Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded

Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded Summary and Analysis of Pamela’s Journal: The 7th Day of her Imprisonment through the 18th.



Pamela is unable to get away from Mrs. Jewkes in order to check the tiles for a note from Mr. Williams. She walks in the garden with Mrs. Jewkes, and they argue about Pamela’s position with respect to Mr. B. When Mrs. Jewkes accuses Pamela of attempting to “rob [Mr. B.] of yourself,” Pamela objects to the implication that she is her Master’s property. Mrs. Jewkes then implies that if she were in Mr. B.’s place, she would not wait for Pamela’s consent but would simply force herself on her. Pamela calls her “Jezebel,” prompting Mrs. Jewkes to strike her. They then return to the house and make peace, each forgiving the other, whereupon Mrs. Jewkes allows Pamela to walk in the garden again with Nan.

Pamela manages to distract Nan long enough to extract a note from between the tiles. From it, she learns that Mr. Williams plans to contact Lady Davers and to canvass the neighborhood for genteel households that will shelter Pamela. Pamela then writes a grateful letter in return, adding the suggestion that Mr. Williams, who has a chamber in the house, make a copy of his key and leave it under the sunflower.

After dinner, Pamela goes into the garden with Mrs. Jewkes to do some fishing in the pond. Pamela catches a carp, which she then returns to the water, explaining to Mrs. Jewkes that she can sympathize with the carp’s betrayal by “false Bait” and has a moral objection to toying with a helpless creature. She wishes that someone would grant her liberty in a similar way. While Mrs. Jewkes continues fishing, Pamela goes to plant some horse beans near the sunflower and takes advantage of the opportunity to place her letter between the tiles.

Friday, Saturday.

Mrs. Jewkes, claiming to owe money to a tradesman, tricks Pamela out of nearly all her money, which amounts to five or six pounds. Pamela reproaches herself for falling for such a transparent ruse.

A letter arrives for Pamela from Mr. B. in which he declares that he now regrets having promised to keep his distance from Pamela. He asks her to invite him to Lincolnshire and tempts her with the prospect of discharging Mrs. Jewkes upon his arrival. Pamela thinks little of this proposal.

Pamela retrieves another letter from Mr. Williams during a turn in the garden. It tells her that the clergyman has met with no success in his effort to cultivate support for Pamela among the genteel neighbors. Even Mr. Peters, the senior clergyman of the parish, suspects the motives of both Pamela and Mr. Williams and refuses to help them. Mr. Williams promises, however, to supply Pamela with a copy of the key, and he plans to have a horse in readiness for her flight. Pamela writes back to Mr. Williams, thanking him for his efforts and suggesting that it may not be advisable after all to write to Lady Davers, as a confrontation between her and her brother might backfire and confirm him in his depravity. Pamela has greater hopes for the key and horse, though she fears that Mr. B. may be planning to come down quite soon.

On another walk in the garden with Mrs. Jewkes, Pamela again finds a pretext to get away from her warder and place her letter between the tiles. She then returns inside to write a response to Mr. B. in which she indicates that she still does not desire his presence in Lincolnshire.


Pamela, because she cannot go to church, spends Sunday morning in private devotions. Mrs. Jewkes approaches and asks Pamela to sing her a psalm, so Pamela adapts Psalm 137 (which laments Israel’s Captivity in Babylon) so that it describes her own situation.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

Mr. Williams has taken a parcel of Pamela’s writings and plans to send them to her parents, which cheers Pamela. She has also received the key from Mr. Williams, though a possible obstacle has arisen in the form of a bull in the pasture that has injured one of the maids.

Mr. Williams pays a visit and manages to get another letter into Pamela’s hands. After he has left, Mrs. Jewkes begins to tease Pamela that Mr. Williams is in love with her and offers to suggest to Mr. B. that Pamela ought to marry the clergyman. Pamela refuses this kindness.

Reading Mr. Williams’s letter, Pamela finds the clergyman proposing to marry her as the most effectual way of extricating her from her present situation. He makes clear, however, that he will not require marriage as a condition of his helping her, and so Pamela writes back to him refusing his proposal.

“Thursday, Friday, Saturday, the 14th, 15th and 16th of [her] Bondage.”

Pamela has had another letter from Mr. Williams in which he accepts her refusal and says he will continue to assist her.


Mrs. Jewkes and Mr. Williams approach Pamela with the news that Mr. B. has bestowed a clerical living on Mr. Williams and has suggested that Pamela and the clergyman should marry. Pamela cautions the ecstatic parson that she will not consider herself fit to accept his proposal until she is free to return to her parents, whom she feels bound to consult on this matter. She partly suspects that Mr. Williams himself may be part of the plot against her, but she convinces herself to continue trusting him. When Pamela and Mrs. Jewkes go to bed in the evening, the housekeeper urges her to give encouragement to Mr. Williams. Pamela insists that she does not intend to marry anyone.

Monday Morning.

Pamela receives news that Mr. Williams has been attacked by thieves who took his letters, though fortunately he has protected the papers Pamela asked him to carry to her parents. The incident is strange because robbery has been rare in the neighborhood for some years. Mrs. Jewkes laughs upon reading the clergyman’s account of the incident, but Pamela worries that the thieves may have had orders to find her own papers.

Pamela goes into the garden and contemplates making a run for it. She loses her nerve and returns to her closet but then descends again to the back door that leads to the pasture. There she confronts the sinister bull that injured the maidservant and that Pamela considers may actually be demonic. She loses her nerve, returns to her closet, resolves to try again, allows the gardener to frighten her off, returns to her closet, and descends to try once more. This time she mistakes two cows for vicious bulls and, by the time she realizes her mistake, has convinced herself that she is not in the right mental state for an escape. She laments her own “weak Mind” and recognizes that her own fears, of robbers and imaginary bulls, are as effective as any other force in keeping her imprisoned.

Monday Afternoon.

Mrs. Jewkes returns from a visit to Mr. Williams and reports that, while his injuries are superficial, his love for Pamela is profound. Pamela realizes that the real object of Mrs. Jewkes’s visit has been not to comfort Mr. Williams but to pump him for information about the assistance he has given to Pamela. Pamela gathers that the clergyman has revealed nothing of the key, but she worries that he may have divulged other details. When Mrs. Jewkes shuts herself up to write a long letter to Mr. B., Pamela’s anxieties increase.


This portion of the journal includes two notable examples of Richardson’s versatility in the handling of physical detail: in both instances, the treatment may be primarily realistic or “novelistic,” but it plays on the reader’s knowledge of more traditionally “poetic” or figurative treatments as well.

The first instance is that of the sunflower beside which Pamela and Mr. Williams conceal their correspondence. As Margaret Anne Doody points out, the sunflower carries a number of meaningful connotations: its sturdiness and its suggestion of optimism allude to qualities in Pamela herself, and its humbleness, quite unlike the hothouse blossoms that tend to sprout up around the heroines of traditional romance, is consistent with Pamela’s low birth. The sunflower’s traditional emblematic significance, however, is more specific: because it always turns its face to the sun, it represents the quality of constancy in various forms, such as the constancy of servant to master, spouse to spouse, lover to beloved, son to father, and so on. Richardson seems almost deliberately to subvert this traditional meaning, as Pamela has recourse to the “sunflower correspondence” precisely because she cannot afford to be constant to the Squire her Master: he has violated the duties of a Master toward his servant so grossly that self-preservation requires her to reciprocate his breaking of faith.

The second instance is that of Pamela’s angling (i.e. fishing) with Mrs. Jewkes in the pond. The image of angling has several traditional meanings, which Richardson invokes rather artfully and Doody again explicates. Angling is a conventional pastoral activity in which many heroines of romance indulge, among them Pamela’s namesake in Sidney’s Arcadia. It is said to soothe the troubled mind, a fact that underscores Pamela’s distress here, which the gratuitous injury to the carp only exacerbates. In religious literature, the Devil is an angler who tempts souls with false baits; for Pamela, Mr. B. acts the part of the Devil, as her soul will end up as collateral damage if he should ever succeed in destroying her reputation. Finally, the love poetry of the previous century had turned angling into an erotic symbol, with the fish attracted to the beauty of the female angler and glad to find him on her hook. Richardson inverts this meaning by aligning the woman with the fish and Mr. B. with the angler who toys with her for sport. As an added note, Pamela’s moral objection to angling derives an ironic echo from its context in the plot, in that she is the one who has lured Mrs. Jewkes to the pond on false pretenses, her real motive being to retrieve one of Mr. Williams’s letters from between the tiles by the sunflower.

Mr. Williams’s participation in this part of the journal not only moves the plot along but is revelatory of contemporary attitudes regarding the privileges of upper-class men and, implicitly, of Richardson’s responses to those attitudes. To begin with, the clergyman’s difficulties in recruiting allies for Pamela among the Lincolnshire gentry illustrate how ordinary Mr. B.’s treatment of his maidservant would have seemed to his socioeconomic peers, and how aberrant Pamela’s defense of her virtue would have seemed. As Sir Simon Darnford puts it, “Why, what is all this, . . . but that the ’Squire our Neighbor has a mind to his Mother’s Waiting-maid?” This sort of gender and class entitlement, in which the desires of upper-class men are peremptory and the resistance of lower-class women is inconsequential, Richardson plainly finds reprehensible.

Nevertheless, Mr. B.'s rakish personality appeals to Richardson, however much the moralist in him may condemn the Squire’s behavior and the prejudices that enable it. The rake, the licentious and dissolute upper-class man, was a common figure in eighteenth-century literature, in part because he personified the moral flaws that threatened the emerging social order. Equally, however, he personified masculine style and energy, and Richardson seems to have felt that these positive qualities, if brought under discipline, were highly admirable. The meek Mr. Williams serves as an instructive foil to Mr. B. in this respect. For all that the clergyman is impeccably virtuous and well meaning, he is so lacking in vigor as to be almost contemptible; certainly no one considers him an acceptable suitor for the vibrant Pamela, and his ecstasy upon receiving Mr. B.’s mischievous recommendation is slightly nauseating. Indeed, the function of the milquetoast curate may be primarily to accentuate by contrast the attractive qualities of the dynamic, if profligate, Squire.

That Pamela shares to some degree her creator’s preoccupation with vigorous masculinity seems clear enough, in a Freudian way, from the episode of the phantom bulls. Pamela’s fixation on the bull that punctures innocent maidens causes her to hallucinate the offending animal and an accomplice as well during one of her escape attempts. If the aggressive bulls represent, as some critics believe, the repressed sexual content of Pamela’s psyche that she has projected outward, then this episode would appear to support the argument that Pamela has more interest in Mr. B. than she allows herself to admit. One way or another, however, it certainly suggests that Pamela is to some extent her own prisoner in Lincolnshire, bound to her prison by her own fears, her own desires, or both.