The Anti-Jacobin Novel: British Conservatism and the French Revolution

The Anti-Jacobin Novel: British Conservatism and the French Revolution

The Anti-Jacobin Novel: British Conservatism and the French Revolution

The Anti-Jacobin Novel: British Conservatism and the French Revolution

Synopsis

The French Revolution sparked an ideological debate that brought Britain to the brink of its own revolution in the 1790s. As radicals turned to the writing of "Jacobin" fiction, the fear of rebellion prompted conservatives to write novels. This is the first book to examine the extent and variety of Anti-Jacobin fiction. As well as identifying an unprecedented number of these novels and considering what they contain, M.O. Grenby investigates why they were written, especially by women, and why they proved to be so popular.

Excerpt

Numerous novels appeared in Britain in the years after 1789 addressing the debate on the French Revolution and the ideas emanatingfrom it. Some novels sympathisingwith the radical cause have received significant scholarly attention, but those which took a conservative line have so far escaped any sustained analysis. These were the anti- Jacobin novels.

Close to two hundred late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novels have been consulted in my quest to identify the extent and varieties of the conservative fiction published in Britain in the decade or so on either side of 1800. Yet this survey still covers only a small fraction of the fiction produced in the period. There are, therefore, almost certainly many more anti-Jacobin novels, of varyingdegrees and types, which remain undetected. Findingthose anti-Jacobin novels which do appear in the following pages has been essentially a three-stage process. First, there are several existingworks of scholarship which, together, have discerned between fifteen and twenty anti-Jacobin novels, and these form the foundation of this research. These 'tip-offs' sometimes occur in unlikely places: in biographies of figures who were maligned by the anti-Jacobins, perhaps, or in studies of the early Evangelical movement. Second, and in the attempt to place this survey on the basis of at least a degree of nominal comprehensiveness, I have made a thorough search of the major periodicals of the age — the Monthly, the Critical and the Analytical Reviews, the British Critic and the Anti-Jacobin Review — all of which contain a mixture of reviews and short notices of recently published novels, and which have proved invaluable for pointingout previously unknown conservative fiction. The latter two publications, of course, delighted in findingnew anti-Jacobin novels, and so proved especially useful.

The third, and much less scientific, method of huntinganti-Jacobin novels is to track them down in the places in which they congregate – the forgotten holdings of the major research libraries — where they can be traced by means of clues in their titles, imprints or attributions. This . . .

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