The Criticism of Richardson’s novel "Pamela" by Henry Fieldings’ "Shamela“

Seminar Paper, 2008
13 Pages, Grade: 2,3




The different biographical backgrounds of Richardson and Fielding and its consequences on their approaches on writing
Samuel Richardson
Henry Fielding
The consequences

The subject matters of the novels
Pamela; or virtue rewarded

Fielding’s points of criticism

“Faults” in Richardson’s novel “Pamela”
Allusions to Pamela’s true feelings
Pamela – virtuous maid or prostitute?


List of works cited


I decided to pick up the topic of the parody of Richardson’s novel “Pamela”, yet with focus on the novel “Shamela” by Henry Fielding.

The reason for choosing “Shamela” is, that it is one of the most popular parodies of “Pamela” and it very closely follows the plot of the original story. Also the two authors took up the same topic with very different backgrounds and point of views, which I am going to discuss in the first paragraph. Allthough I have considered to include the novel “Anti-Pamela” by Eliza Haywood in my work, which is another very popular parody of Richardson, I finally decided to concentrate merely on “Shamela”, yet both works are highly complex and a comparing interpretation would probably exeed the length of my work. In support of my own elaborations I used several literature sources.

The different biographical backgrounds of Richardson and Fielding and its consequences on their approaches on writing

Samuel Richardson

Samuel Richardson (1689 – 1761) was a major english author of the 18th century who archived main popularity with his epistolary novels.

Many of his novels, likewise the novels of Defoe, are related to the various contents of the famous contemporary “conduct books”. The ambition of these books is to keep up the chastity as a foundation of marriage. The puritan view, who was shared by Richardson regarded the virginity as the highest, feasible quality of female virtue[1] and condemns all sexual activities outside marriage.

Like the family of his protagonist Pamela, Richardson was a member of the lower middle class, working as a printer. He had already performed some small editing, indexing and writing stints, yet he first appeared in public at an age of fifty years with the publication of the novel “Pamela”[2].

Henry Fielding

In contrast to Samuel Richardson, Fielding emanates from landed gentry. Being born in Sharpham Park in Sommerset in the year 1707, he has been educated at Etan and studied classics at Leyden in the Netherlands.

Fielding’s works are much more focussed on the plot of a story than, as opposed to Richardson, on the characters and their feelings and emotions. Furthermore, Fielding’s novels are more based on values and cultural norms of the upper classes and differs from Richardson’s concept of morality[3]. “Unlike Defoe and Richardson, Fielding was steeped in a classical tradition, and though he was by no means a slavish supporter of the rules, he felt strongly that the growing anarchy of literary taste called for dramatic measures.”[4]

The consequences

By its publication, the novel „Pamela“ became one of the most popular contemporary books of that time. One of the reasons for the enormous success of “Pamela” might have been that more and more women got interested in literature, especially in romantic novels or religious works. All in all, the era was dominated by a commercialization of literature, the rise of the realism and of the moralistic-didactic intentions, which implicated a change of the recipients of literature. Moreover, it entailed a decline of the aristocratic ideals and a rise of the lower middle class and its moral concepts[5]. Also characteristic for that era, as already mentioned, are the so-called “conduct books”, that aimed to educate the reader in the comportment in social life.

Richardson, who was part of the lower middle class, with his novel “Pamela” is completely in step with the social spirit of that time. The topic of a young girl who is anxious of keeping her virtue is not new, but Richardson added this attribute to a servant girl, which is, even for that time, quite exceptional. “Servant girls (...) constituted a fairly important part of the reading public, and they found it particularly difficult to marry. (...) Richardson’s heroine symbolised the aspirations of all the women in the reading public who were subject to the difficulty of getting married.”[6]

Fielding, as a part of the aristocracy, criticized and satirized the over-morality that was presented in Richardson’s novel and, furthermore, mocks Richardson’s style in various way. Yet, all in all Fielding considers Richardsons moralistic and chaste point of view as an ambigious and even dissembling furtiveness.

The subject matters of the novels

Pamela; or virtue rewarded

The plot of the two stories “Pamela” and its parody “Shamela” is very similiar.

“The story is narrated in the form of long, explicit letters from Pamela Andrews, a poor country girl in service with a rich family. After the death of the mistress of the household, Pamela is continually put to the necessity of resisting the advances of the young master. When his seduction schemes fail, he attempts rape on several occasions but always is thwarted at the last instant. Finally, in desperation, he proposes marriage and the offer is joyfully accepted, Pamela thus receiving the reward of her virtue.”[7]

All in all, the story’s structure is very simple and Richardson avoided an episodic plot by basing his novels on this single action. The more important part is the intimate point of view that the reader gets by reading the letters and diary entries of Pamela. The form of the epistolary novel is used as the most intimate expression of the human heart, the letter in its confidentiality and directness.[8]

Beyond presenting his novel in the epistolary form, Richardson chooses another subject matter that is quite exceptional for this time: he describes a battle of the sexes, between the housemaid Pamela and her master, in which the woman prevails at the story’s ending.

“Pamela “involves a struggle, not only between two individuals, but between two opposed conceptions of sex and marriage held by two different social classes, and between two conceptions of the masculine and feminine roles which make their interplay in courtship even more complex and problematic than it had previously been.”[9]


[1] See: Kurt Otten. Der englische Roman vom 16. bis zum 19. Jahrhundert. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1971. p. 63.

[2] See: Bernhard Kreissmann. Pamela – Shamela. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1964. p. 3.

[3] See: Vera Nünning/Ansgar Nünning. Englische Literatur des 18. Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Verlag, 1998. p. 138

[4] Ian Watt. The rise of the novel. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1962. p 248.

[5] See: Vera Nünning/Ansgar Nünning. p. 173 ff.

[6] Ian Watt. The rise of the novel. p 148.

[7] Bernhard Kreissmann. p. 3ff.

[8] See: Kurt Otten. p. 70.

[9] Ian Watt. The rise of the novel.. p 154.

Excerpt out of 13 pages


The Criticism of Richardson’s novel "Pamela" by Henry Fieldings’ "Shamela“
University of Münster  (Englisches Seminar)
Samuel Richardson
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
470 KB
criticism, richardson’s, pamela, henry, fieldings’, shamela“
Quote paper
M. A. Alisa Westermann (Author), 2008, The Criticism of Richardson’s novel "Pamela" by Henry Fieldings’ "Shamela“, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: The Criticism of Richardson’s novel "Pamela" by Henry Fieldings’ "Shamela“

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free