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Autobiographical Writing and British Literature 1783-1834$
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James Treadwell

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199262977

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199262977.001.0001

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Autobiography and the literary public sphere

Autobiography and the literary public sphere

(p.59) 3 Autobiography and the literary public sphere
Autobiographical Writing and British Literature 1783-1834

James Treadwell

Oxford University Press

Through detailed readings of a number of reviews of autobiographical publications in the Romantic period, the chapter specifies the most important terms and concepts used by readers to understand autobiography at the time. In particular, it asks what it was about self-writing that seemed dangerous or objectionable. The key term is ‘egotism’, which is shown to be a problem to do with the circulation of the written self in public: a problem of decorum. An important 1827 article by Lockhart illustrates how autobiography offends against propriety. Commentators set up ideal values of truth and objectivity as the proper measures of autobiographical worth. However, distinctions between the offensive circulation of privacy in public and the valuable publication of worthy self-writing prove impossible to maintain.

Keywords:   reviews, literary public sphere, egotism, Lockhart, decorum, Romantic

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