Proliferating Worlds, 1762–1790

Jon Mee

in Conversable Worlds

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199591749
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731433 | DOI:
Proliferating Worlds, 1762–1790

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This chapter looks more closely at the variety of proliferating world of literary sociability in the later eighteenth-century. It focuses on a series of overlapping groups and issues: the various libertine gatherings like the Dilettanti and Beefsteak Clubs which practised a particular kind of male sociability; Johnson and the Literary Club; London’s debating societies and other forms of commercial pleasure; Elizabeth Montagu and the Bluestockings; Hester Piozzi and Fanny Burney’s’s relations with Johnson; the relationship between fashionable groups and the domestic conversation promoted by Anna Barbauld and Katherine Plymley. The chapter ends by focusing on the competition over the corpus of Samuel Johnson’s conversation between Boswell and Piozzi. The chapter reveals a scene of gathering tensions around divisions between ‘private’ and ‘public’ conversation (to use Johnson’s terms). If the result to some extent was a pressure towards withdrawal, this narrative is complicated further by the fact that domestic virtue could be made the basis of public interventions.

Keywords: clubs and societies; debating societies; sociability; retirement; domesticity; Dilettanti; Beefsteak Club; Montagu; Johnson; Boswell; Piozzi; Burney; Plymley; Barbauld

Chapter.  24691 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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