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Title: Imaginations of epistolary spaces : developments in letter writing between the foundation of the Post Office and Richardson's Clarissa
Author: How, James
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis discusses key qualitative developments in the history of letter writing that took place as a direct result of the introduction - during the revolutionary Interregnum - of a national postal service available to the general public. An examination is made of repeated and vivid imaginations after this date of what can be termed epistolary spaces, which are a consequence of the newly regulated, mostly reliable, but governmentally controlled gaps in time between addressers and addressees of letters. These imaginations, analogous to the cyberspaces of our own era, are seen to be fuelled by increasingly cheaper, faster, and more efficient postal services developed throughout the period. They are by no means utopian spaces, however, and often become the scenes of strife and surveillance. The thesis demonstrates the existence of such imaginations by means of a detailed study of five real correspondences and of the fictional letters that constitute Samuel Richardson's novel Clarissa; or the History of a Young Lady (1747-8). Attention is paid to what epistolary spaces in these letters are like; how they are set up; and how maintained. They are variously seen as an arena in which vicariously to explore the new urban culture of London in Dorothy Osborne's Letters to Sir William Temple (1652-4); as a courtly enclave in the diplomatic letters of the dramatist Sir George Etherege (1685-89); as a venue within which to champion the cause of the Walpolian Whigs in Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's Turkish Embassy Letters (1716-18); as an aristocratic redoubt in the correspondence between two retired courtiers of the reign of George II, the Countesses of Hertford and Pomfret (1738-41); and as an equivalent of the aristocratic levee in the impoverished clergyman Lucius Henry Hibbins's letters to the Duke of Newcastle (1741-58). The investigation of such spaces is often of great social, cultural, and political interest and it is in these terms that the letters are read. Finally, the artistic achievement of Richardson's greatest novel is seen to have been aided by almost a century of imaginations of epistolary spaces; which are shown also to be found in the fictional letters of Clarissa Harlowe, Anna Howe, and Robert Lovelace.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available