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“The World” and “The (Sm)all Great”: Silver Fork Narratives

  • Randall Craig
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Abstract

Placed in quotation marks, “the world” shrinks in size but expands in significance—at least in the eyes of its autochthonous denizens, whose names might be gleaned by scanning invitations to Almack’s and membership lists of select clubs like White’s and Boodle’s.3 Its borders are easily circumnavigated, since they enclose the few fashionable districts of London that are the center of social activity during “the season.” In late spring and early summer when Parliament is in session, the aristocracy congregate for rituals of driving, dining, and dancing; as Dickens noted in Bleak House, “The fashionable world— tremendous orb, nearly five miles round—is in full swing, and the solar system works respectfully at its appointed distances” (BH 572). The objective of all this motion is less “to be and to do,” in Norton’s words, than to be seen. As courtship rituals run their course, the heat of the London summer brings the estival diaspora.4 The fashionable disperse to the comparative quiet and coolness of country estates— the successful to celebrate advantageous matches, the unsuccessful to rethink strategies for the next season.

Keywords

Prince Regent Courtship Ritual Fashionable Society Great People Country Estate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    This setting features prominently in Love in “the World.” When Colonel Maurer learns that Alice “had never been to Almacks” he stops talking to her “as Alice thought from having nothing more to say—as Col. Maurer himself thought from her not being worthy to hear” (LW 109). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, GEN MSS 260. For more on the haut ton, see Alison Adburgham, Silver Fork Society: Fashionable Life and Literature from 1814 to 1840 (London: Constable, 1983), 102–10.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    See Matthew Whiting Rosa, The Silver-Fork School: Novels of Fashion Preceding Vanity Fair (Port Washington, NY: Kenikat Press, 1964; New York: Columbia University Press, 1936). Also seeGoogle Scholar
  3. Sally Mitchell, The Fallen Angel: Chastity, Class and Women’s Reading, 1835–1880 (Bowling Green: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981), 59–66.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    On the occasion, she was August in a quadrille dedicated to the 12 months. Wilfred S. Dowden, ed., The Journal of Thomas Moore: 1826–1830 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1986), 3:932–33. SeeGoogle Scholar
  5. Alan Horsman, The Victorian Novel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 31.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    George Eliot, Middlemarch (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994), 268. SeeGoogle Scholar
  7. Harriet Devine Jump, “‘The False Prudery of Public Taste’: Scandalous Women and the Annuals, 1820–1850,” in Feminist Readings of Victorian Popular Texts, ed. Emma Liggins and Daniel Duffy (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), 1–17.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    James Pope-Hennessy, Monckton Milnes: The Years of Promise 1809–1851 (New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1955), 111.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    She wrote, “I have been, and am, very busy with the somewhat tiresome task of ‘The Scrap Book.’ Thirty-six prints to be married to an equal number of copies of verses is a task which ought to admit of the employment of curates and deputies, but I do not find many willing to do duty.” Gertrude Lyster, ed., A Family Chronicle: Derived from Notes and Letters Selected by Barbarina, the Hon. Lady Grey (London: John Murray, 1908), 248.Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    Winifred Hughes, “Mindless Millinery: Catherine Gore and the Silver Fork Heroine,” Dickens Studies Annual, 25 (New York: AMS Press, 1996), 167.Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    Of George Norton it was said: “he swallows the lovers or not according to their rank and position. Lord Melbourne yes, Captain Trelawny no.” Virginia Surtees, ed., A Second Self: The Letters of Harriet Granville, 1810–1845 (Salisbury: Michael Russell, 1990), 268.Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    Cited by R. Glynn Grylls, Mary Shelley: A Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1938), 198.Google Scholar
  13. 29.
    Jane Austen, Persuasion (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 1998), 186.Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Karen Chase and Michael Levenson, The Spectacle of Intimacy: A Public Life for the Victorian Family (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 28. For a refinement of this thesis in relation to empire, seeGoogle Scholar
  15. Muireann O’ Cinnéide, Public Grandeur & Private Discomfort: Aristocratic Identity in the Works of Rosina Bulwer Lytton, Emily Eden and Caroline Norton (Diss. Oxford University, 2004).Google Scholar
  16. 36.
    Gordon N. Ray, Thackeray: The Age of Wisdom, 1847–1863 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958), 53.Google Scholar
  17. 37.
    Micael M. Clarke, Thackeray and Women (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1995), 74. Clarke argues that Norton is “the ‘original’ for Lady Lyndon, Becky Sharp, and Clara Pulleyn Newcome.”Google Scholar
  18. 44.
    Barbara Leckie, Culture and Adultery: The Novel, the Newspaper, and the Law, 1857–1914 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 126.Google Scholar

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© Randall Craig 2009

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  • Randall Craig

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