Reading 'Pamela' through the domestic parlour : rooms, social class, and gender

Lipsedge, Karen (2022) Reading 'Pamela' through the domestic parlour : rooms, social class, and gender. In: Hague, Stephen G. and Lipsedge, Karen, (eds.) At home in the eighteenth century : interrogating domestic space. Abingdon, U.K. : Routledge. pp. 42-57. (Routledge studies in eighteenth-century cultures and societies) ISBN 9780367276799 (In Press)


To explore the social and cultural importance of the rooms to which Pamela can gain entry, this chapter brings together literary representation and socio-architectural comment to provide a critical analysis of Pamela’s use of the great and little parlours at Mr B.’s country house in Lincolnshire. A key theme in the novel is Pamela’s right to a ‘place’ of her own (as she calls it); one that is reflective of both her domestic role in the household as well as her virtue and morality. In Pamela, Richardson highlights the importance of this theme, for both character and plot, through his representation of the little and great parlours in the scene when Lady Davers and Jackey visit Mr B.’s country house, unexpectedly. During the eighteenth century, the importance of the domestic parlour as a room for dining and sitting in increased. It also receives significant attention in Pamela. By examining Richardson’s representation of the great and little parlours in Pamela in light of their function and use in the ‘real’ eighteenth-century home, the chapter highlights the differences between the domestic parlour and other rooms where the novel’s action takes place, such as the dressing room and private closet. It also underscores the implication of those differences.

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