G. J. Barker-Benfield documents the emergence of the culture of sensibility that transformed British society of the eighteenth century. His account focuses on the rise of new moral and spiritual values and the struggle to redefine the group identities of men and women. Drawing on the full spectrum of eighteenth-century thought from Adam Smith to John Locke, from the Earl of Shaftesberry to Dr. George Cheyne, and especially Mary Wollstonecraft, Barker-Benfield offers an innovative and compelling way to understand how Britain entered the modern age.
List of Illustrations Acknowledgments Introduction 1: Sensibility and the Nervous System Wollstonecraft's Perspective: The Gendering of Sensibility A New Psychoperceptual System The Application of the New System: George Cheyne, 1671-1743 The Reformation of Manners Combined with Consumerism Nerve Theory in Novels Female Nerves and Sensibility's Ambiguity 2: The Reformation of Male Manners The Public Manners of Men The Campaign for the Reformation of Manners Heart Religion The Civilizing Process and British Commercial Capitalism Changed Environments and the New World of Parents and Children 3: The Question of Effeminacy Shaftesbury Mandeville Hume and Smith Henry MacKenzie Politics and Boys' Literature: Thomas Day. 4: Women and Eighteenth-Century Consumerism Home Demand Women Become Literate, Women Write Novels Women's Self-Expression in Fashion Fiction Records Women's Pleasure Seeking Ambivalence toward Women's Pursuit of Consumer Pleasures Taste 5: A Culture of Reform Antiworldview Women and Humanitarian Reform Stalking Horses: The Campaign on Behalf of Victims of Male Barbarity Sensibility's Goal: The Man of Feeling Sensibility's Method: Conversion The Cult of Sensibility Methodism and the Culture of Sensibility The Rights of Woman and the Reformation of Manners 6: Women and Individualism: Inner and Outer Struggles over Sensibility The Sentimentalizing Process Egotism and Opposition The Reality of Heroism and Romance Subversive Potentials in Women's Developing Minds: Marriage and Class Still More Subversive Potentials: Sensibility and Sex 7: Wollstonecraft and the Crisis over Sensibility in the 1790s Amazons at the Boundary Wollstonecraft, Hays, and the Conflict over Sensibility Wollstonecraft Becomes Amazon "Man Was Made to Reason, Woman to Feel": Compromise Notes Index