"The unsearchable wisdom of God"

 Front Cover
 Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 I. Pamela: The context
 1. Richardson and Christian...
 2. Richardson's Christian...
 3. "Our spiritual warfare": Divine...
 II. Pamela: A reading
 4. On God all future good depends:...
 5. "When all human means fail":...
 6. "The unsearchable wisdom of...
 Selected bibliography
 Back Matter
 Back Cover
University of Florida University Press of Florida
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100355/00001

Material Information

Title: "The unsearchable wisdom of God" a study of providence in Richardson's Pamela
Series Title: University of Florida monographs : Humanities ;
Physical Description: vii, 130 p. : ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Fortuna, James Louis, 1943-
Publisher: University Presses of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville


Subjects / Keywords: Providence and government of God in literature   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 115-123.
General Note: "A University of Florida book."
General Note: Includes index.
Statement of Responsibility: James Louis Fortuna, Jr.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 06277775
lccn - 80014919
isbn - 0813006767 :
Classification: lcc - PR3664.P4 F6
ddc - 823/.6
System ID: UF00100355:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100355/00001

Material Information

Title: "The unsearchable wisdom of God" a study of providence in Richardson's Pamela
Series Title: University of Florida monographs : Humanities ;
Physical Description: vii, 130 p. : ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Fortuna, James Louis, 1943-
Publisher: University Presses of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville


Subjects / Keywords: Providence and government of God in literature   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 115-123.
General Note: "A University of Florida book."
General Note: Includes index.
Statement of Responsibility: James Louis Fortuna, Jr.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 06277775
lccn - 80014919
isbn - 0813006767 :
Classification: lcc - PR3664.P4 F6
ddc - 823/.6
System ID: UF00100355:00001

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Half Title
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
    I. Pamela: The context
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    1. Richardson and Christian providence
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
    2. Richardson's Christian canon
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
    3. "Our spiritual warfare": Divine providence and the trial of virtue
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
    II. Pamela: A reading
        Page 57
        Page 58
    4. On God all future good depends: The Bedfordshire section
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
    5. "When all human means fail": Temptation and deliverance in Lincolnshire
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
    6. "The unsearchable wisdom of God": The ways of providence and the reward of virtue
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
    Selected bibliography
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
    Back Matter
        Back Matter 1
        Back Matter 2
    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
Full Text

af Foia f u-niS, Mngap Nu br4

" The Unsearchable Wisdom of God "

A Study of Providence

in Richardson's


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"The Unsearchable Wisdom of God"

A Study of Providence in Richardson's Pamela

University of Florida Monographs
Humanities No. 49




"The Unsearchable Wisdom of God"

A Study of Providence in Richardson's Pamela

James Louis Fortuna, Jr.

A University of Florida Book

Humanities Monographs
Professor of Romance Languages and Associate Professor of Germanic and
Literature Slavic Languages and Literature

Professor of Philosophy Professor of Classics

Associate Professor of English and Associate Professor of Art
Graduate School Liaison

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Fortuna, James Louis, 1943-
"The unsearchable wisdom of God"
(University of Florida monographs: Humanities; no. 49)
"A University of Florida book."
Bibliography: p.
Includes index.
1. Richardson, Samuel, 1689-1761. Pamela.
2. Providence and government of God in literature.
I. Title. II. Series: Florida. University,
Gainesville. University of Florida monographs: Humanities; no. 49.
PR3664.P4F6 823'.6 80-14919
ISBN 0-8130-0676-7

University Presses of Florida is the central agency for scholarly publishing of the State
of Florida's university system. Its offices are located at 15 NW 15th Street, Gainesville,
FL 32603. Works published by University Presses of Florida are evaluated and
selected for publication by a faculty editorial committee of any one of Florida's nine
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(Tallahassee), University of Central Florida (Orlando), University of Florida (Gaines-
ville), University of North Florida (Jacksonville), University of South Florida
(Tampa), University of West Florida (Pensacola).




Since it is impossible to note fully the efforts of those who struggled
with me during the preparation of this study, the following represents
an imperfect attempt to say thank you. I wish first to thank J. Douglas
Canfield for suggesting Pamela as a dissertation topic. My debt to the
supervisor of that dissertation, Aubrey L. Williams, can never be paid.
His critical standards and attempts to toughen my skin have served
me well since graduation; and his friendship has been one of the
bright constants during a dark time of too many teachers and too few
jobs. I wish particularly to thank Matt Ouderland, who patiently
listened to my many ramblings about Pamela without falling asleep.
For timely critical and personal support, I want to acknowledge Joan
Metcalfe, John Fischer, Richard Atnally, Michael J. Conlon, Patricia
Rambo, Margaret Boles, John and Elaine Fiorino, and, most espe-
cially, Ward Hellstrom. My grateful appreciation for splendid biblio-
graphical assistance goes to Jane Crutchfield and Jane Hobbs of the
Appalachian Regional Library, Wilkes County, North Carolina, as
well as to the staff of the Graduate Library, University of Florida.
For support and friendship and love beyond any real interest in
Richardson, I want to express my deepest thanks to my parents, Mr.
and Mrs. J. L. Fortuna, Sr., Virginia (Pam) Johnson, the Reverend
Allen Laymon, Robin Ouderland, Christopher Sparks, Mamie
Sprinkle, Steve Bentley, and Bill and Margaret Swofford. Finally, to
my wife, Ann Compton, who still prefers Chaim Potok, this study is
Thanks must go also to the Graduate School of the University of
Florida for making possible the publication of this monograph.
The following publishers have given permission to use material.

Houghton Mifflin Co.: From Samuel Richardson, Pamela, or Virtue
Rewarded, edited with an introduction and notes by T. C. Duncan

vi Acknowledgments

Eaves and Ben D. Kimpel. Riverside Editions B 123. Copyright
1971 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Reprinted by permission of
the publisher.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London: From the Forster Collec-
tion of Richardson's Correspondence. Remarks on Clarissa (by Sarah
Fielding); Answer to the Letter of a Very Reverend and Worthy Gentleman
(by Richardson, dated June 8, 1749).
Oxford University Press: From The History of Sir Charles Grandison,
edited with an introduction and notes by Jocelyn Harris, 3 parts
(London, 1972); and from T. C. Duncan Eaves and Ben D. Kimpel,
Samuel Richardson: A Biography (Oxford, 1971).


I. Pamela: The Context

Prologue 3
1. Richardson and Christian Providence 9
2. Richardson's Christian Canon 24
3. "Our Spiritual Warfare": Divine Providence and
the Trial of Virtue 44

II. Pamela: A Reading
4. On God all future Good depends: The Bedfordshire
Section 59
5. "When all human Means fail": Temptation and
Deliverance in Lincolnshire 77
6. "the unsearchable Wisdom of God": The Ways of
Providence and the Reward of Virtue 96

Selected Bibliography 115
Index 125







Pamela: The Context

Mr. Pope here charged me to make his warm Compliments to
you as an honest good Man, and to tell you that he had read
Pamela with great Approbation and Pleasure, and wanted a
Night's Rest in finishing it, and says it will do more good than a
great many of the new Sermons.
Dr. George Cheyne to Richardson, Bath,
February 12, 1741 (Mullett, p. 65)





Early in the preface to Sir Charles Grandison, Samuel Richardson states
that his first novel, Pamela,

exhibited the Beauty and Superiority of Virtue in an innocent
and unpolished Mind, with the Reward which often, even in this
Life, a protecting Providence bestows on Goodness. A young
Woman of low Degree, relating to her honest Parents the severe
Trials she met with from a Master who ought to have been the
Protector, not the Assailer, of her Honour, shews the Character
of a Libertine in its truly contemptible Light. This Libertine,
however, from the Foundation of good Principles laid in his
early Years by an excellent Mother; by his Passion for a virtuous
young Woman; and by her amiable Example, and unwearied
Patience, when she became his Wife; is, after a Length of Time,
perfectly reclaimed.1

Although attached to his last novel, this preface emphasizes some of
the major concerns of Richardson's work, and it is my contention that
such terms as "Virtue," "Reward," "a protecting Providence," "severe
Trials," and a "Libertine ... reclaimed" are not casual items of diction
but, rather, point to the fundamental design of his first novel.
Moreover, this design in some sense derives from a fictive mirroring
of what was considered to be the world order of his day-a world
order which was Christian, sustained through a divine providence
both general and particular, and one in which the reward of virtue
and the punishment of vice were not the tenets of a sequestered piety
but rather things believed actually to occur in daily life. But, while it is
1. Unless otherwise indicated, I use the Riverside edition of Pamela, taken from
the first edition and edited by T. C. Duncan Eaves and Ben D. Kimpel-hereafter
cited in text. The Grandison quotation is found in Vol. 1 (p. 3) of the three-part Oxford
edition, edited by Jocelyn Harris-hereafter part and page number are cited in text.

Pamela: The Context

readily admitted that Richardson the man was a Christian, the
significance of the specifically Christian material in his novels and the
degree of his debt to the theological views of his age are still the cause
of much critical controversy.2
It is not to my purpose to give a running survey or box score of the
more than two centuries of Pamela criticism. The raptures of
Richardson's female correspondents, as well as the praise of such
contemporaries as Denis Diderot, the Abbe Prevost, Alexander Pope,
Samuel Johnson, Colley Cibber, Aaron Hill, Edward Young, Jean-
Jacques Rousseau, and others, are amply documented in the biog-
raphies and collections of correspondence listed in my bibliography.
Even the attacks--Shamela and the multitude of anti-Pamela lit-
erature-have been noted and discussed many times.3 My bibliog-
raphy also contains the interpretative and analytical material used in
preparing this study, and can serve as a beginning for anyone inter-
ested in assessing the manifold critical approaches to Pamela or in
amassing a scholarly consensus regarding its literary reputation. In
general, however, most critics have stressed (rightly) the superiority
of Clarissa to Pamela, Richardson's artistic innovations or his debt to
the theater, his proto-Freudian characterizations or his literary
theories, his preoccupation with the nuances of passion or his concern
with the phenomena of a rising middle class-while even those few
who have investigated the religious elements have often fallen short

2. Richardson himself made numerous references to his religious beliefs, such as
the statement to Lady Bradshaigh that, from his youth, he "was a church-man, who
had a profound reverence for the apostles, St. Paul in particular": The Correspondence
of Samuel Richardson, ed. Anna Laetitia Barbauld, 6:206-hereafter cited as Corre-
spondence. There is also a valuable discussion of Richardson's "Christianity" in John A.
Dussinger's "Richardson's 'Christian Vocation.' "
3. Bernard Kreissman, Pamela-Shamela: A Study of the Criticisms, Burlesques,
Parodies, and Adaptations of Richardson's Pamela. There has generally been more work
done on the religious and even providential elements in Fielding's novels than on
Richardson's. For example: James A. Work's "Henry Fielding, Christian Censor";
Allan Wendt's "The Moral Allegory in Jonathan Wild"; Martin C. Battestin's The
Moral Basis of Fielding's Art; William Park's "Fielding and Richardson"; Eric Rothstein's
"The Framework of Shamela"; and Howard D. Weinbrot's "Chastity and Interpola-
tion: Two Aspects of Joseph Andrews.
Two seminal articles dealing specifically with the implications of providence in
Fielding's novels are: Martin C. Battestin's "Tom Jones: The Argument of Design," and
Aubrey L. Williams's "Interpositions of Providence and the Design of Fielding's
Novels." My discussion of the theme of Pamela is indebted particularly to Williams's
approach to Fielding (and more recently to William Congreve), and, as will become
evident later in this study, Richardson's fictive world view, like Fielding's, is definitely a
providential one.


of placing them into a unified context.4 What is still needed, even with
the current renaissance of interest in Richardson's work, is a revalua-
tion of the Christian theme of Pamela. And, as a first step, a few words
should be said regarding perennial charges of Richardson's Puri-
tanism and his exploitation of Christian ideas.
A review of Pamela criticism reveals that it has frequently been
easier for critics to talk of various techniques, such as the use of
journal narrative, or to discover medieval, Renaissance, and Restora-
tion forerunners, than it has been to evaluate the larger implications
which Christianity holds for the work itself. In particular, there has
persisted a tendency to interchange the terms Christian, Puritan,
morality, and religion, and to accept too quickly the religious tags
offered by previous writers.5 Moreover, these tendencies have
created a fertile ground for confusion. For example, the view that
Richardson's literary roots are Puritan or Calvinist is not supported by
a careful reading of the canon, where none of the major characters in
his novels appear to be anything but orthodox Anglican and where
even Methodists are referred to as "Overdoers" by Lady G. in Sir Charles
Grandison (2, p. 498). Perhaps, however, it is Harriet Byron who best
summarizes Richardson's own sentiments when she asks:

4. A great deal of close attention has been paid to the Christian elements in
Clarissa; a sampling of the criticism should include: Allan Wendt's "Clarissa's Coffin";
John A. Dussinger's "Conscience and the Pattern of Christian Perfection in Clarissa"'
Dussinger's "Richardson's Tragic Muse"; and, most especially, the "Clarissa" sections
of Margaret Anne Doody's A Natural Passion. Moreover, the following imperfect list
contains examples of the many possible approaches to Richardson's novels-with
critical positions ranging from the socioeconomic to the neo-Freudian: Ian Watt, The
Rise of the Novel; Ira Konigsberg, Samuel Richardson and the Dramatic Novel; Mark
Kinkead-Weekes, Samuel Richardson: Dramatic Novelist; Elizabeth Bergen Brophy,
Samuel Richardson. The Triumph of Craft; Morris Golden, Richardson's Characters.
5. Perhaps growing out of the work of Katherine Hornbeak (Richardson's Familiar
Letters and the Domestic Conduct Book), this modern tendency to view Richardson's
moral sources as Puritan is present particularly in lan Watt's influential The Rise of the
Novel. For Watt, Richardson had "at best a shallow notion of religion" and Pamela
itself is in part a supreme representation of the "Puritan conception of marriage" (pp.
216, 137). A more recent and representative example is provided by Roger Sharrock's
"Richardson's Pamela: The Gospel and the Novel." Sharrock frequently interchanges
the terms, Christian, Puritan, and Calvinist, and asserts at one point that although the
social and religious traditions immediately available to Richardson were "Puritan and
middle-class;' this "Puritan moral idea" was in its "decadence" by the time Pamela was
written (72). Moreover, Sharrock's general approach to Pamela as character (that she
is an eighteenth-century exemplar of the Christian "new aristocracy" of "ordinary
men and women," p. 67) is cited by Margaret Anne Doody in support of her interest-
ing interpretation of Pamela as "pastoral comedy" and a "vital statement of Christian
equality" (A Natural Passion, pp. 34, 69).

Pamela: The Context

Am I a prude, my dear? In the odious sense of the abused word,
I am sure, I am not: But in the best sense, as derived from
prudence, and used in opposition to a word that denotes a worse
character, I own myself one of those who would wish to restore it
to its natural respectable signification, for the sake of virtue;
which as Sir Charles himself once hinted [2, p. 354], is in danger
of suffering by the abuse of it; as Religion once did, by that of the
word Puritan (3, p. 101).

It is difficult to see how Richardson, himself an orthodox Anglican,
could support a decadent Calvinism or his works be made to typify the
vestiges of English Puritanism.6
But, it also seems that an acceptance of a Puritan source for Pamela
has led some modern critics to the conclusion that the Christian
dimension of the work is somewhat opportunistic-that Richardson
uses a religious terminology to cover or to give spiritual depth to what
essentially is a secular purpose.7 In many ways, Cynthia Griffin Wolff
provides a typical example of this line of reasoning when she asserts
that all of Richardson's major characters "are engaged in secularizing
an essentially Puritan attitude, and their difficulties are those which
typified one or more generations during the early eighteenth cen-
tury,"' and that, since Richardson was forced to go beyond his Puritan
literary sources (his characters facing "worldly" rather than "religious
quandaries"), he "almost always moved in the direction of seculariz-
ing. His aim, expressed in different ways throughout the novels, was
always to discover an ethic which could prove useful and practical to a
secular reading public."8 And, for Wolff, Richardson's aim is at its

6. Not all critics view Richardson as writing out of a Puritan religious tradition-
for example, Diana Spearman, The Novel and Society, and Doody's A Natural Passion (in
particular, pp. 178-79, where she attacks Dorothy Van Ghent's insistence on a
Puritan model for Clarissa's death). Richardson himself appeared to have had a
tolerant attitude toward different sects as indicated by the Italian-Catholic episodes in
Sir Charles Grandison, 3:140-41 of that work, and by such passages in the Corre-
spondence as those found in 5:186-87 and 6:13. Despite his tolerance, however, none
of the major characters shows signs of supporting enthusiasm in any form.
7. This approach to Pamela clearly is evident in Michael Davitt Bell's "Pamela's
Wedding and the Marriage of the Lamb." More recently, however, and even after
mentioning Pamela's "fierce Protestantism" and her "spiritual development through
searching her own conscience," Doody concludes that (since the story owes much to
the "folk-tale" and "fable") "both her problem and its solution are secular. Both she
and Mr. B. possess desires which the world is capable of satisfying in a manner
conducive to happiness" (A Natural Passion, p. 99).
8. Samuel Richardson and the Eighteenth-Century Puritan Character, pp. 5, 231-


most "notorious" in Pamela-leading him to paint there a sen-
sationalistic portrait of the "sin of lust" and to put forth "unfortunate
equations of goodness with virginity and of blessedness with money"
(231). Moreover, earlier in her book, Wolff reflects the conclusions of
generations of critics concerning Pamela's ethos thus:

The superficial ethic that emerges from the novel-that the
resolutely virginal will get money-is as simple-minded as it is
offensive. Presumably it was acceptable to at least some of
Richardson's audience, perhaps because it embodied so clearly
the cant of Puritanism turned commercial. English Puritanism
had always shown a dangerous tendency to concretize the ben-
efits of virtue; and Richardson, with the caution of a man new to
the business of novel writing, backs away from any attempt to
deal with the serious, real problems that his work raises, choos-
ing instead to reinforce the prejudices of his audience (72- 73).9

Briefly, I think it is basically simplistic to interpret the religious
dimension of Pamela in this way. Such an interpretation, if offered as
Richardson's major intention, not only narrows the scope of his effort
but also fails to attack the work on its own terms. Any underscoring of
the presence of a religious ethic in a novel carries the subsequent
necessity for specifically assessing, in context, the total implications of
that ethic-beyond, I hasten to add, a charge that ultimately it should
be taken as evidence of pandering to the benighted tastes of a puta-
tively secular reading public. In general, however, the difficulty with
Wolff, and indeed with many modern critics, is their reluctance to
take the various Christian elements in Pamela as individual manifesta-
tions of a tradition which is broader and richer than such tags as
Puritanism or prudential ethics would seem to indicate. Then too,
such critical concentration on bits and pieces of eighteenth-century
Christianity has also served to obscure the unity of the novel's overrid-
ing theme.
The thesis of my study is, however, that this major theme is a

hereafter cited in text. Wolffs major intention is to investigate the "personality
problems that interested Richardson" by studying his "historical era in the light of
certain modern discoveries in ego psychology" (7), and "to demonstrate that
Richardson is heavily indebted to English Puritanism, both in his manner of defining
character and in the literary methods that he has chosen to portray individuals" (16).
9. For example, Roger Sharrock earlier concluded that since "Calvinism had
always inculcated that the Lord would reward his saints," in Pamela "the reward takes
the form of vigorous social aspiration" (73).

8 Pamela: The Context

providential one. For, I think that by correctly understanding how
providence (in many ways, the single most important theological
concern of the age) works in Pamela, most of the contingent religious
elements can be seen in context as serving a larger purpose: as literary
evidence of an eighteenth-century belief that a divine power was
perpetually at work, in and through man and nature, to protect and
reward struggling virtue. Without at least noting the existence of this
larger purpose in Pamela, moreover, a critic may very well lose sight of
an important dimension of Richardson's subsequent achievement.

1. Richardson and Christian Providence

"Morality is but as one Round of a Ladder"

Along with many divines in the Renaissance, Restoration, and eight-
eenth century, Richardson himself insists on a distinction between
morality and the Christian religion. However important morality and
ethics (or such subsidiary concepts as honor) may be for the preserva-
tion of the good in society, these are for Richardson no more equiva-
lent to the basic doctrines of the Gospels than Puritanism is to the
major thrust of English Christianity. Accordingly, toward the end of
Pamela II,1 Pamela writes to her parents of her former wishes regard-
ing Mr. B.'s progress:

There was but one thing wanting to complete all the happi-
ness I wished for in this life; which was, the remote hope I had
entertained, that one day, my dear Mr. B. who from a licentious
gentleman became a moralist, would be so touched by the divine
grace, as to become in time, more than moral, a religious man,
and, at last join in the duties he had the goodness to countenance

Further on in the same letter, Mr. B. asks Pamela, "Is there not, my
Pamela, a text, That the unbelieving husband shall be saved by the believing
wife, whilst he beholds her chaste conversation coupled with fear?" (442).
Upon her affirmative answer, he states:

Then, my dear, I begin to hope, that will be my case; for, from
a former affair, of which this spot of ground puts me more in
mind, I see so much reason to doubt my own strength, which I
1. For this brief discussion of Pamela II, I cite in the text from Pamela, 2 vols.
(London and New York: Dent/Dutton, 1963 reprint of 1914 Everyman edition),
introduction by M. Kinkead-Weekes, vol. 2.

Pamela: The Context

had built, and, as I thought securely, on moral foundations, that I
must look out for a better guide to conduct me, than the proud
word honour can be, in the general acceptance of it among us
lively young gentlemen (422).

Following this, Mr. B. speaks directly of what he sees as central to his

But I depended too much upon my own strength: and I am
now convinced, that nothing but RELIGIOUS CONSIDERATIONS,
and a resolution to watch over the veryfirst appearances of evil,
and to check them as they arise, can be of sufficient weight to
keep steady to his good purpose, a vain young man, too little
accustomed to restraint, and too much used to play upon the
brink of dangers, from a temerity, and love of intrigue, natural
to enterprising minds (423).

This distinction between the moral and the religious-the Christian
man-is insisted upon again in Clarissa, a work which, as Richardson
himself states, was written "above all, to investigate the highest and
most important doctrines not only of morality, but of Christianity."2 In
speaking of the libertines who appear in his second novel, he states
that they are not "infidels or scoffers, nor yet such as think themselves
freed from the observance of those other moral duties which bind
man to man" (I, xiii). Thus, between Lovelace and his companions,
morality is almost a social cement, a code of behavior which is neces-
sary to prevent anarchy and civil dissolution. Between Clarissa and
Anna Howe, however, it is not this kind of morality which predomi-
nates, but rather a "friendship, between minds endowed with the
2. This is not to say that the words moral and morality are never used by
Richardson to denote Christian truths. For example, compare Correspondence, 6:245,
with pp. 73 and 144 of Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson, ed. John Carroll-
hereafter cited as Selected Letters. What I am emphasizing here, and what the evidence
of the novels suggests, is that mere morality, the adherence to various rules of conduct
or civil tradition, without, as Pamela says, being "touched by the divine grace," is not,
however necessary a first step, the same thing as the "RELIGIOUS CONSIDERATIONS," the
Christian truths which, as my following chapters demonstrate, stand as the most
important thematic concerns in Richardson's novels. For the best treatment of this,
see pp. x- xi of The Apprentice's Vade Mecum, in particular Richardson's statement that
"Morality is but as one Round of a Ladder, which shall mount us to the true Christian
The citation from Clarissa is taken from p. xv of Clarissa. Or, The History of a Young
Lady, 4 vols. (London and New York: Dent/Dutton, 1965 reprint of 1932 Everyman
edition), introduction by John Butt-hereafter cited in text.


Richardson and Christian Providence

noblest principles of virtue and religion" (I, xiii), a friendship de-
pendent less upon a code of social behavior than upon a belief in the
religious order which supersedes such a code. Moreover, when,
toward the end of Sir Charles Grandison (a work in which generally
accepted concepts of honor and moral behavior serve almost as foils to
the correct religious standards of Sir Charles), Harriet Byron says,
"But Sir Charles, madam, is a Christian!" (3, p. 282), the word itself can
be taken as a concise summation and evaluation of his character
within the novel.
I have dwelt at some length upon the importance of the word
Christian for purposes of noting the confusion created by a critic who,
even though granting the significance of Christianity or religion in
Richardson's novels, lumps all spiritual-sounding words together, and
still thinks he is speaking to the point. To argue that Richardson's
works are Christian, one should be concerned primarily not just with
the individual prudential or ethical or moral aspects of them, but,
rather, with the more comprehensive religious world view upon
which they are patterned. They are to be seen, it seems to me, as well
within the mainstream of a traditional English Christianity-a body of
doctrine and thought stretching from St. Paul to Edward Young, an
ideology manifesting itself in England notjust on the theological level
but also on the literary level from Chaucer to Alexander Pope.3

"a peculiar instrument of Providence"

Within this traditional Christian mainstream, moreover, the doctrine
of divine providence represents an important aspect of Richardson's
own view of the world as it is revealed in his correspondence. For

3. For valuable discussions of Christianity and providence in Chaucer, Shake-
speare, Defoe, Pope, and Congreve see: Paul G. Ruggiers, The Art of The Canterbury
Tales; Henry Ansgar Kelly, Divine Providence in the England of Shakespeare's Histories; G.
A. Starr, Defoe and Spiritual Autobiography; J. Paul Hunter, The Reluctant Pilgrim: Defoe's
Emblematic Method Quest for Form in Robinson Crusoe; Aubrey L. Williams, "Introduc-
tion" to Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope and An Approach To Congreve. For a pertinent
examination of providence and related subjects in the Augustan age in general, see:
Martin C. Battestin, The Providence of Wit: Aspects of Form in Augustan Literature and the
Arts. And, for a valuable recent investigation of providence in eighteenth-century
drama, see J. Douglas Canfield's Nicholas Rowe and Christian Tragedy.


Pamela: The Context

example, Edward Young's evaluation of Richardson's mission as a
novelist is not empty flattery but an incisive insight into his aims and
accomplishment: "When the pulpit fails, other expedients are neces-
sary. I look on you as a peculiar instrument of Providence, adjusted to
the peculiar exigence of the times; in which all would befine gentlemen,
and only are at a loss to know what that means. While they read,
perhaps, from pure vanity, they do not read in vain; and are betrayed
into benefit, while mere amusement is their pursuit. I speak not this at
a venture; I am so happy as already to have had proofs of what I say."4
A similar evaluation addressed to Richardson is by the Dutch trans-
lator of Clarissa, Johannes Stinstra, who tells him that one "cannot
forbear to observe and venerate the hand and dispensation of Provi-
dence, whose footsteps we commonly not enough acknowledge in
particular cases, which thus from your earliest years has instillated in
your mind those happy facts, which afterwards have produced such
fine and useful fruits. However I must admire that this talent so long
has laid hidden, the whole interval from your youth to your more
advanced years."5 Throughout his correspondence, Richardson him-
self appears as a believer in providence. His evaluation of himself, in a
letter to J. B. Defreval, is reminiscent of contemporary theological
writings which stressed the intrinsic dignity of individual men and the
close association between human action and divine support: "My own
industry, and God's providence, have been my whole reliance. The
great are not great to-me, unless they are good. And it is a glorious
privilege, that a middling man enjoys who has preserved his
independency, and can occasionally (though not Stoically) tell the
world, what he thinks of that world, in hopes to contribute, though by
his mite, to mend it."6
Important events in Richardson's life and in the lives of his friends
were also frequently described in providential terms. Writing to
Thomas Edwards about a "warehouse room" fire, Richardson states
that he "had a providential deliverance" from it.7 In a letter to Mrs.
Delany, concerning both her recent "blustering" passage to Ireland
and the actions of a young lady during it, he states: "Well might the
young lady behave with magnanimity. Had she not as much reason to
rely on the care of Providence as Caesar on his fortunes, when he
4. Correspondence, 2:32-33.
5. The Richardson-Stinstra Correspondence and Stinstras Prefaces to Clarissa, ed. Wil-
liam C. Slattery, p. 60-hereafter cited as "Slattery."
6. Correspondence, 5:273.
7. Correspondence, 3:49.


Richardson and Christian Providence

encountered the Egyptian boatman in a like storm."" In a letter
dealing in part with Richardson's problems concerning Irish literary
pirates, the Reverend Philip Skelton assures him that "whether we
succeed or fail in our other endeavours, to serve our friends, there is
one in which we cannot be disappointed; I mean that proposed by my
dear friend, in soliciting Divine Providence for each other's happi-
ness."9 Writing to Sarah Westcomb concerning ways in which that lady
might offer comfort to her suffering mother, Richardson reminds
her that "God, who has so often delivered you and preserved you
against all probability, is still at hand-his power and his goodness
unabated."'0 In a letter to Edward Young dated May 24, 1759,
Richardson assesses recent events in his life and concludes by stating:
"Dear Sir, what awful Providences! In the past two years, (to go no
farther back,) what have I not suffered! But I am sure of being
entitled to your pity and prayers."'1 A final example is that of
Richardson's friend and early physician, Dr. George Cheyne, who at
one point in their correspondence counsels him to give up
apothecaries, have "Patience and Perseverance," and "trust to God
and Providence under the lowest, thinnest, and coolest diet you can
bear with in Hopes that in Time this may mend your Blood which
would infallibly mend all the rest"; at another point he reminds him
that suffering itself may be a "Means in the Order of Providence" to
teach true humility and the way of perfection.12
8. Correspondence, 4:85. Also noteworthy is Lady Bradshaigh's statement (de-
scribing her recent flight from an impending earthquake) that she "religiously"
believed that "God's providence is over all his works; and on that every serious person
must depend, whatever situation he may be in" (Correspondence, 6:3). Richardson
himself remarked on the Lisbon earthquake thus: "When the Almighty's judgments
are abroad, may we be warned" (Correspondence, 5:67).
9. Correspondence, 5:196.
10. Correspondence, 3:264.
11. Letter 145, Richardson to Young, London, May 24, 1759, Monthly Magazine
(March 1, 1819), p. 135. In Letter 108, while suggesting possible changes in Young's
Conjectures, Richardson states at one point (in a memento mori passage), "The gentle
slumber indulged to support our frail nature is from Providence, and, as such, they
gratefully and temperately enjoy its blessing. The fatal lethargy into which it is so
often perverted is the work of man, combined against himself with his worst foe; and,
as such, the wise break from it by urging to its utmost the pursuit of real immortality"
(Richardson to Young, January 14, 1757, Monthly Magazine, November 1, 1816, p.
12. The Letters of Doctor George Cheyne to Samuel Richardson (1733-1743), edited by
Charles F. Mullett, pp. 97, 100. Moreover, Cheyne viewed himself at one point in the
correspondence as "an unworthy Instrument in the Hands of Providence to preserve
and I hope in Time to recover into good Health and Spirits an honest and serious
Man to his Family and Friends" (113).


Pamela: The Context

As even these brief passages from his correspondence indicate,
when a writer such as Richardson chooses for his first fictional heroine
a defenseless waiting-maid, who, early in her trials, comforts herself
"that God who takes the innocent Heart into his Almighty Protection
... is alone able to baffle and confound the Devices of the Mighty"
(100), he is not being eccentrically self-righteous or indulging in
moralistic cant but, instead, is echoing the theological concerns of his
age. Such a writer seems only to be affirming his acquiescence in
common views of his age about the close association between the
existence of God and His providence.


Christian Providence: A Survey

The reality of God's frequent intervention in the affairs of His crea-
tion was often directly linked in Richardson's lifetime to His very
existence. During a sermon preached before the House of Commons
on April 16, 1690, Archbishop John Tillotson (Richardson's favorite
seventeenth-century divine) reminded his listeners that "Next to the
acknowledgment of God's Being, nothing is more essential to Reli-
gion, than the Belief of his Providence, and a constant dependence
upon him, as the great Governor of the World, and the wise Disposer
of all the Affairs and Concernments of the Children of Men."13 In
1754,John Leland, in a work both approved of and in part printed by
Richardson, summed up this same connection by stating: "The doc-
trine of divine providence hath a very near connection with that of the
existence of the Deity, and is no less necessary to be believed. To
acknowledge a God that brought all things into existence, and yet to
deny that he afterwards taketh care of the creatures he hath made, or

13. "Success Not Always Answerable to the Probability of Second Causes," The
Works, 2:341. As T. C. Duncan Eaves and Ben D. Kimpel note on p. 553 of Samuel
Richardson: A Biography, "Thomas Birch called Archbishop Tillotson Richardson's
'favourite,' and in the 1738 edition of Defoe's Tour is added the reflection that 'a new
Sect, lately sprung up, called Methodists, with great Pretences to Meekness, and intoler-
able Conceit and Vanity, at present seek publicly to depreciate the Memory and Works
of that truly great Man.' It also should be noted that James Mauclerc draws heavily
from Tillotson's sermons in his Christian's Magazine (London, 1748), a religious digest
"Revis'd and Corrected by Mr. Samuel Richardson, Editor of Pamela and Clarissa"
and originally published in 1737 (see Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson, pp.


Richardson and Christian Providence

that he exerciseth any inspection over them, as a moral governor, or
concerneth himself about their actions, and the events relating to
them, is, with regard to all the purposes of religion, the same thing as
not to acknowledge a God at all."'4
Moreover, there is nothing for the true Christian outside the power
and concern of God. Belief in the omnipotence and direct interven-
tion of God in the world implied for the age, and for Richardson, the
possibility that He may effectively enter into any and all events to
support the good and punish the evil: "In a word, if we allow God to
be the Governour of the World, we cannot but grant, that he orders
and disposes of all Inferiour Events; and if we allow him to be a Wise
and a Rational Governour, he cannot but direct them to a certain
End."15 Without such an active God and the frequent signs of his
intervening power, man, it was believed, would wander lost in a world
governed by chance or the whims of purely secular powers. For, as
John Balguy noted: "Were the World without a Governour, or with-
out a Governour of infinite Wisdom and Perfection, the Nature and
Circumstances of Mankind would be a scene of mere Disorder and
Because of a conviction that man's vision was limited, divines
throughout the period found it necessary to distinguish between
chance or fortune and divine providence. For most religious writers,
God's control of his creatures stood in direct opposition to beliefs in
the merely whimsical nature of creation." Thomas Burnet, speaking
14. A View of the Principal Deistical Writers, Letter 24, "Lord Bolingbroke," 1:450.
Richardson printed the second volume of this book, according to William M. Sale,Jr.,
Samuel Richardson: Master Printer, p. 184-hereafter cited as "Sale." Sale's book is
invaluable because it includes an appended list of the works published and printed by
Richardson. And, as Sale states on p. 3: "From the outset of his career Richardson
began to exercise choice over the books that he printed. As he became more and more
independent, the exercise of this choice became more clearly a measure of his
preferences and his prejudices. His press assumed a character that was in large part
the character of its master."
15. Robert South, "A Sermon Preached at Westminster-Abbey, Feb. 22, 1684/5,"
Twelve Sermons upon Several Occasions, p. 326. South is mentioned in Clarissa, 2:194.
16. The Foundation of Moral Goodness. My citation is taken from British Moralists,
edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge, 2:90. In his correspondence (June 8, 1754) with Johan-
nes Stinstra, Richardson relays an answer by Mr. Duncombe pertaining to Stinstra's
"Observations on Balguy's Tracts" as well as on the works of Tillotson ("Slattery," pp.
82- 83). Moreover, as Sale notes (p. 148), Richardson printed Balguy's A Collection of
Tracts Moral and Theological (1734).
17. While there were many religious controversies in the eighteenth century, the
most significant, especially for Providentialists, grew out of the earlier Epicurean
notion of a chance or materialistic creation of the world. Thus, when in Richardson's
circle such terms or classifications as deist or atheist were lumped together with


Pamela: The Context

of the Epicurean notion of a chance coalition of atoms. a material
theory of creation, states in The Sacred Theory of the Earth that" 'tis little
better than non-sence, to say the World and all its furniture rise by
chance, in that notion of it."18 John Tillotson, in speaking of these
neo-Epicurean notions of creation, insists at one point that such a
theory was not even as reasonable as the possibility that "twenty
thousand blind-men . sent out from the several remote parts of
England" should wander up and down and finally "meet on Salisbury-
plains and fall into rank and file in the exact order of an army."19
Robert South, in a sermon based on Proverbs 16:33 (a commonly
cited providential text), says that "as all Contingencies are com-
prehended by a certain Divine Knowledge, so they are governed by as
certain and steady Providence," and, further, that "God's Hand is as
steady as his Eye," able "thus to reduce Contingency to Method,
Instability and Chance it self to an unfailing Rule and Order."20
Again, Tillotson, in "A Thanksgiving-Sermon for the Late Victory at
Sea," states that political wisdom or success also depends upon "an
unaccountable mixture of that which the Heathen called Fortune, but
we Christians by its true name, the Providence of God; which does
frequently interpose in human Affairs, and loves to confound the wisdom
of the wise, and to turn their counsels into foolishness."21 Samuel Clarke, in

Epicurean, it was done with a view toward exposing the total incompatibility of such
ideas with orthodox Christian belief in divine providence and the continuous concern
of God for his creation. Thomas Edwards, in a letter to Richardson (January 15,
1755), states it best when, after agreeing with Richardson's own negative assessment
of Bolinbroke, he comments: "I know not whether his system may be more properly
called deistical, or atheistical; since, though in words he allows a God, he seems to
make him such a one as Epicurus did; and to think that we are beneath his notice, and
have very little or nothing to do with him. He laughs at all notions of revelation, or a
particular providence, and reckons the present life the whole of man's existence"
(Correspondence, 3:109). Richardson's own discussion of Deism and Atheism is found
in Part III of the Vade Mecum, and in Correspondence, 3:106-7, and 5:275.
The contemporary literature concerning orthodox attacks on Epicurean philos-
ophy is extensive; good examples are provided by the "Prefaces" to Thomas Creech's
translation T. Lucretius Carus, Of the Nature of Things, and Christian's Magazine, pp. 75,
164- 68. And, for excellent modern discussions of this issue see: Martin C. Battestin's
The Providence of Wit and Aubrey L. Williams's An Approach To Congreve.
18. The Sacred Theory of the Earth, Book II, p. 208. According to Sale, Richardson
printed part of this work (p. 154).
19. "The Wisdom of Being Religious," Works, 1:27.
20. "A Sermon Preached at Westminster-Abbey," Twelve Sermons, pp. 321, 322.
Proverbs 16.33, "The Lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the
21. Works, 2:457.


Richardson and Christian Providence

his Discourse upon Natural Religion, states of the power of God that:

Again; 'Tis a thing absolutely and necessarily Fitter in it self, that
the Supreme Author and Creator of the Universe, should gov-
ern, order and direct all things to certain and constant regular
Ends, than that every thing should be permitted to go on at
adventures, produce uncertain Effects merely by chance and in
the utmost confusion, without any determinate View or Design
at all.22

As William Law remarks in A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life,
moreover, nothing in the life of individual men and the creation is left
to chance:

We are as sure that nothing happens to us by chance, as that
the world itself was not made by chance; we are as certain that all
things happen and work together for our good, as that God is
goodness itself. So that a man has as much reason to Will every
thing that happens to him, because God wills it, as to think that is
wisest which is directed by infinite wisdom.23

Charles Wheatly, in a sermon printed by Richardson in 1728, insists
on this point when he asks:

When did your Studies or Affairs succeed beyond your Expecta-
tions, or even beyond your Hopes and Wishes?-Often, I hope,
you will all reply.-But perhaps you will add, that this was owing
to a lucky Hit, a happy chance, or a sudden Thought.-But who is it
(permit me to ask once more) that governs Chance, and inspires
Thought?-And if Thought and Chance descend from
Heaven;-You may undervalue them if you please:-But I shall
think them nobly born. To impute our Abilities and Success to
human Chance alone-is to conceive meaner Notions of what we
are, and what we do, than ever Heathens, with their poor, weak,
and barren Helps, ever entertained of old.24

22. 1st ed., 1706; rpt. British Moralists, 2:5. Richardson mentions Clarke in his
answer to Stinstra cited in note 16 above.
23. The Works, 4:456. Richardson printed Law's The Oxford Methodists, and The Way
to Divine Knowledge ("Sale," p. 183).
24. Fifty Sermons on Several Subjects and Occasions, 1: 139-40. This sermon
("BEZALEEL and AHOLIAB: Or, Mens Abilities and Skill the Gifts of GOD") "was preached
on 7 December 1727 before the Merchant-Taylor's School" and printed by
Richardson in 1728 ("Sale," p. 214).


Pamela: The Context

In the terms of the age, to say that chance ruled in the world was to im-
ply in effect that God had abdicated His position as the center of all
things, as the sustainer of all existence, and, subsequently, that justice,
mercy, and order itself had ceased to exist. The implications of a
universe ruled by chance are cogently described by John Tillotson in
his sermon "Success Not Always Answerable to the Probability of
Second Causes":

Were there not in the World a Being, that is wiser, and better,
and more powerful than our selves, and that keeps things from
running into endless confusion and disorder; a Being that loves
us, and takes care of us, and that will certainly consider and
reward all the good that we do, and all the evil that we suffer
upon his account. I do not see what reason any man could have
to take any comfort and joy in Being, or to wish the continuance
of it for one moment.25

At one point in Thomas Sherlock's Discourses (a work referred to as
"noble" by Richardson), there is found the similar reminder that
"were it not for the Comfort arising from this providential Care of
God over the World, the best Thing a Wise Man could do for himself,
would be to get out of it as soon as he could; the only Way to secure
himself from the Miseries and Calamities which men by their Folly
and their Wickedness are perpetually drawing down upon themselves
and others."26 And John Wilkins flatly states that "Goodness, Justice,
Dominion .. must all signify nothing without Providence in the Ap-
plication of them."27
If indeed man were ruled by the stars, or predestined by the
dictates of a fate, it was believed by providentialists that he was no
longer a reasonable person, but rather a grotesque and expendable
cog in some vast machine going nowhere and accomplishing nothing.
Fortune, usually depicted as blind, dispensing its gifts without appar-
ent plan or purpose, cannot significantly differentiate between man as
species and man as individual. Under the guidance of providence,
however, man, marked by both individuation and personality, be-

25. Works, 2:357.
26. Several Discourses Preached at the Temple Church, from vol. 5, Discourse V (based
on Acts 7:25), p. 124. For Richardson's comment on this work, see Correspondence,
27. Of the Principles and Duties of Natural Religion, Chap. 9, "Of the Communicable
Perfections of God," p. 117.


Richardson and Christian Providence

came part of a good plan as a specific being having intrinsic worth
from the moment of birth. Thus, a beliefin providence precludes the
coincidental or accidental (though not such events as seem to be mere
coincidence or accident), for such terms have no valid meaning for
reasonable creatures, but imply simply a lack of understanding of the
particular workings of providence. In the real world, whether it be a
shipwreck or the fall of a prince, an untimely death or a last-minute
reprieve of an innocent man, it was providence and not fortune at
work. Not that man was to remain passive, blindly accepting every
event of his life as God's will in the sense that he became merely an
inert tool in the hand of a master craftsman; rather, man was to be
watchful for those moments when God's will and human purpose
intersected for the accomplishment of some larger public or private
good.28 For, as it is stated in Chapter 20 of The Christian's Magazine, the
religious digest edited by Richardson:

THO God over-rules the Actions of Men, to do what he himself
thinks fit to be done; yet he lays no Necessity upon human
Actions; Men will and chuse freely, pursue their own Interests
and Inclinations, just as they would do if there were no Provi-
dence to govern them; tho' they may be restrained from doing
so much Wickedness as they would, yet all the Wickedness they
commit is their own free Choice, even when it serves such Ends
as they never thought of; and therefore they are and act like free
Agents, notwithstanding the Government of Providence.29

Believing that God watches over both the species and the indi-
vidual, English divines emphasized a doctrine of general and particu-
lar providence and a consequent system of rewards and punishments
invoked both in this life and in the next.30 General providence was
apparent in such things as the creation of the world, the sustaining of
28. Regarding "freedom of will," George Stanhope states that God "leaves us to
choose our Virtues, that so they may qualify us for a noble Recompense: And he
suffers our Vices to be our own Act, for otherwise they could not be capable of
Punishment": A Paraphrase and Comment Upon the Epistles and Gospels, 1:236-
hereafter cited as Gospels.
29. "Of Divine Providence", pp. 175-76.
30. The ways of illustrating the workings of providence and the position of man
are manifold during the period. For example, general and particular providence
frequently were illustrated by the "wheel within a wheel" of Ezekiel. See Richardson's
friend, Edward Young's An Argument Drawn from the Circumstances of Christ's Death for
the Truth of His Religion (1758). A copy of this sermon was sent to Richardson to proof
and criticize, and was printed by him ("Sale," pp. 216- 17).


Pamela: The Context

that world and of mankind, the upholding or destroying of king-
doms, and sometimes was viewed as dominating a particular or special
providence concerned for the well-being of even the lowliest of crea-
tures. John Leland thus states: "Particular events are, in the ordinary
course of things, ordered in such a manner as is subordinate to the
general laws of providence relating to the physical and moral world.
And what are usually called occasional interpositions, are properly to
be considered as applications of general laws to particular cases and
occasions."31 The more common position is, however, that of Isaac
Barrow, who saw them of equal significance and importance, simply
as two manifestations of the same divine power, "general in the
government of mankind; particular in God's dealing with each single
English religious writers often stress that since it is difficult for man
to discern the exact meaning of God's purpose in a particular instance,
he should beware of judging God by human standards. In light of this
common human limitation, Richardson himself in the Vade Mecum
underscores the folly both of trying to bring down "the Mysteries of
Almighty God" to the "Limits of our weak Capacities," and of the sub-
sequent rejection of "whatever appears not clear to our short-sighted
Reason."33 And John Wilkins speaks to this point when he warns: "...
tho' some particular Dispensations may seem unto us to be difficult
and obscure, His judgments being unsearchable, and his ways past finding
out; yet we may be most sure, that there is an excellent Contrivance in
all of them, Though clouds and darkness may be round about him, yet
righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne."34 In other
words, it is God's will and not man's that is paramount. Indeed, as
William Sherlock states (in a passage included in The Christian's
Magazine), to trust in providence "is not to trust in God, that he will do
that particular thing for us which we desire; but to trust our selves and
all our concernments with God, to do for us in every particular case
which we recommend to his care, what he sees best and fittest for us in
such cases."35 Man must bear in mind, moreover, that God "reserves
31. A View of the Principal Deistical Writers, 1:455.
32. The Theological Works, edited by the Reverend Alexander Napier, 7:46: A Brief
Exposition of the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Decalogue, To Which is Added the Doctrine of
the Sacraments.
33. The Apprentices Vade Mecum, Part III, p. 57.
34. Of the Principles and Duties of Natural Religion, Chap. 17, "Of Passive Obedience,
or Patience and Submission to the Will of God," p. 212.
35. A Discourse concerning the Divine Providence, p. 374. This passage also is included
in The Christian's Magazine (Chap. 21, p. 180).


Richardson and Christian Providence

to himself a liberty to judge whether it be good for us; but if what we
desire be good for us, our trust and dependence on God will engage
Providence on our side."36
It was common for divines to use as examples of this particular
providence those times when the helpless, the despondent, the un-
likely, or the prideful were singled out for such rewards and punish-
ments as they deserved. There was, as Robert South stated, "not the
least thing that falls within the cognizance of Man, but is directed by
the counsel of God. Not an Hair can fall from our Head, nor a Sparrow to
the Ground, without the Will of our Heavenly Father."37 No one could be
certain of knowing at the time the exact purpose behind events, for
often even a man's despondency or failure was the very means used by
God to effect His desired end. A belief in providence indeed should
cause a man to beware of despairing in the face of even dreadful

... therefore, let no Man who owns the Belief of a Providence,
grow desperate, or forlorn, under any Calamity, or Straight
whatsoever; but compose the Anguish of his Thoughts, and rest
his amazed Spirits upon this one Consideration, That he knows
not which way the Lot may fall, or what may happen to him; he
comprehends not those strange, unaccountable Methods, by
which Providence may dispose of him.38

For Tillotson, this special providence of God, "which sometimes
presents men with unexpected opportunities, and interposeth acci-
dents which no human wisdom could foresee," also "gives success to
very unlikely means, and defeats the swift, and the strong, and the
learned, and the industrious."39
The probable times for a particular intervention by God were even
capable of being systematized into lists of rules. For example, Isaac
Barrow argues that occasions of providence could be inferred from
such marks as the "wonderful strangeness of events";40 or "when
plots, with extreme caution and secrecy contrived in darkness are by
36. William Sherlock, Discourse, p. 377. For other pertinent statements concerning
the fitness of God's interpositions, see Stanhope's Gospels, 3:620, and Tillotson's
sermon "The Power of God," Works, 7:183.
37. "A Sermon Preached at Westminster-Abbey," Twelve Sermons, p. 323.
38. "A Sermon Preached at Westminster-Abbey," Twelve Sermons, p. 357.
39. "Success Not Always Answerable to the Probability of Second Causes," Works,
2: 345.
40. "On the Gunpowder-Treason," The Theological Works, 1: 455-cited in text.


Pamela: The Context

improbable means, by unaccountable accidents, disclosed and
brought to light" (458); or the seasonablenesss or suddenness of
events. When that, which in itself is not ordinary, nor could well be
expected, doth fall out happily, in the nick of an exigency, for the
relief of innocence, the encouragement of goodness, the support of a
good cause, the furtherance of any good purpose" (460); or the
"righteousness of the case" itself (465); or the "correspondence of
events to the prayers and desires of good men" (466); or God's
"dispensing rewards and punishments" according to men's just
deserts to fit the "actions upon which they are grounded" (467); or,
and most pertinent to Pamela, those times whenever

right is oppressed, or perilously invaded; when innocence is
grossly abused, or sorely beset; when piety is fiercely opposed,
or cunningly undermined; when good men for the profession
of truth, or the practice of virtue, are persecuted, or grievously
threatened with mischief; then may we presume that God is not
unconcerned, nor will prove backward to reach forth his suc-

George Hickes, in a "list" similar to Barrow's, offers as a prime exam-
ple of God's special intervention those times when His assistance 'falls
out very seasonablyfor the Relief, and Vindication of oppressed Innocence."41
And John Wilkins, in a passage reminiscent of Tillotson, emphasizes
those extraordinary providence which "have many times happened
. .. for the punishing of obstinate Sinners, and for the Deliverance of
such as were Religious, in answer to their Prayers";42 events suggest-
ing for the age the probability that, as Richardson notes in Pamela
regarding the virtuous "who are reduced to a low Estate," "God will, in
his own good Time, extricate them, by means unforeseen, out of their
present Difficulties, and reward them with Benefits unhop'd for"
(Riverside, p. 410).
Viewed within the context of a theology which was vitally con-
cerned with the manifestations of divine providence in the natural
world, such statements as those by Richardson and his friends, as well

41. "A Sermon Preach'd in the Cathedral Church of Worcester, on the 29th of
May, 1684," A Collection of Sermons, 2:34.
42. Natural Religion,, Chap. 7, "Argument From Providence and the Government of the
World," p. 77. For another list of rules, see Stanhope's Gospels, 1:311-14. Also,
pertaining to the efficacy of prayer, see Tillotson's "Success Not Always Answerable to
the Probability of Second Causes," Works, 2:354.


Richardson and Christian Providence 23

as those by English divines, surely suggest that the use of providence
in Richardson's first novel was not merely casual or decorative.
Moreover, since Richardson's later novels also mirror the religious
world view of the age in which they were written,43 with providence
forming their most important thematic concept, a brief demonstra-
tion of the presence of providential language and situation within
Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison can serve to show not only that its
prevalence in Pamela is somehow central rather than incidental to the
design and meaning of his first novel but also that it is somehow
central rather than incidental to any detailed consideration of his
novelistic career.
43. As Sale notes, the "clergy constituted the largest single group for which he
printed," and most of these works were by "more or less orthodox members of the
Church of England" (pp. 125-26). And as Richardson himself informed Edward
Young (regarding John Stanley's request that he read Heaven Opened To All Men): "I
had but little time to read anything that I thought controversial, or shocking to
fundamentals" (Letter 5, Richardson to Young, undated, Monthly Magazine, Decem-
ber 1, 1813, p. 419).

2. Richardson's Christian Canon


"When the pulpit fails": Clarissa and the Providential Theme

Early in Clarissa, and at a time when James and Arabella Harlowe are
methodically forcing an acceptance of Solmes as proof of Clarissa's
indifference to Lovelace, Clarissa remembers Dr. Lewen's advice of
"Steadiness of mind" when one is convinced of being absolutely in the
right (I, 93). Although already fearing that more trials are to come
and that even such "steadiness" might be construed as merely "stub-
bornness," "obstinacy," or prepossessionn," she nevertheless writes to
Anna Howe:

So, my dear, were we perfect (which no one can be), we could
not be happy in this life, unless those with whom we have to deal
(those more especially who have any control upon us) were
governed by the same principles. But then does not the good
doctor's conclusion recur-that we have nothing to do but to
choose what is right; to be steady in the pursuit of it: and to leave
the issue to Providence? (I, 94).1

Later in the first volume, following Lovelace's appearance in the
woodhouse and the ever increasing severity of her relatives, Clarissa
says of a proposed meeting with Solmes: "Let Mr. Solmes come and
go, as my papa pleases: let me but stay or retire when he comes, as I
can; and leave the rest to Providence" (I, 261). Shortly after the
disastrous meeting with Solmes, and in the face of threats to carry her
to her Uncle Antony's, Clarissa questions the apparent whimsicality of
her present trials:
1. Concerning "Steadiness in our Duty,' and the mixture of human effort and
Divine Wisdom during the frequent afflictions of human life, see George Stanhope's
Gospels, 4:281-83 in particular.

Richardson's Christian Canon

O my dear! what is worldly wisdom but the height of folly? I,
the meanest, at least the youngest, of my father's family, to thrust
myself in the gap between such uncontrollable spirits!-to the
interception perhaps of the designs of Providence, which may
intend to make these hostile spirits their own punishers. If so,
what presumption! Indeed, my dear friend, I am afraid I have
thought myself of too much consequence. But, however this be,
it is good, when calamities befall us, that we should look into ourselves,
andfear (I, 413).

A few pages later, and in a similarly contemplative mood, Clarissa
questions: "Who knows what the justice of Heaven may inflict, in
order to convince us that we are not out of the reach of misfortune;
and to reduce us to a better reliance, than we have hitherto presump-
tuously made?" (I, 419). Soon, writing from St. Albans following her
flight, Clarissa describes to Anna the arguments used by Lovelace to
persuade her to leave with him. During this debate, he threatens the
safety of her family if Solmes should succeed, and Clarissa retorts: "To
Providence, Mr. Lovelace, and to the law, will I leave the safety of my
friends. You shall not threaten me into a rashness that my heart
condemns! Shall I, to promote your happiness, as you call it, destroy
all my future peace of mind?" (I, 479).
Although Lovelace indeed tricks Clarissa intojust such a "rashness,"
into fleeing the trials being inflicted upon her bf the greed of her
family and their support of a match with Solmes, she nevertheless
immediately condemns herself for taking this step. While certainly
innocent in comparison with Lovelace, Clarissa is constantly aware
that leaving her parents' house was a precipitate and even prideful
action.2 At this early stage in her trials, moreover, she closely assesses
her previous conduct, and bitterly laments both her excessive reliance
upon her own strength and her willingness "to be the arbitress of the
quarrels of unruly spirits"-a willingness which she now views as "pre-
sumptuous" and "presumption punished-punished, as other sins
frequently are, by itself' (I, 486). This process of reassessment and
self-analysis continues, and, shortly before her departure for London,
she anticipates with faith much of what in fact does happen in the
coming months: "Since it is now too late to look back, let me collect all
2. See Dussinger's "Conscience and the Pattern of Christian Perfection in Clarissa,"
and Ira Konigsberg's "The Tragedy of Clarissa." Despite the significance of Clarissa's
pride in refusing to submit to her parents' wishes, I think that greater emphasis
should be placed on her initial failure to persist in her own stated belief that she must
trust to providence to support her during her early trials.


Pamela: The Context

my fortitude and endeavour to stand those shafts of angry Providence
which it will not permit me to shun! That whatever the trials may be
which I am destined to undergo, I may not behave unworthily in
them, but come out amended by them" (II, 168). Once in London, the
receipt of Colonel Morden's letter, warning her to avoid the advances
of a libertine, causes Clarissa to lament: "That a man of a character,
which ever was my abhorrence should fall to my lot! But depending
on my own strength; having no reason to apprehend danger from
headstrong and disgraceful impulses; I too little perhaps cast up my
eyes to the Supreme Director: in whom, mistrusting myself, I ought to
have placed my whole confidence-and the more, when I saw myself
so perseveringly addressed by a man of this character" (II, 262).
There is now, however, no garden gate through which to flee the trials
awaiting her-only a growing necessity in fact to "choose what is right;
to be steady in the pursuit of it; and to leave the issue to Providence."
From even these few examples, an insistent theme is visible in the
novel. Following an initial refusal to abide by the dictates of her
parents, an initial wavering in her decision to follow the advice of Dr.
Lewen or consistently to take to heart the religious "principles
wrought ... into" her "earliest mind" by the "pious Mrs. Norton" (I,
419), Clarissa is progressively attacked from all sides-pressured by
vindictive and well-meaning relatives alike, and entreated and impor-
tuned by a "lover" who in many ways (through his use of such agents
within the Harlowe family asJoseph Leman) is able to prod them all at
will, resulting in constant upset and turmoil. On many occasions she is
left defenseless except for a pious hope, a hope nurtured by her early
acceptance of religious principles, that somehow, some way, God,
through His providence, will make His will clear to her and effectively
support her during this time of testing and trouble. Once she has
physically left the protection of her parents' house, moreover,
Clarissa is not only provided with numerous opportunities to deny
her religious beliefs but is also faced with seemingly invincible
enemies of all virtue or goodness: Lovelace himself, almost satanic in
his general characterization and his delight in contrivance and in-
trigue, a "damnation rogue" (III, 161), knowing the good and yet
unwilling to amend himself sufficiently to do the good; Madam
Sinclair and her whores; and the world itself-London in particular, a
place of perjurers and pimps and cutthroats far removed from the
quiet garden of Harlowe Place and the serenity of the Dairy House.
Nevertheless Clarissa endures, learns much, and by the time of her


Richardson's Christian Canon

death becomes not an object of pity but an example, a very special
instance, of the permanence of the good and of the active and con-
tinuous concern of God for suffering virtue.
It is not my purpose to examine each instance where providence is
alluded to by Clarissa or the other characters, or where events occur
which find their counterpart in the sermons and homilitic literature
of the age.3 Clarissa time and again comments upon her progress,
present state, and future hopes by linking them to the purposes of
Heaven, the plan which only God can see clearly. For example, at one
point shortly after the rape she states: "Great and good God of
Heaven . give me patience to support myself under the weight of
those afflictions, which Thou, for wise and good ends, though at
present impenetrable by me, hast permitted" (III, 232). Not long after
this plea to Heaven, and in answer to Lovelace's question as to where
she would go even if he permitted it, she asserts: "No matter whither.
I will leave to Providence, when I am out of this house, the direction of
my future steps.... The evils I have suffered . however irrepara-
ble, are but temporary evils. Leave me to my hopes of being enabled to
obtain the Divine forgiveness for the offence I have been drawn in to
give to my parents, and to virtue; that so I may avoid the evils that are
more than temporary" (III, 265-66). In general, a close reading of the
text reveals that Clarissa moves from an initial and frequently waver-
ing acceptance of the truth of religious principles toward a final and
tested belief in their efficacy-a belief which she earns only after
much personal suffering, and a belief which sustains her as she
approaches death.4 Thus, more pertinent to an understanding of the
thematic significance of providence in the novel is Clarissa's death
itself and the letters subsequently delivered to all the principals in-
volved in her story.
Although Richardson himself-along with various divines of the
period-viewed "calamity" as "the test of virtue, and often theparent of
3. For example, one could note the actions of Joseph Leman. Although instru-
mental in Lovelace's early successes within the Harlowe family, Leman is later the
direct cause of his master's ultimate failure and death. This is no simple "biter bit"
story, but finds a counterpart in numerous providential texts throughout the seven-
teenth and eighteenth centuries. For Richardson's own evaluation, see the "Post-
script" to Clarissa (4:557-58). The story of Haman provides a scriptural source for
such accounts of the wicked being ensnared by their own devices (Esther 7).
4. It is interesting to note that one of the books which Lovelace furnishes for the
"Sinclair library" (2:194) is George Stanhope's Gospels, a work filled with denuncia-
tions of pride and numerous statements regarding the necessity of testing Christian
principles in the context of the real world-see 2:169, for example.


Pamela: The Context

it, in minds that prosperity would ruin," the profound suffering of a
Clarissa, presented throughout the novel as almost a paragon of the
Christian virtues, stirred in his own time some rather passionate and
interesting responses.5 He was advised by Mrs. Pilkington that when
Colley Cibber heard that Clarissa must die, he said: "G-d d--n him if
she should; and that he should no longer believe Providence, or
eternal Wisdom, or Goodness governed in the world, if merit, inno-
cence, and beauty were to be so destroyed: nay, (added he) my mind is
so hurt with the thought of her being violated, that were I to see her in
Heaven, sitting on the knees of the blessed Virgin, and crowned with
glory, her sufferings would still make me feel horror, horror dis-
tilled."6 Richardson himself, however, answering Lady Bradshaigh's
repeated desire that Clarissa be rewarded in this world, thus em-
phasizes what he was trying to depict in his novel:

A writer who follows nature, and pretends to keep the Chris-
tian system in his eye, cannot make a heaven in this world for his
favourites, or represent this life otherwise than as a state of
probation. Clarissa, I once more aver, could not be rewarded in
this world. To have given her her reward here, as in a happy
marriage, would have been as if a poet had placed his catas-
trophe in the third act of his play, when the audience were obliged
to expect two more. What greater moral proof can be given of a
world after this, for the rewarding of suffering virtue, and for
the punishing of oppressive vice, than the inequalities in the
distribution of rewards and punishments here below?7

5. Selected Letters, p. 151. For a discussion of the reasons and uses of trials and
afflictions in life, see Stanhope's Gospels (4:277- 83), as well as the following chapter of
this present study.
6. Correspondence, 2:128-29.
7. Correspondence, 4:225. As A. D. McKillop points out, Richardson's "defense of
his ending" also "stirred up a long discussion of poetic justice by William Duncombe,
Joseph Highmore, and George Jeffreys." Samuel Richardson, Printer and Novelist, p.
140. This discussion is found in Letters by Several Eminent Persons Deceased, ed. John
Duncombe-see 2:210- 11 in particular.
For another excellent contemporary discussion of the significance of Clarissa's
death and her highlighting of providence, see Johannes Stinstra's "Preface" to the
"Seventh and Eighth Volumes" ("Slattery," pp. 204-5). Midway in his"'Postscript" to
Clarissa, Richardson himself states in a footnote: "And here it may not be amiss to
remind the reader, that so early in the work as vol. i, pp. 419- 20, the dispensations of
Providence are justified by herself. And thus she ends her reflections-'I shall not live
always-may my closing scene be happy!'/She had her wish. It was happy" (4:558);
moreover, pp. 554-58 of the "Postscript" contain Richardson's own discussion of
poetic justice in Clarissa.


Richardson's Christian Canon

That Richardson kept "the Christian system in his eye" appears
further evident if the various letters Clarissa entrusts Belford to send
in the event of her death are carefully examined. She writes to Belford
himself (whose spiritual growth stands in direct contrast to Lovelace's
progressive hardness of heart): ".. let me hope that I may be a
humble instrument in the hands of Providence, to reform a man of
your abilities" (IV, 355);8 she begs forgiveness from her father and
mother (IV, 359-61); she pleads with her brother, cautioning him
against taking revenge on Lovelace, to "Leave, then, the poor wretch
to the Divinejustice .. and if Heaven will afford him time for repen-
tance, why should notyou?" (IV, 362); she asks for pity from her sister
(IV, 363-64); and, after regretting her own presumption in thinking
that she might "be a means in the hand of Providence to reclaim a man
whom" she thought "worthy of the attempt," reminds Lovelace of the
spiritual danger of his past activities, admonishes and prophetically
warns him to: "Lose no time. Set about your repentance instantly. Be
no longer the instrument of Satan, to draw poor souls into those
subtile snares, which at last shall entangle your own feet" (IV, 437).9
But it is the letter to her Uncles John and Antony that provides the
best insight into her progress-indeed the major instance of her
perception of the significance of providence.

The ways of Providence are unsearchable. Various are the
means made use of by it, to bring poor sinners to a sense of their
duty. Some are drawn by love, others are driven by terrors, to
their Divine refuge. I had for eighteen years out of nineteen
rejoiced in the favour and affection of every one. No trouble
came near my heart. I seemed to be one of those designed to be
drawn by the silken cords of love. But perhaps I was too apt to
value myself upon the love and favour of every one: the merit of
the good I delighted to do, and of the inclinations which were

8. Lovelace's hardness of heart is almost a commonplace in Richardson criticism.
Richardson's statements concerning this also are numerous (Correspondence, 4:187,
and the "Preface" to Sir Charles Grandison). Eighteenth-century theological treatments
of this sin are found in Stanhope's Gospels (1:303-7; 2:176), and in Chapter 22
("Concerning God's Hardening of Men") of The Christian's Magazine. A pertinent
seventeenth-century example is provided by Gilbert Burnet's Life of Rochester,
p. 102.
9. Pertinent to this statement by Clarissa is Stanhope's discussion of the "good"
which was derived from the "shameful" death of Christ-in particular the fact that by
this very means Satan fell "into his own Snare, and in the same Net [Psalms 9:14] that he hid
privily, was his own Foot taken; His Devices returned upon his own Head, and his Mischiefs
fell upon his own Pate" (Gospels, 2:497).


Pamela: The Context

given me, and which I could not help having, I was, perhaps, too
ready to attribute to myself; and now, being led to account for
the cause of my temporary calamities, find I had a secret pride to
be punished for, which I had not fathomed: and it was necessary
perhaps that some sore and terrible misfortunes should befall
me, in order to mortify that my pride and that my vanity.
Temptations were accordingly sent. I shrunk in the day of
trial. My discretion, which had been so cried up, was found
wanting when it came to be weighed in an equal balance. I was
betrayed, fell, and became the byword of my companions, and a
disgrace to my family, which had so prided itself in me perhaps
too much. But as my fault was not that of a culpable will, when
my pride was sufficiently mortified, I was not suffered (although
surrounded by dangers, and entangled in snares) to be totally
lost: but purified by sufferings, I was fitted for this change I have
NOW, at the time you will receive this, so newly, and, as I humbly
hope, so happily experienced (IV, 364-65).1o

This letter in many ways marks the high point of Clarissa's self-
awareness, and it is "Providence" which she now credits as having
been at work in the world through which she hasjourneyed-a force
intricately linked to the recent events in her life. Man's goal,
exemplified by Clarissa herself, is to arrive at a "Divine refuge" in spite
of the dangers, trials, and temptations to which the human condition
is subjected. There is no escaping the trials of life, no garden gate
leading to a better world, and, as Richardson suggests at this point,
perhaps the best anyone can expect is to remain steady throughout
such trials and eventually attain a death similar to Clarissa's: hopeful
and quietly trusting in a God Whose mercy and justice, love and wrath,
concern and guidance are visibly present in the world, and Who uses
various instruments to draw men to Him, yet always allowing a free-
dom of will and choice of action in the creatures He created and
sustains.1 Clarissa, as this letter also suggests, is purged not of an
adolescent vanity or a feminine coyness, but rather of a potentially
dangerous belief, born in the safety of a sequestered life, in her own

10. In Richardson's Sentiments, Maxims, Cautions, and Reflexions, a work which he
called "the pith and marrow of nineteen volumes, not unkindly received" (Corre-
spondence, 2:48), three of the five "sentiments" under the heading "Providence" are
taken from this last letter to Clarissa's uncles, John and Antony.
11. As Richardson himself stated in a letter to Lady Bradshaigh, "O that my own
last hour, and the last hour of those I love, may be such as that I have drawn for my
Clarissa!" (Correspondence, 4:228).


Richardson's Christian Canon

unwavering goodness and purity-a belief which she almost equated
with proof of salvation. The merit given her by others was frequently
accepted as her just due, unearned, and believed to be further proof
of her value without the need to preserve and exercise, actively and
continuously, each day, the fragile virtue, the precarious goodness
found in all men.12 By the time of her death, however, she has taken to
heart the warnings of God, has read aright the "ways of Providence"
in the world, and can be said to be in a good way toward salvation,
toward seeing that even death itself is but God's method of subduing
"His poor creatures to Himself" (IV, 299).13 In life, her ultimate
choices were correct, and her final reward is left to God.
The divine warnings-the "ways of Providence" which Clarissa
takes to heart-are lost on Lovelace. While she attains self-knowledge,
strength, and comfort from her trials and sufferings, he progressively
hardens his heart. Following her death, he raves for a time, but his
pride remains unshakable. As noted earlier, Clarissa's last letter to
him explicitly describes what he can expect if, by his continued wick-
edness, he multiplies his offenses and refuses to repent. In a passage
telescoping Job 18 and 20, Clarissa further warns him that:

The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the
hypocrite but for a moment. He is cast into a net by his own
feet-he walketh upon a snare. Terrors shall make him afraid
on every side, and shall drive him to his feet. His strength shall
be hunger-bitten, and destruction shall be ready at his side. The
first-born of death shall devour his strength. His remembrance
shall perish from the earth; and he shall have no name in the
streets. He shall be chased out of the world. He shall have
neither son nor nephew among his people. They that have seen
him shall say, Where is he? He shall fly as a dream: he shall be
chased away as a vision of the night. His meat is the gall of asps
within him. He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of
steel shall strike him through. A fire not blown shall consume
12. Such a situation can result in a "Pride," as Stanhope notes, whereby "we are led
into false Notions of our Virtues, and Performances; and swell'd with Imaginations of
our Worth" (Gospels, 3:534).
13. A pertinent Anglican statement concerning the "fitness" of such a death is this
one by Stanhope: "No Death can be hasty or unseasonable, which comes, when a Man
hath satisfied the Ends he lived for. No Life is long, which determines, before the
Purposes of living are made good and its Work done. But Happy, Happy They, who
after the most distressed, the most laborious, the most despised Instances of their
Virtue, can sing this Song of Triumph to themselves, that they have been faithful in
their Charge; and done what it was their Duty to do" (Gospels, 2:573).


Pamela: The Context

him. The heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise
up against him. The worm shall feed sweetly on him. He shall be
no more remembered. This is the fate of him that knoweth not
God (IV, 437).

Even this graphic and prophetic statement fails to cause Lovelace to
leave his pride. In his next letter to Belford, he appears to be a man
suffering yet steadfast in his refusal to submit to a power greater than
his own:

I have been in a cursed way. Methinks something has been
working strangely retributive. I never was such a fool as to
disbelieve a Providence; yet am I not for resolving into judg-
ments everything that seems to wear an avenging face. Yet if we
must be punished either here or hereafter for our misdeeds,
better here, say I, than hereafter. Have I not then an interest to
think my punishment already not only begun, but completed;
since what I have suffered, and do suffer, passes all description?
(IV, 438).

Although Lovelace constantly laments the death of Clarissa, it ap-
pears to be an essentially selfish lamentation. He even repents sending
this letter to Belford, and states: "I own that I am still excessively
grieved at the disappointment this admirable woman made it so much
her whimsical choice to give me. But, since it has thus fallen out; since
she was determined to leave the world; and since she actually ceases to
be; ought I, who have such a share of life and health in hand, to
indulge gloomy reflections upon an event that is past; and being past,
cannot be recalled?" (IV, 442).
Ultimately it is his progressive egoistic selfishness, whereby
Lovelace closes his ears to the warnings of providence and hardens his
heart in response to the stirring of conscience, that causes his de-
struction. Belford pleads with him shortly before his departure for
Europe: "... if you do not quickly reform, it will be out of your power
to reform at all; and that Providence, which has already given you the
fates of your Agents Sinclair and Tomlinson to take warning by, will
not let the principal offender escape, if he slight the warning" (IV,
449). Lovelace, however, at first chides Belford for indulging in "the
dismal and the horrible" at the expense of "gaiety" (IV, 450), and then
goes on to plead that he himself is "not answerable for all the ex-
travagant consequences that this affair has been attended with; and


Richardson's Christian Canon

which could not possibly be foreseen" (IV, 451- 52). The instances of
Lovelace's refusal to heed "the most affecting Warnings" of provi-
dence following the death of Clarissa are numerous; his persistence in
viewing as nonsense the growing evidence of "the handwriting upon the
wall" against him is unshakable (IV, 517), and eventually her proph-
ecy is fulfilled when he literally is "cast into a net by his own feet" and
killed by Colonel Morden in a duel inadvertently brought about by a
"conscience-ridden" letter from his former tool, Joseph Leman, stat-
ing that the colonel vowed "to have his will" of him (IV, 515). His pride,
so manifest in his retorts to the concerned and sincere admonish-
ments of Belford, causes him to meet the colonel and subsequently
receive a mortal wound at his hands. Lovelace's last words, "LET THIS
EXPIATE!" (IV, 530), especially when joined with his refusal to heed
the colonel's advice to "snatch these few fleeting moments, and com-
mend yourself to God" (IV, 529), are evidence not of a sincere
repentance, but rather, again, of a pride which causes him to demand
that his own death be acceptable as an "atonement" for the suffering
and death of Clarissa. Unlike Clarissa, however, Lovelace dies in
selfishness and pride, a blind "Sacrifice to his own Folly," a man "Hoist
with his owne petar," and an example for others of the providential
justice which many divines saw manifesting itself against the wicked
frequently in this life, but most assuredly in the next.14


"An humble Instrument in the Hand of Providence":
Sir Charles Grandison

While not as insistent as Clarissa upon overt providential control, Sir
Charles Grandison nevertheless presents a fictive world view patterned
14. For a valuable examination of the role of Colonel Morden, see Robert M.
Schmitz's "Death and Colonel Morden in Clarissa." Richardson's own statements
regarding the impossibility of Lovelace's "atonement" are legion (for example: Corre-
spondence, 4:188- 90).
The statement on Lovelace's "folly" is taken from Sarah Fielding's excellent con-
temporary pamphlet Remarks On Clarissa, p. 48-see pp. 291-92 of Eaves and Kim-
pel's biography for a discussion of this work. The Remarks also are included in the
Forster Collection of Richardson's correspondence from which my citation was taken.
The fact that Lovelace is "Hoist with his owne petar" has often been noted by
critics. Richardson's own appraisal is found on pp. 167, 168, and 375 of his Sentiments,
Maxims, Cautions, and Reflexions. Also relevant is this statement by Archbishop Tillot-
son: "God doth many times by his Providence order things so, that in this Life mens


Pamela: The Context

upon a real world belief in the providence of God.15 The major plot
proceeds by way of the long and elaborate courtship of Harriet
Byron, and not until late in the novel is it certain that she and Sir
Charles will wed. The prime obstacles to their marriage comprise the
subplot and derive from two different sets of circumstances: the prior
"engagement" of Sir Charles to an Italian gentlewoman, the Lady
Clementina, and the ever present danger posed to both Sir Charles
and Harriet by various rakes, most notably Sir Hargrave Pollexfen.
The Clementina problem, a result of Sir Charles's rescuing the
scion of a wealthy Italian family and being accepted into their confi-
dence, involves conflicts of both religion and nationality. The lady
herself comes dangerously close to insanity in an attempt to reconcile
her Roman Catholic heritage with the Anglicanism of Sir Charles-
causing him in turn to agonize (after returning to England) over the
seeming irreconcilability of honoring a prior commitment and his
growing love for Harriet. Moreover, the machinations of Sir Har-
grave Pollexfen, ranging from the abduction of Harriet to his at-
tempts at forcing Sir Charles into a duel, provide means whereby Sir
Charles's essential character is revealed and also serve to reveal the
futility of selfish and prideful behavior.
The Clementina problem, coupled with those involving Sir Har-
grave, helps to heighten a picture of the world as "maze" or as a scene
of baffling social twists and turns in which even the probable event
seems uncertain of ever being realized. Within this world, Sir Charles
moves from crisis to crisis, arrives at critical times to save suffering
innocence, and always attributes his success to a power greater than
his own-wishing, as he states at one point, only to be "an humble
instrument, in the hand of Providence" (2, 454). Having personally
escaped "by the Divine assistance" various "snares" laid to corrupt him
(2, 137), Sir Charles in many ways serves as a visible instrument
through which this supernatural assistance is shared with others.
Unlike a Lovelace finally hardened in sin and unwilling to repent, or a
Mr. B., originally indulging his sinful desires and finally started on the
way of salvation by the continuing example of a worthy and patient

Unrighteousness returns upon their own pates. There is a Divine Nemesis which
brings our Iniquities upon our selves" ("Preach'd At the Morning-exercise at
Cripple-Gate," Works, 10:309).
15. For interesting appraisals of Grandison, see Dussinger's "Richardson's 'Chris-
tian Vocation,' (especially pp. 13- 14), Leon M. Guilhamet's "From Pamela toGrandi-
son: Richardson's Moral Revolution in the Novel," pp. 203-5; and Margaret Anne
Doody's A Natural Passion, pp. 241-305.


Richardson's Christian Canon

woman, Sir Charles, instilled from childhood by his mother in "no-
tions of moral rectitude, and the first principles of Christianity" (1,
261), stands from his initial appearance in the novel both as a mature
good man and as an active agent for the continuance of this good in a
world too often excessively passionate and subject to civil dissolution
as a result of various codes of honor which are little more than
euphemisms for murder.16
The clearest statement of the world order by which Sir Charles
Grandison is shaped comes when Dr. Bartlett shows the assembled
company Emily Jervois's translation of the "Sonnet of Vincenzo da

See a fond mother incircled by her children: With pious
tenderness she looks around, and her soul even melts with
maternal Love. One she kisses on the forehead; and clasps
another to her bosom. One she sets upon her knee; and finds a
seat upon her foot for another. And while, by their actions, their
lisping words, and asking eyes, she understands their various
numberless little wishes, to these she disperses a look; a word to
those; and whether she smiles or frowns, 'tis all in tender Love.
Such to us, tho' infinitely high and awful, is PROVIDENCE: So it
watches over us; comforting these; providing for those; listen-
ing to all; assisting every one: And if sometimes it denies the
favour we implore, it denies but to invite our more earnest
prayers; or, seeming to deny a blessing, grants one in that
refusal (1, 432).

This translation generally describes what in fact does happen in the
novel. Providence, the active representation of the love, mercy, and
justice of God, works in and through man and nature to govern, aid,
and guide according to a purpose not always immediately clear but
always finally equitable. As providence working in the world is seen

16. Many critics see him as a prig. A statement of Richardson's appraisal of the
humanity of Sir Charles, however, is found in Correspondence, 3:169-70.
Also relevant to Sir Charles's "character" is Archbishop Tillotson's sermon "Con-
cerning Our Imitation of the Divine Perfections" (cited by Richardson in the last
volume of Grandison), in which he states, speaking of the necessity of "patterns" of
"perfection": "The way to excel in any kind, is, optima quaeque exempla ad imitandum
proponere, to propose the highest and most perfect examples to our imitation" (Works,
6:289). Prefacing his citation of this passage, Richardson states that "SIR CHARLES
GRANDISON is therefore in the general tenor of his principles and conduct (tho'
exerted in peculiarities of circumstances that cannot always be accommodated to
particular imitation) proposed for an Example" (3:466).


Pamela: The Context

"assisting every one," so periodically in the novel momentum is car-
ried by a number of timely assists, events so extraordinary that to view
them as mere coincidence is to make probability itself seem ludicrous.
Here I shall examine three episodes which are representative of such
assists and such larger concerns: the Harriet-Pollexfen abduction
scene; the Danby story; and the later episode of Sir Hargrave in
Sir Hargrave Pollexfen's abduction of Harriet Byron from a mas-
querade ball sets in motion a string of occurrences which lead to the
first appearance of Sir Charles in the novel. Sir Hargrave uses Har-
riet's newly hired servant, William Wilson, to arrange to carry her to
the house of the Widow Awberry at Paddington. Once she is safely
there, Sir Hargrave plans to force Harriet to marry him. The plot is
put into effect, and when Harriet stoutly resists the attempted mar-
riage ceremony, calling upon God to protect her, Sir Hargrave, finally
afraid of her fits and screaming, forces her into his coach and starts for
his Windsor seat. Soon thereafter, while wrapped in a cloak with her
mouth and eyes bound, and feeling the coach stop, Harriet works the
gag free and cries out, "Help, for God's sake" (1, 166). What follows is
her rescue by Sir Charles, who, apparently by the sheerest of chances
is riding near Hounslow. Later, however, Harriet says of the events
leading up to her rescue: "Lord L. carried his Lady [Sir Charles's sister
Caroline] down to Scotland, where she was greatly admired and
caressed by all his relations. How happy for your Harriet was their
critically-proposed return, which carried down Sir Charles and Miss
Charlotte to prepare every-thing at Colnebrooke for their reception!"
(1, 384).
While this scene is not explicitly providential, the "critically-
proposed return" of Lord and Lady L., which sets in motion the
equally critical arrival of Sir Charles at the exact time and place near
Hounslow where he could be of service to a helpless woman, is
nevertheless reminiscent of treatments of the workings of divine
providence. During his sermon, "The Being of God Proved from
Supernatural Effects," Isaac Barrow, for example, asks his congrega-
tion: "if, sometime or other, in their lives, they have not in their
pressing needs and straits (especially upon their addresses to God for
help) found help and comfort conveyed unto them by an insensible
hand; if they have not sometimes in a manner unaccountable escaped
imminent dangers; if they have not in the performance of their duty
and devotion toward God experienced a comfort more than ordi-


Richardson's Christian Canon

nary; if they cannot to some events of their life aptly apply those
observations of the Psalmist [Ps. 34: 6, 7, 8; 145: 18, 19] This poor man
cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of his troubles: The angel
of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them: 0
taste and see that the Lord is good. 0 taste and see. . "17 When it is remem-
bered that for Barrow one of the characters of this particular provi-
dence of God was the seasonablenesss and suddenness of events,"
when something occurred which was not probable "in the nick of an
exigency, for the relief of innocence, the encouragement of goodness,
the support of a good cause, the furtherance of any good purpose,"
one may perhaps view Harriet's rescue by Sir Charles as something
other than merely fortuitous or coincidental.18 Moreover, when for
Archbishop Tillotson "all application to God by Prayer doth evidently
suppose, that the Providence of God does frequently interpose to
over-rule events besides and beyond the natural and ordinary course
of things, and to steer them to a quite different Point, from that to
which in human probability they seem'd to tend,"19 the fact that
Harriet herself calls upon God for help and is subsequently rescued
by a man who wishes to be "an humble instrument, in the hand of
Providence" may also lead one to conclude that this scene is only the
first of many which, taken together, delineate a providential world
order in which the characters exist.
The Danby story provides another example of the significance of
providence as ordering device in the novel. Following the death of his
friend Danby, Sir Charles, in reading the will, finds that he has been
named executor and residuaryy legatee" because he "had been the
principal instrument in the hand of Providence, of saving his life" (1,
448). Later, after his noble treatment of Danby's two nephews and
niece (children of the very brother who, it is soon learned, had
attempted to murder Danby), Sir Charles says to them: "Look upon
what is done for you, not as the reward of any particular merits in
yourselves, but as your debt to that Providence, which makes it a

17. The Theological Works, 5:288.
18. "On the Gunpowder-Treason," Theological Works, 1:460.
19. "Success Not Always Answerable to the Probability of Second Causes," Works,
2:354. A typical statement of the importance and efficacy of prayer is this one by
Jeremy Taylor: "Do not think that God is only to be found in a great prayer, or a
solemn office: he is moved by a sigh, by a groan, by an act of love"-Holy Living and
Dying with Prayers Containing the Whole Duty of a Christian, from Holy Dying, Chap. IV,
Section I, p. 407. Richardson mentions Holy Living and Dying in Correspondence,
4: 237.


Pamela: The Context

principal part of your religion, to do good to your fellow-creatures. In
a word, let me injoin you, in all your transactions, to remember mercy, as
well as justice" (1, 455).
The story itself is told by Sir Charles at a family gathering.
Prompted by Lord L., Sir Charles tells how Danby, a thriving mer-
chant settled at Cambray, was troubled by his profligate brother.
Jealous of Danby's support of his children and recent refusal to give
him any more money, this brother plotted to murder Danby and,
because of the lack of a will, inherit his fortune. About this time Sir
Charles visited Danby and was persuaded to spend a few days with
him at his villa in the Cambresis. Around midnight he was awakened
by violent noises from Danby's bedchamber and, drawing his sword,
discovered a ruffian about to cut the throat of the helpless merchant.
After a scuffle in which he seriously wounded one of the would-be
assassins and drove off the other two, Sir Charles revived Danby and
secured the wounded man, who soon confessed that it was Danby's
brother who had hired them. Later, the "surviving villains," sentenced
to the "gallies," related that "they knew nothing of Mr. Danby's having
a guest with him: If they had, they owned they would have made their
attempt another night" (2, 106). Thus, a chance acquaintance and a
propitious time for a visit to a villa save the life of an innocent and
worthy man, and later enable Sir Charles to assure both justice and
mercy for the equally innocent children of the very man whose plot he
had been able to foil.
To view this episode, brief as it is, as just another reiteration of the
incredible goodness of Sir Charles is to miss the point, for the episode
is typical of the general movement of the novel, which consists of a
series of similar episodes.20 Whether physically saving Harriet or
Danby orJeronymo, whether spiritually salvaging Emily's mother and
Major O'Hara or Everard Grandison, Sir Charles is always at the right
place at the right time, not because of any artistic naivete on
Richardson's part but because he inhabits a fictive world which mir-
rors a real one in which an omnipotent and omniscient God rules,
sustains, and frequently intervenes, using His creatures to correct a
wrong or save a suffering innocent. Sir Charles acknowledges as
much when he states of himself at one point that "God only knows
... what may be my destiny!-As generosity, as justice, or rather as
Providence, leads, I will follow" (2, 382), and to the Marchioness at
20. Cf. the scene in which Sir Charles saves the life of Dr. Bartlett (1:460 ff.) and
the one in which he rescues Jeronymo Poretta (2:119- 20).


Richardson's Christian Canon

another that "Providence and you, madam, shall direct my steps" (2,
One could wish himself to be such a divine instrument, moreover,
without any taint of moral smugness, primarily because in the terms
of the age such instruments were thought to be essential for the
continued well-being of all human existence. As Isaac Barrow put it:
"... the instruments of Providence being free agents, acting with
unaccountable variety, nothing can happen which may not be im-
puted to them with some colourable pretence" especially when it is
remembered that "Divine and human influences are so twisted and
knit together, that it is hard to sever them."21 One of the major reasons
why God and man are so often linked in theological discussions of
providence is that the belief in such an intervening "supernatural"
power does not preclude the need for natural action on man's part in
the world as it is but rather makes it necessary.22 Thus, Sir Charles, by
continuously acting and engaging life to the best of his ability, while at
the same time acknowledging the significance of divine power and
influence in the world, indeed emerges as a fit instrument of God.23
A final example of his instrumentality may be gathered from the
occasion when Sir Charles and Dr. Lowther are stopped just outside
Paris by a terrified servant who states "that his master, who was an
Englishman, and his friend of the same nation, had been but a little
while before attacked, and forced out of the road in their post-chaise,
as he doubted not, to be murdered, by no less than seven armed
horsemen" (2, 428). Noticing that the servant's livery is that of Sir
Hargrave Pollexfen (traveling on the continent to forget his failure
with Harriet Byron and disgrace in her abduction), Sir Charles rushes
to the scene, where he finds two gentlemen being beaten unmerci-
fully. The gentlemen are Sir Hargrave and his companion, Mr.

21. "On the Gunpowder-Treason," Theological Works, 1:451. Regarding "Instru-
ments" of Providence, see Thomas Sherlock's The Use and Intent of Prophecy, p. 126.
Richardson mentions this work in a letter to Philip Skelton, February 10, 1749/50
(Correspondence, 5:199). Chapter 21 ("Of Our Trust in God, And in His Promises") of
The Christian's Magazine also is pertinent.
22. As Stanhope states, discussing the parable of the "Tares and Wheat": "a
mixture of Bad Men ministers many occasions of Virtue to the Good, and gives them
great advantages of exerting Themselves, without such a mixture never to be had"
(Gospels, 2:169).
23. Richardson himself attests to this need for "action" by stating to Lady Brad-
shaigh (Correspondence, 4:222): "A becalmed life is like a becalmed ship. The very
happiness to which we are long accustomed becomes like a stagnated water, rather
infectious than salutary."


Pamela: The Context

Merceda. After stopping the attack and helping the two bloody vic-
tims as much as possible, Sir Charles tries to determine the cause of
the incident. It finally becomes apparent that Pollexfen, Merceda, and
Bagenhall had "made a vile attempt... on a Lady's honour at Ab-
beville," and Bagenhall, guilty of seducing, on promise of marriage, a
manufacturer's young daughter, had escaped with the father pursu-
ing him (2, 431). The demand that Pollexfen arid Merceda kneel and
ask pardon of the lady's husband is met, and the two then "kneeled
again to their deliverer, and poured forth blessings upon the man
whose life, so lately, one of them sought; and whose preservation he
had now so much reason to rejoice in, for the sake of his own safety"
(2, 432). Dr. Lowther, happily one of the best-skilled physicians in
England, presumably patches them up sufficiently for the Channel
That this rescue of Sir Hargrave is not merely an example of Sir
Charles mechanically returning good for evil, or yet another attempt
by Richardson to raise to epic proportions his hero's benevolence, is
soon evident. Later in the novel, and after Sir Charles's marriage to
Harriet, a subdued Sir Hargrave, believing himself close to death, says
to Sir Charles: "Great God... how are you rewarded! How am I
punished! Is there not hope that I have all my punishment in this life?
I am sure, it is very, very heavy" (3, 266). At the time of his death Sir
Hargrave says, "Fain ... would I have been trusted with a few years
trial of my penitence. I have wearied heaven with my prayers to this
purpose. I deserved not perhaps that they should be heard. My con-
science cruelly told me, that I had neglected a multitude of oppor-
tunities! slighted a multitude of warnings!-O Sir Charles Grandison!
It is a hard, hard thing to die! In the prime of youth too!-Such noble
possessions" (3, 461). Following this, Sir Hargrave warns his sur-
rounding friends of the dangers of living such a life as his, compares
his present unhappy end with the happiness of Sir Charles, and dies
with Grandison comforting him and calling "out for mercy for him,
when the poor man could only, by expressive looks,join in the solemn
invocation" (3, 462). Thus, Sir Hargrave, unlike Lovelace, moves in
the novel (and as a direct result of the activities of an acknowledged
instrument of providence) from rake to a man at least on the way to
true penitence to one with a chance of obtaining mercy from God. His
penitence at the end of his life and his provision for his relatives and
charity toward the man who has won Harriet are not sentimental


Richardson's Christian Canon

touches but, rather, are reminiscent of the attempts by divines to deal
with both the presence of evil and the seeming inequality of rewards
and punishments in this world. For, however true it may be that an
afterlife will finally rectify unpunished wrongs, there is, as John
Veneer pointed out and as Sir Hargrave represents, "another Reason
why God does not immediately punish wicked Men," and that is so
"they may have time to become better; that his Goodness, as St. Paul
expresseth himself, may lead them to Repentance"24--or as Tillotson
expresses it: God sometimes "bears long with us, and delays the
punishment of our sins, and doth not execute judgment speedily,
because he is loth to surprise men into destruction, because he would
give them the liberty of second thoughts, time to reflect upon them-
selves, and to consider what they have done, and to reason themselves
into repentance."25
One of the conclusions to be drawn from this brief examination of
Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison is that there is more to their seem-
ingly improbable or accidental events than has been recognized. For,
such things as the survival of Clarissa's chastity while in the power of
Lovelace and Sinclair, or the timely arrivals of Sir Charles Grandison,
are not examples of Richardson's naivete in novelistic technique, but
rather are essential components of his novelistic design. Moreover,
the fictional "world" of Richardson's novels seems little different from
the providentially controlled "real" world to which English divines
addressed themselves in sermon, tract, and scriptural commentary.
As Richardson himself stated of Clarissa, in a letter to Lady
Bradshaigh-after requesting that she "honour the volumes with a
place with your Taylor's Living and Dying, with your Practice of Piety,
and Nelson's Fasts and Festivals, not as being worthy of such company,
but that they may have a chance of being dipt into thirty Years hence":
"they appear in the humble guise of a novel only by way of accommo-

24. Romans 2:4. The citation is taken from An Exposition of the Thirty Nine Articles of
the Church of England, 1:45. This book was printed by Richardson ("Sale," p. 212).
25. "The Nature and Benefit of Consideration," Works, 1:273. Also noteworthy is
Charles Wheatly's sermon, "The Wheat and the Tares" (Fifty Sermons, 1:301), and, in
particular, Stanhope's Gospels (2:172), where it is stated of evil men that: "The longer
such People are spared, the more leisure and opportunities they have for Amend-
ment. The examples of Others, the various Disposals of Providence, the signal
Mercies and Severities of it, are so many fresh Arguments, continually offering
themselves, and stirring up new Thoughts and serious Reflections. And every Judg-
ment, that stops short of utter extirpation, is an awakening Call; an Expedient for
cherishing the Principles of a spiritual Life."


Pamela: The Context

dation to the manners and taste of an age overwhelmed with luxury,
and abandoned to sound and senselessness."26 And as Sydney Smith
later put it: "Sir Charles Grandison is less agreeable than Tom Jones;
but it is more agreeable than Sherlock and Tillotson; and teaches
religion and morality to many who would not seek it in the pro-
ductions of these professional writers."27
This is not to say, however, that because of the religious dimension
of his work, Richardson (or any contemporary fiction writer, for that
matter) was simply composing a theological tract. Pamela, Clarissa, and
Sir Charles Grandison are novels, literary works, and, as such, engage life
through use of a form entirely different from that of a sermon or
polemic. Despite this crucial difference, many of the ideas used by
writers in these two distinct modes are markedly similar and are
evident during the Restoration and the eighteenth century in the
works of such literary men as Congreve, Dryden, Richardson, and
Fielding and such divines as Tillotson and Barrow, Veneer and
Stanhope.2 Moreover, nourished by such ideas and placed within
such a religious context, Pamela offers but the first instance of an

26. Correspondence, 4:237-38.
27. This is noted by Eaves and Kimpel in Samuel Richardson: A Biography, p. 398.
28. For modern arguments in support of the phenomenon of a frequent inter-
mingling of the concerns of literary men with those of religious writers during the
Restoration and eighteenth century, see Battestin's The Providence of Wit, and Wil-
liams's An Approach To Congreve. Directly pertinent to Richardson's own assessment is
his letter to Lady Bradshaigh (October 26, 1748), where he states of Clarissa: "Such
are the Lessons I endeavour to inculcate by an Example in natural Life. And the more
irksome these Lessons are to the Young, the Gay, and the Healthy, the more necessary
are they to be inculcated.
A Verse may find him who a Sermon flies
And turn Delight into a Sacrifice-Of this Nature is my Design.
Religion never was at so low an Ebb as at present: And if my Work must be supposed
of the Novel kind, I was willing to try if a Religious Novel would do good" (Selected
Letters, pp. 91-92). In the "Postscript" to Clarissa, Richardson prefaces the two lines
from George Herbert's The Church-Porch by stating that "In this general depravity,
where even the pulpit has lost great part of its weight, and the clergy are considered as
a body of interested men, the author thought he should be able to answer it to his own
heart, be the success what it would, if he threw in his mite towards introducing a
reformation so much wanted. And he imagined, that in an age given up to diversion
and entertainment, he could steal in, as may be said, and investigate the great
doctrines of Christianity under the fashionable guise of an amusement" (4:553).
Moreover, as Edward Young stated of Richardson in the Conjectures on Original
Composition: he was a "friend" who "has relied on himself; and with a genius, as well
moral as original, (to speak in bold terms,) has cast out evil spirits; has made a convert
to virtue of a species of composition, once most its foe: as the first Christian emperors
expelled demons, and dedicated their temples to the living God." The Complete Works.
Poetry and Prose, 2:573.


Richardson's Christian Canon 43

insistent theme which was to concern Richardson throughout his later
work: the presence of an active God and His relationship to the
physical well-being and spiritual growth of His creatures. And, as
Pamela's subtitle, "Virtue Rewarded," suggests, this physical and spir-
itual relationship more specifically involves the trial or exercise of the
creatures who inhabit such a providentially controlled world.

3. "Our Spiritual Warfare": Divine Providence
and the Trial of Virtue

One recent critic, Mark Kinkead-Weekes, while discussing a "funda-
mental criticism" of Pamela, states that the apparent "insistence" in the
subtitle upon temporal "rewards and punishments will not do. It is
true neither to life, nor to morals, nor to Christianity."1 For
Kinkead-Weekes, the subtitle "and the state of mind that appended it,
are naive, crude, and inconsistent with the faith Mr. Richardson
professes; but once again the trouble lies with the ordinary self of the
author, commenting on the works of his imagination when the imagi-
nation has lapsed" (117). Accordingly, the subtitle and "moral sum-
mary" seem to be rather unfortunate attempts by Richardson to
package his novel for readier consumption by "a very unsubtle middle
and lower class audience"; such attempts have nourished attacks on
the seeming "discrepancy between the naive sub-title and 'morals,
and the complexity of the moral experience in the fiction itself' (117).
While it is difficult to see exactly how the reward of virtue rings false
to traditional English Christianity, or how one proves conclusively
that Richardson was pandering to an unsubtle middle- or lower-class
morality, it is evident nevertheless that his subtitle and "few brief
Observations" have proved a stumbling block to even those critics
otherwise willing to consider sympathetically the religious theme of
his first novel. Moreover, unless one is prepared to grant that Pamela
itself, however serious or "ultimately... religious" it may be in inten-
tion (115), is merely an interesting thematic failure on the road to
Clarissa, something must be done to place in fuller context the fictive
pattern suggested by its subtitle-a pattern of testing, growth, and
reward which seems to me neither naive nor crude but, rather,
reflective of contemporary theological treatments of the nature of
earthly existence.
1. Samuel Richardson: Dramatic Novelist, p. 115-hereafter cited in text.

Divine Providence and the Trial of Virtue


Within the providential universe they posited, Christian writers
viewed man as peculiarly subject to temptation, trial, and testing.
Together with a consequent system of rewards and punishments
invoked in both this world and the next, such emphasis upon testing
seems to be (in both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance) a basic and
almost commonplace method, common to both theologian and liter-
ary man alike, of explaining the vagaries of human existence.
Richardson's correspondence, moreover, shows that the fundamental
structure of this method was familiar to him: in speaking of Lady
Bradshaigh's persistent request for a happy ending to Clarissa, he
states, "But yet I had to shew, for example sake, a young Lady
struggling nobly with the greatest difficulties, and triumphing from
the best motives, in the course of distresses, the tenth part of which
would have sunk even manly hearts."2 A year later, in answering the
objections of a "Very Reverend and Worthy Gentleman," Richardson
notes that Clarissa was "proposed for an Example to the Sex. And her
Trials are multiplied to give her so many Opportunities to shine thro'
the various Stages of those Trials."3 In writing to Frances Grainger, he
first points out that "No one that disapproves of the Conduct of
Clarissa and of her Principles but must find fault with the Doctrines
laid down in the Bible, or know not what they are," and then goes on to
emphasize not only the "Punishment of Lovelace and of the whole
Harlowe Family, even in this World" but also the fact that his "Chris-
tian Heroine" must "trust to Heaven for her own Reward"-a "future
Reward" which was, as he informed Aaron Hill, one "of my principal
Views to inculcate in this Piece."4 In the Vade Mecum, Richardson
reminds his readers that "To facilitate the Virtue of Patience, so
necessary in this Vale of Tears,' God "has manifested to us, the
Treasures that are hid in Adversity, and the Advantage of being
persecuted for his Sake," and "that what the World calls Misfortune
and Calamity, often proves the blessed Occasion of making us happy

2. Correspondence, 4: 186 (To Mrs. Belfour, October 6, 1748).
3. As Eaves and Kimpel point out on p. 289 of their Richardson biography, the
Answer to the Letter of a Very Reverend and Worthy Gentleman (dated June 8, 1749)
defended the "fire scene" and was "directed (as he told Stinstra) to 'two particular
Divines'." Also, as they note on p. 646, this printed letter is found in the Forster
Collection (from which my citation is taken).
4. Carroll, Selected Letters, p. 144 (To Frances Grainger, January 22, 1749/50), and
p. 73 (To Aaron Hill, October 29, 1746), respectively.


Pamela: The Context

both in this Life and the next."5 Perhaps the best evidence of
Richardson's own familiarity with the religious significance of trials,
however, comes in the preface to Sir Charles Grandison, where he
refers to Pamela itself as a work depicting "the severe Trials" of its
heroine, trials closely associated with her "Reward" by "a protecting
Contemporary recognition of the significance of the testing pattern
in Richardson's work is not confined to his own correspondence, but
appears also in the writings of those associated with him in a profes-
sional way. Clarissa's Dutch translator Johannes Stinstra, in his preface
to the seventh and eighth volumes, speaks to the controversy sur-
rounding the "unhappy ending" and states: "One observes that this
life is not immediately rewarding but is, instead, a trial and prepara-
tion for another life in which the pious will receive the real reward for
their good works. That we must regard it as such is taught to us
explicitly in the Christian revelation and consistently confirmed by all
parts of it; and the consideration of our present state of living and
human nature itself can instruct us about it rather clearly."6 Later in
this preface, Stinstra reminds his readers that the "happiness and
unhappiness of this world are indeed both suitable to make the man
who behaves himself properly under both of them more virtuous and
thus to make him progress more and more in the most noble perfec-
tion for which the rational nature is capable and to prepare him for
the enjoyment of the highest good, for which the merciful God really
intended us" (202); and he then goes on to query: "And who should
be acknowledged to have a greater virtue-he who has withstood
uncorruptedly all sorts of trials, or he who, in one kind of trial, has
found and shown only his steadfastness?" (203). Toward the end of
the preface, he touches upon one of the most frequently cited results
of earthly trials, self-knowledge:

A virtuous mind becomes stronger and firmer in adversities,
and by repeatedly conquering them, increases steadily in moral
perfection. When everything goes his way, the best man does not
control his actions and thoughts so carefully and often overlooks
some hidden defects which misfortune, attracting his attention,
uncovers before his view and teaches him to improve (204).

The subject of Christian testing also occupies a strategic position in
5. Part III, p. 64.
6. "Slattery" (Richardson-Stinstra Correspondence), p. 199--hereafter cited in text.


Divine Providence and the Trial of Virtue

the theology of most of the religious writers either printed or pre-
ferred by Richardson himself. In Chapter 46 of The Christian's
Magazine is this statement:

WE come into this World, not to stay here, or to take up our
Abode and Rest; but this World is only a State of Trial and
Discipline, to exercise our Virtues, to perfect our Minds, to
prepare and qualify ourselves for the more pure, and refined,
and spiritual Enjoyments of the other World: We come into this
World, not so much to enjoy, as to conquer, and to triumph over
it, to baffle its Temptations, to despise its Flatteries, and to
endure its Terrors; and if we live long enough to do this, we live
long enough.7

Archbishop Tillotson, at one point in a sermon on "The Christian
Life," views this world as a place designed for the "trial of our virtue,
and the exercise of our obedience"; in another sermon, dealing with
"The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus," he states that God
"permits" even the "best of his servants many times to be involved in
the greatest calamities, to try their faith in him, and love to him; to
improve their virtue, and to prevent those sins into which the mighty
temptations of a perpetual prosperity are apt to draw even the best of
men."8 John Leland points out that the "evils and sufferings which
good men endure in this present state are perfectly consistent with the
divine justice, because they are either sent as chastisements and cor-
rections for their sins and miscarriages, or as seasonable trials for the
exercise and improvement of their virtues, and to discipline them for
a better world; and that in a future state the trial shall be over, and
their virtue fully rewarded, and they shall arrive at the true felicity
and perfection of their nature."9 Moreover, as Richardson's friend the
Reverend Patrick Delany flatly stated: "Rewards and Punishments are
the great springs and wheels that set the whole world in motion; there
is hardly any thing to be done in life, without the aid of one or both of
In general, trials, temptations, and afflictions in this world were, for
the Christian, special times during which God seemingly permitted
7. Pp. 294-95.
8. Works, 4: 168 and 6: 213 (2d sermon on this text), respectively, Sermon title,
volume, and page number hereafter will be cited in text.
9. "The Christian Doctrine of Future Retributions Vindicated," A View of the
Principal Deistical Writers, 2: 240.
10. "The Duty of Masters to Their Servants," Fifteen Sermons Upon Social Duties, p.
226. Richardson printed this work ("Sale," p. 165).


Pamela: The Context

evil to gain the upper hand for purposes and ends known finally only
to Himself. For George Stanhope, whose Gospels find a place in the
"Sinclair library," trials were permitted to "prove" depth of belief, to
"Increase ... spiritual Strength," to present "Spiritual Pride and Se-
curity," to correct "some past Misdemeanor" or subdue some "rebelli-
ous" lust, to magnify "the Power of Divine Grace," to reveal special
"Examples of surprising Patience, Resolutioh, and Firmness of Mind"
for the imitation of the generality of mankind, and, finally, for pur-
poses of "Weaning the Affections from things here below, raising the
Mind by Heavenly Dispositions, and, in Proportion to their present
Sufferings, reserving a sure and more abundant Recompence, for the
Crown of their Labours at the last Great Day."'' Perhaps, however, it is
the popular divine and Bishop of London, Thomas Sherlock, who
stated best the proper Christian attitude toward the seemingly endless
trials and temptations to which the human condition is disposed: "In a
Word, it is no Man's Fault that he is tempted, it is the Condition of our
spiritual Warfare; it is the Combat to which God calls us for the Proof
and Trial of our Virtue. Then only are we guilty when we give way to
Temptations, and forsake God to follow the Pleasures or the Gains of
As even this brief survey suggests, the literature involving Christian
testing is vast. The references to it by Richardson and his contem-
poraries indicate that there is more to "Virtue Rewarded" than is
generally understood; it is also possible to amplify those aspects of this
tradition which seem directly pertinent to the religious theme of
Pamela: the "educational" value of trials and temptations, their use-
fulness in teaching man about himself and the nature of the world he


George Stanhope, during his discussion of Matthew 8:23-27, notes
that "every Man hath a Post appointed him by God, and the Character
of a Christian to maintain. And Few arrive to any uncommon Excel-
lencies in this Station, except Such, as make their way up to them
11. 4:277-78.
12. Several Discourses Preached at the Temple Church, "Discourse VII" (based on Luke
4:1-2), 2: 148-49. As noted earlier, Richardson mentions this work in Corre-
spondence, 3: 107.


Divine Providence and the Trial of Virtue

through Sufferings. Hence tis, we commonly call Afflictions Tryals,
because they are the Test of a Man's Virtue, and discover what he
really is."'3 The sermons of Tillotson contain many references to the
educational value of afflictions and temptations-their help in reveal-
ing a man's basic character to himself or in purging and purifying the
dross contained in that character. For example, in "The Goodness of
God," Tillotson states that "God teacheth men temperance by want,
and patience by reproach and sufferings, charity by persecution, and
pity and compassion to others by grievous pains upon ourselves" (7,
p. 56); in "The True Remedy against the Troubles of Life," he advises
that "if we make the best use of the evils and afflictions which befall us,
and bear them as we ought, we our selves may do a great deal to turn
them to our benefit and advantage; to the bettering of our Minds, and
the improvement of our Virtues, and the increase of our Reward" (9,
p. 179). Moreover, for Tillotson, man generally does not know him-
self or the limits of his frailty and weakness until he is tried, and thus
only when men "are prest by a great Necessity, when Nature is spurr'd
up and urged to the utmost," is it that they "discover in themselves a
Power which they thought they had not, and find at last that they can
do that which at first they despaired of ever being able to do" ("Of the
Difficulty of Reforming Vicious Habits" 2, p. 204).
Coupled with the view that trials and afflictions served to teach man
about himself was the belief that these also were permitted for pur-
poses of curing him and enabling him to become a healthy and
knowledgeable inhabitant of the world. Christ was frequently re-
ferred to as the "great Physician," and man's sufferings viewed as the
"physick, and means of cure, which the providence of God is often
necessitated to make use of," a "physick" which, however seemingly
inequitable to man's limited vision, worked only for his ultimate good
(Tillotson, "The Wisdom of God in His Providence," 6, p. 421). If the
world itself was sometimes a hospital, it was more particularly a
teaching hospital in which the judgments of God were seen as the
"wise methods which the great Physician of the World uses for the
cure of mankind; they are Rods of his School and the Discipline of his
Providence, that the inhabitants of the world may learn righteousness"
(Tillotson, "Of the End of Judgments," 1, p. 194). Thus, in undergo-
ing trials and temptations, through patient resignation under afflic-
tion,14 man learned his true place in relation to the world and was
13. Gospels, 2: 141.
14. It should be noted that for English divines, patient resignation was not the


Pamela: The Context

prepared for the ultimate revelation of the purpose of God, which
was fully granted only after death:

For the life which we live now in this world, is a time of exercise, a
short state of probation and tryal, in order to a durable and
endless state, in which we shall be immutably fix'd in another
world. This world, into which we are now sent for a little while, is
as it were God's school, in which immortal spirits cloathed with
flesh, are trained and bred up for eternity (Tillotson, "Of the
Work Assigned to Every Man," 5, p. 224).

Moreover, the greatest lesson taught a man in this school was his true
relation to God Himself-a discipline designed primarily to "throw
men upon their backs, to make them look up to heaven" (Tillotson,
"The Mercy of God," 7, p. 84).


Although their educational and curative values were the general
reasons most often given by English divines for the existence of
human suffering and trial, the best insights for a Christian were
gained from those times in particular when religious principles them-
selves were put to the test. It was believed that this "fiery Trial" of
persecution not only revealed the sincerity of religious belief but also
provided the means for determining the very strength of a man's
character: "This is the utmost proof of our integrity, when we are
called to bear the cross, to be willing then to expose all our worldly
interest, and even life itself, for the cause of God and religion"
(Tillotson, "Of Sincerity towards God and Man," 4, p. 8). While such a
severe trial was not common, Christians nevertheless were always to
be prepared for it by knowing well the reasons for their particular

same thing as blind or mindless apathy in the face of suffering. The proper human
response to pain and affliction is cogently summarized in Chapter 62 ("Against
Impatience, Anger, and Murmuring") of The Christian's Magazine. Moreover, theolo-
gians frequently linked patience and submission with the belief that no man was
tempted or afflicted above what he was able to bear-for example, see Tillotson's
sermon, "The Excellency of Abraham's Faith and Obedience" (4: 43). For, as I Cor.
10:13 states: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but
God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able; but will
with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."


Divine Providence and the Trial of Virtue

religious belief. Thus, the Christian was frequently admonished to try
the grounds of his faith in order to defend his belief against the
assaults of the ungodly. Reason, the greatest gift of God, was seen as
an effective means toward helping a man maintain sufficient resolu-
tion in the face of persecution, for, as Tillotson notes, the "more
reasonable our faith is, and the surer grounds it is built upon, the
more firm it will abide, when it comes to the trial" while, if "our faith of
another world be only a st rng imagination of these things, as soon as
tribulation ariseth, it will wither; because it hath no root in itself" ("The
Christian Life," 4, p. 173). FOr the sincere Christian, a tacit acknowl-
edgment or mere superficial adherence to religious principles was not
enough to insure steadfastness in the arena of daily living. Rather, it
was only that man who "hath examined his religion, and tried the
grounds of it" who "is most able to maintain them, and make them
good against all assaults that may be made upon us, to move us from
our stedfastness" (Tillotson, "Of Constancy in the Profession of the
True Religion,' 4, p. 74). Furthermore, and directly pertinent to
Pamela's initial character, it was frequently noted that "he that hath
not examined, and consequently does not understand the reasons for
his religion, is liable to be tossed to andfro, and to be carried about with every
wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and the cunning craftiness of those that
lie in wait to deceive" (Tillotson, "Of Constancy," 4, p. 74).
Moreover, Christians were enjoined to adapt the teachings of the
Church to their daily lives. Tillotson speaks to this issue in "The
Nature and Benefit of Consideration":

... most men take the principles of Religion for granted, That
there is a God, and a Providence, and a State of Rewards and Punish-
ments after this Life, and never entertained any considerable
doubt in their minds to the contrary: but for all this they never
attended to the proper and natural consequences of these prin-
ciples, nor applied them to their own case; they never seriously
considered the notorious inconsistency of their lives with this
belief, and what manner of persons they ought to be who are
verily persuaded of the truth of these things (1, p. 259).

It was the efficacy of tested religious beliefs, in the world itself, the
testimonium rei and not merely pious words, that was emphasized again
and again in sermon and commentary. Christians were often ad-
monished to "endeavour after the reality of religion, always remem-
bering that a sincere piety doth not consist in shew, but substance, not


Pamela: The Context

in appearance, but in effect" (Tillotson, "Of Sincerity towards God
and Man," 4, p. 12). Building upon Christ's words to His disciples that
"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:17),
English divines stressed a living religion, a system of belief which was
fully realized only through the daily activity of its adherents. For
Tillotson, "Our lives must justify our godly talk, and our actions must
give weight to our words" ("Of the Form, and the Power of Godliness,"
9, p. 14). For Thomas Sherlock, even faith/itself "cannot be a Principle
of Religion, till it has its Effect and Op ration ii the Heart."15 For
Charles Wheatly,

To render the Word successful with us, we must not be con-
tented with only hearing, and considering, and assenting to the
Truth and Reasonableness of what is delivered and preached;
but we must also with Patience and Perseverance apply our-
selves to the Practice of what is taught, notwithstanding any
Hardships, Difficulties or Discouragements to which it may
expose us; that we must obey the Exhortations and Instructions
that are given, not only where we can do it without putting any
Curb upon our Interest or Desires; but also where it calls us to
Acts of Mortification, Self-denial and Restraint, and even though it
should lay us open to Affliction or Persecution for its Sake.16


Afflictions and trials were viewed also as serving momentarily to blur
even further the already limited vision of man-making him likely to
lose sight of the presence and purpose of a concerned God. Treat-
ments of the seemingly inequitable nature of earthly existence-the
pain and suffering of the innocent and the power and prosperity of
the wicked-were for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as
ancient as Job and Ecclesiastes and as current as Paradise Lost or An
Essay on Man. It was a prime article of belief for Tillotson that the
"glorious reward of the sufferings which we have met with in this life,
will in the next clear up the goodness and justice of the divine
providence from all those mists and clouds which are now upon it,
and fully acquit it from those objections which are now raised against

15. Several Discourses, "Discourse XIV, Part Two" (based on Hebrews 3:12), 1: 388.
16. "The Parable of the Sower," Fifty Sermons, 1: 287.


Divine Providence and the Trial of Virtue

it, upon account of the afflictions and sufferings of good men in this
life, which are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed
in them" ("The Goodness of God," 7, p. 56). Thus, whatever the
appearance of things in this world, whatever the seeming inequalities
of human existence, it was believed to be essential for man to bear in
mind that the various trials and temptations of life were but stages
leading toward the ultimate revelation of the will of God:

We are, indeed, liable to many things in this world, which have
a great deal of evil and affliction in them, to poverty, and pain,
and reproach, and restraint, and the loss of our friends and near
relations; and these are great afflictions, and very cross and
distasteful to us; and therefore, when we are in danger of any of
these, and apprehend them to be making towards us, we are apt
to be anxious, and full of trouble; and when they befal us, we are
prone to censure the providence of God, and to judge rashly
concerning it, as if all things were not ordered by it for the best:
But we should consider, that we are very ignorant and
shortsighted creatures, and see but a little way before us, are not
able to penetrate into the designs of God, and to look to the end
of his providence. We cannot (as Solomon expresseth it) see the
work of God from the beginning to the end; whereas, if we saw the
whole design of providence together, we should strangely ad-
mire the beauty and proportion of it, and should see it to be very
wise and good (Tillotson, "The Wisdom of God in His Provi-
dence," 6, pp. 420-21).

Although trials and afflictions might be but God's discipline or
"physick," ultimately leading man toward this final revelation, the
dangers of thejourney itself were still such that one could lose sight of
even the evidence of divine providence manifested in terms of this
world. The danger of becoming despondent or unmindful of the
workings of God was frequently underscored by English divines, who
viewed such despair and stubbornness as antithetical to the growth in
spiritual strength and insight into the providential design which were
believed to be the major reasons for permitting trials in the first place.
Accordingly, Christians were admonished to be cautious of despair-
ing, primarily because of the difficulty in computing clearly "the good
of evils" or "the mercies of providence in things afflictive at first
hand."17 Moreover, it was believed that throughout even extraordi-
17. Sir Thomas Browne, Works, "Christian Morals," 4:74.


Pamela: The Context

nary temptations and trials, good men "may expect to be born up and
comforted in a very extraordinary and supernatural manner" (Tillot-
son, "The Support of Good Men," 5, p. 199), a support, particularly in
special cases, which stood forth as clear evidence of a divine control
and purpose operating in the world: ".. in a word, when we are
reduced to the greatest extremity and distress that can be imagined,
even in this case, if ever it should happen, we should support our
minds with a firm belief of the Providence of Almighty God, and of his
tender and compassionate care of Mankind, especially of those thatfear
him, and put their trust in his mercy" (Tillotson, "The True Remedy
against the Troubles of Life," 9, p. 216).
While each human creature was important to God as an object of
his providence, those who attempted to live righteously, those virtu-
ous and innocent, were consistently viewed as being worthy of his
special notice and concern. For Tillotson, .. innocency is a great
stay and support to our minds under sufferings, and will bear up our
spirits, when nothing else can; especially if a man suffer for a good
conscience, and for righteousness sake: because then, beside the
comfort of innocency, we are entitled in a special manner to the favour
of God, and the comforts and supports of his holy spirit, and the
hopes of a glorious reward from that God, for whose sake and in
whose cause we suffer" ("The Wisdom of Religion Justified," 8, p.
238). Even more particularly, God is concerned for the well-being of
the "honest and pious Poor," and, "provided they be rich in Faith and
Virtue," He has "made them equal to the greatest of the Sons of Men,
and vested them in the same Title to the same Inheritance, and to
every precious Promise, which his Blessed Gospel hath any where
made to Them, who best love, and are best beloved by him."18 For,
God often tests the hardest those whom he loves the best:

Afflictions in this world are so far from being a sign of God's
hatred, that they are an argument of his love and care; whom the
Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Those he designs for great things hereafter he trains up by great
hardships in this world, and by many tribulations prepares them
for a kingdom (Tillotson, "The Parable of the Rich Man and
Lazarus," 2nd sermon on this text, 6, p. 210).19
18. Stanhope, Gospels, 3: 189.
19. As Lewis Bayly, Bishop of Bangor, states: "... afflictions are notsignes either of
God's hatred, or of our reprobation: but rather tokens and pledges of his fatherly love unto
his children whom he loveth, and therefore chasteneth them in this life, where upon


Divine Providence and the Trial of Virtue

This particular testing of the virtuous was often permitted for pur-
poses of singling out special cases to reward or punish-a reward and
punishment sometimes accomplished in this world. While, as stated
earlier, all seeming inequalities would eventually be set right and
made clear, sometimes this was done in the terms of the present world
to set an example for the edification of a general mankind. As Sir
Thomas Browne states (in a work known to Richardson): ".. the
mercy of God hath singled out but a few to be the signals of hisjustice,
leaving the generality of mankind to the paedagogy of example."20
Such examples were viewed as essential proof of not only the wisdom
of God but also of his continuous concern for the well-being of his
creatures. A single example could do much toward leading great
numbers of people to the acknowledgment of the wisdom of the
Creator and the efficacy of His commandments: "... in the judg-
ment of the wisest among the Jews, it was not unworthy of the Good-
ness and Wisdom of the divine Providence to permit the best Man to
be so ill treated by wicked Men: And further, that in their judgment
the innocency and virtues of an eminently righteous Man are then set
off to the best advantage, and do shine forth with the greatest lustre,
when he is under the hardest circumstances of suffering and persecu-
tion from an evil World" (Tillotson, "Concerning the Incarnation of
Christ," 3, p. 93). Such particular examples, whether found in scrip-
ture, sermon, or contemporary event, were also taken to be clear
illustrations of the manner in which God frequently chose to reveal his
will and purpose to his creatures:

... notwithstanding the rage and craft of evil men, poor and
unharmed innocence and virtue is usually protected, and, some-
times, rewarded in this world, and domineering and outrageous
wickedness is very often remarkably checked and chastised. All
which instances of God's providence, as they are greatly for the
advantage and comfort of mankind, so are they an effectual
declaration of that goodness which governs all things, and of
God's kind care of the affairs and concernments of men; so that
if we look no further than this world, we may say with David,

repentance, there remains hope of pardon; rather than to referred the punishment to
that life where there is no hope of pardon, nor end of punishment." The Practice of Piety,
pp. 569-70. Richardson mentions this work in Correspondence, 4: 237.
20. Browne, Works, "Christian Morals," 4: 88-89. According to A. D. McKillop
(Samuel Richardson, Printer and Novelist, p. 188), Johnson gave Richardson a copy of
the "Christian Morals."


Pamela: The Context

Verily there is a reward for the righteous, verily there is a God that
judgeth the earth (Tillotson, "The Goodness of God," 2nd sermon
on this text, 7, pp. 45-46).

Moreover, it seems precisely such a declaration of God's goodness and
"kind care of the affairs and concernments of men" that Richardson
personally judged to be at the core of the meaning of Pamela's own
example when he states:

Let the desponding Heart be comforted by the happy Issue
which the Troubles and Trials of the lovely PAMELA met with,
when they see, in her Case, that no Danger nor Distress, how-
ever inevitable or deep to their Apprehensions, can be out of the
Power of Providence to obviate or relieve; and which, as in
various Instances in her Story, can turn the most seemingly
grievous Things to its own Glory, and the Reward of suffering
Innocence; and that, too, at a Time when all human Prospects
seem to fail (410-11).

When placed against the backdrop of Christian testing, the reward
of virtue does not seem to be either superfluous or a crude attempt at
overzealous moralizing on the part of Richardson, but rather to be a
fairly straightforward indication of the theme of his first novel. Judg-
ing from the sermon literature both preceding and contemporaneous
with its publication, Pamela, on the evidence of its subtitle and general
plot alone, would appear to be a work which owes much to the broad
Christian tradition of human testing, providential example, and
growth in spiritual perception. Perhaps by viewing Pamela as part of
this tradition, as a fictive treatment of the educational value of testing
and providential concern and reward in terms of this world, a more
satisfying starting point for a revaluation of the religious dimension of
Richardson's novels can be achieved.



Pamela: A Reading

And the principal Complaints against me by many, and not
Libertines neither, are, that I am too grave, too much of a
Methodist, and make Pamela too pious. I have in View, however,
to avoid inflaming Descriptions; and to turn even the Fondness
of ye Pair, toa kind of intellectual Fondness. ... In my Scheme, I
have generally taken Human Nature as it is; for it is to no
purpose to suppose it Angelic, or to endeavour to make it so.
There is a Time of Life in which the Passions will predominate;
and Ladies, any more than Men, will not be kept in Ignorance;
and if we can properly mingle Instruction with Entertainment,
so as to make the latter seemingly the View, while the former is
really the End, I imagine it will be doing a great deal. For when
the Mind begins to be attached to Virtue, it will improve itself, and
outstretch the poor Scenes which I intend only for a first
Richardson to Dr. George Cheyne on Pamela II,
August 31, 1741 (Mullett, pp. 67-68)



4. On God all future Good depends:
The Bedfordshire Section

Pamela II-"the Son of my dear good Lady departed":
Mr. B. and the Trial of Virtue

Among the many distinctive features of the Bedfordshire section, the
most noteworthy involve the complete failure of Mr. B.'s contrivances
to seduce Pamela and Pamela's own tendency not only to judge her
master's actions against the principles of her religious education but
also to rely upon the counsel of Mrs. Jervis and delay her return
home. That this is not evidence that Mr. B. is merely a bungling
would-be rake or that Pamela is a conniving hypocrite seems clear if
one notices the presence of a certain tension in the initial scenes of the
novel between order and disorder-a tension which seems to provide
the basic framework for what is soon revealed to be a steadily inten-
sifying confrontation between the selfishness and pride of Mr. B. and
the religious faith of Pamela. Moreover, a close attention to Mr. B.'s
later assessment of the events in Bedfordshire (his own "chronological
preface" to the novel proper) reveals three things.1 First are the
religious order and good rule of his mother's household-a rule
likened by her on her deathbed to the duty of a king toward his
subjects. Second is the restiveness of Mr. B. under this order. While
not totally corrupt, he nevertheless freely confesses his prior arro-
gance, lust, lack of discipline, and selfishness, as well as his readiness to
conclude that the abundant evidence of Pamela's piety and religious
training is merely an artful facade. Third there is pointedly made
clear the special place occupied by Pamela within this household-a
1. For this brief discussion of the sequel, Pamela II, I again cite in text from Pamela
(1963 reprint of Everyman edition), vol. 2. For Pamela I, I cite in text from the
Riverside edition.

Pamela: A Reading

unique relationship with her mistress which stems essentially from
her own native humility and innocence, traits nourished and
strengthened by a religious upbringing.
In discussing his motivations, Mr. B. relates how his natural interest
in a sheltered and beautiful young girl quickly turned from idle
daydreaming to placing himself actively against the influence of her
education and his mother's watchful eye and concern. His initial
conceit and vanity are soon consumed by lust, and thoughts of a
possible dalliance quickly become something much more dangerous
and sinister. He views his mother's improvement of Pamela as prepar-
ing her for his own attempts, thinking at one point that this education,
particularly in the social graces, will but make her "new" to him if she
behaves "worthy" of it (104). Accordingly, his first strategy is one of
affecting haughty and reserved airs in order to "demolish the influ-
ence of such an education," and he regards her natural awe and
reverence for him as evidence that his plan is working (104, 105). This
confidence in his own ability (a belief that he can "pull down in three
hours" what his mother's lessons have been "building up in as many
years," 105) is quickly bruised, for Lady B. proves suspicious, and
Pamela herself continues oblivious to the subtleties of his intrigue.
Moreover, as he runs afoul of Pamela's humility, he tries to pass it off
as evidence of a "little rustic affectation of innocence, that to such as
cannot see into her, may pass well enough" (107), and decides to make
her fear him, so that whatever kindness he shows her afterward will
build on gratitude "and never question old humdrum Virtue ... but
the tempter without, and the tempter within, will be too many for the
perversest nicety that ever the sex boasted" (108).
The influence of Pamela's religious training and humility does
cause Mr. B. at least temporarily to abandon his first plot to abduct her
to Lincolnshire. At one point in the sequel, he has occasion to read
from her "commonplace book," and her reflections on Proverbs 22:6
(Train up a child in the way it should go) spark an exchange during which
Lady B. sadly comments on the lack of a sincere piety in her son.2
Parrying with his mother, he grants the seeming goodness of Pamela,
but slyly adds: ". . let's see what she'll be a few years hence. Then will
2. See Patrick Delany's Fifteen Sermons Upon Social Duties; sermons 4- 7 ("The Duty
of Parents to Their Children") are based on Proverbs 22:6 and deal with the religious
education of children during the early eighteenth century. For a late-seventeenth-
century series of sermons on this same text, see Tillotson's "Of The Education Of
Children," Works, 3, sermons 51-53. Excerpts from this sermon series are included in
Chapter 76 ("Concerning Education") of The Christian's Magazine.


The Bedfordshire Section

be the trial"; to which Lady B. quickly answers: "She'll be always good,
I doubt not" (110). Stung by this comment, he changes the subject, but
not without admitting to himself that Pamela's skill in writing and the
soundness of her religious views have made him form "a still higher
opinion" of her. But even this grudging admission does not deter him
from resolving to "watch by what gradations she may be made to rise
into love, and into a higher life, than that to which she was born," a life
as his "mistress" (110). Accordingly, he decides to abduct her, being
finally convinced that "there was no coming at her here, under my
mother's wing, by her own consent," and knowing that "to offer terms
to her, would be to blow up my project all at once" in this household,
where even the housekeeper "Mrs. Jervis would stand in the way of
my proceedings as well as my mother" (111).
The fatal illness of his mother causes Mr. B. to delay putting his plot
into effect. Regarding this decision, he further relates how his
mother's final hours resolved him "to conquer, if possible, my guilty
passion, as those scenes taught me, while their impressions held,justly
to call it; and I was much concerned to find it so difficult a task" (113).
Moreover, he notes particularly that Pamela's steadfastness and virtue
(her "affectionate duty" and prayers for her mistress) "insensibly" had
brought him "to admire her in every thing she said or did" (113). This
growing sense of Pamela's worth, in working counter to Mr. B.'s own
inflated opinion of himself, soon initiates a painful internal struggle
involving his personal happiness and well-being.3 His renewed desire
to test the reality of her innocence and virtue against his own selfish
presuppositions regarding the female character quickly makes even
the lessons of his mother's death and her example of less importance
to him than the instant gratification of his own guilty passion. And,
this obstinate and selfish opposition to the older order of his mother's
day forms the basis of his later attacks and makes his failure there, as
described by Pamela herself, something more than the artful chroni-
cle of a bungler.4

3. For pertinent evaluations of Mr. B.'s character, struggle, and "pride," see:
Gwendolyn B. Needham's "Richardson's Characterization of Mr. B. and Double
Purpose in Pamela"; Dorothy Parker's "The Time Scheme of Pamela and the Charac-
ter of B.";John A. Dussinger's "What Pamela Knew: An Interpretation," in particular,
p. 389, where he notes in passing Mr. B.'s change "from angel to Lucifer, from master
to rake, from childhood friend to seducer"; M. Kinkead-Weekes's "Introduction" to
the 1962 Everyman edition of Pamela and his Samuel Richardson: Dramatic Novelist.
4. The difficulty and danger in which Mr. B.'s actions increasingly are placing him
bear a resemblance to George Stanhope's description of the nature of "an ungodly


Pamela: A Reading

Pamela I-"the Fear of God and good Rule kept":
Mr. B. and the Well-Ordered Estate

In the opening letters, Richardson seems careful to present Mr. B. as
the scion of an older order. The recommendation of the servants "one
by one" to his care and protection by his dying mother almost takes on
the nature of a regal assumption of power, and the request that her
son particularly remember Pamela-the special recipient of her own
good lessons and concern-seems calculated to impress upon him the
responsibilities of his coming stewardship. His first two attempts on
this very maidservant, however, not only mark the abandoning of his
duty but also begin the process whereby he will eventually involve
everyone in the household in his struggle. Moreover, these two scenes
are but the first of a series in which Mr. B.'s actions appear to be
striking at the core of his own peace and that of his estate and
simultaneously testing Pamela's selfhood-the tenets of her religious
training and her own inherent assumptions regarding the world.
Before considering the effects of this trial on Pamela herself it will,
however, be helpful to examine briefly the implications raised by Mr.
B.'s behavior.
One of the most striking features of the Bedfordshire section is Mr.
B.'s "progression" from "the best of Gentlemen" (26) to an "Imple-
ment ... in the Hands of Lucifer" (86)-from seeming to be "an
Angel" (31) to being revealed instead as a "Black-hearted Wretch"
(86).5 Accompanying his changing character and appearance is the
growth of his pride, which, however much he struggles against it,
nevertheless prods him into devising various contrivances designed to
dominate and ruin one whom he was requested to protect. It is
interesting to note, however, that throughout this progression there is
clear evidence that the disorder in his own personality-the struggle
between his sense of duty, right action, and incipient love for Pamela
and his arrogance and lust, his denial of the worth of any power
greater than his own-comes to cause a gradual spreading of this

Life" and the "wild Mazes and endless Labyrinths, which Sin entangles Men in"
(Gospels, 3: 222).
5. For a later discussion of the dangers of "Slavery to passions" and the ever
changing or "protean" quality of evil, see Charles Howe's Devout Meditations, pp. 7-8.
Richardson mentions this work in Correspondence, 6: 240.


The Bedfordshire Section

disorder and upset to the estate itself.6 From the agonized indecision
of Mrs. Jervis, to the examples of the butler, Jonathan, and the
steward, Longman (men who are saddened by the extreme alteration
in their master), to the lesser maids and servants, who tremble in their
beds during his most serious attack on Pamela-the very order of the
Bedfordshire household seems to be threatened by the selfishness
and lust of its own master.
Despite this spread of disorder, however, all his plots and attempts
are constantly checked and frustrated by the presence of these very
servants, the legacy in a sense of the older order of his mother's day.
Accordingly, from Mrs. Jervis, who persistently reminds him of his
duty and obligation as master of "an orderly and well-govern'd
House" (39) to the warnings of Jonathan and the evidence of
Longman's love for Pamela, from the frequent rallying of the "whole
Family" around her to his own grudging admission on several occa-
sions that his servants had rather serve her than him, and finally from
the "utmost Grief" once again of "all the Family" in the face of
Pamela's abduction-from all this it is abundantly made evident in
Bedfordshire that Mr. B. has little chance to avoid at least thinking of
the possible consequences of his actions. Rather than admit to any
wrongdoing himself, however, he consistently places all blame upon
others (most notably Pamela), and appears shocked that he is not held
in reverence by his own servants-constantly demanding to be re-
spected as a master and yet acting in a way suggestive of a brute.
Moreover, instead of attempting to live up to his mother's expecta-
tions and to be the best of gentlemen, a good example to his servants,
his pride and growing delight in intrigue reveal him to be a man in
serious danger of becoming in fact a "Workman" of "Lucifer" (65) and
a master totally lacking in the "Fear of God" (73) which alone can
ensure the preservation of the well-ordered household that he
inherited-a man very much in need of being taught the folly of both
pride and immorality.7

6. As The Whole Duty of Man states: "For he that is proud sets himself up as his own
god, and so can never submit himself to any other rules or laws than what he makes to
himself"-a dangerous endeavor especially when it is remembered that "if God
spared not the angels for this sin, but cast them into hell, let no man hope to speed
better," from Sunday 6, "The Great Sin of Pride," pp. 136, 139.
7. Regarding the seriousness of Mr. B.'s failure to live up to his responsibilities as
master, see Sermon 11 ("The Duty of Masters to Their Servants") of Patrick Delany's
Fifteen Sermons, in particular the statement "Masters should set their servants a good
example" for "Example sways the whole world, and either ruins or reforms it, as it is


Pamela: A Reading


"to avoid the Tempter": Pamela in Bedfordshire

Although Mr. B.'s actions serve to set things in motion and help to
provide the context in which the trial of virtue will take place, we must
initially note also a crucial difference between the Pamela of the first
letter, who confidently assures her parents that "God will not let me
want" (26), and the Pamela of Letter xxix, who trusts that "God will
provide for me" (81)-between the Pamela of Letter iii, who asserts
that she will rest content with "Rags and Poverty, and Bread and
Water" rather than "forfeit my good Name, let who will be the Tempter"
(28), and the Pamela of Letter xxiii, who prays that her "sweet Com-
panion my Innocence" may "be always my Companion! And while I
presume not upon my own Strength, and am willing to avoid the Tempter, I
hope the Divine Grace will assist me" (59; italics mine). Such letters
clearly suggest that, alongside Mr. B.'s own struggle and his introduc-
tion of disorder into the well-knit fabric of his mother's estate, there
takes place a certain maturity in Pamela's reliance on the tenets of her
religious training. Taken together, it seems no accident that the
increase in Mr. B.s turmoil and wrath, his steady intensification of lust
and arrogance which makes him on several occasions appear "de-
monic," is complemented by Pamela's own growth in spiritual percep-
tion, maturity, and independence, but rather can be viewed as careful
preparation for what is to become clear to them only in Lincolnshire.
Moreover, what is being established even in the failure of Mr. B.'s
first two attempts is the fact that in the context of Bedfordshire, within
the confines of a well-ordered estate and under the watchful eyes of
his servants, he has little chance of succeeding. While this is important
in providing a practical as well as technical reason for Pamela's abduc-
tion to Lincolnshire, it should also be kept in mind that within such an
environment the exact nature of her own progress in perception and
experience-indeed, her most significant dimension as a fictional
character-may be overlooked.8 In other words, the obvious and

good or evil" (222). Cf. Lady B.'s words concerning the similarity between this
traditional idea of Regis ad exemplum and that of the protection which the head of a
household owes to his servants-p. 114 of the sequel-as well as Pamela's own
assessment on p. 392.
8. The testing of Pamela and her growing awareness or perception, a growth
toward adult maturity, have been noted by recent critics, notably Dorothy Parker in
"The Time Scheme of Pamela," p. 697; John A. Dussinger, "What Pamela Knew";


The Bedfordshire Section

ready availability of strictly human support may plausibly blur the
stages leading to her "happy Resolution" in Letter xxx to "go away,
and trust all to Providence, and nothing to myself' (84-85). Essen-
tially it is her changing relationship with Mrs. Jervis that provides the
clearest insight into the implications of Pamela's portrayal in Bedford-
shire, for it helps bring into focus her final temptation and sheds light
on her initial letter from Lincolnshire-a prologue to the central
section of the novel.9
The first thirteen letters reveal not only the naivete and sheltered
innocence of Pamela, her dutiful and trusting nature, but also her
increasing dependence upon Mrs. Jervis for both physical security
and a continuation of the good advice begun by her parents and Lady
B. From the first, Mrs. Jervis and order, good rule and advice are
almost synonymous to Pamela; despite the presence of the good will
and love of the entire household for her, it is Mrs. Jervis who is most
important. For example, her parents' first warning letter, with its
advice to come away instantly if Mr. B. makes the "least Attempt"
upon her "Virtue" (28), naturally upsets Pamela, but mere thoughts
of the presence of the housekeeper quickly dispel all fear or suspicion.
She relates that Mrs. Jervis is a "very good Woman" who "is always
giving me good Counsel"-a woman she loves next to her parents,
one who keeps "good Rule and Order" in the household itself an
who delights in having "good Books" read to her (30). Because of all
this, Pamela is moved to become "quite fearless of any Danger"
despite her parents' caution to her (30). This initial and quite natural
reliance is encouraged in the second warning letter. Made fearful by

Stuart Wilson, "Richardson's Pamela: An Interpretation"; and Margaret Anne 4oody,
A Natural Passion. While they do not credit him, William Hazlitt suggested as/ much
when he stated of Pamela that "the interest of the story increases with the 4awn of
understanding and reflection in the heroine: her sentiments gradually expand them-
selves, like opening flowers": Works, ed. P. P. Howe, 6:118- 19.
But, even granting this sexual or social awakening or the problem of her/reliability
as a narrator, the change itself, her development as a fictional character nonetheless is
expressed in religious language.
9. This relationship, and Mrs. Jervis's seeming limitations as an dvisor, are
discussed by numerous critics, most notably by Dussinger in "What Pamnela Knew,
pp. 379-81. Despite his insight into her reliance upon this "surrogate mother"
during the early scenes and her final attempt to "fathom her sinister/world alone,"
however, Dussinger neglects to do justice to the exact nature of Panrela's previous
religious training and relies much too heavily on Adam Smith's Thebry of the Moral
Sentiments in understanding her dilemma-a dilemma involving much more than
"trying to serve two opposing forms of authority" (379), or learning to determine
moral truth and correct social behavior "by trial and error" (382)./


Pamela: A Reading

Mr. B.'s attentions and their daughter's own exaggerated assessment
of his goodness, her parents advise her to hide nothing from the
housekeeper and to "take her Counsel in every thing" (32-33).
Mr. B.'s first overture, proving that her parent's fears were well
founded, further strengthens this relationship, for Pamela, debating
with herself and afraid of being accused of robbery if she follows their
advice to leave immediately, decides to tell all to Mrs. Jervis despite
her master's caution to secrecy (36). However worried over Pamela's
beauty, the housekeeper finally urges her to stay and to trust that their
master's "shame" will prevent further attempts. Despite this evidence
of a counsel contradictory to that of her parents, Pamela nevertheless
informs them: "And so, as you ordered me to take her Advice, I
resolved to tarry to see how things went, without he was to turn me
away" (37). Her parents' third letter, however muddled, seems to
approve of this decision. Hoping that God, in light of their daughter's
past conduct and "virtuous Education," will enable her finally to
"overcome," they also greatly fear the stratagems which the "Devil"
may encourage Mr. B. to employ, and, after warning her that "it may
be presumptuous to trust too much to your own Strength," and
hoping that God will direct her for the best, they at least feel easier as
ong as she has "Mrs. Jervis for an Adviser, and Bedfellow" (38).
having begun their letter by reminding their daughter (in a passage
e hoing George Stanhope) that "Temptations are sore things; but yet
wi hout them, we know not our selves, nor what we are able to do,'
the conclude it by committing her to God's "blessed Protection" (38).
while these early letters generally indicate the presence of a certain
con *ct in Pamela between what she has been taught and the difficulty
of str ctly applying such teachings to her present situation, the next six
letter depict a specific and steady movement away from her previous
and n ive dependence upon Mrs. Jervis.'1 Moreover, as Pamela is
forced see and, more important, to accept the human limitations
and frequent failings of Mrs. Jervis, she increasingly comes to con-
sider the omplexities of life and the place of her own beliefs within it.

10. What Pamela seems to be engaged in throughout the Bedfordshire section
bears a resem lance to the "complex process" of "verification of the Christian Faith"
discussed by J. Bicknell. Particularly pertinent is his statement that a "child's
religion must b gin by being second-hand, based not on experience but on authority.
As he grows, he gins to verify for himself what he has been taught. This verification
is not only intell ctual but moral and spiritual. He learns the reasons for the beliefs
that he has accept ed on authority": A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles of
the Church of Eng nd, p. 250.


The Bedfordshire Section

For example, the housekeeper's early advice to remain in Bedford-
shire, in hopes that Mr. B.'s "shame" will prevent him from further
attempts, is quickly seen to be merely wishful thinking when he not
only tries again but also childishly shifts all blame to Pamela. During
the meeting following this second attack, Mrs. Jervis is ineffectual in
expostulating with him, and even seems to extenuate his behavior.
This turn of events causes Pamela to pluck up her own spirit and to
lecture Mrs. Jervis (in Mr. B.'s presence) on the relative duties of
servants and masters (44). And, however initially fearful that the
housekeeper is angry with her for her behavior during this meeting,
and in spite of wanting a good "Character," so that it will not be
thought she was "turn'd away for Dishonesty" (46), Pamela neverthe-
less concludes that to remain in the household after all these warnings
would be but to encourage her master to further indecencies. She
decides, instead, to return home once "all the Duties of my Place" are
Although there is now little doubt in Pamela's own mind about the
necessity to flee Mr. B.'s "temptations," something needs to be said
about Mrs. Jervis's frequent advice to her to stay. In a sense, the
housekeeper's actions can be viewed as an attempt (however futile, yet
certainly human) to serve not only Mr. B., the son of her late mistress,
but also the older order of Lady B.'s day, an order and rule informed
by the religious principles upon which Pamela relies-trying at once
to serve an increasingly selfish social authority and virtue, to honor
simultaneously the prerogatives of her master and the needs of inno-
cence. Quite naturally, this almost desperate attempt causes her to be
placed in an impossible position as buffer between Mr. B.'s growing
desire for Pamela and Pamela's own horror over the seeming indif-
ference of her master toward the religious truths on which she has
been taught to pattern her life. The wavering of Mrs. Jervis during
these early scenes, however confusing, also serves the technical func-
tion of providing Pamela with ample opportunity and occasion to test
her own thoughts and perceptions and, in the process, a chance for

11. As Patrick Delany notes in Sermon 10 ("The Duty of Servants to Their
Masters"), this is no small consideration. Speaking of a servant's "Faithfulness" to his
"trust," Delany states that "an honest care and management of all goods and things
committed to their charge, without fraud, or waste ... is of all others the highest and
most important part of the servant's duty; because his own conscience and his master's
interest are more nearly concerned in it than in any other: it being oftentimes in the
power of a wicked servant by one hour's wilful villainy in this point, to ruin the best
master, and the wealthiest man" (Fifteen Sermons, pp. 195-96).


Pamela: A Reading

her to grow in self-confidence, charity, and independence. Moreover,
it is soon evident that these very instances of human limitations are
serving to prepare Pamela for the trials yet to come.
It is the central portion of Letter xix, however, which serves as a
definite turning point in her relationship with Mrs. Jervis. At one
point, while countering Mr. B.'s charges that she has been imperti-
nent, Pamela queries: "Do you think I should ever have forgot myself,
if he had not forgot to act as my Master?"; and she then asks what Mrs.
Jervis would have done in her place (49). As almost a comment upon
her own struggle, and hoping that she would act as Pamela has done,
Mrs. Jervis nevertheless tries to extenuate their master's actions by
listing his good qualities and speaking of his love, a love he has
unsuccessfully "try'd to overcome" (49). Applying a bookish knowl-
edge of life to her present situation (having "read of Things almost as
strange from great Men to poor Damsels"), Pamela perceptively ques-
tions why her master can "stoop to like such a poor Girl as I" (49).
Thinking that all this is but a pretense to ruin her, and rigidly
asserting that "she that can't keep her Virtue, ought to live in Dis-
grace," she sees also the aptness of something her "poor dear Parents
have always taught me," and hopes, "if I was sure he would always be
kind to me, and never turn me off at all, that God will give me his
Grace, so as to hate and withstand his Temptation, were he not only
my Master, but my King, for the Sin's sake" (49).
Mrs. Jervis's initially unqualified delight at these words is tempered,
however, by her criticism of Pamela's seriousness of expression, her
remarks that Mr. B. is "vex'd" with himself over his current behavior,
and finally a promise that "he never will-offer you any Force" (50).
Significantly, Pamela counters this by a careful dissection of all of Mrs.
Jervis's previous advice regarding her master's shame. Again, having
"read" that "many a Man has been asham'd at a Repulse, that never
would, had they succeeded," she discounts the opinion that he loves
her and fears that he now "hopes to ruin me by my own Consent" (50).
Pertinently remembering her parents' advice to her in their third
letter, she then states: "It would be very presumptuous in me to rely
upon my own Strength, against a Gentleman of his Qualifications and
Estate, and who is my Master; and thinks himself entitled to call me
Bold-face, and what not; only for standing on my necessary Defence"
(50)-a retort which goes unchallenged by Mrs. Jervis.
Pamela's subsequent account of how beloved she is by all her


The Bedfordshire Section

"Fellow-servants" seems an attempt to comfort herself or find com-
pensation in the face of her discovery of the housekeeper's obvious
limitations. It should be noted, however, that from this point on, she
moves away from undue reliance upon Mrs.Jervis. Whatever comfort
she derives from others becomes secondary to the evidence suggest-
ing her increasing tendency to use what she has previously been
taught-a reliance upon herself closely associated with an emerging
hope for divine guidance and a steady growth in charity. For example,
in Letter xx, her decision not to tell Mrs. Jervis about her plans
concerning the "going-away dress" is followed by a passage in which
she seems saddened that Lady B. did not live longer so that "none of
these Things might have happened" (53). Moreover, her assertion
here that "Every thing turns about for the best,' while more hope than
certainty, nevertheless seems reminiscent of earlier statements (most
notably those involving presumption) which came alive for her only
by applying them to her personal situation. As the later scenes will
bear witness, however, what begins here as an almost offhand hope is
evidence of a significant new movement toward awareness of such a
divine purpose operating in the world.
The letters immediately preceding Mr. B.'s most serious physical
attack (the incident of Mrs. Jervis's bedchamber) further reveal
Pamela's changing relationship with the housekeeper, and suggest a
definite development in her own perception of the implications of
recent events. Letter xxi describes yet another debate over the true
significance of Mr. B.'s unsettled behavior. In her attempt to dojustice
to her master's struggle, the housekeeper is led to use the very argu-
ment which he unsuccessfully urged on Pamela during his first attack.
Pamela's spirited rejoinder (warning that she "shan't love" Mrs. Jervis
if she is trying to persuade her to stay while knowing full well the
hazards of remaining in Bedfordshire) leads the housekeeper quickly
to assure her that "he thinks it won't be for his Reputation to keep you:
But he wish'd .. that he knew a Lady of Birth, just such another as
yourself, in Person and Mind, and he would marry her Tomorrow"
(54). These words concerning Mr. B.'s "love', especially in light of his
past actions and the "End he aims at," are an "Abomination" to
Pamela's ears, and prompt her to inform Mrs. Jervis, "I shan't think
myself safe till I am at my poor Father's and Mother's" (54). Under-
scoring the different relationship between them, Pamela quickly as-
sures her counselor that she still thinks herself "safe under her Protec-


Pamela: A Reading

tion and Friendship" (54), but, in an aside to her parents, also relates
that as soon as her duties in the household are completed she will then
inform them of the exact manner of her return home.
Reminiscent of the concluding portion of Letter xix, Letters xxII
and xxiii contain additional mention of the love and active support of
the other servants, notably Jonathan and Mr. Longman. But what-
ever comfort this affords is short-lived, for the sarcastic compliments
of the visiting ladies soon frighten her and provide yet another reason
"for leaving this House" (59). Presently alone, she carefully considers
the possibility of her master's "love." Appearing very human at this
point, she is "vex'd" (in a sense further saddened by her master's
behavior) that his "Crossness" still affects her so deeply. Convinced
that Mr. B. now hates her "heartily,' she wonders, especially if Mrs.
Jervis's assessment is true, how it can be possible for love to border so
closely on hate. Finally, however, she decides that his "wicked Love is
not like the true virtuous Love, to be sure" (59). And, carrying this
reasoning a step further, she evaluates his recent actions in light of her
reading of the Biblical story of Amnon and Tamar, and concludes
that, unlike Tamar: "How happy am I, to be turn'd out of Door, with
that sweet Companion my Innocence" (59).12 Speaking of this inno-
cence, she then resolutely states: "O may that be always my Compan-
ion! And while I presume not upon my own Strength, and am willing
to avoid the Tempter, I hope the Divine Grace will assist me" (59). It is
noteworthy that whatever comfort Pamela is afforded at this point
comes not from thoughts of the support of Mrs. Jervis or the admitted
concern of her fellow servants but rather from a reliance upon her-
self, supplemented by a growing hope for divine assistance, and
occasioned by the proper application to her own situation of a biblical
story and her parents' early advice.
This religious comfort and the need to trust her own judgment are
further underscored in Letter xxiv, where she relates how Mrs.
Jervis's advice to "go in with her" to Mr. B. in her "new Dress" was the
occasion for "a great deal of Trouble upon me, as well as Crossness"
(61). Reflecting on this instance of Mrs. Jervis's bad counsel, Pamela
nevertheless states (noting the complexity and difficulty of the house-
keeper's position), that "tho' she did not mean any Harm," it seems
clear that "she cannot live without him. And he has been very good to
her" (64). Moreover, such acceptance of the limitations of her former
counselor serves to force Pamela even more upon trust in herself and
12. See 2 Samuel: 13.


The Bedfordshire Section

a hope for divine guidance. In beginning her description of Mr. B.'s
most serious attack, she counters her own despair of an earthly justice
by hoping for a divine one-trusting that "God Almighty... in time
will right me!-For he knows the Innocence of my Heart" (64).
In the minutes before the attack itself, Pamela carefully schools her
former teacher and leads her step by step through her previous
reasoning about conditions in Bedfordshire. Cutting methodically
through all attempts to extenuate or explain away her master's be-
havior, Pamela correctly perceives that his harshness is merely an
effort to frighten her for his own purposes if he supposes her fond of
staying, "as indeed" (and as further evidence of charity and sadness
over his alteration) "I should, if I could be safe; for I love you and all
the House, and value him, if he would act as my Master" (65). Finally,
declaring that since all Mrs. Jervis can promise is that he will not use
force, Pamela concludes: ". . so I, a poor weak Girl, was to be left to
my own Strength, God knows! And was not this to allow him to tempt
me, as one may say? and to encourage him to go on in his wicked
Devices-How then . could I ask or wish to stay?" (65). Acknowl-
edging that Pamela has "a Justness of Thought above" her "Years"
(65), and in light of what she personally witnessed after the previous
confrontation, Mrs. Jervis finally seems convinced that her young
charge must indeed leave. Happy over this evidence of loyalty, Pamela
is nevertheless doubly fearful now that even the housekeeper has
given over her master.
The subsequent attack proves these fears to be valid, and although
Pamela credits Mrs. Jervis with saving her, it is equally made clear that
the mere presence of such protection will not prevent Mr. B.'s at-
tempts. Moreover, in a graphic way, this attack, by affirming all her
previous reasoning during the various debates with Mrs. Jervis,
serves to reveal fully the frailty and limitation of human support.
Speaking to this, she relates to her parents that "At first I was afraid of
Mrs.Jervis; but I am fully satisfied that she is very good, and I should
have been lost but for her" (67). However distracted, Pamela immedi-
ately discerns the major danger in her former dependence upon the
housekeeper by stating: "What would have become of me, had she
gone out of the Room, to still the Maids, as he bid her. He'd certainly
have shut her out, and then, Mercy on me! what would have become
of your poor Pamela!" (67- 68). While her confidence may be restored
in Mrs. Jervis's loyalty, it is also evident that the housekeeper's well-
meaning officiousness has finally convinced Pamela of the necessity of


Pamela: A Reading

trusting in herself and in the strength to be gained from the now fully
stated and no longer offhand "hope" that "God Almighty... in time,
will right" her, and send her "safe from this dreadful wicked Man"
The next morning brings the "Concerns and Wishes of the Family,
and Multitudes of Enquiries" about Pamela's well-being, and reveals a
Mr. B. who grandly admitsthat although he has "rais'd a Hornet's
Nest" about his "Ears," which may "have stung to Death" his "Reputa-
tion" (68), Mrs. Jervis's admonishments are for him personally merely
"antiquated Topics" occasioned by "imaginary Faults" (69). Pamela's
momentary joy at the hint of his intended marriage to a lady of quality
(a sign of her charity in wishing "his Prosperity with all my Heart, for
my good old Lady's sake") is quickly darkened by Mr. B.'s charge that
her present shyness is evidence of shame for her "Freedom of
Speech" during his last attack. Unable to bear "this barbarous Insult"
and in spite of her previous terror, she manages to state, in a retort
that goes unanswered: "O the Difference between the Minds of thy
Creatures, good God! How shall some be cast down in their Inno-
cence, while others shall triumph in their Guilt!" (69). Hoping that his
intention to marry is indication of a sincere "Repentance and
Amendment," and that the worst of her trials are over, she assures her
parents that "I won't be too secure neither" (70).
This need for personal caution in spite of the concern of the
household is reiterated in Letter xxviI. Alone with her master and
asked to judge his "Birth-day" clothes, she is subjected to his kinder
and yet equally "vexatious" behavior.13 For, there is evidence here of a
definite shift of strategy as Mr. B. exhibits kindness, some self-control,
and even humor in his treatment of her. Pamela, however, at first is
saddened by the discrepancy between his rich suit of clothes and his
recent behavior, and then relates how this first serious talk with her
master dissolves into a sharp exchange when he refuses to take to
heart her attempts to bring him to a sense of his duty and of the
spiritual danger toward which his actions have been leading them
both. At one point, he tries to extenuate his latest attack, and she
pertinently warns him not only of the spreading disorder in the estate
resulting from his struggle but also of her own awakening hope for
divine assistance: ". . if you could be so afraid of your own Servants
knowing of your Attempts upon a poor unworthy Creature, that is
13. As Eaves and Kimpel point out: "Birth-day" clothes are a "suit of clothes to be
worn at Court on the king's birthday" (Pamela, n. 1, p. 70).


The Bedfordshire Section

under your Protection while I stay, surely your Honour ought to be
more afraid of God Almighty, in whose Presence we all stand, in every
Action of our lives, and to whom the greatest as well as the least, must
be accountable, let them think what they list" (71).14 Viewing all this as
evidence of "a very pretty romantic Turn for Virtue" and musing that
"I don't suppose but you'll hold it still; and no body will be able to
prevail upon you," Mr. B. finally turns all her admonishments into a
coarse joke, causing her to lament after leaving him that "he grows
quite a Rake! Well, you see, how easy it is to go from bad to worse,
when once People give way to Vice" (72).
However unsuccessful in bringing Mr. B. to his senses, Pamela
seems to draw the right conclusions from recent events when, in the
final portion of this letter, she discusses the example of Squire Martin.
Mr. B.'s hunting crony, a master who (like others in the neighborhood)
not only countenances but participates in the seduction of his own
maidservants, prompts her to comment on the wickedness and
"Fruits of such bad Examples." Musing on the chaos spread through-
out an estate by the wickedness of its master, she applies these exam-
ples to her own case, and asks: ". .. what sort of Creatures must the
Womenkind be, do you think, to give way to such Wickedness? Why,
this it is that makes every one be thought of alike: And, alack-a-day!
What a World we live in! for it is grown more a Wonder that the Men
are resisted, than that the Women comply" (73). Although initially
reminiscent of her earlier assertion to Mrs. Jervis that "she that can't
keep her Virtue, ought to live in Disgrace" (49), she quickly adds,
revealing the maturity and charity which her own recent trials have
occasioned as well as her sadness over Mr. B's struggle:

But I am sorry for these Things; one don't know what Arts
and Stratagems these Men may devise to gain their Vile Ends;
14. The seriousness of this warning, theologically, is attested to by such a state-
ment as this one by Charles Wheatly: "Our chief and most awful Regard, should
always be had to the all-seeing Eye of the omniscient, and omnipresent God: And this,
if we have an habitual Mindfulness of it, will always be sufficient to quicken our
Virtue, and to check our hottest Inclination to Vice. But alas! we see and know by
Experience, that Men stand more in Awe, of the Eye of a Child, than they do of the
Sovereign Judge of the World. And therefore, perhaps it may affect some People
more (though I by no Means urge it as an equal Restraint) to tell them again, that
when they are acting any Fraud or Lewdness, or other Vice, free as they imagine from
any that can see them, they have numerous Angelick Eyes upon them, which, were
they but apprehensive of it, would abash them more, than the Presence of all whom
they stand in awe of on Earth" ("The Existence of Angels," Fifty Sermons, 3: 174-75).
For another statement by Pamela regarding this "all-seeing Eye" of God, see p. 112.


Pamela: A Reading

and so I will think as well as I can of these poor Creatures, and
pity them. For you see by my sad Story, and narrow Escapes,
what Hardships poor Maidens go thro', whose Lot is to go out to
Service; especially to Houses where there is not the Fear of God,
and good Rule kept by the Heads of the Family (73).

Further evidence of Pamela's growth in perception appears plainly
in Letter xxviim. Revealing her to be calmer and more experienced,
that letter as well as Letter xxix are directly preparative to the final
meeting with Mr. B. in Bedfordshire. While still not compromising
her principles, she also begins to exhibit greater self-control and
courage than previously. As if having taken to heart the many times
her master has exploded as a result of a quick retort or shrillness in
countering his proposals, she seems to be changing the form but not
the substance of her defense. Moreover, recent events have proved to
her that, however surrounded by concerned servants, the only sure
reliance, given the complexity of their relationship with Mr. B., is one
based upon a prudent defense of self, a defense informed by a
steadfast loyalty to the principles by which she has been raised and has
begun to see tested and proved valid against her own experience of
the world. More immediately pertinent, however, is her final disap-
pointment in Mrs. Jervis-the result of the housekeeper's well-
meaning attempt to move Mr. B.'s compassion by allowing him to
eavesdrop during the "bundle scene" of Letter xxix. For, although
Pamela forgives Mrs. Jervis, there is no indication that she intends to
follow her advice in the future. She is now left entirely to her own
defense. Letters xxx and xxxi, recounting her final temptation in
Bedfordshire, describe the first true test of that defense.
The fact that Pamela is weaned from an undue reliance upon
others, and moves toward a proper and appropriate use of what she
has been taught and what she has experienced, stands her in good
stead during this most dangerous "Scene of Wickedness." Alone with
her master, she appears stronger than in any previous scene-more
politic, more polished, more in control of herself and the outward
display of her emotional state. This control, in keeping her master
from a fit of temper, enables her to consider more coolly the substance
and implications of his words. Moreover, it is apparent that Mr. B.'s
kindness to Pamela (the new tactic he has used since his failure in
Letter xxv) is here at its height. Throughout the scene he plays upon
her charity, the development of which cannot have been lost upon


The Bedfordshire Section

him (especially since he has read all her letters), and speaks to her kind
and generous and gentle temperament. However finally transparent,
his initial offers and words, his swearing by "God" and his own
"salvation," particularly his desire to help her parents and his profes-
sion of love to her, tend to place Pamela under a very real danger; for,
at this moment when in a sense the "tempter without" tries to enflame
the "tempter within" tojoin forces in her seduction, she feels her heart
giving away. At this precise point, however, she begs her master not to
"tempt a poor Creature, whose whole Will would be to do yours, if my
Virtue and my Duty would permit" (83), and, in the face of his anger
that his reformation is not instantly believed, she recites the Lord's
Prayer, saying aloud over his bemused objections: "Lead me not into
Temptation. But deliver me from Evil, 0 my good God" (84).15 Almost on
command, Mr. B. leaves her to consider his proposals, and retires to
the next room.
Pamela's deliberations contain almost a summary analysis of her
recent trials, and it is no surprise that considerations of human
support form the major portion of her musings. At first, she thinks
that to stay an extra fortnight could do no harm, especially with Mrs.
Jervis present to give her at least the same physical protection which
has been sufficient to preserve her on several occasions in the past.
Not content with this reasoning, she then worries, in a passage directly
alluding to Mr. B.'s recent change of tactics, that she might have
greater difficulty withstanding his kindness than his anger. In coun-
tering this fear, however, she places hope not in the support of man
but rather in the assistance of divine "Grace" (84), and, while wishing
to believe that his open avowal of love is honorable and indicates a
sincere desire to abandon his wicked attempts upon her, she
nevertheless finally comments upon the major flaw in her master's
proposal: "He talks .. of his Pride of Heart, and Pride of Condition;
O these are in his Head, and in his Heart too, or he would not confess
them to me at such an Instant. Well then, thought I, this can only be to

15. Pamela's words here find a counterpart in Patrick Delany's discussion of
"lawful commands" and his reminder to servants that "if your master should com-
mand you to lye, or steal, to defame, or defraud, or commit any vice or villainy
whatsoever, there you are absolutely to disobey him, because GOD hath commanded
you, not to do any of these things; and the Apostles have taught us, that we are to obey
God rather than men. But as long as the master's commands are within the bounds of
religion, and the laws of the land, so far the servant is obliged to submit, and pay intire
obedience to them. And this he is to do with fear, and chearfulness" ("The Duty of
Servants to Their Masters,' Fifteen Sermons, pp. 182-83).


Pamela: A Reading

seduce me" (84). Carrying her reasoning a step further, she notes,
building upon what she has learned from her initial reliance on
human support, that if he is insincere it would be easy for him "to send
Mrs.Jervis and the Maids out of the way ... so that all the Mischief he
designed me might be brought about in less than that Time" (84). To
remain in Bedfordshire in light of these possible dangers would be in
fact presumptuously to trust in her own strength, so, resolving instead
to "trust all to Providence, and nothing to myself," she decides to
decline his offers, no matter how generous, and return home (84-
85). Following this resolution, which she believes God inspired her
with, she writes of the further "Dangers God has enabled" her to
"escape" (85). Soon noting the transparency of Mr. B.'s contrivances
concerning Mr. Williams, she totally rejects all proposals and, instead
of being returned home, is abducted to Lincolnshire.
In spite of its immediate outcome, her decision to return home is
the correct one. For, apart from her own youth, dependence upon
others, and frequent terror and confusion, she at least has arrived at a
decision not only to leave the scene of her temptation but also to trust
in God regarding the future. In a very real sense, she has developed
or progressed as far as possible within the confines of Bedfordshire,
and her humility and trust in providence at this point indicate that she
is well prepared for the next stage or plateau in her development. Her
belief in God and initial tacit acceptance of Christian principles will be
augmented, through severe struggle, by a deepening reliance on Him
and the use of these principles to sustain her in the coming time of
physical isolation and terror. Moreover, while it is no surprise that she
survives within the context of the Bedfordshire estate (given the
support and concern of all its servants), it is surprising that she also
survives in Lincolnshire, within an estate in a sense dedicated to her
ruin. What Richardson seems to have established in the first section of
the novel, in Pamela's initial trust in the support of man, is a "natural"
context which will prepare us for the later, and "supernaturally"
supported, survival of her virtue.16 At this point in her story, however,
all is obscure, with the only certainty being to trust in God and flee
these present temptations.
16. The evidence of the Bedfordshire section also suggests that Pamela is being
weaned from an undue reliance upon others for some special purpose-is being
"prepared" as the means whereby the very God upon Whom she personally is coming
to rely will reveal His "Providence" and "good Pleasure" not just for her but also for
Mr. B. and for the estate itself.


5. "When all human Means fail": Temptation
and Deliverance in Lincolnshire

"the Devices of the Mighty": Prologue to Lincolnshire

The last numbered letter of the Bedfordshire section, the description
of her leave-taking and journey, reveals a Pamela markedly different
from the one who confidently asserted in Letter I that "God will not let
me want." The prayer which begins this letter should be viewed as a
crucial prologue to her journal of events in Lincolnshire:

Let me write and bewail my miserable hard Fate, tho' I have
no Hope that what I write will be convey'd to your Hands!-I
have now nothing to do but write, and weep, and fear, and pray;
and yet, What can I pray for, when God Almighty, for my Sins,
to be sure, vouchsafes not to hear my Prayers; but suffers me to
be a Prey to a wicked Violator of all the Laws of God and
Man!-But, gracious Heaven, forgive me my Rashness! O let me
not sin against thee; for thou best knowest what is fittest for thy
poor Handmaid!-And as thou sufferest not thy poor Crea-
tures to be tempted above what they can bear; I will resign, thro'
thy Grace assisting me, to thy good Pleasure. But since these
Temptations are not of my own seeking, the Effects of my
Presumption and Vanity, O enable me to withstand them all,
and deliver me from the Dangers that hang over my poor Head,
and make me perfect thro' Sufferings, and, in thy own good
Time, deliver me from them!
Thus do I pray, imperfectly as I am forced by my distracting
Fears and Apprehensions; and Ojoin with me, my dear Parents!

What follows this prayer is a narration of her departure from

Pamela: A Reading

Bedfordshire and the successive stages in her realization that she is
being abducted. This prayer, with its initial despair and yet growing
hope in God's concern for her plight and blessing on her own en-
deavor to withstand what is to come, should be viewed in context as a
comprehensive statement regarding the progression of confusion,
despair, and hope evident not only during her recent trials in
Bedfordshire but also, and more important, during her journey to
Lincolnshire itself. Her description of her hopeful departure, the
attentions of all her fellow servants, and Longman's assurance that
"Providence will find you out" (95) are soon darkened in the narrative
by thoughts of Mr. B.'s "false Heart,' thoughts which are dispelled
only by a supplication to "Heaven" to "preserve" her "from his Power
and from his Wickedness" (97). Mr. B.'s first letter, with its evidence of
his continuing struggle and acknowledgment of the futility of his
activities in a place where all the servants are "possess'd" in her favor,
coupled with the discovery of Farmer Norton's loyalty to her master,
causes Pamela to despair and to weep bitterly. At this precise point,
however, she relates that she "had recourse again to my only Refuge,
that God who takes the innocent Heart into his Almighty Protection,
and is alone able to baffle and confound the Devices of the Mighty"
(100). A brief time later, the appearance of Mrs. Jewkes and the
growing probability of imminent ruin cause Pamela to give over "all
Thoughts of Redemption" and to despair once more. Again, and
even in the face of a plot that "has been too long a hatching to be
baffled," she nevertheless states: "But then I put my Trust in God,
who I knew was able to do every thing for me, when all other possible
Means should fail: And in Him I was resolved to confide" (102).
Toward the end of her narration, she mentions the "brown nodding
Horrors of Lofty Elms and Pines" surrounding the Lincolnshire
mansion, and comments to herself that here "I fear, is to be the Scene
of my Ruin," immediately adding, "unless God protect me, who is
all-sufficient" (102).
What Richardson seems to be establishing here is the framework in
which the scenes to come will be placed-scenes depicting a Pamela
forced even further away from dependence upon others and toward
an even greater reliance upon the strength of purpose and worth
she has gained from the testing of her religious principles in Bedford-
shire. Such self-reliance, however, is soon to be complemented at
critical times by an assistance more than natural. It is not that she will
not despair, but each moment of despair will be but the opportunity to


Temptation and Deliverance in Lincolnshire

advance in faith and perception-an advancement which in itself
suggests the view of faith as a quickening of the spirit and a receptive-
ness to the presence of a greater reality undergirding that of daily
living or the terror of trial and temptation. But it is only through
further trial in an environment dedicated to her ruin that both
Pamela and her tempter can be led to an insight into this reality-an
insight bound up with the final theme of the story itself.
Following Pamela's abduction to Lincolnshire, moreover, Mr. B.
disappears from the narrative (at least physically) for almost seventy
pages. Although not personally present, his influence is felt
everywhere, and it soon becomes apparent that he is systematically
isolating her from all human support. His various letters both to her
and to his Lincolnshire housekeeper, Mrs. Jewkes, reveal that accom-
panying his emotional struggle, there also is evidence of a certain
blindness. Whether blaming Pamela for the drastic step he has taken
(108) or doubting the loyalty of his own tools, he appears as a man in
turmoil whose pride seems to have blinded him to the very real
danger in which he has placed her.1 For Pamela herself, however, this
growing isolation, as well as the fact that she has been "vilely trick'd"
(93) and left to the pleasure of strangers, soon results in bewilderment
in the face of her master's contrivances. This initial bewilderment is
most noticeable in her language, which, however similar to her diction
in Bedfordshire, soon contains new and significant features.

"so I must set all my little Wits at Work"

As if in comment upon her stage of development before the abduc-
tion, Pamela from the first trusts to her own initiative and acts.

1. Applicable to the disorder which Mr. B.'s pride and lust have caused, as well as
his blindness to the potential danger of his actions, is this statement by John Balguy:
"Whenever Passion prevails over Reason, and governs instead of it; it produces
Natural Disorder, as well as Moral. It not only throws a Cloud over the Mind for the
time present; but leaves a dark Shade behind it. Every vicious Action both debilitates
the Agent, and stupifies the Understanding, in proportion to the Nature and Degree
of it. To commit Sin, is to enter into Servitude. Every After-Commission increases the
Bondage; and is an actual Diminution both of Light and Liberty." A Second Letter to a
Deist, p. 18. Also pertinent to Mr. B.'s persistent refusal to accent personal blame for
his actions is this statement by George Stanhope: Pride "taints all our Principles, and


Pamela: A Reading

Resolving to "set all my little Wits at Work" (106), she quickly enlists
the aid of her master's Lincolnshire chaplain, Mr. Williams. Willing to
"do any thing to preserve" her "innocence" (106), she contrives to
exchange correspondence with him, and relates that "I hugg'd myself
with the Thought" of this "Invention" (113). However innocent, the
subsequent series of efforts to deceive Mrs. Jewkes and counterplot
her master nevertheless soon reveal a certain murkiness of purpose.
Although frequently expressed in a language of religious supplica-
tion similar to that in Bedfordshire and during her abduction,
Pamela's plans during these initial scenes seem in the main to be
unduly reliant upon her own physical effort, and, moreover, reveal
her to be excessively impatient whenever they fail to produce quick
results. In the flush of her own successes she appears supremely
hopeful, while the successes of her master and Mrs. Jewkes in coun-
terplot almost paralyze her will to act at all, leading her at one point
early in her captivity to marvel sadly:

Well, these are strange things to me! I cannot account for
them, for my Share; but sure nobody will say, that these fine
Gentlemen have any Temper but their own wicked Wills-This
naughty Master could run away from me, when he thought
none but his Servants should know his base Attempts ... but is it
not strange, that he should not be afraid of the All-seeing Eye,
from which even that black poisonous Heart of his, and its most
secret Motions, could not be hid-But what avail me these
sorrowful Reflections? He is and will be wicked; and I am, I fear,
to be a Victim to his lawless Attempts, if the God in whom I trust,
and to whom I hourly pray, prevent it not! (112).

The most striking feature of the early Lincolnshire scenes involves
precisely this inability to fathom any reason beyond mere whim or
"because she is not able to defend herself, nor has a Friend that can
right her" (110) for her master's apparent delight in doing "the Devil's
Work" (112). As she becomes more and more confused, the trust so
evident during her account of the abduction steadily gives way to
despair under the "dark Prospects" before her. For example, her
upset and confusion cause her at one point to state of Mr. B.'s sudden

pursues wrong Ends; it covers our lurking Faults, and draws a Veil before our
Weaknesses and Wants; prevents all Repentance, and proves a certain Bar to all
Improvement. It shuts the door against Admonition and Reproof, forbids the Advice
of Friends, and silences the Checks of Conscience" (Gospels, 3: 373).


Temptation and Deliverance in Lincolnshire

offer of Mr. Williams for her husband that "I have been so long in a
Maze, that I can say nothing of this for the present. Time will bring all
to Light" (132); and she remarks to Mrs. Jewkes, "I have been so used
to be made a Fool of by Fortune, that I hardly can tell how to govern
myself; and am almost an Infidel as to Mankind" (133). Reflecting
further on this strange turn of events, and hoping for the best, she
nevertheless fears that "if this should turn out to be a Plot, I fear
nothing but a Miracle can save me" (133). After learning that Mr.
Williams was set upon by "Rogues in his Way home last Night" (134),
she wonders why it is that every "Accident" breaks her "Peace" and
resolves during Mrs. Jewkes's absence to act upon "strange Tempta-
tions" to use the key provided her by the parson and flee (135).
The description of her first attempt to escape contains ajumble of
impatience, religious hope, and indecision. Her resolution "to try to
get away, and leave the Issue to Providence" (136) is quickly shattered
when fear blurs her vision, causing her to mistake cows for bulls in the
pasture through which she must pass, and finally leads her to state:

So here I am again; and here likely to be; for I have no
Courage to help myself any-where else. O why are poor foolish
Maidens try'd with such Dangers, when they have such weak
Minds to grapple with them!-I will, since it is so, hope the best:
But yet I cannot but observe how grievously every thing makes
against me (137).

This statement, recalling her "prologue" prayer and her trust at that
point that God "sufferest not [his] poor Creatures to be tempted
above what they can bear" as well as her resolution (evidence of the
hard-won gains of her recent trials) to "resign" herself through the
"assistance" of divine grace to God's "good Pleasure" (94), focuses on a
major difficulty besetting Pamela throughout the initial scenes in
Lincolnshire. The darkness surrounding her, her black and uncer-
tain prospects, her impatience, shortsightedness, indecision, and the
steady failure of her plots to escape-all serve to bring her danger-
ously close to losing sight of the lessons of Bedfordshire.
Yet, what immediately precedes her second attempt to escape is
evidence of a growing resolution, arrived at in spite of these "over-
clouded" prospects and in face of these "strange Turns and Trials"
(143), once again to exert her own strength and escape the dangers


Pamela: A Reading

surrounding her. This particular contrivance, however, with the
neighboring gentry indifferent and Mr. Williams in jail,2 with her
master vowing to "decide her Fate" (145) and with the arrival of his
trusty Swiss, the "horrid" Mr. Colbrand (147-48), is undertaken less
in a spirit of self-confidence or trust in others than in the hope
(although still darkened) that "Heaven" will interest itself in her plight
and "succeed to me my dangerous, but innocent Devices" (149).
Learning that the "robbing of poor Mr. Williams" was planned by
Mrs. Jewkes "and executed by the Groom and a Helper, in order to
seize my Letters upon him" (149), she decides to act-committing
herself and her cause once again "to thy Providence, O my gracious
God" (150).


"tho' the Prospect be all dark"

Marking as it does a crucial turning point in Pamela's story, the
temptation beside the pond provides not only the first true test of the
depth of her belief and willingness to live up to the principles of her
religious education but also her first clear opportunity to pass through
the darkness occasioned by her frequent despair and glimpse a divine
purpose seemingly at work even in the recent events of her life.3
Accordingly, and almost emblematic of her own shortsightedness, her
attempted escape takes place on "a dark misty Night" (150) within a
setting unilluminated by even so much as a candle. Her wanderings in
the garden soon take on the overtones of groping rather than pur-
poseful action when her key proves useless, she is knocked senseless
by a falling brick in her efforts to scale the garden wall, and is finally
forced to lie "flat upon the Ground" in a "dreadful way," bruised and

2. Although with the imprisonment of Mr. Williams, Pamela is finally isolated, at
the same time we become aware that Mr. B. is beginning to be plagued and thwarted
(like Lovelace later) by the very tools he has used to achieve his present ends. John
Arnold (once his most trusted agent) has proved a villain (144), and even Mr.
Williams, slyly suggested by him on numerous occasions as a possible husband for
Pamela, has attempted to effect her escape.
3. The significance of the pond scene has been noted many times by critics,
including Anna Barbauld, who says of Pamela's temptation to suicide that "con-
siderations of piety at length prevail, and she determines to trust to Providence"
(Correspondence, 1: Iviii). See also Mark Kinkead-Weekes, Samuel Richardson: Dra-
matic Novelist, pp. 47-49.


Temptation and Deliverance in Lincolnshire

bleeding. At this moment of supreme despair, as she is creeping
and limping away from the wall, a "sad Thought came just then into"
her head urging her to throw herself into the pond to "put a Period to
all" her "Griefs in this World" (151).4 Relating to her parents after the
event her thanks for escaping this "Temptation" (151), a temptation
she also blames on the "Weakness and Presumption, both in one, of
her own Mind" (150), she proceeds to tell them of her "Conflicts on
this dreadful Occasion, that God's Mercies may be magnify'd in my
Deliverance" (151).
Having resolved to commit suicide, she relates that her "maim'd"
condition caused her to take a long time reaching the pond, a "weak-
ness of Body" which happily "gave Time for a little Reflection" and
allowed a "Ray of Grace" to "dart in upon" her momentarily "be-
nighted Mind" (151). This "Ray of Grace" makes possible a timely
internal debate over the wisdom of committing suicide to avoid the
dangers surrounding her. Sitting alone in the dark "on the sloping
Bank," she first tries to find some hope to cling to, something in her
present situation which may presage even a glimmer of possible

I then considered, and after I had cast about in my Mind, every
thing that could make me hope, and saw no Probability; a
wicked Woman devoid of all Compassion! a horrid Helper just
arrived in this dreadful Colbrand! an angry and resenting Master,
who now hated me, and threatened the most afflicting Evils! and,
that I should, in all Probability, be deprived even of the Oppor-
tunity I now had before me, to free myself from all their Perse-
cutions (152).

Despite so hopeless a situation and the probability of imminent ruin,
she nevertheless quickly asks: "What hast thou to do, distressed Crea-
ture ... but throw thyself upon a merciful God, (who knows how
innocently I suffer) to avoid the merciless Wickedness of those who
are determined on my Ruin?" (152). As so often in the past, however,
this determination to trust in God is thwarted by the physical reality of
her present danger, and during this moment of doubt a thought that
"was surely of the Devil's Instigation" appears in her deliberations: a
4. Concerning water as a traditional place of temptation and trial, see Maynard
Mack, King Lear in Our Time, pp. 61-62; Dustin H. Griffin, Satires against Man: The
Poems of Rochester, p. 209 f.; and the "Slough of Despond" episode in Bunyan's
Pilgrim's Progress.


Pamela: A Reading

further and stronger urging to drown herself so that her captors will
then believe that she preferredd her Honesty to her Life" when they
come finally to view her "poor Corse" (152).5 But once again her
bruises slow her down and give time to reconsider, time to see instead
of imagine the consequences of suicide. Weighing carefully these
consequences, she chides herself, and thinks:

What art thou about to do, wretched Pamela? how knowest thou,
tho' the Prospect be all dark to thy short-sighted Eye, what God
may do for thee, even when all human Means fail? God Al-
mighty would not lay me under these sore Afflictions, if he had
not given me Strength to grapple with them, if I will exert it as I
ought; And who knows, but that the very Presence I so much
dread, of my angry and designing Master, (for he has had me in
his Power before, and yet I have escap'd) may be better for me,
than these persecuting Emissaries of his, who, for his Money, are
true to their wicked Trust, and are harden'd by that, and a long
Habit of Wickedness, against Compunction of Heart? God can
touch his Heart in an instant; and if this should not be done, I
can then but put an End to my Life, by some other Means, if I am
so resolved (152- 53).6

Although still physically in the dark, Pamela's subsequent reason-
ings reveal that a process has begun by which confusion and despair
increasingly are transformed into the very means whereby she is
permitted to see herself clearly for the first time-the means of
showing her that while her earlier assertion is certainly true that no
one is given a trial greater than one can bear, the outcome of such a
trial is directly dependent upon exertion of one's strength in an
acceptable way. Almost in comment upon her former pride in contri-
5. This statement seems to be an allusion to Mr. B.'s second attack on Pamela in
Bedfordshire and his flippant comparison of her caseto that of "Lucretia" (42). As this
present scene attests, however, what was once trivial has become serious, for Pamela
appears here in very real danger of outdoing even Lucretia and committing suicide
on the mere threat of rape. Christian views of Lucretia as "prideful" and more
concerned with her own personal humiliation than with divine law and a true
steadfastness to chastity are at least as ancient as St. Augustine's City of God-see Book
I, Chapter 19, in particular.
6. Pamela's remark concerning the necessity of exerting her "strength" as she
"ought" has a forerunner in such an observation as this by the author of The Whole
Duty of Man: "We are not therefore to affright ourselves with the difficulty of those
things God requires of us, but remember he commands nothing which he will not
enable us to perform, if we be not wanting to ourselves. And therefore let us sincerely
do our parts, and confidently assure ourselves God will not fail of his" (p. 29).


Temptation and Deliverance in Lincolnshire

vances, despair over their failure, and initial willingness to "do any
thing to preserve" her "Innocence" (106), she now asks: "How
knowest thou what Purposes God may have to serve, by the Trials with
which thou art now tempted? Art thou to put a Bound to God's Will,
and to say, Thus much will I bear, and no more? And, wilt thou dare to
say, that if the Trial be augmented, and continued, thou wilt sooner
die than bear it?" (153). Presently viewing her very despondency as a
sin, she interprets her present sufferings in the light of a divine
purpose which perhaps has "permitted these Sufferings on that very
Score, and to make me rely solely on his Grace and Assistance, who
perhaps have too much prided myself in a vain Dependence on my
own foolish Contrivances" (153). Moreover, reminded here of all the
"good Lessons" of her "poor honest Parents, and the Benefit of their
Example," she finally decides to place complete trust in God, and to
avoid utterly the temptation of the "grand Enemy" (Satan) to despair:

What then, presumptuous Pamela, dost thou here, thought
I? Quit with Speed these guilty Banks and flee from these
dashing Waters, that even in their sounding Murmurs, this still
Night, reproach thy Rashness! Tempt not God's Goodness on
the mossy Banks, that have been Witnesses of thy guilty Inten-
tions; and while thou hast Power left thee, avoid the tempting
Evil, lest thy grand Enemy, now repuls'd by Divine Grace, and
due Reflection, return to the Charge with a Force that thy
Weakness may not be able to resist! And lest one rash Moment
destroy all the Convictions which now have aw'd thy rebellious
Mind into Duty and Resignation to the Divine Will! (153).

Although the episode ends with Pamela recaptured and placed
under even closer surveillance by Mrs. Jewkes and the other servants,
she now can view her recent "trials" and those yet to come as being
under the direct control of "Providence" (156).7 While in the scenes
that follow, she may, like all human beings, occasionally fail to see the
7. What Pamela has learned in steadfastly resisting a temptation to suicide seems
pointedly reminiscent of George Stanhope's warning that "When Distresses and
Dangers put us upon unlawful Means of escape, or tempt us to trust to an Arm of
Flesh, in the use of such Means as are most lawful; we have no longer Right to look,
that He, whom we shut out (so far as in us lies) from any part in our Affairs, will
appear and interpose so visibly in our Favour, as he hath often done, and is always
ready to do, for Them who flee straight to Him for Succour, and make his Providence
their only Rock and Refuge, and disclaim all other Confidences, as impious or vain"
(Gospels, 1: 217). For similar statements, see The Whole Duty of Man, pp. 26-27, and
Jeremy Taylor, Holy Living, "Several Manners of the Divine Presence," p. 26.


Pamela: A Reading

equity of her situation, or may complain of the lack of sympathetic
friends, or fear the future, at least a beginning has been made
whereby she will emerge from this time of testing a stronger and more
mature person than she was during the sequestered days in Bedford-
shire. And although her "Contrivances" are at an end (156), her will
and her increasing depth of perception derived from the testing of
her beliefs nevertheless enable her to ward off the temptations and
terrors yet surrounding her. Moreover, she never becomes hardened
or cynical; still distressed over the alteration in her master, she is even
able to feel joy (for her "good Lady's sake") at his own escape from
drowning (157).8 At the same time, she is more determined than ever
to preserve her virtue. And with the arrival of Mr. B., there begins the
final conflict between pride and what has been revealed to be a divine
intervention for the support of suffering innocence.

"the dreadful Time of Reckoning"

For Pamela, the scenes immediately preceding Mr. B.'s arrival involve
the first test of her new insight, and reveal an increasing ability to
distinguish the false from the true. For example, having just learned
that John Arnold has been dismissed and that Longman, Jonathan,
and Mrs. Jervis "have incurred" Mr. B.'s "Displeasure, for offering to
speak in my Behalf" (157), she is made privy to Mrs. Jewkes's "Secret"
that her master plans to marry her "to this dreadful Colbrand" and
then buy her back from him "on the Wedding-day, for a Sum of
Money" (157). This cruelty, however, is quickly discerned by Pamela
as "horrid romancing" and is taken, without undue fear, as a warning
to her to beware the potential introduction of some new "Plot now
hatching" to ruin her (157). Moreover, once Mr. B. arrives, this critical
ability allows her to speak incisively to the instances of moral blindness
occasioned by his lust and fortified by the advice and encouragement

8. Sometimes taken as suggestive of a certain shrewd and calculating temper in
Pamela, this statement (as well as others which show her concern for Mr. B.'s well-
being) seems instead to be of a piece with the evidence of her kind and gentle nature,
evidence of the Christian belief that as long as a man is not totally corrupt or hardened
there is hope for salvation, and an instance of her practice of a tenet central to
Christianity itself: "Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully
use you" (Luke 6: 28).


Temptation and Deliverance in Lincolnshire

of his own tool, Mrs. Jewkes. The coming confrontations reveal a
Pamela who never wavers from attempts designed to make as clear as
possible to Mr. B. the danger in which he has placed them both; in
effect, she attempts to force him to see things as clearly as she has
begun to see them following her dark temptations beside the pond.
This evidence of a growing clarity of vision is soon complemented
by a steadily increasing strength of purpose, most particularly notice-
able in her answers to the "seven Articles" which serve almost as a
recapitulation of Mr. B.'s previously unsuccessful attempts to bend
her to his will. Throughout her answers, Pamela consistently appeals
to superior considerations of duty to God, her parents, and the
principles of her religious training. To his offer of 500 guineas and
promise to provide handsomely for her parents, she forthrightly
informs him that "Money, Sir, is not my chief Good," and that her
parents would "rather chuse to starve in a Ditch, or rot in a noisome
Dunghil, than accept of the Fortune of a Monarch, upon such
Terms"; furthermore, for her personally, not even the "Terrors of
death, in its most frightful Forms, I hope, thro' God's assisting Grace,"
shall "ever make me act unworthy of such poor honest Parents" (165).
To his offers of fine clothes and jewels, she retorts that "to lose the best
jewel, my Virtue, would be poorly recompensed by those you propose
to give me" (166); and to his final proposal of a "Twelve month's
Cohabitation" (with a vague promise of marriage if his love for her
increases), she impatiently states: "Little, Sir, as I know of the World, I
am not to be caught by a Bait so poorly covered as this" (167).
However finally transparent Mr. B.'s monetary temptations may be,
they nevertheless rest upon a threat of very real physical danger made
vivid by repeated references to the hopelessness of Pamela's cause.
For example, although valuing the "Free-will of a Person already in
my Power," he pointedly reminds her in Article VI that if she refuses
his offers he means at any event to gratify his "Passion" for her
"without making any Terms at all" (166). Her answer, given in full
knowledge of her own danger and physical weakness, exposes at once
the emptiness of this warning by centering on the religious implica-
tions of such a threat. Informing him that she "will make no Free-will
Offering" of her "Virtue," she proceeds to warn him that even "if I
cannot escape the Violence of Man, I hope, by God's Grace, I shall
have nothing to reproach myself, for not doing all in my Power to
avoid my Disgrace; and then I can safely appeal to the great God, my
only Refuge and Protector, with this Consolation, That my Will bore


Pamela: A Reading

no Part in my Violation" (166). Moreover, however trivial the matter
of "Free-will" might be for her master, for Pamela it is central and
seems to indicate to her the depth of his imperviousness to religious
considerations. Accordingly, her final words in answer to his articles
(by speaking to his good qualities as the son of her late mistress) once
again attempt to bring him to a true sense of the hollowness of a
victory over one whose "Will" or "Intention," she hopes, "will be
innocent of Crime" (164).9 Begging him on "bended Knees" to "weigh
well the Matter," and speaking of the "Stings" and "Remorse" that will
"attend your dying Hour, when you come to reflect, that you have
ruin'd, perhaps Soul and Body, a wretched Creature, whose only
Pride was her Virtue," she finally prays:

May God Almighty, whose Mercy lately sav'd you from the Peril
of perishing in deep Waters, (on which, I hope, you will give me
Cause to congratulate you!) touch your Heart in my Favour, and
save you from this Sin, and me from this Ruin!-And to Him do
I commit my Cause; and to Him will I give the Glory, apd Night
and Day pray for you, if I may be permitted to escape this great
Evil! (168).

This closing prayer reflects the pattern of steady and unified re-
liance by Pamela on hope for a deliverance effected despite the
physical odds against her. And what finally emerges from these scenes
of confrontation with her master and Mrs. Jewkes is a language of
supplication notably different from that which accompanied her plots
and contrivances to escape. For example, at her master's arrival, she
prays for "Heaven" to "preserve" her "if it be thy blessed Will" (159);
during a heated exchange with him in the presence of Mrs. Jewkes,
she retorts, in spite of the housekeeper's sarcasm, "Well .. since I
must not speak, I will hold my Peace: But there is a righteous Judge,
who knows the Secrets of all Hearts! and to him I appeal" (162).
Reacting to Mrs. Jewkes's discouragement of Mr. B.'s momentary
tenderness, Pamela stammers out a "passionate Exclamation to
9. Pertinent to Pamela's reasoning on freedom of will is the passage in Book I,
Chapter 16, of The City of God, where St. Augustine, discussing rape, states that "as
long as the will remains unyielding, no crime, beyond the victim's power to prevent it
without sin, and which is perpetrated on the body or in the body, lays any guilt on the
soul." Moreover, having condemned suicide as an acceptable means of avoiding
violation, he states categorically in Chapter 19 that, without the consent of the will,
"not only the souls of Christian women who have been forcibly violated during their
captivity, but also their bodies, remain holy."


Temptation and Deliverance in Lincolnshire

Heaven, to protect my Innocence" and relates (more in sadness than
terror) how this "Word was the Subject of their Ridicule" (163).
Prefacing her replies to the proposals, she assures her parents that she
is "prepared for the worst," and fears that although "there will be
nothing omitted to ruin me, and tho' my poor Strength will not be able
to defend me," she will yet not give in voluntarily, and resolves to leave
to God "the avenging of all my Wrongs, in his own good Time and
Manner" (164). During a discussion with Mrs. Jewkes, she answers
her fleeringg" language by warning that "tho' I can have neither
Justice nor Mercy here, and cannot be heard in my Defence, yet a
Time will come, may-be, when I shall be heard, and when your own
Guilt will strike you dumb" (169). Unmoved, Mrs. Jewkes neverthe-
less speaks almost wonderingly of the "Strength" of "Spirit" Pamela
exhibits during this time of great anxiety, and remarks that if her
physical strength "was but answerable to that, thou wouldst run away
with us all, and this great House too on thy Back" (170). Following her
failure to move her master by means of two prayers as he left for
church, and after remarking again on her sadness at his alteration,
Pamela, knowing the worst soon will be attempted, states, in a passage
revealing what she has learned from her temptation beside the pond:

I am so fearful of Plots and Tricks, I know not what to
do!-Everything I suspect; for now my Disgrace is avow'd, what
can I think!--To be sure the worst will be attempted! I can only
pour out my Soul in Prayer to God, for his blessed Protection.
But if I must suffer, let me not be long a mournful Survivor!-
Only let me not shorten my own Time sinfully! (171).

Shortly after this prayer, Mr. B. tries to achieve through violence what
he has been unable to achieve through bribes or terror.
This steadfastness during scenes which heretofore she was unable
to bear even thinking of enduring suggests the depth of Pamela's
preparation for her "worst Trial" and her "fearfullest Danger" (172).
Moreover, if the pond scene represents the turning point in the
testing of her beliefs and the beginning of a more mature awareness
of a divine concern in the world, the attempted rape begins the
process whereby Mr. B. is brought face to fce with the true nature
and possible consequences of his persecuton and contrivances to
seduce one whom he was requested to protect. As the scene opens, he
is disguised as the supposedly drunk servant Nan. Covered by her


Pamela: A Reading

"Gown and Petticoat" with her "Apron over his Face and Shoulders,"
he pretends to sleep in a chair in Pamela's bedroom. Later, while
writing of the event, Pamela states of this disguise: "What Meannesses
will not Lucifer make his Votaries stoop to, to gain their abominable
Ends" (175). He is, at this point, notjust as "cunning" as "Lucifer" (61),
or a "Workman" promoted by "Lucifer" (65), but a very "Votary" of
"Lucifer." Reminiscent of traditional views of evil, its protean qualities,
Mr. B., in taking for a disguise the uniform of the meanest of his
servants, has sunk as low as possible. His previous concern for his
reputation, his responsibilities to the stewardship entrusted to him by
his dying mother, all are here of less consequence to him than his
desire to satisfy his lust.10
The most noteworthy feature of this scene, however, is the evidence
suggesting that the ray of light steadily shining into the darkness of
the confusion, terror, and despair surrounding Pamela, has begun
likewise to penetrate the meannesses of her master. When it is kept in
mind that she herself later directly attributes her survival at this point
to the timely disabling of her faculties by God in answer to a prayer for
deliverance (177), Mr. B.'s failure and subsequent activities are
scarcely to be appreciated apart from a close association with the
intervening power of the divinity, His very providence. It is not that
Mr. B. is reformed instantly or converted by his fear over Pamela's
violent fits, but rather that a beginning has been made toward altering
his pride and lust, toward making him receptive (as did Pamela's
bruises at pond side) to the reassertion of qualities so long subdued by
his lust, the influence of Mrs. Jewkes, and his companions of the
"Chase and Green." His silencing of Mrs. Jewkes and stopping short
of rape provide a moment of reflection which prepares for his increas-
ing clarity of vision in the scenes to come. As his lust is replaced by an
awareness of the felicity to be gained from a "virtuous Love," he is
subsequently taught the folly of his previous attempts to seduce
virtue."1 The next day, he shows "great Tenderness" toward Pamela

10. For an alternative, transvestite view of this disguise, however, see John A.
Dusginger, "What Pamela Knew," p. 390.
11. For other relevant views of Mr. B's moment of insight, see: Gwendolyn
Needham, "Richardson's Characterization of Mr. B. and Double Purpose in Pamela,"
p. 467; Dussinger, "What Pamela Knew," p. 386; Dorothy Parker, "The Time Scheme
of Pamela," (in particular p. 704, where she cogently sums up what has happened to
Mr. B. by stating: "The difference in him is not in personality, but in character; his
wildness and passion are now regulated by moral virtue"); and Margaret Doody's
statements on p. 49 of A Natural Passion.