Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Secondary Lit Blog Post: Jesse Colin

Lockwood on Fielding
In an article titled “Theatrical Fielding,” Thomas Lockwood explores Fielding’s early novel-writing in the context of his earlier theatrical writing.  He takes it for granted that critics see Fielding’s novels as the more important and substantial part of his career, and that drama was more of a kind of internship he went through before finding his chosen career.  Most criticism, according to Lockwood, focuses on Fielding’s novels as the work of a dramatist in exile, someone trying, circuitously, through a different medium, to create comic scenes which the reader can almost see as if staged.  Lockwood’s thesis is more interesting than that.  He claims that the intensity of Fielding’s decade-long career in theater formed his very way of conceiving the world—a conception which is above all playful.  Theater informed the kind of imagination he lived with and that writing was just a part of how he lived.  Further, Lockwood says that Fielding was able, with Shamela, to create a character he never could have created if the theaters had remained open and the dramatist never forcibly converted to fictional narrative.   

                An extensive familiarity with Fielding’s career helps illustrate this point.  Lockwood sees, in the character of Shamela, the final culmination of a character-type which had been developing in Lockwood’s earlier works.  He points to Catherine Clive, an actress who had played 10 roles in Fielding’s plays, and specifically to her role as Lucy Goodwill in the 1735 play The Virgin Unmask’d.  Goodwill is one incarnation of a character type Lockwood describes as “an immensely engaging sort of Barracuda virgin.”  (pp 108)  She is innocent of experience but not of ambition, and like Shamela she associates marriage with financial and social upward mobility. 

                Imagining the relationship between a playwright and an actress as collaborative may help illustrate Lockwood’s thesis: Fielding created the characters Clive would recreate on stage and this give-and-take mode of character creation—the differences, one can imagine, between the creation and the recreation—helped fielding see nuances in character creation which would help him as a novelist to craft such dynamic characters as Shamela. 

                Lockwood says that Fielding went further with his work in novels than he did with his plays, taking full advantage of the print medium to illustrate his characters.  With Shamela, as with Pamela, we get an access to her inner thoughts which stage dialogue could not have done so richly.  Thus Fielding the dramatist and Fielding the novelist can be seen as two mutually-reinforcing approaches which resulted in incredibly rich characters. 

                This article was pretty dense, and required two complete readings.  Lockwood says that in the first paragraph his thesis is “all a bit murky and remote so far.”  (pp 105)  But his point is worth teasing out and I agree that Fielding’s experiences and combined with his outlook (or can the two be separated?) make his literary style unique.  Fielding moves past the didacticism of Richardson’s original work to create something which is not merely instructive but demonstrative.  It points out how interesting people and their conflicting desires can be. 

                I spent most of my reading of Shamela, caught up in comparing the titular character to Pamela.  Rereading sections of it in light of Lockwood’s suggestion that we separate the two and give them individual treatment is a lot more fun and makes it possible to look more closely at Shamela full frame, so to speak.  I would like to know if any of my classmates were able to read the character of Shamela for her own sake.  Is it easier, when you stop thinking of Pamela as a perversion of Shamela, to see the fun and the humor in it? 


Lockwood, Thomas. "Theatrical Fielding." Studies in the Literary Imagination 32, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 105-114. MLA International Bibliography, EBSCOhost (accessed October 5, 2011).


  1. I feel that it is hard to read Shamela just for what it is because we had read Pamela previously. I went into the novel already expecting what Shamela was going to be. I already knew the characters, I already knew the plot, so I already had preconceived notions about Shamela. If I read Shamela just for what it was, I suppose I would be able to read and see the fun in it if I hadn't have read Pamela first. Shamela is a funny novel and it does have humorous situations that are sarcastic. Unfortunately, I was not able to take those situations as they were because I was too busy trying to relate them back to Pamela. However, I did still find Shamela to be a funny novel.

  2. I also found it difficult to read Shamela without thinking about Pamela and how she handled the situations in the novel. I definitely think that had we read Shamela before Pamela it would have been easier to see Shamela as her own character. However, I think that if I had read Shamela first there is no way that I could have gotten through the entire story of Pamela. Also, I think that the only reason that Shamela exists is because of Pamela; had I read Shamela without having any knowledge of Pamela I would not have been able to really appreciate all of the humor in Fielding's novel.

  3. I agree that it's extremely hard to separate the two pieces. But, as the same time, I like Lockwood's suggestion. When you separate the two novels, you can see a how to authors can take a similar plot and go completely different places with it. Then again, you have to read Pamela in order to get the full scope of Fielding's humor. I think that there is definitely much more to Shamela than its comparisons to Pamela alone. Like we discussed in class briefly, Fielding exposes the lack of "truth" in all novels. While you can understand Shamela more thoroughly through understanding Pamela, like Lockwood suggests, I think you can get a lot more out of Shamela if you do separate it from Pamela and analyze it as a sarcastic, funny critique of virtue and the fiction.

  4. I think both stories could be read separately but I wouldn't have enjoyed Shamela as much if I didn't have prior knowledge about Pamela. The twists in characters and their motives/desires was what made Shamela funny and somehow satisfying because Pamela for all her virtuousness CAN have ulterior motives (which we don't get too much of in Pamela) And Shamela just exposes a lot of it. Which is appealing.