Abstract

Abstract:

A focus on the marriages of Caribbean heiresses to Englishmen in the novel of sentiment sheds light on a broader cultural impulse to discharge the tension between imperial acquisitiveness and sentimental culture. In these novels, Caribbean wealth is easily assimilated into English society, but the woman who provides a conduit to that wealth is contained outside of English domestic space. This exclusion of the Caribbean woman also excludes the stigma attached to the money's origins in chattel slavery. Meanwhile, the plot attributes the woman's exclusion to circumstances that are inevitable, thus licensing the novel to remove the reminder of the source of Caribbean wealth. Sarah Scott's The History of Sir George Ellison (1766), the anonymous The Woman of Colour (1808), and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847) illustrate this trajectory. Focusing on this plot uncovers the novel of sentiment's attempt to resolve the tension between an imperial culture's desire to benefit from Caribbean colonization and a sentimental culture's desire to see itself as sympathetic to others' suffering.

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