Unbounded Attachment Sentiment and Politics in the Age of the French Revolution

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2014-01-14
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Unbounded Attachment is about the uses of the language of sentiment in British women's writing from Mary Wollstonecraft to Jane Austen. It focuses on a range of writers for whom this language has the potential to hold together disparate elements in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century society. This potential is important to the complex politics of Charlotte Smith's response, in her long poem The Emigrants, to the onset of war with France in 1793. The language of sentiment eases the transitions in Mary Robinson's writing between courtly praise for the French queen and liberal political opinion, and shapes her attitudes to the exchange between personal sociability and the expanding commercial market for her work. For women writers such as Amelia Alderson Opie and Elizabeth Inchbald the display of sentiment makes it possible to negotiate between the demands of commercial success and sociable or political allegiance. William Godwin admired Mary Wollstonecraft's capacity for an all-embracing sentiment of 'unbounded attachment' to humanity, and posthumous accounts such as Mary Hays's, as well as fictional heroines loosely based on Wollstonecraft's reputation, emphasised the strength of feeling, the enthusiasm, which united her private character and her politics, and evoked powerful responses from both her immediate social circle and her readers. The success of Jane Austen's novels depended on the access they gave readers to the privacy of her heroines' minds, where their sensibility apprehends an underlying coherence in the apparently disjointed social worlds in which they lived.

Author Biography

Harriet Guest, Director for the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, University of York

Harriet Guest studied for her BA and PhD at King's College, Cambridge, where she also held a Junior Research Fellowship. She taught at University College London before moving to York where she is Professor of English and Related Literature. She is a founder member of York's interdisciplinary Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. In recent years she has published widely in two areas; on eighteenth and early nineteenth-century British women's writing, which was the subject of her book, Small Change: Women, Learning, Patriotism, 1750-1810 (Chicago, 2000), and on British expansion in the South Pacific, which was the focus of her book, Empire, Barbarism, and Civilisation: James Cook, William Hodges, and the Return to the Pacific (Cambridge,2007).

Table of Contents

1. Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson, and the War with France in 1793
2. Mary Robinson in the Metropolis
3. Remembering Mary Wollstonecraft
4. Amelia Alderson and Mrs Opie: 'more of the woman'
5. 'Inadvertencies and misconstructions': Jane Austen's heroines

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