- Literature and Party Politics at the Accession of Queen Anne by Joseph Hone
The last Stuart monarch has not always been remembered in especially flattering or generous terms. Three hundred years after her death, however, scholars have begun to reinvigorate and enrich the study of Queen Anne; specialists in the early eighteenth century will be familiar with Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts (Oxford, 2014) by James A. Winn, and Queen Anne and the Arts (Bucknell, 2014) edited by Cedric D. Reverand II. With Literature and Party Politics at the Accession of Queen Anne, Joseph Hone makes an intelligent and creative contribution to this body of work. Rather than further develop the picture of Anne herself, Hone seeks to enhance our understanding of the moment in which she took the throne, an event that "has not been remembered as a great turning point in history" (1). Given the knotty complexities of the seventeenth century, with its wars, succession crises, factional politics, and religious debates, as well as the passing of the Act of Settlement in 1701, perhaps historians and literature scholars alike have been content to pass over the accession of 1702 as less worthy of sustained attention. But Hone deftly shows that this moment deserves closer study, and in fact, "[a] substantial body of texts in print and manuscript—hitherto neglected, misunderstood, or undiscovered poems, polemics, sermons, histories, newspapers, entertainments and correspondence—prove that the precise nature of Anne's right to the throne was a hotly contested topic" (2).
Hone proposes that these tensions arose largely as a result of conflicting Whig and Tory interpretations of Anne's right to govern; whereas "the Act of Settlement should have mollified partisans on both sides by marrying the hereditary principle of succession to the elective one" (5), it actually inflamed and informed party divisions. The book is grounded in what Hone describes as a "microhistorical approach" (2), a way of thinking and reading that is not unique to this book, but fitting for it. More often than not, Hone's intense focus on the period immediately surrounding the accession strengthens the book, anchoring an expansive range of textual material. Hone is clearly a deft archival researcher, and the appendix following [End Page 139] the main text, which organizes relevant printed material published between 8 March—the death of William III—and 31 December 1702 relieves the chapters from having to communicate the full array of texts Hone has read and synthesized.
The chapters are organized conceptually; each treats an impressively broad range of writers, some long recognized as major players, and others lesser or very little known. Chapter 1, "Succession," begins by posing a series of questions conveying the uncertainties of the transition from William to Anne. While reading, I came to appreciate this tendency to pause and introduce a question or two; these moments focus the text elegantly, but also suggest a writer who understands the value of inclusive gestures in academic prose. Hone then lays out the complexities and contradictions of the various ways in which Anne could be imagined: "Firstly, William's most ardent supporters were not entirely happy with the prospect of a daughter of James II on the throne. It looked just too similar to hereditary succession, even though everyone knew Anne's principal claim was via statute. Secondly, others constructed tenuous arguments that Anne's legitimacy actually came by her bloodline. This was an awkward fudge, as most commentators knew. If Anne claimed the throne solely by blood, then there was an even better claimant in exile…This formed the basis of the third stance…Anne was a usurper and James Francis Edward was king" (13). Yet these positions do not represent clear blocs, and Hone devotes the rest of the chapter to drawing out an intricate range of responses loosely organized under these three conceptions. The chapter culminates in a reading of Daniel Defoe's The Mock Mourners (1702), in which Hone argues that Defoe hoped to persuade the Queen to bolster the Protestant succession. Chapter 2, "Coronation...