1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Richardson

C. H. Timperley, in Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:707-08.



1761, July 4. Died, SAMUEL RICHARDSON, printer in Salisbury Square, London, well known to the literary world as the author of Pamela, Clarissa Harlowe, Sir Charles Grandison, and other eminent works, and whose life affords another instance of the difficulties which may be overcome by perseverance and integrity. He was born in the year 1689, the son of an ingenious and very respectable joiner in Derbyshire, but who could only afford to give him a common education of reading and writing in a country school. It was the intention of the elder Mr. Richardson to have brought up his son Samuel to the church; but the occurrences of some severe pecuniary losses compelled him to relinquish the design. In despite, however, of his common education, he early exhibited the most decisive marks of genius; he was of a serious and contemplative disposition, and fond of exercising his inventive powers, among his playmates, in the narration of stories, the incidents of which he threw together with extraordinary facility. He was, likewise, remarkably partial to letter-writing, and to the company of his female friends, with whom he maintained a constant correspondence, and even ventured, though only in his eleventh year, to become their occasional monitor and adviser. At the age of sixteen it became necessary that he should fix upon some occupation for his future life; and, as his father left him to his free option, he decided for the business of a printer; principally induced to the choice by the opportunities that he imagined it would afford him for reading, to which he was strongly attached. He was accordingly apprenticed in 1706 to Mr. John Wilde, of stationers' hall; but he soon found that the advantages which he had so sanguinely expected were illusory; for he himself says, "I served a diligent seven years to a master who grudged every hour to me that tended not to his profit, even of those times of leisure and diversion, which the refractoriness of my fellow-servants obliged him to allow them, and was usually allowed by other masters to their apprentices. I stole from the hours of rest and relaxation, my reading times for improvement of my mind; and being engaged in a correspondence with a gentleman, greatly my superior in degree, and of ample fortune, which, had he lived, intended high things for me; those were all the opportunities I had in my apprenticeship to carry it on; I took care that even my candle was of my own purchasing, that I might not in the most trifling instance, make my master a sufferer (and who used to call me the pillar of his house) and not to disable myself by watching or sitting up, to perform my duty to him in the daytime." On the termination of his apprenticeship, which had lasted seven years, he became a journeyman and corrector of the press; an office which he filled for nearly six years, and on declining which, he acquired his freedom, and entered into business for himself. His first residence was small, and in an obscure court, in Fleet-street, where he filled up his leisure hours by compiling indices for the book-sellers, and writing prefaces, and what he calls honest dedications. The industry, punctuality, and integrity of Richardson as a tradesmen, were in due time followed by the usual result, a wide-extending reputation and accumulating wealth. He was the printer, for a short period, of the duke of Wharton's True Briton, the purport of which was to excite an opposition in the city to the measures of government. The politics of this paper, however, were so violent, at the close of the sixth number Mr. Richardson declined any further connexion with it, having narrowly escaped a prosecution; for, four of the six essays being deemed libels, Mr. Payne, the publisher, was found guilty, while the printer, although intimate with the duke, was passed over, owing to the non-appearance of his name on the title-page. Through the interest of the right hon. Arthur Onslow, speaker, he was employed in printing the first edition of the Journals of the House of Commons, of which he completed the first twenty-six volumes in folio, an undertaking for which he at length obtained upwards of 3,000. He also printed from 1736 to 1737 a newspaper called the Daily Journal; and in 1738 the Daily Gazetteer. He suffered not, however, the pressure of business, though great, and requiring much superintendence, to preclude his mental progress. The literary exertions of Richardson were not altogether confined to novel writing; besides his three great works, already noticed, be had a regular share in the composition of the Christian Magazine, by Dr. James Mauclerc, 1748; the Negociation of sir Thomas Roe, in his Embassy to the Ottoman Porte from the year 1721 to 1728 inclusive, folio. He also printed an edition of Aesop's Fables, with Reflections. A Collection of the Moral Sentences in Pamela, Clarissa, and Grandison, was printed in 12mo, 1755. A volume of Familiar Letters, which he had laid by for a season, in order to prosecute his Pamela. A large single sheet on the Duties of Wives and Husbands. Six original Letters upon Duelling, printed after his decease in the Literary Repository for 1765. No. 67, vol. ii. of the Ramblers, were written by Richardson; in the preamble to which, Johnson styles him "an author from whom the age has received greater favours, who has enlarged the knowledge of human nature, and taught the passions to move at the command of virtue." Richardson's reputation is far from being confined to his own country. He has been read in many of the languages, and known to most of the nations of Europe; and has been greatly admired, notwithstanding every dissimilitude of manners or even disadvantage of translation. He has been often compared to Rousseau; and Rousseau was one of his professed admirers. M. Diderot, in his Essay on Dramatic Poetry, page 96, mentions Richardson particularly as a perfect master of that art. Whilst thus advancing in his literary career, Richardson was not inattentive to the improvement of that fortune, of which industry and integrity had long before laid the foundation. In 1754 he was appointed master of the stationers' company, a situation as lucrative as it was honourable. In 1755 he removed from North End, near Hammersmith, to Parson's Green, where he fitted up a house. In Salisbury-court, London, he took down a range of old houses, eight in number, and built an extensive and commodious range of warehouses and printing-offices. At Midsummer, 1760, he purchased a moiety of the patent of law printer, and carried on that department of business in partnership with Miss Catherine Lintot. To his servants he was a kind and generous master, eager to encourage them to persevere in the same course of patient labour by which he had himself attained fortune; and it is said to have been his common practice to hide half a crown among the types in the cases, that it might reward the diligence of the compositor who should first be in the office in the morning. If we look yet closer into his private life, (and who does not wish to know the slightest particulars of a man of his genius?) we find so much to praise, and so little deserving censure, that we almost think we are reading the description of one of the amiable characters he has drawn in his own works. Besides practising a generous hospitality, it must be recorded to his honour, that long before he became an author, he distinguished himself by his kindness in relieving the wants of the sons of genius, which is but too often allied to poverty; amongst others, Johnson felt his succouring hand in the hour of his greatest need. A love of the human species; a desire to create happiness and to witness it; a life undisturbed by passion, and spent in doing good; pleasure, which centred in elegant conversation — in bountiful liberality, in the exchange of all the kindly intercourse of life, — marked the worth and unsophisticated simplicity of Richardson's character. It is no slight encomium, when speaking of the moral character of a man, that a too great love of praise should be enumerated as its only foible. Of the vanity of Richardson he who peruses his life can have no doubt; but let it be remembered, that he was an object of almost perpetual flattery, and that he had a host of virtues to counterbalance the defect. For some years previous to his death, he had been much afflicted with nervous attacks, the consequence of family deprivations, of intense application, and great mental susceptibility. He often regretted, that he had only females to whom to transfer his business. However, he had taken in to assist him a nephew, who relieved him from the more burdensome cares of it, and who eventually succeeded him. He now had leisure, had he had health, to enjoy his reputation, his prosperous circumstances, his children, and his friends; but, alas! leisure purchased by severe application often comes too late to be enjoyed; and in a worldly, as well as u a religious sense,

When we find
The key of life, it opens to the grave.

His nervous disorders increased upon him; and his valuable life was at length terminated, by a stroke of apoplexy, at the age of seventy-two. He was buried, by his own direction, near his first wife, in the nave, near the pulpit of St. Bride's church. The following epitaph was written by his amiable and learned friend Mrs. Carter, but is not inscribed on his tomb:

EPITAPH ON MR. RICHARDSON, PRINTER.
If ever warm benevolence was dear,
If ever wisdom gained esteem sincere,
Or genuine fancy deep attention won
Approach with awe the dust — of Richardson.

What though his Muse, thro' distant regions known,
Might scorn the tribute of this humble stone;
Yet pleasing to his gentle shade, must prove
The meanest pledge of friendship and of love;
Too oft will these, from venal throngs exiled;
And oft will innocence, of aspect mild,
And white-robed Charity, with streaming eyes
Frequent the cloister where their patron lies.

This, reader, learn; and team from one, whose woe
Bids her wild verse in artless accents flow:
For, could she frame her numbers to commend
The husband, father, citizen, and friend;
How could her muse display, in equal strain,
The critic's judgments, and the writer's vein.
Ah, no! expect not from the chisell'd stone
The praises graven on our hearts alone.
There shall his fame a lasting shrine acquire;
And ever shall his moving page inspire
Pure truth, fixt honour, virtue's pleasing lore;
While taste and science crown this favour'd shore.

Mr. Richardson was twice married. By his first wife, Martha Wilde, daughter of Allington Wilde, printer, (who died in 1733) in Clerkenwell, he had five sons and one daughter; who all died young. His second wife (who survived him twelve years) was Elizabeth, sister of Mr. James Leake, bookseller, of Bath. By her he had a son and five daughters. The son died young; but four of the daughters survived him, viz. Mary, married in 1757 to Philip Ditcher, esq., an eminent surgeon of Bath; Martha, married in 1762 to Edward Bridgen, esq. F.R. and A.SS; Anne, who died unmarried; and Sarah, married to Mr. Crowther, surgeon, of Boswell-court.