Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America

Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America

by David S. Shields
     
 

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Overview

Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Shields (English, The Citadel) explores compellingly the role of private societiessalons, clubs, coffeehouses, tavern companies, tea tables, balls, and ritual assembliesin invoking free discourse and civility in British America. Such societies lay outside state control, unlike formal court society, and thus were avenues for encouraging art, forming a range of opinions, and refining manners. Each of these societies developed its own distinctive manner of discourse, which Shields describes in some detail. Scholars of British America and early American literature will find his book the most valuable, as will any reader interested in the 18th century's "Republic of Letters."David B. Mattern, Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807846568
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
05/26/1997
Series:
Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
382
Product dimensions:
6.17(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.01(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Shields's cultural and literary history of the institutions of civility and their belles lettres will . . . be of value to historians of eighteenth-century British polite society, as well as to American historians.--English Historical Review

Shields has constructed a most unusual book. . . . Seldom does a scholar come up with something so new.--William and Mary Quarterly

Poised as it is at the intersection of so many scholarly projects, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters should provide a resource and a model for early Americanists interested in a wide range of topics.--Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Fresh and illuminating. . . . Should send historians back to the texts to see if they can reconstruct the interplay of literature and society as expertly as Shields has done.--American Historical Review

A major contribution to our understanding of [the] process of cultural transplantation. . . . Civil Tongues and Polite Letters will enhance David Shields's reputation as one of the brightest stars in the rising generation of analysts of the literary culture of British America.--Jack P. Greene, Times Literary Supplement

In this wonderful book, David Shields brilliantly recovers the disappeared world of eighteenth-century belles lettres as a set of performances at coffeehouses, private societies, literary salons, clubs, colleges, balls, and gaming tables. Whether poetry or prose, these circulated texts, written not for posterity but as group communications, served to display wit, to create shared pleasure, and to preserve genteel society. Shields's Civil Tongues and Polite Letters permanently changes our understanding of eighteenth-century literary history and offers a powerful account of the fate of social pleasure in American culture.--Jay Fliegelman, Stanford University

Shields has transformed our understanding of the cultural and literary history of British America. Taking readers into the salons, coffeehouses, clubs, and tea tables of the colonies, he introduces us to . . . not only the men whose presence we might have anticipated but the previously invisible women who were central to these discursive institutions. Learned and elegant, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters illuminates the world in which a provincial elite constituted sociability and in the process defined themselves.--Mary Kelley, Dartmouth College

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