Samuel Richardson (19 August 1689 – 4 July 1761) was an 18th-century English writer and printer. He is best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753). Outside of his writing career, Richardson was an established printer and publisher for most of his life and printed almost 500 different works and various journals and magazines.
During his printing career, Richardson was to experience the death of his first wife along with their five sons, and eventually remarry. Although with his second wife he had four daughters who lived to become adults, they never had a male heir to continue running the printing business. Although his print shop slowly faded away, his legacy was certain when, at the age of 51, he wrote his first novel and immediately became one of the most popular and admired writers of his time.
He was surrounded by some of the leading figures in 18th century England, including Samuel Johnson and Sarah Fielding. Although he was known by most members of the London literary community, he was rivals with Henry Fielding, and the two started responding to each other's literary styles in their own novels.
"a very honest man, descended of a family of middling note, in the country of Surrey, but which having for several generations a large number of children, the not large possessions were split and divided, so that he and his brothers were put to trades; and the sisters were married to tradesmen.His mother, according to Richardson, "was also a good woman, of a family not ungenteel; but whose father and mother died in her infancy, within half-an-hour of each other, in the London pestilence of 1665".
The trade his father pursued was that of a joiner (a type of carpenter, but Richardson explains that it was "then more distinct from that of a carpenter than now it is with us"). In describing his father's occupation, Richardson stated that "he was a good draughtsman and understood architecture", and it was suggested by Samuel Richardson's son-in-law that the senior Richardson was a cabinetmaker and an exporter of mahogany while working at Aldersgate-street. The abilities and position of his father brought him to the attention of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth. However this, as Richardson claims, was to Richardson senior's "great detriment" because the loss of the Monmouth Rebellion, which ended in the death of the Scott in 1685. After Scott's death, the elder Richardson was forced to abandon his business in London and live a modest life in Derbyshire.
"It is a fact not generally known that Richardson... received what education he had (which was very little, and did not go beyond English) at Christ's Hospital. It may be wondered how he could come no better taught from a school which had sent forth so many good scholars; but in his time, and indeed till very lately, that foundation was divided into several schools, none of which partook of the lessons of the others; and Richardson, agreeably to his father's intention of bringing him up to trade, was most probably confined to the writing school, where all that was taught was writing and arithmetic.However, this conflicts with Richardson's nephew's account that "'it is certain that [Richardson] was never sent to a more respectable seminary' than 'a private grammar school" located in Derbyshire".
|“||I recollect that I was early noted for having invention. I was not fond of play, as other boys; my school-fellows used to call me Serious and Gravity; and five of them particularly delighted to single me out, either for a walk, or at their father's houses, or at mine, to tell them stories, as they phrased it. Some I told them, from my reading, as true; others from my head, as mere invention; of which they would be most fond, and often were affected by them. One of them particularly, I remember, was for putting me to write a history, as he called it, on the model of Tommy Pots; I now forget what it was, only that it was of a servant-man preferred by a fine young lady (for his goodness) to a lord, who was a libertine. All of my stories carried with them, I am bolt to say, an useful moral.||”|
|— Samuel Richardson on his storytelling.|
After his writing ability was known, he began to help others in the community write letters. In particular, Richardson, at the age of thirteen, helped many of the girls that he associated with to write responses to various love letters that they received. As Richardson claims, "I have been directed to chide, and even repulse, when an offence was either taken or given, at the very time that the heart of the chider or repulser was open before me, overflowing with esteem and affect". Although this helped his writing ability, he cautioned in 1753 to the Dutch minister Stinstra to not draw to great a conclusion from these early actions:
"You think, Sir, you can account from my early secretaryship to young women in my father's neighbourhood, for the characters I have drawn of the heroines of my three works. But this opportunity did little more for me, at so tender an age, than point, as I may say, or lead my enquiries, as I grew up, into the knowledge of female heart."He continued to explain that he did not fully understand females until after he was writing Clarissa, and these letters were only a small beginning.
|“||I served a diligent seven years to it; to a master who grudged every hour to me that tended not to his profit, even of those times of leisure and diversion, which the refractoriness of my fellow-servants obliged him to allow them, and were usually allowed by other masters to their apprentices. I stole from the hours of rest and relaxation, my reading times for improvement of my mind; and, being engaged in correspondence with a gentleman, greatly my superior in degree, and of ample fortune, who, had he lived, intended high things for me; these were all the opportunities I had in my apprenticeship to carry it on. But this little incident I may mention; I took care that even my candle was of my own purchasing, that I might not, in the most trifling instance, make my master a sufferer (and who use to call me the pillar of his house) and not to disable myself by watching or sitting-up, to perform my duty to him in the day time.||”|
|— Samuel Richardson on his time with John Wilde.|
In 1719, Richardson was able to take his freedom from being an apprentice and was soon able to afford to set up his own printing shop, which he did after he moved near the Salisbury Court district close to Fleet Street. Although he claim to business associates that he was working out of the well-known Salisbury Court, his printing shop was more accurately located on the corner of Blue Ball Court and Dorset Street in a house that later became Bell's Building. On 23 November 1721 Richardson married Martha Wilde, the daughter of his former employer, and it was "prompted mainly by prudential considerations" although Richardson would claim later that there was a strong love-affair between him and Martha. He soon brought her to live with him in the printing shop that served also as his home.
Richardson's career expanded on 6 August 1722 when Richardson took on his first apprentices: Thomas Gover, George Mitchell, and Joseph Chrichley. He would later take on William Price (2 May 1727), Samuel Jolley (5 September 1727), Bethell Wellington (2 September 1729), and Halhed Garland (5 May 1730). One of Richardson's first major contracts to print came in June of 1723 when he began to print the bi-weekly The True Briton for Philip Wharton, 1st Duke of Wharton. This was a Jacobite political paper which attacked the government and was soon censored for printing "common libels". However, Richardson's name was not on the publication, and he was able to escape any of the negative fallout, although it is possible that Richardson participated in the papers as far as actually authoring one himself. The only lasting effect from the paper would be the adoption of Wharton's libertine characteristics being incorporated into Richardson's Clarissa in the character of Robert Lovelace, although Wharton would be only one of many models of libertine behaviour that Richardson would find in his life. In 1724, Richardson befriended Thomas Gent, Henry Woodfall, and Arthur Onslow, the latter of those would become the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Over their ten years of marriage, the Richardsons had five sons and one daughter, and three of the boys were named Samuel after their father, but all of the boys died after just a few years.Soon after, William, their fourth child died, Martha died on 25 January 1731. Their youngest son, Samuel, was to live past his mother for a year longer, but succumbed to illness in 1732. After his final son died, Richardson attempted to move on with his life; he married Elizabeth Leake and the two moved into another house on Blue Ball Court. However, Elizabeth and his daughter were not the only ones living with him since Richardson allowed five of his apprentices to lodge in his home. Elizabeth had six children (five daughters and one son) with Richardson; four of their daughters, Mary, Martha, Anne, and Sarah, reached adulthood and survived their father. Their son, also a Samuel, was born in 1739, but soon died in 1740.
In 1733, Richardson was granted a contract with the House of Commons, with help from Osnlo, to print the Journals of the House. The twenty six volumes of the work soon improved his business. Later in 1733, he wrote The Apprentice’s Vade Mecum, urging young men like himself to be diligent and self-denying. The work was intended to "create the perfect apprentice". Written in response to the "epidemick Evils of the present Age", the text is best known for its condemnation of popular forms of entertainment including theatres, taverns and gambling. The manual targets the apprentice as the focal point for the moral improvement of society, not because he is most susceptible to vice, but because, Richardson suggests, he is more responsive to moral improvement than his social betters. During this time, Richardson took on five more apprentices: Thomas Verren (1 August 1732), Richard Smith (6 February 1733), Matthew Stimson (7 August 1733), Bethell Wellington (7 May 1734), and Daniel Green (1 October 1734). His total staff during the 1730s numbered 7, as his first three apprentices were free by 1728, and two of his apprentices, Verren and Smith, died soon into their apprenticeship. The loss of Verren was particularly devastating to Richardson because Verren was his nephew and his hope for a male heir that would take over the press.
Richardson transitioned from a master printer in Salisbury Court to novelist on 6 November 1740 with the publication of Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded. Pamela was sometimes regarded as "the first English novel". Richardson explained the origins of the work when he said:
"In the progress of [Rivington's and Osborn's collection], writing two or three letters to instruct handsome girls, who were obliged to go out to service, as we phrase it, how to avoid the snares that might be laid against their virtue, and hence sprung Pamela ... Little did I think, at first, of making one, much less two volumes of it ... I thought the story, if written in an easy and natural manner, suitably to the simplicity of it, might possibly introduce a new species of writing, that might possibly turn young people into a course of reading different from the pomp and parade of romance-writing, and dismissing the improbable and marvellous, with which novels generally abound, might tend to promote the cause of religion and virtue.After Richardson started the work on 10 November 1739, his wife and her friends became so interested in the story that he finished it on 10 January 1740. Pamela Andrews, the heroine of Pamela, represented "Richardson's insistence upon well-defined feminine roles" and was part of a common fear held during the 18th century that women were "too bold". In particular, her "zeal for housewifery" was included as a proper role of women in society. Although Pamela and the title heroine were popular and gave a proper model for how women should act, they inspired "a storm of anti-Pamelas" (like Henry Fielding's Shamela and Joseph Andrews) because the character "perfectly played her part".
Later that year, Richardson printed Rivington and Osborn's book which inspired Pamela under the title of Letters written to and for particular Friends, on the most important Occasions. Directing not only the requisite Style and Forms to be observed in writing Familiar Letters; but how to think and act justly and prudently, in the common Concerns of Human Life. The book contained many anecdotes and lessons on how to live, but Richardson did not care for the work and it was never expanded even though it went into six editions during his life. He went so far as to tell a friend, "This volume of letters is not worthy of your perusal" because they were "intended for the lower classes of people".
In September 1741, a sequel of Pamela called Pamela's Conduct in High Life was published by Ward and Chandler. Although the work lacks the literary merits of the original, Richardson was compelled to publish two more volumes in December 1741 to tell of further exploits of Pamela, the title heroine, while "in her Exalted Condition". The public's interest in the characters was waning, and this was only furthered by Richardson's focusing on Pamela discussing morality, literature, and philosophy.
"You have formed a style, as much your property as our respect for what you write is, where verbosity becomes a virtue; because, in pictures which you draw with such a skilful negligence, redundance but conveys resemblance; and to contract the strokes, would be to spoil the likeness.
In July, Richardson sent Hill a complete "design" of the story, and asked Hill to try again, but Hill responded, "It is impossible, after the wonders you have shown in Pamela, to question your infallible success in this new, natural, attempt" and that "you must give me leave to be astonished, when you tell me that you have finished it already". However, the novel wasn't complete to Richardson's satisfaction until October 1746. Between 1744 and 1746, Richardson tried to find readers who could help him shorten the work, but his readers wanted to keep the work in its entirety. A frustrated Richardson wrote to Edward Young in November 1747:
"What contentions, what disputes have I involved myself in with my poor Clarissa through my own diffidence, and for want of a will! I wish I had never consulted anybody but Dr. Young, who so kindly vouchsafed me his ear, and sometimes his opinion.
Richardson did not devote all of his time just to working on his new novel, but was busy printing various works for other authors that he knew. In 1742, he printed the third edition of Daniel Defoe's Tour through Great Britain. He filled his new few years with smaller works for his friends until 1748, when Richardson started helping Sarah Fielding and her friend, Jane Collier to write novels. By 1748, Richardson was so impressed with Collier that he accepted her as the governess to his daughters. In 1753, she wrote An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting with the help of Sarah Fielding and possibly James Harris or Samuel Richardson, and it was Richardson who printed the work. But Collier was not the only author to be helped by Richardson, as he printed an edition of Young's Night Thoughts in 1749.
His novel, Clarissa, was finally printed in its seven volumes by 1748: two volumes in November 1747, two in April 1748, and three in December 1748. Unlike the novel, the author was not doing as well as the work. By August 1748, Richardson was in poor health. He had a sparse vegetarian diet that consisted mostly of vegetables and drinking vasts amount of water, which was not robust enough to prevent the effects of being bled upon the advice of various doctors throughout his life. He was known for "vague 'startings' and 'paroxysms'", along with experiencing tremors, as he started to degenerate in his old age. Richardson once wrote to a friend that "my nervous disorders will permit me to write with more impunity than to read" and that writing allowed him a "freedom he could find nowhere else".
However, his condition did not stop him from continuing to release the final volumes Clarissa after November 1748. To Hill he wrote: "The Whole will make Seven; that is, one more to attend these two. Eight crouded into Seven, by a smaller Type. Ashamed as I am of the Prolixity, I thought I owed the Public Eight Vols. in Quantity for the Price of Seven" Richardson later made it up to the public with "deferred Restorations" of the fourth edition of the novel being printed in larger print with eight volumes and a preface that reads: "It is proper to observe with regard to the present Edition that it has been thought fit to restore many Passages, and several Letters which were omitted in the former merely for shortening-sake."
The response to the novel was positive, and the public began to describe the title heroine as "divine Clarissa". It was soon considered Richardson's "masterpiece" and his greatest work. There was particular emphasis on Richardson's "natural creativity" and his ability to incorporate daily life experience into the novel. However, the final three volumes were delayed, and many of the readers began to "anticipate" the concluding story and some demanded that Richardson write a happy ending. One such advocate of the happy ending was Henry Fielding, who previous wrote Joseph Andrews to mock Richardson's Pamela. Although Fielding was originally opposed to Richardson, Fielding supported the original volumes of Clarissa and thought a happy ending would be "poetical justice".
Others wanted Lovelace to be reformed and for Clarissa and he to become married, but Richardson would not allow a "reformed rake" to be her husband, and was unwilling to change the ending. In a postscript to Clarissa, Richardson wrote:
"if the temporary sufferings of the Virtuous and the Good can be accounted for and justified on Pagan principles, many more and infinitely stronger reasons will occur to a Christian Reader in behalf of what are called unhappy Catastrophes, from a consideration of the doctrine of future rewards; which is every where strongly enforced in the History of Clarissa."Although few were bothered by the epistolary style, Richardson feels obligated to continue his postscript with a defense of the form based on the success of it in Pamela.
However, some did question the propriety of having Lovelace, the villain of the novel, act in such an immoral fashion. The novel avoids glorifying Lovelace, as Carol Flyn puts it,
"by damning his character with monitory footnotes and authorial intrusions, Richardson was free to develop in his fiction his villain's fantasy world. Schemes of mass rape would be legitimate as long as Richardson emphasized the negative aspects of his character at the same time.But Richardson still felt the need to respond by writing a pamphlet called Answer to the Letter of a Very Reverend and Worthy Gentleman. In the pamphlet defends his characterizations and explains that he took great pains to avoid any glorification of scandelous behaviour unlike many others that rely on characters of such low quality.
In 1749, Richardson's female friends started asking him to create a male figure as virtuous as his heroines "Pamela" and "Clarissa" in order to "give the world his idea of a good man and fine gentleman combined". Although he did not at first agree, he was pressured to this end in June 1750 and he complied. Near the end of 1751, Richardson sent a draft of the novel The History of Sir Charles Grandison to Mrs Donnellan, and the novel was being finalized in the middle of 1752. When the novel was being printed in 1753, Richardson discovered that Irish printers were trying to pirate the work. He immediately fired those he suspected as giving the printers advanced copies of Grandison and relied on multiple London printing firms to help him produce an authentic edition before the pirated version was sold. The first four volumes were published on 13 November 1753, and in December the next two would follow. The remaining volume was published in March to complete a seven volume series while a six volume set was simultaneously published, and these were met with success. In Grandison, Richardson was unwilling to risk having a negative response to any "rakish" characteristics that Lovelace embodied and degraded any of his immoral characters "to show those mischievous young admirers of Lovelace once and for all that the rake should be avoided".
In his final years, Richardson received visits from Archbishop Secker,other important political figures, and many London writers. By that time, he enjoyed a high social position and was Master of the Stationers' Company. In early November 1754, Richardson and his family moved from the Grange to a home at Parson's Green. It was during this time that Richardson received a letter from Samuel Johnson asking for money to pay for a debt that Johnson was unable to afford. On 16 March 1756, Richardson responded with more than enough money, and their friendly was certain by this time.
Besides associating with important figures of the day, Richardson's career began to conclude. Grandison was his final novel, and he stopped writing fiction afterwards. However, he was continually prompted by various friends and admirers to continue to write along with suggested topics. Richardson did not like any of the topics, and chose to spend all of his time composing letters to his friends and associates. The only major work that Richardson would write would be A Collection of the Moral and Instruction Sentiments, Maxims, Cautions, and Reflexions, contained in the Histories of Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison. Although it is possible that this work was inspired by Johnson asking for an "index rerum" for Richardson's novels, the Collection contains more of a focus on "moral and instructive" lessons than the index that Johnson was seeking.
After June 1758, Richardson began to suffer from insomnia, and in June 1761, he was afflicted with apoplexy. This moment was described by his friend, Miss Talbot, on 2 July 1761:
"Poor Mr. Richardson was seized on Sunday evening with a most severe paralytic stroke.... It sits pleasantly upon my mind, that the last morning we spent together was particularly friendly, and quiet, and comfortable. It was the 28th of May - he looked then so well! One has long apprehended some stroke of this kind; the disease made its gradual approaches by that heaviness which clouded the cheerfulness of his conversation, that used to be so lively and so instructive; by the encreased tremblings which unfitted that hand so peculiarly formed to guide the pen; and by, perhaps, the querulousness of temper, most certainly not natural to so sweet and so enlarged a mind, which you and I have lately lamented, as making his family at times not so comfortable as his principles, his study, and his delight to diffuse happiness, whereever he could, would otherwise have doneTwo days later, 4 July 1761, Richardson died at Parson's Green and buried at St. Bride's church near his first wife Martha.
During Richardson's life, his printing press produced nearly five hundred different books. He wanted to keep the press in his family, but after the death of his four sons and a nephew, his printing press would be left in his will to his only surviving male heir, a second nephew. This happened to be a nephew that Richardson did not trust and Richardson doubted his nephew's abilities as a printer. Richardson's fears proved to be warranted for after his death, the press stopped producing quality works and eventually stopped printing all together. Richardson owned copyrights to most of his works, and these were sold after his death. They were sold in twenty-fourth shares, with Clarissa bringing in 25 pounds each, Grandison bringing in 20 pounds each, and Pamela, which only had sixteenth shares sold, received 18 pounds each.
In his first novel, Pamela, he explored the various complexities of the title character's life, and the letters allow the reader to witness her develop and progress over time. The novel was an experiment, but it allowed Richardson to create a complex heroin through a series of her letters. When Richardson wrote Clarissa, he had more experience in the form and expanded the letter writing to four different correspondents, which created a complex system of characters encouraging each other to grow and develop over time. However, the villain of the story, Lovelace, is also involved in the letter writing, and this leads to tragedy. Leo Braudy described the benefits epistolary form of Clarissa as, "Language can work: letters can be ways to communicate and justify". By the time Richardson writes Grandison, he transforms the letter writing from telling of personal insights and explaining feelings into a means for people to communicate their thoughts on the actions of others and for the public to celebrate virtue. The letters are no longer written for a few people, but are passed along in order for all to see.