The New Atalantis and Varronian Satire

By Santesso, Aaron | Philological Quarterly, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

The New Atalantis and Varronian Satire


Santesso, Aaron, Philological Quarterly


What age of Varroes name shall not be told? Marlowe, Ovid's Elegies, 1.15.21

The initial sensation surrounding Delarivier Manley's pro-Tory allegory, The New Atalantis (1709), led to her arrest for libel; its continuing popularity prompted new editions to appear throughout the first half of the century. (1) The work is now familiar primarily from Pope's mention of it in The Rape of the Lock ("As long as Atalantis shall be read"), seemingly validating Anna Laetitia Barbauld's observation that "The Atalantis of Mrs. Manley lives only in that line of Pope which seems to promise it immortality." (2) Today, however, a growing number of critics are discussing The New Atalantis, often as part of analyses of women's writing or the "rise of the novel." A comment relevant to both of these projects which has been largely overlooked is Manley's own description of the book in her dedication to the second volume: "The New Atalantis seems, my Lord, to be written like Varonian satires, on different subjects, tales, stories and characters of invention." (3) To label a work a Varronian satire seems somewhat exotic, even pedantic, today. Most critical dictionaries simply offer the term as a synonym to its more familiar relative: the Menippean satire. (4) But "Varronian satire" and "Menippean satire" are not interchangeable, and Manley did not randomly choose the former term over the

latter. This essay will explore the reasons behind Manley's identification of her work as Varronian, and how this identification affects the current critical understanding of the work and its audience. Manley today is more often celebrated as a woman writer, an outsider, and even a rebel; ultimately, the mention of Varro reminds the reader of Manley's now less fashionable interests in Tory politics and classical learning.

A brief summary may be in order. The New Atalantis relates the experiences of Astrea, goddess of Justice, who has returned to Earth in order to gather examples of virtue and vice with which to educate a young, divine prince in her charge. She encounters her mother, Virtue, and later Intelligence, who recount various stories of earthly treachery, betrayal, and lechery, which are thin allegories for the misbehaviours of important Whigs. The work shifts early on from a more general social satire to personal attacks on familiar figures such as John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, as well as Halifax, Godolphin, and many others. Though infamous for its explicit representations of various sexual scandals, the book nevertheless played an important role in the propaganda war which led up to the defeat of the Whigs in 1710.

The New Atalantis is clearly not a "novel" in the modern sense: the characters are undeveloped, the experiences fantastic, the plot static. It also differs from contemporary works now treated as novels, such as Behn's Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister (1684-7). This work is often compared to The New Atalantis because of its Tory slant and allegorical attacks on Whigs, but unlike Manley's work, it portrays realistic situations and relationships, features an active, omniscient narrator (particularly in Parts 2 and 3), and traces the emotional development of its characters. Behn's Silvia, for example, transforms herself from naif to sophisticate; Manley's Astrea undergoes no such changes. The New Atalantis, therefore, has more often been considered as part of other prose fiction genres, particularly the "secret history." Recently, Ros Ballaster has argued that it might be placed in a more "feminocentric tradition." (5) In her influential book, Seductive Forms: Women's Amatory Fiction from 1684 to 1740, Ballaster argues that "women's writing must be analysed within a history of genre if it is to find a satisfactory place in accounts of the `rise' of the novel" (21). She therefore links the work to "female" French forms (the romance, petite histoire, chronique scandaleuse, and epistolary novel [42]) and posits that the works of Behn, Manley, and Haywood ultimately act as "the early modern equivalent of . …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The New Atalantis and Varronian Satire
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.