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Sentiment and SociabilityThe Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century$
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John Mullan

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780198122524

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122524.001.0001

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The Availability of Virtue

The Availability of Virtue

(p.114) 3 The Availability of Virtue
Sentiment and Sociability

John Mullan

Oxford University Press

In 1779, there appeared through three consecutive issues of the Edinburgh periodical The Mirror a sentimental tale which became known, and much anthologized, as the ‘Story of La Roche’. It was written by Henry Mackenzie, editor of The Mirror, and a man renowned chiefly for the success of his novel The Man of Feeling. It tells of how an atheistic philosopher living in France meets a clergyman (La Roche) and his daughter, how' he comes to admire their simple virtue, and how, when the daughter dies, he learns to appreciate the combined sensibility and religiosity of the ‘good old man's’ reactions. The sceptical philosopher is made to acknowledge the worth of a religion which ‘was that of sentiment, not theory’. In one way, the story is just a minor relic of sentimentalism. When Mackenzie showed it to Adam Smith, he immediately recognized its subject (or target) as David Hume. In Samuel Richardson's fiction, the enemies to affection, however metaphorical, were clearly and cruelly specified.

Keywords:   David Hume, Henry Mackenzie, sentimentalism, virtue, sensibility, religion, sentiment, Samuel Richardson, affection

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