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Between Literature and History

The Diaries and Memoirs of Mary Leadbeater and Dorothea Herbert


Barbara Hughes

This book explores the remarkable diaries and memoirs of Mary Leadbeater (1758-1826) and Dorothea Herbert (c.1767-1829), both of whom lived in Ireland. Working on the premise that their identities are literary constructions, the author investigates the cultural and existential impulses that motivate their creation. Leadbeater’s diaries span fifty-seven years and include uncensored teenage journals, which are a rarity in Western Europe. Herbert was a member of the minor gentry and her extraordinary memoir, depicting her descent into madness, provides a wealth of cultural and historical information.
The principal advantage of conducting a joint study of the writings of both women lies in the manner in which the work of one writer functions as an implied corrective to the representations of the other. In the present instance, this militates against simplistic assessments of the relationships between gender, class, ethnicity and narrativity in eighteenth-century Europe.


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Acknowledgements vii Introduction 1 chapter one Autobiographical Narratives 7 Emplotting Narratives 8 Ontological Status of the Written Self 11 Gender and Genre 16 Eighteenth-Century Ireland 23 chapter two Dorothea Herbert: Eighteenth-Century Chronicler 33 Biography 35 Codes of Behaviour 40 The Code of Honour 47 Representations of Gender 54 Courtship and Marriage 64 Summary 76 chapter three Dorothea Herbert: Representing the Self 79 Narrative Strategies 81 The Cult of Sensibility 89 Innocent Victim 94 Alternative Selves 101 Madness and Empowerment 106 Self Portraits 115 The Diurnal Self 117 Summary 125 vi chapter four Mary Shackleton Leadbeater: Diurnal Legacy 127 Biography 127 Publications 130 Handsewn Diaries and Commercial Kalandars 133 Familial Relations 143 Ethnic and Social Identities 147 Friendships 168 Summary 176 chapter five Mary Shackleton Leadbeater: The Annals of Ballitore 179 Narrative Strategies 180 Historical Dimension 195 Comparative Histories 203 Summary 220 Conclusion 223 Bibliography 231 Index 243 Acknowledgements There are many individuals who have assisted over the past ten years in the preparation of this project. I particularly want to thank Professor Anne Fogarty for her insights and support; Dr Nancy Watson and Dr Diog O’Connell for their continual encouragement; Mary Shackleton and her colleagues in the Society of Friends Historical Library for their help and advice; Johnny Fitzpatrick in the Heritage Centre, Carrick-on-Suir, for sharing with me his local knowledge of the Herberts and Carrick; friends and colleagues in IADT and UCD particularly Dr Josephine Browne, Pro- fessor Andrew Carpenter, Dr Grainne Elmore, Dr Paula Gilligan, Selina Guinness, Anne...

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