Abstract

Considering Charlotte Smith's novel Desmond (1792) within the framework of Immanuel Kant's concept of cosmopolitanism proves to be distinctly productive. For most readers, the novel clearly dramatizes radical sentiment in the Jacobin tradition. The character of Bethel, however, represents an unlikely cosmopolitan foil for Desmond's more conventional brand of radicalism. Specifically, Bethel's slow conversion to French Revolutionary principles serves to expand and even challenge the insular, congealed ideology of Desmond's Francophile circle of young reformers. Instead of locating an embodied cosmopolitanism in the novel's concluding marriages, Bethel's exclusion from the novel's happy ending signals Smith's endorsement of a more mature cosmopolitanism that extends a narrowly nationalistic sense of community into a properly inclusive system of what Kant called "cosmopolitan right." By subtly drawing attention away from her novel's central couples—the radical pairing of Desmond and Geraldine and the mixed union of Montfleuri and Fanny—and towards old Bethel, Smith emerges less naively partisan and more politically nuanced than most critics have allowed in this early novel.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-0243
Print ISSN
0840-6286
Pages
pp. 37-59
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-19
Open Access
No
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