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A Class Apart

The Military Man in French and British Fiction, 1740–1789


Karen Lacey

The military man has long been one of literature’s archetypal figures. Using a comparative framework, this book traces the transformation of the military man in eighteenth-century British and French literature as this figure moved from noble warrior to nationalised professional in response to changes within the military structure, the role of empire and the impact of an expanding middle class. The author examines the way in which the masculinity of the military man was reimagined at a time when older models of military service persisted alongside emerging models of patriotic nationalism, inspired by bourgeois morality, the cult of sensibility and a new understanding of the role of violence in both public and private domains. Through a corpus of canonical and lesser-known literature, the book explores the military man’s relationship to the state and to his fellow citizens, even in the domestic setting. With the role of the «nobleman» in decline, the military man, not a «civilian» and no longer associated with the ‘aristocrat’, became a separate class of man.
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Chapter 5 : The Justicier in the Eighteenth-Century Domestic Tragedy


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The Justicier in the Eighteenth-Century Domestic Tragedy

He will not go out of England till he has seen justice done you by everybody.1

This final chapter will depart from the previous four by focusing on military men who fight for private causes. My analysis has so far demonstrated the obligation of military men to engage in private combat to maintain their personal honour; the men discussed in this chapter do so in order to achieve justice. In the postscript to his highly influential epistolary novel Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady (1747–48), Samuel Richardson delivered an essay on the subject of ‘poetical justice’, which he was prompted to address by the many letters he had received from readers who desired a ‘happy’ ending for his heroine. Using examples from the Ancients and from British tragedy, Richardson elaborated a theory concerning the role that tragedy plays in culture, describing how virtue and vice – the virtuous and the vicious – are employed in narratives in order to produce an effect on their audience. Richardson hoped to achieve an effect that was both moral and lasting. He queried the beliefs that underpinned the demands for poetical justice, accusing ‘modern criticism’ (for ‘modern’ read secular) of leading readers to expect an ‘equal distribution of rewards and punishments and an impartial execution of poetical justice’ (p. 1495). He reminded his readers that ‘the history, or rather the dramatic narrative of Clarissa, is...

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