The frontispiece to this book is Joseph Wright's compelling image of a strangely compromised epistolary privacy, in which not only the man above her shoulder but the letter-writing manual to her left mediate the reader's epistolary experience. Like the copy of Clarissa discussed in my Introduction, sent back and forth between Richardson and Lady Bradshaigh as a kind of palimpsestic collaborative letter about the letter-novel in which it was written, I invoke Wright's painting to suggest that our texts are always more complexly mediated than we first take them to be and that this is particularly likely to be true of texts that invoke the epistolary tropes of immediacy, intimacy, and authenticity.
The suggestion applies, of course, to this study as well. I began writing this book to explain why eighteenth-century letter-novels so often tell not only the story in the letters but also the story of the letters: how scattered handwritten sheets are turned into printed, bound volumes. As I reflect on my own work's movement from manuscript to print, it gives me pleasure to acknowledge how much Epistolary Bodies owes to the generous engagement -- the mediation -- of many people along the way. I thank Madeleine Kahn for the intellectual support and inspiration provided by nearly a decade of conversations about this and other projects. Mary Favret,