"The Abolition of the Slave Trade, Or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in Captn. Kimber’s treatment of a young Negro girl of 15 for her virjen [sic] modesty." Engraved colored print by Isaac Cruikshank, 1792. This anti-slave cartoon illustrates the debate over the slave trade in the late eighteenth century. Opposition to slavery and the slave trade grew steadily, and in 1807 the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act prohibited slave trading in the British Empire. (The act, which had earlier failed, succeeded due to the 1800 Act of Union with Ireland, which brought over 100 mostly abolitionist Irish MPs to the Commons). However, not until the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 is slavery itself abolished.
Late seventeenth-century engraving of Mary Carleton. Carleton came from relatively humble origins in Canterbury and married twice (without divorcing) before embarking on the series of adventures that would make her famous. She appears in London in 1663, dressed finely, and convinces a tavern keeper and his family that she is a disguised German princess fleeing an arranged marriage. Determined to capitalize on the situation, the tavern-owner, Mr. King, convinces the young woman to marry his brother-in-law, John Carleton, by boasting of the family’s wealth and gentility. John and Mary are wed, and two weeks later they discover that neither of them is wealthy, both parties having exaggerated their wealth and status to ensnare the other. John Carleton’s family sues Mary as a bigamist, and the resulting trial, publicized through pamphlets, ballads, and plays, captivates the London public. The Carleton family publishes their own account of the affair, which is countered by The Case of Mary Carleton, marketed as written by Mary Carleton herself. Carleton was executed for a different crime a decade later, but her notorious story provided source material for Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders and Roxana.
catlion asked: Yay this tumblr exists! You make me happy. Eighteenth-century British literature is my favourite to read (I find it relaxing and invigorating). Do you have any ideas as to why it is unpopular?
Glad to hear from another fan of 18C lit! My opinion on why it is unpopular is that the novels are very hybrid in their form, which makes their structure unfamiliar (and sometimes off-putting) to modern readers. What are some of your favorites?
"Theophila Palmer Reading Clarissa,” Joshua Reynolds, 1771. This painting illustrates what were in the eighteenth century new and potentially concerning aspects of private reading, an activity which was on the rise due to the increased portability and decreased cost of books coupled with rising literacy rates. The female reader is engrossed in her book, signaling that reading is private and potentially anti-social. The book itself is also significant: while Clarissa was meant to be didactic, the ruin of the heroine was also titillating, potentially inciting the opposite emotions Richardson intended.
Turkish merchant John Verney sent his pregnant wife a letter in the late seventeenth century, concluding with “everything that the lovingest of husbands can express to the best of wives, and love to the little ones, not forgetting the kicker in the dark.” Lawrence Stone inThe Family, Sex, and Marriage 1500-1800 argues that this letter represents one example of the emerging belief during this period that marriage was an arrangement that should be personally fulfilling and based on affection rather than being contracted based purely on financial or status considerations (194).
"Beauty in Search of Knowledge" (1728). Artist unknown. While exact figures are impossible to determine, literacy increased dramatically over the course of the eighteenth century, with women as a group seeing particularly large gains in literacy rates. Women thus became increasingly associated with novel reading and later novel writing, a development bolstered by increased leisure time (among the middle and upper classes), access to texts, and genres of literature (such as sentimental novels) that emphasized feminine concerns and values.