Richardson, Barbauld, and the construction of an early modern fan club
Much has been written about the life and long works of the eighteenth century epistolary novelist, Samuel Richardson, but the prospect of his position as the first celebrity novelist – responsible for courting his own fame as well as initiating his own fan club – has largely been ignored. The body of manuscripts housed at the National Art Library in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London provides the modern scholar with evidence of the skeletal beginnings of an early fan club. This thesis aims to show how these manuscripts were turned into a saleable commodity by the publisher and entrepreneur Richard Phillips, while under the guiding hand of another, slightly later, literary celebrity, Anna Laetitia Barbauld. In order to restore Richardson’s reputation amongst a new nineteenth century audience, Barbauld was required to construct her own idea of him as an eighteenth century celebrity author, and in doing so the insecurities of a self-professed, apparently diffident man, are revealed. Barbauld’s capacious, but heavily edited selection of letters is analyzed in this thesis, providing ample evidence that Richardson’s correspondents were more than just eager letter writers. By using Barbauld’s biography of Richardson this thesis aims to show how she manipulates the genre of life writing in her construction of him. This thesis offers an alternative reading of how the Richardson manuscripts are viewed, redefining them as not simply a collection of letters, but as a collective entity, deliberately selected and archived as evidence of an early modern fan club, and its celebrity managing director.
- Theses