‘Magnificent as Well as Singular’: Hester Thrale’s Polynesian Court Dress of 1781



In January 1781, Hester Thrale appeared at the court of George III wearing a court mantua which was at once described by the newspapers as elegant and vulgar. This remarkable gown materialized and anticipated the authorial identity which Thrale would later embody as an author, diarist, and literary hostess. The gown was of Thrale’s own invention, inspired by the Polynesian goods which brought back by Captain James Cook in 1780. This chapter argues that an interrogation of Thrale’s sartorial self-authorship can shed light on the literary authorial identity she would later construct. It focuses on the materiality and reception of Thrale’s 1781 court gown and considers the parallels between Thrale’s gown and her writing.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.De Montfort UniversityLeicesterUK

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