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  • Hayman and Gravelot’s Anti-Pamela Designs for Richardson’s Octavo Edition of Pamela I and II
  • Stephen A. Raynie

As the flood of anti-Pamela literature shows, the text of Pamela (1740), whatever Richardson’s intent may have been, invited a significant degree of hermeneutic conflict; 1 and Richardson apparently turned to illustration for his first novel as a way to rein in the alternate readings that plagued it. He demonstrated this concern over interpretation by his flirtation with Hogarth as a plate designer for the second edition of Pamela. Aaron Hill, for example, notes in a letter to Richardson on 9 December 1740 that “The designs you have taken for frontispieces [to Pamela], seem to have been very judiciously chosen; upon presupposition that Mr. Hogarth is able (and if any-body is, it is he), to teach pictures to speak and think.” 2 That Pamela needed illustrations to strengthen her voice, to help her “speak and think,” suggests that the text itself had proven inadequate to the task. In light of Horace Walpole’s later comment that Hogarth “could not bend his talents to think after any body else,” 3 Richardson’s consideration of Hogarth as a possible plate designer seems odd. Nevertheless, Richardson appears to have perceived quickly Hogarth’s interpretive independence and never included his designs in Pamela. In his preface to the second edition, Richardson apologizes for not meeting his audience’s expectation that the artist’s illustrations would appear:

it was intended to prefix two neat Frontispieces to this Edition...and one was actually finished for that purpose; but there not being Time for the other...and the Engraving part...having fallen very short of the Spirit of the Passages they were intended to represent, the Proprietors [Richardson, Osborn, and Rivington] 4 were advised to lay them aside.


Nonetheless, Richardson continued his effort to produce an illustrated edition of Pamela, a decision seemingly occasioned in part by his successful 1740 venture with Aesop’s Fables. What is surprising is that Richardson failed to realize that any illustration, because of its inability to represent a text in a mimetic sense, might further problematize the determination of Pamela’s meaning.

Richardson was clearly concerned with how readers read Pamela. When made aware of Richard Chandler’s commissioning of John Kelly to write Pamela’s Conduct in High Life, Richardson wrote to James Leake in August [End Page 77] 1741 that he “was resolved to do it [continue Pamela] myself, rather than my Plan should be basely Ravished out of my Hands, and, probably, my Characters depreciated and debased, by those who knew nothing of the Story, nor the Delicacy required in the Continuation of the Piece.” 5 Richardson’s language suggests a profound anxiety that Pamela could be, from his point of view, abused. His other correspondence confirms this concern over readings, although as Pamela II ironically confirms, the master printer was at times his own worst critic, blind perhaps even to the implications of his own designs.

In a letter to Ralph Allen on 8 October 1741, Richardson enthusiastically lays out his plan for the forthcoming octavo edition of Pamela I and II, apparently unconcerned that an illustrator other than Hogarth might also compromise his project:

Your Objection to a Passage in one of the introductory Letters, is as just as it is kind; and I wish I had adverted to it before; But when I come to perfect the Design in the Publication of the New Volumes, I am advised to omit both the Introductory Preface in the future editions of the two first: And shall do it in an Octavo Edition I am Printing, which is to have Cuts to it, done by the Best Hands [Hayman and Gravelot]. And indeed the Praises in those Pieces are carried so high, that since I cou’d not pass as the Editor only, as I once hoped to do, I wish they had never been Inserted.

(Selected Letters, pp. 51–52)

Although Richardson planned the format of the octavo edition and appeared confident in his choice of illustrators, his revisionary drive and apparent craving for correspondence reacting to his novels implies that he...

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