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Entertaining Crisis in the Atlantic Imperium, 1770–1790

Daniel O'Quinn

Publication Year: 2011

Less than twenty years after asserting global dominance in the Seven Years' War, Britain suffered a devastating defeat when it lost the American colonies. Daniel O'Quinn explores how the theaters and the newspapers worked in concert to mediate the events of the American war for British audiences and how these convergent media attempted to articulate a post-American future for British imperial society. Building on the methodological innovations of his 2005 publication Staging Governance: Theatrical Imperialism in London, 1770-1800, O’Quinn demonstrates how the reconstitution of British imperial subjectivities involved an almost nightly engagement with a rich entertainment culture that necessarily incorporated information circulated in the daily press. Each chapter investigates different moments in the American crisis through the analysis of scenes of social and theatrical performance and through careful readings of works by figures such as Richard Brinsley Sheridan, William Cowper, Hannah More, Arthur Murphy, Hannah Cowley, George Colman, and Georg Friedrich Handel. Through a close engagement with this diverse entertainment archive, O'Quinn traces the hollowing out of elite British masculinity during the 1770s and examines the resulting strategies for reconfiguring ideas of gender, sexuality, and sociability that would stabilize national and imperial relations in the 1780s. Together, O'Quinn's two books offer a dramatic account of the global shifts in British imperial culture that will be of interest to scholars in theater and performance studies, eighteenth-century studies, Romanticism, and trans-Atlantic studies.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: Entertainment, Mediation, and the Future of Empire

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pp. 1-39

As with so much else, Samuel Johnson’s multilayered definition of entertainment reveals something about a concept that is rarely considered in its full complexity: entertainment. n.f. [from entertain.] 1. Conversation. 2. Treatment at the table; convivial provision. 3. Hospitable reception. 4. Reception; admission. 5. The state of...


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1 The Agents of Mars and the Temples of Venus: John Burgoyne’s Remediated Pleasures

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pp. 43-89

On Thursday, 9 June 1774, General John Burgoyne, of Saratoga fame, arranged an elaborate Fête Champêtre at the Oaks, in Surrey, to celebrate the wedding of his nephew Lord Edward Stanley and Lady Elizabeth Hamilton. The guests included the foremost men and women of the kingdom, and this seemingly trivial gathering of fashionable society was the subject of extensive reporting in the papers. Lengthy descriptions of the event were published under the title of “Oak Gazette Extraordinary” in the...

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2 Out to America: Performance and the Politics of Mediated Space

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pp. 90-142

The duality that troubles the notion of imperium, the nonidentity of realm and empire so forcefully articulated by J. G. A. Pocock, would seem to be an abstract matter of political theory, except that it took on material form in the both the London and the colonial papers on a daily basis. Because information traveling between colony and metropole was relayed by ship, the experience of delayed news was fundamental to both the government...


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3. To Rise in Greater Splendor: John André’s Errant Knights

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pp. 145-185

Late in 1778, John Burgoyne, like many avid readers of the papers, would have been closely following not only the stern recriminations regarding his own failure at Saratoga but also the vicious debate surrounding William Howe’s command of the British forces in New York and Pennsylvania...

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4 “THE BODY” of David Garrick: Richard Brinsley Sheridan, America, and the Ends of Theatre

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pp. 186-239

At almost precisely the same moment that readers in London would be pondering the significance of the representation of the Mischianza in the Gentleman’s Magazine, they were confronted with a remarkable letter from Admiral Augustus Keppel proclaiming victory over the French fleet at Ushant. The letter appeared first in the government...


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5 Which Is the Man? Remediation, Interruption, and the Celebration of Martial Masculinity

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pp. 243-301

After an unusually long court-martial of twenty-seven days, Admiral Augustus Keppel was unanimously acquitted and the charges against him were declared “malicious and ill-founded.”1 After Palliser’s endless examination of witnesses, Keppel’s defense was comparatively short, and like his earlier performance in Parliament, an exercise in grace and resolution that turned on the assertion of his “essential” courage.2 But far more interesting...

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6 Days and Nights of the Living Dead: Handelmania

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pp. 302-357

It is the winter of 1784. The American colonies have been irrecoverably lost. There is widespread understanding—sometimes stated explicitly—that Britain’s political and martial elites were to blame. The damage to the British economy is extensive, yet disturbingly unclear. War in India is going poorly and, in many eyes, is turning into another potential humiliation. The East India Company’s bellicosity and the excesses...

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Coda: “In praise of the oak, its advantage and prosperity”

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pp. 359-371

Chapter 1 opened with a performance in which military men dressed as druids sang “in praise of the oak, its advantage and prosperity.” Such a panegyric to the oak is not unusual in the context of war time writing in England in the eighteenth century. In both Pope and Whitehead, British oaks have a global reach either through their transformation into warships in the case of “Windsor Forest” or through a certain political...


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pp. 373-414


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pp. 415-428

E-ISBN-13: 9781421401898
E-ISBN-10: 1421401894
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801899317
Print-ISBN-10: 0801899311

Page Count: 440
Illustrations: 18 halftones
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 794700357
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Entertaining Crisis in the Atlantic Imperium, 1770–1790

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Masculinity in literature.
  • English drama -- 18th century -- History and criticism.
  • Theater -- Political aspects -- England -- London.
  • Press and politics -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Influence
  • Politics and literature -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century.
  • Theater -- England -- London -- History -- 18th century.
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