Richardson - PA Criticism Archive

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Anna Letitia Barbauld

Samuel Richardson, the first English author who has given celebrity to the modern novel, was born in the year 1689, at some place in Derbyshire, but in what particular town is not known, as he, from some reason or other, always avoided mentioning the place of his birth. This reserve could not well spring from a desire of concealing the obscurity of his origin, since he has himself freely mentioned it in his letters to his friends. His father was a joiner, ingenious in his profession, and respectable in his character. He was in flourishing business in London, and much noticed, says his son, by the duke of Monmouth, after whose defeat and death he thought it expedient to retire into the country, which was the occasion of his settling in Derbyshire; and there our author spent the early years of his life. He was at first intended for the church, for which profession he was well suited by his seriousness and love of letters; but his father having a numerous family, and being, besides, in declining circumstances, was not able to allow him a liberal education. Though he did not go to business till sixteen,

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it is probable he enjoyed very slender advantages of school-learning. Some of his admirers have wished to raise his character by affirming that he possessed a knowledge of the classics; but his own assertions are frequent in his letters, that he was acquainted with no language but his own, not even French. His deficiencies in this respect he often lamented, and it is certain his style is as remote as possible from that of a scholar. It abounds with colloquial vulgarisms, and has neither that precision nor that tincture of classic elegance which is generally the result of an early familiarity with the best models. Richardson was however always fond of reading, and still more of narrating. Some anecdotes are preserved in his letters which show very strongly the early bent of his genius. It appears that he was not fond of the usual amusements of boys, but used very early to exercise his invention by gathering his schoolfellows round him, and telling them affecting stories; and he then wrote "A little history of a servant man who was preferred by a young lady to a great lord who was a libertine." [2]  All his stories, he tells us, had a good moral; they were not stories of genii and fairies, but of life, and probably of low life. It was indeed a peculiarity in him, that he was fond of two things which boys in general have rather an aversion to; letter-writing, and the company of the other sex. At the early age of thirteen he was a favourite with all the girls in the neighbourhood who were fond of books. He used to read to them as they sat at work with their needles; he also was


the confident of their secrets, and wrote or corrected their love-letters for them. Even before that age he had written an anonymous letter of grave advice to an elderly widow lady. Who does not see that his most admired works are only the expansion of those talents which in the germ prompted his earliest efforts?

Human nature is human nature in every class: the hopes and the fears, the perplexities and the struggles, of these low-bred girls, in probably an obscure village, supplied the future author with those ideas which, by their gradual development, produced the characters of a Clarissa or a Clementina.—In the mean time years went on; and it being incumbent on him to fix on some business, as his father could not bring him up to a profession, he chose that of a printer, chiefly, as he informs us, because he thought it would gratify his thirst for reading; and he was bound apprentice to Mr. Wilde of Stationers' Hall in the year 1706. He did not however find it easy to gratify this thirst, though the stream ran by his lips. He served a severe master, and was obliged, greatly to the injury of his constitution, to steal his reading from the hours of rest and relaxation; and so conscientious was he, that on these occasions he always, as he informs us, purchased his own candle. He was at the same time so diligent in his proper business that his master used to call him the pillar of his house.

After the expiration of his apprenticeship, our author continued five or six years working as a compositor and corrector of the press to a print-

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ing-office, and part of the time as an overseer; and, at length thus working his way upwards into daylight, he took up his freedom, and set up for himself; at first in a court in Fleet-street, from whence, as his business grew more extensive, he removed into Salisbury-court.

Richardson was not one of those who make genius an excuse for idleness. He had been diligent and conscientious as an apprentice, he was assiduous and liberal as a master. Besides the proper work of a printer, he did a good deal of business for the booksellers, in writing for them indexes, prefaces, and, as he styles them, honest dedications. These humble employments tended to facilitate to him the use and management of the pen. Mr. Richardson's punctuality, and the honour and generosity of his dealings, soon gained him friends, and his business greatly flourished. He printed for a while The True Briton, a periodical paper, published in 1723, under the auspices of the Duke of Wharton, who, at that time, was endeavouring to foment a spirit of opposition in the city; and, to gain popularity, became a member of the wax-chandlers' company. Richardson, though his principles were very different, was intimate with him, as was also, in early life, Dr. Young. Some of the numbers of The True Briton were prosecuted; but Mr. R. escaped, as his name did not appear. He was engaged some time in printing a newspaper, called The Daily Journal, and afterwards, The Daily Gazetteer. Through the interest of the speaker, Mr. Onslow, he had the printing


of the Journals of the House of Commons, in twenty-six volumes, folio. Mr. Onslow had a great regard for him, and often received him at his house in Ember-court. Polite regards are sometimes more easily obtained than money from the court end of the town. Mr. Richardson did not find this branch of his business the one which yielded him the quickest returns. He thus writes to his friend Aaron Hill: "As to my silence, I have been at one time exceedingly busy in getting ready some volumes of Journals, to entitle myself to a payment which yet I never had, no, not to the value of a shilling, though the debt is upwards of three thousand pounds, and though I have pressed for it, and been excessively pressed for the want of it.''

He was chosen master of his company, an office which, in the stationers' company, is not only honourable but lucrative, in 1754; on which occasion one of his friends tells him, that though he did not doubt his going very well through every other part of the duty, he feared his habitual abstemiousness would allow him to make but a very poor figure at the city feasts. His indulgencies were not of the sensual kind—he had, according to the salutary custom of the London citizens, a country residence; first at North-end, near Hammersmith, and afterwards at Parson's-green, where he spent the time he could spare from business, and seldom without visitors. He loved to encourage diligence and early rising amongst his journeymen, and often hid a half-crown amongst the letters, so that the first who came to work in a morning


might find it. At other times he brought, for the same purpose, fruit from his garden.

In addition to his other business, Mr. Richardson purchased, in 1760, a moiety of the patent of law printer to his majesty, which department of his business he carried on in partnership with Miss Catherine Lintot. From all these sources he was enabled to make that comfortable provision for a rising family, which patient industry, judiciously directed, will, generally, in this country, enable a man to procure.

But the genius of Richardson was not destined to be for ever employed in ushering into the world the productions of others. His first work was his Pamela. It grew out of the following circumstance. The booksellers, for whom it has been mentioned that he had occasionally employed his pen, had desired him to give them a volume of familiar letters upon various supposed occasions. He began;—but letter producing letter it grew into a story, and was given to the public under the title of The History of Pamela. It appeared first in two volumes; two more were added afterwards. The idea the author set out with of writing letters for people of rather the lower class, probably determined him to the station of his heroine and the simplicity of her language.

The author's object in Pamela is twofold: to reclaim a libertine by the influence of virtuous affection, and to conduct virtue safe and triumphant through the severest trials, to an honourable reward. For this purpose Pamela, a


young girl, born of poor but pious and worthy parents, taken by a lady of fashion to wait upon her person, and brought up by her with great tenderness and attention to her improvement, is, after the lady's death, at which event the story opens, exposed to the solicitations of her youthful master, the only son of her benefactress. The story is carried on by letters, chiefly between Pamela and her father and mother. Her youth and innocence render her, for some time, unsuspecting of the passion she has inspired; and, when she can no longer misunderstand the purposes of her master, she prepares to leave his house; but he detains her under various pretences, and attempts liberties with her person, which she resists with firmness, as well as his pecuniary offers; though not disinclined to his person, and though she has no resource, on the supposition of leaving him, but to return to hard country labour. Her behaviour is all the while full of humility and respect to her master in every instance consistent with the defence of her honour. Her master, who, though young, is a practised libertine, finding her protected by the watchful advice of her parents, and by the care of a virtuous house-keeper, who had belonged to his mother, determines to convey her to a place where she shall be entirely in his power. Under pretence, therefore, of sending her home to her parents, he has her conveyed to another of his seats, where she is absolutely confined, under the guardianship of an abandoned woman, whose office it has been to minister to his pleasures. The poor Pamela forms many schemes to get away, and attempts, by means


of a young clergyman, to engage some of the families of the neighbourhood in her favour, but without effect. She then endeavours to escape alone, and actually gets through a barred window into the garden, from whence she hopes to escape into the fields, though ignorant of any one who will receive her; but she falls, and bruises herself in attempting to get over the high brick wall. Her sufferings in this attempt are affectingly described. Finding all her schemes abortive, she is greatly tempted to free herself from the danger of dishonour, by throwing herself into the pond; but considerations of piety at length prevail, and she determines to trust to Providence. Her master, after many ineffectual attempts to vanquish her resistance, begins to relent, professes honourable love to her; and, after a severe struggle between his passion and his pride of birth and fortune, offers her his hand in marriage. Pamela acknowledges her love for him, and accepts (almost upon her knees, it must be allowed,) his proposal. Difficulties remain to be got over with Lady Davers, a proud and termagant woman of quality, sister to Mr. B.; but the sweetness and prudence of Pamela overcome her dislike, and the whole concludes with the perfect happiness of the wedded pair.

Such is the outline of this first work of our author, which was published in 1740. It was received with a burst of applause from all ranks of people. The novelty of the plan, the strokes of nature and pathos with which the work abounds, the simplicity of the language, the sentiments of piety and virtue that are brought forward, took at once the taste of the public.


Numberless were the compliments Mr. Richardson received upon it as soon as he was known to be the author. It was not only read by all who sought entertainment, but was considered as a work of such excellent moral tendency that it attracted the notice of grave divines, and was even recommended from the pulpit. It is impossible to peruse without astonishment the high eulogiums that were given to the work in this particular view. Mr. Pope declared it would do more good than many volumes of sermons. Mr. Lucas, the esteemed author of The Search after Happiness, a much graver character than Pope, and not personally acquainted with the author, calls it "the best book ever published, and calculated to do most good." The compliments of the author's friends in their letters were quite extravagant. It was immediately translated into French and Dutch.

The fame of this once favourite work is now somewhat tarnished by time, as well as eclipsed by the author's subsequent publications; but the enthusiasm with which it was received, shows incontrovertibly, that a novel written on the side of virtue was considered as a new experiment.

Appretiating it at this distance of time, we must acknowledge that the faults are great, but the beauties are genuine. The character of Pamela, so long as her sole object was to resist her master's attempts, is beautifully drawn, with many affecting incidents, and little strokes of nature. Her innocent prattle to Mrs. Jervis, the rustic dress in which she equips herself,


when determined to leave her place, her stealing down to the kitchen to try if she could scour the pewter, in order to accustom herself to coarse household work—"I see I could do it," says she, "it only blistered my hand in two places;" the sudden spring she gives on seeing her father, by which she overturns the card-table, and the affecting account of her sufferings on attempting to make her escape, are all worthy of a masterhand. There are not many under-characters in this work; the most pleasing, and perhaps the best sustained, of the whole, are those of Goodman Andrews and his wife, Pamela's father and mother. It would not be easy to find a prettier picture of low life, and of true English low life, in its most respectable garb; made respectable by strict honesty, humility, patience of labour, and domestic affection; the whole rendered saintly and venerable by a touching air of piety and resignation, which pervades all their sentiments. The behaviour of the old man, when he walks to Mr. B.'s to inquire after his child, and his humble grief, are truly pathetic. The language of the good couple is simple, without being vulgar. It is not the simplicity of Arcadian shepherds: it is such as people in low life, with the delicacy of a virtuous mind, might fall into without any other advantages than a Bible education. It is the simplicity of an English cottage.

The character of Mr. B. himself is drawn with less address than that of any one in the piece; he is proud, stern, selfish, forbidding, (selfish, that is to say, in his love, for he has


generosity enough in money matters,) and his ideas of the authority of a husband are so high, that it is not easy to conceive of Pamela's being rewarded by marrying him, unless her regard for external circumstances was greater than the author would wish to have supposed. The moral of this piece is more dubious than, in his lifetime, the author's friends were willing to allow. So long as Pamela is solely occupied in schemes to escape from her persecutor, her virtuous resistance obtains our unqualified approbation; but from the moment she begins to entertain hopes of marrying him, we admire her guarded prudence, rather than her purity of mind. She has an end in view, an interested end; and we can only consider her as the conscious possessor of a treasure, which she is wisely resolved not to part with but for its just price. In real life we should perhaps consider Pamela at this period as an interested girl, and it is difficult to imagine how a young woman of so much purity of mind should feel her affections engaged to a man during a series of the grossest attempts upon her virtue, and who, moreover, used no gentle arts of seduction, but sought to awe her as a master and intimidate her with sternness, rather than to win upon her as a lover.

Indeed, the excessive humility and gratitude expressed by herself and her parents on her exaltation, show a regard to rank and riches beyond the just measure of an independent mind. The pious Goodman Andrews should not have thought his virtuous daughter so infinitely be-

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neath her licentious master, who, after all, married her to gratify his own passions.

The indelicate scenes in this novel have been justly found fault with, and are, indeed, totally indefensible. Dr. Watts, to whom he sent the volumes, instead of compliments, writes him word, that he understands the ladies complain they cannot read them without blushing.

The third and fourth volumes are much inferior to the first two: they are indeed superfluous to the story, which is properly terminated with the marriage of Pamela; but prolixity was the fault of this author. Goldoni has written two plays on the subject of this novel; his Pamela Nubile and Pamela Maritata. It is well known that Fielding, who started in his career of fame soon after Richardson, wrote his Joseph Andrews in ridicule of Pamela. Richardson was exceedingly hurt at this, the more so as they had been upon good terms, and he was very intimate with Fielding's two sisters. He never appears cordially to have forgiven it: perhaps it was hardly in human nature that he should; and he always speaks in his letters with great asperity of Tom Jones, more indeed than was quite graceful in a rival author. Richardson and Fielding possessed very different excellencies.—Fielding had all the ease which Richardson wanted, a genuine flow of humour, and a rich variety of comic character; nor was he wanting in strokes of an amiable sensibility: but he could not describe a consistently virtuous character, and in deep pathos he was far excelled by his rival.


But Pamela, captivating as the publication had proved to be, showed only the dawn of its author's genius, who, encouraged by the applauses and benefited by the criticisms which he had received, proceeded to plan a new work, the first two volumes of which were published eight years after the preceding.

The production upon which the fame of Richardson is principally founded, that which will transmit his name to posterity as one of the first geniuses of the age in which he lived, is undoubtedly his Clarissa. Nothing can be more simple than the story:—A young lady, pressed by her parents to marry a man every way disagreeable to her, and placed under the most cruel restraint, leaves her father's house, and throws herself upon the protection of her lover, a man of sense and spirit, but a libertine. When he finds her in his power, he artfully declines marriage, and conveys her to a house kept for the worst of purposes. There, after many fruitless attempts to ensnare her virtue, he at length violates her person. She escapes from further outrage: he finds her out in her retreat; offers her marriage, which she rejects. Her friends are obdurate. She retires to solitary lodgings; grief and shame overwhelm her, and she dies broken-hearted. Her friends lament their severity when too late. Her violator is transiently stung with remorse, but not reformed; he leaves the kingdom in order to dissipate his chagrin, and is killed in a duel by a relation of the lady's.

On this slight foundation, and on a story not very agreeable or promising in its rude outline,

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has our author founded a most pathetic tale, and raised a noble temple to female virtue. The first volumes are somewhat tedious, from the prolixity incident to letter-writing, and require a persevering reader to get through them: but the circumstantial manner of writing which Richardson practised, has the advantage of making the reader thoroughly acquainted with those in whose fate he is to be interested. In consequence of this, our feelings are not transient, elicited here and there by a pathetic stroke; but we regard his characters as real personages, whom we know and converse with, and whose fate remains to be decided in the course of events. The characters, much more numerous than in Pamela, are all distinctly drawn and well preserved, and there is a proper contrast and variety in the casting of the parts. The plot, as we have seen, is simple, and no under-plots interfere with the main design. No digressions, no episodes. It is wonderful that without these helps of common writers, he could support a work of such length. With Clarissa it begins,—with Clarissa it ends. We do not come upon unexpected adventures and wonderful recognitions, by quick turns and surprises: we see her fate from afar, as it were through a long avenue, the gradual approach to which, without ever losing sight of the object, has more of simplicity and grandeur than the most cunning labyrinth that can be contrived by art. In the approach to the modern country-seat, we are made to catch transiently a side-view of it through an opening of the trees, or to burst upon it from a


sudden turning in the road; but the old mansion stood full in the eye of the traveller, as he drew near it, contemplating its turrets, which grew larger and more distinct every step that he advanced, and leisurely filling his eye and his imagination with still increasing ideas of its magnificence.—As the work advances, the character rises; the distress is deepened; our hearts are torn with pity and indignation; bursts of grief succeed one another, till at length the mind is composed and harmonized with emotions of milder sorrow; we are calmed into resignation, elevated with pious hope, and dismissed glowing with the conscious triumphs of virtue.

The first group which presents itself is that of the Harlowe family. They are sufficiently discriminated, yet preserve a family likeness. The stern father, the passionate and dark-souled brother, the envious and ill-natured sister, the money-loving uncles, the gentle but weakspirited mother, are all assimilated by that stiffness, love of parade, and solemnity, which is thrown over the whole, and by the interested family views in which they all concur. Miss Howe is a young lady of great generosity and ardent feelings, with a high spirit and some love of teasing, which she exercises on her mother, a managing and notable widow lady, and on her humble servant Mr. Hickman, a man deserving of her esteem, but prim and formal in his manner. Miss Howe is a character of strong lights and shades, but her warmest affections are all along directed to her friend; and the correspond-

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ence between them is made the great vehicle of Clarissa's narrative of events, as that between Lovelace and his friend Belford is of his schemes and designs. The character of Clarissa herself is very highly wrought: she has all the grace, and dignity, and delicacy, of a finished model of female excellence. Her duty to her parents is implicit, except in the article of sacrificing herself to a man utterly disgustful to her; and she bears with the greatest meekness the ill usage she receives from the other branches of the family. Duty, indeed, is the great principle of her conduct. Her affections are always completely under command; and her going off with Lovelace appears a step she was betrayed, not persuaded, into. His persuasions she had withstood; and it was fear, not love, that at last precipitated her into his protection. If, therefore, the author meant to represent her subsequent misfortunes as a punishment, he has scarcely made her faulty enough. That a young lady has eloped from her father's house with a libertine, sounds, indeed, like a grave offence; but the fault, when it is examined into, is softened and shaded off by such a variety of circumstances, that it becomes almost evanescent. Who that reads the treatment she experienced, does not wonder at her long-suffering? After Clarissa finds herself, against her will and intention, in the power of her lover, the story becomes, for a while, a game at chess, in which both parties exert great skill and presence of mind, and quick observation of each other's motions. Not a moment of weakness does Clarissa betray; and


she only loses the game because she plays fairly and with integrity, while he is guilty of the basest frauds.

During this part of the story, the generality of readers are perhaps inclined to wish that Lovelace should give up his wicked intentions, reform, and make Clarissa happy in the marriage state. This was the conclusion which Lady Bradshaigh so vehemently and passionately urged the author to adopt. But when the unfeeling character of Lovelace proceeds to deeper and darker wickedness; when his unrelenting cruelty meditates, and actually perpetrates, the last unmanly outrage upon unprotected innocence and virtue,—the heart surely cannot have right feelings that does not cordially detest so black a villain, notwithstanding the agreeable qualities which are thrown into his character; and that woman must have little delicacy, who does not feel that his crime has raised an eternal wall of separation between him and the victim of his treachery, whatever affection she might have previously entertained for him. Yet it is said by some, that the author has made Lovelace too agreeable, and his character has been much the object of criticism. But a little reflection will show us, that the author had a more difficult part to manage, in drawing his character, than that of any other in the work, and that he could not well have made him different from what he is. If he had drawn a mean-spirited dark villain, without any specious qualities, his Clarissa would have been degraded. Lovelace, as he is to win the affections of the heroine, is neces-


sarily, in some sort, the hero of the piece, and no one in it must be permitted to outshine him. The author, therefore, gives him wit and spirit, and courage, and generosity, and manly genteel address, and also transient gleams of feeling, and transient stings of remorse; so that we are often led to hope he may follow his better angel, and give up his atrocious designs. This the author has done, and less he could not do, for the man whom Clarissa was inclined to favour. Besides, if it was part of his intention to warn young women against placing their affections upon libertines, it was certainly only against the agreeable ones of that class that he had any occasion to warn them. He tells us in one of his letters, that finding he had made him too much a favourite, he had thrown in some darker shades to obviate the objection; and surely the shades are dark enough. In one particular, however, the author might perhaps have improved the moral effect of the work; he might have given more of horror to the last scene of Lovelace's life. When Clarissa and he were finally separated, there was no occasion to keep measures with him; and why should Belton die a death of so much horror, and Lovelace of calm composure and self-possession? Lovelace dies in a duel, admirably well described, in which he behaves with the cool intrepidity of a gentleman and a man of spirit. Colonel Morden could not behave better. Some tender strokes are thrown in on his parting with Belford, and on other occasions, tending to interest the reader in his favour; and his last words, "Let


this expiate," and manifestly intended to do away our resentment, and leave a favourable impression on our minds with regard to his future prospects. Something, indeed, is mentioned of impatience, and a desire of life; but Richardson could have drawn a scene which would have made us turn with horror from the features of the gay, the agreeable seducer, when changed into the agonizing countenance of the despairing self-accuser.

But if the author might have improved in this respect the character of Lovelace, that of Clarissa comes up to all the ideas we can form of female loveliness and dignified suffering. The first scenes with her hard-hearted family show the severe struggles she had with herself, before she could withdraw her obedience from her parents. The measure of that obedience in Richardson's mind was very high; and therefore Clarissa seems all along, rather to lament the cruelty, than to resent the injustice, of imposing a husband upon her without her own consent. It is easy to see she would have thought it her duty to comply, if he had not been quite so disagreeable. The mother is a very mean character; she gives a tacit permission to Clarissa to correspond with Lovelace to prevent mischief, and yet consents to be the tool of the family in persecuting her innocent and generous daughter;—but this was her duty to her husband!—Yet, distressing as Clarissa's situation is in her father's house, the author has had the address to make the reader feel, the moment she has got out of it, that he would give the world to have her safe back again. Nothing takes place of


that pleasure and endearment which might naturally be expected on the meeting of two lovers: we feel that she has been hunted into the toils, and that every avenue is closed against her escape. No young person, on reading Clarissa, even at this period of the story, can think of putting herself into the power of a lover, without annexing to it the strongest sense of degradation and anxiety. A great deal of contrivance is expended by the author, in the various plots set on foot by Lovelace, to keep his victim tolerably easy in her ambiguous situation; and though some of these are tedious, it was necessary, for Clarissa's honour, to make the reader sensible that she had an inextricable net wound around her, and that it was not owing to her want of prudence or vigilance that she did not escape. In the mean time the wit of Lovelace and the sprightliness of Miss Howe prevent monotony. In one instance, however, Clarissa certainly sins against the delicacy of her character, that is, in allowing herself to be made a show of to the loose companions of Lovelace:—But, how does her character rise, when we come to the more distressful scenes; the view of her horror, when, deluded by the pretended relations, she reenters the fatal house; her temporary insanity after the outrage, in which she so affectingly holds up to Lovelace the license he had procured; and her dignified behaviour when she first sees her ravisher, after the perpetration of his crime. What finer subject could be presented to the painter, than that in which Clarissa grasps the penknife in her hand, "her eyes lifted up to heaven, the whites of them only visible,"


ready to plunge it in her breast, to preserve herself from further outrage; Lovelace, aghast with terror, and speechless, thrown back to the further end of the room!—or the prison scene, where she is represented kneeling amidst the gloom and horror of the dismal abode; illuminating, as it were, the dark chamber; her face reclining on her crossed arms, her white garments floating round her in the negligence of woe; Belford contemplating her with respectful commiseration:—or the scene of calmer but heart-piercing sorrow, in the interview Colonel Morden has with her in her dying moments: She is represented "fallen into a slumber in her elbow-chair, leaning on the widow Lovick, whose left arm is around her neck; one faded cheek resting on the good woman's bosom, the kindly warmth of which had overspread it with a faintish flush, the other pale and hollow, as if already iced over by death; her hands, the blueness of the veins contrasting their whiteness, hanging lifelessly before her, the widow's tears dropping unfelt upon her face—Colonel Morden, with his arms folded, gazing on her in silence, her coffin just appearing behind a screen:" What admiration, what reverence does the author inspire us with for the innocent sufferer, —the sufferings too of such a peculiar nature!

There is something in virgin purity, to which the imagination willingly pays homage. In all ages, something saintly has been attached to the idea of unblemished chastity. Hence the dignity of the lady in Comus; hence the interest we take in those whose holy vows have shrowd-


ed them from even the wanton glances of an assailer; hence the supposed virtue of prayers

From fasting maids whose minds are dedicate,
————————to nothing earthly. [3] 

Beauty is a flower which was meant in due time to be gathered; but it attracts the fondest admiration whilst still on the stalk, before it has felt the touch of any rude hand:

Sic virgo, dum intacta manet, dum cara suis est. [4] 

It was reserved for Richardson to overcome all circumstances of dishonour and disgrace, and to throw a splendour round the violated virgin, more radiant than she possessed in her first bloom. He has made the flower, which grew

—————sweet to sense, and lovely to the eye,

throw out a richer fragrance after "the cruel spoiler has cropped the fair rose and rifled its sweetness." [5]  He has drawn the triumph of mental chastity; he has drawn it uncontaminated, untarnished, and incapable of mingling with pollution.—The scenes which follow the death of the heroine, exhibit grief in an affecting variety of forms, as it is modified by the characters of different survivors. They run into considerable length; but we have been so deeply interested, that we feel it a relief to have our grief drawn off, as it were, by a variety of sluices, and we are glad not to be dismissed till we have shed tears, even to satiety. We enjoy, besides, the punishment of the Harlowes, in the contemplation of their merited anguish. Sentiments of


piety pervade the whole work; but the deathbed of Clarissa, her Christian forgiveness, and her meek resignation, are particularly edifying. Richardson loved to draw death-beds. He seems to have imbibed, from his friend Dr. Young, an opinion of their being a touchstone of merit or demerit. There are three described in this work, besides that of Lovelace: that, it has already been mentioned, would have had a more moral effect if it had been fuller of horror. Lovelace is made to declare, that he cannot be totally unhappy, whatever be his own lot in a future state, if he is allowed to contemplate the happiness of Clarissa: He exclaims,

Can I be at worst? avert that worst,
O thou Supreme, who only canst avert it!
So much a wretch, so very far abandon'd,
But that I must, even in the horrid'st gloom,
Reap intervenient joy; at least, some respite
From pain and anguish in her bliss.

This is a sentiment much too generous for a Lovelace.—The author has shown himself embarrassed with regard to the duel by his principles, which forbade duelling. Yet it was necessary to dispatch Lovelace; for what family could sit down with such an injury unpunished? or which of his readers could be satisfied to see the perpetrator of so much mischief escape vengeance? Colonel Morden was a man of the world, acted upon the maxims of it, and therefore it seemed hardly necessary to make him express regret at having precipitated Lovelace into a future state: Richardson was not then drawing his perfect character, and did not seem

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called upon to blame a duel, which in our hearts we cannot, from Colonel Morden, but approve of.

That Clarissa is a highly moral work, has been always allowed;—but what is the moral?—Is it that a young lady who places her affections upon a libertine, will be deceived and ruined? Though the author no doubt intended this as one of the conclusions to be drawn, such a maxim has not dignity or force enough in it to be the chief moral of this interesting tale. And it has been already mentioned that Clarissa can hardly stand as an example of such a choice, as she never fairly made the choice. On the contrary, she is always ready, both before her elopement and after it, to resign the moderate, the almost insensible predilection she feels for Lovelace, to the will of her parents, if she might only be permitted to refuse the object of her aversion. Is she, then, exhibited as a rare pattern of chastity? Surely this is an idea very degrading to the sex. Lovelace, indeed, who has a very bad opinion of women, and thinks that hardly any woman can resist him, talks of trying her virtue, and speaks as if he expected her to fail in the trial. But surely the virtue of Clarissa could never have been in the smallest danger. The virtue of Pamela was tried, because the pecuniary offers were a temptation which many in her station of life would have yielded to; and because their different situations in life opposed a bar to their legitimate union, which she might well believe would be insuperable. The virtue of Werter's Charlotte was tried, and the virtue of the wife Zeluco [6]  was tried,


because the previous marriage of one of the parties made a virtuous union impossible.—But Clarissa! a young lady of birth and fortune, marriage completely in her lover's power—she could have felt nothing but indignation at the first idea which entered her mind that he meant to degrade her into a mistress. Was it likely that she, who had shown that her affections were so much under her command while the object of his addresses appeared to be honourable marriage, should not guard against every freedom with the most cautious vigilance, as soon as she experienced a behaviour in him which must at once destroy her esteem for him, and be offensive to her just pride, as well as to her modesty? It is absurd therefore in Lovelace to speak of trying her chastity; and the author is not free from blame in favouring the idea that such resistance had any thing in it uncommon, or peculiarly meritorious. But the real moral of Clarissa is, that virtue is triumphant in every situation; that in circumstances the most painful and degrading,—in a prison, in a brothel, in grief, in distraction, in despair,—it is still lovely, still commanding, still the object of our veneration, of our fondest affections: that if it is seated on the ground, it can still say with Constance,

Here is my throne; kings, come and bow to it! [7] 

The novelist that has produced this effect has performed his office well, and it is immaterial what particular maxim is selected under the name of a moral, while such are the reader's feelings. If our feelings are in favour of virtue,

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the novel is virtuous; if of vice, the novel is vicious. The greatness of Clarissa is shown by her separating herself from her lover as soon as she perceives his dishonourable views; in her choosing death rather than a repetition of the outrage; in her rejection of those overtures of marriage, which a common mind might have accepted of, as a refuge against worldly dishonour; in her firm indignant carriage, mixed with calm patience and Christian resignation; and in the greatness of mind with which she views and enjoys the approaches of death, and her meek forgiveness of her unfeeling relations.

In one particular the author has been blamed, and perhaps justly, for encouraging superstition, in representing Clarissa as so greatly terrified at the curse laid upon her by her unnatural father. He may be faulty as a moralist, but it has a good dramatic effect; and I question if Richardson went much beyond his own ideas of the efficacy of a parent's curse on this occasion. The too high colouring of some of the scenes has been objected to, as tending to inflame passions which it was the author's professed aim to regulate. He was led to it, in some measure, by the nature of his story; but he seems to have begun writing with a coarseness of ideas in this respect, which he got rid of by degrees. His Clarissa is far less objectionable than his Pamela; his Grandison not at all so. The death of Sinclair is painted with great strength, but excites painful disgust as well as horror; yet, being intended to excite a salutary disgust to the haunts of vice and infamy, perhaps in that light may be


borne with. Its operation is that of a strong medicine, meant to create a nausea. The death of Belton is an admirable piece of painting, and not excelled by any thing in the admired scene of Cardinal Beaufort. [8] 

It is not perfectly delicate that Clarissa should have so many interviews with Lovelace after the catastrophe. Clarissa, indeed, could not help it, but the author could. He should only have exhibited them together in those few striking scenes in which our feelings are wound up to the highest pitch. No long parleys, nothing that can be called trivial, should pass between them then. If the reader, on opening casually the book, can doubt of any scene between them, whether it passes before or after the outrage, that scene is one too much.

The character of Lovelace, though laboured with great art, is perhaps, after all, more of a fancy piece than a real portrait of an English libertine. Where is the libertine who would attempt in England the seduction of a young woman, guarded by birth and respectable situations in life, and friends jealous of their honour, and an education which would set them far out of the reach of any disgraceful overtures? A love of intrigue, rather than a love of pleasure, characterizes Lovelace; he is a cool systematic seducer, and the glory of conquest is what he principally aims at. Had such a character been placed in France, and his gallantries directed to married women, it would have been more natural, and his epistolary memoirs rendered more probable;

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but in England Lovelace would have been run through the body, long before he had seen the face of Clarissa or Colonel Morden.

There is an improbability which the author could not well avoid, as it resulted from his plan of carrying on the narrative by letters; and that is, the tame acquiescence of Belford in a villainy which he all along so strongly disapproves. It is true, as a man of honour, he might think himself obliged not to betray his friend's secrets; but his disapprobation would certainly have prevented his friend from communicating those secrets. Belford is, in fact, reformed, from the time we first hear of him; and therefore those intimate communications could not any longer have subsisted. But Belford is a being created in order to carry on the story, and must not be made too strictly the object of criticism. A novel-writer must violate probability somewhere, and a reader ought to make all handsome and generous allowances for it. We should open a book as we enter into a company, well persuaded that we must not expect perfection. In Belford, too, we have a reformed libertine, one whom the reader regards with esteem and affection. Richardson mentions in one of his letters, that Mr. Moore, author of The Foundling, had an intention of bringing the story of Clarissa upon the stage, and that Garrick told him he should with great pleasure be the Lovelace of it. The powers of Moore were by no means equal to such an undertaking; but if they had been greater, the gaiety and spirit of Lovelace, in the hands of Garrick,


would have been too strong for the morality of the piece. We know how great a favourite he was in Ranger. [9] 

The publication of Pamela occasioned the sensation of surprise and pleasure, which a new author, a new style, a new mode of writing, is calculated to inspire: that of Clarissa raised its author at once to the first rank among novelists: it is even more admired by foreigners than by the English themselves. Rousseau, whose Heloise alone, perhaps, can divide the palm with Clarissa, asserts in a letter to d'Alembert, that nothing was ever written equal to, or approaching it, in any language. Diderot speaks of Richardson with high applause. Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Rowe, expresses himself in the following forcible language:

"The character of Lothario seems to have been expanded by Richardson into that of Lovelace; but he has excelled his original in the moral effect of the fiction. Lothario, with gaiety which cannot be hated, and bravery which cannot be despised, retains too much of the spectator's kindness. It was in the power of Richardson alone, to teach us at once esteem and detestation; to make virtuous resentment overpower all the benevolence which wit, and elegance, and courage, naturally excite; and to lose at last the hero in the villain."

The interest which Clarissa excited at the time, was increased by the suspense in which its readers were so long held. In general, the suspense of a reader lasts no longer than the time which is necessary for him to read the book; and, in the case


of a book which is much talked of, very few readers enjoy the full pleasure of the story, as they can scarcely help learning, from some quarter or other, how it is to end. But in this instance, the interval of several months, which was allowed to pass between the publication of the first four volumes and the remaining four, wound up its readers to the highest pitch of enthusiasm; and the pleadings of the author's correspondents for a happy end were as warm and earnest as if they had related to the fate of a real character. To have made a different ending the author well knew would have spoiled his work, yet he could not but have been secretly flattered with seeing the strong impression he had made.

The Abbé Prevost gave a version of Clarissa into French, but rather an abridgement than a translation. It was afterwards rendered more faithfully by Le Tourneur. Prevost says, and truly, that Clarissa required some softening to adapt it to the more delicate taste of the French. It was also translated into Dutch by Mr. Stinstra, and into German under the auspices of the celebrated Dr. Haller.

Our author was now at the zenith of his fame; but his fancy was not exhausted, nor his powers of writing diminished; and after an interval of between four and five years he again appeared before the public.

After Mr. Richardson had published two works, in each of which the principal character is a female, he determined to give the world an example of a perfect man. His laudable design was to unite everything that is graceful and engaging


in the man of spirit and the fine gentleman, with every moral virtue, and with the observance of the strict rules of Christianity—an arduous undertaking! He was partly stimulated to this design by the attacks of his female disciples, who, in answer to the reproaches he made them of liking Lovelace too well, observed to him, that he had given them nobody else to like:—the virtuous Hickman was too tame and too formal to do justice to his good principles; and, in short, that he had not presented them with one male character on which the imagination might rest with complacence. If he did not wish they should regard men of pleasure with too favourable an eye, it was his duty to provide some one whom they might like upon principle. Upon this idea he determined to give them A Good Man, the title by which he always speaks of the work while he is writing it, though he afterwards changed it to that of Sir Charles Grandison.

Sir Charles is a man of birth and fortune, endowed with every personal advantage, and master of every fashionable accomplishment. He is placed its a variety of situations, calculated to draw forth the virtues and energies of his character, as a son, a brother, a guardian, a friend, and a lover; and his conduct is everywhere exemplary. He is a man of address, of knowledge of the world, and makes himself to be respected in different countries, and by all sorts of people, bad as well as good. He is generous without profusion; religious without superstition; complaisant without weakness; firm in his purposes; rapid in the execution of them; jealous of his


honour, yet always open to a generous reconciliation; feeling (at least as the author would have us believe) the passions of human nature, yet always possessing a perfect command over them.

The conduct of this piece differs from that of Pamela and Clarissa in this respect; that it does not depend upon one great event, but is intended to open and display this character in a variety of lights. The unity of the work, therefore, consists in the reference which every person, and every incident, bears to him who is the hero of it. Of him the author never loses sight after his first appearance, which he makes as soon as the reader has been prepared by the play of some inferior characters, (who, to use a military phrase, keep the ground for him,) in a brilliant action, the rescuing the lady he is finally to marry, from the hands of a lawless ravisher.

It was necessary for the execution of the plan, and it is so contrived in fact, that this work should be diversified with a greater variety of characters than his former ones. It has, particularly, many more of the pleasing cast. The author shows in it, that he had improved in the knowledge of life and the genteel world; and there are none of those warm descriptions in it which were justly blamed in its two elder sisters. He has an enlévement, [10]  an incident he seems to have been fond of, since it occurs in all the three works; but the object is only marriage, and it is managed with perfect decorum, at the same time that it presents a truly affecting scene. The early part of the novel presents a rich display of incidents and personages. The history of Sir Thomas and Lady Grandison is admirably executed,


and highly moral. The behaviour of Sir Charles to his father's mistress, to his sisters, to his uncle Lord W., to the Danbys, is all excellent, and opens his character to the greatest advantage.—But the chief intrigue of the piece arises from the double love of Sir Charles to Miss Byron and Clementina. A double love, say the critics in that passion, is no love at all; and they will insist upon it, that Sir Charles is all along actuated by compassion solely for both the ladies.

The character of Miss Byron is meant by the author as a model of true female excellence; but it is judiciously kept down, not only with relation to Sir Charles, but to the high-wrought portrait of the Italian lady. Miss Byron is gentle, timid, and somewhat passive; her character has no very prominent feature, except her love for Sir Charles. As she was destined to reward the hero, the author has shown great address in previously interesting his readers in her favour, before we become acquainted with Clementina; so that notwithstanding our admiration for the latter, and the strong feelings she has called out, we all along consider the Italian family as intruders, and are glad, upon the whole, when Sir Charles is disengaged from them. We adore Clementina, but we come home to Miss Byron.

Richardson had been accused of giving a coldness to his female characters in the article of love. The accusation was ill-founded; for the circumstances of the story in his two former pieces forbade the display of a very tender sensibility: but he has made ample amends for the imputed omission in his Grandison, where he has entered into the passion with all the minute-


ness, and delicacy, and warmth, that could be desired, and shown the female heart to be open to him in all its folds and recesses. In his Olivia, his Harriet, his Emily, his Clementina, he has well exemplified the sentiment of the poet—

Love various minds does variously inspire;
In gentle bosoms kindles gentle fire,
Like that of incense on the altar laid;
But raging flames tempestuous souls invade,
A fire which every windy passion blows,
With pride it mounts, and with revenge it glows. [11] 

But as the character of Sir Charles is the most instructive, that of Clementina is the highest effort of genius in this piece. In her, he has drawn a young creature involved in a passion expressed with the utmost innocence and delicacy, yet so strong as to overturn her reason; and afterwards, on the recovery of her reason, after a severe struggle, voluntarily sacrificing that very passion at the shrine of religious principle. Clementina is indeed a heroine, and her conduct is truly noble, because, with her articles of faith, the obstacle was, in reality, insurmountable to a well principled mind. Her faith might be erroneous; but her conduct, grounded on that faith, was just and rational. This sentiment is insisted on, because some good protestants have called Clementina a poor narrow-minded bigot. A bigot she certainly was; but it had been strange if she had not believed the religion in which she had been carefully educated, and she only acted consistently with that belief. It were superfluous to any one who has perused this work, to remark the masterly manner in which the madness of Clementina is painted. Dr. Warton speaks thus of it:


"I know not whether even the madness of Lear is wrought up and expressed by so many little strokes of nature and passion. It is absolute pedantry to prefer and compare the madness of Orestes, in Euripides, to this of Clementina." There is such a tenderness and innocence in her wanderings, such affecting starts of passion, such a significant woe in her looks and attitudes, such a sanctity of mind, with so much feeling, that he who is not moved with it must resign the pretension of being accessible to fictitious sorrow." [12] 

It is the fault of Richardson that he never knew when to have done with a character. That of Clementina would have been dismissed with dignity after her refusal of Sir Charles; instead of which he resumes her story in the last volumes, brings her to England, a step little consistent with the delicacy of her character, nor necessary to any event; and, finally, leaves the reader to conclude that she will be brought to accept the hand of the Count de Belvedere.—How easily and naturally might he have disposed of her in a convent, there to complete the sacrifice she had made of her love to her religion! He probably would have done so, if a desire of making his piece instructive had not, in this instance, warped his judgement, and restrained his genius. He was in the habit of inveighing to his young friends against romantic ideas of love, and particularly the notion that a first passion could not be conquered [13] , and he feared it would

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have a bad effect if he represented the contrary in his works.

But though, in real life, a passion, however strong, will generally give way to time, at least so far as to permit the disappointed party to fill her proper station in social life, and fulfil the relative duties of it with calm complacence, if not with delight, we cannot easily figure to ourselves that Clementina, with such a high-toned mind, and a passion so exalted, a passion that had shaken the very seat of reason in her soul, could, or with so shattered an intellect ought to turn her thoughts to a second lover. Novels will always be different from real life, and therefore always, perhaps, in some degree, dangerous to the young mind: but they must be consistent with themselves; and if the author chose to describe a passion which unhinged the reason of one lady, and was sinking the other to the grave, a catastrophe which we are led to suppose would have been the effect of Miss Byron's final disappointment, he should not then have been scrupulous of allowing it to have its full effect.

The correspondence in these volumes is carried on, for the most part, between Miss Byron and her friends and Lady G. (Sir Charles's sister) on the one side, and Sir Charles and Dr. Bartlett (a respectable clergyman) on the other. Lady G.'s character is sprightly and petulant, and her letters have a good deal of wit, though sometimes it degenerates into flippancy. She resembles Miss Howe, but with less of fire and ardour, and more of levity. She behaves to her husband still more provokingly than that lady to Mr.


Hickman. Notwithstanding, however, the general resemblance just suggested, and a few others that might be pointed out, there is no man, perhaps, who has written so much, and who has less repeated himself, than Richardson. If we may judge by the variety of characters in this, his last publication, the fertility of his fancy was by no means exhausted. Of all the under characters, none is more delightful than Emily Jervois, the young ward of Sir Charles, in the beautiful and touching simplicity with which he has invested her. Her unconscious love for her guardian, arising so naturally, as she advances towards womanhood, from her grateful affection and unbounded esteem for him; her ingenuous shame at the bad conduct of her dissolute mother, and her generosity to that mother on the first symptoms of reformation; together with the naïveté which is so happily hit off both in her ideas and her language, render her uncommonly interesting. Mrs. Shirley is a graceful portrait of mild and venerable age. Lady Beauchamp's character gives Sir Charles an opportunity to show the address and dexterous management of a man of the world; Olivia, his virtuous forbearance; the proud Porretta family, his manly spirit, tempered with presence of mind and a guarded prudence; the behaviour of Mr. Lowther, and the French surgeons, show a knowledge of professional character; and various parts of the work attest the author's improvement in general information, and more enlarged views of life.

There is not, in any of Richardson's works, one of those detached episodes, thrown in like

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make-weights, to increase the bulk of the volume, which are so common in other works: such is the story of The Man of the Hill, in Tom Jones. If his works are laboured into length, at least his prolixity is all bestowed upon the subject, and increases the effect of the story.—Flashes of humour, and transient touches of sensibility, show, indeed, genius; but patient and persevering labour alone can finish a plan, and make every part bear properly upon the main subject.

Sir Charles Grandison, however, lies open,—as what work does not?—to criticism. Besides the double love which has been mentioned, there was another point which perplexed the author much: Sir Charles, as a Christian, was not to fight a duel; yet he was to be recognised as the finished gentleman, and could not be allowed to want that most essential part of the character, the deportment of a man of honour, courage, and spirit. And in order to exhibit his spirit and courage, it was necessary to bring them into action by adventures and rencounters. His first appearance is in the rescue of Miss Byron; a meritorious action, but one which must necessarily expose him to a challenge. How must the author untie this knot? He makes him so very good a swordsman, that he is always capable of disarming his adversary without endangering either of their lives. But are a man's principles to depend on the science of his fencing-master? Every one cannot have the skill of Sir Charles; every one cannot be the best swordsman; and the man whose study it is to avoid fighting, is


not quite so likely as another to be the best.—Dr. Young, indeed, complimented the author upon his success in this nice point, in a flourishing epigram, which is thus expressed:

What hast thou done? I'm ravish'd at the scene;
A sword undrawn makes mighty Cæsars mean. [14] 

But, in fact, it was not undrawn. In the affair with Sir Hargrave, he may be said to have really fought a duel; for, though he refuses the challenge in words, he virtually accepts it, by going into the garden with him, knowing his purpose. In like manner he with Greville retires to a private spot, and there, on his adversary's drawing, which he might be sure he would do, draws, disarms, and gives him his life. But Greville might not have given him his, nor could every one turn a duel into such harmless play. Can, then, a better expedient be suggested? If not, must we not fairly confess that, in certain cases, the code of the gospel and the code of worldly honour are irreconcileable, and that a man has only to make his choice which he will give up?

Another fault is, a certain stiffness which, it can hardly be denied, is spread over this admirable character. This results partly from the author's style, which, where it aims to be elegant, wants ease; partly from the manner in which the hero is proné, as the French say, by all the other characters, and from the abundance of compliments which are paid on all sides; for certainly Sir Charles is de la vieille cour. [15]  In part, too, it arises from the very circumstance of his being so perfect and so successful. Perfection of character, joined to distress, will interest; but

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prosperous perfection does not greatly engage our sympathy. We are apt to conceive of Sir Charles as having, in reality, no passions; and we do not greatly pity him for the loss of Clementina, when a most amiable lady, who had the other half of his heart, was waiting his acceptance on the other side of the water. We are not quite satisfied with the dutiful resignation with which he gives up corresponding with two amiable and beloved sisters, in compliance with the injunctions of a tyrannical father. We are the less surprised, however, as we recognise in it the high notions entertained by the author of parental authority; but we can give no answer to the question, How came so dutiful a son to enter into a treaty of marriage without consulting his father? except, what perhaps is sufficient, that it would have embarrassed the story.

There is one important particular in which this highly-wrought character does not present an example for imitation, and that is his going so far into a matrimonial treaty with a bigoted catholic; with a woman whose very love for him must expose him to continual distressing importunities to change his religion. Italian servants, an Italian confessor, a stipulated residence half the year out of his native country, and, above all, the giving up half his children (it might happen to be all) to the errors of a faith which he believed to be erroneous—these are among the sacrifices which a conscientious man will scruple, and a wise man will refuse, to make. Horrible must be a union, where the most tender affection can only serve to lacerate the heart, as must be


the case when the object of it is supposed to be under the wrath of God, and doomed to everlasting perdition. This must be the consequence of marrying a bigot to any mode of faith, where the other party is of a different one. Add to this, that the very proposal, made so often by the proud Porretta family to Sir Charles, to change his religion for a wife, and bind himself to live half the year out of his native country, was a high insult to him, considered only as an English gentleman. The author, however, valued himself upon his management of this nice negotiation; and, in a letter to one of his French translators, dexterously brings it forward, as a proof of his candour and liberality towards the catholic religion [16] .

The author of Sir Charles often mentions in his letters, that he was importuned by many of his friends to give them another volume; and the Gottenburg translators sent for the rest of the work, supposing it incomplete: he ought to have received it as a proof that it was too long, and not too short. He had already continued it a whole volume beyond the proper termination—the marriage of his hero; and having done so, he might, without more impropriety, have gone on to the next point of view, and the next, till he had given the history of two or three generations. Clarissa, perhaps, runs out into too great a length, but bold were the hand that should attempt to shorten it. Sir Charles, on the con-


trary, would be improved by merely striking out the last volume, and, indeed, a good part of the sixth, where descriptions of dress, and parade, and furniture, after the interest is completely over, like the gaudy colouring of a western sky, give symptoms of a setting sun. But it is ungrateful to dwell on the faults of genius.

The style of Richardson, which it remains to take notice of, was not in proportion to his other excellencies of composition. He wrote with facility; expressions, as well as thoughts, flowing readily to his pen; but we do not find in his writings, either the ease and elegance of good company, or the polished period of a finished author. They are not only overloaded with a redundance of complimentary expression, which gives a stiffness to the dialogue, particularly in his Grandison, where he has most attempted to give a picture of genteel life, but they are blemished with little flippancies of expression, new-coined words, and sentences involved and ill-constructed. If this was considered to be the case when Richardson wrote, it is a still greater impediment to his fame at present, when we are become more fastidious with regard to style, in proportion as good writing is become more common; that degree, I mean, of good writing, which a habit of the pen will always give. The style of Richardson, however, has the property of setting before the reader, in the most lively manner, every circumstance of what he means to describe. He has the accuracy and finish of a Dutch painter, with the fine ideas of an Italian one. He is content to produce effects by the patient labour of minuteness. Had he turned


his thoughts to an observation of rural nature, instead of human manners, he would have been as accurate a describer as Cowper. How circumstantial is the following description of a bird new caught! "Hast thou not observed how, at first, refusing all sustenance, it beats and bruises itself against its wires, till it makes its gay plumage fly about, and overspread its well-secured cage? Now it gets out its head, sticking only at its beautiful shoulders; then, with difficulty, drawing back its head, it gasps for breath, and erectly perched, with meditating eyes, first surveys, and then attempts, its wired canopy. As it gets breath, with renewed rage, it beats and bruises again its pretty head and sides, bites the wires, and pecks at the fingers of its delighted tamer; till, at last, finding its efforts ineffectual, quite tired and breathless, it lays itself down, and pants at the bottom of the cage, seeming to bemoan its cruel fate and forfeited liberty.—And after a few days, its struggles to escape still diminishing, as it finds it to no purpose to attempt it, its new habitation becomes familiar, and it hops about from perch to perch, and every day sings a song to amuse itself, and reward its keeper." [17] 

Sir Charles Grandison was published in 1753. The author underwent great vexation while it was printing, from the piracy of the Dublin booksellers, who bribed the servants of Richardson to steal the sheets while they were under the press. They even broke open locks to get at the MSS.; sent over what was prepared for publication; and the booksellers, almost all of whom concurred in this atrocious act of rob-


bery, came out with a cheap edition of several of the volumes before the author's English one.

Besides his three larger works, Richardson published a volume of Familiar Letters on various Circumstances of Life, meant as models for servants and others of the lower class, being the scheme he had laid aside for Pamela. It is frequently seen in the servants' drawer, and not seldom has found its way into the parlour. The 95th paper of The Rambler was also written by him. [18]  It describes the progress of a virtuous courtship, and is said to have been the only one which experienced a great demand while publishing in numbers. He assisted in a few works for booksellers.

The latter part of his life was spent in the enjoyment of his well-earned fame, and of a fortune gained by his own industry.—He built an extensive range of warehouses for his business in Salisbury-court, and he had a country house first at North-End, and afterwards at Parson's Green. His manner of living was hospitable, but he was chiefly fond of female society, and was generally surrounded by a coterie of young ladies, many of whom, as Miss Mulso afterwards Mrs. Chapone, Miss Highmore afterwards Mrs. Duncombe, and Miss Talbot, were themselves distinguished in polite literature. In this mental seraglio, as it may be called, he had great facilities for that knowledge of the female heart which he has so eminently shown in his works; but it cannot be denied that it had a tendency to feed that self-importance which was perhaps his reigning foible. Experiencing no contradiction, and seeing no equal, he was constantly fed with adulation


and even his correspondencies with his male friends, such of them at least as have been preserved, (and he was remarkably fond of epistolary correspondence,) turn almost entirely upon his own works, and are full of such exaggerated compliments as must have appeared extraordinary, even when compliments were more in fashion than they are at present. Richardson was twice married; first to his master's daughter, and afterwards to the sister of Mr. Leake, a bookseller at Bath. By both he had a numerous offspring; but four daughters only, by the last, survived him. Richardson had high notions of parental authority, as he has shown in his works; and though, as a good and moral man under the influence of real principle, he fulfilled every essential relative duty, there was a certain formality and stiffness in the family intercourse, more favourable to reverence than to affection. His natural reservedness of manner he himself was sensible of, and lamented. It was probably increased by the nervous disorders, from which he was a great sufferer, and which were brought on by no intemperance, as he observes, but that of study. It is indeed astonishing how a man, who had to raise his fortune by the slow process of his own industry, to take care of an extensive business, and who had a number of connections and relatives, to all of whom he was very kind, could find time, in the breaks and pauses of his other avocations, to write nineteen close-printed volumes, as he often mentions when his correspondents were urging him to enter upon another work. Where there exists strong genius the bent of the mind is imperious, and will be obey-


ed, but the body too often sinks under it. Mrs. Chapone, in her Ode to Health, has adverted to Richardson's ill state of health with much feeling in the following apostrophe:

Hast thou not left a Richardson unblest?
He woos thee still in vain, relentless maid,
Though skill'd in sweetest accents to persuade,
And wake soft pity in the savage breast;
Him Virtue loves, and brightest fame is his;
Smile thou too, goddess, and complete his bliss. [19] 

Nervous disorders, perhaps unhappily for the sufferers under them, do not often shorten the life they overcloud. This author lived to the age of seventy-two, when he was carried off by a stroke of apoplexy, July the 4th, 1761. He was much lamented by his friends, all of whom had experienced his hospitality and many more substantial benefactions, for he was uniformly liberal and beneficent.—It is a truth which cannot be denied, that the works of Richardson are not found to be so attractive to the present generation as they were to the past; the young and idle are deterred from reading him by his prolixity, and the defects of his style are become more prominent from the greater attention which has been paid to that part of composition by modern writers. His fame at present stands higher abroad than it does at home. He is as highly valued by foreigners as Rousseau is by us; and whatever be his defects, his intrinsic merit is too great not to place him above the varying taste of the day. When a hundred novels that are now read are passed away and forgotten, Clarissa will hold its place among those standard works that adorn the literature of our country.


[1] The British Novelists; with an Essay and Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Mrs. Barbauld, 50 Vols. (London: Printed for F.C. and J. Rivington; W. Otridge and Son; A. Strahan; T. Payne; G. Robinson; W. Lowndes; Wilkie and Robinson; Scatcherd and Letterman; J. Walker; J. Cuthell; Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe; R. Lea; J. Nunn; Lackington and Co.; Clarke and Son; C. Law; Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme; Cadell and Davies; E. Jeffery; J.K. Newman; Crosby and Co.; J. Carpenter; S. Bagster; T. Booth; J. Mobray; J. and J. Richardson; Black, Parry, and Kingsbury; J. Harding; R. Phillips; J. Mawman; J. Booker; J. Asperne; R. Baldwin; Mathews and Leigh; J. Faulder; Johnson and Co.; Sherwood and Co.; J. Miller; W. Creech, Edinburgh; and Wilson and Son, York, 1810), 1:i-xlvi. This essay appears immediately after the essay "On the Origin and Progress of Novel-Writing," 1:1-62. BACK

[2] In a popular ballad, a respectable serving man named Thomas a Pott is preferred by the daughter of Lord Arrndell over the libertine Lord Phenix. BACK

[3] Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II.ii.154-5, slightly altered. BACK

[4] "So a virgin, while still untouched, remains dear to her family"; Catullus, Poem 62, line 45, trans. Peter Green, The Poems of Catullus: A Bilingual Edition (Berkeley: U of California P, 2005). BACK

[5] This line and the preceding one come from Thomas Otway, The Orphan IV.ii., slightly altered. BACK

[6] Characters in Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther and John Moore's Zeluco, respectively. BACK

[7] Shakespeare, King John III.i.24. BACK

[8] Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II III.iii. Henry Fuseli had recently depicted the scene in his painting The Death of Cardinal Beaufort (1772). BACK

[9] Character in Benjamin Hoadly's The Suspicious Husband (1747). BACK

[10] Abduction. BACK

[11] John Dryden, Tyrannick Love; or The Royal Martyr (1670) II.i.292-7, altered. BACK

[12] Joseph Warton, An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope, 2 Vols. (London: Printed for M. Cooper, 1756) 1:276. BACK

[13] I want to have young people think there is no such mighty business as they are apt to suppose, in conquering first love.—Letter to Miss Mulso [Barbauld's note]. BACK

[14] Unidentified to date except as anecdote. BACK

[15] "of the old court"; a gentleman in the old-fashioned, courtly style. In context, the adjective proné (above), appears to indicate that the hero is held in high esteem by others, the model of what is best; he is revered as the ultimate reference. BACK

[16] It is said, that an Italian translation of the Bible appeared some years since at Naples, in the preface to which the translator warned his readers against English publications; but excepted one, the Clarissa of Richardson [Barbauld's note]. BACK

[17] From Clarissa, excerpted from one of Lovelace's letters to Belford. BACK

[18] Rambler No. 95 (Tuesday, February 12, 1751). The essay is signed "Pertinax." BACK

[19] "To Health" 31-36. After recovering from a bout of illness, Chapone sent the poem to Elizabeth Carter in 1750, and it later appeared in Chapone's Miscellanies in Prose and Verse (1775) 130-132. BACK

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