(1689–1761) English novelist and printer. As a novelist, Samuel Richardson was catapulted to celebrity in England when he was already in his fifties. From the publication of Pamela in 1740, until his death 21 years later, his activities are widely known. Considerably less information is available concerning the earlier years of his life. It is known that hewas born in rural Derby, although his family was from London. His father was a joiner, and soon returned with his family to the capital. The young Richardson apparently received little schooling, although he seems to have been a voracious reader as a child.
Although his parents might have preferred to send him into the church, they did not have the resources to tend to his education, and Richardson was apprenticed to a printer in London when he was seventeen. He completed his apprenticeship and was enrolled in the Stationer’s Company, the guild of London printers, in 1715. By 1721, he had begun his own business, having married the daughter of his onetime employer. Like most London printers in the era, he produced a vast array of publications, printing books, journals, handbills, and other kinds of material for those who were willing to pay his fees. He seems soon, however, to have become a prominent member of the capital’ sprinting establishment. In 1723, for instance, he became the printer entrusted with producing the True Briton, a Tory publication. A few years later he became an officer in the Stationer’s Company.
A String of Tragedies
Although these were years of professional advancement, they were marked by great personal tragedies. In the years between his marriage in 1721 and the early 1730s, he lost all six of his children as well as his wife, a fact that he credited later in life with producing a tendency toward nervous disorders. In 1733, Richardson’s tide of bad luck apparently turned, however; he remarried, this time to another printer’s daughter, and the couple had four girls that survived. In the same year as his second marriage, Richardson printed his first book, The Apprentice’s Vade Mecum, a conduct book. In these years his prosperity grew, largely because he won several lucrative government printing contracts. He purchased a country house just outside London, and seems to have had more leisure time. As aresult, he began to write more in the later years of the 1730s. Read the rest of this entry