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Introduction

An Epoch in the Mind of the Reader
  • A. A. Markley
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Abstract

The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the tumultuous political events that shook France in the decade to follow brought about dramatic repercussions in the development of British fiction. As the British focused their attention on shocking events in France, those events gave rise to heated political debate. Liberal thinkers—typified by perhaps their most influential spokesman, Thomas Paine—recognized the parallels between the ideals of the French revolutionaries and those of the American colonies thirteen years earlier. Those who championed individual rights applauded the French people’s determination to free themselves from an oppressive government and class system. By contrast, conservatives such as Edmund Burke mourned the passing of France’s ancien régiyne and feared that the violent actions of the French would inspire the lower classes in England to attempt to launch a similar revolution at home.

Keywords

Hateful Crime Individual Reader Happy Ending Social Ostracism Oppressive Government 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Carl B. Cone, The English Jacobins: Reformers in Late 18th Century Englan (NewYork: Scribner’s, 1968), iii. For two comprehensive definitions of the origin and implications of the terms “Jacobin” and “Jacobinism” in the 1790s, see H. T. Dickinson, British Radicalism and the French Revolution, I789–181 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1985), 1–24; and Michael Scrivener, Seditious Allegories: John Thelwall and Jacobin Writin (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2001), 21–30.Google Scholar
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    William Godwin, preface to the “Standard Novels” edition of Fleetwoo (London: Richard Bentley, 1832); reprinted in Caleb William, ed. Gary Handwerk and A. A. Markley (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2001), 448.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    See Kelly, English Jacobin Nove, and “Jane Austen and the English Novel of the 1790s,” in Fetted or Free? British Women Novelists, 1670–181, ed. Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1986), 285–306; and Marilyn Butler, Jane Austen and the War of Idea (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975).Google Scholar
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  6. 9.
    Kelly, English Jacobin Nove, 14–17, 118. Patricia Meyer Spacks develops some of these characteristics in “Novels of the 1790s: Action and Impasse,” in The Columbia History of the British Nove, ed. John Richetti (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 264–65. In “Jane Austen and the English Novel of the 1790s,” Kelly also describes these novelists’ shared interest in exploring the experience of the individual as a representative of humanity and in illustrating how the human character is formedGoogle Scholar
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    Pamela Clemit, ed. Political and Philosophical Writings of William Godwi, gen. ed. Mark Philp (London: Pickering and Chatto, 1993), V:139.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Godwin’s account of the composition of Caleb William published as the Preface to the “Standard Novels” edition of Fleetwoo (London: Richard Bentley, 1832); reprinted in Caleb William, 447. As Scrivener has written, “a major thrust of Jacobin culture was popularization, making texts wholely or partly accessible to a popular audience that ordinarily would never read such things because of their constrained opportunities for learning.” Seditious Allegorie, 12.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
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    See The Anti-Jacobin Novel: British Conservatism and the French Revolutio (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 33–34, 40–41, 48, 121–22, 221n36; and Grenby’s bibliography of Anti-Jacobin Novels and Tales, 243–46. To his credit, Grenby does acknowledge the political complexity of these works. For Grenby’s fully developed discussion of The Banished Ma in terms of liberal and conservative politics, see the introduction to his edition of the novel, The Works of Charlotte Smit, gen. ed. Stuart Curran (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2006), VII:xxviii–xxxiii.Google Scholar
  12. 38.
    Dale Spender discusses Adeline’s marital status as the reason for her ostracism in Mothers of the Novel: 100 Good Writers Before Jane Auste (London and New York: Pandora, 1986), 321–23. For Spender, Opie’s novel reveals her admiration of Wollstonecraft in her exploration of whether marriage is good or bad for women. On Mrs. Mowbray’s yielding to traditional notions of right and wrong despite her new philosophical principles, see Ty, Empowering the Feminin, 151. For other readings that validate Opie’s conflicted and complicated response to Wollstonecraft and Godwin and that move beyond simply labeling her as an anti-Jacobin, see Anjana Sharma, The Autobiography of Desire: English Jacobin Women Novelists of the 1790 (New Delhi: Macmillan India, 2004), 234–38; and Adriana Craciun, ed., British Women Writers and the French Revolutio, 51–53.Google Scholar
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    Ty, Unsed Revolutionarie, 29–30. Kelly interprets this aspect of the novel as the opportunity for readers to see a subversive “unofficial” text beneath the official one in “Amelia Opie, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Maria Edgeworth: Official and Unofficial Ideology,” ARIE 12, no. 4 (October 1981): 8–11. See also Katharine Rogers, Feminism in Eighteenth-Century Englan (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982), 219; Johnson, Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Nove, 22–23; Eberle, “Amelia Opie’s Adeline Mowbra,” 136–41; and Christine M. Cooper, “Reading Otherwise: The Abortive Politics of Adeline Mowbray, or The Mother and Daughter,” European Romantic Revie 12, no. 1 (Winter 2001): 27–28.Google Scholar
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  15. 50.
    See Kelly, English Jacobin Nove, 93. Kelly calls Jacobin fiction “a kind of trojan horse for social and political propaganda” and notes that the reformist novelists risked “being imprisoned in the belly of their vehicle” because the horse was “an engine of assault, not construction,” 112.Google Scholar
  16. 52.
    Jonathan Grossman develops this argument in TheArt ofAlibi:EnglishLawCourts and theNove (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002) 37–61, building on Kenneth Graham’s discussion of Caleb as an embodiment of contemporary ideology and false opinions in “Narrative and Ideology in Caleb Williams,” Eighteenth-CenturyFictio 2, no. 3 (1990): 225–28. Related arguments can be found in Gary Handwerk, “Historical Trauma: Political Theory and Novelistic Practice in William Godwin’s Fiction,” Comparative Criticis 16 (1994): 77–80; Spacks, “Novels of the 1790s,” 268–71, and Novel Beginnings:Experiments inEighteenth-CenturyEnglishFictio (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 222–31; and Andrew McCann, CulturalPolitics in the 1790s:Literature,Radicalism and thePublic Spher (New York: St. Martin’s, 1999), 71–82.Google Scholar
  17. 53.
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  18. 59.
    See Kelly’s discussion of the ending of Hugh Trevo in English Jacobin Nove, 165–66; as well as Scheuermann, Social Protes, 138–41; London, Women and Propert, 167–68; and Jones, Radical Sensibilit, 77.Google Scholar
  19. 60.
    For Pam Perkins, Hermspron “is both too political simply to amuse and too intent on amusing to be whole-heartedly political.” “Playfulness of the Pen: Bage and the Politics of Comedy,” Journal of Narrative Techniqu 26, no. 1 (Winter 1996): 43. Perkins argues that Bage might be suggesting “that despite the assumptions of his fellow jacobins the untidy complexities of political ideology cannot be satisfactorily resolved within the necessarily formulaic discourse of fiction,” 44. Scheuermann similarly criticizes the novel’s ending in Social Protes, 226–27. For assessments of Bage’s achievement despite the ending, see Butler, Jane Austen and the War of Idea, 75–87; Spacks, “Novels of the 1790s,” 257, and Novel Beginning, 238–41; and Nancy Johnson, “‘Seated on Her Bags of Dollars’: Representations of America in the English Jacobin Novel,” The Dalhousie Revie 82, no. 3 (Autumn 2002): 423–39.Google Scholar
  20. 62.
    Elizabeth Inchbald, Nature and Ar, ed. Shawn Lisa Maurer (Peter-borough, ON: Broadview, 2005), 153. Scheuermann sees the ending of Nature and Ar as “a failure not only of social but of artistic vision” in Social Protes, 200; and Shawn Lisa Maurer criticizes it as unrealistic in “Masculinity and Morality in Elizabeth Inchbald’s Nature and Ar,” in Women, Revolution, and the Novels of the 1790, ed. Linda LangPeralta (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1999), 171–73. For defenses of Inchbald’s conclusion, see Ty, Unsed Revolutionarie, 112–14; and Johnson, The English Jacobin Novel on Rights, Property, and the La, 83–84, 93, although Johnson agrees with Kelly that the conclusion suggests a modification in Inchbald’s radicalism by 1796 (English Jacobin Nove, 113).Google Scholar
  21. 64.
    Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman: Or, Mari, in The Works of Mary Wollstonecraf, ed. Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler (London: Pickering and Chatto; New York: New York University Press, 1989), I:184.Google Scholar

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© A. A. Markley 2009

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