Bluestocking Fictions: Devotional Writings, Didactic Literature and the Imperative of Female Improvement

  • Norma Clarke


In 1750, Catherine Talbot contributed an essay to Samuel Johnson’s periodical, The Rambler. 1 Johnson wrote most of the 208 ‘ramblers’ himself, but he gave space on a few occasions to others: Elizabeth Carter, Samuel Richardson and Hester Mulso (later Chapone) as well as Talbot. Talbot’s piece was written in the persona of a day of the week — Sunday — and it was in the form of a letter to Mr Rambler from his ‘faithful friend and servant, Sunday’, writing in ‘his’ own defence and speaking his own praises. ‘Sunday’ outlined a history which included a long lost perfect time ‘when I lived according to my heart’s desire’, being looked upon ‘in every country parish as a kind of social bond between the squire, the parson, and the tenants’. The present was different. People had forgotten how to treat Sunday; they played cards and dice, or stayed in bed when Sunday came round, or went to the other extreme and would allow no gaiety on that day, only drear and melancholy sermons. Sunday explained what he wanted when he arrived: to be welcomed reasonably early by cheerful people who were neatly dressed, to have some quiet one-to-one talk, and then ‘pleasant walks and airings among sets of agreeable people’, followed by general conversation and well chosen books. There were ‘numberless books that are dedicated to me and go by my name’, as Sunday put it, which people would be the better for reading, but alas, ‘as the world stands at present’ Sunday’s very name made them ‘oftener thrown aside than taken up’.


Early Eighteenth Century Elite Woman Christian Life Conjugal Love Comic Romance 
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© Norma Clarke 2005

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  • Norma Clarke

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