As students of Jane Austen it is very interesting to think and learn about the literature that Jane herself likely enjoyed and studied.
In my research, I came across an English novelist whose first major works were published in 1740 and 1747. Samuel Richardson grew up in Derbyshire, a county I recognize from Austen’s novels. Richardson entered the writing world as a printer’s apprentice and then in 1721 set up his own printing business where he became very successful. This success established him as one of the main printers in London during his time. He transitioned into the role of an author, and wrote stories that revolve around topics and characters similar to those in Austen’s works, including loveless marriages, desperate financial circumstances, and female heroines. Richardson is often credited for writing the first English novel, although this is disupted by some. This novel is titled, Pamela, and it is written in letters. Through this novel, Richardson is said to have made the novel acceptable and fashionable to read and write.
Another one of Richardson’s novels that definitely inlfuenced Jane Austen when she was young is Grandison. It is known that Jane read and liked this novel. She is quoted as saying that she knew “every circumstance” of the novel and “everything that was said or done” in the novel.
As a fan of Jane Austen I think it would be very interesting to read Samuel Richardson’s work and compare it to Austen’s. Jane Austen is one of my favorite writers, and I would love to read more of her favorite writers.