Samuel Richardson (1689 – 1761)
He preserved the same factual approach to literature as Defoe did. Some scholars consider his name must follow Defoe, because his novels came to possess some characteristic features of the genre Swift’s stories lack.
He was a book-seller & did not come to novel-writing until he was 50. There was new reading public composed chiefly of women, belonging to middle-classes. Richardson featured it. He also captured the most famous theme of this time: Russo spoke of him as of Homer of 18th century. We take into consideration his 3 novels: “Pamela”, “Clarissa Harlow”, Sir Charles Grandison”. All the novels are written in the same manner & not only the manner, the atmosphere & the method were the same. The 3 novels were told in letters & the letters were of such immense length that the writer had to scribble them day & night in order to produce them at all. Never were the letters longer than they were in Richardson’s stories. The stories themselves were thin & slight, particularly if we compare them to the time it tries to tell them. One can’t read Richardson for the story but for the sentiment, which is the key.
Not a tear or a sight was overlooked. He gave a record of characters, emotions & the way they were expressed & the circumstances under which they were experienced. At that time Richardson was the only who could liberally share his emotions with the others. This explains Richardson’s manner of writing. You have to spend a week reading a day’s experience of his character. The preparation for wedding takes 70 volumes. Richardson put a human heart under the microscope. His sentiment was their sentiment.
Richardson spent more time among women than among men. He wanted to give his audience what they wanted. His “Sir Charles Grandison” is a spinster’s idea of a fine gentleman & Lovelace is the idea of a wicked man. Richardson shaped his characters accordingly. His strength as a story-teller lies not in the plot but in the steady movement of his story. It captures you & you can’t get rid of it.
He was more popular in his time than any of his contemporary writers. But all of a sudden he lost his popularity. There were many reasons for that – Richardson demanded much leisure time. Now we realize that what he thought to be fine morality ran false with the readers.
The main character of his 1st novel “Pamela” was a servant girl, who after the death of her mistress was persecuted by her young master. Pamela used many tricks to escape from him. She did it successfully & at last he married her. Analyzing her behavior we understand that she is not that innocent as she pretended to be. Richardson writes that Pamela was kid & tolerant.
“She is a broad, squat, pursy, fat thing, quite ugly if anything human can be so called: about 40 years old….”
Clarissa Harlow is even a more sentimental novel. The intrigues against Clarissa are so pervasive that she can’t escape like Pamela. She becomes a victim of Lovelace & finally she dies. The public asked Richardson save Clarissa’s life but he refused.
“Sir Charles Grandison” – Richardson’s 3rd & weakest novel, was not very popular with the public.
The atmosphere that Richardson showed was an atmosphere of a hot house. Literature could not develop under such circumstances & needed a man who could smash two men in a hot house.
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