- New Perspectives on Delarivier Manley and Eighteenth-Century Literature: Power, Sex, and Text ed. by Aleksondra Hultquist and Elizabeth J. Mathews
If Delarivier Manley came back today she might favor border walls or cheer for Brexit. What rescues her from dislikeability is a wit more worthy of Elaine May than Theresa May, and memorable political firepower that helped bring down a government. With this irascibility in mind I approach this collected volume, one that aspires to fresh perspectives yet remains polite, only occasionally manifesting Manley's mixture of shocking libel, alarming politics, and unexpected laughs.
In "The Adventures of Rivella as Political Secret History," Rachel Carnell, one of Manley's most rigorous scholars, explains why Manley's autobiography is not a postmodern mashup, but a political secret history in code, much like its explosive predecessor The New Atalantis (hereafter TNA), and also a successful dunning letter to Lord Harley. Reading Rivella in its proper political context gives us the real Manley, as "we begin to understand the counter-narrative of Queen Anne's reign, told through the voice of a Tory blackmailer" (Manley), "rather than a Whig one" (Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough).
"The Politics of Servitude: The Husband's Resentment. In Two Examples in Delarivier Manley's The Power of Love," presents Manley torn between two patrons, George I and the Jacobite lady to whom she dedicates The Power of Love. Earla Wilputte sees this as being "emotionally involved with one … but legally bound to another," reflecting a national "adulterous attraction" for the Stuart Pretender. However, where Wilputte's Manley is "not explicitly endorsing Jacobitism" and "probably not really pining for the Stuart Pretender," I would counter that where there's smoke there's fire. Wilputte's chapter adds essential content from an understudied work to continue scholarly debate about Manley's politics. [End Page 224]
In "Vengeance, Vows, and 'Heroick Vertue': Reforming the Revenger in Delarivier Manley's Almyna: or, The Arabian Vow," Misty Krueger astutely offers revenge as "a lynchpin in Manley's turn from heroic tragedy to civic drama." She compares "Almyna" to "The Royal Mischief" from a decade earlier, recasting the strong female heroine as one who "must not instigate revenge," but instead become, in Dennis's words, "the preserver of nations." Krueger concludes that Manley "shows the potential for language to combat men's destructive tendencies and for women to champion civil rights." While I might quarrel with the last two words, since my Manley was more about royalist order than civil freedoms, I agree that a "masculine female heroic" genre captures her style.
"'Through the Black Sea and the Country of Colchis': A Geocentric Approach to Delarivier Manley's The Royal Mischief" goes where Manley scholarship should have eighty years ago, to "explicitly Islamicate themes" of women playwrights in the late seventeenth century. Focusing on the well-known triumvirate of "Female Wits," Bernadette Andrea locates elements of a "counter-orientalist stance" in Manley's otherwise predictably fashionable orientalist imagination. Manley is not writing about Turkey or Persia in The Royal Mischief, Andrea argues, but "Colchis and Abcas in the Caucasus region bordering the Black Sea," Islamic sites of the era, and the literary goal of Jason, his Argonauts, and Medea.
We do not get to sex until part 2, and Manley would never have made us wait! In chapter 5: "Interrupting Pleasure: Ideology and Affect in The New Atalantis," Erin M. Keating finds key TNA incidents in line with tropes from late-seventeenth-century pathetic tragedy. The notorious story of Charlot and the Duke, one of Manley's most exploitatively sexual, shows how Restoration tragedy could have predicted that "desire … is ultimately destructive of its object." Dismissing important scholarly readings of Elonora as allegorical, Keating treats her as a literary character, an approach I contend the text itself resists. Her observation that Elonora is the only distressed woman to retain her virginity, however, marks a core contribution for future work.
Jennifer Frangos enlists twenty-first-century asexuality studies...