Samuel Richardson (19 August 1689 – 4 July 1761) was an 18th-century English writer and printer. He is best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753). Richardson was an established printer and publisher for most of his life and printed almost 500 different works, with journals and magazines.
Richardson lost his first wife along with their five sons, and eventually remarried. Although with his second wife he had four daughters who lived to become adults, they had no male heir to continue running the printing business. While his print shop slowly ran down, at the age of 51 he wrote his first novel and immediately became one of the most popular and admired writers of his time.
He knew leading figures in 18th century England, including Samuel Johnson and Sarah Fielding. In the London literary world, he was a rival of Henry Fielding, and the two responded to each other's literary styles in their own novels.
Richardson, one of nine children, was probably born in 1689 in Mackworth, Derbyshire, to Samuel and Elizabeth Richardson. It is unsure where in Derbyshire he was born because Richardson always concealed the location. The older Richardson was, according to the younger:
"a very honest man, descended of a family of middling note, in the country of Surrey, but which having for several generations a large number of children, the not large possessions were split and divided, so that he and his brothers were put to trades; and the sisters were married to tradesmen."
His mother, according to Richardson, "was also a good woman, of a family not ungenteel; but whose father and mother died in her infancy, within half-an-hour of each other, in the London pestilence of 1665".
The trade his father pursued was that of a joiner (a type of carpenter, but Richardson explains that it was "then more distinct from that of a carpenter than now it is with us"). In describing his father's occupation, Richardson stated that "he was a good draughtsman and understood architecture", and it was suggested by Samuel Richardson's son-in-law that the senior Richardson was a cabinetmaker and an exporter of mahogany while working at Aldersgate-street. The abilities and position of his father brought him to the attention of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth. However this, as Richardson claims, was to Richardson senior's "great detriment" because of the failure of the Monmouth Rebellion, which ended in the death of Scott in 1685. After Scott's death, the elder Richardson was forced to abandon his business in London and live a modest life in Derbyshire.
Full article ▸