Some Considerations on Henry Fielding´s "Shamela"

Nov 2016
1,040
Germany
Fielding's short novel "An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews", or simply "Shamela", appeared in April 1741 as a satirical attack on Samuel Richardson's epistolary novel "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded", which since its first publication in November 1740 has caused a furore in England, as it is probably unique in literary history, and also made big waves on the mainland. The author of "Shamela" is a fictional "Mr. Conny Keyber", what is undoubtedly a pseudonym of Henry Fielding, even though he never confessed to it during his life. Until then he was especially successful as a playwright, but due to a new censorship law for stage plays he felt compelled to switch to the novel genre. Similar to Eliza Haywood, who re-started her career as a writer with the Pamela satire "Anti-Pamela, or Feign´d Innocence Detected", released in June 1741, Fielding jumped on the Pamela bandwagon to benefit her own career, in a way that can hardly be called other than parasitic, which also applies to Haywood, who however sprays much less poison against Richardson's novel than Fielding, who in "Shamela" fires all batteries.

As far as Fielding's motivation to deal obsessively with "Pamela" in "Shamela" and in "Joseph Andrews" is concerned, there are two main components to be distinguished, one of which is clearly visible and is also thoroughly appreciated by literary scholars - Fielding's criticism of the concept of virtue demonstrated in "Pamela" - while the other lies deeply hidden beneath the surface, namely in the form of an unresolved trauma that Fielding, perhaps even more than his discomfort with Richardson´s ´virtue´, drove into his "Pamela" obsession. To my knowledge, this second component has not yet been recognized as such in literary studies, although an at least hypothetical causal connection between the trauma and the said obsession can easily be reconstructed, as I will show in detail below.

The main goal of Fielding's criticism, the Richardsonian concept of virtue, implies in "Pamela" above all the preservation of the premarital virginity of the protagonist, which follows the puritanical sexual concept, according to which sexuality before and outside marriage is an unconditional no-go, but within marriage an unconditional duty that also serves the pleasure of both partners and not only reproduction, the latter being the point of view of the Catholicism of those days. (For a deeper analysis of religious conditions in England in the 17th and 18th centuries, however, the term "Puritanism" is too vague.) Longer-term sexual refusal by a spouse could be sanctioned by the Puritans through excommunication.

An overview of the academic secondary literature on the so-called Pamela controversy, which was opened by "Shamela", and which split the contemporaries into Pamelists and Anti-Pamelists, shows that the vast majority of the literary academia has taken on the criticism essentially uncritically. Jarrod Hurlbert writes: "In his parody, Fielding exploded Richardson's morality with a duplicitous view of Pamela's character, a view that still has a significant impact on critical readings of Pamela today" (in: Pamela: Or, Virtue Reworded: The Texts, Paratexts, and Revisions that Redefine Samuel Richardson's Pamela, 58).

However I would like to point out some serious weaknesses of anti-Pamelist criticism in the wake of "Shamela".

This concerns first of all the already mentioned parasitic mode, in which Fielding attacks "Pamela" by "Shamela" and uses it for himself at the same time. His following, far more ambitious and extensive novel "The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams" or in short "Joseph Andrews" from 1742 is even a spinoff of the Pamela story, since it plays in the same universe, as it is called today. The Academia, which is attached to Fielding, goes over this creative dependency of Fielding on the addressee of his attacks, Richardson, in a surprisingly nonchalant way. The obsessive dependency suggests a love-hate relationship with the Pamela subject, where hatred can be understood as a defensive mechanism, i.e. a reaction to the love Fielding feels for the literary character Pamela.

The fact that such an emotional bond, and indeed of considerable intensity, exists, seems to me to have been sufficiently established by Fielding's long-standing fixation on the Pamela subject, and can be demonstrated even more precisely below in the context of the "Joseph Andrews" narrative.

First, the question arises as to the reasons for Fielding's fixation. As far as I know, this has never been discussed or even problematized in literary studies in detail. The answer seems clear when you take a closer look at Fielding's biography. Samuel Richardson, who never forgave Fielding for his attack on "Pamela," has pointed to Fielding's tendency to weave autobiographical elements into his own stories, and accused him of a certain lack of inventiveness. This suggests that Fielding also liked to project self-experience into or read from the stories of other authors. So would it be possible that his fixation on Pamela has an autobiographical background?

In the autumn of 1725, 18-year-old Fielding, accompanied by a servant, stayed in the small town of Lyme Regis on the southwest coast of England to court a distant cousin, the beautiful Sarah Andrews, who had recently inherited wealth and was 15 years old at the time. Fielding desired her very much and wanted to marry her, probably for her beauty as well as her wealth. However, Sarah's guardian, Andrew Tucker, intended to marry Sarah to his own son and urged Fielding to refrain from his courtship. It's unclear whether Sarah agreed this with Fielding beforehand, at any case he tried, supported by his servant, to kidnap her when she was on her way to church with Tucker and his family, but this failed. Fielding and his servant were reported by Tucker to the city magistrate for assault, whereupon Fielding left the town, not without posting a note in a public place, drastically insulting Tucker and his son.

This incident had a literary epilogue with Fielding's misogynistic poem "Part of Juvenal's Sixth Satire, Modernised in Burlesque Verse", probably written in 1726, which appeared in the first volume of the "Miscellanies" in 1743 and was commented by him as follows: "My Modernization of Part of the sixth Satire of Juvenal will, I hope, give no Offence to that Half of our Species, for whom I have the greatest Respect and Tenderness. It was originally sketched out before I was Twenty, and was all the Revenge taken by an injured lover". Although it is uncertain which event the last remark alludes to, literary studies assumes that it refers to Fielding's failed marriage project with Sarah Andrews. Since the "revenge" is generalizingly aimed at the female sex - here probably representing the individual Sarah - it can be assumed that Sarah Andrews was not initiated into Fielding's abduction plan and in his eyes was jointly responsible for the humiliating rebuff given to him by Tucker.

In view of this, the parallels to the Pamela character and the Pamela narrative are unmistakable despite all the other differences. Both girls, the fictional and the real, have the same surname (Andrews), the same age (15) and are strikingly beautiful. Both hurt the pride of a nobleman inflamed with desire (Mr. B and Fielding) by their rejection. Both fall victim to a kidnapping plan that succeeds with Pamela (abduction to Mr. B´s house in Lincolnshire) and not with Sarah. Both become the targets of misogynous verbal attacks (Mr. B in various places in "Pamela", see below, and Fielding in his Juvenal imitation). In both cases, the rejected, Mr. B and Fielding, are later morally purged.

The assumption is therefore obvious that Fielding, when he first read "Pamela", was hit so deeply by this abundance of parallels to his, one might say, traumatic love experience that the subject no longer let him go, but urged him to a literary reappraisal, in which certain elements of the Pamela narrative were brought to the surface of the text in a structure whose, for Fielding, probably largely unconscious purpose was to lead the traumatic conflict, which had been tormenting him for fifteen years, to a solution on an imaginary level, or at least to make it more bearable. The strategy he pursues is also called sour-grape politics: the desired but unattainable object is dragged into the dirt in order to make its loss more bearable. It resembles the strategy that he pursued with his Juvenal imitation of the apparent resolution of the conflict immediately after the traumatic experience, i.e. the discharge of aggressive energy against the beloved but at the same time hated object because of the frustration.
 
Nov 2016
1,040
Germany
Continuation:

If you look at Pamela´s story in order to verify Fielding's assertion that behind Pamela's moral facade lies a calculating hypocrite who only pretends her virtue in order to maximize her material chances of winning, this accusation seems rather flimsy. Just one example: Can a 15-year-old girl who, as Fielding claims, directs her ambitions towards wealth and social advancement. be so cold-bloodedly calculating -and with the psychological perspicacity of a mentalist and the perfection of a chess grand master who thinks ten moves in advance- that she can set at naught Mr. B´s extremely generous material offers (his "articles") with unfriendly words and in the firm belief that he will make even greater concessions to her in an uncertain future, instead of simply imposing on him the condition of an immediate marriage, which he at least suggests in his "articles" as a possibility in case that Pamela proves herself as a mistress for twelve months ("and if your conduct be such, that I have reason to be satisfied with it, I know not-but will not engage for this-that I may, after a twelvemonth's cohabitation, marry you (...)”? If, against all odds, the girl actually had these qualities, so why doesn't she try to persuade Mr. B to marry immediately without a previous stage of mistress? In view of Mr. B's concerns - the disapproval of a marriage anything but befitting his status by his aristocratic environment ("the world´s censure") - it would make no relevant difference whether he first holds a maid as a mistress and then marries her or marries her immediately without an intermediate step. Why shouldn't a Pamela, who can predict that Mr. B will fall into her trap anyway (as in "Shamela"), use the opportunity offered to her by the "articles" to do the same? Instead, in Fielding's confused interpretation, Pamela does not move toward the goal, but moves away from it - apparently guided by the principle "Why make it easy, if it can be complicated?" - and risks B, frustrated by her constant refusals, losing interest and marrying one of those noble ladies from his county who are panting for him (Mrs. Jervis to Pamela: "My master is a fine gentleman; he has a great deal of wit and sense, and is admired, as I know, by half a dozen ladies, who would think themselves happy in his addresses.").

In order to stabilize his construct of a cool calculating Pamela, who leads her admirer by the nose like a dancing bear, Fielding in "Shamela" ascribes a child to her she had with 14 from the priest Williams, so that she has a certain sexual experience, which Fielding probably felt to be a prerequisite for a 15-year-old girl to be able to assess precisely how to deal with the advances of a rutting admirer in such a way that she can ge tout the best for her. But because that's far from enough to make Pamela's supposed business sense credible, Fielding transforms Pamela's mother, in Richardson a simple-minded and good soul, into a clever London prostitute, who gives business advice to her daughter - only under the conditions of this scenario (Pamela is sexually experienced and the daughter of an whore who knows every trick in the book and can even trounce overly pushy punters) Fielding's construct has a chance to be taken seriously at all. Didn't the followers of the Fieldingian Pamela critique notice the artificiality and arbitrariness of this fiction? Fielding, from 1750 the head of the London police force, here resembles a policeman who plants incriminating material on a suspect in order to arrest him under false pretences. Without the fudged amoral background, Fielding would not have been able to impose on Richardson´s Pamela the sly character he claims to be her "true" character.

A girl who, as in Richardson's story, is actually sexually inexperienced and comes from well-behaved Puritan parents, could not master a situation such as that created by Mr. B´s's interests and actions with as much confidence and calculation as Fielding accuses her of. But because he is traumatically motivated to make Pamela Andrews - as far as she is a reflection of his great, but frustrating love Sarah Andrews - the target of his aggressive-libidinous projections, he remodels her background until what doesn't fit is finally a match. The fact that this construction hangs completely in limbo without the aforementioned manipulative additional assumptions, and is even less convincing with these assumptions, because the object of the satirical attack, Richardson's Pamela, is thereby distorted beyond recognition, remains unnoticed by his followers. Satire - the mocking unmasking of mistakes and weaknesses of a person, an event or a work - only makes sense if its object is recognizable and the criticized weaknesses actually exist, which in this case is absolutely not the case, because Fielding not only reverses the character of Pamela in the manner of a photo negative into Shamela's character, but also completely reinvents her social and biographical background, which has nothing to do with satire at all, but a lot with slander.
 
Nov 2016
1,040
Germany
Continuation:

Now let us consider how Fielding´s Sarah-Andrews-trauma is manifested in his second novel "Joseph Andrews". The love interest of Joseph, the brother of Richardson´s Pamela, which we can interprete as Fielding´s alter ego in this story, is Fanny, who as a milkmaid has a social status comparable to Richardson's Pamela, albeit somewhat lower in reputation, since Pamela is after all the maid of a noble lady.

In order to intensify the unconsciously intended identity with Pamela, Fielding creates a twist in which Fanny turns out to be Joseph´s and thus Pamela's sister. So Fanny's closest possible approach to Pamela is achieved, without the two characters merging completely. At first, the protagonist's marriage to his lover (Fanny=Pamela=Sarah) seems impossible because of the incest taboo, so she would be sexually unattainable for him. If it shouldn´t be so, however, it cannot be so, therefore the author creates another twist and transforms his protagonist, i.e. his projected ego, according to his own origin into a gentry, who is not Fanny´s and Pamela's brother at all, with which nothing stands in the way of marriage. He later uses the same trick, the Deus ex machina of a gentile origin, in "Tom Jones" to enable the protagonist to marry the otherwise unreachable lover.

The Fanny=Pamela identification, staged in "Joseph Andrews" and to be interpreted as an indication or symptom of Fielding's love for Pamela=Sarah, also takes place in "Shamela", only that there a character named Fanny is not part of the plot, but the fictitious addressee of a letter of dedication from the fictitious Shamela author right at the beginning of "Shamela", which there is presented with the formula "To Miss Fanny, &c." and is compared bluntly with Shamela, the satirical alter ego of Pamela, or, if it goes to the trauma-controlled Fielding, the "true" Pamela, i.e. a Pamela as he unconsciously desires it, namely, quite unlike Richardson, sexually uninhibited and available on request.

The Fanny=Pamela identification, staged in "Joseph Andrews" and to be interpreted as an indication or symptom of Fielding's love for Pamela, also takes place in "Shamela", only that there a character named Fanny is not part of the plot, but the fictitious addressee of a dedication letter by the fictitious Shamela author right at the beginning of "Shamela", which there is presented with the formula "To Miss Fanny, &c." and is bluntly compared with Shamela, the satirical alter ego of Pamela, or, if it is up to the trauma-controlled Fielding, the "true" Pamela, i.e. Pamela as he unconsciously desires her, that is, quite contrary to Richardson´s intention, sexually uninhibited and available on request.

Now "Fanny" at that time was not a name like any other, but a code word for "vagina", which is why John Cleland, like later the Marquis de Sade, also indirectly riding on the Pamela wave, gave his protagonist in his erotic classic "Fanny Hill - Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure" from 1749 this name, which fits her trade. It is true that a study by P. Spedding and J. Lambert ("Fanny Hill, Lord Fanny, and the Myth of Metonymy", 2011) claims that "Fanny" only acquired its obscene meaning in the 19th century. More conclusive arguments for such use already in the 18th century, however, are presented in a dictionary by G. Williams ("A Dictionnary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearan and Stuart Literature", 2001), including reference to the use of the first name "Frances", of which "Fanny" is the diminutive, as a "common name for a whore" and the combination of "Fanny" and the Etcetera character ("&c.) in the above-mentioned formula "To Miss Fanny, &c." in Fielding's "Shamela". This Etcetera was also a contemporary code for "vagina", which makes the vagina connotation of the addressed Fanny doubly clear. In the novel's plot, this allusion appears two more times, once, as Reverend Williams and Mr. Booby drink to the church and to Etcetera, i.e. the vagina, and do not agree on what to call first of both, and then again, as Aaron Hill's formulation "a poor girl´s little, innocent story", included in the preface of the second edition of Pamela, is satirically varied into the obscene "a poor girl´s little, &c." by the fictitious pro-Richardsonian priest Tickletext in the manner of a Freudian slip, with which the third code word for vagina appears in "Shamela", that is, "little" in the vulgar meaning of "pussy", which is underlined by the added "&c." as with "Fanny". Fielding wants to demonstrate that the male admirers of Pamela, parodied in the form of the priest Tickletext, does not basically admire her virtue, as intended by Richardson, but something completely different, namely the vagina of the protagonist, which is what the attitude of the antagonist Mr. B is based on, whose thinking and feeling in volume I of "Pamela" mainly revolves around the question of how he can get to the anatomical part of Pamela, which Fielding satirically describes as "Fanny", "little" and "&c.".
 
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