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What Goddess, or what Muse must I invoke to guide me through these vast, unexplored regions of fancy? – regions inhabited by wisdom and folly, – by wit and stupidity, – by religion and profaneness, – by morality and licentiousness.
Clara Reeve, The Progress of Romance, p. 109.
If you think about it, the wreckage of families in the novels of Jane Austen is unnerving. In the novels of her sister authors it is appalling. These women – Charlotte Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, among the less obscure ones – describe what was to them a terrifying shift in their society's concept of the family, a profound change that marks the difference between the world of Grandison, the world they had lost, and the world in which unhappily they found themselves adrift.
Edward Copeland, “The Burden of Grandison,” pp. 98–9.
… the family will be studied less for its own sake, as an isolated phenomenon of historical social structure – a statistical mean household size – but rather as an important and still poorly fathomed intermediary between economic change and its qualitatively experienced effects, as for example on social relations.
K. D. M. Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor, p. 332.
This book is about how family relationships were represented in eighteenth-century English fiction and what those representations tell us about changes in actual families in that period.
I was ever of opinion that the honest man who married and brought up a large family did more service than he who continued single and only talked of population.
Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), p. 1.
There is also a love of Natural Relations, different from the rest, which grows up with us insensibly, from our infancy. And the mutual love of Marriage is distinct from all the rest; and therefore when People are call'd upon to love, they are call'd upon to pay that Affection that is peculiar to the Relation they stand in to such a Party.
William Fleetwood, The Relative Duties of Parents and Children, Husbands and Wives, Masters and Servants (1705), pp. 297–8.
It is a stock-jobbing age, every thing has its price; marriage is traffic throughout; as most of us bargain to be husbands, so some of us bargain to be cuckolds; and he would be as much laughed at, who preferred his love to his interest, at this end of the town, as he who preferred his honesty to his interest at the other.
Henry Fielding, The Modern Husband (1731), Act 2 Scene 6 (Complete Works, vol. X, p. 35).
In traditional societies, kinship and sexuality are mutually constitutive. The sexual behavior of young adults determines who will be kin to whom in the next generation.
The particular fatality that regulates a woman's lot in fiction is always bound up with fathers.
Nancy K. Miller, Subject to Change, p. 175.
What the novels helped to reinforce was the sense that [marriage] was the most important decision, really the only decision of any significance, that a daughter would ever have the chance to take; and that the success or failure of that decision was intimately bound up with the relationship which she had with her father.
Caroline Gonda, Reading Daughters' Fictions, p. 37.
He … went straight to his desk, whence, taking out and untying the parcel, he opened the first volume [of Evelina] upon the little ode to himself, – “O author of my being! far more dear,” &c. He ejaculated a “Good God!” and his eyes were suffused with tears.
Frances Burney, Memoirs of Doctor Burney, vol. II, p. 137.
The relationship between fathers and daughters was perhaps the relationship most deeply affected by the disinheritance of daughters, judging from the intense preoccupation with it in this period. Indeed, if the literature a society produces can be said to reflect its obsessions, eighteenth-century England was obsessed with fathers and daughters. Margaret Doody notes that “close relations between fathers and daughters were insisted on as never before” in eighteenth-century fiction and drama.
From the beginning to end, then, landowner's legal history is much to be seen as the effort to overcome the common law rights of daughters.
Eileen Spring, Law, Land, and Family, p. 35.
The basic kinship structure both in England and in Kandyan Ceylon is unquestionably bilateral but, in both cases, in the property owning sections of society, devices were introduced which greatly restricted the possibility of a female heir who had male siblings from inheriting property in land. These devices were of various kinds and patterned in different ways: they included primogeniture, entailment, and dowry payments in cash and jewellery (rather than land).
Edmund Leach, “Complementary Filiation and Bilateral Kinship,” p. 54.
Kinship societies are the only truly democratic societies on this planet; for women to share social power again, we must learn from them.
Christine Gailey, “Evolutionary Perspectives on Gender Hierarchy,” p. 62.
The disinheritance in the title of this chapter refers to the psychological not to say legal disinheritance of daughters that I believe occurred in the eighteenth century as a result of the kinship shift I have been describing. Fictional treatments of the phenomenon vary widely. Clara Reeve's The Old English Baron (1777), like Frances Burney's Evelina (1778), is the wish-fulfillment story of initial disinheritance followed by legitimation and adoption. Samuel Richardson's Clarissa (1747–8), on the other hand, is more purely tragic about the psychological meaning of disinheritance.
Unfortunately over the past century, anthropological theory also has been critically influenced by these prevailing assumptions, which conflate women's sexual and reproductive roles as spouses, ignoring the other reproductive roles they play – for example, as sisters.
Annette B. Weiner, “Reassessing Reproduction in Social Theory,” p. 408.
It is far less the father than the brother that modern literature calls to account; less the mother than the sister who must be recognized and given her due as the real rather than the imaginary “other” necessary to found male identity and group life.
Juliet Flower MacCannell, The Regime of the Brother, p. 39.
But the relationship of a brother to a sister has received almost no attention. I believe that this omission has contributed to the one-sided view of women as subordinate in marxist discussions of modes of production.
Karen Sacks, Sisters and Wives, p. 120.
The relationships among siblings, older and younger siblings of the same sex as well as brothers and sisters, is a fascinating flashpoint for understanding the deeper psychological meanings of the kinship shift from an axis of consanguinity to an axis of conjugality. Because the relations between brothers and sisters neither reinforce nor disprove contested hypotheses about warmer relations between spouses or greater affection of parents for their children – hypotheses that interpret kinship of earlier periods through a later sentimental discourse – they have been largely ignored by family historians studying seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English culture.
The intimate relationship between brother and sister, rather than the incest taboo, is the elementary kinship principle.
Annette B. Weiner, Inalienable Possessions, pp. 15–16.
The relation of a brother and a sister, especially if they do not marry, appears to me of a very singular nature. It is a familiar and tender friendship with a female, much about our own age; an affection, perhaps softened by the secret influence of sex, but pure from any mixture of sensual desire, the sole species of Platonic love that can be indulged with truth and without danger.
Edward Gibbon, The Memoirs of the Life of Edward Gibbon, p. 2.
It is a common observation, that love between brothers and sisters is rare to be met with.
Anon., Cleora: or, the Fair Inconstant (1752), p. 24.
One of the main requisites of an eighteenth-century fictional hero was that he be a good brother: attentive, generous, protective, wise. Henry Tilney in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, about whom we know precious little except that he is a tease, qualifies as the hero of the novel by showing that he is an affectionate brother. Indeed, all the brothers in Northanger Abbey display their truest selves in relation to their sisters, as is appropriate in a novel self-conscious about the conventions and clichés of fiction. John Thorpe's boisterous, swaggering selfishness, his adolescent display, is apparent from his first insolent greeting of his mother and sisters.
The sentimental ideal of motherhood is the product of the historical separation of public and private spheres that gave gender polarity its present form as an institutionalized opposition between male rationality and maternal nurturance.
Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination, p. 206.
As late as the seventeenth century there were different words in German for aunt and uncle depending on whether one was referring to the mother's or the father's siblings … Not only does it show an awareness of a two-sided kinship, but when one pair of terms was dropped, it was the one for paternal kin (Vetter and Base). Oheim and Muhme were transferred to all aunts and uncles. The mother's kin must have been extremely important for those terms to have prevailed.
Beatrice Gottlieb, The Family in the Western World from the Black Death to the Industrial Age, pp. 186–7.
But the maternal office was supplied by my aunt, Mrs. Catherine Porten … the true mother of my mind as well as of my health.
Edward Gibbon, The Memoirs of the Life of Edward Gibbon, pp. 30, 37.
I have always maintained the importance of Aunts as much as possible.
Jane Austen to Caroline Austen, October 30, 1815.
Despite the emphasis on marriage and motherhood in late eighteenth-century society, mothers in novels of the period are notoriously absent – dead or otherwise missing.
It has been very justly said that I first excited the agricultural spirit which has since rendered Britain so famous; and I should observe that this is not so great a compliment as at first sight it may seem, since it was nothing more than publishing to the world the exertions of many capital cultivators and … common farmers who, with all their merit, were unknown beyond the limits of their immediate district.
Arthur Young, The Autobiography of Arthur Young, p. 30.
When a nation abounds in manufactures and mechanic arts, the proprietors of land, as well as the farmers, study agriculture as a science, and redouble their industry and attention. The superfluity, which arises from their labor is not lost … In times of peace and tranquillity, this superfluity goes to the maintenance of manufacturers, and the improvers of liberal arts. But it is easy for the public to convert many of these manufacturers into soldiers, and maintain them by that superfluity, which arises from the labour of farmers.
David Hume, “Of Commerce,” Essays (ed. Eugene Miller), p. 261.
Should a poor man take one of Your sheep from the common, his life would be forfeited by law. But should You take the common from a hundred poor mens sheep, the law gives no redress. The poor man is liable to be hung for taking from You what would not supply You with a meal & You would do nothing illegal by depriving him of his subsistence.
C. Landor to the Marquis of Anglesey, April 26, 1824
Ruth Perry describes the transformation of the English family as a function of several major social changes taking place in the eighteenth century including the development of a market economy and waged labor, enclosure and the redistribution of land, urbanization, the 'rise' of the middle class, and the development of print culture. In particular, Perry traces the shift from a kinship orientation based on blood relations to a kinship axis constituted by conjugal ties as it is revealed in popular literature of the second half of the eighteenth century. Perry focuses particularly on the effect these changes had on women's position in families. She uses social history, literary analysis and anthropological kinship theory to examine texts by Samuel Richardson, Charlotte Lennox, Henry MacKenzie, Frances Burney, Jane Austen, and many others. This important study by a leading eighteenth-century scholar will be of interest to social and literary historians.