This Collection gathers a wide range of scholarly work on women’s lives in eighteenth-century history, literature, art, and culture. Click Join Us if you would like to contribute to this Collection.
Today’s stereotypical media representations of women as frenemies can be traced back to the eighteenth century. Eliza Haywood’s novels, for instance, show a consistent interest in depicting frenemy relationships between women and within their community, which are surprisingly similar to the dynamics of girlfriendship today.
What would Jane Austen say about Donald Trump? Easy to answer, because she had seen it all before. A Regency girl in a golden age of satire, she attacked the Prince of Wales for his much-lampooned appearance, his lewdness, his licentiousness, his instability, his outrageous spending, his fondness for over-the-top building ventures, his implicit treason, his desire for absolute power, his vanity, his braggadocio, and his love of holidays and sport.
There’s no question that celebrity style has long had an impact on the fashion world—think Beau Brummell, Lillie Langtry, Jean Harlow, Katherine Hepburn. The question is how new is the celebrity-cum-couturier? The life of the British actress Mary Robinson (1757?-1800) would suggest that celebrity clothing and accessory lines are, in fact, nothing new.
“One domestic, at least, that may be spared”: Male Violence and Female Pet Keeping in Eliza Haywood’s Betsy Thoughtless
Haywood’s The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751) follows the emotional maturation–a Bildungsroman with a British lilt–of the titular Betsy Thoughtless. During the novel, between a parade of potential husbands and the interloping of her two brothers, Betsy receives a small pet squirrel from Mr. Trueworth, one of her many suitors. This squirrel, Betsy’s beloved pet, becomes a focalizing object through which Haywood raises and explores the subjects of male aggression, women’s personal rights, and the value placed on animal life.
Veiled Intent: Dissenting Women’s Aesthetic Approach to Biblical Interpretation asks how eighteenth-century dissenting women writers were able to ensure their unique biblical interpretation was preserved for posterity. And how did their careful yet shrewd tactics spur early nineteenth-century women writers into vigorous theological debate? Why did the biblical engagement of such women prompt their commitment to causes such as the antislavery movement? Veiled Intent traces the pattern of tactical moves and counter-moves deployed by Anna Barbauld, Phillis Wheatley, Helen Maria Williams, Joanna Baillie, and Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck. These female poets and philosophers veiled provocative hermeneutical claims and calls for social action within aesthetic forms of discourse viewed as more acceptably feminine forms of expression. In between the lines of their published hymns, sonnets, devotional texts for children, and works of aesthetic theory, the perceptive reader finds striking theological insights shared from a particularly female perspective. These women were not only courageously interjecting their individual viewpoints into a predominantly male domain of formal study–biblical hermeneutics–but also intentionally supporting each other in doing so.
The Anne Finch Digital Archive complements the print edition of Anne Finch’s works, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. Materials on the open-access Anne Finch Digital Archive enable users to explore the archival elements of Finch’s texts. The featured poems on this site have been selected from a great number in Finch’s œuvre to illustrate her work in different poetic kinds, including song, fable, biblical paraphrase, translation, verse epistle, and devotional poetry. For every featured poem, the site includes commentary with embedded links to illustrations, information about composition and printing dates and sources, audio files of the poem read aloud, and source copies showing authorized manuscript and print texts with transcriptions. We will continue to add resources to the site, including recordings of musical performances of the songs featured. The multimedia elements of this site reflect the various ways that Finch’s work engaged her contemporary readers and listeners, who knew her work in manuscript, print, or performance, or in all of these forms.
The Letters of Hannah More: A Digital Edition brings together for the first time the fascinating letters written by the celebrated playwright, poet, philanthropist, moralist and educationalist Hannah More (1745-1833).
More was one of the most important voices of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At the heart of a complex and extensive network of politicians, bishops, writers, and evangelical Christians which included figures such as William Wilberforce, Samuel Johnson and Elizabeth Montagu, More sought to redefine and reshape the social and moral values of the age.
‘The Lady’s Magazine (1770-1818): Understanding the Emergence of a Genre’ is a two-year project funded by the Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant scheme. The team of academics behind it is based at the University of Kent and is led by Jennie Batchelor, who works closely with the project’s two full-time Postdoctoral Researchers: Koenraad Claes and Jenny DiPlacidi. Our aim is to shed new light on one of the first and longest running women’s magazines of all time.
The Novels Reviewed Database, 1790-1820 (NRD) is the first and only database to focus on one genre’s historical reception. Cataloging reviews of novels from the period’s two foremost review periodicals, the Monthly Review and the Critical Review, the NRD brings together book reviews and book market data, providing a repository of criticism reacting in print to this period in the novel’s, and women’s, literary history.
We live in a world saturated with advertising. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries new technologies and new media have been created or adapted to deliver so many marketing messages to potential consumers that sometimes it has become impossible to recognize advertising when we encounter it. Other times advertising is blatant, obvious, and even infuriating as it infringes on the rest of our daily activities. Many of us tend to think of advertising as a modern invention, something that became ubiquitous in American life as a result of radio, television, and the Internet. Sometimes we assume that widespread advertising got its start in the twentieth century. The Adverts 250 Project, however, offers a different story of advertising in America.
Where is fiction in manuscript during the age of print? While difficult to find the archive, it exists, and I collect it. Since 2009, I have collected examples of what I call “manuscript fiction”: a term I use to describe works (complete or incomplete) of fiction that survive during the age of print culture, despite never seeing print. (You can see my early work on this here) Some are found in the archive bound and resembling print in sizes ranging from heavy tomes to tiny packets, while some survive only in fragments. Some resemble print editions closely and include elaborate title pages, while others are barely decipherable without intense deciphering. Some contain chapters and a clear plot, and some ramble in ways worthy of Smollett or Richardson (or are, indeed, parodies of those famous novelists). Some are written by those famous in other fields (such as playwright/actor Charles Dibdin or Governor-General of India Warren Hastings), while some linger just on the edges of the historical record. While a few may have been imagined as future printed books, none of them made that leap.
Within the records of the early United States War Department, amidst the pay receipts and accounts of treaty negotiations with Native American tribes, there are glimpses into the life of relatively ordinary Americans, many illiterate, who served their country during the war for Independence.
Julie Park, Assistant Professor of English at Vassar College, describes her fascinating recent research into the “written documents of daily life from real eighteenth-century lives” at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Fantomina: Or, Love in a Maze (1725) is perhaps Eliza Haywood’s most intriguing example of amatory fiction, and it provides a good case study for understanding the similarities between contemporary rape culture and the sexual conventions of the eighteenth century.
In her capacious understanding of not just the hows of behavior in public places, but the whys of behavior in public spaces, Austen prefigures the development of micro-sociology, those analyses of specific rituals, such as Georg Simmel’s study of cocktail party talk and flirtation, or Erving Goffman’s later analysis of civil inattention (how not to attract stranger’s attention on the street) or waiting room or elevator behavior.
Counter to my own argument in Desire and Domestic Fiction (1987) that domestic fiction proposes a self-enclosed household as a model for the modern nation, I’m contending that each Austen novel tears open the traditional household and disperses its members (especially daughters) by putting them into circulation.
We often think of feminism as something belonging to the twentieth century. But in 1791, Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793) wrote: “Man, are you capable of being just? It is a woman who asks you this question… Tell me, what gives you sovereign empire over my sex?” The first lines of the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizeness might seem, to many of us, ahead of their time.
It is November 1794. The French Revolution has taken a sharp turn for the worse, and Britain and France have been at war for well over a year and a half. The English have recently witnessed the Treason Trials and the suspension of Habeas Corpus at home and the September Massacres, the Reign of Terror, the Glorious First of June, and the execution of Robespierre across the Channel. Soldiers are dying, the British government is hunting down spies and locking up radicals, and the nation is in a state of social and political unrest. It is at this time, at the very height of this tension, that Mary Robinson—the former actress, fashion icon, celebrity sensation, and mistress of the Prince of Wales—debuted her two-act comedy Nobody at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The 29 November 1794 performance did not go well.
The Department of English at The University of Texas at Austin launches an online reconstruction of a famous art exhibit as novelist Jane Austen saw it on 24 May 1813 – exactly 200 years ago to the day. The virtual gallery titled “What Jane Saw” (www.whatjanesaw.org) was created by Janine Barchas, Professor of English at The University of Texas at Austin, and constructed by a team of student assistants and staff in the Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services.
Kathleen Winsor’s historical romance Forever Amber (1944) and Laura Linker’s Dangerous Women, Libertine Epicures, and the Rise of Sensibility, 1670-1730 (Ashgate 2011).
Emma Donoghue’s historical novel Life Mask (2004) represents the lives of the 18th-century sculptor Anne Damer, actress Eliza Farren, and painter Thomas Lawrence. In a novel filled with artists and their subjects, a famous portrait plays a critical part in illuminating friendship and its rupture. Donoghue enhances the historical background of the creation and presentation of Lawrence’s portrait of Farren to reveal the conflicts that class and sexuality cause.
Feminism in 18th-century culture; an online journal devoted to women in the arts in the long-18th century; and a newly-cataloged collection of rare 18th-century books in an 18th-century library in New York City.
In The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes focuses his chapters “Herschel on the Moon” and “Herschel Among the Stars” on telling the story of William Herschel and his scientific career as well as Caroline Herschel’s role in her brother William’s success. […]