So Ariel and I were talking, and we decided I should just add quotation marks to the quotes I pull from Pamela (Written before people really used quotation marks! Crazy!) to make it easier for people to read. That’s pretty much all I have to say. What’s new with you guys?
Previously, Pamela’s Master suggested that instead of going home to her family in order to get away from him and his constant unwanted sexual advances, she marry one of his friends and hook up with him on the side. [Ariel says: This is the same logic employed by guys who are like, “Do you want to go on a date with me? You don’t? Well what if we’re just hookup buddies instead! Problem solved.”]
For some reason, being married to another person was not the final push that Pamela needed to actually be interested in the Master, so she rejects his offer in a letter, which Pamela helpfully rewrites verbatim in her diary, because Pamela hates the environment and wants all trees to die.
The Master orders that nobody says goodbye to Pamela when she leaves, which she is apparently doing right now, as she writes this letter, because she helpfully writes that she’s too busy to write again:
Well, no more – I’m in a fearful hurry!
Pamela’s like that person who always posts a Facebook status that they’re running late for class or for work, but make sure to stop and write that down. [Ariel says: There’s no time to get to class1!11 OMG SOOOOO BUSY! But first lemme take a selfie and post 12 status updates on Twitter and FB.]
Of course, the letter can’t just end there. Pamela realized that Mrs. Jervis and the other servants will all miss her so terribly that she wrote them “a paper of verses, on my going”. Pamela has literally written poetry about herself for her friends.
I, from a state of low degree,
Was plac’d in this good family:
Too high a fate for humble me,
The helpless, hopeless Pamela.
Even if you believe that people actually did this in the 18th century, I doubt that anyone who did so wasn’t seen as a huge twat. [Ariel says: I wonder if people in the 18th century also hated it when people wrote about themselves in the third person.]
One thing or two I’ve more to say;
God’s holy will, be sure, obey;
And for our master always pray,
As ever shall poor Pamela.
The poems are all, of course, Pamela talking about how selfless and amazing she is. In verse. Which doesn’t defeat the purpose so much as take a huge shit on it. But, hey, at least she doesn’t use them as an opportunity to make any catty, awkward, holier-than-thou swipes at her Master!
Their riches, gay deceitful snares,
Enlarge their fears, increase their cares
Their servants’ joy surpasses theirs;
At least so judges Pamela.
BUT IT’S NOT OVER YET! It’s time to break the fourth wall!
Here it is necessary the reader should know, that the fair Pamela’s trials were not yet over; but the worst were to come
Is it really necessary? The “editor” (you may recall the novel presents itself as someone’s actual letters that were then published after the fact) interrupts Pamela’s narrative to tell us that the Master actually sent her to one of his other estates, because apparently Samuel Richardson thought the reader would be too stupid to figure this out themselves. It’s not like Pamela ever leaves anything out (“I stopped writing this letter for six seconds because I thought I heard somebody, but I did not, and will now continue!”), so we’d learn about this on the very next page anyway, because it, you know, happens next. It’s like Richardson was so proud of himself for this “Guess what? The Master didn’t really let Pamela go home!” plot twist that he had to explain it to us twice.
The editor also tells us that the “Master wrote a letter to Pamela’s father saying that Pamela is having a “love affair” with “a young clergyman”, and he has sent her away “to endeavor to prevent it,” which sounds like the sort of thing that Pamela couldn’t figure out herself and could be useful for the reader to know (if you’re impatient and don’t much care for, you know, plot). But Pamela finds out in about a dozen pages anyway, so there’s still no point to writing any of this.
The editor does tell us one thing that Pamela doesn’t immediately find out in the next chapter, but instead of making things make more sense, it does… the opposite of that. Pamela’s dad gets the letter, walks a million billion miles (citation needed) to the Master’s house, and has basically this conversation:
Dad: Uh… the fuck?
Master: I’m high class! Would I lie to you?
Dad: Gee, I guess not.
The Master also assures her dad that if he doesn’t get a letter from Pamela, that’s Pamela’s fault. Wouldn’t that be weird if a guy tried to control the female lead’s means of communication in a romance novel nowadays- oh, wait.
Then the editor includes a letter that Pamela wrote to Mrs. Jervis – in his aside outside of Pamela’s letters, because why the fuck not – telling her “I have been vilely tricked, [and] am carried off, to where, I have no liberty to tell”. Mrs. Jervis shows the letter to everyone, including Pamela’s parents, and the Master tells everyone, “Whaaaat? Haha, how weird is that?” So this whole aside ends with Pamela’s parents “praying for their dear Pamela” for basically the rest of the book. Which is… really depressing? Thanks, Richardson.
The novel continues with Pamela’s next letter, which tells us basically everything Richardson interrupted the story to tell us. Thanks, Richardson.
Let me write, and bewail my miserable hard fate, though I have no hope how what I write can be conveyed to your hands! […] O join, with me, my dear parents! – But alas! How can you know, how can I reveal to you, the dreadful situation of your dear daughter!
Wait, why was I complaining about the story being told by someone other than Pamela? I TAKE IT BACK.
Pamela decides to continue the letter, even though she won’t be able to send it to her parents for a long time to come, because someday she might want to look back on it and take account of all that she suffered. Seriously. Whatever floats your boat, Pamela.
Pamela tells the tale of how she didn’t notice something was up when the Master’s servant, Robin, was very obviously not taking her on the route back home:
[It] is very odd! But to be sure, thought I, Robin knows the way.
Detective Pamela only realizes she fell for the Master’s cunning ruse of “maybe she just won’t notice” when they stop at a total stranger’s for the night. But then she makes an even worse discovery:
“Pray, mistress,” said I, do you know ‘Squire B——, of Bedfordshire?” […]
the simple daughter said, “Know his worship! Yes, surely! Why he is my father’s landlord!”
Wouldn’t that be weird if a guy owned every building the female lead ever went to in a romance novel nowadays- oh, wait.
Pamela is shown a letter the Master wrote for her to read upon her arrival. It’s about as creepy as you’d imagine of a romance novel where “I loved you, so I had to kidnap you” is actually the plot.
The passion I have for you, and your obstinacy, have constrained me to act […] in a manner that I know will occasion you great trouble […] Yes, forgive me, my dear girl; for, although I have taken this step, I will, by all that’s good and holy! use you honourably.
Pamela also reads the letter that her Master sent to the farmer whose house she’s staying at, where she learns that the Master’s story is that he’s sending her away because she’s having an affair “which will be her ruin”. Like we literally just read. Wow, it’s like Richardson really didn’t have to break the narrative to tell us something he was going to tell us right away or something.
They get to where the Master sent Pamela away to the next day, and meet “the wicked Mrs. Jewkes”, whom Pamela tells us she’s only met once before, and that’s it. Really? Pamela goes into so much goddamn detail about who comes and leaves a room while she’s writing a letter and threw off her train of thought, but can’t be bothered to remind us who this person is or why she doesn’t like her? [Ariel says: Can you imagine if books today did this – oh wait.]
Why don’t we wrap up this post with some good, old fashioned patriarchy?
“He is my master;” [Mrs. Jewkes said.] “And if he bids me to anything that I can do, I think I ought to do it” […]
“Why,” said I, “suppose he should bid you cut my throat[…]”
“Why now,” says she, “How strangely you talk! […] Is it not natural for a gentleman to love a pretty woman? And suppose he can obtain his desires, is that so bad as cutting her throat? […] Mighty miserable, indeed, to be so well beloved by one of the finest gentlemen in England!”
This book is frequently taught in college English courses for what are considered significant contributions to the Western canon!