Women of Letters in England and France, 1652–1802
Epistolary fiction was in full flower during the period from 1652 to 1802, featuring the masterworks of Guilleragues, Richardson, Rousseau and Laclos. This study traces the development of the art of letter-writing and familiar correspondence and its adaptation by women writers into a remarkable range of literary genres, both fictional and non-fictional. In addition to the better known categories of the monodic love-letter sequence and the polyphonic epistolary novel, these sub-genres include letter miscellanies, essays, travelogues, educational novels and verse epistles. To all these, women writers made a valuable, and sometimes totally original, contribution. Indeed, it could be said that it was essentially through letter-writing that women achieved literary recognition.
This volume examines each of these epistolary categories in turn, revealing how women writers from either country excelled in a particular genre: the French, for example, in the epistolary monody and fictional foreign correspondence, the English in the miscellany and verse epistle, and both in the polyphonic letter-novel. Finally, the study notes how, despite the rapid decline of epistolary fiction in the nineteenth century, a select number of letter-novels by American, English and French women writers still continue to be published.
Chapter 6: Letters home from exotic visitors
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Letters home from exotic visitors
Turkish, Persian and Chinese visitors to France and England
Among the many letters sent by Mary Montagu of which no trace can now be found are those known to have been addressed to Montesquieu, whom she much admired and whom she met during his stay in England between 1729 and 1731. Possible topics of conversation might have been her visit to Turkey twelve years before or his immensely successful Lettres persanes (1721). Whether early circulated copies of some of Montagu’s ‘Turkish Embassy Letters’– not published in their entirety until 1763 – may have had some influence on the Lettres persanes must be a matter for conjecture.
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