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Erotic Interiors in Joseph Addison's Imagination

Kathleen Lubey


the interiors of the eighteenth-century mind housed a singular and celebrated faculty that endowed each subject with a selfcontained capacity for excitement, appreciation, and pleasure: the imagination. The pleasures of the imagination, writes Joseph Addison, edify and diversify a subject's autonomous capacity for delight because they allow him to "converse with a Picture, and find an agreeable Companion in a Statue. He meets with a secret Refreshment in a Description, and often feels a greater Satisfaction in the Prospect of Fields and Meadows, than another does in Possession. It gives him, indeed, a kind of Property in everything he sees, and makes the most rude uncultivated Parts of Nature administer to his Pleasures: So that he looks upon the World, as it were, in another Light, and discovers in it a Multitude of Charms, that conceal themselves from the generality of Mankind."1 Addison's famous lines describe the polite aesthetic stance of the Spectator's presumably refined and self-conscious readers. The imagination, portable and ever available to the subject's own use, accommodates an interior, "secret" life replete with beautiful spectacles, narrative engagement, and the satisfaction of virtual ownership, a "kind of Property" in all visible things. Addison envisions an infinitely renewable dynamic of pleasure between a man and his world, one in which the realms of rational discourse


Joseph Addison, Spectator no. 411 (21 June 1712), in The Spectator, ed. Donald Bond, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), 3:538. References to the Spectator are to this edition.

Eighteenth-Century Fiction 20, no. 3 (Spring 2008) © ECF 0840-6286



are extended by his ability to generate "conversations" with the beautiful objects that traverse the boundary between his exteriors and his mind. In short, this scene describes an English gentleman whose imagination orders his body and mind, offering him the energy of internal action, the calm of bodily composure, and the pleasures of feeling as though he masters his surroundings.2 Eliza Haywood, like Addison, associates imaginative engagement with beauty, possession, language, and excitement. But all these features, when brought to the interiors of an enamoured mind, create fevered delusion rather than rational exchange in Haywood's order of things. The sage narrator of Love in Excess finds in the unconscious dream-state the limits of the imagination's capacity to remain polite: "Whatever dominion honour and virtue may have over our waking thoughts, 'tis certain that they fly from the closed eyes; our passions then exert their forceful power, and that which is most predominant in the soul, agitates the fancy, and brings even things impossible to pass. Desire, with watchful diligence repelled, returns with greater violence in unguarded sleep, and overthrows the vain efforts of the day."3 This omniscient reflection swiftly gives way to a florid scene of a virgin's brush with seduction. The dashing D'elmont has sneaked into Melliora's bedchamber as she sleeps: "Imagination at this time was active [for Melliora], and brought the charming Count much nearer than indeed he was, and he, stooping to the bed, and gently laying his face close to her's, (possibly designing no more than to steal a kiss from her, unperceived) that action, concurring at that instant, with her dream, made her throw her arm (still slumbering) about his neck, and in a soft and languishing voice,



Some critics emphasize different connotations of this oft-quoted passage, finding its notion of "property" troublesome. See, for instance, Erin Mackie, who reads such passages as demonstrating a "transformation" of "visual and imaginative consumption into a sort of grasping imperialism ... The English desire for economic mastery--taking in, mapping out, and divvying up its colonial territories--becomes its aesthetic." Mackie, Market à la Mode: Fashion, Commodity, and Gender in "The Tatler" and "The Spectator" (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 84. See also Carole Fabricant, "The Aesthetics and Politics of Landscape in the Eighteenth Century," in Studies in Eighteenth-Century British Art and Aesthetics, ed. Ralph Cohen (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985). Eliza Haywood, Love in Excess; or, The Fatal Enquiry, 2nd ed., ed. David Oakleaf (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2000), 116. References are to this edition.

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cry out, `Oh D'elmont, cease, cease to charm, to such a height-- Life cannot bear these raptures.--And then again, embracing him yet closer, --O! too, too lovely Count--extatick ruiner!'" Within a few lines, D'elmont has "tor[n] open his wastcoat, and joyned his panting breast to her's," and, not surprisingly, Melliora's virtue comes close to being lost (116). A knock at the door--not the triumph of our virgin's good sense--interrupts the amorous tumult. The shifts here among main sentence, parenthetical insight, and ecstatic confession render the real and dreamed events nearly indistinguishable for us as they are for Melliora. D'elmont is actually present near her bed, though Melliora's inflamed imaginative state "brought [him] much nearer than he indeed was"; and her imagined "conversation" with him takes the form of actual spoken dialogue--which, while manifestly condemning his advances, is accompanied by her increasingly passionate embraces. As the syntax performs the convergence of Melliora's secret desires with the events of the main narrative, so too does the impropriety of her imaginative state contaminate her actual lived behaviour. Indeed, Melliora cannot distinguish between the ideas of her imagination and the material of the exterior world. In this most dramatic, most amatory of examples, the imagination leads erotic fantasy to assume form at the level of the body. Those "thoughts"--of love, of seduction--that ought to be guarded by the imagination are in fact betrayed by it. These competing notions of imaginative activity, authored within the same decade, testify to the enormously varied tasks assigned to (or blamed on) the imagination in early eighteenthcentury England. The spectrum represented by Addison's and Haywood's accounts poses a weighty challenge to early eighteenthcentury writers seeking to "train" readers in the sphere of aesthetic pleasure. Since the vast majority of writers claim, with varying degrees of earnestness, to both entertain and instruct readers, how are they to offer enticing material while ensuring Addison's gentlemanly aesthetic posture in readers over and above Melliora's chaotic hallucinations?4 Because the imagination is embedded in the body--a "discovery" of pronounced importance during the



For a discussion of Haywood's response to this question, see Kathleen Lubey, "Eliza Haywood's Amatory Aesthetic," Eighteenth-Century Studies 39, no. 3 (2006): 309­22.



long eighteenth century, as G.S. Rousseau has shown--literature will engage both the body and the mind while a subject performs his aesthetic work with the language offered to him. As Rousseau writes, "Writers like Addison ... were persuaded ... that the role of imagination in literature was perhaps the most vexing aesthetic problem of their time," precisely because the space between a text and an individual's "material" imagination allowed for so much particularized interpretation and feeling to occur.5 In other words, the imagination is volatile and unpredictable, Addison's and Haywood's scenes suggest, because excitement can vary so radically by degree in an aesthetic encounter and seems determined primarily by the individual's inclination to reason or passion. How can art and literature, those repositories of aesthetic stimulation, guarantee polite responses over and above impolite ones? Aesthetic engagement, as it was conceived at this early moment in its history, did not exclusively assume the form of the detoxified "conversations" idealized by Addison. He, of course, is concerned to promote an imagination that is subject to individuals' discipline and self-government, one whose vibrant curiosity is used to appreciate art and literature while wholly avoiding romance, seduction, and "depraved Sentiments" (1:70).6 Addison's polite gentleman, pleased by "the Prospect of Fields and Meadows," constitutes an altogether different embodiment of the imagination from Melliora's unconscious confession of lust. But Addison situates the body at the centre of his aesthetic

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G.S. Rousseau, "Science and the Discovery of the Imagination in Enlightened England," Eighteenth-Century Studies 3, no. 1 (1969): 116. Recent critics find problematic, vis-à-vis Foucault and Habermas, the degree to which Addison promotes hegemonic assimilation to a narrow model of taste, belief, and behaviour. While this reading is difficult to dispute (the Tatler, after all, announces in its first issue its purpose to "offer something, whereby ... worthy and well-affected Members of the Commonwealth may be instructed, after their Reading, what to think"), I entertain a different though not competing possibility: that in defining the polite, Addison theorizes the pleasures of the impolite. A few instances of this "hegemony" thesis can be found in Mackie and Fabricant. See also Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), 83­84; Terry Eagleton, The Function of Criticism (London: Verso, 1984). For a polemical counterargument, see William Walker, "Ideology and Addison's Essays on the Pleasures of the Imagination," Eighteenth-Century Life 24 (Spring 2000): 65­84; and Brian Cowan, "Mr Spectator and the Coffeehouse Public Sphere," Eighteenth-Century Studies 37, no. 3 (2004): 345­66.

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system, identifying arousals of the senses as the occasion for the imagination's work. Defining the polite imagination necessitates for Addison a detailing of potential impoliteness--specifically, of erotic desire--and an attribution of value to the special intensification of feeling it entails. Even if his theory of the imagination would unambiguously condemn scandalous sexual longing, the imagination's crucial connection between bodily and mental faculties leads Addison to imply heavily an association between aesthetic affect and erotic stimulation. Addison employs a "value-laden discourse" that champions his polite notions of taste, as Elizabeth Kraft writes, "but as he does so he also reveals the power and appeal of the habits of mind and language he is attempting to discredit and replace."7 And as Addison seeks to "discredit" pleasures that would be vulgar or overly sensual, we will see that he yet conceives of the spectator's body as desirous and aroused, and powerfully so, for the imagination to be aptly engaged. As my readings will show, the force of imaginative pleasure in the early eighteenth century seems to derive from a degree of the affective confusion we witnessed in Melliora-- that is, from an intense arousal of bodily desires. I will begin by attending to how Addison's vision of the polite world seems to aestheticize the erotic in its condemnation of the vulgar ; I will then argue that Addison in fact establishes a continuity between these erotic curiosities and the especially powerful pleasures of the imagination he associates with reading. I will close by suggesting that Addison's theory of imaginative engagement, with all of its bodily associations, provides a salient context for understanding early novelists' concern to guide their readers away from the temptations of evocative description. Dubious Visual Pleasures As so much of the Spectator professes, subjects must be trained to "see" the value in potentially duplicitous texts, objects, and people. As Locke had so influentially posited two decades earlier in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, subjects acquire experience and knowledge through the internalization of pictures of the objective world: "methinks the Understanding is not much



Elizabeth Kraft, "Wit and the Spectator 's Ethics of Desire," SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500­1900 45, no. 3 (2005): 626.



unlike a Closet wholly shut from light, with only some little openings left, to let in external visible Resemblances, or Ideas of things without."8 Focusing on the imaginative component of this comprehensive notion of the human mind, Addison too conceives of mental activity as the reworking of material that has its origin in visual images. The eye must be trained positively and negatively so that it, and the mental faculties to which it is connected, may better distinguish worthy and aesthetic objects from commonplace or exclusively ornamental ones. The importance of educating spectators on visual practice cannot be overestimated, since the very possibility of aesthetic experience is grounded in their visual engagement with the things that surround them. Recalling Locke's camera obscura model for the mind, Addison believes that the ease of visual consumption renders the eye the organ most active in stimulating the interiors of the mind: "It is but opening the Eye, and the Scene enters," triggering a pleasurable response in the imagination (3:538). The eye is thought to be the "chief intermediary between matter and mind," enabling the individual's relation to the things and the customs that surround him.9 Even when objects are not visible, this eye can produce approximations. What Hobbes had termed "decaying Sense"--the deterioration of our memory of an object after it has been removed from our sight--becomes for Addison the site of a vivid and enriching aesthetic vitality, to be explored further below.10 When objects are not actually present, we enjoy secondary pleasures of the imagination, which "flow from the Ideas of visible Objects, when the Objects are not actually before the Eye, but are called up into our Memories" by representations

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John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Peter H. Nidditch (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 163. James Sambrook, "The Psychology of Literary Creation and Literary Response," in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 4, ed. H.B. Nisbet and Claude Rawson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 617. Hobbes's definition of the imagination: "For after an object is removed, or the eye shut, we still retain an image of the thing seen, though more obscure than when we see it. And this is it, the Latines call Imagination, from the image made in seeing; and apply the same, though improperly to all the other senses. But the Greeks call it Fancy ; which signifies appearance, and is as proper to one sense, as to another. imagination therefore is nothing but decaying sense." Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (1651; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 15.

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or descriptions. In this privileged position as the premiere of the sense organs, the eye is responsible for making contact with objects that initiate thought, both at the moment they are seen and in later circumstances when their images will be recalled or invoked. As such an active participant in a spectator's thought and experience, the eye cannot consume haphazardly but must be guided. The Spectator leads its readers towards looking with taste by admonishing the abuse of visual forms in much of its cultural criticism, locating examples in such practices as fashion and poetics.11 In his literary-aesthetic discussions of false wit, Addison criticizes modern poetic practices that lay claim to wit through superficial employments of the visual. Often, visual pleasure is sought merely for its own sake. Whereas true wit "consists in ... a Resemblance and Congruity of Ideas" that are novel in the relation they represent, false wit often takes the form of a visual "Resemblance of Words" that manipulates print or script in the form of acrostics, anagrams, and other ornamental tricks (1:264, 265). Even more grossly, some write verse in the shape of objects, privileging the visual form of the poem over its linguistic content. Such false wit, Addison suggests, violates the rules of poetry because it makes pictures graphically rather than inviting pictures imaginatively, employing a highly artificial method of composition that ultimately deforms, in fact violently cripples, poetry: "The Verses were to be cramped or extended to the Dimensions of the Frame that was prepared for them; and to undergo the Fate of those Persons whom the Tyrant Procrustes used to lodge in his Iron Bed; if they were too short he stretched them on a Rack, and if they were too long chopped off a Part of their Legs, till they fitted the Couch which he had prepared for them" (1:247). This practice confuses the priorities of the poet, who becomes "more intent upon the Figure of his Poem, than upon the Sense of it" (1:246). An overzealous commitment to the visual form of the poem disfigures language, makes superficial



See, for example, Spectator no. 66 on girls' outward appearances; no. 104 on women's equestrian costumes; no. 41 on female "picts," who paint their faces too heavily with make-up; and no. 81 on "party patches." Addison and Richard Steele also criticize the abuse of visual display in terms of social rank, particularly the use of equipage by people whose status does not warrant it (Tatler, nos. 116, 144).



demands of it, and inhibits it from attaining excellence in language itself. Addison closes by wondering if poets might modernize this ancient practice of false wit even further by rendering poems into three-dimensional forms. A "young Poetical Lover," Mr Spectator tells us, is busy at work writing a poem in the shape of a fan for his lover, and is devising a plan "to make a Posie in the Fashion of a Ring which shall exactly fit [his mistress's finger]. It is so very easy to enlarge upon a good Hint, that I do not question but my ingenious Readers will apply what I have said to many other Particulars; and that we shall see the Town filled in a very little Time with Poetical Tippets, Handkerchiefs, SnuffBoxes, and the like Female Ornaments" (1:248). The emasculating impulse of object-oriented verse will degrade poetry to a realm excluded from the Spectator 's program of good taste, namely, the sphere of trivial commerce and accumulation. This devaluation of poetic language originates in the empty use of visual form and culminates in the total absence of poetry in poems. Thus far, then, the visual sense is denigrated when it is solely entertained. Poets must offer substance--ideas, ethics, narratives--that stimulates vision in the imagination rather than merely offering text that is itself a visual image. Addison is unambiguous about his attributions of value: poetry written in graphic forms is superficial; poetry that properly uses language to entertain is substantive. Other condemnations of visual ornament, though, are less clear in their willingness to part ways with the vulgar. The satires on the hoop-petticoat in Tatler no. 116 and Spectator no. 127 blur the definite distinctions between substantive and superficial ornament made in the papers on wit.12 The hoop-petticoat elicits frustratingly disparate responses: it at once raises and evades curiosity, produces questions and refuses to answer them, and pleases in shape yet makes a spectacle of the female form. In the theory they offer of visual engagement, the satires on the hoop-petticoat reveal an utter fascination with things that should not be seen. In the voice of one particularly distressed, nearly hysterical correspondent, Addison describes the confusing effects of this popular mode of dress. On the one hand, it seems useful: "the Hoop-Petticoat is


For a discussion of the hoop-petticoat's relation to gender and taste, see Mackie, chap. 3, "Lady Credit and the Strange Case of the Hoop-Petticoat."

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meant to keep us at a distance. It is most certain that a Woman's Honour cannot be better entrenched than after this manner, in Circle within Circle, amidst such a Variety of Outworks and Lines of Circumvallation" (2:6). The hoop actively preserves social order, securing women's virtue by keeping men at a safe distance from their bodies. And yet this spectator's curiosity belies the appreciation of such distance, since his desire really is to find out what the skirt hides. In what follows, the skirt itself becomes the haughty agent of disguise: "The strutting Petticoat smooths all Distinctions, levels the Mother with the Daughter, and sets Maids and Matrons, Wives and Widows, upon the same bottom. In the mean while, I cannot but be troubled to see so many well shaped innocent Virgins bloated up, and waddling up and down like big-bellied Women" (2:6­7). The qualities obscured by the petticoat are those that would make legible a woman's bodily and sexual status: virgins and maids become indistinct from widows and mothers. The skirt, quite simply, makes men wonder too much about women's bodies--specifically, "their lower Parts" (2:5). It leads men to look but prevents them from seeing a truth that might be spoken by the body and, in so doing, creates public unrest in the form of a curiosity that cannot be pursued within the realm of modest behaviour. This coy and elusive visual quality of the hoop-petticoat lends itself to a kind of erotic imagining, insofar as it calls attention to an arena--the underside of a woman's skirt, to be exact--that would seem to be incompatible with public discourse and yet provides that discourse with its terms for taste and propriety. These terms are ostensibly stabilized in Isaac Bickerstaff 's trial of the hooppetticoat in the Tatler 's court of public opinion, a trial that finds fashion guilty of social and aesthetic infractions even as it allows the judges to indulge their curiosity. As a great machine is used to open the skirt fully in the courtroom, Bickerstaff writes, "it brush'd upon my Face as I sate in my Chair of Judicature."13 The dress is so invasive of public space that it encroaches upon the arena of polite judgment, getting far too close to the apparently disinterested spectators who occupy it. After this comic spatial encounter--evidence both of the skirt's absurd immensity and



Tatler, ed. Donald F. Bond, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 2:192. References are to this edition.



of Bickerstaff 's ultimate impotence to suppress the fashion--the machine completes its work. What results is a peculiar spectacle that is at once ridiculous and properly aesthetic, at once erotic and disinterested. When the skirt is opened fully so that all may examine it, the court finds itself situated comfortably underneath so that they may look (and look, and look) directly up into its centre. Bickerstaff employs metaphor and simile to deliver politely the image of his posture: the hoop-petticoat "covered the whole Court of Judicature with a kind of Silken Rotunda, in its Form not unlike the Cupolo of St. Paul's. I enter'd upon the whole Cause with great Satisfaction as I sate under the Shadow of it" (2:192). Part of the process of criminalizing this renegade feminine practice is to expose it to a "good," paternal eye, a mode of seeing that accommodates Addison's signature irony: in order for this benevolent judge to subordinate feminine folly to his discerning gaze, he must occupy an absurd position that emphasizes his smallness in relation to the object of his critique. The result is a cultural commentary that renders Bickerstaff 's voice ironic but not farcical, lucid as he is in his detailing of the hoop-petticoat's intimate particulars. "The Lady's Disaster" depicts an alternate possibility: that viewers will be accosted by the spectacle of the hoop-petticoat's underside without warning (see figure 1).14 The legend to this engraving relates that "Dire fate" rather than anticipated display leaves Celia, the skirt's wearer, "unguarded" from the eyes of the spectators who surround her on the Strand. She has "carelessly toss[ed] her Hoop too high, in going to shun a little Chimney sweeper's Boy who fell down just at her Feet," so that it gets caught high on a hook beside the doorway of what appears to be a brothel. The "satisfaction" of the crowd's reaction contrasts with Bickerstaff 's polite juridical stance insofar as no one in the street scene seems to occupy a properly aesthetic stature:

Carmen, Clowns, & Gentle folks With satisfaction pass their Jokes. Some view th' enamel'd scene on high And some at bottom fix their Eye; Mark well the Boy with smutty Face,


Amanda Vickery includes this plate in her discussion of fashion for women of gentility. Vickery, The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 174.

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Figure 1. "The Lady's Disaster," attributed to satirical engraver John June and dated by the Museum of London at 1750. Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of London.

And wish themselves were in his place Whose black distorted features show There's something--to be seen below.

Whether they are too entertained, too distanced, too close, or too bawdy, these spectators regard the hoop-petticoat in variously impolite ways. Most telling of all is the collective desire of the spectators to assume the position of the "Boy with smutty Face" who gazes directly up at Celia's petticoats "and awful grinning at her Foot / Cries sweep! sweep! Madam for your Soot." The chimney sweep's boy possesses the same visual access to the skirt as does Bickerstaff but reacts with salaciousness: the boy stares agape at Celia's lower half and offers to "sweep" it, while the "leering Jew" at his side "would gladly have a better view" as he reaches out to touch the skirt's underside. In contrast to the polite court's posture of distanced contemplation, the street scene's chaotic and impolite response to Celia's mishap bespeaks the hoop-petticoat's capacity to induce illicit forms of desire



and, explicitly in both cases, "satisfaction." The scopophilia that characterizes both displays articulates the vexation of an inquiry into women's dress, raising questions about that which it simultaneously shrouds and exposes. The engraver faults the individual woman for the incident ("In moderate bounds had Celia dres't / She'd ne'er become a publick Jest"), but the reaction of the street crowd verifies an easily aroused, collective fascination with the hoop-petticoat--as well as the body it alternately hides and reveals. Cynthia Wall has identified a primary function of description in the early eighteenth century as an attempt "not just to make us see things, but to make us see things oddly " through a process of defamiliarization: "The familiarity itself, drawn by the description, is beak-lifted out of context and dropped into a readerly perceptual sea."15 The odd, improper, and ironic perspective on the hoop-petticoat described and performed in these accounts gives readers a new, inverted way of seeing the cultural practice of decorating (or vulgarizing) women's bodies, one that reveals the absurd and erotic aspects not only of the petticoats themselves, but also of public discourse on them. The viewers in these texts, as well as the readers of them, respond to the pleasing call of the skirt because it is presented oddly, constructing a perspective that compels the eye (and, in one case, the hand) to gravitate towards an impolite locus. Even though the flatness of the opened skirt in the engraving lacks the pleasing shape of the dome enjoyed (and yet outlawed) by Bickerstaff, it engages the visual curiosity of all spectators on the street because it shows itself in an unfamiliar way. The unusual display of the skirt invites a new way of imagining the woman's body--namely, from below--and ostensibly promotes taste even as it depends on the distasteful meanderings of readers' imaginations. Bickerstaff enjoys the curves and textures of the underside of a hoop-petticoat rather than a tactile experience of it. But as we see in "The Lady's Disaster," a skirt need not resemble a divine dome to function as a visually compelling site of public concern--it simply needs


Cynthia Wall, The Prose of Things: Transformations of Description in the Eighteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 81­82. Wall uses these phrases to explain Swift's descriptive modes, but I find them useful in thinking through Addison's manipulation of perspective in the petticoat essays.

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to present itself in excess of its normal proportions. Bickerstaff 's engaged reaction to the hoop-petticoat, then, differs in both degree and consequence from the vulgar curiosities of the people on the street; but both spectacles demonstrate the irresistible pull of the eye towards that which shrouds the woman's body. This visual attraction might be understood as betraying Addison's "logic of patriarchal erotics" that would seek to subdue women's fashion autonomy.16 But oddly, Addison's objections to the hoop-petticoat dovetail with the larger aesthetic practice he propounds throughout the papers on the pleasures of the imagination. Addison provides distinctly aesthetic terms through which we might understand the confusion of the spectators discussed above, particularly Bickerstaff. The "most enormous Concave" created by the skirt invokes Addison's own language of architectural beauty as he will reveal it in Spectator no. 415. The roundness of the concave and the convex please more than square lines and angles because their uninterrupted lines allow us to apprehend a greater degree of wholeness--because, in Addison's words, "in these Figures we generally see more of the Body, than in those of other Kinds" (3:557). The concave works more forcefully on the imagination than the convex because it reveals itself all at once: "Look upon the Outside of a Dome, your Eye half surrounds it; look up into the Inside, and at one Glance you have all the Prospect of it; the entire Concavity falls into your Eye at once, the Sight being as the Centre that collects and gathers into it the Lines of the whole Circumference" (3:557). The active feelings of possession, comprehension, and satisfaction that overtake the imagination in this vision create the spectator's pleasure, much like the sensations that set Bickerstaff at ease as he enjoys the view in the courtroom. Once he assumes this potentially absurd and salacious position, he can recuperate the compromising nature of his perspective by assuming the disinterested posture, tone, and language of a detached surveyor. Despite, or perhaps in service of, the satiric aim of the analogy between cathedral and hoop-petticoat that exposes women's almost idolatrous employment of the concave--and that no doubt mocks the great importance attached to the fashion--Addison explains the desire to look around, underneath, and up into the



Mackie, 137.



concave as perfectly explicable and pleasurable in aesthetic terms. This looking is permissible because it is conducted as though the object being searched is not evocative of a woman's bottom half. And yet, as the vocal opponent in Spectator no. 127 declares with exasperation, hoop-petticoats are "contrary to all Rules of Architecture" (2:5). They "widen the Foundations at the same time that they shorten the Superstructure"; and, when read within Addison's own language for architectural design, we see that the skirts perform a nearly mock-heroic pairing of great forms with trivial matter (2:5). The skirts position small feminine bodies in an enormous concave, which encroaches on architecture's lofty aims at beauty in two ways--first, by appropriating its methods in the service of the lower sphere of fashion, and second, by appropriating those methods incorrectly. The result is a violation of aesthetics that nears sacrilege: "When I survey this new-fashioned Rotonda in all its Parts, I cannot but think of the old Philosopher, who after having entered into an Egyptian Temple, and looked about for the Idol of the Place, at length discovered a little Black Monkey enshrined in the midst of it, upon which he could not forbear crying out, (to the great Scandal of the Worshippers,) What a magnificent Palace is here for such a ridiculous Inhabitant!" (2:7). To dress a woman in a version of the very ornament that is used to construct places of worship is to devalue divine forms, endowing the feminine figure with dimensions that are too great, too majestic for its diminutive status. Bickerstaff participates in this absurdity, claiming "satisfaction" while sitting under the simulacrum of the "Cupolo of St. Paul's" and thereby enacting the false idolatry that is occasioned by the hoop-petticoat's elevation of the woman's body to the top of a divine architectural figure. The venture of inspecting the hoop-petticoat reveals that taste can gravitate towards the absurd, and the seemingly disinterested, polite gaze contains elements of a curiosity that is very interested--in public space, in women's bodies, and in the knowledge that is obfuscated by the hoop-petticoat. By employing the language of architectural aesthetics in his description of the lowly hoop-petticoat, Addison suggests that the aesthetic encounter, at this early moment in its history, is an experience that might be mobilized by vulgar curiosity. The satiric fusion of serious aesthetic posture with an anti-aesthetic,

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indeed ridiculous, object creates a peculiar spectator, one who seems able to take aesthetic pleasure in erotic spectacles. This kind of spectatorship reveals the Spectator 's doubly ironic stance on finding beauty where one should not be looking for it while exposing culture's fabrication of beauty where it should not be fabricated. As a skirt, the hoop-petticoat is absurd and raises prurient curiosity, but as Bickerstaff 's account suggests, as a vaulted dome, it is quite admirable. Here, we see the possibility that the aesthetic faculty can be employed independently of the status of its object. It may be defensible, these papers suggest, to follow the visual pull towards areas typically designated as private, if not altogether improper. What, after all, produces the "satisfaction" Bickerstaff feels as he sits underneath the opened hoop-petticoat? It is not a woman's bottom half, nor is it the vaulted dome of a cathedral; in fact, Bickerstaff 's pleasure lies in the imprecision of attempting to distinguish between an arousal of aesthetic affect and one of the bodily senses. By visually exploring the quotidian hoop-petticoat as though it were a majestic dome, Bickerstaff undergoes an "event of pleasure" in which taste is indistinguishable from vulgarity.17 The hoop-petticoat produces these conflicting responses because it places majestic architectural beauty on the trivial female body. This mismatch, in turn, calls men to see the hooppetticoat, to recognize its beauty and its inappropriateness, and finally to look, actually or imaginatively, at what lies underneath. If this concrete, and ultimately trivial, visual object can lead to such individual and social instances of illicit wondering, how can spectators' interior responses to the exterior world be relied upon to take the form of the polite, gentlemanly imaginative pleasures we saw Addison celebrate at the outset? The Imagination's Body This question is intensified when we consider the degree to which the pleasures of the imagination are, for Addison, predicated on a spectator's curiosity and desire--a feature Ronald Paulson has noted as distinguishing Addison from the aesthetic strain



I borrow this label for aesthetic experience from Neil Saccamano, "The Sublime Force of Words in Addison's `Pleasures,'" ELH: English Literary History 58, no. 1 (1991): 87.



of his contemporary moral philosophers. Paulson locates this innovation in Addison's category of the "novel," a category of aesthetic affect that pleases by refusing a spectator full visual access, eliciting his desire to see more, and, ultimately, initiating his imaginative pursuit of dynamic scenes.18 The viewer is, by definition, never fully satisfied: the "new or uncommon ... fills the Soul with an agreeable Surprise, gratifies its Curiosity, and gives it an Idea of which it was not before possesst ... It serves us for a kind of Refreshment, and takes off from that Satiety we are apt to complain of in our usual and ordinary Entertainments" (3:541). The agent of the aesthetic experience in this passage is the object itself, which refuses to capitulate to stasis. Thus, the "kind of Property" a spectator establishes in his imagination is virtual; it is one that extends spatially and temporally the viewer's sphere of enjoyment precisely because it is not actual or stable. It is not mere accumulation that the spectator craves but the posture of ownership of something that, in fact, refuses to be owned or domesticated: "a spacious Horison is an Image of Liberty, where the Eye has Room to range abroad, to expatiate at large on the Immensity of its Views, and to lose it self amidst the Variety of Objects that offer themselves to its Observation" (3:541). The eye owns but simultaneously "lose[s] it self " in the variety and surprise offered by the object. Those things in which the spectator seeks to establish property are valuable precisely because they pull, divert, lead, surprise, and otherwise evade full, actual possession--as did the playful curves of the hoop-petticoat. Spectators imaginatively inhabit a scene, then, for the delight they find in its perpetual motion. For Addison, this is the unique and instrumental feature of pleasures of the imagination. Maintaining their difference from pleasures of the understanding


Ronald Paulson, The Beautiful, Novel, and Strange: Aesthetics and Heterodoxy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 49. Paulson contrasts this thread of the aesthetic with that associated with Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, in which the viewer is inactive by comparison. See also David Marshall, "Shaftesbury and Addison: Criticism and the Public Taste," in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism vol. 4 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 633­57. On the related topic of curiosity as a cultural category of visual and epistemological engagement, see Barbara Benedict, Curiosity: A Cultural History of Early Modern Inquiry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). Unlike many forms of unruly curiosity that preceded it, Benedict suggests, the Spectator redeemed curiosity as a mode of inquiry by "mak[ing] the eye accountable" as an agent of observation (102).

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is easy enough--the latter is premised on "Knowledge or Improvement in the Mind," the former on "transporting" and delight (3:537, 538). And whereas pleasures of the senses might "suffer the Mind to sink into the Negligence and Remissness, which are apt to accompany our more sensual Delights," imaginative pleasure keeps the mental faculties alert and flexible (3:539). This "Sphere of ... innocent Pleasures" is virtuous because the spectator "may retire into them with Safety, and find in them such Satisfaction as a wise Man would not blush to take," since they elevate him above his bodily desires (3:539). Pleasures of the imagination prevent passivity in mind and in body by sustaining and renewing curiosity, a process that socializes what might otherwise, in its fulfillment of visceral desire, evoke a "blush" from the polite gentleman. In these aesthetic pleasures, the imagination exploits sense so that not only sense is gratified. The imagination, because it mediates, redeems spectators by preventing their enjoyment from manifesting in the body. And yet, the body is central to these experiences. The eye in particular disciplines and chaperones the subject's enjoyment by urging him to look with his eyes and not, as it were, with his hands--even as he approximates looking with his hands. "Our Sight," Addison writes, "seems designed to supply all these Defects [of the sense of feeling], and may be considered as a more delicate and diffusive kind of Touch, that spreads it self over an infinite Multitude of Bodies, comprehends the largest Figures, and brings into our reach some of the most remote Parts of the Universe" (3:536). The imagination's engagement of sight imitates actual contact by enjoying a virtual possession of the objects in view; but further, the imaginative work of sight wards off the sensible dangers of touch by leading the viewer only to contemplate contact with the "infinite Multitude of Bodies" it sees. This physical remove required by the sense of sight impedes vice by preventing the body from becoming too involved with the imagination's excitement, thereby securing the visual encounter within the "Sphere of innocent Pleasures." This imaginative approximation of a tactile encounter, for Addison, also has concrete effects on the body itself. It is not metaphorically that he writes, "Delightful scenes have a kindly Influence on the Body, as well as the Mind"; they "brighten the Imagination [and] are able to disperse grief and Melancholy, and to set the Animal Spirits in pleasing and agreeable motions" (3:539).




The polite, aesthetic subject benefits intellectually, physically, and culturally by consuming these palliative scenes: "aesthetic acquisition," as Erin Mackie writes in her study, "is a tonic for body and soul."19 Addison believes that such calming of the mind analogously calms the body, following the empiricist notion that stimulation of the physical senses directly affects the conditions of the mind and body. At least rhetorically if not scientifically, Addison also draws on humoral and Cartesian notions of physiology in his suggestion that what the eye beholds determines the motion of the body's fluids, which in turn determine mental and somatic conditions.20 Addison thus encourages spectators to exercise an awareness that their health in mind and body is in large part contingent on their aesthetic practice. But if aesthetic stimulation is a "tonic," so too can it be an aphrodisiac. Addison not only acknowledges but also celebrates beauty's capacity to incite a special, "secret" kind of desire: "there is nothing that makes its way more directly to the Soul than Beauty, which immediately diffuses a secret Satisfaction and Complacency through the Imagination, and gives a Finishing to any thing that is Great or Uncommon. The very first Discovery of it strikes the Mind with an inward Joy, and spreads a Chearfulness and Delight through all its Faculties" (3:542). The pleasure taken in beauty reaches "inward," where it seduces the viewer into a private state of relaxation--a "complacency" that works with particular force on the soul. The genius of this pleasure, which Addison attributes to divinity, is its simultaneous delightfulness and instrumentality. Aesthetic allure in persons can produce not simply sexual desire but sex acts: "every different Species of sensible Creatures has its different Notions of Beauty, and ... each of them is most affected with the Beauties of its own kind" so that "all Creatures might be tempted to multiply their Kind, and fill the World, with Inhabitants" (3:542, 546). Just as bodily sense is not entirely separable from the pleasures of the imagination, erotic

19 20

Mackie, 83. For these origins in humoral theory, see Michael Schoenfeldt, Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England: Physiology and Inwardness in Spenser, Shakespeare, Herbert, and Milton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 1­39. For more on the Cartesian model of passion that unites body and soul, see Susan James, Passion and Action: The Emotions in SeventeenthCentury Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 87­108.

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desire--here, the capacity to be "tempted"--is not banished from the realm of aesthetic pleasure: it is a consequence of imaginative interaction with the world that joins the individual's body to the libidinal community of which he is part. While the body can be calmed by aesthetic experience--recall Addison's English gentleman "convers[ing] with a Picture"--it also is susceptible to erotic curiosities and sexual actions. These actions might be seen to form a spectrum, ranging from Bickerstaff 's comic peering up a skirt, to Melliora's confused suspension between virtuous and vicious comportment, to "Creatures be[ing] tempted to multiply their Kind." All of these are responses to heightened imaginative states, and they call the body to action as a result of what the eye pleasurably--and in many cases, erotically--beholds. Reading elicits similar responses in readers' interiors. While in Spectator no. 421 Addison fully theorizes how the imagination is balanced by the intellect in acts of reading, his initial account of literary description in Spectator no. 418 markedly resembles his brief words on sexual desire. Like the response of "inward Joy" we experience in instances of beauty, description sparks an "inward Pleasure" in the reader (3:568). A superior description, Addison writes, "represents to us such Objects as are apt to raise a secret Ferment in the Mind of the Reader, and to work, with Violence, upon his Passions. For, in this case, we are at once warmed and enlightened, so that the Pleasure becomes more Universal, and is several ways qualified to entertain us" (3:567). Description entertains diversely, indulging each reader with individualized imagined visions and the peculiarly strong, "secret" excitement they elicit. Given his clarity on other matters of literary pleasure, we ought to be struck by the opacity of Addison's characterization of reading in this passage, cloaking as it does aesthetic sensations in the language of "secrecy," "violence," "warmth," and "ferment." At once alchemical and empiricist, Addison's explanation of description's effects locates their force in the depth with which they strike the subject: so private, so interior is the pleasure taken in description that its most immediate effects leave their mark on the blood, or the humours, or the passions, all of which are invoked in Addison's language. He relies on the mysteries of the body to signify the magnitude of the pleasure a single individual takes in his interaction with a text. Description thus seems to be the source of the most fully individualized aesthetic experiences,




hitting upon some interior point where literary affect and bodily passion meet.21 One reason for the intensely personal, unique nature of these pleasures has been glossed by Neil Saccamano: all secondary pleasures of the imagination (which include, along with figurative writing, the absent, the remembered, the virtual) "are modifications of objects no longer present in sight but replaced by some imaginative form" and thus depend to a large degree on the subject's construction--in Addison's words, on his "Action of Mind, which compares the Ideas arising from the Original Objects, with the Ideas we receive from the Statue, Picture, Description or Sound that represents them" (3:559­60).22 Hence the secrecy of the experience, the visions of which are customized by an individual's unique capacity for invention. Such variance in aesthetic inclination is mildly troubling to Addison, as he wonders "how it comes to pass that several Readers, who are all acquainted with the same Language, and know the Meaning of the Words they read, should nevertheless have a different Relish of the same Descriptions. We find one transported with a Passage, which another runs over with Coldness and Indifference" (3:561). His explanation once again places great emphasis on the body:

This different Taste must proceed, either from the Perfection of Imagination in one more than in another, or from the different Ideas that several Readers affix to the same Words. For, to have a true Relish,



The degree to which reading was an individual or private practice in this early part of the eighteenth century has received much attention, and scholars have drawn different conclusions on the matter. I am willing to assume here a private reader to the degree that each reader of a text--whether receiving that text in the privacy of actual reading or via an oral delivery--engages in his or her own imaginative construction of the images the text presents, as Addison's account of description suggests. For histories of reading as a private act, see Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957), chap. 6; and J. Paul Hunter, Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990), 61­88. For studies that revise these findings with evidence of models of collective reading, see Catherine Ingrassia, "Eliza Haywood, Sapphic Desire, and the Practice of Reading," in Lewd and Notorious: Female Transgression in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Katharine Kittredge (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003), 247­50; and essays by James Raven and Naomi Tadmor in The Practice and Representation of Reading in England, ed. James Raven, Helen Small, and Naomi Tadmor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Saccamano, 87.

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and form a right Judgment of a Description, a Man should be born with a good Imagination, and must have well weighed the Force and Energy that lie in the several Words of a Language, so as to be able to distinguish which are most significant and expressive of their proper Ideas ... The Fancy must be warm, to retain the Print of those Images it hath received from outward Objects; and the Judgment discerning, to know what Expressions are most proper to cloath and adorn them to the best Advantage. (3:561)


A reader, of course, must be trained to discern the subtleties of how language represents "Ideas." But at least equally, that reader must "be born with a good Imagination," one that is easily receptive of the ideas that are invoked by literary description. The ideal imagination is "warm," a condition of mind and body that is predetermined at birth and whose singularity expresses itself through the "different Relish" the reader possesses at later stages of maturity. It is not acquired taste or cultural consensus alone that determines aesthetic preference. Rather, there is some visceral origin of the "warmth" and "secret Ferment" that gives a spectator pleasure. This is not to say, of course, that all readers will be inclined to imagine erotically, but that Addison locates the capacity for excitation in the body and in terms that, like so much of his explanation of imaginative pleasures, merge with the language and sensations associated with the erotic. A man's preferences, the very stuff he imaginatively envisions, will comprise those images that sustain the "warm" state of his fancy. Presumably, interpretation or "judgment" tames the body from becoming too warm. Kraft cites Addisonian wit as performing this civilizing function. But as her reading suggests, Addison himself embeds the salacious into his explanation of wit as a social tool: "By `figuring' `true wit' as a dressed and undressed woman, Addison suggests that one of the most important functions of wit is to construct aesthetic pleasure from the impulses of material desire."23 Since subjects' material substance will be warmed, perhaps inflamed by texts, they must be trained to aestheticize--to keep active, surprising, and mobile--those passions that are raised by beauty, passions that threaten to remain material, visceral, libidinal. In conceiving of the pleasure in reading as a state of being "at once warmed and enlightened," Addison offers to his


Kraft, 639.



spectators a host of associations within which they might codify their own elevated feeling. While physical heat in the body's constitution often was associated with masculine reason and temperament, it also was put to frequent use as a heightened emotional state. "To warm" seems to have been a particularly useful way of describing excited response precisely because its use in the period was poised between a literal effect on the body and blood and a figurative heightening of emotion.24 The act of reading likewise resided at this nexus of figuration and material consequence; as Adrian Johns has shown, this period saw a residual belief that "the decisive moment of face-to-face confrontation between reader and read"--the potential moment for Addison's "secret Ferment"--would imprint readers' bodies and minds irreversibly. Often, these effects were thought to include disquiet or agitation, thus readers were urged to approach texts with caution and reserve.25 But discourses on the erotic are those which most often conceive of excitement as bodily heat that results from visual apprehension. Throughout literature addressing issues of sex-- love, lust, prostitution, procreation--states of arousal, interest, and excitement are explained as physiological states of heat and, as such, are understood as powerful, often dangerous calls to sexual action. In one of countless examples, Bernard Mandeville describes a woman's wantonness as the "Heat of [her] Blood" and a virgin's disorder at being near a man as a "Combustion within," while The Whore's Rhetorick uses this terminology to explain men's excitement at pornographic Aretinian pictures: "with an easy motion, turning the upside down, the obscenity appears, of power to raise a luxuriant heat, and a beastly appetite ... This pleasing spectacle will ever sensibly affect the seeing organ, so turning the leaf according to what diversity the eye discovers, as most pleasant, a harmonious discord will then arise."26 The


25 26

See OED, "warm, v.," esp. second entry on "various figurative uses." See also Steele's association of warmth with exaggerated storytelling: "I had arrived at a particular Skill in warming a Man so far in his Narration, as to make him throw in a little of the Marvelous, and then, if he has much Fire, the next degree is the Impossible" (Spectator no. 521). Adrian Johns, "The Physiology of Reading," in The Practice and Representation of Reading, 140. Bernard Mandeville, The Virgin Unmask'd (London, 1709), 20 and 24­25; The Whores Rhetorick (London, 1683), 172.

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procedural similarity between this account of viewing and that which we find in Addison is striking, and it differs only in the kind of reaction it produces: in the context of prostitution, the heat raised is "luxuriant," the appetite "beastly." But like Addison's polite spectator, the pornographic viewer depends upon the curiosity of the eye and its capacity to "discover" spectacles that raise a "harmonious discord," a dialectical process identical in sensation and logic to Addison's viewer being "a little agitated and relieved at the Sight of ... Objects as are ever in Motion, and sliding away from beneath the Eye of the Beholder" (3:542). In both cases, the eye produces a pair of contrasting forces in the senses that, in their dynamic opposition, give way to the warmth that is operative in both sexual and aesthetic excitement. Addison's awareness of this metaphor of heat makes his use of the term here even more suspect: heat's associations with love and desire are his primary example of mixed wit in Spectator no. 62.27 Aesthetic-pleasure-as-heat, then, derives force from its double association--its recapitulation of the belief in the inseparability of the passions and the blood and its rhetorical power as a linguistic trope. Its similarity to sexual arousal, too, hinges on this double association, since love conceived as heat is both highly figurative and descriptive of physical reactions to the love object. The categorization of this response as heat or warmth produces ambiguity rather than a stable conception of what aesthetic pleasure feels like, or of what kinds of sensations an object or text will arouse. Addison's aesthetic subjects are not offered a consensus of affective response but rather a spectrum of pleasure that can accommodate different modes of elevation at various emotional, physical, and psychological planes. Heightened aesthetic experience could assume structures and manifestations very close to, perhaps indistinguishable from, other forms of heightened experience--erotic arousal, for instance, or delusions involving the inability to distinguish real from virtual. The lack of a distinction between polite and impolite seems to be the source of enjoyment here--the more secret and inward the locus of joy, the more



"The Passion of Love in its Nature has been thought to resemble Fire; for which Reason the Words Fire and Flame are made use of to signify Love. The witty Poets therefore have taken an Advantage from the doubtful Meaning of the Word Fire, to make an infinite Number of Witticisms" (1:266).



intensely do we appreciate the encounter that produced it. Addison aligns the pleasures of the imagination with interior elevations of feeling, particularly those associated with sexual arousal, which occur with an immediacy and physiological force that functions, in his construction, independently of external determinations. Imagining Readers Reading and beauty, in their nearly sacred productions of individualized delight, create special, "secret" degrees of interior pleasure that, Addison implies, converge with erotic sensation. It is in acts of interpretation, as the immediacy of the scene passes, that readers might self-consciously mitigate the force with which their bodies and imaginations have been excited. Or, as the Spectator recommends for women, fragile aesthetic subjects might opt out of full imaginative engagement, since its force might be too persuasive or overwhelming to manage.28 To "keep them out of Harm's way," Thomas Tickell recommends they channel their imaginative urges into needlepoint, which allows muted aesthetic experiences of gardening, landscape, and epic: "What a delightful Entertainment must it be to the Fair Sex, whom their native Modesty, and the Tenderness of Men towards them, exempts them from public Business, to pass their Hours in imitating Fruits and Flowers, and transplanting all the Beauties of Nature into their own Dress, or raising a new Creation in their Closets and Apartments. How pleasing is the Amusement of walking among the Shades and Groves planted by themselves, in surveying Heroes slain by their Needle, or little Cupids which they have brought into the World without Pain!" (5:72). Tickell demarcates the feminine sphere as one entirely rendered in stitch and shrunken to the boundaries of women's own closets and clothing. The ambition to create and to be transported by beauty ought to be confined to the domestic both in labour and in product. The work is done


For the early modern humoralist belief in the impressionability of the female body and mind, see Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1990), 63­113, esp. 108­12. For a discussion of women's hysteria in relation to reading, see Rebecca P. Bocchicchio, "`Blushing, Trembling, and Incapable of Defense': The Hysterics of The British Recluse," in The Passionate Fictions of Eliza Haywood: Essays on Her Life and Work, ed. Kirsten T. Saxton and Bocchicchio (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000), esp. 95­97.

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in the privacy of the home, "tak[ing] them off from Scandal, the usual Attendant of Tea-Tables," and the tapestry is used to decorate the home rather than to enter women into conversations outside of it (5:72). The discursive fields of literature, culture, and politics are cursorily, not substantively, engaged in this practice, which asks them to make pictures concretely rather than fabricate them in their mind's eye. Rather than urge women to undergo individualized elevations of feeling of the sort Addison celebrates, Tickell constructs a domesticated scene that dilutes the substance of the aesthetic experience by purging it of the power to excite inwardly, thus protecting women from too forceful a swaying of the passions that they might experience in, say, an act of reading or writing.29 The absurdity of this program is fully exposed in Tickell's mock legislation that "no young Virgin whatsoever be allowed to receive the Addresses of her first Lover, but in a Suit of her own Embroidering," or that women not marry until they have sewn their first child's pillows (5:73). Rather than actually confine women to a world rendered entirely in needlepoint, the satire seems to acknowledge that aesthetic engagement and production needs to be managed, and in many cases fully mitigated. Tickell warns, in other words, against too reckless an entry into the physical and mental excitement that is to be undergone in pleasures of the imagination. If, as I have suggested, aesthetic engagement threatens to merge with erotic desire, women in particular would require training in the realm of imaginative self-government, at least in the paternalist worldview of the Spectator. As we see in Tickell's championing of needlepoint, the Spectator recommends different degrees of aesthetic engagement for different individuals. I believe this results from Addison's "discovery" of the force of the pleasures of the imagination, which he describes by repeatedly alluding to their affinities with erotic desire. By attending to the more mysterious corners



On the ambivalence towards women readers, see Benedict, chap. 3; and Jacqueline Pearson, Women's Reading in England, 1750­1835: A Dangerous Recreation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). On women writers, see Catherine Gallagher, Nobody's Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670­1820 (Berkeley: University of California Pres, 1994); and Paula McDowell, The Women of Grub Street: Press, Politics, and Gender in the London Literary Marketplace, 1678­1730 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998).



of Addison's aesthetics--those where we see emerge his own uncertainty regarding distinctions between interior and exterior, real and imagined, body and mind, polite and impolite--I have tried to show that his program for socialization constructs taste and manners by acknowledging the less savoury curiosities that frequently underwrite aesthetic appreciation. As Paul Goring has written of the discourse on elocution in the period, "through ... the identification and condemnation or critique of what was deemed impolite ... eighteenth-century politeness gained coherence."30 In the case of Addison, the "condemnation" of things impolite happens also to place value in the force of the feelings they produce, such that, as I have detailed, the language of eroticism becomes a powerful explanatory device for Addison's discourse on aesthetic affect. Further, this detailing of the impolite might saturate or pluralize what polite subjects are inclined to imagine. As readers learn that the "warm" body plays an essential role in the pleasures of the imagination, are they introduced to prurient sorts of wondering? As Bickerstaff describes sitting under the great umbrella of the hoop-petticoat, might readers be inclined to wonder about--to imaginatively "look at"--the wrong things, and thus to feel the wrong kinds of affect? I believe the answer is yes, and not simply because I am persuaded by Addison's employment of the images and language of sexual desire within his aesthetic lessons. Literary discourse itself struggles with the question of how description will affect readers. Particularly in the discourse on novelistic prose fiction, we see writers themselves puzzled by the dual task of stimulating readers' imaginations while promoting morality--the classic challenge of the Horatian ideal dulce et utile. As we saw above, Haywood explicitly invokes the imagination as a volatile faculty, one that can easily (and disastrously) overflow its interior and spill into the unforgiving external world. How are authors to avoid this overload of the aesthetic faculty in attempting to represent, and compellingly so, the private experiences of (usually female, often beautiful) characters? My discussion here does not seek to answer this question so much as to emphasize the self-consciousness with which authors tried to manage the paradox. I want to close


Paul Goring, The Rhetoric of Sensibility in Eighteenth-Century Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 61.

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by briefly noting the way in which authors of the emergent novel, like Addison, employ erotics as the discursive terrain within which the imagination can be explicitly examined for its capacity to elevate readers above entirely sensual engagements with texts. As they debate what to "show" their readers, early novelists acknowledge sex to be that discursive mode that most rigorously tests readers' aesthetic capabilities. Few novels can be said to construct transparency and interior depth with as much gusto as does Samuel Richardson's Pamela. It is precisely readers' unmediated view of the heroine's thoughts and experiences that provides the terms for much of the praise that was lavished on the novel. Richardson's use of language and style to fully reveal Pamela's mind is what constitutes his great achievement. As one reader praises, "I am charmed with the beautiful Reflections she makes in the Course of her Distresses; her Soliloquies and little Reasonings with herself, are exceeding pretty and entertaining: She pours out all her Soul in them before her Parents without Disguise; so that one may judge of, nay, almost see, the inmost Recesses of her Mind. A pure clear Fountain of Truth and Innocence, a Magazine of Virtue and unblemish'd Thoughts!"31 This reader's affection derives from his direct access to Pamela's interiority. Her writing is not simply "pretty"; it is so naturally, "without Disguise" and thus appears with clarity and depth--a "Fountain" and "Magazine" of honesty and innocence. But the ostensibly unmediated visibility of this style can also be problematic. Upon her description of Mr B's second mischievous appearance in her bedroom, Pamela warns her father against the distress of the visual image he will encounter: "What Words shall I find, my dear Mother, (for my Father should not see this shocking Part) to describe ... my Confusion, when the guilty Wretch took my Left-arm, and laid it under his Neck, as the vile Procuress [Mrs Jewkes] held my Right; and then he clasp'd me round my Waist!" (203). This description, because of its sexual nature, is singled out from others detailing Mr B's infractions as detrimental to her father's masculine and paternal eye. We readers are asked to consider that he (which is to say, we) might see the scene of his daughter's rape--a horrifying spectacle that, in the paradigm of



Samuel Richardson, Pamela, ed. Thomas Keymer and Alice Wakely (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 8. References are to this edition.



heterosexual desire in Pamela, would be more inflaming for her father than for her mother. Richardson's intent, of course, is to effect condemnation and disgust for Mr B's actions, rendered all the more detestable because we hear them through the clear, undecorated voice of Pamela. So "shocking" is this vision of Pamela's forced sexual vulnerability that Henry Fielding directly references it in his parody Shamela, where he characterizes its salaciousness as being at odds with Richardson's virtuous project. The honest detail has pornographic, not moral, potential. "I cannot agree," writes Parson Oliver, "that my Daughter should entertain herself with some of [Richardson's] Pictures; which I do not expect to be contemplated without Emotion, unless by one of my Age and Temper, who can see the Girl lie on her Back, with one Arm round Mrs Jewkes and the other round the Squire, naked in Bed, with his Hand on her Breasts, &c. with as much Indifference as I read any other Page in the whole Novel."32 Here as in Pamela, this description occasions an inflaming picture; but Fielding's intervention emphasizes that the distress Pamela attributes to her father has the potential to manifest as an altogether different passion in other readers, especially impressionable young women--or Parson Oliver, for that matter, whose account here reveals his own escalation of interest in Pamela's sexualized body before he abruptly contains it in his "&c." Part of Fielding's meaning here, of course, is to reject the notion that literary description can actually undo a reader's moral interiors. But integral to this irony is his explication of erotic fascination as one end of a spectrum of aesthetic response to texts. In the absurdly prudish perspective of Oliver, pornographic infatuation is not merely possible but likely: if the description conveyed to the imagination sparks erotic constructions there, the "warm" response will be of the libidinal, and thoroughly nonnovelistic, kind. For Fielding, this account yields a double claim: one, the verisimilitude sought by early novels compelled writers to detail mischievous erotic scenes, central as they were to lives of young heroes and heroines; and two, rational minds, unlike that of Oliver, will be able to take pleasure in and meaning from such scenes without being imprudently led astray.


Henry Fielding, "Joseph Andrews" and "Shamela," ed. Douglas Brooks-Davies and Martin C. Battestin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 313. References are to this edition.

Erotic Interiors


Fielding's own strategy for training readers to enter into this aesthetically pleasurable and morally responsible program for reading is to encourage reflection on their capacity to be aroused salaciously. In his novels, he invites readers to review their own temperament before they fully indulge the imagination. Upon his first lengthy description of Andrews's beloved Fanny ("she was so plump, that she seemed bursting through her tight Stays, especially in the Part which confined her swelling Breasts"), he writes, "Reader, if thou art of an amorous Hue, I advise thee to skip over the next Paragraph; which to render our History perfect, we are obliged to set down, humbly hoping, that we may escape the fate of Pygmalion: for if it should happen to us or to thee to be struck with this Picture, we should be perhaps in as helpless a Condition as Narcissus " (133).33 Fielding's request that readers distance themselves from the ensuing description of Fanny's erotic allure presumably increases the eagerness with which they approach it: his warning functions like a frame, doing more to highlight Fanny's beauty than to deflect interest away from the vision of her body. This emphasis is repeated when he averts the reader's gaze from Joseph's and Fanny's kisses so that he may see Parson Adams "dancing about the Room in a Rapture of Joy," which soon comes to a sad end when he finds his Aeschylus in the fire. Its comic effect is unmistakable; but as in Addison's hoop-petticoat papers, the comedy contains an invitation for readers to examine their interiors--not only their capacity to understand classical references, but also their own tendency towards amorousness. Even if they are unlikely to censor their reading, readers are asked to judge their own capability of resisting seductive images, to consider the possible distraction of fruitlessly desiring a text--like Narcissus's love of a mere reflection, like Pygmalion's fetishization of his own artistic creation. The reading practice espoused by Fielding is premised on a cultivation of self-consciousness. He speaks to readers who possess, along with an ironic sensibility, an awareness of the force of their imagination and of the pictures--of stays, breasts, and intimate embraces--that will be raised there. Surely they are not likely to "skip over" passages that announce themselves as



Fielding presents a parallel strategy in Tom Jones, where he regularly "draws curtains" over amorous encounters; see, for example, Fielding, Tom Jones, ed. John Bender (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 632.



salacious. But readers enter into those textual moments having been alerted to the special force they contain. As in Addison's account of the imagination, the language and images of eroticism--of appealing bodies, visceral desires, sexual spectacles--allow early novelists to exploit, through varying strategies, the peculiar but instrumental function performed by readers' sensible excitability. Readers are asked to be most aware of their imaginative engagement with novels at those moments when their reading might be motivated by sensual interests; it is at these instances that readers are asked to recognize, appreciate, and control what they "see" in texts. As Haywood's wise narrator illuminates in the opening of this article, the active imagination easily can generate visions of and desires for impolite things; so must novel-readers resist such erotic interest in favour of a moral and educable stance. Addison's theory of aesthetic affect, as it unfolds throughout the Spectator, helps us understand this concern with readers' responses not simply as an urgency to prevent sexual curiosity but as an ongoing literary experiment that seeks to "warm" readers sufficiently to animate their imaginations while circumventing the libidinal impropriety that could result from descriptions that are too evocative. The power of aesthetic experience, at this early moment in its theorization, derives from its similarity to erotic pleasure. Authors articulate their vision of the imagination's work through sexuality because it provides the most compelling language--that of warmth, secrecy, transport--for describing the mental pleasure to be taken in bodily sensation. For Addison and his contemporaries, eroticism cannot be at odds with literary endeavours, since it is when descriptions "work, with Violence, upon his Passions" that a reader most acutely appreciates the feelings and thoughts aroused by language. St. John's University


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