Frail, Robert J.
Dr. Robert J. Frail is an Associate Professor of French and English in Centenary College of New Jersey. He completed his B.S. at Manhattan College and his M.A. and Ph.D. at Columbia University in the Department of French & Romance Philology. His article on Samuel Richardson appeared in the Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment (Oxford University Press) along with three articles in the Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era (Fitzroy Dearborn), notably “Pre-Romanticism: France.” Other notable publications are “Jacques Bénigne Bossuet” and “François Mauriac” in Scribner’s European Writers. Dr. Frail has also written more than twenty critical studies for various reference works by Salem Press and Fitzroy Dearborn.2005 0-7734-6124-8
This book includes ten essays that establish a viable connection between Samuel Richardson and the abbé Prévost in the contexts of realism and literary relations between England and France which were cultivated by the mutual interest – on both sides of the Channel – in travel books like the Histoire générale des voyages, memoir novels, and other types of adaptations like Le pour et contre that surfaced as anecdotal fiction, especially the epistolary novel, began to push up against political discourses and philosophical tracts. Richardson’s three novels are studied along with Prévost’s translations of the History of Sir Charles Grandison and Frances Sheridan’s Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph. This analysis reinforces the often overlooked richness of texts that identify major themes and issues in novels about women after 1740 – principally the passive heroine derailed by patriarchal expectations, and fatal or near fatal missteps on the part of heroines in Pamela, Clarissa, and Sidney Bidulp, the dark underbelly and nightmarish plenitude in Cleveland, and the powerful sweep of language and emotion in histoire d’une Grecque moderne.
Richardson’s use of the Pauline letters is given a fresh look and his strategies regarding Colonel Morden in Clarissa offer a refreshing addition to scholarship that has not emphasized this important dimension. The timeline of Le Pour et contre is the first synthesized attempt to assign publishing dates and subject matter to all twenty volumes, and the extensive chronology of Prévost’s life represents a comprehensive listing of information compiled from French and English sources. The study of defrocked clergy as “custodians of the Enlightenment” fills a gap that should excite the interest of scholars with expertise in that domain. In these essays, there is little attempt to argue from ideology or post-modern rhetoric, and yet the interpretations of Richardson’s novels and Prévost’s works are carefully scrutinized. Pre-conceived notions and unchallenged critical evaluations of these texts are often questioned, and the essays are accompanied by capacious and inquisitive notes and detailed references. What links Richardson and Prévost together more than anything else is the way they practiced alchemy with language and became goldsmiths of the word. Other authors were as productive, but none seemed to refine the baser elements of language with such dexterity.