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His and Hers

His and Hers: Essays in Restoration and 18th-Century Literature

Ann Messenger
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    His and Hers
    Book Description:

    Exploring territory seldom visited by feminist scholars, Ann Messenger in this new book presents eight studies of literary relationships between men and women writers, ranging from the Restoration to the end of the eighteenth century. The essays show men and women working together, praising and criticizing each other's work, borrowing -- and changing -- each other's plots and characters, recording their different perceptions of their common world. From Dryden's praise of Anne Killigrew, through Gay's and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's collaboration on a town eclogue, Thomas Southerne's dramatizations of novels by Aphra Behn, and Eliza Haywood's version of theSpectator, to Cornelia Knight's sequel toRasselas, these relationships demonstrate that men and women writers inhabited the same literary world, shared the traditions of the mainstream of English literature.

    Most of the women have since faded from view. But Messenger suggests the time has come to rediscover them, to reassess their work, and to revise the commonly accepted canon of literature accordingly. Although most of the studies deal with the way women's writing responds to writing by men, the Afterword combats the charge that the women's work is "derivative."

    Free of critical jargon and ideological strait-jacketing,His and Hersmakes some little-known writers available and interesting to specialists and nonspecialists, feminists and traditionalists, alike, while it sheds new light on some of the most familiar figures of the period. The Appendix reprints some of the shorter works which have been analyzed in detail, and summaries in the text help to compensate for the unavailability of some of the women's books. The comparative approach suggests a wide and rich field for further research.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6388-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-13)

    Imagine one of those large, busy, eighteenth-century paintings, a battlefield or a ballroom, a marketplace or a madhouse. For generations it hung in a London mansion, smoked by sea coal, stained by damp. One day, a Victorian heir of the family, rather low on funds and caring little for art, sold it to a museum, where it attracted much attention, despite its poor condition. For certain figures stood out, remarkable in their workmanship, some elegant, some majestic. Scholars came to study them, amateurs to admire. The murkiness of the background called forth occasional deploring comments, while some half-visible figures attracted...

    (pp. 14-40)
    John Dryden and Anne Killigrew

    It is easy to dismiss Anne Killigrew’s poetry as insignificant, as unworthy of attention, as poor stuff. When she died at the age of twenty-five, her father collected her entire output of verse into a slim volume one hundred pages long, fifteen pages of which are said to have been written by someone else.¹ A cursory glance through the volume reveals a longish, unfinished poem on Alexander the Great which the author “laid by” after she found the task too hard for her (p. 5); there are pastoral dialogues with the usual Alexis and Thyrsis, there are tributes to the...

    (pp. 41-70)
    Aphra Behn and Thomas Southeme

    Thomas southerne was surprised. Why should Aphra Behn, who had “a great command of the stage,” confine her heroic African prince, Oroonoko, to the obscurity of a novel, when he was obviously a perfect type to star in a tragedy?¹ In the dedication to his own play about Oroonoko, he mused, “I have often wondered that she would bury her favorite hero in a novel when she might have revived him in the scenel’ Southerne speculated briefly about what her reasons might have been for such a peculiar decision: “She thought either that no actor could represent him, or she...

    (pp. 71-83)
    Anne Finch

    Unlike most women poets of the eighteenth century, Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, has not lacked recognition in the twentieth. After Myra Reynolds’s major, though incomplete, edition was published in 1903, her poems appeared in collections ranging from conservative college texts in the 1930s to radical feminist anthologies in the 1970s and the 1980s. Criticism has more or less kept pace with reprinting. For the most part, critics take one of two approaches: historical, most often concerned with placing Lady Winchilsea’s poems within the Metaphysical/Augustan/Romantic taxonomy, or feminist, concerned with analyzing their contents. The first is, of course, the older...

    (pp. 84-107)
    Mary Wortley Montagu and John Gay

    Before she went to Constantinople and wrote the letters for which perhaps she is best known today, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu spent a year and a half in London. While her husband worked at his government job, eventually winning the post of Ambassador to the court of Turkey, Lady Mary shone in court society, continued her old friendship with Congreve and other literary men, and made the acquaintance of still others, including John Gay. She also continued writing. She had read voraciously and had written both prose and verse from the age of twelve. Some of her early writing is...

    (pp. 108-147)
    Richard Steele, Joseph Addison and Eliza Haywood

    TheSpectator(171 1-1712, I 714), written by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison (with a little help from their friends), and theFemale Spectator(1744-1746), written by Eliza Haywood, have a great deal in common. Although theSpectatorwas a daily paper and theFemale Spectatora monthly, their personae appear to be truly brother and sister, as Mrs. Haywood pretends. The introductory remarks of her first book claim that she is proceeding “in imitation of my learned Brother, of ever precious memory,” while the last, Book 24, opens with a letter from a correspondent who notes that she “closely...

  10. SIX ARABELLA FERMOR, 1714 and 1767
    (pp. 148-171)
    Alexander Pope and Frances Moore Brooke

    Every student of English literature knows the name of Alexander Pope. Not many students of English literature, even among specialists in the eighteenth century, know the name of Frances Moore Brooke—except in Canada. Mrs. Brooke, who was English, wrote poems and epistolary novels, translations, plays, two comic operas (one of which was a great success), and a periodical calledThe Old Maid,modeled on theSpectator,which lasted for nine months. She probably knew Richardson; she definitely knew Dr. Johnson, Fanny Burney, and others of that circle. With an actress friend, she ventured into theatrical management. She died in...

    (pp. 172-196)
    John Milton, Alexander Pope and Anna Laetitia Barbauld

    Satire, that mode for which the earlier decades of the eighteenth century are so justly famous, fell into increasing disrepute as the years went by. There had always been a few who protested against the ugliness of satire, suspicious that the satirist was ill-natured, grinding a personal axe, even unchristian. Addison and Steele’sSpectatorwas uncomfortable with ridicule and irony as early as 1711, and they were far from the first. Practicing satirists routinely defended themselves against hostile opinion, attempting, like Pope in “An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot,” to establish their credentials as disinterested moral exemplars. Toward the end of...

    (pp. 197-221)
    Samuel Johnson and Ellis Cornelia Knight

    The oriental tale is not every reader’s favorite genre. Some find its emotional, geographical, and supernatural extravagances tedious, while others find them stylistically fascinating or psychologically revealing. Some are amused by what Martha Pike Conant labels “the imaginative group,” while others, less sympathetic to the whole of the varied genre, are amused only by the “satiric group,” which, when not engaged in social criticism, spoofs the oriental tale itself. Few critics have turned their attention to the oriental tale for any detailed consideration. At times, the Gothic umbrella is extended to cover Beckford’sVathek,for example; indeed, Beckford’s admirers publish...

    (pp. 222-225)

    To say that a piece of writing is derivative or that it is part of the mainstream of literature is to say much the same thing: that it comes from a source and bears affinities in form and content with a culture’s central traditions. Yet the first term is pejorative and the second laudatory; the first implies a regrettable absence of originality while the second implies simply that the writing belongs. Fortunately, we no longer deplore the literature of the Restoration and eighteenth century in general as being slavishly neoclassical, as merely derivative. We recognize the period’s own concern with...

    (pp. 226-246)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 247-267)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 268-271)