Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded

Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded Summary and Analysis of Pamela’s Journal: The 42nd Day of her Imprisonment through the 4th of her Freedom.


Thursday Morning.

Mr. B. announces that he will be leaving for Stamford and will not return until Saturday. He warns Mrs. Jewkes to keep close watch on Pamela because he has received a tip that one of his Bedfordshire servants has recently sent a letter for Pamela. Mr. B. also indicates that he has dismissed Mrs. Jervis, Mr. Longman, and Mr. Jonathan due to their appeal to Lady Davers, which has caused a breach between Mr. B. and his sister. Pamela regrets having been the occasion for the misfortunes of the servants, and she considers that if Mr. B. truly loved her, he would not resent his servants’ support of her.

Friday Night.

Pamela has retrieved her papers from under the rose bush. On Thursday evening, she and Mrs. Jewkes encounter a “Gypsy-like Body” who offers to tell their fortunes, and Pamela suspects that the gypsy may have a commission to deliver a letter to her. An hour after the gypsy has left, Pamela and Mrs. Jewkes inspect the area where she was standing, and Pamela finds a scrap of paper beneath a tuft of grass. The note warns her to expect an impostor clergyman who will put Pamela and Mr. B. through a sham wedding. Pamela reacts intensely against Mr. B., whom she had begun to love and forgive but who now appears to have betrayed her.

Saturday Afternoon.

Mr. B. returns from Stamford. Later in the day, Mrs. Jewkes comes upon Pamela and takes from her the parcel of writings from under the rose bush, which contains everything from Sunday, the 17th Day of her Imprisonment to Wednesday, the 27th Day. (Pamela has sewn the more recent writings into the linings of her underclothes.) Pamela begs Mrs. Jewkes not to show the papers to Mr. B., but to no avail.

Saturday Evening.

Mr. B. approaches Pamela in a pleasant manner, telling her that he has not yet read her papers. Pamela requests that he not read them at all. He then remonstrates with her for her unfriendly behavior toward him and returns to his conviction that she must be in love with someone else. Pamela begs that he will judge her fairly while reading the papers, and she insists on her absolute honesty. Mr. B. vows to judge her according to her deserts.

At nine o’clock Mr. B. summons Pamela to what he calls her “Trial.” He has read her papers, and he describes her correspondence with Mr. Williams as “love letters,” refusing to believe that her efforts to discourage the clergyman were genuine. He asks to see Pamela’s earlier letters, which are now in the hands of her father, as well as her later efforts, which are hidden in her garments. When he threatens to strip-search her for the later writings, she begs to be allowed to fetch them from upstairs, where she claims to have hidden them. From her closet, she sends Mr. B. a note asking for time until tomorrow morning to look over the papers. He grants this extension, and Pamela uses the time to make notes of the contents of the papers she is giving up.

Sunday Morning.

Pamela meets Mr. B. in the garden and hands over her papers. He sits down with her beside the pond and flips to the account of Pamela’s escape attempt and her near-suicide. As he reads, he walks around the garden to the various spots Pamela mentions in her narrative, which he declares “is a very moving Tale.” After reading the relation of Pamela’s genuine near-suicide, Mr. B. reflects, “I see you have been us’d too roughly.” He regrets aloud his strategy of terrifying her into submission, and he vows to make amends. Pamela still fears the sham-marriage, however, and asks again to return to her parents. Her eagerness to leave angers Mr. B., and Pamela reflects on the effects of his spoiled childhood on his character.

In the afternoon, Mrs. Jewkes tells Pamela to prepare to return to her parents forthwith. Pamela readies her belongings but is far from believing that she will find herself at home any time soon.


On Sunday evening, Pamela departs Mr. B.’s Lincolnshire estate and is surprised to discover how reluctant she is to leave and how upset she is that the Squire has turned her out of doors. With Robin the coachman and Monsieur Colbrand, she reaches an alehouse in a strange village after nightfall. Robin gives her a letter from Mr. B. in which the Squire reveals that he was on the point of proposing marriage to her when he sent her away. Pamela reels from the emotional impact of this letter and admits to herself that she has fallen in love with Mr. B.

Monday Morning.

Pamela and her companions arrive at the inn belonging to Mrs. Jewkes’s family. Pamela rereads her letter from Mr. B. Soon the Squire’s groom arrives with letters for Pamela and Colbrand. To Pamela Mr. B. writes that he has read further in her journal and finds the evidence of her character so impressive that he now desires Pamela to return to Lincolnshire and, implicitly, wishes to marry her. Pamela, while thrilled at this prospect, nevertheless continues to suspect a plot to entrap her in a sham-marriage. She finally resolves to return to Lincolnshire. Before departing, however, she sends a note to her parents informing them that all is well and directing them to send her papers to Mr. B. in Lincolnshire. They arrive in Lincolnshire late at night to find that Mr. B. is ill with a fever.

Tuesday Morning.

Pamela visits Mr. B., who is ill in bed. The Squire orders Mrs. Jewkes to leave Pamela entirely at liberty and informs Pamela that he has released Mr. Williams from prison and may forgive his debt. When Pamela expresses her regret over the breach between Mr. B. and Lady Davers, he allows her to read a letter he has received in which his sister berates him for his dalliance with Pamela. Lady Davers reasons that her brother must be planning to keep Pamela either as a mistress or as a wife, and either connection would be disgraceful. She vows to renounce Mr. B. forever if he brings their mother’s waiting-maid into the family. Pamela reflects on the unmerited pride of the noble and wealthy.

Wednesday Morning.

Mr. B. invites Pamela to go driving with him in the chariot, and Pamela considers whether she should dress up for the event or wear her favorite country clothes, which she fears will shame her Master. Mr. B. approves the more modest outfit.

During the chariot ride, Mr. B. explains the causes of his sister’s anger. Lady Davers favors the daughter of a lord as Mr. B.’s future wife and resents her brother’s choice of another. She also, of course, fears the censure of the fashionable world if Mr. B. marries a member of the servant class, and Mr. B. himself admits that no noble ladies will ever visit a Mrs. Pamela B. He probes Pamela’s attitudes on this point, and Pamela professes herself indifferent to the opinion of high society.

Once they have resolved to be perfectly happy together, Pamela shows Mr. B. the note she received from the gypsy, and he identifies the writing as that of Mr. Longman. He admits that did indeed have a plan of deceiving Pamela with a sham-marriage and might have let the farce continue for years before telling her the truth. He thought better, however, upon reflecting that, among other things, he would be incapable of legitimating their offspring and passing his property to them.

As the chariot turns back toward the house, Mr. B. informs Pamela that some of the neighboring gentry will be coming to dinner in a few days in order to meet Pamela. He requests that she wear her country outfit, since the neighbors have heard the story behind it, and Mr. B. wants to demonstrate that Pamela’s attractions are not dependent on her wardrobe.

Pamela and Mr. B. meet Mrs. Jewkes upon reentering the house, and Pamela forgives the housekeeper’s harsh treatment of her. The Squire invites Pamela to dine with him, but she declines, fearing that so many distinctions will cause her to grow proud.


In the morning, Pamela and Mr. B. discuss their wedding arrangements. Mr. B. wants to get married within two weeks and favors a private ceremony in his own house. Pamela prefers a church wedding, so Mr. B. compromises by ordering the cleanup of the family chapel. Pamela also resists Mr. B.’s impatience and chooses the second week of the fortnight.

Thomas the servant returns from Pamela’s parents, reporting that Mr. and Mrs. Andrews will not hand over the papers and that they believe Pamela either to have written her reassuring note on compulsion or to have yielded to Mr. B.’s dishonorable intentions. Pamela writes her parents a longer letter explaining how things now stand.

Mr. B. goes out for another drive and, upon returning, recounts to Pamela his meeting with Mr. Williams in a field. The Squire and Pamela argue again about whether she encouraged the clergyman’s hopes of marrying her.


Volume II begins with the opening, after some false starts, of a new chapter in Pamela’s life. Though her habitual suspicions and hesitations hinder her for a time, Pamela in this portion of the journal comes to recognize Mr. B.’s moral reformation, and it is her writings, so long a bone of contention between them, that facilitate this meeting of their minds.

The scene of Pamela’s “Trial” contains the culmination of Mr. B.’s long-standing obsession with her writings. This interest of Mr. B.’s is, on one view, quite sinister. While in the beginning his ostensible objection to her “scribbling” had to do with her gossiping about him and his family, gradually his motive developed into a more erotic and tyrannical ambition to possess absolute knowledge of Pamela, to prevent her withholding from him either her mind or her body. It is fitting, in view of Mr. B.’s desire for both mental and physical knowledge, that the convergence of clothes imagery with the themes of writing and intimacy, which began with his surprising her during her composition of Letter I, should reach its culmination during this scene.

Pamela has sewn her secret papers into her undergarments, and the evocations of pregnancy with which she has described this stratagem (“my Writings may be discovered; for they grow large”) make her seem to have assimilated the writings directly to her body. The distinction seems to have gone blurry for Mr. B. as well: when he declares, “I will now begin to strip my pretty Pamela,” he seeks not only (or even primarily) her physical person but, rather, her literary output. The mortification that Pamela expects will attend this revelation (“now he will see all my private Thoughts of him, and all my Secrets”) indicates that she considers this assault to be as great a violation as would be a physical rape, even if less morally compromising for the victim. She recognizes that Mr. B. has decided that even the record of her secret thoughts must participate in his self-presentation as a dominating male.

The trial scene has a positive side, too, however. As Jocelyn Harris observes, trial scenes in general are favorite resolution devices in Richardson’s fiction, being safe arenas in which the powerless can speak out and truth can carry the day. Pamela’s handing over of the “evidence” after the Trial leads to the scene in which Mr. B. finally ceases to be a predator and becomes her perfectly sympathetic reader. This incident is the fourth important scene to take place by the pond in the garden: the first was the angling scene, the second was the incident of Pamela’s near-suicide, and the third was her tentative reconcilement with Mr. B. on Wednesday night (in the final entry of Volume I). This scene revises all three of its predecessors, effecting a more enduring reconciliation than that of Wednesday night. As Mr. B. reads the account of her struggle with despair and her subsequent reaffirmation of her faith in God, his resulting tenderness gives her cause to recover her faith in man, and finally he becomes the merciful angler to her hooked carp, granting her freedom when she continues to demand it. The total import of the scene is that of the redemption of Mr. B.’s desire for knowledge about Pamela, as he now employs that knowledge in fostering sympathy and love.

Unfortunately, whereas Mr. B. has finally passed the test of generosity toward his servant and beloved, Pamela fails the first test of her faith in man. She has yet to overcome her habit of “suspect[ing] all the World almost” and, still fearing the sham-marriage, she asks again to return to her parents. The request angers Mr. B., who nevertheless grants it, and Pamela finds to her surprise that she is hardly more satisfied with the result: “I was loth to leave the House. Can you believe it?---What could be the Matter with me, I wonder!” Poetic justice is served as the mistrustful Pamela finally gets what she has so long demanded, only to find that she no longer wants it.

Pamela’s struggle with her heart, which comes explicitly to the fore in the aftermath of her dismissal, is a conflict that is itself at the heart of the novel. Though she has previously wondered at her own high tolerance for Mr. B.’s “bad usage” of her (“Why can’t I hate him?”), she has resisted admitting the cause that has long been apparent to the reader. During the Trial scene, she insists on the absolute veracity of her writings, saying, “I wrote my Heart; and that is not deceitful”; the reader will notice, however, that the degree to which Pamela’s heart has been obscure to Pamela herself argues strongly against this claim. Now, thinking that she has lost Mr. B. forever, she expostulates with the organ she previously thought so transparent: “O my treacherous, treacherous Heart! to serve me thus! And give no Notice to me of the Mischiefs thou wast about to bring upon me!” The treachery of Pamela’s heart raises important questions for her authority and reliability as a narrator, with consequences for the job of the reader. As her own pronouncements on the state of her emotions have by no means been the last word, the reader’s role must therefore be an active and critical one. When Pamela writes her heart, what she produces is not a definitive interpretation of her psyche but rather a set of data that the reader must analyze in order to form an independent conclusion.