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Literature and UnionScottish Texts, British Contexts$
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Gerard Carruthers and Colin Kidd

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198736233

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198736233.001.0001

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Fictions, Libels, and Unions in the Long Eighteenth Century

Fictions, Libels, and Unions in the Long Eighteenth Century

(p.97) 5 Fictions, Libels, and Unions in the Long Eighteenth Century
Literature and Union

Thomas Keymer

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the literary representation of union by way of three case studies: Jonathan Swift’s ‘The Story of the Injured Lady’ (written 1707, published 1746), Thomas Finn’s ‘The Painter Cut’ (1810), and Tobias Smollett’s Humphry Clinker (1771). Their polemical energy notwithstanding, the allegories of Swift and Finn also display tensions and articulate contradictions typifying the eighteenth century’s figurations of union. These complications may be explained in part as defences against possible prosecution, but they also imply mixed feelings about nationalist commitment, and an awareness of the conceptual or practical incoherence of unitary national identity. Smollett takes such tendencies to their extreme in his masterpiece Humphry Clinker, which juxtaposes multiple conflicting perspectives on union, and plays ironically on the anti-union rhetoric of Fletcher of Saltoun. He fashions the novel, a generation before Scott, as a genre uniquely equipped to address national identity in all its mobility and multiplicity.

Keywords:   novel, allegory, seditious libel, Act of Union (1707), Act of Union (1800), Jonathan Swift, Tobias Smollett, Walter Cox, Thomas Finn, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun

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