Private Interests

Private Interests: Women, Portraiture, and the Visual Culture of the English Novel, 1709-1791

ALISON CONWAY
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442678767
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  • Book Info
    Private Interests
    Book Description:

    This study undertakes a new definition of the 18th-century novel?s investment in visual culture, tracing the relationship between the development of the novel and that of the portrait, particularly as represented in the novel itself.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7876-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    Ian Watt’s famous definition of Richardson’sPamelaas ‘a work that gratified the reading public with the combined attractions of a sermon and a striptease’¹ reveals the extent to which the eighteenth-century novel’s ‘display’ is always a display of the private, here figured as soul-making and sexual gratification.Private Interestsargues that the interrelationships between the sermon and the striptease create new modes of seeing and being in the eighteenth-century novel and, most importantly, enable women to use the idea of the spectacle to their own advantage. In particular, I claim that the eighteenth-century English novel uses the painted portrait...

  6. Chapter One The Novel and the Portrait in Eighteenth-Century England
    (pp. 14-49)

    The novel and the portrait appear at the centre of eighteenth-century debates in England about the nature of private interests and about women’s relation to those interests. The critical reception histories of the portrait and the novel reflect the divisions that organized factions for and against private interests as a social imperative, and a comparison of the commentaries surrounding each genre reveals a series of striking parallels. The first half of this chapter will analyse how competing understandings of private interests structured two radically different notions of the novel and the portrait in eighteenth-century art and literary criticism. Critics hostile...

  7. Chapter Two Envisioning Literary Interest: Manley’s The New Atalantis
    (pp. 50-77)

    Delarivier Manley approached the idea of literary interest – and its connection to the private – from a position defined almost entirely by the politics of scandal. Her most infamous work,Secret Memoirs and Manners of several Persons of Quality, of both Sexes. From the New Atalantis, an Island in the Mediteranean(1709), sustains a vast machinery of gossip and intrigue, allowing readers in the know access to the most salacious details of various politicians’ private lives. In its preoccupation with the social and political ramifications of individual actions, Manley’s novel resembles what Peter Brooks has described as ‘the novel...

  8. Chapter Three ‘Ravished Sight’: Picturing Clarissa
    (pp. 78-114)

    A portrait of the actress Peg Woffington (1714–60), now owned by the Garrick Club, depicts its subject reclined on a red damask sofa, with a green curtain behind her (figure 19). Woffington, dressed in gold with red and black embroidery, holds a book in her lap. The painting establishes a rich and luxurious aesthetic and is reminiscent of Lely’s female portraits in the knowing female gaze it represents. Woffington’s notoriety as a woman involved in various illicit affairs ensured that her private life would be put on display, and it appears, in this portrait, that Woffington has taken control...

  9. Chapter Four Refiguring Virtue: The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless and Amelia
    (pp. 115-149)

    Two novels published in 1751 attest to the powerful influenceClarissaexerted over authors writing after its publication; Eliza Haywood’sThe History of Miss Betsy Thoughtlessand Henry Fielding’sAmeliaboth construct a novelistic practice of psychological realism around the figure of a woman dealing with a morally vexed and vexing world. ThatClarissashould have such a pronounced impact on Haywood and Fielding takes on a particular significance insofar as these authors’ earlier works were more likely to demonstrate an Augustan humour in their representations of female virtue than to engage in the contemplation of ethical catastrophes that Richardson...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. Chapter Five ‘Paint her to your own mind’: Sterne’s Concupiscible Narratives
    (pp. 150-177)

    It is tempting to read the success that greeted the publication ofTristram Shandy’s first two volumes in 1759 as a watershed in the literary history of the eighteenth-century novel, a moment that allowed the genre to claim its transgressive elements without fear of reprisal, confident that the reading public would understand the limits of literary pleasure and how to manage the emotional excesses represented by the genre. But, as I argued in chapter 1, antinovel rhetoric was as powerful in 1759 as it was earlier in the century, and continued to complain about the damage inflicted by novels on...

  12. Chapter Six Portraits of the Woman Artist: Kauffman, Wollstonecraft, and Inchbald
    (pp. 178-209)

    By the late eighteenth century, both the portrait and the novel had established themselves as dominant modes of cultural expression in England, to the extent that figures like Sterne and Reynolds could both revise and profit from preconceived notions about the form and function of the genres that secured their reputations. That the portrait and the novel remained as susceptible to attack during the last decades of the century as they had been earlier did not hinder authors or painters from capitalizing on their immense popularity. The novel’s and the portrait’s success at ensconcing themselves in the public’s cultural imagination...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 210-214)

    The story I have told about the eighteenth-century novel’s encounter with portraiture could have followed several different plot lines. I could have started with the Restoration’s encounter with Catholicism and the problem of icons, reading eighteenth-century Protestantism’s concerns about the portrait through the lens of its theological debates about images. Or I could have meditated on the disjunction between critical reception histories and practice, in order to think about why the terms governing discussions of the novel and the portrait seem not to have changed while the genres underwent various formal transformations over the course of the long eighteenth century....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 215-264)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-286)
  16. Index
    (pp. 287-293)