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There is some significance in the fact that Samuel Richardson, founder of the modern novel, was so squarely a middle-class citizen of London town.  Since the form, he founded was, as we have seen, democratic in its original motive and subsequent development, it was fitting that the first shaper of the form should have sympathies not too exclusively aristocratic:  should have been willing to draw upon the backstairs history of the servants’ hall for his first heroine.

To be sure, Mr. Richardson had the not uncommon failing of the humble-born:  he desired above all, and attempted too much, to depict the manners of the great; he had naïve aristocratical leanings which account for his uncertain tread when he would move with ease among the boudoirs of Mayfair.  Nevertheless, in the honest heart of him, as his earliest novel forever proves, he felt for the woes of those social underlings who, as we have long since learned, have their microcosm faithfully reflecting the greater world they serve, and he did his best work in that intimate portrayal of the feminine heart, which is not of a class but typically human; he knew Clarissa Harlowe quite as well as he did Pamela; both were of interest because they were women.  That acute contemporary, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, severely reprimands Richardson for his vulgar lapses in painting polite society and the high life he so imperfectly knew; yet in the very breath that she condemns “Clarissa Harlowe” as “most miserable stuff,” confesses that “she was such an old fool as to weep over” it “like any milkmaid of sixteen over the ballad of the Lady’s Fall” ­the handsomest kind of a compliment under the circumstances.  And with the same charming inconsistency, she declares on the appearance of “Sir Charles Grandison” that she heartily despises Richardson, yet eagerly reads him ­“nay, sobs over his works in the most scandalous manner.”

Richardson was the son of a carpenter and himself a respected printer, who by cannily marrying the daughter of the man to whom he was apprenticed, and by diligence in his vocation, rose to prosperity, so that by 1754 he became Master of The Stationers’ Company and King’s Printer, doing besides an excellent printing business.

As a boy he had relieved the dumb anguish of serving maids by the penning of their love letters; he seemed to have a knack at this vicarious manner of love-making and when in the full maturity of fifty years, certain London publishers requested him to write for them a narrative which might stand as a model letter writer from which country readers should know the right tone, his early practice stood him in good stead.  Using the epistolary form into which he was to throw all his fiction, he produced “Pamela,” the first novel of analysis, in contrast with the tale of adventure, of the English tongue.  It is worth remarking that Richardson wrote this story at an age when many novelists have well-nigh completed their work; even as Defoe published his masterpiece, “Robinson Crusoe,” at fifty-eight.  But such forms as drama and fiction are the very ones where ripe maturity, a long and varied experience with the world and a trained hand in the technique of the craft, go for their full value.  A study of the chronology of novel-making will show that more acknowledged masterpieces were written after forty than before.  Beside the eighteenth century examples one places George Eliot, who wrote no fiction until she had nearly reached the alleged dead-line of mental activity:  Browning with his greatest poem, “The Ring and the Book,” published in his forty-eighth year; Du Maurier turning to fiction at sixty, and De Morgan still later.  Fame came to Richardson then late in life, and never man enjoyed it more.  Ladies with literary leanings (and the kind is independent of periods) used to drop into his place beyond Temple Bar ­for he was a bookseller as well as printer, and printed and sold his own wares ­to finger his volumes and have a chat about poor Pamela or the naughty Lovelace or impeccable Grandison.  For how, in sooth, could they keep away or avoid talking shop when they were bursting with the books just read?

And much, too, did Richardson enjoy the prosperity his stories, as well as other ventures, brought him, so that he might move out Hammersmith way where William Mortis and Cobden Sanderson have lived in our day, and have a fine house wherein to receive those same lady callers, who came in increasing flocks to his impromptu court where sat the prim, cherub-faced, elderly little printer.  It is all very quaint, like a Watteau painting or a bit of Dresden china, as we look back upon it through the time-mists of a century and a half.

In spite of its slow movement, the monotony of the letter form and the terribly utilitarian nature of its morals, “Pamela” has the essentials of interesting fiction; its heroine is placed in a plausible situation, she is herself life-like and her struggles are narrated with a sympathetic insight into the human heart ­or better, the female heart.  The gist of a plot so simple can be stated in few words:  Mr. B., the son of a lady who has benefited Pamela Andrews, a serving maid, tries to conquer her virtue while she resists all his attempts ­including an abduction, Richardson’s favorite device ­and as a reward of her chastity, he condescends to marry her, to her very great gratitude and delight.  The English Novel started out with a flourish of trumpets as to its moral purpose; latter-day criticism may take sides for or against the novel-with-a-purpose, but that Richardson justified his fiction writing upon moral grounds and upon those alone is shown in the descriptive title-page of the tale, too prolix to be often recalled and a good sample in its long-windedness of the past compared with the terse brevity of the present in this matter:  “Published in order to cultivate the principles of virtue and religion in the mind of youth of both sexes”; the author of “Sanford and Merton” has here his literary progenitor.  The sub-title, “or Virtue Rewarded,” also indicates the homiletic nature of the book.  And since the one valid criticism against all didactic aims in story-telling is that it is dull, Richardson, it will be appreciated, ran a mighty risk.  But this he was able to escape because of the genuine human interest of his tales and the skill he displayed with psychologic analysis rather than the march of events.  The close-knit, organic development of the best of our modern fiction is lacking; leisurely and lax seems the movement.  Modern editions of “Pamela” and “Clarissa Harlowe” are in the way of vigorous cutting for purposes of condensation.  Scott seems swift and brief when set beside Richardson Yet the slow convolutions and involutions serve to acquaint us intimately with the characters; dwelling with them longer, we come to know them better.

It is a fault in the construction of the story that instead of making Pamela’s successful marriage the natural climax and close of the work, the author effects it long before the novel is finished and then tries to hold the interest by telling of the honeymoon trip in Italy, her cool reception by her husband’s family, involving various subterfuges and difficulties, and the gradual moral reform she was able to bring about in her spouse.  It must be conceded to him that some capital scenes are the result of this post-hymeneal treatment; that, to illustrate, where the haughty sister of Pamela’s husband calls on the woman she believes to be her husband’s mistress.  Yet there is an effect of anti-climax; the main excitement ­getting Pamela honestly wedded ­is over.  But we must not forget the moral purpose:  Mr. B.’s spiritual regeneration has to be portrayed before our very eyes, he must be changed from a rake into a model husband; and with Richardson, that means plenty of elbow-room.  There is, too, something prophetic in this giving of ample space to post-marital life; it paves the way for much latter-day probing of the marriage misery.

The picture of Mr. B. and Pamela’s attitude towards him is full of irony for the modern reader; here is a man who does all in his power to ruin her and, finding her adamant, at last decides to do the next best thing ­secure her by marriage.  And instead of valuing him accordingly, Pamela, with a kind of spaniel-like fawning, accepts his august hand.  It must be confessed that with Pamela (that is, with Richardson), virtue is a market commodity for sale to the highest bidder, and this scene of barter and sale is an all-unconscious revelation of the low standard of sex ethics which obtained at the time.  The suggestion by Sidney Lanier that the sub-title should be:  “or Vice Rewarded,” “since the rascal Mr. B. it is who gets the prize rather than Pamela,” has its pertinency from our later and more enlightened view.  But such was the eighteenth century.  The exposure of an earlier time is one of the benefits of literature, always a sort of ethical barometer of an age ­all the more trustworthy in reporting spiritual ideals because it has no intention of doing so.

That Richardson succeeds in making Mr. B. tolerable, not to say likable, is a proof of his power; that the reader really grows fond of his heroine ­especially perhaps in her daughterly devotion to her humble family ­speaks volumes for his grasp of human nature and helps us to understand the effect of the story upon contemporaneous readers.  That effect was indeed remarkable.  Lady Mary, to quote her again, testifies that the book “met with very extraordinary (and I think undeserved) success.  It has been translated into French and Italian; it was all the fashion at Paris and Versailles and is still the joy of the chambermaids of all nations.”  Again she writes, “it has been translated into more languages than any modern performances I ever heard of.”  A French dramatic version of it under the same title appeared three years after the publication of the novel and a little later Voltaire in his “Nanine” used the same motif.  Lady Mary’s reference to chambermaids is significant; it points to the new sympathy on the part of the novelist and the consequent new audience which the modern Novel was to command; literally, all classes and conditions of mankind were to become its patrons; and as one result, the author, gaining his hundreds of thousands of readers, was to free himself forever of the aristocratic Patron, at whose door once on a time, he very humbly and hungrily knelt for favor.  To-day, the Patron is hydra-headed; demos rules in literature as in life.

The sentimentality of this pioneer novel which now seems old-fashioned and even absurd, expressed Queen Anne’s day.  “Sensibility,” as it was called, was a favorite idea in letters, much affected, and later a kind of cult.  A generation after Pamela, in Mackenzie’s “Man of Feeling,” weeping is unrestrained in English fiction; the hero of that lachrymose tale incurred all the dangers of influenza because of his inveterate tendency toward damp emotional effects; he was perpetually dissolving in “showers of tears.”  In fact, our novelists down to the memory of living man gave way to their feelings with far more abandon than is true of the present repressive period.  One who reads Dickens’ “Nicholas Nickleby” with this in mind, will perhaps be surprised to find how often the hero frankly indulges his grief; he cries with a freedom that suggests a trait inherited from his mother of moist memory.  No doubt, there was abuse of this “sensibility” in earlier fiction:  but Richardson was comparatively innocuous in his practice, and Coleridge, having the whole sentimental tendency in view, seems rather too severe when he declared that “all the evil achieved by Hobbes and the whole school of materialists will appear inconsiderable if it be compared with the mischief effected and occasioned by the sentimental philosophy of Sterne and his numerous imitators.”  The same tendency had its vogue on both the English and French stage ­the Comedie larmoyante of the latter being vastly affected in London and receiving in the next generation the good-natured satiric shafts of Goldsmith.  It may be possible that at the present time, when the stoicism of the Red Indian in inhibiting expression seems to be an Anglo-Saxon ideal, we have reacted too far from the gush and the fervor of our forefathers.  In any case, to Richardson belongs whatever of merit there may be in first sounding the new sentimental note.

Pope declared that “Pamela,” was as good as twenty sermons ­an innocently malignant remark, to be sure, which cuts both ways!  And plump, placid Mr. Richardson established warm epistolary relations with many excellent if too emotional ladies, who opened a correspondence with him concerning the conductment of this and the following novels and strove to deflect the course thereof to soothe their lacerated feelings.  What novelist to-day would not appreciate an audience that would take him au grand serieux in this fashion!  What higher compliment than for your correspondent ­and a lady at that ­to state that in the way of ministering to her personal comfort, Pamela must marry and Clarissa must not die!  Richardson carried on a voluminous letter-writing in life even as in literature, and the curled darlings of latter-day letters may well look to their laurels in recalling him, A certain Mme. Belfair, for example, desires to look upon the author of those wonderful tales, yet modestly shrinks from being seen herself.  She therefore implores that he will walk at an hour named in St. James Park ­and this is the novelist’s reply: 

I go through the Park once or twice a week to my little retirement; but I will for a week together be in it, every day three or four hours, till you tell me you have seen a person who answers to this description, namely, short ­rather plump ­fair wig, lightish cloth coat, all black besides; one hand generally in his bosom, the other a cane in it, which he leans upon under the skirts of his coat; ... looking directly fore-right as passers-by would imagine, but observing all that stirs on either hand of him; hardly ever turning back; of a light brown complexion, smoothish faced and ruddy cheeked, looking about sixty-five; a regular, even pace, a gray eye, sometimes lively ­very lively if he have hope of seeing a lady whom he loves and honors!

Such innocent philandering is delicious; there is a flavor to it that presages the “Personals” in a New York newspaper.  “Was ever lady in such humor wooed?” or shall we say it is the novelist, not the lady, who is besieged!

“Pamela” ran through five editions within a year of its appearance, which was a conspicuous success in the days of an audience so limited when compared with the vast reading public of later times.  The smug little bookseller must have been greatly pleased by the good fortune attending his first venture into a new field, especially since he essayed it so late in life and almost by accident.  His motive had been in a sense practical; for his publishers had requested him to write a book “on the useful concerns of life” ­and that he had done so, he might have learned any Sunday in church, for divines did not hesitate to say a kind word from the pulpit about so unexceptionable a work.

One of the things Richardson had triumphantly demonstrated by his first story was that a very slight texture of plot can suffice for a long, not to say too long, piece of fiction, if only a free hand be given the story-teller in the way of depicting the intuitions and emotions of human beings; dealing with their mind states rather than, or quite as much as, their actions.  This was the modern note, and very speedily was the lesson learned; the time was apt for it.  From 1742, the date of “Pamela,” to 1765 is but a quarter century; yet within those narrow time-limits the English Novel, through the labors of Richardson and Fielding, Smollett, Sterne and Goldsmith, can be said to have had its birth and growth to a lusty manhood and to have defined once and for all the mold of this new and potent form of prose art.  By 1773 a critic speaks of the “novel-writing age”; and a dozen years later, in 1785, novels are so common that we hear of the press “groaning beneath their weight,” ­which sounds like the twentieth century.  And it was all started by the little printer; to him the praise.  He received it in full measure; here and there, of course, a dissident voice was heard, one, that of Fielding, to be very vocal later; but mostly they were drowned in the chorus of adulation.  Richardson had done a new thing and reaped an immediate reward; and ­as seldom happens, with quick recognition ­it was to be a permanent reward as well, for he changed the history of English literature.

One would have expected him to produce another novel post-haste, following up his maiden victory before it could be forgotten, after the modern manner.  But those were leisured days and it was half a dozen years before “Clarissa Harlowe” was given to the public.  Richardson had begun by taking a heroine out of low life; he now drew one from genteel middle class life; as he was in “Sir Charles Grandison,” the third and last of his fictions, to depict a hero in the upper class life of England.  In Clarissa again, plot was secondary, analysis, sentiment, the exhibition of the female heart under stress of sorrow, this was everything.  Clarissa’s hand is sought by an unattractive suitor; she rebels ­a social crime in the eighteenth century; whereat, her whole family turn against her ­father, mother, sister, brothers, uncles and aunts ­and, wooed by Lovelace, a dashing rake who is in love with her according to his lights, but by no means intends honorable matrimony, she flies with him in a chariot and four, to find herself in a most anomalous position, and so dies broken-hearted; to be followed in her fate by Lovelace, who is represented as a man whose loose principles are in conflict with a nature which is far from being utterly bad.  The narrative is mainly developed through letters exchanged between Clarissa and her friend, Miss Howe.  There can hardly be a more striking testimony to the leisure enjoyed by the eighteenth-century than that society was not bored by a story the length of which seems almost interminable to the reader to-day.  The slow movement is sufficient to preclude its present prosperity.  It is safe to say that Richardson is but little read now; read much less than his great contemporary, Fielding.  And apparently it is his bulk rather than his want of human interest or his antiquated manner that explains the fact.  The instinct to-day is against fiction that is slow and tortuous in its onward course; at least so it seemed until Mr. De Morgan returned in his delightful volumes to the method of the past.  Those are pertinent words of the distinguished Spanish novelist, Valdes:  “An author who wishes to be read not only in his life, but after his death (and the author who does not wish this should lay aside his pen), cannot shut his eyes, when unblinded by vanity, to the fact that not only is it necessary to be interesting to save himself from oblivion, but the story must not be a very long one.  The world contains so many great and beautiful works that it requires a long life to read them all.  To ask the public, always anxious for novelty, to read a production of inordinate length, when so many others are demanding attention, seems to me useless and ridiculous, ...  The most noteworthy instance of what I say is seen in the celebrated English novelist, Richardson, who, in spite of his admirable genius and exquisite sensibility and perspicuity, added to the fact of his being the father of the modern Novel, is scarcely read nowadays, at least in Latin countries.  Given the indisputable beauties of his works, this can only be due to their extreme length.  And the proof of this, that in France and Spain, to encourage the taste for them, the most interesting parts have been extracted and published in editions and compendiums.”

This is suggestive, coming from one who speaks by the book.  Who, in truth, reads epics now ­save in the enforced study of school and college?  Will not Browning’s larger works ­like “The Ring and the Book” ­suffer disastrously with the passing of time because of a lack of continence, of a failure to realize that since life is short, art should not be too long?  It may be, too, that Richardson, newly handling the sentiment which during the following generation was to become such a marked trait of imaginative letters, revelled in it to an extent unpalatable to our taste; “rubbing our noses,” as Leslie Stephen puts it, “in all her (Clarissa’s) agony,” ­the tendency to overdo a new thing, not to be resisted in his case.  But with all concessions to length and sentimentality, criticism from that day to this has been at one in agreeing that here is not only Richardson’s best book but a truly great Novel.  Certainly one who patiently submits to a ruminant reading of the story, will find that when at last the long-deferred climax is reached and the awed and penitent Lovelace describes the death-bed moments of the girl he has ruined, the scene has a great moving power.  Allowing for differences of taste and time, the vogue of the Novel in Richardson’s day can easily be understood, and through all the stiffness, the stilted effect of manner and speech, and the stifling conventions of the entourage, a sweet and charming young woman in very piteous distress emerges to live in affectionate memory.  After all, no poor ideal of womanhood is pictured in Clarissa.  She is one of the heroines who are unforgettable, dear.  Mr. Howells, with his stern insistence on truth in characterization, declares that she is “as freshly modern as any girl of yesterday or to-morrow.  ’Clarissa Harlowe,’ in spite of her eighteenth century costume and keeping, remains a masterpiece in the portraiture of that ever-womanly which is of all times and places.”

Lovelace, too, whose name has become a synonym for the fine gentleman betrayer, is drawn in a way to make him sympathetic and creditable; he is far from being a stock figure of villainy.  And the minor figures are often enjoyable; the friendship of Clarissa with Miss Howe, a young woman of excellent good sense and seemingly quite devoid of the ultra-sentiment of her time, preludes that between Diana and her “Tony” in Meredith’s great novel.  As a general picture of the society of the period, the book is full of illuminations and sidelights; of course, the whole action is set on a stage that bespeaks Richardson’s narrow, middle class morality, his worship of rank, his belief that worldly goods are the reward of well-doing.

As for the contemporaneous public, it wept and praised and went with fevered blood because of this fiction.  We have heard how women of sentiment in London town welcomed the book and the opportunity it offered for unrestrained tears.  But it was the same abroad; as Ike Marvel has it, Rousseau and Diderot over in France, philosophers as they professed to be, “blubbered their admiring thanks for ‘Clarissa Harlowe."’ Similarly, at a later day we find caustic critics like Jeffrey and Macaulay writing to Dickens to tell how they had cried over the death of Little Nell ­a scene the critical to-day are likely to stigmatize as one of the few examples of pathos overdone to be found in the works of that master.  It is scarcely too much to say that the outcome of no novel in the English tongue was watched with such bated breath as was that of “Clarissa Harlowe” while the eight successive books were being issued.

Richardson chose to bask for another half dozen years in the fame of his second novel, before turning in 1754 to his final attempt, “Sir Charles Grandison,” wherein it was his purpose to depict the perfect pattern of a gentleman, “armed at all points” of social and moral behavior.  We must bear in mind that when “Clarissa” was published he was sixty years of age and to be pardoned if he did not emulate so many novel-makers of these brisker mercantile times and turn off a story or so a year.

By common confession, this is the poorest of his three fictions.  In the first place, we are asked to move more steadily in the aristocratic atmosphere where the novelist did not breathe to best advantage.  Again, Richardson was an adept in drawing women rather than men and hence was self-doomed in electing a masculine protagonist.  He is also off his proper ground in laying part of the action in Italy.

His beau ideal, Grandison, turns out the most impossible prig in English literature.  He is as insufferable as that later prig, Meredith’s Sir Willoughby in “The Egotist,” with the difference that the author does not know it, and that you do not believe in him for a moment; whereas Meredith’s creation is appallingly true, a sort of simulacrum of us all.  The best of the story is in its portrayal of womankind; in particular, Sir Charles’ two loves, the English Harriet Byron and the Italian Clementina, the last of whom is enamored of him, but separated by religious differences.  Both are alive and though suffering in the reader’s estimation because of their devotion to such a stick as Grandison, nevertheless touch our interest to the quick.  The scene in which Grandison returns to Italy to see Clementina, whose reason, it is feared, is threatened because of her grief over his loss, is genuinely effective and affecting.

The mellifluous sentimentality, too, of the novelist seems to come to a climax in this book; justifying Taine’s satiric remark that “these phrases should be accompanied by a mandolin.”  The moral tag is infallibly supplied, as in all Richardson’s tales ­though perhaps here with an effect of crescendo.  We are still long years from that conception of art which holds that a beautiful thing may be allowed to speak for itself and need not be moraled down our throats like a physician’s prescription.  Yet Fielding had already, as we shall see, struck a wholesome note of satiric fun.  The plot is slight and centers in an abduction which, by the time it is used in the third novel, begins to pall as a device and to suggest paucity of invention.  The novel has the prime merit of brevity; it is much shorter than “Clarissa Harlowe,” but long enough, in all conscience, Harriet being blessed with the gift of gab, like all Richardson’s heroines.  “She follows the maxim of Clarissa,” says Lady Mary with telling humor, “of declaring all she thinks to all the people she sees without reflecting that in this mortal state of imperfection, fig-leaves are as necessary for our minds as our bodies.”  It is significant that this brilliant contemporary is very hard on Richardson’s characterization of women in this volume (which she says “sinks horribly"), whereas never a word has she to say in condemnation of the hero, who to the present critical eye seems the biggest blot on the performance.  How can we join the chorus of praise led by Harriet, now her ladyship and his loving spouse, when it chants:  “But could he be otherwise than the best of husbands who was the most dutiful of sons, who is the most affectionate of brothers, the most faithful of friends, who is good upon principle in every relation in life?” Lady Mary is also extremely severe on the novelist’s attempt to paint Italy; when he talks of it, says she, “it is plain he is no better acquainted with it than he is with the Kingdom of Mancomingo.”  It is probable tat Richardson could not say more for his Italian knowledge than did old Roger Ascham of Archery fame, when he declared:  “I was once in Italy, but I thank God my stay there was only nine days.”  “Sir Charles Grandison” has also the substantial advantage of ending well:  that is, if to marry Sir Charles can be so regarded, and certainly Harriet deemed it desirable.

It is pleasant to think of Richardson, now well into the sixties, amiable, plump and prosperous, surrounded for the remainder of his days ­he was to die seven years later at the ripe age of seventy-five ­by a bevy of admiring women, who, whether literary or merely human, gave this particular author that warm and convincing proof of popularity which, to most, is worth a good deal of chilly posthumous fame which a man is not there to enjoy.  Looking at his work retrospectively, one sees that it must always have authority, even if it fall deadly dull upon our ears to-day; for nothing can take away from him the distinction of originating that kind of fiction which, now well along towards its second century of existence, is still popular and powerful.  Richardson had no model; he shaped a form for himself.  Fielding, a greater genius, threw his fiction into a mold cast by earlier writers; moreover, he received his direct impulse away from the drama and towards the novel from Richardson himself.

The author of “Pamela” demonstrated once and for all the interest that lies in a sympathetic and truthful representation of character in contrast with that interest in incident for its own sake which means the subordination of character, so that the persons become mere subsidiary counters in the game.  And he exhibited such a knowledge of the subtler phases of the nooks and crannies of woman’s heart, as to be hailed as past-master down to the present day by a whole school of analysts and psychologues; for may it not be said that it is the popular distinction of the nineteenth century fiction to place woman in the pivotal position in that social complex which it is the business of the Novel to represent?  Do not our fiction and drama to-day ­the drama a belated ally of the Novel in this and other regards ­find in the delineation of the eternal feminine under new conditions of our time, its chief, its most significant motif?  If so, a special gratitude is due the placid little Mr. Richardson with his Pamelas, Clarissas and Harriets.  He found fiction unwritten so far as the chronicles of contemporary society were concerned, and left it in such shape that it was recognized as the natural quarry of all who would paint manners; a field to be worked by Jane Austen, Dickens and Thackeray, Trollope and George Eliot, and a modern army of latter and lesser students of life.  His faults were in part merely a reflection of his time; its low-pitched morality, its etiquette which often seems so absurd.  Partly it was his own, too; for he utterly lacked humor (save where unconscious) and never grasped the great truth, that in literary art the half is often more than the whole; The Terentian ne quid nimis had evidently not been taken to heart by Samuel Richardson, Esquire, of Hammersmith, author of “Clarissa Harlowe” in eight volumes, and Printer to the Queen.  Again and again one of Clarissa’s bursts of emotion under the tantalizing treatment of her seducer loses its effect because another burst succeeds before we (and she) have recovered from the first one.  He strives to give us the broken rhythm of life (therein showing his affinity with the latter day realists) instead of that higher and harder thing ­the more perfect rhythm of art; not so much the truth (which cannot be literally given) as that seeming-true which is the aim and object of the artistic representation.  Hence the necessity of what Brunetiere calls in an admirable phrase, the true function of the novel ­“to be an abridged representation of life.”  Construction in the modern sense Richardson had not studied, naturally enough, and was innocent of the fineness of method and the sure-handed touches of later technique.  And there is a kind of drawing-room atmosphere in his books, a lack of ozone which makes Fielding with all his open-air coarseness a relief.  But judged in the setting of his time, this writer did a wonderful thing not only as the Father of the Modern Novel but one of the few authors in the whole range of fiction who holds his conspicuous place amid shifting literary modes and fashions, because he built upon the surest of all foundations ­the social instinct, and the human heart.

If the use of the realistic method alone denoted the Novel, Defoe, not Richardson, might be called its begetter.  “Robinson Crusoe,” more than twenty years before “Pamela,” would occupy the primate position, to say nothing of Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels,” antedating Richardson’s first story by some fifteen years.  Certainly the observational method, the love of detail, the grave narrative of imagined fact (if the bull be permitted) are in this earlier book in full force.  But “Robinson Crusoe” is not a rival because it does not study man-in-society; never was a story that depended less upon this kind of interest.  The position of Crusoe on his desert isle is so eminently unsocial that he welcomes the black man Friday and quivers at the human quality in the famed footprints in the sand.  As for Swift’s chef d’oeuvre, it is a fairy-tale with a grimly realistic manner and a savage satiric intention.  To speak of either of these fictions as novels is an example of the prevalent careless nomenclature.  Between them and “Pamela” there yawns a chasm.  Moreover, “Crusoe” is a frankly picaresque tale belonging to the elder line of romantic fiction, where incident and action and all the thrilling haps of Adventure-land furnish the basis of appeal rather than character analysis or a study of social relations.  The personality of Crusoe is not advanced a whit by his wonderful experiences; he is done entirely from the outside.

Richardson, therefore, marks the beginning of the modern form.  But that the objection to Defoe as the true and only begetter of the Novel lies in his failure, in his greatest story, to center the interest in man as part of the social order and as human soul, is shown by the fact that his less known, but remarkable, story “Moll Flanders,” picaresque as it is and depicting the life of a female criminal, has yet considerable character study and gets no small part of its appeal for a present-day reader from the minute description of the fall and final reform of the degenerate woman.  It is comparatively crude in characterization, but psychological value is not entirely lacking.  However, with Richardson it is almost all.  It was of the nature of his genius to make psychology paramount:  just there is found his modernity.  Defoe and Swift may be said to have added some slight interest in analysis pointing towards the psychologic method, which was to find full expression in Samuel Richardson.