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The Pen and the PeopleEnglish Letter Writers 1660-1800$
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Susan Whyman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199532445

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199532445.001.0001

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Letter‐Writing, Reading, and Literary Culture

Letter‐Writing, Reading, and Literary Culture

The Johnson Family and Anna Miller

Chapter:
(p.191) 6 Letter‐Writing, Reading, and Literary Culture
Source:
The Pen and the People
Author(s):

Susan E. Whyman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199532445.003.0007

This chapter contrasts Jane Johnson's quiet reading and writing with the fast-paced public literary culture of her children — Robert and Barbara — and the patroness of their Bath poetry salon, Anna Miller. Changes in literary practices over the century, from the growth of epistolary fiction to the era of sensibility by the 1790s, are revealed through writings and reading records of Jane Johnson's children. It is suggested that the travelogue, methods of literary criticism, and the language of sentiment were influenced and shaped by letters. As sites of unsupervised reading, independent opinions, and cultural desires, letters had a political impact. Epistolary literacy thus provided a base for a free and active electorate at a time when political participation was still limited.

Keywords:   reading, epistolary literacy, literary culture, literary criticism, travelogue, language of sentiment, independent opinions, Bath, poetry salon

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