young womankind.
"I never knew one of you girls," he complains playfully," put out of your course for the pleasure of the poor man, whom, nevertheless, you profess to honour. His leisure time is generally in a morning. Did ever any one of you rise an hour sooner in favour to him? You were never visible till the breakfast-table had been