Advertisement

‘Unwholesome Tissues of False Sentiment’: Jane Austen, the Silver Fork Novel, and Fashions of Reading

  • Clare Bainbridge
Chapter

Abstract

There was a time when Jane Austen’s work was classified as ‘women’s fiction’. Now it has lost that generic label, been subsumed into ‘literature’, and become subject to very different critical approaches. At the same time, it has become widely accessible to a non-specialist public. The ‘silver fork novel’, however, is still bound within tight generic limits. Its inaccessibility to a wider audience lies in a general sense that it is not of literary value, that it was a mere ephemeral production, and that it is all about the upper classes and therefore not appealing in an era where extending historical interest downwards to include the voices of women, servants, and others previously excluded has been a priority.

Like Austen, the silver fork writers are rooted in the eighteenth century, but, unlike her, they do not attempt technical innovation nor do they share her critique of the existing order. They rely instead on civic humanism in a determined attempt to regenerate and reinvigorate aristocratic hegemony, at a time of intense social and political challenge. Each writer does so in his or her distinct and individual way, to the extent that I argue that the term ‘silver fork novel’ should be abandoned, in favour of some looser and less pejorative descriptor such as ‘Late Regency novels’.

I conclude with an analysis of a very late novel by Catherine Gore, Progress and Prejudice (1854), which brings together a Victorian emphasis on the redemptive quality of family life with a Late Regency insistence on the necessity for aristocratic men of engagement in politics, replaying Austen’s great story in a different key.

Keywords

Civic humanism Aristocratic hegemony Regency novels Women’s writing Family life 

Bibliography

  1. Aristocratic Novels. 1828. New Monthly Magazine, April 22: 380–385.Google Scholar
  2. Austen, Jane. 1996. Mansfield Park. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  3. Barrell, John. 1986. The Political Theory of Painting from Reynolds to Hazlitt: ‘The Body of the Public’. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  4. ———. 1990. The Dark Side of the Landscape: The Rural Poor in English Painting, 1730–1840. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bulwer, Edward. n.d. [1828]. Pelham: Or, the Adventures of a Gentleman. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bury, Charlotte. 1830. The Exclusives. London: Colburn.Google Scholar
  7. Clery, E.J. 2009. Austen and Masculinity. In Blackwell Companion to Jane Austen, ed. Claudia L. Johnson, 332–342. Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Copeland, Edward. 2012. The Silver Fork Novel: Fashionable Fiction in the Age of Reform. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fonblanque, Albany. 1831. The Lackey School of Authors. Edinburgh Review 15: 399–406.Google Scholar
  10. Gore, Catherine. 1832/1876. Pin Money. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 1843. The Banker’s Wife. London: Colburn.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 1844. The Monster-Misery of Literature. Blackwood’s 55: 556–560.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 1854. Progress and Prejudice. London: Tauschnitz.Google Scholar
  14. Hobsbawm, E.J., and George Rudé. 1969. Captain Swing. London: Lawrence and Wishart.Google Scholar
  15. Hook, Theodore. 1824. Danvers. In Sayings and Doings. London: Henry Colburn.Google Scholar
  16. Hughes, Winifred. 1992. Silver Fork Writers and Readers: Social Contexts of a Best Seller. The Novel 25 (Spring): 328–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kendra, April. 2004. Gendering the Silver Fork: Catherine Gore and the Society Novel. Women’s Writing 11 (1): 25–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. ———. 2007. “You, Madam, Are No Jane Austen”: Mrs Gore and the Anxiety of Influence. 19C Gender Studies 3 (2), Summer. http://www.ncgsjournal.com/issue32/kendra.htm.
  19. Landon, Letitia Elizabeth. 2005. Romance and Reality. In Silver Fork Novels, 1826–1841, ed. Cynthia Lawford. London: Pickering and Chatto.Google Scholar
  20. Lister, T.H. 2005. Granby (1826). In Silver Fork Novels, 1826–1841, ed. Clare Bainbridge. London: Pickering and Chatto.Google Scholar
  21. Masson, David. 1859. British Novelists and Their Styles. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  22. Mr Lister’s Arlington. 1832. Edinburgh Review 55: 147–148.Google Scholar
  23. Normanby, Lord. 1832. The Contrast. London: Colburn and Bentley.Google Scholar
  24. Raven, James. 2007. The Business of Books. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Sekora, John. 1977. Luxury: The Concept in Western Thought. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Siskin, Clifford. 1988. The Historicity of Romantic Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Smith, Sydney. 1826. Granby. Edinburgh Review 43: 395–406.Google Scholar
  28. Sutherland, John. 1987. The British Book Trade and the Crash of 1826. The Library, 6th Series 9: 148–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Taylor, Henry. 1832. Novels of Fashionable Life. Quarterly Review 48: 165–201.Google Scholar
  30. Todorov, Ivan. 1978. The Poetics of Prose. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  31. Tynianov, Yuri. 2003. The Ode as an Oratorical Genre. Trans. Ann Shukman. New Literary History 34 (3): 565–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ward, Robert Plumer. 1825. Tremaine. London: Colburn.Google Scholar
  33. ———. 1833. de Vere. London: Colburn.Google Scholar
  34. White, Charles. 1828. Herbert Milton (Also Known as Almack’s Revisited). London: Saunders and Otley.Google Scholar
  35. Wilson, Cheryl A. 2012. Refashioning the Silver Fork Novel. London: Pickering and Chatto.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clare Bainbridge
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarExeterUK

Personalised recommendations