Money and the Novel: Mercenary Motivation in Defoe and His Immediate Successors

Description

184 pages
Contains Index
$12.00
ISBN 0-919203-01-9

Publisher

Year

1983

Contributor

Reviewed by Kenrick E.A. Mose

Kenrick E.A. Mose is an associate professor of Spanish studies at the
University of

Guelph.

Review

Samuel Macey combines his interest in eighteenth century literature with his business background to offer a special reading of Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, and Jane Austen. The book does not elaborate general theories on money and the novel, but it deals with the extent and differences of mercenary motivation in these four novelists.

Part I, half of the book, is devoted to the work of Daniel Defoe. Defoe’s extra-literary works are studied to show the novelist’s preoccupation with trade, navigation, and money-making. Such preoccupations, reflecting the author and his age, are fundamental to the concept, characterization, and structure of his novels. Clearly and with much specific detail, Macey shows that the process of acquiring wealth is a major structural emphasis in the novels and, because it is a process, the novels span a period of years to accommodate it.

The three later novelists, Richardson, Fielding, and Austen, responding to changing times and greater opportunities for owning estates, shift the emphasis from the process of earning wealth to property management or acquisition of property through marriage or inheritance. There is a concomitant change in the time span of their plots, which average one year.

Richardson’s novels show the bourgeois virtues of efficient management as important elements of structure and character. Fielding displays a more aristocratic attitude towards money. The dowry brings the denouement to his novels. Avoiding Defoe’s and Richardson’s obsession with economic details, Fielding still recognizes the importance of economic means. Money from wives provides sudden, happy endings to several of his novels.

Jane Austen’s characters are also motivated by the need for specific sums of money. She does not detail money matters like Defoe. However, her novels show the eighteenth century accommodation of gentility with tradesfolk and the connection between station in life, marriage, wealth, and happiness. The need to make a financially secure marriage structures her novels, and financial considerations colour her attitude towards character.

Money and the Novel is an interesting study. Part I, sometimes trying in its economic details, firmly sets the background against which the rest of the book will be developed. The author keeps his theme constantly in view and the conclusion compactly coordinates the major statements.

Citation

Macey, Samuel L., “Money and the Novel: Mercenary Motivation in Defoe and His Immediate Successors,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/37433.