Samuel Richardson: Master Printer

Samuel Richardson: Master Printer

Samuel Richardson: Master Printer

Samuel Richardson: Master Printer

Excerpt

SAMUEL RICHARDSON, master printer of Salisbury Court, began to emerge from the comparative obscurity of a successful London tradesman on Thursday, 6 November 1740, when, with the publication of Pamela , he started his career as an English novelist. Within the decade that followed the extraordinary success of Pamela , he wrote Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison , and established himself as the most popular novelist of the century. Richardson had lived for fifty years before he sat down to write the story that was to become generally known as "the first English novel." The details of these fifty years are sparse indeed: they are recorded in summary chapters or in appendices to his biographies. The clues to the recovery of these details lie in Richardson's career as a printer; the pursuit of these clues leads to Salisbury Court, where he successfully met the conditions of the eighteenth-century book trade and found the way to prosperity and an established social position, from which he could observe the most vital social problem of his age--the interpenetration of the emergent middle class and the surviving aristocracy.

The biographer of the novelist must have a means of recovering the details of a half-century of Richardson's life if he is to find the pattern by which that life can be made comprehensible . . .

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