The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 7. Richardsons later years and death
All through the composition of his last novel, Richardson had been aware of declining powers and failing health. He still kept up his epistolary intercourse with his admirers and friends; and his letters, most of which, duly prepared by himself for the use of posterity, have been preserved and handed down to us, are a mine of information for the student of the period. Our knowledge of his life is, to this day, mainly based on the selection of his correspondence, published, in 1804, by Mrs. Barbauld. Besides a pamphlet (1753) aimed against certain piratical Irish booksellers who had forestalled the authorised issue of the last volumes of Grandison, and a letter to The Rambler on the change in the manners of women (no. 97, for 19 February, 1751), perhaps his most characteristic, though not his most interesting, literary productions still remain to be mentioned. One of these is A Collection of the Moral and Instructive Sentiments, Maxims, Cautions, and Reflexions, contained in the Histories of Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison (1755). As every reader of the novels knows only too well, they are rich with the ore of wisdom ready coined; and on such subjects as duelling, education, marriage and family relations, Richardson has even provided us with elaborate treatises. The other is Meditations collected from the Sacred Books, and adapted to the different Stages of a Deep Distress; gloriously surmounted by Patience, Piety and Resignation. Being those mentioned in the History of Clarissa as drawn up for her own Use (1750). These meditations are thirty-six in number, only four of which are inserted in the novel.
In 1754, Richardson removed from North end to Parson’s green, Fulham; and, in the following year, his printing-house in Salisbury square had to be rebuilt on an adjoining site. This expenditure points to a prosperous condition of affairs; in fact, Richardson’s means and social position were so far improved that he had become master of the Stationers’ company. Though he never was in touch with the most brilliant society of the time, he numbered among his acquaintances men of a standing far superior to his own, and certainly did something to promote the gradual recognition of literary genius as a distinction equal to any other. His eldest daughter, Mary, made a good match in 1757; and, on the occasion of her marriage, he wrote his will, which Austin Dobson describes as “very lengthy, and having four codicils.” His last years were afflicted with increasing nervous disorders, and insomnia. He died, from a paralytic stroke, on 4 July, 1761.