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In 1740 an epistolary novel called Pamela by Samuel Richardson was published. This story of a servant girl whose employer, Mr B, has wicked designs on her virtue, became a sensational best-seller.
However, there was one man who disliked the book and felt its morality was warped, its heroine a sham, and that there was no real virtue in the book at all. So, he wrote a short parody called Shamela. But even that work did not satisfy him, and he then turned from the plays he had been writing for some years and penned his first novel, Joseph Andrews which was published in 1742. Joseph is the brother of Pamela and he too is an object of sexual interest to his employer, Lady Booby. Fielding shows his readers what true virtue looks like, and in doing so wrote a book that has been hugely influential on the development of the English novel.
I love the humour in this book, the fabulous characters and its depiction of 18th century English society. Today its language is dated for a modern reader, but it’s a novel that has much to teach us. Do think it’s still relevant today?
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