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Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded

2.73 of 5 stars 2.73  ·  rating details  ·  6,125 ratings  ·  497 reviews
One of the most spectacular successes of the flourishing literary marketplace of eighteenth-century London, Pamela also marked a defining moment in the emergence of the modern novel. In the words of one contemporary, it divided the world "into two different Parties, Pamelists and Anti-pamelists," even eclipsing the sensational factional politics of the day. Preached for it ...more
Paperback, 546 pages
Published July 12th 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1740)
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Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan SwiftRobinson Crusoe by Daniel DefoeCandide by VoltaireThe Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von GoetheLes Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Best Books of the 18th Century
39th out of 155 books — 619 voters
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann ShafferThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyBridget Jones's Diary by Helen FieldingDracula by Bram StokerThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
Epistolary Fiction
39th out of 372 books — 483 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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I did not finish this book. Because it is a million pages that boil down to:

PAMELA: I am a lowly maid. Yet my virtue, look at it.
MASTER-OF-THE-HOUSE: Ooh, dazzling. How 'bout you let me avail myself of some of that virtue?

[Insert cross-dressing in-bed-hiding country-house-involving shenanigans.:]

MASTER-OF-THE-HOUSE: Your virtue, it has won me over. Marry me?
PAMELA: But of course.

Ok, the shenanigans make it sound vaguely amusing? Just know that there
Deborah Markus
Creepy 18th-century Guy: Hey, baby. Now that my mom died, I’m your boss now.

Innocent Maidservant: Um, yeah. I know.

CG: But don’t worry. I’ll take reeeeaaaallly good care of you.

IM: ...thanks?

CG: And I’m sure you’ll want to be nice to me right back, if you know what I’m saying. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

IM: I always try to be nice, sir.

CG: Have I mentioned how hot you are?

IM: Okay, this is getting uncool.

CG: Hey, I’m all rich and powerful and you’re just some little nobody. You should be flattered
When I read classics, it's not all about just reading them. I'm also really trying to discover what's made them classics. I want to know why people like them so much. And I can usually figure something out; that's why I end up with so many five star reviews. But this? This piece of shit escapes me.

The first half is entertaining enough, as the vaguely-named Mr. B---- kidnaps a servant and tries to steal her titular virtue. There are dastardly schemes and narrow escapes, and he makes a good villai
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It saddens me that Goodreads has no love for this book. First of all, it's one of the earliest novels ever written, so it deserves more respect from that perspective alone. Secondly, you have to place it in its time. Early 18th century readers found this material quite titillating, and of course wanted to see a virtuous end to all the lasciviousness. That way, they could have their cake and eat it, too. For its time, this was really racy material. Naturally nowadays we find the idea of a woman w ...more
I was so busy catching up on all my vacation books that I totally forgot to blog my final thoughts on this 18th century behemoth.

What to say about a book that treats virginity as the most important quality a woman has but is weirdly feminist in the agency and resistance it gives its perky heroine? A book that demonizes a tyrannical master as a would-be rapist and jailer and then turns him into a romantic hero? A book that embraces a cross-class marriage while avowing to preserve the distinction
Paul 'Pezski' Perry
I encountered Samuel Richardson's Pamela many years ago as part of my History of the Novel module at university. I was introduced to some great works through that course, and there are two reasons I am grateful for being introduced to this; mostly, because it was the first year the class had read Pamela rather than Clarissa (which is more than twice the length), but also because it made it clear to us that even in an academic environment there are books which are considered as classics because o ...more
Sherwood Smith
Sep 20, 2014 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: fiction
Reading this is like watching the invention of literature before your eyes. Richardson began this as yet another work-for-hire series of "conduct letters" of the sort that Madame De La Fayette et al made popular during the 1600s, but the story took off in such a way that it became more like, oh, a reality show that develops into its own story. Richardson developed the narrative "a l'moment" approach, that is, slipping inside the character's skin and reporting on what they were thinking and feeli ...more
Sep 26, 2007 A. rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: self-hatred-feeling self-haters
Anyone who's had the Sisyphean task of reading this shares a cosmic bond: if you have, you know what I mean. This and "Dear Mr. Henshaw" make me want to slit my own wrists in reaction to the idea of the epistolary novel. Fucking Pamela is one dipshit of a girl, but Richardson himself is no better. Any time I see a terrible, modern didactic novel I feel reassured knowing it will end up as beloved & well-known as this one in the future.
Patrick Hennessy
read the one thousand plus pages or just the title, which also tells the whole story
I really didn't like this book. My British novel professor assures me that my affection for it will grow over the years, but I somehow doubt that at this point. Pamela is a dangerous picture of womanhood... she is largely responsible for the whole "women have power in powerlessness" idea that left many, many women abused and riddled with the sexually transmitted diseases their husbands brought home in the 18th and 19th centuries. Because of Pamela, I'm sure they often believed that if they were ...more
Finally relinquished this to Goodwill, but not before re-reading the scribbles I made in the covers during my "The Origins Of The Novel" class, circa 2001:
"It's like a manifesto! Serving girls! Throw off your chains and marry your masters!"
... actually, my professor said that one.

Confession: I love Samuel Richardson. I love Pamela. I love Clarissa. I love the wicked Mr. B-, who practically twirls his mustache as he looms in corners, waiting for 'poor unhappy Pamela' to drop her defenses (and he
BUT,of course I had to read my name sake!It was INDEED a hard read.
Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded is an "epistolary novel" by Samuel Richardson, first published in 1740. It tells the story of a beautiful but poor 15-year old servant-maid named Pamela Andrews whose master, Mr. B, a nobleman, makes unwanted advances towards her after the death of his mother whose maid she was since the age of 12. Mr. B is infatuated with her, first by her looks and then her innocence and intelligence but his high rank
Michael Kneeland
Hello, dear reader, my name is Pamela and I am the human embodiment of the loftiest and most admirable virtues. Over the course of my tedious, overlong, and mind-numbingly predictable narrative, I will show you how I am the human embodiment of the loftiest and most admirable virtues.

For a woman.

In the 1700s.

Um, and how I am nearly essentially raped by the man I work for and how I inexplicably end up falling madly in love with him.

This will be a good read for you. It really, really, really, reall
Oct 26, 2014 Rachel rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 18th century literature lovers
Recommended to Rachel by: forced to read it for school
Man, reading this book for 18th century literature was like a bad hangover except with no booze involved - just a headache. It was so very very long and so very very bad. I had to skim through the last half of the book, because I couldn't be bothered to give a damn.

The main character Pamela irritated me to death. Her virtue is her defining point and while I understand that morals and sexuality were VERY different in the 1700s, I didn't want to sit there and read page after page about a servant g
Penelope Irving
Come on, Goodreads - surely Richardson deserves at least four stars for inventing the novel? Pamela was the first time the full potential of long prose narrative was realised as a form that could explore character and psychology as well as tell a story. By hitting on the concept of the epistolary novel almost by accident (Pamela grew out of a non-fiction book of letter templates that Richardson had been commissioned to write), Richardson's discovery of 'writing to the moment' set English and ind ...more
Matthew Gatheringwater
Aug 29, 2007 Matthew Gatheringwater rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: waiting-maids.
I imagine that most people today read this book to laugh at its outdated morality. Certainly, there is something funny in the premise of the story: Pamela, a poor but dignified servant girl, attracts the attention of a rich squire who deceives and kidnaps her but somehow is so impressed by her natural modesty and virtue that he is reluctant to take outright from her what she is unwilling to give.

One way to read the novel (a way that must certainly have contributed to the book's initial popularit
I do try to keep in mind when I read a book this old that conventions were very different in its time, on many levels. I do think there is a certain charm here (though the characters are a bit flat) and some nice passages. However, I do have to object to the length as a first thing. I have no problems with long books and have read many much longer that I wouldn't trim a word of, but that is not the case here. The only reason I object to a 500 page book from Mr. Richardson is that he only had mat ...more
If scholarship were based solely on quality, Pamela would have been lost to the ages a long time ago (and good riddance), but unfortunately for me, scholarship is also based on influence, and this stupid book, despite being extremely poorly written, repetitive, and didactic in all the wrong ways, is one of the foundation texts of English Literature. For a hundred years afterwards, you were either a Pamelist or Anti-Pamelist. (I would have been an Anti-Pamelist.)

Are you ready for this? Here is th
(I would like to point out that the following review is more of a rant than a proper review and will be of no benefit for those wishing to ascertain the quality of the novel)

I have rated this book so low, not because it lacks literary value, but because the plot alone is abhorrent to my delicate sensibilities. This poor girl is sexually assaulted several times as Mr. B makes multiple attempts to rape her and THEN (because she refuses to be violated) she is tricked into a several month long impri
Oct 29, 2014 Laura rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like to read things to mock them
Recommended to Laura by: Prof. Bob Markley.
I have not read this book for 20 years, and I am still appalled by it. The tale of a virtuous servant girl, who does no apparent work other than avoiding the young lord of the manor's lustful advances, averts rape by fortuitously fainting, and is dissuaded from escaping a manor she is imprisoned in after a kidnapping by a cow. In a field. Because they used to breed English servant girls that way. Or something.

Seemingly written without irony. Per Prof. Bob Markley, you used to be able to buy chi
Maya Rock
Pamela is a maid who plays hard to get and reaps all the benefits! She becomes mistress of the house and indeed her virtue is rewarded. This books is pretty engaging. So much so I finally have relented and have a "booksthattaughtmeaboutsex" shelf because while there is no explicit sex, I was SERIOUSLY confused reading this book about what exactly this guy was hassling Pamela about all the time and why she just didn't give him what he wanted. So I must have gleaned some tidbit that later helped m ...more
Feb 29, 2008 Hallie added it
Shelves: can-t-stand
See title. Whole thing is about this total bore feverishly trying to hang on to her cherry. I would have popped it myself if it would have shortened the book by several hundred pages. Plus it gives all my Victorian friends a worse name.
John Pistelli
As a number of observers have stated, a classic may be defined most simply as any work of art that has endured beyond the time of its production. If it is still in circulation after a few generations, then it is a classic. But this definition still leaves room for nuances; for one thing, there are different reasons why a work may endure.

Consider eighteenth-century Anglophone fictional prose narrative. One such narrative that is still widely read in the present is Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan S

This is considered to be the first epistolary novel. The note at the beginning also suggested that it was the first character novel. And this may be so. My degree is in history and not English Literature; however, I would make a case for Moll Flanders and even Robinson Crusoe as being character novels in their own way. And Pamela certainly exhibits characteristics of an adventure novel too.

At any rate, let us assume that Pamela is as the note writer contends, the first example of a
A.Z. Green
I read this book at least four years ago so I cannot remember the whole storyline and don't plan on reading this again. What I do remember is how tedious it was for me to read.
The book is well-written but if you're not used to old-style english it takes some concentration. But the problem for me was the fifteen year old Pamela. Maybe its just me but I thought she was overreacting about Mr B's "advances".
Throughout the book I felt he was completely misconstrued and although he may have acted wr
Casey Bramble
Just because it's old, doesn't mean it's good.

Pamela was the first English novel and exploded in popularity. There were readings in town squares, merchandise to be sold, and it was reprinted numerous times. Think Twilight in the 1700's.

It also sucked. Big time. Literally nothing happens for two hundred pages. That is not hyperbole. Two hundred pages of whiny girl being stalked by king pervert. The method of stalking doesn't change, nor does her incessant freaking whining. Then a major plot devel
Start to finish: badly-written, moralising drivel. If this book hadn’t been as influential as it had been, this would probably have received my lowest rating. It did however prove inspirational to many in its time. I’m sure the world is a better place for it. Absolutely.

Pamela is a woman who sincerely believes that the best way to resist emotional and sexual abuse from her employer, Mr B., is to believe the best about him. She seems oblivious to the fact that he is an unrepentant predator nor to
Mar 29, 2011 Kate added it

I have finally finished this. I don't understand it. First it's like a heightened, 18th century sexual harassment chronicle, as poor Pamela tries not to get molested by her boss. It's still unclear to me what we're supposed to think about all that. He goes to great lengths, including hiding in her bedroom, and eventually kidnapping her. After the kidnapping, it becomes a thriller, as we watch our heroine try to escape her posh prison before her 'master' finally shows up and does terrible deeds.
Thank goodness that's over! (Tiny spoiler you can probably guess from the front cover picture.)

If you ever want to read a novel concerning a saucy employer and their attractive servant who end up getting together then don't read this novel, read Jane Eyre. If you've already read Jane Eyre and you want to read Pamela then don't. Just read Jane Eyre again, Jane is a far superior protagonist and the plot is much better.

This is a novel of a sexually and emotionally abused teenage girl who goes thro
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Samuel Richardson was a major English 18th century writer best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and Sir Charles Grandison (1753).

Richardson had been an established printer and publisher for most of his life when, at the age of 51, he wrote his first novel and immediately became one of the most popular and adm
More about Samuel Richardson...

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“Be sure don't let people's telling you, you are pretty, puff you up; for you did not make yourself, and so can have no praise due to you for it. It is virtue and goodness only, that make the true beauty.” 10 likes
“I will be a Friend to you, and you shall take care of my Linen” 6 likes
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