Category: 18th century

Louis XVI’s Execution: An Eyewitness Account | Leboucher

After Victor Hugo’s death, and before the publication of his letters (many of which remain unpublished), Paul Maurice published Memoirs of Victor Hugo. This was not chronological autobiography but was, as Maurice […]

The History of Novels | Stephen Basdeo

Suddenly the middle classes “saw themselves” in fiction, so to speak. The next major novelist, Samuel Richardson, also wanted to give readers a “realistic” novel. In 1740, he published Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. This novel, set in readers’ own times (the 1700s for 1700s readers) was written as though it was a series of letters written by the title character, Pamela, a servant girl in the household of Lord B——, to her poorer family in the country. This format, used by many novelists since, including Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, became known as the epistolary novel. Now, Pamela was a pure and virtuous girl, but her depraved master, Lord B, is infatuated with her. He offers her many fine things, which she refuses, because she is virtuous. He spies on her undressing through the keyhole of her room, and even attempts to rape her, but she resists him. Then at the end of the novel, Lord B is so impressed with her virtue that he marries her, to which she eventually consents, for she has in fact fallen in love with him. Richardson’s message was clear: if a woman holds on to her virtue (if she doesn’t have sex before marriage) then she will be rewarded, either in this life or the next.

Poking Fun at Rebels

In 1714 George I of Hanover ascended to the throne of the United Kingdom. Many were unhappy with their new German king and the Earl of Mar, in 1715, raised the standard of the royal house of Stuart to win back the throne for the “true” king in exile, the son of James II. A leading journalist decided to mock the rebels.

“If they must have a British Worthy, they would have Robin Hood”

“There are two kinds of immortality: that which the soul really enjoys
after this life, and that imaginary existence by which men live in
their fame and reputation. The best and greatest actions have proceeded
from the prospect of the one or the other of these; but my design is to
treat only of those who have chiefly proposed to themselves the latter
as the principal reward of their labours.”