Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded

First of all, let me say, thank goodness I got this novel for so cheap at Camelot Books. I would’ve been extremely upset if I’d spent much more than I did. Of the three disliked novels I’ve read recently, I suppose this one is better, not good, but better than the other two. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker still strikes fear into my very soul, I despise that novel with a passion… whereas Joseph Andrews just kind of bored me to the brink of death.

Pamela at least gave me some interesting thoughts to keep me awake. Again, as with Humphry Clinker, it’s written in an epistolary fashion, which can be mind-numbing at best. Here’s the basic gist of the story: Pamela Andrews is a very beautiful 15 year old servant whose mistress has just died, leaving her in the hands of her scoundrel of a son, Mr. B. Immediately Mr. B sets to giving Pamela extravagant gifts, not long after, he begins to test her fortitude by trying to seduce her. A kiss here, a kiss there and before you know it, he’s attempting to ravish the poor (extremely young) virtuous girl.

Here’s where the story sort of gives you something to think about: Pamela is a mere servant girl, however she values herself and her purity. She says “no”, and although she stupidly gets into many of these awkward moments by her own naïveté, it was sort of a big deal to write about a servant girl who valued herself enough to disagree with her master. If you’re like me though, you’ll read her self pitying “O, pray for poor Pamela” letters with an annoyed sigh.

And then there’s the “I want to hit myself on the head with this book lots of times so I’ll forget I just spent time reading over 500 pages of fairly obnoxious whiny letters” moment… ::SPOILER ALERT:: She falls in love with this total cad! What’s the reward for being virtuous? Apparently marrying your would-be rapist. Ick. There were a few other things that just made me roll my eyes when I read about the personality and history of Pamela’s beloved Mr. B. But like I said, of the three novels, this one was the most interesting. It makes you think, even if they are thoughts of “What the heck?!” It’s better than nothing.

Joseph Andrews

Is it possible, have I found yet another novel that I dislike as much as The Expedition of Humphry Clinker? Pretty darn near. Okay, it wasn’t as bad, but it was… dull. Now, I mistakenly read this before reading Pamela (which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Joseph Andrews, it was written as a follow-up sort of mocking piece in which Henry Fielding attacked the weaker morality points he noticed in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela), which could account for a bit of the dislike, but I’m fairly certain I disliked it for itself.

Another weakly written novel of the picaresque* genre (*a satirical story of a lower class hero or heroine navigating through life and coming upon many adventures), I guess I could cut Fielding some slack since he was merely attempting to parody Richardson, but… Ugh. Adventure is certainly not a word I’d use to describe this novel; it contains a bit of tawdry humor, mysterious parentage and totally unrelated effusive speeches.

Joseph, is introduced as the brother of Pamela Andrews (from the novel Pamela) and is immediately put into a similar circumstance of a very forward master (or in his case, mistress) trying to seduce him. The Lady Booby (yes, that’s really the name Fielding chose) unable to seduce handsome young Joseph sends him away, and thus begins a very tedious novel. I shudder to think about any time the irritating Parson Adams started on a self-righteous sermon-like speech. There's not too much for me to say, I didn't like this one. Glad I'm done with it, check it off the list.

Maybe I’m just too picky, I don’t know. I infinitely prefer the Dickensian picaresque novels to this sort of boredom, but one more down, lots more to go.


Shakespeare's Sonnets

I’m not going to bore you with a tedious analysis of these sonnets. I’m a firm believer that poetry should be read, felt, enjoyed, experienced… not torn apart or deconstructed, they ought to be left intact (without being dissected) the way the artist intended them to be. Prose should never be used to explain the beauty of a poem.

I love William Shakespeare, and I adore his poetry. His sonnets are marvelous and I can find one to suit any mood or situation from passion to despair, love to loss, it’s all there. Here’s a list of some of my favorites, depending on my moods…

18 – In junior high I memorized this sonnet and performed it at a student expo. Yeah, it’s one of my more embarrassing childhood memories (I don’t want to talk about it.)

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

71 – This appeals to my morbid side, it’s painfully beautiful.

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
Oh, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;
Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
And mock you with me after I am gone.

116 – This was the sonnet that affirmed my love of Shakespeare when I was a girl. It makes so much more sense once you’ve loved and lost. Thank you, William Shakespeare, for sonnet 116.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixèd mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his
height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come,
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

141 – Ah the blindness that takes over when you fall in love, embodied in one amazing sonnet.

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleased to dote;
Nor are mine ears with thy tongue's tune delighted;
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone:
But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unswayed the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart's slave and vassal wretch to be:
Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

145 – I love the fear that Shakespeare lays open in this sonnet, it’s human and familiar.

Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said, "I hate,"
To me that languished for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue, that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;
"I hate," she altered with an end,
That followed it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who, like a fiend,
From heaven to hell is flown away;
"I hate," from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying- "not you."


The Way of the World

I’m one of those people who loves reading plays… that being said, I suppose I should qualify that statement: I love reading most plays. This wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read ::ahem Humphry Clinker:: but it was far from dazzlingly wonderful. It’s a fair choice for a play from the Restoration comedy genre; I kind of had a geek moment when Congreve mentioned Ben Johnson’s Volpone That was honestly the high point for me.

To be fair, I’ll share a short synopsis, maybe you’d like to read the play for yourself. Like I said, it isn’t terrible; I’m just not generally partial to the Restoration comedies. The story centers on the lovers Mirabell (yes, Mirabell is a man) and Mrs. Millamant who love each other and want to marry. Alas, impediments exist! If Millamant’s aunt, Lady Wishfort marries someone, they will lose £6000 of Millamant’s dowry… Marriage is a possibility when a rich lady is in question. Lady Wishfort would rather her niece marry her nephew Sir Wilful and of course there are also the added complications of former lovers and mistaken identities, all characteristic of the basic Restoration comedy. It’s short, you can read it in no time, and maybe you’ll like it more than I did. Hey, I bought my Dover Thrift Edition from Barnes & Noble for only $1.00!