Do you guys remember when I recapped Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740), the novel that almost killed me? I don’t think I’ve ever had a more frustrating reading experience, and I have read some crap in my life, let me tell you, hoooboy.
Well, today, I’m going to look at some terrible Pamela cover art. And the best part is, I don’t have to recap this fucking nonsense to you, because I’ve already done it! If you want to see someone develop rage-ulcers, read the following (Triggers for rape, abuse, kidnapping, etc.):
Recap Part One: Pamela, or a Story Guaranteed to Piss You Off
Recap Part Two: Pamela: I Can’t Even.
Recap Part Three: Pamela: My Least Favorite Disney Princess
Now we can get right to the covers!
Previous posts in this series include: Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Moonstone, Dracula, East Lynne, Lady Audley’s Secret, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, Little Women, and Jekyll and Hyde.
1.) These are all professional book covers instead of fan or amateur artwork (or at least I hope so). I’m more than happy to pick on marketing boards who thought these were good ideas, but I don’t want to pick on fans trying to express their love of books. If a fan cover made it in to this collection, then I’m very sorry and you are clearly a good enough artist to make me assume it was professionally done.
2.) I’m ridiculing the covers, not the book itself.
3.) I’m going to swear. A lot. If this isn’t your thing, then don’t read it.
We’ll start with some Good Covers, shall we?
I really like this one because, without being too sensational and menacing (as you will see in some of the bad covers below), it manages to include ideas of threat, intrusion, imprisonment, censorship, and the monitoring of female activity.
I salute you, good cover.
A bit too on-point, but it at least captures the essence of the story: Pamela’s trapped, the readers are trapped, get out save yourselves before it’s too la–
I wouldn’t call this a good cover, per se, as the giant ring, circling the space between man and woman, on a blood-red background is a bit heavy-handed. One might even say this is a ring forged in the painful fires of Mount Obvious.
HOWEVER, it does nicely encapsulate the urgency and importance of marriage in this book.
I initially hated this cover, as I didn’t think it had anything to do with anything. But then I remembered Pamela’s pathetic escape attempt where she was going to fake her own death-by-drowning by putting her petticoat (of all things) in a pond. At least this cover is different than some of the other ones we’re about to see?
Shit, even the good covers are crap. Why does this not surprise me when it comes to this book?
There are, of course, other covers that get to the crux of the novel, and quickly. I like to call these covers Literal Menace is Literal. I think what’s horrifying about these covers is that they make the fairy tale ending feel even MORE jarring. How can you read a book in which the people on THESE COVERS end up happily married?
A good rapist knows: always wear protection.
(By which I mean a nightcap. It gets chilly leaping out of closets and belly-flopping on terrified teenagers).
“Could you . . . could you not be gripping all up on me all the time? I’m just gonna take that hand back, if you don’t mind.”
“Hmmm, where should I put my penis on this fine day? You there! Wench with the broom! You’re inflaming my sexual ardor by just being there! Either service my John Thomas forthwith, or stop existing. Those are your only two options.”
Guys, he’s even doing the dastardly Mr. Burns hands.
This is the most accurate visual representation of this book I’ve ever seen.
In addition to covers that are way too literal, to the point of making things uncomfortable, you also have the flip side: covers that Completely Misunderstood the Book.
In an alternate universe, Pamela just could not wait to get her freak on with the Master, even though he was clearly not into her.
“Sex meeeeeeee!” she says, as her fingers dig into his arm in kinky longing.
“Honey, not if you were the last woman on earth.”
“But I want to bang you like a screen door in a hurricane!”
“Sucks to be you.”
Remember that great scene full of supportive women and happy children, where everyone was safe and respected?
GODDAMN IT, ART DEPARTMENTS, STOP SHOWING HAPPY PARTIES. NOTHING HAPPY EVER HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK.
Also, there are only about five characters in the entire damn book, so I have no idea who these chuckle-fucks are supposed to be.
Yeah, this is NOT an accurate representation of anything in the book, except, inexplicably, the last few chapters. I reject this cover fervidly.
FERVIDLY, I SAY.
Do you not find it a bit inappropriate that you have chosen a cover depicting a wealthy woman riding around, free as a bird, in a carriage in a city, when the whole book is about a poor woman locked up in a house in the country? Unless this is an ironic cover?
In this mild-mannered version, Pamela writes nothing but praise of her Master in a letter to her parents and no one gets irate about anything. No one gets called a wicked strumpet, or a lying harpy tease, or a mendacious odalisque. In fact, the Master mercifully doesn’t have access to a thesaurus in this version, so no one gets called anything ever again, and everyone just goes about their day.
Then, as always, there is the inescapable Bad Costuming Choices section.
Remember all that horrible class-based stuff that results in Pamela’s disenfranchisement and makes it far more difficult for her to resist the Master’s advances? Well, in this version, Pamela is his exceptionally wealthy social equal. He propositions her, she says no, and the story ends after one page.
What makes this a particularly unsuitable cover is that this is a painting of Fanny Abington, a mid-eighteenth-century comic actress who was rumored to have worked for a short while in her teens as a prostitute. That’s not even considering the general feeling at the time that being an actress was just one step away from prostitution. According to the Yale Center for British Art, in this portrait Fanny Abington adopts “what was then taken to be a suggestive, or at least unrefined, pose—unthinkable for a lady”.
“Virtue Rewarded”, my ass.
Hey hey, here’s another random-ass painting in which a woman is attempting to look bucolic and humble, but is clearly wearing expensive clothes.
This time, the portrait is of Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, by Gainsborough. She was a professional singer and married to Sheridan, the playwright, so we again have people dancing around the theatre and therefore not in the most “virtuous” of professions. She and Sheridan scandalously ran off to France together (after she broke up with a previous fiance right before the marriage). She and Sheridan may have had an invalid marriage in France, but regardless they got married officially on their return to England. By all accounts, they didn’t have a happy relationship.
Someone did not do their homework when trying to find an appropriate cover.
why is Pamela wearing a fucking pearl necklace
did you not even read this book
what is wrong with you
have I taught you nothing
is my life spent in vain
(it probably is, though)
I don’t know what’s going on with these half-assed people. The master looks fine (ish), even if he IS surreptitiously rearranging his crotch.
Pamela, however . . . *sigh*
1.) She would not be wearing clothing that expensive (those lacy cuffs), nor would she be wearing adornments and accessories (like a hat, parasol–since she spends almost 100% of her time inside–and ribbon around her neck)
2.) Her hat and hair look nineteenth-century, and she appears to be wearing a bustle, which didn’t come around until the 1870s, unless you’re talking about its late eighteenth-century prototype, the “cork rump“, which was LATE eighteenth century, anyway (not the 1740s, when the book is set), and in her role as a poor maid, her employers most definitely would have forbidden her wearing something like this.
Jesus Christ, this book taps into a deep vein of rage-ore.
You daft shit-larks have no idea what you’re doing, do you?
Nope, this outfit is at least from the 1830s or later (this sort of casual skirt is actually hard to date, as it was the equivalent of today’s”T-shirt and jeans” throughout the whole mid-nineteenth century, especially for poorer or more rural women.
Also, fun fact: that is an 1855 Pre-Raphaelite painting called “April Love” about young lovers breaking up. Not really relevant to Pamela in any of its particulars.
It also appears to be an art department standard for people who don’t give two shits about historical context or literary themes:
This was a shitty, thoughtless cover for Lady Audley’s Secret, too, which you’ll hear me rant about in that post.
Right, I’m all tuckered out now, so I have to go have a rage-nap, followed by rage-lunch, and maybe some rage-research. This book is bad for my health.
Farewell, Pamela. I hope you get caught in a tornado filled with sandpaper and poison.