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Contact James Gray
Telephone (001) 617-678-4517
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Specialists Early Printed Books, English Literature, Religion, Theology, 17th Century Books, Incunabula
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Stand G06

The most important of the scandal chronicles of the early eighteenth century

Mary de la Rivière Manley 1663-1724

Secret memoirs and manners of several persons of quality of both sexes. From the New Atalantis, an island in the Mediteranean. , London: Printed for John Morphew, and J. Woodward, 1709 1709

The most important of the scandal chronicles of the early eighteenth century, a form made popular and practiced with considerable success by Mrs. Manley and Eliza Haywood.

Mrs. Manley was important in her day not only as a novelist, but as a Tory propagandist.

Her fiction "exhibited her taste for intrigue, and impudently slandered many persons of note, especially those of Whiggish proclivities." - D.N.B. "Mrs. Manley’s scandalous 'revelations' appealed immediately to the prurient curiosity of her first audience ; but they continued to be read because they succeeded in providing certain satisfactions fundamental to fiction itself. In other words, the scandal novel or 'chronicle' of Mrs. Manley and Mrs. Haywood was a successful form, a tested commercial pattern, because it presented an opportunity for its readers to participate vicariously in an erotically exciting and glittering fantasy world of aristocratic corruption and promiscuity." - Richetti, Popular Fiction before Richardson.

The story concerns the return to earth of the goddess of justice, Astrea, to gather information about private and public behavior on the island of Atalantis. Delarivier Manley drew on her own experiences as well as on an obsessive observation of her milieu to produce this fast-paced narrative of political and erotic intrigue. New Atalantis (1709) is an early and influential example of satirical political writing by a woman. It was suppressed on the grounds of its scandalous nature and Manley (1663-1724) was arrested and tried. Astrea [Justice] descends on the island of Atalantis, meets her mother Virtue, who tries to escape this world of »Interest« in which even the lovers have deserted her. Both visit Angela [London]. Lady Intelligence comments on all stories of interest. p.107: the sequel of »Histories« turns into the old type of satire with numerous scandals just being mentioned (e.g. short remarks on visitors of a horse race or coaches in the Prado [Hyde-Park]). The stories are leveled against leading Whig politicians - they seduce and ruin women. Yet detailed analysis of situations and considerations on actions which could be taken by potential victims. Even the weakest female victims get their chances to win (and gain decent marriages) the more desperate we are about strategic mistakes and a loss of virtue which prevents the heroines from taking the necessary steps. The stories have been praised for their »warmth« and breathtaking turns.

Manley was taken into custody nine days after the publication of the second volume of Secret Memories and Manners of several Persons of Quality of Both Sexes, from the New Atalantis, an island in the Mediterranean on 29 October 1709. Manley apparently surrendered herself after a secretary John Morphew and John Woodward and printer John Barber had been detained. Four days later the latter were discharged, but Manley remained in custody until 5 November when she was released on bail. After several continuations of the case, she was tried and discharged on 13 February 1710. Rivella provides the only account of the case itself in which Manley claims she defended herself on grounds that her information came by 'inspiration' and rebuked her judges for bringing 'w woman to her trial for writing a few amorous trifles' (pp. 110-11). This and the first volume which appeared in May 1709 were Romans a clef with separately printed keys. Each offered a succession of narratives of seduction and betrayal by notorious Whig grandees to Astrea, an allegorical figure of justice, by largely female narrators, including an allegorical figure of Intelligence and a midwife. In Rivella, Manley claims that her trial led her to conclude that 'politics is not the business of a woman' (p. 112) and that thereafter she turned exclusively to stories of love.

Delarivier Manley was in her day as well-known and potent a political satirist as her friend and co-editor Jonathan Swift. A fervent Tory, Manley skilfully interweaves sexual and political allegory in the tradition of the roman a clef in an acerbic vilification of her Whig opponents. The book's publication in 1709 - fittingly the year of the collapse of the Whig ministry - caused a scandal which led to the arrest of the author, publisher and printer.
The book exposed the relationship of Queen Anne and one of her advisers, Sarah Churchill. Along with this, Manley's piece examined the idea of female intimacy and its implications. The implications of female intimacy are important to Manley because of the many rumours of the influence that Churchill held over Queen Anne.

Bibliography
ESTC T075114; McBurney 45a; Morgan 459.

Edition
Second edition

Condition
This jewel of a book is DSC_0018expertly bound in antique style full paneled calf with a gilt spine. It is a lovely copy indeed.

Binding
This jewel of a book is DSC_0018expertly bound in antique style full paneled calf with a gilt spine. It is a lovely copy indeed.
£3,800