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owing to the contempt thus shown for Richardson's first and feeblest work that he is now so little known. Yet there is this to be said for Pamela, that it made a revolution in the art of novel writing, and that it set Fielding himself on his legs. Fielding began Joseph Andrews in jest, but he finished it in all seriousness, and made himself a great name, overshadowing that of Richardson, by following Richardson's example. “Hitherto,” says Sir Walter Scott, “romances had been written, generally speaking, in the old French taste, containing the protracted amours of princes and princesses, told in language coldly extravagant and metaphysically absurd. In these wearisome performances there appeared not the most distant allusion to the ordinary tone of feeling, the slightest attempt to paint mankind as it exists in the ordinary walks of life—all was rant and bombast, stilt and buskin. It will be Richardson's eternal praise, did he merit no more, that he tore from his personages those painted vizards which concealed, under a clumsy and affected disguise, everything like the natural lineaments of the human countenance, and placed them before us barefaced in all the actual changes of feature and complexion and all the light and shade of human passion. It requires a reader to be in some degree acquainted with the huge folios of inanity, over which our ancestors yawned themselves to sleep, ere he can estimate the delight they must have experienced from this return to truth and nature.”
Pamela, which made this revolution and created a great sensation, was published in 1740, when the author was fifty-one years of age; which reminds one of Thackeray's saying, that no man can well write a novel after fifty. Richardson was close upon sixty when his masterpiece, Clarissa, was published; and he was sixty-five when Sir Charles Grandison, which ranks next in importance, made its appearance. The honest man was delighted at his own success, and had the satisfaction of knowing that, though his sons and daughters died, the children of his brain would live. He had an enjoyment of praise which a man's contemporaries dislike, though, when he is dead, we pardon it easily. Why should we grudge the good man his eagerness for esteem? He has lived a dull plodding liferespectable but inglorious ; seems but one of the common herd of citizens—podgy, patient, content in his insignificance, and aiming, as the crown of his ambition, to be the master of his guild. Suddenly, at the mature age of fifty-one, when many a man thinks of retiring from business, he finds himself famous; he has won a name in the literature of his country; he has astonished the world; he will go down to posterity. What wonder if his heart is in his mouth at the change in his expectations; if he
can scarcely believe it true; and if he is greedy for every scrap of assurance from the chronicle of his success?
But his friends and neighbours could not take this into account ; they tittered over his appetite for praise ; and they told, with envious delight, queer stories of the way in which ever and anon it was mortified. Boswell, who, bestowing worship on one great man, took it out in dispraise of others, had, of course, his malicious tale to tell. “A literary lady," he says, and he means Mrs. Lennox, “has favoured me with a characteristic anecdote of Richardson.. One day, at his country house at Northend, where a large company was assembled at dinner, a gentleman, who was just returned from Paris, wishing to please Richardson, mentioned to him a flattering circumstance, that he had seen his Clarissa lying on the king's brother's table. Richardson, observing that part of the company were engaged in talking to each other, affected then not to attend to it; but, by-and-by, when there was a general silence, and he thought that the flattery might be fully heard, he addressed himself to the gentleman: 'I think, sir, you were saying something about --' pausing in a high flutter of expectation. The gentleman, provoked at his inordinate vanity, resolved not to indulge it, and with an exquisitely sly air of indifference, answered : 'A mere trifle, sir; not worth repeating!! The mortification of Richardson was visible, and he did not speak ten words more the whole day. Dr. Johnson was present, and appeared to enjoy it much.” All very fine, we may now say; but we are not going to quarrel with the honest printer, son of a carpenter, who had passed all his days in obscurity, because, when he came to the end of them, the discovery that he was somebody made him palpitate, and he was not proud enough to conceal it.
He surrounded himself with folks who enjoyed his society, who ministered to his love of praise, and who listened to his stories in their progress. These were chiefly ladies, who rustled their silks about the kindly old man and plied him with letters. But among them were to be found some of the other sex, and, notably, that jaded reprobate, Colley Cibber. Colley would get the loose sheets of Sir Charles Grandison to read, and say at one time: “I have just finished the sheets you favoured me with ; but never found so strong a proof of your sly nature, as to have hung me upon tenters, till I see you again. Z-ds! I have not patience, till I know what's become of her. Why, you!—I don't know what to call you !—Ah! ah! you may laugh if you please ; but how will you be able to look me in the face, if the lady should ever be able to show hers again? What piteous, d-d, disgraceful pickle have you plunged her in ?
For God's sake send me the sequel ; or—I don't know what to say.” Then again : “ The delicious meal I made of Miss Byron on Sunday last, has given me an appetite for another slice of her, off from the spit, before she is served up to the public table; if about five o'clock to-morrow afternoon will not be inconvenient, Mrs. Brown and I will come and piddle upon a bit more of her ; but pray let your whole family, with Mrs. Richardson at the head of them, come in for their share.”
It is chiefly, however, by women that Richardson was surrounded. They loved his purity and his goodness; and they were not backward in giving him the incense which men rarely offer to men. One lady indeed expressed a wish that he were himself a lady; and for her wish she gave an odd Hibernian reason. “I am more and more charmed with your Clarissa,” she says; “it is indeed a noble character; but, I fear, nowhere to be met with except in your letters. What a pity it is you are not a woman, and blest with means of shining as she did; for a person capable of drawing such a character would certainly be able to act in the same manner, if in a like situation !" It is to be feared, however, that if Richardson were indeed a woman, neither this Cleomira, nor the other fair dames who gathered around him, would have been so lavish of their admiration. As it was, the novelist led a pleasant life