An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting3.67 · Rating details · 92 Ratings · 8 Reviews
Wickedly funny and bitingly satirical, The Art is a comedy of manners that gives insights into eighteenth-century behavior as well as the timeless art of emotional abuse. It is also an advice book, a handbook of anti-etiquette, and a comedy of manners. Collier describes methods for "teasing and mortifying" one's intimates and acquaintances in a variety of social situationsWickedly funny and bitingly satirical, The Art is a comedy of manners that gives insights into eighteenth-century behavior as well as the timeless art of emotional abuse. It is also an advice book, a handbook of anti-etiquette, and a comedy of manners. Collier describes methods for "teasing and mortifying" one's intimates and acquaintances in a variety of social situations. Written primarily for wives, mothers, and the mistresses of servants, it suggests the difficulties women experienced exerting their influence in private and public life--and the ways they got round them. As such, The Art provides a fascinating glimpse into eighteenth-century daily life.
The first to employ modern spelling, this edition includes a lively introduction by editor Katharine A. Craik. Craik puts in context the various disputes described in The Art (domestic squabbles, quarrels between female friends, altercations between social classes) by describing the emergence in mid-eighteenth century of new notions of bourgeois femininity, along with new ideas of leisure and recreation. The result is a literary work sure to be enjoyed both by lovers of satire and those with an interest in the real daily dramas of the eighteenth-century world....more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 156 pages
Published June 15th 2006 by Oxford University Press (first published 1753)
In A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694–97), Mary Astell asks her readers the ringing question "Why shou'd not we assert our Liberty, and not suffer every Trifler to impose a Yoke of Impertinent Customs on us?" (120). Astell's appeal is elucidated by her editor Patricia Springborg, who explains that "Freedom Astell understands classically as the capacity to embrace a principle of conduct and follow it" (28). Serious Proposal promotes a vision of "Liberty" realized as the practice of both rational and impassioned virtue when women "use due endeavours to procure a lively relish of our true Good" (144). Astell's endorsement of "Religious Retirement" (73) as a means to this end—a woman "who is a Christian out of Choice, not in conformity to those about her; and cleaves to Piety, because 'tis her Wisdom, her Interest, her Joy, not because she [End Page 398] has been accustom'd to it"(70)—disavows any pretence to "usurp Authority where it is not allow'd; permit us only to understand our own duty, and not be forc'd to take it on trust from others" (81). But a woman's lively understanding of her "own duty" does significantly encroach upon the "Authority" that would enforce rotely feminized "conformity" (or, as Astell also puts it, "Nauseous repetition" ): "For we find a Natural Liberty within us which checks at an Injunction that has nothing but Authority to back it" (201). Astell's defence of the strenuously virtuous use of "Natural Liberty" inversely repudiates the arbitrariness of the masculine authority that, in order to turn women into "little useless and impertinent Animals" (76), refuses to acknowledge them "as capable of Learning as Men are" (83).
Springborg's introduction and notes vitally amplify Serious Proposal's generic, political, and philosophical ambitions. By showing Astell's pervasive debt to Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole's Port Royal Logic or the Art of Thinking (1683)—credited by Astell when she explicates "the Method of Thinking" and "Natural Logic" (166)—Springborg illuminates a line of intellectual filiation too easily obscured when one reads Serious Proposal from a solely Lockean vantage. Springborg recaptures the urgency of the tension between epistemological certainty and less epistemologically secure sensation systematized by René Descartes's Rules for the Directions of Mind (Latin, 1701), the Port Royal Logic (Arnauld read Descartes's Rules in manuscript), and Astell's Serious Proposal as "those different Modes of Thinking, which for distinction sake we call Faith, Science, and Opinion" (149). Springborg likewise shows the profundity of Astell's engagement with the Cambridge Platonists—notably John Norris, with whom Astell wrote Letters Concerning the Love of God (1695)—as well as with authors such as Robert Boyle, Nicolas Malebranche, Richard Allestree, Madeleine de Scudéry, and, Springborg suggests, Aristotle. Springborg's account of Serious Proposal's generic prehistory and afterlife—in particular, the unacknowledged inclusion of its chapter 3, sections 1–5 in George Berkeley's The Ladies Library of 1714 (23)—opens new assessments not only of its philosophical precursors but also of the extent of its future reach. This edition's appendices include Judith Drake's An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex (1696), Daniel Defoe's An Essay upon Projects (1697), and a selection from the Tatler 32 (1709) on the "order of Platonic ladies" (280). By so amply restoring the urgency and specificity of the connections that made Astell, as Springborg affirms, "one of the most theologically serious and philosophically competent theorists of her age" (9), this edition marks a transformative event in the eighteenth-century literary and philosophical canon.
I would identify Astell's indictment of "nothing but Authority" as a feminist iteration of John Locke's Two Treatises of Government (1690); but in so doing I diverge sharply from Springborg, who names Locke...