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., however, will have his way. He has Pamela abducted and brought to his estate in Lincolnshire, a household run by his housekeeper, Mrs. Jewkes. Throughout all her traumas, Pamela is scribbling away, writing frequently to her parents and then in her journal, reporting with great immediacy the pulse-quickening assaults upon her cherished virtue. In providing Pamela with no friend in Mrs. Jewkes, Richardson used every means at his disposal to inform his readers (who knew it already) that the social codes of the day were tolerant of people of the upper class who seduced...
(The entire section is 825 words.)