The Space of Romance in Lennox's Female Quixote

by Scott Paul Gordon
The Space of Romance in Lennox's Female Quixote
Scott Paul Gordon
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
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SEI. 38 (1998) ISSN 0039-3657

The Space of Romance in Lennox's

Female Quixote


I. Satire or Romance?

Charlotte Lennox's Female Quixote (1752) seems to join a pervasive eighteenth-century effort to dispel as "unreal" and dangerous the romance tradition that English readers had valued for two hundred years. Lennox's heroine, deluded by reading romance, seems to emblematize the irrelevancy of romance to "real life"; when Arabella is "cured" by the John- sonian "good Doctor," who indicts romances as "empty Fictions" that "vitiate the Mind, and pervert the Understanding," the text's rejection of romance seems c0mplete.l Many critics endorse this reading: Laurie Langbauer argues, "Arabella's excesses of behavior actually reflect what is wrong with romance . . . Through her, The Female Quixote shows that romance is excessive fiction, so excessive that it is nonsensical, ultimately mad."* My argument attempts to pry apart the logic, or illogic, of these sentences. Need Arabella's misreading of romance convention be read as an attack on romance? The Female Quixote, I argue, avoids endorsing this demolition of romance.

The precise relationship The Femak Quixote establishes between madness and romance needs careful articulation. Following Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization (trans. 1965), scholars have figured madness as a category a dominant culture constructs to confine those values it disowns, a banishment that, for

Scott Paul Gordon is an assistant professor of English at Lehigh IJniversity. He has recently completed a study called Disinterested Selves: Resisting theEnglish Enlightenment.

Foucault, "protects" that culture from having to "[admit] a prox- imity, a relation, a quasi-resemblance between itself' and those banished forms.3 Foucault's history of madness traces, he says, the "gestures . . . with which a culture rejects something which will become its Outside,"* and at his study's end he heroizes those who have managed to speak what the dominant culture rejects. The Female Quixote's readers, employing a similar model, have considered Arabella's mad romancing as enacting a fantasy of female power suppressed by the dominant culture and have heroized her for speaking what the culture aims to silence. Romance is "empowering, not imprisoning," and "the conven- tions of romance are what might give women ~oice."~

This critical narrative commands respect for exposing how eighteenth- century culture controlled female power and, equally impor- tantly, how such control could be contested.

But this narrative, canonized in the introduction to the paper- back edition of the Oxford Female Quixote, has obscured (indeed, necessarily so) another struggle in which Lennox's text engages. The Female Quixote does aim to rescue romance, but not because it enables access to power, an argument, I suggest, that ultimately undermines romance. It strives to rescue what I will call "romance values," like disinterestedness, from the skeptical ridicule which threatened to debunk every aspect of the tradi- tional genre. Louisa Stuart's memoir of her quixotic aunt, Lady Mary Coke (1727-181 I), who believed herself persecuted by the empress of Prussia, notes that because of her aunt's foible "[elvery act or opinion bordering on the great, the noble, the dignified, every thing elevated above the conceptions of the common 'worky-day world,' had a chilling shadow of ridicule cast over it, as 'just suited to Lady Mary Coke."' Stuart observes how easily ridicule spills over from specific targets to more general ones ("every thing elevated"). A similar dynamic occurred, Stuart claims, after Don Quixote itself: "while [Cervantes] demolished what was fantastic and absurd, his resist- less attack overthrew the chivalrous spirit itself, and with it much that it would have been desirable not only to preserve but to ~herish."~

In both cases, Stuart regrets the obliteration of values she would rather see "preserve [dl ": "the chivalrous spirit," "every thing elevated above [common] conceptions." For her, "romantick Heroism" had become too ridiculous (Fa p. 329), its ideals debased with its absurdities. To claim, with many critics, that Lennox's text "shows how far she was from accepting the values inherent in romance" exposes a narrowed conception of the "values" (in Deborah Ross's account, "disobedience," "willfulness and perversity") romance displayed and could produce in its reader^.^

Romance could tell stories about disinterested lovers. Indeed several critics have argued that The Female Quixote celebrates, rather than attacks, romance values: "Lennox thus advocates a fictional world," writes James J. Lynch, "in which the qualities of love and fidelity . . . find a more realistic though no less ideal, mode of expre~sion."~

Even these critics, however, have not recognized the difficulty of telling such stories in mid-eighteenth- century England. I argue here that The Female Quixote's extrem- ity, figured most clearly in Arabella's delusion, testifies to this difficulty. Lennox manages to tell this disinterested romance, paradoxically, by figuring her heroine as deluded by romance; female madness serves to preserve, not to banish, romance. This contention requires us to suspend our notion of madness as symptomatic, as manifesting desires that the dominant social order refuses to recognize or allow. It requires us to imagine madness, rather, as a fictional strategy that divides deliberate from unplanned, aware from unaware, individuals who act strate- gically from those who cannot. Delusion protects Arabella, I contend, from the more damaging charge of self-interest often leveled at romance-reading women.

11. The Eradication of "Romance Values"

Lennox's earliest works focus on the figure of the "coquette," the young woman who, in the words of the heroine of The Life of Harm'ot Stuart (1750), thinks herself "of prodigious impor- tan~e."~

A "career of coquettry" (HS, p. 76), indeed, was one expected result of romance reading; critics worried, as Patricia Meyer Spacks notes, that "a young woman who read about hero- ines might acquire too exalted an idea of her own potential importance."1° This expectation Lennox's first heroine fulfills: Harriot, "born" with "latent seeds of coquetry in [her] heart" (pp. 66, 65), begins at the age of three to "appl[y herself] to reading with . . . eager sollicitude" (p. 64). Her reading list becomes evident when, upon meeting her first beau, Harriot immediately fancies herself "nothing less than a Clelia or Statira"; she mirrors another character who "being deeply read in romances, had her head filled with adventures of gallantry" (pp. 66, 67). Such romances turn Harriot less into a victim, vulnerable because of her romance fantasies, than into a "coquette" who "not only knew the full value of a smile, a sigh, or a blush, but could practise them all upon occasion" (p. 66). From romance Harriot learns to value power and how to gain it. This romance-reader-turned-coquette resembles the addressee of Lennox's "Art of Coquetry" (1'747), who aims to colonize the entire world of men, as its closing couplet attests: "Such by these arts their empire may improve, / And unsubdu'd controul the world by love."ll Romance might leave some readers (like Arabella) susceptible to the strategies of others, but the coquette demonstrates that from romance some others learn how to use the "arts" of love to control others.

In suggesting that romance transforms innocent readers into cunning ones, these theories reject romance on two levels. First, they attack romance reading for producing individuals whose imitation of "'disobedient"' heroines endangers the social order (HS,p. 76). More thoroughly, however, the theory that romance teaches young women to be self-interested plotters assumes readers occupy a world disenchanted of what I call "romance values." By "romance values" I mean those principles, like disin- terestedness, for which romance always made space. Romances routinely offer, Arabella reminds us, "Proofs of. . . Disinterestedness" in the hero who according to the "Laws of Romance" "prefer[s] . . . [another's] Glory before his own particular Inter- est" (Fa pp. 229, 297). Indeed, preferring another's interest over one's own lies at the heart of the English tradition of romance energized by Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia (1590). "It becomes true love," asserts Sidney's Pamela, "to have your heart more set upon her good than your own, and to bear a tenderer respect to her honour than your sati~faction."'~

Defenders of romance confirm their belief in these values by insisting, in Arabella's words, that "shining Examples of Generosity, Courage, Virtue, and Love" can "inspire us with a noble Desire of emulat- ing those great, heroic, and virtuous Actions" (p. 48).13 Those critics who suspect, on the other hand, that romance readers (like Harriot) will "[use the] chivalric conventions" that privi- lege love "to satisfy the feminine will to power,"14 assume that behavior is always self-interested. Romances, they fear, whisper to readers that if they position themselves as heroines, they too can "controul the world."

Critics of romance often assume a world already stripped of romance values, a world that debunks romance values as thor- oughly as it discredits giants, castles, and magic carpets. In suspecting that readers see in romance a code that can be mastered and put to use, these critics assume a universal instru- mentality blind to the possibility of disinterestedness. Romance readers in this figuration are profoundly Mandevillian, emptylng Arabella's "Laws of Romance" of any absolute value. Bernard Mandeville's Fable of the Bees (1714-29) had argued that "the Words Honesty, Benevolence, and Humanity, and even Charity are . . . empty Sounds only," useful to get other work done.15 Insisting that individuals never act in the public interest, Mande- ville assaults the very values that romance displayed and, its defenders vowed, could still inspire. One strategy by which Mandeville reduces all behavior to self-interest, reaffirming the Hobbesian account of human motivation, is to subvert the language of romance. He debunks, for instance, the "Law of Romance" that lovers act, not for themselves, but for their beloved: "There is nothing so universally sincere upon Earth, as the Love which all Creatures . . . bear to themselves; and as there is no Love but what implies a Care to preserve the thing beloved, so there is nothing more sincere in any Creature than his Will, Wishes, and Endeavours to preserve himself."16 Mande- ville presents a "Law" of romance ("there is no Love but what implies a Care to preserve the thing beloved") only to repeal it, redefining the "beloved" from another (to whom devotion would elicit disinterested action) to the self (to which devotion entails selfish action). He maps romance terms such as "beloved" onto his world of reduced motives. Mandeville grants that the repre- sentations of human nature offered by philosophers such as the earl of Shaftesbury "are . . . capable by the help of a little Enthu- siasm of Inspiring us with the most Noble Sentiments concern- ing the Dignity of our exalted Naturen-precisely romance's traditional aim. Mandeville's next sentence, however, savagely undercuts this concession: "What Pity it is that they are not true

. . . the Solidity of them is inconsistent with our daily Experi- ence."17 Romance's effort to "inspire" "Generosity, Courage, Virtue, and Love" inevitably fails, then, because these virtues have no more "Solidity" than a genie in a bottle.

Mandeville refuses to argue merely that people rarely act virtuously. He contends, more cynically, that the term "virtue" functions only as a label to misdescribe behaviors actually driven by self-love. This denial of the very existence of virtue followed a series of economic and political changes in seventeenth-century England that installed as natural the premise that individuals always act in their self-interest. Economic historians argue that assuming universal self-interest lent predictability to the increas- ingly mysterious experiences that had come to characterize seventeenth-century market behavior. (One might say, following Foucault, that romance constitutes the "unconscious" of political economy, which needs to deny or repress disinterest- edness to establish its predictability.) Other scholars have suggested that the conflicts that led to the English Civil War produced an ideology that authorized individuals to imagine that pursuing their private interests contributed to the public good (contesting the belief that the public good required indi- viduals to restrain their private interests). In each case, by presenting the naturalization of self-interest as soluing cultural problems ("'Self-interest,'" Jean-Christophe Agnew maintains, is "itself an ideological solution to the cultural confusions produced by the spread of market exchange"), these accounts imply that individuals desired to believe in universal It is no wonder that the credibility of romance narratives dropped precipitously: they insist on as "real" the very values that the emergent social sciences of economics or politics excluded as part of their foundational assumptions. Thomas Hobbes and Mandeville contributed to this emergent naturalization of self- interest, in part, by teaching a way of reading (which I call "Mandevillian (mis) reading") lg that treats any expression of generosity or disinterestedness as fraudulent, as a "cover" for other, more real, motivations. Of course, then, some eighteenth- century theorists fear that romance produces coquettes: how could readers learn anything but strategies to be applied to "daily Experience"?

111. Arabella's Position (s)

Arabella often speaks the language of "Power" characteristic of the coquette. Few eighteenth-century fictions exhibit such a "monster of egotism" (in Ronald Paulson's words) 20 as Arabella, who "orders," "commands," and "banishes" as imperiously as an absolute monarch. "Most of her adventures," David Marshall remarks, "reiterate her insistence on the authority of her own commands, especially over men."21 Indeed when Glanville complains that "you carry your Power farther then ever any Beauty did before you; since you pretend to make People sick and well, whenever you please," Arabella happily confirms that she sees herself as an "absolute Power" (p. 146; cf. p. 320) upon whose pleasure depend others' fates. From her lovers Arabella requires "a more unlimited Obedience . . . than any other Monarch can expect from his Subjects; an Obedience which is circumscrib'd by no Laws whatever" (p. 321). The Female Quixote often reminds readers, however, how "circumscrib'd" her "Power" is, in part by showing her repeatedly positioned as a pawn in others' "Designs," a term used by each of the men who aim to possess or trade her. Arabella, who sees imaginary plots everywhere, never perceives the actual plots in which others involve her. The economy in which a series of men allow Arabella's "Power" is exposed when an unnamed "Gentleman" gives Arabella control that can only be called illusory: "being extremely glad at having so beautiful a Creature in his Power, [he] told her she might command him in all she pleased" (p. 100). Arabella may speak the coquette's language, but she seems more often controlled than controlling.

Is Arabella, then, merely a failed coquette? Arabella's egoism, her exaggerated sense of the "power of [her] charms" (HS, p. 93), does seem to drive The Female Quixote's plot. Her absolutist rhetoric of "order," "command," and "banish" seems to work. Even though the text offers alternative explanations for the phenomena she imagines controlling (she cannot, the text shows, control her lovers' health), everything develops as she "orders." Her delusion keeps her occupying the text's center, around which circle numerous men and women (including the narrator and readers) who pay homage to Arabella either from sincere adoration or through their inability to look away. Her tendency to see herself as causing phenomena that actually proceed independently of her finds some support in the text's organization. Whether because she approximates an absolute monarch or a freak show, Arabella firmly "controuls" this text.

We need to specify, however, the way in which Arabella "controuls." Because, unlike the coquette, Arabella does not seek "Power." Indeed the text prevents the coquetry latent in Arabella's language from surfacing by identifying Charlotte Glanville, Arabella's most significant "Other," as The Female Quixote's coquette. It is Charlotte who has "a large Share of Coquetry in her Composition," who "coquetted" with Sir George (pp. 80,91). A practicing Hobbesian, Charlotte fashions herself for public consumption (she "adjust [s] " herself "at the Glass" [p. 2821, mirroring Harriot Stuart's favorite activity [HS, pp. 120, 142, 144]), always targeting anticipated audiences. She also shares Harriot's tendency to practice smiles, sighs, and blushes. Above all, she cannot think beyond Hobbes's competition model, in which every attention paid to Arabella deprives her. She distrusts Arabella's compliments because she "could not think it possible, one Woman could praise another with any Sincerity" (p. 91), a belief enacted in her own actions that often seem limited to concocting schemes, innocently cloaked, to humiliate her cousin. The failure of these schemes does little to lighten the text's disapproval of Charlotte, which reaches its height when her name comes to epitomize an entire category of egotistically affected women whom Arabella meets at every public gathering. "[Ilnstead of Clelias, Statiras, Mandanas, &c.," the narrator remarks, Arabella "found only Miss Glanvilles among all she knew" (p. 341).22

Lennox's text repeatedly distinguishes Arabella from this cousin, each time insisting on the same joke: the crafty Charlotte fails at each of her schemes, while Arabella, entirely unaware that audiences surround her, achieves everything her cousin could have wished. So much for the value of being aware of one's surroundings. But The Female Quixote, above all, privileges unawareness, Arabella's defining characteristic. Assessing whether Arabella is powerful or powerless, then, pursues the wrong question: Arabella exercises immense power without any consciousness of doing so. Quite complexly, this book constructs a position for Arabella in which she produces behaviors without intending any of them.

Arabella herself theorizes such a position midway through The Female Quixote, when Lucy blames her for Sir George's apparent resolution to die. Arabella quickly denies her respon- sibility: "'Tis very certain, my Beauty has produced very deplorable Effects . . . but you must observe, that my Will has no Part in the Miseries, that unfortunate Beauty occasions . . . by a fatal Necessity, all these Things will happen whether I would or no" (p. 175). Later Arabella repeats this argument, insisting that her listeners "distinguish . . . between those Faults, which the Will, and those which Necessity, makes us commit. I am the Cause, 'tis true, of thy Lover's Infidelity; but I am the innocent Cause" (p. 254). Arabella claims that she has not deliberately done anything; her nature has simply produced the effects it necessarily must. Her model of causation absolves her of responsibility by eliminating questions of motivation, will, or desire. We need not endorse Arabella's perception (she has caused none of the actions she disowns here) to recognize that it effectively positions her as a natural object that necessarily produces effects on other natural objects. Her "Beauty" func- tions, for her, mechanically (a contemporary gloss for Arabella's "unavoidable Necessity" [p. 3161) rather than instrumentally

(for some purpose). She is not, as Charlotte clearly is, usingher "Beauty" as a means to an end. Arabella does not choose to follow the "Laws of Romance," which she considers inescapable, any more than we choose to follow the laws of physics; she believes she is subject to, not in control of, their operation. "The Mischief I have done . . . was not voluntary, I assure you," Arabella insists. "My Power is confined by certain unavoidable Laws" (p. 182).

On the one hand the text ridicules Arabella's remarks: her "Beauty," which she insists had to have produced certain phenomena, has caused nothing. The phenomena for which she so desperately disowns responsibility have not even occurred; indeed, Arabella has been duped. We laugh at Arabella because the text exposes her to be not the "absolute Power" she imag- ines but rather the subject of others. The Female Quixote, however, crafts for Arabella a position equivalent to the one ("innocent Cause") she zanily claims for herself; Arabella errs only in misidentifying the force that absolves her of responsibility. It is her delusion, not her beauty, that generates the story's events. The text ridicules Arabella only for her local misapplication of a concept it generally endorses. Her "Will," that is, does remain peculiarly uninvolved in the story's events. Unlike Sir George, she does not understand that the "Laws of Romance" can be learned and manipulated like any code of behavior. Sir George treats these "Laws" in Mandevillian fashion: having "meditat[ed] on the Means he should use" to trap Arabella, Sir George "furnish[es] his Memory with all the necessary Rules of making Love in Arabella's Taste" and, as the narrator precisely notes, "served himself with her Foible, to effect his Designs" (p. 130). Sir George uses Romance, but the effects that he cannily manip- ulates, aware of his agency, Arabella believes just happen. It is crucial, then, to insist that Arabella does believe-a need that, I contend, precipitates the narrative solution of her delusion, which The Female Quixote uses to erase her will's involvement in the story's plot.

Arabella's phrase "innocent Cause" describes precisely the position the text crafts for her: she produces a wide variety of effects but in her delusion, she intends none of them. Most crucial about this position is its insistence on Arabella's lack of control or, more precisely, her lack of awareness that control is at issue. Arabella's actions, deriving from a source that eludes her conscious control, have led many critics to speak of her romancing as enacting unconscious desires. "Arabella's infatu- ation with heroic romances implicitly invites a psychological interpretation of her character," writes Lynch. "Seeking a romance fantasy allows Arabella at once to act out her fears and, ultimately, to control her imagined destiny."23 The position The Female Quixote scripts for Arabella, building in a discrepancy between what she knows and what she does, elicits such readings, but it does not require them. This position exists to place her in what I call "mad space," a space outside of her rational control. Paradoxically, The Female Quixote struggles to endow Arabella with the qualities of the mad-usually viewed negatively, "lacking" something (reason) that, if recovered, would restore wholeness-to empower her (without her knowing it).

IV.The Use of Delusion

Arabella's delusion rescues romance, I argue below, by producing a space within which we credit her romancing as nonstrategic. Her delusion ensures that her embodiment of the values romance traditionally endorsed ("Generosity . . . Disinterestedness and Greatness of Soul" [p. 2291, "romantic Generosity" [p. 2541, "Valour . . . Generosity . . . and Fidelity"

[p. 3281, and "Virtue, Courage, Generosity" [p. 3281) cannot be debunked or misread as strategically selfish. In The Female Quixote, Charlotte routinely suspects that Arabella's odd language cloaks secret attacks on her: when Arabella likens Charlotte to the "fair and virtuous Antonia," Charlotte "could not imagine Arabella spoke this seriously" and believes her words to have been "designed to sneer at her great Eagerness to make Conquests" (p. 89). Charlotte's failure of imagination (she "could not imagine"; earlier she "could not think it possible" that Arabella would praise her) perfectly describes Mandevillian (mis) readers, who find "design" beneath any expression because they cannot credit any other motivation for action. Such read- ings surface even more prevalently in recent critical accounts of The Female Quixote.

Recent critics contend, with almost one voice, that Arabella desires power. As Marshall summarizes, critics consistently argue that "Arabella's investment in romance is related to her preoc- cupation with power." Such contentions equate Arabella with the strategic coquette from which the text, I have argued, struggles to distinguish her. Making this equation explicit, Ross suggests that, "[1] ike Arabella, the [coquette] uses chivalric conventions to satisfy the feminine will to power." Langbauer insists as well that "Arabella is obsessed with the disdainful ladies, the lordly ladies, of romance not simply because she is obsessed with sex but because even more deeply she yearns for power."24 The locus classicus for this Mandevillian Arabella is Margaret Doody's influential introduction to the Oxford University Press paperback edition of The Female Quixote: "It is through assuming the powers the romances offer that Arabella can command a space, assert a woman's right to 'a room of one's own,' and take upon herself the power to control the movements and behaviour of others . . . she has given herself full leave to speak."25 Doody's Arabella is distinguishable from Sir George only in that Arabella, presumably, uses power (and "others") to escape her subordi- nate status and resist the structures, which the book exposes clearly, that aim to keep her there. Perhaps we could all agree that were Arabella to use romance in this way, she would be justi- fied. But Doody's depiction of this behavior as deliberate ("she has given herself full leave to speak) denies the text's own work to depict Arabella as unaware of her power; it positions Arabella as the Mandevillian the text struggles to prove she's not. Doody, like Charlotte, does not "imagine" any other possible effects from romance reading. Such arguments do indeed punc- ture romance disinterestedness by reinscribing Mandeville's doctrine that romance's value lies in its availability as a code to be manipulated.

The Female Quixote can imagine another effect of romance reading, however, articulated most clearly during the countess' "Cure." This cure, only one of two cures the text offers, differs radically from the doctor's, with which the book concludes. The doctor demolishes romances as "contemptible Volumes" or "empty Fictions" composed of "philosophical Absurdities" (pp. 374, 377, 378). His most interesting charge is that "it is impos- sible to read" romances "without lessening part of that Humil- ity, which keeps us awake to Tenderness and Sympathy, or without impairing that Compassion which is implanted in us as an Incentive to Acts of Kindness"; instead readers are "taught the Arts of Intrigue" (p. 381). TheFernale Quixote hardly substantiates this commonplace charge. Most of its characters who practice "the Arts of Intrigue" have never read romances, while Arabella, who has read romances, remains, almost uniquely among char- acters in the text, "awake" to the "Tenderness and Sympathy" the doctor claims it is "impossible" to preserve after exposure to romance. Arabella's "Compassion" is not "impair[ed] ,"which is more than can be said for those (Hervey, Charlotte, Selvin, Tinsel) who have never read romances. Puzzlingly, the doctor's cure misreads the worth of romance hinted at throughout The Female Quixote, which never attacks the genre as thoroughly as he does (or as some modern critics assume the text does). Indeed, the countess' earlier cure offers quite a different atti- tude toward romance.

The countess, in effect, historicizes romance. She contends that Arabella's mistake involves thinking in the wrong verb tense: these things happened, rather than happen. She asks Arabella to separate the values of romance from the actions that embody them (which vary from one historical moment to another). These arguments "mak[e] some Impression on the Mind of Arabella," but she fails to accept them: "Heroism, romantick Heroism, was deeply rooted in her Heart . . . She could not separate her Ideas of Glory, Virtue, Courage, Generos- ity, and Honour, from the false Representations of them in the Actions of Oroondates, Juba, Artaxerxes, and the rest of the imag- inary Heroes" (p. 329). This passage suggests that we readers, on the other hand, should separate these "Ideas" (or ideals) from their "Representations." It is the way romance characters enact these ideals that the countess finds "impious and base" (p. 329); it is Arabella's acceptance of "false Representations" that merits ridicule. Once again, The Female Quixote chastises Arabella for a local misapplication of concepts the text generally endorses. That is, the text insists (contrary to the doctor and critics who see this text as "antiromance") that the romance values of "Glory, Virtue, Courage, Generosity, and Honour" not only exist (contra Hobbes and Mandeville) but can be learned from romance. Arabella reveals that, as had been traditionally thought, romance can produce a sympathetic, generous, virtuous subject. It is thus unfair to romance to suggest that Lennox "make[s] a satiric point: that romance heroines are useless as moral models."26 The countess suggests that the "problem" lies more with read- ers than with the genre of romance.

The countess' cure holds out the possibility that romance, read rightly, could still produce generous behavior and not, as the doctor insists, only "t[each] the Arts of Intrigue." Her "sudden Departure" from the text remains ineradicably puzzling

(p. 330),*7 but her ideas had been present potentially all along. Arabella has argued for romance's continued usefulness through- out the text, a stance she maintains even in her climactic confrontation with the doctor. In response to his complaint that "[ylour Writers have instituted a World of their own, and that nothing is more different from a human Being, than Heroes or Heroines," Arabella musters a last bit of resistance: "I am afraid, Sir, that the Difference is not in Favour of the present World . . . these Histories . . . if they do not describe real Life, give us an Idea of a better Race of Beings than now inhabit the World" (p. 380). Arabella asserts the Sidneyan argument that poetry, uniquely capable of setting out an ideal picture of virtue, can "entice" readers to act virtuously. If Arabella's arguments that romance can shape virtuous individuals have this distin- guished history, they seem proven true in Arabella herself who consistently responds to others with generosity and virtue. Glanville may also consistently exhibit these qualities, but the text's other characters, explicitly not romance readers, could each use more of Arabella's generosity in construing others' behaviors. To claim with recent critics that Arabella uses romance to satisfy her "will to power" denies the lesson this text demonstrates through Arabella: romance need not produce read- ers who yearn for power. But one must trust that Arabella's "romantic Generosity" is not merely strategic (p. 254). The text offers her delusion, above all, to protect her from the Mande- villian (mis)readings to which others subject her.

Delusion's capacity to figure a space insulated from the world of self-interested dissimulation appears, for instance, in Thomas Tryon's Discourse of. . . Madness (1689),which labors to separate the mad from the dissimulating, strategic culture that surrounds them. Tryon extensively anatomizes the culture surrounding the madhouse, a Mandevillian world that rewards people for altering their appearances, for "speaking of one thing to their neighbor, or Friends faces, and quite other and contrary things behind their backs," for embracing "all subtilty and hypocri~ie."~~

"By Custom, Sense and Reason," he complains, "most men do hide their inward Inclinations, Dispositions[,] Complexions, and what property carries the upper dominion in their Hearts and Souls."2g Tryon's disillusionment emerges in his fear that every force ("Custom, Sense and Reason"), except reli- gion, which lacks any efficacy in shaping public behavior, compels individuals to dissimulate strategically. From "most men" who publicly dissimulate Tryon distinguishes the mad: those "divested of their Rational Faculties," he contends, "appear naked, having no Covering, Vail, or Figg-leaves before them, to hide themselves in . . . they no longer remain under a Mask or Disguise, but appear even as they are, which is very rare to be known in any that retain their Senses and Reason."30 When individuals are "deprived of their Senses and Reason, then they have no power to use those subtil Arts of Hypocm'sie."31 This lack in the mad-a lack of reason and self-control-is precisely what authorizes them, perhaps uniquely, to bear authentic signs. The mad cannot transform themselves for or hide from the audiences around them. Tryon contends that only in madness can he see what otherwise would be masked, covered, disguised, or veiled. Observing the mad approximates the privileged epistemological position of spying, offering, for a culture suspi- cious that all behavior was meant to persuade, a rare chance to see the unrehearsed. "'Oh, that I could, concealed, observe him!"' exclaims a character in Harriot Stuart (p. 189). Only under such conditions, eighteenth-century writers suspected, would objects "appear even as they are," as they would be were nobody watching. The possibility of reliable observation depends upon constructing a "mad space" characterized by a lack of rationality and self-control: only this guarantees nonrhetoricity. The slightest hint of rationality or of self-control contaminates this protected space with the disease of strategic self-fashioning that infects the rest of the culture.

We need not accept the text's diagnosis of Arabella's "madness" (she is "fit for a Mad-house," Hervey says, a judgment other characters often assert [p. 157, cf. pp. 55, 60, 102, 201, 259, 301, 302,308, 339, 3521) to recognize that her delusion positions her in this protective "mad space": her confusion and the aggres- sive self-interest which critics imply verge on contradiction in eighteenth-century discourse, where madness is defined as a loss of self-possession and rationality that, for better or worse, enables the world of self-interest constructed by political, ethi- cal, and economic writers. The Female Quixote avoids participat- ing in this project by means of Arabella's delusion, which protects her from being accused of self-interest, a standing charge against any woman whose behavior violates social norms.

V. Disinterestedness in Eighteenth-Century

Her quixotism, then, empowers Arabella to embody, without suspicion, the "Laws of Romance" which many had portrayed as merely instrumental. Indeed, eighteenth-century fiction often deploys the figure of the Quixote to refute the possibility of self- interest. Both Henry Fielding's Amelia (1751) and Frances Burney's Evelina (1778), for instance, explicitly invoke the cate- gory of "Quixotte" to erase the possibility certain characters act by "Design": delusion cannot coexist with cal~ulation.~~

The relation of Lennox's text to romance must be measured not merely by whether its surface ridicules aspects of romance but by its refusal to reduce all to self-interest. Even the claim that The Female Quixote preserves romance structures cannot establish Lennox's commitment to "romance values," since most critics assume that the text's reproduction of the form it seems to ridicule exposes Lennox's incompetence: "Instead of being in control of romance," Langbauer writes, "the novel is drawn into and repeats it," repeatedly figuring romance as something that the novel "cannot admit it has . . . in its midst," that it wishes to but "cannot escape" from.33 And Marshall agrees, suggesting that "[ilf Sir George loses control of his plot, one might wonder whether the same is true for Lennox as her anti-romance seems to assume the incredible form that her novel has di~paraged."~~ The presence of romance should be seen less as contradictory or as evidence that the text got out of Lennox's hands, than as the crucial fact. It is not enough to recognize, with Lynch, merely that romance ideals like "love and fidelity" in The Female Quixote "find a more realistic though no less ideal, mode of expres- ~i0n.O~~

We must see as well that the difficulty of persuading mid- eighteenth-century readers of romance values precipitates the narrative solution of Arabella's madness. Michael Fried's analy- sis of "absorbed" figures (figures engrossed, asleep, unconscious, all unaware of beholders) in eighteenth-century French paint- ing identifies a moment in the 1760s when "extraordinary measures came to be required in order to persuade contempo- rary audiences of the absorption of a figure or group of figures."36 The question we should ask is, if, in 1750, one wanted to tell a story, like a romance, of disinterested lovers, how would one go about doing it?

More often than we realize, eighteenth-century fiction antic- ipates (and compensates for) its skeptical readers: proving disin- terestedness obsesses these texts and generates many of their "absurd" plots and characters. The narrator of Eliza Haywood's Philidore and Placentia (1727), for instance, skilled at Mandevil- lian (mis)reading, complains that most lovers "swear, indeed, that nothing is so dear to them as the satisfaction of the beloved object; but if we look into their hearts, we shall easily discover that a blind gratification of their wishes is all they aim at."37 Haywood responds by constructing a lover so absurdly concerned for another that he cannot be charged with any self- love at all. Haywood's text recognizes that such lovers might, from some, elicit ridicule, but they are extreme solutions to an extreme problem. The Female Quixote sets its traditional romance plot, in which a beautiful lady forces her lover to endure remark- able difficulties, in a representational environment ostensibly hostile to romance, the world of self-interest, without permitting this world to taint the fundamental fact of romance: the two lovers' disinterestedness. It needs to portray its heroine as deluded because for her to be "in her head" might provoke questions about motive and self-interest such as those raised by texts like Harm'ot Stuart. Arabella's delusion preserves her, as perhaps only delusion can, as a romance heroine. The novel punishes only those who embody the world of self-interest. The Mandevillian Sir George, who follows the "Laws of Romance" only to manipulate others, ends up "entangled in his own Arti- fices" (p. 383). The text rewards Arabella and Glanville with a traditional romance conclusion, "united . . . in every Virtue and laudable Affection of the Mind" (p. 383). Paradoxically, then,

The Female Quixote narrates a romance by depicting a woman deluded by romance. This extreme strategy, I have argued, compensates for a pervasive assumption of universal self- interest that, finding "Design" beneath the most innocent appearance, had made it difficult to credit the appearance of disinterestedness. To reimagine and reaffirm disinterestedness in this environment may have required madness.38


'Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote, ed. Margaret Dalziel (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), pp. 374, 377. Subsequent references will be to this edition and appear in parentheses marked, where necessary, by FQ.

'Laurie Langbauer, Women and Romance: The Consolations of Gender in the English Novel (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), p. 63. 3Michel Foucault, iMadness and Civilization: A History ofznsanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Pantheon Books, 1965), p. 201. 4Foucault, preface to Histoire de lafolie (1961), in David Macey, The Lives of Michel Foucault (New York: Pantheon Books, 1994), p. 95.

jlangbauer, pp. 85,84.

6Lady Louisa Stuart, "Some Account of John, Duke of Argyll and His Family," in Lady Louisa Stuart: Selections from Her iManuscripts, ed. James A. Home (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1899), p. 149. See also Tobias Smollett, trans., The Adventures of Don Quixote (1755; New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1986), pp 9-10.

'Deborah Ross, "Mirror, Mirror: The Didactic Dilemma of The Female Quixote," SEL 27, 3 (Summer 1987) : 455-73, 461.

8JamesJ. Lynch, "Romance and Realism in Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote," ELWIU 14, 1 (Spring 1987): 51-63, 53; Ross, pp. 457-8; see also Patricia Meyer Spacks, Desire and Truth: Functions of Plot in Eighteenth-Century English Novels (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990), esp. pp. 28-9.

gLennox, The Lije of Harriot Stuart, Written by HerselJ; ed. Susan Kubica Howard (Madison and Teaneck NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press; London: Associated Univ. Presses, 1995), p. 66. Subsequent references will be to this edition and appear in parentheses marked, where necessary, by HS.

1°Spacks, pp. 15-6. See also John Tinnon Taylor, Early Opposition to the English Novel (New York: King's Crown Press, 1943), pp. 59-69. llLennox, "Art of Coquetry," in "Two Poems by Mrs. Charlotte Lennox,"

appendix to Charlotte Ramsay Lennox: An Eighteenth-Century Lady of Letters, by Miriam Rossiter Small (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1935), pp. 233-5, lines 107-8.

12Sir Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, ed. Maurice Evans (New York: Penguin, 1977), p. 225.

13Pierre Daniel Huet, The History of Romances, trans. Stephen Lewis (1715), in Novel and Romance, 1700-1800: A Documentary Record, ed. Ioan Williams (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970), pp. 43-55, 46; and, in the same source, Samuel Croxall, preface to A Select Collection ofNovels (1720), pp. 71-2,

72. 14Ross, p. 466. l5Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees: Or, Private Vices, Publick Benejts,

ed. F. B. Kaye, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), 2:30.

16Mandeville, 1:200.

17Mandeville, 1:324.

IsJean-Christophe Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater in Anglo-

American Thought, 1550-1 750 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986), p.

6. See also Albert 0. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Argu- mentsfor Capitalism before Its Triumph (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1977), pp. 48-56; J. A. W. Gunn, Politics and the Public Interest in the Seuenteenth Century (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1969); and Richard Olson, The Emmgence of the Social Sciences, 1642-1 792 (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993).

lgSee my "Disinterested Selves: Clarissa and the Tactics of Sentiment," ELH 64, 2 (Summer 1997): 473-502. '('Ronald Paulson, Satire and the Novel in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1967), p. 276. ZIDavid Marshall, "Writing Masters and 'Masculine Exercises' in TheFernale Quixote," EC275, 2 (January 1993): 105-35, 120.

"An apostrophe (which eighteenth-century texts routinely use both for genitive singulars and nominative plurals) follows each proper name in the first and second edition.

ZXynch, pp. 55, 56.

24Marshall, p. 120; Ross, p. 466; Langbauer, p. 85; see also Catherine A. Craft, "Reworking Male Models: Aphra Behn's Fair Vow-Breaker, Eliza Haywood's Fantomina, and Charlotte Lennox's 1;emale Quixote," MLR 86, 4 (October 1991): 821-38, 832.

'jMargaret Doody, introduction to The Female Quixote, ed. Dalziel, pp. xi-xxxii, xxv.

Z6Ross, p. 467.

Z7See Duncan Isles, 'Johnson, Richardson, and The Female Quixote," appen

dix to The Female Quixote, ed. Dalziel, pp. 419-28, esp. pp. 425-6.

ZsThomas Tryon, A Discourse of the Causes, Natures, and Cure of Phrensie, Madness or Distraction, Augustan Reprint Society 160 (1689; Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1973), pp. 262-3, 276-7. See also Roy Porter, Mind Forg'd iManacles: A History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the Regency (London: Athlone Press, 1987), p. 35.

2gTryon, p. 274.

30Tryon, p. 261.

31Tryon, pp. 2767.

32Henry Fielding, Amelia, ed. Martin Battestin (Middletown: Wesleyan Univ.

Press, 1987), p. 424; Frances Burney, Evelina, ed. Edward and Lillian Bloom (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1968), p. 369.

STangbauer, pp. 67, 73, and 71.

34Marshall,p. 115.

"Lynch, p. 51.

"Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and the Beholder in the Age ofDiderot (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 61.

37Eliza Haywood, Philidore and Placentia; or, "L'Amour trop Delicat," in Four before Richardson: Selected English Novels, 1720-27, ed. William H. McBurney (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1963), p. 169.

38For their extensive comments on this essay's earlier drafts, I am grateful to Jan Fergus, Hal Halbert, Elizabeth Scala, and an animated audience at the 1994 MLA convention in San Diego.

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