By A. Markley
Dramatically increasing the limits of the British “Jacobin” novel, Conversion and Reform within the British Novel within the 1790s analyzes the works of quite a lot of British reformists writing within the 1790s, together with William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson, and Maria Edgeworth, who reshaped the conventions of up to date fiction to put the radical as a innovative political tool. instead of aiming to release a bloody revolution, those authors labored to start up social and political reform in such parts as women’s rights, abolition, the Jewish query, and the leveling of the category approach in Britain by means of changing the person reader, one reader at a time.
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Extra resources for Conversion and Reform in the British Novel in the 1790s: A Revolution of Opinions
76 This page intentionally left blank 4 Chapter 1 The Ma ny Faces of the Refor mist H ero O ne of the most significant ways in which reformist novelists reworked the conventions of late eighteenth-century fiction involves their manner of appropriating contemporary ideals of masculinity in fashioning protagonists who would appeal to their readers yet also serve as effective spokesmen for their politics. To a large degree, the reformist hero of these authors’ works owes his origin to the novel of sensibility that dominated the eighteenth-century novel.
Critics such as G. J. 44 Belinda turns the contemporary female Introduction 13 bildungsroman on its head by presenting a clear-thinking heroine on the verge of entering society who quickly sees that she cannot rely on the advice of the high-society types in her circle and learns to rely entirely upon her own judgment. Throughout the novel Edgeworth critiques a range of examples of exaggerated female sensibility, including the eccentric, Amazonian Harriet Freke at one extreme and the impressionable and submissive young Virginia at the other.
John Gregory’s statement in his A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters (1774) that women “cannot plunge into business, or dissipate themselves in pleasure and riot, as men too often do, when The Many Faces of the Reformist Hero 29 under the pressure of misfortunes; but must bear their sorrows in silence, unknown and unpitied” (II:239–40). ”29 As the novel ends, Julia forms a new family with Charlotte and her friend Mrs. Meynell, and these women lead productive lives entirely without men, raising Charlotte’s son, enjoying the rewards of “the most perfect friendship,” and embracing “the duties of religion, the exercise of benevolence, and the society of persons of understanding and merit” (II:242, 244).