Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded

Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded Summary and Analysis of Pamela’s Journal: The 15th Day of her Happiness through the Editorial Conclusion.



Pamela and Mr. B. set out on Thursday morning to have breakfast at a farmhouse with a renowned dairy. During breakfast, Mr. B. tells Pamela that the girls from a nearby boarding school often visit the farmhouse, and while they are discussing the matter, a carriage arrives with four little girls from the school. Among them is a Miss Goodwin toward whom Mr. B. shows particular interest. Miss Goodwin characterizes Mr. B. as her “own dear Uncle,” and Pamela infers that the girl is in fact Mr. B.’s daughter by Sally Godfrey. Pamela is delighted with the child and embraces her, saying, “[W]ill you love me?---Will you let me be your Aunt?” She tells Mr. B., however, that she continues to worry about the fate of Miss Goodwin’s mother, realizing how near her own fate came to resembling it. Pamela then expresses her wish of having Miss Goodwin come to live with them, though Mr. B. defers the question to another time.

Mr. B. describes Lady Davers’s role in providing for Miss Goodwin and keeping the secret from their parents, and then tells the story of his connection with Sally Godfrey. He met her while he was in college, before he was of age, and had easy access to her due to the manipulations of Sally’s mother, who planned to force him into marriage by exposing the pair in a compromising situation. Suspecting Sally of colluding in the plot, Mr. B. broke off the relationship before it had been consummated. This rejection, however, prompted Sally to demonstrate her devotion by throwing herself at Mr. B., thereby “mak[ing] herself quite guilty of a worse Fault, in order to clear herself of a lighter.” A clandestine amour ensued, the eventual result of which was a pregnancy. Mr. B. refused to marry Sally. Lady Davers took responsibility for the infant Miss Goodwin, eventually placing her in the boarding school, and Mr. B. settled on her enough money to give her an attractive dowry. Miss Goodwin knows nothing of her parents except that they are “a Gentleman and his Lady” related to Lady Davers.

When Pamela exhibits curiosity about the present condition of Sally, Mr. B. explains that she is in Jamaica, where she relocated after her difficulties in childbed had resolved her against a reversion to her former fault. Mr. B. had intended to persist in the dalliance, but Sally escaped him and married someone in Jamaica. The Squire then goes into detail about his pursuit of his former mistress, how he tracked her through England, even to the point of boarding her ship, the embarkation of which he tried in vain to delay. Sally’s adamant refusals caused him finally to give her up. He adds that Sally’s husband in Jamaica, who believes her to be a young widow with a child by her first marriage, recently sent Miss Goodwin “a little Negro Boy” to wait on her, though the boy died of smallpox a month after arriving in England.

Monday Morning.

On Sunday morning, Pamela and Mr. B. attend church. With Pamela decked out in a gown “of White flower’d with Gold, and a rich Head-dress, and the Diamond Necklace, Ear-rings, &c.,” they process down the aisle, attracting great interest and attention. After the service, a crowd forms on the church porch. Pamela collects the good wishes of Mrs. Arthur and Mrs. Brooks, and then summons John the footman to distribute alms among the begging poor. Mr. Martin approaches and lavishes compliments on Pamela, suggesting that she may succeed in reforming him as she reformed Mr. B.

In the afternoon Pamela and Mr. B. return to church and Mr. Martin ogles her throughout the service. Afterwards Mr. Arthur, Mr. Brooks, and Mr. Chambers bring their wives to meet Pamela, and Lady Towers joins them. All of the ladies compliment Pamela and approve Mr. B.’s choice in marriage. In the evening, Pamela and Mr. B. entertain Mr. Martin and his friend Mr. Dormer, and both the gentlemen bestow on Pamela yet more compliments. On Monday morning, twenty-five poor people arrive to accept Pamela’s charity.


After breakfast, Pamela walks with Mr. B. in the garden, and they shelter in the summerhouse during a rain shower. There he explains to her the measures he has recently taken to ensure that Pamela would be provided for if he were to die without producing an heir. Mr. B. is currently the last male of his line, and in case of his dying without a son, most of his estate would revert to another line (implicitly, that of Lady Davers), and Pamela would be at the mercy of the inheritors. He has accordingly arranged for Pamela’s prosperity and independence in the event of his death. He makes one request of Pamela, that as a widow she would never marry Mr. Williams.

Once the rain has stopped they walk again in the garden, and Mr. B. admires the beauty of nature. He then sings to Pamela some pastoral verses of his own invention. Pamela enjoys the song but is upset over the intimations of mortality that Mr. B. has inspired with his talk of inheritance and death.


On Thursday Pamela and Mr. B. entertain “almost all the neighbouring Gentry, and their good Ladies.” Everyone admires Pamela’s appearance, and Pamela resists her prideful impulses by reminding herself that all goodness comes from God. Pamela and Mr. B. receive the written compliments of Lady Davers, who plans to visit with her husband within two weeks. Pamela sends to her the writings that Lady Davers has requested. Pamela now wishes only for the presence and blessings of her parents, who will set out for a visit on Tuesday morning. She looks forward to another visit to the farmhouse where she met Miss Goodwin, and she hopes to be able to form the girl’s mind and character.

Editor’s Conclusion.

Pamela discontinues her journal after the Friday entry. She receives her parents joyfully, and Mr. and Mrs. Andrews live long and comfortably on Mr. B.’s Kentish estate. They visit their daughter twice a year for two weeks at a time.

Pamela bears Mr. B. several children. Her marriage continues to be a happy one, especially as Mr. B. develops into a moral paragon under Pamela’s influence. The ladies of the neighborhood continue to visit her, and her example improves them as well. Lady Davers also remains on good terms with her brother and his wife, and Miss Goodwin follows Pamela down the path of virtue, eventually marrying a decent and wealthy man.

The Editor goes on to derive several lessons from the characters and their experiences: Mr. B. provides the edifying spectacle of the reformed rake, Lady Davers that of “the Deformity of unreasonable Passion,” Mr. Williams that of clerical duty impeded by a patron but rewarded by providence, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews that of honest poverty similarly rewarded, and so on. The Editor then discusses Pamela at some length, enumerating her virtues and recommending emulation of her character.


The Sally Godfrey story, as Pamela acknowledges, shows what could have been Pamela’s fate if she had been less committed to the preservation of her virtue. Perhaps surprisingly, Sally turns out not to have fulfilled the classic trajectory of the fallen woman: she has not, as Pamela feared, died in childbirth or in a brothel somewhere; she has moved on with her life and made at least as good a marriage in Jamaica as she was likely to have made before her entanglement with Mr. B. As if to compensate for the improbability of this no-harm-no-foul resolution, Richardson supplies the strange detail of the slave child who died of smallpox after being sent to England; with this device he deflects onto a minor character the fallout of Sally and Mr. B.’s bad behavior.

Their conduct has had positive consequences as well, however: Richardson presents Miss Goodwin as an unambiguously charming little girl who genuinely reciprocates Pamela’s affections. The impulses that produced her may have been unrestrained, but they were in themselves productive. The novel as a whole is strongly pro-procreation, as for example are Mr. B. and Mr. Longman when they express their hopes of seeing children in the near future. Nor does reproduction figure simply as a biological fact or a means of generating “little Charmer[s]” like Miss Goodwin. In this case, it has a specific economic and social exigency, as Mr. B. reveals that he is the last male of his line and that therefore he and Pamela must produce an heir if the line is not to die out.

What with the happy expectation of progeny, the appearance of Miss Goodwin, and the reconciliation of Mr. B. with Lady Davers, the second half of the novel emphasizes ever more strongly the importance of blood ties and the family feeling that sustains them. Mr. B. turns out, perhaps surprisingly, to be very much a family man. He has readily elucidated his admiration of his sister, even in the face of her serious annoyance of him, and the terms in which he has done so are striking: “She was a dutiful Daughter, is a good Wife; . . . and, I believe, never any Sister better loved a Brother, than she me.” He has admitted that their tendency to quarrel with each other arises from personality flaws that they both derived from their common upbringing, and to complete the sense of their affinity, he reveals that his single ally in his efforts to minimize the damage from the Sally Godfrey affair was Lady Davers. Even this superlatively difficult sibling, then, is dear to Mr. B. because of what appears to be his instinctive attachment to everything that he considers to belong to him.

Pamela, of course, has at least as strong a sense of family piety as Mr. B. has; she demonstrates it in her reverence for her parents, in her readiness to extend amnesty to Lady Davers, and in her eagerness (which Mr. B. in fact withstands) to take Miss Goodwin into the Bedfordshire household. For Richardson, as Jocelyn Harris observes, “the sign of the generous heart is the perfecting and widening of family ties.” This is not a novel in which the hero and heroine retire to the winners’ circle with a few supportive family members, leaving the objecting relatives in the outer darkness (and here one thinks again of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice); rather, redemption touches the entire family. This sense of familial solidarity, Harris continues, “balances the spirit of rebellion against an unjust hierarchy which is present” in the novel but which is hardly the last word.