Samuel Richardson (19 August 1689 – 4 July 1761) was an 18th-century English writer and printer. He is best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753). Richardson was an established printer and publisher for most of his life and printed almost 500 different works, including journals and magazines. He was also known to collaborate closely with the London bookseller Andrew Millar on several occasions.
At a very early age, Richardson was apprenticed to a printer, whose daughter he eventually married. He lost his first wife along with their five sons, and eventually remarried. With his second wife, he had four daughters who reached adulthood, but no male heirs to continue running the printing business. While his print shop slowly ran down, he wrote his first novel at the age of 51 and immediately became one of the more popular and admired writers of his time.
Richardson knew leading figures in 18th-century England, including Samuel Johnson and Sarah Fielding. In the London literary world, he was a rival of Henry Fielding, and the two responded to each other's literary styles in their own novels.
His name was on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list established by the Pope containing the names of books that Catholics were not allowed to read.
Richardson, one of nine children, was probably born in 1689 in Mackworth, Derbyshire, to Samuel and Elizabeth Richardson.:1 It is unsure where in Derbyshire he was born because Richardson always concealed the location, but it has recently been discovered that Richardson probably lived in poverty as a child.:1 The older Richardson was, according to the younger:
a very honest man, descended of a family of middling note, in the country of Surrey, but which having for several generations a large number of children, the not large possessions were split and divided, so that he and his brothers were put to trades; and the sisters were married to tradesmen.:1–2
His mother, according to Richardson, "was also a good woman, of a family not ungenteel; but whose father and mother died in her infancy, within half-an-hour of each other, in the London pestilence of 1665".:2