This collection explores the multifaceted relationship between letters and bodies in the long eighteenth century, featuring a broad selection of women's and men’s letters written from and to Britain, North America, Europe, India and the Caribbean, from the labouring poor to the landed elite.
In eleven chapters, scholars from various disciplines draw on different methodological approaches that include close readings of single letters, social historical analyses of large corpora and a material culture approach to the object of the letter. This research includes personal letters exchanged among family and friends, formal correspondence and letters that were incorporated into published forewords and appendices, journals and memoirs. Part I explores the letter as a substitute for the absent body, the imagined physical encounters and performances envisaged by letter writers and the means through which these imagined sensations were conveyed. Part II examines the letter as a material object that served as a conduit for descriptions of the material body and as an instrument for embodied encounters. Part III focuses on how correspondents purposefully used their bodies in letters as a means to create intimacy, to generate social networks and build a ‘body politic’.
This interdisciplinary volume centred around letters will be of interest to scholars and students in a variety of fields including eighteenth-century studies, cultural history and literature.
Sarah Goldsmith, Sheryllynne Haggerty and Karen Harvey
Part 1: Imagined bodies and imagining touch
1. Absent Bodies? Gouty brethren and sensitive hearts in William Constable’s letters from the Grand Tour 1769–1771
2. Imagining youth: Epistolary representations of the eighteenth-century adolescent and youthful body
3. Touch me if you can: Paper bodies in letters to and from the eighteenth-century French Caribbean
Part 2: Material bodies/material letters
4. Sympathy in practice: Eighteenth-century letters and the material body
5. 'Urge, urge, urge, dogs gnawing': Pain, play and the material text in Jonathan Swift’s Journal to Stella
6. Blackness, whiteness and bodily degeneration in British women’s letters from India
7. 'A thousand kisses': Postscript, appendices and desire in The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (1787)
Part 3: Bodies deployed
8. I "never had the happeness of Receivin one Letter from You": Unlettered letters from Jamaica, 1756
9. Constructing the body in English pauper letters, 1780–1834
10. Labouring bodies: Work animals and hack writers in Oliver Goldsmith’s letters
11. Sons of liberty: Epistolary bodies and the early American Revolution