"'While Pen, Ink & Paper Can Be Had'" considers reading and writing from a variety of angles: as a cultural practice, as a form of self-representation, and as a material act. It is based on letters exchanged by members of two eighteenth-century discursive communities; the correspondence itself was situated within and given its character by a particular historical context, in this instance a British America in the midst of revolution. Those engaging in "converse of the pen," a metaphor invoked by the novelist Samuel Richardson, depended on a body of shared knowledge and presumed the ability both to recognize and to place in context allusions and passages taken from other texts. A son and a daughter of families who counted themselves members of Boston's merchant elite, William Tudor and Delia Jarvis forged a courtship in and through a remarkably rich trans-Atlantic literary culture. Tudor's correspondence with John Adams, which dealt with the invention of a nation, militarily and politically, was grounded in a second discursive community, which centered on eighteenth-century interpretations of classical republicanism. We have presumed that these interpretive communities operated on different discursive and cognitive terrains. The letters Tudor exchanged with Jarvis and Adams suggests that a shared language of sensibility cut across these categorical distinctions.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 439-466
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.