The epistolary mode and the first of Ovid's Heroides

Classical Quarterly 34 (02):413- (1984)
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In April 1741 there appeared a slim volume entitled An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews by a certain Mr Conny Keyber, whose name is generally supposed to conceal that of the novelist Henry Fielding. Shamela, to give the book its more familiar title, was a parody of Samuel Richardson's epistolary novel Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded, which had been published to great acclaim the previous year. In a series of letters purportedly sent to each other by the main characters, the story unfolds of the honest servant-girl Pamela, her efforts to avoid seduction by her master Mr B., and her eventual marriage to him. Fielding's chief target was the morality of the book , but in passing he drew cruel attention to some of the pitfalls of the epistolary form as a vehicle for narrative. One passage in particular deserves quotation, from Letter VI, which Shamela writes to her mother at twelve o'clock on Thursday night: Mrs Jervis and I are just in Bed, and the Door unlocked; if my Master should come – Odsbods! I hear him just coming in at the Door. You see I write in the present Tense, as Parson Williams says. Well, he is in Bed between us, we both shamming a Sleep, he steals his Hand into my Bosom, which I, as if in my Sleep, press close to me with mine…



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