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Great Expectations: Futurity in the Long Eighteenth Century


Edited By Mascha Hansen and Jürgen Klein

What did eighteenth-century men and women think about when they contemplated the future? What was hidden in the «dark bosom of futurity», as Richardson’s Pamela calls it? Do all types of literature that supply a critique of the present conjure up an idealized past or a vision of a better future? Predictions and prophecies – not only astrological but also political ones, utopian models, theological concepts like predestination, progress in the sciences, and, last but not least, life-after-death, both in the form of secular fame and the immortal soul, are among the topics addressed by the essays collected in this volume.


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LORD HERVEY, DEATH AND FUTURITY Bill Overton, Loughborough University “Thoroughly sensible of all the gracious distinctions and innumerable favours with which Your Majesty honoured me when I was alive, I thought it my duty to give Your Majesty some notice of my death. On Saturday, the 14th June, about 5 minutes after eleven I died.”1 So John, Lord Hervey, began a letter to Queen Caroline in June or July 1736. He went on to give a humorous account of the elaborate obsequies received by his body before informing her of the many services she had received unawares from his spirit in the following week, including brushing away a fly who had been about to taste her chocolate, and tearing six pages out of the parson’s sermon to shorten it. At the end of the letter, he called her attention to the purgatory he had undergone in this way, and asked that, if she thought him deserving of any reward, she “pronounce [his] Sentence and say, ‘Je vous laisse vivre’,” which would bring about his immedi- ate “resurrection.”2 This was not Hervey’s only jeu d’esprit on the subject. In his memoirs, left incomplete and not printed till long after his actual death, he recorded an exchange between himself and the Queen in which she had wondered “what an alteration in the Palace Lord Hervey’s death would make, how many people would mourn, and how many rejoice.” To this he had replied “he believed he could guess just how it...

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