Samuel Richardson

Thomas Keymer

in British and Irish Literature

ISBN: 9780199846719
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
Samuel Richardson

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With his virtuoso handling of epistolary narration, and the psychological and circumstantial realism made possible by his technical innovations, Samuel Richardson (b. 1689–d. 1761) has long been seen as a pioneer of the modern novel. Pamela (1740) was an international sensation and generated an avalanche of adaptations, imitations, attacks, and other appropriations, of which the best-known are Henry Fielding’s multilayered parody, Shamela (1741), and Eliza Haywood’s exuberant counternarrative, Anti-Pamela; or, Feign’d Innocence Detected (1741). Rival authors and booksellers were quick to cash in with spurious sequels to the original work, forcing Richardson to rush out his authorized continuation of December 1741, Pamela . . . in Her Exalted Condition. Thereafter he worked for years on his monumental Clarissa, one of the undisputed masterpieces of the European novel, which circulated in various manuscript versions within a private constituency of readers and advisers before its eventual publication in three massive, compelling installments in 1747–1748. Richardson’s last novel, Sir Charles Grandison (1753–1754), admired by successor novelists from Jane Austen to George Eliot but neglected for much of the 20th century, has recently enjoyed a significant revival in critical interest. Following the rise of theory in the 1970s, Richardson’s work as a whole has been at the center of debates about representation, reading, interpretation, subjectivity, gender, politics, print culture, and other key topics in 18th-century literature and the novel genre.

Article.  11296 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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