By A. Markley
Conversion and Reform analyzes the paintings of these British reformists writing within the 1790s who reshaped the conventions of fiction to reposition the radical as a innovative political software. contains new readings of key figures comparable to Mary Wollstonecraft and Thomas Holcroft.
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Extra info for Conversion and Reform in the British Novel in the 1790s: A Revolution of Opinions
In stark contrast to Delamere, Godolphin is idealized not only in physical terms but also in Smith’s description of his manner of address as “a compound of the insinuating softness of Fitz-Edward with the fire and vivacity of Delamere” (II:243) and of his character as “all that is noble minded and generous” (II:275). Describing Godolphin’s care for his distressed sister Adelina and her illegitimate son, Smith continues to mix qualities from both genders in her description, writing that “with all the humanity of a brave man, Godolphin possessed a softness of heart, which the helpless innocence of the son, and the repentant sorrow of the mother, melted into more than feminine tenderness” (II:278).
In analyzing how reformist novelists began to experiment with popular forms of fiction to disseminate their political agenda, the first chapter of this book will focus on ways in which they refashioned the typical hero of eighteenth-century fiction, particularly the hero of the novel of sensibility or “man of feeling,” to create new protagonists who combine the sentimental hero’s spirit of benevolence with an ability to articulate a clear, reformist vision for the future of Britain. The second chapter will analyze how the popular genre of Gothic fiction provided the perfect context for exposing the status and powerlessness of women in the late eighteenth century, leading to a wide array of reformist works in which the sufferings of abused and incarcerated heroines were intended to raise public consciousness concerning women’s rights and the rights of the individual more generally.
40 Godwin’s 1805 Fleetwood: or, The New Man of Feeling follows Emmeline and Julia in anatomizing the potentially disastrous effects of masculine sensibility. ”41 Godwin thus establishes the relevance of his critique to everyday life and particularly to the upper class. Moreover, he suggests that his topic will pertain to marriage and to the lives of married women: “I am afraid,” he writes, “there are few of the married tribe who have not at some time or other had certain small misunderstandings with their wives” (V:13–14).