This essay reads one of the first novels of sensibility -- Sarah Fielding’s The Adventures of David Simple (1744) -- and its sequel Volume the Last (1753), to explore the mechanism through which sentimental fiction works in tandem with emerging discourses of capitalism. Sentimental discourse, with its repeated disavowals of wealth and insistence that money does not buy happiness, is thematically positioned as opposed to commercial culture. Yet many see it as part of a larger bourgeois revolution in which the unmooring of economic value from property to capital necessitates the recalculation of virtue that sentimentalism promotes. How do we account for the tension between the surface thematic of despising money and the depth of capital accumulation? This essay answers the question by arguing that narrative is the mechanism whereby moral feeling is exchanged for finance in late-eighteenth-century fiction: storytelling displaces money as the currency of exchange in David Simple.


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pp. 1-19
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