“Friday, the 36th Day of [her] Imprisonment.”
Pamela walks down the row of elms on Thursday afternoon, having no thought of escape, and attracts a crowd of servants who rush from the house to prevent her running off. Mrs. Jewkes orders two maids to escort Pamela back to the house, where Mrs. Jewkes locks her up without shoes.
On Friday, Mrs. Jewkes approaches Pamela with shoes and some of the fine clothes from Pamela’s first and second bundles. She asks Pamela to get dressed in preparation for a visit from the daughters of a neighbor lady. Pamela refuses. At five o’clock, there is no sign of the young ladies, but Pamela sees Mr. B. arrive in his chariot. Pamela is frightened, but by seven o’clock, he still has not approached her.
Around seven-thirty on Friday evening, Mr. B. appears in Pamela’s chamber and accuses her of hypocrisy while Pamela weeps and prostrates herself before him. Mr. B. then leaves her with Mrs. Jewkes, and at nine o’clock, the housekeeper compels Pamela to wait on their Master at dinner. During dinner, Mr. B. taunts Pamela about Mr. Williams and Pamela complains to Mr. B. about Mrs. Jewkes. The Squire brushes aside her complaints and, after dinner, admires her physical person vocally and minutely. She rebuffs his attempt to fondle her, and he sends her to bed.
At midday on Saturday, Pamela receives from Mr. B. a set of written proposals, the gist of which she distills as “to make me a vile kept Mistress.” In seven “Articles,” Mr. B. demands that Pamela swear her indifference to Mr. Williams and then offers her gifts of money, jewels, and property if she will consent to be his wife in everything but name. He even promises to consider formal marriage after a yearlong test-run. Pamela responds to these articles point-by-point, disavowing any interest in Mr. Williams but rejecting all the gifts and heaping scorn on his proposal to consider marrying her after he has made her his “Harlot.” Pamela presents her written response to Mr. B., who swears that he cannot and will not live without her. Pamela flees and later overhears him ranting to Mrs. Jewkes, who advises him to force himself on Pamela and have done with it.
Mr. B. summons Pamela to his chamber, but Pamela refuses to meet him there and retreats instead to her closet. She then refuses to go to bed, fearing that Mrs. Jewkes will let their Master in, but the housekeeper hauls her to bed forcibly.
Pamela writes two petitions for Mr. B. to present to the congregation at church: one desires prayers for a gentleman who is tempted to ruin a poor maiden, and the other desires prayers for a “distressed Creature” who is endeavoring to preserve her virtue. Mrs. Jewkes presents the petitions to Mr. B., who does not take them with him to church. Pamela looks out the window as he leaves and admires her Master’s figure and clothing, and she wonders, “Why can’t I hate him?”
Mr. B. has been absent from the house, and Mrs. Jewkes receives a letter from him that she leaves on a table unattended. Pamela reads the letter and learns that Mr. B. has gone to Stamford to question Mr. Williams in prison. He vows that, upon his return, nothing will save Pamela “from the fate that awaits her.” Pamela anticipates that she will have “one more good honest Night” before Mr. B. returns to ruin her.
Mr. B.’s journey to Stamford turns out to have been a pretense designed to lower Pamela’s defenses. On Sunday night, Mrs. Jewkes gets the maid Nan drunk on cherry brandy and puts her to bed early to sleep it off. Pamela and Mrs. Jewkes go up to bed around eleven o’clock, and Pamela notices a figure, whom she takes to be Nan, slouched in a chair in the corner. She gives Mrs. Jewkes a brief history of her life as they are undressing, and she contrasts her parents’ virtue and her pious education with the tawdry baits Mr. B. has offered her.
Pamela and Mrs. Jewkes then go to bed, and after a time the figure Pamela has taken to be Nan approaches the bed and reveals herself to be Mr. B. in disguise. Mrs. Jewkes aids him in pinning Pamela’s arms, and Mr. B. offers Pamela an ultimatum: either comply with his articles or prepare to be taken by force. Before she can return an answer, he fondles her, causing her to faint away. When Pamela regains consciousness Mr. B. treats her more kindly and promises to desist from his attempts on her virtue. Mrs. Jewkes taunts him for his timidity, causing Pamela to faint again. When she regains consciousness this time, Mr. B. is present but has sent Mrs. Jewkes away. He asks for Pamela’s forgiveness and leaves.
Pamela remains in bed on Monday, and Mr. B. shows great tenderness toward her, though Pamela suspects that the appearance of kindness may be a further ruse. On Tuesday, Mr. B. summons Pamela, declares his love for her, and vows never to force himself on her again, though he continues to refuse to let her return to her parents. He asks Pamela to express forgiveness of Mrs. Jewkes and to stay for two more weeks without attempting to escape. Pamela agrees to both of these proposals.
Mr. B. takes Pamela on a walk in the garden, draws her into an alcove, and begins kissing her despite her objections. She begs to be left alone, and finally he leads her out of the alcove, “still bragging of his Honour, and his Love.” An argument ensues, during which Pamela calls Mr. B. “Lucifer himself in the Shape of my Master.” When Mr. B. takes umbrage, Pamela insists on her right to speak strongly to him, given that she has no defense but words.
Mr. B. joins Pamela and Mrs. Jewkes at dinner, directing Pamela to eat heartily. Mr. B. then walks out into the garden, asking Pamela to attend him. They sit down together beside the pond, where Mr. B. expresses his admiration of her, remarking that her defense of her virtue has only increased his respect. In defense of himself, he observes that if he were wholly depraved he would not have allowed Pamela to frustrate him for so long. He explains that he is averse to marriage, even with a lady of his own social status, and he solicits Pamela’s advice as to what he should do in light of all these facts.
Pamela, startled, reverts to her customary request and asks again that he allow her to return to her parents. Mr. B. asks her to confirm that she has no affection for any other man. Pamela avows that her hesitation owes not to a preference for any other man but rather to her fear that Mr. B.’s new gentleness is simply a more devilish ruse. Mr. B. belabors the point of Pamela’s connection with Mr. Williams, so that Pamela must defend herself at some length. Mr. B. then demands to know whether Pamela is capable of loving him above all other men. She becomes inarticulate, and Mr. B. interprets a “yes.” He reiterates, however, his aversion to marriage, and Pamela assures him that she never aspired to the honor.
They return to the house, and Pamela hopes that she can trust in Mr. B.’s goodness from now on, though she still is not wholly confident that he is not playing an elaborate trick on her. Volume I concludes with Pamela’s hoping desperately that Mr. B. is finally in earnest and wondering what she should do if he is not: “What shall I do, what Steps take, if all this be designing!---O the Perplexities of these cruel Doubtings!”
Mr. B.’s assumption of a ridiculous disguise for his final attack on Pamela has its roots in the traditional imagery of the Devil, which emphasizes his protean qualities. The Squire, like Satan before him, becomes a shape-shifter. The fact that this transformation is so grotesque, involving transvestitism and a descent to the level of his meanest servant, suggests that Mr. B. has reached his moral nadir. The fact that the trick does not succeed suggests something further, that evil is not Mr. B.’s natural element, that his corruption has been an aberration and not his essence.
One notable thing about Mr. B.’s attempts on Pamela is how unexciting they are. They contain very little suspense, as their farcical beginnings (Mr. B. hiding in the closet, Mr. B. disguised as a drunken maidservant) proclaim them doomed from the start. Moreover, for all that some contemporaries condemned these scenes for immorality, they contain little that would cause a schoolboy to mark the pages. Nor is this judgment a result of changing standards of erotic suggestiveness: soon after the publication of Pamela (and, some critics suspect, in response to the publication of Pamela), John Cleland published that classic of pornographic literature in English, Fanny Hill, which would remain a dubious standard for the next seventy-five years at least. Rather, M. Kinkead-Weekes argues, Pamela’s scenes of attempted rape “remain unsatisfactory, not because Richardson gives too much treatment to sex, but too little; because he treats it too narrowly in its brutally egotistic and violating aspects, and sees too little of its full human potential and significance.” These scenes, then, are not really about sex at all; rather, they are about pride and the attempts of the male to subjugate, and fittingly, they end in humiliation.
Mr. B. simply does not have the psychological profile of a rapist; for one thing, he is too much of a snob. As Robert Alan Donovan observes, the Squire will not condescend to take by force what should be his by droit de seigneur, the (probably apocryphal) right of a feudal lord to deflower any virgin on his estate. Moreover, the aggressive persona that he assumes and that Mrs. Jewkes endorses with her taunts requires for its maintenance more ruthless confidence than Mr. B. actually possesses. If he were truly a sadist or a man of rapacious lust, Pamela’s physical weakness would be his opportunity; on the contrary, however, her fainting fits, which seem to manifest her genuine disgust, ruin his appetite entirely. Perhaps, as one critic has suggested, there is even a childish game-mentality to Mr. B.’s approaches to Pamela, such that he considers it out-of-bounds to proceed when her agency is suspended.
The victim and her assailant are not irreconcilable foils in this novel, as Mr. B. is capable of redemption. He is a “low” character, a country squire with simple pleasures, not a sadist or a connoisseur of evil. (Fielding was not a completely insensitive reader when he completed Mr. B.’s surname as “Booby.”) The detail of his pausing in his attack on Pamela to urge her acceptance of his “Articles” is telling with respect to both his ineptitude as a predator and his basic decency. As the patriarchal head of household, in which position traditional ideology would have likened him to an absolute monarch, Mr. B. has claimed the right to have his way with Pamela, whom the law does not even recognize as a person. In offering her a contract in the form of his “articles,” however, he has implicitly conceded her personal autonomy and the necessity of her consent in his erotic plans for her. This instinct is of course the right one, and his reversion to it in the middle of a sexual assault bespeaks an imperfect commitment to what has been his ostensible goal, the crushing of her ability to refuse him.
By contrast, Mrs. Jewkes’s enthusiastic participation in this fiasco bespeaks some cruelty, on Richardson’s part as well as the housekeeper’s. We are to take it that because Mrs. Jewkes will never attract a man and cannot act the man’s part herself, aiding in a sexual assault is the closest she will ever come to erotic fulfillment. The presentation of Mrs. Jewkes’s character will presently become less drastically villainous, but whether such flagrant depravity can transform convincingly into ordinary decency is a question for the reader to decide.