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Suspicious Minds: Spies and Surveillance in Charlotte Smith’s Novels of the 1790s

  • Harriet Guest
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)

Abstract

In his influential essay of 1992 on ‘Visualising the Division of Labour’, John Barrell argued that the ‘totalising discourse’ of the division of labour articulates a ‘subject which defines its own partiality even as it denies it’. The subject must claim for itself a viewpoint from which it can grasp the coherence of the social whole; a coherence invisible to all those pursuing their different occupations within society by virtue of the specialization their occupations demand. But the subject must also acknowledge its own view as partial, as the interested view made available by its peculiar occupation within the division of labour. It must therefore always admit the validity or authority of the competing discourses articulated from other subject positions, other occupational viewpoints. The discourse of the division of labour must define itself as both more than, and just one of, the ‘hubbub of voices, which together produce the representation of a society irretrievably atomised and dispersed.’1

Keywords

Private Life Political Agent Domestic Life Arbitrary Power Sexual Politics 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    John Barrell, ‘Visualising the Division of Labour: William Pyne’s Microcosm’, in his The Birth of Pandora and the Division of Knowledge (London: Macmillan, 1992), pp. 118, 116.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    John Barrell, Imagining the Kings Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793–1796 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 51, 81.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    John Barrell, ‘Coffee-House Politicians’, in Journal ofBritish Studies, vol 43, no. 2 (April 2004), pp. 206–232.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Vicesimus Knox, The Spirit of Despotism (Morris-Town: Jacob Mann, 1799), section 24, p. 180; s. 1, pp. 11, 6; s. 13, p. 98; s. 35, p. 268; s. 14, pp. 108, 110.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    ‘Mucius’, ‘To the editor of the Morning Chronicle’, letter 1, 1 Feb. 1793, in William Godwin, Uncollected Writings (1785–1822): Articles in Periodicals and Six Pamphlets, intro., Jack W. Marken and Burton R. Pollin (Gainesville, FL: Scholars’ facsimiles and reprints, 1968), pp. 111, 113.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See, for example, Gregory Dart’s illuminating reading of the politics of Caleb Williams in his Rousseau, Robespierre and English Romanticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), ch. 4.Google Scholar
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    Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon, ed., John Davie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971, 1985), p. 159.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Albert Goodwin, The Friends ofLiberty: the English Democratic Movement in the Age of the French Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), p. 249.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    On Erskine, see Lorraine Fletcher, Charlotte Smith: A Critical Biography (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998), pp. 237–8. On Wordsworth, see Nicholas Roe, Wordsworth and Coleridge: The radical years (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pp. 42–3.Google Scholar
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    T.J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a history of modernism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 8.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Charlotte Smith, Desmond, eds Antje Blank and Janet Todd (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1997), p. 230; further refs (D) in text to this edition.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nicola Watson, Revolution and the Form of the British Novel, 1790–1825: Intercepted Letters, Interrupted Seductions (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), p. 36, see p. 37.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    The politics of Desmond have been the occasion for critical debate for some years. See for example, Diana Bowstead, ‘Charlotte Smith’s Desmond: The Epistolary Novel as Ideological Argument’, in Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski, eds, Fetterd or Free: British Women Novelists, 1670–1815 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1986), pp. 237–63; Chris Jones, Radical Sensibility: Literature and Ideas in the 1790s (London: Routledge, 1993); Alison Conway, ‘Nationalism, Revolution, and the Female Body: Charlotte Smith’s Desmond’, Womens Studies (1995), 24, pp. 395–409; Eleanor Wikborg, ‘Political Discourse versus Sentimental Romance: Ideology and Genre in Charlotte Smith’s Desmond (1792)’, English Studies (1997), 6, pp. 522–31.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Vivien Jones, ‘“The Coquetry of Nature”: Politics and the Picturesque in Women’s Fiction’, in The Politics of the Picturesque: Literature, landscape and aesthetics since 1770, eds Stephen Copley and Peter Garside (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 132, 133.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Charlotte Smith, The Old Manor House, ed., Anne Henry Ehrenpreis, intro., Judith Phillips Stanton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 92–3; further refs in text to this edition.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See Fletcher, Smith (1998), and Florence M. Hilbish, Charlotte Smith, Poet and Novelist (1749–1806) (Philidelphia, PA: Pennsylvania University Press, 1941).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    [Mary Hays], ‘Mrs. Charlotte Smith’, in Public Characters of 1800–1801 (London: R. Phillips, 1807), pp. 62–3.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Elizabeth Montagu to Elizabeth Carter, MO 3702, [Sandleford], 22 July [1792], in Leonore Helen Ewert, ‘Elizabeth Montagu to Elizabeth Carter: Literary Gossip and Critical Opinions from the Pen of the Queen of the Blues’ (unpublished PhD dissertation, Claremont Graduate School and University Centre, 1968), p. 196.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    See Jacqueline M. Labbe, ‘Selling One’s Sorrows: Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson, and the Marketing of Poetry’, Wordsworth Circle, 1994. See also Sarah Zimmerman, ‘Charlotte Smith’s Letters and the Practice of Self-Representation’, Princeton University Library Chronicle (1991), 53(1), pp. 50–77.Google Scholar
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    Charlotte Smith, The Banished Man. A Novel 4 vols, (London: T. Cadell, 1794), Vol 2 ‘Avis au Lecteur’, p. 10; further refs (BM) in text to this edition.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    Charlotte Smith, Marchmont: A Novel 4 vols, (London: Sampson Low, 1796), Vol 4, p. 330. All further refs (M) in text to this edition.Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    Charlotte Smith, The YoungPhilosopher, ed., Elizabeth Kraft (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999), Preface, p. 5. All further refs (YP) in text to this edition.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    Katie Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), pp. 138, 141.Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    Ibid., p. 141.Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan, The Wild Irish Girl: A National Tale, ed., with intro., Claire Connolly and Stephen Copley; foreword, Kevin Whelan (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2000), p. 43.Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    Claire Connolly, ‘Introduction: The Politics of Love in the Wild Irish Girl’, in Owenson, introduction, pp. xxxvi-vii, xlviii.Google Scholar
  27. 29.
    See p. 185n, where Owenson notes La Tocnaye’s observation, in his Promenade dun Franfais dans lIrlande, that parts of Ireland are ‘less known than islands in the Pacific Ocean’. See Connolly, Intro., pp. liii-lv.Google Scholar
  28. 30.
    Knox, Despotism section 24, p. 180; s. 1, pp. 11, 6; s. 13, p. 98; s. 35, p. 268; s. 14, pp. 108, 110.Google Scholar
  29. 31.
    Watson argues that both narratives are ‘intensely overdetermined’, central to ‘a novel which betrays the hopelessly beleaguered state of sentimental discourse at the end of the decade by systematically subjecting it to a simulacrum of conservative plotting’. I admire Watson’s brief exposition of the novel, but I want to look in more detail at her account of it as a question of ‘whether firstperson narrative … will come to carry enough authority to discredit the web of second- and third-hand gossip’. See Watson, Form, pp. 58–9.Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    Eleanor Ty, Unsexd Revolutionaries: Five Women Novelists of the 1790s (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), p. 153.Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    For a fuller discussion of these issues see my Small Change: Women, Learning, Patriotism, 1750–1810 (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 2000), esp. Pt 4.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    William Godwin, Things As They Are: or The Adventures of Caleb Williams, ed. and intro., Maurice Hundle (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988), p. 193. See ‘Avis au Lecteur’, BM 2, pp. vii and n.Google Scholar
  33. 35.
    William Cowper, The Task, Bk 5, ‘The Winter Morning Walk’, 11, pp. 415–17, 421–4, in William Cowper, The Task and Selected Other Poems, ed., James Sambrook (London: Longman, 1994).Google Scholar

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© Harriet Guest 2005

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  • Harriet Guest

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