OF THE BABY NAME PAMELA
Pamela Andrews is the title character in Samuel Richardson’s 1740 novel, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. Pamela is indeed virtuous, although her “reward” would be called into question by modern day standards. A beautiful and uncommonly intelligent young maidservant in the household of the aristocratic Mr. B, she is the unwilling recipient of repeated amorous advances on his part. Now, of course, this is one of the first novels as we know the form to day (in this case, epistolary), so we have to give a tremendous amount of leeway to the social, cultural and economic divisions between the classes, and the advantage that the upper automatically had over the lower – but still!! Mr. B. doesn’t just gently turn his attentions to lovely Pamela – oh, no – he pursues her, tries to seduce her, kidnaps her, imprisons her, steals and reads her mail, tries to marry her off to another man, tries to buy her silence about the entire matter and then, gentle readers, what? Well, he is so impressed by the virtuous character of Pamela that he condescends to marry her, in spite of the yawning gap in their social orders. And this is Virtue Rewarded. Well, we have to admit it probably beats one of the other uses for lower class women of the times.
Pamela appears once again in Henry Fielding’s 1742 novel, Joseph Andrews, being part of Fielding’s response to what he considered worthy of satire in Samuel Richardson. (He had done this to great effect a year earlier in his pamphlet, Shamela.) Pamela, of course, is sister to Joseph, who finds himself in a similarly distressing position – he is being pursued by one Lady Booby, for whom he works as her footman. He, of course, is in love with another, the poor but beautiful Fanny. Nothing like a little broad humor, right? In addition to being a good fellow, Joseph is also intent on remaining chaste until his marriage vows are spoken. At any rate, Pamela doesn’t play too much of a part in these proceedings, except to provide the linkage for Mr. Fielding to have his fun with Mr. Richardson, and we’re fine with that. And in the end, it turns out that little Fanny and Joseph were conveniently switched at birth - so while Joseph loses a sister in Pamela, at least he cannot be accused of incest in marrying Fanny (which had actually been a concern in this very complicated plot). What a relief!
Pamela is a character in Sir Philip Sidney’s epic pastoral poem, (The Old) Arcadia, a version on which he was working at the time of his death in 1586. It had been dedicated to his sister, Mary Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, who published a version in 1593. It was thereafter referred to as The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia. Pamela is the elder of the two daughters of the Duke of Arcadia, Basilius, who is trying to protect his family from the disasters predicted by the Oracle at Delphos. After five books of heart-stopping adventures, including but not limited to: attempted rape, bear and lion attacks, poisonous drinks, mistaken identities, unrequited love, murder, coma and mob riots, pretty Pamela and her sister are united with their true loves, (royal princes, of course), and married, happily ever after, of course.