Capacious Desire in the Eighteenth Century
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Table of Contents
Most of Our Coquettes was written during a year’s fellowship at the National Humanities Center, and I am immensely grateful to the Jessie Ball duPont Religious, Charitable, and Educational Fund for making that fellowship possible. Further research at the Huntington Library was supported by a Frank Hideo Kono Fellowship and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship....
Introduction: “Our Present Numerous Race of Coquets”
Before 1660, English readers and theatergoers had never heard of a “coquette”; by the early 1700s, they could hardly watch a play, read a poem, or peruse a newspaper without encountering one. Vain young women who defy dominant codes of sexual conduct by encouraging several suitors at once, the “coquettes” that abound in early eighteenth-century literature were consistently represented as...
Chapter One: A Prelude: The Novelty of Coquetry
In Tattler 42 (1709), Mr. Bickerstaff records a coffeehouse conversation about the differences between the Elizabethan and the contemporary theater. An elderly gentleman remarks that the greatest contrast between the two inheres in “the Characters of Women on the Stage.” The distinctions between the female characters of “the last...
Chapter Two: The People That Things Make: Coquettes and Consumer Culture
In Charles Molloy’s 1718 play The Coquet, the eponymous Mademoiselle Fantast offers the following theory and exemplum of coquettish women’s relationships to the objects of their affection: “There’s not room in a Woman’s Heart for more than one Object at a time. A little while ago I was passionately in Love with my Parrot,...
Chapter Three: The Coquette Here and There: A Cartography of Coquetry
Alexander Pope’s remarkably tender and good-humored “Epistle to Miss Blount, on her leaving the Town, after the Coronation” depicts its addressee as the “fair Zephalinda,” a young woman who was “Drag[ged] from the town to wholsom country air” (2) by her mother, just as she had begun to perfect a series of coquettish...
Chapter Four: Women Who Choose Too Much: Reforming the Coquette
Johnson's fourth and the OED’s fifth definition of “choice” both document its use to indicate the end of a decision-making process, the outcome of a consideration of one’s “preference” or desire. But neither goes so far as to note that the noun “choice” in...
Chapter Five: A Postlude: The Coquette’s Demise
Many years ago, when I first read Hannah Webster Foster’s 1797 novel The Coquette, I found myself wondering, several pages from the end, “How is she ever going to get out of this?!” The once-happy and popular, well-educated, upper-middle-class heroine was disgraced, pregnant, far from friends and family, and probably dying of consumption, and yet I continued to look for ways...