Richardson and the Philosophes

James Fowler

Legenda (General Series)

Legenda

23 April 2014  •  195pp

ISBN: 978-1-909662-11-7 (hardback)  •  RRP £75, $99, €85

ISBN: 978-1-315088-67-9 (Taylor & Francis ebook)

EnlightenmentFrenchEnglishFiction


In mid-eighteenth-century Europe, a taste for sentiment accompanied the 'rise of the novel', and the success of Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) played a vital role in this. James Fowler's new study is the first to compare the response of the most famous philosophes to the Richardson phenomenon. Voltaire, who claims to despise the novel, writes four 'Richardsonian' fictions; Diderot's fascination with the English author is expressed in La Religieuse, Rousseau's in Julie — the century's bestseller. Yet the philosophes' response remains ambivalent. On the one hand they admire Richardson's ability to make the reader weep. On the other, they champion a range of Enlightenment beliefs which he, an enthusiast of Milton, vehemently opposed. In death as in life, the English author exacerbates the philosophes' rivalry. The eulogy which Diderot writes in 1761 implicitly asks: who can write a new Clarissa? But also: whose social, philosophical or political ideas will triumph as a result?

James Fowler teaches in the French Department at the University of Kent.

Reviews:

  • ‘James Fowler aims to restore Richardson to his proper place in an Enlightenment that resisted stratification along na- tional lines, and one in which Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment ideals inter- sected productively to engender the ideological dynamism we associate with the second half of the eighteenth century... Fowler initiates an important conversation about Richardson’s influence on the Continent.’ — Hans Nazar, French Studies 69.2, April 2015, 245
  • ‘The strength of Fowler’s study is found in his examination of a debate that perplexed Christians and deists alike (and with which atheists, too, had to engage): the role of Providence in conducting human affairs (or not) and the subsequent question of whether justice is to be achieved in this world or the next.’ — Karen Lacey-Holder, Modern Language Review 110.3, July 2015, 785-86 (full text online)
  • ‘The book is the most sustained examination to date of why Richardson, ‘a ‘‘counter-Enlightenment’’ writer’ who ‘claimed to write religious novels in order to counter anti-Christian tendencies in Britain’, should find such a sincere, serious, and even emulative audience in a generation of French intellectuals who ‘almost by definition, saw revealed religion as a source of prejudice and superstition’.’ — James Smith, The Year's Work in English Studies 95.1, 2016, 655-56

Bibliography entry:

Fowler, James, Richardson and the Philosophes (Cambridge: Legenda, 2014)

First footnote reference: 35 James Fowler, Richardson and the Philosophes (Cambridge: Legenda, 2014), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Fowler, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Fowler, James. 2014. Richardson and the Philosophes (Cambridge: Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Fowler 2014: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Fowler 2014: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)


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