Monday, September 12, 2016

come to hear a little more

Society is the unit of enclosure in Richardson; also the space of letters. The books are their own enclosures in a way that a fiction with nature descriptions is not, since the material of a book is never nature and it can’t mimic nature; cannot be like a twig or rock; a book can’t come from nature; so every detail in a Richardson book is a reinforcement of enclosure in its own implied matter. (This should be qualified by a reminder of the Alps in Grandison, vol. 4 ch. 39.) Richardson, as an author of fiction books, was born from a volume of model letters that his friends Charles Rivington and John Osbourne convinced him to write for them, “a little book (which, they said, they were often asked after) of familiar letters on the useful concerns of common life; and, at last, I yielded to their importunity” (letter to Aaron Hill, 1 Feb., 1741). He owned a printing business and they were his colleagues in the trade. You assume that they didn’t feel like writing the model letter book themselves; maybe not trusting their own abilities, or else they didn’t have time, or it seemed easier to bug their friend, who had never written a work of fiction before, though he had edited some of the books that came through his presses, and had once composed a pamphlet of advice for apprentices, The Apprentice’s Vade Mecum, 1733. Something in what he was (what was it: what was he?) encouraged them to ask him several times to write this Familiar Letters, which was composed in 1739 and published eventually in 1741. “While I was writing the two volumes, my worthy-hearted wife, and the young lady who is with us, when I had read them some part of the story, which I had begun without their knowing it, used to come into my closet every night with – ‘Have you any more of Pamela, Mr. R.? We are come to hear a little more of Pamela’ &c. This encouraged me to prosecute it.” They did not have to ask him directly, according to him (their asking-him asked him, not they) – he flew into it “so diligently, through all my other business, that, by a memorandum on my copy, I began it Nov. 10, 1739, and finished it Jan. 10, 1739-40.” The epistolary formula stimulated him to invent it, the never-alone to and fro motion, which he combines with the direct me-to-you of instruction (the idea of vade mecum never left him). These two actions at once. He is always with people.

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