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Unbounded AttachmentSentiment and Politics in the Age of the French Revolution$
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Harriet Guest

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199686810

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199686810.001.0001

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Mary Robinson in the Metropolis

Mary Robinson in the Metropolis

(p.45) 2 Mary Robinson in the Metropolis
Unbounded Attachment

Harriet Guest

Oxford University Press

The problematic reputation and status of the woman writer is the main basis for Chapter two, which discusses Robinson’s reflections on Marie Antoinette’s experience of captivity and the threat of execution in the context of other images and texts representing the queen, as well as Zoffany’s images of the Paris mob. The focus of enquiry is then broadened to consider the implications for women writers of exposure to the mass market. Robinson’s apprehensive treatment of the revolutionary mob is compared with the more enthusiastic reception given by some of her male contemporaries (including Robert Merry) to the convivial celebrations of supporters of the revolution. It is suggested that her problems can best be understood not so much as indicating reservations about democratic politics, but as an expression of the difficulties that some women writers experience in the transition to the modern market for their work. She regrets the move from the apparently easy correspondence between aristocratic patrons and cultural producers which had characterised the enlightenment ideal of the literary republic to the more modern relation between the individual author and the commercial market. In novels of the late century (Burney’s Cecilia, Smith’s Young Philosopher, Robinson’s Angelina, Godwin’s St Leon) encounters between privileged subjects of sensibility and urban crowds often seem to indicate an increasing concern about exposure to the demands of the marketplace. Robinson’s writing of the late 1790s, it suggests, is characterised both by pleasure in the potential of an expanding readership and alarm about its consequences for the woman writer, who both demands and fears publicity.

Keywords:   Mary Robinson, Marie Antoinette, metropolis, crowd, commercialisation, conviviality, sociability, gender

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