Sophia Lee’s The Recess 4 •• Sophia Lee’s The Recess and the epistemology of the counterfactual Tilottama Rajan Between 1785 and 1844, Sophia Lee’s novel The Recess; Or, A Tale of Other Times (1783–85) – now largely forgotten – was reprinted several times, pirated, and also abridged as a street novel. The Recess is a boldly counterfactual romance about Matilda and Ellinor, children of the imaginary marriage of Mary Queen of Scots and the Duke of Norfolk, and about the complex relationships between the ‘real’ earls of Leicester and Essex and the twins, who are

in Counterfactual Romanticism
The Counterfeit Gothic Heroine in Middlemarch

Mahawatte explores George Eliot‘s use of the Gothic in Middlemarch (1871–72) and in particular the literary connections between Dorothea Casaubon and the heroine of the Gothic novel. He argues that Eliot has a conflicting relationship with this figure, at once wanting to satirize her, and yet also deploying Gothic images and resonances to add an authenticity of affect to her social commentary. Using Jerold E. Hogle‘s idea that the Gothic re-fakes what is already read as a copy, Mahawatte presents Dorothea as a quasi-reproduction of Sophia Lee‘s heroines in The Recess; or, A Tale of Other Times (1783–85) and also as part of a Gothic process within a social realist novel.

Gothic Studies
Sophia Lee’s The Recess (1783–85), the Gothic and history

This Recess could not be called a cave, because it was composed of various rooms ... every room was distinct, and divided from the rest by a vaulted passage with many stairs, while our light proceeded from small casements of painted glass, so infinitely above our reach that we could never seek a

in Sinister histories
The French Revolution, the past and Ann Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest (1791)

(1834) In the years between the publication of Sophia Lee’s The Recess (1783) and Ann Radcliffe’s third Gothic novel, The Romance of the Forest (1791), a series of events unprecedented in human history occurred; events that would alter the Gothic and the nature of history forever. ‘All circumstances taken together’, writes Edmund Burke in his

in Sinister histories
The experience of the sick in the eighteenth century

’), declares Abbé Bertolot.21 The patients peer into the deepest recesses of their bodies to catch sight of their impressions and sensations, and describe them in their own words with determined accuracy.22 Their writing thus emerges from an alliance of reason and sensation. The term ‘attention’ seems best suited to characterise their use of language to describe their experiences, as it has overtones suggestive of the psychological field that developed later. But here there is no emphasis on the ‘effort of a conscious mind to analyse its thoughts, its feelings, its states of

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century
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E.J. Clery and Robert Miles

Recess (1785) Sophia Lee’s novel, which relates the adventures of two invented daughters of Mary, Queen of Scots, provoked some unease concerning the mingling of fiction and recorded history. As Ernest Baker has pointed out (Baker, 1934, vol. 5, pp. 179, n. 2, 181–2), Lee took her inspiration from the French writer Prévost d’Exiles, whose Life and Adventures of Mr

in Gothic documents
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Arcadia and Copenhagen

that the characters have made, in Arcadia and Copenhagen it serves rather as a basis for an exploration of what can – and cannot – be known. Characters in these two plays hunt for clues, through research or into the recesses of memory, but, while a traditional detective story ends with the solution of a mystery, resolution in Arcadia and Copenhagen derives from a realisation of the co-existence of the then and the now within the simultaneous immediacy and ephemerality of the present moment of theatre. Both then and now in these plays are characterised by

in Playing for time
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eager to exploit his position of authority, would underestimate the power that she could consciously exert.43 It would also simplify a complex relationship with dark recesses that are only faintly illuminated by the evidence that has survived. Her approach to that first meeting with Harris is perhaps best gauged by her letter that autumn to Tate Wilkinson, her former manager. After Wilkinson reluctantly parted with her – at one point he absolutely refused her request to leave – Elizabeth wrote to him with her news.44 With the safety of distance between them, she felt

in Thomas ‘Jupiter’ Harris
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Gothic novels and representations of the past, from Horace Walpole to Mary Wollstonecraft

‘This is a dark story…’

Clara Reeve, The Old English Baron (1778)

Sinister Histories is the first book to offer a detailed exploration of the Gothic’s response to Enlightenment historiography. It uncovers hitherto neglected relationships between fiction and prominent works of eighteenth-century history, locating the Gothic novel in a range of new interdisciplinary contexts.

Drawing on ideas from literary studies, history, politics, and philosophy, Sinister Histories demonstrates the extent to which historical works influenced and shaped the development of Gothic fiction from the 1760s to the early nineteenth century. In moving from canonical historians and novelists, such as David Hume, Edmund Burke and Ann Radcliffe, to less familiar figures, such as Paul M. Rapin de Thoyras, Clara Reeve and Sophia Lee, this innovative study shows that while Enlightenment historians emphasised the organic and the teleological, Gothic writers looked instead at events and characters which challenged such orderly methods. Through a series of detailed readings of texts from The Castle of Otranto (1764) to Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman (1798), Sinister Histories offers an alternative account of the Gothic’s development and a sustained revaluation of the creative legacies of the French Revolution.

This book is aimed at students and scholars with interests in the Gothic, the eighteenth century, historiography, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and gender studies.

Introducing contingency and that which did not happen as necessary and revealing conditions both of Romanticism itself and of our critical relationship with it, Counterfactual Romanticism explores the affordances of counterfactualism as a heuristic and as an imaginative tool. Innovatively extending counterfactual thought experiments from history and the social sciences to literary historiography and literary criticism and theory, the volume reveals the ways in which the shapes of Romanticism are conditioned by that which did not come to pass. Exploring – and creatively performing – various modalities of counterfactual speculation and inquiry across a range of Romantic-period authors, genres and concerns, and identifying the Romantic credentials of counterfactual thought, the introduction and eleven chapters in this collection offer a radical new purchase on literary history, on the relationship between history and fiction, on our historicist methods to date – and thus on the Romanticisms we (think we) have inherited. Counterfactual Romanticism provides a ground-breaking method of re-reading literary pasts and our own reading presents; in the process, literary production, texts and reading practices are unfossilised and defamiliarised. To emancipate the counterfactual imagination and embrace the counterfactual turn and its provocations is to reveal the literary multiverse and quantum field within which our far-from-inevitable literary inheritance is located.