College of Arts and Sciences

Department of English

ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance

Bruce A. Ronda

"Scandal and Seductive Language: Elizabeth Peabody Reads Clarissa

Scholars have long noted Elizabeth Palmer Peabody's interest in history and also have attended to her interest in the origins and significance of language. Peabody's desire that history should reveal the unfolding of a single cosmic pattern and that human speech be understood as grounded in that universal history springs from an aversion to the rhetorical multiplicity of language such as readers found in Richardson's popular novel Clarissa. Biographical elements in Peabody's life, especially the possibility of a family scandal involving playwright Royall Tyler, suggest reasons for the reformer's strenuous objections to rhetorically unstable speech.

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