Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Pamela is really two, closely related novels. The first two volumes of 1740 have the full title Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded. In a Series of Familiar Letters from a Beautiful Young Damsel, to Her Parents. Now First Published in Order to Cultivate the Principles of Virtue and Religion in the Minds of the Youth of Both Sexes. The additional volumes that followed in 1741 were published in a new two-volume set titled Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded. In a Series of Familiar Letters from a Beautiful Damsel, to Her Parents: And Afterwards, in Her Exalted Condition, Between Her, and Persons of Figure and Quality, upon the Most Important and Entertaining Subjects in Genteel Life. The Third and Fourth Volumes. Published in Order to Cultivate Principles of Virtue and Religion in the Minds of the Youth of Both Sexes. The subtitles are significant because they reflect the didactic intentions of the author as well as the expectations of the audience Richardson sought.
The first two volumes of Pamela tell how the fifteen-year-old Pamela Andrews left her parents’ home to become a servant in the country home of a lady of substance in Bedfordshire. The latter dies almost immediately, leaving Pamela alone in the rambling estate with Squire B., the lady’s libidinous son. Squire B. promptly tries to impose himself upon the wide-eyed, nubile Pamela, who, being a proper girl, resists his advances and flees from Bedfordshire. Squire B.,...
(The entire section is 825 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Pamela Andrews has been employed from a very young age as the servant girl of Lady B—— at her estate in Bedfordshire. She has grown very fond of her mistress, so the letter to her parents telling of her ladyship’s death expresses her deep sorrow. Her own plans are uncertain, but it soon becomes clear that Lady B——’s son wants her to remain in his household. Taking her hand before all the other servants, he has said that he will be a good master to Pamela for his dear mother’s sake if she continues faithful and diligent. Mrs. Jervis, the housekeeper, puts in a friendly word as well, and Pamela, not wishing to be a burden upon her poor parents, decides to remain in the service of Mr. B——. Shortly, however, she begins to doubt that his intentions toward her are honorable. When he kisses her one day, while she sits sewing in a summerhouse, she finds herself in a quandary as to what to do.
Once again, she discusses the situation with the good Mrs. Jervis and decides to stay if she can share the housekeeper’s bed. Mr. B—— is extremely annoyed at this turn of affairs. He tries to persuade Mrs. Jervis that Pamela is a very designing creature who should be carefully watched. When he learns that she is writing long letters to her parents, telling them in great detail of his false proposals and repeating her determination to keep her virtue, he has as many of her letters intercepted as possible.
In a frightening interview with Mr....
(The entire section is 1460 words.)