Samuel Richardson was initially a printer but at the age of 51, he unexpectedly turned novelist. Richardson was the first writer to dramatize letter-writing. His epistolary novels combine the urgency and direct speech of drama with an accurate and detailed description of people, places and objects.
Epistolary novels included in a first and simple phase, letters written by only one person, and in a second, more complex phase, they present an exchange letters between several correspondents. Richardson’s great innovation was to use the letters as a means of psychological analysis.
Pamela or Virtue Rewarded
In 1740 Richardson published “Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded”, an epistolary novel about a poor fifteen-years-old servant girl who is persecuted by her master. Most of the letters are written by the protagonist, Pamela, to her parents. She dares to resist her master’s improper sexual advances and doing so assert her moral value. In the end she makes the young nobleman marry her.
Pamela was the first example of best -seller in English literature. Its publication was followed by endless discussions and public debates: the country was divided into Pamelists and anti-Pamelists. For many readers, Pamela was a heroin and the triumph of virtue, for another portion of the reading public Pamela was not so much a virtuous girl, but only a young lady who tried to climb the social ladder.
The novel symbolically celebrates the union of two powerful classes: the nobility and the middle class. Pamela is the first psychological novel written in England.