Promiscuity, Commerce, and Closure in Early Victorian Drama

Ayşe Çelikkol

in Romances of Free Trade

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199769001
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896943 | DOI:
Promiscuity, Commerce, and Closure in Early Victorian Drama

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Liberal economists hailed free trade as the emblem of the spirit of sharing, even as they simultaneously emphasized the autonomy of individuals. Through metaphors of sexuality, writers of literary and economic texts responded to this ambiguity and explored the interpersonal consequences of national borders’ permeability to foreign commodities. This chapter first examines Thomas Serle’s popular melodrama The Ghost Story (1836) to discuss the comparison of commerce with sexual exchange. It then turns to the conservative economist and playwright John Lettsom Elliot’s Letter to the Electors of Westminster (1848), a political pamphlet that likens free trade to promiscuity. Elliot’s farcical comedy Five to Two (1851) similarly employs free trade as a metaphor for the adulterous flirtations that proliferate in the play. This chapter attends in particular to the operation of eros in drama. As flirtation resists disciplinary surveillance and challenges the authority of the patriarch, through that theme writers address the dissolution of the paternalist state.

Keywords: Thomas Serle; The Ghost Story; John Lettsom Elliot; Letter to the Electors of Westminster; Five to Two; polygamy in literature

Chapter.  8121 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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