How Mean in the : From to Impersonation in Eighteenth-Century British

Janet Min Lee

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Graduate School of and Sciences


© 2015 Janet Min Lee All rights reserved


How Allegories Mean in the Novel: From Personification to Impersonation in Eighteenth-Century British Fiction

Janet Min Lee

This dissertation analyzes the legacy of Protestant in eighteenth-century . In doing so, the dissertation shows that and allegorically inflected characters became increasingly opaque and vulnerable to charges of impersonation as the novel developed in the early and middle eighteenth century. I attribute the distortion of allegorical representation to the conflicting yet intermeshed interpretive frameworks that allegory and the novel demand of their readers. For evidence, I primarily analyze ’s The Pilgrim Progress, Jonathan ’s

A Tale of a Tub, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, and ’s Jonathan Wild.





Having concluded this dissertation, I have become keenly aware that the writing of idealized figures took the real, physical efforts of mentors, colleagues, family, and friends.

First and foremost, I am grateful for the breadth of intellectual possibilities that my advisers – Jenny Davidson, Nicholas Dames, and Nicole Horejsi – have offered me. This dissertation is as much a product of my and your work, intellectual interests, and imaginative thinking. You have taught me to be an adventurous thinker, a clearer , and a more generous teacher – and, of equal importance to me, you have allowed me to discover pleasure in all three capacities.

I would also like to thank colleagues who have helped me with my dissertation – in various states of disarray, in forums formal and informal. Special thanks to Rashmi Sahni, my remarkable friend and constant interlocutor; to my eighteenth-century peers who have offered useful advice, Joshua Swidzinski, Katie Gemmill, Michael Paulson, and Candace Cunard; and from the placement seminar I would like to thank Audrey Walton and Lucy Sheehan for their thoughtful edits on my writing; Olivia Moy for answering my many questions by text and phone. Academic poets I met young in their and my undergraduate flowering, Owen Boynton and Gillian Osborne – thank you for reading and thinking with me.

I would be grossly remiss not to thank teachers who have shaped me intellectually, Erik Gray, Joanna Stalnaker, Patricia Dailey – the traces of your teachings are everywhere present here. I am grateful to Julie Crawford, who taught me in my freshman year of college and my last year of graduate school, and from whom I learned much about reading and teaching. And, because least and last known to me, I am grateful to Jim Adams for commenting on the full draft of the dissertation – your remarks were of immense use to me.

I could not have written this without the support of close friends, Carolyn Bancroft, Jesse Chanin, Sage Cole, and Maria Galeano. And last, but not least, a big thanks to my family: the Lees, the Changs, and the Kiels, who have always been ready to lend much needed hands; Vivian and Hedde, for your bibliographical efforts and for your constant love from across the waters; Paul for being my best friend, best editor, and loving partner; Sebby, for gleefully taking my mind off work when I needed it the most; and my mother and my father, for their committed love and devotion that continue to amaze and inspire me.



To my parents



The early novelists, however, made an extremely significant break with tradition, and named their characters in such a way as to suggest that they were to be regarded as particular individuals in the contemporary social environment. Defoe’s use of proper names is casual and sometimes contradictory; but he very rarely gives names that are conventional or fanciful. -Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel

Personality is…rigorously structured in the realistic novel….Indeed, in a literary form remarkable for its variety and its concreteness, it’s perhaps even more remarkable to find that tendency to allegorize the self…The richly detailed textures of in realistic fiction seldom subvert the coherent wholeness of personality…Psychological complexity is tolerated as long as it doesn’t threaten an ideology of the self as a fundamentally intelligible structure unaffected by a history of fragmented, discontinuous desires. - Leo Bersani, A Future for Astyanax

The normative account of the novel is a story of how authors came to provide increasingly realistic descriptions of people and their environment. As characters in became psychologically defined and individualized, they also began to shed names that indicate their social, , or satirical type. Characters like Virtue and

Una gave way to Henry Fielding’s Amelia Booth. Romance types such as Valencourt became more clearly defined (in social and economic status, in religious affiliation, in individualistic and complex relation to bourgeois morality) and transformed into characters like Samuel Richardson’s Robert Lovelace. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, allegorical characters abounded; by the end of the same century, they were nowhere to be found. Ian Watt’s account of the realist novel and its formal


techniques remains persuasive in many respects. After all, characters in our twenty- first century novels (be they realist, literary, or genre fictions) for the most part still make use of names of “particular individuals” rather than general types – and the use of individualized names signals that the reader is in store for a story of real people.

Leo Bersani’s reading of allegory as the primary of nineteenth-century realist characterization is, therefore, deeply polemical. Bersani argues that realism does not increasingly delineate psychological complexity in its characters, but that the realist novel rather enforces the “coherent wholeness of personality” that Bersani thinks of as allegorical.1 Contrary to the story of the novel I told above, Bersani claims that the techniques of formal realism (its naming, the description of psychological complexities) do not abolish allegory from the novel but rather sustain it. Allegory is a useful tool for producing characters that retain a coherent shape and therefore legibility. Even in the works that we consider as the origin of formal realism

(Aphra Behn’s , Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Samuel Richardson’s

Pamela, Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones), we find the shape and specter of allegorical representation. Within their pages, we find Robinson Crusoe as the allegory of a pilgrim turning to God; Pamela described as the embodiment of Virtue (that is, of course, Richardson’s own moralistic take on his rather protean ); and good nature, though not omniscience, crystallized into Allworthy and religious and philosophical radicalism and hypocrisy present in the shape of Square and Thwakum.

Venturing outward from these canonical examples, we see other authors wrestling with allegorical representation well into the 1740s and beyond, such as Sarah Fielding in The Adventures of David Simple (1744) and Eliza Haywood in Miss Betsy

Thoughtless (1751).

1 Leo Bersani, A Future for Astyanax: and Desire in (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), 55-6.


Following Bersani, my dissertation imagines that novelistic characters retain allegorical shapes; but it takes issue with his description of allegory as the shorthand for coherence. This dissertation redefines and reevaluates allegory in eighteenth- century fiction. Allegory, while a complicated figure with a rich literary history, was beloved in the eighteenth century for its ability to present didactic tableaux or literary embellishment, which we can find, for example, in ’s “Ode for

Musick, on St. Cecilia’s Day” (written 1708, published 1713):

If in the Breast tumultuous Joys arise,

Musick her soft, assuasive Voice applies;

Or when the Soul is press’d with Cares

Exalts her in enlivening Airs.

Warriors she fires with animated Sounds;

Pours Balm into the bleeding Lover’s Wounds:

Melancholy lifts her Head;

Morpheus rowses from his Bed;

Sloth unfolds her Arms and wakes;

List’ning Envy drops her Snakes;

Intestine War no more our Passions wage,

And giddy Factions hear away their Rage.2

Melancholy, Morpheus, Sloth, and Envy appear to punctuate Pope’s point about music as the soul’s soothing balm: They appear as lively embodied abstractions, efficiently contained, and used as both ornament and demonstration. Such didactic allegories were widely available in Joseph Addison’s essays in the popular periodicals

2 Alexander Pope, The Poems of Alexander Pope: A one-volume edition of the Twickenham Text with selected annotations, ed. John Butt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), 139- 140.


The Tatler (1709-1711) and The Spectator (1711-1712). In rewriting Prodicus’ “The

Choice of Hercules” for The Tatler in 1709, for example, Addison describes Virtue, who “had a very noble Air, and graceful deportment; her Beauty was natural and easy, her Person clean and unspotted, her Eyes cast towards the Ground with an agreeable Reserve.”3 If Addison can use allegory to show readers the ease with which they can choose a life of Virtue over Vice, it is because the shorthand description of these abstractions was so very readily understood. Addison deploys the cultural and literary markers of a virtuous woman to conjure up the embodiment of Virtue itself – a translation that believes in and relies on the legibility of embodiment.

This dissertation attempts to understand why it is that, on the contrary, allegories assume an opaque, unreadable shape in eighteenth-century fiction. In it, we do not find these clear, didactic figures; rather, we find a healthy variety of allegorical representation that is also only variously legible. Early and mid eighteenth-century fictions are replete with personifications (Mr. Orgueil), allegorical characters (Betsy

Thoughtless), political allegories (biting political in Delarivière Manley) – a wide spectrum of allegorical representation that is a testament to its plasticity in the period. The different grades of allegorical representation even in one work, for example, in Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones are impressive: Allworthy and Tom Jones have both been read as allegorical, but they are allegorical to different degrees. If

Tom Jones is impermeable to experience and, therefore, can be called allegorical,

Allworthy’s paternal generosity frames the novel as a rewriting of the of the prodigal son.4 The dissertation tries to make space for the strange middle ground

3 Joseph Addison, The Tatler, ed. Donald Bond (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 2:100.

4 For an illuminating analysis of Tom Jones as a character impervious to experience, see Franco Moretti, The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture, trans. Albert Sbragia (London: Verso, 2000), 182; and for the allegorical nature of the of Tom


between a personification like Doctor Arsenic (in Henry Fielding’s Amelia), an allegorical character like Allworthy, and a character like Tom Jones by calling whatever falls between Tom and strict personification an allegorically inflected character. The terminology may sound clunky, but it seems necessary to me. To call

Tom Jones an allegorical character is misleading, since Fielding does not mean to signify him in that way; but he is certainly allegorically inflected – read, understood, described with an allegorical shape that defines the way we apprehend his character.

Throughout these pages, I have tried to be as precise as possible with my terminology to express the gradation of a character’s allegorical nature.

Personifications, allegorical characters, and allegorically inflected characters in eighteenth-century fiction are far from producing coherent, stable moments in the text; instead, they disrupt it with their opacity. Characters so often misread allegories that it’s impossible to claim that allegories represent coherence. The most notable example of this in the eighteenth-century novel, one that provoked (and still provokes) a most powerful misreading, is Samuel Richardson’s heroine Pamela. The difficulty of interpreting Pamela lies in deciding whether she is a personification of virtue, or its best impersonator: that is, whether she embodies virtue or merely performs it. The quandary is not only dramatized in the novel, where different characters struggle to define her in antithetical terms, but became a media phenomenon following the novel’s publication in 1740. The readers of Pamela: or,

Virtue Rewarded tended to divide into staunch Pamelists, who were absolutely convinced of her virtue, and anti-Pamelists, who were similarly convinced of her vice.

Henry Fielding and Eliza Haywood joined the fray and satirically lambasted Pamela, generating the first of their numerous novels. Fielding’s An Apology for the Life of

Jones, see Martin Battestin, The Providence of Wit: Aspects of Form in Augustan Literature and the Arts (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 151.


Mrs. Shamela Andrews (1741) and Haywood’s Anti-Pamela; or, Feign’d Innocence

Detected (1741) used personification in these novels as social . But what made

Fielding’s and Haywood’s tactics especially successful was that their use of allegory mirrored Richardson’s own. That Pamela, so insistently defined in the novel as virtue itself, could be so fully and so persuasively reimagined as a sham or a trick is not only in itself funny, but it also suggests the susceptibility of such allegorically inflected characters to charges of hypocrisy.

Indeed, there is something about the certainty and absoluteness with which allegories should signify that makes them especially suspect to novel readers. A

“perfect or consummate Pattern of human Virtue,” as Fielding’s satirical narrator puts it in Jonathan Wild, was already by the late 1730s considered an inferior and idealized model for novelistic writing.5 Fielding’s wariness of idealized characterization – and, therefore, allegory – can be partly explained by the radical changes in epistemologies in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Britain. Watt ties the novel’s descriptive attention to everyday experience to the rise of a particular type of empirical understanding. He explains this empiricism as an intersection of René

Descartes’ scientific scrutiny of individual experience and John Locke’s stress on sensory experience as central to human experience. Watt defines the formal innovations of the novel by these two empirical strands: “the novel is surely distinguished from other genres and previous forms of fiction by the amount of attention it habitually accords both to the individualization of its characters and to the detailed presentation of their environment.”6 The emphasis on observation and

5 Henry Fielding, Jonathan Wild in Miscellanies by Henry Fielding, Esq., Vol. III, ed. Hugh Amory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 8.

6 Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1957), 17-18.


experience that is turned both outward and inward has been traditionally yoked to the novel. But what Watt fails to acknowledge in his seminal book is that the project of empiricism brings with it deep uncertainties about the uniformity of character. We only need to cast our sights a few years later to the 1760s to find in fiction a powerful argument for the fragmentary, digressive, incoherent structure that underlies Lockean ideas of human identity in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1760-66). It’s also not surprising that Lockean empiricism finds its logical fulfillment in David Hume’s deep skepticism concerning the coherence of identity itself.

Central to my project is the belief that eighteenth-century authors were using allegory not perfunctorily or as literary fashion and tradition dictated, but rather as a literary experiment aimed at revealing the ways in which coherence presents itself and is read in a world that is essentially incoherent. By using personifications into fictions and early novels, authors created characters that productively chafed against the novel’s interpretive framework. We see this tension crystalize in countless scenes where personifications are entirely misread in eighteenth-century novels, eluding the reading practices of characters within the novels and the readers outside them.

Moreover, because judging others is often a central of mid-eighteenth century novels, the misreading of allegories acquires a heightened meaning in the stories in which they take part. Indeed, so important is this question of the readability of allegory that Sarah Fielding’s very popular The Adventures of David Simple is structured around the adventures of a reading and judging others. David’s decision to leave his home in the country and brave London is based on his single desire to find a “real Friend” – or as he puts it, “He resolved therefore, to go into all publick Assemblies, and to be intimate in as many private Families as possible, to observe their Manners of living with each other; by which means, he thought he


should judge of their Principles and Inclinations.”7 The desire to know others – their dispositions and characters – is recurrent in the novel; it is even introduced as a pastime of the novel’s characters, who ride in chariots through London to “view the various Countenances of the different sorts of People that inhabit it.”8 But the people who inhabit David’s version of London tend to be types, allegories of people, rather than individuated characters. Upon his arrival in London, David meets Mr. Orgueil and Mr. Spatter, Lady True-wit, Lady Know-all, and Mr. Varnish.9 Allegorical characters signal in Fielding’s novel as social satire – and, more than that, as unreadable to the novel’s main character. While it is tempting to claim that this series of misreadings is occasioned by David’s allegorical nature – he is, after all, Simple – my dissertation suggests that this problem extends far beyond the limits of Fielding’s novel.


Critics who undertake the study of allegory find themselves with the necessary and arduous task of defining “allegory.” In its long history, allegory has been used indiscriminately with terms like extended , type, symbol, and typology. In its most basic structure, allegory is the that means something by saying something else; it’s the figure par excellence of inhabiting doubleness in its Greek etymological sense – allos (other) and agouruein (to speak in public). As is implicit in

7 Sarah Fielding, The Adventures of David Simple (London: Penguin Group, 2002), 25.

8 Ibid., 171.

9 To “spatter” is defined as “[t]o splash or stain with drops of fluid, mud, etc.; to bespatter; fig. to assail with obloquy or detraction.” “spatter, v.”. OED Online. March 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/185846?rskey=Teljsc&result=4&isAdvanced=false (accessed May 05, 2015).


the figure itself, critics have to grapple with allegory’s twofold meaning: an allegory is at once a text that requires decoding (thereby privileging its tenor or meaning) and one that presents an enjoyable and coherent literal meaning (thereby privileging the vehicle). The history of allegory and its interpretation, therefore, is vexed because its very form expresses duplicity and, moreover, requires the reader to pay attention to competing ways (literal and metaphorical) of interpreting the text.

I trace the allegory that appears in the eighteenth-century British novel back to

Puritan allegory. The dissertation suggests that the novel appropriates many of the representational anxieties that take definite shape in the exceedingly popular allegorical narrative, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. While it may seem counterintuitive to study what was once called the “Augustan” period through the lens of Protestant aesthetics, I do not find the predecessor of novelistic allegory in classical literary tradition (Rumor, for example, in Virgil or Ovid). The empiricist dictate to observe carefully in a world that is fundamentally subject to one’s apprehension resonates strongly with the Puritans’ painful but necessary practice of examining oneself and the world for the revelation of God’s will in a position of not being privy to divine knowledge. This anxiety is manifested variously in Bunyan’s allegory, but the most striking form it takes is in the guise of the many “professors” that populate the landscape of The Pilgrim’s Progress. The “professor” is a false Protestant who claims or “professes” a belief insincerely, or a pilgrim who unwittingly deceives by what was once evocatively named lip-labour (or “empty talk”).10 Ignorant’s brand of professorship is the latter. To all intents and purposes, he is a virtuous pilgrim, who

10 To profess also bears the more neutral definition of taking religious vows, which heightens the hypocritical nature of Bunyan’s professors; however, as I will explain in my first chapter, hypocrisy did not necessarily require intentional motivation. Talkative and Ignorant are hypocrites and professors without meaning to be so. For the definition of “lip-labour” see the OED, “lip-labour, n.”. OED Online. March 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/108841?redirectedFrom=lip-labor (accessed May 20, 2015).


leaves his family and friends behind for God. His ignorance about his lack of grace transforms him nonetheless into a professor. That is, his professions are simply not true. Ignorant is exemplary of the type of allegory that this dissertation analyzes: In his figure, we can feel the anxieties that percolate around the interpretation of allegories – and, in particular, anxieties about the soundness of self-knowledge, which in Bunyan’s text is akin to the knowledge of allegorical ontology.

Towards the end of the allegory, we see Christian seizing on Ignorance, questioning him about his faith – not in order to understand what Ignorant represents

(he already knows), but rather to expose all the nooks and crannies of Ignorant’s ignorance:

Chr. But why, or by what, thou perswaded that thou hast left all for God

and Heaven?

Ignor. My heart tells me so.

Chr. The wise man says, He that trusts his own heart is a fool.

Ignor. That is spoken of an evil heart, but mine is a good one.

Chr. But how dost thou prove that?

Ignor. My heart tells me so.

Chr. But how dost thou prove that?

Ignor. It comforts me in the hopes of Heaven.

Chr. That may be, through its deceitfulness, for a mans heart may minister

comfort to him in the hopes of that thing, for which he has yet no ground to


Ignor. But my heart and life agree together, and therefore my hope is well


Chr. Who told thee that thy heart and life agrees together?


Ignor. My heart tells me so.

Ignorant claims he is not a hypocrite: “my heart and life agree together,” he says, in a memorable formulation of the conscious integrity with which he shapes his life. The assertion is repeated – “My heart tells me so,” “but mine is a good one,” “My heart tells me so,” “It comforts me,” “My heart and life agree together,” “My heart tells me so” – and Ignorant’s discloses a circular, tautological reasoning that can only insist on its own goodness. Bunyan displays Ignorant’s nature through this verbal insistence – a proclamation of his own essence through speech, which is essential to the way allegorical technique works. Bunyan’s Talkative, another professor, talks a lot; Pliable is easily persuaded to join Christian in his pilgrimage and just as easily leaves him. The insistence, however, is already seen in Bunyan as something of which to be wary – as a distinct marker of the professor.

Ignorant embodies the very real problems of interpretation – of the self as well as of the world – with which Bunyan struggled. Bunyan’s strand of – he was a reformed Baptist – held interpretation to be central to the ways in which believers should approach the Scriptures, the attachments of the world, and oneself. It also, however, remained deeply skeptical of the accuracy of human interpretation because God’s knowledge could not be presumed to be understood by human minds.

Bunyan finds these professors – pilgrims who acted soundly, had sound doctrine, walked and talked like pilgrims, but were in fact merely impersonating true believers

– the most dangerous temptations in The Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s precisely because of their sincerity – the fact that Ignorant’s “heart and life agree together” – that professors become particularly difficult to identify as impersonators. Ignorant is a self-deceiver that deceives because of his sincerity; and he is so dangerous that

Bunyan makes of him an example. Ignorant is bound hand and foot and dragged from


the gates of heaven; this scene of eternal damnation is how Bunyan chooses to close

The Pilgrim’s Progress.

In his professing personifications, Bunyan describes a character that presents integrity as a clear, visible sign, but one that remains radically unreadable to the self and others. Ignorant’s formulation – that “my heart and life agree together” – is so apparent, so simple and telling, that it belies a fundamental ignorance of the complexity of human motivation and desires. The difficulty of reading “hearts” plays out in the ways allegorically inflected characters are constantly misread in the novels.

B., the master and captor of Pamela in Samuel Richardson’s novel, wonders what

“Tricks and Artifices…lie lurking in her little, plotting, guileful Heart!”11 B.’s description of Pamela’s heart as “plotting, guileful” gets to the crux of the novel, which is of reading that very heart. And just as Pamela, the eighteenth-century counterpart to the verbally insistent Ignorant, is being released from her confinement at the Lincolnshire estate and realizes that she loves the very man whom she is fleeing, Pamela chides her own heart: “O lumpish, contradictory, ungovernable

Heart.”12 During first half of the novel, Pamela had imagined her heart fully agreeing with her principles, akin to Ignorant’s symmetrical life and heart. But reading the heart – and, in particular, the seemingly consonant heart – is a slippery business.

While opacity, ignorance, and misreading are not necessarily confined within the purview of allegorical description, Bunyan’s contribution to the techniques of allegorical representation is exactly this strange paradox that is heightened in the eighteenth-century novel: That allegories are subject to self-deceit and the deception of others is not surprising, but the effect of being such clear embodiments of

11 Samuel Richardson, Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded, Ed. Albert J. Rivero (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 171.

12 Ibid., 226.


abstractions. When the heart and life agree together, they blind us with their absolute certainty, symmetry, and simplicity.


When personifications like Ignorant appear in the novel, the interpretive framework that cast him as a professor – God’s judgment of Ignorant’s heart as positively unsound – also falls away. The novel provides its own interpretive framework, which denies the absolute judgment we find in Bunyan’s Calvinist God and, instead, relies on the things that one can see and interpret for judgment. The reliance on empirical interpretation of course also exists in allegorical , since all allegory demands unlocking; but interpretation of religious allegory is always subsumed by God’s unquestionable judgment. Reading and interpreting are so fundamental to allegory’s form – since allegory presupposes that its images, its characters, its plot will one day be decoded – that “reading” is also central to the way I treat allegory in the works that are not clear narrative allegories like Bunyan’s. Even when a particular reader (or

God) is absent, allegory implies the presence of a reader – an interpreter – because the figure is built around its eventual interpretation. The absence of God’s judgment impacts fundamentally how we read allegories in the novel: If no judgment in the novel can be classified as absolute, then what are personifications – the abstractions of essential and positive qualities – doing in the novel? And what do we do with them? In secular fictions, where abstractions have no positive answers, the readers of allegory – be they in the text or outside it – necessarily fall back on observation. For this reason, I read not only read how characters read other allegorical characters, but I also read how allegorical characters read themselves. Interpretation of allegory in


eighteenth-century fictions and novels is always arguable, fallible, and contested; but it is exactly this contested ground that brings allegory to life in the novel.

Personifications create representational wrinkles in the novel, something that critics first noticed in the . Joseph Addison famously criticized John Milton’s allegories of Sin and Death in Paradise Lost, his main point being that that they escape “that measure of Probability annexed to them,” which he finds important in epic composition.13 He expands his reservations in another essay also published in

The Spectator:

It is plain that these I have mentioned, in which Persons of an imaginary

Nature are introduced, are such short Allegories as are not designed to be

taken in the litteral Sense, but only to convey particular Circumstances to the

Reader after an unusual and entertaining Manner. But when such Persons are

introduced as principal Actors, and engaged in a Series of Adventures, they

take too much upon them, and are by no means proper for an Heroic Poem,

which ought to appear credible in its principal Parts. I cannot forbear therefore

thinking that Sin and Death are as improper Agents in a Work of this Nature,

as Strength and Necessity in one of the Tragedies of Eschylus, who

represented those two Persons nailing down Prometheus to a Rock, for which

he has been justly censured by the greatest Criticks.14

Sin and Death, who build a bridge – a broad and beaten way – out of Hell, are central to the plot of Paradise Lost. For Addison, in order for epic “to appear credible in its principal Parts,” allegory cannot “be taken in the literal Sense.” Allegories in the

13 Joseph Addison, The Spectator, ed. Donald F. Bond, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), II:563.

14 Ibid., III:338.


works of Homer and Virgil are embellishments – separate tableaux of meaning – that do not interfere with the action of the poem. These implications – of allegory’s mixing in the world of real agents and becoming a real agent – are central to Lord

Kames’ as well as ’s objections to personification in the epic, which they voiced in print in the 1760s and 1770s.15 For eighteenth-century critics, the problem with Sin and Death was that they are agents in an epic that strove for verisimilitude.

Eighteenth-century authors were encouraged to abide by the rules of verisimilitude, which in contemporary criticism was often couched in terms of probability. As Samuel Johnson famously described it, the fictions that delighted in the eighteenth century were “diversified only by accidents that daily happen in the world, and influenced by passions and qualities which are really to be found in conversing with mankind.”16 The injunction to constrain writing this way served even for the judgment of allegories. The literary discussion reflects a larger aesthetic shift in the beginning of the century; and we can see clear arguments for it articulated in

Henry Fielding’s literary essays in Tom Jones. Fielding dedicates the longest prefatory chapter in his novel, that of Book VIII, to defining what the good novelist should do; and by 1749 it’s not a contentious point for Fielding to claim something that anticipates an important realist rule: “every good Author will confine himself within the Bounds of Probability.”17 The rule is implicit even a decade earlier in

15 For a lively analysis of this lively discussion, see the second chapter of Steven Knapp, Personification and the Sublime: Milton to Coleridge (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985).

16 Samuel Johnson, “The Rambler, No. 4” in Samuel Johnson: A Critical Edition of the Major Works, ed. Daniel Greene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 175.

17 Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, ed. Fredson Bowers (Oxford: Wesleyan University Press, 1975), 406-7.


Richardson’s description of Pamela, whose education, refined taste, and general niceties are explained by her relationship with B.’s mother. However, in the beginning of the century, the question of probability was still contentious, especially when it came to the propriety of allegorical representation in epics.

A significant part of this dissertation grapples with the repercussions of having personifications as “principal Actors, and engaged in a Series of Adventures.” Behind

Addison’s, Kames’, and Johnson’s preoccupation with literary propriety is a warning against having two distinct interpretive frameworks that simultaneously demand different forms of readerly belief in one text – and I think this, rather than whether personification moves, acts, or appears to be real, is the main problem with the use of allegorical characters in the novel. My chapters on Jonathan Swift, Samuel

Richardson, and Henry Fielding show that one effect of this promiscuous technique is that personifications in the prose fictions of the eighteenth century are consistently misread by the characters who encounter them. The slippage is also present in the ambivalence of the verb “to impersonate,” which straddles two contradictory meanings: 1) “to invest with a supposed personality; to represent in personal or bodily form; to personify”; and 2) “to assume the person or character of; to the part of; to (a character); to personate.”18 Even a personification that so forcefully, so uniformly represents the absolute essence of an abstraction (Virtue) can be forged and replicated – and turned into its very opposite (Vice). Impersonation is a useful term to capture the ambivalent quality of allegorical representation, because it highlights the fact that allegory is already itself formally ambivalent, having both a tenor and a

18 “impersonate, v.”. OED Online. March 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/92330?rskey=1auz2i&result=2&isAdvanced=false (accessed April 24, 2015).


vehicle. Personification is inseparable from the idea of impersonation because allegory is already in the business of representing something other than itself.

When used to describe allegory, “impersonation” acquires a capaciousness that is unlike the popular meaning of the term today. Impersonation cannot be strictly defined by intentionality. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines

“impersonation” as “an act of pretending to be another person for the purpose of or fraud.”19 But the Oxford English Dictionary gives us a more neutral, though older definition of “to impersonate,” one that is more akin to playing a part or to personify. Throughout this dissertation, I follow the ways that impersonation and personification are complicit with other by keeping the two strands of the verbs “to impersonate” alive. By not collapsing the two meanings, I show that personification has other, more variable relationships with deception. A personification could simultaneously deceive and not intend to deceive, for example, or deceive because the character longs so much not to deceive. It’s in Pilgrim’s Progress that we find these versions of personifications; but we also can track their afterlives in other eighteenth- century fiction. My next example of the ambiguous relationship between allegorical characterization and interpretation resides in one of the century’s seminal novels, which I do not treat in the dissertation, Samuel Richardson’s

Clarissa, or the History of Young Lady (1747-8). Clarissa, a young, intelligent girl who has been seduced and raped by the rake Lovelace, finally escapes him and sends him a letter as she manages and prepares for her own death:


19 “impersonate, v.” Oxford dictionaries. Oxford University Press. http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/impersonation (accessed May 22, 2015).


I have good news to tell you. I am out with all diligence to my father’s

house. I am bid to hope that he will receive his poor penitent with a goodness

peculiar to himself; for I am overjoyed with the assurance of a thorough

reconciliation through the interposition of a dear blessed friend, whom I

always loved and honoured. I am so taken up with my preparation for this

joyful and long-wished-for journey, that I cannot spare one moment for any

other business, having several matters of the last importance to settle first. So,

pray, sir, don’t disturb or interrupt me—I beseech you don’t—You may in

time, possibly, see me at my father’s, at least, if it be not your own fault.

I will write a letter which shall be sent you when I am got thither and

received: till when, I am, etc.


The allegorical letter is famous because this is the one instance that the novel presents

Clarissa, whose virtue is integral to her characterization, engaged in actions that can be understood as duplicitous. When read literally, the letter describes her reconciliation with her family instead of Clarissa’s slow death, occasioned by her rape. Lovelace, who indeed fails to read it allegorically, charges Clarissa with deception, “She ought never to be forgiven. She, a meek person, and a penitent, and innocent, and pious, and I know not what, who can deceive with a foot in the grave!”21

Clarissa’s reliance on allegory increases as the novel comes to an end. Clarissa

Harlowe is certainly not a personification – her name alone suggests it; but she is

20 Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady, ed. Angus Ross (London: Penguin Books, 1985), 1233.

21 Ibid., 1301.


allegorically inflected, not only because she is seen as an exemplary woman but also because she is a negative example – what a young, intelligent woman, pursued by a rake, should not do.22 After the rape, Clarissa seems herself to believe in her allegorical nature: “Yes, yes, indeed, ready to sink, my name was Clarissa

Harlowe:—But it is now Wretchedness!”23 Belford, who is at first Lovelace’s primary confidant and who is won over by Clarissa’s virtue, sends Lovelace the description of the “divine Clarissa” after the rape, which casts her either as a Christian martyr or a

Christ figure:

When I surveyed the room around, and the kneeling lady, sunk with majesty

too in her white flowing robes, (for she had not on a hoop,) spreading the dark,

though not dirty, floor, and illuminating that horrid corner; her linen beyond

imagination white, considering that she had not been undressed ever since she

had been here; I thought my concern would have choked me. Something rose

in my throat, I know not what, which made me, for a moment, guggle, as it

were, for speech: which, at last, forcing its way, Con—Con—Confound you

both, said I, to the man and woman, is this an apartment for such a lady? And

could the cursed devils of her own sex, who visited this suffering angel, see

her, and leave her, in so damned a nook?24

The imaginative tenor of the novel becomes more and more allegorical as it tries to grapple with unspeakable experience. The vision of Clarissa “in her white flowing

22 For the allegorical nature of Clarissa, see Jonathan Loesberg, “Allegory and Narrative in ‘Clarissa’” in NOVEL: A Forum in Fiction Vol. 15, No. 1 (Autumn 1981): 39-59. Wendy Lee finds Clarissa’s “impersonality” – “that evacuates the model of personhood based on interiority, secrecy, and privacy” – as analogous to allegory. See “A Case for Hard- heartedness: Clarissa, Indifferency, Impersonality,” in Eighteenth-Century Fiction Vol. 26, No. 1 (Fall 2013): 63.

23 Ibid., 1052.

24 Ibid., 1065.


robes,” which Belford earlier calls “exceeding neat,” reflects the otherworldliness of her virtue – that even in this dark place, she can render the orderliness of her mind and spirit through the neat maintenance of her dress. The meaningfulness of her garment’s whiteness echoes the description of Christ in the Gospel of Luke: “And as

[Jesus] prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.”25

But in another letter, Lovelace explicitly associates “white” with a type of allegorical integrity that deceives. It is exactly because “white” is so easily legible, such a useful allegorical shorthand, that Lovelace thinks of “whiteness” as too visible, too obvious a manipulation. He urges Belford: “no hypocrisy!—I hate it: so does my charmer. If I had studied for it, I believe I could have been an hypocrite: but my general character is so well known, that I should have been suspected at once, had I aimed at making too white.”26 Lovelace’s “too white” is a jab at Clarissa’s unspotted virtue, which he studiously wants to read as affectation. Lovelace’s natural suspicion of the “too white” damns Clarissa’s radiant white dress as posturing, as the expedient use of allegory for the purpose of deception. By appropriating the language of allegory, therefore, Clarissa becomes particularly vulnerable to the charge of impersonation. Her actions preceding her death become too damnably like such performances of rendering oneself “too white” – from her white dress to her purchasing her casket and living with it in her rooms. The imputation of hypocrisy is not merely imagined, but iterated in Clarissa itself as well as in the heroine’s most beloved book: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto

25 Luke 9:29 (King James Version)

26 This letter is not included in the Penguin edition of the novel, which follows Richardson’s first edition. Samuel Richardson added about 200 pages of material in his third edition of 1751, in which this letter appears. Samuel Richardson, Clarissa (Oxford: Blackwell, publishers to the Shakespeare head press of Stratford-upon-Avon, 1930), III:351-2.


whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.”27

In Richardson’s novel both Lovelace and Clarissa are keenly aware of the instrumental use of allegory – its deception, seduction, and duplicity – in the novel.

Lovelace uses allegory twice as a ruse – once in his stabbing of Conscience (of which

I provide a reading in my third chapter) and in his claim that Clarissa is in a courtship with Death (“a misshapen, meager varlet; more like a skeleton than a man!”28). After all, Belford’s description of Clarissa in her flowing robes intends to make a repentant out of Lovelace; and Clarissa’s allegorical letter is a means of sowing deceit – no matter how “innocent,” as Clarissa describes the allegory to Belford.29 To her mind,

Clarissa’s use of allegory – a technique used in the itself – absolves her from charges of deceitfulness. But Richardson conceives of allegory in the novel as inhabiting an almost paradoxical position – of being both innocent (Clarissa is virtuous) and deceitful (Clarissa performs virtue by wearing her white dress). This is the tension in allegory that I trace from Bunyan’s Ignorant and that becomes particularly visible in the early novel.

The fictions that I examine in the dissertation make a strong case for the difficulty of reading allegory. My dissertation provides four views of this cognitive dissonance in the novel – each explored in a different chapter. I focus on a key period, from the 1670s to the 1750s, when the complexities and techniques of allegorical figures developed alongside realistic writing. It was a period when novels had not yet been codified, when they vied with other prose fictions (satire, romances, scandal

27 Matthew 23:27 (King James Version)

28 Richardson, Clarissa, 1097.

29 Richardson, Clarissa, 1297.


fiction) for popularity in the market. My first chapter looks closely at the anxieties that surround Bunyan’s use of allegory, which I have outlined briefly in my discussion of Ignorant, where I find a model for the personifications that I find in eighteenth-century fiction and novels. My second chapter discusses Jonathan Swift’s early satire, A Tale of a Tub (composed 1696-7; published 1704), the century’s most vociferous treatise against allegorical representation. I argue that Swift’s satirical treatment of allegories produces allegories that are animated by the very philosophies and ideas (of and René Descartes) that Swift vehemently criticizes.

His satire, therefore, is populated by deeply materialist allegories, which I define as allegories whose literal descriptions (that is, allegory’s vehicle) have become more vivid than what they are supposed to signify. These provide Swift with a technique that heightens the material nature of allegorical description in fiction.

This descriptive, materialist vivacity, I suggest, has profound consequences for the novel. I discuss one telling example in my third chapter – that of Samuel

Richardson’s Pamela – where I argue Pamela’s possessions (her clothes, her purse) are treated as realist as well as allegorical. Pamela herself is an insistent personification: She avows her virtue so insistently that characters around her begin to doubt the integrity or existence of that virtue. I discuss the impersonating personification in the fourth and last chapter. Henry Fielding’s satirical short novel,

Jonathan Wild, shows allegory’s vivacity primarily as an extension of Fielding’s theatrical career as a successful writer of farce in the 1730s. He lends his allegorical characters, the Heartfrees, some of the ostentation of those farcical actors. The result is a heightened and ironic treatment of allegory and its vivacity that makes the

Heartfrees unknowable and complex.


Those who have read about allegory in eighteenth-century fiction might be surprised by what might seem like a curious omission – that of Daniel Defoe’s The

Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, which has been traditionally read (since J. Paul

Hunter’s Reluctant Pilgrim) as a Christian salvation narrative. The argument that I build in the dissertation centers on the ways in which allegory is productively misread

– an impossible task in a book that deals with an isolated character like Robinson

Crusoe. Instead, the dissertation examines texts where personifications and allegorically inflected characters puzzle other characters with their allegorical tenor.

The texts that I analyze in the dissertation allow me to trace, by following a series of misreading, two types of character that emerge from allegory in the novel. The first and more widespread variant is a character that produces opacity – a deceptiveness that arises not in spite of but precisely because of his or her intention to be transparent

– that is, easily legible. This model is more akin to Pamela, whose insistence renders her difficult to read, and that originates from Bunyan’s treatment of Ignorant and

Talkative. It’s a technique that can be traced in Jane Austen’s Fanny Price, for example, or – in a more tortuous way – Charlotte Brontë’s Lucy Snowe. The second variant that we see – modeled more closely on Fielding’s Heartfrees and that seems more akin to Swift’s Peter and Jack – is that hypocrisy becomes marked by hyperbolic description, which we find in Charles Dickens’ Uriah Heep or in William

Thackeray’s , and that uses allegory as a way to signal fanaticism. The afterlife of impersonating personifications shows allegory’s persistence in the novel, long after allegory’s supposed demise.



That the realist novel originated from a negotiation with several different forms and genres has passed into critical canonicity. Mikhail Bakhtin famously theorized the capaciousness of the novel, which “best of all reflects the tendencies of a new world and in total affinity with it…the novel sparks the renovation of all other genres, it infects them with its spirit of process and inconclusiveness.”30 And, indeed, most accounts of the novel’s rise – from Ian Watt to Michael McKeon and Lennard Davis – have looked at the different genres, philosophies, and cultural, social or political histories that constitute what we call the novel.31 This dissertation is no different. It emerges from intersecting methodologies; it engages with formal readings of texts, with the history of genres, with the stories of contemporary ideas and, finally, with the representation of emotions, or the passions. The dissertation has no adherence to what

Eve Sedgwick would call “the reach and reductiveness of strong theory,” but rather an allegiance to what she terms weak theory, which tries to account for “a number of interrelated affect theories of different kinds and strengths.”32 Weak theory was for me a fitting framework to deal with the novel – itself a form so marked by its allegiance to heterogeneity and variety.

It became increasingly clear to me, as I wrote the dissertation, that a central part of my method, especially in the last two chapters, consisted in registering and analyzing characters’ emotions and their reactions to allegorical representation in novels. I offer no overarching theory that accounts for an epistemology of emotion in

30 Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin,, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 7.

31 Ian Watt, Rise of the Novel; Michael McKeon, The Origins of the : 1600- 1740 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); and Lennard Davis, Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).

32 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durnham & London: Duke University Press, 2003), 134.


the eighteenth century; instead, my dissertation offers distinct but interrelated models of allegorical misreading. It should not have surprised me that the dissertation took this form, since the backbone of the argument arose from the practices of close reading – and close reading, as Sedgwick describes it, yields its own theory, particular to its own framework. In her defense of weak theory, Sedgwick reminds us that “there are important phenomenological and theoretical tasks that can be accomplished only through local theories and nonce taxonomies; the potentially innumerable mechanisms of their relation to stronger theories remain matters of art and speculative thought.”33 I like to think of this dissertation as being composed of a set of these

“local theories,” which together present a related set of concerns about allegory’s complicated, ambiguous, and often duplicitous role in the eighteenth-century novel.

33 Ibid., 145.



The Romancer does not attempt to create “real people” so much as stylized figures which expand into psychological archetypes….That is why the romance so often radiates a glow of subjective intensity that the novel lacks, and why a suggestion of allegory is constantly creeping around its fringes…The novelist deals with personality, with characters wearing their personae or social masks. He needs the framework of a stable society, and many of our best novelists have been conventional to the point of fussiness. The romancer deals with individuality, with characters in vacuo idealized by revery, and, however conservative he may be, something nihilistic and untamable is likely to keep breaking out of his pages. —, Anatomy of Criticism

For John Bunyan, the Reformed Baptist – or as Bunyan’s biographer Richard Greaves defines him, an “open-membership, open-communion Baptist with Reformed predestinarian views” – writing allegory presented a vexing problem.34 Allegory, which uses symbol to represent another hidden meaning, had fallen into disrepute in the Protestant Reformation. The radical changes in religion during the Reformation fomented unrest that culminated in the . During the period between

1642 to 1651, King Charles I struggled for military power against the Parliament over the wars with Ireland and Scotland. The Civil War was fueled by the religious unrest in the seventeenth century, which saw the growth of radical sectarianism and a rejection of Anglicanism as insufficiently divorced from the . John

Bunyan, as Christopher Hill rightly points out, spent the formative years of his life

34 I quote the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, because this is the most concise way to describe Bunyan’s complicated religious affiliation. “Bunyan, John (bap. 1628, d. 1688),” Richard L. Greaves in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, eee online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, Oxford: OUP, 2004, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3949 (accessed May 21, 2015).


experiencing the shock of the Civil War and its aftermath; and, more to Hill’s point,

Bunyan became immersed in the urgent questions of oppression, right governance, and radical forms and varieties of religious thinking.35 By the age of sixteen Bunyan sides against the royalists and the Church of and joins the Parliamentary

Army; he lives through the execution of King Charles I (1649); and when England reestablishes the monarchy with Charles II (1660), Bunyan is imprisoned for being a sectarian in the government’s attempt to curb the various forms of Puritanism that bloomed under ’s parliamentary rule (1649-1659). Central to

Bunyan’s belief about the unsuitability of the Anglican Church was its insistence on conformity and its reliance on outward forms of worship, when prayer and faith cannot be conformed or dictated. What Reformed yearned for and struggled with was an individual reckoning with God, which required the abolishment of interferences, linguistic and structural. This made individual believers entirely in charge of their own appraisals and interpretations of the Bible and of God; but it also, as Beth Lynch observed, made them “labou[r] under a weighty hermeneutic burden.”36 The uncertainty of one’s religious standing was excruciating and required a strict interpretation of the scriptures, as Bunyan describes in his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding: “Then began I with sad and careful heart, to consider of the nature and largeness of my sin, and to search in the word of God, if I could in any place espy a word of Promise, or any encouraging Sentence by which I

35 This informs Hill’s reading of Pilgrim’s Progress as social and political allegory, which I will not be treating in the dissertation and therefore want to bracket here. Hill is particularly interested in the intersection of social and religious identifications in the allegory’s pilgrims as well as allegory as the necessary mode of censured or repressed minorities. See Christopher Hill, A Turbulent, Seditious, and Factious People: John Bunyan and his Church 1628-1688 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

36 Beth Lynch, John Bunyan and the Language of Conviction (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004), 8.


might take relief.”37 The words of God himself, materialized in the Bible, required interpretation; one’s nature and actions required interpretation; and, finally, God and the indication of his “Promise” required interpretation. As Bunyan makes clear in the closing lines of Pilgrim’s Progress, ignorant or unexamined belief, personified as

Ignorant, deserves to be bound hand and foot and taken to the very gates of Hell.

The interpretive injunction of explains Luther and Calvin’s invectives against allegory. The Reformation, which proposed an unmediated relationship between the believer and his God, had abolished the use of in sermons and Bible translations and the absolution of sins through the intermediary functions of the priest. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that Calvin and Luther saw allegory as a counterfeiting fiction, another obstacle thrust between meaning and the reader. For Reformers, representation should be as literal as possible; Calvin urged its visual restriction: “The only things, therefore, which ought to be painted or sculptured, are things which can be presented to the eye.”38 Calvin’s injunction anticipates the tenets of realist writing as a representational mode (“ought to be painted or sculptured”) that takes sensory apprehension (“things which can be presented to the eye”) as its primary material. Luther described allegory as “idle dreams,” “a beautiful harlot,” “empty speculations…the scum of holy scripture.”39

From the perspective that allegory divides the reader from the text, a protestant allegory would seem to be counterintuitive, even impossible.

37 John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners and The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to that which is to come, ed. Roger Sharrock (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), 47.

38 , Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, 2 vols (London: James Clarke & Co., Limited, 1962), 1.11.12.

39 Brought to my attention in and quoted from Brian Cummings “Protestant Allegory” in The Cambridge Companion to Allegory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 177.


The Puritan view of allegory fundamentally changes the way allegory functions in literature. From the Greek epics, where allegories act as enforcers of divine will (for example, Discord or Sleep in The Iliad), allegories become figures that are treated with wariness and skepticism. Indeed, deceptive personifications are not without precedence. Singularly evocative examples of these personifications are at home in Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Fairie Queene, where allegories are subject to enchantments. In the beginning of Book I, Spenser already presents us with a counterfeit version of Una or Virtue, conjured by Archimago, the epic’s Enchanter:

Who all this while with charmes and hidden artes,

Had made a Lady of that other Spright,

And fram’d of liquid ayre her tender partes

So liuely and so like in all mens sight,

That weaker sence it could haue rauisht quight:

The maker selfe for all his wondrous witt,

Was nigh beguiled with so goodly sight:

Her all in white he clad, and ouer it

Cast a black stole, most like to seeme for Vna fit.40

Archimago, whom Spenser calls Hypocrisie in the Canto’s argument, forms something “fram’d of liquid ayre” – the counterfeit Una is a wisp, a fiction; but her ability to charm and, therefore, to deceive the Redcrosse Knight is contingent on her being “so liuely and so like in all mens sight.” She looks alive and animate to the sight, but the adjective “liuely” also suggests a certain vivacity and intensity of being, which explains her seduction (and not just deception) of the Knight. Liveliness in these two senses is essential to the counterfeit Una’s role in ; her

40 Edmund Spenser, The Fairie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton (Harlow: Pearson Educated Limited, 2007), i.45.1-9.


hypocrisy is more felt by her vivacity and is more essential to the plot than the more traditional description of hypocrisy as dressing or covering up that Spenser evokes at the end of the stanza. Counterfeit Una’s vivacity is central to the sense of liveliness that her phantom performs – the fact that she’s an embodied, full person in the world.

Counterfeit Una is exactly the “beautiful harlot” that Luther and Calvin worry that allegory can be. Allegory is in itself worldly, because it clings to the things of the world as a descriptive technique. And this is a problem about which Bunyan betrays deep ambivalence, as we will see later in the chapter.

If Spenser’s allegories beguile because Archimago’s enchantments (or, we could read, hypocrisy’s enchantments) form a lively replica of a figure – in the same way that fiction deceives readers – Bunyan’s personifications mislead for the exact opposite reason: they do not celebrate the power of fiction to delude, but rather betray an anxiety about language’s ability to represent and to be read correctly. That is not to say that Spenser is unconcerned with deception in his epic. Indeed, both Spenser and

Bunyan create personifications that mislead because they are “so like in all mens sight.” 41 Appearing in the first Book of The Fairie Queene, counterfeit Una is a warning to its readers that they cannot trust personifications. However, Bunyan’s allegory presents us with a different form of a deceptive personification. Bunyan’s personifications are indeed lively – but, more importantly, their liveliness seems to

41 The literary connection between Bunyan and Spenser is not mine; it’s actually Samuel Johnson’s, who reportedly said that “It is remarkable, that [The Pilgrim’s Progress] begins very much like the poem of Dante; yet there was no translation of Dante when Bunyan wrote. There is reason to think that he had read Spenser.” See James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. George Hill. 6 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934), II:238. While Johnson does not expound on the reasons for the comparison, it is surprising, at least, that Johnson did not compare Bunyan to John Milton, whose personifications of Sin and Death were singularly important in eighteenth-century . It is, however, striking to me that Bunyan, like Spenser, weaves chivalric conventions into his allegory; both create fully allegorical universes, rather than intersecting allegory with cosmological or religious history; and both are particularly invested in thinking about the deceptions that the allegorical imaginings can present to readers.


originate from their sincerity. Bunyan’s personifications deceive not because they intend to, but because they so wholeheartedly represent their belief. Formalist and

Hypocrisie, two deceiving personifications that Christian meets in his pilgrimage, talk and walk like other pilgrims; they are on the same road as Christian; they have the intention of getting to the Celestial Gates. Bunyan is not describing a pair of Catholics

(although Christian is beset by the temptation of Mosaic Law); he’s describing fellow

Puritans – who appear to hold similar beliefs and to speak the same vocabulary.

Christian’s main concern in the allegory to interpret, because he is besieged by personifications that lie, profess, and deceive. Before the Reformation, allegory’s fictional nature was not reason for its condemnation. A fitting example is Prudentius’

Christian allegory Psychomachia in the 4th century (our first narrative allegory), which describes the hand-to-hand battles between the two clearly defined camps (the

Virtues against the Vices). Like Pilgrim’s Progress, Psychomachia describes the psychological and spiritual struggles that occur in a man’s soul. Prudentius’ allegory is more akin to a machine, whose accumulation of defeats and victories in the poem’s strictly binary world (what James Paxon calls its “algebraic character”) neatly culminates in the vision of Christ’s return.42 In Prudentius’ poem, Pride carries the emblems of pride around him; he even dons the skin of a lion on his back. Prudentius deals with coherent, pure abstractions. Unlike the personifications in Psychomachia, personifications in The Pilgrim’s Progress are “aspects” of Christian’s personality that demand inquiry and judgment rather than acceptance. According to Angus

Fletcher, The Pilgrim’s Progress reveals the complexity of Christian’s character by projecting his doubts, prejudices, and mistakes in personified form. The

42 James Paxon, The of Personification (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 64.


personifications Christian meets along the way also tend to represent Christian’s psychological, emotional, or spiritual hesitations or errors. As Angus Fletcher puts it,

The allegorical hero is not so much a real person as he is a generator of other

secondary personalities, which are partial aspects of himself….in this sense

the subcharacters, the most numerous agents of an allegory, may be generated

by the main , and the finest hero will then be the one who most

naturally seems to generate subcharacters—aspects of himself—who became

the means by which he is revealed, facet by facet.43

Pilgrim’s Progress, unlike Psychomachia, is an allegory that delineates the ways in which a person recognizes virtue or vice. It shows the sheer difficulty of relegating

Vice and Virtue into distinct categories – not because they are ontologically ambiguous, but because of the difficulty of apprehending Vice and Virtue in the midst of mundane experience. The distinction explains why critics consider Bunyan an important ancestor of the English novel: his allegory does not demonstrate the psychological battle as exemplary or even emblematic warfare, but depicts experience, its dangers, pitfalls, and slips.

The innovation of Bunyan’s allegory is that it foregrounds the process of interpreting personifications – and, in particular, personifications that do not intentionally deceive. In the following section, I propose a few readings of Talkative that are not only relevant to Bunyan’s idea of what Talkative is doing in the allegory, but that also seem to speak to the problems of allegorical characterization in early eighteenth-century British fiction more broadly. There are two main issues with interpreting allegory. First, the allegory simultaneously fulfills its requirement to describe things in sensory terms and also disavows the importance of the things that it

43 Angus Fletcher, Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1964), 35.


describes. Second, this description, which clings to the things of the world and tells us that what is important is its unworldly message, is always interpreted with skepticism and resistance. Allegorical interpretation in Bunyan, therefore, is always contested – not only because it summarily deceives, but also because deception seems to be a requirement for making meaning out of allegorical representation. The first section of the chapter describes Bunyan’s anxieties about using language that originates from the senses to describe Christian’s experience in allegory; and the second section argues that these anxieties crystallize in particular personifications, where sensual information produces opacity rather than clarity of interpretation.


That the form and structure of allegory necessarily entails deception – saying one thing and meaning another – explains why Bunyan’s in the Apology of The

Pilgrim’s Progress is defensive. Written “In such a mode,” the allegory is a work of chance. Bunyan can only account for it by saying that he “Fell suddenly into an

Allegory.”44 Bunyan’s “fall” here, as in the case with allegory, occurs at once as a literal and metaphorical event. The Pilgrim’s Progress is the product of the narrator falling asleep and dreaming Christian’s pilgrimage. More poignant to Reformed

Christians living in a world void of God’s immediate presence is that allegory, as

Maureen Quilligan explains in relation to Milton, “is a genre for the fallen world, but is a genre self-conscious of its own fallenness.”45 The problem of allegory for Milton

– and for Bunyan – is not that it creates distance between the reader and God; but,

44 John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to That which is to Come, ed. James Wharey and Roger Sharrock (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 1975, 1.

45 Maureen Quilligan, The Language of Allegory: Defining the Genre (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), 182.


rather, this material, physical language is evidence and reminder of the Fall.

Presumably before the Fall, there would be no need to explain or find God through figurative language. In the Apology, Bunyan makes the writing of allegory analogous to thinking of the world and its things as worthy of attention:

Solidity, indeed becomes the Pen

Of him that writeth things Divine to men:

But must I needs want solidness, because

By I speak; was not Gods Laws,

His Gospel-laws in older time held forth

By Types, Shadows and Metaphors? Yet loth

Will any sober man be to find fault

With them, lest he be found for to assault

The highest Wisdom. No, he rather stoops,

And seeks to find out what by pins and loops

By Calves, and Sheep; by Heifers, and by Rams;

By Birds and Herbs, and by the blood of Lambs;

God speaketh to him: And happy is he

That finds the light, and grace that in them be. (4)

To find God in pins, loops, calves, sheep, heifers, rams, birds, and herbs is indeed to render the present things of the world as something “other”; and this displacement, so central to allegorical representation, is intrinsic to the way Reformed Christians understood their existence in this world. The fallen nature of allegory, which forces

Bunyan to contemplate the divine through pins, calves, and birds, lends Pilgrim’s

Progress what critics have identified as traces of realistic fiction. Fletcher calls this displacement “a compromise” between realistic description and the abstract


exigencies of a religious work – a compromise that he traces straight to Daniel

Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.46

More fitting than “compromise,” I think, is the word “negotiation,” since the reader of Bunyan must always negotiate meaning through iterations of literal expression and metaphysical significance. This negotiation between the things of the world and the things of the spirit was done primarily through “allegoresis,” which was the reading of stories and histories as allegorical. Allegoresis had a rich history not only in the medieval Catholic Church, where exegetes used a schematized fourfold levels of interpretation to read the bible (though St. Augustine had only three); but even Luther and Calvin were prolific exegetes. Allegoresis was used variously; but its earliest form in the Pauline epistles was in part used to subjugate Jewish history under

Christian narratives. Paul uses it in Galatians to read the story of Hagar and Sarah as

“an allegory.” Hagar becomes representative of the covenant of Law (roughly living in accordance with the Jewish Scriptures) and Sarah of the covenant of the Spirit.

Sarah is equated with “Jerusalem” and is “the mother of us all.”47 Thus Faithful in

Pilgrim’s Progress encounters “Adam the First” who lives “in the town of Deceit,” since salvation resides in serving the second Adam, or Christ (69). Allegoresis is not only a scholarly technique; allegoresis becomes the way Reformers encountered – how they read and interpreted – their religious and spiritual history – and, more personally, the world around them. Interpreting (the world, a text) as allegory is central to the Puritan experience of life. In this way allegory emerges from a method of interpretation and is inseparable from it.48

46 Fletcher, Allegory, 332.

47 Galatians 4:24-26 (King James Version).

48 Arnold Kettle explains also allegorical techniques in relation to an “othering” or displacement: “The sense of oppression and difficulty, in fact, tends to lead to allegorical


In his insightful work on Puritan allegory, Thomas Luxon explains that

Calvin’s formulation of representation proved to contain an impossible distinction, because Reformed Christians were encouraged to conceive of this world as allegory.

Reformed believers were entrusted with the tasks of reading and interpreting the world around them as prefiguring the real and true kingdom of God. Of primary importance was the maintenance of this world as a fiction – to not succumb to the lures of allegory in this life – because this counterfeit life required scrupulous study and attention. As Luxon puts it, “Reformed Christianity, for all of its insistence on literalism, remains profoundly committed to an allegorical ontology. It is incessantly about the business of othering. It others the self and the world into God’s allegory of himself and his kingdom; it others the past as an allegory of the present and the present as an allegory of the future.”49

Certainly, interpretation becomes such a pressing point for Bunyan that

Christian’s first important stop is the Interpreter’s House, where he learns to interpret emblems correctly. There, Christian and Christiana (as well as Bunyan’s readers) learn the art of interpreting the sensual world correctly: After all, the correct interpretation of God’s words in the Bible is key to salvation. Bunyan attempts to inscribe in the practice of reading allegory a continuation of the Protestant devotion to , which forces us to translate the worldly and material into the emotional and spiritual. In the house, Christian is taught to understand the large, dusty parlor as the heart of an unbeliever; two little children enjoying or not enjoying treasures as rather than practical thinking….It is not just a question of language but of a whole mode of experience. The pilgrims need to see themselves in the terms of allegory in order to survive.” Arnold Kettle, “The Precursors of Defoe: Puritanism and the Rise of the Novel,” On the Novel: A Present for Walter Allen on his 60th Birthday from his Friends and Colleagues, ed. B. S. Benedikz (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1971), 213.

49 Thomas Luxon, Literal Figures: Puritan Allegory and the Reformation Crisis in Representation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 26. Luxon’s point is bolstered by the fact that the etymology of “allegory” can be understood as “other-speaking.”


Passion and Patience; and an inextinguishable fire as God’s grace. But the first room to which the Interpreter takes Christian is particularly important:

So he commanded his man to light the Candle, and bid Christian follow him;

so he had him into a private Room, and bid his Man open a Door; the which

when he had done, Christian saw a Picture of a very grave Person hang up

against the wall, and this was the fashion of it, It had the eyes lift up to

Heaven, the best of Books in its hand, the Law of Truth was written upon its

lips, the World was behind his back; it stood as if it pleaded with Men, and a

Crown of Gold did hang over its head. (29)

The portrait is of Christ, but here he is strangely figured as an interpreter. Like the

Interpreter, pilgrims, and believers in the allegory, Christ is also in the hermeneutical business. The Interpreter explains that Christ’s “work is to know, and unfold dark things to sinners” (29). The emergence of Christ, as previously noted, required a radical reinterpretation of the Jewish scriptures and its laws – a supersession implicit in the Christian usage of the term “.” Christians believed that Christ himself signified reinterpretation through revelation, since the gospels provide a reinterpretation of the Jewish scriptures. Like an allegory, the portrait’s spatial dimensions are really temporal: the world behind Christ is the worldly past the pilgrims have left behind; the crown hovering over his head is the promise of future fulfillment. What connects both is a Christ that reads and interprets. The image also shows the importance of the world in relation to its immanent meaning. Once again, the Interpreter glosses this intersection: “And whereas thou seest the World as cast behind him, and that a Crown hangs over his head; that is, to shew thee, that slighting and despising the things that are present, for the love that he hath to his Masters service, he is sure in the world that comes next to have Glory for his Reward” (29).


The world must be shunned, because it only precedes the next; we must reject “the things that are present,” but they must remain visible as a way towards the Crown.

The road goes from the world to the Crown – through Christ. The dual nature of the world here – as it is in all of Pilgrim’s Progress – is evident: While believers must shun the world as illusion or allegory, it is still intrinsically important to their understanding of the world that is to come.

The Interpreter explains that he has shown this room first to Christian because

“the Man whose Picture this is, is the only Man, whom the Lord of the Place whither thou art going, hath Authorized, to be thy Guide” (29). The stop at the Interpreter’s

House is a primer for allegorical interpretation, since Pilgrim’s Progress demands a series of translations that transform the material into something spiritual – a reversal of the mechanism of allegorical representation. The Slough of Dispond, for example, is a muddy and treacherous lake, but the reader of Bunyan’s allegory needs to remember that it is a translation of Christian’s state of mind. The Giant Despair and

Apollyon, the “…cloathed with scales like a Fish (and they are his pride)…,Wings like a , feet like a Bear…” must be explained as emotions, feelings, or struggles that Christian has to overcome during his conversion (56).

While the Giant Despair and his wife Diffidence are easier to understand in the context of a spiritual journey, Apollyon with his mythological and fantastical body is later explained in Volume Two as “the fruit of those slips that he got in [Christian’s] going down the Hill [into the Valley of Humiliation]” (237). The reader’s imagination strains against the pitfalls of falling, like Bunyan, into allegory – that is, of taking the world of the senses and its illusion as reality rather than something from which to abstract a lesson.


While Christian’s stop at the Interpreter’s House seems to advocate a simple, uncomplicated, and strictly pedagogical understanding of allegory, the rest of

Bunyan’s allegory seems much less convinced about the ease of allegory’s containment. , in particular, presents us with a narrative that itself intertwines material and spiritual concerns – two strands that for Bunyan should remain distinct but fail to do so. When Bunyan writes in the Apology that the “sober man” must “stoop” – and there Bunyan configures it as a gesture of humility – he also understands the dangerous, seductive quality of stooping to things. After all, Bunyan compares his allegory to a fisherman’s lure – which seduces by way of “his Snares,

Lines, Angles, Hooks, and Nets”; or as the catcher of fowl, who uses “His Gun, his

Nets, his Lime-twigs, light and bell,” the writer also “creeps, he goes, he stands” (3).

The artifice of the work attracts with its “light and bell,” so that allegory might stick in the reader’s remembrance (“like Burs”) (7). For Calvin, figures such as metaphor and allegory can be particularly misleading because the human mind tends to lapse into the material and, in this way, materialize God: “The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.”50 Bunyan describes the tendency to reduce metaphor – more specifically, of collapsing the tenor into the vehicle – as a problem of metonymy. The Interpreter says to Christian:

You say the Truth, For the things that are seen, are Temporal; but the things

that are not seen, are Eternal: But though this be so, yet since things present,

and our fleshly appetite, are such near Neighbors one to another; and again,

because things to come, and carnal sense, are such strangers one to another:

therefore it is, that the first of these so suddenly fall into amity, and that

distance is so continued between the second.” (32)

50 Calvin, Institutes, 1.11.8.


“Such near Neighbors” means physical closeness between the “things that are seen” and the “fleshly appetite” leads to one’s forgetfulness of “the things to come,” “the things that are not seen,” that which is “Eternal.” But for two abstract ideas (what is visible and what is carnal) to be “neighbors” also means that they are “closely related.”51 Bunyan’s emphasis on this particular type of contamination, one that occurs through spatial relatedness, anxiously reflects back on the very structure that sustains Bunyan’s allegory.

Formally, the allegory’s binary structure approximates the distance between the carnal and spiritual. The form organizes our experience of the allegory, but its structure is incompatible with the hierarchy that Bunyan’s belief attempts to impose on Pilgrim’s Progress. Joel Fineman describes the tendency of the allegorical structure to negate the moral and thematic concerns of the allegory:

[I]f allegorical themes are in a sense emptied of their content by the structure

that governs them, if the particular signifiers of allegory become vehicles of a

larger structural story that they carry but in which they play no part, they are at

the same time ostentatiously foregrounded by the very structurality that

becomes immanent in them.52

The incommensurability of the carnal (literal) and the spiritual (metaphorical), which we see articulated by Bunyan, is already present in allegory’s structure. While the structure of allegory suggests that the carnal could possibly refer to the spiritual, the allegory’s metaphysics underlines its failure to do so. It is for this reason that Stanley

51 “neighbour | neighbor, n. and adj.”. OED Online. March 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/125923?rskey=SzUr7a&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed April 18, 2015).

52 Joel Fineman terms the formal organization of allegory as its “structural effect”; “The Structure of Allegorical Desire,” Allegory and Representation: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1979-80 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), 33.


Fish has called The Pilgrim’s Progress the “ultimate self-consuming artifact, for the insights it yields are inseparable from the demonstration of the inadequacy of its own forms, which are also the forms of the reader’s understanding.”53 The allegory demands that Christian and its readers interpret the world of the narrative – the literal text – but at the same time constantly reminds us that we resist the seductions of the literal text or worldly experience.

The incommensurability of allegory is very present to Bunyan. What makes allegory seductive and vivid is also what makes it complicit in the fallen, material world. Bunyan describes Vanity Fair as a test: “Now, as I said, the way to the

Cœlestial City lyes just thorow this Town, where this lusty Fair is kept; and he that will go out the City, and yet not go thorow tis Town, must needs go out of the World”

(89). If Bunyan sees this world as an allegory (whose material planes must be interpreted), this is where Bunyan collapses the two: Allegory is the world of Vanity

Fair. This explains why we find in Vanity Fair the closest verbal echo to Bunyan’s description of allegory in the Apology. Here, Bunyan in a position that is comfortably close to the hawkers, who sell “Houses, Lands, Trades, Places, Honours, Preferments,

Titles, Countreys, Kingdoms, Lusts, Pleasures, and Delights of all sorts, as Whores,

Bauds, Wives, Husbands, Children, Masters, Servants, Lives, Blood, Bodies, Souls,

Silver, gold, Pearls, Precious Stones and what not” (88). Bunyan’s barely contained list shows allegory’s great enjoyment in the things of the world; or as Fletcher theorizes, allegory’s tendency to relish in the “precise verbal delineation of objects; if anything [the allegorist] is encouraged to go too far toward precision.”54 Bunyan must simultaneously avow and disavow his reliance on the sensual and material objects of

53 Stanley Fish, Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of Seventeenth-Century Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 264.

54 Fletcher, Allegory, 107.


the world. In opposition to Calvin’s distinction between good (historical) and bad

(fanciful) allegory, the difference between the pearl in Vanity Fair and the hunter’s

“light and bell” is not ontological (is it historical, or is it “real”?), but rather how the object is scrutinized and interpreted. After all, the list of wares in Vanity Fair can be taken literally (warm, sticky blood) or metaphorically (the pride of bloodlines or family lineage). The joke of the list resides in its indiscriminate nature: It lumps together “servants,” “Bodies”, and “Lusts” as if they were all the same. In doing so, the list heightens the metaphorical and literal meanings of words – for example,

“Blood,” “Houses,” and “Lands” – which the indiscriminate nature of the list lends to the words both metaphorical and literal values.

The delight promised by Vanity Fair lies in its rich wares, this various and mixed commerce. In treating both physical and abstract terms equally, Vanity Fair betrays Bunyan’s anxiety about falling into allegory – not only because the form requires the author to imbue his narrative with the things of this world, but also because allegory constantly asks readers to exchange the value of literal (the pilgrim

Christian, husband of Christiana) with the metaphorical (any Christian pilgrim) – and, in doing so, the allegorical form promotes their equivalence.55 It is not surprising, therefore, that the allegorical fabric gets thin and is punctured in Vanity town. Bunyan represents Faithful here both in the narrative and outside it – in his literal and metaphorical form:

They therefore brought him out, to do with him according to their Law; and

first they Scourged him, then they Buffetted him, then they Lanced his flesh

55 John R. Knott, Jr. provides another persuasive and consonant reading of Vanity Fair, writing that Vanity Fair represents not the inward struggles of a pilgrim (like the Slough of Despond) but his or her external struggles - and, therefore, has a different status in the allegory. See The Sword of the Spirit: Puritan Responses to the Bible (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1971), 146-7.


with Knives; after that they Stoned him with Stones, then prick’t him with

their Swords, and last of all they burned him to Ashes at the Stake. Thus came

Faithful to his end. Now I saw that there stood behind the multitude, a Chariot

and a couple of Horses, waiting for Faithful, who (so soon as his adversaries

had dispatched him) was taken up into it, and straightaway was carried up

through the Clouds, with the sound of Trumpet, the nearest way to the

Cœlestial Gate. (97)

Bunyan seizes on the description of Faithful’s torture and death with zeal – he is scourged, struck, torn, stoned, slashed, and burned. His body suffers under allegory’s irresistible compulsion to describe, to render description so precise that it turns narrative into a list. But here the description seems to follow rather faithfully what happens in the world – the martyred deaths of believers. Faithful’s suffering means most pointedly when it is interpreted literally rather than as a psychological facet of

Christian’s psychology, that is, when it is read as merely referential (Christian’s own internal trial). As if reinforcing the former interpretation, which seizes on the literal rather than the metaphorical valence of the passage, the narrative rather radically suffers the intrusion of the chariot and horses of heaven as a reward for Faithful’s literal martyrdom.56 It is a rare supernatural appearance in the text: Throughout The

Pilgrim’s Progress, God himself – his angels, his miracles, his rationale – are absent from Christian’s pilgrimage. The other memorable exception is of the hovering, disembodied hand after Christian’s battle with Apollyon: “Then there came to him an hand [sic] with some leaves of the Tree of Life, which Christian took, and applied to

56 A telling counterexample is the torture that Christian and Hopeful suffer in the hands of Giant Despair and his wife Diffidence: They eat or drink nothing from Wednesday until Saturday, and then the pilgrims are beaten with a crab-tree cudgel (113-118). But these are supposed to be indicative of the afflictions of despair and doubt. Unlike Faithful’s martyrdom, which only means itself, these beatings are abstracted, read as the psychological beatings of a pilgrim.


the wounds that he had received in the Battel, and was healed immediately. He also sat down in the place to eat Bread, and to drink of the Bottle that was given him a little before; so being refreshed, he addressed himself to his journey” (60-61). Even in this description of an emblematic , we see the rule of Bunyan’s allegorical world quickly reasserting itself: Christian eats the bread and drinks of a bottle that have not magically appeared, but that were given to him in Castle

Beautiful. Likewise, Christian must remember that he has the key to deliver himself from Doubting-Castle. The fabric of Vanity Fair shimmers, making Christian and readers inhabit a world where the literal and the metaphorical strands are difficult, if not impossible, to untangle.

If the beginning of the Vanity Fair episode draws attention to the problem of lumping “Bodies, Souls, Silver” together, its conclusion falls prey to the same indiscriminate treatment of the literal and the metaphorical planes of the allegory. The seduction of the literal is dramatized in the description of Faithful’s end, when the force of the narrative seems to take over Bunyan’s didactic distinctions of literal and metaphorical planes. While Bunyan may have fallen into allegory, we see that allegory itself can momentarily fall from its investment in representing the metaphorical (the progress of a Christian pilgrim) into a doubly literal understanding of the world. Three of Bunyan’s many personifications – figures that demonstrate the increasing difficulty of reading allegories correctly in The Pilgrim’s Progress – illustrate not only the pitfalls of literal reading, but also of reading metaphorical reading correctly. Formalist, Hypocrisie, and Talkative’s opacity originates from the fact that the error of their belief is invisible to readers, making the parsing of the literal and the metaphorical strands of the allegory unnecessary. But, more importantly for this dissertation, these personifications are models of allegories that,


against the pressures of interpretation, resist it and contradict it. And Talkative – the personification in which I find an exemplary model of the type of allegory I find in eighteenth-century fiction – resists interpretation, paradoxically, by being legible, sincere, and unapologetic about his beliefs.


Because most of the personifications Christian meets in The Pilgrim’s Progress must be rejected rather than accepted, Bunyan’s personifications tend to produce doubt.

Bunyan inflects allegorical representation with the doubt that Reformed Christians carry as a matter of course – a radical skepticism about the world and the words that surround them. There are two forms of deceptive personification in The Pilgrim’s

Progress: The first type actively deceives with promises. In this first category we find

Madam Wanton, who gives Faithful promises “all carnal and fleshly,” Madam

Bubble, who offers Stand-fast “three things, to wit, her Body, her Purse, and her

Bed,” and Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, who promises the lightening of Christian’s burden through moral belief (Pilgrim’s Progress 68; 301). Promises of ease function overtly as deceptions, because what Christian needs no one can supply but God. The second type of deceptive personification is more difficult to describe. In this category, we encounter personifications like Hypocrisie, Formalist, By-Ends, and Talkative, who are not attempting to lure Christian away from the right path with promises (be they carnal or moral) and seem to believe in what they profess. In their own estimation, they are neither hypocritical nor deceptive. What makes them deceptive is their own self-deception – that is, they themselves do not know they are in the wrong. This form of hypocrisy, which Calvinists called “formal hypocrisie,” defined as a state of self- deception about one’s salvation based on one’s formal adherence to religious


doctrine, is fundamentally unlike our understanding of the term, since formal hypocrites not only deceive others, but also deceive themselves about their state of grace.57

Bunyan prepares us to understand the complexity of Formalist and Hypocrisie by having Christian and his readers meet with three men, Simple, Sloth, and

Presumption, asleep with fetters around their ankles. At this point in the narrative,

Christian has just left the Interpreter’s House with an arsenal of interpretive skills.

Christian immediately recognizes them and tries to rouse them from their spiritual torpor. The interaction is quick and demonstrative; this tableau could have had a room in the Interpreter’s House: “Simple said, I see no danger; Sloth said, Yet a little more sleep: and Presumption said, Every Fatt must stand upon his own bottom, what is the answer else that I should give thee? And so they lay down to sleep again, and

Christian went on his way” (39). The allegory of Simple, Sloth, and Presumption is simple; and its deceptiveness originates from its placement in the narrative. Just following this exchange, Christian encounters Formalist and Hypocrisie, pilgrims that do not function like the emblems Christian learns to decipher at the Interpreter’s


Yet was [Christian] troubled to think, That men in that danger should so little

esteem the kindness of him that so freely offered to help them; both by

awakening of them, counselling of them, and proffering to help them off with

their Irons. And as he was troubled thereabout, he espied two men come

tumbling over the Wall, on the left hand of the narrow way; and they made up

a to him. The name of the one was Formalist, and the name of the other

57 U. Milo Kaufmann, “Bunyan and the Divine Will,” in John Bunyan: Conventicle and Parnassus, ed. N. H. Keeble (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 174.


was Hypocrisie. So, as I said they drew up unto him, who thus entered with

them into discourse. (39)

Formalist and Hypocrisie emerge from Christian’s own preoccupation with form.

Christian finds it woeful that Simple, Sloth, and Presumption will not be unfettered; and the allegory now chides Christian for being so overly concerned about the Irons that hold them back. Christian has fallen into the physical, material interpretation of the allegory, and Formalist and Hypocrisie surface in the narrative to remind us of

Christian’s slip.

Christian’s doubt about Formalist and Hypocrisie – his belief that they deceive

– is right. Their very reliance on shortcuts renders them suspect; instead of going through the wicket gate, as Christian points out, they jump the wall. But it is also important that these personifications do not mean to deceive. Instead, their deceit originates from a series of misconceptions, first instituted by custom or religion, and cemented by a self-deception so deep that they themselves cannot recognize it.

Formalist and Hypocrisie point to the urgency of the hermeneutics of the self, the

Reformed Christian’s obligation “to know who he is, what is happening to him…to know the faults he may have committed…the temptations to which he is exposed.”58

In what calls the “Christian technologies of the self,” “the self is like a text or like a book that we have to decipher.”59 The false preachers in Pilgrim’s

Progress are damnable because their ignorance is sustained by their insufficient interpretation. For Bunyan, they are blind to the true meaning of scripture, the world, and themselves. As Formalist and Hypocrisie memorably and glibly say, “if we are in, we are in” – in other words, they see their physical journey on the road (the literal

58 Michel Foucault, “About the beginning of the hermeneutics of the self,” Religion and Culture, ed. Jeremy Carrette (New York: Routledge, 1999), 169-170.

59 Ibid., 169.


narrative of the allegory) as sufficient testament of their faith (40). The humor of the phrase lies in their inability to make a distinction between the physical and the spiritual narratives of the allegory. While they may be physically and literally on the same road as Christian, Formalist and Hypocrisy are not spiritually on the same path.

This is one of the points in which the fabric of the allegory shimmers in front of our eyes – we are supposed to question the fact that the physical road is mere form.

The problem, here, is essentially an interpretive one, which we readers should know because Formalist and Hypocrisie, having skirted the wicket gate, have also skipped the Interpreter’s House, where Christian gets a crash course in allegoresis or the interpretation of allegory. Christian’s retort to their aphoristic tautology – “if we are in, we are in” – hinges on interpretive differences and suggests that he understands the allegorical significance of his physical pilgrimage: “I walk by the Rule of my

Master, you walk by the rude workings of your fancies” (40). What is heightened here is Christian’s correct interpretation – and not only because he understands correct doctrine, but also because he begins to understand the symbolic importance of walking in the straight path (the rule) versus Hypocrisie and Formalist’s wall-leaping, unruly fancy. From “rule” to “rude,” the change is minimal – of one letter – but one that has great significance: The word decays from noun into adjective, a mere auxiliary descriptor without being itself a substantive. If Formalist and Hypocrisie press readers to believe that Christian and his readers should rely on interpretation as a proper guide to salvation, Bunyan’s Talkative even questions the effectiveness and validity of interpretive practices itself – and, therefore, Talkative serves as Bunyan’s severe reflection on the sensuality of allegorical representation, because if human interpretation is useless and impossible, then allegory is nothing but pleasing sounds and figures.


Talkative is Bunyan’s attack on “professors,” or false pilgrims and Protestants, who proclaim their faith but cannot believe fully, because they have not received the grace and revelation of Christ. As Bunyan describes him in The Pilgrim’s Progress,

“Religion hath no place in his heart, or house, or conversation; all he hath lieth in his tongue, and his Religion is to make a noise therewith” (78). Talkative, the son of

Saywell and resident of Patting-row, expounds at large on the profit of “talk[ing] of things that are good” (75). In fact, once he finds an in Faithful, he tells him:

I like you wonderfully well, for your saying is full of conviction; and I will

add, What thing so pleasant, and what so profitable, as to talk of the things of


What things so pleasant? (that is, if a man hath any delight in things that are

wonderful) for instance: If a man doth delight to talk of the History or the

Mystery of things; or if a man doth love to talk of Miracles, Wonders, or

Signs, where shall he find things Recorded so delightful, and so sweetly

penned, as in the holy Scripture? (76)

Talkative likes to talk; his talk is riddled with needless repetitions. In this sense,

Talkative is a fitting personification. He wants to “talk of things that are good, “ the things of God,” “things so pleasant,” of “delight in things that are wonderful,” of the

“delight to talk,” of the “love to talk,” that are “delightful” and “sweetly penned.” The froth that bubbles in his speech – the repetition about things, delight, and wonders – marks Talkative as a different kind of pilgrim from Christian and Faithful. Luxon persuasively reads Talkative as “a personification of the inevitable inadequacy, even self-contradiction of Bunyan’s own project.”60 Talkative can be read as Bunyan’s anxiety about his own work, because to write a fiction that is mere delight, sweetness

60 Luxon, Literal Figures, 173.


– that cannot transcend from the “things so pleasant” into “the things of God” – is to be exactly like Talkative. After all, if Talkative is only words, Pilgrim’s Progress is entirely composed of them.

Talkative, who appears just before Christian and Faithful’s entrance to Vanity

Fair, prefigures the arguments Bunyan makes against worldliness. Essential to the representation of his nature is the fact that Talkative does not intend to deceive; instead, his deception originates from his sincere enthusiasm. Talkative’s love of talking, as Christian understands it, is also overly sensual. And, indeed, the adjectives he uses cling to the things of the senses, to things pleasant, delightful, wonderful, and sweet. But Talkative’s real error is not a misreading of the world, since the world does entice us with its smells, sounds, and feelings. Cynthia Wall explains the importance of sensory experience in Puritan allegory: “The surfaces of objects—the surface world—were acquiring an interpretive richness in their own right: ‘emblems’ (made by God) standing in for icons to promise a narrative coherence of meaning.”61

Talkative’s error is that he is too beguiled by sensory experience and ceases to look beyond it. As Talkative asks Faithful, “where shall he find things Recorded so delightful, and so sweetly penned, as in the holy Scripture?” Talkative is the closest approximation to a reader who understands Pilgrim’s Progress as a mere story, taking the literal, textual story as the only story in the allegory.

For Reformed Christians, the reading of one’s life – one’s connection to things and one’s relationship with others – can show whether one has received the grace of

God and can foretell one’s own experience in the next world. That is one of the reasons why spiritual autobiographies and conversion memoirs were so important in the Protestant faith and why Bunyan includes mini conversion narratives in Pilgrim’s

61 Cynthia Sundberg Wall, The Prose of Things: Transformations of Description in the Eighteenth Century (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2006), 77.


Progress, in which Christian and Christiana, Faithful and Hopeful, recount their experience of the pilgrimage. Attention to the things of this world, therefore, is important to Bunyan’s allegory. Salvation is predicated on the ability to interpret one’s immediate life – but only if one remembers to regard this world as allegory that needs to be decoded.

Central to Bunyan’s criticism of Talkative is not necessarily the fact that he attends to sensual things, but that the things of the world make one mix the spiritual and the material promiscuously, forging idols, in the words of Calvin. Like the hawkers in Vanity Fair, Talkative is unable to sift between the things of this world and things of the spirit: “I will talk of things heavenly, or things earthly; things Moral, or things Evangelical; things Sacred, or things Prophane; things past, or things to come; things forraign, or things at home; things more Essential, or things

Circumstantial: provided that all be done to our profit” (77). Bunyan casts the indiscriminate nature of the list as a reflection of Talkative’s interest in “profit,” which Bunyan stains with the sense of fiscal gain. Bunyan makes a similar case against professors more explicitly at the end of the prefatory material in The Life and

Death of Mr. Badman, which Bunyan composed just following Part One of The

Pilgrim’s Progress:

If it was a transgression of Old, for a man to wear a Womans Apparel, surely

it is a transgression now for a sinner to wear a Christian Profession for a

Cloak. Wolves in Sheeps Cloathing swarm in England this day: Wolves both

as to Doctrine, and as to Practice too. Some men make a Profession, I doubt,

on purpose that they may twist themselves into a Trade; and thence into an

Estate; yea, and if need be, into an Estate Knavishly, by the ruins of their


Neighbour….Christian, make thy Profession shine by a Conversation

according to the Gospel.62

Central to Bunyan’s censure of professors is their deceptiveness. He likens it to a man cross-dressing, a sinner hiding under the cloak of religion, a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing – this clothing being related to the hypocrisies in both “Doctrine” and

“Practice.” The metaphor is reiterated and expanded – and, as he does so, it moves outward from a more literal and mundane understanding of hypocrisy to a more metaphorical and symbolic form of hypocrisy: from the clothes one finds in one’s closet, to a cloak that symbolizes ecclesiastical power, to the Biblical sheepskin, and to two different types of sheepskin no less – of those who profess false belief and those who act falsely. In doing so, Bunyan shows how this problem irradiates outward, like a disease, from a man’s personal closet to issues that become systemic in the church and that turn Biblical on its head. Bunyan describes the act of professing as a type of “twisting,” which bears a similar trajectory. The professor begins with a twisting toward monetary gain; then Bunyan quickly elides “Trade” into

“Estate” – so very quietly – that he seems to still be talking about monetary gain.

However, it is clear when he writes “yea, and if need be into an Estate Knavishly” that he most certainly understands this “Estate” as the Kingdom of God. Bunyan’s description of professors reestablishes the shift from “thing” to “abstract” as a necessary progression – one that accounts for the ways in which our private world reverberates into spiritual and cosmological spheres. The structure of thought that

Bunyan combats is Talkative’s parallel syntax (“things heavenly, or things earthly”), which makes words and concepts equal rather than hierarchical.

62 John Bunyan, The Life and Death of Mr. Badman: Presented to the World in a Familiar Dialogue Between Mr. Wiseman, and Mr. Attentive, ed. James F. Forrest and Roger Sharrock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 10.


Talkative’s talk might be egregious with its deceptive syntax and its carnal repetitions; but it is also theologically sound. It is also important to note that

Talkative, like Formalist and Hypocrisie, believes in his eventual salvation. He too is striving toward the gates of Heaven – and with a doctrine that is not antithetical to

Christian’s. Talkative outlines the benefits that might be gained by talk – and under

“talk” he subsumes the act of preaching, the Gospels, and the reading of them: “by this a man may learn by talk, what it is to repent, to believe, to pray, to suffer, or the like: by this also a Man may learn what are the great promises & consolations of the

Gospel, to his own comfort. Further, by this a Man may learn to refute false opinions, to vindicate the truth, and also to instruct the ignorant” (76). Talkative’s danger lies in his professing the same ideals that uphold Bunyan’s allegory and, within it, Christian and Faithful’s practices. All pilgrims talk. In fact, sociability is a godly given comfort to Christian and Christiana in Part Two, and they enjoy discussing religious matters at the Interpreter’s House as well as in Castle Beautiful. Talkative even professes to understand, like a good Reformed Christian, the central importance of “a work of

Grace in th[e] Soul” and rejects the “works of Law” (76). And, despite Bunyan’s (at least in the Pilgrim’s Progress) small suggestion that Talkative talks for “profit,”

Talkative seems to have neither money nor position. Talkative therefore talks to

Faithful – and Faithful accepts Talkative as a fellow pilgrim, regardless of what

Faithful clearly understands as minor points of disagreement. Faithful, though

“begin[ning] to wonder,” exclaims to Christian: “What a brave Companion have we got! Surely this man will make a very excellent Pilgrim” (77).

More than Formalist and Hypocrisie, Talkative exemplifies Bunyan’s interest in making personification difficult to interpret. He looks, talks, communes, and walks like Faithful and Christian; he has not taken shortcuts like Formalist and Hypocrisie.


Talkative’s deception is not tied to an intention to deceive. He unwittingly dons the cloak of religion or the sheepskin. While Bunyan celebrates Christian’s correct interpretation of Formalist and Hypocrisie, interpretation in the scene with Talkative is more vexed. While he has faults – mainly privileging talk – Talkative does not necessarily commit sins like Mrs. Wanton or Madam Bubble, and he does not believe in false doctrine like Mr. Worldly-Wiseman or Ignorant. What Talkative does betray is an unseemly enthusiasm for the art of talking. His enthusiasm bleeds into the way he talks – Talkative’s repetitions, his parallel constructions, his invocation of the sensuous delight he finds in the Bible – and seems to be part of the book’s condemnation of Talkative. On the one hand, this is the type of language Bunyan deploys to indicate worldliness. Narratively, however, readers encounter the epitome of this descriptive mode only when they get to Vanity Fair, which immediately follows Christian and Faithful’s conversation with Talkative. Just before they arrive in

Vanity Fair, the Evangelist warns them to be wary of things visible: “let the Kingdom be always before you, and believe stedfastly concerning things that are invisible”


If Talkative exemplifies the anxiety Bunyan has about his project, it is not surprising that Talkative should be analogous to the structure of allegory itself. Just as

Bunyan’s allegory lays out a sound theology with bits of lures, “Lime-twigs, light and bell” on its very surface, Talkative emerges as a tinkling bell with some soundness to it. In fact, Christian’s rejection of Talkative is startlingly like the description of allegorical representation in Bunyan’s Apology. Christians says to Talkative:

You have spoken, for ought I know the true Gospel sense of those Texts; and

those great Talkers too, sounding Brass, and Tinckling Cymbals; that is, as he

Expounds them in another place. Things without life, giving sounds. Things


without life, that is, without the true Faith and Grace of the Gospel; and

consequently, things that shall never be placed in the Kingdom of Heaven

among those that are the Children of life: Though their sound by their talk, be

as if it were the Tongue, or voice of an Angel. (80)

The difference between Talkative and a true pilgrim– and presumably Bunyan’s allegory – is whether he or she has “life.” Talkative is “Things without life, giving sounds.” He is empty because he does not have “true Faith and Grace of the Gospel.”

Sounds, words, and their “sounding Brass, Tinckling Cymbals” are acceptable as long as they are endowed with the grace of God; but what is awarded God’s grace is beyond human ken. Christian interprets Talkative’s “sounds” and “bruit” as empty words, lacking grace, and dismisses him. While the allegory thus far places great importance on interpreting correctly, commending Christian for reading Formalist and

Hypocrisie, Talkative presents us with the incommensurability of God’s judgment.

Luxon calls Bunyan’s hermeneutics “a kind of anti-hermeneutics,” in that the allegory counterintuitively prioritizes experience over interpretation.63 In his allegory

Christian is taught to interpret, but human interpretations are unnecessary to God’s cosmological order. Christian fluctuates between being oblivious to and cognizant of this finer point about the built-in failure of human interpretation. On the one hand,

Christian clearly understands the limits of his own interpretive skills. He knows that true knowledge can only be bestowed by God, claiming that “There is therefore knowledge, and knowledge” (82), or that there is the knowledge of humans and the knowledge of God. In regard to allegory, this means that human interpretation is worthless without God’s grace – and, as Luxon explains, essentially undermines our acts of interpretation. However, allegory invites interpretation; its form trains

63 Luxon, Literal Figures, 175.


Christian in interpretation and requires it of him. Christian tries to explain Talkative to Faithful in terms of a hermeneutical frame – one that is determined (yet again) by spatial proximity and by domestic intimacy: “for [Talkative] is best abroad, near home he is ugly enough: your saying, That he is a pretty man, brings to my mind what

I have observed in the work of the Painter, whose Pictures shews best at a distance; but very near, more unpleasing” (77). Christian lays out a theory of understanding the character of Talkative in terms similar to those that in the middle of the eighteenth century Henry Fielding would use to describe methods of unmasking the hypocrite – methods that rely solely on observation. Like Fielding, Christian seems to believe that one need only Talkative’s behavior with those most intimate to him – “at home” – to likewise reveal his true nature. Christian continues: “A Saint abroad, and a Devil at home: His poor Family finds it so, he is such a churl, such a railer at, and so unreasonable with Servants, that they neither know how to do for, or speak to him”

(78). This is the Christian who believes in hermeneutical engagement as a way to gain knowledge – and knowledge not necessarily of God, but of the types of people that surround us and live in our own neighborhoods.

These details might very well be accurate in the world of the fiction, but they are superfluous to solving the problem of Talkative’s personification. Rather, these extra strokes of characterization (he is a churl to loved ones, he rails at them, his servants are at a loss of how to address him) distract the reader from the idea of

Talkative as mere gab. Talkative takes on a character that is beyond what he is supposed to signify in the allegory – and, in this sense, he is not merely a

“subcharacter” of Christian’s psychology. By giving Talkative extra details, Bunyan creates Talkative as an independent character – a type that was generated from the energy of Bunyan’s extreme dislike of professors rather than a didactic counterfactual


(this is what happens when you let yourself become Mr. Timorous) that Christian needs to experience. Bunyan’s personal distaste for professors can be felt in his reluctance to dismiss Talkative quickly, which Bunyan does with Formalist and

Hypocrisie. Instead, Talkative is an impersonation of a pilgrim, and, therefore,

Bunyan saves special vehemence for him: “He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of Religion to all that know him” (78). The energy with which Bunyan endows

Talkative is partly how personifications in the allegory seem to gain a strange autonomy – or, as Leopold Damrosch writes, how Bunyan’s treatment of allegory produces “the way in which the characters are allowed to be characters when one might have expected them to symbolize interior states” and which “draws The

Pilgrim’s Progress most toward the novel.”64

The problem with Talkative and, more generally, the problem with allegory is that Talkative has too much meaning (a meaning that is extraneous to the symbolic world of the allegory) and that, at the same time, Talkative has too little meaning (he is just talk, noise, bruit without meaning). This intersection of meaning too much and meaning too little is what I will pursue in the following chapters – an intersection that amounts to various forms of misunderstanding. The difficulty of reading him in the allegory originates from experiencing the sincerity and enthusiasm of his talk. We can see two characters, Faithful and Christian, who react to Talkative in completely opposite ways. And the point of Talkative is exactly this: That it is difficult if not impossible to understand Talkative through the layers of sincere protestations; he at once resists (he is so sincere) and invites (he is so hyperbolic) interpretation. In this way, Talkative can be understood as dramatizing the problems of reading Bunyan’s allegory – and, I will argue in the following chapters, reading allegory in the novel.

64 Leopold Damrosch, God’s Plot & Man’s Stories: Studies in the Fictional Imagination from Milton to Fielding (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1985), 176.


Talkative is an exemplary precursor of the personifications in eighteenth- century novels. What emerges as especially important in reading Christian’s meeting with Talkative is not that Talkative can deceive Faithful, but that the ways of reading character become inextricable from the interpretation of minute detail (or literary representation) as a way of understanding character – and, specifically, in conjunction with the radical idea that the interpretation of personification is essentially a misunderstanding, since only God can really judge correctly. Pilgrim’s Progress dramatizes the tension of the anti-hermeneutical position in the world that requires hermeneutics; and when flipped, it provides us a model of understanding allegory in eighteenth-century fictions: How do we read allegory (the thing that equally resists and requires interpretation) in the empirical framework of the novel? The tensions that animate Bunyan’s allegory map onto the anxieties of eighteenth-century .

By the end of the eighteenth century, roughly the period that this dissertation covers, Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes of Bunyan’s personifications as seeming like

“real persons.” The assessment probably skews toward Bunyan’s more complex figures like Talkative and Ignorant rather than Mrs. Bubble and Sloth. But it is important to note that Coleridge is writing of allegory already as a figure that is passé and suggests that the merits of the allegory rest on its not being like allegory at all.

Already, Coleridge reads Bunyan’s allegory as a novel, discarding the religious and didactic framework of allegorical representation. In a posthumously published lecture,

Coleridge explained the popularity of the allegory:

[I]n that admirable allegory, the first Part of Pilgrim’s Progress, which

delights every one, the interest is so great that [in] spite of all the writer’s

attempts to force the allegoric purpose on the reader’s mind by his strange


names…his piety was baffled by his genius, and the Bunyan of Parnassus had

the better of Bunyan of the conventicle; and with the same illusion as we read

any tale known to be fictitious, as a novel, we go on with his characters as real

persons, who had been nicknamed by their neighbors.65

For Coleridge, the reading of The Pilgrim’s Progress as a novel is predicated on the reader’s acute awareness of the allegory’s fictionality. Our reading of “his characters as real persons” implies that fiction’s artistic triumph lies in our lapses and our constant readjustment between what is real and what is fictional. Allegory – the genre that creates a representational and interpretive system based on these two structural polarities, between what is literal and what is metaphorical – is particularly well suited for this double vision: Its artificiality – what for Coleridge is manifested in

Bunyan’s use of “strange names” – makes the fiction of Pilgrim’s Progress evident; but it does not keep readers from lapsing into the “illusion.” For Coleridge the core of novelistic description had something to do with the readers’ willingness to experience deception. In the same lecture, Coleridge defines allegory as a “disguise”:

We may then safely define allegoric writing as the employment of one set of

agents and images with actions and accompaniments correspondent, so as to

convey, while in disguise, either moral qualities or conceptions of the mind

that are not in themselves objects of the senses, or other images, agents,

actions, fortunes, and circumstances, so that the difference is everywhere

presented to the eye or imagination while the likeness is suggested to the

65 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Coleridge’s Miscellaneous Criticism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936), 31.


mind; and this connectedly so that the parts combine to form a consistent


Coleridge’s definition is startling because it centers on the difficulty of grasping allegory. He dissects it for us: Allegory’s disguise is the language of the senses and, therefore, requires us to encounter allegory as if we had seen it with our eyes – in short, be deceived by the processes by which sensual phenomena are, through the reading of allegory, magically rendered into ideas, or “conceptions of the mind.”

Coleridge is invested in describing allegory’s deceptiveness in a framework that is very different from Bunyan’s. The deceptiveness of allegory does not emerge from either the fallen nature of the genre or the human incapability of correctly interpreting characters in the allegory, but rather from the difficulty of apprehending the abstract from the sensual. Coleridge explains allegory by trying to define the strange experience that is reading allegory, while previous definitions of allegory tended to understand it quantitatively – by its length or expanse.67 Most influential was Quintilian’s explanation of allegory in terms of its length or quantity, as “a series of metaphors.”68 Renaissance critics used Quintilian’s formulation. Thomas Wilson in

The Art of Rhetorique (1553) defines allegory as “none other thing, but a Metaphore used throughout a whole sentence or oration.”69 And vying for the most beautiful is

66 Ibid., 30.

67 This formulation of allegory is not just restricted to the Renaissance, although it is strangely fitting that Renaissance scholar Rosemund Tuve does so too, calling allegory “[b]y definition a continued metaphor…[which] exhibits the normal relation of concretion to abstraction found in metaphor, in the shape of a series of particulars with further meaning.” Elizabethan and Metaphysical Imagery: Renaissance Poetic and Twentieth-Century Critics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), 105-6.

68 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, trans. H. E. Butler (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920), 8.6.44.

69 Thomas Wilson, The Arte of Rhetorique (1553) (Gainesville, Fla.: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, 1962), 198.


surely Henry Peacham’s formulation of allegory “…as a Metaphore may be compared to a starre in respect of beautie, brightnesse and direction: so may an Allegorie be truly likened to a figure compounded of many stars.”70

In the early eighteenth century, we see Joseph Addison also defining allegory in the language of the senses – but without accounting for its complexity; he praises allegory’s ability to “represen[t] even the faculties of the soul, with her several virtues and vices, in a sensible shape and character.”71 Addison tends to formulate allegory in terms of its structure, here referring to “soul” in relation to “sensible shape,” but also describing its structure as multiple and separate tracks: “Allegories, when well chosen, are like so many Tracks of Light in a Discourse, that make every thing about them clear and beautiful. A noble Metaphor, when it is placed to an Advantage, casts a kind of Glory round it, and darts a Lustre through a whole Sentence.”72 Coleridge, at the century’s end, does not believe that the relationship between “the soul” and its

“sensible shape” or between Addison’s illuminating tracks of light is so easily understood. As Coleridge describes our reading and understanding of allegory, it requires a double representation – one that is presented “to the mind” and another “to the eye.” He is grappling with allegory in a generally empirical framework, thinking about the ways that allegory demands skepticism – knowing that what is reproduced as if they were “objects of the senses” are in fact imaginings.

Coleridge’s definition is a backward glance, reflecting the eighteenth century’s preoccupation with the senses – and, in particular, their double-edged nature. The very attention to sensual information that allows us to create knowledge

70 Henry Peacham, The Garden of Eloquence, quoted in Fletcher, Allegory, 96-97.

71 Joseph Addison, The Spectator, ed. Donald F. Bond, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), III:573.

72 Addison, The Spectator, III:578.


and form a sense of self is also what allows us to be deceived and manipulated. The requirement to believe in the senses and to be wary of them bleeds into the representation of allegory in the novel. Though this seems like a far cry from the preoccupations that concern Bunyan in the seventeenth century, eighteenth-century would have found in Talkative the expression of this difficult tension: of the requirement to interpret (because it is allegory) as well as the skepticism concerning what we do end up interpreting (because it is mere sensual information).

Indeed, Coleridge’s reading of allegory as the maintenance of deception – that is, his understanding of fictionality of allegorical works – anticipates twentieth- century critics of realist fiction. J. Paul Hunter has influentially traced the Puritan tradition in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; Michael McKeon has purposefully misread Pilgrim’s Progress to suggest that the novel is an allegory that ceases to be referential – what he calls the “fetishization of Protestant allegory”; and Cynthia Wall has recently used the allegory as the point of departure for the development of the description of things.73 My use of Pilgrim’s Progress in this chapter finds more kinship with Leopold Damrosch’s approach in his insightful study, which describes the shuttling back and forth that occurs in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (but also more generally in eighteenth-century ), as the “constant tension between the poles of allegory and .”74

Reading Pilgrim’s Progress in relation to the novel unearths questions of how allegory is read by an audience trained in empirical methods of understanding the

73 J. Paul Hunter, The Reluctant Pilgrim: Defoe’s Emblematic Method and for Form in Robinson Crusoe (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1966); Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel: 1600-1740 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 312; and, more recently, on novelistic description in Cynthia Wall, The Prose of Things: Transformations of Description in the Eighteenth Century (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2006).

74 Damrosch, God’s Plot & Man’s Stories, 10.


world. In literature, this concern for the replication of reality – or the creation of the effect of reality – is what we call “mimesis.” As Damrosch suggests, mimesis in eighteenth-century British literature is finessed through questions of artificiality, abstraction, and generality. More particularly, eighteenth-century critics have traditionally and understandably examined the exegetical habits of Puritan self- examination and examination of the world as a central impulse of what would later flourish in the form of the novel. Hunter casts this interest in observation as an anticipation of empirical impulses: “Puritan writers of the later seventeenth century…observed the book of nature with the care of empiricists, and they interpreted the objects they saw as expressions of the highest spiritual truths.”75 The eighteenth-century novel inherits these negotiations between the material and the spirit and dramatizes the problem of representing ideals through characters that understand the world as a series of judgments that assess their apprehension of the world and transform phenomena into meaning.

75 Hunter, The Reluctant Pilgrim, 96.



“The Reader will find that personifications of abstract ideas rarely occur in these volumes…I have wished to keep my Reader in the company of flesh and blood…” —William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads

A work at once portraying, criticizing, and relishing neurotic compulsion, Jonathan

Swift’s A Tale of a Tub (composed 1696-7; published 1704) is a work of non-sense.

The satire’s content and form are informed by the insane narrator’s unique type of madness, making the experience of reading A Tale particularly difficult. The text that we read today – swollen with a long apology, the several dedications, a long preface

(added in 1708), introductions, two sets of footnotes, appendix – is mostly from

Swift’s fifth edition of 1710. The Tale’s five editions in six years are a testament to its enormous popularity. In the Apology, Swift claims that A Tale mocks “Corruptions in

Religion and Learning.”76 Formally, the satire expresses the twinned purpose of A

Tale: Half of its books are devoted to the allegorical story of three brothers, Peter,

Martin, and Jack, or St. Peter, , and John Calvin – or, more generally, the Roman Catholic Church, the , and the Dissenting Church. This allegorical story is intercalated with the narrator’s digressions – essays on Modern criticism, madness, and digression itself. But, of course, A Tale is much more nuanced and complex than its formal dichotomy suggests. Swift’s major critique of the corruptions of religion and learning lies in the fact that these two corruptions are complicit. The corruptions of religion are sustained by the corruptions of learning; the

76 Jonathan Swift, Tale of a Tub to which is added and the Mechanical Operation of the Spirit, ed. A. C. Guthkelch and D. Nichol Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), 4.


corruptions of learning are likewise encouraged by blind religious fervor. The object of Swift’s satire, therefore, is hard to pinpoint and tends to appear variously throughout the text. Although we know Swift’s main satirical targets (tyrants, transubstantiation, editors, René Descartes), they are too various and too protean to determine with complete precision, even with the printer ’s A Complete

Key to the Tale of a Tub (1710), published with the objective of uncovering Swift’s obscure references.

The allegorical story of the three brothers in A Tale of a Tub garnered interpretive commentary immediately following its publication in 1704. William

Wotton’s Observations upon The Tale of a Tub (1705) and Curll’s A Complete Key to the Tale of a Tub (1710) so irked and delighted Swift (because they proved his point about Modern over-production) that he wrote the Apology as a response to Wotton and included the latter’s glosses as footnotes in the fifth edition. The final footnotes include a mixture of Swift and Wotton’s commentaries, which satirically (for Swift, not Wotton) treat the Tale as a text requiring allegoresis, the practice of interpreting texts (the Bible or classical texts) as if they required decoding in order to be properly understood. Wotton’s commentaries range from the usefully clarifying (his translation of Swift’s “universal pickle” as “holy water”) to the unnecessary (the coats of the three brothers as “the garment of the Israelites”). Swift views these as the superfluous productions of the Modern editor, who is in the business of generating error and unnecessary commentary.

A Tale, like its companion piece The Battle of the Books, is framed by the heated debate of the Ancients vs. the Moderns, or the literary spat that erupted at the end of the seventeenth century about the aesthetic and cultural merits of the new science and literature. Swift’s larger satirical target is the “Modern” form of thinking -


an insidious ideology that infects disciplines as diverse as philosophy, newly burgeoning editorial practices (such as Wotton’s), and the new science. The whole of

Swift’s publication, which includes A Tale of a Tub, The Battle of the Books, and The

Mechanical Operation of the Spirit, shows Swift aligning himself with his employer, the man of letters William Temple, whose “Essay upon Ancient and Modern

Learning” shows Temple decidedly siding with the Ancients. Those who championed the Ancients still found in the Greek and Roman writers and philosophers the culmination of human knowledge, while the Moderns insisted that “human achievement…was progressive.”77 On the one hand, the Ancients believed in the preservation and imitation of the classical ideals. On the other, the Moderns believed that their “own philosophy was an improvement” over Ancient works.78 Swift’s distaste for the new sciences, editorial practices, etymological studies, medicine, and

Cartesian philosophy articulated counter-Enlightenment ideas as the Enlightenment was just nascent.

Central to Swift’s extreme distaste for the Modern attitude is not only the content of their works (although Descartes’ forays into anatomy deeply worried and fascinated Swift) but also the fact that to be “Modern” meant to assume an insidious way of thinking that permeates the very fabric of social institutions (“Learning and

Religion,” for example). The central problem with the Modern way of thinking can be summarized as an investment in purposeful obscurity, digression, and interpretation

(and over-interpretation): The Modern mind plumbs the depths for meaning, ignoring plain common sense. In seeking a hidden meaning in texts or things, Moderns like

77 Joseph M. Levine, The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991), 1, 22.

78 Ibid., 22.


Wotton necessarily attempt to find an ulterior meaning in whatever they encounter. It is for this reason that Swift describes the Moderns as exegetes gone wrong.

Allegory is a natural vehicle for the Modern, in Swift’s eyes. Allegory and the

Modern attitude are interwoven throughout the satire, and they are more than simply analogous: Allegorical imagination and interpretation provide the mechanism for the

Modern imagination, whose essential mechanism converts things into abstractions.

The Modern’s (and Swift’s) preferred form is allegory, because it accommodates the

Modern desire for a deep, obscure, and obtuse interpretation. In this chapter, I look closely at Swift’s use of allegory. Allegory is central to understanding A Tale not only because it comprises half of the satire, but because it is in allegory and allegoresis that

Swift expediently intersects the problems of religion and of learning. Swift finds in allegoresis (both Catholic and Protestant) a model for Modern scholarship.

In A Tale, allegory and its interpretation are imagined by Swift as interconnected modes. To read texts as if they were allegory means that one imagines allegory even where it is absent – and, this is the Modern imagination. Interpretation does not create meaning in A Tale, it just creates more allegory, which requires more interpretation. This over-production is at the heart of Modern scholarship, but it’s also at the heart of allegorical representation itself, which is why allegory works so effectively as the heart of the Modern imagination. John Bunyan’s Apology in The

Pilgrim’s Progress articulates this very problem of overwhelming production:

And they [“things, which I set down”] again began to multiply,

Like sparks that from the coals of Fire do flie.

Nay then, thought I, if that you breed so fast,

I’ll put you by your selves, lest you at last

Should prove ad infinitum, and eat out


The Book that I already am about.79

As I have shown in the last chapter, Bunyan is very much preoccupied with the power of allegory’s sensuousness. That the literal meaning of the text – its “sparks” rather than what the sparks signify – could overwhelm the text and lead the reader astray explains his ambivalence about allegory. The Pilgrim’s Progress constantly provides a corrective take on the sensual: The things of the world and the text are necessary only in so far as they allow interpretation. Once interpreted, they must be discarded.

Swift critiques this expedient form of interpretation. For Swift, once interpretation requires the lingering gaze on physical forms, one cannot be sure that interpretation is free of material taint. In this chapter, I argue that Swift envisions allegory as a Modern mechanism and, in doing so, critiques this Modern allegory as a form that is too invested in material representation. The first section of the chapter describes the between allegory, allegoresis, and the Modern imagination – and especially the way the narrator dramatizes this intersection. The second section explains how a particular form of Modern thinking – the materialist ideas that Thomas

Hobbes and René Descartes introduced in the seventeenth century – radically transforms the representation of allegory in A Tale. And, finally, in the third section I show that this Modern, materialist allegory is crystalized in the character of Jack and, by way of analyzing Jack, I suggest that the strange descriptive vivacity in Swift’s works can be, in part, explained by a technique made available by his materialist allegories.

79 John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to That which is to Come, ed. James Wharey and Roger Sharrock (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 1975, 1.



The key to understanding how Swift conceives of the Modern sensibility lies in understanding the nature of A Tale’s narrator. Few passages are more indicative of the narrator’s Modern imagination than his description of Wisdom:

Wisdom is a Fox, who after long hunting, will at last cost you the Pains to dig

out: ’Tis a Cheese, which by how much the richer, has the thicker, the homelier,

and the courser Coat; and whereof to a judicious Palate, the Maggots are the

best. ’Tis a Sack-Posset, wherein the deeper you go, you will find it the sweeter.

Wisdom is a Hen, whose Cackling we must value and consider, because it is

attended with an Egg; But then, lastly, ’tis a Nut, which unless you chuse with

Judgment, may cost you a Tooth, and pay you with nothing but a Worm. (66)

Allegorical description in A Tale revels in the description of the material. Swift’s

Modern narrator delights in describing it, lingering on the unsavory detail. The haphazard nature of the list makes the comparison seem metonymic rather than metaphorical: The cheese, the sack-posset, and the egg are objects that the narrator could have easily found in his garret and woven into his allegory. He anxiously assigns material objects to Wisdom, without finding a fitting comparison that he can develop. The objects described seem insignificant (a bottle of sack, a hen), but the precision with which Swift renders these otherwise unremarkable objects indicates remarkable meaning. It is not just any cheese that the narrator describes, but a cheese whose richness is legible on its thick, homely, coarse rind. The eminently legible cheese lends importance to the act of interpretation itself. And, indeed, it is because the cheese is embedded in the allegory that it acquires the fringed intensity with which we endow things that are supposed to be meaningful.


The quality of allegorical description can explain Claude Rawson’s observation that Swift’s prose in A Tale betrays “momentary intensities which do not merely serve the argument that they are meant to illustrate, but actually spill over it.”80 He describes the surplus of energy in Swift’s language that resists containment – the deployment of rhetorical vivacity that ends up meaning more than the image or metaphor intends. In the Wisdom metaphor, its meaning and images also “spill over.”

The metaphor’s vividness forces readers to lose sight of its tenor (Wisdom) and to be infected by its vehicles. The vehicle, cheese, for example, and its “thicker,…homelier, and…courser Coat” is so particularly vivid that the metaphor’s vehicle triumphs over the tenor, leaving little room for the readers to imagine the nature of “Wisdom.” Once

“cheese” overpowers “Wisdom,” the metaphor becomes one-sided, a broken comparison that is all vehicle – and the material trace of the various vehicles clutter a now obscured Wisdom.81 This Modern Wisdom is all disparate matter, rather than one coherent allegorical figure, because Wisdom has been overly interpreted and overly described. What the Modern allegory does is not elucidate an abstraction, Wisdom, but proliferate interpretations.

The Wisdom allegory is actually a series of metaphors, rather than one sustained, extended metaphor as allegory was classically defined.82 It is a constellation of metaphors. The enumeration of metaphors follows the pattern of the narrator’s compulsion to describe, not by elaborating a single allegorical image but by

80 Claude Rawson, “Order and Cruelty: A Reading of Swift (with some comments on Pope and Johnson),” Essays in Criticism 20, no.1 (January 1977): 25.

81 Swift’s classification of confusion and clutter as a Modern disorder can be located in the “Preface,” where we find a “Multitude of Writers” engaging in “swarm[ing]” and “scribbl[ing]” (45).

82 For an extended discussion of the relationship between the allegory and metaphor, see Joel Fineman’s “The Structure of Allegorical Desire,” Allegory and Representation: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1979-80, ed. Stephen Greenblatt (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), 30.


fashioning a string of new metaphors, as if starting from square one. Part of this grasping behavior is diagnosed by Swift as a Modern disease to over-interpret and over-criticize without the yield of clarity, which is illustrated in the prose by the tic of verbal enumeration: Allegory, as defined by the narrator in another section, is “a great

Mystery, being a Type, a Sign, an Emblem, a Shadow, a Symbol.”83 His inability to extend any of the metaphors he begins cuts explanation short. One problem with the modern mindset is that its penchant to over-interpret scatters interpretation. It fails to sustain any line of inquiry, let alone an allegory, at length. If he begins this allegory with the promise of writing a (Wisdom is a fox), it quickly derails into a series of comparisons that reverses the structure of a fable. Instead of one continuous and coherent emblematic story, the reader must follow a series of discontinued tales.

These serial allegories do not make Wisdom exemplary but indiscriminately opaque, since it asks the reader to make several cognitive leaps: Wisdom is a fox, a piece of cheese, a container of sack posset, a hen, and a nut.

Swift’s description of Wisdom is an allegory that blurs through various reinterpretations of the concept. The string of equations could be read as an effort to reinterpret Wisdom. The metaphor fails to crystallize into allegory because it constantly falls into reinterpretation, and the compulsion to reinterpret, to perform allegoresis. Swift saw this compulsion exemplified in the works of Wotton and

Richard Bentley, scholars of classical . In A Tale Swift defined them indirectly: the “True Critick” is “a Discoverer and Collector of Writers Faults” (95).

Particularly distasteful to Swift is the enthusiasm with which Wotton reveled in minutiae, evident in his description of scholarly methodology and its requirement “To pore in old Manuscripts, to compare various readings; to turn over Glossaries, and old

83 Ibid., 61.


Scholia upon ancient Historians, Orators, and Poets; to be minutely critical in all the little Fashions of the Greeks and Romans.”84 Swift needs only to lift Wotton’s language from his essay to render the tone satirical. Over-interpretation in the scholarly works of Modern philologists are, in the highly associative world that is the satire, likened to the allegoresis of divines – in any case, both are guilty of promoting a mechanism that multiplies metaphors, interpretations, and errors. The blindness of interpretation and scholarship is a general “indictment of the prying intellect” – of exegetes and scholars alike – because it can only multiply errors despite its intentions to correct.85

The narrator’s use of allegory in A Tale often indicates solipsistic over- production, which Swift diagnoses as Modern. Even as the narrator accrues the series of comparisons, he cannot but encrust more material within his already proliferating allegory: The Modern imagination conjures Wisdom as a fox, a piece of cheese (with maggots), a container of sack posset (with dregs), a hen (with an egg), and a nut (with a worm). In the allegory of the bee and the spider in The Battle of the Books, Swift likens Moderns to a self-sufficient spider, “drawing, and spinning out all from [it] self” (232). The grotesque vision of self-generation explains the type of over- production we more generally encounter in the satire. Meanwhile, the bees (read: the

Ancients) produce by a type of alchemy, transforming one element (pollen) into another (honey) – a process that Swift distinguishes by its harmlessness and, presumably, its utility.

Swift describes the Modern imagination as self-generative and over- productive to the point of obfuscation. The spider, which does not travel among the

84 Quoted in Levine, The Battle of the Books, 42.

85 Ibid., 243-4.


flowers and trees, understands the world only in relation to itself and, therefore, reproduces more of itself in the world. It is Æsop in The Battle who fittingly comments on their dispute, summing up the bee’s argument:

For, pray Gentlemen, was ever any thing so Modern as the Spider in his Air,

his Turns, and his Paradoxes? He argues in the Behalf of You his Brethren,

and Himself, with many Boastings of his native Stock, and great Genius; that

he Spins and Spits wholly from himself, and scorns to own any Obligation or

Assistance from without. Then he displays to you his great Skill in

Architecture, and Improvement in Mathematicks. To all of this, the Bee, as an

Advocate, retained by us the Antients, thinks fit to Answer; That if one may

judge of the Great Genius or Inventions of the Moderns, by what they have

produced, you will hardly have Countenance to bear you out in boasting of

either. Erect your Schemes with as much Method and Skill as you please; yet,

if the materials be nothing but Dirt, Spun out of your own Entrails (the Guts of

Modern Brains) the Edifice will conclude at last in a Cobweb: The Duration of

which, like that of other Spiders webs, may be imputed to their being

forgotten, or neglected, or hid in a Corner. (234)

The spider is a fitting allegory for the Modern imagination not only because the spider produces material in the same way a Grub Street hack produces pages, but because what they indeed produce – or rather, reproduce – reflects their small and confused minds. Alexander Pope deploys a similar metaphor and the same criticism in his description of the Goddess Dulness and her scribblers in The Dunciad: “So spins the silk-worm small its slender store,/And labours till it clouds itself all o’er.”86 This type of scholarship and authorship produces nothing but a reflection of the thinker; and the

86 Alexander Pope, The Dunciad in Four Books, ed. Valerie Rumbold (Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 1999), 308.


Modern thinker, who is introverted and self-interested (Swift would have in mind, for example, Descartes’ self-study in the Meditations), has a “slender store” because he has a slender way of thinking. The Modern way of thinking obscures rather than enlightens. Swift calls these Modern ideas “Metaphysical Cobweb Problems” (170).

For Swift, the problem of interpretation – one’s understanding of the world in relation to oneself – is intrinsically bound to the problem in Modern production. It is because the Modern imagination only regards itself, interprets itself, and only has itself as the object of study that it spins such harmful material into the world. And for our narrator, who is a hack writer and hawks treatises about the mystical function of the number three, this over-production consists entirely of the reproduction of his interpretations. Posing the Modern imagination as a problem of interpretation – and, in particular, of interpreting all texts as if they were allegorical – allows Swift to reveal the ways in which the Modern imagination is analogous to the converting mechanism of allegory, which transforms common objects (or texts) into ideas that are not literally explicit in the text:

Nor do I at all question, but they [my writings] will furnish Plenty of noble

Matter for such, whose converting Imaginations dispose them to reduce all

Things into Types; who can make Shadows, no thanks to the Sun; and then

mold them into Substances, no thanks to Philosophy; whose peculiar Talent

lies in fixing Tropes and Allegories to the Letter, and refining what is literal

into Figure and Mystery. (189-90)

The narrator claims that the Modern exegete’s “peculiar Talent lies in fixing Tropes and Allegories to the Letter, and refining what is literal into Figure and Mystery” and, indeed, the indiscriminate lumping of two separate processes - interpreting allegory and writing allegory - suggests that the Modern imagination is more concerned with


the act of converting (from or into allegory) than the niceties of conversion. The sting in Swift’s satire resides in the phrase “converting Imaginations,” the adjective meaning both the turning of one substance into another as well as “conversion” in the sense of religious conversion. The word, whose first and etymological sense meant

“to turn,” still bore that meaning in the late seventeenth century; and “to turn” appropriately encompassed the meaning of madness, or “to have a sensation as of whirling; to be affected with giddiness; to reel, swim, be in a whirl,” which explains also why Swift understands religious enthusiasm, or embodied religious frenzy, as a

Modern disease.87 Religious enthusiasm requires a turning of the mind that can be understood as Modern, converting the spiritual into the material (speaking in tongues, swaying, quaking). The narrator promises that his work “will furnish Plenty of noble

Matter” – and here the narrator is playing with the word’s ambivalence. “Matter,” after all, means both physical substance and the content of a text. Swift’s joke is that these two are indistinguishable to the Modern mind: Scribbling in pages is no different from having content.

When the narrator claims that his writings will contain enough “Matter” for the Modern imagination to convert into immaterial things (types, shadows, tropes), he assumes that his readers will interpret the text by turning it into abstractions. The narrator describes Modern exegesis as analogous to allegoresis, which also interprets

“Matter” as if it were referencing abstractions or ideas not present in the literal text, so that physical “Things” become “types and shadows,” which Swift lifts from John

Calvin’s exegetical commentaries, and a phrase that became shorthand for the figures

87 “turn, v.”. OED Online. June 2014. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/207669?rskey=Ie5EBY&result=2&isAdvanced=false (accessed June 23, 2014).


in the Old Testament that prefigured events of the New.88 Underlying Swift’s treatment of “converting Imaginations” is his mistrust of abstractions. But the problem of abstractions in A Tale is of a different nature; here Swift seems concerned that the movement between the physical and abstract does not go merely in one direction – strictly from physical to abstract. The Modern narrator’s fascination with the relationship of immaterial and material – that things can be abstracted, or abstractions can be made literal– is heightened by his use of the word “substance,” which in the seventeenth century referred both to the “nature or essence of something” as well as “a thing, a being.”89 Once things are “refined” or “reduced” – the verbs the narrator uses for this process – it is impossible to keep the elements from flipping back and forth.

The problem with the Modern imagination is its essential instability, which turns, converts, refines, reduces, and does not consider anything unchangeable. Swift makes this point in the allegorical tale in the story of Peter, who distorts the meaning of his father’s will (the Bible) in order to embellish to his coat (his soul) with shoulder-knots (fashionable ideas):

But about this time it fell out, that the Learned Brother aforesaid, had read

Aristotelis Dialectica, and especially that wonderful Piece de Interpretatione,

which has the Faculty of teaching its Readers to find out a Meaning in every

88 Thomas M. Davis, “The Traditions of Puritan Typology” in Typology and Early American Literature, ed. Sacvan Bercovitch (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1972), 38-9.

89 “substance, n.”. OED Online. March 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/193042?redirectedFrom=substance (accessed May 16, 2015). But the term is more complicated than this gloss; it is also a word that designates the pre-Cartesian Christian individual, whose material part (the body) is indivisible from his immortal part (his soul). See Christopher Fox, Locke and the Scriblerians: Identity and Consciousness in Early Eighteenth-Century Britain (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1988), 14-15.


Thing but itself; like the Commentators on the Revelations, who proceed

Prophets without understanding a Syllable of the Text. (85)

The corruption in religion (Peter’s use of Aristotle’s de Interpretatione as a way to extract from the Bible the meaning that he wants) is founded on the practices of corrupted learning. It’s Peter’s learnedness (“the Learned Brother”) that leads the other two brothers to employ dubious interpretive systems (for example, scrambling syllables and then scrambling letters of his father’s will) in order to derive whichever meaning Peter desires from the text. And these two corruptions – of learning and religion – efficiently intersect in the “Commentators on the Revelations” – or Biblical exegetes. In the story of Peter the contortions of text and its willful misinterpretation have serious effects on Peter’s psychology. Both Peter and Jack, the two brothers who distort their father’s will, end up raving, incoherent, and insane. The conclusion suggests that an interpretation that unhinges meaning from words also unhinges a person’s sense of self. The distortion of the letter is a distortion of the spirit.

When Swift mentions the “Commentators of the Revelations,” he is criticizing allegoresis in general. The critique of the hermeneutic practice developed by

Medieval scholars who interpreted the Bible as allegory was not, by Swift’s time, a revolutionary one. Martin Luther and John Calvin had condemned allegory and its wild interpretive practices in the sixteenth century. In the centuries in which allegoresis was used as the central tool to interpret the Bible, allegoresis took several different forms, from the fourfold exegesis formalized by St. Gregory to the looser exegesis of Origen, which considered only two levels of interpretation. But its main purpose was always to disclose, through close attention to the Biblical text, a deeper meaning hidden in the text. As the eminent historian Henri de Lubac evocatively describes, allegory is an opening up of meaning: “Starting from the moment when


[the mystery of allegory] is gathered within the bosom of the Church, the Old

Testament, once renewed, offers, in a sudden blossoming of springtime, the flowers and fruits of the spiritual senses.”90 Allegoresis provides the possibility for renewal – not only of God’s promise in the Jewish scriptures, but also of understanding one’s faith in God in a spiritually intimate way. Indeed, this is the reason why both Luther and Calvin could not completely repudiate allegoresis as an interpretive method. The importance they put on Biblical interpretation required a similar wrestling of meaning otherwise not present in the text. Luther and Calvin were consummate exegetes, producing sophisticated commentaries on the Bible, whose observations were nonetheless deeply influenced by the rich practices of medieval allegoresis. Luther and Calvin’s commentaries borrowed the format of Medieval exegesis, showing that both developed their commentaries from Medieval forms of interpretation rather than from its rejection.91 Luther and Calvin distinguished their interpretations from allegoresis by favoring the “literal” meaning of the Bible – a complicated assertion that suggested a reading of a historical or intrinsic interpretation of the Bible. It also happens to be the first of the four levels of interpretation in allegoresis.

The early Reformers did reject a type of spiritual reading that seemed over- interpretive, overindulgent. In citing Origen, an early Christian theologian whose highly influential writings would define essential features of Biblical exegesis, Luther claims that “such twaddle is unworthy of theologians.”92 The “twaddle” is Origen’s

90 Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis: The Four Senses of Scripture, 2 Vols., trans. E. M. Macierowski (Edinburgh: T&T Clark Ltd., 2000), 124.

91 Richard A. Muller, “Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation: The View from the Middle Ages,” in Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation, eds. Richard A. Muller and John L. Thompson (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 1996), 14-16.

92 Brought to my attention in and quoted from Brian Cummings “Protestant Allegory” in The Cambridge Companion to Allegory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 180.


commentaries on Genesis, where he takes great pains to interpret scripture in both its literal and its spiritual sense. For example, the spiritual sense of “Let the waters bring forth creeping creatures having life and birds flying over the earth in the firmament of heaven” is: “I think that if our mind has been enlightened by Christ, our sun, it is ordered afterwards to bring forth from these waters which are in it ‘creeping creatures’ and ‘birds which fly,’ that is, to bring out into the open good or evil thoughts.”93 Origen’s spiritual sense reads God’s creation of the water as a creation of the mind, which discloses another way – a spiritual way – of reading scripture. The story of Genesis, therefore, is not just the story of the creation of earth, but the creation of man’s spiritual awareness, since Origen shows us how to see once “our mind has been enlightened by Christ.” Origen’s “twaddle” is implicated with his way of finding the spiritual in the material and physical things of the world. John

Dawson’s description of Origen’s interpretive mind is strangely analogous to the mechanism of Modern interpretation, whose main spring converts material and immaterial elements – or, for Origen, “a change from a materiality devoid of spirit to an increasingly spiritualized materiality.”94

The depth and breadth of the spiritual reading in Biblical exegesis are explicit in St. Gregory’s hermeneutical masterpiece Moralia in Job (written between 578 and

595), which spans several volumes, discoursing on each verse liberally. For example,

St. Gregory here explains “He scraped his sores with a potsherd and sat on a dung heap”:

93 Origen, “Homilies on Genesis, in Fathers of the Church: Homilies on Genesis and Exodus, Vol. 71 (Baltimore: Catholic University of America Press, 1982), 57. Accessed May 18, 2015. ProQuest ebrary.

94 John David Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 50.


Is a potsherd not made of clay? And what else is a sore on the body except

clay? Accordingly, when we are told he scraped his sores with a potsherd, he

might as well have said, “He wiped clay with clay.” The holy man indeed

knew from what element he had been taken and that he was truly a broken

vessel of clay, so he scraped himself with a piece of that very clay. In this it is

clearly shown us how Job’s body was completely subjected to him when in

health and now he despised it in sickness, and in this way he cured it…He

scraped his sores with a potsherd, and he saw himself in the broken dish; in

the act of wiping his sores, he also obtained a cure for his mind.95

This is a part of Gregory’s first of two paragraphs on the potsherd, a broken piece of clay pottery. It’s easy to see how this type of interpretation, which Swift sees as a precursor to Modern scholarship’s obtuseness and prolixity, becomes a figure of interpretive nonsense. As Stephen Manning explains, allegoresis, which opened the

Bible to such various interpretations, also meant that exegetes often made selections in order to form a cogent analysis – a selection that could be understood to be arbitrary: “Although the Fathers are apparently unanimous in supporting multiple interpretation, they often limit themselves to one or two. They were constantly making adaptations according to changing intellectual, moral, and spiritual needs of the time and of the audience.”96 Once allegoresis opens the text up to multiple levels of interpretation, deciding on the correct one or two also opens up the interpretation to charges of arbitrariness.

95 Gregory the Great, Moral Reflections on the Book of Job, trans. Brian Kerns (Collegeville: Cistercian Publications, 2014), I.3.9, pp. 188-9.

96 Stephen Manning, “Exegesis & the Literary Critic” in Typology and Early American Literature ed. Sacvan Bercovitch (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1972), 56.


If overproduction is a significant effect of allegoresis, another is allegoresis’ treatment of material and physical things as significant, which heightens their importance in the text. In Gregory’s reading, we can see how crucial the literal and material details of prose are for the exegete. Detail reveals something about Job’s psychology or God’s will; in the Bible there is no such thing as reportage or the pretense to realism. Allegoresis represents a potsherd as a piece of Job’s psychology instead of an everyday object readily available to scratch his boils - and, by doing so, the allegorical imagination lends a certain animating quality to the immaterial piece of clay. Allegoresis, therefore, does two seemingly contradictory things: 1) It fills the world and its things with essential meaning; and 2) By pretending that everything is meaningful, it gravitates toward the material reality of the world in order to unlock its metaphysical secrets. So when Gregory follows the description of the potsherd with an elaborate reasoning of why Job sat on a dunghill (“His body was deposited on the dung heap, so his soul could ascertain to its great profit that the matter of which his flesh was composed had been taken from the earth. His body was deposited on the dung heap, so he could conclude from the stench of his seat that his body was soon to return to that rotten stench.”), it becomes clearer how the Modern imagination might become mired in the things of the body and its waste in its quest for spiritual or metaphysical meaning.97

If Reformers like Luther and Calvin attempted to distance themselves from this prolific and overly material reading of the Bible, it remained impossible for them to do so completely. In Swift’s A Tale of a Tub, we see both Peter (representing the

Catholic Church) and Jack (representing Calvinism) engage in allegoresis that create the effects of overproduction and an attachment to materiality. Throughout the satire

97 Ibid., 1.3.10, p. 189.


Swift critiques this very process by equating the process of Modern interpretation and

Biblical allegoresis. For Swift, allegoresis was the process by which we equate abstract and literal meanings and, by doing so, create an essentially unstable mechanism of meaning making. If to get to the spiritual we must deal with physical things, how can we be sure to emerge entirely free of their taint? Swift’s use of allegoresis as the mechanism by which Modern minds practice their “converting

Imaginations” means that the abstract and spiritual is always burdened with the material. The narrator’s awareness of and gravitation towards physical visions and descriptions can only be fully understood when considered alongside Swift’s attitude toward materialism. In the next section, I read Swift’s allegory as essentially materialist – one that is so preoccupied with physical description that it seems to acquire a different status from the previous allegories. I have argued that allegoresis is at the heart of Modernist exegesis – its tendency to convert things into abstract ideas and, in doing so, heightening the status of physical description. In the next section, I take a closer look at the product of such “converting Imaginations” and show the effects of having an allegory, shaped by principles of the new science, in the satire.


Swift’s satire suffers from an overproduction of interpretation – and this interpretation, as we have seen, grapples too closely with material representation as a means to get to spiritual meaning. Swift reconfigures allegoresis in A Tale of a Tub into what I call a Modern allegoresis. Modern allegoresis interprets, but its interpretation is cut short before it can yield deeper, spiritual meanings of the text.

Instead, the interpretation gets stuck in matter or the body of the text or object it interprets and, by doing so, reproduces material rather than significance. It’s a


descriptive mechanism that Sophie Gee diagnoses, writing that “Swift’s satirical vision is Protestant in its nature. It rejects the Roman Catholic doctrine that base matter can be made divine, and it adheres to the logic that where glorious meaning arises, it leaves a leftover, a kernel of material reality.”98 What animates the satire is

Swift’s combining these slightly outdated questions of form (allegory) and attitude

(Modern) with materialism, which made us look at matter as if it harbored vital significance. Indeed, the hack writer is distinguished by his gravitation toward the letter, the literal, and the material – regardless of his claims to be searching for meaning. In A Tale of a Tub this insistence on material things – Wisdom’s cheesy rind, its nut and its worm – repeatedly eludes the revelation that allegoresis extracts from its object of study. In fact, for all of the narrator’s promises of the secrets that he will reveal, we get no single moment of enlightenment.99 It seems to be the satire’s premise that the more one grasps for meaning the more one gets mired in the physical.

When the narrator describes Wisdom, he indiscriminately slips from one object or animal to another, as if trying to account for the objects around him in a fully exegetical manner and failing. There is a grasping quality to the narrator’s mentality, which is not only lured by the materiality of the things around him, but also by the promise of hermeneutic revelation.

The most striking example of the Modern lapse into materiality as an interpretive method is where the narrator describes his experiments in anatomy:

[I]n most Corporeal Beings, which have fallen under my Cognizance, the

Outside hath been infinitely preferable to the In: Last Week I saw a Woman

98 Sophie Gee, Making Waste: Leftovers and the Eighteenth-Century Imagination (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010), 99-100.

99 Those moments of enlightenment are famously riddled with asterisks. Swift makes even revelation fall bathetically into material decay, since the asterisks are indicative of lost and damaged manuscript pages.


flay’d, and you will hardly believe, how much it altered her Person for the

worse. Yesterday I ordered the Carcass of a Beau to be stript in my Presence;

when we were all amazed to find so many unsuspected Faults under one Suit

of Cloaths: Then I laid open his Brain, his Heart, and his Spleen; But I plainly

perceived at every Operation, that the farther we proceeded, we found the

Defects encrease upon us in Number and Bulk… (173-4)

The narrator’s insatiable curiosity is drawn to the corpse as an object of study, and his conclusion that the “Outside” is “preferable to the In” sums up Swift’s accusation of what’s wrong with Modern imagination. The uppermost layer of of the statement is that for the narrator everything is “Outside” – even a corpse’s innards, exposed to the air and the light of day, are treated as things “Outside.” The narrator cannot even imagine what “In” – the inner light, the inner being – could be; it is beyond his interest and his attention. The second layer of irony, of course, is that in seeking abstruse meaning the narrator ends up buried in the stuff that bear no real meaning. He is surrounded by the sheer materiality of the body, even the “Defects” of the Beau’s heart and brain, which should remain abstract and unmarked on the carcass like heartlessness and thoughtlessness, are translated into the palpable “Number and


The narrator’s materializing mind bespeaks of a Modern sensibility that Swift repeatedly excoriates – and he finds a fitting target in Descartes, who is listed as one of the madmen in a Tale of a Tub and is pierced in the left eye by Aristotle’s arrow in the Battle of the Books. Descartes’ materialist philosophy rejected the human body as intrinsic to substance, the Christian composite of man’s body and soul, but posited the body as a material thing that “lacks volition and occupies a firm place within


mechanistic, physical nature.”100 His vision of the body as a machine, “an automaton, having no will of its own,” became a dominant the eighteenth century, which crystalizes in Julien de La Mettrie’s L’homme Machine (1748), but whose ideas are very much alive in and percolating around England.101 It’s this newfound vision of the body that sanctioned Descartes’ dissections of animals, which he vividly recounts in the “Description of the Human Body” and that Swift in A Tale’s description of the narrator’s anatomy. In it, Descartes urges “those who have never studied anatomy to take the trouble to look at the heart of some land animal” and to follow him and fall into the details of anatomy.102 The point of Swift’s animosity toward

Descartes is that he does to knowledge what he does to animals: Descartes turns what should be divine truths into human matter. This explains Swift’s belief that criticism is akin to the violent interpretation (“by Untwisting or Unwinding, and either to draw up by Exantlation, or display by incision”) of Modern writing, which have “darkly and deeply couched” meaning under their “beautiful Externals.” (67) Swift is writing against this proliferation of mere material (of the Modern spider) – and, in the extremity of his vision, a world where corpses wear their entrails outside for everyone to prod, analyze, and interpret. The casual tone of the narrator – “Last Week I saw a

Woman flay’d” – only serves to remind us that the nightmare scenario is real, even made mundane in the satire.

This deeply materialist vision is echoed (and satirized) in A Tale’s allegorical tale, whose universe is presided over by a Tailor (God) and whose inhabitants wear

100 Dale Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 5.

101 Ibid., 29.

102 René Descartes, “Description of the Human Body,” The World and Other Writings, trans and ed. Stephen Gaukroger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 228.


their souls outside as coats. The “material” of allegory – its literal meaning – makes the figure fit the Modern framework; but here Swift also plays with the terminology and structure of allegory and allegoresis. Medieval scholarship called the text’s literal meaning the “integument,” from the Latin term meaning “covering.”103 The allegorical integument was often described as the “wrapping” or “veil.” The metaphor of integument and of veiling as an extrinsic covering, used widely by allegorists, underscores allegory’s layered and paradoxical mechanism: Though readers might desire to reach in and grasp a text’s hidden truth, allegoresis requires taking allegory’s clothing seriously. One must wrestle with a text’s integument, which is the imperfect but only vehicle of truth. Allegorists return to this paradox in many self-referential ways, in their discussions of surfaces and depths, but clothing becomes the metaphor of choice to describe this simultaneous dependency on and dismissal of literal meaning. Prudentius’ careful description of his Virtues and Vices’ clothing demonstrates how meaningful surfaces become in interpreting his characters: Faith’s

“rough dress disordered, her shoulders bare,”104 Chastity’s “beauteous armour,”105

Long-Suffering’s “three-ply corselet of mail impenetrable, the fabric of iron scales joined every way with leathers interlaced,”106 Lust’s belt of “fire-brands of her country,” which radiates with the glow of sexual desire.107 Mirroring scenes in the

Bible, Bunyan’s Christian exchanges his rags for a coat and his coat for armor at

103 Rita Copeland and Stephen Melville, “Allegory and Allegoresis, Rhetoric and Hermeneutics” in The Cambridge Companion to Allegory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 169.

104 Prudentius, Psychomachia in Prudentius, trans. H. J. Thomson, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1949), 2.281.

105 Ibid., 2.283.

106 Ibid., 2.289.

107 Ibid.


stages that punctuate spiritual milestones. Surfaces, paradoxically, matter a great deal in the interpretation of allegory. The metaphor of integument makes such scenes self- referential; clothing, like the literal text, not only demonstrates aspects of an abstraction’s essence (Pride’s hiding her steed under a lion’s skin), but can also be an obstacle to its full meaning.

The medical meaning of “integument,” however, seems more apt to the way we should read the literal description of allegories – as the “natural covering or investment of the body, or of some part or organ, of animal or plant; a skin, shell, husk, rind, etc,” because the integument is understood as intrinsic to the nature of the tenor that is being represented.108 The word “integument” can suggest that a text’s literal meaning acts like a piece of clothing, obscuring truth with a fabric of words; but reading “integument” as a natural covering, intrinsic to itself and whose removal would be odious, is more sympathetic to Swift’s own vision of what integument should be. One of the most grotesque images of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) is

Gulliver’s use of rabbits and Nnuhnoh to make his clothes and the dried skin of

Yahoos, that is, human skin, to patch the leather of his shoes. Gulliver has become so estranged from the idea of human exceptionalism that he casually recounts that he covers his canoe with the “Skins of Yahoos, well stitched together with hempen

Threads of my own making. My Sail was likewise composed of the Skins of the same

Animal; but I made use of the youngest I could get, the older being too tough and thick.”109 For Swift, the peeling of skin, be it for the sake of anatomy or for the sake of Gulliver’s travels, suggests the need to keep integument intact as a natural,

108 “integument, n.”. OED Online. March 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/97371?rskey=icrEUw&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed May 18, 2015).

109 Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, ed. Herbert Davis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 284.


important covering. This explains why Modern inquisitiveness is for Swift distasteful in the extreme. Over-interpretation violates the integrity of the text. Implicit in Swift’s claim is that allegory is itself already a violent figure, because its form, structured by the literal text and a referent outside it, demands we lift the integument as a way to interpret the allegory. This is Gordon Teskey’s vision of allegory in Allegory and

Violence, where he theorizes the form’s inherent mechanism to yield meaning – a process that stitches two heterogeneous elements together to guarantee “instrumental meaning.”110

If Modern sensibility is Cartesian, it is so not only because it revels in a violent type of interpretation, but also because Modern interpretation is mired in the physical, material aspects of the object of study. Similarly, allegory involves an intense study of the material world, a myopia that can only imagine ideas as literalized. In the allegory of the three brothers, Swift imagines a “Sect” that believes the “Universe to be a large Suit of Cloaths, which invests every Thing.” (77) The god of this universe is the tailor; “Man himself [is] but a Micro-Coat, or rather a compleat

Suit of Cloaths with all its Trimmings.” (78) Thus, man is reduced to an article of clothing. Furthermore, in Swift’s words, “the Soul was the outward, and the Body the

Inward Cloathing,” reversing their usual positions. (79) Not only is the soul materialized as a coat, but because the particularities of the coats refer to the soul, shoulder-knots, Gold Lace, flame Coloured Sattin acquire meaning. What could have

110 Gordon Teskey, Allegory and Violence (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1996), 6. However, a theory of allegory more sympathetic to Swift (not the narrator) is Angus Fletcher’s description of the literal level of allegory as perfectly independent – a story that does not require violent decoding: “The whole point of allegory is that it does not need to be read exegetically; it often has a literal level that makes good enough sense all by itself. But somehow this literal surface suggests a peculiar doubleness of intention, and while it can, as it were, get along without interpretation, it becomes much richer and more interesting if given interpretation.” See Angus Fletcher, Allegory: Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1964), 7.


been summarized as “frippery” becomes the central concern of this Modern tale, forcing us to gravely consider what is in fact superfluous. The Modern and the allegorical share the reverence for the superfluous or, as the narrator explains, the

“Superficies of Things.” (174)

The sartorial allegory, therefore, turns what is inside (the soul) outward (as a coat). This metaphor describes the mechanism of allegorical representation, which turns abstractions or qualities into readable, legible manifestations. The unnatural, almost grotesque vision is that of the human soul, which was once defined by its immateriality and which Descartes made material by claiming that it resided in the pineal gland. As the coats of the three brothers, the soul is subject to all sorts of physical alteration – it gets pierced, ripped, sewn over and over.

Swift’s critique of the ways in which inward and outward become confused in the Modern imagination is a reworking of Paul’s concept of the believer as comprised of the inward and the outward man, which Swift reverses in the allegory. While the concept is older than Paul, it is probably from Paul that Swift acquired the vocabulary of the “inner man.” To Paul, the “inner” or “inward” man represents the essence of man that is imbued with the spiritual grace of God. Thus, the “inner man” shares the essence of the Spirit through daily renewal: “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”111 Paul’s iterations of the “inner” or the “inward” man punctuate his letters – and the distinction allows him to describe the dynamic between realities of the flesh that tie man to the earth and the promise of the spirit. (It also was the dichotomous structure and argument that Origen used to perform allegoresis on the Bible, claiming Paul’s understanding of the outer and inner realities

111 2 Corinthians 4:16 (King James Version). See also “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16); “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man” (Romans 7:22).


as a predecessor.112) The metaphor of the inward man signifies the possibility of redemption, or the spiritual part of man that can interpret and receive God. The inner man’s semantic quarantine from man’s flesh allows Paul to find a language for spiritual renewal that is apart from the body’s corruption. Part of what A Tale does so innovatively is to show what happens to these nuanced religious distinctions in a world defined strictly by materialist thought.

Swift’s most thorough meditation on the relationship between the body and the spirit is not in A Tale, but in the fragment A Discourse Concerning the

Mechanical Operation of the Spirit, the third satire published with A Tale and the

Battle of the Books. The narrator of Mechanical Operation is also a Modern madman, whose project is to disseminate his “Spiritual Mechanism,” or the ability to reach spiritual understanding through a coordinated set of physical motions, including a see- sawing motion and straining the “Eye balls inward” (271). The technique catapults the

“Soul or its Faculties above Matter” in a moment of enthusiasm (266). According to the narrator, whom we must doubt, “Spiritual Mechanism” might have begun as a way to counterfeit religious experience, but the relationship between bodily movements and religious fanaticism became muddied over time: What started as

“purely an artifice, but through a very long Succession of Ages hath grown to be natural” (167-8). In other words, Mechanical Operation is a satire on the hypocrisy of religious leaders as well on willing that mistakenly accept performance for real spirituality. Implicitly, along the lines of A Tale, the piece continues satirizing what Swift saw as the sexual nature of religious enthusiasm. The Restoration critique of enthusiasm – that it’s caused by bodily fluids and gases “surging upward from the

112 While allegoresis was a Greek technology invented to interpret the Greek epics, Christian exegetes from Tertullian, Origen, Ambrose, and Augustine all pointed to Paul as their interpretive model. See Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, 4-7.


loins to the heart and finally to the imagination,” as epitomized by Henry More’s

Enthusiasms triumphatus (1656) – not only yoked the spirit to sexual desire, but also transformed spiritual love into gross physicality.113 Swift, like Henry More and Meric

Casaubon (son of classical scholar Isaac Casaubon), conceptualizes religious enthusiasm as a physiological disorder – and the physicality of the disease is what makes the spiritual aspirants especially unpalatable. It takes no great leap of the imagination, therefore, to see how Descartes, Swift’s symbol of Modern and materialist philosophy, can be thought of as an enthusiast himself.114 Materialism and enthusiasm and their unnatural intersection are the substance of the satire. The inner man in The Mechanical Operation is spurred on by the body’s movement, making the inner man dependent on physical movements of its outer counterpart.115 The narrator even claims that all “Visions in Things Invisible, is of a Corporeal Nature.” The implication behind the statement is heretical, but it derives from the serious paradox that man’s knowledge of God is only acquired through the senses of the flesh. Paul’s concept of the inner and outer man is an attempt to circumvent the impediment that all knowledge of God has to be carnal: The inner man responds to God in spirit. The narrator undoes the Pauline work of distinction between the inner and outer man, claiming that the inner man is of a material kind, derived through the senses (287).

113 Debora Shuger, The Renaissance Bible: Scholarship, Sacrifice, and Subjectivity (Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994), 179.

114 For a more thorough account of the way that Meric Casaubon’s criticism of Descartes as an enthusiast is taken up in Swift’s satire, see Michael R. G. Spiller’s “The Idol of the Stove: The Background to Swift’s Criticism of Descartes,” The Review of English Studies Vol. 25, No. 97 (February 1974): 15-24.

115 “[T]he Outward Man put into odd Commotions, and strangely prick’d forward by the Inward: An Effect very usual among the Modern Inspired” (280). See the material relationship between the inward and outward man: “Remark your commonest Pretender to a Light within, how dark, and dirty, and gloomy he is without; As Lanthorns, which the more Light they bear in their Bodies, cast out so much the more Soot, and Smoak, and fuliginous Matter to adhere to the Sides” (282).


Or, as the narrator claims, that all spiritual concerns “may branch upwards towards

Heaven, but the Root is in the Earth” (288).

But as the narrator reminds us, in a moment more truthful than ironic, the compulsion to materialize or to fall back on the material is part of our human condition. As the narrator puts it, “Too intense a Contemplation is not the Business of

Flesh and Blood; it must by the necessary Course of Things, in a little Time, let go its

Hold, and fall into Matter.” (288) The criticism of the carnality and, therefore, intrinsic frailty of human imagination is not new. “[F]all[ing] into Matter” is central to the human imagination. Human beings naturally try to understand God in human ways, but in doing so grossly misunderstand God’s unearthly nature. Paul tried to distinguish, for this very reason, between the outward and the inner man. To go back even further, the Word becomes incarnate for our human understanding in John. It becomes a foundation of Christian explication, sowed in the Gospels, that we required a Christ in flesh and blood.

Swift envisions a world that takes materialist propositions to their extreme logical conclusion and envisions a wholly materialist world. This materialist world, of course, conflates the inward with the outward, taking the latter for the former. In

Mechanical Operation, Swift regales us with the memorable description of the human brain:

[T]he Brain is only a Crowd of little Animals, but with Teeth and Claws

extremely sharp, and therefore, cling together in the Contexture we behold,

like the Picture of Hobbes’s , or like Bees in perpendicular swarm

upon a Tree, or like a Carrion corrupted into Vermin, still preserving the

Shape and Figure of the Mother Animal. That all invention is formed by the

Morsure of two or more of these Animals, upon certain capillary Nerves,


which proceed from thence, whereof three Branches spread into the tongue,

and two into the right Hand. (277)

The inner man – in Swift’s writing, the soul or the mind – is not only reduced to the physical, he is reduced to gross manifestations of the physical. The brain is first likened to a “Crowd of little Animals, but with Teeth and Claws extremely sharp,” then to Hobbes’ Leviathan, to “Bees in perpendicular swarm upon a Tree” and, finally, to “a Carrion, corrupted into Vermin, still preserving the Shape and figure of the Mother Animal.” The narrator traipses from metaphor to metaphor – the order of which is supposed to surprise, swerving from the philosophical (the Leviathan) to the classical (bees and their orderly hive) – only to terminate in the unexpected metaphor of the brain as vermin-covered carrion. Unlike the metaphors in A Tale, whose comparisons of Wisdom to a nut and its maggot emphasized materiality, the string of metaphors in Mechanical Operation of the Spirit shows the triumph of materiality, because man’s subjective tastes and desires (whether he likes or politics) are defined by the vermin’s bites – by entirely material, physical actions.

Nevertheless, Swift’s descriptions of the physical brain or the materialized soul are not the description of mere matter. Swift’s visions of matter become smudged or tainted with the sense of a deeper meaning. Because matter is the production of allegorical representation in these texts, it is impossible to extricate the creation of meaning from the literal text. If Modern materialists tended to focus on physical phenomena, it was because they, like the readers of allegories, sought meaning from the literal text. Because the allegory is framed by the Modern imagination, the further an abstraction falls into materiality, the more its material gains a sort of immanent meaning; and time and time again, Swift indicates this intersection of materialist description and allegorical meaning with grotesque, distorted visions. Instead of


instructing, Swift’s allegories repulse. In order to understand the impact of the

Modern imagination on allegory, I discuss Jack in the following and last section – the third brother in the allegorical tale and the most mired in the material.


If the narrator of A Tale of a Tub exemplifies the Modern mind, he is a fine specimen indeed. In reading him we hear the Modern voice and from it deduce a version of

Modern logic. But it is in the story of brother Jack that we finally get to see the

Modern man in action; it is Jack whom the readers get to judge as a fully formed character and not just as a disembodied voice. Jack, who in Swift’s satire stands in for

John Calvin or any enthusiastic dissenter, is where Swift concentrates his most potent irony. By equating Jack with Calvin, Swift satirizes Calvin’s desire to confine himself to the literal sense of the Bible, which makes him literalize texts, words, concepts and become completely mired in a material reality. In Jack, Swift brilliantly satirizes

Calvin’s preoccupation with believers who drag God down to their human and, therefore, gross idealizations:

The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine

a god suited to its own capacity; as it labours under dulness, nay, is sunk in the

grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of

God. To these evils another is added. The god whom man has thus conceived

inwardly he attempts to embody outwardly. The mind in this way, conceives

the idol, and the hand gives it birth.117

116 Swift, A Tale of a Tub, 62.

117 Calvin, Institutes, 1.11.8.


Swift uses Jack to show what happens when God is “suited to [human] capacity,” or when God’s words become literalized into human action. Calvin’s fear is that a humanly created idol can become embodied; but Swift’s satirical point is that it is exactly Calvin’s overzealous attempt to embody right religion that creates the grotesque figure that we see in Jack. But Jack in A Tale is an amalgamation of Calvin and the Modern interpreter. The narrator describes Jack as a bad, Modern reader:

For, altho’, as I have often told the Reader, it consisted wholly in certain plain,

easy Directions about the management and wearing of their Coats, with

Legacies and Penalties, in case of Obedience or Neglect; yet he began to

entertain a Fancy, that the Matter was deeper and darker and therefore must

needs have a great deal more of Mystery at the Bottom. Gentlemen, said he, I

will prove this very Skin of Parchment to be Meat, Drink, and Cloth, to be the

Philosopher’s Stone, and the Universal Medicine. (190)

The Modern imagination, which compulsively grasps at “deeper and darker” meanings, propels Jack into a series of materializations that steer him away from the mystery that he seeks. Instead of getting closer to God, Jack keeps falling into the material by trying to reduce his father’s will to meat, drink, cloth, the philosopher’s stone, and medicine. While Peter distorts the meaning of his father’s will to justify adding shoulder-knots to his coat, Jack physically distorts the will itself, “working it into any Shape he pleased”; depending on Jack’s current need, the will becomes his night-cap and his umbrella (190). Jack is an example of what happens when an allegory falls into a completely materialist universe.

Swift’s description of matter, however, has a strange quality that eludes critics. Sir Walter Scott discussed it in terms of spiritual possession: “Swift seems, like the Persian dervise [sic], to have possessed the faculty of transfusing his soul


into the body of anyone whom he selected.”118 While Scott is talking about Swift’s uncanny ability to embody his narrators, the metaphor of possession allows Scott to refer to the vividness of Swift’s language, which Claude Rawson describes, in an fittingly Swiftean metaphor, as a spilling over. In this section, I suggest that one way to understand this descriptive quality is to think about the language of allegory, which itself is in the business of conferring vividness to material phenomena.

Fletcher, for instance, explains the otherworldly vivacity of allegory in terms of its

“daemonic” quality:

Daemons, as I shall define them, share this major characteristic of allegorical

agents, the fact that they compartmentalize function. If we were to meet an

allegorical character in real life, we would say of him that he was obsessed

with only one idea, or that he had an absolutely one-track mind, or that his life

was patterned according to absolutely rigid habits from which he never

allowed himself to vary. It would seem that he was driven by some hidden

private force.119

Fletcher’s “hidden private force” is one way of describing the intensity of Swift’s language. After all, Swift’s most memorable narrators (from A Tale as well as

“Modest Proposal”) are mad projectors, single-minded hawkers of ideas and concepts.

The allegorical language reflects the obsessive psychology of the satire’s speaker – so that his Materialist brand of matter shapes and distorts the way we encounter objects.

118 Walter Scott, “Jonathan Swift” in On Novelists and Fiction, ed. Ioan Williams (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968), 154-5. Brought to my attention by David Womersley’s simultaneously imaginative and rigorous article “‘now deaf 1740’: Entrapment, foreboding, and exorcism in late Swift,” in Politics and Literature in the Age of Swift, ed. Claude Rawson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 172.

119 Angus Fletcher, The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1964), 40.


In A Tale Fletcher’s point seems particularly relevant: allegory itself creates a certain

“force” around its agent in the world that he or she inhabits.

Allegory’s “force” has been theorized variously. Water Benjamin, for example, writes that “it is part of [allegory’s] nature to shock.”120 Theresa Kelley deploys the term “vivacity” to designate allegorical description, claiming that the success of allegorical form “depends on the degree to which its figures seem life- like.”121 For Swift’s A Tale, the most fitting description of allegory’s intensity comes from Bernard Lamy’s De L’Art de Parler (1675). It’s a text that comes from the interim period between the Renaissance and the eighteenth century when, according to James Paxon, texts about personification attended “to the expressive and psychological grounds that led to the authors’ employment of such tropes.”122 And, indeed, Lamy describes personification not only as a type of resurrection, but one created by intensity of the passions: “When a passion is violent, it renders them mad in some measure that are possess’d with it. In that case, we entertain our selves with

Rocks, and with dead Men, as if they were living, and make them speak as if they had

Souls.”123 The possession of Lamy’s speaker, whose madness is so overwhelming he infuses life back into rocks and corpses, comes close to Scott’s description of Swift’s language as a possession.

120 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic , Trans. John Osborne (London and New York: Verso, 1998), 183.

121 Theresa M. Kelley, Reinventing Allegory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 23.

122 James Paxon argues that personification emerged from the rhetorical exercises of prosopopoeia, which asked the student to imagine (in Demetrius’ words, to “mak[e] present”) a historical, literary, or political figure and compose a speech that they would have given; in particular, see pages 12-13. The Poetics of Personification (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). Paxon, The Poetics of Personification, 24.

123 Quoted in Paxon, 24.


This vivacity, force, and possession are clearly depicted in Swift’s description of Jack. Jack does more than speak the Modern language: Jack lives a materializing existence. In order to be enlightened – to exemplify that “a Wise Man was his own

Lanthorn” – he eats “Snap-Dragon, and…livid Snuffs of a burning Candle” (192).

And, more tellingly, Jack walks around town with his eyes shut – not only because he believes in predestination, but also because, as he puts it, “the Eyes of Understanding sees best, when those of the Senses are out of the way” (193). His yearning towards

“Understanding” paradoxically makes Jack’s fall into the material ever more poignant. He cannot get around without “bounc[ing] his Head against a Post, or fall[ing] into the Kennel” (192). He jumps into ice-cold water, only to emerge dirtier than before (196). In his attempt to stick to the letter of his Father’s will, Jack has become the most productive of allegorists. Instead of merely reading the Bible in its literal sense, Swift’s joke casts Jack reading the Bible in its most literalizing sense.

Nevertheless, Swift’s allegory of Jack also shows that allegory produces a surplus of representation. Jack’s jumping “Head and Ears” into the water is a condemnation of baptism by immersion, but that he comes out “much dirtier” is one of the ways in which allegory thwarts exact meaning with material details. There is no clear referent for the detail – Why would he come out dirtier? Why does he have to jump into freezing water? It is the same with Jack’s tendency to “piss in [strangers’]

Eyes” (195). In his satirical vehemence, Swift likens Jack to to a “drunken Beau,” a

“fresh Tenant of Newgate,” a “discovered Shoplifter,” a “Bawd in her old Velvet-

Petticoat” (140-1). The specificity of detail and the reveling in shocking materiality that exceeds meaning are part of the allegorical machinery. Overwrought descriptions in emblematic allegories were popular in the Renaissance and reviled by iconoclasts


in the Reformation.124 The attachment to representation, down to each material detail, betrays the tale’s and Jack’s allegorical impulse. However, the same attachment to physical details makes allegory unstable; its referential meaning takes a back seat in

Swift’s allegory, where the literal text is so fully infused with life that one could altogether forget to decode it.

As much as allegory produces meaninglessness through the proliferation of sensuous details, Swift’s allegory also treats things as if they were extensions of a character’s personality – especially in the description of the brothers’ coats. The description of Jack’s coat bears some remnant of his personality; and the fact that

Jack’s coat represents his soul imbues description of the coat’s material state with significance:

[T]he poor Remainders of his Coat bore all the Punishment; The orient Sun

never entred upon his diurnal Progress, without missing a Piece of it. He hired

a Taylor to stitch up the Collar so close, that it was ready to choak him, and

squeezed out his Eyes at such a Rate, as one could see nothing but the White.

What little was left of the main Substance of the Coat, he rubbed every day for

two hours, against a rough-cast Wall, in order to grind away the Remnants of

Lace and Embroidery…Yet after all he could do of this kind, the Success

continued still to disappoint his Expectation. For, as it is the Nature of Rags,

to bear a kind of Mock Resemblance to Finery; there being a sort of fluttering

Appearance in both… (199-200)

Jack so desires to eliminate all the traces of Peter’s penchant for lace and embroidery that the coat is “rubbed every day for two hours, against a rough-cast Wall.” The sexual, masturbatory connotations of Jack’s rubbing add to the distasteful quality that

124 Theresa M. Kelley, “‘Fantastic Shapes’: From Classical Rhetoric to Romantic Allegory,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 33.2 (Summer 1991): 237-8.


pervades the description; but it also suggests that Jack’s religious act is unwittingly motivated by sensual pleasure. The violence of Jack’s enthusiasm is present not only in the continual disintegration of the coat – a daily “Punishment” – but also in the coat’s ability to “choak him.” The coat itself sinisterly borders on personification, itself absorbing Jack’s own radical sentiments. His violence against his coat has to be read as violence against his soul; and the tragedy of this violence is its pointlessness.

Jack’s tattered coat ends up “bear[ing] a kind of Mock Resemblance to Finery.” The more Jack attempts to purge the coat of Peter’s shoulder-knots, the closer Jack’s coat resembles his older brother’s.

Jack’s fringes, laces, and rags have a weight and quality similar to what readers of nineteenth-century novel criticism would recognize in “the landscape, the dwelling, furniture, implements, clothing, physique” of Madame Vauqueur’s boarding house in Balzac’s Père Goriot, made famous by Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis.125

Auerbach describes such objects as irradiated with Madame Vauquer’s personality, “a total concept of a demonic organic nature…presented entirely by suggestive and sensory means.”126 The force of personality pervades the objects and landscape around Madam Vauqueur in a way similar to how allegory transforms material objects and lends them a personal life. But it’s the combination of Swift’s satirical and allegorical compulsions that makes A Tale of a Tub teem with the feeling of live materiality. The cheese and its maggot as well as Jack’s fringes are examples of what feel like animate detail. If description itself, as Cynthia Wall explains, “in one way or another makes something visible, sets it forth, extracts it from the surroundings, and

125 Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Literature, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003), 473.

126 Ibid., 472.


jabs a finger meaningfully at it,” the allegorical frame of the text lends a pervasive feeling of significance to trivial, mundane, and distasteful objects.127 In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, Modern philosophy had redefined the human world as an essentially material one. Everywhere the Modern man looked was materiality; even when he turned his eyes inward, his head was full of maggots. It is with a devastating savagery that Swift turns to look at the man trying to find the spirit in matter.

The allegorical form dramatizes the longing for spiritual connection between the material world and the ideal world. As William Empson explains, “Part of the function of an allegory is to make you feel that two levels of being correspond to each other in detail and indeed that there is some underlying reality, something in the nature of things, which makes this happen.”128 The presence of the “underlying reality,” a hierarchical, cosmological order that Fletcher sees in all allegorical works, imbues Swift’s details and descriptions with something other than its mere materiality.129 In a short section, Fletcher discusses the “emotive nature of ornament.”130 By ornament, he means any decorative object that an allegory might use to raise or lower the status of specific characters.131 But the phrase “emotional nature of ornament” correctly describes Swift’s own animate details – cheese and

127 Cynthia Sundberg Wall, The Prose of Things: Transformations of Description in the Eighteenth Century (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2006), 13.

128 William Empson, The Structure of Complex Words (London: Chatto & Windus, 1979), 346-7.

129 Fletcher, Allegory, 112.

130 Ibid., 117.

131 Ibid., 118.


maggot, shoulder-knot and lace – which bear an emotional agency that a Hobbesian or Cartesian universe would not tolerate.

As such, allegory allows descriptions to linger as animate things in a text. We are invited to find meaning through the material objects that compose allegorical representation; but what happens when allegory’s literal text produces too much material, too much information? Swift’s cheese both seems to mean too much and, at the same time, mean too little. His allegories at once bear the specificity of detail (the exact nature of the rind of the cheese) and too many details that do not signify in the allegory (that it is thick, homely, and coarse). Swift’s descriptive technique, which tends to obfuscate meaning by means of layering (either more descriptors or more meaning), brings to mind the baroque style of late Henry James, which Lisa Zunshine, in her book about the novel’s particular ability to disclose the ways in which characters read each other, terms “overreporting” – a technique that, like Swift’s, obfuscates by over-description.132 When everything means something, some things inevitably mean nothing at all. This inability to separate what is meaningful from what is not becomes the crux of allegorical representation in the eighteenth-century novel, where we find authors lending mundane things the same intensity of description as allegorically inflected characters and personifications.

132 Lisa Zunshine, Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2006), 24.



Was there any activity which didn’t freeze into a role? Could he listen without being a listener, think without being a thinker? No doubt there was a flowing world of present participles, of listening and thinking, rushing along beside him, but it was part of the grim allegorical tinge of his mentality that he sat with his back to this glittering torrent, staring at a world of stone. Even his affair with Julia seemed to have The Sorrows of Adultery carved on its plinth. —Edward St. Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

The story in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded (1740) is not a strict allegorical narrative like John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Pamela is called

Pamela and not Virtue – and this change from Bunyan to Richardson is significant.

Ian Watt calls proper names the “verbal expression of the particular identity of each individual person.”133 Indeed, part of the strangeness and surprise in the novel consists of its insistence on Pamela as an allegorical character – an insistence that has repercussions in the way we interpret Pamela. Pamela can be pert, proud, arrogant, vain, blind to her own emotions; she plots and equivocates. Pamela’s complexity, the voluminous testament we have to her emotions, complicates Richardson’s multiple attempts to cast Pamela as the embodiment of virtue. Richardson’s insistence on

Pamela’s virtue risks occasioning the very opposite judgment. Sir Walter Scott writes that “there is a strain of cold-blooded prudence which runs through all the latter part of the novel, to which we are obliged almost to deny the name of virtue.”134

133 For the importance of proper names, see Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1957), 18-19.

134 Walter Scott, “Jonathan Swift” in On Novelists and Fiction, ed. Ioan Williams (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968), 22.


Nonetheless, the association between the novel’s heroine and the quality of virtue is not only indicated in the subtitle, it is also reinforced at various points in the novel.

It’s undeniable that the novel has allegorical strands woven into it, which, though we may try, are impossible to disentangle from its main character. Pamela is not merely a novel; it’s a moral tale, a fable, a romance.

The novel sprung (to use Richardson’s own verb) from his writing Letters

Written to and for Particular Friends, on the Most Important Occasions, a letter- manual best known to us as Familiar Letters.135 Pamela retains the exemplary quality of its origin: The model letters’ didacticism and exemplarity are deeply felt in the novel. In Richardson’s own words in the Preface to Familiar Letters, “NATURE,


Objects of the Author’s attention in the penning of these Letters.”136 The genesis of

Pamela is bound up with the question of exemplarity – not only because of its inception, but more importantly because of Richardson’s interest in fashioning the novel as an allegory. As Tom Keymer has shown, the novel borrows the language and quality of the other work that Richardson was preparing for publication just as he began writing Pamela – an edition of Æsop’s , published in November 1739, ten days after Richardson began writing the novel.137 Like the Familiar Letters, the fables are inextricable from the novel’s texture and signification; Pamela not only reads them, she quotes them and interprets her experiences in their light. From the

135 For the genesis of Pamela, see Samuel Richardson, Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson, ed. John Carroll (Oxford: Clarendon, 1964) 232 (2 June 1753).

136 Samuel Richardson, Letters Written to and for Particular Friends, Early Works, ed. Alexander Pettit (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 324.

137 Thomas Keymer, “Pamela’s Fables: Æsopian Writing and Political Implication in Samuel Richardson and Sir Roger l’Estrange,” XVII-XVIII: Bulletin de la société d’études anglo- américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, No.4 (1995): 82, doi: 10.3406/xvii.1995.1307.


references and allusions in her letters, we gather that Pamela immerses herself in the allegorical stories from Aesop, the Bible, and either John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

(1563) or Henry Bilton’s The History of the English Martyrs (1720).138 Despite B.’s ulterior motives, his characterization of Pamela’s imagination as rich in “romantick

Invention” is apt.139 It just happens that her invention does not originate from the

French romances or amatory novels. The constitution of her invention is formed by a regular diet of emblematic and allegorical literature.

Writing about the use of allegory in Pamela is unwieldy because of its diffuse and pervasive quality as well as its absolute centrality. The first section deals more closely with the different types of allegorical representation in the novel (fable, didactic, religious) and suggests that the central type of allegory in Pamela is a heightened or emphatic exemplarity that creates a detachable and significant spectacle. It becomes impossible to untangle the strands of Pamela’s allegorical presentation and its apparent artificiality. Pamela, I argue, is the manager of allegorical spectacles. She does so not necessarily out of artfulness, but on the basis of an allegorical understanding of the world that makes her transcribe the world around her as allegory. The second section argues that the epistolary nature of the novel heightens allegorical interpretation in the novel and makes its reader especially wary of Pamela’s belief that she is an allegory. The third and final section culminates in a reading of Pamela’s performance of Psalm 137, which showcases the intersection of allegory and spectacle. By way of analyzing Pamela’s interpretive practices, which casts the stories of the Bible as emotional models, I show why Pamela still remains

138 For a longer discussion on the possible sources of Pamela’s allusion to the Bishop who tested the flame with his fingers before being burnt alive, see Albert Rivero’s fn.2 for page 71 in Samuel Richardson, Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded, Ed. Albert J. Rivero (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

139 Richardson, Pamela, 86.


inscrutable in the epistolary novel by looking, in particular, at Pamela and the novel’s insistence on experiencing and representing the present.


In a remarkable moment in the novel, Pamela prepares to leave her Master’s house by dividing all her worldly possessions into three parcels. One parcel contains all the clothes and gifts her Lady had given her while she had been in her service, the second contains all the clothes and gifts B. presented her after his mother’s death, and the third, smallest parcel contains the scant worldly possessions Pamela Andrews had before going into service. The organization of her life into portions that she lays out to survey reveals Pamela’s tendencies to interpret her life allegorically; a distorted echo of the burden Christian carries on his back in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, the bundles are supposed to show us different versions of Pamela. The first bundle represents Pamela the servant just before the beginning of the narrative; the second bundle represents the counterfactual narrative that Pamela rejects, Pamela the mistress; and the third bundle represents the poor and virtuous Pamela that she embraces throughout the narrative. Such an allegorical interpretation is encouraged, as Pamela frames this scene by retelling two of Aesop’s fables – the ant and the grasshopper, the city and country mouse – as vivid and accessible ways of presenting different versions of herself:

Why, no more nor less, than that I am like the Grasshopper in the Fable, which

I have read of in my Lady’s Books; and I will write it down, in the very



“As the Ants were airing their Provisions one Winter, a hungry Grashopper

(as suppose it was poor I!) begg’d a Charity of them. They told him, that he

would have wrought in Summer, if he would not have wanted in Winter. Well,

says the Grashopper, but I was not idle neither; for I sung out the whole

Season. Nay, then, said they, you’ll e’en do well to make a merry Year of it,

and dance in Winter to the Tune you sung in Summer.” (71)

Pamela’s reading has colored the way she interprets her own situation. As she protests, in telling her parents she would learn to scour and clean like an industrious ant, “I have an humble, and a teachable Mind,” Pamela’s mind easily adapts the of the fables to her own actions, learning not only the stories themselves but, more importantly, absorbing the method of interpreting her actions (71). Like a good reader of fables, she has distilled its moral and applied it to her own situation, yielding a consonant moral. Pamela has, indeed, been learning singing and dancing, the accomplishments of young ladies, rather than the onerous but industrious tasks that might help her parents. Her invocation of fable – a short, moralistic allegorical tale that usually includes animals and criticizes social or personal vice – shows Pamela’s mindset as one that is not only allegorical, but is also committed to short scenes or stories that display a clear moral. We are meant to encounter different versions of

Pamela – Pamela the grasshopper, the ant, the country mouse, and the city mouse – and, in learning allegorical interpretation from her reflections on the fables, we apply the this allegorical method to the three bundles that she presents in the scene.

Pamela’s familiarity with allegorical language and interpretation is the natural consequence of a pious education and right sentiment. Mr. and Mrs. Andrews’ letters in which we are first exposed to allegorical language, set the tone for allegory as being not only pious, but also a way to account for the inexplicable designs of God’s


will. Their first letter to their daughter begins – “Our Hearts bleed for your Distress, and the Temptations you are tried with. You have our hourly Prayers; and we would have you flee this evil Great House and Man, if you find he renews his Attempts”

(24). Her parents deploy a language that is at once tinged with romance (“you flee this evil Great House”) and that would be recycled into Gothic tropes at the end of the century; but her parents’ language is allegorical in a similar way that Bunyan’s The

Pilgrim’s Progress also charts the journey from an evil condition to salvation – and does so by superimposing the language of romance (we find knights, , castles) with that of religious salvation. Thus her parents’ description of the “Temptations” and “Distress” Pamela has been subjected to and the casting of their house as a safe haven (this brings to mind Clarissa’s allegorical doublespeak, in which she claims she is going to her father’s house) betray their understanding of the world through allegorical models. Throughout the novel, even as B.’s advances grow ever more violent, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews’ language retain the same tone of detachment – indeed, the language of Christian submission. The most virtuous characters in the novel speak in the same way, using language borrowed from the school or the church.

B’s steward, Mr. Longman, for example, confers trust on the goodness of God: “I am sure, so good a Maiden God will bless; and tho’ you return to your poor Father again, and his low Estate; yet Providence will find you out, and one Day, tho’ I mayn’t live to see it, you will be rewarded” (92). Longman’s speech, like Richardson’s subtitle for the novel – Virtue Rewarded –, lends the novel an allegorical atmosphere. Yet because allegory occurs in Pamela’s letters, this atmosphere is necessarily imputed to the heroine’s own vision of the world.

Edward Copeland accurately diagnosed the allegory in Pamela as a specimen of “naive allegory” – a term coined by Northrop Frye. Frye defines it as “a disguised


form of discursive writing, and belongs chiefly to educational literature on an elementary level: schoolroom moralities, devotional exempla, local pageants, and the like. Its basis is the habitual or customary ideas fostered by education and ritual, and its normal form is that of transient spectacle.”140 Copeland sees the tenuous relationship between the allegorical (didactic) writing in the novel and its investment in the realist (mimetic) pull of the language as the germ of the contradictory readings of Pamela’s character – the strange way that Pamela’s allegorical virtue seems to keep slipping into a realist – or rather – cynical “Vartue,” as Henry Fielding vulgarizes it in

An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews (1741).141 And, indeed, the tension between the allegorical and the mimetic still fuels the critical question about Pamela’s place in the rise of the (realist) novel.

Frye’s invocation of the “spectacle” of naive allegory is useful in its description of the generalized allegorical atmosphere that pervades the novel. The naïve allegory is a product of particular theatrical moments – “schoolroom moralities, devotional exempla, local pageants, and the like” – that develop into “habitual or customary ideas.” These moments of theater, these instructive spectacles, are a specialty of Pamela’s. The spectacles come in self-contained, allegorical bursts: through Pamela’s invocations of Æsop’s fables or in set pieces such as Pamela’s creation of the three piles, where she stages for readers an allegorical moment. And the scene is indeed a spectacle; since it is watched by B. and performed for Mrs.

Jervis, B.’s housekeeper – and, later, read by her parents. The scene is emblematic of the way Pamela envisions her experiences as a way of explaining the self: The self as

140 Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 90.

141 Edward Copeland, “Samuel Richardson and Naïve Allegory: Some Beauties of the Mixed Metaphor,” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Spring, 1971), 231-239.


grasshopper (in her late Lady’s protection), the self as a city mouse (under the power of B.), and the self as an ant and country mouse (as Pamela Andrews). But it’s clear from this scene that while Pamela is indeed conversant with the diffuse language of naïve allegory, Pamela herself, very much like her author, is artful in arranging and managing allegorical spectacles. These spectacles allow one to experience the emblematic moments of the novel as allegory, which was Richardson’s intention, delineated in the novel’s much mocked Preface: “If to set forth in the most exemplary

Lights, the Parental, the Filial, and the Social Duties, and that from low to high

Life;/If to paint VICE in its proper Colours, to make it deservedly Odious; and to set

VIRTUE in its own amiable Light, to make it truly Lovely” (3). The self-important intentions outlined in the Preface, which William Warner calls Richardson’s “reader’s guide,” overstate Richardson’s desire to manage the way the novel would be consumed.142 The Preface attempts to corral misinterpretation through the use of allegories, as if the “true” of Virtue and Vice, in the light of its exemplarity, would be incontrovertible. The “exemplary Lights” render allegory in its “proper

Colours” and exhibited “in its own…Light.”143 As Mrs. Jervis says to B., Pamela was

“one of the most virtuous and industrious young Creatures that ever she knew…. I never saw anything but Innocence in her” (25-26).

What Mrs. Jervis sees – indeed, what each character or reader sees – is at the heart of the contested reception of Pamela, which is why Pamela’s decision to wear the clothes suited for her return home, her “round-ear’d Cap” and blue worsted

142 William B. Warner, Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998), 203.

143 For a comprehensive catalogue of Richardson’s “emblematic rhetoric” and its relation to the visual arts, see Murray Brown, “Learning to Read Richardson: Pamela, Speaking Pictures,’ and the Visual Hermeneutic,” Studies in the Novel, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Summer 1993), 129-151.


stockings with clocks, is often read as Pamela’s first instance of self-deception or insincerity.144 Indeed, if anything, the care with which Pamela prepares herself suggests a certain investment in a type of spectacle:

And so, when I had din’d, up Stairs I went, and lock’d myself into my little

Room. There I trick’d myself up as well as I could in my new Garb, and put

on my round-ear’d ordinary Cap; but with a green Knot, however, and my

homespun Gown and Petticoat, and plain-leather Shoes; but yet they are what

they call Spanish Leather, and my ordinary Hose, ordinary I mean to what I

have been lately used to; tho’ I shall think good Yarn may do very well for

every Day, when I come home. A plain Muslin Tucker I put on, and my black

Silk Necklace, instead of the French Necklace my lady gave me; and put the

Ear-rings out of my Ears; and when I was quite ’quip’d, I took my Straw Hat

in my Hand, with its two blue Strings, and look’d about me in the Glass, as

proud as any thing.—To say Truth, I never lik’d myself so well in my Life.


The passage revolves around the unfortunate use of “trick’d,” a verb that the OED defines as “to dress, to array, to attire,” but usually with the added sense of the dressing up being for prank or artifice.145 The verb already retained the primary meaning of “to deceive by a trick; to cheat” with which we are familiar today; and it’s this term that arouses the suspicion (of anti-Pamelists) that maybe Pamela did just desire B. to like her as she herself has “never liked [her]self so well in my life.”

144 This may account for the popularity of attempted visualizations, on canvas or in the stage, of Pamela. For a thoughtful discussion of the Pamela effect and, in particular, Richardson’s role in its marketing success and successive visualizations, see James Grantham Turner, “Novel Panic: Picture and Performance in the Reception of Richardson’s Pamela, Representations, No. 48 (Autumn, 1994), 70-96.

145 "trick, v.". OED Online. March 2014. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/205845?isAdvanced=false&result=4&rskey=RPqLVC& (accessed May 30, 2014).


Pamela’s dressing down, as it were, in “plain,” “ordinary,” “homespun” articles anticipates the features of what will later be termed the realist novel.

The passage showcases her ability to orchestrate spectacles that create or recreate the self through representation. When Pamela “look[s] about [her] in the

Glass, proud as any thing,” we witness not only the conclusion of her dressing – the final touches of her toilette – but also the artful conclusion of a scene. If she does not conceive herself as a spectacle, the letter nonetheless betrays the literary arrangement necessary for a spectacle. Tellingly, the echo of this passage is B.’s articulation of

Pamela as an artful spectacle, where, once again, Pamela is on display:

See, said he, and took the Glass with one Hand, and turn’d me round with the

other, What a Shape! what a Neck! What a Hand! and what a Bloom in that

lovely Face!—But who can describe the Tricks and Artifices, that lie lurking

in her little, plotting, guileful Heart! ’Tis no Wonder the poor Parson was

infatuated with her!—I blame him less than her; for who could expect such

Artifice in so young a Sorceress!146

As Keymer notes, Richardson anticipates the charges of hypocrisy through , making explicit Pamela’s pleasure and vanity.147 B.’s inspection is a distorted and aggressive version of Pamela’s own self-admiration; and as an echo of the first dressing scene, her being forced to turn around heightens the pervading sense of

“Artifice” that links the two scenes together. His examination of her – “What a Shape! what a Neck! What a Hand! and what a Bloom in that lovely Face!” – duplicates

Pamela’s loving sartorial description, although the latter has a precision and intensity

146 Richardson, Pamela, 171.

147 Tom Keymer, Richardson’s Clarissa and the Eighteenth-Century Reader (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 31.


that underscores Pamela’s fond attachment to the material things of this world. The description of her new outfit echoes the precision with which she itemizes the three bundles; in her smallest bundle, the one that represents the scanty possessions of

Pamela Andrews, she concludes the list with a “Well, let me see; aye, here is a Cotton

Handkerchief I bought of the Pedlar; there should be another somewhere. O here it is!

And here too are my new-bought knit Mittens. And this is my new Flannel Coat, the

Fellow to that I have on. And in this Parcel pinn’d together, are several Pieces of printed Callicoe, Remnants of Silks, and such-like, that, if good Luck should happen, and I should get Work, would serve for Robins and Facings, and such-like Uses.”148

The descriptions reveal the mixture of Pamela’s attachment to things sartorial and her absorption in the accounting of her money and possessions – to beauty and utility.

Pamela, of course, needs to account for these things; her dependency on the good will of her master requires it of her. The allegorical presentation, however, betrays that the accounting is a type of display, as artful as her expressive gesturing and the transcription of her exclamations. The overabundance of the deictic (here, there, this) and especially in the “O here it is!” makes visible the performing and eager hand of

Pamela Andrews in our imagination. Even the arrangement of the contents of the bundles is artful, beginning with the largest wares and ending in the scraps, the

“Pieces” and “Remnants,” which, though small, are most important and indicative of how Pamela sees her future self, “should [she] get Work.” A similar structure of spectacle undergirds Pamela’s description of her reflection, which very appropriately begins with her round-ear’d cap and its green knot and concludes with her holding the blue ribbons of her hat in her hand. The vision of herself in the mirror, as we see her seeing herself, confirms the description as spectacle.

148 Richardson, Pamela, 26.


What strikes me about this incident is its similarity to the three bundles scene.

The transformation of the episode from the everyday to the exemplary is strange and almost unaccountable. The scene begins with a mundane account of a teenage girl locking herself into her room; by the end of her letter, Pamela, standing in front of her mirror, wearing the plain, ordinary, and homespun clothing that she deems appropriate to her station, becomes imbued with allegorical significance. Like the three bundles scene, this spectacle represents another version of Pamela: In it, we glimpse the way Pamela sees herself. B., however, immediately reads Pamela as attempting to seduce him with her “Disguise.” She describes her retort:

I was out of Patience, then; Hold, good Sir, said I; don’t impute Disguise and

Hypocrisy to me, above all things; for I hate them both, mean as I am. I have

put on no Disguise.—What a-plague, said he, for that was his Word, do you

mean by this Dress?—Why, and please your Honour, said I, I mean one of the

honestest things in the World. I have been in Disguise indeed ever since my

good Lady, your Mother, took me from my Parents. I came to her Ladyship so

poor and mean, that these Cloaths I have on, are a princely Suit, to those I had

then. And her Goodness heap’d upon me rich Cloaths, and other Bounties:

And as I am now returning to my poor Parents again so soon, I cannot wear

those good things… (53)

Her shedding of her “Spanish leather” shoes, her unclasping the “French necklace,” her taking “the ear-rings out of my ears” become emblematic of casting her old life aside, the “princely Suit” that she has indeed been wearing from the beginning of the novel. Pamela’s assertion – that we have been seeing her in disguise thus far – does not help her credibility in the narrative; but Richardson’s priority here is to provide us with clear exegesis. This is Pamela’s declarative rejection of B.’s attempt to sway her


with his mother’s clothes. But, more importantly, her return to her native clothes, in opposition to the “rich Cloaths, and other Bounties,” is part of Pamela’s outward transformation into Virtue. To return to her parents’ house – to return to God – one must lay aside luxury and embrace poverty. Simultaneous to her personal protest against B. is the fact that Pamela’s guise is a requirement of the Christian narrative of salvation. Pamela uses the tropes we find in Bunyan’s allegory – the bundle, the changing of clothes as indicative of spiritual transformation – but the performance of these allegorical tropes seems strangely devoid of religious significance. Perhaps, it is because Pamela uses allegory proleptically – to foreshadow a transformation rather than to describe it as it occurs – that divests the scenes of their clear religious echo.

Pamela’s scenes enact transformations that have not yet taken place; after all, Pamela is still in B.’s service and is, therefore, still required to wear the clothes that B.’s mother had given her. Pamela wants to prefigure the future in a present allegory, but her scenes show a desired and empty transformation rather than signify it. By collapsing temporal sequencing, Pamela has made herself vulnerable to seeming like a sham.

Pamela’s investment in presenting herself as an already interpreted or completed event is allegorical in nature. Allegory in Pamela is spectacular, because only by making itself seen and interpreted can allegory define itself. And it’s the framework of allegorical representation, or of casting herself as exemplary and spectacular, that breeds suspicion. As John Lyons explains, the “visual form of example leads to the ontological quality of seeming rather than of being, they are associated with species and imago, and are therefore within the realm of all that is


specious and imaginary.”149 The visual example highlights its fictional nature and makes the reader aware of the act of representation. Artificiality is a precondition of exemplarity: “Examples, in short, do no happen; they are made.”150 And at its most emphatic, exemplarity becomes spectacular. Lyons designates spectacle as “a significant appearance enacted outside or at the very frontier of language.” 151 Such exemplary spectacles render their own artificiality painfully visible.

B., the novel’s first anti-Pamelist, is first to present the problem of allegory representing truthfully in the novel: “for I find she is a mighty Letter-writer! to her

Father and Mother, and others, as far I as know; in which she makes herself an Angel of Light, and me, her kind Master and Benefactor, a Devil incarnate!” (33) Indeed,

B’s allegation that Pamela’s allegorical renderings are exaggerations cannot be disproven, because, with the exception of a handful, the only letters we get are hers.

(This is a problem that Richardson later addresses in Clarissa, in which we get letters from four different characters.) But B. is also insisting on a representational and ethical problem: seeing people as allegorical is reductive and misleading. Mrs.

Jewkes, B.’s servant in Lincolnshire who keeps Pamela under lock and key, rehearses a similar claim, this time cast in Pamela’s own Aesopian imagination: “Why that,

Lambkin, will be pretty!—Then, said the wicked one [Mrs. Jewkes], you’ll have all the Talk to yourself!—Then how will the tongue of the pretty Lambkin bleat out

Innocence, and Virtue, and Honesty, till the whole Trial be at an End!” (180)

The problem of imputing deceitfulness to Pamela is that her allegorical spectacles, though artful enough, seem to originate from Pamela’s allegorical vision

149 John D. Lyons, Exemplum: The Rhetoric of Example in Early Modern France and Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 10.

150 Ibid., 33.

151 Ibid., 29.


of life. Pamela’s rather stark vision of the people around her – its moral black-and- whiteness – gets translated as personified visions, and it remains uncertain whether they are objective representations of the characters in the novel. It is possible to claim that Pamela’s psychology radically shapes her characterizations of B. and Mrs.

Jewkes to their detriment, as the pair protests. The claim remains so persuasive in the novel that B. uses it later to try to convince Mr. Andrews that he has removed Pamela from his estate in Bedfordshire to avoid her elopement with a young Clergyman. In the letter, B. writes that Pamela is suffering from “romantick Invention,” for which he, himself, invents a reason: “In short, the Girl’s Head’s turn’d by Romances, and such Idle Stuff” (86). This version of “romantick Invention” was a common charge against young women reading novels, a well-known injunction throughout the eighteenth century. Mr. Andrews does not believe B.’s description of Pamela, but her

“romantick Invention” becomes startlingly clear in her journals from the Lincolnshire estate, when in one of her attempted escapes, she mistakes two cows in the field for the bulls. Her mistake, moreover, has romantic overtones: “Well, thought I, here is double , to be sure! Here is the Spirit of my Master in one Bull; and Mrs.

Jewkes’s in the other; and now I am gone, to be sure!” (141) The novel attempts to undermine Pamela’s penchant for “romantick Invention,” but it also makes B.’s imputation very plausible. Deciding on Pamela’s “romantick Invention” – whether she does invent or not, whether she is capable of performing or not – becomes the crux of her letters’ veracity. The ambiguity of Pamela’s character, despite

Richardson’s conscious attempts to fix it as indisputable virtue, makes it especially difficult to determine the heroine’s motivations, the subject of heated debate between

Pamelists and anti-Pamelists upon publication of the novel. Partly, the problem is that

Richardson’s treatment of allegory demonstrates that allegory can simultaneously


signify sincerity and transparency, on the one hand, and opaqueness and romance on the other – and, more significant to the novel, that the two processes are entwined.

After all, it is in Pamela’s attempt to be absolutely clear about B. and Mrs. Jewkes’ immoral nature that Pamela invokes fables and the supernatural. Part of the work that allegory is supposed to do is to be superlatively expressive to the point of perfect clarity.

The pleasure we (and B.) derive from Pamela’s donning the plain, ordinary, homespun clothing creates the singular effect of making her seem less plain and less ordinary. She is a shining example of humility. Richardson intends his allegories to be seen and imitated. The didactic writer in Richardson that will later publish A collection of the moral and instructive sentiments, maxims, cautions, and reflexions, contained in the histories of Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison (1755) imagines Pamela as an exemplary, spectacular allegory. Pamela is his main instrument for this instruction, and she is a loud, self-proclaiming one. Because of the novel’s epistolary nature, Pamela’s representations are necessarily read by her parents and, unbeknownst to her, by B. When she describes herself as virtuous, she needs to ensure that she is presenting herself as virtuous to her intended audience, and this insistent self-assurance causes the novel’s reader some unease. Jenny Davidson interprets Pamela’s tendency to proclaim her virtue as ingrained in the character’s psychology, “Is it even worth being virtuous – Pamela seems to ask herself – if nobody knows about it? Pamela’s psychological makeup means that she is wedded to the idea of public vindication, her ‘Honesty’ writ large, but that very need for vindication also casts her virtue into question.”152 Indeed, Pamela’s engagement with

152 Jenny Davidson, Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 130.


her publicity explains, in part, why Pamela’s continuous avowal of her own sincerity is so off-putting.

The central irony of the disguise scene lies in the fact that Pamela, through displaying herself as the poor, low-born girl she is (instead of donning the rich clothes that her former employer has given her), opens herself up to the most vituperative charges of impersonation in the novel. Pamela’s very expressions of and attempts to retain sincerity are scrutinized as means of disguising herself. William Warner zeroes in on the problem of representing the allegorical Pamela as spectacle: “How does

Pamela find herself in the ethically risky position of masquerading as herself?”153

Warner’s word choice, “masquerade,” is an extrapolation, since Richardson never uses it, but B. invokes its moral charge. Such accusations of performance are unavoidable when evaluating Pamela. Davidson in part answers the charges by examining the hypocrisies and equivocations made necessary in a servant-master relationship, which does not, as she notes, explain away Pamela’s need for public vindication of her virtue. Indeed, to cast Pamela as a thorough hypocrite, plotter, and gold digger is to read the novel selectively; but to ignore what Mark Kinkead-Weekes describes as Pamela’s “stagey self-dramatisation” is to disregard a principal element of Pamela’s character and psychology – a quality that makes her uncomfortably akin to the rake Lovelace in Clarissa.154 Pamela is an allegory that dramatizes her own nature and, more importantly, makes it theatrical – because her actions, as they are

153 Warner, Licensing Entertainment, 196.

154 It seems significant that while Mark Kinkead-Weekes reads all of Richardson’s novels as dramatic experiments, Pamela is the only character that has recourse to “stagey self- dramatization.” The only other enthusiastic performer (but not self-performer) in Richardson’s world is Lovelace, of course. See Samuel Richardson: Dramatic Novelist (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1973), 409.


described, are always observed by her parents and her readers.155 However, it is not self-consciousness alone that makes Pamela a creator of allegorical spectacles; instead, it is her insistence – to the point of opacity – that she is not moved by B.’s attention, that she does not seek it, and that she is not implicated in her situation. If

Pamela tends to represent events and emotions with starkness, it is because she imagines herself, her world, and those in it as allegorical and, therefore, as embodying totalities instead of persons with varying degrees of emotions and motivations. I have explained that this mindset originates from Richardson’s characterization of Pamela as a reader and interpreter of fables; but Pamela’s penchant for allegorizing can also be explained by the fact that Pamela is besieged by a man that she cannot control and from which she is veritably powerless. The desperation of the young servant girl in her position (that of physical, economic, social, and legal destitution) lends Pamela’s allegory psychological realism – one that shows allegory as a form that expresses the heightened, alarming world in which Pamela lives.

If the social, economic, and moral strictures in Pamela’s life make allegory a viable vehicle for her imagination, the epistolarity of the novel heightens the already heightened figure that is allegory. The epistolary novel formally makes Pamela’s actions turn toward her spectators – a fact that structures these events as a scene, a purposeful set of actions that are meant to reveal something about Pamela’s psychology and story. Such scenes, as Janet Aikins contends, have the “stasis of

155 I am indebted to David Marshall for the very useful differentiation between the two terms, dramatic and theatrical: “Richardson and Fielding embrace the dramatic aspects of their fictions and present their characters as if they were characters in a play; Defoe above all saw his characters as actors who acted out his own position as a spectacle and his own activity of play-acting.” Marshall strangely, I think, classifies Pamela as dramatic. See David Marshall, The Figure of Theater: Shaftesbury, Defoe, Adam Smith, and George Eliot (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 78.


visual art” rather than the dynamic of drama.156 The dramatic form of allegorical spectacle renders Pamela’s insistence – that she is virtuous and presents herself as virtuous – even more difficult to believe. The particular form of Pamela’s insistence is epistolary, which I argue, in the next section, adds to the charge of Pamela’s insincerity.


The overwhelming sense of Pamela’s self-dramatization is, in part, due to the epistolary nature of the novel. Her letters aim to establish and to persuade her parents of her innocence. While Anti-Pamelists tended to read Pamela’s change of heart in the middle of the novel as a sign of her ambivalence – that despite her professions otherwise she did mean to seduce B. with the appearance of artlessness, Richardson anticipates the critique by making Pamela a vocal defender of her own virtue. The problem of Pamela’s self-vindication in the epistolary novel is that dissimulation lies at the heart of epistolarity itself. The idea that these letters, because they are “written to the moment,” as Richardson described them, are the transcriptions of the heart was simultaneously embraced and resisted in the eighteenth century.157 This question still animates the Pamelist and Anti-Pamelist debate, because the two positions are held and felt to be true. Samuel Johnson both indulged in the fiction of the letter as the heart’s transcription and noted its studious design, especially for self-representation.

156 Clearly, the drama and stasis are not necessarily antithetical as Joseph Roach describes eighteenth-century theater, which used stationary tableaux as the centerpieces of dramatic performances. Janet E. Aikins, “Richardson’s ‘speaking pictures,’” in Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays, ed. Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 150.

157 For the “ontological ambiguity” of the letter form, see Elizabeth Cook, Epistolary Bodies: Gender and Genre in the Eighteenth-Century of Letters (Stanford: Stanford Universty Press, 1996), 16-20.


As Johnson famously wrote in Life of Pope, “There is, indeed, no transaction which offers stronger temptations to fallacy and sophistication than epistolary intercourse.”158 Richardson’s own apprenticeship as a writer moreover consisted of ghost writing love letters in the voice of his female friends and acquaintances and as the author of Familiar Letters. He, better than anyone, understood that the letter was a studied form for modeling manners or persuading readers with epistolary performance. After all, Familiar Letters gave readers models of expression as well as of conduct – and treated the letter as a prototype that could be copied with negligible variation. What is particularly problematic about Richardson’s use of the letter in

Pamela is his insistence on the letters’ absolute sincerity, a highly dubious claim coming from a master manipulator of the form. Indeed, Richardson’s reliance on the letter as an uncomplicated reflection of character is an idea that he himself cultivated.

In a remarkable letter to Sophia Westcombe in September 1746, Richardson explains that while modesty prevents a woman from showing her excellence in company, she may take to the pen without alarm:

But the pen will shew Soul and Meaning too.—Retired, the modest Lady,

happy in herself, happy in the Choice she makes of the dear Correspondent of

her own Sex (for ours are too generally designers); uninterrupted; her Closet

her Paradise, her Company, herself, and ideally the beloved Absent; there she

can distinguish her Self: By this means she can assert and vindicate her Claim

to Sense and Meaning.—And shall a modest Lady then refuse to write? Shall

she, in other Words, refuse to put down her Thoughts, as if they were

158 Samuel Johnson, “Life of Pope,” in Lives of the Poets, ed. George Birkbeck Hill, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), III.207-208.


unworthy of herself, of her Friend, of her Paper?—A virtuous and innocent

heart to be afraid of having its Impulses embody’d, as I may say?159

Richardson believes that the letter embodies the “Impulses” of the heart, as if letter writing simply consisted of transcribing the tics of the body’s nervous system.

Richardson’s description of the practice of letter writing explains why epistolary fiction was in the eighteenth century considered a gendered genre: precisely because the letter was considered a transcription of the heart, rather than an engagement with serious (read classical) literary models.160 Richardson takes great pains in his description of letter writing to insist that the letter is an embodiment of a single, solitary person (“Retired,” “happy in herself,” “uninterrupted,” “her Closet her

Paradise”) – “there she can distinguish her Self.”161 Richardson’s insistence that letter writing is the distillation of an unmediated personality is surprising, since he writes this letter seven years after the publication of Pamela and its subsequent controversy.

Indeed, this position vis-à-vis epistolary composition seems particularly unfounded – almost parodic – when we remember that Richardson’s fame as a novelist was due to

Pamela, a letter-writer with a flair for the theatrical. To Pamela’s protestations of her own virtue and sincerity, we add Richardson’s own protestations of transparency and sincerity, and this is protesting too much.

The epistolary form, which allows the letter writer to recollect in tranquility before setting the pen to paper, makes possible and plausible the inclusion of the stylized, artful scenes in the novel. The allegorical language, which already brims with significance, becomes even more heightened in Richardson’s use of the

159 Richardson, Selected Letters, 68.

160 Ruth Perry, Women, Letters, and the Novel (New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1980), 17.

161 Italics mine.


epistolary form, because of the letter’s temporal immediacy. The most exaggerated example of the vivacity of allegory in the letter occurs not in Pamela, but in

Richardson’s second epistolary novel Clarissa (1747-1748). In his letter, Lovelace, the charismatic rake who abducts and then rapes Clarissa, dramatizes the murder of his Conscience. Lovelace opens the letter to his confidant Belford abruptly, and the rather nasty joke or trick here is that we’re supposed to mistakenly think (though presciently so) that Lovelace has murdered Clarissa:

LORD, Jack, what shall I do now!—How one evil brings on another!—

Dreadful news to tell thee!—While I was meditating a simple robbery, here

have I (in my own defence indeed) been guilty of murder! A bloody

murder!—So I believe it will prove—At her last gasp!—Poor impertinent

opposer! Eternally resisting!—Eternally contradicting! There she lies,

weltering in her blood! Her death’s wound have I given her!—But she was a

thief, an impostor, as well as a tormentor. She had stolen my pen. While I was

sullenly meditating, doubting as to my future measures, she stole it; and thus

she wrote with it, in a hand exactly like my own; and would have faced me

down, that it was really my own handwriting.162

Lovelace’s personification of Conscience reads like a frantic attempt to get to an embodied version of Clarissa; it is the closest description – in its inclusion of sensual and violent details – of what will later be the rape of the novel’s protagonist.

Richardson’s use of allegory here approaches a version of typology, since allegory acts like a masked prolepsis or . (There are a few other ones in

Pamela, primarily around the pond scene.) This allegorical vision protects Richardson from charges of impropriety; but the physical immediacy and dynamism of this

162 Samuel Richardson, Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (London: Penguin Books, 1985), 847-848.


violent description – “I seized her by the throat—There!—There, said I…Take that, and That!” – is made possible through bringing the allegory into the epistolary form.

What is remarkable about Lovelace’s personification of Conscience is not only its vivacity, but also the fact that we see allegory in motion, animated by the temporal tenor of the novel. Lovelace’s allegory absorbs the present participle that permeates letter writing, creating a moving, to-the-moment allegory. It’s a style reminiscent of Pamela’s. Richardson’s famous impersonator Lovelace (whom

Clarissa called “a perfect Proteus”) professes with a language markedly similar to that of Richardson’s famous allegorically-inflected character, Pamela. Both are invested in managing and starring in episodes theatrical and spectacular; both are endowed with the immediacy of a visual language that imagines life as necessarily theatrical. Their use of the deictic – Lovelace’s “There!—There, said I…Take that, and That!” and

Pamela’s “O here it is!” – emphasizes their use of the letter as an essentially dramatic form. And according to B., Pamela is as protean as Lovelace. His recurrent charges that she’s an artful gypsy, that she bewitches, cannot, I think, be taken at face value any more than Pamela’s own protestations of her virtue and sincerity can. Instead, it may be more productive to reimagine B. as responding to the types of performance that Pamela produces, directs, and acts in.

Leopold Damrosch, Jr. fleshes out the strange quality of Richardson’s use of allegory by comparing Clarissa to Bunyan’s Christian. “If [Bunyan’s Christian and

Hopeful] are allegorical characters seeking to become novelistic, Clarissa is emphatically a novelistic character looking back at allegory from a perspective that remains outside it. If she becomes a trope is it is because she sees herself as one.”163 I would like to rephrase Damrosch’s perceptive claim to include a third proposition. If

163 Leopold Damrosch, Jr., God’s & Man’s Stories: Studies in the Fictional Imagination from Milton to Fielding (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1985), 220.


Clarissa, with her psychological complexity, can be understood as a novelistic character thinking of herself as allegory, Pamela is an allegory who herself reads the novel she inhabits as an allegory. She reads and writes everything, even herself, allegorically. Unlike Bunyan’s Christian, who never understands himself as an allegory and can productively interpret those around him without training his eye on himself, Pamela both constructs and deconstructs herself simultaneously – that is, she represents herself as an already interpreted event. In the three bundle scene, for example, we see the interpretive intelligence already at work in her representation. It is clear from the way Pamela presents the three bundles that she’s already interpreted them as significant stations or facets of her life. Pamela compresses three separate allegorical mechanisms that are heightened by the epistolary nature of Richardson’s novel: 1) Pamela is an allegorically inflected character; 2) Pamela is a reader and interpreter of allegory; 3) Pamela is an allegorically inflected character that represents herself as if she has already interpreted herself as allegory. This is what makes the scenes in Pamela crystalize into spectacle – into allegorical episodes – but the simultaneous investment and divestment of meaning (representing and interpreting) make what seems all too clear all too opaque.

In Pamela, epistolarity and allegory intersect to make an especially opaque character – so opaque, indeed, that Pamela’s sincerity has remained contentious since the novel was published in 1740 to now. The epistolary form heightens allegory’s vivacity. By having impersonation (Lovelace) and personification (Pamela) speak with similar voices, Richardson’s insistence on Pamela’s own virtue, which is partly how Richardson scaffolds his heroine’s allegorical nature, is also what makes those around her think she merely impersonates virtue. The already spectacular nature of allegory is heightened in Richardson’s special form of dramatic epistolarity, and the


readers of the letters can sense the careful design behind the spectacle, which Henry

Fielding explores to great effect in Shamela:

Mrs. Jervis and I are just in Bed, and the Door unlocked; if my Master should

come——Odsbobs! I hear him just coming in at the Door. You see I write in

the , as Parson Williams says. Well, he is in Bed between us, we

both shamming a Sleep, he steals his Hand into my Bosom, which I, as if in

my Sleep, press close to me with mine, and then pretend to awake.164

Here, Fielding’s satire economically shows why the epistolary form (and, indeed, even the rather improbable rule of it being written to the moment) makes Pamela so completely vulnerable to the charges of manipulation or, at the very least, of managing the ways in which others perceive her.

The opacity of allegorically inflected characters was most likely unintentional

– a side effect of Richardson’s choice of representational techniques. Tom Keymer, in a sensitive reading of Pamela’s ambiguous position, remarks on the letters’ “rhetorical design” and their “uniquely complicated unreliability – even a kind of opacity.”165

Keymer in part explains the strange difficulty of understanding Pamela as a by- product of epistolary form; its rhetorical techniques can be said to be essentially inconsistent with its claim of sincere representation. But it seems to me that the epistolary form heightens the opacity already present in Pamela’s character. As mentioned in the previous section, Davidson locates an inbuilt opacity in relationships that cross gender and class.166 This opacity, I want to argue, is exacerbated by

164 Henry Fielding, An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews in Anti-Pamela and Shamela, ed. Catherine Ingrassia (Peterborough: Broadview Press Ltd., 2004), 247.

165 Tom Keymer, Richardson’s Clarissa and the Eighteenth-Century Reader (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 22; xvii.

166 Davidson, Hypocrisy, 130.


Pamela’s insistence on her own transparency, sincerity, and virtue. Singular to

Pamela’s opacity is that it is caused by her attempt to convey herself with allegorical clarity. The more Richardson makes Pamela cast herself as allegory and describe her own nature, especially in demonstrative moments, the more we are subjected to the sense of her literary manipulation. The epistolarity of Pamela only heightens the tension already present in the allegorical figure in the novel. Allegory signifies itself in the novel by carving its own figure out from the onslaught of particularity in the novel – the flood of social, domestic, and affective descriptions. In doing so, allegory already points to its difference – a difference that is symptomatic not only in the way it is represented, but also in the way it asks to be interpreted. Other registers of the novel are free to create the illusion of reality, what Roland Barthes termed “the reality effect,” but allegory always signals its own significance. In the epistolary form, this becomes especially vexed because all registers are flattened into having equal importance. Description is either marshaled by the speaker for a purpose or reflective of the speaker’s imagination.167 For allegory to be legible in the epistolary novel,

Richardson resorts to spectacular scenes – a technique that, I have been arguing, has the effect of rendering Pamela especially illegible.

Richardson’s plan to make Pamela an allegory forces him to create a character who has an unwavering belief in her own virtue; his character needs to believe that her actions and thoughts have the weight and purity of allegory. Pamela has to believe that she is an allegory living in an allegorical tale. Part of Richardson’s success in creating his character is that he is able to make such characterization plausible in the novel. After all, Pamela hears her story described in terms of allegorical salvation (by

167 Jenny Davidson addresses the incompatibility of Barthes’ “reality effect” in the first- person narrative, because detail in this case is always motivated by the speaker. See Jenny Davidson, “The ‘Minute Particular’ in Life-Writing and the Novel” in Eighteenth-Century Studies Vol. 48, No.3 (Spring 2015): 277-8.


her parents), her character delineated as Virtue itself (by Mr. Longman, Mrs. Jervis, and her parents), her experiences interpreted and summarized as the moral of an allegory or fables (satirically by Mrs. Jewkes, seriously by herself). Pamela’s allegorical mindset, however, is not thus neatly contained. While she remains a moralistic reader throughout the novel, Pamela’s imagination does not only apply the transferable and effective moral of allegory to her own situation, but also senses and represents her experience as an allegorical narrative and herself as allegory. It is a small but significant slip from interpreting her world in relation to an allegorical story to seeing herself as an allegory. In the following oft-cited passage, Pamela catches and releases a carp and narrates her actions as an allegory that symbolizes her situation:

Well, I am but just come off from a Walk in the Garden; and have deposited

my Letter by a simple Wile. I got some Horse-beans; and we took a Turn in

the Garden, to angle, as Mrs. Jewkes had promis’d me. She baited the Hook,

and I held it, and soon hooked a lovely Carp. Play it, play it, said she; I did,

and brought it to the Bank. A sad Thought just then came into my Head; and I

took it, and threw it in again; and O the Pleasure it seem’d to have, to flounce

in, when at Liberty!—Why this? says she. O Mrs. Jewkes! said I, I was

thinking this poor Carp was the unhappy Pamela. I was likening you [Mrs.

Jewkes] and myself to my naughty Master. As we hooked and deceived the

poor Carp, so I was betrayed by false Baits; and when you said, Play it, play it,

it went to my Heart, to think I should sport with the Destruction of the poor

Fish I had betray’d; and I could not but fling it in again: And did you not see

the Joy with which the happy Carp flounced from us! O! said I, may some


good merciful Body procure me my Liberty in the same manner; for, to be

sure, I think my Danger equal! (120-1)

This “simple Wile” is a diversion, itself a lure to catch Mrs. Jewkes’s attention while

Pamela plants her letter near the sunflower. Pamela’s wile is successful; as we’ve seen before, she is an artful director of spectacles. In this particular scene, however,

Pamela does more than just orchestrate the scene. Pamela is also the angler, or B., playing the carp with her fishing rod (the roles of seductress and angler were not left unremarked by the anti-Pamelists); and she is, at last, the “lovely Carp,” the “poor

Carp,” betrayed, entangled, and finally freed. Like her interpretation of Aesop’s fables, Pamela’s vision produces iterations of herself, a multiplication of roles that shows the instability of allegorical interpretation itself.

While the novel’s readers are asked to perform sympathetic acrobatics

(Pamela is both the angler and the carp; both herself and B.), Richardson does not intend us to follow the implications here delineated: Pamela’s identification with B. is proof of her sympathetic imagination, rather than a stain on her moral character (that she could be B.) Pamela’s identification with multiple allegorical facets, while supposed to be playful in the novel, makes her liable to the charges of impersonation:

She can slide from one role to another. Indeed, it would be too morally damning to call Pamela “protean” in the same way that Lovelace is a “perfect Proteus.”168 But her several identifications do suggest a lack of integrity of character, one that renders her especially opaque. This is especially true here, where her attempt to read her actions as if they were allegory forces her to interpret herself as a different person, to cast herself, as it were, outside herself. If Pamela in the beginning of the novel, in her resolution to leave Bedfordshire with the small bundle holding her scant possessions,

168 Richardson, Clarissa, 1243.


sees herself as grasshopper, ant, country and city mouse, her ability to identify with multiple roles has transformed from her use of or comparison, which is what moral allegory intends to reproduce, to a questionable embodiment of these multiple roles. In the carp episode, after all, Pamela is simultaneously the angler and the victim; she is the plotter and the prey of B.’s plots.

A second quality that renders this scene opaque to its readers is that Pamela is not just merely seeing the world around her as allegory, but she is the allegory itself as well as her own interpreter. Pamela is not merely applying the emblems she has read elsewhere to her own story (she is the lamb, the grasshopper, the country mouse), but she is interpreting her own story – her fishing in the pond – as an allegory of her abduction, her relationship with B., and, without knowing, predicting her eventual release. Rather than merely imposing types on her life, reading allegory into her life, the particularities of Pamela’s life become, in themselves, imbued with meaning that requires allegorical unlocking or decoding. Transforming an event (I went fishing one day) into an allegorical scene (I played the carp who was like me) requires linguistic and temporal translation, which Pamela does repeatedly in the novel. Linguistically, the scene’s artfulness is marked with a vivacity often present in allegorical signification: for example, “to flounce” is not only lively because of its own meaning, but because it flirts with the sartorial and temperamental qualities that Pamela herself has. Temporally, her actions are arranged to make the scene cohere. The artfulness of the scene is most apparent not in the fact that Pamela planned it in order to plant the letter to Mr. Williams, but rather in its language that highlights Pamela’s pity and, as she writes herself, a sense of “Pleasure.” The “lovely Carp,” the “poor Carp,” is not just any carp – it has absorbed Pamela’s traits; from the beginning of her description, we are presented with a spectacle: The repetition of “Play it, play it,” which has a


coarseness that rubs against the innocent playfulness of the carp, heightens the pathos of the scene.

A chronologically linear account of the event would begin with Pamela describing dropping the bait and hook into the pond; she would then describe seeing the carp, its physical qualities (how it jumped, how it looked), feeling her delight in seeing it, and reeling it in. Instead, Pamela condenses the event as a spectacle – every line, every action in the scene is already imbued with allegorical meaning; and its retrospective meaning is delivered as if it were fused to the tempo and language of

Pamela’s description. Pamela does not narrate a scene as a simple reportage of facts; instead, she weaves allegory into the scene itself. In other words, Pamela produces literature that already forms correspondences between the natural world and her plight, making it almost impossible to distinguish between interpretation and allegory in her narrative. What crystalizes these events into an allegorical spectacle is our understanding of the scene as a narrative whole – a scene that contains a discernable teleology.169 The teleology, in this case, is the moral understanding of Pamela’s actions not as discrete and arbitrary motions (she gets dressed every day or goes fishing), but as a meaningful action not only in the plot of the novel, but also as representative of her nature.

These scenes, like the fishing scene, are self-contained, isolated, and ready for public consumption. They are spectacular allegories artfully arranged, islands of

169 I am referring here to the ability of this episode to allow us to see, at a contained and scaled-down glance, Paul Ricoeur’s totum simul, which William C. Dowling defines in his eminently useful introduction to Time and Narrative, as “a gaze from outside the limits of human temporality that is able to take in creation, from beginning to end, as a single timeless whole.” This for Ricoeur means being able to understand the series of events as actions structured in relation to a particular telos. William C. Dowling, Ricoeur on Time and Narrative: An Introduction to Temps et Récit (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011), 9.


action in the midst of the current of events transcribed by Pamela’s flowing pen.170

But the artfulness of the scene can also be explained by the novel’s epistolarity, which, unlike Richardson’s of the letter, transcribes the world not in the present but most often in the past perfect. The letter in Richardson’s novel often describes an event that just occurred; the glance backward that arranges experience into a scene. Pamela’s compression (a strange word to use for Richardson) of allegorical interpretation and natural description into allegory seems to be both the product of art and of an attempt to render her situation faithfully. The process of allegorization, in the case of Pamela, originates not only from Pamela’s romantic temperament, but also from her interpretations of the world as allegory; she tries to gain clarity, to decode the world around her, only to transform her interpretation into allegory itself. She is an allegory that interprets allegorically and, in the process of writing what she interprets, writes allegory.


Pamela’s letters show her translation of events into scenes, facts into allegories. Her rewriting of Psalm 137 and the recitation of her translation exemplify the extent to which the allegorical imagination pervades Pamela’s imagination. The scenes surrounding Psalm 137 cast allegory in the terms by which we have been explaining

Pamela – allegory is a spectacle, it also requires artful arrangement; these are all made explicit in Pamela’s casting herself as the speaker of Psalm 137. Her appropriation of the biblical form is different from her use of fables or her arrangement of the carp scene; Pamela’s rewriting of a Biblical story is typological, a hermeneutical practice

170 It is also possible to read allegory in Richardson’s novel as teaching us how to read the novel as a series of scenes – an interpretation that resonates with Leah Price’s argument of the development of the novel arising from its abridgment and anthologizing. See Leah Price, The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).


that sought to reconcile the Old Testament with the gospels of the New Testament and, therefore, read Jewish stories and history as prefigurations of Christian stories and history. It is also an appropriation that is completely unconcerned with historical context and treats historical differences rather irreverently. What her treatment of

Psalm 137 reveals is Pamela’s commitment to thinking about interpretive versions of herself that are set as allegorical tableaux. In inserting herself in the psalm, Pamela appropriates the gestures, the affective forms, and an abstracted setting of the poem – a translation that seems rather appropriate exactly because it shows how very similar this is to her description of her allegorical scenes.

In her version, Pamela translates the plight of the Jewish people into a plaint of her imprisonment in Lincolnshire. Pamela borrows the Biblical scene not to understand her plight in relation to a preceding historical event, but rather to make use of its emotional model. Like Richardson’s Familiar Letters, which provided the form of practical or emotional content, Pamela uses the form of the psalm 137. It’s important to note how widely Pamela’s typology differs from the typology that Erich

Auerbach struggles to define in “Figura.” Originally, typology was exercised only in relation to understanding and interpreting the Bible as a way to understand the patterns of God’s will, that is, toward the fulfillment of God’s promise for salvation

(the Jewish Law as the prefiguration of Christ) and toward the Parousia, the Second

Coming (Christ’s resurrection as His embodied appearance at the end of the time).

What seems common to all typologies, whether one treats the Old Testament as historical and real events (like Tertullian) or as metaphors intended for moral enlargement (like Origen), is its commitment to reading something as a prediction or prefiguration of something else – that is, its strange relation to time, which reads

[back into] history or the past as a way to understand future events.


Pamela’s use of the psalm, however, is not at all predictive. In fact, its charm – the reason why B. longs to perform it to his friends after his marriage to Pamela – is the fact that it is so specifically located in the heroine’s affective experience of the present. The typological imagination was widely disseminated and understood in the eighteenth century, but not necessarily with the emphasis on historical prefiguration that twentieth-century scholars foreground.171 A more general typological understanding of the world is woven into the language of Pamela. Some of the typology is present in the Christian rhetoric of the Andrews’ letters to their daughter and in the pious speech of Mr. B’s servants. The allegorical language of trial and suffering, of a virtuous Pamela returning to her parents’ house, would have been understood by anyone with religious education. This is a vague version of typological understanding, because it does not necessarily account for the specificity of events – but a larger sense that human life requires Christian fortitude. In his study of enthusiasm in eighteenth-century poetry, Shaun Irlam writes that “Typological interpretation constitutes a sort of pervasive hermeneutic unconscious, an interpretive habit so widely presumed that its underlying principles are never openly formulated or examined, although its methodology is readily adopted.” 172 This typology is so

171 Even though Auerbach explains a variety of figural language, he devotes the last third of his essay to typology’s historical function. The payoff, for Auerbach, is to “understand[d]…the mixture of spirit and sense of reality which characterizes the European Middle Ages.” See Erich Auerbach, “Figura” in Scenes from the Drama of European Literature (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1959), 61. Hans Frei, who is interested in interrogating Biblical hermeneutics in a time when realist narratives were emergent, follows Auerbach’s positing, privileging the historical aspects of typology: “Clearly, if figural or typological interpretation was to be successful, it required a delicate balance beteen the temporally separated occasions, a firm connection with literal or realistic procedure, and a clear rooting in the order of temporal sequence.” See Hans Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1974), 29.

172 Shaun Irlam, Elations: The Poetics of Enthusiasm in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 21.


thoroughly ingrained in the eighteenth-century imagination that Pamela’s rewriting of the Psalms is accepted in polite society as part of an evening’s entertainment. Indeed, by the eighteenth century typology was no longer limited to religious exegesis and indicative of religious enthusiasm. Its secularization meant that typology appeared in political tracts in the English Civil War (and with important ramifications for the depiction of Charles I as a Christ figure) and in poetry that conflated personal and religious experience, a form that was deemed proper for women writers.173

Like her parents and the servants that surround her, Pamela uses the psalm to abstract affective qualities rather than deal with historical particularity. But Pamela’s rendition of the psalm engages closely with the sense of her life as an allegory. The penchant to represent herself and her situation as an already interpreted event is clear in her rewriting of Psalm 137 as a song about herself:


When sad I sat in B-----n-hall,

All watched round about,

And thought of ev’ry absent Friend,

The Tears for Grief burst out.


My Joys and Hopes all overthrown,

My Heart strings almost broke,

Unfit my Mind for Melody,

Much more to bear a joke;

173 Paul J. Korshin coins “abstracted typology” for such secular uses of typology. For a comprehensive catalogue of different typological uses in eighteenth-century literature, see his Typologies in England: 1650-1820 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982); for the discussion of women poets’ use of religious models, see Paula R. Backscheider’s Eighteenth- Century Women Poets and their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).



Then she whom I Prisoner was,

Said to me tauntingly,

Now chear your Heart, and sing a Song,

And tune your Mind to Joy.


Alas! said I, how can I frame

My heavy Heart to sing;

Or tune my Mind, while thus inthrall’d

By such a wicked Thing!

Pamela’s very poor version keeps going for another six stanzas, which I will spare you. Yet, Richardson includes the full psalm translation in full not once, but twice in the novel. The first time is transcribed in full in her journal when Pamela is still a prisoner in Lincolnshire; and the second time it’s performed by Mr. B. in the second half of the novel to a group of friends – and it is systematically compared in its entirety, stanza by stanza, with the version upon which Pamela modeled her verses.

It is important for readers to see Pamela as an allegory because she is an allegory; or rather, because she insists on fashioning herself as an allegory that has its own shape – it is already defined in its own tableau. But what Pamela borrows from the poem is an emotional pose. While Auerbach described models of reading scripture and texts that examined the Bible through the lens of historical particularity, Frances

Ferguson advances another tradition of interpretation – that of the “British

Dissenters,” in which she includes John Locke, Philip Doddridge, and Joseph

Priestley. In the analysis of minister and writer Philip Doddridge’s Family Expositor

(1739-56), Ferguson explains:


Doddridge thus overcomes both the animosities of scriptural debate and the

embarrassment of contradictions among the gospels and between the gospels

and extrabiblical historical or scientific accounts. He does so, moreover, by

treating psychology as the reader’s best justification for an actively corrective

reading of the text, in which every reading must be in its essence a reading

that assumes a continuity in human psychology that makes even the writings

of the remote past available. The earlier claim that a prophet could understand

the present because future outcomes were visible to him has been reversed,

and the present has become the vantage from which the texts of the past can be

understood. The narrative orientation that Biblical prophecy had once directed

toward an apocalyptic ending gives way to an emphasis on humans and human

motivations, a picture of the human mind that makes the biblical message


Doddridge’s model of reading scripture, which strips the text from history, resonates closely with the types of reading Pamela performs. The anti-historical reading of the

Bible is an important model for Pamela. The novel’s treatment of a serving girl who resists her master’s advances based on the principle of her own virtue was revolutionary in the eighteenth century and clearly not preoccupied with historical precedence. The rejection of historical narratives – even the Bible’s – is essential to

Pamela’s interpretive impulse. Pamela rejects a typology that casts her in a narrative that is not her own. The primacy of an individual’s authentic, singular account – that

Pamela is different from all other serving girls, but at the same time she’s clearly exemplary of Virtue – suggests a different orientation to the Bible than the one we see in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Just as Pamela is released from her confinement in the

174 Frances Ferguson, “Dissenting Textualism: The Claims of Psychological method in the Long Romantic Period.” Studies in 49, No. 4 (Winter 2010): 596.


Lincolnshire estate, she brings up Biblical narrative in order to reject its historical content:

I think I was loth to leave the House. Can you believe it?—What could be the

Matter with me, I wonder!—I felt something so strange, and my Heart was

lumpish!—I wonder what ail’d me!—But this was so unexpected!—I believe

that was all!—Yet I am very strange still. Surely, surely, I cannot be like the

old murmuring Israelites, to long after the Onions and the Garlick of Egypt,

when they had suffer’d there such heavy Bondage? (226)

The allusion highlights properly the intrinsic difficulty of knowing one’s true home.

While Egypt had been historically the home of the Israelites, Moses was taking them to their true, promised homeland. Pamela’s appropriation of the Israelites’ stories for her exile and her oppression cast her as suffering from an essential form of homelessness. The allusions effectively determine Pamela as belonging neither in her parents’ rudimentary house nor in B.’s life of landed privilege. The historical frame, where one home is privileged over the other, is curiously absent from the novel’s denouement, since Pamela finds her true home in Egypt. In fact, her identification with the Israelites is easily abandoned and uncritically substituted with the Book of


Pamela uses Biblical stories for their psychological contours of Biblical stories; their historical or literary specificity is rendered as shorthand for the immediate experience of longing. The “Onions and Garlick of Egypt” allude to the

175 When Pamela and Mr. B are discussing the readings for their nuptials with Mr. Williams, who will officiate, Mr. Andrews (Pamela’s father) interjects: “I am sure, if there were Time for it, the Book of Ruth would afford a fine Subject for the Honour done my dear Child. Why, good Mr. Andrews, said my Master, should you say so?—I know that Story, and Mr. Williams will confirm what I say, that my good Girl here will confer at least as much Honour as she will receive” (287). The Book of Ruth, which recounts the story of a Moabite widow who marries the Jewish man Boaz, is a precedent for a lawful and blessed intermarriage as well as for the inclusion of a foreigner into the Israelite tribe.


Israelites’ desiring the comforts of their old life in Egypt during the Mosaic Exodus.

The quote is a stroke of genius on Richardson’s part, because it so succinctly expresses Pamela’s almost sentimental attachment to things: “We remember the fish, which we did in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.”176 Here Pamela’s attachment to the onion and garlic is less a feature of formal realism, than it is a transformation of her everyday experience into allegorical significance – a process we have seen her enact with pieces of silk or fishing lures. By enacting this transformation, Pamela indeed buries the Bible and its historical past under the present. Ferguson phrases this version of interpretation as a change in terms of perspective, “the present has become the vantage from which the texts of the past can be understood.” The preeminence of the “present” – of its vantage point – in reading of the Bible takes on epistemological significance.

Ferguson uses the term “human psychology” to explain the epistemological shift that occurs in the eighteenth century: from the strictly religious interpretation of the Bible

(the type of hermeneutical practice that Calvin and Luther engaged in) to the more personal, psychological interpretation apparent in the way Doddridge reads. Pamela certainly reads and interprets the Bible to extract these “picture[s] of the human mind”

– a phrase that comes very close to describing to what Richardson does with the epistolary form. Ferguson’s emphasis on the “present” in this type of interpretation, however, hides another sense of the term – that of making present or having presence.

The sense of the present is central to produce the effects that only the epistolary novel can provide – that urgency to which we ascribe the letters that we read. However, in Pamela the “present” becomes an ideology – a systematic way of seeing the world that is continuous with or, perhaps, contingent on Pamela’s

176 Numbers 11:15 (King James Version)


allegorical imagining. After all, despite all of B.’s attempts on her virtue, she stays on under his employment in Bedfordshire; and despite B.’s locking her in his

Lincolnshire estate, Pamela marries him. Pamela acts despite precedence – be it historical or personal. The present in Pamela is not just a formal aspect of the novel, but a framework with which to understand experience. Stanley Cavell’s remarkable essay on ’s King Lear grapples with the many versions of being

“present”: Cavell reads theater’s reproduction of the temporal present (the actions happen right before one’s eyes) as one way to cultivate a sense of being present (how the audience make itself present to the tragedies that happen before their eyes). His argument is complex and rich; but especially relevant to my reading of Pamela is that he understands empirical epistemology and its reliance on “a certainty provided by the (by my) senses” being in essential opposition to the “continuous presentness,” which he defines as a continuous awareness of phenomena – so continuous that it cannot be classified or contained by the knowledge that empiricism extracts from the world.177 Cavell’s criticism of what he calls epistemological “certainty” is indeed already voiced in the late eighteenth century. In the British tradition, William Blake’s famous proverb in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3) already betrays a deep- founded ambivalence about empirical certainty: “How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,/Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?”178

Cavell’s description of “continuous presentness,” with which he associates

Shakespearean tragedy, brings to mind instead the experience of Bunyan’s Christian in the allegorical world of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Cavell writes about the need of

177 Stanley Cavell, “The Avoidance of Love: A Reading of King Lear” in Must We Mean What We Say? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 323.

178 William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in Blake’s Poetry and Designs, ed. Mary Lynn Johnson and John E. Grant (New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1979), 88.


“presentness” with the fervor and urgency that color Reformed Christians’ insistence on self-examination: “The perception or attitude….which demands a continuous attention to what is happening at each here and now, as if everything of significance is happening at this moment, while each thing that happens turns a leaf of time.”179

Cavell claims that with the disappearance of tragedy we also incur the loss of presentness in a readily available form. For him, epistemological certainty – faith in reason and in empiricism – “works us into the idea that we can save our lives by knowing them.”180 Cavell would argue that we can find epistemological uncertainty in the allegory of Bunyan precisely because of the great wash of significance that allegorical imagining requires at all times. If the scientific method may provide a false sense of certainty for its reduction and selection of sensual information into a legible structure, a mode like allegory, so deeply rooted in the reception of phenomena, inevitably ends with anything but coherent knowledge. The normative account of empiricism uses experience as the way one generates knowledge; but Cavell pries these two processes apart. What happens if empiricism provides knowledge at the cost of experience? In other words, what if Pamela’s allegorical nature presents too much experience – or significance – for the novel’s need for coherent structure?

Cavell’s explanation of presentness explains why Pamela’s moments of allegorical spectacle still remain so puzzling to readers. They awaken distrust despite their seemingly didactic, summarizable, and detachable qualities. Given Cavell’s skepticism about the reducibility of knowledge, it’s unsurprising that he understands the fundamental illegibility of sincerity. In analyzing the problem of reading the “first person narrative” of Descartes’ Meditations, Cavell explains that “its motive, like the

179 Cavell, “The Avoidance of Love,” 322.

180 Ibid., 323.


motive of a lyric poem, is absolute veracity. And someone whose motive is absolute veracity is likely to be very hard to understand.”181 The statement cannot describe

Pamela entirely; after all, it remains impossible to say, with absolute certainty, whether Pamela’s motive in the novel is “absolute veracity.” However, Cavell presents the problem of apprehending “veracity” of first-person narratives, whether they are philosophical or fictional or poetical. In Pamela Richardson’s use of allegory in the epistolary novel flips the question from a problem of reading (as Cavell understands it) to a problem of representation – how can the novel successfully represent veracity or sincerity? It’s a question that remains unanswered in Pamela and that Richardson attempts to resolve in Clarissa by increasing the scrutiny of veracity or sincerity by way of adding other epistolary interlocutors. The problem cannot be solved, as I mentioned in the introduction, by the multiplication of credible (or unreliable) observers. The Pamela problem persists well into the 1750s – a problem of novelistic characterization that Henry Fielding will also approach through the use of his own allegorical characters.

181 Ibid., 336.



It is a rare life that remains orderly even in private. Everyone can play his part in the farce, and act an honest role on the stage. But to be disciplined within, in one’s own breast, where all is permissible and all is concealed – that is the point! —Michel de Montaigne

Henry Fielding’s Jonathan Wild is not the historical Jonathan Wild, the thief-taker who was hanged in 1725 and whose life and exploits had been chronicled by Daniel

Defoe and others. That Wild merely provided an occasion for Fielding’s narrative, which is remarkable for its modal promiscuity – it is a satire, an allegory, a fictional account of a historical person. The difficulty of classifying Jonathan Wild seems to have been alive to its author. In the preface of the Miscellanies (1743), of which

Jonathan Wild comprises the whole third volume, Fielding describes this fictional work as “not a very faithful Portrait of Jonathan Wild himself, so neither is it intended to represent the Features of any other Person. Roguery, and not a Rogue, is my

Subject; and as I have been so far from endeavouring to particularize any Individual, that I have with my utmost Art avoided it.”182 Fielding’s description of Jonathan Wild as a work that generalizes the story of a “Rogue” into the tale of “Roguery” cannot be accepted in its entirety. After all, Jonathan Wild is not a strictly narrative allegory like

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, where Christian’s world is entirely configured as allegory. Castle Beautiful and the Slough of Dispond do not fill the pages of

Fielding’s Jonathan Wild; Dover, London, and Newgate Prison are the locales of this allegorically inflected world. In the same vein, Jonathan Wild has a mixed genealogy:

182 Henry Fielding, Preface to the Miscellanies by Henry Fielding Esq., Vol. I, ed. Henry Knight Miller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 9.


His uncles are called John, Edward, and Thomas, bearing the naturalistic (but generic) names that Ian Watt in The Rise of the Novel identified as necessary elements for realistic description, while his aunts are Grace, Charity, Honour, names that hark back to the allegory of an earlier time – but, because of the characters’ reprobate behavior, also conjure the satirical mode of Fielding’s own time. It’s fitting that Wild is the offspring of allegorical and realistic characters, since he himself is so clearly a product of modal promiscuity – the allegory and the novel.183 To completely embrace or ignore Fielding’s suggestion that Jonathan Wild is allegorical – a tale of “Roguery”

–produces polarized and unsatisfying readings of the characters of the novel.184 Such readings tend to examine its characters – Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree, the good-natured victims of Jonathan Wild – either by studying them as straightforward allegories or as realistic characters and, therefore, ignore the ways that the Heartfrees and Friendly are shaped by the pressures of both allegorical and empiricist dictates. To put it in another way, Jonathan Wild shows that these generic categories – the allegory and the novel – were not fashioned in isolation. The characters in Jonathan Wild are as much shaped by its allegorical aspects and representational requirements as by fiction’s increasing concern with what could be apprehended by the physical senses.

Fielding’s writings in verse and for the stage in the 1720s and 1730s show him already experimenting with allegory in different modalities. Consistent with allegories

183 And if we believe Fielding’s description of the genealogy of the novel in Joseph Andrews (1742), the novel is itself a hybrid - a “comic epic-poem in prose.”

184 Allan Wendt considers Mr. Heartfree’s “limitations” in his straightforward analysis of the novel as a moral allegory, “The Moral Allegory of Jonathan Wild,” ELH, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Dec., 1954), 306-320. In the second camp, Claude Rawson and Michael McKeon provide more attenuated and nuanced interpretations of the Heartfrees; both critics, however, seem to work from the premise that the Heartfrees are failures of characterization. See Claude Rawson, “Fielding’s ‘Good’ Merchant: The Problem of Heartfree in ‘Jonathan Wild’ (With Comments on other ‘Good’ Characters in Fielding),” Modern Philology, Vol. 69, No. 4 (May, 1972), 292-313; and Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel 1600-1740 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 385-395.


in Jonathan Wild, these early uses were already remarkable for their modal playfulness. Allegory becomes keenly felt in his late farcical plays, Pasquin (1736) and Historical Register for the Year 1736 (1737), where the play-within-a-play of the death of Queen Common-Sense and the allegorical auction, where “a delicate Piece of

Patriotism” and “three Grains of Modesty” are considered “out of Fashion,” carry the tone of elegiac mourning for the sincere representation classically associated with the allegory.185 That allegory must perform itself in order to be read correctly – in other words, that Virtue must seem Virtuous – and, therefore, necessarily heightens the slippage between being and seeming – is allegory merely performing Virtue? – is the problem essential to allegorical representation that that Fielding returns to again and again throughout his career. Unlike the types Fielding used extensively in his theater, allegory in his fiction is inflected by this moral charge of impersonation that remain central to his novels and that I trace in what I term “farcical allegory.” The farcical allegory is a personification that is overacted, representing itself so forcefully it seems to simulate rather than to express its essence.186 The farcical allegory adheres to the demands of farce on the stage – and that is to overplay its part, to bear the “monstrous over-done Grimaces” of the farcical actor that seem to communicate its explicit exteriority to the audience. In his novels, Fielding’s allegories are farcical – not because they are stylized as exaggerations, a descriptive mode that has always been associated with allegory, but rather because allegorical exaggeration in the novel signify impersonation and hypocrisy. The farcical allegory, which either impersonates or comes off as impersonating because of its intensity, is the model of countless

185 Henry Fielding, The Historical Register for the Year 1736, Plays, Vol. 3, ed. Thomas Lockwood (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2011), 428.

186 For a discussion about the seemingly inevitable link between theatricality and deception in the work of Daniel Defoe, see David Marshall, The Figure of Theater: Shaftesbury, Defoe, Adam Smith, and George Eliot (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 85.


hypocritical allegories, whose grotesque physique and behavior serve to deceive others and to cement their allegorical status as Hypocrisy itself. We find specimens of this type of farcical allegory throughout the history of the novel: Blifil in Tom Jones,

Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Slope in Barchester Towers, and, most lucidly, in Uriah Heep in David Copperfield. The physical intensification of the allegory as indicative of farce and hypocrisy works because allegory readily admits this type of vivid description.

This chapter argues that Fielding’s use of allegory can only be elucidated when read in relation to farce and, more broadly, describes the distortions that occur when allegory is transferred to the novel and its budding realistic conventions of the eighteenth century. Allegory in this empirically rich world – this world of garnishes, debtor’s prison, and highway robberies – occasions central moments of misreading in the novel and, in particular, of misreading its allegorical characters. Jonathan Wild’s gross misreading of Mrs. Heartfree, where her gratitude is grasped as lust, is occasioned by Mrs. Heartfree’s intense sincerity: “her Eyes sparkled on him with a

Benevolence which is an Emanation from the Heart.”187 Allegorical description seems to require a secondary method of interpretation that is at odds with the primary interpretive framework of the novel. How personifications become unreadable in the novel has to do with the way that allegorical representation feels different from the characters and the landscape that surround it. Its insistent and theatrical articulation – of gratitude, of goodness, or virtue – is felt doubly as farce and as an act. Except for when it is contained as a freestanding tableau, allegory in the novel becomes suspect and subject to gross misinterpretation. Contrary to Mikhail Bakhtin’s claim in “Epic

187 Henry Fielding, Jonathan Wild in Miscellanies by Henry Fielding, Esq., Vol. III, ed. Hugh Amory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 52.


and Novel” of the novel’s infinite inclusiveness, allegory seems resistant to the novel’s powers of omnivorous digestion.

Traditionally, Fielding’s allegorical characters have been read as stable and didactic and, therefore, as Terry Castle explains, as having “limited psychological range.”188 The simplicity of Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree’s nature, however, cannot be attributed to the effects of their presence in the novel. Fielding immerses the

Heartfrees in his empirically examined and defined fiction – and, in doing so, imagines and articulates his personifications using physiognomy, a science that is founded on empirical observation. In “An Essay on the Knowledge of the Characters of Men,” published in the first volume of the Miscellanies, Fielding lays out a highly empiricist program for spotting hypocrites, claiming that “the Passions of Men do commonly imprint sufficient Marks on the Countenance; and it is owing chiefly to the want of Skill in the Observer, that Physiognomy is of so little Use and Credit in the

World.”189 In Jonathan Wild, personifications are subjected to the same empiricist process of judging and sifting, which not only shows Fielding’s magisterial powers of observation but also defines the kind of interpretive work that his own characters do in the novel. After all, the novel’s most proficient reader is also the Heartfrees’ first bad reader: That Wild, who “had a wonderful Knack of discovering and applying to the Passions of Men,” should misunderstand the very sincerity of Mrs. Heartfree betrays not only the difficulty of correct physiognomical reading (a difficulty that

Fielding concedes), but also the possibility that allegorical representation might not fit empirical understanding.190 After all, Fielding seems to describe personification in

188 Terry Castle, Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986), 193.

189 Henry Fielding, “An Essay,” 157.

190 Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 32.


Jonathan Wild in the same way that he does hypocrites and farcical actors in “An

Essay”: the three share an element of overacting and affected, if not grotesque, intensity.

By looking at the way characters read personifications in Jonathan Wild, this chapter examines allegory’s tenuous relationship with the growing empiricist demands of the novel, which asks its characters and readers to consider the information afforded to us by the five senses as the primary way of understanding and judging experience. Fielding’s descriptions of Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree, as well as their misreading by Wild, the novel’s most practiced empiricist, show not only how allegorical description becomes heightened in the novel to the point that personifications read like hypocritical impersonations, but also how allegory provided

Fielding with a way to create opacity and depth in his characters. The misunderstanding between Jonathan Wild and Mrs. Heartfree is the stuff of comedy – one can almost see it enacted on the stage; but, setting the scene up this way, Fielding was also able to create characters that are ultimately unknowable and indefinite. This is the reason why Mrs. Heartfree – like Samuel Richardson’s Pamela – still occasions discussions as contradictory as the original characters. On the one hand, Lockean empiricism promised that understanding ourselves and the world around us was possible through the strict observation of phenomena; on the other, it flooded the individual with particularities that required sifting, ordering, and judging. The allegories in Jonathan Wild are shaped by both these pressures.


As “An Essay on the Knowledge of the Characters of Men,” makes explicit, Fielding believed that human interiority was expressed outwardly through countenance,


gesture, and actions and was, therefore, eminently readable. Fielding’s investment in the description of outward appearance, or what Robert Alter called Fielding’s

“consistently external view of his characters,” seems to originate from the fact that human beings are limited to observing the actions of others; and it’s this type of description – an empirical description that imitates what we can see – that Fielding reproduces in the novel.191 Fielding’s “consistently external view” of his characters and his belief that one’s character can be deduced by a critical reading of the

“Outside,” which includes countenance and behavior, seem to render the novel an ideal form for subtle readings of characters’ expressions. Ian Watt explains in The

Rise of the Novel that the novel’s innovation was its ability to record evidence as a way to relate and structure experience, which gives what we observe on the “Outside” particular importance.192 The realist novel requires faith in empiricism – that its reader can perceive and understand experience through his senses.193 It seems particularly fitting for the novel’s form that Fielding imagined his characters’ moral and emotional lives as marked on their countenance. Fielding, who indeed believed in the power of physiognomical observation, invites us to understand his characters not as intimate companions, whose mental monologues we might share, but as distant and

191 Robert Alter, Fielding and the Nature of the Novel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), 65, 72.

192 Barbara Benedict and F. Price posit physiognomy as a practice that blends the belief in the primacy of empirical observation and the faith in moral certitude and religious coherence. For the analysis of physiognomy in sentimental fiction of the second half of the eighteenth century, see Barbara M. Benedict, “Reading Faces: Physiognomy and Epistemology in Late Eighteenth-Century Sentimental Novels,” Studies in Philology, 92 (1995), 311-28; F. Price, “Imagining Faces: The Later Eighteenth-Century Sentimental Heroine and the Legible Universal Language of Physiognomy,” British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 6 (1983), 1-16. Since I’m focusing on the techniques of reading and its relation to a materialist and empirical tradition, I’m noting but also bracketing physiognomy’s relationship with what E. L. Tuveson calls the “moral sense,” a sort of Shaftesburian empiricism that developed over the eighteenth century. See Ernest Lee Tuveson, Imagination as a Means of Grace (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960).

193 Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000), 12.


observable specimens: The physiognomical imagination forces its readers in the position of scientist and judge:

The Truth is, Nature doth really imprint sufficient Marks in the Countenance,

to inform an accurate and discerning Eye: but as such is the Property of few,

the Generality of Mankind mistake the Affectation for the Reality: for as

Affectation always over-acts her Part, it fares with her as with a Farcical Actor

on the Stage, whose monstrous over-done Grimaces are sure to catch the

Applause of an insensible Audience; while the truest and finest Strokes of

Nature, represented by a judicious and just Actor, pass unobserved and

disregarded. In the same Manner, the true Symptoms being finer, and less

glaring, make no Impression on our Physiognomist; while the grosser

Appearances of Affectation are sure to attract his Eye, and deceive his


Fielding’s metaphor of the world as a stage shows the centrality of reading exteriors to understand character. Just as an audience understands the types and plot in a play, so we judge those around us based on affected and natural exteriors. In fact, we are not wrong to attempt to understand characters based on what they seem; we are only wrong to confuse characters’ “grosser” exterior for their natural expression.

The physiognomical imagining of character neatly charts the tensions in the meaning of “character” in the eighteenth century. In fact, the primary meaning of

“character” in the eighteenth century was still that of a “distinct mark impressed, engraved, or otherwise formed” or, sometimes more particularly, the “graphic symbol

194 Fielding, “An Essay,” 161-2.


standing for a sound, syllable, or notion, used in writing or in printing.”195 Fielding is using both senses at once in his essay, since physiognomy reconciles the two meanings by forging a causal connection between them: one character (“moral values”) necessarily leads to another (marks on one’s countenance).196 Fielding’s metaphor imagines the whole of human interaction as theatrical performance and its effect on an audience. There are two different types of performances: the sincere performance of a “judicious and just Actor” who discovers the “true Symptoms” of an honest man, and the hypocritical performance of the “Farcical Actor on the Stage, whose monstrous over-done Grimaces are sure to catch the Applause of an insensible

Audience.”197 Farce – the short, exaggerated, romping, theatrical performances whose sole purpose was to provoke laughter – was a style in which Fielding was well-versed, having used it extensively in his own plays of the 1730s. Farce’s distortions of natural emotion – its vivid insistence and intensity – became in Fielding’s novels one way to pinpoint hypocrisy. The narrator’s ironic celebration of Wild’s facial contortions, therefore, translates that visual and performative intensity to the readers; and, with it, readers learn to distrust intensity in general as the marker of hypocrisy or farce.

By mapping the physical markers of hypocrisy onto Wild – markers that are associated not with particular physical traits, but with the intensity of emotional or physical response – Fielding fuses the farcical with the allegorical, in this case, the embodiment of Wild as “Roguery.” This is a marriage of competing, almost

195 “character, n.”. OED Online. March 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/30639?rskey=C6UZi1&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed May 22, 2015).

196 For a discussion about the ways in which the cognates “countenance” and “character” are taken up by eighteenth-century writers see Deidre Shauna Lynch’s The Economy of Character: Novel, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), 30-32.

197 Fielding, “An Essay,” 162.


antithetical modes; after all, the farcical is traditionally associated with cheek, satire, parody, impersonation, while the allegorical is usually identified by its uncomplicated embodiment of abstraction. The two, however, work well together because of their similar representational vivacity. Fielding’s proclaimed association with allegory – a mode that has lost much of its immediacy, brilliance, and vivacity for modern readers

– means that the criticism that engages with his characters as allegories or personifications tends to remark on his didactic and moral use of the figure.198 But the allegorical form has a history of intense, monstrous, and hyperreal representation that

Fielding uses to great effect in Jonathan Wild.199 Theresa Kelley has explained allegory in terms of its rhetorical “vivacity,” describing “allegorical figures [that] are so vivid that they seem to come to life…[and] dramatize the resources and hazards of fictions whose meaning is suspended somewhere between human particulars and abstractions.”200 Both allegory and farce require vivid representation, and one mode’s intensity reinforces the other. Kelley’s interest in the eighteenth century, in tracing what she terms “vivacity” in allegory, is to use the century as a to the animated allegories of the centuries that precede and follow it. She sees eighteenth-century allegorical practices as producing emblematic and mechanical allegories, instead of

“allegorical figures [that] are so vivid that they seem to come to life…[and] dramatize the resources and hazards of fictions whose meaning is suspended somewhere

198 A clear example of this schematic reading can be seen in Allan Wendt, “The Moral Allegory of Jonathan Wild,” ELH, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Dec., 1954), 306-320.

199 For a theoretical account of this descriptive surrealism, see Angus Fletcher, Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1964), 107-108.

200 While Kelley uses the eighteenth century as a foil to the animated allegories of the centuries that precede and follow it, I use her useful terminology to claim vivacity for eighteenth-century allegories. Theresa M. Kelley, Reinventing Allegory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 16.


between human particulars and abstractions.”201 The literary criticism from the century that Kelley deploys – from Joseph Addison to Lord Kames –endorses “the mechanization” of allegories, which we can see in Addison’s didactic and clear application. In such an argument, the eighteenth century’s investment in Lockean empiricism, with its foundation in observable phenomena, rendered fantastical allegorical representations suspicious and unscientific.202

But the unruly vivacity of allegory can be felt in the readers’ responses to personifications – responses that rendered allegories more vivid in remembrance than in the original composition. In the introduction to James Thomson’s The Seasons in the Clarendon edition, James Sambrook quotes a writer’s response in The British

Magazine to Thomson’s poem Summer: “We cannot conceive a more beautiful image than that of the Genius of Agriculture, distinguished by the implements of his art, imbrowned with labour, glowing with health, crowned with a garland of foliage, flowers, and fruit, lying stretched at his ease on the brow of a gently swelling hill, and contemplating with pleasure the happy effects of his own industry.”203 The lines that elicit the response, however, are bare of such rich imaginings:

O vale of bliss! O softly-swelling hills! On which the Power of Cultivation lies, And joys to see the wonders of his toil. (1435-7)

For that eighteenth-century reader, these lines evoke the images of Agriculture

“imbrowned with labour, glowing with health, crowned with a garland of foliage, flowers, and fruit.” As Donald Davie comments, the writer “probably contributes

201 Kelley, Reinventing Allegory, 16.

202 Ibid., 3.

203 I am most grateful to Joshua Swidzinski for drawing my attention to the passages in this paragraph. See James Thomson, The Seasons, ed. James Sambrook (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), xiv-xv.


nothing that was not in Thomson's intention. For Thomson could count on finding in his readers a ready allegorical imagination, such as seems lost to us today. The loss is certainly ours.”204 Indeed, the allegorical imagination was not only vivid, but also productive of particularities that readers selected from a shared understanding of a figure. In Joseph Warton’s Essay on the Genius of Pope (1756), Warton liberally elaborates on Alexander Pope’s description of Melancholy in “Eloisa to Abelard,”

“The IMAGE of the Goddess MELANCHOLY sitting over the convent, and as it were expanding her dreadful wings over its whole circuit, and diffusing her gloom all around it, is truely sublime, and strongly conceived.”205 Melancholy in the poem indeed “sits, and round her throws/ A death-like silence, and a dread repose,” but the position of Melancholy (“sitting over the convent”) with her wings is Warton’s own.

These descriptions of personifications show that the vivacity of allegorical representation was not only most alive in the eighteenth-century imagination but also that allegory’s vivacity has something to do with the way it is received – as moving, theatrical figures. It seems to me that eighteenth-century allegories, in this way, are as vivid as Romantic allegories, which, according to Kelley, are different in that they are

“temporizing and excessive…elud[ing] capture.”206 “[T]his allegory is bound to successive visible and material shapes that hover over the boundary between idea and

204 Davie’s response is also quoted in Sambrook’s introduction. For a full account, see the long footnote in Donald Davie, Purity of in English Verse (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967) 40.

205 Joseph Warton, An essay on the genius and writings of Pope, the second edition, corrected. London, MDCCLXII. [1762]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. Columbia University. 22 May 2015 .

206 Kelley, Reinventing Allegory, 96.


material form.”207 I am not sure if this characteristic, of hovering between “idea” and

“particularity” that Kelley sees dramatized in , is restricted to the nineteenth century, since the collective anxiety over the vivacity of allegory betrays its power rather than its weakness in the eighteenth century. The , moreover, becomes more palpable when allegory becomes immersed in the empirical framework of the novel – where “idea” and “particularity” are most significantly embroiled in the eighteenth century.

The intensity of allegorical representation in Jonathan Wild is therefore the product of the intersection of two of Fielding’s interests: personification and theatrical characterization. Theatrical characterization – and, in particular, farcical characterization – was Fielding’s bread and butter as a writer of farcical plays in the

1730s and, just as with allegorical representation, farcical characterization is a mode that thrives through immediacy, insistence, and vivacity. The intersection of personification and farce is especially visible in Fielding’s plays, from Author’s Farce

(1730) to Pasquin (1736) and Historical Register for the Year 1736 (1737) – plays that use allegories extensively in farce. While allegory and farce may seem like antithetical modes, as I explained earlier, they both privilege a character’s exterior and physical expression, because characters’ exteriors provided ways in which emotions were signified, understood, and, therefore, communicated in the social spaces of the theater.208 The imagining of public life as essentially theatrical might

207 Ibid.

208 For a reading of theatrical characters as superimposed exteriors and surfaces, in stark opposition to the interiority of novelistic characters, see Lisa Freeman, Character’s Theater: Genre and Identity on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002).


explain why allegory remained a viable literary figure in the eighteenth century.209

Feeding into Fielding’s assumptions about human interactions is Bernard

Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees (1714), which advanced the argument that the self-interested passions, rather than natural or religious morality, shape human behavior. It’s our greed and vanity (our vices or passions, as he puts it) that generate productivity in the market and, with it, the veneer of sociability (our virtues). And because our passions guide our actions, Mandeville also identifies an implicit hypocrisy in sociability. He writes, in a description that inversely anticipates Friedrich

Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, that the definition of Vice and Virtue has been manipulated to be serviceable to those who abandon themselves to the passions:

It being in the Interest then of the very worst of them, more than any, to

preach up Publick-spiritedness, that they might reap the Fruits of the Labour

and Self-denial of others, and at the same time indulge their own Appetites

with less disturbance, they agreed with the rest, to call every thing, which,

without Regard to the Publick, Man should commit to gratify any of his

Appetites, VICE; if in that Action there cou’d be observed the least prospect,

that it might either be injurious to any of the Society, or ever render himself

less serviceable to others: And to give the name of VIRTUE to every

209 See Richard Sennett in The Fall of Public Man, which theorizes that our modern bias that privileges the personal, individual, and intimate over the public and social (the confessional poem as more authentic and more real than the scripted speech, for example) did not frame the way that 17th- or early- to mid-18th centuryists thought of their engagement with others: “Behaving with strangers in an emotionally satisfying way and yet remaining aloof from them was seen by the mid- as the means by which the human animal was transformed into a social being.”209 The requirement for social and public engagement is a type of emotional distance that paradoxically allows one to become emotionally connected to the lives of others. The “public man has an identity as an actor—an enactor, if you like—and this identity involves him and others in a social bond.” It’s not surprising that Sennet extensively uses Fielding, who understands social relationships to be based on performance, to support this particular argument. Richard Sennet, The Fall of Public Man (New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1976), 18.


Performance, by which Man, contrary to the impulse of Nature, should

endeavor the Benefit of others, or the Conquest of his own Passions out of a

Rational Ambition of being good.210

Mandeville frames the virtues as 1) contrary to human nature and 2) because unnatural, virtues are mere performances for social convenience. The sociable man is always performing because education requires it; he has the good breeding to disguise his real passions, but the equation of good breeding with virtue is an illusion: “Virtue bids us subdue, but good Breeding only requires we should hide our Appetites.”211

We “give the name of VIRTUE” to the performances that seem rational or good; but

Virtue’s but a word that designates “seeming” only.

For Mandeville, the vigorous growth of the commonwealth is dependent on the expression of the vices, and culture demands that these vices come disguised in performances that connote virtue. But social hypocrisy is transformed, by the middle of the eighteenth century, into common sociability. To embody our passions and to follow them wholeheartedly, we must learn to disguise them and to impersonate acceptable social norms in order to make our actions palatable to others.212

Mandeville’s argument that virtue is merely vice in costume haunts Fielding’s treatment of allegories because Fielding, who believed in the existence of virtue and loathed The Fable’s cynicism, understood the world in Mandevillian terms: That is,

210 Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees: Or Private Vices, Public Benefits, Vol. I, ed. F. B. Kaye (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988), 48.

211 Ibid., 72.

212 Fielding does not fully agree with Mandeville, the poster boy for hypocrisy, and his philosophy, cf. Amelia I. iii; V, 141-2. However, Fielding certainly understood the centrality of performance for social interactions. Jenny Davidson charts the intellectual arguments that considered the utility of hypocrisy for sociability – arguments that are not at all contained in Mandeville but that pop up again and again throughout the eighteenth century. In particular, see the first chapter of Jenny Davidson’s Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).


that the world is a great masquerade in which even the honest find themselves acting.213

Mandeville’s celebration of performance, his argument that virtue is merely vice in costume, haunts Fielding’s treatment of allegories. Characters and personifications are caught in the same need to perform and express themselves. In fact, his preoccupation with hypocrisy is so insistent that in many of his novels the plot and moral message hinge on the process of reading a character’s embodied passions. Mr. Allworthy’s misreading of Tom Jones and Master Blifil launches the plot and, more importantly, Tom into his adventures when he leaves Mr. Allworthy’s house and protection. Fielding’s burlesque plays, however, provide a different framework for the interpretation of allegories. In farce, where everything is already exaggerated and grotesque, the representation of allegory is not singled out by exaggeration. Unlike in the novel, allegories are not represented as farce and, consequently, are not misread by the characters around them. This seems to be an effect of the way allegory is not registered as especially vivid in his theatrical productions. In the play within the play in Pasquin (1736), one of Fielding’s last and most popular burlesques, the Poet dresses up Queen Ignorance as Queen Common-

Sense in revenge for the latter’s critical rebuff.

…[B]ut since you dare Contemn me thus, I’ll dedicate my Play To Ignorance, and call her Common-Sense: Yes, I will dress her in your Pomp, and swear That Ignorance knows more than all the World.214

213 See Edward Hundert’s article on Mandeville for an argument about the performance of the passions and sociability in commerce as well as Fielding’s ambivalence regarding Mandeville’s argument, “Performing the Passions in Commercial Society: Bernard Mandeville and the Theatricality of Eighteenth-Century Thought,” in Refiguring Revolutions: Aesthetics from the English Revolution to the Romantic Revolution, eds. Kevin Sharpe and Steven N. Zwicker (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 141-172.

214 Henry Fielding, Pasquin in Plays, Vol. III, ed. Thomas Lockwood (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2011), 309.


The threat is crucial in Fustian’s tragedy, “Life and Death of Common-Sense,” because the Poet here is cheekily interrupting Queen Common-Sense’s death scene.

Fielding’s joke here is partly aimed at himself: He is claiming that Ignorance, rather than Common-Sense, reigns over the nonsensical and absurd productions of eighteenth-century theater, its farces, pantomimes, and Italian operas – a world in which Fielding participated and thrived. (Although it must be said that, because he’s steeped so thoroughly in that world, Fielding did discriminate his burlesque and therefore moral productions from the entirely degenerate and pleasure-producing

Italian operas, for example.) Fielding carries the joke further, claiming that every farcical performance – with its monstrous grimaces on the stage as opposed to the natural performances of a judicious actor – murders Queen Common-Sense anew and is, therefore, haunted by her ghost.215 In her analysis of Fielding’s theatrical productions, Jill Campbell notes that “ the danger of Common-sense, for instance, appearing with any pomp at all—is that clothing and pomp, inherently transferable, immediately introduce the possibility of appropriation: any ways in which virtue manifests itself externally allow for its impersonation.”216 Here, Campbell is describing the final triumph of Queen Ignorance over Queen Common-Sense; but the characters in the play are never mistaken about the nature of the queens. Fielding saves the deception of impersonation to eighteenth-century theatergoers, who cannot see separate good from bad theater.

Though Queen Common-Sense and Queen Ignorance are never quite misread as other farcical allegories will be in the novel, Fielding does suggest that represented

215 Ibid., 313.

216 Campbell, Jill, Natural Masques: Gender and Identity in Fielding’s Plays and Novels (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), 46.


abstractions, which become crudely visible in their “gross” exteriors, are particularly vulnerable to the charge of impersonation. It is this problem of representing abstractions that makes Fielding claim that “Nothing can, in Fact, be more foreign to the Nature of Virtue, than Ostentation. It is truly said of Virtue, that could Men behold her naked, they would be all in Love with her.”217 The butt of the joke is the overwhelming desire that Fielding finds essential in human existence – a desire that makes men and women conveninetly drop skepticism and reason. Fielding nonetheless here points to the problem of representing abstractions. Personification in

Fielding’s imagination presents itself as ostentation, because the embodiment of an abstraction necessarily requires Virtue to don the qualities that would render her legible. Fielding’s critique of allegory conjoins moral and representational arguments:

If personifications were truly sincere, why do they require covering? This problem is essential to allegory itself: What allegory does not bear its integument? Or to put it in theatrical terms, what is an allegory that does not make itself legible and, therefore, perform itself?


Fielding’s treatment of his characters in Jonathan Wild shows the author’s engagement with the allegorical tradition in relation to farce – an intersection that produces characters that are far from transparent or stable. Even two of the novel’s main allegorical characters, the Heartfrees, who are indeed good middle-class

217 Fielding, “An Essay,” 173.


merchants, receive ironic treatment.218 While the narrator belabors the description of the Heartfrees’ simplicity, Fielding sows the narrative with significant misinterpretations. Neighbors who once considered Mr. Heartfree “an extravagant heedless Fool” think him “a cunning, tricking, avaricious Knave” after he is thrown into Newgate prison.219 Likewise, the reader’s first introduction to Mrs. Heartfree, to which I have alluded in part, suggests that Fielding’s allegories are of a different cast than are those of the didactic tradition. Mrs. Heartfree, whose overly expressive gratitude overwhelms Jonathan Wild, is a fine specimen of Fielding’s farcical allegory:

This simple Woman no sooner heard her Husband had been obliged to her

Guest, than her Eyes sparkled on him with a Benevolence which is an

Emanation from the Heart, and of which GREAT and NOBLE MINDS, whose

Hearts never swell but with an Injury, can have no very adequate Idea; it is

therefore no Wonder that our Hero should misconstrue as he did, the poor,

innocent, and simple Affection of Mrs. Heartfree towards her Husband’s

Friend, for that great and generous Passion, which fires the Eyes of a modern

Heroine, when the Colonel is so kind as to indulge his City Creditor with

partaking of his Table to Day, and of his Bed to Morrow. Wild therefore

instantly returned the Compliment, as he understood it, with his Eyes, and

presently after bestowed many Encomiums on her Beauty, with which perhaps

218 An example of this ambivalence of representation is that the narrative makes it possible to read Mrs. Heartfree as a “scheming rogue.” See McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 392.

219 Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 128.


she, who was a Woman, though a good one, and misapprehended the Design,

was not displeased any more than the Husband.220

Unlike a purely didactic allegory, Mrs. Heartfree’s expression of gratitude is misread or even punned on. Her gratitude – her ability to open her heart to the friends of her husband – is misunderstood as a lascivious, immodest freedom.221 Jonathan Wild encounters an allegory – and the allegory, stating its own essence, registers in the novel as an overstatement.

Wild answers in kind: “[Wild] then proceeded to the most vehement

Professions of Friendship, and to the most ardent Expressions of Joy in this Renewal of their Acquaintance.”222 It’s a type of overstatement at which Wild is wonderfully adept. His hypocrisy lends the language its superlatives, but Mrs. Heartfree’s overstatement is part of the allegory’s expressive nature – it needs to signify strongly what it is. Its clarity – its didactic purpose – becomes distorted and gently ironized in

Jonathan Wild. Indeed, the distortion of allegorical representation is so great that even

Wild, who “had a wonderful Knack of discovering and applying to the Passions of

Men,” is duped by Mrs. Heartfree.223 Mrs. Heartfree’s eyes sparkle with the vivacity of allegory and affectation, but Wild seems only to be reacting to the form – not content – of Mrs. Hearttfree’s gaze. The intensity or vivacity of Mrs. Heartfree’s sparkling eyes, their extreme transparency, renders meaning opaque. This is the insistence on allegorical characterization that Fielding diagnosed and ridiculed in

220 Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 51-2.

221 “free, adj., n., and adv.”. OED Online. September 2013. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/74375?rskey=SnsElP&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed October 02, 2013).

222 Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 52.

223 Ibid., 32.


Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, which launched Fielding’s novelistic career. Fielding’s

Shamela (1741), his first satirical novel, is a realpolitik take on Richardson’s novel and economically exploits the problem with Richardson’s heroine and, more generally, allegory itself: What happens when virtue needs to proclaim and represent itself as virtuous?

The Mandevillian understanding of sociability as a series of required performances underlies the moral philosophy in the eighteenth century that later crystallizes in the works of Adam Smith and David Hume. Artifice of the kind that structures allegory was not seen to preclude personal and individual expression but, rather, to endorse it. Personification marries distilled emotions and impersonal artifice, which explains why personifications – embodied, exemplary emotions or ideas – featured so widely in treatises about the passions. As Adela Pinch explains in her work on the emotions in the eighteenth century, personification “endorse[d an] impersonal way of expressing a feeling,” and its form carried “implicit claims about the knowability of emotions.”224 In other words, the passions were knowable, impersonal, and transpersonal emotional states. This impersonal version of the passions was implicit in Aristotle’s treatment of the virtues and made more explicit in

René Descartes; it also encouraged the dissection and cataloguing of the variety of emotional states, which were often recast as personifications.225

Descartes’ The Passions of the Soul (1649) describes the passions as a feeling in the soul caused and maintained by the body. In his words, passions are

224 Adela Pinch, Strange Fits of Passion: Epistemologies of Emotion, Hume to Austen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 45.

225 For a different take on the way that personifications and passions work in the eighteenth century (as emphasizing the instability of the distinction between person and things), see Heather Keenleyside, “Personification for the People: On James Thomson’s The Seasons,” English Literary History 76, 2 (Summer 2009): 459, accessed January 4, 2014, doi: 10.1353/elh.0.0044.


“perceptions or sensations or excitations of the soul, which are referred to it in particular and which are caused, maintained, and strengthened by some movement in the spirits.”226 The passions are “caused, maintained and strengthened” physically or, more particularly, the animal spirits – small bodies – in the blood. Not only did

Descartes provide a purely physiological explanation for the emotions, but he also minutely described the physical appearance of the passions on the face – Joy’s flush, for example, “renders the color more vivid and rosy, because in opening the heart’s sluices, it makes blood flow more quickly into all the veins, and as [the blood] becomes warmer and finer, it gently swells all the parts of the face, rendering its demeanor more smiling and cheerful.”227 Such descriptions of physiognomy render the particular feeling as semi-autonomous, since it seems to take over the body of the person feeling it. Descartes’ descriptions were so emblematic, so vividly visible, that they eventually were adapted by the celebrated painter Charles Le Brun in the seventeenth century. The “Expressions of the Passions,” the study and compendium of emblematical facial expressions, translated Cartesian mechanical conceptualization of the passions into drawing.228 First published in English in 1710, the “Expressions of the Passions” suggested that the passions could be accurately copied and embodied by mimicking their physical expressions. The reduction of the passions to physiognomy explains the treatise’s utility and influence in painting and in the theater

226 René Descartes, The Passions of the Soul, trans. Stephen Voss (Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1989), a. 27.

227 Ibid., a. 115.

228 Joseph R. Roach, Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2001), 66. For more information about the possible sources for Charles Le Brun’s “Expressions,” see Jennifer Montagu’s The Expression of the Passions: The Origin and Influence of Charles le Brun’s Conférence sur l’expression générale et particulière (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1994).


during the eighteenth century, where clearly determined and identifiable passions became a handy catalogue for expressing and understanding the emotions.

Descartes and Le Brun’s systematization of the passions popularized the image of a series of bodies in the grip of predominant emotions. In fact the embodiment of these passions treated the figures as personifications: Le Brun’s images were accompanied by titles that translated the angry face into “Anger” and the frightened face into “Fear.” The drawings themselves, and not just their names, became emblematic of the passions for eighteenth-century artists – passions that when they become embodied take over the body. In the eighteenth century personification

“endorse[d] an impersonal way of expressing a feeling,” and its form carried “implicit claims about the knowability of emotions.”229 In other words, the passions were knowable, impersonal and transpersonal emotional states – as they were dissected and catalogued in Aristotle, Descartes, Hume and Smith – and could be imagined as personifications because the passions were physical performances of emotion.

Because the passions in the eighteenth century were produced by physical processes and manifested physically, emotions made an individual’s character visible to others. Their systematization in Le Brun and literary tradition allowed them to be readily understood and shared. Treatises on acting borrowed Descartes’ and Le

Brun’s vocabulary of the passions and physiognomy; the frontispiece of Aaron Hill’s

An Essay on the Art of Acting (c. 1749), published posthumously, promises “an

ANALYSIS, whereby the Manner in which any particular Passion is to be expressed may be instantly seen, with References to its Definition, &c.”230 Thomas Betterton’s

229 Pinch, Strange Fits, 45.

230 Aaron Hill, An essay on the art of acting; in which, the dramatic passions are properly defined and described, with applications of the rules peculiar to each, and selected passages for practice. London, [1779]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. Columbia University. 27 Mar. 2014.


The History of the English Stage (1741) exhorts actors to follow Le Brun’s physiognomical advice, paying special attention to the eyebrows.231 The clear expression of the passions on the stage was important for an effective actor to master because the audience itself was also well versed in the physical appearance of the passions.232 The doctrine of the passions was felt and disseminated in the eighteenth century through widely circulated theatrical and philosophical ideas. These ideas were so available that even Partridge, whose ignorant sensibility Fielding gently mocks in

Tom Jones, correctly diagnoses the changes in David Garrick’s face upon seeing the ghost in Hamlet – the expression of fear that is reconfigured into sadness.

Like the theatrical character, which comes to life by the reproduction of its gestures and countenance, personification is invested in the exterior reproduction of its meaning. Within these strictures it is possible to see how Fielding really does understand character as farcical and performative as well as allegorical. The most persuasive critics of Fielding’s characters have not only come to terms with but also reimagined ways that characters’ exteriorities do the work of expressing. Robert Alter describes the experience of reading Fielding’s characters as turning their “flat, clear surfaces…over to see the other side of the surface showing.”233 Likewise Leopold

Damrosch, Jr. describes Fielding’s characters as “the sum of visible actions and decisions.”234 Alter and Damrosch’s readings rightly weigh the importance of the

231 Cited in Alan T. McKenzie’s “The Countenance You Show Me: Reading the Passions in Eighteenth Century Author(s),” The Georgia Review 32, 4 (Winter 1978): 766, accessed August 28, 2013.

232 Alan T. McKenzie, Certain, Lively Episodes: The Articulation of Passion in Eighteenth- Century Prose (Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1990), 12.

233 Alter, Fielding and the Nature of the Novel, 78-9.

234 Leopold Damrosch, Jr., God’s Plot & Man’s Stories: Studies in the Fictional Imagination from Milton to Fielding (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1985), 267.


external lives of Fielding’s characters as part of their interior lives because their interior lives – their emotional and mental states – are already visible, as it were, on their exterior. As Trapwit, the writer of a comedic play within the play of Fielding’s

Pasquin, exhorts his actor: “Oh! Dear Sir, seem a little more affected, I beseech you; advance to the Front of the Stage, make a low Bow, lay your Hand upon your Heart, fetch a deep Sigh, and pull out your Handkerchief!”235

Mrs. Heartfree, whose essential goodness is performed, is frequently misread in the novel as an actress –not because she is an apt mimic of intense emotions, but because she feels them. Mrs. Heartfree’s ability to occasion misreading is so frequently dramatized in the novel that the description of her narrative offers . By my count, Mrs. Heartfree suffers the attentions of no fewer than six men,

Wild included: the French captain, the English captain, Count la Ruse, the hermit, and the African mayor. There is something symptomatic about Mrs. Heartfree’s expression of gratitude that yields to the repetition of misunderstanding. The description of her travels, where her expressions of gratitude are always met with amorous advances, encourages us to think that Wild’s misreading is not entirely founded on the hero’s inability to identify moral approbation. As McKeon sees it,

Mrs. Heartfree is too savvy: she too easily acquires nautical terms and acts the part of seductress in her travels. But these changes in Mrs. Heartfree’s conduct seem to leave the core of her personification intact. It’s central to Mrs. Heartfree’s character that while her essential nature seems theatrical, exaggerated, sparkling and, therefore, hypocritical, her attempts at acting fall flat. In one of the many scenes of seduction, she thinks up a “Stratagem” to “put on a constrained Air of Gayety” and with an

235 Henry Fielding, Pasquin in Plays, Vol. III, ed. Thomas Lockwood (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2011), 256.


“affected Laugh” encourages the Captain’s drinking so that she can escape him.236

But the adjectives “affected” and “constrained” betray the mediocrity of her execution, and her attempts to impersonate are at once discovered by Count La Ruse:

How shall I describe the Tumult of Passions which then laboured in my

Breast! However, as I was happily unknown to him, the least Suspicion on his

Side was altogether impossible. He imputed, therefore, the Eagerness with

which I gazed on the Jewels, to a very wrong Cause, and endeavoured to put

as much additional Softness into his Countenance as he was able. My Fears

were a little quieted, and I was resolved to be very liberal of Promises, and

hoped so thoroughly to persuade him of my Venality, that he might, without

any Doubt, be drawn in to wait the Captain and Crew’s Return, who would, I

was very certain, not only preserve me from his Violence, but secure the

Restoration of what you had been so cruelly robbed of. But alas! I was

mistaken….When he perceived I declined the Warmth of his Addresses, he

changed at once the Tone of his Features, and, in a very different Voice from

what he had hitherto affected, he swore, I should not deceive him as I had the

Captain; that Fortune had kindly thrown an Opportunity in his Way, which he

was resolved not foolishly to lose.237

Once again, we witness a critical misreading of her character: Mrs. Heartfree’s recognition of her husband’s jewelry is understood as greed. Count La Ruse, like

Jonathan Wild, can only grasp the farcical intensity of Mrs. Heartfree’s expression, her “Eagerness,” and not its content. But once she attempts to reproduce the intensity

– of “Venality,” since the desire for riches seems consonant with the desire for sex in

236 Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 158.

237 Ibid., 166.


Jonathan Wild – she fails. She can profess desire, having “resolved to be very liberal of Promises,” but that does not constitute good acting; the description of Count La

Ruse’s manipulation of “the Tone of his Features” and his “very different Voice” only serves to promptly categorize her professions as a novice’s shortcomings.

The difference between affectation and extreme passion is difficult to pinpoint because both the passions and affectation are moments of performance. More precisely, the misreading in the novel seems to be produced by two interrelated factors: that the performance of affectation is too legible (according to Fielding) and that of extreme passion is too illegible (according to Smith). Though published after

Fielding’s death, Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) remains the best eighteenth-century account of the way a tempered form of emotional performance was necessary for moral and social health. The “Essay,” unlike Smith’s nuanced philosophical work, rather betrays Fielding’s magisterial temperament that privileges the discovery of hypocrisy through evidence over understanding its causes and motivations. For Smith, social performances are intrinsic not only in the creation of moral compasses because we learn to interiorize the performance of others, but also for the expression of sympathy, which cements social interactions.238 Central to

Smith’s theory is the view that emotional expression doesn’t have to be a real and true demonstration of one’s feelings. Instead, expression needs to be appropriate in order to be socially useful and to engender sympathy. Smith famously describes the importance of decorum in our emotional expressions, saying that “The propriety of every passion excited by objects peculiarly related to ourselves, the pitch which the spectator can go along with, must lie, it is evident, in a certain mediocrity. If the

238 Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, eds. D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), III.1.3.


passion is too high, or if it is to low, he cannot enter into it.”239 For others to feel sympathy, we must “bring [the passion] down to what others can enter into!”240

Because affectation and extreme passion are performed with a similar vivacity and intensity, the characters in Fielding’s novel seem to automatically categorize the visible gusts of emotion as affectation, since extreme emotion is impossible to, as Smith writes, “enter into.” The vivid characterization of Fielding’s allegories causes all sorts of problems for the characters in Jonathan Wild but also for the readers who are challenged to read the novel with two different sets of interpretive injunctions: On the one hand, the passions are manifested physically and essentially in his characters; on the other, everyone performs – and the farcical performance overshadows the physical manifestation of the passions. By casting physical expression of the passions as a type of performance, Fielding frames all characters as performers and, more damningly, even his allegorical characters. The issue with using allegory in the novel centers on allegory’s extreme vivacity – an allegory that is not only illegible in real life, as theorized by Smith, but also is a figure that becomes especially illegible in the novel.


The idea that allegory is illegible is not the normative account of allegory in the eighteenth century. Clifford Siskin, in reading eighteenth-century personifications in

Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson’s poetry, theorizes that

239 Ibid., 34.

240 Ibid., 31.


The personification of abstract human faculties or attributes requires the

transplantation of a part of the body of the individual (e.g., each man’s reason)

to the body of the community (e.g. Reason as a standard faculty shared by all).

Personification and generalizing are, in that sense, interrelated processes. In

rhetorical terms, personifications of this sort function as a metonymic

affirmation of community; the parts personified stand for the uniformity of

their wholes. 241

Because personifications draw meaning from a communal and social understanding of the passions that they represent, the employment of allegory requires a communal and stable consensus. Allegory and personification as social currency – stable, legible, and usefully fungible – is a more usual configuration of the figure. John Mullan’s account of the passions as legible and stable, for example, helps him argue that the passions were not only characterized as contagious in the eighteenth century, but they were also marked by their communicability.242

Like these allegories that create social consonance, Fielding’s allegorical characters can provide immediate recognition. James Sly and Thomas Fierce remain types in Jonathan Wild because they remain unexamined by the narrator. Fielding’s more complex characters, however, are nested in proliferating exteriors. Even when we get past a character’s affectation, he or she is more an allegory or type: As he writes in “An Essay,” “Imposture, is ever endeavouring to peep forth and shew herself; nor can the Cardinal, the Friar, or the Judge, long conceal the Sot, the

241 Clifford Siskin, The Historicity of Romantic Discourse (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 69.

242 John Mullan, Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 23-24.


Gamester, or the Rake.”243 A character’s subtler and finer nature is actually subsumed, once again, by “the Sot, the Gamester, or the Rake.” We only trade one set of type or allegory for another. In the attempt to find an essence in Fielding’s character, we only find more exteriors. Once Fielding looks closer at the eminently readable, socially defined character, his or her legibility melts away. Fielding renders complexity in his characters not by prying into their psychological interiority, but by peeling away the multiple layers of socially legible, communicable identities.

The illegibility of virtuous allegories like Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree in part originates from Fielding’s distrust of public demonstrations and avowals of virtue. In

Jonathan Wild Fielding creates a character who is completely turned toward the public eye and, because of it, is coherent and legible. This is why Fielding describes

Wild as a consummate actor, who can easily act out the passions necessary for his stratagems. His countenance is as changeable as an actor’s, and Fielding claims that his ability to change his exterior makes him a successful hypocrite and is an integral part of his career of conning the government, his fellow thieves, and his victims. Wild has an almost violent ability to conform the muscles of his face to an emotion that he is not feeling: “[A]s he had that perfect Mastery of his Temper, or rather, of his

Muscles, which is as necessary to form a GREAT Character as to personate it on the

Stage, he soon conveyed a Smile into his Countenance, and concealing as well his

Misfortune as his Chagrin at it, began to pay honourable Addresses to Miss Letty.”244

Wild’s ambition and self-interest make him an especially stable character. A.

O. Hirschman describes the transformation of the one passion, “greed,” into an acceptable mercantile trait, “interest,” as a useful counteraction against the more

243 Ibid., 155.

244 Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 59.


violent and harmful passions in the eighteenth century.245 According to Hirschman, ambition, avarice, or greed – passions neutrally categorized under the concept of

“interest” as a countermeasure to the sensual and violent passions – rendered human interaction predictable and constant:

On the one hand, therefore, if a man pursues his interest, he himself will do

well since, by definition, ‘interest will not lie to him or deceive him’—that

was the very meaning of the proverb. On the other hand, there is an advantage

for others in his pursuing his interest, for his course of action becomes thereby

transparent and predictable almost as though he were a wholly virtuous


Jonathan Wild has become proficient at calculating how people in the novel act because their self-interest allows them to become eminently readable – “transparent and predictable.” Interest – or, more specifically, self-interest – is the logical underpinning of the novel, leading not to a “wholly virtuous person,” but to a still coherent identity, a wholly immoral person.

Nonetheless, the coherence of self-interested actors is particularly important in

Jonathan Wild, where calculations are crucial for the art of “Politricks.” Wild, for all his ability to impersonate and deceive, was so coherent in fact that the narrator takes pride in the fact that his hero, like Alexander the Great, constitutes the “Picture of

Greatness”– or “the uniform Greatness of ancient Heroes.”247 Jonathan Wild is consistent as a character because, as the narrator explains at the close of the novel,

“his most powerful and predominant Passion was Ambition, so nature had with

245 A. O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977). 246 Ibid., 50.

247 Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 8.


consummate Propriety, adapted all his Faculties to the attaining those glorious Ends, to which this Passion directed him.”248 The single mindedness of Wild and Alexander the Great is what renders them open for satirical attacks from Fielding (and before him, Swift), who reinterpreted their devotion to ambition as madness. Placed opposite from Jonathan Wild are the Heartfrees, characters that represent the “Weakness of modern…Heroes,” the “Frailty of human Nature.”249 It’s counterintuitive for us to think of Jonathan Wild, a historical, novelistic character, as a more coherent character than Heartfree, say, because he is not allegorical and, to be honest, not boring. But unlike what seems to be consensus among critics, for example, Frances Ferguson who explains the problem with personification in that it assumes that “there is a stable form to be projected on the world of abstractions,” rendering humanness with

“specious stability,” Fielding seems to understand allegorical characters not as coherent figures; instead, they are figures that truly represent the inconsistency of the passions.250

One factor that makes eighteenth-century allegories unstable in the novel is the century’s preoccupation with and commitment to empirical knowledge.251 In the still influential account of Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel, the novel accommodates the empirical dictates of observation and the recording of mundane experience; in

248 Ibid., 189.

249 Ibid., 8.

250 Frances Ferguson, Wordsworth: Language as Counter Spirit (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1977), 27-28.

251 In particular, Kelley argues that the eighteenth century’s investment in Lockean empiricism, with its foundation in observable phenomena, rendered fantastical allegorical representations suspicious and unscientific. Kelley uses eighteenth-century criticism that prescribed mechanical or didactic allegory to buttress her argument, but the anxiety in the criticism of these moving allegories just underscores how vivid and unpredictable these allegories were felt to be. See Kelley, Reinventing Allegory, 3.


other words, the realist novel requires faith in the perception and understanding of experience through one’s senses.252 Watt’s argument yokes the rise of the eighteenth- century novel to the emergence of realist literary conventions. It therefore provides less space to imagine the ways allegory might work in the budding tradition of realist fiction. The Rise of the Novel tends to strip the allegorical aspects from the works studied, from Robinson Crusoe to Pamela, aspects that many scholars have since tried to rescue.253 But even Jonathan Wild, which cannot be classified as a realist novel at all, visibly engages with the pressures of empirical ideas. The opening chapter of the novel charts the narrator’s ambivalence about biographical writing – a type of writing that will later become more affiliated with realist description. The narrator, who we can call, perhaps, a mad projector in the vein of Jonathan Swift’s satires, pays lip service to the dictates of biographical writing (he even includes one short-lived slip of

Wild’s mask), but nostalgically yearns for the “perfect or consummate Pattern of human Virtue” – such as those of a thoroughly villainous “Brutus, a Lysander or a

Nero.”254 Regardless of Fielding’s portrayal of the novel as a purely allegorical narrative, this is an allegory that needs to answer empiricist demands.

The tension that allegory highlights in the novel, therefore, is that allegorical representation and its imagining are simultaneously founded on empirical ideas of physiognomy yet threatened by empirical observation itself. How personifications become unreadable in the novel has to do with the way that allegorical representation

252 Watt, The Rise of the Novel, 12.

253 For major critical contributions that qualify the “rise of the novel” narrative as the rise of realism, see Martin C. Battestin, The Providence of Wit: Aspects of Form in Augustan Literature and the Arts (Oxford University Press: London, 1974); Leopold Damrosch, Jr., God’s Plot & Man’s Stories: Studies in the Fictional Imagination from Milton to Fielding (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1985); J. Paul Hunter, The Reluctant Pilgrim: Defoe’s Emblematic Method and Quest for Form in Robinson Crusoe (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1966).

254 Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 8.


feels different from the characters and the landscape that surround it in the novel. Its insistent and theatrical articulation – of gratitude, of goodness, or virtue – is felt doubly as farce and as impersonation. Allegorical description and its intensities seem to require a secondary method of interpretation that is at odds with the primary interpretive framework of the realist novel. It’s the simultaneous requirement of both that produces unreadable, almost paradoxical characters in Jonathan Wild. Mrs.

Heartfree is at once transparent (she cannot act and, instead, is bound to express her real emotions) as well as opaque (everyone misreads her real expressions for something else). Fielding’s introduction of Mr. Heartfree is as open, sincere, honest as well as strangely vague at the same time:

Mr. Thomas Heartfree then (for that was his Name) was of an honest and open

Disposition. He was of that Sort of Men, whom Experience only, and not their

own Natures, must inform that there are such things as Deceit and Hypocrisy

in the World; and who, consequently, are not at five and twenty as difficult to

be imposed upon as the oldest and most subtile. He was possessed of several

great Weaknesses of Mind; being good-natured, friendly, and generous to a

great Excess.255

To open Heartfree’s character all Fielding has to do is say his name; this bespeaks the remarkable efficiency of allegorical characters. But Fielding’s introduction to

Heartfree is anything but efficient. The verbosity in glossing Heartfree’s name seems rather unnecessary, and the elaboration of Mr. Heartfree’s “honest and open

Disposition” and, later in the same paragraph, his “fair and Honest Heart,” borders on prolixity.256 The adjectives fall flat on the ear – of course he’s honest, open, fair. As if

255 Ibid., 51.

256 Ibid.


mirroring the verbal tics of the introduction, Mr. Heartfree himself is “possessed of several great Weaknesses of mind; being good-natured, friendly, and generous to a great Excess.” The “great Excess” of his abundant goodness is, perhaps, what the narrator wants to capture with adjectival layering. But it is also true that the attempt to tell us repeatedly of his character’s goodness betrays some anxiety that Heartfree might not appear to be fair, open, or honest. The descriptive excess does two paradoxical things simultaneously: First, it tries to capture the intensity of allegorical representation through repetition. Mr. Heartfree is so exceedingly open and honest that Fielding can only describe the character’s all-consuming trait by layering descriptors. Second, it tries to anchor Mr. Heartfree firmly to the right adjectives, as if to preclude their misreading, but instead ends up protesting too much. It’s the relationship of exaggeration and impersonation in Mr. Heartfree’s characterization that determines him as a farcical allegory.

This insistence on Mr. Heartfree’s good nature is awkward – and not only because it is accentuated by the narrator’s commentary with the words, “for that was his Name” in parenthesis, as if allegory were an embarrassment. Indeed, Fielding does a similar apologetic, parenthetical shuffle when he introduces Blear-Eyed Moll, the personification of venery, in his last novel Amelia: “Her Eye (for she had but one) whence she derived her Nick-name was such, as that Nick-name bespoke.” His introduction of Mr. Heartfree’s “Nature,” which is defined by a negative attribute – its inability to conceive of hypocrisy or deceit – makes Thomas Heartfree both aggressively defined and strangely vague. Indeed, this negative attribute accounts for the education that Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree must endure at the hands of Jonathan Wild;

Mr. Heartfree’s “Nature,” according to the narrator, is one that needs to be finished by

“Experience.” Mr. Heartfree is an allegory in need of education; or Mr. Heartfree is


an allegory caught in the novel’s net of experiences, forces that shape one’s character.

Fielding’s belief in the empiricist tenet that a man’s life shapes his character is first articulated and then qualified. The possibility of change in a personification is striking and even provocative, but as quickly dissolved by another negative assertion.

Fielding’s subsequent litotes – “who are not at five and twenty as difficult to be imposed upon as the older and most subtile” – suggests that the older Mr. Heartfree would still be imposed on, though less easily, than his younger iteration. The change in Mr. Heartfree’s nature is phrased as a mere matter of degree. However slight this change in the nature of Fielding’s personifications – or, rather, their susceptibility to experience – it is a mechanism or novelistic pressure by which Fielding’s allegories become unfixed from the stability normally associated with seventeenth-century allegories.

Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree’s vivacity are such that the only person who does not mistake them is Friendly, a man without a history, a stranger without any psychology, who is entirely defined by his allegorical ability to be the friend of the novel’s protagonists. Friendly, in that sense, is the closest we can find to Bunyan’s brand of personification, so particularly attentive to Mr. Heartfree’s ills that we readers can only question his sincerity. In this transposition of Bunyan’s character into the novel, we can see how fiercely uncompromising and strangely enthusiastic personification can look to those steeped in the world of Jonathan Wild. Friendly, who at the end of the novel marries the Heartfrees’ eldest daughter, becomes part of the “Family of

Love,” as their neighbors will call them. The designation is Fielding’s safe containment of allegory at the end of the novel, quarantining allegory away from other characters, but it is also a joke that aligns allegorical purity with religious enthusiasm, since the Family of Love was a Christian sect associated with the


Quakers that believed in the possibility of recovering innocence in the fallen world.257

In Fielding’s novel, Friendly’s quaint quality suggests that allegory is of a different age and quality than that we encounter in his novels. Allegory can only survive without suspicion in the novel when it is contained, distant, and unexamined. Friendly only remains a strict personification because he remains merely functional in the novel, rather than a real character. He is so little described that we know him only through what he does – and, even then, his singlemindedness invites suspicion from us readers. He is caught between the demands of being a functional and a farcical personification: Even Friendly’s innocuous actions come under suspicion because of his fervor – that unwavering and pure resolve that undergirds religious conviction.

That Friendly is the sole character who can grasp the Heartfrees’ sincerity suggests that Fielding, at some level, understands that personifications can only be understood in the framework of a medieval or seventeenth-century religious allegory.

The extreme flatness of Friendly shocks the reader into acknowledging the generic disturbances that Fielding engages with in the novel, but also the complexity with which Fielding endows Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree’s motivations, actions, and moral nature. If Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree are different from Friendly, it’s because they can be said to show how personifications are formed by novelistic and empirical pressures, while Friendly remains untouched by them.

The farcical allegories in the novel render confusion, instability, opacity, but its representational technique also deepens characters that could have easily fallen into type. Fielding’s characterization of the Heartfrees seems to betray his understanding of the limits of empirical observation; however his satire targets a mode of understanding that is blind to the essential, professed goodness of people and

257 Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (London: Penguin Books, 1972, 1991), 27.


characters. That the intensity of Mrs. Heartfree’s protestations and her characterization is enough that she becomes integrated in the world of Jonathan Wild to the point that its hero cannot distinguish her from Molly Straddle (the prostitute) or

Laetitia Snap (Wild’s promiscuous wife). But that Mrs. Heartfree can be so entirely misunderstood betrays a sadness about the world beset by theatrical performances. If allegorical description’s brilliance and vivacity suggest hypocrisy for the empirical, physiognomical mind, it’s equally the case that we see in Jonathan Wild a critique of empirical interpretation. Fielding’s treatment of personifications suggests that the novel – the strange form where empirical and the moral imperatives intersect – is more successful in portraying hypocrisy, as a technique of creating depth, than sincerity. That we can also impute hypocrisy to sincere characters has to do with the fact that the techniques of novelistic description encourage a particular type of interpretation from its readers. In contrast to this type of reading, the celebrated painter William Hogarth describes in The Analysis of Beauty (published 1753) that

“the character of an hypocrite is entirely out of the power of the [artist’s] pencil.”258

The observation helps explain why allegory is so readily translated or reproduced into the visual arts, since allegory is antithetical to hypocrisy. Fielding’s novels, which he defined in relation to the Ridiculous – and, in particular, to the unmasking of affectation and hypocrisy – take up this problem of representation with a crucial difference. For Fielding, the most expedient and damnable way to represent hypocrisy with his pen is to show its need to be registered as allegory. All characters that seem allegorically coherent are suspect of hypocrisy. “Nature is seldom so kind as those

258 William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, ed. Joseph Burke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), 137. Fielding makes a similar point using different terminology in the Preface of Joseph Andrews, “for the Monstrous [which he correlates with burlesque] is much easier to paint than describe, and the Ridiculous [or comedy] to describe than paint.” See Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews, ed. Martin Battestin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 6.


Writers who draw Characters absolutely perfect. She seldom creates any Man so completely GREAT, or completely low, but that some Sparks of Humanity will glimmer in the former, and some Sparks of what the Vulgar call Evil, will dart forth in the latter…for I apprehend, no Mind was ever yet formed entirely free from

Blemish, unless peradventure that of a sanctified Hypocrite, whose Praises a well-fed

Flatterer hath gratefully thought proper to sing forth.”259 Fielding’s farcical allegories, then, cut straight to the problem of reproducing the sincere and transparent in fiction, a form that originated from the strange mixture of history and fiction, the unbelievable adventures of Robinson Crusoe and Lemuel Gulliver, and whose main purpose is to tell stories. All of Fielding’s characters, allegorical or not, have to negotiate with the representation of sincerity and insincerity, of personifying and impersonating. But it is especially with characters who have a stronger allegorical bent, whose sincere fervor makes them represent themselves forcefully, that the clash with the empirical demands of the novel can be felt, and where we can most clearly see the ways that allegory’s vivacious representation fails.

259 Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 149.



While the first chapter of the dissertation locates in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s

Progress the type of personification that would pop up in eighteenth-century prose fictions, the last three chapters describe the negotiation of allegorical characterization in a satire (A Tale of a Tub), an epistolary novel (Pamela), and in prose fiction that is only arguably a novel (Jonathan Wild). The purpose of the dissertation was to chart a particular type of allegorical representation at a time when novelistic conventions were only yet emerging and being developed. But it is by seeing allegorical representation in the novel proper that the productive problems that personifications occasion in fiction after the 1750s become strikingly visible. In this conclusion I study

Henry Fielding’s last novel Amelia (1751) as a limit case of allegorical representation in the novel. In it, I suggest that allegorically inflected characters in the novel – one that is not only conscious of its form, but is also negotiating with the parameters of its form – leads to highly unreadable characters. If in Jonathan Wild, Fielding understood allegorical characters as a version of the passion’s predominance over a character, in Amelia allegory has become a way to imagine the passions as a form – as a type of style – that is highly transferable, formal, and impersonal. This type of characterization provides a partial explanation of the strangeness of Fielding’s last novel.

Amelia, the product of Henry Fielding’s mature imagination, is a very different novel from Jonathan Wild (published 1743 but probably composed earlier).

His last novel Amelia is more closely related in form and tone to Fielding’s later novels Joseph Andrews (1742) and his masterpiece Tom Jones (1749). Walter Scott called Amelia the sequel of Tom Jones, in that the former chronicles the adventures of


a happily married couple, and Fielding’s treatment of characters in Amelia seems more akin to Tom Jones and Squire Allworthy – as good enough characters who fall into error by either their incorrigible nature or the misleading of other people.

Alternatively, Amelia’s sentimental plot and tenor have been read as responses to

Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa (1747-48); and, in that way, the critical reception of

Amelia has attempted to understand it in relation to other novels, as if we could only grasp it through a multiple, critical refraction. Indeed, providing a cogent account of this novel is difficult. Jill Campbell attributes the novel’s recalcitrance to the

“disorienting process of shifting perspectives” that it espouses.260 Terry Castle studies the novel as an intricate masquerade – not only because two of its central scenes occur at one, but more importantly because the novel so insistently dramatizes the feeling of uncertainty, especially in relation to the novel’s characters, that “Amelia resists recuperation as a unified artistic whole.”261 Indeed, Fielding was well aware of this striking change in characterization, inserting apologies and explanations of what may seem to be “unnatural and inconsistent” actions for his characters.262

In this conclusion I suggest that the inconsistency of characterization in

Amelia can be partly understood not only by Fielding’s ambivalence about the role of the passions in forming the characters of men and women, but especially as it relates to the way allegorical representation signifies in the novel. Reading Amelia as the continuation of the experiments in characterization that Fielding began in Jonathan

Wild works especially well because of the novels’ striking similarities. A few

260 Jill Campbell, Natural Masques: Gender and Identity in Fielding’s Plays and Novels (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), 226-7.

261 Terry Castle, Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986), 186.

262 Henry Fielding, Amelia, ed. Martin C. Battestin (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1983), 181.


plotlines in Jonathan Wild resurface in Amelia as well as those scenes of tender domesticity and sentimentality between parents and their children. Central to both novels are protagonists that suffer at the hands of not only the individuals who prey on them, but also the inefficiency of the legal system; the two novels diagnose a systemic hypocrisy. Both novels touch on Fielding’s own life, which includes confinement for debt in a sponging house in 1740. Both novels revolve around the adventures of a happily married couple that resist adventures and who are thrust into them by swindlers in the novels. While Tom Jones’ cousin Blifil is an exemplary specimen of hypocrisy, this hypocrisy seems self-contained in Tom Jones – a novel that revels in mistakes, missed connections, and accidents rather than intentional misdirection. In Amelia our protagonists like the Heartfrees are surrounded by questionable characters: Captain James, Mrs. James, the Lord, and even the laudable

Mrs. Bennet (later Mrs. Atkinson) are all guilty of manipulating Captain Booth and his wife Amelia for their own gain. However it is also important to note important differences that the rewriting of Jonathan Wild as Amelia highlights. Unlike

Fielding’s first novel, Amelia bears no characters with allegorical names, and those that do appear in its first edition, such as Justice Jonathan Thrasher, Mr. Arsenic, Dr.

Dosewell, are excised in the second edition or left behind after the first two chapters.

In that way the novel adheres more closely to what will later become conventions of the realist novel. Booth and Amelia, unlike Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree, are not allegorical characters in name. But like all the characters that Fielding creates, the characters in

Amelia seem to contain an allegorical kernel in their description. They are seen and described from the outside; their exterior expresses who they are and, in that very loose sense, they are allegorical. And whilst Amelia’s protagonists have shed


allegorical naming, they are close descendants of Mr. and Mrs. Heartfree with their marked sincerity of expression.

My reluctance to describe the interior state of characters (and to engage with it as the privileged way of analyzing literary characters) is finally rewarded in Amelia – a novel that consistently describes its characters from the outside. In it, Fielding pushes the project of reading character to the brink, showing us characters whose intense emotions are experienced serially and swiftly. If Amelia shows us how allegory fails in the novel, it does so by paying too much attention to the variety of passions that a character embodies in one day. The problems of Amelia’s inconsistencies are the problems that Laurence Sterne would devise as narrative method in Tristram Shandy: that the limit case of empirical observation leads to incomprehensibility. While allegory in the previous decades provided a formal way of describing a particular type of opacity – one that obscured by meaning too insistently, too intensely, Amelia shows how the careful delineation of emotional states can lead to illegibility – one produced by the narrator’s hyperliteracy, which is able to read and make visible the nuances of his characters’ emotional states.


The story of Amelia is the story of bad theory. Captain Booth, the hero of the novel, lives and understands life in accordance to the Doctrine of the Passions, which asserts

“that every Man acted merely from the Force of that Passion which was uppermost in his Mind, and could do no otherwise” (32). More generally, Booth explains his vision

“that all Men act entirely from their Passions” (114). By the time Fielding wrote

Amelia, David Hume’s description of the workings of human psychology in the


Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) and the more popular Enquiry Concerning

Human Understanding (1748) were widely circulated and debated. Hume’s description of the workings of the passions, more fully developed in his earlier

Treatise, most probably shaped Fielding’s theory of characterization in Amelia.

Hume’s skepticism about the ascendancy of reason in our lives, most notoriously expressed in the assertion that “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions,” suggests that only the passions can provide unwavering motivations for human actions.263 In ascribing the Doctrine of the Passions to Captain Booth,

Fielding’s intention is to satirize Hume’s model of human behavior; but, as Martin

Battestin has persuasively argued, Fielding’s use of the model consistently throughout the novel as well as the unsatisfactory conversion of Captain Booth at its end show an ambivalence in Fielding’s investment in satirizing the Doctrine of the Passions.264

A sensitive reader of Fielding, Battestin is right in claiming that the Doctrine of the

Passions is not held up in the novel merely as a negative model of human morality.

After all, Fielding, as I have shown in my previous chapter, has great investments in reading the passions as a way of understanding and representing character. If characters burst into momentary allegory in Amelia it’s as much a legacy of Humean ideas of personality as it is indicative of theories that Fielding believed in before

Hume’s theories became notorious in Europe.

Fielding can be heavy handed about the way his characters’ overriding passions cast them as allegories. While the characters in Amelia do not have allegorical names, they do have allegorical moments when the character is

263 David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Ed. David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 2.3.3, 266.

264 See Martin Battestin, “The Problem with Amelia: Hume, Barrow, and the Conversion of Captain Booth,” English Literary History 41, no. 4 (Winter, 1974): 635.


overwhelmed by a passion to the point of personification. Amelia, whose innocence preserves her from suspecting her husband’s short affair with Miss Matthews in prison, only exacerbates her husband’s feeling of guilt with her overwhelming kindness. Here the narrator praises Amelia’s innocence as if she embodied it – or housed it within – herself:

O Innocence, how glorious and happy a Portion art thou to the Breast that

possesses thee! Thou fearest neither the Eyes nor the Tongues of Men. Truth,

the most powerful of all things, is thy strongest Friend; and the brighter the

Light is in which thou art displayed, the more it discovers thy transcendent

Beauties. Guilt, on the contrary, like a base Thief, suspects every Eye that

beholds him to be privy to his Transgressions, and every Tongue that mentions

his Name to be proclaiming them. Fraud and Falsehood are his weak and

treacherous Allies; and he lurks trembling in the Dark, dreading every Ray of

Light, lest it should discover him, and give him up to Shame and Punishment.


By adding this commentary after a description of Booth and Amelia’s predominant qualities, innocence and guilt, the narrator nudges his characters into the realm of the allegorical. Indeed, the passage includes personifications: Innocence is friends with

Truth, it is displayed with Light, it fears nothing; Guilt suspects, Fraud and Falsehood are his allies, he lurks in the dark. But the narrator very strongly suggests that Amelia and Booth dramatize these allegorical qualities. The qualities of Guilt, his companions

“Fraud and Falsehood” and his enemies “Shame and Punishment” are psychologized and embodied. And just following this passage Booth himself leaves the house and seems himself to “lurk” out, carrying with him “all these Horrors in his Mind” (172).


Innocence and Guilt appear as stark, uncompromising qualities in Fielding’s fiction; and the passions have a lesser, but equally visible impact on the bodies of the novel’s protagonists. Like the Heartfrees in Jonathan Wild, Booth and Amelia cannot mask their countenance and become embodied by the passion they feel: “How impossible was it therefore for poor Booth to succeed in an Art for which Nature had so entirely disqualified him. His Countenance indeed confessed faster than his

Tongue denied; and the whole of his Behaviour gave Amelia an Alarm, and made her suspect something very bad happened” (213). The transparency of Booth’s mind – or to put it in another way, the mind’s immediate physical manifestations – renders him an ideal allegorical character. Captain Booth and Amelia act like allegorical characters because they cannot help it: Their bodies act out the passion that is uppermost in their minds.

Booth’s legibility is predictably (as I have been arguing in this dissertation) misread in the novel. Like the Heartfrees, this ability to transmit passions vividly leads to many misinterpretations. Booth has indeed done something unfortunate – he dueled his friend Colonel Bath – who, following his minor injury, was saved by a physician and was happily reconciled to Booth. But Amelia thinks something even more terrible has happened – that Booth had been charged by his creditors and would be once again imprisoned. Their physical legibility engenders a diffuse sense of alarm in the novel. Amelia misplaces Booth’s concern (he is concerned for their children when he is concerned about Miss Matthews’ threat to expose their affair), but she is correct in diagnosing the preoccupation.

The idea that characters are defined by an overriding passion – that they embody that passion so transparently as to become its embodiment – is recurrently imagined in Amelia. But unlike in Jonathan Wild, the embodiment of the passions is


not only misread. Instead, in Amelia it becomes impossible to get a coherent reading of Fielding’s characters, partly because the narrator keenly, minutely describes the characters’ various emotions. At the very beginning of the novel, before we get Booth or even Amelia’s story, we find ourselves the sympathetic audience of Miss

Matthews’ history. Booth finds Miss Matthews in prison, charged for the murder of a man. We learn quickly that this man was Miss Matthews’ seducer, named Hebbers, and that she, after finding out he had married a rich widow instead of her, tries to kill him with a penknife. (Miss Matthews is clearly a counterfactual version of

Richardson’s Clarissa.) She performs the role of the injured woman and exclaims:

“Murder! Oh! ’tis Music in my Ears.—You have heard then the Cause of my

Commitment, my Glory, my Delight, my Reparation!—Yes, my old Friend,

this is the Hand, this is the Arm that drove the Penknife to his Heart. Unkind

Fortune, that not one Drop of his Blood reached my Hand.—Indeed, Sir, I

never would have washed it from it.—But tho’ I have not the Happiness to see

it on my Hand, I have the glorious Satisfaction of remembring I saw it run in

Rivers on the Floor; I saw it forsake his Cheeks. I saw him fall a Martyr to my

Revenge…” (43)

Captain Booth watches her with a similar horror that Partridge betrays when he watches the performance of Hamlet in Tom Jones. Like that of Miss Matthews’ lover,

Booth’s blood also “forsake[s] his Cheeks” – Booth “turn[s] pale with Horror at this

Speech” (43). Booth inserts himself in the story like an immersive reader or audience member, which is a testament to the soundness of his sympathy, but the uncanny similarity Booth shares with Hebbers also foretells his position as a Miss Matthews’ future lover. Booth’s reaction to Miss Matthews only highlights the form of her theatricality: “her voice, her Looks, her Gestures, were properly adapted to the


Sentiments she exprest. Such indeed was her Image, that neither could Shakespeare, nor Hogarth paint, nor Clive could act a Fury in higher Perfection” (43).

Fielding’s description mimics eighteenth-century actors’ ability to hold “a climactic tableau indefinitely,” for which Garrick was famous and which forced theatrical characters into momentary sculptures and, in this case, an allegorical

“Image” or tableau of a Fury.265 Miss Matthews’ allegorical posing is rendered suspicious by the fact that her talent to embody different theatrical figures also makes her adept at deploying the signs of affection, which Fielding casts almost as affectation: “Her Eyes, the most eloquent Orators on such Occasions, exerted their utmost Force; and at the Conclusion of his Speech, she cast a Look as languishingly sweet, as ever Cleopatra gave to Anthony” (51). The description of “her Eyes,” unlike

Mrs. Heartfree’s “sparkling Eyes” or even Amelia’s “bright Eyes,” suggests motivated seduction. Her eyes speak – they’re “the most eloquent Orators” – because she wants them to, and that she purposefully “cast a Look,” with its angling metaphor, implies that her use of theatrical models of seduction is purposeful.

Nonetheless, theatrical roles are in Amelia acceptable models for imagining the self: Booth and Amelia exchange lines from William Congreve’s play The

Mourning Bride to express genuine emotion.266 Fielding also recognizes that Miss

Matthews’ feelings for Booth, who had been her first love, are likewise genuine, putting the artificiality of her “languishingly sweet” in question. And, indeed, the impersonal nature of theatrical emotions in itself is not morally suspect in the novel.

In her study of eighteenth-century theater, Lisa Freeman explains how impersonality

265 Joseph Roach, The Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1993), 69. For an extended discussion of the relationship between posing and the study of sculpture, see pages 67-69.

266 See Fielding, Amelia, 84.


heightened the enjoyment of theater in eighteenth-century audiences. In opposition to the novel, whose form “aspires to produce a representation of interiority…. to render the inner depths,” plays written in the eighteenth century show what Freeman identifies as a “curious lack of depth in characterization.”267 Theatrical characters were seen as artificial, typical, and allegorical constructions. For Freeman, the myriad surfaces of an actor’s performance created the complexity that eighteenth-centuryists so eagerly sought out in the theater. Miss Matthews’ gestures embody the artificiality and allegorical quality of theatrical moments – the theatricality that Fielding’s allegorical characters seem to have inherited.

But most striking about Miss Matthews’ being seized by passion is that she forfeits a definite sense of self. While emotions or the passions might be understood as indissoluble from subjectivity, since they are considered as part of a person’s character, emotions make Miss Matthews not representative of herself but of keenly impersonal states that can be typified. In her study of emotions in the theoretical works of Jacques Derrida and , Rei Terada provides acute readings of

Derrida’s Rousseau, especially in its discovery of an impersonal emotion. Terada explains the force of the passions, “Of course passion’s very force makes it seem compulsive. Thus passion drives intentional subjectivity to its self-undoing in senseless vigor—an undoing that does not have to be figured as decadent excess, but can be conceived as an interior limit of volition. Passion, therefore, characterizes the nonsubjectivity within the very concept of the subject.”268 For Terada, the passions show us the “interior limit” of subjectivity; the passions are not expressions of Miss

267 Lisa Freeman, Character’s Theater: Genre and Identity on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), 7.

268 Rei Terada, Feeling in Theory: Emotion after the “Death of the Subject” (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 5.


Matthews’ singularity, her individual nature, but rather an impersonal state that makes it especially difficult to pinpoint the nature of Miss Matthews.

This version of emotion defines Terada’s understanding of theatricality (in

Rousseau) as a central metaphor and mechanism for the way emotions are understood and negotiated between individuals. If emotions are conceived as impersonal, then the theater’s power to move us, which subjects the audience to a variety of impersonal emotions, can be explained in terms that are opposite from identification. Samuel

Johnson had made a similar claim in the Preface to Shakespeare, “The delight of tragedy proceeds from our consciousness of fiction; if we thought murders and treasons real, they would please no more.”269 It is the distinction of fiction from ourselves – it is the distance of fiction – that gives theater its power. Terada explains it in this way: “The existence of emotion reflects not just the content of mental representations but the fact that they are representations. Rousseau considers this phenomenon under the name of theatricality—the arena in which representation appears as such. Emotion in Rousseau responds to theatrical cues, attempting to

‘interiorize’ them. Far from being diluted by representations of representations, then, emotions actually require them.”270 Terada’s description of Rousseau’s theatrical models of emotion can help us understand why it is that Fielding, in particular, but why eighteenth-centuryists more generally found in theatricality a central metaphor through which to understand the emotions’ required representation – a representation that is not indicative of fraud or the emotion’s inability to be real feeling, but an impersonality that requires some work to interiorize.

269 Samuel Johnson, “Preface to Shakespeare” in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, ed. Vincent B. Leitch (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001), 478.

270 Terada, Feeling in Theory, 18.


But we can see already that the Booths are not misinterpreted in the same way as the Heartfrees are in Fielding’s early fiction: Colonel James never believes that

Amelia’s joyful countenance means that she is truly in love with him. Instead, there is a feeling shared by the characters that surround the Booths that the passions can be transferred from one object to another – that the passions act like currency that is exchanged. For example, Miss Matthews’ love for Booth is not quenched but further kindled by his account of his love for Amelia. This process is explicitly described later in the novel. In discovering her marriage to Serjeant Atkinson, Mrs. Atkinson

(formerly Mrs. Bennet) explains to Amelia that it was her husband’s devotion to

Amelia that made her fall in love with him:

“And you really think,” said Amelia smiling, “that I shall forgive you robbing

me of such a Lover? Or, supposing what you banter me with, was true, do you

really imagine you could change such a Passion?”’

“No, my dear,” answered the other, “I only hope I have changed the

Object: For be assured, there is no greater vulgar Error, than that is impossible

for a Man who loves one Woman, ever to love another. On the contrary, it is

certain, that a Man who can love one Woman so well at a Distance, will love

another better that is nearer to him…These Passions which reside only in the

very amorous and very delicate Minds, feed only on the Delicacies there

growing; and leave all the substantial Food, and enough of the Delicacy too

for the Wife.” (306)

Mrs. Atkinson and Miss Matthews believe that love is transferable; it’s proof that a man can actually feel the sentiment, but it’s also a passion that is not tethered to a particular object. Love can be shared, Mrs. Atkinson believes, between the wife and another idealized woman. The quality of an unanchored passion leads to many


inconsistencies of character – for example, Mrs. James’ cold treatment of Amelia is divorced from her history with Amelia, and is guided by the “Art and Mummery” of the “finest Ladies” (343). For Mrs. James, their friendship merely found another object; she feels no sense of loss, because her passionate regard was never tethered to a particular person. This is, indeed, the essential characters of both Colonel James and the Lord are defined by the way their passions are constantly in search of new objects

– in, their case, a variety of women. The transferability of the passions proves to be mostly unsuccessful in the novel. Booth, for example, never transfers his regard and love from Amelia to Miss Matthews. Amelia’s bafflement at Mrs. James’ changed attitude (Mrs. James transfers her friendship from Amelia to other more fashionable ladies) is Fielding’s reprimand of insensitivity and lack of grace.

Fielding’s presentation of the passions is opposite to the sympathetic model of emotions that sentimental fiction would idealize later in the century, of which

Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey (1768) provides luminous examples, for instance, that of Yorick measuring the pulse of the young French shopkeeper. Sterne both seems to accept and parody the model of instant, emotional sympathy, which approaches the materialist sympathy that Denis Diderot would describe as a spider web in Le Rêve de d’Alembert (written in 1769, not published until the 19th century).

But in Fielding, the model of emotion is not that the passions catch like fire or infection (or both). Instead, passion’s impersonality provide a model where emotions can be rerouted quickly – at least by the characters in the novel – rather than tied to their singular object or even to the subject itself. The looseness of this emotional economy makes characters difficult to be understood – and not because the reader is necessarily wary of the characters’ deceitfulness. Instead, their emotions are so easily put on and shed and, moreover, with a feeling of such complete sincerity, that reading


the passionate characters in Fielding’s novel becomes difficult to grasp. We believe their sincerity, but, at the same time, we remain incapable of fully grasping their several roles.

While the misreading of affectation in Jonathan Wild is central to the novel’s irony, this is not the question that motivates the plot in Amelia. Instead, Fielding is preoccupied with what happens when emotions become too easily visible, too easily legible. His derision about the ubiquity of deceit – and its visibility – is evident early on in the novel, when he gives us two different metaphors of female deception; one, he claims, fits Jacobite aesthetics (an overwrought pastoral description of a “Celia,” whose sweet breathing turns into “fiery Eyes, wrinkled Brows, and foaming Lips”) and, the other, which fits Whig aesthetics, is couched in a mundane story of theater going. The narrator describes overhearing an exchange between two ladies at the theater:

One of the Ladies, I remember, said to the other—‘Did you ever see any thing

look so modest and so innocent as that Girl over the way? What Pity it is such

a Creature should be in the Way of Ruin, as I am afraid she is, by her being

alone with that young Fellow!’ Now this Lady was no bad Physiognomist; for

it was impossible to conceive a greater Appearance of Modesty, Innocence

and Simplicity, than what Nature had displayed in the Countenance of that

Girl; and yet, all Appearances notwithstanding, I myself (remember Critic it

was in my Youth) had a few Mornings before seen that very identical Picture

of all those ingaging Qualities in Bed with a Rake at a Bagnio, smoaking

Tobacco, drinking Punch, talking Obscenity, and swearing and cursing with

all the Impudence and Impiety of the lowest and most abandoned Troll of a

Soldier. (47)


Behind these two rather overwrought metaphors is the claim that – politics aside – human interaction has become obscured – and, rather, taken over – by a sign that produces intense and polar signifiers. In both cases, Fielding is not specific in attributing intentionality to the women’s deception: Is the modest young woman restraining her vice just at the theater? Or is she just expressing another facet of herself? These are questions of interiority – of motivation and intentionality – that remain unanswerable by Fielding’s prose. What can be deduced is that the pattern of virtue seems affixed to the pattern of vice – that is, that the embodiment of one extreme is linked to another extreme – and that this type of representation is, in

Fielding’s novel, often allegorical.

These different versions of idealized and idealizable women, who seem to change “the next Day, or, perhaps, the next Hour,” suggest a certain variability of emotional states that is a critique of the Humean passions. However, the ease with which characters in Amelia can metamorphose from virtue into vice, from Celia into a harpy-like creature, from maiden into prostitute, strangely maintains a neutral force in the narrative. Booth, who is as changeable as these women, is often charged with being weak willed and never with being immoral. While some characters use emotions to deceive others (in Amelia, Colonel James is the analogue for Jonathan

Wild), the use of emotional states mostly serve to signify the complete opacity of

Fielding’s characters. Jean-François Lyotard, in the defense of the body against the abstraction of the signified, explains how embodied intensities, physical and psychological, escape logical and verbal meaning:

Libidinal intensity; we are almost tempted (but we will not do this, we have

become sly old foxes, too often trapped) to give it a priority, and to say: in the

last instance, if you, semiologists, have any cause to set up your nets of


meaning, it is primarily because there is this positive incandescence, because

first of all it is Dora’s throat which seizes up, because there is, in short, a

given, and this given is indeed the intensification of a particular region of the

beautiful Dora’s body, it is this region indeed which has become and

intelligent-intelligible sign!....Order matters little, what is, however, of great

importance is the fact that this same symptom has inevitably two simultaneous

possible receptions.271

Before this point, Lyotard calls this complete illegibility of embodiment as a form of duplicity, partly because intensities suggest meaning (the “positive incandescence”) but evades it. Fielding’s use of allegory suggests meaning – a label to contain the intensity of emotion – but almost always fails to convey itself. For Lyotard, the translation of intensity into meaning always forms what he calls the “fraudulent exchange,” which he defines as the “betrayal of intensity by the intellect, which we have come to understand as investment in intelligent commerce by emotional affluxes.”272 The pinning down of emotion into language, Lyotard theorizes, is an exchange that makes emotional functional (and thus Lyotard’s extended use of prostitution as a metaphor for this exchange). The ultimate force behind his understanding of emotions is the affirmation of their ultimate irrationality, their evasion of meaning, and the limitations (even violence) of their representation.

Fielding’s treatment of allegorically inflected characters in Amelia resonates with Lyotard’s vision that emotions escape representational practices; however,

Fielding displays the impossibility of capturing emotional states (their ultimate illegibility in the novel) by counterintuitively making the passions starkly visible – as

271 Jean-François Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant (Bloomington and Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1993), 54.

272 Ibid., 78.


allegory – in the novel. Indeed, the narrator’s sensitivity to allegory – his ability to capture every emotion in Miss Matthews and see them embodied – seems not to increase but to decrease the legibility of allegorical representation. Indeed, the redeeming qualities in the characters in Amelia lie in those that see the world – not in allegories – but in real terms. And this translation – from allegory into mundane description – is something that Fielding’s narrator engages in several times throughout the novel: “to drop the Allegory,” “to drop all Allegory,” “To speak plainly, and without Allegory or Figure” (252, 459, 353). The narrator, like Booth, ambiguously believes in and makes use of allegory and, at the same time, seems to be wary of its ability to express clearly. Fielding even makes his protagonist express this very point:

“Is there not something too selfish,” replied James, “in that Opinion; but

without considering it in that Light, is it not all things the most insipid? All

Oil! all Sugar! all Honey! Zounds! it is enough to cloy the sharp-set Appetite

of a Parson. Acids surely are the most likely to quicken.”

“I do not love reasoning in Allegories,” cries Booth, “but with regard to Love,

I declare I never found any thing cloying in it. I have lived almost alone with

my Wife near three years together, was never tired with her Company, nor

ever wished for any other.” (226)

The translation from abstraction to the real terms of the story prefigures the way allegory will get dropped from the novel; but it also suggests that allegory cannot be sustained in the novel because “reasoning in Allegories” is akin to reasoning emotions

– and to write a novel about where the passions produce characterization and plot also means that Fielding has to write a novel that cannot be rationalized, linearly exposed, and verbalized. If allegories elude representation in the novel because they represent


an emotional intensity, it is because the novel is ill equipped to describe intensity in ways that is credible. In Amelia, we see the narrator describing, with painstaking precision, the string of allegorical intensities that its characters embody in turn. If

Amelia does not deal with opacity, it deals instead with hyper-readability, which the narrator provides and which makes allegories paradoxically difficult to understand, because they are irrational, exhaustively described, and, yet, still incomplete.

Empiricism and allegory in principle seem to share a similar end, because allegory also exteriorizes an abstraction’s essential nature and invites its interpretation through the presentation of sensual details. But the empirical allegory that Fielding envisioned, one based on a Humean Doctrine of the Passions, becomes as incomprehensible, unsystematic, and incoherent as the eighteenth-centuryists found empiricism to be – a wave of impressions devoid of the very order required for understanding. Allegory in the novel can be understood to present a similar problem of knowledge: that of knowing others and of knowing oneself. Because of its representational techniques and the requirements it makes on its readers, allegory is constantly used in eighteenth-century fictions to dramatize what happens when we are confronted with the task of interpreting intensities, hyperboles, and inconsistencies – not only in others, but also in ourselves. Allegory in the novel, therefore, provides an expedient way for eighteenth-century authors to represent certain anxieties about the legibility of the world and of the self. The anxiety cannot be said to have been resolved in the second half of the century, but it becomes codified in other forms of characterization that shed their allegorical nomination and retain the paradoxes that allegorical characterization provided. Allegory, in this way, remains (itself insistently) embedded in formal realist techniques, especially in characters whose sincerity is almost painfully illegible. While the markings of allegory’s deceitfulness is clearer in


eighteenth-century fiction, allegory seems to signify more broadly the illegibility of heightened emotional states – be it in terms of hypocritical characters or of scenes that use allegory to express emotions that elude description. We can see these moments of irrationality exploding in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, where allegory flits in to make

Lucy Snowe’s emotions both strangely legible and illegible at the same time. A similar point can be made of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, where the intensities of libidinal emotions are translated into the garden or theatrical scenes, which make the heightened states of characters’ emotions legible and illegible to each other – a subtle paradox of reading that only allegory can create.



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