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 has been one of the authors of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list established by the pope containing the names of books that Catholics were not allowed to read.
The Richardsons were not exiled forever from London; they eventually returned, and the young Richardson was educated at Christ's Hospital grammar school.:3 The extent that he was educated at the school is uncertain, and Leigh Hunt wrote years later:
By 1748 his novel Clarissa was published in full: two volumes appeared in November 1747, two in April 1748, and three in December 1748.:83 Unlike the novel, the author was not faring well at this time.:82 By August 1748, Richardson was in poor health.:81 He had a sparse diet that consisted mostly of vegetables and drinking vasts amount of water, and was not robust enough to prevent the effects of being bled upon the advice of various doctors throughout his life.:81 He was known for "vague 'startings' and 'paroxysms'", along with experiencing tremors.:82 Richardson once wrote to a friend that "my nervous disorders will permit me to write with more impunity than to read" and that writing allowed him a "freedom he could find nowhere else".:287
Portrait of Richardson from 1750s by Mason Chamberlin
However, his condition did not stop him from continuing to release the final volumes Clarissa after November 1748.:83 To Hill he wrote: "The Whole will make Seven; that is, one more to attend these two. Eight crouded into Seven, by a smaller Type. Ashamed as I am of the Prolixity, I thought I owed the Public Eight Vols. in Quantity for the Price of Seven":83 Richardson later made it up to the public with "deferred Restorations" of the fourth edition of the novel being printed in larger print with eight volumes and a preface that reads: "It is proper to observe with regard to the present Edition that it has been thought fit to restore many Passages, and several Letters which were omitted in the former merely for shortening-sake