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Private Experience and the Novel


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Private Experience and the Novel

AARON HILL was perhaps the most ebullient member of the vociferous Richardsonclaque, but when he announced that 'a force that can tear the heartstrings' had appeared 'to gild the horror of our literary midnight' 1 he was only slightly exaggerating the emotional enthusiasm with which Pamela and Clarissa were received by most of his contemporaries both in England and abroad. 2 We have already seen that one reason for this enthusiasm was the way that Richardson's subjectmatter endeared him to feminine readers; but the men, on the whole, seem to have been almost equally excited, and so we must seek for further explanations.

One fairly common view has been that Richardson's novels gratified the sentimental tendencies of his age. 'Sentimentalism' in its eighteenth-century sense denoted an un-Hobbesian belief in the innate benevolence of man, a credo which had the literary corollary that the depiction of such benevolence engaged in philanthropic action or generous tears was a laudable aim. There are undoubtedly features in Richardson's work which are (sentimental' in this as well as in the current sense, but the term is nevertheless somewhat misleading when applied either to his own outlook or to the characteristic literary quality of his novels. For, as we have seen, Richardson's moral theory was opposed to the cult of love and emotional release in general, while in his practice as a novelist he presented a much wider range of feelings than those to which the sentimentalists proper usually restricted themselves. What is distinctive about Richardson's novels is not the kind or even the amount of emotion, but rather the authenticity of its presentation: many writers of the period talked about 'sympathetic tears'; even more deplorably Richardson talked about 'pellucid fugitives', 3 but he made them flow as no one else and as never before.

How Richardson made them flow, how he involved his

Letter to Richardson, March 8, 1749 (Forster MSS. XII, ii, f. 110).

See McKillop, Richardson, pp. 43-106.

Clarissa, III, 29.

readers so deeply in the sentiments of his characters, is well described by Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review ( 1804):

Other writers avoid all details that are not necessary or impressive. . . . The consequence is, that we are only acquainted with their characters in their dress of ceremony, and that, as we never see them except in those critical circumstances, and those moments of strong emotion, which are but of rare occurrence in real life, we are never deceived into any belief of their reality, and contemplate the whole as an exaggerated and dazzling illusion. With such authors we make a visit by appointment, and see and hear only what we know has been prepared for our reception. With Richardson, we slip, invisible, into the domestic privacy of his characters, and hear and see every thing that is said and done among them, whether it be interesting or otherwise, and whether it gratify our curiosity or disappoint it. We sympathise with the former, therefore, only as we sympathise with the monarchs and statesmen of history, of whose condition as individuals we have but a very imperfect conception. We feel for the latter, as for our private friends and acquaintance, with whose whole situation we are familiar. . . . In this art Richardson is undoubtedly without an equal, and, if we except De Foe, without a competitor, we believe, in the whole history of literature. 1

One of the constituents of the narrative method described by Jeffrey was noted in the first chapter-the more minutely discriminated time-scale, and the much less selective attitude to what should be told the reader, which are characteristic of Richardson's formal realism. But this unselective amplitude of presentation does not alone explain how Richardson enables us to 'slip into the domestic privacy of the characters': we must take account of the direction as well as of the scale of his narrative. This direction, of course, is towards the delineation of the domestic life and the private experience of the characters who belong to it: the two go together-we get inside their minds as well as inside their houses.

It is primarily this re-orientation of the narrative perspective which gives Richardson his place in the tradition of the novel. It distinguishes him from Defoe, for example: since although both writers were, as Mrs. Barbauld wrote, 'accurate describers, minute and circumstantial the minuteness of Defoe was more employed about things, and that of Richardson about

Contributions to the Edinburgh Review ( London, 1844), I, 321-322.

persons and sentiments'. 1 In combination with his fullness of presentation it also distinguishes him from the rival French claimants to the paternity of the modern novel. When George Saintsbury, for example, concludes that Pamela is indeed the first novel, he does so because the only answer he can give to the question 'Where are we to find a probable human being, worked out to the same degree, before?' is -- 'Nowhere'. 2 There are many equally probable and perhaps more interesting characters in literature before Pamela, but there are none whose daily thoughts and feelings we know so intimately.

What forces influenced Richardson in giving fiction this subjective and inward direction? One of them is suggested by the formal basis of his narrative-the letter. The familiar letter, of course, can be an opportunity for a much fuller and more unreserved expression of the writer's own private feelings than oral converse usually affords, and the cult of such correspondence was one which had largely arisen during Richardson's own lifetime, and which he himself both followed and fostered.

In itself it involved a very significant departure from the classical literary perspective; as Madame de Stal wrote, 'the ancients would never have thought of giving their fiction such a form' because the epistolary method 'always presupposes more sentiment than action'. 3 Richardson's narrative mode, therefore, may also be regarded as a reflection of a much larger change in outlook-the transition from the objective, social and public orientation of the classical world to the subjective, individualist and private orientation of the life and literature of the last two hundred years.

The contrast is a fairly familiar one. It is implied in Hegel's comparison between ancient and modern tragedy, or in Goethe's and Matthew Arnold's yearning for the impersonality and objectivity of Greek and Roman art, as opposed to the feverish subjectivity of their own romantic literature; and its most important aspect from our point of view is expressed by Walter Pater in Marius the Epicurean, when he comments on how the ancients were 'jealous for the most part of affording us a glimpse of that interior self, which in many cases would have actually doubled the interest of their objective informations'. 4

'Life', prefixed to Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, 1, xx.

The English Novel ( London, 1913), pp. 86-87.

'De l'Allemagne', in uvres complites, XI, 86-87.

London, 1939, p. 313.

Some of the most important causes of the very different modern emphasis have already been mentioned. Christianity in general, for example, was essentially an inward, individualist and self-conscious kind of religion, and its effects were strongest in Puritanism, with its stress on the inner light; while the indispensable Madame de Stal drew attention to the influence of the changed philosophical outlook of the seventeenth century on the novel's subjective and analytic approach to character: 'ce n'est même que depuis deux siècles que la philosophie s'est assez introduite en nous-mêmes pour que l'analyse de ce qu'on prouve tienne une si grande place dans les livres'. 1 The secularisation of thought which accompanied the new philosophy tended in the same direction: it produced an essentially mancentred world, and one in which the individual was responsible for his own scale of moral and social values.

Finally, the rise of individualism is of great importance. By weakening communal and traditional relationships, it fostered not only the kind of private and egocentric mental life we find in Defoe's heroes, but also the later stress on the importance of personal relationships which is so characteristic both of modern society and of the novel -- such relationships may be seen as offering the individual a more conscious and selective pattern of social life to replace the more diffuse, and as it were involuntary, social cohesions which individualism had undermined. Individualism also contributed to Richardson's emphasis on private experience in at least two other respects: it provided an audience deeply enough interested in all the processes that occur in the individual consciousness to find Pamela absorbing; and its economic and social development eventually led to the development of the urban way of life, a fundamental formative influence on modern society which seems to be connected in many ways with the private and subjective tendency both of Richardson personally and of the novel form in general.


Eighteenth-century London had an importance in the national life of the time that was unequalled elsewhere. Throughout the period it was over ten times as large as any

'De l'Allemagne', p. 87.

other town in England, 1 and, perhaps even more important, it was there that such social changes as the rise of economic individualism, the increase in the division of labour, and the development of the conjugal family, were most advanced; while, as we have seen, it also contained a very large proportion of the reading public -- from 1700 to 1760 over half of the booksellers of England were established there. 2

The continual increase of the size of London was noted by many observers. They were especially struck by the proliferation of buildings beyond the ancient limits of the twin cities of London and Westminster, which became particularly evident after the Great Fire of 1666. 3 Fashion moved westward and northward, while to the east settlements arose which were almost exclusively inhabited by the labouring poor. This increasing segregation of classes was commented on by many writers. Addison remarks in the Spectator are particularly significant: 'When I consider this great city in its several quarters and divisions, I look upon it as an aggregate of several nations, distinguished from each other by their respective customs, manners and interests. . . . In short, the inhabitants of St. James's, notwithstanding they live under the same laws, and speak the same language, are a distinct people from those of Cheapside, who are likewise removed from those of the Temple on the one side, and those of Smithfield on the other.' 4

This process -- the growth of London and its accompanying social and occupational differentiation -- has been seen as 'perhaps the most important single feature of the social history of the late Stuart period'. 5 It is at least the plainest of many indications that something approaching the modern urban pattern was gradually imposing itself on the more cohesive community that Shakespeare knew: and we should therefore expect to find that some of the distinctive psychological features of modern urbanisation began to manifest themselves at the same time. 6

See O. H. K. Spate, 'The Growth of London, A.D. 1660-1800', Historical Geography of England, ed. Darby ( Cambridge, 1936), pp. 529-547.

Plant, English Book Trade, p. 86.

See, for example, T. F. Reddaway, The Rebuilding of London after the Great Fire ( London, 1951), pp. 300-308.

No. 403 ( 1712); see also Fielding, Covent Garden Journal, No. 37 ( 1752).

Max Beloff, Public Order and Public Disturbances, 1660-1714 ( London, 1938), p. 28.

I base the ensuing generalisations mainly upon the area of agreement indicated in Louis Wirth sociological analysis in 'Urbanism as a Way of Life', AmericanJournal of Sociology

The growth of the population of London in the last decades of the seventeenth century from about 450,000 in 1660 to 675,000 in 1700, 1 combined with the increasing residential segregation of its inhabitants, and the extension of the metropolitan area, was certainly on a large enough scale to make the contrast between the rural and urban ways of life much deeper and more complete than it had been previously. Instead of the countryman's unchanging landscape, dominated by the regular alternation of the seasons, and the established hierarchy of social and moral order symbolised by the manor-house, the parish church and the village green, the citizen of eighteenthcentury London had a horizon that was in many ways like that of modern urban man. The streets and places of resort in the various quarters of the town presented an infinite variety of ways of life, ways of life that anyone could observe, and yet for the most part utterly alien to any one individual's personal experience.

This combination of physical proximity and vast social distance is a typical feature of urbanisation, and one of its results is to give a particular emphasis to external and material values in the city-dweller's attitude to life: the most conspicuous values -- those which are common to the visual experience of everyone -- are economic; in eighteenth-century London, for example, it was the coaches, fine houses and expensive clothes which pervade the outlook of Moll Flanders. There was no real metropolitan equivalent to the expression of the community values available to all represented by the parish church in the country. In many of the new centres of population there was no church at all, and, consequently, according to Swift, 'five parts in six of the people of London [were] absolutely hindered from hearing divine service'; 2 and in any case the atmosphere of what was fast becoming 'a mart of infidelity' 3 tended to discourage church-going -- Bishop Secker said that 'people of fashion' often attended 'Divine worship in the country to avoid scandal',

Journal of Sociology, XLIV ( 1938), 1-24, and Lewis Mumford imaginative and historical treatment in The Culture of Cities ( 1938). I should perhaps make clear that no comparative evaluation of the urban as opposed to the rural way of life is intended here: the stability of the latter, for example, may well be a euphemism for what Marx and Engels once so impoliticly characterised as 'the idiocy of rural life'.

Spate, 'Growth of London', p. 538.

'A Project for the Advancement of Religion and the Reformation of Manners', 1709, Prose Works, ed. Davis ( Oxford, 1939), II, 61.

Bishop Sherlock's phrase ( 1750), cit. Carpenter, Sherlock, p. 284.

but that they 'seldom or never [did so] in the town'. 1 This decline of religious values in the town made way for the supremacy of material values, a supremacy that was symbolised in the way that London was rebuilt after the Great Fire: under the new plan it was the Royal Exchange and not St. Paul's which became the architectural focus of the City. 2

An environment so large and various that only a little of it can be experienced by any one individual, and a system of values that is mainly economic -- these have combined to provide the novel in general with two of its most characteristic themes: the individual seeking his fortune in the big city and perhaps only achieving tragic failure, so often described by the French and American Realists; and, frequently in association with this, the milieu studies of such writers as Balzac, Zola and Dreiser, where we are taken behind the scenes, and shown what actually happens in the places we know only by passing them in the street or reading about them in the newspapers. Both these subjects also feature prominently in eighteenthcentury literature, where the novel supplemented the work of journalists and pamphleteers 3 and revealed all the secrets of the town: both Defoe and Richardson appeal to this interest, and it is even more marked in such works as Fielding Amelia and Smollett Humphrey Clinker. At the same time London figured in much of the drama and fiction of the time as the symbol of wealth, luxury, excitement and perhaps a rich husband: for Steele's novel-reading girl Biddy Tipkins, and for Eliza Haywood's Betsy Thoughtless it is the milieu where everything happens, where people really live: triumph in the big city has become the Holy Grail in the individual's secular pilgrimage.

Few participated in the glories and miseries of London life more intensely than Defoe. London born and bred, he ran the gamut of court and jail, and finally, like the Complete Tradesman he wanted to be and in a sense was, finished life with coach and country-house. He was intensely interested in all London's problems, as is evident in such studies as Augusta Triumphans

Cit. W. E. Lecky, History of England in the Eighteenth Century ( New York, 1878), II, 580.

Reddaway, Rebuilding of London, p. 294.

For example, John Gay, Trivia, 1716; Richard Burridge, A New Review of London, 1722; James Ralph, The Task of the Town: or A Guide to all Public Diversions, 1731; and see also Paul B. Anderson, 'Thomas Gordon and John Mottley, A Trip through London, 1728', PQ, XIX ( 1940), 244-260.

( 1728), an interesting essay in urban reform, as well as in many of his other works; and he planned to profit directly from London's growth by establishing his ill-fated manufacture of bricks and tiles at Tilbury.

Defoe's novels embody many of the positive aspects of urbanisation. His heroes and heroines make their way through the competitive and immoral metropolitan jungle in the pursuit of fortune, and as we accompany them we are given a very complete picture of many of the London milieus, from the Customs House to Newgate Prison, from the poor tenements of Ratcliff to the fashionable parks and houses of the West End. Yet although the picture has its selfish and sordid aspects, it has one very significant difference from that presented by the modern city. Defoe's London is still a community, a community composed by now of an almost infinite variety of parts, but at least of parts which still recognise their kinship; it is large, but somehow remains local, and Defoe and his characters are a part of it, understanding and understood.

There are probably many reasons for Defoe's buoyant and secure tone. He had some memory of the days before the Great Fire, and the London he had grown up in was still an entity, much of it enclosed by the City Wall. But the major reason is surely that although Defoe had since seen enormous changes, he himself had participated in them actively and enthusiastically; he lived in the hurly-burly where the foundations of the new way of life were being laid: and he was at one with it.

Richardson's picture of London is totally different. His works express, not the life of the whole community, but a deep personal distrust and even fear of the urban environment. Especially in Clarissa: its heroine, like Pamela, is not one of the 'townwomen' whose 'confident' mien Richardson so disliked, but a pure country girl; and her fall is caused by the fact that, as she later tells Belford, 'I knew nothing of the town and its ways'. It is this which prevents Clarissa from realising that Mrs. Sinclair is 'a very vile creature'; and although she notices that the tea which is being used to drug her 'has an odd taste' she is easily put off with the explanation that it contains ' London milk'. When she attempts to escape from her enemies she is equally at a disadvantage, never knowing what duplicities are hidden in the behaviour of the people she meets, or what

horrors are being perpetrated behind the walls of its houses. Eventually she must die, because the pure heart cannot survive the immoral brutality of the 'great wicked town'; 1 I but not until she has dragged herself through all her Stations of the Cross, from St. Albans to the brothel off fashionable Dover Street, from the shady resorts of Hampstead to the sponging-house in High Holborn, to find peace only when she returns to her native countryside for burial.

It is interesting to note that one at least of Richardson's contemporaries, the anonymous author of the 1754 Critical Remarks on Sir Charles Grandison, Clarissa and Pamela, saw the agents of Clarissa's downfall as typical products of urbanisation. He wrote that 'such characters as Lovelace and his associates, or mother Sinclair and her nymphs' could only subsist 'in a city like London, the overgrown metropolis of a powerful empire, and an extensive commerce', and added: 'all these corruptions are the necessary and unavoidable consequence of such a constitution of things'. 2

There can be little doubt that some of the differences between the attitudes of Defoe and Richardson to urban life are due to the considerable changes that occurred in the middle decades of the century. This period witnessed many innovations such as the replacement of signs by house numbers, the demolition of the city wall, the creation of central authorities for paving and lighting the streets, water and sewerage, the reform of the police system by Fielding; they are not particularly important in themselves, but they show that conditions demanded quite different methods from those which had formerly sufficed: 3 changes of scale had reached a point which made changes of social organisation imperative. Nevertheless, the great contrast between Defoe and Richardson as Londoners cannot be explained only, or even mainly, as the result of the effects of increasing urbanisation: the two men were, after all, only a generation apart-Defoe was born in 1660, Richardson in 1689. The major reason for their very different portrayal of urban life is undoubtedly that they were poles apart in physical and psychological constitution.

Clarissa, I, 353, III, 505, 368, I, 422; see also III, 68, 428.

P. 54.

See Ambrose Heal, 'The Numbering of Houses in London Streets', N. & Q., CLXXXIII ( 1942), 100-101; Sir Walter Besant, London in the Eighteenth Century ( London, 1925), 84-85, 88-101, 125-132; George, London Life, pp. 99-103.

Even here, however, their differences have a certain representative quality. Defoe had all the vigour of the textile tradesmen pictured by Deloney over a century earlier; like them he was in part a countryman, knowledgeable about crops and cattle, as much at home riding up and down the country as in shop or the counting-house; even in London the 'Change, the coffee-house and the streets supply him with the equivalent of the watching countryside of saga: and wherever he goes he is at home. But if Defoe harks back to the days of the heroic independence of the citizenry, Richardson offers us a glimpse of the middle-class tradesman to come, bounded by the horizons of the office in the city and the gentility of the suburban home. London itself certainly provides no way of life in which he can participate. On the one hand, he is deeply aware of the social differences between the tradesmen of the City and the people of quality who inhabit Westminster, and this awareness is not qualified by Defoe's confident preference for his own class. 'There is a bar between us', Richardson wrote to Mrs. Delany in 1753 concerning a mutual acquaintance,'TempleBar. Ladies who live near Hill Street, and Berkeley and Grosvenor Squares, love not to pass this bar. They speak of it, as if it were a day's journey.' On the other hand, Richardson participated very little in the life of his own environment. He was 'not able to bear a crowd', and stopped going to church on that account; while even in his own printing-shop he preferred to supervise his own workmen by looking through 'a spy window'. 1 As for the pleasures of the town, they were the road to damnation of such abandoned females as Sally Martin in Clarissa, and made him long for 'the last age, when there were no Vauxhalls, Ranelaghs, Marybones, and such-like places of diversion, to dress out for and gad after'. 2 Even the life of the streets was rapidly becoming something which only the poor shared. Certainly not Richardson if we can judge from the description he gave Lady Bradshaigh of how he walked abroad:

One hand generally in his bosom, the other a cane in it, which he leans upon under the skirts of his coat usually, that it may imperceptibly serve him as a support, when attacked by sudden tremors or startings, and dizziness, which too frequently attack him. . . . Looking directly foreright, as passers by would imagine, but

Correspondence, IV, 79-80, I, clxxix, III, 225.

Clarissa, IV, 538.

observing all that stirs on either hand of him without moving his short neck; hardly ever turning back a regular even pace stealing away ground, rather than seeming to rid it. 1

There is something about Richardson's gait and posture which is distinctively urban; indeed even his ailments have this quality, being, as his friend Dr. George Cheyne told him, the ills typical of 'those obliged to follow a sedentary occupation'. Cheyne suggested that Richardson, whose nerves did not allow him to ride horseback, should at least get a 'chamber-horse', a 'liver-shaking device', as B. W. Downs has described it, 2 much used at this time. But exercise could not allay the fever of his nerves, and here Cheyne diagnosed the 'English Malady' or 'nervous hyp,', which was no more, he confessed, than 'a short expression for any kind of nervous disorder', 3 and which may be regarded as the eighteenth-century version of anxiety neurosis, the typical derangement of the urban Psyche.

Richardson, then, is an example of many of the less salutary effects of urbanisation, and here the contrast with his great contemporary Fielding is as great as that with Defoe. It also had equally marked literary consequences, as was pointed out by Richardson's acquaintance Mrs. Donnellan, who linked his poor health with his characteristic sensibility as a writer, in an attempt to console Richardson for his perpetual ill-health:

. . . the misfortune is, those who are fit to write delicately, must think so; those who can form a distress must be able to feel it; and as the mind and the body are so united as to influence one another, the delicacy is communicated, and one too often finds softness and tenderness of mind in a body equally remarkable for those qualities. Tom Jones could get drunk, and do all sorts of bad things in the height of his joy for his uncle's recovery. I dare say Fielding is a robust, strong man. 4

Fielding had indeed much of the countryman's robustness, and the disparity between the two novelists and their works may therefore stand as a representative example of a fundamental parting of the ways in the history of English civilisation, a parting in which it is the urban Richardson who reflects the way that was to triumph. D. H. Lawrence was keenly aware of the

Correspondence, IV, 290-291.

Richardson ( London, 1928), p. 27.

Letters of Cheyne to Richardson, pp. 34, 59, 61, 109, 108.

Correspondence, IV, 30.

moral and literary effects of this revolution, and he recapitulated many of them in Apropos of Lady Chatterley's Lover, his defence of a novel whose treatment of sex may be said to bring the trend initiated by Pamela full circle. Briefly he suggests that economic changes and Protestantism combined to destroy man's sense of harmony with the natural life and with his fellows, and as a result created 'the feeling of individualism and personality, which is existence in isolation'. This harmony had existed 'in the old England' until the middle of the eighteenth century: 'we feel it', Lawrence wrote, 'in Defoe or Fielding. And then, in the mean Jane Austen, it is gone. Already this old maid typifies 'personality' instead of character, the sharp knowing in apartness.' 1

Lawrence, of course, was a refugee from 'personality' and personal relationships, from a world of 'nothing but people'. 2 By being so, he was, perhaps, a refugee from the novel. For the world of the novel is essentially the world of the modern city; both present a picture of life in which the individual is immersed in private and personal relationships because a larger communion with nature or society is no longer available; and it is surely Richardson, rather than his successor Jane Austen, who is the first novelist in whom all the tendencies which make for a 'sharp knowing in apartness' are apparent.

The connection between urbanisation and the novel's concentration on personal relationships is stated in E. M. Forster Howard's End. Its heroine, Margaret Schlegel, comes to feel that ' London was but a foretaste of this nomadic civilisation which is altering human nature so profoundly, and throws upon personal relations a stress greater than they have ever borne before'. 3 The ultimate reason for the connection would seem to be one of the most universal and characteristic features of the city-dweller's experience: the fact that he belongs to many social groups -- work, worship, home, leisure -- but no single person knows him in all his roles, and nor does he know anyone else in all theirs. The daily round, in fact, does not provide any permanent and dependable network of social ties, and since there is at the same time no other over-riding sense of community or common standards there arises a great need for a kind of

London, 1930, pp. 57-58.

Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. Huxley ( London, 1932), p. 614.


emotional security and understanding which only the shared intimacies of personal relationships can supply.

In Defoe there is little suggestion of this need; the personal contacts of Moll Flanders are transient and shallow, but she seems to revel in the multiplicity of her roles and the only kind of security she seeks is economic. By the middle of the century, however, there are signs that a different attitude was coming into being. London, for example, is the milieu where, as the subtitle of her novel David Simple ( 1744) announces, Sarah Fielding's hero travels cheerlessly 'Through London and Westminster in Search of a Real Friend', lonely and anonymous in an anarchic environment where personal contacts are mercenary, fleeting and faithless.

Richardson's recoil from this environment would seem to have been very similar. Fortunately, however, there was a way out: urbanisation provided its own antidote, the suburb, which offered an escape from the thronged streets, and whose very different mode of life symbolised the difference between the multifarious but casual relationships depicted in Defoe's novels and the fewer but more intense and introverted ones which Richardson portrayed.

Defoe had spent his last years at Stoke Newington, but the pattern of living in the suburbs even before retirement was still relatively new, as was pointed out in the introduction of the 1839 edition of the Complete English Tradesman, which comments disdainfully that from Defoe's 'insisting so much on the wives of tradesmen acquainting themselves with their husbands' business, and his scarcely making any allusion to out-of-town houses for the families of tradesmen we readily see that a simple state of things then existed in London, such as is now perhaps found only in fourth-rate towns'. 1 Very soon, however, the movement of the prosperous into the suburb became very marked, and indeed caused a decline of the population within the City limits. 2 This was one urban trend in which Richardson could unreservedly participate; on week-ends and holidays he was happy to leave his place of business in Salisbury Court off the Strand to luxuriate in the peace of his handsome retreats first at 'agreeable suburbane North End', and after 1754 at Parson's Green. Both were in Fulham which, in 1748, according to Kalm, was a 'pretty town' with all the houses of brick, set

Edinburgh, p. 3.

George, London Life, p. 329

in a countryside that 'is everywhere nothing but a pleasaunce'. 1 Here Richardson established his little court, where, according to Miss Talbot, 'his very poultry [were] made happy by fifty little neat contrivances'. 2

The suburb is perhaps the most significant aspect of the segregation of classes in the new urban pattern. Both the very rich and the very poor are excluded, and so the middle-class pattern can develop unmolested, safe both from the glittering immorality of the fashionable end of town and from the equally affronting misery and shiftlessness of the poor -- the word 'Mob' is a significant late seventeenth-century coinage which reflects a growing distaste and at times even fear of the urban masses.

The contrast between the old urban way of life and the new social pattern which replaced it is perhaps best suggested by the different implications of the words 'urbane' and 'suburban': the one is a Renaissance idea, the other typically Victorian. 'Urbanity' denotes the qualities of politeness and understanding which are the product of the wider social experience which city life makes possible; with it goes the spirit of comedy which, in Italian, French or English comedy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, centres on the gay life of the streets and the squares, where the walls of houses afford a purely nominal privacy. 'Suburban', on the other hand, denotes the sheltered complacence and provinciality of the sheltered middle-class home: as Mumford has said, the suburb is a 'collective attempt to live a private life'; 3 it offers a peculiar combination of the solace of society with the safety of personal privacy; it is dedicated to an essentially feminine ideal of quiet domesticity and selective personal relationships which could only be portrayed in the novel, and which found its first full literary expression in the works of Richardson.

The privacy of the suburb is essentially feminine because it reflects the increasing tendency already discussed to regard the modesty of womanhood as highly vulnerable and therefore in need of a defensive seclusion; and the seclusion of the suburb was increased by two other developments of the period -- the greater privacy afforded by Georgian housing, and the new pattern of personal relationships made possible by familiar

Account, p. 36.

Cit. McKillop, Richardson, p. 202.

Culture of Cities ( London, 1945), p. 215.

letter-writing, a pattern which, of course, involves a private and personal relationship rather than a social one, and which could be carried on without leaving the safety of the home.

In the mediaeval period nearly all the life of the household went on in the common hall. Then gradually the private bedroom and separate dining quarters for masters and servants became current; by the eighteenth century the final refinements of domestic privacy had fully established themselves. There was much more emphasis than before on separate sleeping quarters for every member of the family, and even for the household servants; a separate fireplace in all the main rooms, so that everyone could be alone whenever they wished, became one of the details which the up-to-date housewife noted with approbation; and locks on doors -- still a great rarity in the sixteenth century -- became one of the modernisations on which the genteel insisted, as Pamela does when she and Mr. B. are preparing a house for her parents. 1 Pamela, of course, has good reason to pay attention to this matter: during her ordeals being able to lock the door of her various sleeping places was a matter of life or a fate worse than death.

Another characteristic feature of the Georgian house is the closet, or small private apartment usually adjoining the bedroom. Typically, it stores not china and preserves but books, a writing desk and a standish; it is an early version of the room of one's own which Virginia Woolf saw as the prime requisite of woman's emancipation; and it was much more characteristically the locus of woman's liberty and even licence than its French equivalent, the boudoir, for it was used, not to conceal gallants but to lock them out while Pamela writes her 'saucy journal' and Clarissa keeps Anna Howe abreast of the news.

Richardson was something of a propagandist for this new forcing-house of the feminine sensibility; in a letter to Miss Westcomb, for example, he contrasts the 'goose-like gabble' of social conversation with the delights of epistolary intercourse for the lady who makes 'her closet her paradise'. 2 His heroines do not and cannot share the life of the street, the highways and the places of public resort with Defoe's Moll Flanders and even Fielding's Miss Western, whom Richardson described with characteristically outraged horror as 'inn-frequenting Sophia'; 3

Pamela, Pt. II, p. 2.

Correspondence, III, 252-253.

Letter to Miss G[rainger], Jan. 22, 1750, in N. & Q., 4th ser., III ( 1869), 276.

they inhabit substantial houses that are quiet and secluded but where each room has its feverish and complicated inner life. Their drama unrolls in a flow of letters from one lonely closet to another, letters written by an occupant who pauses only to listen with wild surmise to footsteps in some other part of the house, and who communicates the intolerable sense of strain which arises when an opening door threatens some new violation of a cherished privacy.

In their devotion to familiar letter-writing Richardson's heroines reflect a cult which is one of the most distinctive features of eighteenth-century literary history. The basis of the cult was the great increase in the leisure and literacy of middleclass women; and it was materially assisted by a very great improvement of postal facilities. A penny post was established in London in 1680, and by the twenties of the next century it gave a service whose cheapness, speed and efficiency were, according to Defoe at least, unrivalled throughout Europe; while the ensuing decades also witnessed a great improvement in the postal system of the rest of the country. 1

With the increase in the writing of letters went a significant change in their nature. In the sixteenth century and earlier most regular correspondences were of a public nature, concerned with commercial, political or diplomatic affairs. Letters were of course written about other matters, about literature, family concerns and indeed love: but they seem to have been fairly rare and confined to a relatively restricted social circle. There is certainly little indication of the existence of the 'scribbling treaties', as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu called them, 2 that were so common in the eighteenth century -- correspondences in which people of very varying social classes habitually exchanged news and opinions about their ordinary lives. A fairly recent parallel to the kind of change that seems to have occurred is afforded by the telephone: long reserved for important transactions, usually of a business nature, its use, as facilities improved and cheapened, was gradually extended, especially under feminine influence perhaps, to the purposes of ordinary sociability and even intimate converse.

At all events, by 1740 it was apparently not wholly implausible that a servant-girl such as Pamela should keep regularly in

Howard Robinson, The British Post Office: A History ( Princeton, 1948), pp. 70103.

Letters and Works, I, 24.

touch with her parents; and it was, of course, the wide diffusion of the letter-writing habit which provided Richardson with the initial impetus to write her adventures, since it led two of his bookselling associates to suggest that he prepare a volume of 'Familiar Letters' 'in a common style, on such subjects as might be of use to those Country Readers, who were unable to indite for themselves'. 1

Pamela's epistolary expertness, however, suggests a somewhat higher-class position than the one which she is supposed to have -- she patently needs no help in inditing! She is, in fact, a heroine after the pattern of those innumerable eighteenth-century gentlewomen who took Richardson's own advice as to the employment of their leisure: 'The pen is almost as pretty an implement in a woman's fingers, as a needle'. 2

We are now in a position to see more clearly the main links between urbanisation and Richardson's emphasis on private experience. The same causes which brought about Richardson's rejection of city life and his preference for the suburb, made him find his supreme satisfaction in familiar letter-writing, the form of personal intercourse most suited to the way of life which the suburb represents. Only in such a relationship could Richardson circumvent the deep inhibitions which made him silent and ill at ease in company, and caused him to prefer to communicate with his workmen in the printing-house, and even with his own family, by means of 'little notes'. 3 All these inhibitions could be forgotten when he was engaged in real or fictitious correspondences: it was a necessity of his being so deep that his friends said that 'whenever Mr. Richardson thought himself sick, it was because he had not a pen in his hand'. 4

The pen alone offered him the possibility of satisfying his two deepest psychological needs, needs which were otherwise mutually exclusive: withdrawal from society, and emotional release. 'The pen', he wrote, 'is jealous of company. It expects, as I may say, to engross the writer's whole self; every body allows the writer to withdraw.' At the same time the pen offered an escape from solitude into an ideal kind of personal relationship. As he wrote to Miss Westcomb, 'Correspondence is, indeed, the cement of friendship; it is friendship avowed under hand and

Correspondence, I, liii.

Ibid., VI, 120.

Ibid., I, clxxxi.

Cit. Thomson, Richardson, p. 110.

seal: friendship upon bond, as I may say. More pure, and yet more ardent, and less broken in upon, than personal conversation can ever be amongst the most pure, because of the deliberation it allows, from the preparation to, and action of writing.' 1 So insistent, indeed, was Richardson's conviction that epistolary converse gave him the emotional satisfaction which ordinary life denied, that he supported his belief with a revelatory, though erroneous, etymology: 'familiar letter writing', Lovelace explains in Clarissa, 'was writing from the heart as the very word 'Cor-respondence' implied', and adds 'Not the heart only; the soul was in it'. 2


The literary advantages and disadvantages of the epistolary form in fiction have been much discussed. 3 The disadvantages are particularly obvious -- the implausibility of such incessant recourse to the pen, and the repetition and prolixity which the method imposes, often make us sympathise with Lovelace's imprecation, 'Rot the goose and the goose quill!' 4 The major advantage, of course, is that letters are the most direct material evidence for the inner life of their writers that exist. Even more than the memoir they are, to repeat Flaubert's phrase, 'le rel crit', and their reality is one which reveals the subjective and private orientations of the writer both towards the recipient and the people discussed, as well as the writer's own inner being. As Dr. Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale: 'A man's letters are only the mirror of his breast, whatever passes within him is shown undisguised in its natural process. Nothing is inverted, nothing distorted, you see systems in their elements, you discover actions in their motives'. 5

The main problem in portraying the inner life is essentially one of the time-scale. The daily experience of the individual is composed of a ceaseless flow of thought, feeling and sensation; but most literary forms -- biography and even autobiography for instance -- tend to be of too gross a temporal mesh to retain

Correspondence, III, 247, 245.

Clarissa, II, 431.

See G. F. Singer, The Epistolary Novel ( Philadelphia, 1933), especially pp. 4059; F. G. Black, The Epistolary Novel in the Late Eighteenth Century ( Eugene, Oregon, 1940); and for the European background Charles E. Kany, The Beginnings of the Epistolary Novel in France, Italy and Spain ( Berkeley, 1937).

Clarissa, IV, 375.

Oct. 7, 1777.

its actuality; and so, for the most part, is memory. Yet it is this minute-by-minute content of consciousness which constitutes what the individual's personality really is, and dictates his relationship to others: it is only by contact with this consciousness that a reader can participate fully in the life of a fictional character.

The nearest record of this consciousness in ordinary life is the private letter, and Richardson was fully aware of the advantages to be derived from his 'writing to the minute' technique, as he called it. He was most explicit about this advantage in the Preface to Clarissa: 'All the letters are written while the hearts of the writers must be supposed to be wholly engaged in their subjects so that they abound, not only with critical situations, but with what may be called instantaneous descriptions and reflections'. This present-tense recording of the action, Richardson felt, also gave him a great advantage over the autobiographical memoir which Defoe and Marivaux had used as the basis of their narrative technique. For, as a contemporary critic pointed out in a letter which Richardson reproduced in the Postscript to Clarissa, 'The minute particulars of events, the sentiments and conversation of the parties' were in his method 'exhibited with all the warmth and spirit that the passion supposed to be predominant at the very time could produce'; on the other hand, 'Romances in general, and Marivaux's amongst others, are wholly improbable, because they suppose the history to be written after the series of events is closed by the catastrophe; a circumstance which implies a strength of memory beyond all example and probability'. 1

The argument of improbability is not a very convincing one; the epistolary method is by no means exempt from it in other ways, and both methods must be accepted for what they are, literary conventions. But it is true that the use of the epistolary method impels the writer towards producing something that may pass for the spontaneous transcription of the subjective reactions of the protagonists to the events as they occur and thus to break even more completely than Defoe did with the more patently selective and summarising tendency of classical writing. For, if events are remembered long after the event, the

The Everyman and many other editions do not reprint the prefatory matter of the novels, nor the important Postscript of Clarissa. Quotations here are from the Shakespeare Head Edition ( Oxford, 1930).

memory performs a somewhat similar function, retaining only what led to significant action and forgetting whatever was transitory and abortive.

Richardson's attempt to achieve what in the 'Preface by the Editor' to Pamela he called 'an immediate impression of every circumstance' obviously led to much that was trifling and ridiculous. This aspect of his narrative was nicely parodied by Shenstone: 'So I sat down and wrote thus far: scrattle, scrattle, goes the pen -- why, how now? says I -- what's the matter with the pen? So I thought I would make an end of the letter, because my pen went scrattle, scrattle' 1 Pamela's repetitions and her habit of conversing with herself over trivialities are fair enough game; but even in Shenstone's parody, especially when read in its entirety, it is evident that this very garrulity itself brings us extremely close to Pamela's inner consciousness; it is necessary that the train of thought should often be ephemeral and transparent in this way, so that we can feel sure that nothing is being withheld. The very lack of selectiveness, indeed, impels us to a more active involvement in the events and feelings described: we have to pick significant items of character and behaviour out of a wealth of circumambient detail, much as in real life we attempt to gather meaning from the casual flux of circumstance. This is the kind of participation which the novel typically induces: it makes us feel that we are in contact not with literature but with the raw materials of life itself as they are momentarily reflected in the minds of the protagonists.

Previous traditions of letter-writing would not have encouraged this narrative direction. John Lyly's Euphues ( 1579), for example, is also an exemplary tale told in letters: but, in keeping both with the literary and the epistolary traditions of his time, Lyly's emphasis was on producing new models of eloquence; the characters and their actions are of very secondary importance. But by the time of Pamela the majority of the literate public cared little for the traditions of courtly rhetoric, and used letters only for the purpose of sharing their daily thoughts and acts with a friend; the cult of familiar letter-writing, in fact, provided Richardson with a microphone already attuned to the tones of private experience.

The fact that Richardson was using an essentially feminine, and from a literary point of view, amateur, tradition of letter-

Letters, ed. Mallam, p. 24.

writing, also helped him to break with the traditional decorums of prose and use a style that was wholly suited to embody the kind of mental process with which his narrative was concerned. In this, as in many other things, he was a good deal more conscious and even sophisticated about his literary purpose than he sometimes allowed; there is at least a strong suggestion in Clarissa that he regarded his own literary style as infinitely superior to those of the classically educated for his particular purposes: Anna Howe tells us that 'mere scholars' too often 'spangle over their productions with metaphors; they rumble into bombast: the sublime with them, lying in words and not in sentiment'; while others 'sinking into the classical pits, there poke and scramble about, never seeking to show genius of their own'. 1

On the other hand, the familiar letters both of Richardson and his less educated feminine correspondents were simpler and less conscious: everything was subordinated to the aim of expressing the ideas passing in the mind at the moment of writing. This can be seen in Richardson's real letters as well as his fictional ones: in this passage to Lady Bradshaigh, for example:

Another there was whom his soul loved; but with a reverence -Hush! Pen, lie thee down! --

A timely Check; where, else, might I have ended? This ladyhow hard to forbear the affecting subject! But I will forbear. This man presumed not -- Again going on! not a word more this night. 2

There is a complete break here with the mode of Augustan prose, but it is an essential condition for Richardson's success in transcribing the inner drama of impulse and inhibition.

In the novels Richardson's use of language is concentrated on producing what his characters might plausibly write in the circumstances. One expression of this is Richardson's use of popular words and phrases. In Pamela, for example, we get such colloquialisms as 'fat-face', 'no better than he should be', and 'you might have beat me down with a feather' 3 -- neither elegant nor pungent enough to have been used in comedy or satire, yet redolent of the moral and social milieu of the book. But Richardson's most characteristic linguistic innovation was in vocabulary, and here, too, his aim was to create a literary vehicle for the more exact transcription of psychological processes. One anonymous pamphleteer, for instance, complained about

Clarissa, IV, 495.

Correspondence, I, clx.

I, 356, 6, 8.

Richardson's 'many new-coined words and phrases, Grandison's meditatingly, Uncle Selby's scrupulosities, and a vast variety of others' which, he feared, might 'by the laborious industry of some future compiler' be 'transferred into a Dictionary'. 1 As it happens, these particular words had been used before although Richardson may well have coined them independently. In any case, they both indicate Richardson's characteristic literary direction: 'meditatingly' shows the need for the accurate transcription of the feeling-tones of the characters; while 'scrupulosities' is a useful piece of shorthand to denote all the restraints great and small which dominate the inner world of his characters.

Lord Chesterfield, interestingly enough, seems to have been aware of the connection between Richardson's breach with linguistic decorum and the fact that his eye was on a new literary object. He connected Richardson's uneducated 'small talk' with his 'great knowledge and skill both in painting and in interesting the heart', and conceded that Richardson had 'even coined some expressions for those little secret movements that are admirable'. 2 He did not, unfortunately, specify what words he had in mind, but three of Richardson's actual coinages may be cited which offer some support for his view: 'Childbed matronises the giddiest spirits' 3 is evidence of the need to pin down a whole complex psychological development in a single word; Clarissa offers us the first recorded usage of the word personalities' meaning 'individual traits', long before its modern usage in the singular was established; while Grandison provides us with 'femalities' which is indeed 'a peculiar but expressive word of Mr. Selby's'. 4

The letter form, then, offered Richardson a short-cut, as it were, to the heart, and encouraged him to express what he found there with the greatest possible precision, even at the cost of shocking the literary traditionalists. As a result, his readers found in his novels the same complete engrossment of their inner feelings, and the same welcome withdrawal into an imaginary

Critical Remarks on Sir Charles Grandison, Clarissa and Pamela By a Lover of Virtue, 1754, p. 4. Shenstone parodied Richardson's neologisms in the passage cited above, which contains the first use of 'scrattle' recorded in the O.E.D.

Letter to David Mallet, 1733; cit. McKillop, Richardson, p. 220.

Familiar Letters on Important Occasions, 1741, Letter 141; the first reference given in the O.E.D., also by Richardson, is from Grandison.

Grandison, VI, 126.

world vibrant with more intimately satisfying personal relationships than ordinary life provided, that they had afforded Richardson in the writing: both author and readers, in fact, were continuing the tendencies and interests which had originally led to the development of the formal basis of the narrative mode of Pamela -- the development of the cult of familiar letterwriting.


On the stage, or through oral narration, the intimate and private effect of the letter form would be lost: print is the only medium for this type of literary effect. It is also the only possible mode of communication for modern urban culture. Aristotle thought that the proper size of the city should be limited by the need for the citizens to conduct their affairs in one meetingplace; 1 beyond this size the culture ceases to be oral, and writing becomes the main means of intercommunication; and with the later invention of printing there comes into being that typical feature of modern urbanisation which Lewis Mumford has called 'the pseudo-environment of paper' whereby 'what is visible and real is only what has been transferred to paper'. 2

The literary importance of the new medium is difficult to analyse. But it is at least clear that all the major literary forms were originally oral, and that this continued to affect their aims and conventions long after the advent of print. In the Elizabethan period, for instance, not only poetry but even prose were still composed primarily with a view to performance by the human voice. That literature was eventually to be printed was a minor matter, compared to pleasing patrons whose taste was formed on the old oral models. It was not until the rise of journalism that a new form of writing arose which was wholly dependent on printed performance, and the novel is perhaps the only literary genre which is essentially connected with the medium of print: it is therefore very appropriate that our first novelist should have been a printer himself.

Richardson's reliance on his trade for some of his characteristic literary effects has been noted by F. H. Wilcox: 'the very typographical form of Richardson's writings', he points out, 'bears witness to his passion for fidelity to the actual fact. No English writer has understood so well the literary possibilities

Politics, Bk. VII, ch. 4, sects. ii-xiv.

Culture of Cities, pp. 355-357.

of punctuation marks for inflections and rhythms of actual conversation.' 1 Richardson's freedom with italics, large letters, and the dash to indicate an incomplete sentence, certainly help to convey the impression of a literal transcript of reality, although they must surely have been regarded by many of his contemporaries as merely the result of an imperfect command of the normal resources of literary style. Their view, indeed, perhaps finds some justification in two very obtrusive typographical devices in Clarissa: the heroine's disjointed outbursts in her delirium are expressed in a jumble of poetical fragments printed at varying angles on the page in imitation of her original demented doodlings on 'Paper X'; and Lovelace's final cry 'LET THIS EXPIATE' is rendered in extra large capitals. 2

Richardson, however, exploited the resources of his medium in other and much more important ways. Print, as a mode of literary communication, has two characteristics which derive from its total impersonality: they may be called the authority and the illusion of print, and they give the novelist a tremendous flexibility of narrative approach, since they enable him to modulate effortlessly from the public to the private voice, from the realities of the Stock Exchange to those of the daydream.

The authority of print -- the impression that all that is printed is necessarily true -- was established very early. If Autolycus's ballads were in print, Mopsa was 'sure they are true'. 3 The innkeeper in Don Quixote has the same conviction about romances. 4 Print, to the reader, is no fallible specimen of humanity -- no actor, bard or speaker who must prove himself worthy of credence: it is a material reality which can be seen by all the world and will outlive everyone in it. Nothing printed has any of the individuality, the margin of error, the assertion of personal idiosyncrasy, which even the best manuscript retains; it is more like an impersonal fiat which -- partly because the State and the Church print their messages, and so hallow the medium -- has received the stamp of universal social approbation. We do not, instinctively at least and until experience has made us wise, question what has appeared in print.

Defoe, obviously, made great use of this authority of print: his stories tend towards the purely impersonal, historic narration

'Prvost's Translations of Richardson's Novels', Univ. California Pubs. in Modern Philolog, XII ( 1927), p. 389.

Clarissa, III, 209; IV, 530.

The Winter's Tale, Act IV, sc. iv.

Part I, ch. 32.

of events which is the method of journalism and reportage. It is of the essence of the newspaper that it pretends to be impersonal, to prevent the reader from asking 'Who made this up?'

The impersonal authority of print is complemented by its capacity for securing a complete penetration of the reader's subjective life. The mechanically produced and therefore identical letters set with absolute uniformity on the page are, of course, much more impersonal than any manuscript, but at the same time they can be read much more autohaatically: ceasing to be conscious of the printed page before our eyes we surrender ourselves entirely to the world of illusion which the printed novel describes. This effect is heightened by the fact that we are usually alone when we read, and that the book, for the time being, becomes a kind of extension of our personal life -- a private possession that we keep with us in our pocket or under the pillow, and that tells of an intimate world of which no one speaks out loud in ordinary life, a world which had previously found utterance only in the diary, the confession or the familiar letter, forms of expression exclusively addressed to one person, whether the writer himself, the priest or the close friend.

The private nature of the novel's mode of performance was a necessity both for the author and for the reader of Pamela or Clarissa. It is probable that, for psychological reasons, Richardson, as he himself said, could only have become an author with 'the umbrage of the editor's character to screen [himself] behind' 1 while as for the reader, it is a matter of common observation that the reactions of a group tend to be quite different from the reactions which the same individuals would make when alone. Richardson was quite aware of this. When the Rev. Dr. Lewen urges that Clarissa bring Lovelace to public trial for the rape she answers, quite realistically: 'Little advantage in a court would some of those pleas in my favour have been, which out of court, and to a private and serious audience, would have carried the greatest weight against him'. A bare summary of the events might suggest that Clarissa courted her fate; only a full knowledge of her sentiments and aspirations, and the certainty that Lovelace understood them well enough to realise the enormity of his offence, enable us to understand the real nature of the story. This is further exemplified in the brilliantly executed scene at the ball given by Colonel Ambrose

Correspondence, I, lxxvi

where Lovelace secures acceptance from a social group of which many members are friends of Clarissa's and know of his behaviour towards her: even Anna Howe is unable in public to make the effective protest that her feelings demand. 1

But the supreme reason for Richardson's dependence on the novel's mode of performance is, of course, his concern with that most private aspect of experience, the sexual life. The stage, in Western Europe at least, has never been able to go very far in the description of sexual behaviour, whereas in his novels Richardson was able to present much that in any other form would have been quite unacceptable to an audience whose public demeanour, at least, was very severely controlled by the intensified taboos of a Puritan morality.

Clarissa is an extreme example of this. Richardson's impersonal and anonymous role allowed him to project his own secret fantasies into a mysterious next room: and the privacy and anonymity of print placed the reader behind a keyhole where he, too, could peep in unobserved and witness rape being prepared, attempted and eventually carried, out. Neither the reader nor the author were violating any decorum: they were in exactly the same situation as Mandeville's virtuous young woman who exemplified the curious duality of public and private attitudes to sex. Her modesty in public was easily ruffled, but 'let them talk as much bawdy as they please in the room next to the same virtuous young woman, where she is sure that she is undiscovered, and she will hear, if not hearken to it, without blushing at all'. 2 Ironically enough, Richardsonhimself seems to have used a similar argument to defend himself against those who had censured the 'warm' scenes in Clarissa as exceeding 'the bounds of decency'. He either wrote himself, or inspired Mr. Urban to write, in the Gentleman's Magazine that ' a nice person of the sex may not be able to bear those scenes in action, and on the stage, in presence of a thousand witnesses, which she may not think objectible in her closet'. 3

The printing-press, then, provided a literary medium much less sensitive to the censorship of public attitudes than the stage, and one intrinsically better suited to the communication of private feelings and fantasies. One result of this was very apparent

Clarissa, IV, 184, 19-26.

'Remark C', Fable of the Bees, I, 66.

Cit. Dobson, Richardswi, pp. 100-101.

in the later development of the novel. After Richardson, many authors, publishers and circulating-library operators began to engage in the mass production of fiction which merely provided opportunities for daydreaming. Such, at least, was the opinion of Coleridge, in a memorable passage of Biographia Literaria:

As to the devotees of the circulating libraries, I dare not compliment their pass-time or rather kill-time with the name of reading. Call it rather a sort of beggarly day-dreaming, during which the mind of the dreamer furnishes for itself nothing but laziness and a little mawkish sensibility. While the whole materiel and imagery of the dose is supplied ab extra by a sort of camera obscura manufactured at the printing office, which, pro tempore fixes, reflects, and transmits the moving phantasms of one man's delirium, so as to people the barrenness of a hundred other brains afflicted with the same trance or suspension of all common sense and all definite purpose. . . . 1

It would be un ust to Richardson, however, to suggest that the main advantage which he derived from the private circuit which print offered between himself and his readers was to present them with the content of his own daydreams, much less make possible the description of actions which could not be presented publicly owing to censorship. For although much has been said about Richardson's 'keyhole view of life', which he undoubtedly used on occasion for unwholesome ends, it is also the essential basis of his remarkable opening up of the new domain of private experience for literary exploration. We must, after all, remember that the term itself is merely the pejorative form of the metaphor by which another great and dedicated student of the inner life, Henry James, expressed his belief in the necessity for the author's objectivity and detachment: for him the role of the novelist in the house of fiction is, if not that of the peeper through keyholes, at least that of 'the watcher at the window'. 2


Many social and technical changes, then, combined to assist Richardson in giving a fuller and more convincing presentation of the inner lives of his characters and of the complexities of

Ed. Shawcross, 1, 34, n.

See Prefaces, 'Portrait of a Lady', 'Wings of the Dove' ( Art ofthe Novel, ed. Blackrnur ( London, 1934), pp. 46, 306).

their personal relationships than literature had previously seen. This in turn brought about a much deeper and unqualified identification between the reader and these characters. For obvious reasons: we identify ourselves not with actions and situations but with the actors in them, and there had never before been such opportunities for unreserved participation in the inner lives of fictional characters as were offered by Richardson's presentation of the flow of consciousness of Pamela and Clarissa in their letters.

The contemporary reception of Richardson's novels shows this very clearly. Aaron Hill, for example, in a letter which Richardson reproduced in the prefatory matter to Pamela, described how he was transformed into all the characters in turn as he read: 'Now and then, I am Colbrand the Swiss; but, as broad as I stride, in that Character, I can never escape Mrs. Jewkes: who often keeps me awake in the Night'; 1 while Edward Young considered Clarissa 'his last amour'. 2 The testimony of Diderot shows that in France also Richardson's characters were felt to be completely real persons. In his loge de Richardson ( 1761) he relates how, when reading Clarissa, he would cry out involuntarily to the heroine: 'Don't believe him! He's deceiving you! If you go you'll be ruined!' As his reading drew to a close he 'felt the same sensations that people feel when they are about to part with close friends with whom they have lived for many years', and when he had finished he 'suddenly felt that he had been left alone'. The experience, indeed, had been so exhausting that when his friends saw him afterwards they wondered if he had been ill, and asked if he'd lost a friend, or a parent. 3

To some extent, of course, identification is a necessity of all literature, as it is of life. Man is a 'role-taking animal'; he becomes a human being and develops his personality as the result of innumerable outgoings of himself into the thoughts and feelings of others; 4 and all literature obviously depends upon this human capacity for projection into other people and their situations. Aristotle's theory of catharsis, for instance, presumes that the audience identifies itself to some extent with the tragic

Pamela, 2nd ed., 1741, I, xxx.

Richardson, Correspondence, II, 18.

Œuvres, ed. Billy ( Paris, 1946), pp. 1091, 1090, 1093.

On this see G. H. Mead, Mind, Self, and Society ( Chicago, 1934), especially pp. xvi-xxi, 134-138, 173, 257

hero: how could you be purged but by taking the same dose of salts?

Greek Tragedy, however, like the other literary forms which preceded the novel, contained many elements which limited the extent to which identification could take place. The circumstance of public theatrical performance, the nobility of the hero and the exceptional horror of his fate, all reminded members of the audience that what they were seeing was not life but art, and an art that was depicting people and situations very different from those offered by their own daily experience.

The novel, on the other hand, was inherently devoid of the elements which restricted identification, and this more absolute power over the reader's consciousness does much to account for the peculiar triumphs and degradations of the novel form in general. On the one hand it is capable of the unrivalled subtlety in the exploration of personality and personal relationships which is found in the work of the greatest novelists; 'the vast importance of the novel' for D. H. Lawrence is that it can 'inform and lead into new places the flow of our sympathetic consciousness lead our sympathy away in recoil from things gone dead reveal the most secret places of life'. 1 On the other hand, it is the same power over the consciousness which, far from extending psychological and moral awareness, makes possible the novel's role as a popular purveyor of vicarious sexual experience and adolescent wish-fulfilment.

Richardson has a unique place in the tradition of the novel because he initiates both these directions. Every discovery is rich in irony, because it is susceptible to such varied uses, but there is a particularly complete irony in the divergent uses to which Richardson put his literary discovery in his first work: for Pamela is both a very remarkable psychological study and an exploitation, as Cheyne wrote to Richardson, of what St. Paul 'like a polite man as well as a deep Christian' had forbidden when he wrote 'It is a shame for you to speak of those things that are done by you in secret'. 2

Cheyne was hinting at Fielding's most extreme accusation in Shamela -- the view that Pamela's popularity was due to the fact that it provided vicarious sexual stimulation. It is interesting to note that this charge is made in an introductory letter by Thomas Tickletext which is a close parody of Aaron Hill's

Lady Chatterley's Lover, ch. 9.

Letters to Richardson, pp. 68-69.

eulogy of Richardson's power to bring about a complete identification with his characters. Tickletext writes: '. . . if I lay the book down it comes after me. When it has dwelt all day long upon the ear, it takes possession all night of the Fancy. It has witchcraft in every page of it. -- Oh! I feel an emotion even while I am relating this: Methinks I see Pamela at this instant, with all the Pride of Ornament cast off.'

Fielding's mockery was not undeserved; some of the scenes in Pamela are more suggestive than anything in Boccaccio's Decameron, for example, although it is at first sight difficult to see why this should be so, given Richardson's virtuous intentions. One reason is certainly the greater secrecy surrounding sex in Richardson and his society. In Boccaccio the protagonists of both sexes freely avow their sexual feelings; and their deeds are related orally to a mixed audience without anyone being very seriously shocked, or even excited. Things were very different in the world of Richardson, and the secrecy surrounding the sexual life meant that every move made by Mr. B. engaged the shocked attention of Richardson's readers much more thoroughly than Boccaccio's treatment of the sexual act itself.

Another reason is probably to be found in the superficial decency of Richardson's descriptions-what Lawrence tellingly described as Richardson's union of 'calico purity and underclothing excitements'. 1 The moralists who approved of Pamela might well have heeded Dennis's argument that 'it is a very great error in some persons at present, to be so shy of bawdy, and so fond of love. For obscenity cannot be very dangerous, because it is rude and shocking; but love is a passion, which is so agreeable to the movements of corrupted nature, that by seeing it livelily touched and often represented, an amorous disposition insensible insinuates itself into the chastest breast.' 2 There is, indeed, some reason to believe that Richardson himself was not unaware of this antinomy; he remarked contemptuously of Sterne that 'one extenuating circumstance attends his works, that they are too gross to be inflaming'. 3 He might have said the same of Boccaccio, and we might reply that nothing could be less gross and yet more 'inflaming' than some of the passages in Pamela.

'Introduction to These Paintings', Phoenix, ed. MacDonald ( London, 1936), P. 552.

'A Large Account of Taste in Poetry', Critical Works, I, 284.

Correspondence, V, 146.

The main reason, however, why Richardson's erotic scenes are so much more suggestive than Boccaccio's is merely that the feelings of the actors involved are so much more real. We cannot know Boccaccio's characters in the Decameron, since they are only necessary devices for the presentation of an amusing situation; we do know Richardson's characters, and his exhaustive treatment of their reactions to each incident makes us imagine that we are participating in every fascinating advance and retreat as it is reflected in Pamela's excited sensibility.

The major objection, however, to Pamela and to the novelette tradition it inaugurates, is perhaps not so much that it is salacious but that it gives a new power to age-old deceptions of romance.

The story of Pamela, of course, is a modern variant of the ageold Cinderella theme. As the original occupations of both the heroines suggest, both stories are essentially compensations for the monotonous drudgery and limited perspectives of ordinary domestic life. By projecting themselves into the position of the heroine the readers of Pamela were able to change the impersonality and boredom of the actual world into a gratifying pattern whose every element was converted into something that gave excitement and admiration and love. Such are the attractions of romance, and Richardson's novel bears everywhere the marks of its romance origin -- from Pamela's name, which is that of Sidney's princess in the Arcadia, to her assertion of the pastoral heroine's freedom from economic and social realities when she proposes to seek refuge in nature and 'live, like a bird in winter, upon hips and haws'. 1 But it is romance with a difference: the fairy godmother, the prince and the pumpkin are replaced by morality, a substantial squire and a real coach-and-six.

This is no doubt the reason why Richardson, who so rarely gave his approval to any fiction except his own, was able to forget how close he was to providing exactly the same satisfactions as the romances he derided. His attention was so largely focussed on developing a more elaborate representational technique than fiction had ever seen before that it was easy to overlook the content to which it was being applied-to forget that his narrative skill was actually being used to re-create the pseudo-realism of the daydream, to give an air of authenticity

Pamela, I, 68.

to a triumph against all obstacles and contrary to every expectation, a triumph which was in the last analysis as improbable as any in romance.

This combination of romance and formal realism applied both to external actions and inward feelings is the formula which explains the power of the popular novel: it satisfies the romantic aspirations of its readers in a literary guide which gives so full a background and so complete an account of the minute-by-minute details of thought and sentiment that what is fundamentally an unreal flattery of the reader's dreams appears to be the literal truth. For this reason, the popular novel is obviously liable to severe moral censure where the fairy story or the romance is not: it pretends to be something else, and, mainly owing to the new power which accrued to formal realism as a result of the subjective direction which Richardson gave it, it confuses the differences between reality and dream more insidiously than any previous fiction.

The confusion itself, of course, was not new, at least since Don Quixote. But if we compare Don Quixote with Madame Bovary, its classic equivalent as regards the effects of the novel, the result of the novel form's apparent realism of action and background combined with its focus on the emotional life of the characters become apparent. Don Quixote is, after all, mad, and the distortions produced by romance issue in actions whose ridiculous unreality is evident to everyone, and even, eventually, to himself; whereas Emma Bovary's conception of reality and her own role in it, though equally distorted, is not seen to be so by her or by anyone else because its distortions exist primarily in the subjective sphere, and the attempt to carry them out does not involve any such obvious collisions with reality as those of Cervantes's hero: she is mistaken, not about sheep and windmills but about herself and her personal relationships.

In this Emma Bovary pays involuntary tribute to the way in which the novel's access to the inner life gives it a more pervasive and enduring sway than the romance, and one which is much more difficult either to escape or to assess. As far as this sway is concerned, indeed, the question of literary quality is not of first importance. For good and ill the novel's power over private experience has made it a major formative influence on the expectations and aspirations of the modern consciousness; as Madame de Stal truly wrote: 'les romans, même les

plus purs, font du mal; il nous ont trop appris ce qu'il y a de plus secret dans les sentiments. On ne peut plus rien prouver sans se souvenir presque de l'avoir lu, et tous les voiles du cœur ont t dchirs. Les anciens n'auraient jamais fait ainsi de leur ame un sujet de fiction.' 1

The development of the novel's concentration on private experience and personal relationships is associated with a series of paradoxes. It is paradoxical that the most powerful vicarious identification of readers with the feelings of fictional characters that literature had seen should have been produced by exploiting the qualities of print, the most impersonal, objective and public of the media of communication. It is further paradoxical that the process of urbanisation should, in the suburb, have led to a way of life that was more secluded and less social than ever before, and, at the same time, helped to bring about a literary form which was less concerned with the public and more with the private side of life than any previous one. And finally, it is also paradoxical that these two tendencies should have combined to assist the most apparently realistic of literary genres to become capable of a more thorough subversion of psychological and social reality than any previous one.

But the novel is capable of great illumination too, and so it is natural that our feelings about the genre itself and its social context should be mixed. Perhaps the most representative and inclusive presentation of the problem in all its dubieties is to be found in the supreme culmination of the formal trend that Richardson initiated -- James Joyce Ulysses. No book has gone beyond it in the literal transcription of all the states of consciousness, and no book in doing so has depended more completely on the medium of print. Further, its hero, as Lewis Mumford has pointed out, is a very complete symbol of the urban consciousness, regurgitating 'the contents of the newspaper and the advertisement, living in a hell of unfulfilled desires, vague wishes, enfeebling anxieties, morbid compulsions and dreary vacuities'. 2 Leopold Bloom is representative, too, in his devotion as a reader to the vicarious sexual prowesses offered in such novelettes as Sweets of Sin, and his relation, such as it is, with his wife, is coloured by their mutual addiction to such delights, and to the clichfis they derive from them. Again

De l'Allemagne, p. 84.

Culture of Cities, p. 271.

typically urban, Bloom does not belong to any one social group, but participates superficially in a great many of them; none, however, provide him with the affectionate understanding and the stable personal relationships for which he yearns, and his loneliness leads him to imagine that he has found in Stephen Dedalus the magic helper of folklore and daydream, the 'real friend' that David Simple sought.

There is nothing heroic about Bloom, nothing outstanding in any way; it is difficult at first sight to see why anyone should want to write about him; and there is, indeed, only one possible reason, which is also the reason by which the novel in general lives: despite all that can be said against Bloom his inner life is, if we can judge, infinitely more various, more interesting and certainly more conscious of itself and its personal relationships than that of his Homeric prototype. In this, too, Leopold Bloom is the climax of the tendencies we have been concerned with here: and Richardson, who is surely his spiritual kin, must be explained and, perhaps, justified by the same reasons.

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