Although the lesbian aspects in Samuel Richardson's Pamela are subtle, Pamela's relationship with her keeper, Mrs. Jewkes, displays characteristics of lesbianism . A common relationship in eighteenth-century novels that displayed lesbian traits was between a knowledgeable adult woman and an innocent, young girl. Often the older woman was an intimidating figure in a position of power over the younger, chaste character. 21 The relationship between Pamela and Mrs. Jewkes matched this description. Donoghue elaborates on this by pointing out key moments in the novel where Mrs. Jewkes is behaving in a way that suggests her sexual desire for Pamela. "The naughty woman came up to me with an air of confidence, and kissed me!". 22 Here Pamela is exclaiming upon the fact that Mrs. Jewkes is being extremely affectionate with her. Moreover, this statement is implying that Mrs. Jewkes was forceful with Pamela, which displays the authority which she has over Pamela.
from Pamela by Samuel Richardson
Another statement, this time by Mrs. Jewkes, which is suggestive of homoerotic intentions, is when she expounds upon Pamela's great beauty, implying that she also finds Pamela attractive. 23 "Would she not tempt the best lord in the land to run away with her?" 24 This statement suggests that not only does Mrs. Jewkes believe that men find Pamela attractive, but she finds her attractive also. But, Pamela's reaction to Mrs. Jewkes' attempts at seduction offers even more evidence that her intentions are romantic. Pamela fends her off by telling the housekeeper her behavior is inappropriate. 25 "It is not like two person of one sex." 26 She is forcefully telling Mrs. Jewkes that her behavior is unacceptable due to the fact that they are both female.
According to Donoghue, the fact that Pamela not only displays knowledge of lesbianism, but also knows enough to rebuff Mrs. Jewkes attempts because of her belief that they are inappropriate, is uncommon in eighteenth-century heroines. 27 This is because it implies that Pamela is not innocent. Having knowledge of sexual relationships that were not heterosexual by nature, was not viewed as a chaste quality which proper women possessed in the eighteenth century. This differs from Richardson's depiction of Pamela throughout the novel in that in every other situation she is portrayed as naive and innocent. Donoghue points out that most heroines in eighteenth-century literature allowed the seduction to occur until it reached a level that endangers their purity. Pamela, on the other hand, displays her knowledge of lesbianism by rejecting Mrs. Jewkes right away. 28
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