Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century: Essays in English and French Utopian Writing

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Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century: Essays in English and French Utopian Writing

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Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century Essays in English and French Utopian Writing

Edited by NICOLE POHL Oxford Brookes University, UK and BRENDA TOOLEY Cornell College, USA

© Nicole Pohl and Brenda Tooley 2007 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. Nicole Pohl and Brenda Tooley have asserted their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the editors of this work. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Gower House Croft Road Aldershot Hampshire GU11 3HR England

Ashgate Publishing Company Suite 420 101 Cherry Street Burlington, VT 05401-4405 USA

Ashgate website: British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Gender and utopia in the eighteenth century : essays in English and French utopian writing 1.Utopias in literature 2.Sex role in literature 3.English literature – 18th century – History and criticism 4.French literature – 18th century – History and criticism I.Pohl, Nicole, 1961- II.Tooley, Brenda 820.9’372’09033 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Gender and utopia in the eighteenth century : essays in English and French utopian writing / edited by Nicole Pohl and Brenda Tooley. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN–13: 978–0–7546–5435–3 (alk. paper) ISBN–10: 0–7546–5435–4 (alk. paper) 1. Utopias in literature. 2. English fiction—18th century—History and criticism. 3. French literature—18th century—History and criticism. 4. Women in literature. 5. Sex role in literature. 6. Feminism in literature. 7. Femininity in literature. 8. Dystopias in literature. I. Pohl, Nicole, 1961– II. Tooley, Brenda. III. Title: Gender and utopia in the 18th century. PR858.U7G46 2007 820.9’372—dc22 2006017670 ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-5435-3

Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin, Cornwall.

Contents Contributors



Introduction Nicole Pohl and Brenda Tooley


Utopian Exchanges: Negotiating Difference in Utopia Lee Cullen Khanna



A Fragile Utopia of Sensibility: David Simple Joseph F. Bartolomeo



Gothic Utopia: Heretical Sanctuary in Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian Brenda Tooley



Rewriting Rousseau: Isabelle de Charrière’s Domestic Dystopia Caroline Weber



Utopia in the Seraglio: Feminist Hermeneutics and Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes Mary McAlpin


Transparency and the Enlightenment Body: Utopian Space in Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall and Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom Ana M. Acosta


“The Emperess of the World”: Gender and the Voyage Utopia Nicole Pohl


“A Man might find every thing in your Country”: Improvement, Patriarchy and Gender in Robert Paltock’s The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins Elizabeth Hagglund and Jonathan Laidlow

10 Generating Regenerated Generations: Race, Kinship and Sexuality on Henry Neville’s Isle of Pines (1668) Seth Denbo







Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century



Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: Enlightenment Utopianism for 21st-Century Feminists? Alessa Johns

Works Cited Index


179 195

Contributors Ana M. Acosta teaches in the Department of English at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She has published a number of articles on religion, science and Enlightenment. She is the author of Reading Genesis in the Long Eighteenth Century: From Milton to Mary Shelley (2006). Joseph F. Bartolomeo is Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the author of A New Species of Criticism: Eighteenth-Century Discourse on the Novel (1994) and Matched Pairs: Gender and Intertextual Dialogue in Eighteenth-Century Fiction (2002). Seth Denbo is currently a research fellow in the History of Art and Design at Winchester School of Art. He is writing a book on incest, kinship and family relations in England during the long eighteenth century. Elizabeth Hagglund is a lecturer at the University of Birmingham and at Woodbrooke Quaker Studies Centre. She has published articles on travel writing, women’s writing and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Quaker texts and has a monograph forthcoming on women’s travel in Scotland during the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries. Alessa Johns is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She has published Women’s Utopias of the Eighteenth Century (2003) and has edited Dreadful Visitations: Confronting Natural Catastrophe in the Age of Enlightenment (1999). Her current book project explores Enlightenment women’s cosmopolitanism and Anglo-German exchange. Lee Cullen Khanna is Professor Emerita of English at Montclair State University. She has published in early modern and utopian studies, including essays on Thomas More, Margaret Cavendish, and studies of gender in the early modern period. Among recent publications are the Foreword to Female Communities 1600–1800: Literary Visions and Cultural Realities (2000) and the Introduction to Early Tudor Translators: Margaret Beaufort, Margaret Roper, and Mary Bassett, Vol. 4, The Printed Writings of Early Modern Englishwomen, 1500–1640, eds. Patrick Cullen and Betty Travitsky (2001). Jonathan Laidlow has a BA and an MA from the Department of English at the University of Birmingham.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Mary McAlpin, Associate Professor and Chair of French at the University of Tennessee, specializes in eighteenth-century French literature and culture. Her published articles include studies of Diderot’s Religieuse, the Mémoires of Marie-Jeanne Roland, and the reception history of Bettina Brentano-von Arnim’s correspondence with Goethe. Her book on Rousseau’s correspondence with Marie-Anne de La Tour will appear in 2006. Nicole Pohl is a Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. She has published on women’s utopian writing, including: Female Communities 1600–1800: Literary Visions and Cultural Realities. Ed. by Rebecca D’Monte and Nicole Pohl (2000) and the monograph, Women, Space and Utopia, 1600–1800 (2006). She is currently working on an edition of Sarah Scott’s correspondence. Brenda Tooley, Dean of the College and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Cornell College. Brenda Tooley co-edited Walking Naboth’s Vineyard: New Studies of Swift (1995), with Christopher Fox, and has published on Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson, Ann Radcliffe, and eighteenth-century utopian writing. Her research interests include literary utopias, eighteenth-century women’s writing, the gothic novel and contemporary science fiction. Caroline Weber is Associate Professor of French at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of two books, Terror and Its Discontents: Suspect Words and the French Revolution (2003) and Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution (2006), and the co-editor of a special issue of Yale French Studies, “Fragments of Revolution” (2002).

Chapter 1

Introduction Nicole Pohl and Brenda Tooley

... in a short time, both their resolutions of abandoning the World continuing, the Recluse and she [Belinda] took a house about seventy Miles distant from London, where they still live in a perfect Tranquility, happy in the real Friendship of each other, despising the uncertain Pleasures, and free from all the Hurries and Disquiets which attend the Gaieties of the Town. And where a solitary Life is the effect of choice, it certainly yields more solid comfort than all the publick Diversions which those who are the greatest Pursuers of them can find. (Eliza Haywood. The British Recluse, 1722)1 In this little commonwealth is no property; whatever a lady possesses is, sans ceremone, at the service and for the use of her fair friend, without the vain nice scruple of being obliged. ’Tis her right; the other disputes it not, no, not so much as in thought. They have no reserve; mutual love bestows all things in common, ’twould be against the dignity of the passion and unworthy such exalted, abstracted notions as theirs. (Delarivier Manley. New Atalantis, 1707)2 Wherefore, in order thereto, I will take so many Noble Persons of my own Sex, as my Estate will plentifully maintain, such whose Births are greater then their Fortunes, and are resolv’d to live a single life, and vow Virginity: with these I mean to live incloister’d with all the delights and pleasures that are allowable and lawful; My Cloister shall not be a Cloister of restraint, but a place for freedom, not to vex the Senses but to please them. (Margaret Cavendish. The Convent of Pleasure,1668)3 The first sofas were cover’d with Cushions and rich Carpets, on which sat the Ladys and on the 2nd their slaves behind ‘em, but without any distinction of rank by their dress, all being in the state of nature, that is, in plain English, stark naked, without any Beauty or deffect conceal’d, yet there was not the least wanton smile or immodest Gesture amongst ‘em. They walked and mov’d with the same majestic Grace which Milton describes of our General Mother. There were many amongst them as exactly proportioned as ever any

1 Eliza Haywood. The British Recluse; or, The History of Cleomira, Suppos’d Dead. A Novel (London: D. Brown, W. Chetwood, J. Woodman and S. Chapman, 1722), p. 138. 2 Delarivier Manley. New Atalantis, ed. Ros Balaster (1709; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991), p. 161. 3 Margaret Cavendish. The Convent of Pleasure: A Comedy, ed. Jennifer Rowsell (1668; Oxford: Seventeenth Century Press, 1995), p. 11.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century Goddess was drawn by the pencil of Guido or Titian—…. (Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, To the Lady—. 1 April [1717])4

What interests us in these excerpts is that, on the one hand, they hint at the range of eighteenth-century utopian visions offered by eighteenth-century women writers.5 Eliza Haywood and Delarivier Manley mark the intimate utopia that is founded on voluntary communal attachments based on principles of friendship or comradeship and that devises a familial compound model that blurs the boundaries between kin, household and friend. In a sense, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Orientalist feminotopia is indebted to that mode of intimate utopia that celebrates pleasure and homoeroticism amongst women.6 The intimate utopia sets the trend for the domestic utopias by Sarah Scott, Sarah Fielding and Lady Mary Hamilton that are based on principles of Anglican ethics and qualities of self-help and self-discipline, leading them to champion a form of primitive industrial capitalism based on social capital. Margaret Cavendish is representative of a much older tradition that understands the convent and the female academy as possible intentional communities providing a viable alternative to marriage, enforced vocation or single life. The focus here is not only on the female community per se but on education as the basis for personal and political reform. These and other modes of female utopias also experiment—if in different ways—with a wide range of political and economic models that redraw contemporary models of political economy and government. On the other hand, these excerpts also indicate the widespread debate about the nature of the gender. Implicit in the quotes is a symbolic abstraction of femininity— woman as benevolent, domestic, sexual, sentimental, sociable and virtuous—that is reinforced, challenged or rewritten in the texts at large. The problematic—but intriguing—concept of “the feminine” as inextricably interwoven with or embodying utopia is captured in Baudrillard’s claim that “it is man, in his naivety, who secretes Utopias, one of them precisely woman. And woman being a living Utopia, has no need to produce any such thing … .”7 The essays in this collection ask if, in the influential discourses of eighteenth-century utopian writing, there is a place for “woman” and if so, what (or where) it is and how might “women” (or the “feminine”) disrupt—or confirm or ground—the utopian projects within which these constructs occur? In 4 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The Complete Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, ed. Robert Halsband. 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965–67). 5 On women’s utopianism see particularly: Alessa Johns. Women’s Utopias of the Eighteenth Century (Chicago: University Press of Illinois, 2003), and Nicole Pohl. Women, Space and Utopia, 1600–1800 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006). 6 See Johns, Women’s Utopias of the Eighteenth Century, who divides women’s utopias into the subgenres of intimate utopia, educational utopia, anti-utopian satire and invented society. The notion of intimate utopia is also discussed by Mary Louise Pratt who coined the term “feminotopia” in the context of women’s travel literature. Mary Louise Pratt. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 166–67, 168. See also Felicity A. Nussbaum. Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality, and Empire in EighteenthCentury English Narratives (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995). 7 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories II, 1987–1990 (London: Verso, 1990), p. 47.



their texts, Margaret Cavendish, Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Astell and Delarivier Manley act in response to representations of convents, female academies and harems (and indeed all all-female spaces) as either male utopic visions of excessive sexuality and libertinage or dystopian nightmares of insanity and debauchery. Instead, these women writers appropriate the traditional preconceptions about enclosed and allfemale spaces and project their own visions of freedom, intellectual perfectibility and sensual pleasures onto the sequestered spaces. Femininity has consistently served as a site for utopian desire in early modern and modern literature for both men and women, assisting them to negotiate contemporary anxieties about domesticity, commodification, colonialism, conspicuous consumption and mercantile consumer economy. However, it also serves as a potential site for resistance; women writers as well as men appropriate prescriptive gender constructions to configure a variety of utopian discourses. While Enlightenment utopias have recently received much valuable scholarly and critical attention, eighteenth-century constructions of symbolic femininity and eighteenthcentury women’s writing in relation to contemporary utopian discourse have not.8 Nor has the utopian dimension of Enlightenment reform in its sporadic and sometimes inadvertent fostering of theorizing upon gender-blind political equality and participatory citizenship. We hope this volume fosters further conversation about gender and utopian thought in the eighteenth century, a conversation we regard as crucial to an understanding of the consequences of the reformist hopes and democratic imperatives sparked by eighteenth-century discourses and playing out within Western liberal feminism. The utopian desires that impel feminist theory and practice, despite postmodernism’s usefully corrosive exploration of western liberal feminism’s limits, persist, fueling feminist engagement in the classroom and beyond. As Seyla Benhabib writes:

8 Richard Saage. Politische Utopien der Neuzeit (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1991); Ludwig Stockinger. Ficta Respublica: Gattungsgeschichtliche Untersuchung zur utopischen Erzählung in der deutschen Literature des frühen 18. Jahrhunderts (Tübingen: Niemeyer Verlag, 1981); Peter Kuon. Utopischer Entwurf und fiktionale Vermittlung: Studien zum Gattungswandel der literarischen Utopie zwischen Humanismus und Frühaufklärung (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Verlag, 1986); Christine Rees. Utopian Imagination and Eighteenth-Century Fiction (Harlow: Longman, 1996). For extensive bibliographies and anthologies of texts of the time, see Lyman Tower Sargent. British and American Utopian Literature 1550–1985: An Annotated, Chronological Bibliography (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Michael Winter. Compendium Utopiarum: Typologie und Bibliographie literarischer Utopien (Stuttgart: Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1978); and Modern British Utopias 1700–1850, ed. Gregory Claeys, 8 vols (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1997); Gregory Claeys, ed. Utopias of the British Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Gregory Claeys, ed. Restoration and Augustan British Utopias (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000). Darby Lewes gives an annotated bibliography of women’s utopian fiction between 1621–1920 in her book Revisionaries: Gender and Genre in Women’s Utopian Fiction 1870–1920 (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1995).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century What scares the opponents of utopia, like Lyotard for example, is that in the name of such future utopias the present in its multiple ambiguity, plurality, and contradiction will be reduced to a flat grand narrative… . Yet we cannot deal with these political concerns by rejecting the ethical impulse of utopia but only by articulating the normative principles of democratic action and organization in the present. Will the postmodernists join us in this task or will they be content with singing the swan song of normative thinking in general?9

Benhabib notes that the “retreat from utopia within feminist theory in the last decade has taken the form of debunking as essentialist any attempt to formulate a feminist ethic, a feminist politics, a feminist concept of autonomy, and even a feminist aesthetic.” And yet, she asks, “what are we ready to offer in their place? .… Postmodernism can teach us the theoretical and political traps of why utopias and foundational thinking can go wrong, but it should not lead to a retreat from utopia altogether.” She concludes, “we, as women, have much to lose by giving up the utopian hope in the wholly other” (30). As Bettina Roß notes in her comparative typology of utopias, in utopian writing by both men and women, femininity is one of the most important topoi.10 By returning to eighteenth-century utopian writing with questions about the inscription of gender, we see in a new light the eighteenth-century legacies that continue to shape contemporary views of social and political progress. The specific historical and cultural configurations of community, sameness and difference, gender and its fracture-points of race and class, authority and egalitarianism, exoticism and exoticizing discourses, and the interplay of fantasied visions of community, strategies of reform, and horizons of possibility contribute to, although they do not determine, what we create today.11 In the introduction to their vast study, Utopian Thought in the Western World, Frank and Fritzie Manuel make a strong argument for broadening the range of items to be included within “utopian studies” from narrowly defined utopias to the phenomenon of utopian thought as a quasi-universal (i.e., Western) statement of desires and aspirations manifest in literature, art, architecture, political thought, philosophy and, especially, psychology.12 Despite its wealth of detail, however, Utopian Thought in the Western World did not establish clear parameters of selectivity. Where the authors seem to have established definitive guidelines, they happen to exclude a large number of eighteenth-century utopias and utopias written

9 Seyla Benhabib. “Feminism and Postmodernism: An Uneasy Alliance.” Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange, ed. Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, Drucilla Cornell, and Nancy Fraser (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 30. 10 Bettina Roβ. Politische Utopien von Frauen: Von Christine de Pizan bis Karin Boye (Dortmund: Edition Ebersbach, 1998), Appendix, pp. 283–293. 11 The approach proposed by this collection of essays clearly argues against Sally Kitch’s polemic against utopianism. See Sally L. Kitch. From Utopianism to Realism in American Feminist Thought and Theory (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000). 12 Frank E. and Fritzie P. Manuel. Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979).



by women simultaneously. Although the Manuels entitle one of their chapters on eighteenth-century utopias the “New Faces of Love,” they do not discuss women’s utopian fiction and theory nor do they make more than passing references to the places and performances of women or of the “feminine” within their utopias of choice, those of the Marquis de Sade and Restif de la Bretonne. The eighteenthcentury utopias disregarded in the Manuels’ study are those “that were intended to divert an increasing number of literate ladies, in which the adventures of heroes and heroines all but drown out the didactic element” (7). Eighteenth-century literature displays a variety of utopias, ranging from Robinsonades, Gulliveriana, fantastic voyages, model commonwealths and satires, but utopias written by women and for women are not, according to the Manuels, “a major concern of serious utopian thought” (7). This dismissal has been challenged, of course. Scholars have unearthed a wide range of eighteenth-century utopias by men and women and have provided a more comprehensive overview than the Manuels offered of eighteenth-century utopian writing, in extensive critical studies and superb anthologies of previously inaccessible work. However, there is still, according to Kate Lilley, a “lack of intellectual contact so far between (masculine) genre studies of (male) utopias (which would include the gender-blind work of women) and (feminist) studies of women’s utopian writing, emerging under the (inter)disciplinary rubric of “women’s studies”—a lack of contact which institutionalizes the notion of ‘separate spheres’ and parallel genealogies.”13 This is particularly true for eighteenthcentury studies where only Alessa Johns’ recent monograph Women’s Utopias of the Eighteenth Century proposes a typology of eighteenth-century utopianism that complements and at the same time challenges classical utopianism as part of a greater project to modify the utopia of the Enlightenment. *** Given the links between a progressive philosophy of history and utopianism and between eighteenth-century political theory and anthropological metaphysics, the utopian literary genre was particularly suited to Enlightenment inquiry and critique. It was specifically the literary utopia that popularized enlightened political and social critique. Eighteenth-century satires with their almost inevitable utopian subtexts or interludes, fantastic voyages, and the related Robinsonades and Gulliveriana provided a large variety of utopian blueprints and iconographies. However, the eighteenth-century novel also offered to the utopian mode a formal innovation within which utopian explorations could be extended and reconfigured— the utopian novel per se and the “micro-utopies” or “petites sociétés” described by Racault. Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall (1762) and Lady Mary Hamilton’s Munster Village (1778) serve as examples of the former, utopian novels in their entirety; 13 Kate Lilley. “Blazing Worlds: Seventeenth-Century Women’s Utopian Writing.” Women, Texts and Histories 1575–1760, ed. Clare Brant and Diane Purkiss (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 102–134 (p. 104).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Sarah Fielding’s David Simple (1744) offers one good example of the latter.14 And indeed, drama—a literary form often ignored in utopian studies—complemented this trend toward domestic “micro-utopias.” Eighteenth-century utopias make use of Enlightenment discourses on progress, perfectibility, reason, sociability and reform. Utopian writers formulate a range of alternative possibilities in their stances against absolutism, against the sycophantic existence of the aristocracy and, in the case of French writers, at least, the dogmas of the Catholic Church. The new emphasis on history-as-progress, for example, had a profound impact on the genre, resulting in the temporalization of the early modern “geographical” utopia. Whilst this shift from a utopia located primarily in space, coexistent with the world from which the explorer comes, to a utopia located primarily in time, a future endpoint achieved by the society from which the “time-traveler” has ventured, occurs primarily in the eighteenth century, there are earlier precedents.15 Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century utopias display mixed modes of discovery (the static, geographical utopia) and creation (the progressive, created utopia-of-the-future).16 Francis Bacon’s early fragment, New Atlantis (1627), Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World (1666) and Robert Paltock’s Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins (1750) are examples. Kant’s emancipatory reason theoretically results in an extreme individualism, even anarchy. Kant, of course, had foreseen this potential chaos and attempted to remedy the apparent inevitability of radical individualism by circumscribing private reason and articulating an ethical imperative to do only what one would expect or want others to also do. Richard Saage suggests that eighteenth-century utopias were, on the whole, equally antiindividualistic (Saage 77–150). However, one should note the influence of Rabelais’ Abbey of Thelème (1534), which preempted the libertarian utopianism of de Sade. Both Rabelais and de Sade declare the absolute authority of the individual, governed only by his or her wishes and desires. “Do as thou wouldst” is the motto of the Abbey. Those eighteenth-century utopias that subscribed to a fundamental antiindividualism did not turn to the social contract theory as the logical alternative to a rampant libertinism, but assumed a basic human sociability that naturally regulated communities and societies. This natural collectivity precipitates either the total absence of any formal political institutions—anarchy—or premodern associations as in the primitivist utopias of Rousseau, Diderot and Foigny. The premodern association mode assumes, paradoxically, as Mullan notes, a sentimental “individualist utopia”: countercultural mini-societies or retreats based on principles 14 On micro-utopias, see: Jean-Michel Racault. L’utopie narrative en France et en Angleterre 1675–1761 (Oxford: The Voltaire Foundation, 1991); Guillaume Ansart. Réflexion utopique et pratique romanesque au siècle des lumières (Paris: Lettres Modernes Minard, 1999). 15 See for a valuable discussion of eighteenth-century travel fiction and Enlightenment thought, Seamus Deane. “Swift, Virtue, Travel and the Enlightenment.” Walking Naboth’s Vineyard, ed. Christopher Fox and Brenda Tooley (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995), pp. 17–39. 16 See Nicole Pohl’s article in this volume.



of natural sociability, community and fellowship.17 Driven by distrust of commerce and modern, protocapitalist civilization, these utopias promote domestic, selfsufficient economies of production, often accompanied by the internal abolition of private property and money. On the other end of the utopian spectrum, writers such as Fontenelle and Morelly, following Plato’s and More’s models of etatism, sought to rehabilitate the institutions of the state, and devised, in strikingly different ways, interventionist political systems. These texts were motivated, as Claeys remarks, by “the threat of poverty and social dislocation,” threats that could be resolved only by radically new forms of “economic organization” and “greater productivity” (Utopias of the British Enlightenment xi). The middle ground, so to speak, of utopian schemes, was occupied by reform programs deriving from a “partial fusion of utopianism and constitutional political theory” (Utopias of the British Enlightenment xi). Mixed legislative models such as the enlightened or benevolent monarchy were devised; these either envisioned the transformation of a whole civic state (Johann Gottfried Schnabel’s Insel Felsenburg [1731–43]) or tribal associations (La Mothe–Fénelon, Les aventures de Télémaque [1694–99]). Seventeenth-century English agrarian republicanism (Winstanley’s Law of Freedom [1652]) inspired a surge of political utopian pamphlets at the time and was reconceptualized into eighteenth-century radical politics.18 The French Revolution’s slogan, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, stands in dialectical relation to the Enlightenment’s epistemological projects and utopian philosophy of history. Historians still dispute today the extent to which the philosophes directly influenced the events of the American and French Revolutions. This dispute may be best adjudicated by breaking “the Enlightenment” into its various (and widely differing) individual spokespeople, reading clubs, secret societies, scientific circles and local adherents within particular national or quasi-national contexts.19 Particular points of revolutionary pressure and inadvertent influence are not our topic here. If nothing else, Kant’s famous article promotes an emancipatory commitment to critique and reflection, “a concept of reason that is skeptical and post-metaphysical, yet not defeatist.”20 Eighteenth-century utopianism reflects this mandate and, as Claeys suggests, in “some instances, too, utopian tracts led liberal and humanitarian thinking 17 John Mullan. Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), Chapter 3. Claeys calls Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe individualistic, since “the ideal of the well-ordered society is lived out mostly in solitude ...” (Utopias of the British Enlightenment xii). 18 On this point, see Timothy Morton and Nigel Smith, eds. Radicalism in British Literary Culture, 1650–1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 19 See The Enlightenment in National Context, ed. Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1981); and Margaret C. Jacobs. The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons, and Republicans (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1981). 20 Jürgen Habermas. “The Unity of Reason in the Diversity of Its Voices.” What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions, ed. James Schmidt (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996), p. 400.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

about individual rights, at least a century and sometimes two in advance of their times” (Utopias of the British Enlightenment xi).Within these paradigms, women’s utopianism in the early modern period and the eighteenth century is concerned with the establishment of an “intersubjective space”—a space “in which the self evolves through relationships rather than quests, in which the society recognizes that integrity and individuality stimulate community; dependence rather than autonomy nurtures personal integrity.”21 This literature serves as a site for experimentation with alternative ideas of community, government, nation state, kinship, status, notions of home and family, gender and sexuality—in short, a complex political and social agenda. What emerges is not a uniform vision but utopian narratives that struggle with the dual operation of resisting ideology and producing oppositional practice. Consequently, some of these utopian narratives qualified or contested masculinist discourses, whereas others endorsed these discourses by buying into essentialist categories of gender. In the closing essay, Alessa Johns explores eighteenth-century women’s utopian writing in order to assess the possibilities of contemporary, postmodern feminism. Sarah Scott and Jeanne Marie Leprince employ “partial visions” as they envision alternative futures for women. Despite the self-imposed constraints upon their utopian visions, both Scott and Leprince engage in modeling, through the local, possibilities for global sociopolitical and economic change. Johns suggests that contemporary feminist theorists might learn from women’s history strategies for feminist engagement, consensus-building and scholarship in the twenty-first century, even as new readings of eighteenth-century utopias complicate the opposition scholars have argued exists between Enlightenment and postmodern thought. The transformative project transgresses the boundaries of canon and history through, as Johns suggests, “the process of reproduction” (Women’s Utopias 2). “One member of a utopia modeled behavior that inspired imitation and utopian converts; another gave birth to and educated followers; one ideal community formed another; one text called forth a sequel” (2–3). Jane L. Donawerth and Carol A. Kolmerten posit in the introduction to Utopian and Science Fiction by Women a “continuous literary tradition in the West from the seventeenth century until the present day.” One of the first utopias written by women is undoubtedly Christine de Pizan’s Le livre de la Cité des Dames (written 1404) with its sequel, Le livre des trois vertus (written 1405). Preempting the sixteenth-century debate, the querelle des femmes, and eighteenth-century deliberations on the “nature of woman,” Pizan takes Boccaccio’s De Mulieribus Claris (translated into French in 1401) as a point of departure to reflect on the contemporary representation of women in history and literature. The framework that Pizan invented to rewrite this history is a city built and populated by notable women from antiquity and mythology. Of course, this is primarily an allegorical city (rather than a representation of a plausible utopian community), as Pizan herself states, “I am not Saint Thomas the Apostle, 21 Jane L. Donawerth and Carol A. Kolmerten. “Introduction.” Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference, ed. Jane L. Donawerth and Carol A. Kolmerten (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1994), pp. 4, 5.



who through divine grace built a rich palace in Heaven for the king of India, and my feeble sense does not know the craft, or the measures, or the study, or the science, or the practice of construction.”22 The answer to women’s political and social impotence is fancy and imagination—the very fabric of utopia. Similar concerns appear over 200 years later in Margaret Cavendish’s utopia, The Description of a New World Called The Blazing World (1666): I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second, yet I endeavour to be Margaret the First; and although I have neither power, time nor occasion to conquer the world as Alexander and Caesar did; yet rather than not to be mistress of one, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made a world of my own: for which no body, I hope, will blame me, since it is in every one’s power to do the like.23

The Blazing World is a fictional utopia of an absolute monarchy ruled by an enlightened Empress and her alter-ego, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle. As its basic guiding principles—one monarch, one language, one religion—attest, it is clearly a reaction to the disruptions of the Civil Wars in England at the time. However, The Blazing World is far from a conventional aristocratic plea for monarchy. It raises questions about women’s education and intellectual perfectibility, scientific paradigms, and gender and genre in such a progressive and modern way that Margaret Cavendish was labeled by contemporaries, and indeed by the Manuels, as “Mad Madge.”24 The other side of the political spectrum is exemplified by the prophet Mary Cary. In her visionary text, A New and More Exact Mappe; or, Description of New Jerusalems Glory (1651), Cary brings together the millennial ideal of a just society with the pragmatic political questions surrounding the establishment of the English Republic.25 Religious writings of the period did open up the field for women to 22 Christine de Pizan. The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Geffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1983), p.15. 23 Margaret Cavendish. The Description of a New World called The Blazing World. Margaret Cavendish: New Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. Kate Lilley (London: Penguin, 1994), p. 124. The motto “I made a world of my own” is a common early modern trope. In his prologue to The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton declares : “I will yet, to satisfy and please myself, make an Utopia of mine own, a new Atlantis, a poetical commonwealth of mine own, in which I will freely domineer, build cities, make laws, statues, as I list myself.” Robert Burton. The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621; 3 vols, London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1932), vol. 1, p. 97. 24 Another utopian text by her is “The Inventory of Judgements Commonwealth, the Author cares not in what World it is established, “ in The Worlds Olio. Written by the Right Honorable, the Lady Margaret of Newcastle (London: J. Martin and J. Allestrye, 1655), pp. 205–19. 25 The full title reads A New and More Exact Mappe; or, Description of New Jerusalems Glory when Jesus Christ and his Saints with him shall reign on earth a Thousand years, and posess all Kingdoms. Wherein is discovered the Glorious Estate into which the Church shall be then put both in respect of external and internal glory, and the time when. And also, what hath been done these eight years last past, and what is now a doing, and what shall be done within a few years now following in order to his great work. Wherein also That Great question whether it be lawfull for Saints, to make use of the materiall sword in the ruining of


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contribute to social and political issues. Indeed, Mary Cary not only describes the process of the establishment of a New Jerusalem but also praises the millennial society as a truly just and egalitarian society—a society based on the “holy use” of reason which makes no distinction of class or gender (Cary 244).26 Women’s education, if not in universities then in private tutorial settings, becomes one of the rallying points and one of the common denominators of female utopian writing in the eighteenth century. Margaret Cavendish and Bathsua Makin, in the seventeenth century, and Mary Astell, Judith Drake, Clara Reeve, Sarah Scott and Priscella Wakefield, among many, many others in the eighteenth, build upon the ground cleared by Descartes and his philosophical adherents. One of the earliest and most fervent of the Cartesian feminists was Poullain de La Barre, a seventeenth-century Frenchman, translator of Descartes and author of a series of tracts on the position of woman, which were reprinted throughout the eighteenth century in many translations.27 These and other authors advocated the development of woman’s intellect and claimed not only that education was in the interest of and even a natural right of the individual but also that women’s education would ultimately benefit society. Arguments for female education converge with the concept of “perfectibility” to underpin utopian projects and fiction in the late seventeenth century. This intellectual emancipation of women was supported also by the salons of the French précieuses and, on the English side, the court of Henrietta Maria—a concern that persisted into the eighteenth century with the Bluestockings. Education and the notion of perfectibility came thus to fulfill a utopian function in a time wherein secular and religious concerns converged. Mary Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest (1694) with a second part of 1697, Part II: Wherein a Method is offer’d for the Improvements of their Minds, is the best known publication in this debate.28 But Astell’s pleas for an educational institution, a female academy, transgresses the limitations of other contemporary schemes by Daniel Defoe or Edward Chamberlayne.29 Astell envisages the enemies of Christ, and whether it be the mind of Christ to have it so, is at large debated and resolved in the Affirmative from cleare Scriptures, and all others answered. Mary Cary. The Little Horn’s Doom & Downfall (London: Printed for the Author, 1651). 26 See Elaine Hobby. Virtue of Necessity: English Women’s Writing 1649–88 (London: Virago Press, 1988); and Hilary Hinds. God’s Englishwomen: Seventeenth-Century Radical Sectarian Writing and Feminist Criticism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996). 27 Francois Poullain de La Barre. The Woman as Good as the Man; or, the Equality of Both Sexes, ed. Gerald M. MacLean (1673; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988). See Gerald MacLean’s excellent introduction for an overview of de La Barre’s work in the context of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Cartesian feminism. 28 Mary Astell. A Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest. By a Lover of her Sex (London: R. Wilkin, 1696); A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, Part II: Wherein a Method is offer’d for the Improvement of their Minds (London, R. Wilkin, 1697). 29 On this point, see Nicole Pohl, ‘“In this Sacred Space’: The Secular Convent in Late Seventeenth-and Eighteenth-Century Expository Literature.” Rebecca D’Monté and



a community founded on the sole pleasures of “Noble Vertuous and Disinteress’d Friendship” of women: Happy Retreat! which will be the introducing you into such a Paradise as your Mother Eve forfeited, where you shall feast on Pleasures, that do not like those of the World, disappoint your expectations, pall your Appetites, and by the disgust they give you put on the fruitless search after new Delights, which when obtain’d are as empty as the former; but such as will make you truly happy now, and prepare you to be perfectly so hereafter. Here are no Serpents to deceive you, whilst you entertain your selves in these delicious Gardens (A Serious Proposal 40).

Astell’s vision of a female retreat was primarily informed by a specific understanding of intellectual and spiritual perfectibility—a concern that has forged the postReformation link between convents and female academies. Secular and religious aspirations for women’s education such as Astell’s scheme prompted a nascent utopian tradition that envisaged secular or Anglican convents and, quickly, the “female academy.” The retreat from “society” of a select group of female friends provided another and related link. This utopian paradigm offered solace, safety and a variety of restrictions—usually, no radical thought or behavior, religious conformity of a mild kind and an undertheorized economic scaffolding (property, possessions, maids, gardeners, annuity) and no overt female sexuality.30 A confirmation of the prevailing societal structure accompanies the gentlewoman’s utopian retreat. Nonetheless, one could argue that no more important development for women in the just-concluded millennium has occurred than our access to education. In 1709, Manley published her notorious roman-a-clef Secret Memoirs and Manners of Several Persons of Quality, of both Sexes. From the New Atalantis, An Island in the Mediterranean. Written Originally in Italian. The book is a satire on contemporary society—the first edition even had a separately printed key that revealed the true identities of the protagonists. Within it, however, is embedded a separatist locus amoenus, a country retreat based on shared property, friendship and pleasure that echoes Astell’s female paradise: “Oh how laudable! how extraordinary! how wonderful is the uncommon happiness of the Cabal ?”(Manley 154). Like Astell and subsequently Sarah Scott, Manley creates a separatist community that emancipates women from patriarchal oppression and sexual exploitation. Another utopian sanctuary, as Brenda Tooley suggests in her essay on Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian (1798), is situated within the non-utopian space of the convent. Sustainable utopias

Nicole Pohl, ed., Female Communities, 1600–1800: Literary Visions and Cultural Realities (Houndmills, UK: Macmillan, 1999), pp. 149–165. 30 However, texts such as Millenium Hall have been the object of recent lesbian studies, highlighting the homoerotic aspect in the novel. See Susan S. Lanser. “Befriending the Body: Female Intimacies as Class Acts.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 32.2 (Winter 1998–99): pp. 179–199. George E. Haggerty. Unnatural Affections: Women and Fiction in the later 18th Century (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998); Lisa L. Moore. Dangerous Intimacies: Towards a Sapphic History of the British Novel (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997).


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within this (and perhaps other) Gothic novels are implicated in the unjust, violent worlds from which they retreat, their existence predicated upon the surrounding society whose depredations call them forth. Tooley suggests, as a complex and unresolved possibility, that boutique utopias rely upon all they disclaim, that their function as havens (particularly for women) emerges in juxtaposition to larger social structures that give them meaning as lived critiques even as they provide the sustaining connections (economic and otherwise) that enable their survival. The eighteenth-century reverence for sensibility results in two paradoxically antithetical stances. On the one hand, “sympathy” bound feeling human beings in a community of affectionate responsiveness to one another’s joys and sorrows; the identification of the witness with the pain of the sufferer extended and consolidated the human community of which both are a part by directing the immediate feelings of the responsive witness into sympathetic action, the requirements of moral duty. Sensibility’s allure as a foundation upon which communities of “like-feeling” individuals could be built contains a utopian promise. A new domestic ideal—the woman who orders and shapes the home, the arbitress of values enclosed within and protected by domestic authority—offers a form of utopia as surely as the more apparently egalitarian and progressive hopes of later utopian thinkers. Might a new configuration of femininity and masculinity provide access to utopia, figured as a small unit of family or community, female or mixed? The Adventures of David Simple (1744) was first labeled a utopian text by Carolyn Woodward, who argued that Sarah Fielding was mounting a radical critique of patriarchal capitalism as she created and then destroyed a micro-utopia based upon feminine values. Joseph Bartolomeo argues that Woodward’s characterization better fits the pessimistic Volume the Last (1753) than it does the original novel. While David is, Bartolomeo suggests, a feminized hero, his success as a creator and failure as a sustainer of a utopian community also derives from his less readily gendered attributes of idealistic naïveté and benevolence, qualities that have led many critics to consider him the prototypical “man of feeling.” David’s shifting socioeconomic circumstances license such qualities and then critique them, as the hero is transformed from the sentimental reader’s agent to an object of the reader’s pity. Like the many novels of sensibility that followed it, David Simple offers the reader vicarious participation both in the hero’s benevolence and his suffering, but from a safe emotional and rational distance. The sentimental pleasures of the text require the instability and the possibility of utopian vision. On the other hand, sentimentalism, a novelistic outgrowth of the cult of sensibility, leads to the “individualist utopia”—the private return to nature or the retreat of the like-minded few, the alternative micro-societies of Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall (1762), Rousseau’s Julie; ou, La nouvelle Héloïse (1761) and Sarah Fielding’s David Simple (1744). In women’s utopias of the eighteenth century, such retreats founded themselves upon feminized principles of social harmony and exclusive fellowship, a sociability that serves as an exemplum for the rest of society. Mary Louise Pratt calls such retreats “feminotopias” and describes them as “quests for self-realization and fantasies of social harmony” (155–171). Felicity Nussbaum, who uses Pratt’s



phrase as a springboard into an exploration of the connections between fictional women’s utopian enclaves in England and contemporary travel reports about harems, describes the feminotopia as a community “in which women thrive without men and find pleasure in living together without rancor and dissent” (135). Boutique utopias, however limited in their scope, nonetheless offer varying degrees of critique of capitalist and patriarchal exploitation, possessive individualism, paternalist benevolism and instrumentalized charity. Most participate in the idealization of “femininity” (of the sort found in Richardson, Rousseau and Scott) as a haven, beacon or moral guide facilitating the “rescue” of a (masculinized) society from amorality and degeneration. Caroline Weber picks up specifically on the point that the new domestic utopia may not, in fact, be utopia at all—for the women inscribed (and circumscribed) in its persuasive text. Her article focuses on Isabelle de Charrière’s rewriting of Rousseau’s Julie; or, La nouvelle Héloïse (1761). In Lettres de Mistriss Henley publiées par som amie (1784), Charrière argues that Rousseau’s domestic utopia is in fact a masculinist dystopia. She reinterprets Rousseau’s idea of a complementary sexual character and the idealization of domesticity as inequality within marriage, the negation of feminine desire in favour of a prescriptive principle of domesticity and motherhood. She also points out that the very (public) facts of Rousseau’s domestic life contradict the more enlightened aspects of his writing. More significantly, she challenges the myth of domestic bliss propounded in Julie. Another model of femininity (and implicitly, masculinity) is suggested by Montesquieu. In her article, Mary McAlpin revisits Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes (1721). By focusing specifically on Letter 141, McAlpin argues that in the guise of the Oriental tale, Montesquieu points towards polite sociability and préciosité, thus towards the salon, as a utopian space. She suggests that at the heart of this Oriental tale lies a common message for French men and women: respect your duties and limits vis-àvis the opposite sex, and appreciate what you have. Montesquieu’s solution thus involves a trade-off that leads to a best-case scenario; not best in the utopian sense, but the best that can be expected, given the inherent selfishness of human (male and female) nature.

If women’s sensibility (and note, this sensibility appears to be a class-specific trait, as well) rendered them superior to supposedly civilized men, this superiority came at the expense of sex. While some eighteenth-century utopias make use of an Enlightened reason whose emancipatory promise has simply not been extended far enough (Wollstonecraft is a good example), other eighteenth-century utopias are founded upon a “femininity” that is essentially charitable, benevolent and sociable— and asexual. “Sexuality,” Barbara Kaplan suggests, “is incompatible with utopia.”31 To pursue this point, Ana Acosta’s essay brings together Sarah Scott’s A Description of Millenium Hall (1762) and the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom; or, 31 Barbara Kaplan. “Women and Sexuality in Utopian Fiction,” diss., U New York, 1977 (DAI 38:6112–6113a), quoted in Roβ, p.199.


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The School of Libertinage (1785), both of which purport to create “an ideal space, separated from the outside world, self-sufficient, self-regulating, and transparent, the mirror image of its inhabitants.” Both texts are utopian in their aspiration to construct regimes of self-perpetuating, desire-fulfilling order; both also present the female body as a problem the utopian community must overcome. Acosta points out that the physical spaces of Silling and Millenium Hall dramatize the female “abyss” in order to expel it; the female body becomes a “source of opacity” within the transparent community, the material object that must be brought out of hiding, exposed, abjected. The women within the utopian spaces of Silling and Millenium Hall achieve freedom from a gender determinism that equates femininity and reproduction, but at the cost of female sexuality. Female sexuality was indeed the metaphorical “dark” continent for eighteenthcentury explorers. The grounding of early modern utopianism in explorers’ and travellers’ tales that displaced their ideal and other worlds by locating them in faraway, undiscovered countries and remote unchartered islands and planets, at times merged in interesting and fruitful ways. From Swift, who noted that a woman flayed is much altered for the worse, to Sterne, who remarked upon the interdependence of mind and body (through the metaphor of a superb mind/body correlative, the inner and outer linings of a coat), the situatedness of the psyche within the body’s matter provided the subject for exploration and play. Male geographical utopias provide a fruitful insight into the historical mapping of politicized gender relations, representing the female body as the “perfect” colonized land.32 At the same time, those engendered bodies became alien in new ways, offering arenas in which license reigns and in which one finds new topographies of pleasure. Thus, Elizabeth Hagglund and Jonathan Laidlow investigate the sexualization of the female body in Robert Paltock’s The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins (1751). In this novel, the sexualized and idealized female body represents a masculinist utopian projection repeating (and revealing) coded eighteenth-century discourses of the colonized land and the colonized body. Peter’s winged woman serves as an idealized construction of femininity; her flying metaphorizes sexual freedom and eroticism. Seth Denbo explores Neville’s Isle of Pines (1668)—a complex text that experiments with issues of the role of sex in the generation of a new society. While dealing inventively with complexities of race, kinship and sexuality along the way, Neville’s utopia made a bold statement about the analogy between family and kingdom, and ultimately critiqued the possibility of basing the government of a state upon the authority of a father over his wives and offspring. Another point is made by Nicole Pohl’s essay: the paradigm of voyage utopia was not available to women writers in the early modern period (with the exception of Margaret Cavendish’s utopian romance) and only appeared within the context of a skeptical Enlightement tradition that envisaged countercultural minisocieties or retreats based on principles of natural sociability, community and fellowship. Nicole 32 Darby Lewis, Nudes from Nowhere: Utopian Sexual Landscapes (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000).



Pohl’s essay on women’s voyage utopias highlights the tension between critical utopianism, skeptical Enlightenment discourses and contemporary gender politics in Ellis Cornelia Knight’s Dinarbas (1790) and shows how Knight at once adopts and adapts the eighteenth-century critical utopia. Suffice it to say that women’s utopianism in the early modern period emerges with “the nascent feminism of the movement to acquire education for women” and develops a distinctive shape in the eighteenth century as a tradition of which its practitioners are aware: women’s utopian fictions consistently “estrange the reader from her ordinary world, teach her that the good life consists of education for women along with seclusion from the world of men, and offer her a subject position in that world” (Donawerth and Kolmerten 4, 5). Utopias prompt us to explore the possibilities of human community: how do we organize ourselves? How do we imagine “ourselves” and “others”? How do we think about freedom and happiness, consensus and dissent? How do we respond to human suffering? How do we secure peace, plenty and continuity, and for whom? Utopias enable writers, now as in the eighteenth-century, to critique existing societies and to imagine new organizations of human community. This volume will provide its readers with a range of reflections upon a particular historical moment in which influential views upon the possibility and pitfalls of progressive change, the potential for improvement within the human community, emerges.

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Chapter 2

Utopian Exchanges: Negotiating Difference in Utopia Lee Cullen Khanna

In looking at early modern utopia and gender, readers may well be familiar with discussions that emphasize obvious aspects of gender, such as the relative prominence and power of women in the society depicted. My essay turns instead to ways gender contributes to the exploration of differences inherent in the form. Utopian fiction depends upon an explicit or implicit contrast between a good imaginary space/time and a specific, yet deficient, material society. Coined by Thomas More, utopia is a Greek pun signifying a happy place (eu/topos) that is nowhere (ou/topos). With characteristic wit More exploited a tension central to the genre he created—the tension between desire and absence. To give voice to longings for a better world and the constraints of history, More drew on the textual traditions of philosophy and romance, notably both Plato and Homer. In addition to this juxtaposition of narrative forms that include dialogue and the estrangement of travel adventure, More favoured tropes such as irony, pun, paradox, and other rhetorical devices that similarly work to keep alive opposing perspectives. Although some theorists of utopian speculation have realized that rhetorical play is central to the complex double vision of the genre, I believe insufficient attention has been paid to the ways that gender, too, becomes an aspect of the playful negotiation of difference.1 1 See, for example, Louis Marin. Utopics: Spatial Play, trans. Robert A. Vollrath (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1984). Marin says “utopia is a figurative mode of discourse, a textual product of utopic practice; as such it sits somewhere between yes and no, false, and true, but as the double of figure, the ambiguous representation, the equivocal image of possible synthesis and productive differentiation” (9). Marin’s notion of “play” in utopian speculation suggests a dialectic between opposites, although he does not discuss gender opposition. Such theorists of utopia as Ernst Bloch, and, more recently, Frederic Jameson, Gary Morson, Tom Moylan, and Darko Suvin direct attention, in somewhat different terminology, to the liminal nature of much utopian speculation, negotiating as More’s work and much subsequent fiction does, both history and fantasy. See Ernst Bloch. The Principle of Hope, trans. N. Plaice, S. Plaice, and P. Knight (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986); Frederic Jameson. “Of Islands and Trenches: Neutralization and the Production of Utopian Discourse.” Diacritics 7.2 (1977): 2–22; Gary Morson. The Boundaries of Genre: Dostoevsky’s “Diary of a Writer” and the Tradition of Literary Utopia (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1981); Tom Moylan. Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination (London:


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Of course it is play with the serious purpose of deconstructing conventional value hierarchies. For example, the location of More’s Utopia in the Antipodes positions that world in opposition to England. Not only is Utopia no place, but it is the mirror opposite of More’s historical location, a reflection as well as a comment upon “reality.” Positioned as mirror, even if critical reflection, utopia partakes of the psychological “mirroring” associated with the feminine function in relation to the social dominance and discursive priority of men. In a sense, then, one could argue that the genre itself is feminized by its secondary and relational status in conjunction with the implicitly inscribed masculine “reality” or history. To understand utopia as generically gendered helps explain its unstable literary positioning as philosophic and political project undermined, according to some readings, by a tendency to seductive fantasy. When read in Marxist terms, as Anne Mellor noted in her essay on feminist utopias, utopia is positioned as either “abstract” or “concrete” in a hierarchical binary of bad and good.2 In this formulation abstract utopias are escapist and sap energy from serious reform projects, whereas concrete utopias include practical means of institutional change. What is not so often noticed is the way such a division mimics a gender ideology that casts the feminine as pleasurable distraction from masculine work and duty. Yet Thomas More’s foundational text resists such a hierarchical dichotomy. The map of Utopia, according to Holbein’s prefatory woodcut and Hythloday’s description, make the island resemble a womb, both generative of utopian well-being and difficult to penetrate by strangers. As Hythloday says: The island of the Utopians is two hundred miles across in the middle part, where it is widest, and nowhere much narrower than this except toward the two ends, where it gradually tapers. These ends, curved round as if completing a circle five hundred miles in circumference, make the island crescent-shaped, like a new moon. Between the horns of the crescent, which are about eleven miles apart, the sea enters and spreads into a broad bay . . . . Near mid-channel, there is one rock that rises above the water, and so presents no danger in itself; a tower has been built on top of it, and a garrison is kept there. Since the other rocks lie under the water, they are very dangerous. . . . Should landmarks be shifted about, the utopians could lure to destruction an enemy fleet coming against them, however big it was.3 Methuen, 1986); Darko Suvin. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1979). Yet the pervasiveness of gender dialectics in this “threshold” genre has been little noted. 2 Anne K. Mellor. “On Feminist Utopias,” Women’s Studies 9 (1982): 241–262. Mellor cites Ernst Bloch (The Principle of Hope) on the difference between abstract and concrete. Abstract utopias are fantasy—pure desire and wish fulfilment, whereas “concrete utopian thinking has a practical social purpose” (242). Marx and Engels associated abstract utopian thinking with “false consciousness,” but the first Englishwoman writing utopia proclaims her Blazing World the product of pure “fancy.” See my discussion of Cavendish later in this essay. 3 Thomas More The Utopia, The Latin and English Texts, ed. George Logan, Robert M. Adams, Clarence Miller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 109–111.

Utopian Exchanges


Protected against the invasion of enemy fleets, however big, Utopia both lures to destruction unwelcome boats and is successfully penetrated by utopian voyager and reader alike. Interestingly, the female markings of both shape and similitude to the moon are balanced by the phallic rock rising above the water and topped by a man-made tower countering the tranquil bay with a protective garrison. If utopian topography and secondary antipodal location suggest the feminine body, the single high rock and manned tower “mid-channel” suggest a phallic presence. The narrative framing also has subtle gender connotations. The two narrators situate the tale in both history and romance, as the character “Thomas More” describes meeting the voyager to Utopia while on his actual embassy to the Netherlands in 1515. Raphael Hythloday is likened to Odysseus as well as Plato, thus invoking both the Homeric tradition of fantastic travel and the tradition of philosophic dialogue about the good life. More drew on these disparate forms to create his hybrid genre. Additionally, the surname Hythloday means “babbler of nonsense” whereas Raphael recalls the healing angel, the paradox suggesting the Erasmian wise fool. In the Praise of Folly, not incidentally, Erasmus’ central character is female. If Hythloday also seems feminized in his volubility and passion, the character Thomas More is cast in the more masculine position of realistic diplomat, exponent of practical conservatism. Both characters express reservations about the philosophy of Utopia, centred as it is on the value of pleasure, albeit the true pleasures of good health and learning. The association with pleasure rather than discipline and denial of the flesh, aligns utopians once again with an ideology of the feminine. However Spartan utopian life seems to postmodern readers, in celebrating pleasure as touchstone of the good life, it brings More’s text closer to Medieval and Renaissance representations of women. Beyond the philosophy of this no place/happy place, however, the self-cancelling puns and litotic rhetorical construction of the Latin prose insistently position the narrative itself as unstable, ironic, whimsical—a delightful, perhaps seductive narrative mystery. Language is ever slipping into something other as the Latin text slides into Greek puns and alludes to English topography while featuring a new utopian language and even a new utopian alphabet and script in prefaces to the text. Interestingly, postmodern feminist theorists identify the use of more than one language in a text as frequent feminist practice and an emancipatory strategy aimed at freeing meaning from dominant and apparently single-voiced discourse.4 Not only, then, did Thomas More initiate a genre that destabilizes categories such as history and romance, but his work also subtly invites readers to revalue normative gender hierarchies. Femininity, typically constructed as secondary, fantastic, rhetorically ornate, also becomes marked, in More’s text, as essential to any investigation of the good life. *** 4 See, for example, Patricia Waugh. Feminine Fictions: Revisiting the Postmodern (London: Routledge, 1989).


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If utopia is troped feminine, how do women writers negotiate an implicit feminization of the genre? I would like to pursue this question by way of texts written by women at different historical moments: Margaret Cavendish’s The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World (1666), Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko (1688), and, finally, Sarah Scott’s A Description of Millenium Hall (1762), and The History of Sir George Ellison (1766). Although these three Englishwomen shared experiences of oppression necessitated by their gender position in different historical moments, they negotiated their ways to textuality quite differently. In Blazing World Cavendish seems to invite readers into a conventional world of literary romance by beginning her text with a lone maiden walking along a shore inspiring desire in a passing merchant seaman who seizes her and carries her aboard his ship. Very soon, however, reader expectations are surprised, for the crew and its precious cargo sail beyond the North Pole and all the men in the boat are frozen to death. The maiden is spared by the power of her youth and beauty, rescued by bear-men, and led into Paradise, a place reached by way of the North Pole joined to a pole beyond it. This phallic conjunction echoes Cavendish’s preface to the reader where she explains that her fiction is joined to her preceding scientific treatise “as two worlds at the end of their poles.”5 Thus, in both the text proper, chronicling the heroine’s journey to utopia, and in the preface, chronicling author Cavendish’s entry into print, the imagery may symbolize a gender position opposite to that of the protagonist. Both Cavendish and More indicate the importance of reason to their enterprise, but Cavendish distinguishes between two types of reason, again with gendered connotation. The “rational parts of matter” inform both science and poetics, or, in Cavendish’s terminology, a search for “the true cause of natural effects” as well as “a voluntary creation. . . of the mind” (123–124). Although Cavendish sometimes seems apologetic about the second pole of her discourse, imagination/invention, at other times she vaunts the superiority of “fancy.” That tension suggests a desire to claim both the serious work of natural philosophy and to valorize a more whimsical “fancy” which fuels the creation of worlds where women can enjoy intellectual power. Fancy in this utopian fiction then, and in Cavendish’s writing generally, indicates an empowered femininity.6 Just as utopian exploration in More’s eponymous work imaged entry to a womblike island, Cavendish’s Blazing World uses a phallic image to mark utopian entry 5 Margaret Cavendish. The Description of a New World Called the Blazing World (1666). Margaret Cavendish: New Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. Kate Lilley (London: Penguin, 1994), p. 124. Citations to Blazing World are to this edition. 6 In her preface and epilogue to Blazing World Cavendish refers to her “noble female friends” and in the epilogue invites such friends to engage in similar creative fancies. In 1668 one edition of Blazing World was printed separately from Observations and specifically addressed to women readers. On the aspect of mixed genres see Nicole Pohl. ‘“Of Mixt Natures’: Questions of Genre in Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World.” A Princely Brave Woman: Essays on Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, ed. Stephen Clucas (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), pp. 51–68.

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for a woman. More’s male protagonist, a weathered sailor, visits a society with a political constitution based on representative democracy, and a communistic economy inclusive of a harmonious patriarchal family order. This utopia directly opposes the political, economic and philosophic value systems of early sixteenth-century England with the exception of patriarchal family hierarchy. Cavendish’s female protagonist, a young and apparently vulnerable maiden, comes upon a new world constructed as absolute monarchy, with a strict class system, made up of peoples of many colours as well as cross-species hybrids. It is represented as perfect political and social system; indeed it is Paradise. In More’s Utopia Hythloday adopts a posture of receptive learner, leaving no apparent mark on the new society, for his principle activity is to return to his origins to tell the tale of Utopia. On the other hand, Cavendish’s protagonist enters Paradise, becomes Empress, and takes over all aristocratic male prerogatives, including absolute rule and participation in scientific dialogue with the nation’s learned. Passing through topographies gendered oppositionally to the sexual identity of the protagonist, each of these utopian adventurers takes on characteristics often ascribed to the other sex. Contributing to the negotiation of gendered space in Blazing World is the invention of hybrid creatures specializing in various parts of natural philosophy, known as the Society of Virtuosos. Because they are men, but not men, they replicate the marginalized status of women. Indeed, one of the groups most preferred by the Empress, because of its insights and accomplishments, is the worm-men, creatures close to earth, and linguistically close to wo/men. Yet these hybrids command profound knowledge and, in their strangeness, open up a space for female scientific inquiry and dialogue. Strikingly, Cavendish’s seventeenth-century fantasy of hybridity anticipates late twentieth-century feminist utopias that figure subversive and emancipatory identities.7 The young woman in Blazing World takes on male power by way of marriage to the Emperor of Paradise, who then retreats from readerly view. In the second part of Blazing World, when she is troubled by the distress of her native land and needs to effect a rescue, he reappears to advise her, but his advice consists of directing her to a female friend, the Duchess of Newcastle, for assistance. However, an interesting male/female alliance occurs in Part One when the Empress and her friend travel to the Duchess’s country and to Welbeck Abbey where the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle actually resided. There the Duchess’s spirit flies into the body of her beloved husband, followed by the spirit of the Empress, and the three enjoy animated conversation. This triadic interchange figures a memorable breakdown of such categories as history and fiction, material and immaterial, masculine and feminine. Marriage and female 7 See, for example, Joanna Russ. The Female Man (New York: Bantam, 1975) and Octavia Butler. The Xenogenesis Trilogy: Dawn, Imago, Adulthood Rites (London: Gollancz , 1986–1989). Cavendish’s hybrid, like the figure of cyborg in Haraway’s feminist theory, is “a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation.” Donna Haraway. “A Cyborg Manifesto.” Simians, Cyborgs and Women (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 150.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

friendship co-exist, despite a playful allusion to jealousy, and the three engage as intellectual equals (194–195). Although the Empress’s spirit is soon recalled to Blazing World because of the Emperor’s melancholy at its absence, reasserting the dyad of marriage, this image of the harmony of two women and one man resonates with the strategies of Cavendish’s re-invention of the feminine to achieve utopia. By eliding positions often separated hierarchically, she creates figurative fusions which serve to open up spaces for female achievement and creativity. Surprising images like the pole-to-pole entry to utopia speak to the complex imaginative negotiations that enable the Empress to rule, create worlds within and without, rescue her former king from his enemies, set a town ablaze, investigate nature, and empower women within her kingdom. The latter accomplishment is not central to Cavendish’s text and is questioned as a perhaps undesirable change in the constitution of paradise. Later utopias by women more explicitly took up the question of female solidarity, but for Cavendish and Behn, it is the exceptional woman who can, by way of gender and genre exchanges, enter utopia. *** Although Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, published more than twenty years after Blazing World, is not a utopian fantasy comparable in completeness to either More or Cavendish, it does include paradisiacal visions. Like More, Behn’s protagonist travels to the Antipodes, but her voyage to the new world invokes historic colonies and slave trading as part of the investigation of otherness. Importantly, the title page, like the text proper, highlights the veracity of this tale; it is “a true history.” The narrator is Aphra Behn, explaining her actual encounter with an African prince in Surinam. She is both eye witness to the events in the English colony and relayer of the history of Oroonoko’s youth in Africa. Although readers long dismissed the truth claims of Behn’s travel tale, recent scholarship has confirmed many details of the Surinam colony, the African trading locale, Coramantien, and the historic identities of such characters as Byam, Trefry, and Martin as well as the probability that Behn was in the colony. The setting corresponds to the period immediately before the Dutch take over of the colony in 1664. Rich as it is in historic allusion and, thereby, documentation of English imperialism and colonial politics, Oroonoko also displays literary conventions common in romance fiction. As writers and readers of heroic romance, women, according to Laura Brown, mediate two discourses: the aristocratic code of honour and bourgeois mercantile imperialism.8 The female consumer of romance texts might coincide with woman as consumer of trinkets of imperialist acquisition. Indeed a list of the goods of trade appear on the first page of Oroonoko as the narrator 8 Laura Brown. Ends of Empire: Women and Ideology in Early Eighteenth-Century English Literature (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 22–63. Aphra Behn. Oroonoko, ed. Joanna Lipking (1688; New York: Norton, 1997). Citations to Oroonoko are to the Lipking edition.

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identifies her setting in the West Indies, then itemizes feathers, exotic butterflies, marmosets, snakeskin, “a thousand little Knacks, and Rarities in Nature, and some of Art…” (9). Behn goes on to speak of a set of feathers given to her in Surinam which she then took back to England and presented to the King’s Theatre, “and it was the Dress of the Indian Queen, infinitely admired by Persons of Quality…” (9). Here the action of the female figure negotiates not only Antipodal geography but translates, both literally and figuratively, middle class mercantile acquisition into an aristocratic paradigm of pleasure. As Brown points out, however, the real goods of colonialism were slaves and sugar and, as she says, Behn juxtaposes “the figure of the woman, ideological implement of a colonialist culture, with the figure of the slave, economic implement of the same” system (64). Indeed, in his passive heroic endurance and identity as both person and property, Oroonoko may be seen as feminine. Yet gender, like utopia, is so problematized that no single identification does justice to the multiple negotiations enacted in this text. If Oroonoko is feminized in his status as property and in his helpless but heroic suffering, he is also represented as active warrior and generative male principle. In this guise he makes possible other gender exchanges. His battle with two fierce tigers is curious in its elision of gender. These tigers are both identified as female initially, the first as a mother tiger whose cub has been stolen by Oroonoko and presented to his friend, Aphra Behn. Yet the ensuing battle with its mother continually alternates the gender of pronouns referring to the tiger. For example, Oroonoko ran his Sword quite through his Breast down to his very Heart, home to the Hilt of the Sword, the dying Beast stretch’d forth her Paw, and going to grasp his thigh, surpriz’d with Death in that very moment, did him no other harm than fixing her long Nails in his Flesh.… (45)

Earlier this tiger is referred to as the Dam, bearing a piece of cow, “which he had torn off with his mighty Paw…” (44). The second tiger, even more fierce, had survived many battles and is finally slain by Oroonoko, but similarly seems both male and female, referred to as him and her even within the same sentence. Like the tigers he battles, Oroonoko is gendered both male and female, prince and slave, hero and victim. He is interestingly positioned between two women who are central to Behn’s narrative: his African princess/slave wife, Imoinda, and his White friend/colonist/ author Aphra Behn. Imoinda is pregnant with his never to be born child, Aphra Behn is pregnant with his immortal story. More than one feminist critic has questioned the relationship of the White narrator to the Black beloved of Oroonoko. (Interestingly, in the eighteenth century, Thomas Southerne’s popular dramatic version of Behn’s story blended the two and made Imoinda white.) Some readers have interpreted Imoinda as the most abject and authorially exploited other in Oroonoko. Indeed she is a figure of romance, however exotic, and her suffering and victimization are therefore part of a long literary tradition as well as expressive of historic colonial exploitation. She is object, her body written upon, covered as it is with delicate carvings of flowers and birds. These tattoos fuse her body to images of nature. As her perspective on events is never


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

available except through gazing upon her actions, she is literally the feminine body objectified and inscribed. Thus she seems oppositional to Aphra Behn who writes and self-consciously wields the feminine “pen” in order to tell the story of Imoinda and Oroonoko. Yet this apparent opposition in the feminine, like the exotic paradise of multiculturalism in Surinam dissolves under close scrutiny. The powerful Behn is also vulnerable and incapable of defending her friend, Oroonoko. The passive, often victimized Imoinda, on the other hand, dexterously fires the arrow that fells the treacherous Governor of Surinam, William Byam. Indeed, he would have died “but that an Indian Woman, his Mistress, suck’d the Wound, and cleans’d it from the Venom” (Behn 55). Each representation of woman must be read in light of others and so the feminine, while always sensual here, is also alternately vulnerable and powerful and, like the hero, also to be seen as both meritorious and dangerous. Subjectivity is wondrously dispersed in this exotic paradise/colony and the feminine body—white, black, red—is yet unavailable for final definition. The instability of place and person engages a reader in a tantalizing and sensual journey where meaning remains elusive and encounters with difference suggest utopian potential to overturn normative hierarchies but include violence and tragedy. *** By the mid-eighteenth century in England Sarah Scott writes a seemingly more stable utopia. Indeed, set neither on an exotic island nor beyond the North Pole but in the heart of the English countryside, the utopian world of Millenium Hall seems as solid as its firm walls. An unnamed male voyager/narrator stumbles upon a lovely estate managed by a group of decorous middle-aged women. Chaste, virtuous, pious they seem less problematic characters by far than Hythloday, the Empress of the Blazing World, or Oroonoko. This conservative stance does reflect the greater political stability of eighteenth-century England. Cavendish and Behn experienced a world turned upside down through Civil War, regicide, and personal dislocation. If kings could fall, the conventions of class and gender hierarchy could also topple—a black slave might be prince, a woman Empress of hybrids. In contrast, Millenium Hall invites entry to utopia by way of the imitation of a virtue apparently defined as propriety. The title page reads “A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country Adjacent together with the Characters of the Inhabitants and such Historical Anecdotes and Reflections as may excite in the reader proper Sentiments of Humanity and lead the Mind to the Love of Virtue” by a “Gentleman on His Travels.”9 Indeed, by the end of the novel, the young companion 9 There are two useful modern editions of this text: [Sarah Scott]. A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country Adjacent Together With the Characters of the Inhabitants and Such Historical Anecdotes and Reflections as May Excite in the Reader Proper Sentiments of Humanity, and Lead the Mind to the Love of Virtue by “A Gentleman on his Travels,” ed. Jane Spencer (1762; London: Virago, 1986), and [Sarah Scott]. A Description of Millenium Hall

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of the narrator, originally described as vain and an infidel, has been led to the love of virtue. He is discovered by his older/wiser friend on the morning of their departure from utopia, reading the New Testament, determined to make a study of Christianity because of the example of these women. This closure, the title page, and the exquisite attention to feeling throughout, mark the work as a novel of sensibility, but its narrative conventions are intersected by economic discourse. Although the utopia is presented initially as a pastoral paradise, it contains a flourishing economy. Indeed, as Jane Spencer says in her introduction to Millenium Hall, this utopia is “all about wealth, originally in men’s hands, making its way into the possession of good women.”10 Not only have the six founders set up schools for local children in need, but they have made villages for the infirm and elderly and established a rug-manufacturing industry. Within this world all inhabitants are clean and tidy, mutually supportive and grateful to the “ladies,” but also productive and more independent than ever before in their lives. If a juxtaposition of sensibility and practicality seems pervasive in this utopia, it is matched by a narrative structure that features both male and female narrators and interspersed descriptions of utopia and sentimental “histories.” The nameless narrator, recently returned from economic success in the colony of Jamaica, discovers his pastoral Eden when his carriage breaks down on his way back to his home in the north of England. He and his young companion, Lamont, are warmly received by the gracious ladies of the great hall where he meets Mrs. Maynard who turns out to be his long lost cousin. She then narrates the inset “histories” of the principal founders of utopia. Thus a reader discovers history and utopia by way of a male/ female narration. The entire text is framed as epistolary, a long letter from the male voyager to a bookseller in London invited to make the story public. Thus cast within the context of an overarching man-to-man story, Mrs. Maynard’s inset tales foreground young women in danger, particularly young women of gentle birth who have no money. In these histories there are no heterosexual relationships without cost to women. By listening to Mrs. Maynard, the male visitor and the reader discover that although the owners of Millenium Hall seem happy and virtuous, the journey to utopia has been anything but easy. Indeed a motif of loss and restoration permeates the text. If Scott uses the discourses of sensibility and economics to rework women’s sexual and financial vulnerability in the mid-eighteenth century, she thereby extends to the genre of utopia a negotiation of debit and credit employed by other women writers of the period. In Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women in the Marketplace 1670–1820, Catherine Gallagher discusses eighteenth-century economic changes that result in the extension of credit, debt and “paper” property. and the Country Adjacent Together With the Characters of the Inhabitants and Such Historical Anecdotes and Reflections as May Excite in the Reader Proper Sentiments of Humanity, and Lead the Mind to the Love of Virtue by “A Gentleman on his Travels,” ed. Gary Kelly (1762; Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1995). Citations to the text are to the Kelly edition. 10 Spencer, ‘Introduction’, v–xvi (xiv).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

She argues that the rhetoric of debt and credit is used by women writers to figure their author-selves. Their rhetoric, she says, “stresses that value is an effect of exchange, not production.”11 As writers they are indebted to their reading public and the more they write the greater their indebtedness. Paradoxically, through dispossession they achieve authority. This rhetoric, she argues, links debt to anatomical depictions of women as lacking, as “no-thing.” Interestingly, for the study of utopia, female emptiness or authorial “vanishing acts” in Gallagher’s terminology, disclose a linguistic affinity between the female subject and the “world” that is “no place.” Eighteenth-century women writing utopia, therefore, use a rhetoric of debt not only to suggest authorial empowerment, but to create a productive female community out of apparent deficiency and loss. Although the imagery of a great “Hall” and elaborate gardens and schools promises a certain solid materiality to Scott’s utopian vision, her text not only breaks away from this utopia into sentimental histories of specific characters but also suggests that lack, deficiency, disappearance and debt are the ground of utopian justice and pleasure. Women, in particular, seem to appear and disappear at an alarming rate. Beginning with the first “history” of the founders, Mrs. Morgan and Miss Mancel, a little girl is left vulnerable and alone by the sudden death of her protective aunt. But this is just the first of many such losses, and, like others, leads to a miraculous unexpected restoration. Later in this history Louisa Mancel, who has suffered repeatedly, is once again rescued by a kind older woman of some wealth. When this patron asks for her story and learns her real name and the tale of her aunt, she gasps aloud, faints, and then reveals that she is Louisa’s long lost mother. Although her newly found mother dies not long after their reunion, this moment dramatizes a mother/daughter motif and indicates a consolation for its fragility in Louisa’s eventual reunion with her dearest female friend, Mrs. Morgan. It is that friendship that also enunciates an exchange of giving and receiving relevant to the utopian premise of Millenium Hall. When both women are still at school, their financial circumstances are quite different. Because Miss Mancel has attracted a wealthy male benefactor, she can enjoy private tutorials in many subjects which are also of interest to her friend who cannot afford them. But she determines to provide the necessary money for Miss Melvyn (as she was then known) to share her learning advantages. Miss Melvyn, however, refuses, thinking her friend’s relative youth a bar to perfect equality in their friendship. When Miss Mancel is rejected she nearly weeps, because she assumes the refusal indicates a lack of affection from her friend, for, as she says: “Could we change places, with how much pleasure should I have accepted it from you! And the satisfaction that learning these things now gives me would be turned into delight by reflecting on the gratification you would receive in having been the means of procuring them for me. I should not envy you the joy of giving, because I as receiver should not have the less share of that satisfaction, since by reflecting on yours I must partake of it, 11 Catherine Gallagher. Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women in the Marketplace 1670–1820 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1994), xxi.

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and so encrease my own.” Miss Melvyn could not forbear blushing at finding a superior degree of delicacy; and a generosity much more exalted, in one so young, than she had felt in herself. She plainly saw that the greatest proof of a noble mind is to feel a joy in gratitude; for those who know all the pleasures of conferring an obligation will be sensible that by accepting it they give the highest delight the human mind can feel, when employed on human objects; and therefore while they receive a benefit, they will taste not only the comforts arising from it to themselves, but share the gratification of a benefactor, from reflecting on the joy they give to those who have conferred it: thus the receiver of a favour from a truly generous person, by owing owes not, and is at once indebted and discharged (93–4).

This passage refigures debt as credit and giver as receiver.12 Working through such subtleties of feeling, especially in a relationship of some inequality, is the utopian heart of this rather remarkable novel. The inequities of gender and class are here revalued by inscribing multiple instances of the joy of receiving and giving that redresses/makes up for imbalance, loss, deficiency, disappearance, suffering, lack. Just as Miss Melvyn came to understand that by being indebted she would gain the pleasure of giving satisfaction to her friend, the “monsters” of Millenium Hall come to understand that their gratitude to the good ladies who provide them a pastoral “enclosure” to shield them from mockery and exploitation because of their deformities will enable their enjoyment of community in place of pride in their uniqueness. These “monsters” are one of the text’s most startling and enigmatic images.13 Is there a nightmare of repressed evil embodied by these dwarves, giants, cripples that counterbalances the calm rule of reason depicted in Millenium Hall? Lamont’s response to the mysterious enclosure at first seems to suggest just such a paradox. He imagines it a preserve for wild animals made to submit to man’s superior reason—and he exults in the thought of such a triumph—such a taming! He is quickly countered, however, by Miss Mancel, who says: when reason appears only in the exertion of cruelty and tyrannical oppression, it is surely not a gift to be boasted of . . . to see a man, from a vain desire to have in his possession the native of another climate and another country, reduce a fine and noble creature to misery,

12 See Johns, Women’s Utopias, who reads this rewriting of social capital as a feminocentric rewriting of the social contract. See also Pohl, Women, Space and Utopia, who locates Millenium Hall’s system of property and patronage within the country-house ethos. 13 For an interesting reading of this imagery in the text, see Linda Dunne. “Mothers and Monsters in Sarah Robinson Scott’s Millenium Hall,” in Jane L. Donawerth and Carol A. Kolmerten (eds), Utopian and Science Fiction by Women (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1994), pp. 54–72. Dunne argues that the monsters and their asylum are a metonym for the ladies and their Hall as indeed Elliott does in her 1995 essay (see note below). More controversially, Dunne later suggests that the monsters represent the repressed sexuality of the chaste community of women and wonders if subsequent fictional monsters written by women, notably Mary Shelley, also figure female sexuality. In the latter case, Dunne suggests, the monster is viewed with horrified loathing rather than with the benevolent protectiveness of Scott’s grotto.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century and confine him within inclosures whose happiness consisted in unbounded liberty, shocks my nature . . . . I imagine man has a right to use the animal race for his own preservation, perhaps for his convenience, but certainly not to treat them with wanton cruelty, and as it is not in his power to give them any thing so valuable as their liberty, it is, in my opinion, criminal to enslave them ... (71)

When Lamont is disabused of his idea about a kind of zoo for enslaving animals to reason, he then learns from Miss Mancel that the grotto is an “asylum for those poor creatures who are rendered miserable from some natural deficiency or redundancy” (72). This is then a place where “monsters,” displayed for entertainment in the eighteenth century, find refuge from the stares and laughter of their fellow creatures. “Deficiency” or “redundancy” speak to the lack or excess of physical proportion and this asylum does include five dwarves and two giants. But the rhetoric is also the language of economics. In this context debit and credit again acquire utopian exchange through the intervention of these women. Interestingly, what Miss Mancel, apparently speaking for the community, emphasizes here is the issue of difference. It is interesting especially because the utopian world and utopists described in Millenium Hall seem so conventional. Yet here Mancel argues against a naturalized or normative measure for judging others, invoking myth to do so when she says: Procrustes has been branded through all ages with the name of tyrant; and, principally, as it appears, from fitting the body of every stranger to a bed which he kept as the necessary standard, cutting off the legs of those whose height exceeded the length of it and stretching on the rack such as fell short of that measure, til they attained the requisite proportion. But is not almost every man a Procrustes? We have not the power of shewing our cruelty exactly in the same method, but actuated by the like spirit, we abridge of their liberty, and torment by scorn, all who either fall short, or exceed the usual standard, if they happen to have the additional misfortune of poverty. (72)

In this intriguing passage, Mancel articulates a philosophy that respects difference and refuses to posit a standard of normative appearance or behaviour that legitimates prejudice. Of course, not insignificantly, economics is part of the pattern of discrimination so sharply critiqued. The English upper classes, particularly upper class men, might be eccentric in many ways and still be respected. It is the “additional misfortune of poverty” that elicits oppression within the dominant society, and perhaps oppression in the name of reason (as in Lamont’s pleasure at the taming of wild animals). In contrast, Miss Mancel argues that the right response to “deficit” is neither denial nor denigration but compassion. The ladies of Millenium Hall extend compassion not only to these “monsters” but also to many disadvantaged in other ways. For example, age and its infirmities are treated empathetically in the village of older persons established nearby, where the once starving older peasant population is freshly housed, enabled to work at useful crafts, and given young children to look after so that, as one old woman explains, they are made mothers again in their old age.

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Comparably, many of the household servants, as the visitor to Millenium Hall observes, have “deficiencies,” one a crippled hand, another is lame, another blind. In the Hall, however, they have learned to help each other and compensate for their disadvantage, gaining a new happiness in this exchange. And care for those marginalized by poverty informs the daily charitable practices of the ladies of Millenium Hall. In this exchange of giving and receiving the philosophy articulated initially in the friendship of the founders, Mrs. Morgan and Miss Mancel is essential. From our dystopic vantage, it might be all too easy to discount the value of “gratitude” as indicator of a noble mind. But as that “delicate” disquisition on the psychology of debit and credit, receiving and giving makes clear, true value, true pleasure, consists in the process of exchange. It is not a matter of stable debt and credit, deficiency and redundancy, but the very fluidity of this process of relating that circulates value and creates utopian community. Not only is this a process of right “sentiment” however, as the text reveals. For the psychology of exchange—of giving and receiving—and the mutual enhancement gained through this circulation of feeling is an epitome for exchanges of subject position as well as economic exchange. These shifts of position in the world are disclosed in the individual histories of the major characters. Although these “histories” at first seem a discursive rupture from the process of elaborating the visit to utopia, I believe they have a direct relation to the central utopian process argued for in Scott’s text. What is repeatedly exemplified in the stories of Morgan, Mancel, Jones, Selvyn, Trentham and their friends and relations is a process of volatile economic exchange. Although Millenium Hall places these women in a consistent position as benefactors and persons of economic power, their journey to this position, in each case, has been turbulent, to say the least. Each of these women has experienced extreme loss of fortune, sudden gain, a second reversal, often in several such cycles. In other words, the process of debit and credit so elaborately refigured in the psychology of utopia has been experienced in the material world as dislocation, loss, and restoration. What begins to seem clear from these histories is the vulnerability of women, in particular, to a market economy that grants the second or “deficient” sex very little power or security. However well born or well educated, women are liable to the loss of status and independence through parental death, bad marriage, disfiguring disease, or even simple gossip. Such volatility in economic fortune speaks to actual fluctuation of material well being in an increasingly expanded and changed economy. Mercantilism was changing the face of power in Britain, enabling the rise of a more substantial middle class while further destabilizing the values and security of landed gentry and aristocracy. The arbitrary swings of fortune depicted in Scott’s text, however melodramatic they might seem to a reader today, represented the experiences of many—especially many women—in the eighteenth century. Yet within her text, the theory of reciprocal exchange transforms these material upheavals as it does sentimental relations. In other words, each loss in a character’s standing becomes a potential gain. Despite Miss Melvyn’s suffering in a terrible marriage, for example, her persistence in duty and generosity of spirit during that


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

hard time ultimately keeps her ready for reunion with her dearest friend, Miss Mancel. The textual histories afford evidence of economic processes that make women vulnerable but only temporarily disempowered. Debit becomes credit within the utopian text, and the reader participates in the process. Within utopia the ladies have achieved consistent agency, but, by viewing their “histories,” a reader learns that they have been able to achieve this position of utopian giving only by having been debtors in the world. Their compassion is born of empathy not privilege. Their escape from poverty, disgrace, unhappiness is often attributed to a transcendental benefactor. Faith, then, as well as right reason, guides their ability to handle their own social and economic vulnerability, their ability to transform their losses to gain. Yet beyond the attribution to Providence and the subdued gestures towards piety in Millenium Hall, a reader may discern another source of power in the positive circulation of debit and credit that is the utopian project here.14 Female 14 In his essay on Millenium Hall, Gary Kelly emphasizes the role of religion to the work, specifically Anglicanism, and the importance of Providence to the accomplishment of the utopian project. See Gary Kelly. “Women’s Provi(de)nce: Religion and Bluestocking Feminism in Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall (1762),” Rebecca D’Monté and Nicole Pohl (eds), Female Communities 1600–1800: Literary Visions and Cultural Realities (London: Macmillan Press, 2000), pp. 166–183. Kelly says, for example: The plot that is implicit in the combined structure of frame narrative and description and inset narratives in Millenium Hall may be summarized as follows: the economy and culture of the dominant social class, a courtly and patriarchal gentry, oppress women in specific ways, resistance to which can only be sustained by reliance on subjective cultivation and religious principle, and escape from which is beyond the individual’s control: further progress to repair and reform this oppressive system can only be accomplished by providential interventions. This plot, which was enacted before the narrative opens, has brought about the utopian community observed in the frame narrative’s ‘Description’ . . . . In summary, Millenium Hall is an accidental, or rather providential utopia, a creation of grace (178–179). This formulation of the text deprives the female characters of agency. It is certainly true that individually each of these characters has been so oppressed by the culture outside the Hall that they seem indebted to the workings of Providence for their salvation. Yet I would argue that it is their decision to form an alliance of women that transcends simple dyadic female friendship that constitutes the motivating force for utopia and its success in the utopian practices represented in the text. In contrast to a religious source for utopia, in his earlier introduction to the text itself, Kelly indicated that the power behind utopian invention was class. There he said that Millenium Hall was a manifesto of Bluestocking feminism but this feminism was itself “a class-based project of social and cultural reform” (16). See also Kelly’s fine edition of Scott’s less well-known texts as part of Gary Kelly, ed. Bluestocking Feminism, 6 vols (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1999). In his general introduction and introductory notes to volumes 5 and 6 in this edition Kelly provides a wealth of historical background to Bluestocking feminism and to Scott ‘s life and works. Yet this well informed and most useful material still seems, at times, to depend on a construction of power that resides in class and religious institutions, themselves, of course, determined by men. Although Kelly often speaks of the role of women, particularly the Bluestockings, in “feminizing” gentry culture, the agency still seems to reside with men. Women at most can mediate and perhaps thus further

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friendship, as in Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World, is depicted as comfort during the trials of a woman’s journey. At one point in the story of Miss Mancel and Mrs. Morgan, for example, the beleaguered Miss Melvyn, soon to be Morgan, finds consolation in being able to share her true feelings about her impending marriage with her friend. But such a friendship cannot change her actual power to successfully resist the social pressure. In contrast, then, to Blazing World, female friendship, although a locus of pleasure and relief, seems to make nothing happen. It is an important distinction between these utopian texts that Millenium Hall posits larger female alliance as prerequisite for female power. Scott’s vision of a female economy, although carefully couched in the context of decorous behaviour, apparent support of the institution of marriage, chaste living and genteel good works, represents a major challenge to patriarchy, mercantilism, and colonialism. Disguised, like the charming grotto concealing monsters, this utopian world is made up of women who are monsters of independence and power, remaking their environment through the exchange of individual fortune and power for feminist solidarity and community. This world does not minimize the difficulties of overcoming pride in distinctiveness as the discussions of problems among the aged peasants, among the disabled, and within the individual histories demonstrates. Jealousy, envy, and bitterness surface but usually are worked through, assisted by the sensitive intervention of the residents of the Hall. The premise is that reason, sensibility, faith, linked with profound charity, generate a gratitude that is both personally and publicly productive. This is the theory of a utopian interchange of credit and debit at many levels. Yet such a circulation of economic and moral energy comes into being as an activist, practical utopian paradigm, including respect for differences in society. The reciprocal exchange of care and material giving is achieved by moving beyond dyadic relationships. Utopia begins with the extension of the friendship of Morgan and Mancel to Lady Mary Jones. Then it continues to grow, both by increased population and new building. This is a geographic expansion but also economic, heading towards a redefinition of the impact of charity and good works. Both ongoing real estate acquisition and beginning profitable carpet manufacture suggest the dynamic potential of an economy of women.15 empower the emerging capitalist culture run by men. I would argue that Scott’s radical vision is that women in Millenium Hall succeed in forming a utopian world through their own ability to achieve power by feminine alliance and a public activity independent of men. 15 One recent critic of Millenium Hall has argued that Scott’s project in this text is the redefinition of unmarried woman as moral and economic agent. See Dorice Williams Elliott. “Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall and Female Philanthropy.” Studies in English Literature, 33 (1995): 535–553. Elliott’s provocative essay positions Scott’s text within Enlightenment philanthropic discourses to argue that these discourses allowed Scott to link “the masculine world of business and politics to the feminized world of domesticity” (537). As pious chaste philanthropists the women of Millenium Hall, Elliott argues, renegotiate the identity of unmarried women. She finds Scott’s text particularly interesting because it allows readers to view women who are not defined in relation to men—who are not contained within the domestic ideology of the period investigated by Nancy Armstrong. See Nancy Armstrong.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

By the mid-eighteenth century, then, utopia is achieved by way of gender exchanges that represent difference as deficit rather than as communism, hybridity, or racial otherness. Unlike Blazing World it is not the exceptional woman who must be transported beyond the pole to achieve power, but the ordinary or even “deficient” woman who, by alliance with other marginalized single women, achieves utopia. That is the radical root of this apparently decorous eighteenth-century paradise. Sarah Scott went on to write another novel four years later, The History of Sir George Ellison (1766) which centers on the narrator/visitor to utopia, now identified as Ellison. The text’s recent editor, Betty Rizzo, sees this work as utopian narrative, although the preface positions this “history” as moral exemplum.16 In a sense a reader encounters an eighteenth-century Cyropaedia or Book of the Governor in Scott’s sequel, but the exemplum is neither military hero, king, nor political leader. Although urged by his countrymen to run for parliament, Ellison in fact refuses even that degree of political prominence. As the narrator says, “Great generals or wise statesmen are rather objects of wonder than imitation to the common rank of men…” (The History of Sir George Ellison 3). This sequel, then, enacts the utopian philosophy of Millenium Hall in the person of a middle-class gentleman inspired by the practical philanthropy of a female community. In changing the gender of the central character and the focus from community to individual, Scott suggests the possible implementation of her scheme for better economic and social justice in terms likely to be credible to more readers. George Ellison is a middle-class merchant, the English gentlemen who achieved fortune through colonial adventures in Jamaica. Not unimportantly, he was also, however reluctantly, a slaveholder in that colony. In fact an American pirated version of Scott’s text, titled The Man of Real Sensibility (1774), gained popularity in the colonies as an intervention in the abolitionist controversy and was re-issued three times. This text abbreviates the English portion of the novel, focusing on Ellison’s amelioration of slave conditions on his Jamaican plantation with some attention to his courtship and second marriage.17

Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987). The epistolary narrative frame of the novel links the text, Elliott says, to a “common form of philanthropic discourse—the public letter” (538). In another recent study of Millenium Hall, Lisa Moore, like Elliott, defines the residents as asexual. However, where Elliott sees such asexuality as a source of political independence, Moore sees it as regressive and conservative. See Lisa L. Moore. Dangerous Intimacies: Towards a Sapphic History of the British Novel (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997). She argues that the female community of Millenium Hall turns away from pleasure, but her argument seems to equate sexuality and pleasure, something that the residents of the Hall would surely dispute. 16 Sarah Scott. The History of Sir George Ellison, ed. Betty Rizzo (Lexington; University Press of Kentucky, 1996). Citations to the text are from this edition. 17 The Man of Real Sensibility; or, The History of Sir George Ellison (Philadelphia: James Humphreys Junior, 1774). See Rizzo’s discussion in the introduction to her edition, xxxvi–xxxvii.

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Scott’s full version, however, brings the utopian community of Millenium Hall into the central portion of the narrative, at the point when the protagonist needs direction for his own philanthropic projects in the north of England. Economic rhetoric pervades this text as it does the earlier novel, and the hero proves his worth both through filial devotion and successful capitalism. His father entrusts his entire estate to his twenty-year old son who succeeds in multiplying it many times in the colony. Having both earned and married a fortune as well as creating better conditions for his slaves and influencing others to follow his example, he returns to England after the death of his first wife. On his journey to his father’s home in Dorsetshire, the fortuitous carriage accident occurs which delivers him to the utopia of good and powerful women at Millenium Hall. This novel thus takes a reader backward and forward in time, locating the Hall experience—a reader’s return to utopia—in the center of the narrative. Interestingly, some precise phrasing from the first novel is repeated in Sir George Ellison, notably Lamont’s conventional view of women’s ornamental or service function. If Lamont seems to retain a more normative masculine position here (a lapse from his apparent reformation at the end of Millenium Hall) Ellison seems more feminized. This is most evident in his spousal relationship in Jamaica. Not only is his Creole wife the pursuer, but she dominates and circumscribes his life after marriage. Because his marriage has granted him a huge fortune and prestige, as well as because of his sensitive and generous nature, Ellison accedes to all his wife’s demands, forsaking his friends and preferred activities to stay home attending to her. In other words, he occupies the position too often the fate of women within the marriage bond and, indeed, he is identified as enslaved: “By these arts she soon made her husband that slave which he would suffer no one to be to him” (The History of Sir George Ellison 22). In this sequel to Millenium Hall a reader sees even more clearly the importance of liberty to Scott’s utopian project and the multiple changes she rings on ideas about freedom and slavery and their connection to gender ideology. 18 In fact, it is in the exchange of gender focus in these two novels that the most complete re-vision of normative categories may be accomplished. Although it might seem regressive to replace female community with a single male protagonist—utopia with biography—the interchange extends the utopian geography and complicates simple gender identity. Not only does Ellison accept “slavery” in his first marriage, he exhibits a feminine sensibility in his treatment of slaves in Jamaica. His wife wields the whip metaphorically, while he takes his only stand against her on the issue of physical 18 For example, when back on his estate Ellison initiates an annual practice of visiting debtor’s prisons to buy the freedom of as many as he can. This charity strikes a responsive chord in his conservative cousin, Sir William, “as nothing appeared to him so worthy of compassion, as that state which deprived a man of all power over his own actions, and subjected him entirely to the will of another …” (85). Of course, the histories of the ladies of the Hall and the “deficient” who populate that utopia, as well as the discussion of slavery in Jamaica in Sir George Ellison, evoke multiple examples of the consequences of being “subjected entirely to the will of another.”


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punishment for slave misbehavior. His meliorative position on slavery has utopian repercussions for other slave owners in Jamaica as they imitate his kinder practices for practical reasons, realizing that his slaves are far more productive because of the changed treatment. If the marriage in Jamaica seems to reverse normative gender positions between husband and wife, a tension between ideologies is taken up in the interchanges between George Ellison and his cousin in the English setting. Although possessed of a large fortune, the hero refuses to pursue the dignities of his position, according to his cousin, Sir William. Countering the call to display in his position Ellison positions himself as debtor, saying he owns not a shilling and adding “my fortune, talents, time are given me in trust, to be expended in the service of the Giver. I am but a steward, and must render an exact account of all that is delivered into my hands” (The History of Sir George Ellison 84). Debt and gratitude are figured here in the person of a male hero, but a hero who exhibits the authority achieved through a consciousness of indebtedness that is coded feminine in the dominant culture and elaborated as generative of social good in Scott’s earlier utopian novel. The dialectic between the two books may indeed be the best indicator of mid-eighteenth-century elaboration of gender and utopia. Millenium Hall centers on a community of women who exhibit the financial and public power ordinarily the province of men of the period. Freed from the imperatives of sexualized identities that necessitate secondary status, this community achieves the pleasures of agency, enjoyment of a cultivated life, and the satisfactions of extending greater freedom and justice to many others suffering the penalties of being labelled “deficient” by the dominant culture. Even those readers who value Scott’s contributions to such a positive vision of female community have tended to see the work as compromised in part because of the reclusive nature of its inhabitants, its prerequisites being separation from the larger world.19 Yet Scott’s sequel surely represents her desire to penetrate not only the “country adjacent” with her utopian 19 See, for example, Elliott, who says: “An asylum like Millenium Hall represents an escape from the forced display and legal servitude to which both women and ‘monsters’ could be subjected; but it also represents a withdrawal from the world, which they can never again enter without taking on the position of victimized object” (549). Yet Sir George Ellison engages a reader in an interaction of utopia and the larger world surrounding Millenium Hall. Ellison’s initial visit is reprised early in the sequel; then he returns for an extended stay and further education mid-point in the text (The History of Sir George Ellison 89–123). During that visit he—and the reader—learn more of the dynamic character of this utopia because it has expanded since the conclusion of the first book. A planned real estate purchase has now materialized as a second “society” for needy women and Ellison visits the newly “freed” inhabitants to hear their stories of emancipation. He also learns of a new program of educational reform that includes plans for several school systems for young women. Importantly, he determines to send some of his own wards to one of these schools in the future, that further the dynamic interaction of utopia and the larger world. In addition, Ellison hires a housekeeper recommended by the ladies of the Hall for his estate in Dorsetshire. As product of their utopian philosophy, this able woman will guide the development of Ellison’s extended family estate with its servants and adjoining community. Sir William is much amused at his

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values but the wider world. Her methodology was to extend the philosophy generated within a community of independent women by means of a successful gentleman capitalist. Of course the second novel also makes available travel to Jamaica and a greater experience of cultural and racial diversity which is later incorporated into the microcosm of a reformed English country estate. Gender and sexuality are complicated in the second novel as the protagonist is feminized in his initial financial insecurity and in his first marriage as well as in his delicate “sensibility” throughout. However, the conclusion of the sequel represents a much more conventional patriarchal image of the happy extended family headed by the remarkably benevolent Sir George. Not only are his many children promisingly betrothed, but so are those multiple others associated with his good works. Despite the generativity of what might be read as recuperation to a patriarchal model, however, Ellison’s sexuality seems constrained— particularly in the moment when he almost achieves his greatest desire. Having longed for marriage to Mrs. Tunstall (formerly Alin) for many years, the prolonged union is almost at hand when Ellison is suddenly called upon to aid a debtor. A furious ride on a borrowed horse leads to a terrible fall and almost kills him. This event provides quite a plot twist as readers are faced with the imminent demise of the hero and the terrible grief of the near bride. In fact, he is reconciled to death and given over by his physicians but then unpredictably recovers. It’s almost as if Scott experimented with an alternate ending for her book. But the more interesting aspect of this rather surprising episode may be the implicit sexual reading of Ellison’s impetuous mounting of a strange horse and the violent consequences of his furious ride. As a metaphor for his impatient and potentially uncontrolled passion, this event might suggest the incompatibility of intense erotic longing and social compassion. Only after the chastening experience of total helplessness and abandoning of personal goals is the hero enabled to marry the woman he loves and continue his good work for the extended community. A concluding textual moment, then, may be seen to indicate the dangers of sexuality to a realization of eighteenth-century utopia. Scott’s two utopian novels create a dialectic that negotiates ideologies of romance, sexuality and marriage to extend economic empowerment beyond the class, gender, and even racial norms of her time. Embodying Bluestocking feminism in an economically powerful female community, Millenium Hall stands in pedagogical relation to her readers and to her male narrator, later named Sir George Ellison. The earlier utopian work is, as its most recent editor, Gary Kelly, observes an important intervention in the discourse of gentry capitalism. The sequel extends this utopian intervention into colonial issues, including the position of African slaves, then recuperates this difference within a more conventional English landed estate.20 The cousin’s need for a “female director,” but surely her presence is another figuration of the female utopia reaching beyond the refuge of the Hall to influence the larger world. 20 Within the Jamaican setting, Ellison adopts a meliorative position in regard to slavery, but back in England he continues to monitor the treatment of his Jamaican estate. He ensures the continuance of a responsible steward in his will and also settled such annuities on the slaves


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

hero’s sensitive benevolence and specific reforms, such as the foundation of schools for slaves and natives in Jamaica, might have exerted more influence on readers because of the familiar gender and family formation included in the later novel. Yet the book insists on reminding readers of its hero’s own education at Millenium Hall, and its characters intersect with those powerful women at key moments. In other words, despite the more familiar social patterns dominant in the later book, the priority of female community is subtly insinuated as model and motivational force. The History relies on benevolence more than compassion for its utopian reforms, because Ellison retains male prerogatives. Perhaps Scott speculated that these familiar textual conventions might more readily engage a reader in utopian production beyond the text. Certainly this book indicates one attempt to break out of the walls of Millenium Hall into the wider world of both economic and subjective exchange. Scott’s work was indebted to the writings of Mary Astell and Sarah Fielding as well as the practices of Bluestocking women, including, importantly, her sister Elizabeth Montague.21 Her life was also based on female friendship, particularly after her brief unhappy marriage. In addition to the community projects begun at Batheaston, where she lived with Lady Barbara Montagu, she planned a larger project at Hitcham, implemented briefly after Lady Bab’s death. Although the latter attempt at a female economy failed because of lack of capital and illness, Scott’s fiction successfully mediated more modest feminist practices in the period and the utopian potential of grander financial and gender alliances.22

then employed on his estate, as would render them in some degree independent [though still in need of work] designing by this moderate provision to leave a spur to their industry, and yet to give them the power (as he enfranchised them) of chusing their own master . . . (138) In addition to this plan for freeing some of his slaves, however parenthetically phrased, Ellison also may have emancipated some on his departure, for Black “servants” work on his Dorset estate in a separate but equal relation with White servants (139). 21 On the relationship between Montagu and Scott see: Betty Rizzo. “Two Versions of Community,” Nicole Pohl and Betty A. Schellenberg (eds), Reconsidering the Bluestockings (San Marino: The Huntington Library Press, 2003), pp. 193–214. For interesting discussions of Mary Astell’s utopian theorizing and its importance in the period, see Nicole Pohl, “‘In this Sacred Space’ the Secular Convent in late Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Expository Literature;” and Alessa Johns, “Mary Astell’s ‘Excited Needles’: Theorizing Feminist Utopia in Seventeenth-Century England,” in Female Communities, 149–166 and 129–148. For an account of the way architectural space may contribute to female subjectivity in Millenium Hall, see Pohl. ‘“Sweet place where virtue then did rest:’ The Appropriation of the Countryhouse Ethos in Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall.” Utopian Studies, 7.1 (1996): 49–59. 22 If her own social practices were limited by her modest means, her fiction continues to resonate. A century and half later an American feminist, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, wrote of a community of powerful women in Herland. Interestingly, her text also sacrificed sexuality for the accomplishment of a more just and pleasant society of/for women. Gilman, however, made her utopians mothers—even if without men—thus acceding to one of the conventional gender roles in history. Scott was in some ways more daring, for her “ladies” were neither mistresses, wives, nor mothers.

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If gender is crucial to the workings of early modern utopian fiction, its expression varies from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. Thomas More’s depiction of the good society initiated the genre in a rhetorically playful blend of philosophy and romance in order to explore and revalue oppositional tensions that include gender. In Blazing World Margaret Cavendish made utopia revolve about a woman’s transformation from victim to ruler and philosopher. More than royal prerogative, however, it is “fancy” or imagination that empowers in Cavendish’s text, supported by a female friendship that is, in the end, extended to readers who may, inspired by Empress and Duchess, go on to create their own worlds. In Oroonoko Aphra Behn problematizes both utopia and the feminine body. The White female narrator, Black male slave/prince, Black female slave/princess represent the shifting power of the feminine at different textual moments. The instability of the female subject marks an exotic “other” world that grants glimpses of utopian transformation of gender and race relations as well as paradisal beauty, but counts the tragic cost of challenging the norms of power as well. Cavendish and Behn lived in periods of political turbulence, and violence frames their utopian texts. Sarah Scott’s works disclose “monsters” created by discrimination and unruly passion, but her vision of the good life contains such threats through effective female community and the sensibility of the man who is transformed by it. Each of these early modern texts engage the generic paradox of desire and absence in ways profoundly linked to representations of gender difference at specific historic moments. However varied the effort to unsettle easy notions of feminine and masculine value in utopian literature, it may be seen that in matters of literary form, as well as political argument, gender and genre are inextricably intertwined in the struggle for new visions of social justice.

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Chapter 3

A Fragile Utopia of Sensibility: David Simple Joseph F. Bartolomeo

The Adventures of David Simple was first classified as a utopian text by Carolyn Woodward, who argued that Sarah Fielding was mounting a radical critique of patriarchal capitalism by creating a utopia based on “true feminine values” and then destroying it “through the debilitating underside of femininity on which it was founded.”1 Woodward’s characterization fits the pessimistic Volume the Last, published in 1753, much better than it does the original novel of 1744, the ideological tenor of which is best captured in the communitarian but conservative closing admonition that every person should “perform the Part allotted him by Nature, or his Station in Life, with a sincere Regard to the Interest and Pleasure of the whole.”2 David undoubtedly embodies qualities—such as passivity, emotionalism, and reserve—which were identified with and valued in women in the eighteenth century. However, his complex role as uneasy creator and failed sustainer of a utopian community also derives from the less obviously gendered attributes of idealistic naiveté, benevolence, and sympathy, which have prompted several critics to identify him as a prototypical man of feeling.3 1 Carolyn Woodward. “Sarah Fielding’s Self-Destructing Utopia: The Adventures of David Simple.” Living by the Pen: Early British Women Novelists, ed. Dale Spender (New York: Teachers College Press, 1992), pp. 62–81 (66). I have also discussed Joseph as a feminized hero in Joseph Bartolomeo. Matched Pairs: Gender and Intertextual Dialogue in Eighteenth-Century Fiction (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002), pp. 58–89. 2 Sarah Fielding. The Adventures of David Simple, ed. Malcolm Kelsall (1744; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 302. Further references to this work will appear parenthetically within the text. On the conservatism of the original ending, see Gillian Skinner. Sensibility and Economics in the Novel, 1740–1800 (London: Macmillan Press, 1999): “Adherence to one’s station in life is both linked back to a monolithic structure . . . and recommended as the way to real happiness” (25). 3 See Gerard A. Barker. “David Simple: The Novel of Sensibility in Embryo.” Modern Language Studies 12 (1982): 69–80; Janet Todd. Sensibility: An Introduction (London: Methuen, 1986), p. 89. Jane Spencer. The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 92–4. Linda Bree. Sarah Fielding (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996), pp. 33–5. Liz Bellamy. Commerce, Morality, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 133. Gary L.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

David’s career as sentimental benefactor anticipates multiple, evolving definitions of sensibility in eighteenth-century philosophical discourse. John Mullan has traced shifts within the thought of David Hume, and between Hume and Adam Smith, that transformed sympathy from an individual’s automatic, immediate identification with another to a process of detached observation and reflection—from “natural mutuality of passions and sentiments” to “spectatorial scrutiny.”4 Distance and judgment combine with open-heartedness in David’s genuinely disinterested acts of benevolence, but personal involvement with the characters with whom he eventually forms his ideal community makes sympathetic action both more “natural” and more difficult. In addition, the economic advantages that permit David to relieve the suffering of others and eventually to establish a community of love and friendship also prove an obstacle to the complete mutuality and egalitarianism that David is seeking from the start of his quest for a “friend.” Fielding papers over these tensions with the euphoric ending of the original novel, but renews them in Volume the Last by removing the economic security essential for the survival of an unworldly community of feeling hearts. Fielding’s bleaker vision has been attributed both to her personal tragedy of losing three sisters within eight months in 1750–51, and to her exposure to Richardson’s tragic masterpiece, Clarissa.5 The tragic sequel to a comic novel remains faithful to the sentimental ethos, but does so by positioning David and the reader differently. Narratives generally, and novels of sensibility in particular, are impelled by ongoing conflict and often by suffering. The stasis attained and represented by David’s community, therefore, had to be disrupted in some way. Fielding’s choice transforms David from an agent to whom the sentimental reader can feel equal in benevolence but superior in worldly wisdom into an object of the more sophisticated reader’s pity and tears. In other words, the reader comes to regard David with the eye of Smith’s detached spectator. Like many novels of sensibility that followed it, David Simple offers vicarious participation first in the hero’s benevolence and then in his suffering, but always from a safe emotional and rational distance. These sentimental pleasures require the instability, and ultimate impossibility, of any utopian vision. The novel actually begins with an apparent domestic idyll, the collapse of which motivates David’s utopian longings but obliquely anticipates some of the psychological and social obstacles to their fulfillment. Initially we are told that David and his brother Daniel “lived together at School in the most perfect Unity and Friendship,” but their father’s death unveils Daniel’s long-standing hypocrisy and greed: he forges a will that disinherits his older brother (10). Before Daniel’s envy of David’s reputation prompts him to drive his brother out of the house, he relishes Gautier. “Henry and Sarah Fielding on Romance and Sensibility.” Novel 31 (1998), pp. 195– 214 (204–5); Skinner, pp. 17–18, Felicity Nussbaum. “Effeminacy and Femininity: Domestic Prose Satire and David Simple.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 11 (1999): 421–44. 4 John Mullan. Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 45. 5 See Bree, pp. 14–15; Todd, p.87.

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his newfound dominance: “His Pride (of which he had no small Share) was greatly gratified in thinking his Brother was a Dependant on him; but then he was resolved it should not be long before he felt that Dependance, for otherwise the greatest Part of his Pleasure must be lost” (15). Daniel’s emotions and actions serve as negative analogues to David’s subsequent disinterested benevolence, but the issues raised here concerning the distance between and motives of the giver and recipient of charity will complicate David’s role as benefactor and the reader’s perception of it, especially when David attempts to replace a lost biological family with what Terri Nickel has called “self-selected, mutually-constituted communal ties.”6 At this point, the destruction of an imagined utopia immediately evokes the reader’s sympathy for David, but his neighbors—the first of many examples of an anything but sentimental world—respond less generously and take Daniel’s side: For altho’ Mr. Daniel had all the Money, yet he was so good to keep him; and sure, when People are kept upon Charity, they need not be so proud, but be glad to be contented . . . . The old Gentleman his Father knew what he was, or he would have left him more (22).

Wealth can confer social and even moral status regardless of merit, and after David recovers his estate by means of a complicit servant’s remorseful confession, his uncle’s intervention, and his brother’s fear of prison, his adventures prove that a character’s deep feelings and good deeds matter far less to most of the world than his fortune. Indeed, David’s adoption of “the oddest, most unaccountable Resolution that ever was heard of, viz. To travel through the whole World, rather than not meet with a real Friend,” is firmly grounded in a context of economic security (27). Although the disillusioned protagonist initially decides “to live an easy Life, without entering into any more Engagements of either Friendship or Love,” his uncle’s death leaves him completely alone and twice as rich, and as the “only Use he had for Money, was to serve his Friends,” he becomes obsessed with the desire for “a little Community, as it were of two, to the Happiness of which all the Actions of both should tend with an absolute disregard of any selfish or separate Interest” (25, 26). However laudable and unique the goal, David’s initial planning reveals a degree of detachment and self-absorption available only to the wealthy. He decides to confine his travels to his hometown of London not only because he believes that “Mankind in their Natures are much the same every where,” but also so that he can avoid learning any foreign languages and can spend not “a Farthing more than was necessary; designing to keep all his Money to share with his Friend, if he should be so fortunate to find any Man worthy to be called by that Name” (27). Although he embarks on his journey confident “that no Circumstance of Time, Place, or Station, made a Man absolutely either good or bad, but the Disposition of his own Mind,” and therefore resolves “to go into all publick Assemblies, and to be intimate in as many private Families as 6 Terri Nickel. ‘“Ingenious Torment’: Incest, Family, and the Structure of Community in the Works of Sarah Fielding.” The Eighteenth-Century: Theory and Interpretation 36 (1995): 234–247.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

possible,” the first place to which he heads in London is the Royal Exchange, which he had already visited before in order to “see the Building and hear the Jargon at the time of high Change” (28). David’s choice of a starting point has been read as a sign of his innocence and ignorance, given the venality of the characters he meets there, but his attraction to this familiar environment may also suggest an unconscious desire to find his friend from within his own social class.7 Although he travels through London “not . . . to see the Buildings, the Streets, to know the Distances from one Place to another, with many more Sights of equal Use and Improvement,” but “to seek out one capable of being a real Friend, and to assist all those who had been thrown into Misfortunes by the ill Usage of others.” At this point David seems as much a comfortable, pragmatic tourist as a quixotic quester (27). An insistence that the recipients of his friendship and/or his money be “worthy” makes David a fitting avatar of sentimental benevolism. Although unscrupulous characters like Orgueil, Spatter, and Varnish take advantage of his naiveté—allowing Fielding to attack various forms of hypocrisy—each unmasks one of the others and thus prevents David from sharing much of his wealth with any of them. Aside from his “underhand” support of his disgraced brother, his “favourite Passion (of doing Good)” is generally directed toward characters whom he can esteem, and whose experiences in some ways resemble his own: Cynthia, who has detailed the hardship she has faced as a clever but disdained poor relation; an abused wife who relates how the husband upon whom she continues to lavish affection became brutish and ungrateful—and who may remind David, by contrast, of the fickle, mercenary Miss Johnson, who jilted him; and Isabelle, a friend of Cynthia’s who gives an extended account of her suffering, and whose world, Linda Bree suggests, “is in many ways a distorted, fantasy version of David’s” (292, 195; Bree 44). Her narrative, and the support of a trustworthy character witness in Cynthia, naturally lead David to regard her as “a Person of so much Merit” (250). After misreading the stories of unreliable narrators, David is thus rewarded by encountering transparently “truthful” storytellers, whose narratives establish a correspondence between personal pasts and present sympathies.8 By presenting these narratives without mediation or contradiction, Fielding encourages the reader to arrive at the same judgment, and feel the same sympathy, as David, the paradigmatic sentimental reader, does.9

7 See Bellamy, p. 133. 8 Wendy Motooka. The Age of Reasons: Quixotism, Sensibility, and Political Economy in Eighteenth-Century Britain (London: Routledge, 1998), notes that the other members of David’s eventual community have all been unable to make themselves understood and therefore have been victimized by a world that devalues transparent, natural language. Once they encounter David, who shares their language, they “can finally speak for themselves” (115). 9 Betty A. Schellenberg. The Conversational Circle: Rereading the English Novel, 1740–1775 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996), regards David’s relinquishing of his own story and transformation into a listener as a major part of his feminization, which is paralleled by “the accompanying elevation of female narrative” (26).

A Fragile Utopia of Sensibility


One of the few occasions on which David responds impulsively and instantaneously to human distress is his first encounter with the woman he eventually marries and her brother, who becomes his closest male friend. The tableau of Valentine lying in a garret, “looking as pale as Death, with his Eyes sunk in his Head, and hardly able to breathe, covered with half a dirty Rug, which would scarce come round him,” Camilla dressed in a “old Silk Gown . . . so tattered, that it would barely cover her with Decency” and showing a “Countenance . . . wan with Affliction,” and a hectoring landlady demanding overdue rent proves irresistible (125, 126). David quickly reassures himself about the character of his new dependents with thinking that betrays some class bias even while repudiating it: His Head was filled with the Thoughts of what he had seen that Day; nor could he imagine what these two young People could be: he was certain, by their Manner and Behaviour, they could not have been bred in very low Life; and if they had, he thought it still a stronger proof of their Sense, that they could so much get the better of the want of Education, as to be able, notwithstanding that Disadvantage, and the Disguise of their Dress, to show, in every Word and Gesture, a Delicacy which could not be surpassed by the best-bred Persons in the World (131).

Almost immediately, however, David’s desire to learn more about the unfortunate pair is tempered by a dread that “he should discover something in their Conduct which would lessen his Esteem for them”—especially for Camilla, to whom he is almost immediately romantically attracted: He lived in a continual Fear, lest she might not turn out as he wished her: He as yet saw nothing but what he approved; but as he had been so often deceived, he was afraid of providing for himself those Sorrows he had already felt by too forward a Credulity. (132, 133)

Like most philanthropists, sentimental or otherwise, Fielding’s hero generally confines his generosity and affection to those who deserve it. Many of Fielding’s readers, secure in the same bourgeois pieties that animate many of today’s advocates of a welfare “reform” that restricts benefits to those who “merit” that state’s assistance and are expected to repay it by moving on to productive work, would undoubtedly have applauded David’s selectivity as much as his charity. Acute and persistent curiosity about the woes of those he wishes to help goes beyond prudence and suggests a voyeuristic fascination with suffering on David’s part. After Cynthia informs him that “it was impossible as yet, without exceeding all Bounds of Good-Manners, to know any Occurrences that had happened to Isabelle,” David rails against the “Tyranny of Custom” that does not permit the unfortunate “to lay open their Distresses, without being thought forward and impertinent,” or “even those People who would relieve them” to “enquire into their Misery, without being called by the World madly curious, or ridiculously meddling” (195). His view, on the contrary, is “that to see another uneasy, was a sufficient Reason for any of the same Species to endeavour to know, and remove the Cause of it” (195). Yet


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does a benefactor need particulars in order to offer relief? Although Cynthia herself had earlier judged David’s curiosity as proceeding from “so much Good-nature and Compassion for the Afflicted,” one may also view David as unconsciously seeking, as a reward or even as advance payment for his generosity, the same pleasures available to the sentimental reader of the novel itself, which includes the long, melodramatic account of Isabelle’s family tragedy and numerous other stories that can elicit grateful tears (120). Cynthia’s and Camilla’s regret that their stories of woe are not “entertaining” may be misplaced, since suffering—sometimes relieved, sometimes not—lies at the center of the “entertainment” that novels of sensibility provide to readers (119, 133). Once again, David serves as an analogue for the sentimental reader, but only as long as he retains some emotional distance from the stories he hears and from their tellers. David’s assurance to Cynthia that “he should be thankful to her for giving him an Opportunity of being any ways useful to a Person of her Merit,” his exclamation to Camilla that “was he to live a thousand Years, he could never meet with another Pleasure equal to the Thought of having served her,” and repeated similar statements by both David and the narrator indicate some degree of self-interest and self-indulgence behind the hero’s displays of beneficence (120, 170). In a debate with David early in the novel, the stoic Orgueil, for whom “the Follies and Vices of Mankind” furnish “a continual Fund of Entertainment,” follows Mandeville and rejects compassion as a motive for ameliorative action: “If I could be moved by a Compassion in my Temper to relieve another, the Merit of it would be entirely lost, because it would be done chiefly to please myself” (71). For Gerard Barker, “Orgueil’s unreliability, as well as the extremity of his argument, negates what might otherwise be seen as a highly subversive position in a novel of sensibility” (Barker 71). To be sure, there is nothing wrong, in eighteenth-century moral philosophy or our own, with deriving personal satisfaction from good deeds, and nothing could be farther from David’s honesty, sympathy, and generosity than Orgueil’s hypocrisy, detachment, and selfishness, all of which come under considerable attack by Fielding. Whatever Fielding’s conscious intentions, however, I cannot dismiss the subversive position so easily, since the novel amply demonstrates how a sentimentalist seems almost addicted to encountering the misfortunes of others in order to experience the pleasure of relieving them. Both the stoic and the sentimentalist derive satisfaction, albeit in different ways, from human suffering. Robert Markley expands this kind of critique by stressing how in a capitalist economy, the giving of money foregrounds middleclass virtue but also represses broader questions about or solutions to the causes of social inequality. In his terms, the ideology of sentiment amounts to “bourgeois usurpation of and accommodation to what formerly had been considered aristocratic prerogatives,” and “explicitly promotes narrowly conservative and essentialist views of class relations.”10 For most of this sentimental novel, David is able to 10 Robert Markley. “Sentimentality as Performance: Shaftesbury, Sterne, and the Theatrics of Virtue.” The New Eighteenth Century: Theory, Politics, English Literature, ed. Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown (New York: Methuen, 1987), pp. 212, 217.

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alleviate suffering, and to luxuriate in benevolent feeling, without compromising his own comfort or linking the economic conditions that produced it to the poverty and suffering he deplores. As K. G. Hall has observed, Fielding “nowhere suggests that such evils arise from anything other than individual sources.”11 Even after the intervention of Marx, many comfortable readers still prefer the complacency of an ideology of sensibility, as witnessed by the enduring popularity of sentimental fictions in popular culture. When the distance between provider and dependent narrows because of genuine emotional involvement, David’s position as a godlike benefactor, which he clearly enjoys, initially thwarts his longing for a utopian community of love and friendship. First with Cynthia, and more significantly with Camilla and Valentine, David worries that because those he has helped feel indebted to him, they will behave contrary to their inclinations, so he refrains from making virtually any request of them. Although he is clearly attracted to Cynthia, when she announces her intention to leave his protection he does not “attempt to say any thing to dissuade her from what he saw she had so great an Inclination to” but only insists “on her accepting Money enough to bear her Expences” (124). His refusal to ask Valentine and Camilla to tell their story derives not only from a concern that they will not measure up to his standards, but also from the fear that “they might not care to tell it, and it would look like thinking he had a right to know what he pleased, because they were obliged to him; a Thought, which he would have utterly detested himself for, could it once have entered into his Head” (132). Later, in spite of his obvious romantic interest in Camilla, he cannot declare his love for her because: the great Awe with which he was seized whenever he approached her, took from him the Power of speaking. And he was afraid to mention it to her Brother first, lest she should be offended, and think he was mean enough to expect a Compliance from them both, on Account of the Obligations they owed him (276).

His reticence has been read as the unselfish response of an ideal benefactor, but it causes significant frustration both for himself and for Camilla, who reciprocates his feelings.12 Although David repeatedly strives for a mode of transaction separate from commercial paradigms, the connection between the two is repeatedly underscored with words like “obligations” and “owed”: at one point, Cynthia even observes that “there are very few People, who have any Notion of Obligations which are not pecuniary” (116).13 Within this sentimental economy David can essentially purchase pleasure by giving money to others, but he becomes paralyzed when the others begin to matter. He remains silent and miserable when a lord solicits Camilla 11 K.G. Hall. The Exalted Heroine and the Triumph of Order: Class, Women, and Religion in the English Novel, 1740–1800 (Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble, 1994), p. 57. Cf. Todd, p. 95; Bellamy, p. 132. 12 See Skinner, pp. 26–7. 13 Skinner has rightly observed that although Cynthia is being sarcastic, ‘”Obligations” in David Simple are almost invariably financial at base” (26).


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for a mistress, and Camilla cannot assuage his suffering, since “as he had never seriously declared more than a great Friendship for her, she knew not which way to treat so delicate a Passion as Jealousy, whilst she must not own she saw it” (280). The sentimental hero’s material advantages paradoxically reduce him to the same silence that Camilla observes as a matter of feminine propriety. The dilemma is resolved “by lucky Accident, rather than good Design” when the lord writes Camilla to apologize and propose marriage instead, and she finds, through the language with which she declines this proposal, a way to communicate her feelings for David without compromising her delicacy (282). In spite of his evident “Raptures” at Camilla’s implicit declaration of love, only the sudden arrival of her father, “whose Heart was inflamed with the warmest Gratitude to David” but whose debt is less direct than his children’s, obviates David’s scruples and permits him to propose to Camilla and formally request her hand (283, 295). Both the hero’s quest and the original novel end with the formation of an ideal community reflective of and dependent upon David’s sensibility. As critics have noted, sexual passion is portrayed in the text as selfish and thus antithetical to the tenderness exalted by the sentimental ethos.14 Appropriately, therefore, a communitarian impulse overshadows sexual desire as David proposes a union not only with Camilla, but also with Valentine and Cynthia, who also marry. The narrator even refrains from offering the expected physical description that could individuate or eroticize the characters: Perhaps it may be here expected I should give some Description of the Persons of my favourite Characters; but as the Writers of Novels and Romances have already exhausted all the Beauties of Nature to adorn their Heroes and Heroines, I shall leave it to my Readers [sic] Imagination to form them just as they like best: It is their Minds I have taken most pains to bring them acquainted with, and from that Acquaintance it will be easy to judge what Scheme of Life was followed by this whole Company (303).

The group plainly supplants the individual or the couple. In the original conclusion, the narrator reports that every “little Incident in Life was turned into some delicate Pleasure to the whole Company, by each of them endeavouring to make every thing contribute to the Happiness of the others,” and that the “very Infirmities, which it is impossible for human Nature to escape, such as Pain, Sickness, &c. were by their Contrivance not only made supportable, but fully compensated in the fresh Opportunities they gave each Individual of testifying their Tenderness and Care for the whole” (304). It is hardly surprising then, that in the sequel, David initially considers the three of them together as the fulfillment of his pursuit of a friend: His Search in that Respect was happily ended; for in his brother Valentine and the amiable Cynthia, he enjoyed the highest Happiness that Warmth of Friendship, unassisted by any more tender or interesting Connection, could give; and in his Camilla he enjoyed the

14 See Todd, p. 100; Bree, p. 43.

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highest Pleasure that even his Imagination could ever have formed from the Union of two Hearts, capable of receiving, and disposed to give, reciprocal Delight (321–22).

Only after misfortunes compel the community to dissolve, and David reverts to a more traditional conception of the family and of his role within it, does he acknowledge Camilla alone as “the Friend he had long vainly sought, and at last with Difficulty obtained” (420). The three also remain united in their debt to David for the generosity that undergirds their “little Society” (304). Earlier in the novel, David had assured the impoverished and therefore unmarriageable Valentine that “if his Fortune could any way conduce to his Happiness, whatever share of it was necessary for him, should be intirely [sic] at his Service,” and during the proposal scene, he informs Camilla that he “thought he had enough to make her and all her Family easy in a private retired Way of Life, and as to his part, that was all he desired” (185, 297). For her part, Camilla readily consents “to let David fully satisfy his Darling Passion of doing good, and to live lower herself in order to serve her Brother” (297). When her father suggests that she and Valentine split the remaining ten thousand pounds in his estate, David insists “that what Fortune was amongst them might be shared in common” (302)—delicately omitting the fact that the largest single share of the fortune is his.15 As for the father, the victim of his earlier passion for a grasping, manipulative woman, David informs him that “any Obligations” he thinks he might have toward him have been “fully paid” by allowing him to serve “Persons of such worth” as his children, and the two couples join “in intreating the good old Gentleman to spend the rest of his Days with them, assuring him, his Will should be a Law to them all” (301, 302). These persistent references to money, both explicit and implicit, emphasize the extent to which a nonhierarchical and communal future would be impossible without the ultimate indulgence of a sentimental benefactor. David’s divestiture of his fortune in a single grand gesture signals both triumph and retreat. John Mullan has identified a perpetual conflict between those endowed with sensibility and a generally unsympathetic, exploitative “world” that exists outside them, and has observed as a consequence “the celebration of the domestic unit . . . as the only true society” in many novels of sensibility (Mullan 135, 146). In Fielding’s text, David’s proposal to Camilla reveals his apprehension of the uniqueness of the love and community he has found:

15 In the introduction to his edition of David Simple, which reprints Sarah Fielding’s original version, Peter Sabor notes that in that version, Valentine and Cynthia were given fifteen thousand pounds, and David only seven thousand from his uncle, in addition to more than ten thousand from his father. Sabor observes that Henry Fielding altered the sums in the second edition, creating “a tidy parallel” between the legacies (xxix). Even in the original version, however, David contributes the largest sum of money to the common fortune. Peter Sabor. “Introduction.” Sarah Fielding. David Simple, ed. Peter Sabor (1744; Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1998), pp. vii–xxxvii.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century [H]e told her with the greatest Joy, that she had delivered him from the utmost Despair of ever meeting with any Happiness in this World: For that when he had the good Fortune to meet with her, his Condition was so unhappy that he began seriously to think of getting into some Corner of the Earth, where he might never see the Face of a human Creature: for to be always in the midst of People, who, by their Behaviour, forc’d him to despise them, was to him the greatest of all Curses (296).

The desire to situate his utopia in a “private, retired way of life” removed from the London milieu that he had come to despise merges with the necessity of doing so, for with this final and largest act of generosity he has, consciously or not, severely truncated his role as dispenser of charity. At the end of the original novel, he represents an extreme example of what Markley has called “the paradoxical impasse of sentimental morality: the more you give, the more virtuous you become, although your actions leave you with less and therefore limit your capacity to keep on demonstrating your virtue” (230). Choosing originally not to limn the paradox, Fielding rewards her hero’s virtue with an ideal family of his own choosing, each virtuous member of which he has rewarded materially. A similar conclusion, albeit involving a more conventional family unit, characterizes a later, better-known sentimental novel, The Vicar of Wakefield, with the long-suffering Primrose family reunited and provided for by the benevolent Sir William Thornhill. In this case, as Mullan has observed, the happy ending—to which Goldsmith objected in other fiction—and the Vicar’s “all too easy . . . conflation of the moral and the material” (Mullan 137) in the last chapter can be used to support an interpretation of the novel as a parody of sentimentalism. In both novels, as easily as the complications of the plot disappear, benevolence, domesticity, and community coalesce in a fairy-tale ending that obscures the tensions engendered by the sensibility of the hero, the author, and the implied reader. For the reader, moreover, the community is lost right after it is found(ed) or recovered, fading into the evanescence of “happily ever after.” *** Volume the Last, however, both indulges and critiques sensibility by showing how—on both the reader’s part and on David’s—it dooms the utopia that it helped create. Once David has taken on family responsibilities and has given up “insouciant benevolence and carefree escapism,” he can no longer serve so completely as a surrogate for the detached sentimental reader (Todd 103). Near the end of the sequel, when an impoverished David and Camilla provide food and shelter to a beggar and recall “the many Pleasures of this kind they had once enjoyed,” their “peculiar Chearfulness” is tinged with a wistfulness that Fielding’s audience can share (397). Of course, Fielding could have permitted David to remain prosperous and go on indulging his generous impulses within a context of domestic bliss. She moves in a different direction, I believe, in order to gratify readerly expectations of novelty and of the kind of suffering that prompts powerful emotional responses. The defense of the sequel in the preface—presumably written by Fielding’s friend and

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subsequent collaborator Jane Collier—argues that a “Character that once pleased must always please, if thrown into new and interesting Situations” (310). The situations chosen by Fielding engage the reader’s sympathy in a more immediate, visceral way than a “Society . . . settled . . . perfectly to” the “Satisfaction” of its members (315). Although the narrator may at first invite readers to “make use of their own Imaginations, in drawing the Picture” of a happiness that she cannot adequately describe, the thrust of the sequel is to turn David and his family into victims whose plight the reader can pity at a distance (315).16 Hence Fielding quickly summarizes the community’s eleven years of “Felicity” and focuses instead on the economically driven dissolution of the community and the tragic consequences of the community’s descent into poverty (313). When Cynthia and Valentine are compelled to seek their fortune in Jamaica, and David divides his “small Stock of Money” with them, the narrator ruefully comments on the demise of a utopian ideal: “this was the first time the Word DIVIDED could, with any Propriety, have been used, in relating the Transactions of our Society; for SHARING in common, without any Thought of separate Property, had ever been their friendly Practice, from their first Connection” (338). In short order, but in excruciating detail, follow the deaths of Valentine, four of David’s five children, Camilla, and ultimately David himself. In Volume the Last, it is predominantly grief, not happiness, which “Words cannot reach” and which “the sympathizing Heart must imagine” (412). If the characters within the novel who can help David and his family are devoid of a “sympathizing heart” and either do nothing to assist them or actively contribute to their suffering, the sympathetic reader outside the text can feel superior to these characters, while having, as a spectator, neither obligation nor opportunity to act. At the same time, a worldly reader can feel superior to the “simple” hero, since the poverty that comes to drive the plot results in large measure from the very qualities that make David a paradigmatic man of feeling. As Bree has aptly remarked, “What in prosperous times manifested themselves as positive characteristics—a feeling heart and a sympathetic mind—compound his problems in adversity” (Bree 82). Along with his simplicity and passivity, they leave him and the community he created vulnerable and ultimately annihilated. Sentimental transaction cannot intersect with the materialistic commerce of a non-utopian world. In an often discussed scene at once comic and pathetic, Fielding renders in dialogue form David’s conversation with a moneylender about the nature of his relationship with Valentine, which David defines in personal, not economic terms.17 Predictably enough, “neither Party could well comprehend the other” (368). Readers may admire the nobility behind David’s unworldliness, but few would be tempted to imitate it, given the consequences. David is also endangered by misplaced trust in unscrupulous characters, upon whom he increasingly needs to depend. Early in the sequel, he blithely assumes that Mr. 16 Nickel has aptly observed that community “becomes a deliberately self-destroying arrangement of social relations because feeling itself, particularly the painful pleasure of shared suffering, remains its generative ground” (235). 17 See Bree, p. 88; Schellenberg, p.122; Skinner, p. 30; Bellamy, p. 136.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Ratcliff—one of a trio of villains that also includes Mr. and Mrs. Orgueil—shares his benevolent nature. Upon meeting Ratcliff, “with whom he had some small Acquaintance before he went into the Country,” one day after his return to London to respond to a claim on his uncle’s estate, David accepts his hospitality: without Hesitation . . . for a Mind so ready as his was, to give Assistance or Pleasure to his Friends, must be conscious, that in the like Circumstances, he should have rejoiced in the same Opportunity. And therefore, instead of being alarmed at the Thought of receiving an Obligation, he found some Satisfaction in the Thought, that, by accepting this Invitation, he should give his Friend the Opportunity of enjoying what was his own favourite Pleasure. (317)

When Ratcliff urges him to persist in the lawsuit for the estate, his better judgment, along with “that of the whole Society,” yields to “that Timidity of Mind, which he afterwards more fully experienced,” and is swayed by Ratcliff’s promises to provide for his first-born son—which of course turn out to be empty (323). Orgueil, who seconds Ratcliff’s opinion, tells David that “a Man of his peculiar way of thinking, ought always, in worldly Affairs, to be directed by Men of Prudence and Experience” (324). For once David’s course turns out to be more prudent—his loss of the suit helps impoverish him—but he cannot stand his ground. In the (rare) digression that follows, the narrator bemoans the plight of a man “actuated by no other Motives than the simple Dictates of an honest Heart”: he is either ridiculed for his gullibility, with the result that “the Words simple and silly are immediately made synonimous [sic],” or, when he acquires “the proper Caution built on Experience,” he “is suddenly metamorphosed into a cunning Fellow” (324). Unfortunately for David and his community, it takes countless betrayals to convince him that “some Caution in his Dealings with his Fellow Creatures was absolutely necessary” (397). Even when his suspicions are aroused, David finds himself trapped by his abiding attachment to and concern for his extended family. In the narrator’s words, “he was entangled in the Snare of his Love for others, and his Inclination blinded his Judgment, till he in a Manner forced himself to fancy he believed that Ratcliff and Orgueil would be his Friends, against that almost infallible Proof to the contrary, that the true Words of Kindness never fell from their Lips” (352). On his deathbed, as critics have noted, David himself recognizes how his inordinate sensibility had paralyzed him: 18 I found, even in my Days of Happiness, that in obtaining my Wishes, I had multiplied my Cares . . . but when Poverty broke in upon us, I found, that to bear the Poverty of Many, was almost insupportable.Then, indeed, my Mind began to be seized with Fear . . . and Terror and Timidity conquered my better Judgment. The Necessity I found for a Friend, made me admit, as such, Persons more properly called Persecutors . . . . Thus my fancied Friends became my Plagues, and my real ones, by their Sufferings, tore up my Heart by the Roots, and frightened me into the bearing the insolent Persecutions of the others (431). 18 See Barker, p. 78; Todd, p. 103; Skinner, p. 29.

A Fragile Utopia of Sensibility


Depending on himself instead of others is impossible for David, who, like Valentine, “had been bred to no Profession,” but unlike his brother-in-law, never seeks or accepts employment (335). Just as Orgueil’s cynical dismissal of compassion can nonetheless resonate with readers suspicious of David’s sentimental benevolism, his selfish evocation of the Pauline scripture that “a Man who does not provide for his own Family, is worse than an Infidel” can draw attention to David’s failure to assert himself on his family’s behalf (358). Instead, the erstwhile dispenser of charity is forced to rely on a world that defines worthiness far more narrowly than he once did. Near the end of the sequel, when David’s house burns to the ground, the narrator characterizes the fire as “a lucky Circumstance” because it leads to material assistance from neighbors, whereas, she fears, “had the same Distress arisen” from a foreclosure that was imminent, “the same Relief would not have followed” and David’s “Imprudence would have been more talked of than his Misfortune” (401). If defined in emotional rather than economic terms, David’s imprudence is likely to trouble a sympathetic but more restrained reader. Although the preface to Volume the Last indicates that one of the author’s purposes is to show “that in a Society united by well directed Affections, and a Similitude of Mind . . . every Evil may be lessened and alleviated, so that chearful Poverty may become almost the Envy of many that are called the Rich and Great,” and the narrator frequently makes similar observations in the course of the text, David’s final speech suggests the less sanguine possibility that unrestrained affections can contribute to external suffering and internal torment (309). Barbara Benedict has recently argued that sentimental fiction “seeks to modify. . . excessive sympathy” by “praising the rational and aesthetic pleasures of distance;” more specifically, by positioning the reader as a detached and rational spectator: “In all these texts . . . the conventions of plot, character, and language that structure genre work to separate the reader from too unbridled an identification with the sentimental characters in the story and to criticize excess and feminine feeling.”19 In this respect, as in so many others, Fielding’s text helps initiate the genre, as sympathy or pity for David and his extended family is moderated by a recognition that David’s ungoverned sympathy and pity help to prompt and exacerbate his misfortunes. Fielding presents no explicit alternative to the inevitable destruction of a utopia founded on and nurtured by feeling once it loses the capital that permitted it to withdraw from engagement with a less feeling world. Instead, she simultaneously offers readers the pleasures of sympathy, the consolation of distance, and the presumption of a greater sagacity than the naive hero demonstrates. The closure that originally validated the sentimental community gives way to a destruction of the community that validates the reader’s tempering of feeling with practical wisdom. John Mullan has persuasively demonstrated that the novel of sentiment “could flatter the private sensibility” of its reader, but “also depended on the realization that the examples it proposed could not be followed amidst any practical business of 19 Barbara Benedict. Framing Feeling: Sentiment and Style in English Prose Fiction, 1745–1800 (New York: AMS Press, 1994), pp. 9, 18.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

social life.” Hence the retreat—not only in David Simple but in fiction by Goldsmith and Henry Mackenzie as well—into a countryside that itself “can never be quiet for long,” and the “elegiac” ideal of “the community which is lost or exceptional” (Mullan 135, 130, 135). Perhaps the most extreme example of these tendencies appears in Mackenzie’s The Man of the World, in which the utopian community resides not in the English countryside but in the American wilderness. Near the end of the novel, William Annesly, who has returned to England after having been transported to America years earlier, described his captivity and subsequent adoption by the Cherokees, and his regret at leaving a society “where greatness cannot use oppression, nor wealth excite envy; where the desires are native to the heart, and the languor of satiety is unknown; where, if there is no refined sensation of delight, there is also no ideal source of calamity.”20 Having noted the obvious contradiction between the stoicism of the Cherokees and the emotionalism characteristic of sensibility, Gerard Barker reads the idealization of the former as a partial critique of the latter, but also concludes that “Mackenzie’s Cherokee utopia is inspired by nostalgia— one bred on the recognition that its simplicity can never be recaptured amidst the complexity and decadence of an advanced culture.”21 Similar precariousness inheres in domestic utopias founded on self-contradictory dimensions of sensibility, starting with David Simple. Early in the novel, when David visits an assembly of pretentious and acerbic literary critics, he insists that “the only Way of writing well” is: to draw all the Characters from Nature, and to affect the Passions in such a manner, as that the Distresses of the Good should move Compassion, and the Amiableness of their Actions incite Men to imitate them; while the Vices of the Bad stirred up Indignation and Rage, and made Men fly their Foot-steps: That this was the only kind of Writing useful to Mankind, tho’ there might be Embellishments, and Flights of Imagination, to amuse and divert the Reader (86).

The original quest narrative balances these aims, even as it interrogates the sources and limits of amiable actions, but once the hero has attained his goal, the sequel enacts David’s affective priorities by emphasizing virtue in distress over exemplary conduct, and by rejecting any sustained portrayal of the ideal community.22 In Fielding’s germinal sentimental novel, a utopia of love and friendship can serve as an ideal, and can even come to fruition, but, in terms of representation, is destined to remain nowhere.

20 Henry Mackenzie. The Man of the World (1773; New York: AMS Press, 1976), vol 2, p.183. 21 Barker. Henry Mackenzie (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1975), p. 67. 22 Barker also relates David’s comments to Fielding’s narrative strategy, but focuses on the attempt to “improve and refine the reader’s sensibility through a series of highly contrived emotional scenes” (“David Simple,” 75).

Chapter 4

Gothic Utopia: Heretical Sanctuary in Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian Brenda Tooley

Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian (1797) presents an alternative to the novel’s world of institutionalized violence within the enclosure of the Santa della Pieta, the convent to which the heroine Ellena retires after her “rescue” by her pseudo-father/uncle Schedoni. Radcliffe’s description of the convent is centered upon the maternal authority of the abbess, whose governance creates a space for a family of sisters and whose indifference to doctrinal rigor sanctions silent deviance from what Radcliffe constructs as a norm of Catholic intolerance. However, I argue that this utopian space—safe as it is from the machinery of persecution—is dependent upon the larger structure that enables its existence as much as it is an enclave of unregulated freedom of conscience that calls a certain “Gothic” representation of Catholic orthodoxy into question. This complicity engages with a textual tradition of proposals for and sketches of utopian women’s community. The convent’s description encompasses its government, its customary mode of sociality, its physical location and characteristics, and its situation within a larger, dystopian culture—as an “embedded” utopia within a Gothic narrative, the convent comments upon the exercises of power surrounding it. My essay explores the ways in which this sanctuary, this “good space,” becomes possible for a community of women in the eye of the Inquisitorial storm, and to what extent (or in what ways) Radcliffe’s interpolation of a description of utopian community into the narrative of the Gothic novel comments upon—either intentionally or not, and perhaps approvingly—a series of sketches and proposals for women’s “colleges” and women’s communities throughout the century and before. In The Italian a poor but independent heroine is abducted by the scheming mother of the wealthy nobleman with whom she has fallen in love; is subsequently incarcerated in a convent from which she is rescued by her lover; and is again captured, this time by Schedoni, a priest and confident of her lover’s mother, the Marchesa Vivaldi. Schedoni soon discovers he is apparently Ellena’s father (as it turns out, he is instead her uncle). This discovery changes his plans as he is about to murder Ellena when he recognizes her as his “daughter”; instead, he returns Ellena to a benevolently administered convent, where she is eventually joined by her longlost mother and remains, with minor local excursions, for the rest of the novel.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Schedoni confesses and dies, thus providing the story. The Marchesa dies repentant; Vivaldi and Ellena marry. O giorno felice. Radcliffe published The Italian at the end of a decade of political turmoil and violence occasioned by the French Revolution and the increasingly repressive British response to events across the Channel and to dissent at home. Radcliffe’s Gothic tale, as many critics concur, participates in a strategy whereby British Gothic writers situate their novels at a discreet distance (spatially and/or temporally) from current events while commenting upon pressing political and familial questions. In addition, Robert Miles, author of a recent literary biography on Radcliffe, places her work, and especially The Italian, in the context of her family’s and her own adherence to the tradition of British Protestant dissent as well as in the context of the French Revolution and its aftermath (58–9). In Miles’ summary, initial British interest in and approval of the Revolution was quickly superseded by general disapproval and finally, in many quarters, by a revulsion supported by governmental strictures against the radical press and radical spokesmen and a powerful propaganda movement amongst conservative journalists. Contemporary critical assessors concur that Gothic novels of the ’90s participated in the cultural debates taking place at the time by staging various conflicts between representatives of the feudal past (old, often male, authority figures) and representatives of the dawning modern era (young, beleaguered, often female figures of sensibility). The portrayal of the mansion as prison, the Inquisition as dungeon, the patriarch as murderous figure of traditional authority, and Catholicism as a labyrinthine organization dependent upon superstition and fear for its continuance underwrite a fictional mode that enables a certain limited cultural critique interwoven with affective pleasures, although as social critique Gothic conventions are almost endlessly appropriable. Indeed, social critique is interwoven throughout The Italian, which consistently uses the language of “rights” to signal the suffering and relatively passive heroism of its male and its female protagonists in their opposition to the feudal machinations of Vivaldi’s mother, the Marchesa, and the tyranny and corruption of the Catholic Church. The Italian also incorporates a compelling, complex vision of a utopian enclave within the heart of the very institutions most sharply delineated as corrupt and oppressive. I will focus here upon the purposes and paradoxes of this utopian enclave. The passage describing Ellena’s utopian refuge brings the narrative to a halt. Schedoni has deposited Ellena in the Santa della Pieta as he rethinks his plans in light of his newly discovered relationship with Ellena; Vivaldi is incarcerated in the Inquisition. Ellena has been welcomed in to the convent by the Superior “who had known her from infancy,” and her relative safety leaves her free to imagine Vivaldi’s probable suffering (229). In fact, Radcliffe’s description of this female utopia is framed by Ellena’s reveries and anticipatory fears. The narrative interrupts itself to describe the convent: [T]he society of Our Lady of Pity, was such as a convent does not often shroud; to the wisdom and virtue of the Superiour, the sisterhood was principally indebted for the harmony

Gothic Utopia


and happiness which distinguished them. This lady was a shining example to governesses of religious houses, and a striking instance of the influence, which a virtuous mind may acquire over others, as well as of the extensive good that it may thus diffuse. She was dignified without haughtiness, religious without bigotry, and mild, though decisive and firm. She possessed penetration to discover what was just, resolution to adhere to it, and temper to practice it with gentleness and grace; so that even correction from her, assumed the winning air of courtesy: the person, whom she admonished, wept in sorrow for the offence, instead of being secretly irritated by the reproof, and loved her as a mother, rather than feared her as a judge. (299–300).

Most striking is the Abbess’s faith: her religion was neither gloomy, nor bigotted; it was the sentiment of a grateful heart offering itself up to a Deity, who delights in the happiness of his creatures; and she conformed to the customs of the Roman church, without supposing a faith in all of them to be necessary to salvation. (300)

She protects herself and her convent from ecclesiastical scrutiny by dissimulating strict conformity to Catholicism. Her “lectures” focus upon the “moral duties, particularly such as were most practicable in the society to which she belonged; such as tended to soften and harmonize the affections, to impart that repose of mind, which persuades to the practice of sisterly kindness, universal charity, and the most pure and elevated devotion” (300). Her nuns view her as “a sublime consoler” and as having an “angelic nature” (300). The narrator states that “the society appeared like a large family, of which the lady abbess was the mother, rather than an assemblage of strangers” (300). The utopian interpolation continues with a description of the grounds, an “extensive domain” consisting of olive groves, vineyards, and corn fields as well as gardens with walnuts, almonds, oranges and “almost every kind of fruit and flower” (301). The terraces above the seashore command a wide view of the surrounding area, which the narrator describes in detail. Here Ellena reflects on her brief courtship with Vivaldi, attempts to avoid dwelling upon her instinctive repugnance to Schedoni, whom she thinks her father, and imagines a permanent asylum in a convent that is as close to home (metaphorically and literally) as she has been in the novel since her kidnapping. This utopia is constructed around a central, authoritative figure of exemplary, if unorthodox, faith; the community is metaphorically and insistently familial; the lines of authority in the convent are clear—the abbess “admonishes” and “corrects” her charges, although the “judge” is lost in the “mother” as she does so. The abbess stands in contrast to the “evil” abbess of San Stefano not because she relinquishes any part of the authority invested in her by virtue of her position within the Church’s and the community’s hierarchy, but because she exercises it so benevolently. Ellena challenges the San Stefano abbess, asking (in pronouncedly political language), “by whose will she had been torn from her home, and by whose authority she was now detained . . . a prisoner,” and with some rhetorical flourish, asks herself:


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century shall the guilty oppressor triumph, and the innocent sufferer sink under the shame that belongs only to guilt! Never will I yield to a weakness so contemptible. The consciousness of deserving well will recall my presence of mind, which, permitting me to estimate the characters of my oppressors by their actions, will enable me also to despise their power. (68)

Sisters reprimanded by the “good” abbess might well feel similarly aggrieved, but the text constructs the Superior’s merciful acuity as invariably accurate. The utopian space of the Santa della Pieta mirrors the dystopian space of the San Stefano, a reversal effected not by a transformed or dismantled structure, but by the differently inflected agency of the subjects residing within and constituted by the structure. The Santa della Pieta is “utopian” (explicitly a model community, a description of a well-governed, stable, self-sufficient society) insofar as Radcliffe presents it in terms of how it is put together, how it runs and under what kind of authority—in a novel that is very much about the connection between violence and authority, institutional coercion and inward, silenced dissent. This particular convent seems in the context of the novel to be emancipatory, if only in a limited sense. Of course, the Santa della Pieta is also implicated in (can only be seen against, provides a space for dissent within) the larger institutional structures that frame it.1 Of course, the small enclave of women governed by a motherly authority had been proposed before Radcliffe wrote a working model into The Italian.2 Mary Astell recommends the construction of a college for women, notably in A Serious Proposal (1694); Astell’s construct of the female retreat coordinates a number of concerns about female education, social dependence and solitude. Samuel Richardson in Sir Charles Grandison (1753–54) endorses the concept of a “Protestant Nunnery.” Sarah Scott in Millenium Hall (1762) expands upon an outline provided by earlier proposals. At the start of the final decade of the century, the Gothic novelist Clara Reeve outlines a similar plan for female education (as does the Quaker Priscilla 1 As Miles points out, “the contemporary reader would register the Superior’s liberal, anti-dogmatic values as Protestant; more particularly, though, her values chime with those of liberal dissenters and other champions of religious toleration.” See Robert Miles, Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), p. 157. Radcliffe’s language could not but have signaled the novel’s engagement with contemporary debates about individual rights, the authority of church and state, and proper modes of government. Equally, as Miles points out, Radcliffe’s continuing, if complex, adherence to the aesthetic and the psychology of sensibility occurs in the face of a sustained and energetic critique of sensibility from both radicals (who saw sensibility as an effete aestheticizing of other people’s suffering) and conservatives (who saw sensibility as a dangerous indulgence of undisciplined, potentially anarchic, feeling), Miles, p. 156. 2 For further information about eighteenth-century representations of conventual life, see Katherine M. Rogers. “Fantasy and Reality in Fictional Convents of the Eighteenth Century.” Comparative Literature Studies 22.3 (1985): 297–316. For information about antiCatholic sentiment in novels of the late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century, see Ana M. Acosta. “Hotbeds of Popery: Convents in the English Literary Imagination.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 15.3–4 (2003): 615–42.

Gothic Utopia


Wakefield). In the politically charged late 1790s, Ann Radcliffe takes up the Gothic mode to explore, among other issues, the connection between power, authority and gender in the constitution of various communities within her novels. I focus here on Astell’s and Reeve’s proposals and Richardson’s fictional use of the concept of the Protestant convent.3 The Italian contains the most pronounced, but not the only, example of Radcliffe’s nuanced exploration of utopian spaces within the interstices of larger structures of family, church and state. Here, as in the sketches of women’s communities through the century, the informing goodness of the central authority permeates the community. Bridget Hill notes that Mary Astell proposes a retired community in which women could “equip themselves to re-enter [the world] as more useful members of society” (108). Whether Astell’s perception of the value to society of Catholic convents was accurate or not is irrelevant, Hill argues, as the construct of the female retreat functioned to constellate a number of concerns its creation would address: Whether authors like Mary Astell were wrong in what they ascribed to nunneries of the middle ages is largely beside the point. If such ideas were based on myth it was a powerful and persistent one. It was believed that the education as well as the piety of women had suffered in consequence of the dissolution, and that unmarried women had been left singularly unprovided for. (117)

Resistance to such schemes seems, Hill argues, not the result of anti-Catholicism so much as “a feeling that such female institutions as those proposed were a threat to men” (119). “Spinsterhood, because it escaped male authority within marriage, was seen as a latent threat against the whole structure of domestic authority” (119). Many of the proposals for female communities emerge from a desire for religious expression and regular religious practice: Contrary to the widely held belief that such religious expression of women failed to survive the Restoration, there is evidence suggesting that, while for a time less prominent than in the 1640s, it continued into and throughout the eighteenth century . . . . If the sects—now with a far more clearly and rigidly defined organization—no longer encouraged women

3 I argue that there is a sometimes tenuous but traceable genealogy here, from Astell through the commendatory reading of her work by her much younger acquaintance, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who takes up Astell’s arguments in new contexts, to Montagu’s daughter and granddaughter and the Bluestockings, of whom Sarah Scott is one, to another member of the progressive and professionalized middle-class, Ann Radcliffe see Gary Kelly, ed. A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country Adjacent Together With the Characters of the Inhabitants and Such Historical Anecdotes and Reflections as May Excite in the Reader Proper Sentiments of Humanity, and Lead the Mind to the Love of Virtue by “A Gentleman on his Travels” (1762; Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1995.) By mid-century, as the Bluestockings introduce serious literary and philosophical topics to eighteenth-century fashionable society, Elizabeth Montagu’s sister, Sarah Scott, could present a fictional utopia created and sustained by women, thereby implicitly advocating liberal political and economic reform in the wake of the conclusion of the Seven Year’s War (Kelly 22–26).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century in such forms of self-expression as preaching and prophesying, they continued to produce women in search of less institutionalized religion where they could play a role . . . . What distinguishes . . . eighteenth-century millenarian expression is the predominant role played by women. When in the 1780s and 1790s this expression intensifies, women far outnumber men (Hill 1987, 126).

In Plans of Education, With Remarks on the Systems of Other Writers (1792), Clara Reeve, an author, like Radcliffe, of Gothic novels, uses an epistolary form to expand upon her views on female education. This correspondence involves two women, one of whom, Lady A– , is concerned for the education of her daughter; the other, Frances Darnford, is an educational theorist and advisor. Reeve points out that “though Protestants in general have a rooted aversion to the name of convent, it is certain that there are many benefits arising from these institutions, as well as inconveniences and abuses” and notes the particular value of convents to women who have been “forsaken by their relatives, and deserted by the world” (126). At every point in this discussion, Reeve uses the plural to indicate a widespread consensus that the establishment of such convents would be a general social good: it has been thought by many persons of sound judgment and liberal minds, that it might be practicable to found a society that might retain all the good properties of these communities, and avoid all the bad ones. There are many women of small fortunes, with cultivated minds, and enlarged hearts, that would chuse to retire from the bustle of the world, and devote their time and talents to the benefit of others, rather than sink into ennui, which always attends indolence. These might found an asylum for themselves, and a seminary of education for others. (12627).

At the end of this letter, Frances sketches for Lady A– some of the utopian activity in the neighborhood: Mr. Balderson is building at a great rate; Mrs. Strictland is purchasing houses in the village; she has numbers every day soliciting to be her tenants. She wishes to realize Shenstone’s idea. If I had a large fortune, I would build myself a neighborhood . . . . Mrs. Strictland will not suffer knaves and fools to take shelter in her territories; but she will invite the ingenious, the virtuous, and the unfortunate, and build for them a real paradise. (128–29)

Mrs. Strictland’s name indicates the general tenor of her benevolent rule, but the combination of the ability to realize a model village and the hope to afford shelter for the worthy suggest the baseline ideology of enlightenment reform. What follows is Frances’s treatise, “The Plan of a Female Community and a Seminary of Female Education,” which opens with a sketch of the already deplorable and rapidly worsening state of female education in contemporary Britain, and traces the consequences of the current system to the apparent fact that “the manners of our country women in general have sustained a great and alarming alteration in the course of the present century” (131). Failed marriages, especially, testify to a failure in the system of female education. In order to stop the “torrent of vice and folly”

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many women (Frances again positions herself as one of many) have proposed a “better system of education, by which the rising generation may be preserved from the contagion of bad example, and be enabled to restore the national character of virtue, modesty, and discretion” (132). Frances’s proposal promises substance: “we conceive, that it is very practicable to inculcate the highest principles of religion and virtue, and to blend them with the most elegant female accomplishments, and the most useful social and domestic qualities; this, therefore, is the design and purpose of our new plan of female education”; her plan contains a civic component as well (it will be of “general utility” to “the whole community”), largely in that it matches female education to social expectations, as the most serious consequence of the current systems is the unfounded expectations of social mobility and reward inculcated in middle-class girls (137–38). The plan has already found backers: “several Ladies of unquestionable characters and abilities, have determined to form a community, for the purpose of founding a Seminary of Female Education upon the following Plan” (140). The constituent elements are these: that all members enter the seminary for three years (although there are no penalties for early departure); that all members contribute financially to the “support and service of the said Community”; that the Community will find a “large and commodious house, in a convenient situation” near but not within a market town; each of the “Ladies” will apply to teach in a “department” of the Community; all applications will be reviewed by the Community as a whole; the Ladies will hold a “Council” every Monday to “compose the Rules for governing the Society” and to plan their implementation (140–41). The Community will be financed by the tuition of the “children of people of good fortune, who will be expected to pay a handsome price for their board” and will receive a substantial education in manners and morals (144). In addition, a: certain number of young girls, the daughters of clergymen, officers in the army and navy, placemen, or any profession whose parents have died in indigent circumstances, and left them entirely destitute of any provision, shall be received into this community for the term of seven years; to be employed in the service of it during that time; and if their behaviour is approved, they shall receive proper testimonials, and other tokens of approbation, in proportion to the ability of the Community to confer them, in order to promote their establishment in their respective business or employment. (145)

These charity students will receive the same instruction as the paying students and shall in addition receive vocational training suited to their social position. Such training includes millinery work, mantua making, lace-making, stay-making, spinning and knitting, and florist work (146–47). In order to obviate invidious class distinctions, all students will be required to wear a school uniform; Frances points for an example of a modest fashion to the subdued beauty of Quaker dress (“like real beauty, it has struck the eyes of all that beheld it, and has extorted applause even from those who were determined not to follow it” [147]). The charity students will have opportunity to work in the community, and to build a reserve fund for marriage or for the establishment of a business upon graduation (148). Servants to


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

the Community will be chosen “from the industrious poor”; servants, like the charity students, have opportunities to earn and save money, in this case for use in retirement (149–50). The Community will be largely self-sustaining, with adjacent lands upon which cows, hogs and poultry will be kept (151). Frances notes that with “the Patronage of some Lady of distinguished Rank and Character” such a community might become a “confirmed institution” (152). The first twelve applicants to the program will be called the “Sisterhood”; these Sisters will be first to be considered for the “office of superior” when it comes open, in preference to later members (153). The annual fees for the Sisters are relatively steep (one hundred pounds as entrance fee; twenty pounds annually): Frances clearly expects the Community to build and maintain an endowment (154). The “Superior” has the additional title of “Mother of the Community”; the “Sisters” are to be known as “Sister, with the proper addition” of the Christian name (158). In response to objections to her scheme, Frances points out that her plan incorporates a hierarchical structure of authority: I do not see why twelve women may not agree under the direction of one superior. If they were all to be equal in power, it might create a jealousy; but under an acknowledged superior, they would submit to be governed. In all communities, little or great, there must be a head; and this point once settled, is settled forever. (172)

Clearly, at issue here is the ability of women to govern themselves within a structured community; the absence of man, the “natural” head, does not inevitably result in anarchy. An author even more vehement about the ability of women to govern themselves in a closed community structured as a Protestant convent is Mary Astell, whose A Serious Proposal (1694) comes almost a century before Reeve and Radcliffe. Astell also imputes women’s behavior to poor education: if our Nature is spoil’d, instead of being improv’d at first; if from our Infancy we are nurs’d up in Ignorance and Vanity; are taught to be Proud and Petulant, Delicate and Fantastick, Humorous and Inconstant, ‘tis not strange that the ill effects of this Conduct appear in all the future Actions of our Lives. (144)

Astell sets the stakes high: an ability to distinguish between appearance and reality, to value the immortal soul rather than the mortal body, to be invulnerable to specious arguments of seducing men—women’s well-being in the most profound sense, as Astell understood it, is at issue: Whereas Women were they rightly Educated, had they obtain’d a well inform’d and discerning Mind, they would be proof against all those Batteries, see through and scorn those little silly Artifices which are us’d to ensnare and deceive them. Such an one would value her self only on her Vertue, and consequently be most chary of what she esteems so much. (146)

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Astell also issues a call to action: And now having discovered the Disease and its cause, ‘tis proper to apply a Remedy; single Medicines are too weak to cure such complicated Distempers, they require a full Dispensatory; and what wou’d a good Woman refuse to do, could she hope by that to advantage the greatest part of the World, and improve her Sex in knowledge and true Religion? (149)

Her proposal follows: Now as to the Proposal, it is to erect a Monastery, or if you will (to avoid giving offence to the scrupulous and injudicious, by names which tho’ innocent in themselves, have been abus’d by superstitious Practices,) we will call it a Religious Retirement, and such as shall have a double aspect, being not only a Retreat from the World for those who desire that advantage, but likewise, an Institution and previous discipline, to fit us to do the greatest good in it; such an Institution as this (if I do not mightily deceive my self) would be the most probable method to amend the present and improve the future Age . . . . Such as are willing in a more peculiar and undisturb’d manner, to attend the great business they came into the world about, the service of GOD and improvement of their own Minds, may find a convenient and blissful retreat from the noise and hurry of the World. (150)

In this retreat, there will be “no Serpents to deceive” women ensconced in “delicious Gardens” (151). Astell’s community is founded upon an educational regimen that is not in the first instant oriented toward usefulness in the world: in fine, the place to which you are invited is a Type and Antepast of Heav’n, where your Employment will be as there, to magnify GOD, to love one another, and to communicate that useful knowledge which by the due improvement of your time in Study and Contemplation you will obtain, and which when obtain’d, will afford you a much sweeter and more durable delight, than all those pitiful diversions, those revellings and amusements, which now thro your ignorance of better, appear the only grateful and relishing Entertainments. (151)

At the same time, this retreat is not an exemption from the necessity of charitable action in an imperfect world: [Y]our Retreat shall be so manag’d as not to exclude the good Works of an Active, from the pleasure and serenity of a Contemplative Life, but by a due mixture of both retain all the advantages and avoid the inconveniences that attend either. It shall not so cut you off from the world as to hinder you from bettering and improving it, but rather qualify you to do it the greatest Good, and be a Seminary to stock the Kingdom with pious and prudent Ladies, whose good Example it is to be hop’d, will so influence the rest of their Sex, that Women may no longer pass for those little useless and impertinent Animals, which the ill conduct of too many has caus’d ‘em to be mistaken for. (151–52)

Astell’s community itself becomes a single body, child of its “Heavenly Father” and “holy Mother the Church” (156): “this happy Society will be but one Body, whose


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Soul is love, animating and informing it, and perpetually breathing forth it self in flames of holy desires after GOD and acts of Benevolence to each other” (157). The central authority (although in this case not singular) of the community is an exemplar of reason and benevolence: [O]ur Religious [shall] be under the tuition of persons of irreproachable Lives, of a consummate Prudence, sincere Piety and unaffected Gravity. No Novices in Religion, but such as have spent the greatest past of their lives in the study and practice of Christianity; who have lived much, whatever the time of their abode in the world has been. Whose Understandings are clear and comprehensive, as well as their Passions at command and Affections regular, and their Knowledge able to govern their Zeal . . . . Who have the perfect government of themselves, and therefore rule according to Reason not Humour, consulting the good of the Society, not their own arbitrary sway. Yet know how to assert their Authority when there is just occasion for it, and will not prejudice their Charge by an indiscreet remissness and loosning the Reins of discipline (158).

The ultimate beneficiary of the establishment of such an institution would be society itself, which would improve by example: “having gain’d an entrance into Paradise themselves, they wou’d both shew the way, and invite others to partake of their felicity” (164). Astell’s scheme works its way into Samuel Richardson’s final novel, Sir Charles Grandison (1753–54) in which the concept of a “Protestant Nunnery” occurs twice, the first time as a general proposal in the context of an evening conversation, the second time in a letter from Sir Charles to a distraught Clementina, who hopes, by “taking the veil,” to avoid marriage and seeks in Sir Charles’s response a sanction for her planned retreat from the world. The first conversation, in which Charles outlines his scheme, comes after Charlotte has married Lord G. and on the eve of Charles’s departure for Italy and Clementina—that is, in the midst of emotional turmoil for all of the chief protagonists occasioned by internalized constraints over the articulation of desire. The conversation is sparked by the departure of an elderly spinster (how could “so agreeable a woman, as she must have been in her youth . . . remain single?” [IV.18]). Mrs. Reeves comments on lack of training and occupational opportunities for single women, and Charles then notes that she must, like Charles and Dr. Bartlett: want to see established in every country, Protestant Nunneries; in which single women of small or no fortunes might live with all manner of freedom, under such regulations as it would be a disgrace for a modest or good woman not to comply with, were she absolutely on her own hands; and to be allowed to quit it whenever they pleased. (IV.18)

Charles then sketches out the organization of the community: “the governesses or matrons of the society . . . would have to be women of family, of unblameable characters from infancy, and noted equally for their prudence, good-nature, and gentleness of manners. The attendants, for the slighter services, should be the hopeful children of the honest industrious poor” (IV.18). Bartlett asks the assemblage if they would not see:

Gothic Utopia


such a society as this, all women of unblemished reputation, employing themselves as each (consulting her own genius) at her admission, shall undertake to employ herself, and supported genteelly, some at more, some at less expence to the foundation, according to their circumstances, might become a national good; and particularly a seminary for good wives, and the institution a stand for virtue . . . ? (IV.18)

Charles suggests that such a seminary might support itself by the pooled resources of its members (“tho’ each, singly in the world, would be distressed”); a sliding scale of fees for occasional members and an endowment provided by wealthy families assures a firm financial foundation. The members might also work, but could keep the profit earned by their labour. Several volumes later, Charles has returned from Italy and is in the awkward position of advocating marriage rather than the convent to the woman who has refused him only because he is Protestant, she Catholic. In his reply to Clementina’s letter, Charles points out that “tho’ a Protestant, [he] is not an enemy to such foundations [convents] in general.” “I could wish,” he writes, “under proper regulations, that we had Nunneries among us. I would not, indeed, have the obligation upon Nuns be perpetual: Let them have liberty, at the end of every two or three years, to renew their vows, or otherwise, by the consent of friends” (VI.4). Still, as Clementina refuses the entreaties of her family only because of a general reluctance, not because of a point of conscience, her desire to become a nun seems to Charles “selfish,” an impulse she should resist. This accusation of selfishness, as well as a generalized endorsement of the value of the Protestantized convent, recurs in Radcliffe’s explorations of the advantages and dangers of the utopian conventual retreat. The Italian enacts and interrogates a conflict between two constructions of selfhood, one inextricably interwoven with familial and social identifications, the other singularly autonomous (the human being with intrinsic rights violated by oppressive institutions) and yet, because embodied, painfully subject to inquisitorial control, to the infliction of pain and to the even more devastating circumstance of witnessing pain inflicted on a beloved.4 The Italian underscores the inaccessibility— the impossibility—of a fully autonomous selfhood. Within the terms of this contest between competing and irreconcilable constructions of subjectivity, full autonomy becomes a child’s myth, and “limited autonomy” occurs only within institutions that 4 Vivaldi, who believes Ellena to be imprisoned with him in the Inquisition, cannot even inquire after her because, in so doing, he would: furnish [the Inquisitors] with a more exquisite means of torturing him than any other they could apply; for if, when all the terrors of his soul concerning her were understood, they should threaten to increase her sufferings, as the punishment of what was termed his obstinacy, they would, indeed, become the masters of his integrity, as well as of his person. Ann Radcliffe. The Italian; or, The Confessional of the Black Penitents. A Romance (1797; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994), p. 312. An astounding and scarifying passage, which deserves more attention than I can give it here.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

enable it.5 Ellena achieves/discovers a bounded and relational selfhood within the purview of the very institutions, religious and familial, that throughout the novel threaten her life. Similarly, the good abbess guards her own and her sisters’ freedom of conscience by outward compliance: precisely the forms of authority that enable the Radcliffean Inquisition to exercise its power, (silence, masking and secrecy) exempt a small community of women from persecution. Situated at the center of the very institution that operates in ways the text seems adamantly to oppose is a utopian space within which the novel finds resolution. The Italian juxtaposes the good abbess’s indifference to Catholic doctrine with the Inquisition’s desire to force the individual to speak his or her own betrayal, to regulate not only speech but thought. The abbess does not question her charges; the Inquisition insists on confession. The sanctuary scenes in The Italian suggest that entwined with the narrative of threatened violence (and yet more insistently, the threat of being witness to violence inflicted upon others) is a narrative of exemption from violence, of a licensed heresy. In the Santa della Pieta private deviation from orthodoxy is itself “orthodox,” more than acceptable if discerned at all. The “good” abbess’s refusal to specify the connection between doctrinal purity and personal faith enables a reprieve from institutional violence, thus allowing an arena, at once institutional and marginal, where silence and apparent conformity disguise “safe” dissent. In this location, at this moment in the narrative, Ellena encounters sanctuary. I would agree with Michasiw, who argues that “there are no obvious ‘protestant’ alternatives to the patriarchal family or to the state” in the novel, rather than with Cannon Schmitt, who in an informative study of Radcliffe’s works, points out that Ellena “moves through the novel in the direction of doubt: doubt of others and of self” ( 343, 867).6 The problem, of course, is that convents also turn 5 Ellena has throughout the novel proudly affirmed a middle-class self-sufficiency (she “looked with infinitely more pride and preference upon the industrious means, which had hitherto rendered her independent, than on all distinction which might be reluctantly conferred” [69]). Yet, in the convent setting, birth and worth suddenly accord; while Ellena has proven her prudence and self-reliance, she no longer needs to depend upon these qualities, having discovered the nobility of her birth. The tables are turned on the Marchese Vivaldi as Olivia, speaking now as a parental authority, notes that: she never could consent that her daughter should become a member of any family, whose principal was either insensible of her value, or unwilling to acknowledge it; and that in this instance it would be necessary to Vivaldi’s success, not only that he, but that his father should be a suitor. (410) The Marchese is persuaded both by Ellena’s newly established pedigree and by the domestic charms (the “delicacy and sweetness”) of mother and daughter. The convenient closure of satisfactorily resolved romance covers over and also exhibits ideological inconsistencies. 6 Schmitt points out the implications of Radcliffe’s work in the context of contemporary debate about English national character and nationalism, and argues that the novel, like conduct books of the period, presents modes of proper behavior, specifically for young women; in so doing, it inculcates fear—an “all-encompassing distrust of others and, especially, of the

Gothic Utopia


out to be safe havens in which family connections are restored, family narratives reconstructed, safety and narrative closure achieved. No overtly Protestant alternative is required when dissent shelters within the confines of the convent, within church doors. Ellena may doubt her vision and may fail to see—or interpret—correctly at key moments in the narrative, but she is never disastrously wrong, and is finally rewarded. Any epistemological uncertainty that occurs in the novel only settles the foundations of the novel’s ground more securely. Even convents can be safe havens; even at the heart of the Inquisition, justice may be enacted. However, the price is high. The social institutions that work against Ellena and Vivaldi turn against their manipulators, as Michasiw notes, but there is no final guarantee in the last pages that they will not turn again. The superior of the good convent, who plays no major role in the plot but is described at length, makes possible the conclusion of the novel. Claudia Johnson connects the portrayal of the good convent in The Italian with a historically specific construction of female community and with a peculiarity in the structure of the novel that argues intentional design: the “emergence of the mother as the basis for sentimental community is exceptional, for sentimental domesticity is elsewhere invariably paternal in its structure”; the Santa della Pieta is “the only domestic idyll proffered in the novel, and it is a haven from the atrocity rife elsewhere precisely because of its independence from and exclusion of the world of men and the structures of patriarchal society” (135–36). However, the good abbess seems also to be an unwitting accomplice of the violence and doctrinal rigor she eschews in practice, and thus her achievement is ambiguous. It is clearly a good within the narrative that Ellena end up at the Santa della Pieta, but female authority as constructed in the novel does not stand apart from the play of power within the society in which it is embedded. No act of separatism restores a primary maternal innocence (somehow beyond the violent games of worldly power) to any of the novel’s mothers. The totalitarian regime in which this utopia is islanded enables its existence, but while one could read the text suspiciously, seeing the good abbess as working in bad faith to sustain a separate peace for a select few, one could also read the text as a level-eyed assessment of what good one can do within a flawed system—resistance remains internal even as it seeks a language (in this case of a dissenting piety and nature worship) for a mythical “outside.” One could even argue that the novel makes a case that the more extreme the polarization of “mothers” and “fathers” the more spacious and secure the private maternal sanctuary. A comment upon the utopian dream of radical change at home and abroad as well as upon the more limited but no less utopian projects of women’s communities, as recast and rewritten throughout the century, may be inscribed here. How one assesses the value of reformist complicity (or would that be effective secret subversion?) depends upon the angle of the reader’s perception. self” which leads to “an internalization of surveillance” and “the constitutions of bourgeois subjectivity . . . the need incessantly to monitor the self” (Cannon Schmitt. “Techniques of Terror, Technologies of Nationality: Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian.” ELH 61 (1994): 855–56).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

My argument is not that all convents in all Gothic novels (or even all “good” convents in Radcliffe’s novels) are utopian. Radcliffe’s description of the Santa della Pieta is unusual in its insistence on the benevolent role of its governess and the familial (or sororal) structure of its society, in contrast but also in relation to the structures of authority, also metaphorically familial, of the Inquisition. Radcliffe’s convents are not invariably prisons, in fact, although in no other passage does she dwell upon the specific organization of the community. In The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), Emily takes refuge in a convent after the death of her father, during which stay: the peace and sanctity that reigned within, the tranquil beauty of the scenery without, and the delicate attentions of the abbess and nuns, were circumstances so soothing to her mind, that they almost tempted her to leave a world, where she had lost her dearest friends, and devote herself to the cloister . . . . The pensive enthusiasm, too, so natural to her temper, had spread a beautiful illusion over the sanctified retirement of the nun, that almost hid from her view the selfishness of its security. (89)

Security ceases to the selfish in The Italian.7 The dependencies that underwrite the Gothic utopia of the Santa della Pieta suggest that its apparent complicity is also a challenge carried through into the “giorno felice” of the resolution, as Johnson also notes.8 Miles concludes that The Italian’s “ostensible politics is thus of provincial, dissenting, middle-class culture” which “trusts in a British instinct for liberty, but only within the confines of an historically hallowed constitution” and “believes in the freedom of conscience, trusting that all free consciences will be Protestant ones” (168). Not all readers see the conclusion of 7 Spacks argues that the Gothic fictions that appear to concern the course of romantic love turn out to concern the discovery/construction of sustaining communities: “Radcliffe’s heroines . . . who claim to desire union with their lovers, discover their need for a wider community than that of sexual love” (Patricia Meyer Spacks. Desire and Truth: Functions of Plot in the Eighteenth-Century English Novel. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 181. This situating of the loving couple within the community that validates and supports their marriage suggests that Gothic, once again, engages in cultural work that is not solely a matter of eliciting affective response, nor of metaphorizing politics as family, nor of revealing the political economy of the traditional family structure—but also highlights the context within which romantic closure becomes viable: “in Radcliffe’s novels, good defeats evil, largely by the revelation of old stories, but the resolutions suggest new terms for all that has gone before” (Spacks, 182). 8 “The Italian has been so inauspicious and bleak that it requires not one but two endings to establish an epithalamium, the second serving as a sort of coda which labors to bring the whole novel around to the tonic major. Can it be fortuitous that the narrator makes not even a perfunctory attempt to inspire any credence in the heterosexual plot? . . . . It is tempting to see in Paulo’s bravado of ecstatic inanity a variation on Radcliffe’s own celebration of a happy and well-ordered world at the expense of her plot’s own meanings.” Claudia Johnson. Equivocal Beings: Politics, Gender, and Sentimentality in the 1790s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), p. 136.

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The Italian as so clearly delineated, and many tie the ideological fractures in the text to Radcliffe’s authorial silence for the next twenty-six years: the last volume of The Italian overtly addresses institutional power—that prime political fact of the modern state—a presence before which the novelist’s Enlightenment faith breaks down . . . . Radcliffe’s gathering concentration is on relations not between individuals in themselves but between individuals as they are mediated or even produced by social institutions. (Michasiw 329)9

On the one hand, Miles argues that Radcliffe champions freedom of conscience while assuming that such freedom will always be exercised in predictable ways, a liberal move in which social constraints shackle a human nature that pre-exists them and that, once freed, will be liberated from all artifice, at last itself. On the other, Michasiw notes that “in the process of demystifying certain superstitious adherences, Radcliffe’s novels cause others to appear in their places; a superstitious valorization of the family is but one possible consequence of the dissipation of other loyalties” (336). Even more startling is Radcliffe’s recognition that “forms of institutional power persist despite enlightenment” (337). The Inquisition does not disappear just because Vivaldi shouts about its injustice; San Stefano, the “bad convent,” remains in operation despite Ellena’s verbal challenge to its Superior. “Illusory fears are dispelled not by fuller knowledge but by real fears. The human capacity to terrorize, and the institutions which license this capacity, replace both natural and supernatural sources of terror” (Michasiw 338). So just how emancipatory is the Santa della Pieta? Perhaps the fiction of the absolute liberation of a pre-existing human nature beside the point, when power produces good as well as evil. The good abbess (courageously? anachronistically? like a good Englishwoman?— the motivation for her private rebellion is never supplied) declines to endorse every tenet of the Catholic faith, but that very faith in the final instant proves not to be the inevitable source of terror it at first seems. While her convent does not read guilt into every speech, the Inquisition, which seems perfectly willing to do so, also provides the procedural sophistication that brings the truth to light. The novel does not uphold a clear or easy opposition between the institutional space of the good convent and its form of benign, metaphorically parental authority, and the Inquisition, with its sublime spaces and terrifying (but also discerning) paternal authorities. Despite the Inquisition’s method of interpretation, “torturing” the words of its victims to attain “truth” or its appearance (when first imprisoned, Vivaldi wonders if it is “possible for his words to be tortured into a self-accusation” [202]), forcing heresy into speech, knowing already what will be said, demanding of its victims an already configured answer, Inquisitorial methods are finally recuperated into the series of disclosures and resolutions that conclude the novel. Michasiw argues that “the Inquisition remains the chamber of oppression whatever good it may, incidentally, do” and that “the presence of the vicar-general, a truly just man, among the Inquisitors . . . serves only to underscore the capacity of the institution to overbear any individual goodness 9

Johnson makes a similar point in the conclusion of her chapter on The Italian.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

that may inhere among its servants” (341). These are large claims. I agree that the institutions portrayed in the novel are “larger” than the powers of the individuals who attempt to use them, and are “out of control” of the scheming and apparently sublime individual. As Johnson points out, “the tribunal is morally efficacious after all, and the Inquisitors themselves are committed agents of justice who are scrupulous in the exertion of their authority, earnest in the pursuit of truth, and are even willing to submit to their own uncowling . . . in order to reach it” (132). I would argue a more ambivalent conclusion: the novel presumes the inevitability of institutional exercises of power and creates spaces within them for positive agency—always limited, always implicated—but also efficacious. Radcliffe’s sentimental community of quiet dissent and local benevolence operates within a larger structure that would eliminate it, perhaps, if it knew of it, but also makes its existence possible.

Chapter 5

Rewriting Rousseau: Isabelle de Charrière’s Domestic Dystopia Caroline Weber

I cried out, “My dear husband! Tell me what my happiness lacks, if not to promote yours, and to be more deserving of you.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Julie; or, The New Heloise) About me, my well-being, my pleasure, [my husband said] not a word. A reasonable woman would not have failed to be happy: but I am not a reasonable woman. (Isabelle de Charrière, Letters from Mistress Henley)

In 1790, Isabelle de Charrière drafted a timely but surprising pamphlet called the Defense and Complaint of Thérèse Levasseur [Défense et Plainte de Thérèse Levasseur]. The tract was timely in that it addressed a controversy that had been sparked earlier that year by the posthumous publication of the second half of JeanJacques Rousseau’s Confessions. In this text, the famed theoretician of enlightened child rearing and family values recounted his decision to place in an orphanage the eight children he had sired by his common-law wife, Thérèse Levasseur. This disclosure generated considerable backlash in the Parisian public, who directed the bulk of their disapproval toward Levasseur, an illiterate laundress who was still alive at the time. She was a necessary scapegoat, for the French Revolution was in its heyday, and Rousseau was its unquestioned hero. As his champions, the leading minds of the day—even feminist intellectuals like Germaine de Staël—preferred to heap the blame on the mother of Rousseau’s children rather than challenge the conduct of the philosophe whose ideals were now giving shape to the new republic.1 Charrière was therefore by no means alone in broaching the subject of Levasseur’s culpability, but her treatise was surprising in that it bucked the trend, demanding that the public stop treating with such injustice the person whom the great man had

1 For Staël’s diatribe against “that unworthy woman who spent her life with [Rousseau],” see her Lettres sur les ouvrages et le caractère de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, ed. Marcel Françon (1788; Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1979).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

“honor[ed] by giving her his laundry to wash and his soup to cook.”2 Not a writer known for her sarcasm, Charrière’s vitriol was as unexpected as her position. Was this not the same woman who had, less than a year earlier, written In Praise of JeanJacques Rousseau [Eloge de Jean-Jacques Rousseau] for presentation to the French Academy? The same woman who had collaborated in the posthumous publication of his Confessions? The same woman who had eloquently praised the “celestial dreams” to which his “brilliant imagination” had given rise?3 What was it about the affaire Levasseur that provoked Charrière to such ire against her self-proclaimed idol, and what are we to make of her irritation? Unlikely as it may seem, at least one key to answering these last questions lies in Charrière’s In Praise of Jean-Jacques Rousseau itself—and more specifically in her observations about the radical disconnect between Rousseau’s “celestial dreams” (about which more shortly) and the reality that he hoped to refashion in their image. Like the Defense and Complaint of Thérèse Levasseur, Charrière’s tribute to the philosophe was penned during the early days of the French Revolution, when politicians were “treating Rousseau’s writings like manuals in political and pedagogical practice.”4 Again positioning herself in opposition to dominant public opinion, Charrière insisted that these attempts to translate Rousseauist theory into republican praxis were doomed to failure, insofar as the former outlined above all “an impossible education” and a “utopian social contract” (Praise 207). Given the limited feasibility that characterized most of Rousseau’s pedagogical, social and political musings, Charrière advised the thinker’s acolytes to abandon their struggles in the material world: Ah! [Is it not] better just to dream? For even if reveries, grand plans, sublime flights of fancy are not realized, they will at least leave behind some movement in the souls that they have touched. Lightning does not generate enough light for us to walk by, but at the moment when the sky bursts into flame, we discover something on earth that we never saw before. (Praise 207)

Although her language in this passage appears largely positive, suggesting that wonderful insights can be gained from “sublime flights of fancy” alone, the underlying message is far more equivocal. For Charrière is implying that the grand 2 Isabelle de Charrière. Plainte et défense de Thérèse Levasseur. Oeuvres completes, ed. G.A. von Oorshol, 10 vols, (1790; Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1981), vol 10. p. 173. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from French texts are my own. 3 See Isabelle de Charrière. Eloge de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Oeuvres complètes, vol.10, p. 202. It perhaps bears noting that Charrière claimed, in a letter to Benjamin Constant, to have written this text “out of sheer boredom.” 4 Isabelle Vissière. Isabelle de Charrière: Aristocrate révolutionnaire 1788–1794 (Paris: Des femmes, 1988), p. 115. For more perhaps the best known discussion of Rousseau’s ideological and practical influence on the founders of the first French republic, see Hippolyte Taine. Les Origines de la France contemporaine (Paris: Laffont, 1986). More recently, see James Swenson. On Jean-Jacques Rousseau Considered As One of the First Authors of the Revolution (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1999).

Rewriting Rousseau


plans of Rousseau’s disciples in the new French government may very well not be realized—that a whole nation can not take as its guide the fanciful maxims of one bright man. This truism was soon to become painfully apparent to all once the leaders of the Reign of Terror began chopping off heads, in the name of a proto-Rousseauist “general will,” some three years later.5 But in 1790, such skepticism was uncommon to say the least. In the very process of praising the Revolution’s undisputed darling, Charrière daringly, if subtly, dismissed his ideals as unrealistic and utopian. This critical attitude toward Rousseau’s utopianism in turn informed Charrière’s unconventional stance with respect to the Levasseur scandal. Placing the following words in the mouth of the reviled laundress, Charrière again pointed up the chasm that tended to separate hypothetical positions from actual conduct.6 “Either you should stop calling Rousseau your master, your model, your God,” an imaginary Thérèse enjoins her detractors, “or else you should conform more closely to his teachings” (Complaint 178). Without stating it explicitly, this injunction designates the possibility of a discrepancy between actions and “teachings”—a discrepancy that can be located not only in the intolerant accusations to which Rousseau’s admirers treated Levasseur, but also in the philosopher’s own behavior towards his children and his wife. In bestowing upon Thérèse “his laundry to wash and his soup to cook,” and treating her as if she should be honored to undertake these chores on his behalf, Rousseau contradicted many of his own statements about the theoretical equality of the sexes, and even about what he deemed the natural “rule of women” over men.7 The facts of Rousseau’s domestic life were, Charrière suggested, directly at odds with the enlightened aspects of his writing. As a woman who herself was trapped in a less than satisfactory marriage, Charrière was infuriated by the uncritical and

5 On the practical and philosophical difficulties raised by the revolutionaries’ efforts to model their state on The Social Contract, see my Terror and Its Discontents: The Shadow of Totality in French Revolutionary Discourse (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001). 6 In insisting on the gap between theory and practice that marks much of Rousseau’s work, Charrière could be said to be a more faithful reader of the philosophe than his more uncritical followers. For at his most self-conscious, Rousseau himself cautioned his readers not to confuse his theoretical pondering for practical know-how. See for instance the opening passage of The Social Contract: “I may be asked whether I am a prince or a legislator that I should be writing about politics. I answer no: and indeed that that is my reason for doing so. If I were a prince or a legislator I should not waste by time saying what ought to be done; I should do it or keep silent” (see Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The Social Contract, trans. ed. Maurice Cranston [1762; London: Penguin, 1968], p. 45). 7 The expression “Empire des femmes” comes from Book Five of Rousseau’s Emile; ou, De l’éducation (1762; Paris: Garnier, 1964): “The rule of women [over men] does not belong to women because men wanted it that way, but because Nature wanted it that way” (449). For a latter-day reformulation of this notion, see Ashley Montagu. The Natural Superiority of Women (1953; London: Altamira Press, 1999).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

often hypocritical propagation of an ideology with such an obviously vexed relation to reality.8 It could be said, however, that Charrière’s frustration with Rousseau’s unrealizable views on domesticity date back to well before—and have much deeper intellectual roots than those exposed by—the controversy about his abandoned children. A close reading of the two authors will reveal that the real grounds for Charrière’s discontent lay in the problematic myth of domestic bliss propagated by Rousseau’s sensationally successful novel, Julie; or, The New Heloise [Julie; ou, La Nouvelle Héloïse (1761)].9 As the first part of this article will demonstrate, this book depicts an idealized household whose happiness is predicated very precisely on the self-abnegation of the wife and mother named in the title.10 That the selfdenial and ultimate death of Julie should serve as the basis for a familial and social utopia is a complicated question and has received considerable attention in other contexts.11 For this reason, I shall focus my analysis of Rousseau’s domestic utopia in this text on the themes and topoi that resurface, in a pessimistic and sometimes parodic form, in Charrière’s novel, Letters from Mistress Henley Published By Her Friend [Lettres de Mistriss Henley publiées par son amie (1784)]. These themes and topoi include: (1.) the subservient relationship of “emotional” wife to “rational” husband; (2.) the systematic suppression of feminine desire within marriage; (3.) the sublimation of feminine desire through the cultivation of domestic space; (4.) 8 On Charrière’s legendarily unhappy marital situation, see Joan Hinde Stewart & Phillip Stewart. “Introduction.” Charrière’s Lettres de Mistriss Henley publiées par son amie (1784; New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1993). i–xxxi (xxii). 9 On the widespread popularity of Julie in eighteenth-century Europe, see Daniel Mornet. “L’influence de Jean-Jacques Rousseau au 18e siècle.” Annales de la Société Jean-Jacques Rousseau 8 (1912): 33–67. Joan Hinde Stewart and Phillip Stewart, in their introduction to the Lettres de Mistriss Henley, remark that this text may “perhaps [respond] to Rousseau’s wildly popular Julie,” but do not develop the point any further. See “Introduction,” xxii. 10 See also Lori Jo Marso. (Un)Manly Citizens: Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s and Germaine de Staël’s Subversive Women (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), Chapter 3. In this chapter, Marso offers a reading of Julie’s eponymous heroine that is antithetical to mine; she claims that in this novel “the feminine presence discrupts” Rousseau’s ideal of a “republican community” (53). My thesis is of course that Julie presents a normative vision of femininity under the yoke of a misogynist utopia, and that it is Charrière—not mentioned by Marso—who invents a disruptive female presence to critique the Rousseauist model community. 11 See above all Nicole Fermon. Domesticating Passions: Rousseau, Woman, and Nation (Hanover, MA: Wesleyan University Press, 1997), pp. 50–52, as well as Sarah Kofman. Le Respect des femmes (Paris: Galilée, 1982). Without focusing on the gender implications of the renunciation that lies at the heart of Julie’s privileged ethos, Paul de Man and Jean Starobinski both provide very illuminating commentaries on the relationship between alienation and socialization in Rousseau’s novel. See Paul de Man’s “Rhetoric of Temporality.” Paul de Man. Blindness and Insight (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), pp. 187–228; and Jean Starobinski’s “La Nouvelle Héloïse.” Jean Starobinski. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: La Transparence et l’obstacle (Paris: Gallimard, 1971), pp. 102–109.

Rewriting Rousseau


the notion of the wife as exemplar for domestic staff and children; and (5.) the role of death in the consecration of the female protagonist. Having examined how these issues play themselves out in Julie, I will then turn my attention to Mistress Henley to demonstrate the ways in which Charrière subverts the patriarchal ideology inherent in Rousseau’s myth of virtuous, self-abnegating womanhood. Although the author herself presents her work as a response to a different novel—Samuel Constant’s best-seller of 1783, The Sentimental Husband [Le Mari sentimental]12— Mistress Henley operates as a forceful and unmistakable critique of Rousseau’s seminal tale. It exposes the destructive nature of the prescriptions placed on women even by an “enlightened” patriarchal order like the one depicted in Julie. With her novel, Charrière demonstrates that the “honor” of keeping house for a man—even a fair-minded, respectful and reasonable man—in no way guarantees or establishes the happiness of the female spouse. On the contrary, the norms and expectations imposed by a Rousseauist husband on Mistress Henley create a domestic setting which, viewed from the wife’s eyes, becomes a soul-deadening dystopia. In order fully to appreciate the referents of Charrière’s bleak counter-narrative, we must first take a look at Julie, which idealizes the notion of a marriage based on pure reason, and of a woman who embodies the sacrifice of the individual passions for the sake of the community.13 These ideas come to the fore in the second of the novel’s two thematic halves, which correspond to two distinctly different phases of the heroine’s love life: first, her illicit and wildly passionate affair with a lowerclass music teacher whom she nicknames “Saint-Preux,” and second, her arranged marriage to an older aristocrat named Monsieur de Wolmar. Despite the fact that Julie’s father virtually coerced her into this union by force, and that she and SaintPreux have exchanged several hundred pages’ worth of letters pledging their eternal love, the novel asks us to believe Julie’s claim that her “happiness lacks nothing” in her relationship with Wolmar.14 In the letter that she writes to Saint-Preux inviting 12 In the opening lines of Mistress Henley, our heroine complains to her friend about the misogynistic and one-sided representation of marriage put forth in Constant’s “cruel little book” (3). For a plot summary of The Sentimental Husband, see Joan Hinde Stewart and Philip Stewart’s “Introduction,” xi–xiii. 13 The sacrifice of the individual passions to the “reasonable” dictates of the community is the underlying tenet of the ideal polity presented in Rousseau’s The Social Contract. The difference here is that in Julie, unlike in his political writings, Rousseau genders the sacrifice: sentimental femininity must stifle itself so that patriarchal rationality and order might prevail. See also Penny A. Weiss. Gendered Community: Rousseau, Sex and Politics. (New York: New York University Press, 1993); and Elizabeth Rose Wingrove. Rousseau’s Republican Romance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001). In their analysis of Rousseau’s notion of sexual difference and social contract theory, both authors fail to reference Charrière. 14 Jean-Jacques Rousseau. La Nouvelle Héloïse: Julie; or, The New Heloise, tans. and abrig. Judith H. McDowell (1761; University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1968), p. 259. Because this edition omits several of the letters, crucial for my purposes, on the management of domestic affairs at Julie’s estate, I will refer to the unabridged French edition, and provide in parentheses the Part and Letter number for the missive cited: e.g. Part V, Letter


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

him, somewhat bizarrely, to come live with her and her husband as a tutor for their children, she assures her former lover that she harbors absolutely no regrets about having obeyed the paternal injunction to wed Wolmar: If with the feelings I had before for you and the knowledge I have now, I were free again and mistress of my own choice of a husband—I call upon God, who deigns to enlighten me and who reads my inmost heart, to witness my sincerity—it is not you whom I should choose, but Monsieur de Wolmar. (Julie 262)

As another letter to Saint-Preux, reaching him only after Julie’s death, will reveal, this avowal represents a serious exercise of willpower on Julie’s part, for she loves him still. But for the time being, Rousseau encourages the reader to take the letter at face value, and to wonder what the heroine means by the recently acquired “knowledge” that enables her to live without the love of her life. It turns out, in fact, that the renunciation of love is itself Julie’s newfound wisdom and modus operandi: “Love is little suited to marriage, which is a state of peace” (Julie 260). This is a lesson that she has learned from her supremely dispassionate husband, whose emotions, she explains, are “so even and so temperate that one would say that he loves only as much as he wishes to and that he wishes to only as much as reason permits” (Julie 260). The tenor in their marriage thus set by Wolmar’s “perfect impartiality,” he and Julie dwell together, she explains: not [in] the blind ecstasy of impassioned hearts but [in] the immutable and constant attachment of two respectable and reasonable people who, being destined to spend the rest of their days together, are content with their lot and try to make it pleasant for each other. (Julie 262)

Julie’s language here is as controlled as the marital equilibrium she describes. Because her patriarchally determined “destiny” has placed her in this marriage, she will “try to make it pleasant,” and work to derive contentment from a scenario devoid of the ecstasy she knew with Saint-Preux. This sort of contentment stands as a cornerstone of Rousseau’s mini-utopia insofar as it permits Julie and her husband to avoid think[ing] exclusively of each other [and] instead to fulfill the duties of civil society jointly, to govern the house prudently, to rear their children well” (Julie 261). These civic duties replace and override whatever less rational pleasures a love match would have afforded; Rousseau emphasizes the clear-sightedness of this prioritization by calling the estate “Clarens.” But cling as she might to the value of such “respectable and reasonable” behavior, Julie’s newfound serenity does not come at all naturally to her.15 Whereas Monsieur 2 will appear as (Julie V, 2). Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Julie; ou, La Nouvelle Heloïse, Oeuvres complètes, ed. Bernard Gagnebin Marcel Raymon, 5 vols (1761; Paris: Gallimard/Pléïade, 1961), vol 2. 15 In this regard, the rational, civic-minded attitude cultivated by Julie resembles quite closely that of the citizen under Rousseau’s The Social Contract. To sacrifice one’s interests to the greater good, Rousseau argues in his great work of political philosophy, never

Rewriting Rousseau


de Wolmar’s heart enjoys an unchanging “natural coolness” and “never has other than rational preferences,” Julie “always puts feeling in the place of reason”; she “has never had any guiding principle but her heart” (Julie 260, 351; Julie V, 2). Recognizing that his wife’s prior love for Saint-Preux constitutes the most threatening of all her unreasonable sentiments, Wolmar encourages her to suppress those feelings both literally and metaphorically, by turning her attentions to domestic work. More specifically, he prompts her to develop an elaborate garden as a replacement for the little grove in which she and Saint-Preux shared their first kiss.16 As numerous critics have pointed out, and as Rousseau makes quite clear in the text, it is significant that while Julie’s new garden appears “uncultivated and wild,” it is really the product of much art and endless toil (Julie 305). “It is true,” Julie tells her erstwhile beloved upon showing him the garden for the first time, “that nature has done everything, but only under my direction, and there is nothing here which I have not ordered” (Julie 305). The important point here is that “Julie’s claim of domination and control over nature” in the form of the garden reflects the mastery which she has attempted, and still attempts daily, to subject her own abiding passion for Saint-Preux (de Man 203). “This angelic soul,” Saint-Preux observes of his one-time mistress, “always locates in her virtues everything that she needs to combat the vain subtleties” of her own feelings—and it is with hands of virtue,” her husband asserts, that Julie has cultivated this particular domestic space (Julie V, 2; Julie 313). Even the name that she bestows upon her little garden, Elysium, evokes her own virtuous struggle, by recalling those mythical heroes who died selflessly for great causes. Accordingly, Saint-Preux notes that “the name Elysium was a symbol in some way of the soul of the one who had chosen it,” and Julie corroborates this connection “with emotion in her voice”—as if she “saw herself dead” already from her sustained battle with desire (Julie 313–315, 398). In fact, the deathly connotations of the garden’s name echo Rousseau’s more explicit assertion, in The Social Contract, that if social harmony and stability are to prevail, then all personal predilections must be “killed and annihilated” (85).17 With her Elysium, Julie both signals and performs the killing off of her own private yearnings, for the sole purpose of preserving harmony, rationality, and peace in her home.

comes naturally. Rather, it is always a profoundly unnatural act that places man’s social side at permanent odds with his sentimental side. See Rousseau. The Social Contract, Book I, Chapters 6–8. 16 When Saint-Preux commits the faux pas of asking why Julie no longer frequents her old haunt, the grove of their youthful loves, Monsieur de Wolmar answers forcefully on his wife’s behalf: “Since her marriage, my wife has never set foot in the grove you speak of. You who are not unaware of [the reason], learn to respect the place where you are. It has been planted by virtuous hands” (Julie 313). 17 Translation modified for the sake of accuracy. In this text, Rousseau makes it quite clear that the legislator who presides over the social body is himself entirely devoid of passions— like Wolmar himself. On the legislator’s “natural coolness,” see The Social Contract, Book 2, Chap. 7.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Rousseau underscores the worthiness of this sacrifice by showing that Julie’s efforts to overcome her personal inclinations benefit not only her marriage, but also the entire extended family that lives at Clarens: children, domestic staff, farmers, and dependent villagers. He presents as her most important role that of an exemplar for all the people on her estate: “Heaven seems to have placed her on earth to give an example of the excellence that a human soul can bring to private life” (Julie V, 2). By successfully pitting her “excellence” against her baser instincts, Julie constantly reminds and inspires her household members to do the same. “She wants to inspire in her children,” among others, “the innocent pleasures which moderation, order, and simplicity bring about, and which turn the heart away from impetuous passions” (Julie V, 2). She conveys this kind of puritanical self-control in every detail of her conduct: from her understated wardrobe (which displays “a certain modesty inspir[ing] nothing but respect”) to her refusal to indulge in anything she loves (“the art of enjoyment is, for her, the art of deprivation” [Julie V, 2]). “In this way,” SaintPreux remarks, not only does she “remain her own mistress, accustom her passions to obedience, and keeps all of her desires in line”; she successfully establishes an atmosphere in which everyone follows her example (Julie V, 2). Because she teaches the people around her that “if we are not master of our sentiments, at least we are of our conduct,” they behave impeccably in accordance with this tenet (Julie, 384). Men and women work and live separately from one another, never yielding to unwholesome urges, and actively striving to emulate their mistress’s capacity for sobriety and self-restraint (Julie IV, 10). All clothing and food are produced at home, because Julie’s fellows have learned not to desire what they lack, and “a taste for hard work, order, and moderation” (Julie V, 2) is shared by all. “Everything around Julie,” Rousseau writes in a preface to the novel, “must turn into her,” the result being an ideal society order based on rationality, disinterestedness, and concern for others.18 In the novel’s closing pages, Julie takes this selflessness to an extreme when she saves her young son from drowning one summer afternoon, only to endanger and ultimately destroy her own health. Shortly before this incident, Julie had, talking of the harmony she had managed to cultivate at Clarens, exclaimed to her husband and Saint-Preux: “Would that I could purchase it at the expense of my life! My last day would be my best employed” (Julie, 352). This wish comes true insofar as her heroic act both assures her biological legacy under patriarchy (propagating the name of Wolmar), and establishes her definitively as a martyr whose memorable goodness will forever bind the members of her household together in virtuous union. “Let her heart unite all of ours,” recommends Julie’s cousin Claire in the final passage of the book. “Let us always live under her regard [and] imitate her virtues. No, she has not forgotten this place, which she made so delightful for us. It is still full of her” (Julie 409). This on-going commemoration and imitation of Julie’s admirable qualities is 18 Jean-Jacques Rousseau. “Seconde preface.” Julie; ou, La Nouvelle Héloïse in Oeuvres completes, ed. Bernard Gagnebin, Marcel Raymond, 5 vols (1761; Paris: Gallimard/Pléïade, 1961), vol 2, p.28.

Rewriting Rousseau


the lady’s own last wish. As she writes to Saint-Preux from her deathbed, referring to herself in the third person as someone already deceased: Come, rejoin her family. Let her heart dwell among you. Let all those she loved gather together to give her a new existence. Your duties, your pleasures, your friendship—all will be her work. The bond of union formed by her will give her new life; she will expire only when the last one of all is dead. Would that I could invent still stronger bonds in order to unite all who are dear to me! (Julie 406)

Even in her final hour, Julie characteristically reveals her sole concern to be the “bond of union” that conjoins her family in duty and in companionable consideration. . In this same letter, however, Julie also acknowledges for the first time the interrelated nature of her own self-effacing actions and the on-going stability of the Clarens community. This microcosmic “republic of virtue” depended entirely on her ability to suppress the nonvirtuous feelings she had always held for Saint-Preux, the lower-class lover of whom society and family would never have approved, and whose passionate exigencies would have distracted her from her more exalted household tasks. But because her own passion for Saint-Preux never actually subsided, Julie sincerely views her death as a boon—a means to preserve the domestic utopia that she tended with such care: I have for a long time deluded myself. You thought me cured of my love for you, and I thought I was too. Let us give thanks to the One who made that delusion last as long as it was useful. Who knows whether, seeing that I was so close to the abyss, I might not have lost my head? One more day, perhaps, and I might have been guilty! What danger might there be in a whole life spent with you? Have I not lived long enough for virtue? What advantage was left for me to derive from life? By depriving me of it, Heaven no longer deprives me of anything regrettable and instead protects my honor. My friend, I am leaving at a favorable moment. After so many sacrifices, I consider as little the one left for me to make. It is only to die once more. (Julie 405)

With this admission, the precariousness of the sublime self-restraint displayed by Julie during her married years becomes evident—as does the connection between her virtue and her death. She has spent her entire married life dying—killing off her most intimate and cherished feelings—for the sake of the “honor” that reigns in her home. “To die once more” is, in this context, less of a curse than a blessing: it guarantees Clarens definitively against the antisocial forces of individual desire so long disavowed by its moral bellwether.19

19 On this point, see Fermon: “Julie removes herself only after she has institutionalized her family life” (52). For a more general discussion of how permanent separation from the beloved functions as a guarantor of happiness in Rousseau’s fiction, see Michel Feher’s introductory essay to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Emile et Sophie (1781; Paris: Payot & Rivages, 1994), pp. 13–17. On the logic of the curse as blessing in Rousseau’s thought, see Jean Starobinski. Le Remède dans le mal (Paris: Gallimard, 1989).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

In Letters from Mistress Henley, Isabelle de Charrière provides a powerful counter-argument against this privileging of feminine self-effacement as the key to domestic health.20 She does so chiefly by painting a complex and unsettling picture of a married woman who, like Julie, attempts to make rationality and self-restraint the guiding principles of her marriage. Unlike Julie, however, Mistress Henley is unwilling or unable to go as far as the philosophe’s utopian thought demands: however much she wishes to in theory, in practice she cannot entirely stifle her personal needs and irrational sentiments in order to keep the peace in her household. But she starts out with the best of intentions, choosing to marry a man known for “his reason, his equity, his perfectly even temper” instead of the suitor whom, she admits to her epistolary confidante, “the vile part of my heart preferred” for his more worldly attributes: “the riches of the East, [a house in] London, a more brilliantly opulent lifestyle” (9). Without any parents to guide her in the process of choosing between these two beaux, “S.,” as she is designated in the text, feels that if she were to opt for “shameless pleasure” by selecting the more superficially appealing candidate, she would have no one but herself to blame.21 A self-proclaimed reader of Rousseau, S. knows that she must heed “the noble part [of her heart]”: In a word, to give myself over willfully to diamonds, pearls, tapestries, gold-embroidered fabrics, dinners, parties—I could not bring myself to do it, and I promised my hand to Mr. Henley. Our wedding was lovely. Witty, elegant, decent, delicate, Mr. Henley enchanted everyone; he was a husband right out of a novel. (9–10)

With this avowal, S. displays the self-conscious rationality and sobriety that impelled her to choose Mr. Henley over his flashier rival, her “vile” preference for the latter notwithstanding. In noting that “Mr. Henley enchanted everyone,” she identifies her choice as a socially praiseworthy—if not a directly socially motivated—one. And in qualifying him as “a husband right out of a novel,” she seems to suggest that the commonsense advocated by “everyone” corresponds quite nicely to the idealized 20 See Mary Seidman Trouille. Sexual Politics in the Enlightenment: Women Writers Read Rousseau (Albany: SUNY Press, 1997), pp. 54–72, for an overview how various eighteenth-century women responded to Julie from the time of its publication through the reign of Terror. Charrière is nowhere mentioned. See also Raymond Trousson. Defenseurs et Adversaires de Rousseau: d’Isabelle de Charrière à Charles Maurras (Paris: Champion, 1995), pp. 73–75, for a general statement about Charrière’s “skepticism” regarding the unjust sexual politics of Rousseau’s soi-disant idyllic fiction and philosophy. 21 The psychoanalytically oriented critic would see in S.’s name a strong resonance with the Lacanian subject, designated by the same initial, though most usually “barred” to designate the subject’s internal alienation (from his or her “self,” in the symbolic order, also known as the “discourse of the Other”). This type of internal splitting is precisely what Charrière’s S. describes when she admits to combating the “vile part of [her] heart” in order to marry the man who “enchanted everyone” (“everyone” being, of course, the discourse of the Other par excellence). But insofar as this essay represents a close reading of two eighteenth-century authors, I will not pursue the Lacanian line of argument here, the suggestiveness of the “S.” notwithstanding.

Rewriting Rousseau


realm of fiction. This widely approved husband does not tug at her own heart strings in any way—“I was, if not impassioned, at least touched” by his proposal—but S. takes comfort from the fact that “all voices [spoke in favor of ] Mr. Henley” (8, 9). Mr. Henley’s seemingly ideal qualities do not, however, make his new bride unequivocally happy, even in the very beginning. S. confesses to her confidante that in fact, his unrealistically unflappable nature—reminiscent of Wolmar’s—has the capacity to rub her the wrong way: He was a husband right out of a novel, but he sometimes struck me as too perfect, always greeting with moderation and reason my flights of fancy, my moods, my fits of impatience. [Still,] I flattered myself that the company of a man whom I admired so much would make me more like him. (10)

This passage indicates from the outset the ways in which the reality of Mistress Henley’s volatile temperament is bound to clash with the almost unreal “moderation and reason” espoused by her husband. Such points of friction, of course, are absent from Rousseau’s depiction of the “husband out of a novel” and the wife who does indeed become “more like him.” But S. has trouble on this score: though she sets herself the task of emulating Mr. Henley’s serene composure, she has already recognized the potential stumbling blocks that stand in the way of this goal, those stumbling blocks being the emotional vicissitudes that Julie, for one, died to overcome. These admissions all appear in Mistress Henley’s very first letter. (The novel, incidentally, is monophonic, in stark contrast to Rousseau’s: whereas in Julie, the “Clarens” section consists almost entirely of letters written about Julie by her husband her ex-lover, and her admiring cousin. In Mistress Henley, Charrière pointedly offers only the heroine’s point of view.) But with the stage set by this early allusion to trouble in paradise, things quickly go from bad to worse. The couple moves into Mr. Henley’s country manor, the tellingly named “Hollowpark,” and the unfulfilling nature of their life together serves as the topic of S.’s second letter, an account of the numerous clashes she has already had with her new husband since their arrival. The first real source of tension has to do with what Mr. Henley perceives to be S.’s shortcomings as a mother: Mr. Henley is a widower, and he has a young daughter with whose care he charges his new bride. Initially, this role seems to bring out in Mistress Henley all the passion she lacks for her husband himself: They brought me the child; how I covered her in kisses! My heart promised her the most assiduous care, the warmest and most devoted attachment. I spent the rest of the day in a sort of delirium; the next day I dressed the child in the garments I had brought for her from London, and I presented her to her father, whom I hoped pleasantly to surprise. (11)

His wife’s obvious enthusiasm notwithstanding (“my heart was pounding; I was flushed with pleasure”), Mr. Henley is not at all pleased by his daughter’s new finery (11). He admonishes S. for instilling in the child “tastes that I would not like to encourage in her; [and that] contrast disagreeably with the simplicity of the countryside” (11). In light of the Rousseauist rustic simplicity advocated by her


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

husband (the honest country manners, the disapproval of fancy clothes and big expenditures), Mistress Henley, to her “great mortification,” comes across as citified, frivolous, and a bad parental influence to boot (11). Chastened, she defers to her husband’s superior rationality—“you are right [vous avez raison]”—and refrains from any further doting, to the point where the child that had originally impassioned her so “[came to] interest me less than the child of some passerby” (11, 13). The dispassionate temperament preached as a virtue in Julie, and rigorously practiced by Mr. Henley, here becomes a product of S.’s thwarted maternal enthusiasm: it leads not to familial harmony, but rather to alienation between two of the nuclear family’s three members. “The child has become importunate to me; I have virtually banished her from my presence” (13). In the same letter, Mistress Henley informs her confidante that her refined predilections and accoutrements have also caused trouble with the Hollowpark staff, insofar as the maid she brought with her from London has provoked the ire of many of Mr. Henley’s oldest and most trusted servants: A boy from the neighboring farm has been making eyes at my elegant chambermaid, but he used to love the daughter of our excellent old housekeeper [Mistress Grace]... Peggy [the daughter] and her mother, outraged by this affront, have left the house. I am doing the best I can in their absence, assisted by my chambermaid—who is entirely honorable, otherwise I would have dismissed her right away—but the whole staff misses the housekeeper, and so do I. (13)

“Ah Madame,” the affronted Mistress Grace sighs to S., making it clear that her maid’s London background lies at the heart of the problem, “your Fanny, with her laces, her ribbons, and her city manners, has heaped on my Peggy and her poor mother troubles that will only die when we do” (21). S. faces her own troubles as managing the house becomes extremely difficult in Grace’s absence, and her distress is compounded when, going to her husband for sympathy, Mr. Henley instead reproaches her for the domestic disaster: One day, when I was deploring my ineptitude at running a household, the little progress I seemed to be making, and the ups and downs that I was having in my zealous efforts on that front, Mr. Henley—admittedly with a smile—started listing the things that were going less well since Mistress Grace’s departure. (20)

On one level, the smile with which Mr. Henley greets his wife’s complaints functions to signify his continued reasonability: unlike S., he does not get overly emotional about Hollowpark’s domestic cares. And yet, because he clearly does take these cares seriously, his smile also serves as a mask of civility through which his disapproval of his wife’s chambermaid’s role in the dilemma comes through. Feeling compelled to dismiss her maid altogether, Mistress Henley hears from her husband, who again wears a smile: “Those city women never really take to country life; they aren’t good for anything here” (25). Implicit in this gnomic generalization

Rewriting Rousseau


is a veiled condemnation of Mistress Henley’s own inability fully to adapt to the simple “country life” of Hollowpark. A failed role model for both Mr. Henley’s child and the staff, Mistress Henley shifts her attention to her physical surroundings and busies herself with improvements in this domain. Whereas Julie took to the outdoors, symbolically and literally following her husband’s wish that she suppress her interior longings, S. turns inward, redecorating the quintessentially personal space of the bedroom. When she first arrives at Hollowpark, the room she is given still bears all the trappings of its former occupant, the first Mistress Henley: this woman’s portrait and her dark, heavy, uncomfortable furnishings (inherited from Mr. Henley’s female ancestors) define the room’s décor.22 Although this arrangement makes S. feel that she is “a stranger in even in my own room,” she tolerates it for awhile (14). But one day, in the midst of a minor argument over her cat’s right to sleep on one of the room’s antique armchairs, Mr. Henley again responds to his wife’s excitement with a “sang froid [that] made me go out of my mind” (15). At this point, S. decides that she has had enough of doing things his way. “This house is like its master,” she remarks. “Everything is too perfect; there is nothing for me to change, nothing that demands my activity or my care” (37). Nothing except her own room, symbol and site of her own passionate discontent with her marriage, and so: I rang [for some servants] I had the old chairs carried into the parlor, the sofa into a closet. I ordered a lackey to take down the portrait of the first Mistress Henley, which hung across from my bed. The wallpaper came down afterward. I had it cleaned and put away properly. I also had some new straw chairs put in the room, and I myself arranged a cushion for my little angora cat. (16)

To defuse the tension, Mr. Henley, returning home, does not even acknowledge his wife’s sudden fit of redecorating; instead, he quietly sends away for more new wallhangings and furniture to complete S.’s new room. This generous act itself, however, afflicts Mistress Henley, because it again reveals her husband’s unwillingness or inability to engage with her on other level than that of cold-blooded reason. In continuing to display the sang froid that drove S. to make her hasty furniture rearrangements in the first place, Mr. Henley further demonstrates the cross purposes at which he and his wife are operating. As S. confesses to her correspondent: My dear friend, beatings would be less aggravating to me than all this reason. I am unhappy; I brought no happiness here, I have found none. I am all the more unhappy because there is nothing for me to get angry about, no change that I can ask to be made so that I blame and despise myself for being unhappy. Everyone admires Mr. Henley, and congratulates me on my happiness; I reply: “Yes, it’s true, you are right [vous avez raison]”; I say it, I think it, and my heart does not feel it at all. (18) 22 To my knowledge, no scholarly comparison has ever been made between Letters from Mistress Henley to Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rebecca—also a story of domesticity gone bad— but the second wife’s uncomfortable position surrounded by reminders and belongings of her predecessor contributes to the dismal atmosphere that both works present.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

S.’s melodramatic language in this passage—an avowed wish for beatings that Mr. Henley will later make fun of (“you make me believe what they say about Russian wives; that they really want to be beaten”)—bespeaks her obvious incompatibility with her spouse’s calmer disposition. It also, however, contradicts the claim put forth by Julie that the happiness of a wife and the viability of a marriage can rest on unsentimental logic alone. “Vous avez raison” is in fact Mistress Henley’s stock reply to her husband whenever he criticizes her behavior (as, for instance, in the case of the clothes she bought for his daughter). But as the above citation demonstrates, her acknowledgment of his “reason” is radically disconnected from what her “heart feel[s],” thereby making Mr. Henley’s predominant personality trait cold comfort at best. The feature in him that “everyone admires”—that makes him estimable in the eyes of society as a whole—is precisely the same feature that makes him so difficult for S. herself to live with. Mistress Henley’s final recourse, as she sees it, is to access her husband’s less reasonable, more feeling side through love itself. Unfortunately for her, because this strategy is predicated on Mistress Henley’s adoption of seductive feminine wiles—the very opposite of Julie-style reserve and restraint—it stands no chance of succeeding with her self-possessed mate. An attempt to beautify herself for a ball that they are going to attend together, for instance, meets only with mild disdain from Mr. Henley. For although S. greets him with self-confident excitement (“I was very content with [my clothing]; I found myself quite lovely when I was dressed”), her husband chides her, as he did when she dressed his daughter in London high fashion, on the grounds that she lacks the simplicity and modesty proper to her station (28): “Madam,” he told me, “I find you one hundred times prettier in your simplest clothes than in all that finery. It also seems to me that a woman of twenty-six should not be dressed like a girl of fifteen, nor a lady like an actress.” Tears sprang to my eyes. “Couldn’t you send someone on horseback,” he [continued], “to fetch you another dress, another hat?” “No,” I told him, “that would not be possible.” “Oh, what does it matter?” he said, smiling. “It matters to me!” I cried hotly and I began weeping in earnest. “I am vexed,” said Mr. Henley, “that this should affect you so strongly. (29)

This exchange neatly links Mistress Henley’s perceived sartorial extravagance to her emotional extremism—and once more establishes her husband’s opposite position on both fronts. Again “smiling,” he preaches modesty of both clothing and temperament, offering rational suggestions (sending someone back for a different outfit) and pointed criticisms (a “lady” must be careful not to dress with the extravagance of youth or of the lower class). But he is, his pleasant demeanor notwithstanding, “vexed” to find his wife so far from his own ideal. Her tears, in turn, express her deep-seated frustration with this latest communication breakdown. Even her effort to engage with her husband at the level of sexual desire has led only to another discourse on reason, and on her own failings as a paragon thereof. Mistress Henley’s next—and final—endeavor to provoke a more passionate response from her husband is equally unproductive. At the ball, she flirts with a new acquaintance named Mr. Mead, while Mr. Henley pays gallant attention to a

Rewriting Rousseau


“modest but by no means pretty” country girl named Miss Clairville (whose name, significantly, evokes the simple and untainted lifestyle of Julie’s Clarens). Afterward, in the carriage back to Hollowpark, S. baits her spouse by proclaiming that he must be attracted to Miss Clairville’s “farm girl appearance,” and by saying that she herself found Mr. Mead enchanting, and that she has invited him to dinner at their house for the following night. When Mr. Henley simply replies “luckily, I am not the jealous type,” his wife loses her temper altogether (32): “Luckily for you,” I retorted, “but not at all luckily for me, because if you were jealous, I would at least see that you felt something; I would be flattered; I would think that I was precious to you; I would think that you were afraid of losing me, that I am still pleasing to you, that I am still capable of pleasing anyone.” “Yes!” I added, carried away both by my own vivacity and by his inalterable sang froid, “a husband’s injustices, an abuser’s tantrums, anything would be less maddening than your wise man’s phlegm and aridity.” (33)

This outburst is by far the most explicit avowal of exasperation that Mistress Henley makes to her husband in the novel. With her long series of conditional clauses about how gratifying any show of emotion from him would be to her, she underscores the vast discrepancy that separates these hypothetical scenarios from the reality of their relationship, controlled as it is by “his inalterable sang froid,” his “wise man’s phlegm and aridity.” As for her “own vivacity,” it reaches a fevered pitch in the final marital alternative that she places before his eyes: outright abuse and anger would be easier to endure than his sage indifference. Even when faced with such exaggerated claims as these, however, Mr. Henley remains true to form. He calmly reminds S. that his daughter is in the carriage with them, and enjoins her to moderate her behavior accordingly. “Suspend your vivacity for the child’s sake, and let us not set a bad example for her” (33). Defeated by the rationality of this argument—which directly pits the lady’s “vivacity” against the respectability and authority of the parent she ought to be—Mistress Henley quiets down and drops the subject. After this incident, Mistress Henley decides that she must no longer endeavor to make herself understood even in the realm of her correspondence with her close female friend. “After this one,” S. writes in her last letter, the one sent as a followup to her dismayed account of the ball, “I do not want to write any more like it” (38). She plans henceforth to stop thinking “[both] about myself, [and] about my puerile grievances,” and instead to focus on the greater good of Hollowpark’s other inhabitants (37). In her final missive, however, she nevertheless informs her confidante that she is pregnant, and that this situation has led to further, irreconcilable differences between her husband and herself. In a moment of unchecked excitement, she had, when telling her husband of the pregnancy, expressed some desire that their child go on to great things: beauty and an illustrious marriage for a daughter, military or governmental triumphs for a son. With characteristic calm, Mr. Henley dismisses these visions as insufficiently rational, moderate, and honest, and invokes the “simple child-rearing” that he prefers, based on “strict probity” and “extreme moderation” (42). He also reproaches his wife for her aversion to breastfeeding—another feature


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

of Rousseau’s program for domestic health and happiness (presented, however, in Emile—written shortly after Julie). For her part, S. is convinced that breastfeeding will jeopardize “[her] health, [her] pleasure,” and she rails against the idea that her husband should be “preoccupied only with a child that does not even exist yet” (40). Seeing her own desires so summarily dismissed, Mistress Henley concludes, correctly, that these will never have a valid place in her marriage: “What?” I said to myself, “Not a single one of my thoughts will be guessed? Not a single one of my feelings will be shared? Not a single pain will be spared me? Either everything that I think and feel is absurd, or else Mr. Henley is insensitive and hard. I will spend my entire life with a husband in whom I inspire only the most perfect indifference, and whose heart is closed to me. Farewell, all joy in my pregnancy; farewell all joy.” I fell into a deep depression. (40)

To add insult to injury, Mr. Henley informs her that although he knows she would love to live in London—a desire that she had, for the sake of country simplicity and socially condoned rationality, suppressed in her very decision to marry him—he has recently turned down a position in the royal court there. This piece of news only confirms S.’s sense that her own enjoyment is not, and will never be, a factor in their marriage. They will continue to live the quiet, modest, rural life privileged by Rousseau, but “deep depression,” not a happy face put on self-abnegation, will dominate this heroine’s experience as mistress of the household. The troubles that threaten to continue to burden Mistress Henley for the rest of her days do not, as in Julie, culminate and conclude in the heroine’s heroic death. She never redeems herself as a wife and mother by, for instance, sacrificing herself to save her stepdaughter’s life. Death is not, however, entirely out of the realm of possibility. In the closing lines of her final letter, S. warns her confidante that the ongoing negation of her every intimate wish and instinct may very well require her to die. “Neither my soul nor my body,” she writes, “is in a natural state”: I am only a woman; I will not take my own life, I would not have the courage to do so. If I become a mother, I hope that I will never have the strength to do it, but chagrin kills as well. In one or two years, you will learn, I hope, that I am reasonable and happy—or that I am no more (45).

The clear implication here is that the sort of “reasonable and happy” existence prescribed by the likes of her husband—that veritable “husband out of a novel”— cannot, by definition, be hers as long as she continues to resent its dictates. Up until this point, these unnatural demands on her body and soul have brought her only misery, and “chagrin kills as well.” If she fails to stifle her chagrin and adapt to the lifestyle that has been causing it, then she may indeed succumb to death. In contrast to Julie, whose passing both assured her progeny and solidified her family’s ties, Mistress Henley’s potential death will constitute yet another violation of maternal duty (“if I become a mother”), and of wifely responsibility as well. But it will also

Rewriting Rousseau


demonstrate, in an inverted form, the truth of Julie’s dying dictum, that “after so many sacrifices,” the physical destruction of the wife “is only to die once more.”

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Chapter 6

Utopia in the Seraglio: Feminist Hermeneutics and Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes Mary McAlpin

They led her to her room, and, after undressing her once again, carried her to a superb bed, where two men of charming beauty received her in their arms. On la mena dans sa chambre, et, après l’avoir encore déshabillée, on la porta dans un lit superbe, où deux hommes d’une beauté charmante la reçurent dans leurs bras. (Montesquieu, Lettres persanes, Letter 141)1

The works of the baron de Montesquieu have inspired strikingly contradictory judgments from critics interested in his sexual politics. The conclusion of the Lettres persanes (1721) has been central to this debate, for although dominated by male voices this epistolary novel accords the last word to a justifiably vengeful harem wife. The novel’s final letter is written by Roxane to her husband Usbek, long absent from Ispahan (Letter 161, 372–373). Roxane reveals that while Usbek has been away in France she has turned his repressive seraglio into a utopia of sensual pleasures (“un lieu de délices et de plaisirs”) by seducing his eunuchs over to her side and by taking a lover. At the same time Roxane attacks the cliché view of the seraglio as a male-centered sexual utopia by enlightening her husband as to her true feelings throughout their marriage: “How could you have thought me credulous enough to imagine that I was brought into this world only to adore your every capricious desire?” [“Comment as-tu pensé que je fusse assez crédule pour m’imaginer que je ne fusse dans le Monde que pour adorer tes caprices?”]. Critics arguing in favor of Montesquieu’s protofeminism cite Roxane’s powerful closing letter as decisive; those intent on emphasizing the oppressive misogyny of the Lettres persanes respond quantitatively by pointing to the overall phallocentrism of the 160 letters that precede Roxane’s diatribe.2 My argument for a coherency to 1 Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. Lettres persanes. Oeuvres complètes de Montesquieu ed. Roger Caillois, 2 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 1949), vol 1. Letter 141 is found on pages 341–348. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from the French are mine. 2 See for example Katherine M. Rogers. “Subversion of Patriarchy in Les Lettres persanes.” Philological Quarterly 65.1 (Winter 1986): 61–78, in which Rogers argues that


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

the sexual politics of the Lettres persanes is based on the very incompatibility of the work’s two utopian seraglios, Usbek’s standard male-centered variety on the one hand, and Roxane’s seraglio-turned-upside-down on the other. I argue that the exaggeratedly tragic dénouement of Montesquieu’s Oriental cautionary tale both reveals the impossibility of such highly sexed utopias in this world, and unveils an eminently reasonable Occidental solution to the conflict between the sexes. As this novel’s implied eighteenth-century French readers close its covers upon finishing Roxane’s letter, the men are to realize that they must limit their grandiose view of themselves as a sex or face the negative consequences in their private lives: rebellious wives. The women readers are concomitantly to realize that they must respect and submit to the relative public power of men. The “lieu de délices et de plaisirs” each sex seeks is a “non-lieu,” a “nowhere” that is pursued to the detriment of society as a whole. Despite its practicality, Montesquieu’s solution evokes the rarefied ethos of an eminently French utopian space: the salon.3 These semi-private domains, ruled over by influential women but focused on the conversational pleasures of the yet-moreinfluential male attendees, epitomize Montesquieu’s social ideal in their emphasis on the complementarity of sex roles. While far less idealized than that seventeenthcentury salon-based phenomenon, Préciosité, Montesquieu’s use of the salon as utopian topos takes into account its delicately constructed, easily threatened character, “the opening letters of the book articulate the lying rationalizations for oppressing women, the last one tears the lies away” (67). Cf. Suzanne Rodin Pucci. “Letters from the Harem: Veiled Figures of Writing in Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes.” Writing the Female Voice: Essays on Epistolary Literature, ed Elisabeth C. Goldsmith (Boston: Northeastern UP, 1989), pp. 114– 134. While Pucci agrees that this “most audacious” letter challenges the oppressive dominance of the “singular logic and discourse that this text persistently reveals,” her overall argument relies on a theoretical identification of the multiple and the “subversive” with the feminine; as a result, when Roxane unveils her hatred of her husband she unfortunately (for Pucci) goes over to the discursive enemy, in that letter 161’s clarity “precludes forever an otherwise shifting, plural self-identity” (131, 130). Among others who have addressed the question, Pauline Kra argues for protofeminism while Robert F. O’Reilly points out that Montesquieu’s characteristic ambiguity easily leads to an exaggeration of his feminist tendencies. Pauline Kra. “Montesquieu and Women.” French Women and the Age of Enlightenment, ed. Samia I. Spencer, (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984), pp. 272–84; Robert F. O’Reilly. “Montesquieu: anti-feminist.” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 102 (1973): 143–156. Jeannette Geffriaud Rosso is Montesquieu’s harshest critic on this issue, arguing that the positive portrayal of women in the Lettres persanes—positive only in relation to the later L’esprit des lois—was in the service of extratextual seduction: “It is true that at the time he still had the desire to please!” (“Il est vrai qu’à l’époque il avait encore envie de plaire!”). Jeannette Geffriaud Rosso. Montesquieu et la feminité (Pisa: Goliardica, 1977), p. 480. 3 For a detailed description of Montesquieu’s participation in salon life and his relationships with women, see Geffriaud Rosso. For the argument that eighteenth-century Parisian salon “feminism” was singularly nonradical, see Mona Ozouf’s essay in which Montesquieu’s views are highlighted. Mona Ozouf. Women’s Words: Essay on French Singularity, trans. Jane Marie Todd (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1997), pp. 229–283.

Utopia in the Seraglio


as well as its necessary fictions.4 In Montesquieu’s ideal society, each sex sacrifices something to the happiness of the other, while denying that any sacrifice is taking place. Women are allowed the illusion of ruling over men, while never pushing their power outside the realm of the private; men pretend that they have no interest in the exclusive possession of one woman, the better to profit from the enjoyment of other men’s wives. In sum, refinement and rationality prevail over base desires, to the benefit of all. As his promotion of the salon model demonstrates, Montesquieu was neither protofeminist nor reactionary for his time, however questionable his assumptions according to the values of twentieth-century feminism. I begin by closely examining a somewhat neglected Persian missive, Letter 141. This letter is exemplary of the novel’s overall sexual politics in that it reproduces in miniature the seraglio plot of the novel. Letter 141 reproduces the novel’s celebrated polyvocalness as well, for it comprises a number of embedded stories at the center of which lies the ancient Persian tale of Anaïs, a harem wife whose husband Ibrahim murders her for declaring that she would rather die than further suffer from his innate bad character [“son mauvais naturel”]. After awakening to a paradise peopled by “des hommes d’une beauté charmante,” Anaïs avenges her murder by sending one of these men to transform her husband’s seraglio into a feminocentric utopia for his remaining earth-bound wives. Undermining the apparent woman-centeredness of this tale is the reader’s knowledge that the story of Anaïs is not authentic but merely a travesty of an original Persian tale, part of a joke related to Usbek by Rica, his younger traveling companion. Rica composes his travestied tale for a French “dame de la Cour” and presents it to her as a legitimately ancient Persian original, then sends a copy to Usbek for his amusement with an explanatory cover letter—Letter 141, properly speaking. The tale of Anaïs thus sends quite different messages to its two internal readers, Usbek and the French “dame de la Cour.” The messages they receive are tailored to their nationalities and their sexes, with the latter distinction more important for my purposes in that it mimics the interpretive separation along gender lines that was to guide eighteenth-century French readers of the Lettres persanes as a whole. Like its message, the main setting of this novel is contemporary and local, for Usbek and Rica arrive in Paris just as the reign of Louis XIV is ending and the Regency beginning; that is, not long before the Lettres persanes was itself published. The decadence of the period during which our two Persians “traveled,” and during which Rica composed his travestied tale for the “dame de la cour,” is reflected in the highly sexual nature of the paradise to which Anaïs is inadvertently sent by her husband. After first and significantly traveling through open countryside, Anaïs reaches a superb palace filled with celestial men who exist only to satisfy her every desire [“rempli d’hommes célestes destinés à ses plaisirs”]. Once inside the palace and suitably undressed, Anaïs is led to a bed and placed between a pair of these male 4 On the women called the Précieuses and their awareness of the utopian fantasy in which they were engaged, see Domna Stanton. “The Fiction of Préciosité and the Fear of Women.” Yale French Studies 62 (1981): 107–134.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

houris. She thoroughly enjoys the attentions of her new lovers, leaving them only to visit fifty other miraculously handsome competitors equally eager to please her. Given that she is of a philosophical bent, we are told, Anaïs is able to recover from this pleasure-induced drunkenness long enough to recall that she has promised vengeance to Ibrahim’s earthbound wives, should heaven take pity on her virtue [“si le ciel a pitié de ma vertu”]. She dispatches one of her two favorites in the form of Ibrahim to take over her husband’s seraglio. After magically transporting the real Ibrahim to a distant land, the pseudo-husband creates a hedonistic paradise-onearth for Anaïs’s former companions by removing the women’s veils, opening up the house to visitors, and spending all of Ibrahim’s money on elaborate parties. The new husband entertains these women in other ways as well, for when the real Ibrahim finally makes his way home it is only to discover his treasure exhausted, his wives content, and thirty-six new children. On the one hand this narrative climax merely highlights Letter 141’s homosocial context, for like Anaïs this dispute is ultimately settled between two men. Still, the supposed progenitor of the thirty-six children is a woman’s celestial sex slave, making the children in a sense so many living symbols of the sexual enjoyment Anaïs procures her seraglio sisters. This second “gynosocial” reading is reinforced by our knowledge that the tale of Anaïs is the invention of a woman, for it is not merely the tale of Anaïs but the story of another woman telling the tale of Anaïs that is sent to the courtly French Lady. Rica tells the “dame de la Cour” that the ancient story she receives dates from the reign of Cheik-Ali-Can, at which time there lived a certain Zuléma, a seraglio wife who was both extraordinarily virtuous and learned. She knew the Koran by heart and understood her religion as well as any male scholar (“Il n’y avait point de dervis qui entendît mieux qu’elle les traditions des saints Prophètes”). Zuléma’s lessons in Koranic hermeneutics were directed at her husband’s less studious wives and were as delightful as they were correct, given that a certain characteristic gaiety [“un certain caractère d’esprit enjoué”] made it difficult to determine whether Zuléma aimed principally to amuse or to instruct. The reader of Letter 141 faces a similar and similarly pleasant dilemma, for again the tale of Zuléma telling the tale of Anaïs is contained within a letter Rica sends Usbek, who is (conveniently) absent from Paris on a trip to the French countryside. Before retranscribing his tale for Usbek, Rica first recounts the conversation with the “dame de la Cour” that led to his sending her Zuléma’s story. Just like Anaïs and Zuléma, we learn, this French woman is a vision of feminine perfection, intellectually and physically. She loves reading, especially poetry and novels, and her beauty makes her worthy of “a place of honor” in the harem of the King of Persia. Curious as to Persian mores, the “dame de la Cour” asks Rica to translate one of the ancient stories of which he has spoken, contained in manuscripts he has brought with him to France. Rica sends her a “translation” of one Persian tale several days later, then forwards a copy to Usbek preceded by this explanation that is yet another story in itself. Rica ends his presentation of this “translation” to Usbek on the noteworthy remark: “Perhaps you will be quite pleased to see it travestied” [“Peut-être seras-tu bien aise de le voir travesti”].

Utopia in the Seraglio


Rica’s comment reveals that the tale of Zuléma telling the tale of Anaïs is unfaithful to an original with which Usbek is familiar. The tale is travesti, which in this literary context should be understood as lowered in quality in a comic, even burlesque manner. Usbek is to derive pleasure from changes Rica has made to some authentic version of the tale of Zuléma, altered in the service of fooling a French woman. Usbek remains the only reader, internal or external, of Letter 141 with knowledge of the original tale, for Montesquieu’s readers are merely aware that something authentic and ancient has been changed. We are given neither the original tale nor any explicit commentary on the nature of the changes Rica has made. Montesquieu does not leave his readers completely in the dark, however, for some elements of Zuléma’s story stand out as incongruous in a manner that hints at the true nature of the (of course nonexistent) Persian original. In the following reading of Zuléma’s tale of Anaïs, I consider two questions, answerable only through my imaginary reconstruction of the original Persian tale: First, what is the precise source of Letter 141’s comic effect for Usbek, the fictional recipient of this letter? Second, concerning the novel’s eighteenth-century implied reader: Is this reader to find Letter 141 exclusively comic as well, or to read beyond its homosocial Persian context to a message that requires taking Zuléma’s feminocentric sexual utopias seriously? My reconstruction of the original tale of Zuléma telling the tale of Anaïs begins comparatively, for the Lettres persanes contains far better-known “ancient tales” that similarly beg for interpretation. The most famous is the story of the Troglodytes (Letters 11–14; 45–153), contained in letters sent by Usbek to a friend named Mirza who has stayed behind in Ispahan. In Letter 10, Mirza writes that he and others have been discussing whether men are made happy through sensual satisfaction or through practicing virtue [“Hier on mit en question si les hommes étaient heureux par les plaisirs et les satisfactions des sens, ou par la pratique de la vertu”] 145. The Mollaks or holy men whom Mirza has already consulted referred him to the Koran, missing the point that he is not asking his question as a believer but as a man; as a citizen, and the head of a family. Usbek responds that by asking him for an explanation Mirza is renouncing his own reason [“Tu renonces à ta raison pour essayer la mienne”]—a procedure Usbek finds infinitely flattering, and a challenge he willing takes up. He declares that “there are certain truths best seized by feeling rather than reason” [“il y a de certaines vérités qu’il ne suffit pas de persuader, mais qu’il faut encore faire sentir”], then launches into the story of the Troglodytes, referring to his story as an “historical fragment” [“ce morceau d’histoire”] that tells the tale of an obscure ancient tribe [“un petit peuple”] of Arabia. Although clearly a philosopher, Usbek sends a cautionary parable of early human social structures instead of a subtle philosophical treatise on the question of happiness, thus avoiding Mollak-like didacticism the better to teach. The most important aspect of the Troglodyte story for my purposes is this relationship between its generic nature and its didactic purpose, for we as readers are to understand that, true to Usbek’s appeal to “feeling” as a source of knowledge, Mirza will be neither misled nor bored by this response to his question. However pseudo-historical, the


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

tale of the Troglodytes has a clear message and a clearly moral purpose. In contrast, Montesquieu’s reader has far more difficulty pinning down the genre and message of Rica’s travestied tale, and the issue at the tale’s center, the question of women’s rights, is the direct cause of this difficulty. In the tale of the Troglodytes, that virtuous yet unrefined people, women figure primarily as contested property, and this state of affairs is never put into question. The presence of female interlocutors with a voice of their own makes all the difference in Letter 141, and the first woman one encounters in the letter is the “dame de la Cour.” The points at which the assumption and tastes of this Western woman differ from Usbek’s are critical to understanding Rica’s travesty. As the Persian travelers never tire of pointing out, in the West—especially in Paris, especially in the salon—the omnipresence of women affects what can and cannot be said; indeed, their feminine tastes dictate all aspects of French society. In addition to extolling the beauty of the “dame de la Cour,” Rica tells Usbek that while talking to her he observed that the seraglio lifestyle was not to her taste, in that it too radically favored men over women: “She could not see without envy the happiness of the one, nor without pity the condition of the others” [“Elle ne put voir sans envie le bonheur de l’un et sans pitié la condition des autres”]. The most obvious addition Rica makes to his Oriental “Urtext” must then be the sexual happiness accorded a disrespectful harem wife who challenges her husband’s authority. Rica goes so far as to imply to the “dame de la Cour” that the feminocentric heaven Anaïs enjoys is as legitimate as it is appealing, by emphasizing Zuléma’s (unlikely) expertise on Koranic matters. We imagine that Usbek laughs as much at the notion that a harem wife would know enough to interpret the Koran correctly as at the image of Anaïs’s heavenly orgies. Other elements seem to have been pruned from rather than added to the manuscript “original” from which Rica worked. On earth and in the heavens Anaïs operates in an exaggeratedly virile world, but Zuléma’s harem is devoid of a male presence. Zuléma is obviously guilty of the “subversion of patriarchy” that Katherine M. Rogers views as characterizing the novel as a whole, yet she survives unscathed. Her antipatriarchal crime is also archetypally feminine: Zuléma talks too much, and on inappropriate topics. This transgression would not go unremarked by Usbek, well aware of the dangers attendant upon the unsupervised gabbing of harem wives. Some twelve letters later, he accords his chief eunuch absolute authority to restrict the liberty of his own wives to move about and to speak to each other, writing: “I place a sword in your hand” [“Je te mets le fer à la main”] Letter 153, 366.5 By this action, Usbek heavy-handedly points backward to the most important “missing” element 5 Usbek’s actions are in keeping with the theory of harem organization presented in L’esprit des Lois, “Principe de la morale d’Orient”: “Women have so many duties to fulfill, that one could never go far enough in separating them from all that might give them other ideas, from all that is considered amusing, and all that has to do with what we call business” (“Les femmes ont naturellement à remplir tant de devoirs qui leur sont propres, qu’on on ne peut assez les séparer de tout ce qui pourrait leur donner d’autres idées, de tout de ce qu’on traite d’amusements et de tout ce qu’on appelle affaires”). De l’esprit des lois. Oeuvres completes. II, XVI.10, 515.

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disfiguring Rica’s tale in Letter 141: Zuléma’s husband. This absent patriarch, never mentioned, has a lot to answer for, having neither precluded Zuléma’s erudition nor prevented this dangerous woman from spreading her contagion to his other wives. Taking Usbek’s later actions as our model, we can pretend to peer into Rica’s ancient Persian manuscripts and remark that the tale presented to the “dame de la Cour” as authentically Persian has been feminized to suit the tastes of the Occidental society in which she functions. Oriental severity has been altered in the service of Occidentalism, by the addition of celestial men whose only purpose is to please women; by the severe punishment of one oppressive earthly husband, Ibrahim; and by the elision of yet another, Zuléma’s. Should we wish to reconstruct the masculine tale Rica disfigures, we might begin by reinserting Zuléma’s husband to descend on her consciousness-raising session for harem wives, reimposing order just as Usbek will soon do from afar for his own seraglio. Retold to suit Usbek’s taste, this remasculinized version of the story might then conclude with Zuléma meeting Anaïs’s fate—only to discover that she has altogether misread the Koran. Usbek’s beliefs and tastes are, however, not the only point of view to be taken into consideration in reading this travestied ancient tale, even though Letter 141 as a whole is sent for his delectation. The embedded tale of Zuléma telling the tale of Anaïs is, again, written for and sent to a different principal recipient, a French woman. Rather than merely condemning Rica for tricking this woman, we might also interpret his “conte travesti” as a polite deflection of a painful truth, a rewriting highly suitable to the foreign situation in which he finds himself. Rica is by far the more Westernized of the Persian pair, as has often been pointed out; he even chooses to stay in France at the end of the novel when Usbek returns to his blighted harem. One might argue that, far more open to French mores than is Usbek, Rica knows that an Eastern male-centered truth would be distasteful to the “dame de la Cour” and so transforms his narrative to suit her tastes. To each her own utopia. Not that Rica’s stay in France has transformed him into a feminist, by any standards; his opening declaration that this French woman is worthy of a place in the King of Persia’s harem highlights both his own Persian worldview and the circumstantial nature of the French woman’s social autonomy. In Ispahan she would indeed be in a harem, and the tales told to her would vary accordingly; but Rica has learned the art of conversational seduction from the undisputed experts of his time, the salonnières whose Parisian enclaves he observantly frequents. In other words, Zuléma is Rica veiled in silk (travesti), taking on a seductive female voice in order to prevent any unpleasantness. It is certainly the case that Zuléma’s rhetorical strategies are Rica’s, for she as well appeals to the authority of tradition. She declares to her harem companions that she has read the tale of Anaïs in some unspecified “livre arabe.” Her listeners would do well to question the existence of this book, or at least to question the authenticity of the version they are about to hear, for Zuléma’s story is as circumstantial as both Rica’s Persian tale and the “historical fragment” Usbek sends to his friend Mirza. All three are produced on request. When one of Zuléma’s companions asks “if she adhered to the ancient scholarly tradition that Paradise is made only for men” [“si elle ajoutait foi à cette ancienne tradition de nos docteurs,


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

que le Paradis n’est fait que pour les homme”], her response is a resounding no, illustrated by a Koranic paradise peopled with “male houris.” Peopled, in other words, with so many oxymorons, as any true expert on the Koran would know; whether or not women are to have an afterlife according to the Koran, a houri is most specifically a beautiful maiden, as heavenly in substance and as willing to please as Anaïs’s male companions, but the exclusive reward of male dwellers of paradise. Is the eighteenth-century French reader of Letter 141, then, to adopt the homosocial Eastern perspective of Rica’s cover letter to Usbek? Is the reader to regard the “dame de la Cour” as the sole and quite unwitting object of exclusively male laughter, or to be ultimately seduced over to the subtly subversive gynosocial view promoted by Zuléma-Rica’s tale of Anaïs, by which Usbek himself, unaware of the goings-on in his own harem, is a yet more risible figure than the courtly lady? In other words, whose voice dominates at the end of Letter 141, Rica’s or RicaZuléma’s? The latter is, strangely, not overwhelmed by the ironic context in which one finds it, given that like Roxane with regard to the novel as a whole, Zuléma has this letter’s last word. Letter 141 ends as Zuléma finishes her story. Rica does not add an explanatory or satirical coda to close the frame of his narrative, and on reaching the end of this long letter Montesquieu’s reader has all but forgotten the opening sarcasm, all but forgotten that this letter is from one man to another. Rica’s male voice has been taken over by Zuléma’s and his homosocial irony has been displaced by her female revenge fantasy. On turning to Letter 142, the reader retains the powerful image of the poor cuckolded Ibrahim, “who, returning after three years from the far-away country to which he had been transported, found only his wives and thirty-six children” [“qui, de retour trois ans après des pays lointains où il avait été transporté, ne trouva plus que ses femmes et trente-six enfants”]. Rica’s opening epistolary wink of course remains in place, to reassure Usbek and to inform the reader that judged from a Persian context Zuléma and her story are so many fantasies created by an Oriental man to please, not to enlighten, an Occidental woman. This juxtaposition of equally powerful narrative points-of-view recalls the famous secret chain of Montesquieu’s “Quelques Réflexions sur les Lettres persanes” (129–131). In this short piece, written in 1754 for a new edition of the work, the author admiringly points to his skill in joining philosophy, politics, and morality to that most unlikely genre, the novel. According to the “Réflexions,” and like Zuléma and Usbek teaching moral truths to their friends, the Lettres persanes aims to instruct and please in equal doses. The relationship established early on in the novel between Usbek and the unmarried Rica is the best-known example of Montesquieu’s balancing of contrasts. It has even been argued that Usbek and Rica represent two divergent aspects of Montesquieu’s own character: Usbek would represent Montesquieu the dignified jurist who kept his wife carefully at home in the provinces and who composed the sociopolitical masterpiece L’esprit des lois, while Rica would represent the Montesquieu who was a wildly successful epistolary novelist and a sought-after guest at the most exclusive Parisian salons. Rica is also, however, the locus where East and West come closest to meeting in this novel, for again he is by far the more Occidentalized of the two Persian

Utopia in the Seraglio


visitors. Read in this light, and with Usbek understood as the primary recipient of both the letter and the tale, Rica’s adoption of a powerful harem woman’s voice can be read as a cautionary tale aimed at his companion’s obdurately Persian misogyny. While this letter may be at its most superficial level profoundly homosocial, the message exchanged between the two men concerns women’s right to (a degree of) freedom. It is true that Zuléma’s instruction of her companions is on one level as laughable as Ibrahim’s homecoming, for a gathering of women in the heart of a harem, cloistered for life and unable to express their views publicly, is no great threat to male Persian tyranny as a sociocultural institution. Or rather, such might seem to be the case until Usbek’s own harem self-destructs some twenty letters later, in a tragic collapse brought on by his own absence from among his wives and expressed in the powerful harem woman’s voice Montesquieu the author adopts in Letter 161: Roxane’s. Something dangerous indeed is going on in Zuléma’s circle of wives, sending a message that Usbek is unable to hear and that his correspondent Rica may be too urbane to state baldly. If Rica aims to instruct as much as to please his friend, the joke is in the end on Usbek, not the “dame de la Cour,” who survives her Persian adventure relatively unscathed. Montesquieu’s own Occidental readers must decipher the message of Letter 141 and the novel as a whole based on this confusing series of displaced identities. With regard to Letter 141, readers must decide whom Zuléma represents in the Oriental mirror-world she inhabits, both passively as herself a character in a tale, and actively as the narrator of her own travestied tale of Anaïs. More importantly, readers must also determine the relationship between this allegorical tale-within-a-tale and the place of French women in their culture in the early part of the eighteenth century. I would argue that by taking on the mantle of male intellectual authority while retaining the alluring clothes and manner of a harem wife, Zuléma instructs and amuses in a manner reminiscent of the salonnières. One can easily imagine the “dame de la Cour” of Letter 141, eager to instruct herself in such arcane subjects as the ancient Persian folktale, presiding over such a selective utopian setting, although one must not forget that Rica just as easily imagines her occupying a “place of honor” in the harem of the King of Persia. It is precisely this melding of the Occidental and the Oriental in the service of a seductive allegory—the confounding of the salon and the harem—that makes the Lettres persanes as a whole so complex in its presentation of woman’s proper place in French society. An earlier Persian letter, Letter 38, most directly addresses the question of women’s overall freedom to mix with men, in a universalizing yet comparative mode that anticipates L’esprit des lois (185–186). Again, the writer is Rica, who begins: “It is a great question, among men, whether it is more advantageous to take away women’s liberty, or to leave it; it seems to me that there are many reasons for and against” [“C’est une grande question, parmi les hommes, de savoir s’il est plus avantageux d’ôter aux femmes la liberté, que de la leur laisser; il me semble qu’il y a bien des raisons, pour et contre”]. Rica’s placement of “among men” reveals that this letter will turn an ironic lens on male pretensions fully to control women. “Among men” indicates as well that Rica casts women’s freedom as a male, cross-cultural


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

concern, although if a woman’s liberty is to be either taken away or left in place it must be originally present. Letter 38 indeed goes on to question the validity of men’s efforts to force women into the mold most convenient to their own purposes: “It is another question to know whether natural law submits women to men” [“C’est une autre question de savoir si la Loi naturelle soumet les femmes aux hommes”]. Rica then smoothly evades the issue by quoting “un philosophe très galant”—met in a salon, perhaps—who has recently explained to him that women actually allow men to tyrannize them.6 Women could easily reverse the situation, yet do not, for “elles ont plus de douceur que nous”—they are more congenial, more sensitive than men— and are consequently endowed with greater humanity and more reason. The qualifier très galant may take away from the seriousness we are to attach to this philosopher’s point of view, but Rica does go on to relate the “shocking” historical fact that the most civilized nations [les peuples les plus polis”] have allowed women absolute authority over their husbands. Husbands, not men: “It was said of the Romans, that they commanded all nations, but obeyed their wives” [“On disait des Romains qu’ils commandaient à toutes les nations, mais qu’ils obéissaient à leurs femmes”]. Letter 38 thus presents the most civilized of households, the Roman household, as a salonlike refuge from a virile culture. Like the Parisian salon, these domains were ruled over by women who knew best how to maximize pleasure. That the power of these wives was meaningless when men were absent again highlights the missing element from Letter 141’s Persian travesty of the Parisian salon: the presence of the masculine. Zuléma’s harem, devoid of a male presence, is on many levels a travesty of the natural order of things. This salonnière in Persian clothing addresses only other wives, while it was male participation that made the Parisian salon truly a locus of power and that gave French women an unparalleled reputation for social, cultural, and even political influence in the early eighteenth century. In the same manner, although in a tragic register, it is Usbek’s absence from his Ispahan home much more than his repressiveness that drives the plot of the novelistic portion of the Lettres persanes, generally identified with the harem drama. The novel’s highlighting of the tragic consequences of the unnatural separation of the sexes in the Orient has much to teach readers about Occidental mixité, just as in L’esprit des lois Oriental limitations on women’s liberty have much to teach the reader about the relative freedoms enjoyed by French women. Book XVI of L’esprit des lois, “On how the laws of domestic slavery are in accord with the nature of climate” [“Comment les lois de l’esclavage domestique ont du rapport avec la nature du climat”] treats Rica’s “grande question” with far less irony. Book XVI also appeals more to relativity in its generalizations about women than does Rica’s Letter 38, for it is in this passage that Montesquieu famously separates Eastern and Western sexual politics to argue that any woman’s character is generated by the 6 Bernard Magné argues that this “philosophe très galant” is Poullain de la Barre. Bernard Magné. “Une Source de la Lettre Persane XXXVIII? ‘L’égalité des deux sexes’ de Poullain de la Barre.” Revue d’Histoire Littéraire de la France 68 (1968): 410–414.

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particular climatic, cultural, and political situation into which she is born. While the same may be said of men, the consequences for women are far more dramatic, both physically and socially, and especially in the Orient. We are told in XVI.6 that under the nefarious influence of a hot climate Eastern girls reach sexual maturity at eight, nine and ten years of age, far earlier than their Western counterparts. Coupled with a husband before their intellects have had time to develop, these girl–women can attract and please their spouses only with their physical beauty.7 Under a happier Occidental sun, physical and mental maturity better coincide in women. They reach puberty later and age more slowly; by the time their bodies begin to show the effects of age, their Occidental husband is aging as well. There is under such a climate the possibility for a “sort of” equality between the sexes [“une espèce d’égalité entre les sexes”], and therefore one sees in the realm of positive law the rule of one wife per man [“la loi d’une seule femme”] 509. This law of one man, one wife does not require French men to limit themselves to one woman, of course, although there is a later reference to French marital fidelity in the same Book (XVI.11). The passage in question is often cited in support of Montesquieu’s protofeminist tendencies. This chapter’s title, “De la servitude domestique indépendante de la polygamie,” indicates that at issue is “domestic servitude” (the cloistering of family members) in societies on which climate does not impose a polygamous social structure, i.e., Western societies. Montesquieu begins by declaring that the cloistered Asian cultures are dour and depressing social constructions, then goes on to reject the English system as well, on his way to declaring that only the French enjoy the truly mixed social intercourse of salon culture. In passing, he waxes lyrical as to the monogamous virtue of upper-class French women: “It is a fortunate pleasure to live under a climate that permits communication; where the sex that is the most pleasing seems to adorn society; where women, limiting themselves to one man’s pleasure, still serve to amuse all.” [Il est heureux de vivre dans ces climats qui permettent qu’on se communique; où le sexe qui a le plus d’agréments semble parer la société; et où les femmes, se réservant aux plaisirs d’un seul, servent encore à l’amusement de tous”] (XVI.11, 517). French women are praised as the most admirably pleasing elements of society precisely due to their free communication with men. They are also praised for their sexual virtue. Then, in a throwaway line at the end, Montesquieu undermines both the seriousness of women’s contribution to society and the constancy of their virtue with a reference to “l’amusement de tous.”

7 Worse yet, this situation leads the Oriental husband to “unnatural” tastes. Montesquieu savors the irony: “The multiplicity of women, who would have guessed! leads to that love that nature disavows: for one dissolution always leads to another... It is said that in Algiers they have arrived at the point where there are no women in most of the seraglios” (“La pluralité des femmes, qui le dirait! mène à cet amour que la nature désavoue: c’est qu’une dissolution en entraïne toujours une autre... On dit qu’à Alger on est parvenu à ce point, qu’on n’en a pas [de femmes] dans la plupart des sérails,” XVI.6, 513).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Highlighting the above passage in her “Essai sur la singularité française,” Mona Ozouf divides Montesquieu’s views on women into two trends: a descriptivist delight in bonvivant monarchy and a prescriptivist tendency to favor the free virtue of a republic, in which women stay at home. Ozouf attempts to reconcile these two “Montesquieus” only with regard to L’esprit des lois, dismissing anyone who finds misogyny in the Lettres persanes as benightedly purblind to irony.8 Such critics, in her view, take the Persians’ statements for Montesquieu’s own, because the author does not repeat at every turn, “This is a Persian speaking.” To understand Montesquieu’s true thinking on the relations between men and women, Ozouf suggests consulting only his serious, sociopolitical work, “far removed from the irony of the Lettres persanes” (232). Yet there is a sharp irony to the passage in question from L’esprit des lois, an irony glossed over by Ozouf. Montesquieu’s evocation of the virtue of French women and the consequent fidelity of French men to the marriage contract only superficially bolsters his argument in favor of Occidental women’s freedom, for it was obviously not to have been taken seriously by the eighteenth-century French reader. At a time when the French aristocracy allowed itself singular sexual freedoms, Montesquieu must be understood as addressing in “De la servitude domestique indépendante de la polygamie” women’s liberation at its most literal: a woman’s freedom to leave the confines of her home when she wishes to do so. He seems indeed serious in arguing that in “Northern” countries domestic servitude is not only an abuse but also a shameful waste of resources, but “resource” in this instance relates exclusively to the profit men are to gain from women’s liberty. The latent irony of this passage springs from the unfortunate companion of this profit, the necessity for French husbands to do what Montesquieu’s fictional Persians ridicule them for doing and what Montesquieu is doing in this passage with pointed irony: turning a purblind eye to the infidelity of French wives. With the statement “limiting themselves to one man, French women still serve to amuse all [men],” Montesquieu indeed preaches tolerance but posits outright hypocrisy as its necessary corollary. A willed blindness to women’s infidelity must accompany women’s freedom, for the necessary infidelity this freedom entails is, after all, a byproduct of the conversational joys to be found 8 Ozouf cites no specific studies. Far more prevalent in the “American” feminist critiques Ozouf so castigates is the view that the Lettres persanes is a relatively protofeminist work in comparison to L’esprit des lois. Rogers indeed distinguishes sharply between the two in favor of the Lettres persanes, arguing that the genre of the novel is better suited to the “radical and passionate criticism of male oppression of women,” in that “Fiction, drawn more from unconscious sources, frees the imagination into greater insight and empathy” (75). Pucci as well appeals to a (textual) unconscious at work in the Lettres persanes, one that she connects to the novel’s anonymous publication (castration) when explaining why the disruptive “feminine” erupts at times in this otherwise phallocentric work. While Rogers refers to authorial, Pucci to “textual” psychoanalytic evidence, they come together in attributing misogynist impulses to the conscious and “feminist” moments to the unconscious. Geffriaud Rosso and O’Reilly, as cited above, tend to view any eruptions of protofeminism in Montesquieu’s writing as intentionally deceptive.

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only in mixed (social) intercourse. The utopia of the salon entails, as do all utopias, a loss of which its inhabitants must remain resolutely ignorant if the fragile edifice they have constructed is to remain intact.9 L’esprit des lois contains many such moments of irony, just as there is indeed a “serious” message to the sexual politics of the Lettres persanes. The relationship of women’s domestic servitude to their sexual infidelity is arguably the central serious preoccupation of the Lettres persanes. Again, Letter 141 serves to guide our reading of the novel as a whole and to clarify the sexual politics of L’esprit des lois, for in this letter as well one finds a double standard applied to female sexuality. Zuléma may insist on Anaïs’s exceptional virtue, but the latter’s brave verbal challenge to her husband wins her a comically obscene reward. Once given heavenly approval, Anaïs has no qualms about orgiastic promiscuity, other than to question whether her two primary partners “truly love her.” They prove their love, we are told, “as much as she might have desired” [“aussi eut-elle tous les éclaircissements qu’elle pouvait désirer”]. With some 50 other heavenly suitors eager to prove the same, truly “le ciel a pitié de la vertu d’Anaïs.” Rogers praises the tale of Anaïs in that “its implication that women have the same desires and capacities as men undermines the moral foundation of patriarchy, which is based on the theory that their needs are different” (63), but the passionate exclamations that punctuate this story (“Je suis toute hors de moi... O Dieux!... Oui, oui!”) are a bit much in the context of a novel that also contains scathing Persian indictments of the overly active sex lives of Parisian women.10 One might include among such Parisiennes the “dame de la Cour,” for Anaïs’s questionable enthusiasm mirrors the one flaw of this otherwise perfect specimen of French womanhood. When Rica remarks to Usbek that this Lady despises the harem system, he carefully qualifies the nature of her disgust. She balks at the image of a man shared among ten or twelve women not because she is morally offended by such excess but because: “She could not see without envy the happiness of the one, nor without pity the condition of the others.” The “dame de la Cour” is envious of Persian male polygamy; therefore, Rica tells her a story of a sexually sated Persian woman who revels in the orgiastic excesses of her afterlife and who provides an earthly sexual utopia for her former companions in the seraglio. One source of this 9 For an exploration of this and other negative aspects of utopian social structures, see Edward Rothstein. “Utopia and Its Discontents.” Visions of Utopia (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003), pp.1–28. 10 Such exclamations lead Geffriaud Rosso to attack Letter 141 by declaring it boring, as part of her overall argument that Montesquieu was a misogynist who, in the standard phrase, loved women: “this inverted seraglio in which men (divine, it is true) are ‘submissive’ to women and ‘kept’ for their pleasure is truly far from exciting,” leaving the reader “decidedly cold” [“ce sérail à l’envers où les hommes (divins, il est vrai) sont “soumis” aux femmes et “gardés” pour leur plaisirs n’a rien d’excitant”; “le lecteur reste décidément froid”] 371–2. While in many ways Anaïs’s paradise is a lieu commun [“de magnifiques jardins... un palais superbe... des bois odoriférans”], that is precisely the point Zuléma is making: we get one, too.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

tale’s amusement for Rica and Usbek lies, unsurprisingly, in the wantonness of our Parisian Lady. However much he might delight in bonvivant monarchy, Montesquieu’s descriptivist–prescriptivist personae come together in L’esprit des lois to declare that while lust may be “natural” to women, openly active sexual desire in a woman is universally unacceptable: “All nations agree in despising incontinence in women: for nature has spoken to all nations. She established defense, she established attack; and, having placed desires on both sides, she placed temerity on the one, and shame on the other.” (“Toutes les nations se sont également accordées à attacher du mépris à l’incontinence des femmes: c’est que la nature a parlé à toutes les nations. Elle a établi la défense, elle a établi l’attaque; et, ayant mis des deux côté des désirs, elle a placé dans l’un la témérité, et dans l’autre la honte” (XVI.12, 517)). Fortunately, a temperate climate deters Occidental women from overtly incontinent sexual activity [“Il est heureux de vivre dans ces climats qui permettent qu’on se communique...”]. Tasteful “communication” that does not flaunt its promiscuity is acceptable to the highly civilized person, or rather to the highly civilized man, for it is only male opinion on such matters that needs to be taken into account. Although subject to natural law linked to climate along with women, men also have the power to manipulate positive law, and this power includes setting limits on women. Of course, in restricting women’s liberty men must beware bringing disaster upon themselves by ignoring the laws of nature; positive law and cultural practice must reflect the subtle chemistry of female sexuality, that is, the relations between female physical, intellectual, and moral maturation. *** The common lesson of all the feminocentric paradigms found in the Lettres persanes—the Roman household ruled over by the wife, Anaïs’s celestial bed, Zuléma’s husbandless salon, Roxane’s own inverted seraglio—is that (Occidental) men must provide (Occidental) women with some domain, whether private or public, in which to exercise their considerable powers.11 If not, it is men themselves who will pay the price of their own despotism. L’esprit des lois will send French men the 11 In L’esprit des lois, Montesquieu even argues that a woman head-of-state is in some instances preferable, given her more highly developed compassion and the overall calming effect of her presence (VII.17). Such a government resembles an enlarged salon in which, while the woman rules over her male ministers, her primary function is to regulate the intensity of their activity rather than truly to effect change herself. This chapter contradicts Rica’s Letter 38 only in its inversion of the public and the private, not in its view of the proper role of women: “It is against reason and nature that women rule in the home, as was the case with the Egyptians; but not that they govern an empire. In the first case, their weakness does not allow their preeminence: in the second, this very weakness gives them more gentleness and moderation” [“Il est contre raison et contre la nature que les femmes soient maîtresses dans la maison, comme c’était le cas chez les Egyptiens; mais il ne l’est pas qu’elles gouvernent un empire. Dans le premier cas, l’état de faiblesse où elles sont ne leur permet pas la prééminence: dans le second, leur faiblesse même leur donne plus de douceur et de modération”] 348.

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same message, albeit twenty-seven years later and in the form of a long erudite tome of social science rather than a charming cautionary tale. Mutatis mutandis, the basic message as to women’s proper place in society remains the same from one work to the next, although the fictional imperative features a far different cast of female characters than does the later sociopolitical treatise. The sad, sexually precocious little girls who fill the harems of L’esprit des lois bear little relation to the beautiful adult Persian women of the Lettres persanes, especially the intelligent Roxane, who appears in the full maturity of her considerable beauty and intellect in Letter 161, the only letter she writes. Anaïs again mirrors Roxane in her highly developed intellect. Like Roxane, she is possessed of a native intelligence unsuspected by her husband. In Letter 141’s microcosm Ibrahim functions as a comic Usbek-like exemplum of the price men pay when they do not allow such superior women their own domain. When Anaïs rouses herself to avenge the wives she has left behind in Ibrahim’s oppressive seraglio, this prompts a discourse on the relationship between mental activity and contentment. The truly happy are generally incapable of reflection, and Ibrahim’s murdered wife is truly happy, but: Anaïs, whose mind was truly of a philosophic bent, had spent most of her life in meditation; she had pursued her inquiries far further than one would expect of a woman left to herself. The austere retreat her husband had imposed on her had left her only this one advantage. It was this strength of mind that allowed her to scorn the fear that paralyzed her companions, and to scorn death, a fate that would be the end of her sufferings and the beginning of her happiness. [Anaïs, dont l’esprit était vraiment philosophe, avait passé presque toute sa vie à méditer; elle avait poussé ces réflexions beaucoup plus loin qu’on n’aurait dû l’attendre d’une femme laissée à elle-même. La retraite austère que son mari lui avait fait garder ne lui avait laissé que cet avantage. C’est cette force d’esprit qui lui avait fait mépriser la crainte dont ses compagnes étaient frappées, et la mort, qui devait être la fin de ses peines et le commencement de sa félicité].

Ibrahim is himself responsible for developing these latent powers in his wife. In his efforts to fashion his own extreme male-centered sexual utopia, he created a wife capable of breaking free of the infamously lotus-like contentment of her celestial utopia. Although possessed of exceptional “force d’esprit,” Anaïs would not have presented a threat to her husband under normal conditions. She is able to overcome her fear of death because her husband insists that she live a solitary life, devoid of social and intellectual distraction. Her intellect has been forced, as a plant subject to unnatural pressures, making her an unnaturally fearless woman whose reward is a sexual oversatiety from which only such an unnaturally reflective woman would be able to rouse herself. The revenge she then takes is of course far from cerebral, “for if the Lettres persanes has anything to teach men about women it is the unsurprising maxim that sexuality is the principal locus of female power over men.” A wife’s potential to stray from the marital bed poses the real threat to an overly despotic


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husband, not her potential to make charming conversational forays into intellectual life. Usbek learns the lesson Ibrahim prefigures for him only at the end of the novel, when it is too late. Male readers are to learn from the parallel fates of Ibrahim and Usbek; but what are women to learn from the parallel fates of Anaïs and Roxane? In an age when the novel was considered a feminine genre and therefore both minor and highly dangerous in its effects, one can assume that it is the novelistic side of this work that contains a moral message for women. Robert O’Reilly goes so far as to dismiss two of Montesquieu’s early works precisely in that they reflect womanly tastes: “During this socially active period of his life, he wrote two insipidly stylized tales expressly for the delectation of women, Le Temple de Gnide (1724) and Le Voyage à Paphos (1727),” but a far different implied female reader emerges from the pages of the Lettres persanes, one who reflects Montesquieu’s praise for the essential civilizing influence of women in French society (148–149).12 This implied and idealized female reader’s taste in fiction would be impeccable, so much so that she might have modeled for Rica’s “dame de la Cour”: clever, beautiful, and a lover of reading, especially poetry and novels; although with one unfortunate fault, a proclivity for extramarital activities. While Rica’s French Lady has access only to Zuléma’s happy tale of Anaïs, our idealized eighteenth-century woman reader of the Lettres persanes would have had access both to the full context of Letter 141 and to its tragic counterpoint, Letter 161. On a positive note of feminine resistance, it is true that Roxane’s fate mirrors that of Anaïs in that each bravely embraces death as preferable to a life of ignominious servitude. After her lover is killed by the few eunuchs she has not corrupted, Roxane takes poison while writing Letter 161, and appears to die as the novel ends. She thus leaves Usbek not only cuckolded but also speechless before this ultimate act of rebellion. There is one all-important difference between Anaïs and Roxane, however. Like Anaïs, Roxane sees herself as the victim of her husband’s out-of-control jealousy; like Anaïs, Roxane wreaks a sexual revenge; but unlike Anaïs, Roxane does not allow a divine male agency to enact this revenge for her. She actualizes Zuléma’s fantasy by inverting the seraglio on earth, writing to Usbek: “Yes, I fooled you, cheated on you: I seduced your eunuchs, I played on your jealousy, and I succeeded in transforming your hideous seraglio into a place of sensual pleasures” [“Oui, je t’ai trompé: j’ai séduit tes eunuques, je me suis jouée de ta jalousie, et j’ai su, de ton affreux sérail, faire un lieu de délices et de plaisirs”]. Roxane exults in her adultery, sacrificing virtue to make a heaven out of hell. Unfortunately, as with Milton’s satanic pronouncement and Zuléma’s male houris, the transformation Roxane attempts is a logical impossibility. In the Occidental imagination, the seraglio is always already a utopian locus of “délices et plaisirs”— 12 Intent on highlighting the misogynist elements of the Lettres persanes, O’Reilly overestimates Montesquieu’s intellectual disdain for women. Such elements are undeniably present, yet (as Ozouf would hold of all analyses of antifeminism in the Lettres persanes) O’Reilly seems to attribute these attitudes, unfiltered, to Montesquieu himself.

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for men. Even Zuléma’s fantastical tale presents a feminocentric seraglio as too good to last. At the heart of this temporal limitation is the innate nature of the male of the human species. The houri who so gently rules over the pleasure house that had been Ibrahim’s repressive harem eventually realizes that he is out of his celestial element. Anaïs had instructed him to remain until recalled (“jusqu’à ce qu’elle le rappelât”), but the male houri disobeys when he learns that there is no place for a “man” such as himself in the terrestrial world. He recognizes the incompatibility of the women’s utopia he has established to the society around him, and recognizes as well his own inability to function as a husband in such a society: The new master’s conduct was so contrary to that of the other that it surprised all the neighbors. He let the eunuchs go, and opened his house to everyone; he would not even accept that his wives wear veils. It was a rather curious sight to see them freely circulating among men at these parties. Ibrahim believed with reason that the customs of this country were not designed for citizens such as himself. [Le nouveau maître prit une conduite si opposée à celle de l’autre qu’elle surprit tous les voisins. Il congédia tous les eunuques, rendit sa maison accessible à tout le monde; il ne voulut pas même souffrir que ses femmes se voilassent. C’était une chose assez singulière de les voir dans les festins parmi des hommes aussi libres qu’eux. Ibrahim crut avec raison que les coutumes du pays n’étaient pas faites pour des citoyens comme lui].

The houri’s abrupt departure is approved with a textual nod (“Ibrahim [the false Ibrahim] crut avec raison que...”).13 If the etymology of “utopia” teaches us that this state is by definition unrealizable—“en aucun lieu,” no where—then the heavenly wisdom of the male houri whose “reason” wisely counsels him to disobey his mistress reveals that while manly, he is in essence, like the novel’s famous eunuchs, “no man.” Two common yet incompatible readings of Letter 161 are undermined by the failure of both the male houri and Roxane to produce lasting feminocentric utopias from their earthly seraglios. First, the reading that Roxane represents a general, and 13 In a spirit of climatological mimeticism alien to the Lettres persanes, one might note that in a Persian city, under a Persian sun, such a husband is indeed unthinkable. As L’esprit des lois tells us, there is no hope for change in the East: If, to the weak organs that cause Oriental peoples to receive the most powerful impressions, you join a certain laziness of mind, naturally linked to that of the body... you will understand that the soul, once having received an impression, never can change. That is why laws, mores, and manners, even those as apparently indifferent as dress, are today as they were a thousand years ago, in the Orient. [Si, avec cette faiblesse d’organes qui fait recevoir aux peuples d’Orient les impressions du monde les plus forts, vous joignez une certaine paresse dans l’esprit, naturellement liée avec celle du corps... vous comprendrez que l’âme, qui a une fois reçu des impressions, ne peut plus en changer. C’est ce qui fait que les lois, les moeurs, et les manières, même celles qui paraissent indifférentes, comme la façon de se vêtir, sont aujourd’hui en Orient comme elles étaient il y a mille ans] (XIV.4, 479).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

thus genderless, rebellion against despotism. Letter 161 has often been read as the novel’s last word on political despotism in general, as a lifting of the veiled language of the oppressed as Roxane, the universal slave, faces death to speak truth to her master.14 One famous claim by Roxane does support this genderless reading: “I may have lived in servitude, but I was always free: I reformulated your laws according to the laws of Nature, and my mind always kept its independence” [“J’ai pu vivre dans la servitude, mais j’ai toujours été libre: j’ai reformé tes lois sur celles de la Nature, et mon esprit s’est toujours tenu dans l’indépendance”]. But Letter 161’s privileged position at the end of the novel does not un-sex Roxane; her sex is inextricably part of the message she sends, and her appeal to Nature must take her sex into account. This same appeal to Nature, however, equally undermines the second common reading that Roxane functions in this novel as a specifically gendered, protofeminist heroine. It is true that the laws Roxane reformulates are the positive laws of patriarchy at its most oppressive, but one could counter that she appears to be driven exclusively by revenge, not by a master plan to restructure her society along feminist lines.15 More importantly, if Roxane is to function as a feminist heroine in the context of all the 161 letters that make up the Lettres persanes she must first be a suitable female heroine for Montesquieu’s time and place. While asserting her intellectual autonomy she should remain sexually virtuous, or at least make a valiant attempt to do so. Roxane addresses this point by arguing for her own virtue-in-rebellion, turning Usbek’s system of judging women on its head by declaring infidelity and outspokenness to be the two essential elements of her own virtue, but her angry Oriental extremism clashes with the novel’s Occidental values. She argues that she should never have quietly submitted to Usbek and allowed society to call that submission virtue. It was cowardly of her to keep quiet when she should have trumpeted her sexual infidelity to the entire world: “I lowered myself to the point of appearing faithful to you... I kept in my coward’s heart what I should 14 See especially Hundert, who reads sexual politics as an allegory of the Self/Other dialectic, rather than exploring sexual politics itself in the Lettres persanes. E.J. Hundert. “Sexual Politics and the Allegory of Identity in Montesquieu’s Persian Letters.” The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 31.2 (Summer 1990): 101–115. Other readings of the harem as an allegory of Western political concerns include Grosrichard and Vartanian (Pucci examines and contests all three studies in her “Letters from the Harem”). Alain Grosrichard. La Structure du sérail: La Fiction du despotisme asiatique dans l’occident classique (Paris: Seuil, 1979); Aram Vartanian. “Eroticism and Politics in the Lettres persanes.” Romanic Review 60 (1969): 23–33. 15 Sarah Webster Goodwin makes this point about feminism and utopia: Because feminism is concerned not only with fictions but with the day-to-day practice of living—and surely the two can be distinguished, if only provisionally—its relation to utopian fictions will be ambivalent; and because any definition of feminism must include an impulse to improve the human community, feminism seems to have at least an inherent utopian inclination. (1) “Knowing Better: Feminism and Utopian Discourse in Pride and Prejudice, Villette, and Babette’s Feast.” Feminism, Utopia, and Narrative, ed. Libby Falk Jones, Sarah Webster Goodwin (Knoxville: The U of Tennessee P, 1990), pp. 1–20.

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have broadcast to the entire earth; ... I ultimately profaned virtue, by suffering others to call by this name my submission to your fantasies” [“je me suis abaissée jusqu’à te paraître fidèle... j’ai lâchement gardé dans mon coeur ce que j’aurais dû faire paraître à toute la Terre; enfin, ... j’ai profané la vertu, en souffrant qu’on appelât de ce nom ma soumission à tes fantaisies”]. It is true that when Roxane asks Usbek how he could have thought her credulous enough to imagine herself brought into this world only to adore his every capricious desire, the novel is questioning male pretensions to decide women’s fate exclusively “among men”; but, sexual infidelity on the part of a wife is decidedly not Montesquieu’s preferred antidote to male oppression. Roxane’s appeal to her continuing virtue is based on a misreading of the relationship between Nature and natural law, however powerful and attractive her woman’s voice may be. She justifies her transgression of society’s values by reference to her husband’s nefarious system, but in the “real” world of the seraglio one garners from reading both the Lettres persanes and L’esprit des lois, victimized women do not have carte blanche to take things into their own hands. Nor do Occidental women. Montesquieu makes it quite clear in L’esprit des lois that it is the business of (male) legislators to rein in both female and male desire, when necessary: “When the physical power of certain climates violates the natural law of the two sexes and that of intelligent beings [to notice their own imperfections], it is the legislator’s job to make civil laws that force the natural climate and reestablish primitive laws” [“Quand donc la puissance physique de certains climats viole la loi naturelle des deux sexes et celle des êtres intelligents [de sentir leurs imperfections], c’est au legislateur à faire des lois civiles qui forcent la nature du climat et rétablissent les lois primitives”] (XVI.12, 518). That despite her precipitous fall Roxane remains a compelling and potentially positive character testifies both to Montesquieu’s relativism and to his skill as a novelist. We are to understand that, like the female victims of wayward climates found in L’esprit des lois and like Anaïs’s unnatural intellectual virility, Roxane’s virtue has been “forced” beyond the natural limits of her sex. Roxane’s revolution may thus be understandable and justified, but it must also be short-lived in its dramatic incontinence. When women attempt social reform, the result is far from a return to a primitive social utopia. Much to the contrary; for the details of such an ideal structure, one has only to look at the patriarchal Troglodytes. Roxane’s rebellion and the book itself accordingly end with her lover’s murder and her own suicide. Again, this message does not attenuate the novel’s condemnation of male despotism in the social realm, any more than the powerful voice of the lovely Zuléma is effaced by the homosocial context of her tale. Both male and female voices are present in the Lettres persanes, and they speak to both male and female interlocutors. Roxane’s utopia in her earthly seraglio is as temporary as Anaïs’s, as Roxane knew all too well it would be; but in choosing her tragic fate she remains admirably compelling, however dubious her prospects for a contented houri-filled afterlife. The most important key to Roxane’s character is that, however homosocial and “Persian” these fictional letters may be, Montesquieu clearly intends the reader to look beyond the superficial Orientalized tale to a more complex eighteenth-


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

century French reality. He makes this caveat lector ironically explicit in the closing sentence of his “Quelques Réflexions”: “Certainly, the nature and design of the Lettres persanes are so evident that they will only ever fool those who wish to fool themselves” [“Certainement la nature et le dessein des Lettres persanes sont si à découvert qu’elles ne tromperont jamais que ceux qui voudront se tromper euxmêmes”]. Earlier editions of the novel had sent this message via the Préface in which, like Rica and Zuléma, the “translator” is eager to assure his readers that his sources are authentically Persian “originals.” He tells us that his Oriental guests hid nothing from him, “For they viewed me as a man from another world” [“Comme ils me regardaient comme un homme d’un autre monde, ils ne me cachaient rien”]. He then reveals that in translating these purloined Persian missive he has, like any conscientious editor of the period, conformed them to his own culture’s tastes: “My only concern in translating these letters was to adopt them to our tastes and conventions” [“Je ne fais donc que l’office de traducteur: toute ma peine a été de mettre l’ouvrage à nos moeurs”] (131). In other words, the 161 letters are themselves merely so many modified (travestied) versions of (imaginary) Persian originals. This tale of decadent Oriental seraglios, spaces characterized by cloistration, infidelity, murder and suicide, is a cautionary tale based on an appreciation of the idealized ethos of the eminently bisexual French salons. At the heart of this Orientalized travesty of a Parisian “reality” lies a common message for French men and women: respect your duties and limits vis-à-vis the opposite sex, and appreciate what you have. Montesquieu’s solution thus involves a trade-off that leads to a best-case scenario; not best in the utopian sense, but the best that can be expected, given the inherent selfishness of human (male and female) nature.

Chapter 7

Transparency and the Enlightenment Body: Utopian Space in Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall and Sade’s The 120 Days Of Sodom Ana M. Acosta

The illusion of transparency: Here space appears as luminous, as intelligible, as giving action free rein. What happens in space lends a miraculous quality to thought, which becomes incarnate by means of design (in both senses of the word) . . . The illusion of transparency goes hand in hand with a view of space as innocent, as free of traps or secret places. (Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space) I would say that Bentham was the complement to Rousseau. What in fact was the Rousseauist dream that motivated many of the revolutionaries? It was the dream of a transparent society, visible and legible in each of its parts, the dream of there no longer existing any zones of darkness. (Michel Foucault, “The Eye of Power”)

A primary purpose of the two novels to be examined in this chapter is the creation of an ideal space, a perfect space, separated from the outside world, self-sufficient, selfregulating, and transparent, the mirror image of its inhabitants. Both Sarah Scott’s A Description of Millenium Hall (1762) and the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, or The School of Libertinage (1785) are products of the late eighteenth century, both propose radical social alternatives, and both are deeply invested in the Enlightenment ideology of transparency as defined, for example, by Foucault and Lefebvre above. This concept of transparency derives directly from the Cartesian division between a rational mind and an irrational body. For the body to be rationalized, it must exist transparently within the logical space envisioned by Enlightenment philosophy. In its architectural, psychological and narrative manifestations, the ideology of transparency is the cornerstone of both the manor house in Millenium Hall and Silling castle in The 120 Days, the novels’ main settings. This article traces the process by which, during the course of the respective narratives, this ideology of transparency, initially defined in terms of space, becomes transposed onto the female body, the only means by which its ends may be realized. In their focus on the story of a select group that chooses to retreat from the world in order to form an ideal community, both novels can be termed utopian according


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

to the definition of “utopia” given in the 1798 edition of the Dictionary of the Académie Française: “refers in general to a plan of imaginary government in which every aspect is perfectly regulated according to the satisfaction of each.”1 The 120 Days relates the history of four libertines who, together with wives, victims, servants and helpers sequester themselves to Silling, a remote and unapproachable Château in the mountains of Switzerland. They remain there for one hundred and twenty days, during which time they perform six-hundred passions, subdivided as follows: the one-hundred-and-fifty simple passions, the one-hundred-and-fifty complex passions, the one-hundred-and-fifty criminal passions, and the one-hundred-andfifty murderous passions. Of the forty-six initial inhabitants of the Château, sixteen eventually return. Needless to say, the retreat is conceived as utopian only in terms of the satisfaction of these sixteen: the four libertines, the four historiennes, or storytellers, the three cooks, the four most accomplished fouteurs, and one of the wives, Julie, the sole graduate of the school of libertinage. A system of meritocracy also governs entry into the society of Millenium Hall, where a group of genteel women have abandoned the world to found a community organized around the principles of independence, virtue, and work.2 The story of the manor and its female residents is recounted by an accidental visitor, an unnamed plantation owner newly returned from the colonies, and his companion Lamont, a young man of fashion, who seek refuge in the community when their carriage breaks down while they are touring the West country to restore the narrator’s health.3 Although The 120 Days is generally characterized in terms of its mechanistic and highly regulated character, and Millenium Hall in terms of its identity as an arcadian pastoral inhabited by women, these two utopias may best be regarded as complementary approaches to the same set of preoccupations.4 We may begin with 1 “Se dit en général d’un plan de gouvernement imaginaire, où tout est parfaitement réglé pour le bonheur commun.” Entry on “Utopie.” Le Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française, cited in Raymond Trousson. D’Utopie et d’Utopistes (1798 ; Paris: L’Harmattan, 1998), p. 18. 2 As further evidence of the merit of these women as desirable in terms of the external world to which they have turned their backs, rather than vice versa, we may cite Felicity Nussbaum’s observation that each of the women has already been shown to be “marriageable.” Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality, and Empire in Eighteenth-Century English Narratives (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), p.152. 3 The narrator is identified in the sequel Scott wrote to the popular Millenium Hall as the eponymous hero of The History of Sir George Ellison, 1766, where he attempts to copy the ideals and organization he has learned from his visit in the earlier novel. Because he is never named in Millenium Hall, I refer to him in this essay simply as Mr. Xxx. 4 On The 120 Days and the Sadean utopia as mechanistic and meticulously regulated, see esp. Frank E. and Fritzie P. Manuel. Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), pp. 541–48. On Millenium Hall as a pastoral and female utopia, see, most recently, Nicole Pohl. Women, Space and Utopia, 1600–1800 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), Chapter 3; Nicole Pohl. ‘“Sweet place where virtue then did rest’: The Appropriation of the Country-house Ethos in Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall.” Utopian Studies 7.1 (1996): 49–59; Gary Kelly. “Introduction: Sarah Scott, Bluestocking Feminism and Millenium Hall.” [Sarah Scott]. A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country

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the desire to instruct the reader, evident from the subtitle of Sade’s work, and from the full title of Scott’s novel, as well as the pedagogical intent of her narrator, ”to inculcate the best principles into youthful minds.”5 Even what we would expect most absolutely to separate the two works, the horrors described by Sade in such absurd and gruesome detail, are, in fact, so carefully insinuated in repressed form in the tales recounted by Scott’s Mrs. Maynard to the narrator, that it is difficult to decide which of the two books represents the more disturbing version of the same reality. The careful selection of the miseries of Mrs. Morgan’s married life, for example, hinted at and then left untold, conveys a powerful and vivid image of forced marriage, incarceration and torture, more awesome perhaps than Sade’s explicit descriptions. Similarly, the narrow escape by the beautiful, virtuous and orphaned Miss Mancel from an unspecified fate at the hands of her “debauched” guardian Mr. Hintman, or the several brushes of Lady Mary Jones with rakes, elopement, and sham marriage, rehearse a formulaic scenario also regularly found in Sade, although the victims in his novels rarely escape the libertine’s clutches. In other words, it is the world of the Sadean libertine that determines the world of Millenium Hall, and it is the world of the libertine, above all others, that the walls of its manor seek to exclude. Conversely, it is the strict observance of Christian virtue, morality, and good works upheld by communities such as Millenium Hall that the protagonists of The 120 Days seek above all else to obliterate.6 So, for example, it is clearly stated in the Règlements read to all the inhabitants of the Château on the first day of their sojourn that, “The slightest religious act on the part of any subject, whomsoever he be, whatsoever be that act, shall be punished by death,” and, further, that, “The name of God shall never be uttered save when accompanied by invectives or imprecations, and thus qualified it shall be repeated as often as possible.”7 Virtue, compassion and Adjacent: Together With the Characters of the Inhabitants, And Such Historical Anectodes and Reflections , as May Excite in the Reader Proper Sentiments of Humanity, and Lead the Mind to the Love of Virtue. By a Gentleman on his Travels, ed. Gary Kelly (1762; Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1995), pp. 35–37. Melinda Alliker Rabb has argued that the vision of Millenium Hall as an arcadian paradise unspoiled by labor, discord and social strife is an opinion of the male narrator at odds with the inhabitants’ more contingent view of their estate as a safe refuge from the demands of the outside world; see “Making and Rethinking the Canon: General Introduction and the Case of Millenium Hall.” Modern Language Studies 18.1 (1988): 13. 5 [Sarah Scott]. A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country Adjacent Together With the Characters of the Inhabitants and Such Historical Anecdotes and Reflections as May Excite in the Reader Proper Sentiments of Humanity, and Lead the Mind to the Love of Virtue, by “A Gentleman On His Travels,” ed Jane Spencer (1762; London: Virago Press, 1986). 1. All further references to Millenium Hall are by page number to this edition. 6 As Christine Rees has pointed out, even in its name Millenium Hall leads us to expect “the religious ideal community, the kingdom of Christ on Earth.” Utopian Imagination and Eighteenth-Century Fiction (London: Longman, 1996), p. 217. 7 Donatien-Alphonse-François, comte de Sade. LesCent vingt journées de Sodome; ou, L’école de libertinage Œuvres, ed. Michel Delon, 3 vols (1785; Paris: Gallimard, 1990), vol 1, p. 64. Donatien-Alphonse- François, comte de Sade. The 120 Days of Sodom and other writings.


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charity are not to be tolerated; such is the case of Adelaide, wife of one libertine and daughter of another, who “would go and hide herself to pray to God, she’d perform Christian duties on the sly, and was unfailingly and very severely punished, either by her father or by her husband, when surprised in the act” (36; 215). If each novel seeks to negate the sphere of the other, they must be complementary: the world of the libertine is predicated upon having upper-class, virtuous victims, and that of the prude on avoiding the rake. Each victim, in The 120 Days, male and female, is selected only after a painstaking search, commissioned by the libertines, “[T]he procuresses were instructed to emphasize high birth, virtuousness, and the most delicious visage possible” (43; 223). In other words, they are chosen according to the same criteria applied for entry to Millenium Hall; raised as a lady of fashion, Miss Mancel, for example, is described as “Dazzlingly handsome . . . her heart was all purity, universal benevolence and good-nature” (42–44). If their antithetical relationship were all that united Millenium Hall and the Château of Silling, one could pass off the resemblance as the shared social milieu and discourse of late eighteenth-century Europe—both are self-consciously fashioned utopias following the working terms of the 1798 definition cited above. It is their shared belief in the need for transparency, however, that makes the comparison of these two communities productive for identifying the Enlightenment ideology of transparency embedded within that straightforward definition of utopia. They do not merely reflect each other in their attitude toward virtue; the spaces themselves enact that attitude through identical means. Everything in the manor, as in the Château, is systematically regulated: there is a schedule for rising, eating, going to bed, relaxing, and for the usage of the chapel, for praying and defecating, respectively. While dress is not uniform, it is highly coded and different from that normally worn outside: in Silling, a particular type of style and color renders each class of inhabitants easily identifiable and bound to a defined hierarchy; in Millenium Hall, the women are all dressed in “lutestring night-gowns, though of different colours” (8). Everyday activities are not merely details; as Roland Barthes has observed with reference to Sade, “the mark of utopia is the everyday; or even: everything, everyday is utopian.”8 Obsessive bookkeeping and accounting are the rule in both utopias.9 Ordered in the most perfect economy, money has been distributed and allocated to satisfy Transl. by Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver (New York: Grove Press, 1966), pp. 248. All further references to The 120 Days are by page number to these editions, respectively. 8 Roland Barthes. Sade/Fourier/Loyola, trans. Richard Miller (1971; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), p. 17. On the libertine’s obsessiveness, see Joan DeJean. Literary Fortifications: Rousseau, Laclos, Sade (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), pp. 292– 94. 9 On the fundamental place of accounting in the economy of The 120 Days, see DeJean, 302–303; and the chapter, “Taking Sade Serially.” Peter Cryle. Geometry in the Boudoir: Configurations of French Erotic Narrative (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), pp. 120– 146. On Millenium Hall as a detailed model of gentry capitalism, see Kelly, pp. 31–32, and Rees, pp. 221–222.

Transparency and the Enlightenment Body


all the needs of the inhabitants; there is no possibility of shortage and therefore the community is entirely self-sufficient. Conveniently, and rather uncannily, Sarah Scott always kills off benefactors and oppressors alike, leaving the women of Millenium Hall with the means to be independent. Sade also loves inheritance, although convenient death is translated in his model into ill-begotten wealth. By such means two of the four libertines have put themselves into position to participate in the orgy at Silling. To have obtained the means to be self-sufficient is a sine qua non in both novels for membership in the community: birth and natural qualities put the protagonists in a position to benefit from fate. This aristocratic basis of selection permits a rational meritocracy to rule on the inside; at Silling and at Millenium Hall, superior talent is rewarded and respected. Perhaps the most radical way in which Silling and Millenium Hall separate themselves from the outside world is in the prohibition of biological reproduction. Silling is characterized by its utterly impermeable walls; Millenium Hall is predicated on its exclusion of men. The interdiction of procreation aims to perfect the female body in the same manner as it does the body of the select community. In both novels, if for different reasons, biological reproduction is seen as contrary to the smooth functioning of the community. Parenting is uniformly shown to have failed for the protagonists in the outside world. Nor do any of the heroines described in Scott’s novel have children, and, although Sade’s heroes do have daughters, procreation in general, and especially once inside the Château is viewed with abhorrence.10 The ideal body required to inhabit these ideal spaces cannot countenance a potentially independent element, unpredictable and outside of its control because hidden within it.11 The concern with order and control is a narrative manifestation of the ideology of transparency within these novels.12 I want now to turn to the physical and discursive 10 In her discussion of incest in Sade’s novels, Jane Gallop notes the infrequency, if not virtual absence of mother–son incest. She also notes the always negative portrayal of motherhood; see “Sade, mothers, and other women.” Sade and the Narrative of Transgression, eds. David B. Allison, Mark S. Roberts, Allen S. Weiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 122–141. Likewise, in Scott’s novel, parenting is always deficient or insufficient even in the best of cases. For an analysis of this aspect see Linda Dunne. “Mothers and Monsters in Sarah Robinson Scott’s Millenium Hall.” Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference, eds. Jane L. Donawerth, Carol A. Kolmerten (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994), pp. 60–64. 11 Angela Carter, in particular, has argued that the separation of reproduction from sexuality in Sade is a radical and emancipatory quality of his works; see The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History (London: Virago Press, 1979). The feminist qualities of Millenium Hall, specifically that it depicts a community of women, run by women and for women independently of men, have been asserted by many critics, including Dunne, Pohl, Rabb, and George E. Haggerty. ‘“Romantic Friendship’ and Patriarchal Narrative in Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall.” Genders 13 (Spring 1992): 108–22. 12 Transparency fulfills quite a different role in John Cleland’s novel, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1749), where the utopian community of Mrs. Cole’s brothel is a single episode


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

manifestations of that same ideology. First of all, the architecture of each space transparently presents its moral qualities. In Millenium Hall, the physical beauty of the grounds is a reflection of the moral beauties of its owners; the “gothic” aspects of Silling reflect the sinister character of its owners. A familiar literary topos, this is a fairly straightforward manifestation of transparency.13 On a structural level, the spaces are transparent because we, as readers, are given a complete tour of them, and granted access to all spaces, even those that are deemed forbidden to the actual inhabitant. I will return to the contradiction of these forbidden zones within an otherwise wholly knowable space, for they are crucial to the system as a whole; for the time being I want to continue with the general principle of transparency. Overall, both the Château of Silling and Millenium Hall are transparent because under permanent surveillance; there is nowhere to hide, and no way to hide transgressive behavior or thought, for either would be immediately detected and crushed. This is not a pressing issue for Sade’s brotherhood or Scott’s “ladies of the manor”; they have no secrets from each other, and have already provided for their identical tastes. Surveillance remains an issue, however, for the subordinate members of the libertine household, and for the lesser members of Millenium Hall, the deserving poor rescued from straightened circumstances, who live off the charity of the community in return for their labor.14 The mechanism of surveillance is clear

in Fanny Hill’s progression towards bourgeois domesticity and motherhood. On Fanny’s first night at Mrs. Cole’s, the other women tell the tales of their sexual initiation, and how they eventually became prostitutes; after the stories the women have sexual intercourse, each with her “particular” under the observation of the other women and men present. Before the penetration takes place, the genitals of each woman are viewed and described by the narrator, Fanny Hill—her name itself cant for female genitalia. The openness of the women’s genitalia is equated to their open manner, and is deemed the cement of this miniature community. Order and control are less necessary in this scenario because Fanny is training for incorporation within rather than separate from the existent world. 13 Pohl has argued that Millenium Hall uses the seventeenth-century ethos of the countryhouse poem and the values it attached to the landed gentry of the previous century—the “Golden Age of aristocratic rule”—as a critique of the “mercantile and individualistic” values of the eighteenth century (“Sweet Place” 53). In an analogous manner, Sade explicitly situates The 120 Days at the end of the reign of Louis XIV, in the seventeen-century, using, as DeJean convincingly maintains, the Classical fortress architecture of Vauban as the model for Silling castle (280–87). Both novels seem to be deeply concerned with national history as it is manifested through the psychopolitical space codified in the previous century by Descartes, and, more importantly, with how these spaces are inherited and reinterpreted in their own time. 14 This aspect of the women’s community can be used to support arguments about the novel’s social conservatism. Vincent Carretta, for example, views the use of surveillance and the emphasis on order and containment as expressions of a hierarchical and patriarchal social system; in “Utopia Limited: Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall and The History of Sir George Ellison” The Age of Johnson 5 (1992): 309. For a treatment of Millenium Hall within eighteenth-century discourses of charity, see Dorice Williams Elliott. “Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall and Female Philanthropy.” SEL 35 (1995): 535–553.

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in the description given by a talkative old peasant woman to the narrator as to how the women of the manor exercise their control: . . . if we are not idle that is all they desire, except that we should be cleanly too. There never passes a day that one or the other of the ladies does not come and look all over our houses, which they tell us, and certainly with truth, for it is a great deal of trouble to them, is all for our good. . . . (14)

This is as explicit a presentation as the equivalent mechanism in Silling; its means of enforcement are much less so. As a system, Millenium Hall is presented as benignly self-regulating; those who prefer not to abide by its guidelines simply weed themselves out. The architectural and structural transparency of Silling and Millenium Hall is correlated by the discursive transparency of the communities and of the novels that represent those communities. The limpid, denotative style of both Scott’s and Sade’s prose expresses the conviction that all within these enclosures can be depicted and explained simply and directly. Because, as evident from their respective subtitles, the purpose of both narratives is didactic, the discursive transparency is construed through the unambiguous conceit that the narrative explains thoroughly and completely, for everyone, everything there is to understand. In Millenium Hall, the space comprehended by the manor exists for all to read. Only that part of the narrative that relates to Mrs. Morgan’s married life, which lies outside the space of Millenium Hall, is not entirely divulged. Discursive lapses denote unspoken restrictions: it is apparently the details of her married life that are secret, for there seems to be no secrecy attached to the lives of the other women in the manor who have never been married. Similarly, Mrs. Maynard, the primary source of information about the ladies in the hall, has also been married, as is indicated by her name, and we learn nothing about her circumstances at all, only that she is a distant cousin of the narrator. If secrecy is primarily connected to married life and we accept, as many have observed, that Millenium Hall is a refuge for women from men, and therefore there is no matrimonial life within its confines, then it emerges that the ladies who live there have no secrets whatsoever.15 They are transparent, that is to say, they have no “secret spaces,” no “zones of darkness.” The same pursuit of transparency rules The 120 Days, which attempts to describe each and every passion, body part and orgasm in exhaustive detail. The fact that 15 Susan Sniader Lanser has observed that there is a tension in the novel’s narrative structure between the male narrator’s frame and the somewhat elliptical tales recounted by Mrs. Maynard about the ladies’ lives; see Fictions of Authority: Women Writers and Narrative Voice (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), pp. 225–30. I would argue that the fact that the gaps in the women’s stories apply only to pre-Millenium Hall episodes of married life serves to render even more ideal, because transparent, their present situation in the community. I should clarify here that the marriage taboo applies only to the six principal ladies of the hall; lesser members attached to the main house can choose to marry and to reproduce under the condition that they meet with the approval of the ladies.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Sade was only able to finish the first thirty days merely emphasizes the attempt at comprehensiveness, for he left behind a day-by-day outline of the duration of the libertines’ sojourn. As Joan DeJean has persuasively argued, the “performative aspects [in the narrative] have only been included as a concession to the reader’s inadequacies,” and what eventually emerges from the schematic last three parts of the novel is an “encyclopedic bare bones stripped of narrative flesh” (300). I would add that what materializes in front of our eyes from this narrative skeleton devoid of organs, skin, muscles and sinews, is nothing less than the desire for an unequivocally transparent text, a text that through perfect parsimony would have eliminated all traces of narrative obfuscation from its corpus. At the same time, as Gilbert Lély was the first to point out, there are in fact significant gaps and distortions in Sade’s ostensibly encyclopedic endeavor.16 As Jane Gallop notes, “there is a shocking dearth of obsessions with breasts, menstruation, and female genitalia” in The 120 Days (124). The singularity of female sexuality is excluded from the space of Sade’s Château as much as from Scott’s Hall. A similar principle of exclusion governs the division of both narratives into two parts: a frame, in which characters, set-ups and locales are described, and the area enclosed by that frame, in which biographical stories are told. Thus, in Millenium Hall, the narrator and his companion, Lamont, belong to the frame of the narrative, while the stories of the ladies belong in the interior space of the novel. The same applies to The 120 Days, where the descriptions of the characters, their arrangements and provisions for the orgy, and the plan of the castle all belong to the frame narrative; the acts of the orgy itself, organized around the biographical accounts of the four storytelling prostitutes belongs inside the frame. The frame bridges the gap between reader and utopia, creating a self-contained world from which everything undesirable may be excluded. The discursive organization of the narrative is mirrored by the spatial design of both Millenium Hall and the Château of Silling: there is an outside world, a frame made up of the grounds and building, and, most strikingly, an inner recess or enclosure that lies in the midst, but is separate physically and semantically. It is an internal correlative to all that has been pushed outside of the frame, what is not to be seen or described. Hence, in Scott’s novel, while Lamont and Mr. Xxx, the narrator, are inspecting the grounds of the Hall, they encounter an eight-foot hedge that bars from sight what lies within it. Spurred by curiosity, not an infrequent sentiment in these visitors, they learn what is hidden behind the hedge: It is, then, an asylum for those creatures who are rendered miserable from some natural deficiency or redundancy. Here they find refuge from the tyranny of those wretches, who seem to think that being two or three feet taller gives them a right to make them a property, and expose their unhappy forms to the contemptuous curiosity of the unthinking multitude. Procrustes has been branded through all ages with the name of tyrant; and principally, as it appears, from fitting the body of every stranger to a bed which he kept as the necessary standard, cutting off the legs of those whose height exceeded the length of it 16 Gilbert Lély. Vie de Sade, 2 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 1958), vol. 2, p. 333.

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and stretching on the rack such as fell short of that measure, till they attained the requisite proportion (19–20).

There is no need to emphasize the Sadean overtones of the passage above, or the fantasy of torture and exploitation conjured by it; the Sadean world, that which was excluded from Millenium Hall, appears built into the fabric, or, better still the foundations of that very space.This opaque enclosure within the Hall can be seen architecturally to recreate the narrative structure, making Millenium Hall function as a frame, while the monster’s enclosure becomes the space contained by that frame. Not surprisingly, Silling has its own inner recess, protected and restricted, a space that can be reached only by a “spiral stairway, very narrow and very steep, whose three hundred steps could convey you down into the bowels of the earth, to a kind of vaulted dungeon, closed by triple doors of iron” (58; 240), a space where, “I know not what will transpire, but this I may say without doing our tale a disservice, that when a description of the dungeon was given the Duc, he reacted by discharging three times in succession” (58; 240). Given the complementary structure of the two novels, we may certainly hypothesize that “what will transpire” behind those “triple doors of iron,” are, perhaps, a few acts of compassion and a little prayer. It is not accidental that there are monsters in the enclosure of Millenium Hall, just as it is no accident that we do not know what will transpire in Silling’s dungeon, for the nature of what is enclosed in these spaces is essential to the ideological core of each novel: its pursuit of transparency. Both communities evidence a striking refraction of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century obsession with collecting specimens in a cabinet of curiosities. A new space is created and set aside to contain that which belongs nowhere else— anomalies, deformities, monsters—which the owner can either lock up or display as he (usually) desires. Peter I of Russia’s celebrated cabinet, for example, contained not only thousands of preserved specimens, but live ones as well, including the well-known dwarf Foma Ignatjew and giant Bourgeois, who were left to their own devices within the Kunstkammer they inhabited except when required to present themselves for the delectation and edification of the tsar and his guests.17 The same principle of control over the mysteries of nature applied to anatomical wax models of the second half of the eighteenth century, such as the “Venere Smontabile,” or “Dissected Venus” of Clemente Susini, which Sade would have seen in his visit to Florence in 1785, and which, as we will see below, he incorporated narratively and thematically into his gendered examination of the body and of space.18 Susini’s 17 Michael Hagner. “Enlightened Monsters.” The Sciences in Enlightened Europe. eds. William Clark, Jan Golinski, and Simon Schaffer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), pp. 184. 18 In his Voyage à Italie, Sade included a highly appreciative description of a cabinet of anatomical waxworks; descriptions of both the apocalyptic tableaux of the Sicilian Zummo and the individual female models of Susini and others found their way into many of his novels (Les cent vingt journées de Sodome 1182, n. 4). As Karen Newman has noted, such models were not only produced and exhibited for anatomical study, but were also “commissioned in


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

supine model of a beautiful young woman could be peeled away layer by layer down to the fetus growing in her womb—an anatomical Wunderkammer. While Scott’s enclosure attempts to formulate a humane version of Peter’s rather cruel cabinet, Silling pushes the intrinsic sadism as far as it could go, putting the monsters in charge of the carefully collected assembly of “innocents,” the anomalies of a world in which libertinism is the fullest expression of nature. While both novels envision correctives to the prevailing model of the collection, both conceptions also maintain the same spatial structure of an anomalous but rationalized cabinet at the heart of their utopian spaces. Both novels, then, have a narrative structure that mirrors the spatial organization of the place in which they are set. It is through the convergence of the narrative and spatial organizations with a third principle of organization, the body, that the ideology of transparency is realized in these two novels. Needless to say, it is specifically the female body that both Scott and Sade assume as the building-block of their respective utopias. In both Millenium Hall and The 120 Days, the physical appearance of the character and his or her moral makeup coincide; the frame and the content are never at a variance.19 In this sense, the body is rendered transparent. Accordingly, Mrs. Morgan is described as “tall, rather plump, and extremely majestic, an air of dignity distinguishes her person, and every virtue is engraven in indelible characters on her face” (8); there is no possibility here of mistaking her excellence. Sade follows the same descriptive procedure, but gives a full and detailed account of the genitalia in particular and the lower parts of the body in general. It is no surprise that penis and anus predominate, since what is visible is of course what is favored; what you can see can’t hurt you. This is true for all the bodies, except for the monsters. The female body can be transparent only if it is devoid of “secret spaces” or zones of darkness, that is, if it has no womb; this is the reason for the barrenness of the ladies. There is a peculiar moment in Millenium Hall, where the linguistic coupling of secrecy and pregnancy occurs. Miss Mancel has just been agonizing over how to fend off the advances of Mr. Hintman, her benefactor, without seeming ungrateful, when the school mistress appears with the good news to the two friends of his timely demise: She soon began a discourse, which they [Mrs. Morgan, then single, and Miss Mancel] immediately apprehended was preparatory to the opening of some fatal event, and which, as is usual in such cases, was, if possible, more alarming than any misfortune it could precede. . . After considerable efforts to deliver her from the secret with which she was pregnant . . . . (49) miniature for private collections as well.” Fetal Positions: Individualism, Science, Visuality (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), pp. 82–90. 19 The belief in a direct correspondence between physical appearance and internal morality and intellect, put forth most influentially in the Swiss pastor Johann Caspar Lavater’s Physiognomy (1775–78), was debated throughout the second half of the century (Hagner, 201). On the gender dynamics in Lavater’s theory, see Ludmilla Jordanova. Nature Displayed: Gender, Science and Medicine 1760–1820 (New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 1999), pp.164–65.

Transparency and the Enlightenment Body


The secret, of course, is that Mr. Hintman is dead, but the first thought that comes to mind is that someone is, fatally, pregnant. It is worth recalling at this juncture that, in the science of midwifery of the time, monsters were commonly held to be the result of the bewildered thoughts of the expectant mother.20 It is as if the women of Millenium Hall have exteriorized the womb, and its monstrous seed into a space where it is no longer secret, dark and threatening, materialized it in their enclosure, where it can be safely monitored. The secluded nature of the community would preclude any further monstrous births, for the utopian space of Millenium Hall is predicated on a social hysterectomy. There is a striking parallel between this displaced image of monstrous maternity in Millenium Hall and the last crime to be recounted in detail in The 120 Days: The torturing was arranged for the orgy hour; as the friends sat at dessert, word was brought to them that everything was in readiness, they descended and found the cellars agreeably festooned and very properly furnished. Constance lay upon a kind of mausoleum, the four children decorated its corners. As their asses were still in excellent condition, Messieurs were able to take considerable pleasure in molesting them; then at last the heavier work was begun: while embuggering Giton, Curval himself opened Constance’s belly and tore out the fruit, already well-ripened and clearly of the masculine sex; then the society continued, inflicting tortures upon those five victims. Their sufferings were long, cruel, and various (380; 669–70).

This passage encapsulates the principles of Silling: the order, as in the tableau vivant composed of obedient victims; the routine of the torturing session prearranged for the correct hour; the symmetry of the four children decorating each corner; the preeminence of sodomy consistent with the antireproductive agenda at the Château; the detail regarding Constance as common property, daughter of Durcet, one of the four, married to the Duc and murdered by yet another member of the group, Curval. Finally, there is the crime itself, for what could be a more drastic delivery 20 As Paul-Gabriel Boucé tells us, citing a midwifery manual entitled Instruction familiere et utile aux sages-femmes, the commonly held explanation for the procreation of monsters was causes “both external and internal. The external one is the outside object on which the woman has cast her eyes; the internal one is the strength of the imagination, which after receiving the impression . . . imprints it on the seed.” “Imagination, pregnant women, and monsters in eighteenth-century England and France.” Sexual underworlds of the Enlightenment, eds. G.S. Rousseau and Roy Porter (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), pp. 86. See also Dennis Todd”s study of monsters in eighteenth-century England, including this passage from Culpepper’s Directory for Midwives (1662): that which makes a great admiration and terrour in the mother when the forming faculty is at work, and when she beholds one with six fingers, she brings forth the like . . . or when she sees any thing cut or divided with a Cleaver, she brings forth a divided part or Hare-Lip. Imagining Monsters: Miscreations of the Self in Eighteenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 45–46. According to Todd, this doctrine was apparently so widely believed in the eighteenth century, as to have relegated all other explanations of monstrous birth to the back burner (45–52).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

of a secret or hidden space than a forced Caesarean.21 As the close resemblance to anatomical models such as the “Venus Smontabile” suggests, the order of Sade’s externalization of the body’s interior is as rational, systematic and clinical as that of eighteenth-century science. Or, as Sade for the first time made it impossible to ignore, the externalizations of eigtheenth-century science are as violent, eroticized and sadistic as those of Silling. Scott’s novel, too, is highly influenced by contemporary obstetrics and motivated by a fear of the irrationality of maternity. In Millenium Hall, the uterus is brought out into the open and preserved under surveillance by conflating the spaces of maternity and of the monsters’ enclosure. While as rationally formulated as the clinical and hygienic removal of uterine equivocality in Millenium Hall, the climactic mutilation of Constance’s body is absolute, because fatal. In Millenium Hall, the uterus can be brought out into the open and preserved under surveillance by conflating the spaces of maternity and of enclosure. In Silling, by contrast, such a hidden space can not be countenanced, and must be eradicated. A case in point is the conditions surrounding Constance’s antithesis, Julie, the sole surviving spouse (and daughter), sponsored by Curval, the same man responsible for Constance’s death. From the onset, the transparency of her bodily orifices precludes the possibility of maternity. Because her character coincides with her appearance, she is clearly destined for libertinism: her teeth are rotting, her breath is foetid, and her “two temples of lubricity” are filthy in the extreme due to “a perfect divorce from water” (37; 216).22 The female body can survive in The 120 Days only by ceasing to be recognizable as a maternal body. That maternity constitutes an impediment to the ideal of transparency is evident in the lack of spatial coincidence between the mutilated body and the hidden chamber, never penetrated by the narrative. It is difficult to resist the deconstructive and romanticizing interpretations of critics such as Marcel Hénaff, who read the chamber as a formal device, a zero-point of signification that gives meaning to all the other spaces in the Château.23 An externalized uterus and a masculinized 21 Lucienne Frappier–Mazur analyzes this phenomenon in terms of Kleinian psychoanalysis in her insightful study, Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996): “Massacre is the end result of a hatred of procreation, in particular of its most concrete form, gestation, a process peculiarly outside the empire of the male…The attack on the maternal body is as exactly targeted as it is concrete” (18). She attributes this hatred of procreation to envy and jealousy originating in the child’s perception of the mother’s omnipotence; in my reading, it is motivated primarily by an Enlightenment desire for transparent spaces (one in which psychoanalysis has always participated). 22 For a formal interpretation of the necessity of Julie’s survival, see Chapter 7 of Cryle, “How Not to Be Murdered in Sadian Stories” (147–66). 23 Marcel Hénaff has described the secret chamber as a space outside language and signification, a black hole of nothingness, the null point of the narrative, a space that metaphorizes the limits of the obscene; in “The encyclopedia of excess.” David B. Allison, Mark S. Roberts and Allen S. Weiss, eds. Sade and the Narrative of Transgression (Cambridge:

Transparency and the Enlightenment Body


libertinist: the Enlightenment ideal of transparency, of illuminating every inch of the world, necessitates a male body. Consequently, the only reproduction that occurs is ideological: Mr. Xxx will be reborn in Scott’s sequel as Sir George Ellison, recreating the community of Millenium Hall as an all-male enclave; Julie will join the band of Sade’s libertines as one of the boys.24 As Lefebvre has demonstrated, the Cartesian assumption of identity, or transparency, between the mental space of philosophy and epistemology, and the real space of heterogeneous experience, established “an abyss between the mental sphere on one side and the physical and social spheres on the other” (6). The physical enclosures of Silling and Millenium Hall dramatize this abyss architecturally, discursively and physiologically in order to expel it from their boundaries. The fact that neither novel is able to conceive of a perfect enclosure without making the female body a further source of opacity within it should remind us of the necessarily dialectic nature of utopia. The male body is conceived according to the ideal contours of Cartesian space; the female body is attributed everything that does not fit these contours, the “traps or secret places” that must be exposed. Enlightenment utopia will only emancipate what it has accepted as worthy of illumination. On the one hand, the women in Millenium Hall and in Silling are truly liberated from the gender determinism that traditionally equates femininity and reproduction. On the other hand, that liberation is achieved only by negating their identity as feminine within that space. From the chaste, homosocial autonomy of Millenium Hall to the debauched, autarchic brotherhood of The 120 Days, no female body can remain intact within the utopian spaces of Enlightenment.

Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 163–165. Roland Barthes makes a similar point in Sade /Fourier /Loyola, when he asserts that, “the silence of ‘solitary’ [the secret chamber] is completely confounded with the blank of the narrative: the meaning stops” (16). 24 While it is true that the “adjuncts” in Millenium Hall are encouraged to procreate, their subordinate position within the community and spatial location outside of the main house keep their reproduction visible and hence subject to control.

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Chapter 8

“The Emperess of the World”: Gender and the Voyage Utopia1 Nicole Pohl

The term “utopia,” however allegorical its meaning, has always carried a spatial dimension that created imaginary geographies of ideal islands, continents or even distant planets. Myths of the Island of the Blessed, the Land of Cocaygne, Elysium, Shangri-La and the Garden of Eden—to name but a few—haunted both writers and travellers for centuries and paved the way for the geographical utopia of the early modern period and the voyage utopia of the eighteenth century which, like its early modern incarnation, believed in the transformative quality of alterity. In this essay, I wish to focus on a specific strand of the eighteenth-century voyage utopia, the critical voyage utopia, and consider in a case study of Ellis Cornelia Knight Dinarbas (1790) how women writers contributed to eighteenth-century critical utopianism. *** “A central concern in the critical utopia,” writes Tom Moylan, “is the awareness of the limitations of the utopian tradition, so that these texts reject utopia as blueprint while preserving it as a dream.”2 Whilst Moylan contextualizes the manifestation of the critical utopia within a specific oppositional culture of the 1970s and postmodernity, I want to claim a critical utopian imagination for the eighteenth century. Although related to satire and anti-utopia, the critical utopia provides a constructive contribution not only to utopian thought and practice but in fact to eighteenth-century paradigms of nature, knowledge, reason and history. 3 It is particularly the voyage utopia that

1 I am following David Fausett’s usage of the term “voyage utopia.” See David Fausett. Writing the New World: Imaginary Voyages and Utopias of the Great Southern Land (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1993). 2 Tom Moylan. Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction, Utopia and Dystopia (Boulder: Westview, 2000), p. 83. 3 The critical utopia is also, as we see with Candide, related to the conte philosophique. As Dalnekoff suggests, the thrust of the conte philosophique is not only negative [when satirical], however, but positive as well, relating it to utopia. In addition to unmasking the false, it provides an image of the true, orienting the reader in the direction of what the author sees as a more desirable way of life.


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raised questions about the fault lines that developed during the eighteenth century on ideas of human nature, history and perfectibility and indeed utopianism itself. I want to suggest that there is a strand of eighteenth-century voyage utopias that focuses both “on the continuing presence of difference and imperfection within utopian society itself” and identify the paradoxical complexity of the Enlightenment project, revealing its fundamentally “utopian” nature (Moylan 83).4 In considering the characteristics of the eighteenth-century voyage utopia, it may be helpful to begin by recalling its early modern origins. Renaissance and early modern utopias displaced their ideal and other worlds by locating them in faraway, undiscovered countries and remote unchartered islands and planets. Texts such as More’s Utopia, Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1626), Francis Godwin’s The Man in the Moone; or, A Discourse of A Voyage Thither (1638) and Gabriel Plattes’ A Description of the Famous Kingdome of Marcaria (1641) were clearly influenced by contemporary quests of discovery and colonialisation. Geographical utopias of this period are therefore akin to contemporary narratives of explorers, conquerors and merchants in their content and narrative form. Thus, Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis needs to be read in the context of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589) and Walter Raleigh’s journey to, and disastrous colonization of, Guiana.5 The settlement of America was recorded as the discovery of Eden, Paradise, Canaan and a chiliastic “new Heaven and a new Earth.”6 In the eighteenth century, the ahistorical geographical utopia evolved into different models. Ethnological utopias speculated on diverse models of progressive socialization from a “state of nature” culminating in an “Age of Commerce” (Adam Smith), or in modern civil society (Pufendorf). Natural histories of civil society developed an idea of a gradual progression of at least a portion of humanity through comparisons between European and non-Western societies. Such narratives served to demarcate Western achievements in science and technology, the arts and culture: in short, civilization. This conjectural historiography not only reinforced the superiority of the “Old World” but justified and naturalized extensive appropriation and colonization of the “New World”—as we can see in Thomas More. A more relativist (or at least more cautious and apparently objective) representation of human nature and human values drew attention to fundamental geographical, climatic and historical differences between peoples and cultures. Within this framework, progress and the concept of civilization itself were redefined as relative, not absolute. This Donna Isaacs Dalnekoff. “The Meaning of Eldorado: Utopia and Satire in Candide.” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 127 (1974): 44. 4 And thus contributes to the “dialectic” of Enlightenment that Heinz Thoma identified in the philosophical novel of the eighteenth century. See Heinz Thoma. “PhilosophieAnthropologie-Erzählen. Der Roman als Instrument der Selbstaufklärung der Aufklärung.” Romanistische Zeitschrift für Literatur 21.2 (1997): 55–77. 5 The second edition of Hakluyt (1598) includes Raleigh’s account. 6 Mircea Eliade. “Paradise and Utopia: Mythical Geography and Eschatology.” Utopias and Utopian Thought, ed. Frank Edward Manuel (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965), p. 265.

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is also where utopia intersected with nonutopian historiographies of civil society, political economy and literary genres such as the pastoral and indeed, as Jörn Garber suggests, became another stepping stone for contemporary anthropology and political science.7 Historical pessimism created utopias that idealized the “state of nature” and defined society and civilization as progressive alienation from an original good—they thus opposed Hobbes antisocial notion of the “natural” man in that utopia promised the regeneration of society to its status naturalis. Consequently, the utopian locus moved from the Renaissance città felice as respublica ficta to Arcadia. The “landscapes of fear’” that Europeans imagined in the Orient and North America, peopled with mythical monsters, cannibals, “terrible Turks” and barbarians, were refashioned into the exotic.8 This primitivist dream of the ideal society was perhaps first expressed in Montaigne’s essay “Des Cannibales” (c 1580) and, in the eighteenth century, Bolingbroke’s “natural society” and Rousseau’s reconstruction of the “homme naturel.” Utopias such as Denis Vairasse, History of the Sevarites (1675) or Gabriel de Foigny, La Terre australe connue (1676) document simple, virtuous and self-sufficient communities and thus offer their own contribution to the contemporary debate on luxury.9 Aphra Behn’s rather conventional description of the Indians in Surinam in Oroonoko (1688) anticipates Rousseau’s l’homme naturel in his innocence, simplicity and peaceableness. Frances Brooke in The History of Emily Montagu (1769) sets her micro-utopia on the American continent where the narrator’s remarks on the Canadian Indians combine a primitivist anthropology with an explicit social critique aimed at European gender inequality.10 Henry Mackenzie idealizes the simplicity of the Cherokee in The Man of the World (1773) and Sophie La Roche’s Erscheinungen am See Oneida (1798), an interesting reworking of Rousseau’s Julie, outlines a conjectural history of society from the Edenic union of Adam and Eve (the Wattines) in the American wilderness to the creation of a city with other European immigrants. These utopias promote domestic, self-sufficient economies of production, often accompanied by the abolition of private property and money within the utopian society. But it was not only the New World or the Antipodes but the Orient, too, that served as a site of utopian desire and imagination. Male fantasies of “oriental sapphism” dominated the travel literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and opened the doors for a wide range of pornographic and somatopian literature set in the Orient. The coming together of utopia and dystopia in these texts indicates also the essential paradigmatic shifts that the voyage utopia 7 Jörn Garber. “Utopiekritik und Utopieadaption im Einflußfeld der “anthropologischen Wende” der europäischen Spätaufklärung,” in Monika Neugebauer-Wölk and Richard Saage (eds), Die Politisierung des Utopischen im 18. Jahrhundert: Vom utopischen Systementwurf zum Zeitalter der Revolution (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1996), p. 99. 8 Yi-fu Tuan. Landscapes of Fear (Oxford: Blackwell, 1979). 9 Interestingly, in both La Terre Australe and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) the narrator is caught between a society of rational beings (Hermaphrodites or Houyhnhnms) and a humanoid sub-race (Fondins or Yahoos) and thus alienated from his own existence. 10 Frances Brooke. The History of Emily Montagu, 4 vols (London: J. Dodsley, 1769), vol. 1, p. 39.


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saw with the move from eu/utopias to eu/uchronias in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.11 Another strand of geographical utopias contains the Robinsonades that preempted the critical voyage utopias in their celebration of the self-imposed exile or involuntary retreat from the world as the only place where true happiness, contentment and selffulfillment can be ensured. It was not only Robinson Crusoe who flourished in his self-made, individualist kingdom; Grimmelshausen’s Simplicissimus refuses to return to Europe after fifteen years of solitary living and that “so thörechter Weiß seinen jetzigen vergnügsamen Stand durch eine so weite und gefährliche Reise in ein unruhiges immerwehrendes Ellend zuverwechslen.”12 Neville’s The Isle of Pines (1668), Robert Paltock’s The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins (1750) and again Robinson Crusoe in his Farther Adventures (1719) and Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe: With his Vision of the Angelick World (1720) came to distance themselves from the contemporary providential enthusiasm invested in colonial utopianism. Out of the anti-utopianism of the Robinsonades and the skeptical relativism of ethnographical utopias developed a critical utopianism that was based on meliorist doctrines of perfectibility. Eighteenth-century critical utopias thus contributed to the running debate of their times about human nature. Already in the seventeenth century, a historicist anthropology emerged that opposed the classical anthropology of a static human nature, specifically the Christian conception of a fallen humanity (Pascal). The idea of perfectibility was interpreted in the eighteenth century as both a given characteristic and a moral duty, as both a passive, mechanistic faculty (Hartley and Condillac) and an active, creative principle that drove the individual as well as society beyond mental and political slavery (Spinoza, Locke, Ferguson, Condorcet, Godwin). One consequence of the doctrine of perfectibility was the pursuit of “earthly” happiness as a given right and, taking the place of Christian duty in the second half of the eighteenth-century, the categorical imperative to develop virtue and morality. Whether optimistic or pessimistic about human nature, conservative or reformist, eighteenth-century utopian writers certainly grasped the idea of historical relativism and, more importantly, the changeableness of human nature. Philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire and Adam Ferguson specifically highlighted, if in different ways, the human restlessness that rendered the classical idea of human nature and thus the ideal of static utopianism futile. “Felicity,” writes Hobbes in his Leviathan (1651), “is a continuall progresse of the desire, from one object to another; the attaining of the former, being still but the way to the later.”13 “While 11 Reinhart Koselleck. “Die Verzeitlichung der Utopie.” in Wilhelm Voßkamp (ed.), Utopieforschung, 3 vols (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1985), vol 2, pp. 1–14. 12 [Hans Jacob Christoffel von] Grimmelshausen. Der Abentheuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch und Continuatio des abentheuerlichen Simplicissimi. ed. Rolf Tarot (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1967), p. 578. A more positive depiction of utopian possibilities in Robinsonades can be found in J.G. Schnabel, Insel Felsenburg (1731). 13 Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (1651; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). pt. I, ch. II, p. 70.

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he [man] appears equally fitted to every condition,” writes Ferguson, “he is upon his account unable to settle in any.”14 “The activity and eagerness with which we press from one stage of life to another, and unwillingness to return on the paths we have trod” is, for Ferguson, an indication that the lack of physical and intellectual is a grave obstacle to progress and perfectibility (Part I, Sect.7, 61). It seems that the promises of classical utopianism encouraged degeneration: Give the huntsman his prey, give the gamester the gold which is staked on the game, that the one may not need to fatigue his person, nor the other to perplex his mind, and both will probably laugh at our folly: the one will stake his money anew, that he may be perplexed; the other will turn his stag to the field, that he may hear the cry of the dogs, and follow through danger and hardship. Withdraw the occupations of men, terminate their desires, existence is a burden, and the iteration of memory is a torment. (Part I, Sect.7, 64)

And Voltaire vehemently argued in his Lettres Philosophiques, especially in his piece on Pascal, the need to revise the doctrine of original sin and the idea of human greatness that is only possible in man’s original condition in the Garden of Eden or some remnant of that blissful state in fallen humanity. Paradise, Utopia, a state of constant and unchangeable happiness and tranquility is, according to Voltaire, mere ennui, and counteracts the principle of perfectibility: “Once again, ’tis impossible for mankind to continue in that suppos’d lethargy; ’tis absurd to imagine it, and foolish to pretend to it. Man is born for action, as the fire tends upwards, and a stone downwards.”15 The concept of degeneration that is posited here is not Rousseau’s negative anthropology or the historical degeneration that the querelle des anciens et modernes engaged with, but the idea of perfection as stasis that is later theorized by Ernst Bloch. In his The Principle of Hope Bloch defines the temporal utopia as a dynamic utopian desire that strives beyond the “lasting spell of static living and thinking” that defines the classical utopia.16 The restlessness that Hobbes, Fergusson and Voltaire identify, is not an aimless search for happiness but comes out of a creative and modern desire for transgression and change and at the same time, precludes the realization of utopia. Indeed, the eighteenth-century critical utopia illustrates convincingly Bloch’s anticipatory dialectic of the future. This dialectic is exemplified in the episodic nature of eighteenth-century critical utopias where the protagonists travel through a range of utopias, only to leave them at the end to find their utopia within themselves. In Foigny’s La Terre australe connue (1676), the protagonist Sadeur—very much a Robinsonian figure who was conceived “in America

14 Adam Ferguson. An Essay on the History of Civil Society. Edinburgh: A. Millar and T. Caddel (1767), Part I, Sect.1, 10. 15 Voltaire. “Letter XXV, ‘On Paschal’s Thoughts concerning Religion, &c.’” Nicholas Cronk (ed.), Letters Concerning the English Nation (1733; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 137. Letter XXV on Pascal was added in the French translation of the Lettres philosophiques (1734) and only appeared in the second edition of the Letters Concerning the English Nation of 1741. 16 Ernst Bloch. Das Prinzip Hoffnung, 3 vols (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1985), vol. 1, p. 157.


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and born on the ocean,” is taken on a voyage of discovery and self-discovery through the East Indies, Zaïre, Congo, Madagascar to Australia. He encounters the Congo and Zaïre as versions of the classical utopia distinguished by an artificial harmony and order through splendid isolation. Consequently, he suffers boredom and inactivity: Après les avoir quelque temps considerez, je fus force de confesser que notre nature devenoit paresseuse quand elle ne manquait de rien, et que l’oisiveté la rendoit brute et comme insensible. Je conclus aussi que c’estoit une nécessité que l’homme fut exercé, qu’il prétendît et qu’il aspirât sans peine de devenir Pierre, et qu’aussitôt qu’il ne demandoit plus rien il devenoit immobile et sans action.17

Sadeur ends up in Australia in a homogenized paradise of hermaphrodites only to discover—very much like Gulliver—that “la différence de mon naturel et la contraire éducation que j’avais reçeue me rendoient incompatible aux Australiens” (151). In Samuel Johnson’s Oriental tale, Rasselas, Rasselas and his companions reflect on their sojourn in the Happy Valley only to confirm that “such […] is the state of life, that none are happy but by the anticipation of change: the change itself is nothing; when we have made it, the next wish is to change again.”18 Abbé Prévost’s Monsieur Cleveland (1731–1739) also explores a range of utopian spaces and societies from the paradisiacal Caribbean island of Sainte-Hélène and the island of Madeira to the native society of the Abaquis and the Nopandes in North America and the commune of Fanny in Cuba. All utopian models, even the one created by Cleveland himself as the legislator of the Abaquis, are flawed and are based on an artificial and thus fragile model of harmony and order. And Voltaire’s own skeptical Candide (1759) takes us from the “paradis terrestre” Thunder-Ten-Tronckh to El Dorado, “un pays qui vaut mieux que la Vestphalie” to Candide’s “jardin” where utopia is actively created, indeed cultivated “car, quand l’homme fut mis dans le jardin d’Éden, il y fut mis ut operaretur eum, pour qu’il travaillât; ce qui prouve que l’homme n’est pas né pour le repos” (153).19 These texts do not reject utopia per se but reflect the necessity of continual transformation, the necessity of what Goethe came to call Bildung. It is therefore no coincidence that these critical utopias bear similarities to the Bildungsroman where individual evolution and growth is intertwined with social perfectibility.20 It is particularly Ellis Cornelia Knight in her Oriental tale Dinarbas (1790) who forges

17 Gabriel de Foigny. La Terre australe connue c’est-a-dire la description de ce pays inconnu jusqu’ici de ses moeurs et de ses coûtumes (1676). Les Successeurs de Cyrano de Bergerac, ed. Frédéric Lachèchvre (Paris: Champion, 1922), p. 76. 18 Samuel Johnson. The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia; Ellis Cornelia Knight. Dinarbas: A Tale, ed. Lynne Meloccoaro (London: Dent, 1994), p. 93. 19 Voltaire. Candide, ou l’optimism. ed. Frédéric Deloffre (1759; Paris: Gallimard, 2003), p. 30, 83–84. 20 See M.J. Temmer. “Candide and Rasselas Revisited.” Revue de Littérature Comparée 2 (1982): 177–193.

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a connection between personal growth, education (Bildung) and civic motherhood as the key to a utopian way of life for women. *** The model of voyage utopia was not available to women writers. Classical utopias as well as eighteenth-century anti-utopias either excluded women completely (Robinsonades) or functionalized women as producers of future citizens and providers of sexual pleasure (see Seth Denbo’s article in this volume).21 Consequently, Mary Wroth follows her own advice in her romance Urania (1621) when Veralinda advises Pamphilia that she should “bee the Emperess of the world commanding the Empire of your owne mind.”22 In the tale Assaulted and Pursued Chastity (1656) and in the Blazing New World (1666) Cavendish creates imaginary voyages that intercede in the philosophical utopia of Bacon and in the popular genre of celestial utopias put forward by John Wilkins, Francis Godwin and in France, Cyrano de Bergerac: ... I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second, yet I endeavour to be Margaret the First; and although I have neither power, time nor occasion to conquer the world as Alexander and Caesar did; yet rather than not to be mistress of one, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made a world of my own: for which no body, I hope, will blame me, since it is in every one’s power to do the like….23

What Wroth and Cavendish highlight in their “mobile, improvisational” imaginary voyages are the early modern restrictions on women’s agency and mobility.24 This is perhaps why the utopian telos of women’s utopianism in the eighteenth century moves to the establishment of, as Jean Pfaelzer argues, an “intersubjective space”—a space “in which the self evolves through relationships rather than quests, in which the society recognizes that integrity and individuality stimulate community; dependence rather than autonomy nurtures personal integrity.”25 Eighteenth-century women’s 21 Priscilla Cotton’s A Briefe Description by Way of Supposition (1659) is located in an exotic setting but it does not advocate colonialism as a main constituent of utopianism. 22 Lady Mary Wroth, Urania. Newberry Manuscript, I, fol. 40v. Quoted in Mary Wroth. The First Part of the Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, ed. Josephine A. Roberts (1621; Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissace Texts and Studies, 1995), xlix. 23 Margaret Cavendish. The Description of a New World Called the Blazing World. Margaret Cavendish: New Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. Kate Lilley (1666; London: William Pickering, 1992), p. 224. 24 Karen R. Lawrence. Penelope’s Voyages: Women and Travel in the British Literary Tradition (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), p. 33. Robert Appelbaum has argued that the aestheticization of the political imagination in Cavendish compensates but does not strive for political or social transformation. I, on the other hand, would argue that the early utopian paradigm was gender-exclusive. Robert Appelbaum. Literature and Utopian Politics in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 198. 25 Jean Pfaelzer. “Subjectivity as Feminist Utopia,” in Jane L. Donawerth and Carol a. Kolmerten (eds), Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference (Liverpool:


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utopias such as Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall (1762), Mary Hamilton’s Munster Village (1778) and Sarah Fielding’s David Simple (1744) and The Governess (1749) abandoned even the imaginary voyage utopia in favour of the domestic utopia in rural Britain with meliorist views on education, contractualism, social capital, (female) friendship and polite sociability.26 These and the educational utopias by Mary Astell and Clara Reeve responded to the openings offered by contemporary utopianism. But there was another strand of eighteenth-century utopianism. The hybrid form of Oriental travel literature was shaped by a utopian impulse that projected women’s individual desires and dreams of personal agency and freedom onto the unknown and foreign. Lady Mary Wortley’s Turkish Embassy Letters create an Orientalist feminotopia by contrasting her (liberating) experiences of the Orient with an experience of eighteenth-century England that was patriotic, expansionist, eurocentric and patriarchal. Paradoxically, it is the despotic Orient and in particular, the harem, that provided the space for the women’s imaginative geography. It is thus in the conte philosophique where eighteenth-century voyage utopianism is transformed yet again and where complex negotiations of natural and legal rights, of the public and private, and of discourses of femininity and masculinity take place. Ellis Cornelia Knight’s tale Dinarbas has been sadly neglected by eighteenthcentury utopian studies.27 Classified as a lesser sequel to Samuel Johnson’s philosophical tale Rasselas (1759), it nevertheless offers an interesting model of female solidarity and replaces the futile anti-utopianism of Johnson with pragmatic feminism. According to his biographer Hawkins, Johnson “had meditated a second part [of Rasselas] in which he meant to marry his hero, and place him in a state of permanent felicity.” 28 Ellis Cornelia Knight adhered to her perception of the purpose of Johnson’s tale, which “shall be found to afford any consolation or relief to the wretched traveller, terrified and disheartened at the rugged paths of life” (Dinarbas 106). Contemporary and modern critics, with some exceptions, have not been impressed by Knight’s “continuation” and imitation of one of the most skillful writers of the eighteenth century.29 The restless search for some abstract notion of happiness and the final acceptance of Providence in Johnson is superseded by a sense of responsibility and action in Knight. “[I]nactivity is generally the source of crime,” “the fault lies not in the state of life, it depends on the manner of acting,” and finally “conscious virtue, divine fortitude, the balm of sympathy, and submission to the Divine Will” are the leading principles that Knight advocates (113, 210). In a sense, Knight’s message may not have been what Johnson intended his readers Liverpool University Press, 1994), p. 98. 26 See particularly Alessa Johns. Women’s Utopias of the Eighteenth Century (Chicago: University Press of Illinois, 2003). 27 For a longer discussion of Johnson and Knight, see Nicole Pohl. Women, Space and Utopia, 1600–1800 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), Chapter 5. 28 John Hawkins. Life of Johnson (1787; New York: Garland, 1974), p. 372. 29 See Robert W. Uphaus. “Cornelia Knight’s Dinarbas: A Sequel to Rasselas.” Philological Quarterly 65.4 (1986): 433–46.

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to grasp; “the discharge of religious and social duties will afford their faculties the occupation he wanted, and the well-founded expectation of future reward will at once stimulate and support them” (Hawkins 156–157). Structurally, Dinarbas duplicates Rasselas. However, and more importantly, some of Dinarbas’ chapters (Chapter 19, Chapter 46, Chapter 49) directly correspond to their equivalents in Johnson’s tale, and thus revise and rewrite the main narrative, and often return to the conventional Oriental romance configuration that Johnson wanted to avoid.30 Lengthy philosophical discussions that dominate Johnson’s text are reduced to a few chapters, replaced by a series of conventional adventures and complications that are, in the end, only resolved by the reinstatement of the rightful Emperor and a double wedding. Empiricism, sensibility and duty take the place of rationality and abstract philosophy. Chapter I seamlessly links Rasselas and Dinarbas. “Are we then,” said Rasselas, “no wiser than when we set out; or have we only learned, that all enquiries after happiness are vain, and that a state of mere vegetation is the highest degree of felicity which mortals are permitted to obtain in this world?” (109). But they have become wiser. The “state of vegetation” is replaced by fulfillment of duty and responsibilities and the acquisition of self-knowledge. Rasselas is drawn into military service to help defend his father’s country, and even in confinement he does not give in to resignation and fatalism; “He felt applause in his own mind for this new acquired patience, as for a victory gained over himself and the exultation of conscious merit gave new strength to his resolutions” (131). In the end, as a true romance hero, he becomes the Emperor of Abyssinia, marries Zelia and reforms the government and judicial system. His aim is to be an invisible monarch “who govern[s] with sufficient justice, and who, if [he does] not prevent crimes, at least may reform errors” (203). In a reflection on trade and mercantilism, Rasselas echoes Johnson’s skepticism about “ideal speculations” and isolated utopian experiments. However, Knight’s Rasselas acknowledges the implications of global trade for the reign of individual kingdoms and values experience and pragmatism over idealism. These considerations also filter into Knight’s rewritings of Johnson’s “domestic” agenda in an interesting way. Johnson is particularly concerned to demystify and satirize Orientalist themes in contemporary popular imagination. Thus, whilst he creates his own Orients, he uses common clichés to satirize readers’ expectations of the genre. One of the most familiar commonplaces was, of course, the sexualization of women and here Johnson is careful to counter the idea of the erotic Oriental woman. Rasselas’s sister, Nekayah, is not the emblem of excessive Oriental sexuality; on the contrary, her education and intelligence make her an icon of the learned woman: She desired first to learn all sciences, and then purposed to found a college of learned women, in which she would preside, that, by conversing with the old, and educating the young, she might divide her time between the acquisition and communication of wisdom, and raise up for the next age models of prudence and patterns of piety (Rasselas 99). 30 See Richard Braverman. “The Narrative Architecture of Rasselas.” The Age of Johnson 3 (1990): 91–111.


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Nekayah’s utopian proposition comes at the end of her long pilgrimage, after she has encountered a range of diverse social and political models and ideologies. Interestingly, as her experience of these models—hedonism, the life of reason, pastoral retreat and a “life led according to nature”—is gendered (as she is to specifically investigate the domestic sphere to find the secret of happiness), her final vision excludes all forms of domestic life. The freedom of choice that is promised to Rasselas at the beginning of their journey is restricted for Nekayah even at that point: … Nekayah had been too long accustomed to the conversation of Imlac and her brother to be much pleased with childish levity and prattle which had no meaning. She found their thoughts narrow, their wishes low, and their merriment often artificial. Their pleasures, poor as they were, could not preserve pure, but were embittered by petty competitions and worthless emulation. (Rasselas 49)

Nekayah’s critique of her sisters reveals an idea of self based on reason, scientific skepticism, educability and progress. Her comments are more than mere observations on marriage and domesticity. Her findings and Rasselas’s experiences, for instance at the court of the ill-fated Bassa, complement each other, forging the familiar analogy of domestic and political despotism; “if a kingdom be, as Imlac tells us, a great family, a family likewise is a little kingdom, torn with factions and exposed to revolutions” (50). But Nekayah is unable to find an existing model of marriage that satisfies all partners and families and that is not based on inequalities, oppression or emotional torment. Acknowledging that celibacy is not the answer, Rasselas’s main concern is to establish a politically stable structure on a macro- and micropolitical level. He insists that: “If marriage be best for mankind it must be evidently best for individuals, or a permanent and necessary duty must be the cause of evil, and some must be inevitably sacrificed to the convenience of others” (56). In the end, Rasselas and Nekayah are unable to come to a satisfactory agreement as their conceptualizations of the public and private are incompatible. Whilst Rasselas accepts some faults in the practice of marriage and sees it fit to reform, he insists on it as the basic guarantee for procreation and the common greater good without specifying how to fit women into the complicated nexus of familial and political spheres. Nekayah is much more interested in domestic authority and sexual inequality on a psychological level— an argument that Wollstonecraft later pursues so vigorously in her Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Johnson explores another unsuccessful model of domesticity in the episode in which Ekuah is abducted and enslaved in an Arab’s harem. Again, Johnson plays with readers’ imagination. However, the harem is a place of boredom, frustration and discord that does not even satisfy the Arab’s needs and wishes. As before, Johnson directs his readers towards the issue of the education of women: Nor was much satisfaction to be hoped from their conversation: for what could they be expected to talk? They had seen nothing; for they had lived from early youth in that narrow spot: of what they had not seen they could have no knowledge, for they could not

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read. They had no ideas but of the few things that were within their view, and had hardly names for any thing but their cloaths and their food. (77)

Rasselas makes a weak attempt to defend the Arab who as “a man of more than common accomplishments” must get some pleasure in his harem. “Are they exquisitely beautiful?” Johnson again sets straight Oriental romance conventions by describing the women as having “that unaffecting and ignoble beauty which may subsist without spriteliness or sublimity, without energy of thought or dignity of virtue” (77). For all the emphasis on education and perfectibility, the ideal underlying Johnson’s tale is of femininity as polite, sociable and asexual. It is their education and socialization that in the end alienate Johnson’s women from utopian possibilities as well as from the realities of ordinary life. Thus it is that Knight changes the fate of the main protagonists. In Dinarbas, Rasselas, Pekuah and Nekayah are quickly separated and allocated to very different gendered spheres. Rasselas and Dinarbas pursue the active life of military leaders; “Of what avail had been in this citadel your literature and philosophy, if your activity and courage had not added to these endowments the honours of military service?” (Dinarbas 117). The women remain imprisoned in a fortress, lamenting their “total inability of being useful to the emperor” (148). They use their time to converse with Elphenor, whose Latitudinarian views were the target of Hester Thrale’s ardent critique: Indeed this dainty Method of finding out that we are all happy, in all situations; tend as far [as] I can see but to a very dangerous Conclusion— viz: the Denial of Original Sin; & Doubts of our first Parents’ Lapse. Such Doctrines can only end in modern Infidelity; for if we are so capable of Virtue & Felicity in this World, what need is there to hope for any other.31

Reforms that particularly concern women are associated by Knight with the duties that women are to perform in society—motherhood and education of the young. Consequently, Pekuah and Nekaya revise their previous decisions in Rasselas to either retire into a convent or a female academy. Retirement for Knight is a relinquishment of one’s social responsibility and individual perfectibility. A rational and public education, based on sciences, history and—in opposition to Johnson —poetry, to teach “the knowledge of the heart” and to develop “the power of the imagination” (196). Like Wollstonecraft, Knight engages in an astute criticism of eighteenth-century discourses on femininity which she views as cultural construct. In similar ways to Wollstonecraft, she argues that the most destructive element in women’s education is their lack of self-control and rational self-determination: Empires have been ruined by the jealousies of women; to them are following many of the great revolutions that have decided the fate of nations; and if we join to theirs the sacerdotal influence, I fancy we shall prove that statesmen and conquerors have often been simply the machines put in motion by weak hands, and versatile heads. (198) 31 Hester Thrale. Thraliana, ed. Katharine C. Balderston, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951), vol. 2,. p. 775.


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For Knight, as for many contemporaries, the catalyst for self-transformation was the effective application of a reason refined by education. Knight argues that women as rational beings deserve to develop their rational senses, virtue and autonomy. In her book, she presents a challenging pedagogical argument against the gender-exclusive options of Enlightenment thought and classical utopianism and offers a new moment of transformative analysis and action without abandoning utopia as such. However, Dinarbas accords women a secure but restricted identity, “sited in a triple sense: anthropologically as the ‘ruler’ in the sphere of human reproduction; socially as a (bourgeois) housewife and mother; morally as a chaste person living in seclusion whose destiny (to love) manifests itself solely in the family sphere.”32 The romance form with its happy endings and the focus on individual happiness and a Christian life enhances the idea of domesticity and companionate marriage, the gendering of the public and private. Though set in a distinctly exotic locale, Knight is not criticizing European society or projecting a utopian vision onto an imaginary Orient. Her philosophical tale is reformist, not radical, and presents a perceptive comment on a late eighteenth-century “choice of life” for women. The influence of recent critical trends in eighteenth-century studies has resulted in a renewed interest in contemporary utopias and utopianism. Postmodern and postcolonial critiques have deconstructed eighteenth-century paradigms of nature, knowledge, reason and history. Simultaneously, debates on gender, sexuality and imperialism/orientalism have identified the paradoxical complexity of the Enlightenment project and have explored what they see as its fundamentally “utopian” nature. I suggested that the emergence of a critical utopia that both criticized classical utopianism and at the same time contained the utopian impulse need to be read within the context of skeptical Enlightenment philosophy that emphasized the historical relativity of human nature and society. Indeed, the formal techniques of selfreflexivity in eighteenth-century utopias mirror the different modes and paradoxes of Enlightenment inquiry. However, a reading of Knight’s Dinarbas has revealed a self-reflexive meditation on the formal capacity of critical utopianism itself. Despite its problematization of empirical universality and celebration of perfectibility especially in terms of its relationship to social transformation, eighteenth-century critical utopianism, according to Knight, needs to offer women a political imaginary that includes issues of gender.

32 Liselotte Steinbrügge. The Moral Sex: Woman’s nature in the French Enlightenment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 32.

Chapter 9

“A Man might find every thing in your Country”: Improvement, Patriarchy and Gender in Robert Paltock’s The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins Elizabeth Hagglund and Jonathan Laidlow

Robert Paltock’s 1751 novel, The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, is a utopian fantasy set within a fantastic voyage.1 Condemned by its early reviewers as “the illegitimate offspring of no very natural conjunction betwixt Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe,” it nevertheless became popular with eighteenth-century readers.2 It was published in at least seven editions during the eighteenth century, was anthologized several times, and was translated into French and German.3 Presenting the union of a typical European male with a woman who represents both non-European “other” and an ideal of femininity, a flying woman, the text sets out two versions of utopia, both of which are dominated by issues of gender and race. In both locations, the patriarchal European male is shown as having an intrinsic right to assimilate and dominate the colonial and feminine “others.” However, there are

1 Published in London on 3 December 1750 in two duodecimo volumes dated 1751. 2 Monthly Review 4 (1750): 157. 3 It was reprinted in The Novelist’s Magazine 12 (1783) and, in French, was published as part of Garnier’s encyclopaedic work, Voyages Imaginaires, songes, visions, et romans cabalistiques (Paris: Rue et Hôtel Serpente, 1787–89). In 1785, Clara Reeve recommended it to women readers as being “of great merit ... and of moral tendency,” The Progress of Romance (Colchester: W. Keymer, 1785), vol. II, p. 53. It was well-known and much admired during the Romantic period and has been identified as a possible source for Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, Percy Shelley’s Alastor and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. For further discussion of The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins and the Romantics, see Nora Crook. “Peter Wilkins: a Romantic Cult Book,” in Philip W. Martin and Robin Jarvis (eds), Reviewing Romanticism. (London: Macmillan, 1992), p. 86–98; and James Grantham Turner. “Introduction,” in Robert Paltock. The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins. ed. Christopher Bentley (Oxford: OUP, 1990). All references to the text of the novel are to this edition.


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moments of doubt on the part of the narrator in which the text tentatively questions the unrelenting colonization of the non-Europeans. Wilkins inhabits four different narrative locations, each of which allows us to see the ideological interaction between the protagonist and his gendered, racial and/or imperial “others.” Within the novel, utopia is presented as a shifting, paradoxical concept which, although it can be discovered, simultaneously requires “improvement” by the European patriarch, just as the “perfect” native wife requires “education.” At the same time, there is sufficient evidence in the text to suggest that the assumptions which underpin these themes are problematic and open to question by the narrator, although the implications of these moments are never developed to their radical conclusions. The novel begins in England. Peter Wilkins is the son of an indulgent widowed mother who is sent away to school when his mother remarries. There he is seduced by Patty, a serving girl whom he secretly marries and by whom he fathers two children. Once Patty has announced her pregnancy, Peter becomes passive in the relationship, taking a child’s role and leaving Patty to make the decisions. She becomes the narrative catalyst that prompts what follows—she asks Peter to write to his parents for funds, and the reply to his letter reveals that his mother is dead and his inheritance transferred to another. Their two children are absent presences in the narrative—we never even learn their names or their sex. Both births take place off-stage at the home of Patty’s aunt. The children are left there and cause no inconvenience to the continuation of the marriage. They are “inconveniencies” only in the sense that they remind Peter of his failure as a man in England. Although his fathering of children has “proved [his] Manhood” (20), Peter’s inability to financially support his family or, indeed, himself, is a continual reminder of his inadequacy. He runs away to sea, merely pausing to send Patty a letter of farewell. Both of Peter’s early relationships with women, therefore, position him as child and limit his future prospects. While his mother at first seemed to aid his progress by sending him to school, her second marriage and death prevent him from occupying the privileged middle-class position which he expected. Similarly, his secret wife and children prevent him from pursuing the life of improvement which would allow him to retake his prior position in society. Even though his conversations with Patty originally encouraged him in his studies, her position as a servant can only limit him in his progress. A series of adventures follows, involving pirates, capture, cannibalism and slavery. He escapes the last with the help of an African, Glanlepze, who takes him across Africa to his own home. Just as Peter’s first narrative location, England, is situated in a recognizable frame by the reader’s familiarity with geographical locations such as Cornwall and France and by reference to contemporary and historical events, so too is the second narrative location. Although few contemporary readers would have had any personal experience of travel in Africa, the story of enforced slavery and encounters with lions, crocodiles and beautiful African women would have been immediately recognizable as a common type of travel narrative. By referencing familiar signifiers of the non-European “other,” this section serves a similar purpose

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to England in the text in that it presents a discursive world already familiar to the reader. Darko Suvin has pointed out that a utopia operates “[by] an explicit or implicit comparison of its imagined community with the author’s environment.”4 The utopias found later in the text are shown to be rewritings of Wilkins’ life in England, providing him with the opportunity to “correct” his early failures as husband and parent. Paltock’s use of Africa provides another type of contrast: confronting Peter with a view of the non-European “other” as dangerous and cruel while paradoxically and simultaneously giving him his first glimpse of a loving companionate relationship. Christine Rees has suggested that Peter’s “African adventures further prepare him for his destiny, by expanding his religious capacity and his human sympathies through his friendship with his companion in slavery and escape, the African Glanlepze.”5 It is true that while in Africa Peter becomes convinced of the evils of slavery, and that his friendship with Glanlepze and his wife Zulika gradually evolves into a friendship of equals. However, the African location serves its chief narrative purpose by confronting Peter with the reality of the imperial “other” and divesting him of his preconceived notions of its barbarity and inferiority. He does not experience Africa as the colonizing White man who defines himself against the barbarous and primitive African. Instead, he experiences Africa as a quasi-African. He is made a slave alongside the Africans and suffers as they do. He learns to respect Glanlepze and his wife and relates to them as a fellow escapee, making his home with them for two years. In fact, he comes to recognize that, when dealing with the dangers and hardships of Africa, Glanlepze’s abilities are superior to his own. Ultimately, however, Africa proves to be too similar to England to form a utopia for Peter: I have been deceived then, and have travelled so many thousand Miles, and undergone so many Dangers, only, to know at last, I had been happier at home; and have doubled my Misery, for want of Consideration, that very Consideration, which, impartially taken, would have convinced me, I ought to have made the best of my bad Circumstances, and to have laid hold of every commendable Method of improving them. . . . Did I come hither to avoid daily Labour or voluntary Servitude at home? I have had it in Abundance. Did I come hither to avoid Poverty and Contempt? Here I have met with ’em ten fold. ( 55)

“Labour,” “Servitude,” “Poverty,” and “Contempt” are present in both locations, and he is far less competent at coping with the dangers and hardships of Africa than is Glanlepze. Africa, therefore, becomes another site of failure. The African location also presents Wilkins with an example of loving familial relationships and provides a role model for a subsequent sexual relationship that will be strikingly different from his relationship with Patty. He recognizes the “mutual 4 Darko Suvin. Positions and Presuppositions in Science Fiction (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988), p. 33. 5 Christine Rees. Utopian Imagination and Eighteenth-Century Fiction (London: Longman, 1996), p. 109.


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felicity” displayed when Glanlepze is reunited with his wife, while noting that it has nothing to do with material goods: And what is the Cause of all this? Is it that he has brought Home great Treasures from the Wars? Nothing like it, he is come naked. Is it that having escaped Slavery and Poverty he is returned to an opulent Wife, abounding with the good Things of Life? No such Thing. What then can be the Cause of this Excess of Satisfaction, this alternate Joy, that Patty and I could not have been as happy with each other? (54)

The African couple provide Wilkins with a corrective model for relations between husband and wife, which he resolves to apply upon his reunion with his own wife. He is similarly affected by Glanlepze’s relationship with his children—“kissing one, stroaking another, dandling a third”—and it puts in stark relief the inadequacy of his own actions with his children: “My Mind had been so much employed on my own Distresses, that those dear Ideas were almost effaced” ( 55). The first real utopian possibility for Peter is precipitated by a shipwreck as he escapes from Africa. Somewhere around the region of the South Pole he finds a pastoral idyll: there is a wood and a lake, and all seems to have been shaped to his very need. The shrubs are growing “at so convenient a Distance from the other, that you might fairly pass between them any Way”; there is a useful mixture of different kinds of wood; the tallest of the trees “rose as perpendicular as a regular building”; there is a space under the rock “wide enough to drive a cart in; and indeed I thought it had been left for that purpose” ( 77). Repeatedly the features of this land present a “convenient” solution to the problems of setting up a household, as if the “Deliverance” which Peter thanks God for was literal rather than metaphoric. His moral reformation has prompted the realization of the narrative of Providence. This land is reminiscent of the garden of Eden in that it gradually provides quantities of food and other resources sufficient to feed the increasing number of children and visitors who arrive as the tale progresses. Peter takes charge of all he surveys and assumes the task of naming—usually with English-derived names—the creatures and plants he discovers. Maximillian E. Novak has suggested that “Robinson Crusoe is the quintessential story of colonialism and the pattern of naming associated with it”; the same could be said of Peter Wilkins. 6 Naming was, of course, one of the central ways in which seventeenth- and eighteenth-century explorers and colonists took possession of the lands they “discovered,” transforming the places they named, through language, into parts of their own worlds. But while real-life explorers had to superimpose their names over those indigenous names that already existed, Peter finds a blank slate, a land whose flora and fauna seemingly have no names until he chooses to give them, by doing so making them into reflections of his own understanding and reality.

6 Maximillian E. Novak. “Friday: Or, the Power of Naming,” in Albert J. Rivero (ed.), Augustan Subjects: Essays in Honor of Martin C. Battestin (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1997), p. 113.

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At the same time, natural historians were developing systems of naming and classifying the natural world. Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae had been published in 1735; George Louis Leclerc Buffon’s Histoire naturelle had begun to appear in 1749. As Mary Louise Pratt has suggested, the systematizing of naming of nature during the eighteenth century was itself an assertion of the authority of those who controlled that naming:7 Unlike navigational mapping … natural history conceived of the world as a chaos out of which the scientist produced an order. … The eighteenth-century classificatory systems created the task of locating every species on the planet, extracting it from its particular, arbitrary surroundings (the chaos), and placing it in its appropriate spot in the system (the order—book, collection, or garden) with its new written, secular European name ... natural history asserted an urban, lettered, male authority over the whole of the planet. (Pratt 30,31,38)

So Peter’s naming of plants and animals can be located within two parallel eighteenth-century cultural practices: that of colonisation and that of classification, both signs of authority and Eurocentrism. Wilkin’s naming is, however, only one of the ways in which he asserts himself over the island. There are fish in the lake which he catches and salts; edible plants including a source for treacle and animals for hunting. With industry reminiscent of Crusoe, he sets about shaping and exploiting his new “kingdom,” creating the necessary tools and structures to “improve” it. Peter’s initial opinion of the land echoes the commonplace mid-century view described by Basil Willey that “Art completes what Nature leaves imperfect.”8 Peter is unable to believe that the land is uninhabited, for all these features that appear to be so “convenient” were not normally associated with natural phenomena: “Is it possible, says I, that so much Art, for I did not then believe it was natural, could have been bestowed upon this place and no Inhabitant in it? ... it cannot be, says I, that this place was made for nothing” (76). Peter dedicates himself to improving his situation in any way that he can. He makes his home in a grotto and establishes a supply of fresh water. He builds a wall which he then expands into a hut, describing with care the method he finds for constructing the roof. The plants he finds often provide analogues to more familiar foodstuffs: one shrub “which grew like a Ram’s Horn” provides a honey-like substance and there is one plant that resembles a cream cheese. Some of the other fruits he finds are similar in appearance to European foodstuffs but they only prove to be tasty dishes when they have been properly cooked, suggesting that European methods of “improvement” can help even the natural bounty of utopia. While parallels could be drawn with the protagonist of Robinson Crusoe, Peter is not merely an imitation of his better known rival. He does not make these 7 Mary Louise Pratt. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992) ch. 2, 3. 8 Basil Willey. The Eighteenth-Century Background (London: Peregrine Books, 1962), p. 27.


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improvements solely to survive in this land, but because nature requires improvement. As John Brewer points out: Writers of the literature of improvement were often unsure about how to reconcile their aim, shared by poets, painters and landscape gardeners, to reveal the universal, timeless ideals embodied in landscape and in the social order it nurtured, with their equally powerful sense that this ideal, unchanging order could be realized only when it was shaped by human eye and hand ... Order and design were not so much revealed in nature as through its transformation.9

The construction of Peter’s utopia requires that it be shaped by human agency. Although all of the pieces which he needs are placed there as part of Providence’s deliverance of him from the torments of his prior life, they await his guiding hand to organize and combine them. Dreaming one night of the death of his wife and children, Peter wakes and discovers at his door a woman, naked except for wings wrapped around her body. He carries her home and revives her. The arrival of a woman is a sign not only of the success of Peter’s improvements (for he has attracted a mate through his hard work), but is also a further improvement in his scheme. He gains an additional worker on his land, a pilot who can fly back to the remains of his ship and salvage further European luxuries, and a mother who will produce children who can aid in the development of the land and to whom he can pass the land to upon his death, thus guaranteeing his ownership of it. Just as Providence has conveniently provided food, water and building materials for Peter to shape, so his future wife conveniently lands at his door in the middle of the night. But Youwarkee also requires Peter’s labor: she is unconscious and Peter revives her by dripping wine into her mouth. Afraid that she will run away, he locks her in. Over the weeks they gradually learn each other’s language but when Peter finds certain words unpronounceable, he changes them. Significantly, one of the words he cannot pronounce is “Normbdsgrsutt,” the name of Youwarkee’s home country: She said Normbdsgrsutt, was the finest Region in the World, where her King’s Court was, and a vast Kingdom. I asked her twice or thrice more to name the Country to me; but not all the Art we could use, her’s in dictating, and mine in endeavouring to pronounce it, would render me Conqueror of that poor Monosyllable, (for as such it sounded from her sweet Lips:) So I relinquished the Name to her; telling her, whenever she had any more Occasion to mention the Place, I desired it might be under the Stile of Doorpt Swangeanti (The Land of Flight); which she promised. (122)

Peter names the land according to that which distinguishes its inhabitants from himself, the wings which make them “other.” The monosyllable and, potentially, the land are resistant to his desire to “conquer” them so he imposes linguistic labels which bring them under control. Youwarkee, already described as “compliable,” 9 John Brewer. The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (London: Harper Collins, 1997), p. 648.

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accepts his right to rename even her home. This assertion of the rights of the colonizing European male is displaced in Peter’s speech. While on one hand the speech effectively introduces his presumption in renaming the country, especially in the use of the word “conqueror,” it is simultaneously displaced into a recognition of his failure to master her language. Youwarkee is presented as a utopian reformulation of Wilkins’ first wife. The dream which precedes her arrival at his door shows Patty’s aunt informing Peter of the death of his wife and their children and then showing him a vision of Patty “so altered” that he did not know her. This paves the way for the arrival of Youwarkee while he is thinking of Patty, so that in his mind Youwarkee becomes the “altered” Patty reborn as the perfect wife. More compliant and more beautiful than Patty and with the added erotic frisson of wings and flight, the idealized Youwarkee provides Peter with the opportunity to succeed where he previously had failed. “Killing” his former wife and children in a dream makes him an imaginative widower and so absolves him of any accusation of bigamy. As a winged White woman, Youwarkee is both racially the same and other. Eighteenth-century natural historians were attempting to classify human beings as well as plants and animals but mid-century there was still no firm consensus about the degree to which various peoples differed from each other nor about which were the essential criteria to be used when judging difference. As Roxann Wheeler has observed, “variations in facial and bodily features from a European norm became a particular focus of travel writers and scientists. When Britons considered physical appearance, they often commented on general stature and the shape of features,” rather than necessarily focussing on skin colour as was to be true in the nineteenth century.10 There was in fact some doubt as to whether skin colour was permanent or changeable. Peter’s marriage to Youwarkee follows a direct confrontation with her difference. After he takes her sailing in his boat (a new experience for Youwarkee), she makes her graundee (wings) into the shape of a boat and swims with it. She then demonstrates her flying abilities—and incidentally reveals her naked breasts since she must unwrap her wings from her body in order to fly. In both demonstrations Peter’s senses are deceived. As she swims, he mistakes her for a small boat which “skimm’d along at so great a Rate that I almost lost sight of it presently” (115). Similarly she flies “further than my Eyes could follow her” (115). Both Peter and Youwarkee acknowledge racial difference at this point. At first she is greatly alarmed at his inability to fly since, in her land, slitting of the wings is the customary punishment for great crimes and, as she says, “’Tho you have been so good to me, that I can’t help loving you heartily for it; yet, if I thought you had been slit, I would not, nay could not, stay a Moment longer with you” (112). Eventually, though, she accepts that geographical distance may lead to differences in the body, musing that “As you tell me you came from so many thousand Miles off, it is possible you may be 10 Roxann Wheeler. “‘The Complexion of Desire’: Racial Ideology and Mid-EighteenthCentury British Novels,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, 32.3 (1999): 312.


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made differently from me” (115). This echoes the common mid-century belief in monogenesis, with all people descending from Adam and Eve, and physical and behavioural differences arising “from the strong effects of climate, diet and other external factors” (Wheeler 312). Peter is equally alarmed by their physical differences and upon seeing her fly he cries, “all is over, all a Delusion . . . it is plain she is no human Composition” (115). His main fear, however, is that Youwarkee’s ability to fly provides her with the ability to leave him. Although her return and their subsequent marriage persuades him that she is human like him, he returns to this conceptualization of difference much later in the text where, in a land called Norbon (which is more obviously European than Youwarkee’s land because fish and fowl are abundant, the people eat meat and wings are not present on all citizens), Peter comments, “I thought myself amongst Mankind again” (362–363), thus emphasizing the difference between himself and his wife once more. The marriage ceremony takes the form of a combined textual proposal and marriage vow shortly after Peter is confronted with Youwarkee’s difference (her wings). In a shifting conversation, Peter moves from addressing her as an angel to convincing himself that he has found a woman who will “quit all the Pleasures that Nature has formed you for, and all your Friends and Relations” (116). This phrase has no equivalent response in the conversation for Youwarkee, and it continues the mode of exclusion from her prior life which began with her confinement in his grotto. Their speech, when summarized in the next paragraph, has become the Nuptials which they consummate, “without further Ceremony than mutual solemn Engagements to each other: which are, in truth, the Essence of Marriage, and all that was there and then in our Power” (116). Paltock here implies that they have no choice in the manner of their marriage as there was no cleric available, yet he has not followed any of the traditional methods of courtship, or the ceremonies of the Church of England. As chief architect of his utopia, Peter is allowed to reconstruct the discourse of marriage so that it ties his wife to him by metaphorically binding her wings. As Alexander Pettit has pointed out, this secular ceremony “participates in the tradition of the temporary ‘pseudo-marriages’ of native Black women and European men on assignment to the colonies.”11 Peter’s anxiety about whether she will return to him suggests an anxiety about the nature of the marriage vow. He fears that because of his own difference (the lack of wings), he will be rejected if she returns to her own society. The irony of this anxiety is that Wilkins’ greatest improvements occur once he has joined her society. Christine Rees sees the scene where the lovers consummate their marriage as, “beautifully handled, erotic, but not prurient, and enhanced by a hint of comedy” (111). Yet this is to miss the more troubling aspects of it. While Peter has managed to reconcile himself with the physical evidence of her “difference” (literally as a flying woman, but figuratively as a female sexual partner), it provides physical challenges 11 Alexander Pettit. “The Adventures of Peter Wilkins: Desire, Difference, and the Fallacy of Comic Convention,” The Eighteenth Century, 42.2 (Summer 2001): 103.

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which must be overcome. The chapter heading includes the phrase “The Author’s Disappointment at first going to bed with his new Wife” (116). The main problem is that her wings cover her entire body, thus confusing his knowledge of female anatomy. He finds that he is not shocked because of her difference, but because of the difficulties it presents in having his “conjugal Benefit from her, either to my own Gratification, or the Increase of our Species” (117). He first suspects that it is a laced piece of clothing, but when she opens her wings to allow him access he forgets about the problem. Sexually satisfied, he loses interest in analysing her difference and it is not until the next morning that he becomes “very solicitous to find out what Sort of Being I had had in my Arms” (118). A quasi-scientific discourse about racial difference was introduced into the first edition of the novel by a set of five plates illustrating various views of the wings and their uses. Notably, three of the four male figures are shown “drest”—covered modestly by their wings—while the single female figure is shown naked except for a small covering over her genitals. Wheeler has demonstrated that novels based on tales of intermarriage between different races (virtually always Englishmen and foreign women) became “a literary phenomenon [in] the midcentury … all reprinted at least twice, many of them three or four times, a fact that indicates a significant readership” (Wheeler 313).12 Although earlier novels (such as Henry Neville’s The Isle of Pines (1668)) had described episodes of sexual and/or marital relationships between Englishmen and nonEuropeans, mid-eighteenth century novels “insist … on Christianity and romantic love as organising tropes, not simply sex or reproduction” (Wheeler 312). The foreign women must convert to Christianity in order to be acceptable and accepted, the religious conversion creating sameness which compensates for the differences. Peter Wilkins, too, requires religious conversion on the part of Youwarkee: I explained … so effectually, that tho’ it required Time to ground her in the full practical Faith of it, yet the Opinion she had of me, and my Fidelity to her, with the Reasons I was able to urge for what I taught her, persuaded her I was in the Right … and then her own zealous Application, with God’s Grace, soon brought her to a firm belief in it, and a suitable Temper and Conduct with respect to God and Man. (159)

Throughout the marriage, Youwarkee repeatedly chooses Peter’s culture over her own, suggesting that the inhabitants of this utopia show willing acquiescence 12 The novels included William Chetwood’s The Voyages, Travels, and Adventures of William Owen Gwin Vaughan Esq., with the History of his Brother Jonathan Vaughan, Six Years a Slave in Tunis (1736), James Annesley’s Memoirs of an Unfortunate Nobleman, Return’d from a Thirteen Years Slavery in America (1743), The Lady’s Drawing Room (1744), The History of Cleanthes, An Englishman of the Highest Quality, and Celemene, the Amazonian Princess (1757), Memoirs of the Remarkable Life of Mr. Charles Brachy (1767), Henry Brooke’s The Fool of Quality (1767–70) and The Female American; or, the Extraordinary Adventures of Unca Eliza Winkfield (1767), and included tales of marriages between Englishmen and black Africans, Native Americans, Hindus and Muslims.


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to the European method of civilization. She learns to sew, adopts English dress for herself and the children, eats meat and fish (having previously been a vegetarian), drinks wine, learns to offer toasts and is introduced to the keeping of poultry. In her former life, she flew for pleasure; now she restricts her flying to trips to Peter’s ship, making the journeys only in order to bring him items that he desires, and wears clothing which restricts her ability to fly. Where once flight brought her pleasure, now it is used purely to serve her husband and teach the children. Peter is the tutor in all of Youwarkee’s learning, often smiling indulgently at her mistakes. His role here is that of the benevolent colonial patriarch, “improving” things for the indigenous people’s good. When he introduces her to needlecraft, it is at her own prompting: Why, I will make me a Coat, like yours, says she, for I don’t like to look different from my dear Husband and Children. No Youwarkee, replied I, you must not do so; if you make such a Jacket as mine, there will be no distinction between Glumm [men] and Gawry [women]; the Gawren Praave [modest women], in my Country, would not on any Account go dressed like a Glumm; for they wear a fine flowing Garment, called a Gown, that sits tight about the Waist, and hangs down from thence in folds, like your Barras . . . Youwarkee seemed highly delighted with this new fancied Dress, and worked Day and Night at it, against the cold Weather. (142)13

Here Peter introduces European gender difference through clothing. Her desire is to look the same as him, to mirror him, but when confronted with this ultimate reflection of his subjectivity, he recoils away and reasserts the distinction between men and what he terms “modest women.” It is significant that when her family visit they do not recognize Youwarkee while she is dressed in European clothes, suggesting that she is no longer seen as one of their own. Peter and Youwarkee have eight children, seven of whom are described by their relationship with the graundee of their mother’s race. Of the children, the eldest (Pedro) is born with a graundee “too small to be useful.” All three of the girls (Patty, Hallicarnie, and Sarah), and the second-born boy (Tommy) have the “compleat” graundee; the younger sons (Jemmy and David) take after their father (160). Only the last to be born, Richard (Dicky) is not defined in this way, and his wings or lack of them is never discussed. In many ways, Peter’s lack of wings is not a handicap, for his invention always finds a solution. His lack of “natural” advantage is compensated for by his technological skill. However, when after many years Youwarkee takes three of the winged children to visit her family and homeland, Peter suffers a crisis of confidence in which he defines his European features as inferior to those of Youwarkee and those children who resemble her. The marker of her difference, her wings, has become the means of separating them. While she is away, he worries that her father may not allow her to return because she has married a man who is deformed. He laments, “Alas! Why did I beget Children here, but to make them as wretched and inconsolable as myself. Some of them are so formed, indeed, as to shift for themselves; but they 13 The translations of Swangean words are taken from Paltock’s original footnotes.

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owe it to their Mother, not to me. What! Am I a Father, of Children who will be bound one Day to curse me!” (175) This passage implicitly assesses the products of his union with Youwarkee and he voices a typical European fear that interracial marriage will produce inferior children. Yet the application of reason to the problem soon assists his recovery. He makes a distinction between his own healthy children and those that are the product of “improper Junction,” which he define as “Persons diseased in Body, or vicious in Mind.” He appeals to physical evidence by arguing that his children are healthy and strong, and thus his marriage cannot be wrong. He reasons that their confinement on the island due to the lack of wings is due to “God’s Pleasure” and, echoing the book of Genesis, asserts that he has only been following “the great Command, Increase and Multiply” (175). Wilkins uses the language of the Bible to justify his actions. Peter’s relationship with Youwarkee enables him to show himself as a man of feeling. Upon her return from the first demonstration of her flying ability, he is “some Moments in such an Agitation of Mind” (115). This trope is repeated several times in the novel, for Peter is consistently shown as feeling things more powerfully than any of the other characters. He is first struck dumb by Patty’s announcement that she is pregnant, he is then incapacitated by Youwarkee’s demonstration of flight, and when Youwarkee flies to Peter’s ship to fetch things that he wants, he swoons dramatically on her return: “My Heart bled within me all the while she spoke; and I even felt ten Times more than she could have suffered ... she then saw the Colour forsake my Lips, my Eyes grow languid, and myself dropping into her Arms” ( 153). He is so affected that his suffering becomes more important than that of his wife—“I even felt ten Times more than she could have suffered by the Gulph.” When she and the children fly off on their visit, he becomes similarly dejected and frets the whole time they are gone: “My Affection for them all would work up imaginary Fears, too potent for my Reason to dispel” (169). The more resourceful Youwarkee becomes, the more Peter shows himself as a man of sensibility, emotionally vulnerable and at least as dependent on Youwarkee as she is on him. Yet, like the man of feeling, it is Peter’s suffering that is of paramount importance. Where he suffers “ten times” what his wife suffers, he conveniently obscures the fact that she actually made the perilous journey. Other than mastering the language, Peter takes on little of Swangean culture. All but one of the children are given English names and they, too, are taught English skills (such as sewing, carpentry, hunting, and shooting) and brought up in a knowledge of the wonders of England. “I verily believe my Children would, almost any of them ... have given a sufficient Account of England, to have gained a belief from almost any Englishman of their being Natives there” (173). He has succeeded in recreating the advantages of England in this pastoral idyll. He has even created a small society and improved it. Having experimented with improvement first on an empty land, then on his wife and children, he finally begins to apply his theories to the larger society from which Youwarkee originates. The second volume of Peter Wilkins is dominated by Peter’s exploits in Youwarkee’s land. This volume is noticeable for the absence of women characters.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Having improved the domestic sphere and his wife, he is now ready to enter the public sphere and take his place as patriarch of the realm. He quite literally becomes a patriarch, for the King of Doorpt Swangeanti names him “father.” The discourse of parenthood is an important one in the text. One of the subplots concerns the transformation of Peter from the product of failed parenthood in his preutopian life (the treachery and death of both his parents; his own abandonment of his children by Patty) to a successful and virile parent in the utopias that follow. With this second family, Peter can finally become the father he has previously refused to be. He rules his family in a kind but firm fashion, training them by “reason” to follow his will: My Method had always been to avoid either beating or scolding at my Children, for preferring their own Opinion to mine; but I ever let Things turn about so, that from their own Reason they should perceive they had erred in opposing my Sentiments; by which means they grew so habituated to submit to my Advice and Direction, that, for the most part, my Will was no sooner known to them, than it became their own Choice: But then I never willed according to Fancy only, but with Judgment, to the best of my Skill. (166)

Peter’s own parents failed to teach him the correct path; he, seemingly, “naturally” knows how to do it himself. Thus the ideology of patriarchal imperialism is perpetuated: without asserting his own opinion, Peter allows the children to come to the belief that it is the “natural” solution. Peter is an enlightened patriarch, ruling his family by “common sense” and affection rather than fear. He is not completely removed from nurturing and, when Youwarkee returns to her family, he spends several months as a single parent, left on his own with five young children (three of the children having gone with their mother). Sally, his daughter, takes responsibility for Dicky who is still an infant; the other three boys help him with carpentry work. Gender divisions notwithstanding, however, Peter cooks and cleans and teaches his sons to do the same. Eventually Peter, his wife, Youwarkee, and their eight children rejoin her people, Peter being carried on an aerial platform to compensate for his lack of wings, and his experience as family patriarch serves as a rehearsal for his greater task as “father” to the utopian nation. Peter’s improving ways are aided by a prophecy that provides a narrative model for his social improvements. He reforms religion, he abolishes slavery, he prevents civil disorder by stopping a civil war with his guns, and he weeds out the corruption in the political system. He teaches them how to write (for they have no written language), and then translates the Bible for them. He eventually arranges a marriage for the King with the princess of a neighboring kingdom, having first cast out the King’s duplicitous mistress. The nation of Doorpt Swangeanti is presented as an adopted innocent run wild, a child-land where Peter takes parental responsibility. Like a good child, it gradually conforms to his “reasonableness” and submits to his authority. The king should have been father to his people—but that role is filled by Peter, the European with the “advanced” knowledge who fulfills the primitive’s prophecy and uses it to “improve” the society. Thus the aggression inherent in the act of colonization is subsumed by

Improvement, Patriarchy and Gender


the culmination of the prophecy narrative, and the benevolence and “reason” with which Peter “improves” their society. The character of Youwarkee is defined as Peter’s other, yet she is unusually absent for most of the latter half of the novel. The society which Peter reforms metonymically stands in for her in this section of the novel. Having colonized the body of the feminine “other” in the private utopia of the first half of the novel, he sets out to colonize its public counterpart in the second. The religion of the Doorpt Swangeans is presented as a version of Christianity tainted by idolatry. Their divine power is named Collwar and he is represented as a clay idol. The fact that prayers are directed to this idol rather than directly to God greatly offends Peter. Despite this, and as happens with many of the Swangean words in the text, the name Collwar becomes interchangeable with the English word “God” and Peter uses it himself. He allows them the semblance of their own customs, while imposing his own views of the nature of religion onto their doctrine. Earlier, Youwarkee had come to a belief in Christianity because of her belief in her husband. As Wilkins claimed, “Tho’ it required Time to ground her in the full practical faith of it, yet the Opinion she had of me, and my Fidelity to her ... persuaded her I was in the Right” (159). The situation is different when Peter converts her nation. The simple destruction of the clay idols is enough to make them Christians and the entire nation are immediately convinced. For them, if not for Youwarkee, it would appear that Christianity becomes self-evident once demonstrated. A consideration of Peter’s Bible-making enterprise demonstrates the escalating magnitude of Peter’s improvements in Doorpt Swangeanti. He begins by attempting to translate a Portuguese Bible which he has found. He translates it for the one native whom he has educated to a sufficient level, but soon realizes that should that native die the Bible would be unreadable by everyone else. This prompts him to educate members of the native priest class. Having done this he must then invent a printing process sufficient for the needs of Bibles. Once his new recruits are educated, he “set six of them to copy . . . and the other two to teach their Brethren” (371). The next step is to order the priests to read it to the people. This inspires the people to learn to read, and to apply the moral lessons they hear. Finally, the rise in education prompts “Trade and Commerce” and transforms the nature of the relationship between Doorpt Swangeanti and its neighboring country, Norbon. By the end of the book, Doorpt Swangeanti has been changed from a simple society with no superfluity into what James Grantham Turner has described as “a Whiggish trading democracy” (Introduction xx). The true nature of Peter’s utopia is open to question. When discussing the lack of knowledge in their society, Peter comments that “the want of these things is the Reason of your living as you do, without an hundredth part of the Benefits of Life” (333). Peter has indeed attempted to provide them with what he calls the “Benefits” of life—education, written language, trade in luxury goods, the exploitation of natural resources, and the use of guns—but the “want” remains his alone. The true heart of his utopia is revealed to be Youwarkee and when she dies, so does Peter’s reforming zeal. His attempt to return to England fails and he perishes at sea.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

At the conclusion of the novel it becomes clear to the reader that Wilkins’ utopia is a constantly shifting state which is motivated by his desire to improve and by his need to justify himself by providing for his wife. The actual definition of his utopia depends upon a redefinition of the terms of “masculine” and “feminine” in response to Peter’s disempowered status in England and Africa. If Youwarkee can be interpreted as an idealized reincarnation of Wilkin’s first wife, then his resulting actions can be read as the recreation of an idealized England for her to reside in, guided by the narrative of divine Providence to justify his actions. As his father-inlaw states, “I think . . . a Man might find every thing in your Country” ( 327). Yet the location in the text where Peter “finds every thing” is in the land of Sass Doorpt Swangeanti, not England. Before leaving Sass Doorpt Swangeanti, Peter reflects on the state of poverty in which he originally found the Swangeans, contrasting it with the utopian society he has constructed from their simple beginnings. Yet a moment of anxiety can be found in this near-final scene. The same narrative of Providence which originally guided Peter is applied by him to the Swangeans’ humble origins in Normbdsgrsutt. In a list of comparisons we see that They had neither the Skins of Beasts, the Original Cloathing, or any other artificial Covering from the Weather; but they were born with that warm Cloathing the Graundee . . . How careful Providence is to supply them; for neither the Graundee, the Sweecoes [glowing insects], or their Springs, are to be found where those Necessaries can be supplied by other means. ( 373)

In this passage, Peter finally begins to recognize that the original winged people were already living in a kind of utopia where all was provided for them by the divine power. The unvoiced implication is that all Peter’s “improvements” have not improved their state, merely changed it. The justification of Providence is shown to be equivocal, and to apply to all civilisations, not just Peter’s idealized reconstruction of England. This anxiety about the results of his scheme places in doubt the success of his utopian improvements just as his anxiety about his relationship with Youwarkee undermines his assertions of European masculinity. The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Rachel Williams of the University of Nottingham for her helpful comments on earlier drafts of this piece.

Chapter 10

Generating Regenerated Generations: Race, Kinship and Sexuality on Henry Neville’s Isle of Pines (1668) Seth Denbo

When English monarchy was restored in 1660, the old political order—king, parliament, and people—was reestablished, but the return of the king to the top of this triumvirate in no way settled the highly contentious issues surrounding who ruled the nation. Although England never again erupted into the kind of internecine bloodshed and warfare of the Civil War, regular political crises characterized the rest of the seventeenth and continued into the early eighteenth century. The aftermath of the Civil War, the Restoration, the Exclusion Crisis, Monmouth’s Rebellion, the Warming Pan Scandal and the Glorious Revolution were just the most noticeable manifestations of a period in which monarchical authority was consistently being both asserted and attacked.1 What appears to be settled by the Restoration continued to be a highly contentious subject. The suitability of the Catholic Stuarts as rulers of a Protestant state was often questioned, but the doctrines of nonresistance and hereditary succession were asserted just as frequently.2 In part as a consequence of the continuing political upheaval, and in some way producing these upheavals, seventeenth-century thinkers ardently battled (in print) over the meanings of and sources of authority. These discussions were more than disputations between philosophers and theorists; the debates had ramifications for the political life of the nation. In a system which divided authority between a monarchy and a parliament made up of society’s wealthy and influential men, but which had no clear demarcation of where the boundaries of power lay between these two arms of government, these debates could have massive implications for the status of both 1 Frank O’Gorman. The Long Eighteenth Century: British Political and Social History 1688–1832 (London: Arnold, 1997) p. 26–7; Geoffrey Holmes. The Making of a Great Power: Late Stuart and Early Georgian Britain 1660–1720 (Harlow: Longman, 1993); Jeremy Black. The Politics of Britain 1688–1800 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993) p. 6– 10. 2 For discussions of order in early modern society see Keith Wrightson. English Society 1580–1680 (London: Routledge, 1982) ch. 6; and Susan Dwyer Amussen. An Ordered Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England (1988; New York: Columbia University Press, 1993) ch. 2.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

the court and parliament. At stake in all of this was nothing less than the right to govern. These debates on kingship and monarchical authority relied upon contemporary patriarchal ideals.3 The supporters of the divine right ideal on the one hand, and a consent-based or contractarian view have been seen to be exemplified by Robert Filmer and John Locke respectively, the key exponents of opposite sides of this debate. Filmer’s Patriarcha (1680) strongly emphasized absolute and unquestioned authority and for Locke (Two Treatises of Government, 1690) legal government cannot exist without the consent of the governed.4 Both of these theses took the family as the basis and model for larger systems of government, all the way up to the authority of the state. The notion of the interdependence of family and polity has a long history in the West.5 Patriarchal thought was underpinned by the analogy between the king’s relationship with his subjects and that between a father and his family, both of which were based upon the authority originally given to Adam in the Garden of Eden by God. Monarchists in the seventeenth century used the analogy to justify doctrines of divine right and nonresistance. Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha articulates these relationships as requiring absolute and unwavering fealty on the part of children and subjects (Filmer 10). Locke’s attack on Filmer’s thesis in the first of his Two Treatises on Civil Government disagreed with the analogy between family and state, but still relied upon the family for his notion of social order. Filmer and Locke, although on opposite sides of a debate about authority, both saw the family as a key to social organization. So whether you thought the family was the origin of patriarchal authority because of the divine sanction of Adam as the master of his wife and numerous offspring, or that it was the duty of children to overthrow tyranny when it occurred within the family, the family was the unquestioned central bud from which the flower of society grew and to which it owed its existence. While these thinkers were exploring the basis of authority and the underpinnings of patriarchy at home, another form of exploration was stirring this cauldron of political and cultural foment. Colonial and trade-oriented expansion abroad grew 3 See Gordon Schochet. The Authoritarian Family and Political Attitudes in 17thCentury England: Patriarchalism in Political Thought, 2nd ed. (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1988). 4 Robert Filmer. Patriarcha and Other Writings, ed. Johann Sommerville (1680; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). John Locke. Two Treatises of Government, ed. Peter Laslett (1690; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960). The first of Locke’s Treatises was written as a response to Filmer, and attacks the propositions of Patriarcha directly. 5 See Schochet, 19; Amussen, 37–8; M.J. Hughes. “Child-Rearing and Social Expectations in Eighteenth-Century England: The Case of the Colliers of Hastings.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 13 (1984): 79–100. Examinations of similar attitudes in France can be found in Jacques Donzelot. The Policing of Families, trans. Robert Hurley (London: Hutchinson, 1980) p. 48; S. Hanley. “Engendering the State: Family Formation and State Building in Early Modern France,” French Historical Studies 16 (Spring 1989): 4–27.

Generating Regenerated Generations


significantly during the final decades of the seventeenth century. A period of growing commerce and trade began with the Navigation act of 1660, and after the end of the disastrous Anglo–Dutch War in 1667 there was a rapid acceleration of overseas trade.6 Much of this trade occurred not with traditional European partners, but was concentrated further a field, in Asia and the West Indies. And these areas of the world offered new markets for English goods. The development and exploitation of new trade routes and opening up of new lines of communication brought a burgeoning trade in exotic goods and a growing cultural interest in the world beyond the borders of Christian Europe. This colonial and commercial expansion lead to an overall increase in national wealth and a period of increasing prosperity across a broad range of society. Rising living standards helped create markets for the new goods being imported from India and the West Indies, but also helped to feed the anxieties about the social order. This anxiety played off the regular political upheavals as well as the social and economic changes which were happening at the time. It was this climate of uncertainty about order and economic and colonial expansion into which the republican parliamentarian and political writer Henry Neville pseudonymously launched his utopia The Isle of Pines, followed soon after by A New and Further Discovery of the Isle of Pines. These two pamphlets were combined into a single publication simply called The Isle of Pines; all three were published in 1668.7 Over the following months, it was translated into numerous European languages, including three Dutch, four German, and even an American edition.8 The island of the title was said to be located in “Terra Australis Incognito” near a “lately discovered … way to the East Indies.”9 In utilizing a setting which evoked the growing trade with Asia, Neville exploited contemporary interest in colonialism and exploration and provided a setting in which contemporary anxieties about patriarchy, kinship and sexuality could all be played out in an experimental setting. 6 Holmes. The Making of a Great Power. 7 For republican politics in England during the seventeenth century see Blair Worden. “English Republicanism,” in J.H. Burns (ed.), The Cambridge History of Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) p. 443–75. Neville was born in 1620 into a prominent Berkshire family; his grandfather had been ambassador to France under Elizabeth. Like earlier utopian thinkers such as Thomas More and Francis Bacon, he was a leading politician of his age. His most famous tract, Plato Redivivus; or, a Dialogue Concerning Government was a reply to Patriarcha. For more on Neville see Worden, “English Republicanism,” 457–9; Caroline Robbins, ed. Two English Republican Tracts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969); and Worthington Chauncey Ford. The Isle of Pines, 1668. An Essay in Bibliography (Boston: Club of Odd Volumes, 1920). 8 J.C. Davis. Utopia and the Ideal Society: A Study of English Utopian Writing, 1516– 1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981) p. 25. 9 Henry Neville. The Isle of Pines. Three Early Modern Utopias, ed. Susan Bruce (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) p. 189. All page references to the Isle of Pines are from this edition.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Neville stranded his central character on this island with four women, and told a story of the creation of a new society. He creates an artificial situation through which he can explore issues of the role of sex in the generation of a new society, and subsequently how order and authority work. This society is also a single family so the intersection between monarch and father is complete and this is central to Neville’s conclusions. The exploration and colonization of remote parts of the world changed the understanding of family relations, and through the creation of this experimental island he explores how family relations shaped governance and authority. When the initial paradise of complete fulfillment breaks down into chaos and contention, Neville reveals his distrust of vesting authority in a sole individual. However, the work does much more than this. While dealing inventively with complexities of race, kinship and sexuality along the way, Neville’s utopia makes a bold statement about the analogy between family and kingdom, and ultimately critiqued the possibility of basing the government of a state upon the authority of a father over his wives and offspring. The Isle of Pines is a true history in which narratives are embedded within larger tales, with frequent reiteration of the veracity of the story being told. The tale begins with a letter purportedly by a Dutch sailor called Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten. He describes how he was blown off course by a storm on a journey between Amsterdam and the East Indies. As the storm abated Van Sloetten and his shipmates found themselves driven onto an uncharted island. Van Sloetten was astonished to discover that the island was inhabited by “2000 English people without clothes, only some small coverings about their middle” (189). Upon landing Van Sloetten and his crew make contact with “the Prince,” a man called William Pine. Pine tells them that the island was originally populated by his grandfather and several others who were shipwrecked in 1589, and he passes on to them a narrative written by his grandfather, which explains how the island became populated by his descendants. This supposed manuscript makes up the main body of the first part of the story. The second part of the story, first published as A New and Further Discovery of the Isle of Pines is Van Sloetten relating his experiences and the situation he finds when he arrives on the island almost 100 years after its initial settlement. According to the manuscript William Pine gives Van Sloetten, on a journey to East Indies, the ship on which George Pine had been traveling with his master was overtaken by a storm somewhere in the Indian Ocean.10 When the ship founders on the rocks of an island, most of the crew and passengers abandon the ship and are killed.11 Only those who cannot swim remain and are saved from drowning merely 10 Neville is deliberately vague about the location of the island, but in the narrative Pine explains how the ship passed the Cape of Good Hope and the storm occurred before the ship reached Madagascar (190). 11 Shipwreck narratives were the topic of numerous fictional stories published throughout Europe during the seventeenth century, of which Robinson Crusoe is the most famous. See Maximillian Novak. “Defoe as an Innovator of Fictional Form,” in John Richetti (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) p. 41–71; and Margaret Lincoln. “Shipwreck Narratives of the Eighteenth and

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by the luck of being swept up a small river, rather than being dashed on the rocks. Along with George Pine (a young apprentice bookkeeper), four other passengers survive the wreck. His fellow survivors are all women: the 14-year-old daughter of his master, two maidservants, and a Black slave. During their first few days on the island the group explores their new home. They discover to their benefit that there are no natives or dangerous animals to contend with. They are able to rescue many of the ship’s stores, and discover that food and necessities are well provided on an island which turns out to be an overabundant paradise. Life on the Isle of Pines is very easy.12 The climate is temperate, there are no predators, and the animals which they consume are easily caught, such as the swan-sized flightless bird, and the English hen and cocks that bred abundantly on the island after escaping from the doomed ship. This abundance and ease of life is a benefit to the survivors and their offspring, but it leaves them with little desire to improve their surroundings, and it actually becomes a danger to stability when the island becomes more populous. Because there is only a single male survivor, Pine is the immediate and undisputed head of this group. When the group first land, he leaves the women to see if there are any other survivors, and during this time he says “my company … were very much troubled for want of me. I being now all their stay in this lost condition” (195). These gender distinctions remain unquestioned throughout the story: men run the new society and the women are unable to get along with out them. Submission to Pine’s authority is absolute, and he becomes both patriarch and monarch of this new society. In one sense the women are actually an aspect of the utopian conditions which the narrator describes. They are part of the utopia, as well as partaking in its benefits, because a central aspect of the paradise is the sexual fulfillment of Pine. After six months on the island the ease of life allows the five inhabitants to concentrate on the central facet of the utopian picture which Neville draws, sexual intercourse. The Isle of Pines offers a fantasy of the possibility of unlimited, uninhibited sexual fulfillment: Idleness, and Fulness of every thing, begot in me a Desire of enjoying the women. Beginning now to grow more familiar, I had persuaded the two maids to let me lie with them, which I did at first in private; but after, custom taking away shame (there being none but us), we did it more openly, as our lusts gave us liberty. Afterwards my master’s daughter was content also to do as we did. (197)

The sexual relationships are instigated by Pine. As the sole male there are no others who could lay claim to the women. Plentiful and open sexual intercourse is a key

Early Nineteenth Century: Indicators of Culture and Identity,” British Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies 20.2 (Autumn 1997): 155–172. 12 According to the definitions suggested by J.C. Davis, this comfortable life which requires no work to maintain makes the Isle of Pines an arcadia rather than a utopia, but the genres are closely related (Utopia and the Ideal Society 24).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

aspect of the abundance which characterizes island life for Pine and the women.13 Although not provided by the island itself, the sexual relations between Pine and all four women are a direct outcome of the island’s bounty. Because so little effort is required for survival, the island’s rich natural resources have created the conditions which allow the women to become part of Pine’s utopia. While there are no native women for Pine to include in his harem, the sexual aspects of the utopia do include exoticism, because the slave woman is soon included. Interestingly, she instigates the sex, with the help of the other three women: my Negro, who seeing what we did, longed also for her share. One night, I being asleep, my negro with the consent of the others got close to me, thinking it being dark to beguile me, but I awaking and feeling her, and perceiving who it was, yet willing to try the difference, satisfied myself with her, as well as with one of the rest. (198)

As with the other women, he continues his sexual relationship with the Black woman but only “in the night and not else,” as he was unable to do so except under cover of darkness, even though he describes her as “one of the handsomest blacks [he] had seen” (198). The issue of race here is another factor in Neville’s sexual utopia. The exoticism of sexual relations with the Black woman is one of the elements of the sexual charge of Neville’s narrative. Race also has larger implications as the black woman is described as “less sensible than the rest,” and has becoming pregnant “the first time [Pine] lay with her,” experiencing “no pain at all” during childbirth (198, 196, 198). The woman, who Pine later tells us is called Philippa, is presented as less than human, all of these being characteristics of animals, especially the lack of pain during delivery.14 She is unquestionably ranked in Pine’s mind lower than his other consorts, but she is no longer a slave, since in a society in which no work is necessary to survive, slavery is unnecessary. Distinctions of class and status are mostly erased by the shipwreck, but there is an unconscious sense that the Black woman is a lesser being, not subject to the same sensitivities and sensibilities as the rest. It is overwhelmingly, however, the problem of order and authority in which Neville is interested. Order is entirely based upon submission to Pine as the only male on the island. Initially this manifests as a dependence on him for protection, but soon it becomes clear that the island will support the new inhabitants. Pine’s patriarchal prerogative is then wholly sexual. That all four women are willing and 13 It is this that has led commentators even up to the twentieth century to call The Isle of Pines salacious and obscene. At the time people were apparently quick to notice the anagrammatic potential of Pines (Penis). See Ford, 39. 14 Patricia Crawford. “The Construction and Experience of Maternity in SeventeenthCentury England,” in Valerie Fildes ed., Women as Mothers in Pre-Industrial England: Essays in Memory of Dorothy McLaren (London: Routledge, 1990) p. 3–38; Linda Pollock. “Embarking on a Rough Passage: The Experience of Pregnancy in Early Modern Society,” in Valerie Fildes ed., Women as Mothers in Pre-Industrial England: Essays in Memory of Dorothy McLaren (London: Routledge, 1990) p. 39–67.

Generating Regenerated Generations


even enthusiastic partners is a key element of the fantasy in which Neville was indulging. As the only male on the island, George Pine is the head of this new society, and the sole sexual partner for all four women. However, The Isle of Pines is much more than a “pornotopia,” and the sexual openness is part of a larger discussion which questions the extent to which patriarchy based upon the metaphor of the family is a sufficiently organized and coherent system of government, even on a tropical paradise with utopian conditions. Pine and his wives are content to enjoy the bounty of the island paradise over which he rules, and they make few improvements. Nor do they attempt to develop the potential of their island paradise. But even on the Isle of Pines sexual pleasure is not without its consequences. The plenteousness of the island extends to fecundity among the women; all four soon become pregnant. This begins a long round of continuous childbirth with the women each bearing children “once a year at least.” In less than 20 years of promiscuous polygyny George Pine fathers 47 children. This makes Pine the literal father of his people. At the end of Pine’s life, 59 years after the shipwreck, he calls his family around him and “numbers” them (much in the fashion of a Biblical patriarch, and one of the ways in which Neville has mirrored the experience of the original family in Eden in his story of origins); he is the direct ancestor of all 1,789 people on the island. This family, the inevitable result of the sexual congress between George Pine and his four fellow castaways, forms the basis for this new society through which Neville explored issues of regeneration, both in terms of reproduction and the renewal of society. This renewal depends upon reproduction as Pine and his four wives produce only children.15 Beyond the building of a few modest arbors, sexual congress is the only form of productive labour which the inhabitants undertake. And even this appears not to have the trials with which it was associated in early modern England. All worries about childrearing and even infant mortality roll off like so much water on a duck’s back. Lack of industriousness in developing the potential of his island is mirrored in his management of this ever-growing family. Even efforts to care for infants were desultory: “after they had sucked, we laid them in moss to sleep, and took no further care of them; for we knew, when they were gone more would come” but then goes on to explain that “none of the children … were ever sick” (198). With the lack of worries about survival the inhabitants are able to concentrate on reproduction, and Neville focuses on the issues surrounding the development of this society. Much of the first half of The Isle of Pines discusses offspring and the generation of new generations of Pines. The first group of children born on the island includes one boy and three girls, including the child which Philippa bears, described as a “fine white girl” (198). Neville makes no distinction between this child and those of the other partners, and the appearance of being White determines race, at least in this initial offspring of Pine and Philippa. Here again, race is an issue, but 15 For a discussion of the productivity of sex in The Isle of Pines see Michael McKeon. The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987) p. 251–252.


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not in the way that is expected. The child appears White and so is. Like everything else in this utopia there is an ease which allows the harmonious development of the early stages of this new society. Harmony and ease are, over the life of this society, not necessarily beneficial, and by the time Van Sloetten arrives there are serious problems of order and authority. Notably it is the offspring of Pine and Philippa who are the cause of disorder on the island. In the early years the loss of civilized sexual and social morality seems only to benefit this nascent society, as the family grows rapidly to spread and populate the island, and there are no problems which are traditionally associated with human society. With the wearing of few clothes and sexual openness the five castaways lose many of the problems which are associated with human society. Conception, childbirth and rearing are done with the utmost ease. When the children develop and grow to maturity, marriage and mating among the children is just as easy and also just as controlled by the patriarch: perceiving my eldest boy to mind the ordinary work of nature … I gave him a mate; and so I did to all the rest, as fast as they grew up, and were capable. My wives having left bearing, my children began to breed apace, so we were like to be a multitude. (199)

The ease of life extends beyond basic needs and sexual fulfillment to include conception, health and marriage. During his lifetime Pine is the sole governor of his family and his presence (along with the lack of wants among his offspring) is enough to maintain that order. He is a benevolent and moderate patriarch, and the situation requires that he make very few laws and dictums. Under the patriarch’s benevolent direction, as the family grows through several generations, the offspring are divided into families and sent off to dwell in various parts of the island. It is not until this time—after living on the island for 40 years—that George Pine institutes any societal order. Previously he had merely sent his children to make their own way on the island, in order to prevent disputes and assure himself peace in his latter years. In this process he becomes a patriarch, or even an absolute ruler, over a colony made up entirely of his wives and offspring. His progeny are also of completely known and knowable paternity. Like patriarchy, paternity was a key contemporary concern. Transmission of property and authority through inheritance relied upon the knowledge that a child was one’s own offspring rather than that of another man, and this was always a matter which was at some level unknowable. In a period in which so much authority and property was passed through family and kinship lines paternity was a significant problem. This is not a concern for Henry Pine, as he can be completely confident that all of the offspring are actually his own. There are no other males (except his own offspring as the story goes on) so there is no doubt about paternity. So this sexual utopia, built around the relationship between Pine and his four wives, is also a utopia of kin relations. The lack of confusion about parentage or paternity allows utopian conditions of absolute order and authority. This is another aspect of the utopia,

Generating Regenerated Generations


and one which relates directly to his absolute patriarchal authority. Patriarchy and paternity link together here inextricably. The order which Pine is able to maintain so easily arises from his paternal control as father of his people. This only breaks down after several generations of living on the island, when the head of each of the families can contest the power of the monarch, who—although descended from the eldest son of Pine—does not maintain the direct control which the original father could command. It is this authority which Pine utilizes when, as the society he has engendered grows, he institutes restrictions in order to maintain order. While there are only two injunctions he creates, they indicate a much broader concern about sexual morality and religious observance, itself presented as a guarantor of a wider moral rectitude. Sexual promiscuity is mostly presented as a natural outcome of the situation; nowhere is George Pine condemned for his lack of sexual restraint. At the very least this promiscuity is responsible for the rapid growth of his family. While much sexual morality has been eliminated in George Pine’s practice of polygamy and the lack of sexual shame, there is one injunction which he creates regarding sex. It is after 40 years on the island, and when the population has grown to 560, that issues of social order—beyond a husband’s authority over his wives—begin to come into play. Pine calls his progeny around him for the purpose of instating the first restrictions he places on his offspring. In keeping with the openness of the society to this point, Pine’s injunctions are very brief. All he requires of his offspring is that they read the Bible monthly and that they observe a single limit to their promiscuity. In his guise of absolute ruler, which gives him authority over matrimonial affairs he explains how he “took off the Males of one Family, and married them to the Females of another, not letting any to marry their Sisters, as we did formerly out of Necessity” (199). It is notable that this is the first instruction or restriction that Pine makes on his offspring. It is the society’s founding legal statute.16 Before this point there is no mention of the means by which the island’s second and third generations were propagated. So incestuous couplings between siblings have been occurring for many years before they are mentioned in the narrative. While the development of the society must, of course, have required sexual relationships between family members, no mention is made of the brother–sister marriages until the injunction prohibiting it. These liaisons, which are the basis for this culture, are presented as necessary and unremarkable. In this case the reference to incestuous marriage is justified through necessity and seems to have no deleterious effects. That such a utopia could be populated by the offspring of incestuous parents is remarkable. There are several reasons why Neville could present incestuous marriage between brothers and sisters in such an uncomplicated fashion. 16 The similarities between incest as the first law and the ideas of such thinkers as LéviStrauss are notable, but the relationship between this sort of injunction in a seventeenthcentury text and modern ideas of incest remains to be examined. See Claude Lévi-Strauss. Elementary Structures of Kinship, trans. James Harle Bell and John Richard von Sturmer (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1969) p. 24.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Because of the necessity of carrying on the family and building a new society, the survival of this small branch of humanity depends upon incestuous marriage between siblings. When the family grows to a size which makes these close kin marriages no longer essential for survival, the prohibition is instated by the patriarch, and alliances are formed from further afield. As it was the only means by which this family could be carried on, for Neville, incestuous reproduction was scarcely even noteworthy, certainly not sinful. Initially incest caused no problems for this burgeoning society. As a means by which to reproduce it was neither inherently bad nor ever wholly acceptable, and the patriarch eventually outlawed it. In the seventeenth century sibling marriage was often discussed in at least ambivalent terms which separated its meanings from that of incest between a parent and offspring. This stance owes much to contemporary interpretations of marriage among the first family in the Garden of Eden. The biblical creation myth mentions only a single original pair whose offspring were three males. For seventeenthcentury commentators who read the Bible literally, this limited pool of potential progenitors created a significant dilemma in human history.17 The divine creation of only a single pair of original parents presented consequential problems of marriage and reproduction.18 This problem was generally solved by concluding that Adam and Eve had additional offspring not mentioned in the Bible. As a correspondent to one early eighteenth-century newspaper wrote: “We do not read of any Daughters that Adam had [but] that doth not prove that he had none, and therefore Cain might Marry his own Sister.”19 Archbishop Hall wrote in his Cases of Conscience that the “first plantation of the world” was a special case and sibling or collateral incest was not yet illegal because without this allowance there “could have been no humane generation.”20 Because close kin marriages “must have been made between the children of our first parents” such incest could not be understood to be “repugnant to the law of nature.”21 It was also thought to be important that the situation was not of Cain’s own making but rather a consequence of the divine will. One writer argued:

17 Thomas R. Preston discusses how the authority of the Bible meant that it was a tool for argument in a wide range of textual arenas, and biblical stories were a means of interpretation and justification for modern social and sexual mores in “Biblical Criticism, Literature, and the Eighteenth-Century Reader,” in Isobel Rivers ed., Books and their Readers in EighteenthCentury England (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1982) p. 118. 18 On incest in the Bible see Otto Rank. The Incest Theme in Literature and Legend: Fundamentals of A Psychology of Literary Creation, trans Gregory C. Richter (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992) p. 239–48. 19 Post-man. 5124 ( Saturday 7 February 1729). 20 Joseph Hall. Resolutions and Decisions of Divers Practicall Cases of Conscience. The third edition with some additionalls (London: R. Hodgkinson and J. Grismond, 1654) p. 335. 21 [Gentleman]. A Critical Essay Concerning Marriage (London, 1724) p. 173.

Generating Regenerated Generations


had there been any Impurity in such Marriages, we may be very certain, that infinite Power, directed by unerring Wisdom and Goodness, would never have instituted Marriage at first, between Persons of the same Flesh, and … made Marriage betwixt Brother and Sister necessary when he could as easily have made two, or more Pairs.22

Because God created only a single pair of parents, this brother–sister marriage could be written off as not even being incestuous. Sibling incest was a necessary expedient in this extreme situation. What made it possible to think about brother–sister marriage among the original family was the narrow limits of humanity. Because there were only brothers and sisters to marry such marriages were not thought to have been defined as incest. Brother–sister marriage “was no Incest at that time.”23 The need for offspring outweighed the prohibition against incest. However, commentators could not escape the closeness of the parties to this marriage. As the elaborate argumentation used by these commentators has shown, incest was a concern, but the emphasis was upon its necessity over any possibility of moral danger. The allowance and even acceptance of this brother–sister attachment ignored the dangers of incest and made all humanity descendent from incestuous parents. Incest illuminated the importance of the divine injunction to marry and the need for the population of the earth. In the allowance of sibling marriages as a means of populating the isle, contemporary notions of the biblical first family were mirrored. Henry Neville’s story of a new society intentionally reflected the Western origin myth derived from the Old Testament.24 The Pines mirror the first biblical family. George Pine is Adam with an abundance of wives and sexual fulfillment thrown into the deal. In his Eden he leads a long, healthy and easy life, the master of a growing and successful society, and commanding absolute fealty. For the offspring to carry on the Pine family lineage it is necessary to allow brother–sister marriage, as it was thought God had done in order to populate the planet. When the population had grown to an extent that it was no long necessary, Pine instated the incest prohibition, just as Leviticus 18 had done in the Bible.25 The reasons behind this regulation of matrimony are never explained by Neville. Although as far as we are told incestuous coupling and marriage between siblings has caused no problems, Neville assumes need for the prohibition. Life continues peacefully on the island for many years after the instatement of the first rules, and years later, shortly before his death, Pine gathers his family around him for another act of patriarchal prerogative. This final act is also notable for its relationship to the issue of paternity. He provides his son with a copy of the narrative which he has written so that if any ships landed they would be able to know the 22 John Fry. The Case of Marriages Between Near Kindred Particularly Considered (London: J. Whiston and B.White, 1756) p. 4. 23 Post-man. 5124 ( Saturday 7 February 1729). 24 Susan Wiseman ‘“Adam, the Father of All Flesh:’ Porno-Political Rhetoric in and after the English Civil War.” Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism 14 (1991): 134–57. 25 The role incest plays in myths of origin is an interesting one which arises in a range of cultures. See e.g., Rank, 225 ff.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

story of how the Pines came to be on the island. He then gives the whole of the clan surnames. In bestowing upon the entire clan the name of the English Pines he gives them the name of his master’s daughter Sarah English and, of course, his name. He also gives those that were descendent from his other wives surnames which came from those of their mothers. In making this final act he reaffirms their paternity, and asserts for posterity that they were all his progeny. Here again, Neville shows how important the aspect of reproducing generations of offspring are. Even the utopian sexual conditions are mainly presented as being in the service of producing children who can carry on the family name and adhere to the authority of the master. The utopian vision which Neville presents involves a combination of abundant necessities, sexual freedom, longevity and good health, adherence to patriarchal authority and lack of anxiety about paternity. Populating this utopia initially requires a lack of prohibitions against sex between offspring of the same father. When these are eventually instated all that is required of the islanders to continue to partake of the bounty offered by the utopia is avoidance of incest and regular reading from the Bible. And at the end of the first half of the narrative (originally published as a self-standing story) the experiment appears to be successful. Although George Pine rules his family with a light hand, he does so because there is little need for greater intervention. The generations of Pines which have been born on the island enjoy a life of peaceful abundance and adhere to the political and personal authority of their patriarchs. Pine’s paternal legacy combined with the natural abundance has created a regenerated society far from the boundaries of Christian Europe. This is reminiscent of much of the biblical commentary on brother–sister incest. When indispensable for the survival and propagation of the human race it was compulsory, but when this is no longer the case it becomes abhorrent. The impassive tone with which the first narrative recognizes both the incest and the prohibition, gives way to emotive language used to describe sexual “wantonness.” William Pine explains how acceptable close-kin marriage becomes transformed into incest through a lack of understanding of sin: “what my grandfather was forced to do for necessity, they did for wantonness. Nay not confining themselves within the boundaries of any modesty, but brother and sister lay openly together.” Immodesty and open sexual congress were not problems for George Pine and his wives. These acts become transgressions when the perpetrators failed to acquire Christian morality (Neville 203). The second half of the narrative is Van Sloetten’s account of what happens when his ship discovers the island after the Pines having been living there for almost 200 years. When Van Sloetten arrives, the peaceful life George Pine oversaw has given way to internecine strife and conflict. In Van Sloetten’s narrative, the islanders have strayed far from the idyllic lifestyle of the generations overseen by the original patriarch. The diverse population have violated the few strictures which their progenitor had given them. The regeneration which occurs in the first half of the story does not survive the death of the initial generations of Pines and the idyll degenerates into a dystopian nightmare.

Generating Regenerated Generations


Juxtaposed with Pine’s narrative of a burgeoning and successful society is the story of dystopian social breakdown which the Dutch sailor finds on his arrival. Whether Neville originally planned for his sexual and social utopia to degenerate in the second half of the story, and why he wrote the second pamphlet (subsequently published as part two of the story) is unknown. It has been argued that Neville wrote the second half of the story in order to avoid the criticism that The Isle of Pines was merely sexual wish-fulfillment by giving his story a dark side.26 Regardless of why the story of the second undermines the assumptions of the first, it provides a different perspective on the questions about patriarchy, family race and sexual congress which have been addressed so far. Where harmony and cooperation characterize life on the island under the original patriarch, during his grandson’s rule: “disorders … grow, the stronger seeking to oppress the weaker” (201). George Pine is optimistic about humanity and its capacity for harmony when its needs are fully provided for, but his grandson William reveals a much more cynical side to Neville. The fall from grace that the second half of the story presents is most explicit in the areas of race, reproduction and the acts of rape which are the opposite of the free and easy consensual sex by which the island is populated. The only two laws that the original patriarch instated—the regular reading of the Bible, and the prohibition of marriage between siblings—are comprehensively ignored and violated by members of later generations born on the island. Because the original Pine was content to have his offspring live with little regulation, many of them moved “far up into the country;” this meant that over time they were able to “neglect coming to” the monthly reading of the Bible which Pine had instated. William Pine views this as the cause for the deterioration of order among the Pines. Without the moral support of the Bible, the people, who are by now almost savages, fall into “whoredomes, incest and adultery.” When necessary, incestuous marriage was accepted, but incestuous copulation among the second generation population of the Isle of Pines is a sign of degeneration. The first sign of a serious change in Neville’s outlook is in the contrast between “the fine white girl” in Pine’s original narrative and the descendents of the Black woman described by Van Sloetten as primary culprits in the disorder which has occurred in the Colony. John Phill, the second son “of the Negro-woman” is “the greatest offender.” The two members of this branch of the family mentioned in the second half of the novel are not White women, but powerful and dangerous men who flaunt the rules and threaten the order of society. When the patriarch attempts to restore order John Phill is captured and “proved guilty of divers ravishings and tyrannies” (203). Later in the story Van Sloetten’s crew helps to put down a violent battle which arose between two of the clans. Another member of the Phill clan is also responsible for this disorder when he rapes a woman from one of the other clans. Their attempts to capture him and make him stand trial lead to an insurrection which the patriarch is unable to put down without the help of firearms wielded by 26 See Henry Neville. Three Early Modern Utopias, ed. Susan Bruce (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) p. xli.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Van Sloetten’s crew. When his authority as patriarch is insufficient to control the population, William Pine has to call on the assistance of the seamen. Their guns overwhelm these primitives and they quickly quell the disturbance. So where the first half of the story dismisses race as something purely determined by skin color, it seems that Neville is saying that there is more savagery and violence among the offspring of this particular pairing. This savagery causes much of the disorder on the island. Both of these men are condemned to death and cast into the sea for the rape of their fellow islanders. Familial attachments have become so attenuated that harmony no longer rules, and severe punishments are meted out for violation of the law. The rules which are flaunted takes on very specific forms. The consenting, open and freely available sexual interaction of Pine’s narrative is tainted by rape in Van Sloetten’s story when “those who did not yield … were by force ravished.” In the original establishment of the colony there is no need for a regime of law because the patriarch had direct parental links to his entire clan. But Pine’s lack of foresight in not setting out more than the barest prohibitions leads to degeneration of his offspring and the colony. Neville does not blame the later chaos on the sexual immorality of the original progenitors. While coercive and wanton sexuality is condemned, no link is made to George Pine’s rewriting of European sexual mores. As patriarch of a small group of closely related family members George Pine maintains order with very little pressure, but the islanders eventually require a new regime of law. In an attempt to calm the storm of disorder the second patriarch, Henry Pine (George Pine’s eldest son), instates a more rigorous series of restrictions and supports them with a penal code. These legal restrictions take the form of a pared-down Decalogue emphasizing Christian knowledge, submission to authority and sexual good conduct. Retributive justice provides severe punishments—death for blasphemy, Sabbath-breaking, and rape; castration for adultery; and whipping and exile for defamation of the governor (205). However, even these restrictions do not prevent disorder. Neville makes clear that more than mere laws are necessary; authority requires strength. Despite the importance of authority in The Isle of Pines, Neville’s vision is very different from Robert Filmer’s argument that the authority of a king stemmed from that of the father. For Filmer and many other thinkers of the time, the nation was merely an extension of the family, and families were like small nations. God originally gave Adam absolute dominion over his family and this extends to what both fathers and kings can expect from subjects and family members respectively. Neville distinguishes the family from the polity in the drastic difference between harmony among the family of George Pine and degeneration among the subjects of William Pine. The discussions of race, sex and generation which make up the main narrative of this story are not merely fantasies of absolute sexual freedom and knowable paternity. The combination of regeneration and degeneration, utopia and dystopia are a serious inquiry into the progression from family to kingdom, and from a state of nature to nation state.

Generating Regenerated Generations


In many ways, the first half of the story is the most surprising and unexpected aspect of Neville’s tale. The freedom and sexual openness, the legal incest and unfettered harmony in which the castaways live makes for lively and unanticipated reading. The degeneration of the second half of the story is somehow more expected, despite the fact that this has a reputation as a utopia. Coming from a society so steeped in Christian morality that Neville’s fantasy of freedom and sexual fulfillment seems naturally to deteriorate into debauchery and destruction. The key to understanding Neville’s utopian vision is in the juxtaposition of the two. The ideas in the second half, placed in opposition to the first half, show the weakness of so much idyllic freedom but also reveal Neville’s limits. He is no Filmer, nor does he really contemplate a society that transcends hereditary monarchy. Even the first generations rely upon the patriarch to maintain the minimum standard of order, and no challenge is made to his authority. When the authority of the later patriarchs is challenged it leads to complete disorder in the society. The utopian situation in the original settlement of the island required very few laws. The natural abundance allowed this freedom, but also derives from close familial ties. Although eventually the ruler creates more restrictions as the society grows, the legal incestuous contact between siblings in the early years of the new society contrasts strongly with the unlawful rape and incest when Van Sloetten discovers the island. Sex emphasizes the importance of consent, an issue at the heart of contemporary political debate. Sexual freedom for Neville is not merely a male fantasy of free love and complete fulfillment. It is part of a wider attitude toward government and social organization. The hope for regeneration and a need for a society devoid of European morality is expressed in the first half of the story. Neville wants his patriarch to be able to establish a regenerated family structure through a utopian sexuality which is assisted by a glut of natural resources. A family created in a state of nature is supposed to grow into a colony unhindered by law and restrictive morality. All that is required of the inhabitants of Neville’s fictional island is adherence to two laws and submission to the authority of the patriarch. The hope of creating a new society is solidly grounded in generation of offspring and the regeneration which this small branch of humanity is able to undergo during the first years on the island. Abundance and freedom from restriction enable the patriarch to be highly productive. The dream of a new type of society, a sexual utopia where paternity is always knowable appears possible. However, it is clear from the degeneration that Neville’s aim is to show how all of this is impossible. George Pine almost boasts of how productive his sexual contact with his wives is, but it is this very fecundity which causes the eventual problems. The society grows too big to be run with the informality and laxness which Pine originally creates. Human nature leads to the multitude being prone to take advantage of this sexual and social liberty. “Idleness and fullness” allowed George Pine and his wives to an easy and open way of living; the same makes possible wantonness and debauchery among his children’s children.

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Chapter 11

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: Enlightenment Utopianism for 21stCentury Feminists? Alessa Johns

The approach of the year 2000 inspired academic feminists to take stock of their situation; journals on women devoted issues to analyzing the status of women’s studies programs in universities and to assessing the position of feminist sociopolitical agendas. And the discussions were not encouraging: they conveyed a sense, not of diversity and a healthy difference of opinion within the movement, but of commitments so divergent as to suggest splinter and fragility.1 The discussions have continued into the new millennium, and it is not apparent that academic feminists have yet agreed what the twenty-first century might hold for women’s studies and for feminist efforts in general. After surveying contemporary commentaries, I will suggest that some inspiration might come from an unexpected source: eighteenthcentury women’s utopianism. There are constructive ideas in the works of eighteenthcentury female authors—who wrote critically from the politically disadvantaged position of extensive obligations without commensurate rights—and whose critique arises from a dynamic combination of what today have often been viewed as incompatible Enlightenment and postmodern notions. Contemporary Commentary Academic feminists have been debating where the women’s movement should go next. In a special issue of the feminist cultural studies journal Differences, one contributor called women’s studies programs essential while another found they have outgrown their usefulness.2 If scholars have agreed that women’s studies has played a crucial institutional role in the feminist movement’s past, they look to the 1 See “Women’s Studies on the Edge,” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 9.3 (1997) special issue; Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 24.2 (1999); Women: A Cultural Review 10.2 (1999); Women’s Studies Quarterly, 3 and 4 (2002). 2 See Shirley J. Yee. “The ‘Women’ in Women’s Studies.” Differences 9.3 (1997): 46–64; and Wendy Brown. “The Impossibility of Women’s Studies.” Differences 9.3 (1997): 79–101.


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

future and come up only with questions—questions over women’s versus gender studies, gender studies versus ethnic studies, ethnic studies versus difference studies. Commentators lament the situation of the university: faculty lines are disappearing; legions of part-time lecturers, the majority women, are hired to cover general courses; this affects the quantity and quality of research done, which is further jeopardized by attacks on tenure. On the other hand a sunny evaluation of women’s recent strides forward in the Anglo-American world by Rosalind Coward, effectively culminates in a rejection of feminism; Coward wonders whether a rethought, new feminism is even necessary.3 With a view from the archive, women’s historians are uncertain about the gains that have been made and about the best next step. In her overview of feminist historiography (History & Feminism: A Glass Half Full), Judith Zinsser traces the emergence and development of the field, arguing that, by the early 1990s, women’s history in the university remained a mere supplement to “regular,” “mainstream” history and had not been integrated.4 In The Gender of History, Bonnie G. Smith argues against integration and instead calls for a new method in order to overcome what she sees as a masculinist epistemology governing historiography.5 In Writing Women’s History, editors Karen Offen, Ruth Roach Pierson, and Jane Rendall bring an international perspective to women’s historiography. They conclude that, however insecure women’s history may seem to Americans, a look at other countries shows, by comparison, how the institutional base for women’s studies in America in fact appears solid, and that American scholarship has such a formidable influence abroad that Western approaches and methodologies are sometimes applied in contexts where they are not appropriate.6 Hence even if women and women’s historians are gaining power and influence, this is itself sometimes seen as precarious, misdirected, or suspect. The Journal of Women’s History pointed to the lack of consensus on the discipline’s future in a series of articles on “Women’s History in the New Millennium.”7 In one segment historians Anne F. Scott, Sara M. Evans, Susan K. Cahn, and Elizabeth 3 Rosalind Coward. “Do We Need a New Feminism?” Women: A Cultural Review 10.2 (Summer 1999): 192–205. This article summarizes arguments from Coward’s Sacred Cows: Is Feminism Relevant to the New Millennium? (London: HarperCollins, 1999). 4 Judith P. Zinsser. History and Feminism: A Glass Half Full (New York: Twayne, 1993). Regarding the field of sociology, see Olive Banks. “Some Reflections on Gender, Sociology, and Women’s History,” Women’s History Review 8.3 (1999): 401–409. 5 Bonnie G. Smith. The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998). 6 Karen Offen, Ruth Roach Pierson, and Jane Rendall, eds. Writing Women’s History: International Perspectives (London: Macmillan, 1991). See, especially, the “Introduction,” p. xxii–xxiii. 7 “Women’s History in the New Millennium: A Conversation across Three ‘Generations,’” Journal of Women’s History 11.1 and 2 (1999) special edition, including Anne Firor Scott, Sara M. Evans, Susan K. Cahn, and Elizabeth Faue. Subsequent volumes continued the theme of “Women’s History in the New Millennium.”

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally


Faue engaged in an e-mail “Conversation” across generations of scholars that covered the same quandaries and disagreements. On the one hand, they pointed out, feminists feel daunted by the volume of work being done: there are so many journals and books that they cannot keep up. On the other hand, current structural changes in the university—ascribed to corporatization—threaten to compromise the cogency of research in general and of women’s historiography in particular. (“With the emergence of academic piecework in the form of adjunct teaching, we do know that a mode of knowledge production is fast disappearing.”8) There is some evidence too of unease with students’ inspiration deriving from discursive analyses—from the classroom and from media critiques—rather than being grounded in the material realms of social activism and research among historical artifacts. Liz Faue finally issued a call for more vision: the one thing we do not do much in our culture . . . is to take time out to dream, imaginatively construct alternative futures, and creatively sketch out paths to reach them. Our question about the future of women’s history is connected—at least in part—to our inability to imagine fully a qualitatively different feminist future.9

And Susan Cahn ended the conversation, not with conclusions but questions, the last one being: “Where can our imaginations take us?” (220). Given the impasse at which many academic feminists have found themselves, I would agree that vision is crucial if feminism, in an older or newer form, is to remain an influential cultural force. Yet, in a postmodern world, vision has come under suspicion. Joan Scott, in response to the “Conversation,” has addressed the question of the impasse and the lack of vision. She has argued that melancholy is at its root, “an unwillingness to let go of the highly charged affect of the homosocial world we [feminists] have lost,” and she urges academic feminists to recognize this and move on. Since feminism was always more about critique than about women, she argues, the future of feminism depends on a restless “interrogation of the taken-forgranted”: . . . the excitement and energy of the critical activity . . . was then and is now the defining characteristic of feminism. Feminist history was never primarily concerned with documenting the experiences of women in the past, even if that was the most visible means by which we pursued our objective. The point of looking to the past was to destabilize the present, to challenge patriarchal institutions and ways of thinking that legitimated themselves as natural, to make the unthinkable thought.10

She sees the desire to consolidate women’s studies institutionally as “profoundly conservative,” given the many categories of difference now pursued by scholars, and lauds feminism’s “radical refusal to settle down, to call even a comfortable lodging a “home”’ (21). 8 Elizabeth Faue. “Women’s History,” Journal of Women’s History 11.2 (1999): 216. 9 Journal of Women’s History 11 (1999): 211. 10 Joan Scott. “Feminism’s History.” Journal of Women’s History 16 (2004): 16, 23, 21.


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Without denying how crucial the new categories of difference are to current scholarship, I would argue that a restless and at times perhaps aimless pursuit of critique is not necessarily in the interest of women. Scott clearly feels that the gains women have made are solid and permanent, but such optimism, given the enduringly low percentage of tenured women at universities, is poorly founded. Moreover, it is not necessarily a sign of melancholy or conservatism to desire rest, a home, stability, or a community of women’s studies scholars. The desire for rest and community has historically been a radical aim. William Morris’s 1890 novel News from Nowhere is subtitled An Epoch of Rest, where the forging of the utopian community represents a radical break from industrial capitalism. In his essay “Useful Work versus Useless Toil” Morris distinguishes between those two categories by saying that useful work carries a threefold hope: “hope of rest, hope of product, hope of pleasure in the work itself.” The hope of rest, he argues is the simplest and most natural part of our hope. Whatever pleasure there is in some work, there is certainly some pain in all work . . . and the compensation for this animal pain is animal rest. We must feel while we are working that the time will come when we shall not have to work.

Without hope, work becomes “useless toil”; “it is slaves’ work—mere toiling to live, that we may live to toil.”11 I would apply Morris’s observations to the university and argue that to some extent the unrelenting demand for product in the university is part of the corporatization feminists seek to forestall. And I would like to ask to what extent the restless pursuit of critique, as it takes the form of generating one article after another—“publish or perish”—may actually represent capitulation to the corporatization of the academy and lead away from truly thoughtful, wellresearched, effective, and long-lasting forms of feminist scholarship and resistance. The demand for rest, the forging of community, and the insistence that we contribute hope-filled, “useful work” rather than “useless toil” can be a sign of exactly the feminist critique Scott would encourage. Feminist work, as Scott points out, now happens on many fronts: “the political movement itself has become fragmented, dispersed into specific areas of activism.” So it would appear that the need is greater than ever for a feminist approach to insure that these discrete efforts lead to shared goals. But Scott sees such a unified desire as emerging from an outdated “grand teleological narrative of emancipation,” and she by implication—and again unduly optimistically—assumes that the fragmented “areas of activism” will achieve an end that remains undefined but that, we are supposed to infer, must be good. There is an unstated assumption that critique of the status quo necessarily brings about a more tolerant and equitable society; Scott’s optimism appears ultimately to rest on a belief in progress that she has called outdated. Nonetheless, according to Scott, it is an unwillingness to shake an Enlightenment view of progress that gets in feminists’ way: “the loss of the continuity that came 11 William Morris. News From Nowhere and Selected Writings and Designs, ed. and introd. Asa Briggs (London: Penguin, 1986), p. 118–119.

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with the notion of history as inevitably progressive helps explain the difficulty an older generation has in imagining a future.” But one need not embrace teleological notions of progress to believe in the importance of hope. Scott’s breathless view of feminism “as a restless critical operation” that needs to be detached “from its origins in Enlightenment teleologies and the utopian promise of complete emancipation” (19) throws the baby out with the bathwater. It fails to replace the earlier feminist vision with a new goal; it leaves little room for hope; and it is in its way ahistorical, in that it does not take account of the views of Enlightenment women themselves who offered critical counterarguments to the narrative of progress while still harboring hopes of emancipation. I would agree with Evelynn M. Hammonds, who in her response to Joan Scott’s article makes a call for women’s historians to do what they do best: write good history, ask deeper questions: It seems to me that Scott’s optimistic, adventurous, and active double agents still require some larger vision about the futures they will help to make. In the end, I remain haunted by Scott’s questions and I would put them this way: Instead of asking, have we won or lost? Or, have we been changed by our success? Or, does women’s history have a future? I would ask what have we won and what have we lost? How have we been changed by our success? How has our presence transformed the discipline and academic institutions? How do we want them to change in the future? What kind of futures do feminist historians want to be a part of making?12 (emphasis added)

Hammonds insists on nuanced questions and careful analysis, a deep understanding of the past and the present that can lead to visions for the future. In the spirit of not reinventing the wheel and giving our foremothers their due, I would encourage the study of eighteenth-century women writers who can offer a few signposts for feminists today. I will address the question of envisioning alternative futures by looking at two eighteenth-century female utopian writers, Sarah Scott and Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont, who employ a feminist epistemology born of Enlightenment notions of emancipation but anchored in particular individual histories and communities, thereby revealing a localism and pluralism more characteristic of postmodern thought. Both authors employ what Angelika Bammer has called “partial visions” to offer women models for escaping their unenviable positions as subordinate noncitizens and for altering economic circumstances to aid women and the poor. These partial visions simultaneously express local plans and global aspirations for sociopolitical change and in the process suggest how women’s history might offer us epistemological footholds for finding our way out of the current morass.13

12 Evelynn M. Hammonds. “Power and Politics in Feminism’s History—and Future,” Journal of Women’s History 16 (2004): 38. 13 Parts of the following discussion are taken from my book, Alessa Johns. Women’s Utopias of the Eighteenth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003).


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Eighteenth-Century Feminist Epistemology: The “Partial Vision” Sarah Scott (1720–1795) was born into an established family; after a year of marriage she separated from her husband, George Lewis Scott, and joined her friend Lady Barbara Montagu in Bath. They undertook charitable work; their most extensive project involved educating the poor young children of the neighborhood. Scott’s sister, Elizabeth Montagu, the well-known Bluestocking, characterized their household as a cheerful “convent,” and scholars agree that this way of life must have inspired Scott’s fictional communities in her best-known utopian novels, Millenium Hall (1762) and The History of Sir George Ellison (1766).14 For those unfamiliar with Scott’s work, a short summary: Millenium Hall begins with a traveler whose coach breaks down near a utopian estate. He describes in a letter to a friend how he meets a group of high-ranking women who have pooled their wealth in order to create an ideal neighborhood in the English countryside. They offer a place for impecunious gentlewomen wishing to avoid the ravages of the marriage market, work for the poor and the disabled, and a refuge for dwarfs and giants fleeing display as circus freaks. They cultivate gardens that feature indigenous plants and animals. When one house can no longer hold all the gentlewomen who wish to join the community, they purchase another building in the neighborhood to accommodate the overflow. The description of their utopian society is interspersed with the depressing stories of their troubled earlier lives, of exploitation at the hands of greedy, shameless relatives and acquaintances, and these provide a contrast to the tranquility and happiness to be experienced at Millenium Hall. The traveler who describes this utopia turns out to be the protagonist of Scott’s sequel, The History of Sir George Ellison. There the hero Ellison sets about imitating Millenium Hall on a smaller scale in his own home and neighborhood. The second novel thus grows out of the first, just as the subsequent houses grew out of the first abode of the Millenium Hall women. Scott thereby inscribes the means she sees for the gradual growth of utopia in England: one community overflows to create another; one convert moves out into a new area and transforms it. A similar process occurs in the work of Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1711–1780). Details about her life are scarce. Her marriage to an inconstant husband was annulled in 1745, which forced her to earn her own support. She lived in England from 1748–1762, where she worked as governess for several aristocratic families as well as in the household of the Prince of Wales. There she might have met Sarah Scott, since Scott’s husband was a tutor in the royal household at the same time, during the one year of Scott’s marriage. Scott certainly knew of Leprince de Beaumont and subscribed to her journal, The Young Misses’ Magazine (Le Magasin des Enfans). Leprince de Beaumont wrote other journals for adolescents and young

14 Sarah Scott. A Description of Millenium Hall, ed. Gary Kelly (Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 1995); Sarah Scott. The History of Sir George Ellison, ed. Betty Rizzo (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996). Further biographical information on Scott can be found in the informative Introductions of both editions.

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally


ladies as well as for boys and the country poor, and she composed a number of extremely popular epistolary novels.15 One of these, The New Clarissa (1767), is a utopian response to Samuel Richardson’s acclaimed Clarissa, which appeared in 1747–48.16 Instead of depicting a Richardsonian protagonist who, unable to enlist the help of family or friends, is raped and dies, Leprince de Beaumont limns a heroine who, when forced to flee her father, chooses her own husband and finds sanctuary with her mother-in-law, the Baroness d’Astie. This extraordinary Baroness has created a utopian neighborhood by employing new theories of agricultural production and reorganizing the lives of workers, and she inspires Clarissa to generate her own model of an ideal society. So, in letters to her mother, Mrs. Darby, and to her friend Harriet, Clarissa describes her vision of a Christian Union—a kind of co-ed monastery—and these women respond with support for Clarissa’s ideas. In turn they articulate their own plans for social reform: Harriet develops ideas for her estate, and Mrs. Darby explains how orphans might better be cared for, young girls educated, and fallen women rehabilitated. As in Scott, the conversion of one individual at a time leads to the expansion of utopian ideas and practices, and this then leads to further reform. Millenium Hall, Sir George Ellison, and The New Clarissa are all partial visions rather than complete blueprints; instead of offering a fully worked-out plan of social change, one that is to be implemented by revolutionary substitution, they take the gradualist approach I have been describing. Each utopian scheme will generate other, different plans, so that utopia will eventually expand throughout the country. Their model is one based on education, on process and accumulation, or a kind of utopian colonization that aims to mitigate poverty, enhance women’s independence, and provide care for the elderly and the sick. The expression “partial vision” was coined by Angelika Bammer in analyzing women’s utopian writing of the 1970s. Bammer argues that, even in a postmodern age, utopianism remained a viable political and intellectual force. Despite the loss of faith in utopian visions after the Holocaust—visions deemed by some commentators as totalitarian and associated with Hitler’s Germany—feminists nonetheless depended on images of the ideal society. This reliance, Sally Kitch has argued, was and remains a mistake. She maintains that we need “post-utopian approaches to feminist thought,” and that the best way to do this is to strip utopianism from feminism and replace it with realism.17 15 Patricia A. Clancy. “A French Writer and Educator in England: Mme Le Prince de Beaumont,” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 201 (1982): 195–208; Alix Deguise. “Madame Leprince de Beaumont: Conteuse ou moraliste?” in Roland Bonnel and Catherine Rubinger (ed.), Femmes savantes et femmes d’esprit: Women intellectuals of the French Eighteenth Century (New York: Peter Lang, 1994), p. 155–182. 16 Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont. The New Clarissa: A True History, 2 vols (London: J. Nourse, 1768). First published in French as La nouvelle Clarice, 2 vols (London: J. Nourse, 1767). 17 Sally L. Kitch. Higher Ground: From Utopianism to Realism in American Feminist Thought and Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 111. Further references


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century Without utopianism feminism can more readily recognize contingent truths, inevitable conflicts, and complex motivations and loyalties, as it addresses the problems it can name. Realistic feminist thought can embrace the serendipity and vagaries of human life, identity, relationships, and institutions. It can avoid exclusivist or separatist metaphors and replace them with tropes of coexistence. (12)

Realism recognizes difference, according to Kitch, whereas utopianism dreamily awaits an unattainable unity. Feminism’s varied and sometimes contentious history may help explain the attraction of utopianism, which seems to offer harmony among the myriad positions that have characterized feminist thought and theory over the years. But is harmony the highest goal? Doesn’t the quest for harmony itself indicate a utopian mind-set in its automatic distrust of conflict, dialectic, and debate? How do we know that feminism is better off with a unified rather than a cacophonous voice? (107)

Certainly feminists should not avoid debate or conflict or critical thinking. And if the musical metaphor of “harmony” is upsetting or, to Kitch, reductively feminizing, we can forgo that as well. But Kitch undermines her argument by leaning on utopianism herself. Kitch proposes realism as a “Higher Ground,” a means of transcending the messy battles—but what move could be more utopian? She insists that reaching for the “higher ground” of realism involves keeping “firm footing” (163), but her aim of simply substituting feminism’s utopianism with realism smacks of precisely the kind of fantastical “utopian replacement” that she purports to dismiss. Much as she may wish it, utopianism cannot be escaped. Commentators such as Anne Mellor, as Kitch herself admits, have argued that feminism must be utopian if only because equality between the sexes has never existed and must be imagined.18 Moreover, as Drucilla Cornell demonstrates, while such sociopolitical equality has been a worthwhile goal, it will not result in fairness for all people as long as it is based on trying to match women’s position to men’s traditional one. Consequently, she argues, a more significant aim should be “freedom,” which she envisions people attaining through a universal access to “the imaginary domain”: “we need freedom to explore without fear the representations that surround us. This place of free exploration of sexual representations, and personas, is the imaginary domain.”19 Imagining is crucial if people are to work toward a freer, feminist future. Cornell concludes that

will be made parenthetically in the text. 18 Anne K. Mellor. “On Feminist Utopias,” Women’s Studies 9 (1982): 241–62, esp. 243–44. See also Jennifer Burwell. Notes on Nowhere: Feminism, Utopian Logic, and Social Transformation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), p. xviii, for an argument about how “discourses of social transformation—whether or not they construct an image of a transformed social space—retain a relation to the utopian impulse.” 19 Drucilla Cornell. At the Heart of Freedom: Feminism, Sex, and Equality (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), p. 8. Further references will appear parenthetically.

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utopianism has always been tied to the imagination, to visions of what is truly new. A world in which we could all share in life’s glories would be one radically different from our own society. Yet what is possible always changes as we change with the transformations we try to realize. (186)

Cornell’s utopian conception makes space for precisely the contingency, pluralism, and temporality which so concern Kitch. As I have pointed out, among eighteenth-century feminist utopists the emphasis is on the “partial vision,” not on revolutionary substitution where the past is obliterated and a fully worked out blueprint employed in constructing a new world. This “partial” method avoids the totalizing pitfall Kitch decries—“utopian replacement”—and nonetheless allows for the kind of transformation advocated by Cornell. Early feminist utopists offered narratives that demonstrated their partiality by being both fragmentary and partisan, refusing to hide their political intentions. It is interesting that Bammer’s concept of the partial vision, derived from a study of twentieth-century works, can be applied so constructively to women’s utopian novels of the eighteenth century. Yet it is unsurprising. Both the twentieth-century writers Bammer discusses and the ones I have described wrote from subordinate positions. They lacked political clout, yet at the same time they felt driven to express their political goals and to work for reform that would improve the situation of women, the poor, and the sick. The eighteenth-century authors in particular knew they had to rely on others to realize their plans: unlike Margaret Cavendish, who in the Blazing World could imagine herself an all-powerful monarch creating a realm to correspond with her fantasies, they rejected absolutism, could not conceive of themselves in a position of king or legislator, capable of changing policy and enforcing it. Consequently they believed that prudence, hard work, education, and the hope of persuading their readers to join in a community to implement their schemes depended on avoiding radical solutions and emphasizing pragmatic, piecemeal, attainable reforms that corresponded to a new and evolving economic and political organization.20 Leprince de Beaumont in fact thematized the issue of partiality in her novel. There Mrs. Darby cheers on Clarissa’s dream of the Christian Union and hopes that influential people will implement her plan. “But,” she says, “as this is not to be expected, do yourself in miniature, what you could wish was done in great; perhaps, your good example will excite some rich persons to second you” (II, 192). She will also take part in the process: “if you cannot engage others to execute in great your good projects, we will endeavour to offer models of them in miniature” (II, 159). A local model, capable of broader application, will lead gradually to national reform. If attempting projects “in miniature” was seen as a humble first step by women of the Enlightenment, today it appears to be viewed as inevitable, even valued at a time when “partiality” is an epistemological obsession. Women’s historians thus find themselves in a situation structurally comparable to their eighteenth-century 20 For further discussion on the ways new economic realities and discourses influence these writers, see the “Introduction” Johns, Women’s Utopias of the Eighteenth Century.


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forebears. Historian Nina Rattner Gelbart, in The King’s Midwife: A History and Mystery of Madame du Coudray, writes: If we acknowledge that our understanding is at best partial, that our views, far from being objective, are inescapably colored by the concerns of our present vantage point, that evidence itself is subjective, serendipitous, and fragmentary, that our pictures of the past are incurably approximate and full of artifice, that they are constructed by us and not found or given ready-made, how then can we distinguish history from fable? How can we convince ourselves that our research leads to anything sound, trustworthy, or accurate?21

Gelbart goes on to say that she will “make a virtue of necessity” and use Madame du Coudray’s incomplete record to exemplify the inevitable opacity of artifacts and the impossibility of firm conclusions faced by historians in general. Women’s historically poorly documented lives become, in a postmodern world, an emblem of everyman’s dilemma and thus paradoxically gain a universal significance. Such a move demonstrates, I think, the ways that feminist history will necessarily, as it makes political claims, always need to assert a broader significance, make a jump from the local, historically embedded, to the general. Leprince de Beaumont’s text demonstrates this too. Even though the innovations her protagonists put forward begin in the provinces, she claims that they have the potential to transform the country as a whole and to have an impact beyond its borders. Clarissa’s mother, Mrs. Darby, reflects on how some people might think it absurd for powerless women to “set themselves up for reformers.” She insists, however, that: “I feel, from the emotions of my heart, that I am a citizen of the universe; and all mankind, whatever they are, are my brethren” (II, 165–166). If women cannot claim to be citizens of any one nation, they can claim to be a part of humankind in general. Their condition of nationlessness paradoxically allows them to be a part of all nations, to speak out for reform on behalf of people globally. Early feminists thus furthered cosmopolitan impulses that would inspire the Romantics and later feminists, but it is a cosmopolitanism that emerges from women’s position of nationlessness rather than from notions of Liberté and Fraternité that have been considered the crucial spur to late-eighteenth-century internationalism. Indeed, such a feminist cosmopolitanism has been articulated repeatedly over the years since Leprince de Beaumont. Virginia Woolf, for instance, says in the voice of the female outsider in Three Guineas, “as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.”22 More recently Rosi Braidotti has called for women to be “nomadic subjects” as an expression of “nonconfidence in the capacity of the ‘polis’ to undo the power foundations on which it rests.”23 Nomadic subjects, she argues, shun passports and 21 Nina Rattner Gelbart. The King’s Midwife: A History and Mystery of Madame du Coudray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), p. 9–10. 22 Virginia Woolf. Three Guineas (1938; London: Hogarth Press, 1952), p. 197. 23 Rosi Braidotti. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), p. 32.

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belong to no nation in particular. But such notions have been called into question. For one thing, the nomadism advocated by Braidotti falls into the same trap that Joan Scott’s restlessness does, valuing potentially aimless movement for its own sake. Seyla Benhabib has pointed out how politically debilitating the idea of nomadism is, given that people without passports lack any claim to a political voice and, historically, have suffered at the hands of all manner of collective groups. She argues that the world now offers a “new constellation” that demands we develop a way of maintaining nation, community, and self in a productive tension. What is needed is a flexible epistemology that serves the emancipatory ends desired by subordinate groups, and at the same time allows for difference between them. And while she too articulates her hopes in the form of questions, as did Susan Cahn in the “Conversation” I mentioned at the outset, the vision she firmly grasps means that her questions are not aimless, even if they are open-ended: Can there be coherent accounts of individual and collective identity that do not fall into xenophobia, intolerance, paranoia, and aggression toward others? Can the search for coherence be made compatible with the maintenance of fluid ego boundaries? Can the attempt to generate meaning be accompanied by an appreciation of the meaningless, the absurd, and the limits of discursivity? And finally, can we establish justice and solidarity at home without turning in on ourselves, without closing our borders to the needs and cries of others? What will democratic collective identities look like in the century of globalization?24

These are real, not simply rhetorical questions; behind them we hear a resounding hope that such dreams of collectivity are possible and that they are goals worth working toward. They are the kinds of questions Evelynn Hammonds suggested that we must ask if we are to develop a vision. Benhabib goes on to insist that universalism be respected in the new constellation, and she argues that feminists must responsibly take up their position as “brokers in this complex renegotiation of sexual difference and new collective identities.” Thus Benhabib acknowledges the plural identities that varied nationalities, sexualities, and abilities create, but she also sees the need for the recognition of women’s and of human rights, for the common acceptance of certain principles and goals. Rosalind Coward, too—who wonders whether feminism remains necessary in an age when so much has been achieved—may come from a very different direction and yet concurs that: After feminism, there can be no going back to the idea of male domination built on a natural order. Feminism taught us to pay attention to gender division, sex roles and sexual behaviour, and to realize that they might entail the workings of power. It made it impossible for us ever again to accept as givens those divisions of labour which entail social discrimination. Still more, feminism changed what we value as a society—making the aims of sexual intimacy and equality, equal parenting and non-hierarchical family 24 Seyla Benhabib. “Sexual Difference and Collective Identities: The New Global Constellation.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 24.2 (1999): 335.

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relations part of the democratic ideals of modern society. So as a set of ideals which will always require vigilance, feminism remains as relevant as ever.25

Even as she questions the efficacy of feminism in the “new constellation,” Coward nonetheless agrees that the ideals behind the movement remain vital and critical. Who will reinforce these if not feminists themselves? As scholars studying the eighteenth century, a period during which many of the philosophical questions we grapple with today became central, women’s historians, I believe, are well-positioned to redraw the horizons of possible solutions by reconfiguring our understanding of the past. Utopian writing and historiography, in particular, with its focus on the model society, allows us to work with those ideals and suggests places where feminists today might find consensus, might ferret out ways in which women historians can further the effort in the “complex renegotiation” that globalization is bringing about. The Global, the Local, and Feminist Double Consciousness For one thing, seeing our position as female academics and thinkers from the global perspective, as Benhabib does, allows us to recognize interdependencies and points of agreement that a constant focus on the local or even the national makes impossible. Keeping a dual focus, seeing what we do locally from a global perspective, enables a renewed feminism, a view of common ground, and at the same time, allows for difference and negotiation in divergent local circumstances. If we cannot achieve such a balance, then, I fear, the sense of splinteredness and fragility I get from surveying the journals will expand and prevail, weakening feminism as a cultural force, and thereby removing feminists from being brokers in the “renegotiation of sexual difference” and politics in general that Benhabib describes. For this to work, as Benhabib and others have pointed out, the unproductive, stark opposition some commentators have set up between postmodern and Enlightenment ideas must be discarded. Again, a closer look at women’s utopianism in the eighteenth century shows how so-called postmodern tendencies and modern ones already coexisted then and were in fact debated, so that the bifurcation that has been set up is ahistorical and only serves the forces of corporatization and academic fragmentation at work today. Again, it is utopian writer Sarah Scott who offers a way of considering this dilemma, as she addresses historiographical questions analogous to our debates over metanarratives versus local histories. Scott wrote three historical works, and in some sense these were considered, if not by her by the literary world, more significant than her fictional offerings: The History of Gustavus Ericson (1761), The History of Mecklenburgh (1762), The Life of Theodore Agrippa D’Aubigné (1772). They appeared in larger formats, were therefore more expensive, and received far greater treatment from reviewers than her novels. 25 Coward, 204.

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally


In her preface to The History of Gustavus Ericson, Scott ponders the efficacy of grand narratives versus local histories in a discussion about “general history” and “biography,” concluding that both are necessary: General histories are like the outlines of a picture: We from thence learn the design of the piece; the actions intended to be expressed may be represented in a masterly manner, but the passions which excited them, or the consequent emotions, are in great measure lost by the want of those high-finished touches, and minute delineations, which make every circumstance obvious, and render the piece more agreeable, as well as more instructive . . . . The Biographer enters into a detail which more properly developes the human mind. He shews us, that kingdoms are often set at variance by trifles. . . . That the covetous encroachments of a man whom the minister either favours or fears, shall embroil two powerful nations; and that, what is looked upon by the public eye as the effects of national resentment for national injuries, and spreads the most extensive destruction, sometimes originally arises from the private views of the lowest officer in the monarch’s service, as the greatest river has its source under ground; in its first appearance little more than a bubbling rivulet, scarcely perceptible, till uniting with every stream it meets in its progress, it swells gradually into a river, whose torrent at length destroys every thing that opposes its course. . . . General historians relate the actions of a collective body; Biographers shew the dispositions of individuals, and develope their motives while they recapitulate their actions, thus teaching the knowledge of men in a superior manner, while they acquaint us with facts. But this species of history, as it has its peculiar advantages, neither is it without its faults, of which partiality is not the least. . . . Another fault in Biography is the partial knowledge it gives of history, distinguishing some particular periods with great lights, while intermediate ages are left in obscurity. These detached pieces of history are like redoubts in fortification; each may serve to employ for some time those who design to become masters of them; but if there is no line of communication whereby they are united, they can give no assistance to each other. A reader may by this sort of study become acquainted with the characters and actions of some particular kings of any country, but will remain totally ignorant of the history of the kingdom.26

Moving from ideas about general history to biography and back again, Scott allows us to see her mind ill at ease with the categories that make up historical writing. General history, that conveyor of public discourse, has some grave disadvantages that biography dispels, while biography, focusing perhaps too closely on the private, needs general history to complete it. Arriving at a provisional truth can only occur by negotiating between the two, in Scott’s mind, and so she decides she must do both in her life of Gustavus Ericson, as she precedes his biography with a long “Introductory History of Sweden, from the Middle of the Twelfth Century.” But her metaphors of the river and the fortification clue us in to a utopian aspect of her thought. General history can at its peril ignore the hidden sources, the various underground streams and rivulets that join into a river, “whose torrent at length destroys every thing that opposes its course.” At the same time, biography at its peril ignores the force of general history, for the individual redoubts in fortification 26 Sarah Scott. The History of Gustavus Ericson, King of Sweden (London: A. Millar, 1761). iii–ix.


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can supply some resistance against “those who design to become masters of them”; however, “if there is no line of communication whereby they are united, they can give no assistance to each other.” While the one suggests that the monolithic—the general history, in this case—needs to recognize the various sources of its strength lest it be flushed away by them, the other suggests that in fact an individual source of strength can alone provide very little resistance indeed and be overcome. In other words, in both instances a failure to acknowledge connection results in destruction. It would seem odd for Scott to metaphorize history and a reader’s knowledge of history in terms so delicate that destruction looms, always, menacingly in the background. But she thus implies the destructive subjection that results when connections between small and great, between local and global, between physical and metaphysical, are ignored. When the women of Millenium Hall describe their schools to George Ellison (in Sir George Ellison), they argue that it is right to take children away from narrow-minded parents and instead to become substitute parents in order to teach them “good sense,” for utopian subjects understand that their every action is significant. Everything they do adds up to show how useful they are, to what extent they are bettering the larger community: Upon these common, and frequent acts, depends in great measure the happiness of those connected with us. Great injuries or great benefits are seldom in our power; the opportunities for either are few; but by a number of small vexations, we may render a person more miserable than we could by one great injury. There is an elasticity in our spirits, which enables them to rise again after a great and sudden blow, while a frequent repetition of vexations keeps them down, and deprives them of all power of exertion: but a narrow mind sees not the iniquity of such oppression in a right light, because the evils it inflicts are not expressly included either in the Decalogue or the laws of the land; blind to the spirit of the law, they attend only to the words. Those, therefore, whose ideas are circumscribed within such narrow bounds, are ill qualified to cultivate the minds of their children. (I, 250–251)

As people develop by the accumulation of small experiences, so too is history shaped by the accumulation of individual actions. The grand gesture or powerful political figure, like the Decalogue and the laws of the land, can indeed have a large impact, but persistent vexations, joined underground streams, or the lowest officers in the monarch’s service can equally or more totally destroy the individual, the community, or the nation. The person of “good sense,” the utopian subject, understands the significance of accumulation of experiences and of interstices, those points of connection between individual people or moments of history, seeing those as the sites not only for potential destruction but also for utopian transformation. Reading between the lines of the Decalogue and the laws of the land reveals their true spirit, the interstitial utopian space that defies a literal and confining ideology. By making a sequel, by having The History of Sir George Ellison grow out of Millenium Hall, Scott has done the same with her own writing. The one work crosses the boundary to create another one, shows us the productive possibility of the connecting space between one text and another. In terms of her characters, we

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally


see how the women of Millenium Hall inspire the destitute gentlewomen, how those gentlewomen then go on to buy another house—one community begets another and another and eventually the whole country will be taken over by such communities. Similarly, the perfect learning environment of Millenium Hall has taught George Ellison, so that he can go on to create more utopian subjects and environments. As The History of Sir George Ellison grows out of Millenium Hall, then, that book becomes the literary equivalent of the utopian projects within the texts themselves. Sarah Scott’s utopian thinking thus focuses on the interstice, that liminal place on the boundary—but itself boundary-less—that facilitates the transformative moment, that acknowledges links between elements. This seems to me an instructive circumstance relevant to the debates within feminism today. Scott posits a solution that relies on a dual focus, a double vision—on both the general and the particular—informed by a utopian spirit. Partiality in historiography is not valorized (she speaks of “partial knowledge” and “partiality” in negative terms, suggesting an Enlightenment ideal of objectivity and overview); however, it is recognized as inevitable. Limitations in knowledge, oversight, and power are unfortunate but everpresent and unconquerable, and they are all too familiar from a woman’s perspective. Employing a dual focus retains a means of checks and balances and allows one to continue pursuing goals with a sense of purpose in spite of imperfect knowledge and political situatedness. I would hope that a dual focus on the general and the particular would allow for local differences in feminism, but at the same time unite us behind a broader vision and set of ideals, however unattainable that vision might be. Along these lines, Wendy Brown calls for a new historiography, one: that emphasizes . . . contingent developments, formations that may be at odds with or convergent with each other, and trajectories of power that vary in weight for different kinds of subjects. The work I am describing involves serious and difficult research, arduous thought, and complex theoretical formulations—it will not be conducive to easy polemics or slogans in battle. And it will add up neither to a unified and coherent notion of gender nor to a firm foundation for women’s studies. But it might allow us to take those powerful founding and sustaining impulses of women’s studies – to challenge the seamless histories, theories, literatures, and sciences featuring and reproducing a Humanism starring only Man—and harness them for another generation or two of productive, insurrectionary work.27

As did Evelynn Hammonds, Brown looks to deeper, carefully conceived and thoughtfully carried out historical inquiry as the means of prolonging and transforming feminist efforts. While Brown refers to “powerful founding and sustaining impulses,” while Rosalind Coward talks about “ideals,” while Seyla Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell turn to Kantian philosophy, all are in different ways approaching notions of emancipation already conceived of during the Enlightenment: of equality in difference, fairness in diversity, and freedom of inquiry and of motion. 27 Wendy Brown. “The Impossibility of Women’s Studies.” Differences 9 (Fall 1997): 94–95.


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Postmodern critiques have aided feminist arguments in crucial ways, but a sustained force in feminism, I would argue, needs to work toward a balance, like the one I have described envisaged already in the works of eighteenth-century female utopian authors, between local activity and a global perspective, between women’s hopes in particular and women’s hope in general, between where we are and where we would like to be.

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Index Astell, Mary 3, 10, 36 Serious Proposal 10–11, 56, 60–62 A Serious Proposal, Part II 10 Bacon, Francis New Atlantis 6, 122 Bammer, Angelika 167, 169 Barre, Poullain de la 10 Baudrillard, Jean 2 Beaumont, Jeanne Marie Leprince de 5, 8 The New Clarissa 168, 169, 171, 172 Behn, Aphra, Oroonoko 20, 22–24, 37, 123 Benhabib, Seyla 3–4, 173–174, 177 Bloch, Ernst The Principle of Hope 125 Braidotti, Rosi 172–173 Bretonne, Restif de la 5 Brooke, Frances The History of Emily Montagu 123 Brown, Wendy 177 Cahn, Susan K. 164, 165, 173 Cary, Mary A New and More Exact Mappe; or Description of New Jerusalems Glory 9–10 Cavendish, Margaret 2, 3, 10 Assaulted and Pursued Chastity 127 The Blazing New World 6, 9, 14, 20–22, 37, 137, 171 The Convent of Pleasure 1 Charrière, Isabelle de Lettres de Mistriss Henley 13, 72, 78–85 Défense et Plainte de Thérèse Levasseur 69 Eloge de Jean-Jacques Rousseau 70 Claeys, Gregory 7 convents 2, 3, 54–56, 57, 58–60, 64–66, 131 Cornell, Drucilla 170–171, 177 Coward, Rosalind 164, 173–174, 177

Defoe, Daniel Farther Adventures 124 Robinson Crusoe 33, 136 Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe 124 Diderot, Denis 6 Drake, Judith 10 Evans, Sara M. 164 fantastic voyages 5 Faue, Elizabeth 164, 165 female academy 2, 3, 131 Fénelon, François de Salignac de la Mothe Les aventures de Télémaque 7 Ferguson, Adam An Essay on the History of Civil Society 124–125 Fielding, Sarah 2, 36 The Adventures of David Simple 6, 12, 39–48, 52 The Adventures of David Simple, Volume the Last 12, 48–51 The Governess 128 Filmer, Robert Patriarcha 148 Foigny, Gabriel de La Terre australe connue 6, 123, 125–128 Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de 7 Foucault, Michel 107 Gallagher, Catherine 25–26 Godwin, Francis The Man in the Moone 122 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang 126 Goldsmith, Oliver The Vicar of Wakefield 48


Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century

Gulliveriana 5 Hakluyt, Richard, Principal Navigations 122 Hamilton, Mary 2 Munster Village 5, 128 Hammonds, Evelynn M. 167, 173, 177 harem 3, 87–106, 152 Haywood, Eliza 2 The British Recluse 1 Hobbes, Thomas Leviathan 124 incest 155–158, 161 intentional communities 2 Johns, Alessa 5, 8, 163–178 Johnson, Samuel Rasselas 126, 128–131 Kant, Immanuel 6, 7 Kitch, Sally 169, 170 Knight, Ellis Cornelia, Dinarbas 15, 126, 128–132 Lefebvre, Henri 107, 119 Lilley, Kate 5 Locke, John Two Treatises of Government 148 Mackenzie, Henry The Man of the World 52, 123 Makin, Bathsua 10 Manley, Delarivier New Atalantis 1, 11 Manuel, Frank and Fritzie 4–5, 9 model commonwealth 5 Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley 1, 2, 3, 128 Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de L’Esprit des lois 94–96, 98, 99, 101, 105 Lettres Persanes 13, 87–106 More, Thomas Utopia 7, 17–19, 20, 21, 122 Morris, William News from Nowhere 166 Moylan, Tom 121, 122

Neville, Henry The Isle of Pines 14, 124, 141, 147–161 Offen, Karen 164 Occidentalism 93 Orientalism 87–107, 127, 128, 129 Paltock, Robert The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins 6, 14, 124, 133–146 Pierson, Ruth Roach 164 Pizan, Christine de 8 Plato 7, 17 Polygamy 99, 153, 155 Prévost, Abbé Monsieur Cleveland 126 Rabelais, François ‘The Abbey of Thelème’ 6 Radcliffe, Ann The Italian 11, 53–68 Rees, Christine 135, 140 Reeve, Clara 10, 56 Plans of Education 58–60 Rendall, Jane 164 Richardson, Samuel Sir Charles Grandison 56, 62–63 Robinsonades 5, 124, 127 Roche, Sophie La Erscheinungen am, see Oneida 123 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 6 Confession 69 Julie; ou, La Nouvelle Héloïse 12, 13, 72–78, 123 Social Contract 75 Saage, Richard 3, 6 Sade, Marquis de 5, 6 Les cent vingt journées de Sodome 13, 107–119 salons 10, 13, 88, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 100, 106 satire 5 sensibility 12, 25, 39–52 Schnabel, Johann Gottfried Die Insel Felsenburg 7 Scott, Anne F. 164 Scott, Joan 165, 166, 167

Index Scott, Sarah 2, 8, 10, 174 The History of Sir George Ellison 20, 32–36, 176, 177 The History of Gustavus Ericson 174–176 The History of Mecklenburgh 174 The Life of Theodoroe Agrippa D’Aubigné 174 Millenium Hall 5, 12, 13, 20, 24–32, 56, 107–119, 128, 168–169 Smith, Bonnie G. 164 Suvin, Darko 135 Swift, Jonathan 133 utopia abstract utopia 18 boutique utopia 13 concrete utopia 18 critical utopia 15, 121–131 domestic utopia 69–85, 128, 129 feminotopia 2, 12–13, 103 geographical utopia 6, 14, 122, 124

197 Gothic utopia 53–68 individualist utopia 6, 12 intimate utopia 2 micro-utopia 5, 6, 12 primitivist utopia 6, 123 sexual utopia 99, 102, 152, 153, 159 somatopia 123

voyage utopia 15, 121–131 Vairasse, Denis History of the Sevarites 123 Voltaire [François –Marie Arouet] 125 Candide 126 Winstanley, Gerrard The Law of Freedom in a Platform 7 Wollstonecraft, Mary 131 Woolf, Virginia Three Guineas 172 Zinsser, Judith 164