Samuel Richardson

Samuel Richardson, 1689–1761, English novelist, b. Derbyshire. When he was 50 and established as a prosperous printer, Richardson was asked to compose a guide to letter writing. The idea of introducing a central theme occurred to him, and he interrupted his task to write and publish his novel of morals in letter form, Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded (2 vol., 1740). The novel tells the story of a virtuous young maidservant who so successfully eludes the lecherous assaults of her employer's son that the young man finally marries her. The guide, known now as Familiar Letters, came out in 1741, just before Vol. III and IV of Pamela. Richardson wrote two more long, epistolary novels, Clarissa Harlowe (7 vol., 1747–48), the tragic story of a girl who runs off with her seducer, regarded today as his best work, and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (7 vol., 1753–54). All Richardson's novels were enormously popular in their day. Although he was a verbose and sentimental storyteller, his emphasis on detail, his psychological insights into women, and his dramatic technique have earned him a prominent place among English novelists.

See his correspondence, ed. by A. L. Barbauld (6 vol., 1804; repr. 1966); biographies by T. C. D. Eaves and B. D. Kimpel (1971) and J. Harris (1987); studies by J. W. Krutch (1930, repr. 1959), J. J. Carroll (1969), M. Kinkead-Weekes (1973), C. G. Wolff (1973), and W. B. Warner (1979), C. H. Flynn (1982), and M. Doody and P. Sabor, ed. (1989).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

FREE! Samuel Richardson
Austin Dobson.
London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1902
Virtue, Gender, and the Authentic Self in Eighteenth-Century Fiction: Richardson, Rousseau, and Laclos
Christine Roulston.
University Press of Florida, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "'The Letter in My Bosom': Pamela" and Chap. 2 "'Let Me Have Pen, and Ink': Clarissa"
Women and Property in the Eighteenth-Century English Novel
April London.
Cambridge University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Part I "Section One: Samuel Richardson and Georgic"
Pamela's Daughters
Robert Palfrey Utter; Gwendolyn Bridges Needham.
The Macmillan Company, 1936
The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding
Ian Watt.
University of California Press, 1957
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "Richardson as Novelist: 'Clarissa'"
The Sentimental Novel in America, 1789-1860
Herbert Ross Brown.
Duke University Press, 1940
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "Richardson and Seduction"
"I Am Become a Mere Usurer": Pamela and Domestic Stock-Jobbing
Ingrassia, Catherine.
Studies in the Novel, Vol. 30, No. 3, Fall 1998
Complaisance and Complacence, and the Perils of Pleasing in Clarissa
Osland, Dianne.
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 40, No. 3, Summer 2000
Epistolary Responses: The Letter in 20th-Century American Fiction and Criticism
Anne Bower.
University of Alabama Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Relettering: Upton Sinclair's Another Pamela Responds to Samuel Richardson's Pamela"
Learning to Read Richardson: 'Pamela,' 'Speaking Pictures,' and the Visual Hermeneutic
Brown, Murray L.
Studies in the Novel, Vol. 25, No. 2, Summer 1993
Using "Femalities" to "Make Fine Men": Richardson's 'Sir Charles Grandison' and the Feminization of Narrative
Schellenberg, Betty A.
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 34, No. 3, Summer 1994
Five Masters: A Study in the Mutations of the Novel
Joseph Wood Krutch.
Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, 1930
Librarian’s tip: "Samuel Richardson" begins on p. 109
Love and Death in the American Novel
Leslie A. Fiedler.
Stein and Day, 1966 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Richardson and the Tragedy of Seduction"
The Columbia History of the British Novel
John J. Richetti; John Bender; Deirdre David; Michael Seidel.
Columbia University Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Richardson and His Circle" begins on p. 73
FREE! Pamela: Or, Virture Rewarded
Samuel Richardson.
Century, 1904
Samuel Richardson: Master Printer
William M. Sale Jr.
Cornell University Press, 1950
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