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Since the publication of his novel Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded in 1740, Samuel Richardson's place in the English literary tradition has been secured. But how can that place best be described? Over the three centuries since embarking on his printing career the 'divine' novelist has been variously understood as moral crusader, advocate for women, pioneer of the realist novel and print innovator. Situating Richardson's work within these social, intellectual and material contexts, this new volume of essays identifies his centrality to the emergence of the novel, the self-help book, and the idea of the professional author, as well as his influence on the development of the modern English language, the capitalist economy, and gendered, medicalized, urban, and national identities. This book enables a fuller understanding and appreciation of Richardson's life, work and legacy, and points the way for future studies of one of English literature's most celebrated novelists.
MS: FM XI, ff. 58–61. Copy in the hand of William Richardson.
Endorsement: Letter 10 (in another hand); To Lady B. (in the hand of William Richardson); For the Lady's Answer to this Letter, see Letter xiii p. 91 (in SR's hand).
London, Jan. 4. 1754.
Your Ladiship seems not to expect a Reply to your last Favour: But I think myself too much obliged by every Line you send me, to accept of the Dispensation, and forbear to trouble you; especially as you seem to threaten me with a much longer Silence than I wish for, as it is to extend to the Time of publishing the concluding Volume; several Causes conspiring to delay that, perhaps till some time in the nextMonth.
Your Ladiship takes Notice, “that Sir Charles, in praising Miss Byron, distinguishing her noble Frankness of Heart, as superior to that of all Women but one. That he makes this Exception in several Places; but that when he pronounced Clementina the best, the noblest, the most amiable, &c.” [By the way, does he say, the most amiable?] “no Exception was thought necessary, nor any Equal supposed.”
As to the first Part of this Observation, does not your Ladiship consider his Situation? But just returned from Clementina, whose Merits had so greatly risen upon him, that he must have been unjust had he not admired her more in the Rejection of him, the Manner so noble, than he did when he was more assured of her Countenance. He was sensible that Miss Byron knew the whole Story, and that she must expect him to have the highest Regard for a Woman whose Merits even she had preferred to her own. Could he have made Miss Byron herself a higher Compliment than he did by this Exception; which, however, only extends in this one Point of Frankness of Heart (an unenviable one in your Ladiship's Opinion) to an Equality? What must he have been, had he been able to put the noble Clementina out of his Thoughts, when he addressed himself to Harriet; who, as I said, knew all her Story?