Richardson, Samuel (1689-1761), English novelist, born in Derbyshire. He was apprenticed to a printer in his youth and later set up his own printing shop in London. Richardson became known as a gifted letter writer, and in 1739 he began to write a volume of model letters for the use of the country reader that appeared as Familiar Letters (1741). While engaged in writing the form letters he also wrote and published the celebrated novel Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded (2 volumes, 1740), telling, in the form of letters, the story of a young maid-servant's defense of her honor. Clarissa; or the History of a Young Lady (7 volumes, 1747-1748), which explores and reexplores the same events from the points of view of several of the characters, is considered his best work. Like Pamela, it was praised for its lofty moral tone, sentimentality, and understanding of emotions and the feminine mind. His last important work was The History of Sir Charles Grandison (7 volumes, 1753-1754), in which he presented his ideal of a true Christian gentleman.
All of Richardson's novels
are in epistolary form (a series of letters)—a structure that he refined
and developed. For this reason, Richardson is considered a founder of the
English modern novel. Henry Fielding parodied Pamela in An apology for
the life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews (1741) and The Adventures of Joseph Andrews
and his Friend, Mr. Abraham Adams (1742).