Beginning with an examination of some of the ways in which allusion was conceptualized in the eighteenth century, this chapter focuses on verbal literary allusion, which exists on the allusive spectrum between frank plagiarism at the one extreme and echo at the other. Close reading of poems by Alexander Pope (the different versions of the Dunciad), William Collins (“Ode on the Poetical Character”), and Thomas Gray (“Ode on the Spring” and “The Progress of Poesy”) demonstrates some ways in which eighteenth-century poets used the figure of allusion to articulate meaning, and to negotiate the writer’s relation with poetic contemporaries and forebears. Allusion tests the reader’s powers of recognition and invites the reader’s participation; this chapter explores some opportunities for poetic obfuscation or clarification that the trope offered to both satiric and lyric authors, and some possibilities and implications of the poet’s, or editor’s, or poet-editor’s explanatory and interpretative commentary.
This article discusses the American constitutional elegy. It argues that American national difference in literature can be tracked in the terms of its engagement with specifically American constitutional principles, concentrating on the national period, beginning in the late eighteenth century with the Revolutionary War and sketching the story up to the present day. It then returns to the great theme of elegy as a flexible form and its practices under persistent self-scrutiny. All choral poetry carries with it an association with the choruses of ancient, especially Athenian, tragedy and thus with the common understanding that the chorus speaks as or on behalf of a democratic citizenry. Marilyn Hacker has written a ‘constitutional elegy’ in the great American tradition, a tradition that continues to challenge our principled commitment to the legal and symbolic bonds of ‘adjacent difference’ in a rights-based national polity.
Anne K. Mellor
This article addresses the female-authored elegy. By far the greatest number of elegies penned by women between 1660 and 1834 confront the loss of a dearly beloved family member or friend. Additionally, it describes Mary Chudleigh's three elegies at length because they provide a brilliant representation of the emotional continuum upon which other female elegists map the work of grieving. At the end of the eighteenth century, the female-authored elegy underwent a significant literary development. In the hands of its most skilled practitioners — Charlotte Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Robinson, Letitia Landon, and Felicia Hemans — the poetic elegy became an exploration. The female-authored elegies functioned on occasion as a vehicle of culturally repressed sexual desire. Many of them are more specific in their political critique, taking the occasion to support particular parties, policies or public figures.
Most eighteenth-century texts appeared without the author’s proper name on the title page. This absence could signal a writer’s modesty or scurrility, or the absence could result from various forms of suppression that modern attribution studies have done much to reverse. However, anonymity and pseudonymity were also deliberate gestures prompting readers to distance authorship from biography or to differentiate fiction as a conceptual category from truth and lies. Authors including Alexander Pope, Daniel Defoe, and Frances Burney purposefully omitted their names to complicate textual ownership and copyright, manipulate market conditions, or pursue ethical questions. Famous authors like Samuel Johnson and Laurence Sterne made open secrets of their anonymity, collapsing the apparent need to sign a name to make a name. When the authorial name becomes a counter rather than the simple solution to a puzzle, even signing a proper name—“onymity”—is revealed as a strategic authorial subject position.
M. O. Grenby
This essay investigates the conservative, loyalist fiction published in Britain during the French Revolution and its aftermath. A substantial number and a wide variety of these novels were published: long and short, propagandistic and philosophical, for adults and children and by obscure and well-known authors. The essay identifies and analyses the principal structures and themes of anti-Jacobin fiction, and closely examines a representative sample. It assesses their contribution to the ‘war of ideas’ and considers how they fit into larger histories of the novel.
Augustan American verse is the essence of this article. The poetry composed by the colonial poets from New England are discussed in this article. Colonial poets often said they were imitating Alexander Pope, Virgil, and Horace. Joseph Addison, John Dryden, and John Milton were also frequently mentioned. A reader acquainted with James Thomson, Abraham Cowley, Samuel Butler, and John Pomfret's “The Choice” will find much familiar in colonial poetry—so much so that later critics have often complained that colonial verse is derivative. Like their European contemporaries, Augustan poets in the colonies believed the “polish'd Arts” could help control “wild Passions” and “humanize the Soul.” This article also traces the transcendent values and contractarian logic which constitutes the Augustan Age. Detailed analysis of the works of writers such as Henry Brookes The New Metamorphoses and works of Ebenezer Cook forms the concluding part of the article.
Walter Scott’s historical novel achieved unprecedented success, and almost single-handedly propelled the novel as a genre into the literary field. A potent synthesis of history, romance, theory, and antiquarianism, the Waverley Novels rewrote contemporary modes of historical and national romance through a thematic of the heterogeneity of historical time. They answered to a new historical sensibility in a post-Revolutionary era of expanding readership; helped to forge a new British national identity; and were instrumental in reconfiguring literary culture for their time.
This article looks at different questions facing authorship in the eighteenth century, from the widespread use of anonymity and its consequences; the perception of an over-abundance of authors and the related fear of a massive cultural decline; the ways in which an authorial canon could have been more arbitrary and less comprehensive than a modern-day equivalent (looking at writers such as Samuel Johnson); the manner in which poetic representations of authorship sought to compete with and preempt other criticisms and versions of the self (with reference to Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift); the extensive use of self-reflexivity in fiction intended to guide and misguide the reader, from Swift to Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne; and the consequences of the growing interest in authorship as a reflection of personality and celebrity.
This chapter defines literary qualities of ballads, those sung narratives which are part of our anonymous literary heritage. The conventions of the genre are discussed, such as the imagery of ballads as well as their narrative structure, characters, diction, prosody, rhyme schemes, and modal melodies. Qualities associated with songs or stories transmitted orally, such as incremental repetition and formulaic epithets or descriptive commonplaces, are also discussed and examples are given. Some of the controversies about the origins and composition of ballads are sketched in, as well as a thumbnail history of when and how these popular narratives were first collected. Their prevalence in eighteenth-century British society is suggested. The subject matter of ballads is described and the plots of a number of typical ballads are given in brief.
Melissa J. Homestead
The beginnings of the American novel form the basis of this article. It traces the birth of novel as a genre in the American heartland. Edward Kimber recorded his experiences of New England in his work titled Itinerant Observations in America. This phenomenal work was to influence Susana Rowson. More than two decades after Edward Kimber crossed the Atlantic from England to the colonies, young Susanna made her first transatlantic crossing in 1766, four years after her birth in Portsmouth, England, to join her father in America. Rowson, like Kimber, made American people and places the subject of a novel first published in London, Charlotte, A Tale of Truth (1791). Her novel features a central character who crosses the Atlantic at a young age under duress. A comparative study between the English novel and its American counterpart winds up this article.