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Unusual SuspectsPitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s$
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Kenneth R. Johnston

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.001.0001

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The Novelist Who Was Not

The Novelist Who Was Not

Robert Bage (1728–1801)

Chapter:
(p.164) 9 The Novelist Who Was Not
Source:
Unusual Suspects
Author(s):

Kenneth R. Johnston

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.003.0009

The effects of Pitt’s domestic policy of Alarmism impacted the development of literary genres. Robert Bage, a Midlands industrialist (paper mills), wrote satirical ‘novels of purpose’ in the 1780s. Encouraged by England’s early enthusiasm for the revolution, he expanded his liberal views in Man As He Is Not (1795) and Hermsprong (1796). All six of his novels were published anonymously, and well reviewed. But in the intensified atmosphere of Alarm after passage of the Gagging Acts in 1795, Bage found himself the object of invidious local gossip, as his authorship came to be more widely suspected. Excise taxmen repeatedly confiscated his paper stock, forcing him into court actions to recover it. Anna Barbauld and Walter Scott included Bage in their later collections of British novelists, but with damning qualifications. Bage’s novels stand up well in comparison to Jane Austen’s, though he is much more explicit than she in political and economic critique.

Keywords:   Robert Bage, Alarmism, Hegemonic policing, Thomas Holcroft, Stage censorship, Anti-Jacobin novels, Social satire, Tax harassment, Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott

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