Edited By Mascha Hansen and Jürgen Klein
GREAT EXPECTATIONS? PLANS AND PLANNING IN WOMEN’S MEMOIRS, Mascha Hansen
GREAT EXPECTATIONS? PLANS AND PLANNING IN WOMEN’S MEMOIRS Mascha Hansen, EMA Universität Greifswald A chief part of the inauthenticity of narration would seem to be its assumption that life is susceptible to comprehension and thus of management. (Lionel Trilling)1 In the eighteenth-century, any young girl looking for advice on how to prepare for her personal rather than eternal future in the common fare directed at them, conduct-books and novels, would have been entertained with prospects of mar- riage and motherhood and cautioned against the wrong kind of suitor. The tenor of conduct-books was to reassure young women that as long as they followed the rules, did their duty and listened to advice, the future posed no threats. In- deed, in Fordyce’s sermons, the future beckoned like a rosy vision: Those lovely plants which you have raised and cultivated, I see spreading, and still spreading, from house to house, from family to family, with a rich increase of fruit. I see you diffusing virtue and happiness through the human race; I see gen- erations yet unborn rising up to call you blessed!2 If only Fordyce the prophet could have seen how many eighteenth-century women would be honoured by future generations not so much for their motherly virtues but for their writings, their personal skills and scientific successes, he might have advocated other accomplishments than drawing, which, he thought, 1 Lionel Trilling is quoted in Patricia Meyer Spacks, Imagining a Self: Autobiography and Novel in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge/Mass.: Harvard...
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