Learning to read Richardson: 'Pamela,' 'speaking pictures,' and the visual hermeneutic.
de vous montrer une circonstance fugitive
qui vous avait echappe . . . Peintres,
poetes, gens de gout, gens de bien, lisez
Richardson; lisez-le sans cesse.
Denis Diderot: Eloge de Richardson
In a recent essay. "Richardson's |speaking pictures,'" Janet E. Aikins addresses Samuel Richardson's use of paintings as physical objects within his novels, his keen visual sense, as well as his method of portraiture.(1) She stresses that:
Richardson expected his readers to recognize the implications of these
aesthetic choices. for all three of his narratives urge us to understand the
complex subjectivities of sight. whether figurative or literal. In Pamela we
witness the imperfect efforts of the heroine to create speaking pictures of
the shifting sights around her. (p. 165)
Richardson expected his readers to develop strong powers of observation, including a sensitivity to the visual dimension of his novels. Pamela contains the understated beginnings of a visual hermeneutic which works more forcefully in Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison. Richardson derives this visual hermeneutic from traditions in emblem literature and from practices in the visual arts. Each time a picture appears as an object, or. more importantly, becomes the object of Richardson's text, essential meaning is expressed. For the purposes of this essay, and because Pamela s speaking pictures' establish an iconotext which conditions and informs our readings of Clarissa and Sir C harles Grandison I will limit my discussion. for the most part, to Richardson's first novel. I will concentrate on the second aspect of the |speaking picture.' the "imperfect efforts of the heroine to create 'speaking pictures.'"
Although Richardson promotes a visual hermeneutic with the object of establishing and sustaining Pamela's essential naivete, he often places its operation beyond her perception. Since she cannot comment on what she does not perceive, Pamela benefits not only from her naivete, but from her lack of perception as well. Her inability to sense the novelist's visual semiosis sustains both her artlessness and her reputation as virtuous ingenue.
These pictures appear rhetorically (figurative or semiotic) and as events in themselves (literal or mimetic). The 'speaking picture' functions as a hermeneutic device working simultaneously to semiotic and mimetic ends. The picture seldom challenges or disrupts the narrative's historicity--that supposed lack of intention--rather, it finds expression as a visual overlay, as an iconotext which marks the significance of events which might otherwise pass without overtly inviting interpretation.
Richardson's use of pictorialism in Pamela is an early conditioning of reader-response similar to what is often observed in Fielding's fiction. The distance of the novelist from the text initially marks Richardson's approach, distinguishing it from Fielding's and adding new interpretive challenges. Because Richardson denies authorship, and because he pretends to be disinterested, he is not allowed to openly intrude upon events in the way Fielding does. While reading Pamela we are not overtly instructed how to engage with the text by a comparably affable and disinterested voice--one who chides us for not fully apprehending the circumstances of events--for not seeing the |speaking picture.' Fielding, as Murray Roston suggests, provides the "quality of the teasing challenge constantly posed to the reader to utilize his own powers of observation and deduction in a work calculated to withstand and indeed to reward such close scrutiny."(2) The narrator often tells us precisely what we should have seen and understood. Richardson's iconotext is not nearly so facile, and, because a similar voice cannot flatter our understanding, the rewards of interpretation are often of our own making.
On a number of occasions, Fielding's narrator advises that a proper reading of Tom Jones requires us to interpret the scene before our eyes as though we were gazing at a Hogarth print. The success of this interpretative strategy clearly depends on overt narrative intrusion. We do not read Richardson unaided, we read only what participants in the spectacle have to say--or more distressing still--what characters have to say of events as reported by third parties. We confront a vast multiplicity of narrative intrusion and interpretation which appear only rarely disinterested and generally suspect. In this sense, and in the same search for visual meaning Fielding overtly reward I, the reader must enter an interpretive labyrinth just as any other participant must. The presence of the ' speaking picture ' permits us, as secondary readers, to break free of the narrators' subjective reportage. The absent novelist interprets events according to his nominal objectivity--under a mimetic pretense, or the guise of history--to promote his visual semiosis. Richardson's fictions always threaten to become histories: were they to fully succeed, we might reasonably assert that there is no plan, that the text consists of the mere random reportage of events. Pamela does not assert itself as a novel; rather, it presents a narratological paradigm in which the Invisible Hand of the novelist mimics the relationship between God and His creations. This is not a new idea. Richardson's innovation lies in the visual language he uses to promote his authorial will.
One of the most striking features of Richardson's early published editing and writing (his edition of Roger L'Estrange's Aesop's Fables, and his Familiar Letters ), one which reveals the visual dimensions of his novels, is his constant use of emblematic locution. By almost any definition of the genre, the first of these two works is an emblem book.(3) In marked contrast to the widely-read example of Ripa's Iconologia, which usually offers an abundance of striking but largely unnatural allegorical figures, Richardson's Aesop attempts a moral interpretation of nature according to its signs. Richardson's realistic fictions invite us to read emblematically, always hinting that there is a divine plan at work and a providential message to decipher. J. Paul Hunter describes the Puritan's search for providential signs thus: "The physical world was a series of emblems, symbols made by God to clarify to men great spiritual truths: each thing and event contained a meaning which might be discovered by men who studied all aspects of that thing or event."(4) Richardson asks character and reader to witness providential revelation. In the same way that Fielding's fiction often depends upon epic analogues to frame and amplify the significance of common events, Richardson's fictions replicate the operation of an Invisible Hand which arranges, aligns, and conjoins the historical and the divine into a single visual statement. As a result, his fictions necessarily become more than mere entertainments, they require extended meditation and press a seriousness far exceeding the range of Fielding's mock forms.
Richardson hoped that his novels would become public moral exempla; like the Puritans, he surely placed special emphasis on meditative literatures where: "emblems become substitutes for icons. Unable to create objects to symbolize spiritual truths (because such action would usurp a divinely reserved prerogative), they permit themselves to isolate and interpret objects and events created by God."(5) This interpretive paradigm is ubiquitous in Richardson's fictions, and his belief in the spiritual significance of reality requires that we not only admit these I conic intrusions, but that we become involved in distinguishing proper from improper interpretations. Fortunately, after Pamela was read (and misread) Richardson regularly provided a character who subverts the semiosis and pointedly misreads the iconotext. While Lovelace plays this role despicably well in Clarissa Pamela contains no archvillain. We have only Mr. Booby who is insufficiently depraved to provide the kind of misreading, the control, we require to discern a "correct" one. An informed reading of Clarissa necessarily implicates us in the process of misreading, for it is up to the reader to understand textual subversion, or more properly, to come to terms with the knowing or naive misinterpretation of character and events. This is equally important in reading Pamela.(6)
Before I apply this visual hermeneutic to Pamela I want to briefly consider it at work in the transmission of a genuine history. Throughout their long correspondence, Lady Bradshaigh and Richardson frequently use the portraits they possess of one another as active participants in their written discourse--these are truly 'speaking pictures.' But how does one remake or interpret reality according to this hermeneutic? Bradshaigh's description of a morning walk she has taken on her estate offers an insight.(7) She reports that a fawn, one she has adopted as a pet, emerges from the brush before her, slips upon the frosty stones, and breaks its leg. Her woodsman must destroy it. The description appears as an inset, as a visible parable, or emblem. Once she describes the event, however, she makes no further comment. Were Richardson to include a similar passage in one of his novels, critics would automatically assume an allusion to Marvell's "The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn," or to some other literary source. The death of the fawn begs to be interpreted in this fashion. Bradshaigh presents the fawn's death emblematically, utilizing the visuality of the situation in the hope that the message will not require further prompting. Bradshaigh undoubtedly recognizes the allusive significance of the fawn's death, and uses it to create an air of pastoral melancholy in her discourse. Like Pamela, she plays the game of rendering reality as emblem; and, in doing so, she intimates a recognition of the visual hermeneutic working in Richardson's fiction.
Within Richardson's novels themselves emblematic allusions do not always appear as vignettes set in sharp relief. Pamela s 'speaking pictures often begin as simple idiomatic expressions, and she employs this emblematic idiom constantly. She writes. for example, "[d]on't, I beseesch you, drive your poor Pamela upon a rock" (1:103).(8) There are quite literally hundreds of emblematic tropes in Richardson's novels. This particular example is common enough, certainly, and has a firmly established history beyond protestant emblematics. Richardson tells us that Pamela has heard sermons, she may have even read Milton's "Lycidas," but her expression also follows an emblem in Henry Peacham's Minerva Britanna (1612).(9) This particular trope figures in emblem books from at least as early as the Elizabethan period; Van der Noodt's A Theater of Voluptuous Worldlings (London, 1569), translated by Edmund Spenser, uses it as the subject of its second emblem:
But so Dane storme did so turmoyle the aire.
And tombled up the sea, that she, alas,
Strake on a rocke that under water lay.
O great misfortune, O great griefe, l say,
Thus in one moment to see lost and drownde
So great riches, as tyke can not be founde.
The sixteenth-century emblem in France was used primarily "as a vehicle for the vulgarization and appropriation of elite culture by an emerging bourgeoisie," and, simultaneously, "as a vehicle for social criticism and satire."(10) This influence may also be applied to popular emblem traditions in England and to their influences on the novel. A Theatre of Voluptuous Worldlings also exemplifies protestant responses to the visual ideology of the Counter-Reformation. This essentially pious tradition (leading through Whitney, Bunyan, Quarles and many others) is calculated to be politically and socially inclusive. Pamela's usage is evidence of that inclusion; more importantly. the genre provides Pamela with an enormous store of emblematic tropes which she constantly uses to describe the world and her place in it.
Pamela contains most of the many families of images common to the emblem tradition. One of the best known. that of the bird, the fowler and his snares. serves numerous contexts, appearing in various shapes and forms on nearly every page. Pamela may resolve to "live like a bird in the winter upon hip and haws, and other times upon pig-nuts and potatoes, or turnips, or anything at all" (1:68). This passage resonates with a number of emblems, most notably that of a winter bird in Peacham's Minerva Britanna (p 74). Anthony Kearney considers that the power of this family of images "derives from the biblical presentation of the fowler as a symbol of evil [Psalms 91; Proverbs 6] which Richardson was able to exploit in his novels." He cites Mr. B. who:
recalls his mother s death-bed comment on Pamela's future. Her word
rightly forecast a time of trouble for the young servant girl:
|What I had designed was, that if any man of genteel calling should
offer, I would give her a little pretty portion, had God spared my life till
then. But were she made independent, some idle fellow might snap her up:
for she is very pretty . . . Perhaps Lady Davers will take her in. But I wish
she was not so pretty! She may be the bird for which some wicked fowler
will spread his snares.' (2:116)(11)
Richardson s emblematic rhetoric constantly asks the reader to hearken back to a set of extra textual images. "Don t your heart ache for me? I am sure mine fluttered about like a new caught bird in a cage" (1:22). Unfortunately. without a supporting literature, emblematic phrases like this one are no longer recognized as such and command little respect. They threaten to trivialize the heroine's situation largely because they lack extratextuality and. therefore. reveal little of her character and situation. The reader is repeatedly asked to see Mr. B. as the fowler and Pamela, whose constant fear is that Mr. B. will "lay his snares surer" (1:28), as the forlorn creature, his prey.(12) The bird and the fowler frequently appear in Familiar Letters, and, Richardson's edition of Aesop illustrates snares. gills, and nets no fewer than eight times. Because these figures appear so broadly in emblem literature and in such a variety of contexts, the reader judges the psychological state of the writer through their repetition.(13) The reader reconjures these images "to the minute," comparing the current interpretative picture not only to a set of extra textual images, but also to those presented previously, noting altered situations and contexts. In this sense, Pamela's emblematic rhetoric both marks and facilitates her psychological social, and spiritual progress.
Pamela is awash in idiomatic emblemata, but these tropes also come to bear in more subtle and more figurative ways. For her parents' benefit, Pamela offers herself as an illustration of the fable of the grasshopper and the ant (1:64). She paraphrases "the fable, which [she has] read in [her] Lady's book," as follows:
As the ants were airing their provision one winter, a hungry grasshopper
(as suppose it was poor me) begged a charity of them. They told him,
he should have wrought in summer, if he would not have wanted in winter.
Well, says the grasshopper, but I was not idle either; for I sung out the whole
season. Nay then, said they, you'll e'en do well to make a merry year of it,
and dance in winter to the tune you sung in summer.
I shall make a fine figure with my singing and my dancing. when I
come home! I shall be unfit even for a May-day holiday; for these minuets,
rigadoons, and French dances, that I have been practicing, will make me but
ill company for my milk-maid companions that are to be. (1:64)
Pamela does not rely on a hagiographic text; that is, she does not refer to a forbidden or heretical symbology; rather, she cites the fable, a fitting text, and then goes on to pose herself as emblem, naively applying this visual hermeneutic to her own "trial." Because she has "an humble and teachable mind," and despite the fact "[i]t may be a little hard at first," she is certain that she will adjust to the transience of her social station. She turns immediately to the story of a similarly afflicted soul, a good bishop "that was to be burnt for his religion; he tried how he could bear it, by putting his fingers into the lighted candle: so I, the other day, tried, when Rachel's back was turned, if I could not scour a pewter plate she had begun. I could do it by degrees; it only blistered my hand in two places" (1:64).
These metaphors are tellingly mixed--we move quickly from grasshopper to martyred bishop--from the bishop to the blisters on Pamela's hand. The syntax of Pamela's fable indicates a lack of naivete: she structures the penultimate sentence to lead our eyes to the image of her hand in the flame. Instead, we see her poised, albeit slightly blistered by her experience, before the half-polished pewter plate. The subject of her letter is her feared inability to mix again with the lower classes. Therefore, her temporarily ameliorated social position becomes the religion for which she is martyred. Earlier she underrates her figurative abilities, regarding them primarily as a pastime, intending to harmoniously wile away the hours entertaining her parents "in winter evenings, when I come home," cuddled "very happy over our peat fires" (1:64). Here Pamela's metaphors are discordant, representing two worlds in collision: a grasshopper dancing the minuet runs headlong into the tragically sainted martyr of the kitchen. Her pictures are slightly out of perspective and her metaphors are mixed. Therein lies both their beauty and their usefulness: these cracks in her rhetoric admit the light by which we read her character and sound the depth of her understanding. Reading in her Lady's cabinet has prepared her for much, but it does not enable her to witness the visual significance of this self-portrait: a young woman who has cast away her finery, holds the half-polished plate before her. Her reflection is imperfect, yet even pewter might be made to shine and reflect like silver if one works diligently enough. She laments the transience of life not realizing that she has painted herself into a known composition--one that serves this precise thematic function, the Vanitas. In this instance her composition bears a striking iconographic similarity to one of the several paintings on this theme by Georges de la Tour, Madeleine aux Deux Flammes (fig. 1). This picture is for our eyes only. Pamela assembles its component parts: the humble clothing, the mirror, the candle, the recognition of the vanity of the world--she paints the picture, but she does not see it and cannot offer interpretation beyond her simple fable. If Pamela "is rewarded. . . [asl a result of her discipline in exemplary self-representation"; if "it]he persistence of Pamela's social deference" --what we see set in relief as her participation in the Vanitas--is essential to justify her acquisition of power[,l it signifies, paradoxically, that she deserves the elevation by which it is obviated."(14) The Vanitas illustrates the making of the heroine according to Michael McKeon's terms; yet, an additional and an essential paradox is present: her fitness for a higher social station is enabled, not so much by her obviation, but by her failure to recognize the potential power of her own tropes, or to sense their prefigurative qualities. Because she lacks artifice, we accept her at face value; that is, we choose the simplicity of Aesop and Foxe over the semiotic complexity of an iconic reality that is conspicuously present yet left uninterpreted.
Pamela was originally presented and accepted as a history; but, when the novel's historicity was challenged. Richardson claimed his object was merely a feasible reality. His fictions are verisimilar constructions guided by artistic choices, certainly, but "thought genuine; only so far kept up, I mean, as that they should not prefatically [sic] be owned not to be genuine." He wished to avoid injury to that "kind of historical faith which fiction is generally read with, though we know it to be a fiction."(15) Richardson addresses historical and romantic expectations by concealing the semiotic within the mimetic, making the former evident to those who study "all aspects of that thing or event" (see fn. 4). Mr. B.'s Swiss henchman, Colbrand, is one of Richardson's best and earliest attempts to promote visual interpretation while remaining within the parameters of a supposed history:
He is a giant of a man for stature: taller by a good deal than Harry
Mawlidge, in your neighbourhood, and large boned, scraggy. and has a
hand!--I never saw such an one in my life. He has great staring eyes, like
the bull's that frightened me so: vast jaw-bones sticking out; eyebrows
hanging over his eyes; two great scars upon his forehead, and one on his
left cheek; two large whiskers, and a monstrous wide mouth; blubber lips,
long yellow teeth, and a hideous grin. He wears his own frightful long hair,
tied up in a great black bag; a black crape neck cloth about a long ugly neck;
and his throat sticking out like a wen. As to the rest, he was dressed well
enough, and had a sword on, with a nasty red knot to it; leather gaiters,
buckled below his knees; and a foot near as long as my arm. I verily think.
I have elsewhere presented the pictorial, physiological, and literary history of Pamela s Colbrand and concluded that, aside from the nominal parallel between this figure and Michael Drayton's "Colebrand," he is the composite, the very complete iconographical figuration, of the traditional Wrath figure.(16) He speaks only rarely and is rather two-dimensional because it is his presence, his features, his dress, and his national stereotype which combine to articulate the emblem of sexual violence.(17) Clearly, Colbrand is "real" enough to satisfy the mimetic requirements of the narrative. He is a recognizable type, one similar to a figure appearing in H. Bunbury's caricature series, "Peasant of the Alps," later in the century (fig. 2).
Immediately following Colbrand's description, he and Mr. B. reappear in Pamela's nightmare:
when I went to bed. I could think of nothing but this hideous person. and
my master's more hideous actions: and thought them well paired. When I
dropped asleep, I dreamed they were both coming to my bedside with the
worst designs: I jumped out of my bed in my sleep, and frighted Mrs.
Jewkes, till waking with terror, I told her my dream. The wicked creature
only laughed, and said, All I feared was but a dream, as well as that. (1:149)
In her dream, Colbrand and Mr. B. come to her bed and stand over her, threatening her virtue. Pamela's dream is another known composition. With minor changes--few of them iconographic--it replicates Titian's Tarquin and Lucretia, a familiar scene of rape and violence (fig. 3).(18) The essential difference between the two pictures is that all the visual signs, the components by which one recognizes the icon of violence and rape. have been exaggerated and transferred from Tarquin to Colbrand. who appears immediately before.(19) As Pamela describes the transference, Colbrand is the "well paired" iconographic equivalent of Mr. B.'s rapacious actions.
Because the iconography of Wrath is both precise and articulate, Richardson is able to employ this material in understated, almost subliminal, vet extremely effective ways. Painted representations of violence are common, of course, and a Renaissance master, such as Titian, used this iconography often. He uses the burning brand, the elevated sword (Colbrand's name suggests the "burning sword," or the "burning torch"), and the lurid reds to create an atmosphere of violence. His two versions of Christ Crowned uith Thorns are two more examples. Here, however, the figure of Tarquin additionally displays a number of anatomical and physiological expressions of violence: bold and fixed stares, a distorted mouth and dentition (perhaps accompanied with a biting of the lips), a disheveled appearance, and an expressed rashness and quickness. Titian chose to represent Tarquin as a redhead; and, most significantly, he is clothed in red below the waist. This iconography follows even to the smallest detail: Titian's painting contains what Pamela properly describes as Colbrand ' s ''nasty red knot,'' in both cases, a sword knot. This tag appears in various contexts but is associated throughout art and literature with violence and cruelty. Titian uses it as a sword knot here but at other times it may appear in a pious context, as the bloodied knot of the scourge, associated with the scourging of Christ.
Pamela's dream replicates the figural placement of Titian's composition. Colbrand and Mr. B. lean over her in her bed; here, Tarquin threatens Lucretia in the same fashion. Tarquin's foreshortened arm extends beyond the picture plane. That violation involves us in the threat: everyone cowers under the threatening hand and dagger. Pamela replicates this effect when, immediately before Colbrand's appearance in her dream, and interrupting the order of her cataloguing his horrible features, she interjects her comment on Colbrand's enormous hand, the agent of violence. The effect is to raise Colbrand's "enormous hand" to the top of the picture where it must dominate the composition.
The distance between Pamela's perceptions and our own would be increased were she to reveal the naivete of her expressions as she did in the Vanitas. We know, however, that she is consciously aware of Lucretia's fate. In the pages before her dream, in her previous trial, Mr. B. "by force kissed my neck and lips; and said, 'Who ever blamed Lucretia' . . . |May I,' said I, 'Lucretia-like, justify myself with my death, if I am used barbarously?'--'O, my good girl.' said he, tauntingly, 'you are well read, I see; and we shall make out between us, before we have done, a pretty story in romance, I warrant ye'" (1:21). Pamela is not only consciously aware of the danger her role as Lucretia presents, here she demonstrates that she can play a very serious game of literary allusion, and play it well. The above passage appears to challenge the unconscious art of the heroine's dream-narrative: if she has had these impressions previously, is it not possible they have influenced her dream'? If this were the case, and, given her demonstrated conversancy, one would expect interpretation to follow; we would expect that she recognize the composition and offer comment. Because she does not, we must conclude that she cannot see the picture. Were she to engage in such a discussion, she would necessarily find herself explaining the principles of iconographic representation to her simple parents; therefore, Richardson allows her to make only subconscious allusion to the painted icon of rape. As with the Vanitas it is our task to complete the interpretive act, not hers: innocence cannot know artifice. Mr. B.'s likening their struggle to that of Tarquin and Lucretia informs the narrative in a way similar to Colbrand's appearance: both prepare our eyes for the pictures which follow. Again, Pamela' s composition permits us the interpretive power her naivete denies her. While we learn the extent of Pamela's sophistication, that is, the degree of artifice which she is capable of, Richardson also teaches us through her mimetic engagement how to witness his visual semiosis.
Colbrand's dream significance not only depends upon emblematic accessibility, the novelist's iconotext requires orthodox representation. We saw earlier, in the case of the Vanitas that public meaning does not fully coincide with Pamela's private interpretation. Further, since Pamela constantly invites challenges to her interpretations, it is interesting to observe how she employs one of the most public and the most frequently used tropes in all of emblematic literature, the sunflower. Because the sunflower was so widely recognized, we may expect a high degree of orthodoxy in Pamela's usage. As we shall see, her interpretations are not orthodox. Rather, she understands the flower according to the terms of her own observation of its nature. Nor does she initially recognize the fitness of the flower to act as her icon; Parson Williams makes the suggestion when he: "came to see us, and took a walk with us, and while Mrs. Jewke's back was turned . . . I said, |Sir, I see two tiles upon that parsely-bed; might not one cover them with mould, with a note between them, on occasion?'--|A good hint, ' said he; ' let that sunflower by the back-door of the garden l e the place'" (1:106). While the convenient location of the flower seems to guide Williams' judgement, Pamela's usage later suggests that the flower has "archetypal meaning as a symbol of the apex of fertility in the plant world . . . we cannot but also see it as a symbol of her repressed desires for realization of her womanhood."(20) Pamela surely understands Parson Williams' choice in these terms; but, given Williams' profession and his undoubted familiarity with meditative literatures, he probably did not choose the flower because of its location or its fecundity--nor was it Richardson's probable intention to stress this latter aspect of the flower. Pamela interprets this image in the same fashion we saw her earlier as a martyred saint of the kitchen. We have a larger iconographic context than either the parson or Pamela, and, the reader Judges the orthodoxy of her interpretation and usage accordingly.
The sunflower appears in meditative and emblematic literature as a symbol of constancy and of faith.(21) Divine love is often united with earthly love in this symbol; it appears in this dual context in the frontispiece of James Hervey's contemplations on a Flower-Garden (J. Rivington, 1757). Lady Bradshaigh refers to this work in a letter to Richardson (Correspondence 6:7); given this reference and his intimate working relationship with that press, Richardson was surely cognizant of the flower's emblematic history and its potential semiotic significance. His heroine piously concludes the first of her sunflower correspondence with the following benediction: "I say no more, but commit this to the happy tiles, in the bosom of that earth, where, l hope my deliverance will take root, and bring forth such fruit, as may turn to my inexpressible joy, and your eternal reward, both here and hereafter: as I shall ever pray" (1:110).
Pamela's offering at the feet of her representative icon underscores the significance of the flower as well as Pamela's procreative aspirations. The sunflower seeds abundantly, but its heliotropic nature--and not its fecundity--dominates its orthodox emblematic meaning. Rip a uses the flower in a variety of contexts. It represents divine love, unrequited love, inspiration, natural instinct, comeliness, constancy, loyalty, and piety. Philip Ayres and Otto Van Veen use the flower as a symbol of constancy in romantic love; Henry Hawkins, also noting the flower's constancy, compares it to the Virgin.(22) I have found no evidence that the sunflower was ever known popularly as a symbol of fecundity.
The hierarchy of the garden reflects the social hierarchy which undervalues the flower's position and mirrors Lady Daver's objections to Pamela's increasing status. Like the sunflower, Pamela is a parvenu. Pamela's icon was imported to the Mediterranean from Peru by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century; as such, it was a relative late-comer to English gardening.(23) Its novelty enjoyed popularity for a time, but by the late seventeenth century it was considered too coarse and common to figure in the scheme of a formal garden. Alice Coats cites John Rea's Flora Ceres and Pomona (1665) where the flower "was heretofore admired, but now grown common. not at all respected." Louis Liger's The Retired Gardener (1706) reports that the flower: "is at present much neglected, scarcely met with but in the forlorn parts of the garden, or at the Extremities of some Borders; it would look very disagreeably in any other Place, and incommode the Flowers growing next to it." John Parkinson's Theatrum Botanicum (1740), however, records that "[tlhis is a good and stately plant, wherewith everyone is nowadays familiar," and treats it with renewed interest. Pamela's account places the flower near the garden wall and this is also where we find it in the frontispiece to Henry Hawkins' Parthenia Sacra (1633). The flower anachronistically appears in Michel de Marolles' Tableaux du Temple des Muses (Paris, 1655), and again in Dryden's [?] Ovid (Metamorphoses [Amsterdam, 1732]) almost a century later. Both Dryden and Marolles take for their text the tale of Clytie of Ovid's Metamorphoses:
Clytie, through Spite and Rage, discovers Leucothoe's Adventure to her
Father, who orders her to be immediately hurled alive: But the Sun, grieved
at the Misfortune of a Person so dear to him. changes her into the
Frankincense-Tree: he also despises and hates the Informer. who, nevertheless,
languishes and pines away for love of him, and is. at last. changed into
Here the sunflower represents eternally unrequited love. As a punishment for her artifice, Clytie must view her lover by the minute: condemned to remain forever earthbound, she is destined never to obtain him.
We may expect that the eighteenth-century reader was familiar with the flower's history in the garden as well as its emblematic and Ovidian figurations. An Ovidian reading sustains an apprehension that if Pamela artfully pursues the object of her affections, as Clytie does, she will fail: he will disdain her, and stretch as she might. she shall never reach sufficient height to obtain him. While Pamela's reading expresses her procreative goals, our fuller understanding remarks on the danger that reading presents. The flower, therefore, creates the potential for a false prefiguration. The resulting irony is a kind of hermeneutic tension residing in our inability to discern (for the present) which interpretation will inform the whole.
Before this tension is resolved, and with the sudden infusion of additional emblematic elements. we must weigh every event, every posed object and recorded utterance. according to this established hermeneutical practice. Pamela assures us that the sunflower is not an isolated emblematic allusion:
When I came near the place [the sunflower]. as I had been devising, I said.
|Pray step to the gardener. and ask him to gather a salad for me to dinner.
She called out. |Jacob!' Said I. |He can't hear you so far off: and pray tell
him, I should like a cucumber too, if he has one. When she had stept about
a bow-shot from me I popt down, and whipt my fingers under the upper
tile, and pulled out a letter without direction, and thrust it in my bosom.
trembling for joy She was with me before I could well secure it; and I was
in such a taking that I feared I should discover myself. You seem
frightened, Madam,' said she: 'Why, said l, with a lucky thought, (alas!
your poor daughter will make an intriguer by-and-by: but I hope an
innocent one!) |I stooped to smell at the sun-flower. and a great nasty worm
ran into the ground, that startled me: for I can't abide worms.' Said she.
|Sun-flowers don't smell.'--|So I find.' replied I. (1:112-13) At the very instant Pamela denies artifice, the potential vehicle for sustaining I hat artifice appears. It becomes difficult to distinguish among the many voices: the emblematic language, the typo logical language (it is, after all, a worm in the garden), the garden's language, and Pamela's individuated usage. All that Pamela presents mimetically threatens semiotic significance. She reports seeing the worm, but suspicious Jewkes forces Pamela's gesture and discovers it has no natural purpose: sunflowers have no fragrance--something anyone raised in the country should certainly know. Moreover, while this gesturing occurs, the worm enters the garden. Even though worms do exist in gardens, we are forced to enter a world of manners just as likely to exist in Ripa or Whitney as in any verisimilar reality. Furthermore, since Pamela threatens the use of artifice, she protests too much, suggesting she has become an "intriguer," we must judge, as Jewkes must, whether the worm actually appeared, or if it is a rhetorical convenience serving another agenda.(24)
With the heroine in grave rhetorical danger, and with a great deal of emblematic baggage in tow, we drift over to the pond and to the famous angling scene:
I am hut Just come off from a walk in the garden, and have deposited
my letter: we took a turn hi the garden to angle, as Mr. Jewkes had
promised me. She baited the hook. I held it, and soon hooked a lovely carp.
|Play it, play it,' said she. I did, and brought it to the bank. A sad thought
just then came into my head: and I threw it in again. What pleasure it seemed
to have, to flounce, when at liberty! |Why throw it in?' says she. |O Mr.
Jewkes!' said I. |I was thinking this poor carp was the unhappy Pamela. I
was comparing you and myself to my naughty master. As we hooked and
deceived the poor carp, so was I betrayed by false baits: and when you said.
|Play it, play in' it went to my heart, to think I should sport with the
destruction of the poor fish I had betrayed; I could not but fling it in again:
and did you not see the joy with which the happy carp flounced from us?'
|O.' said I, may some good merciful body procure me my liberty in the
same manner; for to be sure, I think my danger equal!'
|Lord bless thee! ' said she, what a thought is there!'--'I can angle no
more,' added I. |I'll try my fortune,' said she, and took the rod. |Do.'
answered I; |and I will plant life, if I cam while you are destroying it. I have
some horse-beans, and will go and stick them in one of the borders, to see
how long they will be coming; and I will call them my garden.' (1:115-16) Pamela's closing remarks to Williams have already revealed how she understands, or chooses to Understand the sunflower. Now the reader witnesses her taking up that role. The "horse-bean," however, is hardly a monarch of the garden (it grows as a clinging vine); her willingness to plant the seed as a neighbor to the sunflower reveals that, in addition to her contriving to approach that spot to deposit her letter, she is probably aware of the social connotations both symbols carry and she acts in harmony with them. The worm is still in the garden--Jewkes baits the hook--but note how its context has shifted.
Richardson knows that if Pamela's rhetorical innocence is to remain intact she cannot self-consciously become the bait in this altered picture. If we learn that she has found, for example, Donne's "The Baite," in her lady's cabinet, her discourse must become artificial. To prevent this reading Richardson casts Pamela in the role--in the very activity--of her namesake in Sidney's Arcadia. He constructs this analogue and then pointedly makes his heroine oblivious to it. We first note that Pamela is convinced of her own cleverness; she reasons that posing as the captured carp will ease Jewke's suspicions. While Pamela is convinced her fable works to this effect, she does not see the potential for ironic comment, and the Arcadian reading remains outside her experience. Were she to understand her situation according to the terms of Sidney's tale, or go so far as to overtly allude to her namesake: "There would they sitte down, & pretie wagers be made between Pamela and Philoclea, which could soonest beguile silly fishes . . . the fitte pray for them was hartes of Princes."(25) If Pamela consciously admits this reading she becomes the angler, and not the carp, in a new visual situation--one whose influence we have apprehended, and perhaps feared, since we first read the title of the novel. Now that Pamela' s Arcadian precursor threatens to manifest mimetically, and because Richardson's object is to reassert his heroine's naivete, he resorts to his established practice of interrupting allusion and places essential visual interpretation, the iconotext, beyond the understanding of his heroine. This avoidance prevents her colliding with the novelist's semiotic design. For the reader, these prefigurative arrangements and avoidances dispel semiotic unc as virtuous ingenue.
Simon Varey has recently asserted that "Richardson's sequences of letters . . . contain no conspicuous signposts like those of Tom Jones that continually direct us to the novelist's deliberately constructed narrative scheme [. . .] Richardson differs from Fielding in generally directing his readers' attention away from his artifice, not towards it."(26) The term "conspicuous" is central here, and while for the benefit of the history, that is, for mimetic reasons, Richardson does his best to direct us away from an overtly intrusive semiosis, all retain the responsibility of discovering these signposts. Varey essentially admits being "[b]uried in the voluminous mass of words . . . [where are found] the signs that may lead eventually to a revelation of overall design." Here I contradict the notion that "those signs are virtually indistinguishable from all other signs." That "Richardson's characters and perhaps readers too do not recognize motives until they have more information, and do not understand the full implications of an incident until they see its place in some larger pattern" (p. 182) is especially true of Clarissa, but what I have argued here is that the iconotext ("the signs that lead . . . to revelation") works throughout Pamela. These signposts are immediately distinguishable from the supposed randomness of historical events. In addition, there is a duality of semiotic intention: the heroine's and the novelist's. Varey is correct that the whole of any of Richardson's novels cam lot be understood until one comprehends the "larger pattern," but it is a mistake to assume that this minute, "to the minute" semiosis is not visible, decipherable or distinguishable from the mimetic at any given point. The iconotext operates constantly and articulately. Because the heroine's fables do not always harmonize with the novelist's figurative arrangements, and are frequently a source of iconographic tension, we distingu the prefigurative qualities each of them possesses. This duality is essential to the novelist's method and to our own dynamic responses to the heroine's challenged innocence. I do not take issue with the notion that this process of signification is inconspicuous, or that most of Richardson's characters lack a larger context, the leisure, or perhaps the inclination, to reconstruct the text and extract the workings of a larger moral intelligence; ostensibly, however, the "history" has been compiled for exemplary and meditative purposes and for the promotion of self-examination and discovery.(27)
These visual constructions offer insights into how Richardson understood his role as author. Speaking pictures mark Richardson's methodology as well as suggesting underlying theological and epistemological assumptions. The substitution of emblems as vehicles for spiritual truths, or as guides to interpretive responses, however, are not sufficient to explain Richardson's iconographic practices. "If the puritan looked inward at recollected temporal experience to discover its meaning, the empiricist looked outward upon the world, gathering impressions so that they might at last be formulated into the principles of a coherent design."(28) These factors influence Richardson, who, combining tendencies, reveals semiotic design in temporal and psychological events. His narrative asserts that one may mark the spirituality of experience by recording it minutely, that once recollected--read and reread--this experience "might at last be formulated into the principles of a coherent design." Lennard J. Davis notes that:
Richardson even advocated, perhaps in jest, that he cause he was unwilling
to write a concluding volume to sit Charles Grandison every one of my
correspondents, at his or her own choice, [could] assume one of the
surviving characters in the story, and write in it.' Richardson would then
|pick and choose, alter, connect, and accommodate' until he had made up
this last volume.(29) That Richardson would propose such a narrative scheme, even in jest, says a great deal about how he understood his role as Pamela' s covert author. Certainly his own pulp-to-print approach to the novel indicates a tendency to see himself as an organizing presence, but here Richardson suggests that just as Pamela replicates larger pictures, his narratological stance replicates a larger theological scheme. He exceeds mere authorial omniscience and becomes an omnipotent semiotic force in his novels. His complete narratological paradigm, including his iconotext, its pretended historicity, as well as that "voluminous mass of words" which threatens all events with insignificance, recreates for the reader how Richardson believed God operates in the world. Richardson wanted his novels to generate debate and discussion, certainly; and, as Davis notes, he enjoyed being that organizing intelligence, for in that role he not only imitates his perceived maker, he intimates his own role as a kind of novelistic god. It is perhaps owing to this perception that his visual semiosis often follows well known, but non-literary, pathways. Richardson, the great giver-of-signs, demands that we search for the workings of his guiding hand. Therein lies his didacticism. He insists that we be as inclusive in our search for meaning as he is in his iconographic methodology. Just as order and meaning are made evident in the examined life, the guiding hand becomes visible through the critical process of visually re-encountering the text. Therefore, Richardson is not precisely what Leopold Damrosch, Jr. suggests, "a narrator abconditus miming the hidden God who presides over the sublunary world but never shows his hand directly, the Pascalian deity who eat toujours et ne parait jamais."(30) Richardson makes his presence known--in fact, demonstrates his existence--through constant iconographic participation, or, if one prefers, intrusion. Matters epistemological, narratological, and theological are readily distinguishable in this model, but they are difficult to distinguish from one another. Together they assert that the godhead is the source of all essential signification, and that at any given instant this intelligence may conjoin the mimetic and the semiotic into a single theophanic statement. Just as it is possible for virtuous Pamela not to comprehend the providential operation of the iconotext, yet remain shielded from evil. Clarissa argues it is equally possible that a superior and highly developed intellect and spirituality can be tragically entrapped by a clever manipulator of the iconotext. Conversely, Sir Charles Grandison argues that an enlightened individual may sense every action with it. The potential for proper or insightful interpretation of the present as it bears on the future is always with us, but it may pass unnoticed. undervalued, or be scorned by readers and characters. In her influential study The English Novel: Form and Function (1953), Dorothy Van Ghent writes: "Only at long length are we permitted to get it [Clarissa's rape] into clear focus, while, in the meantime, we have been steadily bombarded, page after page, with an imagery deriving from various submerged but exceedingly powerful impulses and attitudes" (p. 47). She discusses the prospect of Clarissa observed through a keyhole, as though the heroine were framed in a picture. Van Ghent senses something elusively complex and imagistic working in Richardson's fictions. She notes that: "an image is rarely single; a whole setting, or a moment of drama in which several characters participate, may form 'an image,' but it will be an image of a very complex kind, actually a construct of images acting as a unity" (p. 48). I have argued here that there are pictures in addition to those framed or overtly identified as such. These "powerful impulses and attitudes" need not remain "submerged," because they are often articulated very precisely. We should, therefore, consider the immuring of Clarissa's portrait, the framing of events through keyholes, Anna Howe's series of "miniatures" of Clarissa's suitors, and many other overt examples of painterly practices within these narratives, as indications that our reading will engage with the graphic arts in other similar but perhaps unexpected ways. This practice extends especially to what Van Ghent alludes to above, what has frequently been termed the "tableaux" of Richardson's fictions. The viewing of Clarissa' s coffin and of her corpse coupled as they are with the spectacle of the funeral procession is often described as Hogarthian, which is to say: the picture is of a number of subjects, each a specific personality-type, engaged in rather common activities, all of which are emblematically significant. The picture is iconographically complex in little and large; yet, if one sees the artist's semiotic involvement, not only will that visual semiosis become more articulate, its increasing evidence empowers the reader to more fully witness the synchronism of the ongoing present and the truth of the mythological past.
I would like to thank my colleague, Assistant Professor Peter C. Herman, for his Conversation and for his assistance in editing this manuscript. (1) Samuel Richardson Trincentenary Essays Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sahor, eds. (Cambridge Univ. Press. 1989), pp. 146-66. (2) Murray Roston, Changing Pespectives in Literature and the Visual Arts, 1650-1820 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 183-84. (3) In his preface to Aesops Fables ([rpt. New York: Garland, 1975], p. viii) Richardson justifies the inclusion of woodcuts with the printed text in the following terms: "[W]e are sensible of the alluring force which cuts or pictures, suited to respective subjects, have on the minds of children [and these illustrations] will rather excite their curiosity, and stimulate their attention . . . careful have we been to collect only such fables, as were fit for the instruction of the youth of both sexes, at the same time . . . we hope it will not be found unworthy of perusal of persons of riper years and understanding." (4) J. Paul Hunter, The Reluctant Pilgrim: Defoe's Emblematic Method and Quest for Form in "Rohinson Crusoe" (Baltimore, 1966), p 29, n 10. (5) This quote appears in Peter Daly's Literature in Light at the Emblem (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1979) and is taken from Hunter (above). (6 )Therefore, what Terry Castle observes working so well in Clarissa, what she describe in hermeneutical terms, is productively combined with Margaret Anne Doody's rhetorical, approach; the result of this combining is an improved approach to Richardson's iconographic methods. See: Terry Castle, Clarissa's Ciphers: Meaning and Disruption in Richardson's "Clarissa" (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1982): and, Margaret Anne Doody, A Natural Passion: A Study of the Novels of Samuel Richardson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1974). In her chapter, "The Visual Image in Clarissa," Professor Doody remarks on the "realistic picture" of Richardson's tableaux, and she comments upon the prison scene in Clarissa, its emblematic flavor and detailing. These details are "explicitly significant as to be almost entirely emblematic, like the pictures which appear on the walls of Hogarth's room." While Professor Doody considers Richardson's fictions to possess great metaphoric integrity, his first attempt is somewhat undervalued. Professor Doody writes that: "the emblematic device is used only twice in Pamela--the sunflower, the angling for the carp. Both images are effective, and add a depth of suggestion without detracting from the realism, but compared to the images used in Clarissa, they are static" (p. 216). (7) The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, 6 vols. (1804), Anna Laetitia Barbauld, ed. (London, 1804), 6:47. (8) I am using the Everyman edition of Pamela, 2 vols. (London J.M. Dent & Sons, 1914 [rpt. 1942]). All reference will be to this edition. (9) See The Younger Minerva Britanna or a Garden of Heroical (London: W. Right (1612), p. 158. For other examples of this trope consult: Huston Diehl, An Index of Icons in English Emblem Books 1500-1700 (Norman and London: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1986). pp. 158, 186. (10) Jerome Schwartz, "Emblematic Theory and Practice: The Case of the sixteenth Century French Emblem Book, "Emblematic 2 (1987): 293. (11) Anthony Kearney, "A Recurrent Motif in Richardson's Novels" Neophilologus 55 (1971): 447. (12) Richardson uses this trope extremely effectively in Clarissa. Heroine and reader alike must admit the efficacious irony of this ubiquitous metaphor when we discover, for example, that the room in which Lovelace imprisons the heroine has bars on its windows. She literally becomes the "caged bird." A similar effect is achieved when, a her encountering the rhetoric of the "the Heart" in various contexts (e.g., cold, steely, wounded, melting), we discover that Lovelace designs to physically remove the heart from Clarissa's corpse. (13) See: Jacob Cats, Alle de Werken van den Heere Jacob Cats (Amsterdam, 1712): Geoffrey Whitney, A Choice of Emblemes (Leyden, 1586): Thomas Combe, A Theater of Fine Devices (London, 1614); George Wither, A Collection of Emblems (London, 1635): and Philip Ayres, Emblemata Amatoria (London, 1683). During the 1740's the caged bird was a particularly fashionable motif both in painting and sculpture. See: William Hogarth's "Portrait of the Graham Children" (1742), Tate Gallery, London: and Jean Baptiste Pigalle, "Child with Birdcage" (1749), The Louvre, Paris. (14) Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1987), p. 364. (15) See The Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1964), p. 85, and the discussion of these passages in Lennard J. Davis, Factual Fictions. The Origins of the English Novel (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1983), pp. 174ff. (16) See Michael Drayton, The Poly-Olbion: A Chorographical Description of Great Britain (London: John Marriot, John Grismand, and Thomas Dewe, 1622), rpt. The Spenser Society (Manchester: Charles E. Simms, 1889). (17) See my article "Richardson's Colbrand: the Figure of Wrath in the Renaissance and in Pamela," Studies in Iconography 11 (1987): 205-30. (18) Titian painted this composition at least twice, but I refer to the version currently in the Fitzwilliam. Although it is believed Richardson never travelled to the Continent, copies and engravings after Titian's pictures were widely available. (19) Perhaps Richardson thought it wise not to associate his future hero too closely with such a (menacing figure. Mr. B. must reform and it would not serve to have him appear incorrigibly depraved. (20) Stewart Wilson, "Richardson's Pamela: An Interpretation," PMLA 88 (1973): 79ff. (21) See Rosemary Freeman, English Emblem Books (London: Chatto and Windus 1948), pp. 24-28. Diehl, pp. 121-22. (23) Alice M. Coats, Flowers and their Histories (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1968), pp. 108 ff. (24) At this point it should be noted that there are several instances in which, for our benefit, Richardson places Pamela in the comical act of superstitious or clumsy interpretation. Shortly after the scene in which Pamela's escape is thwarted by the fiery-eyed bull--one that tosses young maids--we discover that the bull is actually a cow, the antithesis of sexual menace. We should also consider Pamela's feigned drowning as the heroine's attempt to manipulate an iconotext. She apparently wishes to replicate the death of another wronged woman, Ophelia. Her obvious artifice misfires and she is the only one fooled. After receiving her injury and swooning in her hiding place, she dreams the scene of her captors' frantic search for her and of their discovering her corpse. She comments upon the tragic picture. When she comes to her senses, however, she must admit her dream is a false prefiguration. Scenes like these are surely intended to establish the heroine's artlessness, or to subdue our suspicions that she has become an intriguer. We find, however, as in the present situation, that Pamela constantly challenges the limitations the novelist places on her. (25) Sir Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (London: William Ponsonbie, 1590; rpt. Kent State Univ. Press, 1970), Lib. 1, chap. 15, 2, p. 65. (26) Space and the Eighteenth-Century Novel, Cambridge Studies in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Thought 7 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), p. 181. (27) The difficulty of these kinds of visual allusions is suggested by Jerry C. Beasley's argument that: "Smollett, in the mock dedication (to himself) prefixed to Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753), developed analogies to painting and to the drama in order to explain the compositional form of his work and, more specifically, to justify its structure as an expansive and diffused representation of life in a series of intensive, dramatic verbal pictures . . . the fact that: "Smollett's first statement of a theory of fictional form was anticipated by three major experiments suggests the degree to which he, like Fielding and Richardson, placed the discovery of meaning before the discovery of appropriate form in the process of artistic creation."
See "Life's Episodes: Story and its Form in the Eighteenth Century," in The Idea of the Novel in the 18th Century, Studies in Literature, 1500-1800, no. 3 (East Lansing, MI: Colleagues Press. 1988), pp. 25, 26. (29) This quotation is part of Davis' discussion of the "private-made-public" nature of Richardson's fiction See Factual Fictions, p. 189. Davis cites Selected Letters (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), pp. 305-36. (30) Leopold Damrosch, Jr., Gods Plot and Man's Stories: Studies in the Fictional Imagination from Milton to Fielding (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1985), p. 258. Damrosch cites Lucien Goldman, Le Dieu Caehe Etude sur la Vision Tragique dans les Pensees de Pascal et dans le Theatre de Racine (Paris, 1959), p. 46.
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|Title Annotation:||Samuel Richardson|
|Author:||Brown, Murray L.|
|Publication:||Studies in the Novel|
|Date:||Jun 22, 1993|
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