“Virtue is the only nobility.”
Another of the books I’m supposed to read for my course, it’s an epistolary novel written, supposedly, by one Pamela Andrews, a serving-girl whose mistress dies, leaving her to the unwanted advances of the mistress’ son, the dastardly Mr B., who promptly locks her up in a country estate far from home and repeatedly attempts to rape her (he is thwarted, apparently, by her convenient habit of fainting at every opportunity). When she finally persuades him to let her go home, she decides halfway there that, in fact, she loves him after all and GOES BACK TO HIM. The following half of the book is, essentially, a 250-page paean to the general godlike nature of Mr B., interspersed with some sickeningly virtuous preaching on the nature of, I don’t know, charity and obedience or something.
Pamela is, essentially, the Twilight of the 18th century. This is not an overstatement. You could buy Pamela merchandise and Pamela quote books and even goddamn Pamela fan-fiction, for heavens’ sake. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Wikipedia article. Everyone wittered on about how Pamela was such a paragon of virtue without apparently noticing that SHE HAS NO BRAIN. She flies into floods of tears at the slightest provocation (unless she faints, of course); she uses italics on an all-too-regular basis (so often, in fact, that you cease to notice them, which undermines the point somewhat); and, most importantly, she’s quite happy to do absolutely everything her parents and, later, Mr B. tell her to do. She is prevented leaving a room because someone is standing in front of the door. An early escape plan fails because she falls off a wall. FOR GODS’ SAKE, PAMELA, GROW A BACKBONE.
I actually can’t think of anything good about this book. Not only is it offensive and sickly, it’s also really, really dull. In the first half, she cries for 250 pages solid; in the second half, she flings herself at Mr B.’s feet, over and over again, for another 250 pages. This is a relationship that makes Twilight look healthy and sane.
Of course, if you are genuinely interested in the fictional ravings of an airhead with a bad case of Stockholm syndrome, by all means read Pamela. Otherwise…well, almost anything else would be better.