Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded

Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded Summary and Analysis of Letter XXXII, the Beginning of Pamela’s Journal, through the 6th Day of her Imprisonment.


Letter XXXII: Pamela to her Father and Mother.

Pamela addresses this lengthy (400-page) letter nominally to her mother and father, though at present she has small hope of its ever reaching them from her “prison” in Mr. B.’s Lincolnshire estate. She determines to “write my sad State” every day from now on, so that her letters will become, in essence, a journal. She will label the separate entries with days of the week, though not with dates; starting on the Monday following her abduction, she will number the days from the start of her imprisonment, albeit neither consistently nor always accurately. Later she will number the days from the start of her married life, with a similar degree of consistency and accuracy.

The journal commences with a narration of the Thursday and Friday of Pamela’s abduction.

The servants at Mr. B.’s Bedfordshire estate lament Pamela’s leaving, and Mr. Longman provides her with abundant writing implements, including paper, pens, and ink. Mr. B. oversees Pamela’s departure from his window.

Pamela becomes anxious when the journey seems to take longer than she expected. Robin claims to have lost the way, and when darkness falls, they stop at a farmhouse for the night. When the farmer turns out to be a tenant of “Esquire B. of Bedfordshire,” Pamela develops grave suspicions. Robin gives Pamela a letter from Mr. B. in which the Squire explains that the house to which he is sending her will be at her command, such that Mr. B. himself will not approach it without Pamela’s permission. He promises to write to Mr. and Mrs. Andrews to assure them that nothing untoward will happen to their daughter.

Pamela, while not trusting Mr. B., apprehends that at least she is in no immediate danger. She learns that the farmer, too, has had a letter from Mr. B. in which the Squire claims to be abducting Pamela for her own good, in order to thwart “a Love Affair, which will be her Ruin.” Pamela sees that because of this letter and Mr. B.’s power over his tenants, she will be unable to recruit the farmer’s family to her cause.

Pamela and Robin set out again on Friday morning. Pamela’s escape plans come to nothing when the proprietress of the inn at which they stop for dinner turns out to be the sister-in-law of Mrs. Jewkes, the housekeeper of Mr. B.’s Lincolnshire estate. Mrs. Jewkes herself is present at the inn and accompanies Pamela for the rest of the journey, making several lewd suggestions to her during the interval. Pamela concludes that she has “fallen into the hands of a wicked Procuress.”

They arrive at Mr. B.’s estate around eight o’clock on Friday evening. Mrs. Jewkes informs Pamela that all the servants will show her respect and address her as “Madam,” due to the great power Pamela wields over their Master. Pamela quizzes Mrs. Jewkes as to the extent of her obedience to Mr. B., whether Mrs. Jewkes could justify clear wrongdoing as the duty of a servant to follow orders. Mrs. Jewkes denies the immorality of facilitating the sexual alliance of a gentleman and any woman. Pamela concludes that she has “nothing to expect from [Mrs. Jewkes’s] Virtue or Conscience.” To her dismay, she discovers that she is to share a bed with Mrs. Jewkes, at least until Mr. B. arrives.


Pamela resolves to find some means of escape and has great hopes for Mr. Williams, whose clerical position should obligate him to help her in her distress. Mrs. Jewkes has instructions to read everything that Pamela writes and to ration her paper, ink, and pens. Pamela retaliates by dispersing and concealing the writing supplies she received from Mr. Longman so that she can continue to write in secret.


Mrs. Jewkes forbids Pamela to go to church, where she hoped to speak to Mr. Williams, and further berates the clergyman for pleading Pamela’s case. Pamela is hesitant to ask for Mr. Williams’s help, given that he is dependent on Mr. B.’s patronage and Pamela does not wish to be the cause of his ruin.

Mrs. Jewkes removes Pamela’s shoes in order to prevent her escaping, and Pamela retaliates by penning a devastating caricature of the housekeeper’s physical person.

John the footman arrives with letters from Mr. B. to both Pamela and Mrs. Jewkes. Mr. B. requests that Pamela write a letter to Mrs. Jervis in order to reassure Mr. and Mrs. Andrews that she is well. He reiterates his commitment not to approach the Lincolnshire estate without Pamela’s permission. Pamela writes to Mrs. Jervis according to the form Mr. B. has suggested. She also writes to Mr. B. expressing her dissatisfaction with the present arrangement and begging that he release her. She shows both letters to Mrs. Jewkes, hoping by this action to win the housekeeper’s goodwill.

“Monday, the 5th Day of [her] Bondage and Misery.”

“Honest John” the footman gives Pamela a note in which he confesses to having shown all of Pamela’s letters to Mr. B. He expresses great remorse, and Pamela laments “the Deceitfulness of the Heart of Man.” He has also brought the contents of the two bundles Pamela left at the Bedfordshire estate, but Pamela has no interest in them.

Tuesday and Wednesday.

On a walk in the garden with Mr. Williams, Pamela conspires with the clergyman to set up a secret correspondence: they will leave letters between two tiles in the garden beside a sunflower.

Later, Pamela asks Mrs. Jewkes for two sheets of paper and, with the housekeeper hanging over her shoulder, writes out her complaints against Mrs. Jewkes’s treatment of her. Pamela’s object is to convince Mrs. Jewkes that her writings are generally of this frivolous nature and not part of a plot to rebel or escape. Once Mrs. Jewkes has left, Pamela finishes a letter to Mr. Williams, in which she pleads with him to find some means for her to escape and a friendly household to give her temporary shelter. She then walks in the garden with the servant Nan and, when Nan’s back is turned, hides the letter between the tiles.


By having Robin the coachman abduct Pamela from Bedfordshire to Lincolnshire, Richardson shifts the setting in a way that is crucial for the development not only of the plot but also of the themes of the novel. Lincolnshire is farther north than Bedfordshire, and in the imaginative geography of England, the north connotes sublimity and exposure. Whereas the south appears in literature as the locus of pastoral gentility, a journey to the north is a journey into the wilderness; appropriately, Pamela observes upon her arrival in Lincolnshire the “brown nodding Horrors of Lofty Elms and Pines,” a spooky, gothic image that invests the landscape with the villainous agency she finds in its inhabitants. Away from such friendly if ineffectual human stays as Mrs. Jervis and Mr. Longman, Pamela will have to rely increasingly on herself and her God. Between the beginning of Pamela’s stay in Lincolnshire and the approach of Mr. B. there will elapse forty days, a symbolic duration for a trial in the wilderness.

This portion of the journal introduces Mrs. Jervis’s Lincolnshire counterpart, Mrs. Jewkes, who despite the similarity in their surnames has little in common with the Bedfordshire housekeeper. Instead of being a surrogate mother for Pamela, she acts the part of “ wicked Procuress.” Whatever personal interest Mrs., Jewkes may have in her ward is not maternal but amatory: she offers to kiss Pamela before they have known each other a day, prompting Pamela to object that such conduct is “not like two Persons of one Sex.” (Note that Mrs. Jewkes, despite her title, is unmarried; housekeepers took the honorific “Mrs.” regardless of their marital status.)

In portraying Mrs. Jewkes’s physical person, Richardson (or Pamela) draws on the literary tradition whereby grotesque physical traits manifest spiritual defects. Mrs. Jewkes is a villainous character, and she looks the part: “She is a broad, squat, pursy, fat Thing, quite ugly. . . . She has a huge Hand, and an Arm as thick as my Waist, I believe. . . . She has a hoarse man-like Voice, and is as thick as she’s long; and yet looks so deadly strong, that I am afraid she would dash me at her Foot in an Instant, if I was to vex her.---So that with a Heart more ugly than her Face, she frightens me sadly.” The correlation between moral and physical ugliness, which Pamela makes explicit here, is conventional enough, but one wonders how much of this description Richardson intends the reader to accept as objective truth. Assuming that Pamela’s waist is a wasp-like 15 inches in circumference, the housekeeper would have to be either morbidly obese or inhumanly muscular in order to match it with her biceps. (Indeed Pamela soon acknowledges, though she immediately downplays, the retaliatory nature of this portrait of her warder: “This is but poor helpless Spight in me!---But the Picture is too near the Truth notwithstanding.”) This description may serve as a warning that Pamela is not always a reliable narrator; in particular, her comments on Mrs. Jewkes will continue to be less than objective.

One element of Mrs. Jewkes’s monstrousness, her sexual ambiguity, is so congruous with Richardson’s moral logic that it cannot arise entirely from Pamela’s spite. Pamela perceives Mrs. Jewkes as “man-like,” almost hermaphroditic, and the essentialism necessary for the imputation of such boundary crossing owes much to the rigorous construction of gender roles that arose in the eighteenth century with the ascendancy of individualistic values (which Richardson shared). As the patriarchal extended family declined in England due to the advent of economic mobility, the bond between husband and wife became the new essence of the family unit, and from this development arose the vital social importance of the gender roles appropriate to the respective participants in that bond. Richardson’s fiction routinely valorizes the heterosexual conjugal unit and punishes deviations from it, whether they are of the extramarital heterosexual sort or the non-marital homosexual sort. Mrs. Jewkes’s sexual attitudes, which encompass a comfort with both premarital sex and, apparently, lesbianism, associate her with the less rigorously codified sexual paradigm that Richardson’s ideology was in the process of superseding.

Mrs. Jewkes’s androgyny also aligns her in fascinating ways with Mr. B. The housekeeper resembles her Master in her tendency not to control her sexual impulses; she differs from him in that she is middle-aged (“about forty Years old”), so that whereas Mr. B. has the excuse of youth and may well bring his passions into good order in time, Mrs. Jewkes seems confirmed in her irregularity. She also functions as an amplified version of Mr. B. in his capacity as a watcher of Pamela: she is even more assiduous in her observation of Pamela than Mr. B. was in Bedfordshire, and she lacks even the faux-delicacy that caused the Squire to conceal himself in closets and cupboards. Her role in the novel, then, seems to be to exemplify and facilitate Mr. B.’s masculine fantasies of power and surveillance.