Strategies for Showing: Women, Possession, and Representation in English Visual Culture, 1665-1800

By Marcia Pointon | Go to book overview

her present. The spatial dimension of Dorothy's account is determined by topographical boundaries -- private estates, counties, parishes -- and also by the spatial relations that are set into play by class and gender producing proximity or distance between subject and object.123 The conventions of topographical and antiquarian travel provide the framework for Dorothy Richardson's narratives. In so far as they are rhetorical devices, they may be interrogated, thus permitting inferences concerning representation of space and representational spaces.124

It seems clear that, at a personal level, Dorothy's project was profoundly concerned with the disavowal of those qualities of sentiment and recorded speech that were understood in the period to be particular to the female sex. It is, therefore, both paradoxical and highly significant that her obsessive interest in detail and her highly developed but seldom publicly visible practice of note-taking is shared with one of the century's most fascinating and powerful fictitious heroines, Samuel Richardson's Pamela ( Pamela, 1740-1). For Pamela, writing (the format is the letter rather than the journal though the intended recipients are more of a pretext than a plausible destination) produces an archive that is united with her body, at one stage literally by being sewn into her clothing. One function of Pamela's detailed note-taking is that it serves as investment, as capital that can be transformed by symbolic exchange, in her case eventually into marriage with her would-be seducer. Dorothy's tourwriting, with its indexes, its corrections and updatings, and its preoccupation with taxonomies, represents an investment in time and space independent of, as well as belonging to, socially constructed norms. Recording social practices is, for Dorothy, ambiguous and transitional, since it serves to situate her outside those practices that would define her as female and dependent. We will never know what function Dorothy Richardson's archive may have served in her existence as a private individual. As a historical body she is constituted exclusively by those writings. What they offer to us is a paradigmatic case of disciplined recording that challenges received notions of travel, pleasure, gender, and knowledge in England in the second half of the eighteenth century.


Notes
1.
Linked to this is the issue 5 curiosity which has been dicussed by Barbara M. Benedict in "The Curious Attitude in Eighteenth-Century Britain: Observing and Owning", Eighteenth-- Century Life, 14 ( Nov. 1990).
2.
Critical Review, 47 ( 1779), 417, quoted in C. L. Batten Jr., Pleasurable Instruction: Form and Convention in Eighteenth-Century Travel Literature ( Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1978), 39.
3.
R. H. Sweet, "The Writing of Urban Histories in Eighteenth-Century England", Ph.D. thesis ( Oxford University, 1994), 87.

-124-

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