Dear 18th century: I suppose we can be friends.

After another term spent reading your novels, I can admit I am warming to your charms.

To be perfectly clear, good century, I’m not professing a deep love, or proposing that you and I form any sort of long-term relationship. You are, when all is said and done, the time period that produced Robinson Crusoe, which is about 100 pages of a narcisscist building a wall, and an entire text’s worth of unironic manifest-destiny-style reflection. But you, 18th century, also have Jonathan Swift, in all his scatological glory. And. in unabashed self-contradiction, you produced The Castle of Otranto, which gleefully waves at polite and properly educated Robinson Crusoe and Pamela, sticks out its tongue, and yells, “you know all that sex-disease-death-fairy tale stuff you’ve been trying to repress?” [Spleuchhh] (I am attempting, sir, to give the impression of the sound of a rotten tomato splattering against a well-groomed novel).Your same Walpole also wrote The Mysterious Mother, which teams up Neoclassical drama with Gothic terror in a perfectly delightful way.

And you have Jane Austen. Wonderful Jane Austen, whose Northanger Abbey not only intelligently records major shifts in 18th century philosophy, history, visual culture, literature, and gender and economic relationships, but does so with beautiful irony.

At least three people have also assured me that I shall like your non-Gothic drama (which I have by now unofficially tacked to my comps list this year). Finally, reading your fine Dryden, I recall that you, 18th century, adore Jonson. We have interest in common after all!

Upon considering all of these facts, which do much to recommend your character to my person, I do propose we put aside our long-standing enmity, and strike a happier acquaintance in future.

In all warm sincerity,

The English grad student.

28 November 2010 ~ Hamilton


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