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Pamela’s Fables: Aesopian writing and political implication in Samuel Richardson and Sir Roger L’Estrange1

Tom Keymer
p. 43-60


Cet article traite de Samuel Richardson

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  • 1  Cet article est le résultat d'une communication faite à l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne - Paris IV (...)
  • 2 Selected Letters ofSamuelRichardson, ed. John Carroll (Oxford : Clarendon, 1964), 232 (2 June 1753)
  • 3 Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson, 41 (c. 1 February 1741 ) ; T. C. Duncan Eaves and Ben D. Kim (...)

1The standard account of the origins of Pamela – Richardson's first novel, published in November 1740 – is compellingly simple. “Two Booksellers, my particular Friends, entreated me to write for them a little Volume of Letters, in a common Style, on such Subjects as might be of Use to those Country Readers who were unable to indite for themselves,” as Richardson later explained to his Dutch translator, Johannes Stinstra2. It was probably in September or October 1739 that he set to work, and with his famous taste for didacticism he saw the chance to target not only the epistolary practice but also the manners, morals and conduct of his readership. He began to devise exemplary fictional situations, allowing some of these to develop in sequences of several letters. “And, among the rest, I thought of giving one or two as cautions to young folks circumstanced as Pamela was,” he told Aaron Hill : “Little did I think, at first, of making one, much less two volumes of it.” But Pamela's story then seized his imagination, to grow irresistibly under his hands. “I therefore gave way to enlargement : and so Pamela became as you see her,” he told Hill, adding “that, by a memorandum on my copy, I began it Nov. 10 1739, and finished it Jan. 10 1739-40.” By this account the novel was drafted in a kind of white heat of creativity, at a rate of over three thousand words a day and in the intervals (as Richardson's biographers note) of a busy professional life as master printer. Meanwhile the letter-manual that he was originally writing (Letters Written to and for Particular Friends, on the Most Important Occasions, known normally as Familiar Letters) was laid aside, and was not to appear in print for a further year3.

  • 4 Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson, 232.
  • 5  M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, tr. C. Emerson and M. Holquist (Aus (...)

2“And hence sprung Pamela.”4 If Richardson's verb suggests a leap above and beyond the mundane occasion of Pamela's composition, however, his point has not always been taken. It is not that scholars have neglected Bakhtinian theories of the novel as a form in which the convergence of traditional languages and structures from various genres precludes any talk of a single presiding source. Much has been written about the multiplicity of Pamela's literary origins, not only in its broad generic affinities with romance or comedy but also in its more specific involvement in intertextual debate with such writers as Sidney and Pope5. At the same time, humanist critics have stressed the work's capacity to escape or transcend the banality of its most immediate point of departure. No argument has been enough, however, to dispel Pamela's popular reputation as an almost spontaneous outgrowth from Familiar Letters – and not entirely without reason, for it is hard to miss the extent to which, throughout the novel, the marks of Familiar Letters remain unerased. This is Pamela's significant generating text, it would seem, to which its most distinctive features may directly be traced. From it stem the colloquial language of the novel, its epistolary narrative form, its perpetual obsessive turn from fictional situation to moral injunction.

  • 6  William M. Sale, Jr, Samuel Richardson : A Bibliographical Record (New Haven : Yale UP, 1936) 3-6. (...)

3Yet there is another work of Richardson's dating from the same period – and, behind it, another long and vigorous tradition of formative influence - to which far less attention has been paid. On 20 November 1739, ten days after beginning work on Pamela, Richardson brought out his edition of Æsop's Fables. With Instructive Morals and Reflections, Abstracted from All Party Considerations, Adapted to All Capacities, and Design'd to Promote Religion, Morality and Universal Benevolence. Publication of this work coincided not only with Pamela but also with subsequent novels. A second edition was advertised in the endpapers to Clarissa's first instalment of December 1747 (II, 310) ; a “New” (and presumably third) edition was published on 18 December 1753, a week after the second instalment of Sir Charles Grandison6. ALsop's Fables, clearly, was a work on Richardson's mind as he wrote or prepared for publication all three of his major novels, and it closely followed or preceded each of them in its passage through the press.

  • 7  Richardson, Clarissa, 3rd edn (1751, rptd New York : AMS, 1990) V, 304-5.

4Internal evidence of the connection is no less compelling, for the traditional themes and methods of the fable-collection have prominence in all three novels. Some of Clarissa's most celebrated passages are overtly Aesopian – most obviously the fragment of text in which, after the rape, the heroine seeks to rewrite and understand her experience in the language of animal fable. Here a lady tames and keeps “a young Lion, or a Bear, I forget which – But a Bear, or a Tyger, I believe, it was.” After years of docility the beast resumes its nature and tears her to pieces. “And who was most to blame, I pray ? The Brute, or the Lady ?” Clarissa muses, her measured language lending a suppressed plangency to the traditional Aesopian striving for moral reflection : “The Lady, surely ! – For what she did, was out of nature, out of character, at least : What it did, was in its own nature.”7

5Clarissa represents the mature phase of Richardson's Aesopian mode, in which the construction of sinister, psychologically evocative new fables takes precedence, typically, over any mere rehearsal of the existing canon. In the case of Pamela alone, however, Æsop's Fables remains an important precursor-text, and one little less significant than Familiar Letters in establishing a precedent and a context – both formal and thematic – on which the novel could draw. Within the epistolary form that most overtly shapes Pamela's narrative, the mode of fable has a significance of its own – a significance that is not only local but also, in the end, overarching. The Aesopian canon also helps to shape and clarify the novel's thematic preoccupation with questions of power, oppression, resistance. It provides us now, moreover, with the opportunity to probe the important but notoriously intractable question of political implication in Richardson's writing.

The fables

6Four Aesopian fables have prominence in Pamela. Three are told or otherwise cited by the heroine and principal narrator, who declares herself an avid reader of such material. Towards the end of the novel, as Mr B falls increasingly under his new wife's moral and behavioural influence, he recalls a fourth himself.

  • 8  Richardson, Pamela, Everyman's Library edn, intr. M. Kinkead-Weekes (London : Dent, 1962) Unless o (...)

7The first fable comes in a letter most often cited for the celebrated moment in which Pamela, ever attentive to the semiotics of dress, divides her clothes into three bundles, rejecting her finery and embracing her simple homespun garb – “the companion of my poverty, and the witness of my honesty” – as she prepares (or so she thinks) to return to her parents. As she declares, with the levelling fervour which so often complicates her status as dutiful servant and future fine lady, this homespun garb “will be my highest comfort at my death, when all the riches and pomps of the world will be worse than the vilest rags that can be worn by beggars !”8 First, however, Pamela meditates on the frivolous accomplishments acquired during her time in the house of Mr B, and on their irrelevance to the life of virtuous austerity she must now resume. Listing her skills in singing, dancing, drawing and needlework, she asks :

Well now, what is all this to the purpose, as things have turned out ?

Why, no more nor less, than that I am like the grasshopper in the fable, which I have read of in my lady's book, as follows :

”As the ants were airing their provisions one winter, a hungry grasshopper (suppose it was poor me) begged charity of them. They told him, he should have wrought in summer, if he would not want in winter. 'Well,' says the grasshopper, 'but I was not idle, for I sung the whole season.' - 'Then,' said they, 'you'll e'en do well to make a merry year of it, and dance in winter to the tune you sung in summer.'” (62)

8Then, precisely following the traditional structure of the Aesopian fable, Pamela moves on to make her application and reflect discursively on it.

I shall make a fine figure with my singing and dancing when I come home ! I shall be unfit even for a May-day holiday ; for these minuets, rigadoons, and French dances, that I have been practising, will make me but ill company for my milkmaid companions that arc to be. I had better, as things arc, have learned to wash, scour, brew, bake, and such like. But I hope, if I can't get work, and can meet with a place, to learn these soon, if any body will have the goodness to bear with me till I am able : for, notwithstanding what my master says, I hope I have an humble and teachable mind ; and, next to God's grace, that is all my comfort, for I shall think nothing too mean that is honest. (62-3)

  • 9  Richardson, Æsop's Fables (New York : Garland Publishing, 1974), 129 (Fab. 164).
  • 10  Eighteenth-century views of luxury as eroding, subverting or corrupting the manners, morals and in (...)

9Here is a fable which amplifies, or distils into a memorable and suggestive epitome, an important aspect of Pamela's defiance towards Mr B, and by extension towards the life of privilege and luxury for which he stands. It is a fable of penitence, in which Pamela turns her back on the grasshopper-like frivolity of her former life ; it is a fable carrying with it, moreover, an implicit critique of that former life, which Mr B and the leisured elite from which he comes continue to live. It is not simply that (as Richardson puts it when moralizing upon this fable in his edition of Aesop) “industry is the business of a wise and a good man.” The fable also condemns the luxurious, the rakish, the indolent, who live off the labour of others : “It is hard to say of laziness or luxury, whether it be the more scandalous, or the more dangerous evil. The very soul of the slothful does but lie drowzing in his body, and the whole man is totally given up to his senses.”9 With language of this strength (and particularly with “luxury,” a word laden in the period with pejorative, and often politically oppositional, connotation),10 the fable is at one with the trenchancy with which Pamela herself denounces an elite whose self-indulgent conduct suggests levels of virtue in inverse proportion to their social rank. As she famously exclaims, “O keep me, heaven, from their high condition, if my mind shall ever be tainted with their vice, or polluted with so cruel and inconsiderate a contempt of that humble estate they behold with so much scorn !” (229).

10Once Pamela starts on Aesop, she seems to find it hard to stop. Only paragraphs later, she cites another fable ; but this time the tale in question is better known, and she need only allude to it in passing. Breaking off from the letter to her parents, she hears approaching footsteps. It is not Mr B, however, and she resumes her narrative, recalling in her relief a second fable : “I am as much frighted as were the city mouse and country mouse, in the same book of fables, at every thing that stirs. I have a power of these things to entertain you with in winter evenings, when I come home” (63). In Richardson's own edition, the fable in question tells of a country mouse used to living on “mouldy crusts, cheese-parings, musty oatmeal, rusty bacon, and the like.” On visiting her city sister, the country mouse is introduced to grander foods, and the two come out at night to feast on “the reliques of a mighty entertainment” :

The Country Mouse, who had never seen nor heard of such doings before, blessed herself at the change of her condition, when, as ill luck would have it, all on a sudden the doors flew open, and in comes a crew of noisy servants of both sexes, to feast upon the dainties that were left. This put the poor Mice to their wit's end how to save their skins ; the stranger especially, who had never been in such danger before : but she made a shift however for the present to slink into a corner, where she lay trembling and panting till the company went away. As soon as ever the house was quiet again ; well ! my court sister, says she, if this be the sauce to your rich meats, I'll e'en back to my cottage, and my mouldy cheese again ; for I had much rather lie knabbling of crusts, without fear or hazard, in my own hole, than be mistress of all the delicacies in the world, and subject to such terrifying alarms and dangers.

  • 11  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, 8-9 (Fab. 11). "Court" suggests not only the Hanoverian establishment b (...)

11In contrast to his treatment of “An Ant and a Grasshopper,” Richardson's brief reference in Pamela to this fable does little more than invoke a context for the reader, pointing us towards Aesop but leaving us to gather for ourselves the full relevance of this source for Pamela's condition. Yet its relevance is more than superficial, for as the Aesopian text makes clear when we turn to it, this is not just a fable about fear. In Richardson's hands it is a fable about being in the wrong place, as the virtuous peasant Pamela is ; and it is, like its predecessor, a fable which favourably contrasts the virtuous poverty of the world to which Pamela must return with the decadence and opulence of the world she seeks to leave. As Richardson's moral suggests (with a significant shift of emphasis from the generalized “city” of the fable to the more specific “court”), the latter world is one in which not only the moral integrity but also the physical safety of the innocent are at risk : “This Fable shews the difference between a court and a country life : the delights, innocence, and security of the one, compared with the anxiety, voluptuousness and hazards of the other.”11

  • 12  Richardson, Pamela, ed. Peter Sabor, intr. Margaret A. Doody (Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1980), 83. (...)

12Both these fables reflect implicitly or explicitly, then, on wealth and social status, a topic central to Pamela ; and both, like the novel, seem to locate virtue not with the parasitical inhabitants of mansions and courts but instead with the simple austerity of the poor. Here of course is the kernel of Pamela's allegation against the corrupted world of Mr B and its failure to recognize that, as she puts it, “VIRTUE is the only nobility.”12Disparity between rank and virtue, however, is not all that Pamela alleges. Her complaint is not simply that a wealthy and powerful gentleman so evidently lacks the true and active nobility which should accompany his station ; it is that he and his kind abuse their social pre-eminence (which comes to seem an increasingly unjust or arbitrary privilege) as a means of exploiting and oppressing the truly virtuous. Mr B, after all, imprisons his servant, and tries to rape her ; and Pamela's predicament as a powerless innocent, assailed by the very man in whose hands the administration of justice is locally vested, is voiced in the third of the fables to which she turns. During her Lincolnshire imprisonment, her complaint to Mr B about Mrs Jewkes's ill-treatment of her is laughed away :

I rose ; but said, with a deep sigh, “I have done, Sir ! – I have done ! – I have a strange tribunal to plead before. The poor sheep, in the fable, had such an one ; when it was tried before the vulture, on the accusation of the wolf !”

“So, Mrs. Jewkes,” said he, “you are the wolf, I the vulture, and this the poor innocent lamb on her trial before us ! – Oh ! you don't know how well this innocent is read in reflection. She has wit at will, when she has a mind to display her innocence, at the price of other people's character.”

“Well,” said the aggravating creature, “this is nothing to what she has called me ; I have been a Jezebel, a London prostitute, and what not ! – But I am content with her ill names, now I see it is her fashion, and she can call your honour a vulture.” (161-2)

13Here is perhaps the most trenchant of Pamela's fables, a grim tale about the fleecing of a sheep by a conspiracy of the powerful and corrupt, with Mr B presiding as the vulturous judge. It is also the most pessimistic, for where “City Mouse and Country Mouse” at least implies the possibility of retreat from the moral and practical dangers of a corrupted world, here the victim of the fable is systematically pursued by those who thrive in such a world and make its rules. The tale is adapted from "A Dog, a Sheep, and a Wolf in Richardson's collection :

A Dog brought an action of the case against a Sheep, for some certain measures of wheat, that he had lent him. The plaintiff proved the debt by three positive witnesses, the Wolf, the Kite, and the Vulture. The defendant was cast in costs and damages, and forced to sell the wool from his back to satisfy the creditor.


  • 13  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, 23 (Fab. 29).

It is not a straw matter, whether the main cause be right or wrong, or the charge true or false, where the bench, jury and witnesses are in a conspiracy against the prisoner13.

14Here is a thoroughly debased world, in which the administration of justice, and the power of defining truth itself, reside with the most notoriously unfastidious of predators or raptors (kites, wolves and vultures sharing a reputation not only for hunting prey but also for picking at carrion).

15The last and most briefly cited fable in Pamela, Mr B's, is perhaps the best known of all. Again it concerns power, though this time (Pamela being now married to Mr B) the less highly charged relations of power between husband and wife, not predator and prey. There remains something ominous, nonetheless, about the way in which Mr B urges (and implicitly threatens) Pamela that she must bend to his will : “when you are so good, like the slender reed, to bend to the hurricane, rather than, like the sturdy oak, to resist it, you will always stand firm in my kind opinion, while a contrary conduct would uproot you, with all your excellence, from my soul” (401). Equally, there is a surviving hint of Pamela's instinct for resistance to power as she reminds herself of his message : “That I must be as flexible as the reed in the fable, lest, by resisting the tempest, like the oak, I be torn up by the roots. – Well, I'll do the best I can ! – There is no great likelihood, I hope, that I should be too perverse : yet, sure, the tempest will not lay me quite level with the ground, neither” (406).

16The cautionary fable on which Mr B draws here is that of “An Oak and a Willow” :

In a controversy betwixt an Oak and a willow, the Oak upbraided the Willow, that it was weak and wavering, and gave way to every blast ; while he scorn'd, he said, to bend to the most raging tempests, which he despis'd as they whistled by him. Some very little while after this dispute, it blew a most violent storm. The Willow ply'd and gave way to the gust, and still recovered itself again, without receiving any damage : but the Oak, stubbornly resisting the hurricane, was torn up by the roots.

17Richardson's moral then advises a cautious pragmatism not only in private life – the sense called on in Pamela by Mr B – but very clearly in public life as well :

  • 14  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, 127-8 (Fab. 163).

A stiff and a stubborn obstinacy is not so much firmness and resolution, as wilfulness. A wise man will yield to the necessity of his affairs, and of the times, in all honest cases, rather than expose himself and family to inevitable ruin14.

L'Estrange and the politics of fable

  • 15  Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) “Power.”
  • 16  Pierce, 144.

18We have here, then, four fables which amplify Pamela's story by analogy, or which crystallize aspects of her struggle with Mr B into simple, vivid, memorable, suggestive tales. They distil that conflict to the barest of essentials – the mouse who flees an opulent yet perilous environment ; the sheep standing trial before the very predators who mean to fleece her ; the reed which bends in order not to be broken. Above all, these fables imply a shared concern with questions of power and its abuse (a concern explicitly developed in related passages of reflection) ; and the instinctive ease with which Pamela herself refers to them shows that they provide her with ways of considering such questions as she first resists the power of Mr B and then, in marriage, reaches her accommodation with it. For it is made quite clear that Pamela knows these fables (not only the few she cites but a whole collection) very well – perhaps as well, indeed, as the Psalms, the other main interpretative model through which she comes to frame and shape her experience into a coherent tale of persecuted righteousness. In the passages quoted above, she talks about reading these Aesopian models in “my lady's book,” a “book of fables” which has left her armed with a much larger repertoire – “a power of these things,” as she puts it, to entertain her parents with in winter evenings. And “power” is certainly the word. Used here in Johnson's thirteenth sense (“A large quantity ; a great number. In low language : as, a power of good things”)15 the word hints also at the rhetorical power which Pamela draws from the fable tradition as she analyses the practical power of Mr B. That point is not lost on her adversary. As he complains to Mrs Jewkes, these fables have given her a formidable expertise in the quintessentially Aesopian skills of reflection and application, “when she has a mind to display her innocence, at the price of other people's character.” They seem to have instilled in her a facility, indeed, which puts her on the brink of swelling the canon herself. As has recently been noted,16 there is a distinctly Aesopian ring to the moment when Pamela returns to the water a carp she has caught, struck by analogy with herself :

“O Mrs. Jewkes !” said I, “I was thinking this poor carp was the unhappy Pamela. I was comparing you and myself to my naughty master. As we hooked and deceived the poor carp, so was I betrayed by false baits ; and when you said, 'Play it, play it,' it went to my heart to think I should sport with the destruction of the poor fish I had betrayed ; I could not but fling it in again : And did you not see the joy with which the happy carp flounced from us ?” (113)

19Though falling short of fable in terms of its rudimentary and unsurprising narrative development, Pamela's speech does indeed demonstrate the Aesopian skill of reflection with which she is credited (or for which she is blamed) by Mr B. She grasps once again the usefulness of the Aesopian mode for protesting at abuses of power : “‘O !’ said I, ‘may some good merciful body procure me my liberty in the same manner ; for I think my danger equal !’” (113).

  • 17  Richardson, Pamela, 6th edn (1742) I, 118, cited by Hornbeak, 30.
  • 18  Eaves and Kimpel, 80, citing December editions of the Daily Gazetteer, Daily Post and Daily Advert (...)

20Let us then turn more precisely to this book of “my lady's” (Pamela's late mistress, the mother of Mr B) in which Pamela is so very well read, and from which she learns so much. Or let us turn to these books – for there is an ambiguity here. After the grasshopper fable in the sixth edition of Pamela (1742), Richardson inserts a footnote inviting readers to go directly to Pamela's source and consult it for themselves : “See the Æsop's Fables, sold by J. Osborn, in Pater-noster Row, which has lately been corrected and reform'd from those of Sir R. L'Estrange, and the most eminent mythologists.”17 Here Richardson is discreetly advertising his own wares, for the volume sold by John Osborn in Pater-Noster Row is of course his own recent edition. Newspaper advertisements in the same year were more direct, promoting this book as specifically “the Æsop quoted in Pamela.”18

  • 19  See the Penguin edition of Pamela, ed. Sabor, 521 n. 52.
  • 20  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, i. In specifying “English editions,” Richardson possibly means to exclu (...)

21Yet here was a conspicuous anachronism, for in the same edition of 1742 Richardson clearly dates the events in the novel and its continuation to the period between 1717 and 1730,19 which is to say the early years of the Hanoverian succession and the Whig political ascendancy established on the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and the failure of the Jacobite rebellion in 1715. At this time Richardson's Aesop had not of course been published, and cannot have been the “book of fables” in the library of Pamela's mistress. The edition in question can be readily identified, however. Richardson himself insists in the Preface to Æsop's Fables that only two previous English editions are “worthy of notice ; to wit, that of the celebrated Sir Roger L'Estrange, and that which appears under the name of S. Croxal.”20The disdainful phrasing makes plain enough Richardson's dislike of the latter edition, Samuel Croxall's Fables of Æsop and Others, which in any case did not appear until 1722. Only L'Estrange's Fables, of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists (1692) was in print when the action of Pamela opens ; and comparison makes clear that it is indeed this edition (though with modifications to L'Estrange's distinctive and vigorous anecdotal style) from which Pamela quotes the grasshopper fable :

  • 21  L'Estrange, Fables, of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists (1692) 189.

As the Ants were Airing their Provisions One Winter, Up comes a Hungry Grasshopper to 'em, and begs a Charity. They told him that he should have Wrought in Summer, if he would not have Wanted in Winter. Well says the Grasshopper, but 1 was not Idle neither ; for I Sung out the Whole Season. Nay then, said they, You shall e'en do Well to make a Merry Year on't, and Dance in Winter to the Tune that You Sung in Summer.21

  • 22  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, VI-VII ; Shenstone, Works (1764-9) III, 361, cited by Hornbeak 47 ; Ric (...)

22In fact it was this very prominent work – successful enough to be in its eighth edition by 1738 – on which Richardson quite openly modelled his own Aesop of 1739. He had been happy simply to follow L'Estrange “for the sake of the benefit which the English tongue has received from his masterly hand ; for the sake of that fine humour, apposite language, accurate and lively manner, which will always render Sir Roger delightful.” This high praise for L'Estrange as both stylist and wit did not meet with the approval of all : William Shenstone, for one, complained that "Richardson's Improvement of L'Estrange would be a better collection, both for the Fables, and the moral Reflections, had he not admitted, through an extravagant and mistaken love of drollery, that vulgarity in phrase which in many places is not common English.” Richardson's praise does suggest, however, that in connection with his own literary development L'Estrange may well be a precursor worth exploring beyond the purely Aesopian matters considered in this paper – not least in his capacity as translator not only of Josephus (the “half-sacred, and half-profane author” cited with relish by Lovelace in Clarissa but also of Lettres portugaises (1669), the very prototype of modern epistolary fiction.22

23Yet the Aesopian translation of L'Estrange's which Richardson here praises was nonetheless a very peculiar work (and one he was anxious to represent as in some important respects unlike his own). In the first place, L'Estrange's is obviously not a children's book, as Richardson's declares itself to be (at least in part) in its modest format, its title-page claim to speak “to All Capacities,” and its clumsy little illustrative cuts. The L'Estrange volume, by constrast, is a large and handsome folio, five hundred pages long and illustrated with fine engravings including a portrait of the translator himself by Sir Godfrey Kneller. It takes only a glance to see that this is no mere children's book. Its lavish appearance bears witness to a more dignified role : here is a volume more likely to belong in the libraries of the gentry or aristocracy – just where Pamela finds it, of course – than in the nurseries of middle-class infants.

24The text itself, with the strange relative proportions of the three categories into which L'Estrange organizes each fable, suggests the same. First comes the fable itself, tersely told, often in no more than five or six sentences, sometimes in as few as two or three. Narrative, it would seem, is of little interest to L'Estrange. Nor, it would seem, is the moral, which rarely runs beyond a sentence or two. By far the largest and most significant element is the long reflection which L'Estrange then appends, set in smaller type than the fable itself, yet often running nonetheless to over a page. In “An Oak and a Willow” – the fable recollected by Mr B, with its question of whether to bend or break under the pressure of an irresistible power – ten lines of narrative are followed by two of moral and fifty-two of reflection. This is reflection, moreover, of considerable intricacy and solemnity :

  • 23  L'Estrange, 188.

There are Tryals of Men, as well as Tryals of Trees. Storms or Inundations are the same Thing to the One, that the Iniquity of such or such an Age, or Conjuncture, is to the other. Now 'tis not Courage but Stomach, that makes many People Break, rather then they will Bend ; even though a Yielding upon that Puntillo (and with a Good Conscience too) might perhaps have sav'd a State. Fractures Undoubtedly are Dangerous, where the Publick is to be Crush'd under the Ruine : But yet after All This Descanting, and Modifying upon the Matter, there's no less Hazzard on the Yielding-side too, than there is on the other. Men may be Stiff and Obstinate, upon a Wrong Ground, and Men may Ply, and Truckle too, upon as False a Foundation. Our Bodies may be fore'd, but our Minds Cannot : So that Humane Frailty is No Excuse for a Criminal Immorality.23

25And here we face the third peculiar feature of L'Estrange's Aesop - its conspicuous refusal to suppy the transparency or simplicity of meaning that modern readers, at least, will expect of a fable.

26Yet from the sheer difficulty that we, three hundred years later, are likely to have in following the intricacies of L'Estrange's reflection, we may at least be sure of one thing : that he is speaking in code. The code, moreover, is clearly a political one, in which L'Estrange seems to apply the Aesopian form to purposes of disguised (or at least indirect) political protest, covertly addressed to his readers in circumvention of censorship. In “An Oak and a Willow,” he turns a superficially innocuous fable into an opportunity for political analysis – an opportunity to deplore the power of an oppressive regime, and to consider whether those opposed to it must resist and so be broken, or whether they may conscientiously bend like the willow and wait to rise again in more hopeful times. “Tryals of Men, as well as Tryals of Trees” ; “the Iniquity of such or such an Age” ; “even though a Yielding... might perhaps have sav'd a State” ; “where the Publick is to be Crush'd under the Ruine” ; “Our Bodies may be forc'd, but our Minds Cannot” : these phrases are loaded with innuendo of a politically oppositional kind, and indeed with a highly specific strain of political exhortation.

  • 24  Annabel Patterson, Fables of Power : Aesopian Writing and Political History (Durham : Duke UP, 199 (...)

27Yet in the end it would be misleading to identify this superficially peculiar feature of L'Estrange's Aesop as anything other than typical, in fact, of the form. Disguised levels of meaning will seem odd only so long as we expect the Aesopian fable to be a transparent mode, innocent of politics, for the amusement or instruction of infants. Yet that is not its historic role, as Annabel Patterson's recent survey of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century Aesopian writing makes clear. Originating according to tradition in the words of a slave, as Patterson writes, Aesopian fables in this period “quickly acquired or recovered their function as a medium of political analysis and communication, especially in the form of a communication from or on behalf of the politically powerless.” Congregating in particular around moments of high political turbulence – the Civil Wars of the 1640s, or in L'Estrange's case the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688-9 – Aesopian translations provided an emphatic symbolic language of political suasion, while also making possible the circumvention of censorship or the tactical disavowal, by the authors or translators concerned, of seditious meanings. Besides the numerous fable-collections of the period, major works of political implication – Spenser's Mother Hubberds Tale under Elizabeth ; Dryden's The Hind and the Panther before the Glorious Revolution – adapt the form, exploiting its superficial innocence to rhetorical effect. Even in the twentieth century a work of political allegory like Orwell's Animal Farm looks directly back to Aesopian traditions of political encoding.24

28In 1692, Sir Roger L'Estrange was a man peculiarly expert in, and peculiarly in need of, strategic political encoding of this kind. Writing in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution which displaced the last Stuart King, James II, for William of Orange, L'Estrange was a passionate Filmerian and Jacobite. In his youth he had fought on the Royalist side in the Civil Wars, being condemned to death in 1644 (only to be reprieved by the Lords) for conspiratorial activities in Norfolk ; he later wrote against the republicanism of Milton in a pamphlet of 1660 named (with characteristic robustness) No Blinde Guides. After the Restoration he was appointed Surveyor and Licenser of the Press, outlining his theories in Considerations and Proposals in order to the Regulation of the Press : Together with Diverse Instances of Treasonous, and Seditious Pamphlets Proving the Necessity Thereof (1663) ; and in this capacity he administered for years the system of formal pre-censorship through which the press was regulated under Charles II, acquiring along the way the unrivalled expertise in the processes, tactics and boundaries of political innuendo that his edition of Aesop would so brilliantly display. At the Revolution, when L'Estrange's fortunes changed dramatically for the worse, the gamekeeper turned poacher. Arrested for “writing and dispersing treasonable papers against the Government” (as he was again during the conspiracy scares of 1691 and 1696), he saw many of his political friends, patrons and associates fare considerably worse. And so he turned to Aesop, outlining in his Preface a sophisticated theory of functional ambiguity, and burying within it an audaciously direct reference to the self-proclaimed roles of William III and his Whiggish patrons as defenders of liberty and faith :

  • 25  L'Estrange A2-A2v. On L'Estrange's career see George Kitchin, Sir Roger L'Estrange : A Contributio (...)

For there's Nothing makes a Deeper Impression upon the Minds of Men, or comes more Lively to their Understanding, then Those Instructive Notices that are Convey'd to them by Glances, Insinuations, and Surprize : and under the Cover of some Allegory or Riddle. ... As what's more Ordinary, for Example, then for the most Arbitrary of Tyrants, to set up for the Advocates and Patrons of Common Liberty ; or for the most Profligate of Scoffers and Atheists, to Value themselves upon a Zeal for the Power, and Purity of the Gospel ? In two Words, What's more Familiar then to see Men Fighting the Lord's Battels (as they call it) against Blasphemy and Prophaneness, with One hand : and at the same time offering Violence to his Holy Altars, Church and Ministers with the Other : Now These People are not to be dealt withal, but by a Train of Mystery and Circumlocution.25

  • 26  L'Estrange, 21.

29There is little real mystery or circumlocution, however, about the many fables which L'Estrange imbues with obvious relevance to the traumatic events of 1688-9. Fable after fable tells of a people thinking itself oppressed, calling in a foreign power for deliverance, and then finding its oppression redoubled under the tyranny of a new regime. Fable XX (echoing The Hind and the Panther) tells that “The Pigeons finding themselves persecuted by the Kite, made Choice of the Hawk for their Guardian. The Hawk sets up for their Protector ; but under Countenance of That Authority, makes more Havock in the Dove-House in Two Days, than the Kite could have done in Twice as many Months.” L'Estrange's moral then warns that “Tis a Dangerous Thing for People to call in a Powerful and an Ambitions man for their Protector.” In the preceding fable, “The Frogs Chuse a King,” he slips in what is perhaps his most forthright declaration of the ideology of kingship by divine right which had underpinned the rule of the Stuarts : “That Kings are from God, and that it is a Sin, a Folly, and a Madness, to struggle with his Appointments.”26

  • 27  Croxall emerges from the Dictionary of National Biography as a true man of the age. Beginning the (...)

30Forty-seven years later, Richardson's own position in relation to the politics of L'Estrange was an odd one. His Preface to Æsop's Fables voices disapproval of L'Estrange's Jacobite sympathies. This was so compulsory a gesture at the time as in itself to be largely meaningless, however, and in context the striking thing is not so much that Richardson makes it as that he makes it in so half-hearted a way. Rather than criticize L'Estrange directly, he prefers to quote (while at the same time disparaging) the strident attacks of L'Estrange's rival fabulist of 1722, Dr Samuel Croxall – a smug and cynical Hanoverian Whig27 who parrots the libertarian platitudes of the political oligarchy which had inherited (or, according to some Opposition allegations, hijacked) the work of the Glorious Revolution. The effect is an odd one, in which Richardson makes to endorse Croxall's pro-establishment statements, while parenthetically discrediting their source with unusual venom. One flatulent disquisition (“the children of Britain ... are born with free blood in their veins, and suck in liberty with their very milk”) prompts him to call Croxall “this tedious declaimer.” He then concludes a further quotation with heavy sarcasm : “We greatly applaud this pompous declaration of the good Gentleman's principles.” For L'Estrange, on the other hand, he has what for the period were unusually tolerant words. Having conceded that “Sir Roger was certainly listed in a bad cause as to politicks, and his reflections have many of them a pernicious tendency,” he mounts a careful defence :

But the time in which he wrote, within view, in a manner, of the civil wars so lately concluded, and the anarchy introduced by them, to so great an extreme of one side, was so naturally productive of an extreme on the other, that many very great men of that time fell into the same error with Sir Roger : and perhaps a charitable mind, duly reflecting upon this, and not intent upon partial or selfish views, would have found something to have said, if not in excuse, yet in extenuation, of the fault.

  • 28  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, V, IX, VI, X.

31Richardson then quietly contrasts L'Estrange's sincerity with the time-serving careerism of Croxall, while also hinting that the allegations of persecution with which L'Estrange's edition is shot through were far from unfounded : “Sir Roger suffered for his principles, bad as they were : and the Doctor, we hope, for the sake of the publick, as well as for his own sake, will never be called upon to such trials.”28

  • 29  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, XII.

32Debate still surrounds the vagaries of Richardson's own political sympathies, not least because he was so reticent about them himself. Of his own Aesop he declares that “wherever the fable compelled, as we may say, a political turn, we have, in our reflections upon it, always given that preference to the principles of LIBERTY, which we hope will for ever be the distinguishing characteristic of a Briton.”29Like so many of his political remarks, however, this amounts to little more than a declaration in favour of motherhood and apple pie. While telling us the obvious fact that Richardson was not a jure divino Jacobite, at any rate, it tells us little more : such language would be entirely consistent with ministerial propaganda of the kind turned out by Croxall, but it would be equally consistent with Opposition Whig, Tory and even Jacobite complaints at ministerial efforts to monopolize (while in practise flouting) the rhetoric and principles of liberty.

  • 30 The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe, ed. Richardson (1740), iv. On Richardsonis politics, see Eaves (...)
  • 31  Eaves and Kimpel 21 ; Richardson, Æsop's Fables, v.

33We do know that in later life (or, to be more precise, in the new climate following the fall of Walpole and the failure of the second Jacobite rising of 1745) Richardson's statements are unambiguously anti-Tory, anti-Jacobite and pro-Whig. At the slightly earlier date of Æsop's Fables and Pamela, he seems content to make the expected remarks in favour of the Glorious Revolution and its Hanoverian heirs ; but here we find a significant difference of tone, and (as in his Aesopian Preface) a marked tendency to hint at reservations. Even his superficially straightforward dedication to George II of The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe (which ends in a “fervent prayer ... that these Nations may be always happily governed by a Prince of Your Royal House to the End of Time”)30 leaves one wondering, for example, about the force and implication of “happily” in this context (might these nations be, or have they been, unhappily governed by such a prince, then ?). In such ways, Richardson's more ambivalent political remarks of 1739-40 seem to place him midway between the placid conformism of his last years and the very different picture that seems to emerge as one looks back to the earliest (and shadiest) phases of his career. Here we have less immediate access to Richardson's words, but his actions speak volumes. In particular, his printing on behalf of the Duke of Wharton, Francis Atterbury and Atterbury's fellow-conspirator George Kelly during the Jacobite treason trials of 1723 makes clear that in professional terms he was keeping some very dangerous, and politically extremist, company. He was even rumoured to have written an issue (the sixth) of Wharton's The True Briton, an implicitly Jacobite journal which complained that the principles of liberty on which the Glorious Revolution had been founded were now being used as a smokescrean for corrupt, exploitative and increasingly oppressive rule by the Hanoverian Whigs. Richardson found himself on a ministerial blacklist at this time as one of the printers “Said to be High Flyers” – the very euphemism for extreme Tory that Richardson himself uses to describe L'Estrange (“high- flier as he was”) in Æsop's Fables.31

34Whatever Richardson's political instincts at the precise juncture when Æsop's Fables was published and Pamela first drafted, one thing is certain. Though declaring his edition apolitical – he says he will follow L'Estrange “every-where, except in his political reflections” – he in fact retains a great deal of the oppositional gist of L'Estrange's text. Certainly, he tones down (as he no doubt both wanted and had to) L'Estrange's most obviously Jacobite declarations, especially where they touched on divine-right ideology. While dispensing with the theoretical component of L'Estrange's Jacobitism, however, he seems to have been happy to echo its more practical allegations against the post-Revolution order. He retains a striking quantity of L'Estrange's anti-establishment innuendoes and complaints, and observes the same habit of using fable to represent the new political elite as corrupt and exploitative in its dealings with the nation beneath it. Thus, in his own edition of Aesop, the four fables to which Richardson turns in Pamela retain much of the oppositional charge with which L'Estrange had initially imbued them. The fable of the mice survives as a thinly disguised satire on the Hanoverian court and its associated political interest, alleging degeneracy and corruption :

The splendor and the luxury of a court are but a poor recompence for the slavish attendances, the invidious competitions, and the mortal disappointments that accompany it. The uncertain favour of princes, and the envy of those who judge by hearsay or appearance, without either reason or truth, make even the best sort of court lives miserable. To say nothing of the innumerable temptations, vices and excesses of a life of pomp and pleasure.

  • 32  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, xi, 9, 23, 128.

35Likewise, the fable of the sheep brought to trial remains a satire on a corrupt and self-serving system of justice, organized and administered in their own interests by wolves and vultures, “where the bench, jury and witnesses are in a conspiracy against the prisoner.” And in “An Oak and a Willow” (which L'Estrange, following John Ogilby in 1651, uses to meditate on the ethics of passive resistance in different periods of Stuart exile), all of L'Estrange's topical hints about the predicament of citizens under an exploitative and repressive regime survive. Richardson too writes that “There are trials of men, as well as trials of trees.” He too writes in the familiar oppositional code of the day about “the iniquity of the age, or conjuncture” ; he too writes that “Our bodies may be forced, but our minds cannot.”32

  • 33  Thomas Gordon, The Works of Tacitus (1728), cited by Kitchin,404.

36The evidence of Richardson's text itself, in short, runs counter to the affirmations of his Preface. No doubt he was sincere (as well as acute) in the admiration on stylistic grounds to which he attributes his decision to follow L'Estrange (a writer more usually condemned in the period for debasing the language with “phrases picked up in the street from apprentices and porters”).33 Yet this emphasis on style seems also to have been something of an alibi, under cover of which much of L'Estrange's political gist, though explicitly disparaged, could at the same time be quietly retained.

Pamela and Whiggery

  • 34  Ian A. Bell, Henry Fieldina : Authorship and Authority (London : Longman, 1994) 63.
  • 35  Doody, Natural Passion, 34.

37To what extent one may read into Pamela the political reflections associated in Æsop's Fables with the four fables highlighted in the novel is a moot point. It would be too much to say, for example, that allusions in Pamela to “An Oak and a Willow” – an allegory, for L'Estrange, of the predicament of non-jurors awaiting Jacobite restoration – entitle us to find in the heroine's relations with Mr B a similarly straightforward kind of political allegory. Yet it would be equally inappropriate to assume that such a fable could simply shed the political connotations in which it had by then been drenched by generations of fabulists, including Richardson himself. And it is an arresting fact that these connotations, as they survive in Æsop's Fables, are directly continuous with a quiet, intermittent yet nonetheless deeply rooted strain of social and political complaint that runs through Pamela itself. For Pamela, whatever its undoubted complications, incoherences and evasions (“a compendium of diverse ideological possibilities,” as Ian A. Bell nicely calls it, “rather than a carefully orchestrated or directed whole”),34 remains a novei profoundly concerned with the political theme of oppression. Here is the tale of a virtuous, innocent peasant, a household servant whose master thinks it his right to exploit her. When she resists, he tyrannizes her, he imprisons her, he attempts to rape her. Here, one might almost say, we have yet another fable, albeit on a much larger scale – a fable about relations between ruler and ruled, a fable about abuse of the ruler's powers, a fable about violation of liberty by one whose official role it is to protect. And if Pamela is thus itself (in Margaret Doody's words) “an extended fable with human characters,”35 it belongs in the tradition of John Ogilby, Sir Roger L'Estrange and others not least in the distinctly political edge with which this fable is barbed. Its levelling animus is a commonplace of criticism, and commentators often note Pamela's readiness to question the social hierarchies which arbitrarily separate rulers and ruled. As she famously declares, “my soul is of equal importance with the soul of a princess, though my quality is inferior to that of the meanest slave” (137).

  • 36  For this view of Whiggery in the period see, for example, Linda Colley, In Defiance of Oligarchy : (...)
  • 37  Frank McLynn, Crime and Punishment in Eighteenth- Century England (Oxford : Oxford UP, 1991) 257. (...)

38Yet Richardson's political implication is also more topical and specific than this. He very clearly identifies Pamela's oppressor Mr B not simply as a degenerate noble but more precisely as a lackey of the corrupt oligarchy which since the events of 1688-9 (according to Opposition complaints) had been assiduously feathering its own nest.36 For Mr B, we learn, is thriving. He attains positions of public responsibility, while conspicuously failing to exercise them in the public interest. As Pamela complains to him, he is “a justice of peace, and may send me to gaol, if you please, and bring me to a trial for my life !” (45) – a point she means literally in a period when legislation had swollen the number of crimes punishable by death from about fifty in 1688 to 165 by 1765, largely by the addition of relatively minor offences against property.37 She also mentions that from time to time Mr B goes “to London, to attend Parliament” (84) ; and we are left in little doubt as to the prudent way in which, when there, he votes. His reward from the Whig ministry established on the accession of George I, three years before the novel opens, is already a foregone conclusion : “For yesterday he had a rich suit of clothes brought home, which they call a birth-day suit ; for he intends to go to London against next birth-day, to see the court, and our folks will have it he is to be made a lord. I wish they may make him an honest man, as he was always thought ; but I have not found it so, alas for me !” (54).

39Points such as these, sometimes represented by critics as simply concerned with distinctions of social class, in fact have much more to do with specific questions of political interest and allegiance. They identify Mr B, quite clearly, as more than simply a depraved aristocrat (or rather potential aristocrat, for the hint here is clearly that for all his ancestry Mr B, like the Harlowes, is not an aristocrat so much as a man on the make, a Whiggish buyer of peerage). Unmistakably, Mr B is being cast here as a representative of, and a profiter from, the new Whig order established in power by the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9 and confirmed in power by the Hanoverian succession of 1714. He is a man, moreover, who in his dealings with Pamela seems to epitomise the corrupt and exploitative practices so frequently alleged against that establishment by such satirists as Swift and Pope. By dropping these damning hints about Mr B, Richardson seems (in his quiet and tentative way) to join these satirists : he directs the novel's quarrel beyond the merely private conduct of rakish squires, to touch instead the larger social, legal and political structures of Hanoverian Britain, and their dangerous vesting of power with a greedy, cynical and (as Mr B's conduct suggests) a potentially rapacious elite.

  • 38  See Richardson's edition of Defoe's A Tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, 4th edn (1748) (...)
  • 39  Doody, "Richardson's Politics", 120-1

40Yet Pamela also stops short of sustained and forthright satire, and emphatically is not, in the political sense, a revolutionary text. When armed Jacobite rebellion at last arrived in the rising of 1745- 6, Richardson seems to have welcomed the bloody defeat at Culloden of what he called “a Rebellion so unnatural.”38 He hoped for reform of the new political order established at the Revolution, not its violent overthrow in the name of a retrograde absolutism ; and in keeping with this instinct Pamela is itself a novel that resolves its conflicts in reconcilation, repentance and fresh starts. Mr B is miraculously reformed by Pamela's example, and he repents of his exploitative treatment of her. At the end of the novel he even seems to have a change of political heart, transforming himself abruptly from Whiggish predator to benign patriot and patrician (in which role he re-emerges, as Margaret Doody has noted, in Richardson's sequel).39 Playing a game of cards (in which, with a hit at Walpole, “the knave” is taken to signify “the prime minister”), he makes a political analogy which represents the rule of law and the welfare of the people as having precedence over court interests : “For, by the ace, I have always thought the laws of the land denoted ; and as the ace is above the king and queen, and wins them, I think the law should be thought so, too ; though, may-be, I shall be deemed a whig for my opinion.” His subsequent declaration of patriotic high-mindedness – “I think the distinction of whig and tory odious ... and have never (nor ever shall, I hope) given a vote but what I thought was for the public good, let either whig or tory propose it” – is only slightly undermined by the dry and sceptical response of his interlocutor : “I wish, Sir,” replied Mr. Perry, “all gentlemen in your station would act so” (364-5).

41If we may indeed conclude that there is something of the simplicity of fable in Pamela as a whole, then, it is clear that the relationship lies in the end not only in Richardson's readiness to accompany a memorable basic tale with didactic moral and reflection. Like the fables of L'Estrange and the tradition in which he wrote, this is a fable which clearly invites – though without ever unambiguously committing itself to – a topical and political reading. It is a political fable, moreover, which in its final shape suggests both oppositional and conformist possibilities : not only does it tell of oppressive rule ; it is also a fable of reconciliation, in which oppressor and oppressed finally join hands in a rosy glow of reformation and harmony. Whether to place emphasis on this final accommodation, or on the conflict that precedes it, is left to the reader to decide – a gesture utterly in keeping with the evasiveness of Richardson's political statements at the time. But the very fact that Pamela should in this respect render problematic or contentious the question of its own implicit meaning is entirely in keeping with the instability of the fable tradition itself, marked as it is by the successive attempts of rival fabulists to affix their own glosses, while discrediting those of their rivals, to a common canon of material.

42It must of course be remembered that Pamela is always more than merely fable ; and while the struggles of its two protagonists may occasionally glance at the relationship between ruler and ruled, or between a subordinate people and a corrupt establishment, one must remember too that such hints are confined for the most part to the level of quiet, intermittent subtext. Richardson is too much committed to the minutiae of his characters' minds, and to the fabric of their world, to give his fiction over to political allegory in the manner of Fielding's own more forthright satire on Whiggish sleaze in Jonathan Wild. That said, the Aesopian tradition, with its significant presence in Pamela, does at least enable us to see that Richardson is considerably less apolitical in his fiction than critics often acknowledge. Here is a form of writing that contributes significantly to his practice as a novelist ; here too is a form of writing that alerts us to Pamela's status as a much fuller and more compelling treatment of power, the abuse of power, and the resistance to power, than the mere collection of fables that Richardson published as he drafted Pamela could have ever been. Growing from Familiar Letters – and growing also from Æsop's Fables – it does indeed transcend them both.

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1  Cet article est le résultat d'une communication faite à l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne - Paris IV en janvier 1995, à l'occasion de la mise au programme de l'Agrégation de Pamela (dans l'édition Everyman). La version Finale est remaniée des diverses réponses faites ce jour-là, et je voudrais remercier Professeur Pierre Arnaud, ses collègues et ses étudiants de tout ce qu'ils m'ont suggéré.

2 Selected Letters ofSamuelRichardson, ed. John Carroll (Oxford : Clarendon, 1964), 232 (2 June 1753).

3 Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson, 41 (c. 1 February 1741 ) ; T. C. Duncan Eaves and Ben D. Kimpel, Samuel Richardson : A Biography (Oxford : Clarendon, 1971) 90.

4 Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson, 232.

5  M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, tr. C. Emerson and M. Holquist (Austin : U of Texas P, 1981) 3-40 ; Margaret Anne Doody, A Natural Passion : A Study of the Novels of Samuel Richardson (Oxford : Clarendon, 1974) 14-70 ; Ira Konigsberg, 'The Dramatic Background of Richardson's Plots and Characters," PMLA, 83 (1968) : 42-53 ; Gillian Beer, "Pamela : Rethinking Arcadia," in Samuel Richardson : Tercentenary Essays, cd. Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor (Cambridge : Cambridge UP, 1989) 23-39 ; Tom Keymer, “Getting Level : Pamela, Pope, and J- W-,” O/W/E/R/T/Y : Arts, Littératures et Civilisations du Monde Anglophone, 4 (1994) : 111-9.

6  William M. Sale, Jr, Samuel Richardson : A Bibliographical Record (New Haven : Yale UP, 1936) 3-6. For earlier accounts of this volume and its relationship to Pamela, sec Katherine Hornbeak, “Richardson's Æsop,” Smith College Studies in Modern Languages, 19 No. 2 (1938): 30-50 ; Eaves and Kimpel 76-80 ; Doody, Natural Passion, 25-8 ; John B. Pierce, “Pamela's Textual Authority,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 7 (1995) : 131-46 (esp. 139-45).

7  Richardson, Clarissa, 3rd edn (1751, rptd New York : AMS, 1990) V, 304-5.

8  Richardson, Pamela, Everyman's Library edn, intr. M. Kinkead-Weekes (London : Dent, 1962) Unless otherwise stated, subsequent references (given in brackets in the text) are to this edition of Pamela, which derives indirectly from Richardson's eighth duodecimo edition of 1761 (see Peter Sabor, 'The Cooke-Everyman Edition of Pamela," The Library, 32 (1977) : 360-66).

9  Richardson, Æsop's Fables (New York : Garland Publishing, 1974), 129 (Fab. 164).

10  Eighteenth-century views of luxury as eroding, subverting or corrupting the manners, morals and institutions of the state-a process described by Tory satirists in terms little less than apocalyptic - are discussed in John Sekora, Luxury : The Concept in Western Thought, Eden to Smollett (Baltimore :

Johns Hopkins UP, 1977). See also the Postscript to Clarissa, in which Richardson places high on the list of evils conspiring to bring the age to social and political ruin “a taste even to wantonness for out-door pleasure and luxury, to the general exclusion of domestic as well as public virtue, industriously promoted among all ranks and degrees of people” (VIII, 279).

11  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, 8-9 (Fab. 11). "Court" suggests not only the Hanoverian establishment but also the Whig ministerial interest (as opposed to the Country/Tory opposition). Compare Fielding's use of this sense when rewriting Pamela as an openly anti-Walpole satire, in which Shamela is educated by Parson Williams in the art of thriving : "I am sure I know nothing about Pollitricks, more than Parson Williams tells me, who says that the Court-side are in the right on't" (Joseph Andrews and Shamela, ed. Douglas Brooks (Oxford : Oxford UP, 1970) 353).

12  Richardson, Pamela, ed. Peter Sabor, intr. Margaret A. Doody (Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1980), 83. This passage, inserted during Richardson's last revision, does not appear in the Everyman text.

13  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, 23 (Fab. 29).

14  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, 127-8 (Fab. 163).

15  Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) “Power.”

16  Pierce, 144.

17  Richardson, Pamela, 6th edn (1742) I, 118, cited by Hornbeak, 30.

18  Eaves and Kimpel, 80, citing December editions of the Daily Gazetteer, Daily Post and Daily Advertiser.

19  See the Penguin edition of Pamela, ed. Sabor, 521 n. 52.

20  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, i. In specifying “English editions,” Richardson possibly means to exclude the precedent brilliantly set for L'Estrange in The Fables of Æsop Paraphras'd in Verse (1651) by the Scottish poet and Royalist, John Ogilby.

21  L'Estrange, Fables, of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists (1692) 189.

22  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, VI-VII ; Shenstone, Works (1764-9) III, 361, cited by Hornbeak 47 ; Richardson, Clarissa IV, 129. Richardson even seems to have named a minor character in Clarissa after L'Estrange's Whig father-in-law, Sir Thomas Doleman.

23  L'Estrange, 188.

24  Annabel Patterson, Fables of Power : Aesopian Writing and Political History (Durham : Duke UP, 1991) 2 and passim.

25  L'Estrange A2-A2v. On L'Estrange's career see George Kitchin, Sir Roger L'Estrange : A Contribution to the History of the Press in the Seventeenth Century (London : Kegan Paul, 1913).

26  L'Estrange, 21.

27  Croxall emerges from the Dictionary of National Biography as a true man of the age. Beginning the Hanoverian years as chaplain to George I at Hampton Court, he practised pluralism on a heroic scale (with livings in Hampton, Somerset, London and Herefordshire) and distinguished himself as Chancellor of Hereford by dismantling part of the cathedral to provide stone for a house for his brother. “Croxall's position as a divine was unimportant, and he owed his numerous preferments to political services and personal insinuation,” comments the DNB.

28  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, V, IX, VI, X.

29  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, XII.

30 The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe, ed. Richardson (1740), iv. On Richardsonis politics, see Eaves and Kimpel 545-9 ; Keymer, Richardson's Clarissa and the Eighteenth-Century Reader (Cambridge : Cambridge UP, 1992) 168-76 ; Doody, "Richardson's Politics," Eighteenth- Century Fiction, 2 (1990) : 113-126. All these accounts are flawed. Few scholars would now accept Eaves's and Kimpel's assertion that "Richardson's political views do not seem to have played a large part in his life." My own account underplays the reservations implicit in some of Richardson's superficially Whiggish statements of the 1730s and 1740s. Conversely, Doody projects into the novels a picture of Toryism (even Jacobitism) derived from a single aspect of Richardson's printing activities in the 1720s, and gives little supporting evidence from the post-Walpole period to justify the connection ; she is more convincing on Pamela, as a result, than on a Clarissa and Grandison.

31  Eaves and Kimpel 21 ; Richardson, Æsop's Fables, v.

32  Richardson, Æsop's Fables, xi, 9, 23, 128.

33  Thomas Gordon, The Works of Tacitus (1728), cited by Kitchin,404.

34  Ian A. Bell, Henry Fieldina : Authorship and Authority (London : Longman, 1994) 63.

35  Doody, Natural Passion, 34.

36  For this view of Whiggery in the period see, for example, Linda Colley, In Defiance of Oligarchy : The Tory Party 1714-1760 (Cambridge : Cambridge UP, 1982) ; Bertrand A. Goldgar, Walpole and the Wits : The Relation of Politics to Literature 1722-1742 (Lincoln : U of Nebraska P, 1976) ; E. P. Thompson, Whigs and Hunters : The Origin of the Black Act (Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1977).

37  Frank McLynn, Crime and Punishment in Eighteenth- Century England (Oxford : Oxford UP, 1991) 257. See also Douglas Hay et al., Albion's Fatal Tree : Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1977).

38  See Richardson's edition of Defoe's A Tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, 4th edn (1748) IV, 179.

39  Doody, "Richardson's Politics", 120-1

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Tom Keymer, « Pamela’s Fables: Aesopian writing and political implication in Samuel Richardson and Sir Roger L’Estrange », Sillages critiques, 2 | 2001, 43-60.

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Tom Keymer, « Pamela’s Fables: Aesopian writing and political implication in Samuel Richardson and Sir Roger L’Estrange », Sillages critiques [En ligne], 2 | 2001, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2014, consulté le 29 mars 2017. URL :

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Tom Keymer

Elmore Fellow and Tutor en langue et littérature anglaises à St Anne's College, Oxford. Il est l'auteur de Richardson's Clarissa and the Eighteenth-Century Reader (Cambridge : C. U. P., 1992) et il a édité les œuvres de Richardson, Fielding et Sterne. Il vient de préparer une réimpression en facsimile des quinze premiers volumes (1731-1745) de l'influent périodique The Gentleman's Magazine (London : Pickering & Chatto, 1998) pour lequel il a écrit une introduction.

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