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Covering Sejçuaf (Disguise: (Passing Women and Çeneric Constraint FRASER EASTON Corke, July 29. Last Sunday Morning a lusty young Heroine, dress'd in a Sailor's Jacket and Check Shirt, waited on Lieutenant Beamish, at his Rendezvous in Brown-Street, to enlist in his Majesty's Service as an able Landman [sic]; and carried on the Deception so well as to be received, was immediately new rigg'd, paid the Bounty, and sent on board a Tender at Cove: But her Sex being soon discovered, she was sent back, and to her great Mortification, made but little Profit ofthe Expedition. Whether her Motive was to serve the King, to play a Trick on the Officer, or to get off with a Sweetheart, is uncertain; perhaps her Apology was genuine in confessing the latter. The Daily Advertiser (10 August 1762) T'his report of "a lusty young Heroine" is one of many accounts in The Daily Advertiser ofthat well-known eighteenth-century figure, the female soldier or sailor who, disguised in male garb, served in the military, often for many years, although not in this instance. The pension records of Christian Davies, Hannah Snell, and Mary Lacy confirm that some woman warriors were officially rewarded for their bravery and effectiveness at war. ' The widelydisseminated memoirs of these three women, along with the extensive media coverage ofthe exploits ofthe Chevalier D'Eon (who, although actually a man, was thought to be a woman), brought the figure ofthe female soldier great cultural recognition over the course ofthe eighteenth century, as did the tradition of female warrior ballads that Dianne Dugaw has recovered and analysed.2 What is striking in the present report is the way in which this woman's explanation of her behaviour is described as an "Apology." As a formal justification of one's actions, the apology is a spoken and written mode of long provenance; to see this young woman's self-defence in such terms, 95 96 / EASTON however loosely, is to link the confession of "her Motive" to an explicitly rhetorical framework. Whether or not she actually set out "to serve the King, to play a Trick on the Officer, or to get off with a Sweetheart," each stock motive entails a distinct variant of apology influenced by patriotic, criminal, or romantic elements. As the reporter knows, these inflections were themselves cultural commonplaces: this young woman might indeed be "genuine in confessing" that she enlisted to follow a lover to sea, like the romantic heroine of a female warrior ballad, but with only her word to rely on, the truth of whether or not this really was her motivation must necessarily remain "uncertain." Indeed, the report's notice of her "great Mortification" on being discovered, and its assertion that she "made but little Profit ofthe Expedition," seem designed to hint that she had other, perhaps more dubious, purposes. The present article is part of a larger investigation ofthe role of generic constraint on the representation of eighteenth-century labouring-class women who passed as men. The figure ofthe passing woman is found across a wide range of eighteenth-century print forms, including trial records, newspapers, journals, ballads, chapbooks, memoirs, novels, and comedies. Within each of these forms, particular genres create specific mediations ofthe figure ofthe passing woman in terms of class, gender, and sexuality, on the one hand, and normalcy, transgression, and out-and-out fantasy, on the other. As a consequence, the print forms and associated genres selected by critics and scholars in their study of passing women have had a significant bearing upon the scope and nature of their analyses and conclusions. For example, cultural critics of early modem gender identities and sexualities, Terry Castle perhaps most influentially, have examined cases of cross-dressing women from print forms, such as sensationalizing chapbooks, theatrical autobiographies, and medical literature, which accentuate the transgressive sexuality of genderbending women.3 In contrast, a debunking historian like David Cressy has focused on cases from MS and print forms, such as Renaissance plays and the records of trials in church courts, which emphasize the regulation of plebeian disorder.4 At stake in the choice of MS and print forms, then, is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1938-6133
Print ISSN
0360-2370
Pages
pp. 95-125
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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