White Rose University Consortium logo
University of Leeds logo University of Sheffield logo York University logo

‘The Commerce of Light’: The Eighteenth-Century Dialogue, Communicative Reason, and the Formation of the English Novel

Hughes, Bill (2010) ‘The Commerce of Light’: The Eighteenth-Century Dialogue, Communicative Reason, and the Formation of the English Novel. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

[img] Text
Thesis (corrected).doc
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales.

Download (5Mb)


This thesis analyses printed eighteenth-century dialogues in English. It considers them amidst the dialogic nature of cultural life in eighteenth-century Britain more widely. It argues that many printed dialogues successfully imagine, or fruitfully engage with imagined, ideal speech situations. In addition it argues that these texts had a sophistication that stemmed from a dialogicity enabled by the growth of the public sphere. It is alert to novelistic features of dialogues: characterisation, verisimilitude, narrative inter-est. That is important for this thesis, as the richness of eighteenth-century dialogues plays an important part in the formation of the early English novel. Chapter 1 explores eighteenth-century theories of language, many of which posit an originary dialogue. I consider Mandeville’s theories in The Fable of the Bees, James Harris’s Hermes, Monboddo’s Of the Origin and Progress of Language, and, briefly, Horne Tooke. Chapter 2 considers the consensual aspects of these dialogues by looking at Aphra Behn’s translation of Fontenelle, A Discovery of New Worlds; Shaftesbury’s The Moralists; Mandeville’s Fable again; and Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Chapter 3 explores the polemical nature of dialogues, looking at Berkeley’s Alciphron, and some neglected dialogues of the 1790s, both radical and conservative, by Thomas Day, Sir William Jones, Thomas Spence, and in response, writers such as Hannah More. Chapter 4 depicts the absorption of the genre into the novel, arguing that the dialogue is an overlooked component of a multigeneric form. Novelists embedded formal debates into their works, and the critical openness that characterises dialogues of this period in-formed the spirit of the novel. In many novelists, the concern with love and the gestures at inclusiveness towards women led to an unprecedented fusion of mutual intellection and wooing. I examine the absorption of the structures of formal dialogue into novels by way of Richardson’s Pamela, Sarah Fielding’s Remarks on Clarissa and The Cry, and novels of the 1790s, such as Robert Bage’s Hermsprong. The ‘Commerce of Light’ between the sexes is dwelt on, revealing a new facet of the ‘Rise of the Novel’ debate.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Dialogue, novel, eighteenth century
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.768237
Depositing User: Dr Bill Hughes
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2019 13:42
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 20:06
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23354

You do not need to contact us to get a copy of this thesis. Please use the 'Download' link(s) above to get a copy.
You can contact us about this thesis. If you need to make a general enquiry, please see the Contact us page.

Actions (repository staff only: login required)