Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded is an epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson, first published in 1740. It tells the story of a beautiful 15-year old maidservant named Pamela Andrews, whose nobleman master, Mr. B, makes unwanted advances towards her after the death of his mother, whose maid she was since age 12. Mr. B is infatuated with her, first by her looks and then her innocence and intelligence, but his high rank hinders him from proposing marriage. He abducts her, locks her up in one of his estates, and attempts to seduce and rape her. She rejects him continually, but starts to realise that she is falling in love with him. He intercepts her letters to her parents; reading them, he becomes even more enamored by her innocence, intelligence, and continuous escape attempts. Her virtue is eventually rewarded when he sincerely proposes an equitable marriage to her. In the novel’s second part, Pamela attempts to build a successful relationship with him and to acclimatise to upperclass society. The story, a best-seller of its time, was very widely read but criticised for its perceived licentiousness.
If you’re asking yourself, “Does my recently-orphaned master like me, or does he like me like me?” then you’re in the right place. It can be hard to tell if a libertine’s just being friendly (he shakes hands with all of his housemaids’ breasts like that!) or if he’s starting to think of you as someone special (he hides under your bed while you’re at church, even on Whitsuntide!), especially when he owns you and all of your labor for the next seven years. All you need to do is answer a few of our foolproof questions and you’ll know where you stand. We’re not going to sugar-coat things, though: if he’s really not that into you and will move on to a sly French grisette the minute you deliver your illegitimate son, we’ll tell you. So pack your bags, because you’re either moving into your former mistress’ rooms or getting sent to the workhouse for not knowing your place!
1. Your employer, the lady of the house, finally dies after a long illness. At the funeral, her son:
A. Graciously and feelingly mourns her passing.
B. Takes you by the hand in front of them all (yes, in front of them all!) and swears that “for my dear mother’s sake, I will be a friend to you, and you shall take care of my linen.”
C. Has unprotected sex with you in the Summer House.
D. Steals all of your letters to your parents and locks you in a dungeon.
2. Your new master catches you writing a letter to your aged parents. He:
A. Apologizes for interrupting and asks you to air out the Green Room this evening.
B. Compliments your handwriting and offers to let you read out of his mother’s library.
C. Has unprotected sex with you in the Summer House.
D. Sets your hair on fire and murders your favorite cousin.
3. One afternoon the young squire walks into the servants’ quarters and announces his plans to marry you to his chaplain in Lincolnshire. What happens next?
A. You go to church and cry for six hours while he watches you through a window. Afterwards, you hide every letter you’ve ever written inside your bosom.
B. He offers you an enormous sum of money to have sex with him first.
C. He throws you into a ditch, horsewhips you for agreeing to marry the chaplain in the first place, then has unprotected sex with you in the Summer House.
D. He reveals himself to be the chaplain in disguise. It was a test. You failed.
4. While imprisoned at your master’s summer estate, you begin to suspect the housekeeper he has left to guard you, Mrs. Jewkes, is an atheist. You:
B. Immediately write to your mother and father of your concerns.
C. Have sex with Mr. B. in the Summer House, just to be sure.
D. Flower Mr. B. a waistcoat embroidered with your tears.
5. You are caught trying to send a letter to the outside world while walking in the garden with Mrs. Jewkes. Your master:
A. Beats you severely.
B. Watches Mrs. Jewkes beat you severely.
C. Has sex with the entire garden.
D. Chops off your hands and has sex with them.
6. After your only supporter in the village is attacked by thieves, you decide to run away. Before you have gotten past the main gate, however, you encounter two cows. You:
B. Return to your prison-room in terror.
C. Offer them one of your cambric handkerchiefs.
D. Have sex with the cows in the Summer House.
7. While climbing into bed one evening, you realize your fellow-housemaid and bedmate Nan is none other than Squire B. in disguise. You:
A. Scream until one of the other servants comes to your aid.
B. Wrap yourself in a bedsheet and wait until dawn.
C. Dress yourself as Mr. B. and have unprotected sex with “her” in the Summer House, beating her severely afterward.
D. Start keeping a journal.
8. You receive a letter at midnight telling you Mr. B is ill to the point of death and rush to his side. He:
A. Apologizes for harassing you before passing away of late-stage syphillis, then leaves you a modest inheritance.
B. Tries to talk you into having sex on his sickbed because “I’m going to Hell anyways.”
C. Faked his illness to get you back, then forces you to dress up like a nurse and take his rectal temperature.
D. Gives you seven jewels and begs you to remember him as a good and noble-hearted gentleman, then shoots the doctor attending him for having looked at you when you walked in the room.
9. You go into the linen closet and find Mr. B. disguised as a set of damask tablecloths. He:
A. Begs your forgiveness but explains he can neither resist your beauty nor dressing up as furniture.
B. Gives you a napkin holder as an engagement ring and asks you to keep your linen-closet marriage a secret.
C. Cuts you in half with a sword.
D. Marries a baroness, then kidnaps you.
10. A “gypsy-woman” hands you a note warning you of “sham marriages” as you walk through the marketplace. You:
A. Throw the note away and have her arrested for speaking to a white woman.
B. Ask Mr. B. to either send you back home or treat you honorably.
C. Give birth to an illegitimate daughter on the road home.
D. Ask her to officiate at your sham wedding with Mr. B.
Mostly As: Just an owner. It doesn’t sound like he sees you as anything more than one of the many human beings he mostly owns. Looks like you’ll have to polish your own candlestick in addition to all of his tonight.
Mostly Bs: Rake with a promise. Sure, he likes you. But he’s a libertine — they like everybody. He’d flirt with a particularly feminine-looking dandy if there weren’t any soubrettes around. Try making an escape from the house. If he locks you up and beats you for trying to leave him, there’s a real chance this could lead to something special.
Mostly Cs: Definitely interested. He may be headed for debtor’s prison or the venereal disease ward at Bedlam, but at least he’ll be taking you with him — in style.
Mostly Ds: Hard to say. He definitely likes having sex with you in the Summer House. But is he having sex with you in the Summer House as a friend…or something more?
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.