Compromising Letters: Shades of the Sentimental, 1812–1825

Nicola J. Watson

in Revolution and the Form of the British Novel, 1790-1825

Published in print February 1994 | ISBN: 9780198112976
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670893 | DOI:
Compromising Letters: Shades of the Sentimental, 1812–1825

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This chapter shifts ground to consider the after-life of the letter as it modulates, under the aegis of Rousseau's Confessions, into the quintessentially Romantic narratives of the early 19th century. Such texts as Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), William Hazlitt's Liber Amoris (1823), and James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) — displaying in their convoluted and destabilized structures the residue of a revolutionary subjectivity premised upon self-authorizing discourse — sharply question the achieved if delicate certainties of the more conservative forms of the novel which form the topic of the two central chapters, by rendering the letter and its analogues, and thus the intricacies of revolutionary desire, effectively unreadable and thus immune from certain sorts of narrative discipline. The chapter concludes with an analysis of Lady Caroline Lamb's affair with Lord Byron, pursuing it through their consciously sentimental correspondence to the publication of Lamb's novel Glenarvon, and culminating with a reading of Byron's ‘novel in verse’, Don Juan, to show how this literary correspondence recapitulates the generic negotiations and mutations detailed in the bulk of this book.

Keywords: Glenarvon; Rousseau; Confessions; Romantic narratives; Don Juan; Lady Caroline Lamb; Lord Byron

Chapter.  16206 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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