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Chapter 6 deals with the visiting card as a new form of social media that anticipates the text messaging of today, exploring how its novelty caught the attention of Horace Walpole and Samuel Johnson. As a genre that was particularly invested in the representation of social life, the novel is one of the most important sources for understanding the complexities of visiting in eighteenth-century social life and textual media that facilitated and recorded it. With reference to the novels of Jane Austen and, in particular, Maria Edgeworth’s The Absentee (1812), I discuss how prose fiction adapted the capacity of visiting card and other kinds of ephemeral texts in order to realise the affective power of the intimate social encounter entailed in handing over one’s card. I argue that The Absentee is exceptional as a fiction that not only utilises the visiting card but also emulates ephemerology as the Enlightenment’s other science.
This chapter surveys the relationship between eighteenth-century Irish studies and Queer studies. It gives an important account of key approaches in Queer studies to eighteenth-century Irish literature and culture, as well as providing an overview of the current methodological debates in queer historiography, more broadly. As well as presenting readers with an ingress into queer Irish eighteenth-century studies, this chapter also intervenes in scholarly debates on how to account for queerness in the past. Focusing on three case studies, the chapter examines manifestations of queerness in the Anglophone long eighteenth century across the prose fiction and poetry of the satirist Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), the poet Charles Churchill (1731–1764), and the prolific writer and essayist Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849). From reading the erotic parameters of Swift’s Yahoos in Gulliver’s Travels (1726) to Churchill’s anti-Irish figure of the fribble which surfaced during the mid-century’s fraught Seven Years’ War debates, and then later, re-examining Edgeworth’s queer depiction of Harriet Freke in Belinda (1801), this chapter brings into sharp relief the fluid, and often contradictory, ways in which eighteenth-century ideas about Ireland and Irishness served to queer emerging norms of British colonial identity and culture.
Between 1780 and 1830, a highly distinctive body of imaginative writing emerged in Ireland, formed by and in turn helping to mould the linguistic, political, historical, and geographical divisions characteristic of Irish life. The intense and turbulent creative effort involved bore witness to a key transition at the beginning of the nineteenth century: the emergence of modern Irish literature as a distinct cultural category. During these years, Irish literature came to consist of a recognisable body of work, which later generations could draw on, quote, anthologise, and debate. This chapter offers a new map of the making of Irish literature in the romantic period, as well as introducing the aims of the volume as a whole.
Drawing on new archival research into book history, letters and periodical literature, this chapter explores the critical narratives around what it meant to be a woman writer between 1830 and 1880 via a focus on case studies of two Irish woman writers: Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849) and Mrs S. C. Hall (1800–1881). This focused approach allows a comprehensive placing of Irish women writers within the developing literary marketplace of their time and consideration of the extent to which the contemporary critical reception of their work has shaped subsequent scholarship. In doing so, the chapter uncovers a narrative of peaks and troughs, epitomised by periods of great esteem and critical disdain, and highlights the fluctuating patterns of visibility and invisibility of literary productions in the nineteenth century and beyond.
The question of realism helps us zero in on a certain puzzle about perhaps the most important Irish writer working in this important period of transition. On the face of it, Edgeworth’s relation to anything called fictional realism might seem distant. Her narratives often tend to allegory and didacticism; they tend to be highly reflexive; she often adapts or incorporates non-realist genres, such as the fairy tale or legend; and, for some critics, she belongs to an Irish tradition in which realism is thought to be impossible on social and cultural grounds. And yet Edgeworth was a leading influence on the two British novelists – Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen – who, in their contrasting ways, are often considered as key figures in the shaping of the modern realist novel. This chapter develops a solution to this puzzle by identifying Edgeworth with ‘scientific realism’, and showing that she shaped a distinctive kind of fictional practice out of her well-established commitments to experiment, observation, and the inductive method.
This chapter considers the transatlantic influences that shaped Irish literary culture in the romantic period. In particular, it focuses on two understudied phenomena. First, the chapter provides an account of texts published in Ireland that concern African slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, written by pro-slavery sympathisers, white abolitionists, and writers of African descent like Ignatius Sancho and Olaudah Equiano. Second, it zeroes in on a forgotten Irish novel, Sarah Isdell’s The Vale of Louisiana, published in Dublin in 1805, which dramatises the transatlantic, trans-Caribbean travels of an English family, addresses slavery directly, and borrows heavily from a canonical early American novel, Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (1798). The chapter concludes on the other side of the ‘steep Atlantic’, as Sydney Owenson called it, and briefly addresses the publication and reception of Irish writers in the early United States, especially Thomas Moore and Maria Edgeworth, where they found an unpredictable and productive future.
Chapter 4 reveals the extent of Maria Edgeworth's participation in a form of networked authorship borne out in interactions with her family, previous texts, reviewers, and readers, which can be discerned within her revisions to four of her major novels: Belinda (1801), Patronage (1814), Harrington (1817), and Helen (1834). Her post-publication revisions to Belinda and Patronage are linked, especially in the case of the latter, to her interest in scientific and scholarly knowledge and her struggle to moderate her didactic moralism. This book discusses, for the first time, an early fragmentary version of Harrington, which contained an anti-semitic first-person narrator, which was removed before publication. Edgeworth’s published version was a departure from her usual didacticism, which she attenuated once more in the 1825 edition. Her final novel Helen and her unfinished fiction Take for Granted attest to, perhaps more than any other novels in this project, their collaborative origins: they were influenced by her family and her readers at all stages of the composition process.
Revisions form a natural part of the writing process, but is the concept of revision actually an intrinsic part of the formation of the novel genre? Through the recovery and analysis of material from novel manuscripts and post-publication revisions, Hilary Havens identifies a form of 'networked authorship'. By tracing authors' revisions to their novels, the influence of familial and literary circles, reviewers, and authors' own previous writings can be discerned. Havens focuses on the work of Samuel Richardson, Frances Burney, Jane Austen, and Maria Edgeworth to challenge the individualistic view of authorship that arose during the Romantic period, and argues that networked authorship shaped the composition of eighteenth-century novels. Exploring these themes of collaboration and social networks, as well as engaging with the burgeoning trend towards textual recovery, this work is an important contribution in the study of eighteenth-century novels and their manuscript counterparts.
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