Prose Immortality, 1711–1819documents this transformation of British literary culture, spanning the eighteenth century and linking journalism, literature, theology, and philosophy. In recovering the centrality of the afterlife to eighteenth-century culture, this prizewinning book offers a versatile and wide-ranging argument that will speak not only to literary scholars but also to historians, scholars of religion, and all readers interested in the power of literature to preserve human experience through time.
Winner of the Walker Cowen Memorial Prize for an Outstanding Work of Scholarship in Eighteenth-Century Studies
Warner uncovers a buried and neglected history of the way in which the idea of the novel was shaped in response to a newly vigorous market in popular narratives. In order to rein in the sexy and egotistical novel of amorous intrigue, novelists and critics redefined the novel as morally respectable, largely masculine in authorship, national in character, realistic in its claims, and finally, literary. Warner considers early novelists in their role as entertainers and media workers, and shows how the short, erotic, plot-driven novels written by Behn, Manley, and Haywood came to be absorbed and overwritten by the popular novels of Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding. Considering these novels as entertainment as well as literature, Warner traces a different story—one that redefines the terms within which the British novel is to be understood and replaces the literary history of the rise of the novel with a more inclusive cultural history.
Of the poet Anna Seward, it may be said with some veracity that hers was an epistolary life. What is known of Seward comes from six volumes of her letters and from juvenile letters that prefaced her books of poetry, all published posthumously. That Seward intended her correspondence to serve as her autobiography is clear, but she could not have anticipated that the letters she intended for publication would be drastically edited and censored by her literary editor, Walter Scott, and by her publisher, Archibald Constable. Stripped of their vitality and much of their significance, the published letters omit telling tales of the intricacies of the marriage market and Seward's own battles against gender inequality in the educational and workplace spheres. Seward's correspondents included Erasmus Darwin, William Hayley, Helen Maria Williams, and Robert Southey, and her letters are packed with stories and anecdotes about her friends' lives and characters, what they looked like, and how they lived. Particularly compelling is Barnard's discussion of Seward's astonishing last will and testament, a twenty-page document that summarizes her life, achievements, and self-definition as a writing woman. Barnard's biography not only challenges what is known about Seward, but provides new information about the lives and times of eighteenth-century writers.