Hannah More’s Coelebs in Search of a Wife - A Review of Criticism and a New Analysis

Author: Prior, Karen Swallow
Year:2003
Pages:174
ISBN:0-7734-6699-1
978-0-7734-6699-9
Price:129.95
This work provides both an introduction to the genre of the didactic religious novel and the culture of evangelicalism that was developing halfway through Hannah More's life, reaching its full flowering at about the time of her death in 1833.

Reviews

“Prior’s first chapter places Coelebs in the context of Hannah More’s life and work, and her second discusses it in relation to the English novel of the eighteenth century, both works of literature and the hack writings that were partly a consequence of the spread of literacy and the consequent expansion of the lending libraries….The reception of More’s only novel was phenomenal. The book went out of print immediately, and there were twelve impressions in the first year. Prior devotes a good deal of space to a wide variety of critical reviews that followed publication. She has done a lot of literary detective work in tracking down these reviews….It is an excellent introduction to both the genre of the didactic religious novel and the culture of evangelicalism that was developing halfway through Hannah More’s life, reaching its full flowering at about the time of her death in 1833. Prior’s analysis of the context which produced Coelebs in Search of a Wife will be valuable for anyone interested in the development of the culture normally associated with the Victorian period, and the last part of the book, which is a close analysis of Coelebs, will be of special interest to literary scholars.” – Herbert Schlossberg

“One of the strengths of this study is Professor Prior’s skill in describing for the general reader the complex series of responses to what had come to be known as the ‘novel,’ especially the disdain with which many morally conservative readers regarded the form in the latter eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It is a complicated story, full of ambiguities and contradictions….it is to Professor Prior’s great credit that she does not attempt to make Hannah More’s book something that it is not – a great novel. Rather she turns her attention to establishing the importance of Coelebs as a vehicle for defining the relationship of art to morality in fiction…Prior has produced a study that will please and inform not just those who are interested in a didactic novel by a writer with whom most readers are not familiar, but anyone who is interested in the twists and turns of a fascinating period in England’s cultural history.” – George R. Levine, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface
1. Introduction to the Life and Works of Hannah More
2. The Status of the Novel at the Turn of the 18th Century
3. Reception of Coelebs in Search of a Wife: Sales and Reviews
4. Newfound Respectability for the Novel
5. The Victorian Response to Coelebs in Search of a Wife
6. Coelebs in Search of a Wife in the 20th Century
7. Toward a New Century of Criticism
8. A Critical Reading of Coelebs in Search of a Wife
Bibliography; Index