Samuel Richardson

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The heart that is able to partake of the distress of another, cannot wilfully give it.

Samuel Richardson (19 August 16894 July 1761) was an 18th-century English writer and printer. He was one of the most admired fiction-writers of his day, both in his native England and across Europe. He is now considered one of the fathers of the novel.


I am forced, as I have often said, to try to make myself laugh, that I may not cry: for one or other I must do.

Pamela (1740)

Quotations are cited from the Oxford World’s Classics edition (2001). ISBN 0192829602.
  • O! what a Godlike Power is that of doing Good! — I envy the Rich and the Great for nothing else!
    • p. 312
  • My Master said, on another Occasion, that those who doubt most, always erred least.
    • p. 332

Clarissa (1747–1748)

Quotations are taken from the Tauchnitz edition (1862)
  • That dangerous but too commonly received notion, that a reformed rake makes the best husband.
    • Vol. 1, p. 5; Preface
  • The person who will bear much shall have much to bear, all the world through.
    • Vol. 1, p. 44; Letter 10
  • The pleasures of the mighty are obtained by the tears of the poor.
    • Vol. 1, p. 286; Letter 43
  • I am forced, as I have often said, to try to make myself laugh, that I may not cry: for one or other I must do.
    • Vol. 2, p. 231; Letter 92
  • Love gratified, is love satisfied — and love satisfied, is indifference begun.
    • Vol. 2, p. 452; Letter 126
  • Nothing can be more wounding to a spirit not ungenerous, than a generous forgiveness.
    • Vol. 2, p. 478; Letter 135
Quotations are taken from the first edition.
Vast is the field of Science … the more a man knows, the more he will find he has to know.
  • Vast is the field of Science … the more a man knows, the more he will find he has to know.
    • Vol. 1, letter 11
  • The World, thinking itself affronted by superior merit, takes delight to bring it down to its own level.
    • Vol. 1, letter 36
  • Women are so much in love with compliments that rather than want them, they will compliment one another, yet mean no more by it than the men do.
    • Vol. 1, letter 37
  • Those who have least to do are generally the most busy people in the world.
    • Vol. 2, letter 3
  • A feeling heart is a blessing that no one, who has it, would be without; and it is a moral security of innocence; since the heart that is able to partake of the distress of another, cannot wilfully give it.
    • Vol. 3, letter 32
  • There hardly can be a greater difference between any two men, than there too often is, between the same man, a lover and a husband.
    • Vol. 4, letter 17
  • Of what violences, murders, depredations, have not the epic poets, from all antiquity, been the occasion, by propagating false honour, false glory, and false religion?
    • Vol. 6, letter 45
  • The mind can be but full. It will be as much filled with a small disagreeable occurrence, having no other, as with a large one.
    • Vol. 6, letter 46

The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson with Lady Bradshaigh (1804)

All quotes are from the public domain text, available at "The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson. Vol. 6"
  • The pen is almost as pretty an implement in a woman's fingers, as a needle.
    • p. 120

Quotes about Richardson

  • I finished Pamela which I had been reading at Southsea. The last volume is a tedious anticlimax, but otherwise I enjoyed it immensely. One can hardly believe our habits and values will ever seem as incredibly quaint to our descendants as those of our ancestors, thus portrayed, do to us. The language is too delicious; the men are "sad rakes", the women "of virtuous and amiable disposition", and the degree of what was known as "sensibility" too extraordinary. On every page some benefactor's hand is seized and bathed with tears of gratitude, and the combination of demonstrative, schwärmerei-ish emotions and the greatest formality of manner. They always cried and swooned when conversing with their husbands, but never neglected to call them "Sir" or "Mr B." It is extremely long and trivially told, but amazingly readable. Pamela's morality is tawdry and commercially expedient to the last degree, but she is redeemed from platitudinous priggishness by a certain sprightliness and one is made sensible of her charm of appearance.
    • Lady Cynthia Asquith, diary entry (16 April 1915), quoted in Lady Cynthia Asquith, Diaries, 1915–1918 (1968), p. 5
  • Erskine: "Surely, Sir, Richardson is very tedious."
    Johnson: "Why, Sir, if you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. But you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment."
  • Richardson is the first of our novelists who set the fashion of concentrating all the interest of human life upon the war between man and woman. With what wondrous patience he depicts the siege of Clarissa and the stratagems of Lovelace! In that narrative, so full and so long, there is no other interest for a moment but this, "What will Lovelace do with Clarissa, and what will Clarissa do with Lovelace?"
    The effect thus produced by Richardson on the craft of the novelist has been general and durable. Of all our novelists, with the single exception of Scott, he is the one whose influence has been the most profound and the most pervading on the literature of foreign nations. I doubt whether even the Werther of Goethe or the Nouvelle Heloise of Rousseau would ever have been written if Clarissa Harlowe had not laid the trains of thought that led to their composition. In France, more especially, even to this day, three-fourths of the novels that treat exclusively of the Tempter and the Tempted may be as clearly traced to Richardson as three-fourths of the metaphysical works that inculcate materialism may be traced to Locke.
    • Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 'Love, In Its Influence Upon Literature' (1862), quoted in Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Miscellaneous Prose Works, Vol. II (1868), p. 373
  • While Richardson has been thus influential over the greatest authors of prose fiction on the Continent, he has been no less potent over the very feeblest of such writers as we in England read but do not boast of. Certainly few of our fashionable novelists have ever read Richardson, but nine-tenths of our fashionable novelists are exclusively erotic. Take the love-story away from their plots, and, insipid though the love-story be, nothing of a plot would remain. Now, those nine-tenths of our fashionable novelists would never have been erotic if Richardson, whom they have never read, had not written.
    • Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 'Love, In Its Influence Upon Literature' (1862), quoted in Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Miscellaneous Prose Works, Vol. II (1868), pp. 374-375
  • This is the creative spirit who, by means of instructive stories, commands us to feel the charm of virtue; who, by means of Grandison, extorts from the sinner himself a first wish to be pious also. The works which he created, no time can destroy; they are nature, taste, religion. Immortal is Homer, but among Christians the British Richardson is more immortal still.
  • Except by Clarissa Harlowe I was never so moved by a work of genius as by Othello. I read seventeen hours a day at Clarissa, and held the book so long up leaning on my elbows in an arm-chair, that I stopped the circulation and could not move. When Lovelace writes, "Dear Belton, it is all over, and Clarissa lives," I got up in a fury and wept like an infant, and cursed and d——d Lovelace till exhausted. This is the triumph of genius over the imagination and heart of its readers.
    • Benjamin Haydon, journal entry (3 March 1813), quoted in Life of Benjamin Robert Haydon, Historical Painter, From His Autobiography and Journals, Vol. I, ed. Tom Taylor (1853), p. 223
  • But in spite of his flatness and insensitiveness, his talent was great. His success came from the fact that he did know how people feel, and, above that, he could paint the intricacy of tragic feelings. Especially he knew how women feel, and how they would like to think they feel; and he was on their side. He describes himself as "with his eye always on the ladies"; he felt himself at home with them; he was always sizing up their air, their reactions, and their emotions. The milieu in which he set himself, his circle of women friends, did not, after all, serve only to swell his sense of prestige.
    Under that very explicit moral intention he preserved in addition a real artistic integrity.
    • Alan Porter, 'Samuel Richardson', The Spectator (17 November 1928), p. 742
  • Men eminent for piety, wisdom, and virtue, have recommended Richardson's Clarissa from the pulpit; a work which Dr. Johnson, (so generally unwilling to praise) has been often heard to pronounce, "not only the first novel, but perhaps the first work in our language, splendid in point of genius, and calculated to promote the dearest interests of religion and virtue."
    • Anna Seward, Variety: A Collection of Essays (1788), p. 215
  • Richardson was popular because he gave voice to sentiments that were already latent in society; it was because he anticipated the younger generation by giving expression to these feelings that he was so much idolized by it. Almost all the characteristics of the romantic school—its disregard of conventional literary form, its exaltation of emotion, its idealization of women, its preoccupation with the theme of education, its recognition of the moral value of the individual, are found in Richardson's novels. And, limiting our enquiry to his native land, it may be further remarked that a society, which notwithstanding its surface corruption was sound at heart, would not long remain content in the spiritual torpor that had overtaken it. The revulsion that is marked by the Wesleyan movement in religion, is marked in literature by the appearance of Richardson. Henceforth the moral tone of the nation becomes healthier... [N]ot his least claim to originality is that in an age of selfishness and brutality he appealed to higher sentiments, and awoke true and tender emotions in his readers.
    • Clara Linklater Thomson, Samuel Richardson: A Biographical and Critical Study (1900), pp. 289-290
  • When his story of Pamela first came out, some extracts got into the public papers, and used by that means to find their way down as far as Preston in Lancashire, where my aunt who told me the story then resided. One morning as she rose, the bells were set singing and the flag was observed to fly from the great steeple. She rang her bell and inquired the reason of these rejoicings, when her maid came in bursting with joy, and said, "Why, madam, poor Pamela's married at last; the news came down to us in this morning's paper."
  • Richardson is among English novelists the first analyst of the mind and the emotions: he is the inaugurator of the psychological novel. But his method differs widely from that of the psychological novelist of to-day, say George Meredith and Mr. Henry James. Richardson's method is purely objective, and in his analysis he does not set out upon a voyage of discovery. He stands firmly poised on his feet, satisfied with himself, and is unmoved in his dissection of the specimen which lies before him. His insight is objective, cold, hard, and unsympathetic. In a word, unlike the novelists of the latter decades of the nineteenth century, Richardson is not introspective. The mystery of individual character and personality interests us now, because we are impressed with the inexplicable mysteriousness of our own individuality. The novelist of to-day who probes into the secrets of the soul is the scholar who is perplexed with himself, and finds no master to instruct him. Richardson is imbued with the logical and scientific spirit of his age, and he approaches human life armed with his diploma as the qualified teacher. This is only to say that he belonged to his time, and knew nothing of that overstrained subjective temperament which is common with us.
Wikipedia has an article about: