Or, Virtue Rewarded
By Samuel Richardson (1689-1761)
A Study Guide
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2008
.......Fifteen-year-old Pamela Andrews is a servant at an estate in the county of Bedfordshire, England. She keeps a journal and frequently writes home to her impoverished parents, John and Elizabeth Andrews. In her latest letter, she reports news of the death of her elderly employer, Lady B., but says her son, Squire B., plans to retain her and the rest of the staff. She encloses in the letter four guineas the young man gave her as a gesture of good faith. All he asks is that she remain a good and diligent employee.
.......Before she has a chance to seal and send the letter, which she wrote in the deceased woman’s dressing room, the squire enters and reads it. Pamela is embarrassed. However, he compliments her on her generosity toward her parents and on her handwriting and her ability to spell.
.......“I see my good mother’s care in your learning has not been thrown away on you,” he says.
.......Pamela sends the letter via the young master’s footman, John, who is traveling in the direction of her parents’ home. Sometime later, she receives a letter from her parents thanking her for the money but warning her never to compromise her virtue for material gain.
.......“I hope the good ‘squire has no design,” they say, fearing that an ulterior motive was behind his generosity.
.......Pamela writes back to say that their letter has planted suspicion in her heart, but she assures them that “I never will do any thing that shall bring your grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.” She also notes that the housekeeper, Mrs. Jervis, treats her respectfully.
When the the squire’s sister, Lady Davers, comes to Bedforshire to visit her brother, she tells him it is improper for so pretty a girl as Pamela to be living under the roof of a bachelor, Pamela reports in a second later. Instead, Lady Davers says, Pamela should live with her. The squire agrees to the arrangement.
.......However, the squire delays relocating Pamela. In the meantime, he gives her his deceased mother’s fine silk clothes, as well as shifts, handkerchiefs, and aprons. Pamela sends the clothes to her mother. A short while later, Pamela tells her in another letter that the squire has given her more garments and exquisite shoes. After Mrs. Andrews writes back to remind her daughter to keep on her guard, Pamela replies that the squire has decided to keep her at Bedfordshire, for he fears that the nephew of Lady Davers might make advances toward her.
.......But it is the squire who poses the threat. One day in the summer house of his estate, he puts his arm around her without warning and kisses her. When she protests strongly, he becomes very angry but then offers her gold to keep the incident a secret. She refuses the money and later writes to her parents about the incident and tells Mrs. Jervis about it. The housekeeper sympathizes with her but says the squire probably won’t bother her again. Pamela then moves into Mrs. Jervis’s room.
.......Sometime later, the squire angrily scolds Pamela after he learns that she has informed her parents and Mrs. Jervis of his behavior. Now, he says, his reputation is compromised. However, after calming down, he thrusts himself upon her, kissing her and alluding to her as Lucretia–an allusion with which Pamela is familiar–then fondles her. (According to ancient Roman legend, Lucretia was a beautiful woman who refused to yield to the advances of Tarquin, the lustful son of a king. So he took her by force. In his long poem The Rape of Lucrece, Shakespeare presents a full accounting of this legend. To read the summary of this poem, click here.) When Pamela breaks away and runs to another room, he rips off a piece of her dress. However, she closes and locks the door before he can continue his pursuit. Then she faints. When she comes to, Mrs. Jervis is at her side. Apparently, after she fainted, the squire looked through the keyhole, saw her lying on the floor, summoned Mrs. Jervis, and broke open the door.
.......Later, in front of Pamela and Mrs. Jervis, the squire attempts to downplay the incident, claiming that Pamela exaggerated the details. When he asks Mrs. Jervis for her opinion, she sympathizes with Pamela but is afraid to accuse her master of wrongdoing. At this point, Pamela has made up her mind to leave Bedfordshire and return home. However, she decides to remain at Bedfordshire to complete a waistcoat she has been fashioning for the squire. Mrs. Jervis assures her it will be safe to stay awhile. Besides, Pamela has worked hard on the coat and observes in a letter to her parents, " I never did a prettier piece of work; and I am up early and late to get it over; for I
long to be with you."
.......Sometime later, several of the squire's aristocratic neighbors visit his Bedfordshire estate. Among them are Lady Arthur, Lady Brooks, Lady Towers, and a countess. They compliment Pamela on her beauty, and Lady Towers adds, "I should never care, if you were my servant, to have you and your master in the same house together." Laughter, laden with innuendo, follows this remark.
.......One day the squire proposes to give Pamela’s parents fifty guineas a year if she pledges to marry the Rev. Arthur Williams, the squire’s chaplain at Lincolnshire. (The proposal is, of course, a ploy to keep her within reach.) When Pamela refuses the offer, he decrees that she may return home the next morning and will order a carriage to await her. As she prepares to leave, Mrs. Jervis gives her five guineas from the master.
.......However, after the carriage driver takes her five miles on the road toward her home, he turns off and takes her to the squire’s Lincolnshire estate instead. At this point in the story, the reader learns that John, the footman charged with delivering Pamela's letters, has first diverted all of them to the attention of the squire. The latter has read each of them and has held back recent ones.
.......At Lincolnshire, Pamela is a virtual prisoner under the watchful eye of the housekeeper, Mrs. Jewkes. Not long after Pamela’s arrival, she meets the Rev. Williams. He has an apartment at the Lincolnshire estate but resides most of the time in a village three miles away, where he operates a Latin school and sometimes preaches for the village minister at Sunday services. He is sensible and sober, and he sympathizes with the deeply distressed Pamela. However, there is little he can do to liberate her, for he depends on the squire for his livelihood. When he talks with Mrs. Jewkes about Pamela’s plight, she rebuffs him. She has the authority to ban him entirely from the Lincolnshire estate if she so desires.
.......Mrs. Jewkes follows Pamela everywhere, even when she goes for walks on the grounds alone or with Williams. However, Pamela and the minister communicate in secret via messages left between rocks in the flower garden. They devise an escape plan that requires the help of others. In agreeing to assist Pamela, Williams is taking a considerable risk, for he appears to be in line for a ministerial promotion–with a generous salary paid by the squire. When he asks local citizens–Lady Jones, Sir Simon Darnford, and Lady Darnford–whether they might lodge Pamela for a time if she escapes from the squire's estate, they refuse to take part. When he asks another minister, Mr. Peters, the same question, Peters tells Williams, "What! and embroil myself with a man of Mr. B.'s power and fortune! No, not I, I'll assure you!–"
.......Moreover, because Squire B. seems to have eyes and ears everywhere (including those of Sir Simon), he learns of Pamela's desire to escape with the assistance of Williams. After accusing Williams of “perfidious intrigue with that girl . . . and acknowledged contrivances for her escape," he orders his attorney, Mr. Shorter, to bring charges against the minister for failure to pay an overdue debt. Williams ends up in jail.
.......Pamela tries to escape on her own by scaling the wall on the estate, but she falls and suffers injuries to her shins and an ankle. Maids have to carry her back to the house, where she is bedridden while recuperating.
.......Oddly, though, in spite of the squire’s treatment of her, she cannot bring herself to hate him. When she learns that he almost drowned while crossing a creek during a hunting expedition, she writes in a letter to her parents, "When I heard his danger, which was very great, I could not in my heart forbear rejoicing for his safety; though his death would have ended my afflictions . . . O what an angel would he be in my eyes yet, if he would cease his attempts, and reform!"
.......One day, while Pamela sits outside getting fresh air, Mrs. Jewkes and others rush from the house and surround her, claiming she was about to escape. Mrs. Jewkes raises a closed fist to strike her, but Monsieur Colbrand–a huge man hired to help keep watch on Pamela–stops the cruel housekeeper, saying it appeared that Pamela was merely resting without any inclination to run off.
.......Meanwhile, the squire arrives for a sojourn at the estate. When Mrs. Jewkes accuses Pamela of attempting another escape, he sharply reprimands her as a troublemaker. Then, what happened at Bedfordshire begins to repeat itself at Lincolnshire: He makes advances toward her again and again, this time with Mrs. Jewkes encouraging him. He also accuses her of attempting to beguile Mr. Williams, a charge which she denies.
.......Frustrated that he can get nowhere with her, the squire then offers her five hundred guineas to do with what she wishes and proposes to give an estate in Kent–along with its considerable income–to her parents. In addition, he promises to extend his favors to any relatives she designates and offers her new clothes, two diamond rings, a diamond necklace, and a pair of earrings. Lastly, he proposes to put all of his servants at her command and assign two servants to attend on her personally.
.......In return for these favors, he says, she must agree to be his mistress. After one year, he says, he will marry her. Pamela refuses everything. In particular, she notes that becoming his mistress would turn her into a harlot. “What, sir, would the world say, were you to marry your harlot? That a gentleman of your rank in life should stoop, not only to the base-born Pamela, but to a base-born prostitute? Little, sir, as I know of the world, I am not to be caught by a bait so poorly covered as this!"
.......Finally, the squire gives up and grants her wish to her return to her parents. On her way home, accompanied by Monsieur Colbrand and the coach driver, Robin, the travelers stop at an inn. There, Pamela sits down to eat just as a messenger from the squire delivers a letter to her. In it, the squire says he has read part of a journal she left behind and was touched to learn that she was concerned for his safety when he almost drowned. Furthermore, he says, he now knows how poorly Mrs. Jewkes treated her. He also admits that he himself treated her badly. Then he declares that he truly loves her and begs her to return to Lincolnshire. However, he says, he will understand if she wishes to continue on to her home. Pamela also learns that the squire is ill.
.......She returns to Lincolnshire, where she discovers that the squire is in bed burning with a fever. The next morning, however, he is much improved, thanks to his drinking generous quantities of sack whey to make him sweat out the fever. Pamela and the squire are reconciled. It turns out that she loves him as much as he loves her, and she agrees to marry him. Later, the squire sees to the release of Mr. Williams and says that "if I have no fresh reason given me, perhaps I shall not exact the payment [that he owes the squire]."
.......By and by, Pamela’s father arrives in response to letters from her. When he sees that his daughter and her husband-to-be are happy and that Pamela has never compromised her virtue, he approves of their relationship and returns home.
.......Meanwhile, Squire B.’s sister, Lady Davers, strongly opposes a union of her brother and Pamela on grounds that the latter is a mere servant. But the squire ignores her. All is thus going well–so well, in fact, that Mrs. Jewkes has a change of heart and renounces her past cruelties to Pamela. Sometime later, Pamela and the squire marry in a private ceremony in a chapel at the Lincolnshire estate. Mr. Williams presides, Mr. Peters gives Pamela away, and Mrs. Jewkes witnesses the ceremony.
.......One day, Lady Davers–unaware that Pamela and the squire are married–tries to come between the couple by revealing that her brother had an affair in his youth with a young woman named Sally Godfrey. The squire then decides to open the book on his past so that he and his new wife will have no secrets between them. First, he tells Pamela about an incident in Padua, Italy, in which he disarmed a thug hired by a wicked nobleman to kill a friend of the squire. In Sienna, the squire dueled and wounded the nobleman, who died a month later of a fever that the squire believes was brought on by an illness, not the wound. His reason for telling Pamela about this episode, he says, is that if she ever hears of it he does not want her to think "that you are yoked with a murderer." Second, he tells Pamela about Miss Godfrey. When he was in college, Miss Godfrey's mother attempted to "draw me into marriage" with the girl, he says." I was not then of age; and the young lady, not half so artful as her mother, yielded to my addresses before the mother's plot could be ripened." He begs heaven's forgiveness for his past misdeeds but says that in the future he will deserve divine wrath if he ever wrongs Pamela.
Pamela accepts his answer but later muses, "I wonder what became of her [Sally Godfrey]! Whether she be living? And whether any thing came of it?–May be I shall hear full soon enough!–But I hope not to any bad purpose."
.......When Lady Davers is informed that Pamela and her brother are married, she refuses at first to believe that they are really husband and wife and accuses Pamela of deceiving her by pretending that she is married. A bitter quarrel erupts between the squire and his sister. However, in time Lady Davers comes to accept Pamela, and the two women even begin to get along.
.......One day the squire takes Pamela for a ride to a dairy farm famous in the region for its fine breakfasts. When he asks the farmer's wife, Mrs. Dobson, whether the governess from a nearby boarding school for girls still sends students there as a reward for good performance, Mrs. Dobson says several from the school are expected any moment. A few minutes later, the students arrive with a maidservant and seat themselves in another room. Pamela goes in and chats with the girls: Miss Booth, Miss Burdoff, Miss Nugent, and Miss Goodwin. The squire enters and greets them. A short while later, the maid takes them into the garden to show them the beehives. On their way out, Miss Goodwin curtseys to the squire, and Pamela asks whether she knows him.
......."Yes, madam . . . .It is my own dear uncle."
.......After she joins the others, the squire says Miss Goodwin is in fact the daughter of the squire and Sally Godfrey, who now lives in Jamaica with her husband. "Her mother chose that name for her because she should not be called by her own," he says. Pamela goes outside to have a word with her.
.......Pamela writes in her diary, "I took her in my arms, and said, O my charming dear! will you love me?–Will you let me be your aunt? Yes, madam, answered she, with all my heart! and I will love you dearly."
.......Afterward, the squire says, "Well, Pamela, now can you allow me to love this little innocent?"
......."Allow you, sir . . . .You would be very barbarous, if you did not; and I should be more so, if I did not further it all I could, and love the little lamb myself, for your sake and for her own sake; and in compassion to her poor mother, though unknown to me." Tears well in
.......The couple settle in at Bedforshire, where Pamela helps her husband adjust to virtuous living and he instructs her in the ways of society. The squire has granted the Kent estate to Pamela's parents. The novel ends with the following paragraph.
Here end, at present, the letters of Pamela to her father and mother. They arrived at their daughter's house on Tuesday evening in the following week, and were received by her with the utmost joy and duty; and with great goodness and complaisance by Mr. B–. And having resided there till every thing was put in order for them at the Kentish estate, they were carried down thither by himself, and their daughter, and put into possession of the pretty farm he had designed for them.
The action takes place in England in the first half of the 18th Century in the counties of Bedfordshire and Lincolnshire. Bedford, the capital of Bedfordshire, is about forty-five miles north of London. Lincoln, the capital of Lincolnshire, is about thirty miles north of Bedford. Squire B. recounts incidents occurring during his travels in Italy, Germany, and Austria; but all present action in the novel takes place in England.
Pamela Andrews: Intelligent,
beautiful, and morally upright fifteen-year-old servant in the employ of
a wealthy squire who repeatedly attempts to seduce her but fails. Pamela
helps to support her impoverished parents.
Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded is an epistolary novel centering on the relationship between a beautiful servant girl and her aristocratic master. An epistolary novel is one in which a character (or characters) tells the story through letters (epistles) sent to a friend, relative, etc., and/or through journal entries. Samuel Richardson began writing Pamela in 1739 and completed and published it in 1740.
Richardson based the novel on an account of real-life events in which a serving maid resists the amorous advances of her employer.
Fifteen-year-old Pamela Andrews, the protagonist, tells the story in first-person point of view in (1) letters she writes to her parents and other characters and (2) in a journal in which she reports daily happenings as well as the contents of letters written to her. An omniscient narrator intrudes briefly to inform the reader of events outside the scope of Pamela’s purview. The author presents the chapters in the form of letters or journal entries. The rising action and development of the conflict take place at Squire B.'s Bedfordshire estate. The conflict intensifies after Pamela is taken against her will to the squire's Lincolnshire estate. The conflict reaches its climax when Pamela is at an inn between Lincolnshire and Bedfordshire and receives a letter in which the squire declares his love for her. The long denouement of the story takes place mainly at the Lincolnshire estate after Pamela returns to the squire. The story concludes when the newlyweds return to the Bedfordshire estate. After the conclusion, the author presents observations intended to instruct the reader.
In Pamela, the central character reveals in her journal and letters the intimate details of her everyday life in language that is simple, straightforward, and conversational. This approach makes the novel easy to read and understand. Moreover, it creates a closeness with the reader, as if he or she were the recipient of the letters or the reader of the journal. There are obvious drawbacks to epistolary narration, however. As in other first-person accounts, the narrator cannot enter the minds of other characters (as in third-person omniscient narration). In addition, the narrator must be present for all the action or report it in accounts she receives secondhand. Finally, since the narrator writer her letters or journal entries after an event, the storytelling loses at least some of its air of immediacy. Nevertheless, Richardson's approach was popular with readers, and the novel sold out quickly.
climax occurs when the squire declares his love for Pamela in the letter
he sends her after she leaves his Lincolnshire estate. A minor, or secondary,
climax occurs when the squire's sister, Lady Davers, overcomes her upper-class
pride and prejudice and accepts Pamela as her sister-in-law.
Love: Romantic, Familial, Brotherly, and False
The novel is of course a love story, and Pamela is the fulcrum on which the story turns. One day, the story centers on familial love, which Pamela exchanges with her parents; the next day, on false love, or lust, which the squire attempts to inflict on Pamela; another day, on brotherly love, which Pamela exchanges with Mrs. Jervis and other coworkers; and on another day, true romantic love, which Pamela exchanges with the squire. Love conquers the cruel heart of Mrs. Jewkes and the proud heart of Lady Davers. It softens the heart of a fearsome giant, Monsieur Colbrand. It causes the squire to free the Rev. Arthur Williams from jail. It enables the squire to renounce his past wrongs. And, finally, it enables Pamela to embrace the squire's illegitimate daughter.
Preservation of Virtue
In the face of the squire's attempts to seduce her, Pamela never once gives in to him. She turns down his offers of great sums of money, servants at her beck and call, and other favors in order to preserve her virtue. Although she discovers after a time that she loves him, she refuses to bed with him outside of marriage.
Class and Gender Distinctions, Sexual Harassment
In protecting herself from the clutches of her male employer, Pamela is at a considerable disadvantage. The European culture of the 1700s gave every advantage to males, especially upper-class males. Pamela, of course, is a lower-class female servant. A pretty servant girl was easy prey for a wealthy master who took a fancy to her, for he could use his money and power to entice her or sexually harass her. After the squire begins treating Pamela as a young woman instead of a sexual object, he declares his love for her. However, his sister, Lady Davers, strongly opposes his relationship with Pamela on grounds that she is a mere servant from a lower-class family. Only after a long and painful struggle does she come to accept Pamela.
Use and Misuse of Money and Material Possessions
At first, the squire attempts to buy Pamela's favors with money and clothes. When these attempts fail, he offers her more money, more clothes, jewels, and an estate for her father and mother. But Pamela is not for sale at any price. The squire uses money in the same way with others. For example, he controls and manipulates the Rev. Arthur Williams through the money he pays him. Then he jails the minister after he is unable to pay a debt. Pamela, on the other hand, gives large portions of the money she earns to her impoverished parents. Her generosity–and her rebuffs of his attempts to buy her–set an example for him that he eventually follows. After marrying Pamela, he freely shares his bounty, telling his wife, "Give her [Mrs. Jewkes], then . . .twenty guineas, as a compliment on your nuptials. Give Colbrand ten guineas: the two coachmen five guineas each; to the two maids at this house five guineas each; give Abraham five guineas; give Thomas five guineas; and give the gardeners, grooms, and helpers, twenty guineas among them."
At the end of the novel,
the author presents observations intended to instruct the reader. Each
of the observations focuses on a theme in the novel. Following are the
The reader will here indulge us in a few brief observations, which naturally result from the story and characters; and which will serve as so many applications of its most material incidents to the minds of YOUTH of BOTH SEXES.
Study Questions and Essay Topics
1. In her letters and journal
entries, Pamela often reports the compliments others give her. For example,
in Letter IV (to her mother) she ....writes
that Lady Davers "thought me the prettiest wench she ever saw in her life."
Later in the novel, she reports that Sir Simon ....Darnford
"swore he never saw so easy an air, so fine a shape, and so graceful a
presence" as Pamela's and that he referred to her as ...."the
loveliest maiden in England." Do Pamela's frequent references to such compliments
indicate that she is vain? Explain your ....answer.
.......We people of fortune, or such as are born to large expectations, of both sexes, are generally educated wrong. You have occasionally touched upon this, Pamela, several times in your journal, so justly, that I need say the less to you. We are usually so headstrong, so violent in our wills, that we very little bear control.