Scandal : gender, publicity, politics 1789-1850
This thesis, an exercise in cultural history, puts forwards two main lines of argument. Firstly, I explore the way in which scandal was used by early nineteenth century reformers to argue for the inclusion of a wider range of individuals in political debate. I contrast the approaches of Rousseau and Bentham to publicity, exploring the manner in which the latter became especially useful to radicals after the 1790s, as the former became associated with dangerous Jacobinism. Chapters three and four discuss the interplay between these two ways of thinking about scandal in the Mary Ann Clarke affair (1809) and the Queen Caroline affair (1820-1). I show that while scandal allowed the case for reform to be dramatized in an especially vivid way, encouraging ordinary people to get involved in politics, its attention to particular details could also damage the radical cause by distracting attention away from abstract arguments for reform. The second strand of argument deals with the relationship between publicity and feminism. Scandal did not just entrench the sexual double standard rather, debates about publicity provided a way for early feminists to demand recognition of woman's legal and political identity. However, attitudes amongst women towards the balance to be struck between individual self-determination and social convention varied widely. Germaine de Stael and Geraldine Jewsbury reworked the ideas of Rousseau to argue that a woman's ability to follow her feelings rather than moral conventions signalled her suitability for citizenship, and in the Caroline affair, many ordinary women claimed a right to engage in political debate on the grounds of their feelings of sympathy for the Queen. On the other hand, Maria Edgeworth argued for a rapprochement between reason and social duty, while Rosina Bulwer-Lytton used scandal against her husband in order to press for recognition of woman's separate legal identity.