Henry Fielding Shamela Criticism - Essay

Gerard E. Jensen (essay date 1916)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Jensen, Gerard E. “An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews, 1741.” Modern Language Notes 31, no. 5 (May 1916): 310-11.

[In the following essay, Jensen provides textual evidence to show that Shamela was written by Fielding.]

In his Samuel Richardson (Eng. Men of Letters, 1902) Mr. Austin Dobson discusses the authorship of the above parody on Richardson's Pamela, but does not decide the question for us. The evidence that he brings forward seems to support Miss Thomson's conjecture (Samuel Richardson, London, 1900, p. 38) that it is not improbable that Henry Fielding wrote this pamphlet. In a recent examination of a...

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Charles Richard Greene (essay date 1944)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Greene, Charles Richard. “A Note on the Authorship of Shamela.Modern Language Notes 59, no. 8 (December 1944): 571.

[In the following essay, Greene notes similarities between a passage in Shamela and a passage in Fielding's translation of a work by Moliére, and suggests that this is evidence for Fielding's authorship of the novel.]

As a contribution to the vexed and as yet incompletely settled question of the authorship of Shamela (1741) may I offer the following parallel passage in Fielding's translation of Molière's Le Médecin malgré lui as The Mock Doctor: or, The Dumb Lady Cur'd (1732). It occurs in an added plot scene which is not found in Molière's original.

Dorcas is exulting over the fact that she is at last to be revenged upon her husband for the frequent beatings he has been administering to her:

I don't remember my Heart has gone so pit-a-pat with Joy a long while.—Revenge is surely the most delicious Morsel the Devil ever dropt into the Mouth of a Woman.1

The parallel passage in Shamela occurs in a scene during which Shamela becomes enraged because Mrs. Jewkes has upbraided her for putting Squire Booby in a “pet” during which he thrashed two or three of his men. Shamela says:

Harkee, Madam, says, I, don't you affront me, for if you do, d—m me (I am sure I have repented for using such a Word) if I am not revenged.

How sweet is Revenge: Sure the Sermon Book is in the Right, in calling it sweetest Morsel the Devil ever dropped into the Mouth of a Sinner.2

This parallelism might be merely independent use by two authors of a proverbial expression; yet I find no record of the phrase in any of the more accessible collections of familiar phrases and proverbs.


  1. Henry Fielding, Works, London, A. Millar, 1755, three vols., vol. ii, The Mock Doctor, p. 11.

  2. An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews, ed. Brian W. Downs, Cambridge, 1930, p. 35.

Charles B. Woods (essay date 1946)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Woods, Charles B. “Fielding and the Authorship of Shamela.Philological Quarterly 25, no. 3 (July, 1946): 248-72.

[In the following essay, Woods argues that Shamela was written by Fielding, citing as evidence the similar subject matter in Fielding's essays and Fielding's distinctive prose style.]

Since 1900, when Miss Clara L. Thomson suggested that the parody of Pamela (pub. Nov. 6, 1740) entitled An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews … By Mr. Conny Keyber (pub. April 4, 1741) was “not improbably written by Fielding,”1 considerable attention has been given to this curious link between Richardson's...

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Sheridan Baker (essay date 1953)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Baker, Sheridan. Introduction to An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews, pp. xi-xxxvi. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1953.

[In the following excerpt, Baker discusses Fielding's authorship of Shamela, the novel's thematic concerns, and its relationship to Pamela.]

Shamela is not only a little book of great historical interest; it is not only a work which turned Henry Fielding from a minor dramatist and journalist into a major novelist: it is itself a masterpiece. It may well be the best parody in English literature.

In the history of the novel, Shamela holds a highly distinguished place,...

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Ian Watt (essay date 1956)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Watt, Ian. “Shamela.” In Fielding: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Ronald Paulson, pp. 45-51. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1962.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1956, Watt discusses the major theme of faith versus good works and analyzes Fielding's brand of satire.]

Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded was published on November 6th, 1740. It immediately became the sensation of the literary season, and a swarm of attacks, parodies, and spurious continuations soon appeared to sour Richardson's remarkable and unexpected triumph; of these the first and easily the best was the eighteen-penny pamphlet An Apology for...

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Maurice Johnson (essay date 1961)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Johnson, Maurice. “The Art of Parody: Shamela.” In Fielding's Art of Fiction: Eleven Essays on Shamela, Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and Amelia, pp. 19-45. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961.

[In the following essay, Johnson considers Shamela, besides being pure, humorous fun, to be a prelude to Fielding's more serious, realistic works.]

The Pamela, which he abused in his Shamela, taught him how to write to please, tho' his manners are so different.

Samuel Richardson.1

Few parodies can withstand more than one rereading. But...

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Eric Rothstein (essay date 1968)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Rothstein, Eric. “The Framework of Shamela.ELH 35, no. 3 (September 1968): 381-402.

[In the following essay, Rothstein shows how the framework of Shamela, beginning with the prefatory material, sustains the burlesque of the novel's action and satirizes English social, political, and religious life.]

Fielding, in his prudence, did not let his ward Shamela go out to make her literary fortune alone. Her letters appeared with three epistolary chaperons, three addresses that are variants of her own correspondence. First, we have the letter of dedication from Conny Keyber to “Miss Fanny, & c.”; next, two letters to the Editor,...

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Hugh Amory (essay date 1971)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Amory, Hugh. “Shamela as Aesopic Satire.” ELH 38, no. 2 (June 1971): 239-53.

[In the following essay, Amory claims that Shamela satirizes Cibber's Apology, Middleton's Life of Cicero, and Richardson's Pamela, which Fielding thinks are testaments to the social and political corruption of the age.]

Who wrote Shamela? and who did Fielding suppose wrote Pamela? On these questions there is a surprisingly large literature, but until an article by Eric Rothstein in 1968, there had been little speculation on the aesthetic function of the mystery in which Fielding enveloped both subjects.1 For the question,...

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A. R. Humphreys (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Humphreys, A. R. Introduction to Joseph Andrews preceded by Shamela, by Henry Fielding, edited with an introduction by A. R. Humphreys, pp. vii-xi. London: J. M. Dent, 1973.

[In the following excerpt, Humphreys argues that Shamela attacks a number of literary and political figures, and that Fielding's parody is a result of his irritation with the moralizing tone of some of his contemporaries, which was brought to a head with the publication of Pamela.]

In April 1741, five months after Pamela appeared, Fielding disclosed his opinion of Richardson's book. An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews, while directed mainly against...

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Theo Olivier (essay date 1974)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Olivier, Theo. “‘Pamela’ and ‘Shamela’: A Reassessment.” English Studies in Africa: A Journal of the Humanities 17, no. 2 (September 1974): 59-70.

[In the following essay, Olivier maintains that Fielding's purpose in Shamela was not much different from that of Samuel Richardson in Pamela, in that both attempt to entertain, but do so by different means.]

All fools have still an itching to deride,
And fain would be upon the laughing side.

(Pope, Essay on Criticism)

To approach a comparison between Richardson and Fielding today poses some rather formidable problems, not the least that of saying...

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Morris Golden (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Golden, Morris. “Public Context and Imagining Self in Pamela and Shamela.ELH 53, no. 2 (summer 1986): 311-329.

[In the following essay, Golden examines the social and cultural context in which Pamela and Shamela were written, which he argues is of particular interest because it sheds light on the origins of the novel.]

Most people would grant that Pamela, Fielding's responses, and the modern novel generally rose out of the powerful economic, demographic, religious, folkloric, and literary forces and traditions that have been so ably defined in the scholarship of the past few decades. But we may still ask why and how one...

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Simon Varey (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Varey, Simon. “Shamela and Joseph Andrews.” In Henry Fielding, pp. 46-52. London: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

[In the following excerpt, Varey examines the parody of Pamela which Fielding uses in Shamela as a forerunner of the parodical elements in Joseph Andrews.]

Samuel Richardson's first novel, Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded was published in November 1740. It was a triumph, a sensation. Perpetually tinkering with his text, Richardson brought out four revised editions in less than a year. He soon added a sequel (Pamela in her Exalted Condition) and later virtually rewrote the whole novel twice more....

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Martin C. Battestin and Ruthe R. Battestin (essay date 1989)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Battestin, Martin C. and Ruthe R. Battestin “Politics, Novels, and The Law.” In Henry Fielding: A Life, pp. 301-308. London: Routledge, 1989.

[In the following excerpt, Battestin examines the political, social, and cultural context for Fielding's composition and the public reception of Shamela.]

For many reasons, then—personal, financial, political—these months were a distressing time for Fielding. In this same year of 1741 we also first hear of the chronic ill health that plagued him for the rest of his life, undermining a robust constitution. That he managed to rise above this sea of troubles to produce Shamela attests not only to an...

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Judith Frank (essay date 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Frank, Judith. “Literacy, Desire, and the Novel: From Shamela to Joseph Andrews.The Yale Journal of Criticism: Interpretation in the Humanities 6, no. 2 (fall 1993): 157-74.

[In the following essay, Frank offers a reading of Shamela that departs from earlier analyses about bourgeois politics and literary representation, arguing that the novel is about literacy and desire among the lower classes, a theme that Fielding further develops in Joseph Andrews.]

Like the transition from traditional open-field to capitalist agriculture or the transition from a paternalistic to a contractual model of labor and service, the rise of literacy in...

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Ian A. Bell (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Bell, Ian A. “Pamela into Shamela.” In Henry Fielding: Authorship and Authority, pp. 57-77. London: Longman, 1994.

[In the following essay, Bell argues that Shamela suggests themes and cultural critiques that are developed in a more serious and disciplined manner in his later works.]

An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews, In which, the many notorious Falsehoods and Misrepresentations of a Book called Pamela, are exposed and refuted; and all the matchless Arts of that young Politician, set in a true and just Light. Together with a full Account of all that passed between her and Parson Arthur...

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Earla A. Wilputte (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wilputte, Earla A. “Ambiguous Language and Ambiguous Gender: The ‘Bisexual’ Text of Shamela.The Modern Language Review 89, no. 3 (July 1994): 561-71.

[In the following essay, Wilputte contends that in his novel Fielding uses sexually ambiguous creatures and bisexuality to represent perversions of language.]

An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews (1741) is too easily dismissed by scholars as not warranting real critical attention. Fielding's parody of Richardson's Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded is a genuinely comic piece and, as so often happens with comedy, the critics take it apart with reluctance. Fielding's satire exposes...

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Jenny Uglow (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Uglow, Jenny. “Towards Fiction: The Champion and Shamela.” In Henry Fielding, pp. 28-33. Plymouth, U.K.: Northcote House, 1995.

[In the following excerpt, Uglow offers a general reading of Shamela and notes the reader's collusion with the author in the novel's pretense.]

Shamela was prompted by three books that had made Fielding's blood boil in 1740. The most important was Samuel Richardson's Pamela, in which, through her plangent, urgent letters home, we follow the young servant's brave attempts to foil the assaults on her virtue by her master, Mr B—, (including kidnapping, near-rape, and virtual imprisonment), until...

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Richard Gooding (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Gooding, Richard. “Pamela, Shamela, and the Politics of the Pamela Vogue.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 7, no. 2 (January 1995): 109-30.

[In the following essay, Gooding discusses the similarities and differences between Richardson's Pamela and the parodies it spawned, including Shamela.]

There are Swarms of Moral Romances. One, of late Date, divided the World into such opposite Judgments, that some extolled it to the Stars, whilst others treated it with Contempt. Whence arose, particularly among the Ladies, two different Parties, Pamelists and Antipamelists. … Some look upon this young Virgin as...

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Albert J. Rivero (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Rivero, Albert J. “Pamela/Shamela/Joseph Andrews: Henry Fielding and the Duplicities of Representation.” In Augustan Subjects: Essays in Honor of Martin C. Battestin, edited by Albert J. Rivero, pp. 207-28. Newark, N.J.: University of Delaware Press, 1997.

[In the following essay, Rivero discusses Fielding's concerns with representation, authority, and authenticity in Shamela, which the novelist explores more fully in Joseph Andrews.]

The title page of Joseph Andrews indicates that the work we are about to read is “Written in Imitation of The Manner of CERVANTES, Author of Don Quixote.1 This...

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Tiffany Potter (essay date 1999)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Potter, Tiffany. “Georgian Libertinism and the Reclamation of Virtue: Shamela and Joseph Andrews.” In Honest Sins: Georgian Libertinism and the Novels of Henry Fielding, pp. 74-82. Montreal: McGill University Press, 1999.

[In the following excerpt, Potter argues that Shamela displays the coherent ideology of libertinism that Fielding embraced, with its rejection of contemporary standards of virtue, religious dogma, and vision of human behavior.]

Shamela and Joseph Andrews form a transition between Fielding's dramatic career and his career as a novelist, and both works are informed by the developing Georgian libertinism....

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Thomas Lockwood (essay date 1999)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Lockwood, Thomas. “Theatrical Fielding.” Studies in the Literary Imagination 32, no. 2 (fall 1999): 105-10.

[In the following excerpt, Lockwood claims that, with its dramatic elements, Shamela shows the current of Fielding's theatrical imagination.]

What I mean by this title is not so much the Fielding who worked in theater as the Fielding in whom theater itself worked and kept on working, imaginatively, all his life. From his playhouse experience, he took or was taken by a certain deeply theatrical habit of imagination that bathes the material of his post-dramatic writing career and, in some cases, I would argue, underpins the creative structure of...

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