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Eighteenth-Century Life 26.2 (2002) 96-100

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Review Essay

Pursuing Pamela, 1740-1750

Mark G. Spencer
University of Toronto

Thomas Keymer & Peter Sabor, eds. The 'Pamela' Controversy: Criticisms and Adaptations of Samuel Richardson's 'Pamela,' 1740-1750. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2001. Volume 1: pp. lxxi + 260; 2: l + 355; 3: pp. xxx + 349; 4: xliii + 312; 5: 335; 6: xxix + 361. $750. ISBN 1-85196-615-3

Scholars of eighteenth-century life have long been intrigued by Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740-41) and the contemporary debate that sprang from it. Pamela's story was known to a wide reading audience in the eighteenth century. Many were captivated by Richardson's tale of a young servant-girl who resisted the advances of her dead mistress' son, Mr. B., eventually to have virtue rewarded when she won his hand in marriage. The marvelous volumes under review, edited by Thomas Keymer and Peter Sabor, will surely spur modern interest and, even more importantly, may direct scholars towards new areas of illuminating inquiry. Building on the bibliographical research of Richard Gordon Hannaford, Bernard Kreissman, Alan Dugald McKillop, William Merritt Sale, Jr., and Sarah W. R. Smith, among others, Keymer and Sabor have assembled an extensive collection of early responses, from 1740 to 1750, to the early editions of Pamela, authorized and pirated. These volumes display wonderfully that the Pamela vogue was not confined to only a few main sources. Indeed, the editors take their readers on a journey that, going far [End Page 96] beyond the seemingly principal texts, encompasses pre-publication puffs of Pamela (some in the form of published letters), as well as a whole host of poems (some even printed on ladies'fans), reviews, plays, operas, burlesques, paintings, engravings, wax-work shows, and prose continuations of Pamela's story by Richardson and his competitors. Sizing up this extensive body of writing and images, the editors argue it is best described as a "controversy." The received interpretation (traceable to 1744) of a two-sided debate between Pamelists and Antipamelists will not do. Rather, there was "a multi-voiced dispute"(1:xvii) expressing many different views and shades of praise and criticism. "It is for this reason that so much is to be gained by recovering to view, alongside such well-known responses as Shamela, the full range of Pamela's quarrelsome progeny: in these sources we see displayed, with unrivalled clarity, the diversity, vigour and turmoil of their cultural moment" (1:xix). Perhaps it is relevant to ask, then, what sources have been reprinted here and to what effect?

Here are the contents of the six volumes, which are arranged, helpfully, according to a number of themes:

1: Richardson's editorial apparatus from the second (1741) and sixth (1742) editions of Pamela; Fielding's parody, Shamela (1741); well-known verse responses by Josiah Relph (1747) and Pamela: or, The Fair Impostor (1743); and lesser known miscellaneous poems gathered from the Gentleman's Magazine (1741 & 1745), London Magazine (1741), Scot's Magazine (1741), and Universal Spectator (1742).
2: the only known contemporary review of Pamela in English from The History of the Works of the Learned; Pamela Censured (1741); Lettre sur Pamela (1742); Charles Povey's curious book, The Virgin in Eden (1741); reproductions of paintings by Joseph Highmore, Philip Mercier, and Robert Feke, and engravings and illustrations by John Carwitham, Francis Hayman, Hubert Gravelot, Antoine Benoist, and Louis Truchy.
3: Eliza Haywood's Anti-Pamela (1741) and the anonymous Memoirs of the Life of Lady H—(1741).
4 & 5: John Kelly's Pamela's Conduct in High Life (1741), a spurious continuation of Pamela.
6: six dramatic and operatic adaptations: Henry Giffard's Pamela. A Comedy (1741); [James Dance's] Pamela; or Virtue Triumphant (1741); Joseph Dorman's, Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded. An Opera (1742); anon., Mock-Pamela (1750); and Carlo Goldoni's Pamela. A Comedy (1750).

As the readers of this journal are likely to realize, most of these sources have been known to scholars of eighteenth-century literature. Indeed, the major works have been documented by Richardson bibliographers and biographers [End Page...


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