Characters of Women in Narrative Literature by Keith M. May

By Keith M. May

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He was also in love with absolutes despite his careful attention to variegated particulars. Lovelace, he insisted, was an absolute villain, thoroughly evil, and if any correspondent pointed to Lovelace's 'good' attributes he angrily pushed such attributes to one side. This further illustrates his tendency to regard evil as essentially mixed, but goodness as uniform. What additionally emerges from this consideration of Richardson is that he, in contrast to Defoe, loved the tribulations and triumphs of entrapment.

In all probability neither did Richardson, though he may have been mildly and sporadically concerned over his own pride, which is reflected in the pride of his admired characters. The Eighteenth Century 43 Pamela's excellencies are emphasized, venerated indeed throughout both parts of her story, so it makes little difference (in fact it only highlights what is seen by Richardson as her goodness) when at one point she wonders whether God has put her to various trials in order to encourage her to overcome the 'lurking vileness' of her heart.

Then, we can surely agree with Hazlitt about the aspect of 'pure fiction' in the novels : in particular the plots have not matured sufficiently beyond their origins in wish-fulfilment. Finally Hazlitt's point about the combination of pure fiction with 'literal minuteness' is valuable. That is one of the peculiar Richardson qualities. To understand these contradictions it is necessary first to acknowledge that Richardson's zeal for virtue (his genuine zeal, it may still be necessary to add) made him unable to grasp and represent the mixed nature of virtue as it actually exists.

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