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Nobody's Argument: Jane Porter and the Historical Novel

Thomas McLean
Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies
Vol. 7, No. 2 (Fall - Winter, 2007), pp. 88-103
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40339581
Page Count: 16
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Nobody's Argument: Jane Porter and the Historical Novel
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Abstract

Despite recent scholarly interest in the historical novel and national tale, Jane Porter has not received the critical attention paid to other Romantic-era novelists like Sir Walter Scott, Maria Edgeworth, and Lady Morgan. This essay argues for the importance of Porter's work, in particular her 1803 novel Thaddeus of Warsaw, in the development of the historical novel. The essay's first half examines Porter's literary and epistolary responses to the novels and celebrity of Sir Walter Scott as well as Scott's responses to Porter's work, and then considers explanations for the scholarly neglect of Porter. The second half argues that Thaddeus of Warsaw anticipates several key features of the historical novel identified by GeorgLukács, features that would regularly reappear in the Waverley novels. Porter's interest in human virtue links her to eighteenth-century writers like Mackenzie and Richardson, but she differs from those predecessors in focusing on the actions of virtuous individuals in periods of historical disruption, thus moving the man of feeling onto scenes of revolution.

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