A Manner of Correspondence: A Study of the Scriblerus Club

Description

184 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
$49.95
ISBN 0-7735-1546-1
DDC 827'.509

Year

1997

Contributor

Kathleen James-Cavan is an assistant professor of English at the
University of Saskatchewan.

Review

While most studies of the Scriblerus Club’s authors focus on
individuals, this book sets out to describe correspondences in
“Scriblerian ideals and Scriblerian anxieties, to trace out some
parallels and influences, and finally to suggest how these ideals and
anxieties shaped their writing.” Such a broad purpose should make this
a useful introduction for most students of 18th-century British
literature; however, its allusive style suits it to an audience already
familiar with the literature of that period.

The author initially defines Scriblerian concerns through numerous
allusions to the oeuvres of Pope, Swift, Gay, Arbuthnot, and Parnell, as
well as through lengthy comments on the works of later writers, such as
Fielding and Sterne, who were not members of the Scriblerian Club.
Although this approach highlights Scriblerian influence, it results in
anachronistic and circular arguments. For example, having established as
essential features of the Scriblerian pastoral “the potentially
shining house of virtue in Somerset” and the gypsies who are
“spontaneous moralists” in Fielding’s Tom Jones, Brьckmann then
applies this ideal to earlier pastoral works by Pope, Gay, Bolingbroke,
and Swift. This strategy enables her to argue that Macheath in The
Beggar’s Opera, is a “pastoral hero” because, like Fielding’s
gypsies, he is independent of material culture; however, he is not a
“spontaneous moralist,” and this reading ignores the Opera’s
ironies.

In describing the common stylistic properties of Scriblerian fictions,
the final chapter is perhaps the most useful to students of the period.
Brьckmann explains that the demand of Scriblerian fiction for the
reader’s participation generates all other aspects of its perplexing
style, such as allusion, paradox, the denial of story, and the
insistence on “the unity of the arts and the insufficiency of
words.”

Learned and allusive, the book’s style is both a strength and a
weakness. While its allusions sometimes confuse rather than illuminate,
they illustrate Brьckmann’s account of Scriblerian method by sending
“the reader out of the immediate text for critical revaluation.”

Citation

Brückmann, Patricia Carr., “A Manner of Correspondence: A Study of the Scriblerus Club,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/4282.