The Delicate Distress

University Press of Kentucky, 1997 M04 17 - 267 páginas
The Delicate Distress (1769) focuses on the problems women encounter after marriage - the issue of financial independence for wives, the consequences of interfaith relationships, and the promiscuity of their husbands. At the story's center is the deep distress of Emily Woodville, a virtuous young newlywed who suspects her husband of infidelity with a French marchioness from his past. Against a backdrop of rural England and Paris of the ancien regime, Elizabeth Griffith takes the epistolary novel of sensibility in the tradition of Samuel Richardson and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and re-imagines it from a feminist perspective that centers on strong, intelligent, and virtuous women. Two sisters exchange letters about urgent ethical questions concerning love, marriage, morality, art, the duties of wives and husbands, and passion versus reason, while two men correspond about the same subjects. The Delicate Distress is one of the earliest novels to explore the psychology of characters who observe and reflect but engage in no grand public actions.

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Cynthia Ricciardi is a Ph.D. candidate at Brandeis University.

Susan Staves is professor of English at Brandeis University.

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