Pre-Chapter Epigraphs in the English Novel, 1750-1860



Readioff, CJ
(2018) Pre-Chapter Epigraphs in the English Novel, 1750-1860. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Abstract

This thesis aims to consolidate and to expand our understanding of the function of the epigraph, building upon previous definitions to construct a more detailed comprehension of the epigraph as a textual rather than a purely or primarily decorative, visual feature. Here, epigraphs will be considered as pieces of text which the author expects their audience to read, and that consequently possesses the same potential for interpretative value as the prose to which it is appended. Traditional assumptions that the epigraph enjoyed only limited usage, appearing primarily in Gothic and Romantic novels from around 1790-1830, will also be challenged; extensive statistical data will be used to analyse broad historical trends in the gradual development of the pre-chapter epigraph from 1750 to 1860. This begins with an examination of the introduction of pre-section quotations into print culture via The Tatler (1709-1711), The Female Tatler (1709-1710), and The Spectator (1711-1714), followed by an assessment of two of the first novels in English to feature epigraphs, William Chaigneau’s The History of Jack Connor (1752), and Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier’s The Cry (1754). The latter receives particular attention as an educational text aimed primarily at young women, with the range of languages represented in the novel’s epigraphs thus constituting an implicit challenge to mid-eighteenth-century gender-based presumptions of linguistic knowledge. Although Ann Radcliffe was thus not the first novelist to use pre-chapter epigraphic quotation (as has often been suggested), statistical data regarding the quantity of novels first-published with epigraphs during the eighteenth century does offer strong indications of the importance of Radcliffe’s influence in catalysing interest in the device. An examination of her innovative use of the epigraph is supplied, providing a perspective from which to further investigate the early-nineteenth-century development of an assumption of an intrinsically Gothic quality to the epigraph. The development of this association is tracked via analysis of the device in Charlotte Smith’s later novels, and in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796); satirical exploitation of the device as a stereotypically Gothic feature is also explored via Eaton Stannard Barrett’s The Heroine: or, Adventures of a Fair Romance Reader (1813). Despite these associations, however, the frequency of epigraphic usage remained comparatively high in the nineteenth century, and so the contribution of Walter Scott’s Waverley novels towards the device’s persistence in popularity is also examined. This section focuses upon Scott’s enthusiasm for mottos in general, before monitoring his development of the epigraph as a means of promoting the construction of a narratorial persona, first via quotation-based chapter-titles in Waverley (1814), and then later through a more cohesive use of epigraphic quotation in works such as Rob Roy (1818). The final chapter moves beyond Scott to investigate the popularity of epigraphs from the 1830s to 1850s, a time in literary history when it has traditionally been assumed that the epigraph virtually disappeared. Statistical evidence demonstrates that this is not actually true, and rather than fading out of use the epigraph in fact became an integral component of the very popular genre of fashionable novels. Particular attention is given to Catherine Gore’s various uses of the epigraph across her lengthy novel-writing career, focusing especially upon the relationship between pre-chapter quotation and the capacity of Gore’s fiction to incorporate elements traditionally associated with either the romantic or realist genre. This is ultimately paired with Elizabeth Gaskell’s similar use of such elements alongside pre-chapter epigraphs in Mary Barton (1848) and North and South (1854-55).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Fac of Humanities & Social Sci > School of the Arts
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2019 10:46
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2021 10:06
DOI: 10.17638/03032767
Supervisors:
  • Lynall, Greg
  • Bradley, Matthew
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3032767