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The Origins of the English Marriage Plot
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Book description

Why did marriage become central to the English novel in the eighteenth century? As clandestine weddings and the unruly culture that surrounded them began to threaten power and property, questions about where and how to marry became urgent matters of public debate. In 1753, in an unprecedented and controversial use of state power, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke mandated Anglican church weddings as marriage's only legal form. Resistance to his Marriage Act would fuel a new kind of realist marriage plot in England and help to produce political radicalism as we know it. Focussing on how major authors from Samuel Richardson to Jane Austen made church weddings a lynchpin of their fiction, The Origins of the English Marriage Plot offers a truly innovative account of the rise of the novel by telling the story of the English marriage plot's engagement with the most compelling political and social questions of its time.


‘With blazingly new postsecular eyes, The Origins of the English Marriage Plot argues that the marriage plot in post-1740 English fiction has as much to do with the church as it does with the state. O’Connell challenges the received wisdom that the novel is a secular form, instead persuasively demonstrating the centrality of its religious politics. This is a history of the novel from the vicar’s point of view, and what the vicar reveals are surprisingly rich insights into the period’s theo-political debates, as well as animating new readings of Richardson, Fielding and beyond.’

Katherine Binhammer - University of Alberta

'Supported by careful notes and an extensive bibliography, this volume makes a significant contribution to the study of 18th-century fiction and will be welcomed by specialists.'

M. H. Kealy Source: Choice

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