Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 March 2020
This chapter takes a careful corpus-based look at the politeness vocabulary of the eighteenth century. It starts with a wide-angle perspective of the terms politeness, civility and courtesy in general-purpose corpora before moving on to a more detailed analysis of a larger selection of politeness- and impoliteness-related lexical items in a dedicated corpus of eighteenth-century epistolary novels by Samuel Richardson and Fanny Burney. In the second part of this chapter, two case studies are devoted to the sentimental comedy The Conscious Lovers by Richard Steele and the domestic tragedy The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnwell by George Lillo. Both plays have a strong and explicit educational intent. They want to instruct and entertain and help their audiences to become better human beings who rise above the mere observance of rules of etiquette.