Saturday, January 30, 2010

Samuel Richardson's Pamela and the Mud Magpie People

A sense of duty impels me to comment on that stalwart band of Aboriginal bush rangers, the story of whose redoubtable leader Augustus Jamieson is so intimately entangled with mine.  I need hardly tell you that the true names of these extraordinary people have been changed in order to respect their sacred traditions, and that even that of Mud Magpie People is a disguise to protect them from the White Man's cruel laws.

Like most of the characters in this book, the Mud Magpie People have read the late Mr Richardson's Pamela, a novel which my attached friend Ruth Raven describes as 'an eighteenth century soap opera', whatever that may be.  It may be thought strange, however, that the clan (I am told that 'tribe' is not the word I want, and I can think of no other) should live their lives in devotion to this work, for not only have they learned their English and their manners from it, they have based their whole view of English society upon it- and, Mr Richardson having been a great Radical and Leveller, his creation bore no small part in launching them on their rebellious path.  Yet, is it any stranger, I ask you rhetorically, that the expectation that all our missionaries have of 'em, that they should lead their lives according to One whose field of operation was the Roman province of Judaea close on two thousand years ago?

A word from Ruth Raven: 'I re-read Pamela very recently, and was struck with how up-to-date it seems.  A modern Pamela, of course, would blog, text and email rather than write letters, but the 14-year-old heroine reassuring her parents that Mr B wouldn't, couldn't be thinking of seducing her because that would ruin his reputation- that could be any modern teenager protesting that the late-night online conversations with SexyGuy are (a) innocent and (b) nothing she can't handle.'  All of this is Chinese, of course, to Hetty Sorrel, but why not avail yourself of my delightful Amazon search engine and look up this wonder of the literary world?

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