When I read Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, I found that the text seemed to be at war with itself. On the one hand, it is a highly didactic tale about a young woman sustaining her virtue in the face of many hardships and evils and on the other hand there are scenes that interrupts the high morality of the story. One instance of such an interruption includes Mr. B’s candid expression of his love for Pamela toward the end of the first book. At first, Mr. B motives toward Pamela I judged as heinous and predatory but later on his obsession softens into a kind of love I believe the narrator would like me to sympathize with. Thus, like Count D’elmont, his desire is not purely sexual but is rooted in a deep admiration for his loved one’s character. My inclination is to read the story as a romance, one with sexually charged scenes, victims of love, and a commanding male presence – whose desire for one woman circulates the events of story. Yet, it is clear that the male presence in this story is one that is not meant to be admired for its morality whereas Count D’elmont charisma is infectious.
One of the differences between Count D’elmont and Mr. B is that Mr. B seems to be both obsessed with Pamela’s beauty and her mind. So much so that he demands that she relinquish all of her letters to him as he loves to read her writing. He tells her,
You have a great deal of Wit, a great deal of Penetration, much beyond your Years; and, as I thought, your Opportunities. You are possess’d of an open, frank and generous Mind, and a Person so lovely, that you excel all your Sex in my eyes. All of these accomplishments have engag’d my Affections so deeply, as I have often said, I cannot live without you (213).
However, part of the reason he wants to read her letters is because he does not want Pamela to vilify and stain his reputation. Another reason he wants to read them is because he is jealous of Mr. Williams. Thus, it becomes difficult to discern how angelic Mr. B’s intentions are and how we are supposed to react to him as readers. Yet, he develops into a complicated character just as Count D’elmont does and can no longer be categorized as purely wicked or good toward the progression of the narrative.
Mr. B also reminds me of another character of British literature, namely Charlotte Bronte’s Edward Rochester. I reacted to Mr. B somewhat similarly, not liking him for his abrasive and rude demeanor but later wanting to understand him. Rochester’s desire for Jane seemed malicious and rough around the edges but there is something about it that was sincere and for lack of a better word, very real. While Rochester does not make a considerable effort to be understood, Mr. B does. Mr. B wants to be given more credit for abstaining from immorality even though he does not seem to deserve it. He wants Pamela to forgive his past attempts to violate her virtue and urges her to understand his perspective:
And I see you so watchful over your Virtue, that tho’ I hop’d to find it otherwise, I cannot but say, my Passion for you is increas’d by it. But now what shall I say further, Pamela? – I will make you, tho’ a Party, my Advisor in this Matter; tho’ not perhaps my definitive judge (213).
Perhaps the readers are also solicited to judge Mr. B less harshly because of nature of his desire – one that seems to control him rather than one that he can control. This theme of desire, as having its own volition and power, exists in Haywood’s novel as well; however, the narrator does not request her readers to soften their judgment, and instead, elevates desire to a status that surpasses consideration of morality. Such elevation of love as the expense of virtue seemed to better characterize Haywood’s novel as a romance. Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe does not meddle with affairs of love and is moralistic, but Richardson’s novel has been more difficult to categorize as it stands somewhere between a Haywood’s excessive display of desire and Defoe’s rigid display of morality.