Bluestocking philosophy : aspects of female aristocratic thought in eighteenth-century England.
Riordan, Susannah Mary
University of Cambridge
Faculty of History
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Riordan, S. M. (1995). Bluestocking philosophy : aspects of female aristocratic thought in eighteenth-century England. (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11605
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The aristocratic masculine discourses of the eighteenth century have been the subject of much analysis and debate. This raises the question of the ways in which elite women, who did not participate in the worlds of politics and commerce in which men appear to have found self-definition, related to these discourses. This thesis aims to contribute to an understanding of this issue by considering the case of the bluestocking circle. The bluestockings shared the paternalistic duty-code of the male landowner, and they combined this with a deep commitment to the teachings of the latitudinarian Anglican church, which stressed benevolence as a natural human characteristic. They saw English society as an organic community in which the social relationships engendered by the divinely-ordained social hierarchy were regulated by benevolence. Virtue consisted in performing the duties of one's allotted station and thereby being a 'useful member of society.' The growth of heterosocial mixing gave a new arena in which the elite women could be independently useful, by giving pleasure and instruction by her conversation and by offering an example of the amiability of virtue. The duty to do so, accon;!ing to the bluestockings, required the improvement of the self. In the case of women, this included the development of their rational capacities through selfeducation and a rational approach to every aspect of life, particularly towards marriage and partner selection. Chapter l explores the aristocratic origins and values of the bluestocking circle. Chapter 2 discusses their religious beliefs and chapter 3 their understanding of social duties and relationships. Chapter 4 considers how the perception of conversation as a social art gave the bluestockings respectable access to the world of letters and a means of making their interests and talents of use to society. Chapter 5 discusses gender difference and sensibility, and chapter 6 bluestocking educational writings. Finally, chapter 7 addresses matters of sexuality, love and marriage.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11605