The Rival Widows, or Fair Libertine (1735)

Overview

Elizabeth Cooper’s The Rival Widows, or Fair Libertine provides a unique opportunity to restore to scholarly and pedagogical attention a neglected female writer and a play with broad and significant implications for studies of eighteenth-century history, culture and gender. Following the adventures of Lady Bellair, a “glowing, joyous young Widow,” the storyline regenders standard expectations about desire, marriage, libertinism and sentiment. The play has not been reprinted since 1735; therefore this old-spelling...

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Overview

Elizabeth Cooper’s The Rival Widows, or Fair Libertine provides a unique opportunity to restore to scholarly and pedagogical attention a neglected female writer and a play with broad and significant implications for studies of eighteenth-century history, culture and gender. Following the adventures of Lady Bellair, a “glowing, joyous young Widow,” the storyline regenders standard expectations about desire, marriage, libertinism and sentiment. The play has not been reprinted since 1735; therefore this old-spelling edition gives scholars access to an important but neglected resource for studies of women writers and eighteenth-century theatre.

In an original and extensive introduction, Tiffany Potter presents cultural and historical information that highlights the scholarly implications of this newly available play. She offers a brief biographical sketch of the playwright; a summary of sources for specific elements of the play; an overview of the theatrical climate of the time (with particular focus on the conditions leading to the Licensing Act of 1737); a discussion of the place of women in eighteenth-century society; a summary of symbiotic cultural discourses of libertinism and sensibility in the early eighteenth century; and a discussion of the general cultural significance of Cooper’s demonstration of the malleability of prescriptive gender roles. Further value is added to this edition through its appendices, which reproduce documents relating to the playwright Elizabeth Cooper and to the Licensing Act of 1737 (including the text of the Act itself).

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What People Are Saying

Jessica Munns
“Literary history rarely politely follows the trajectories literary scholars have laid out for it and Elizabeth Cooper’s The Rival Widows is an example of a non-sentimental comedy in an era often regarded as one in which sentiment ruled. Tiffany Potter’s edition, now in paperback, makes widely available to scholars and students a witty and enjoyable play which, if it has been neglected in the past, will surely not be ignored in the future.”
Paula R. Backscheider
“This lively play, with its independent, pleasure-loving heroine, is a valuable addition to the growing number of accessible editions of eighteenth-century plays and of women,s writing. Tiffany Potter has supplied an authoritative introduction that contextualizes the play in several ways, including within theatrical practices of the time and within major social and intellectual movements. The illustrations are well-chosen, as are the important documents printed as appendices.”
Daniel O'Quinn
Tiffany Potter’s erudite edition of The Rival Widows not only reclaims this valuable script for theatre history, but also provides a lucid introduction that argues persuasively for the singular importance of this play. It allows one to see the sheer complexity of the sexual and theatrical economies of the early eighteenth century.
Daniel O’Quinn
“Tiffany Potter’s erudite edition of The Rival Widows not only reclaims this valuable script for theatre history, but also provides a lucid introduction that argues persuasively for the singular importance of this play. It allows one to see the sheer complexity of the sexual and theatrical economies of the early eighteenth century.”
From the Publisher
“Literary history rarely politely follows the trajectories literary scholars have laid out for it and Elizabeth Cooper’s The Rival Widows is an example of a non-sentimental comedy in an era often regarded as one in which sentiment ruled. Tiffany Potter’s edition, now in paperback, makes widely available to scholars and students a witty and enjoyable play which, if it has been neglected in the past, will surely not be ignored in the future.”

“This lively play, with its independent, pleasure-loving heroine, is a valuable addition to the growing number of accessible editions of eighteenth-century plays and of women,s writing. Tiffany Potter has supplied an authoritative introduction that contextualizes the play in several ways, including within theatrical practices of the time and within major social and intellectual movements. The illustrations are well-chosen, as are the important documents printed as appendices.”

“Tiffany Potter’s erudite edition of The Rival Widows not only reclaims this valuable script for theatre history, but also provides a lucid introduction that argues persuasively for the singular importance of this play. It allows one to see the sheer complexity of the sexual and theatrical economies of the early eighteenth century.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442615458
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
  • Publication date: 1/1/2013
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Tiffany Potter teaches in the Department of English at the University of British Columbia.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Preface by the General Editors

Acknowledgements

Introduction

The Rival Widows, or Fair Libertine

Appendix A: Elizabeth Cooper’s Announcement of her Benefit Performance
The Grub-Street Journal 226 (25 April 1734)

Appendix B: Review of The Rival Widows
The Prompter
34 (7 March 1735)

Appendix C: Argument in Support of the Proposed Licensing Act
The Daily Gazetteer (6 and 8 June 1737)

Appendix D: Lord Chesterfield’s Address to Parliament Against the Proposed Licensing Act

Appendix E: The Licensing Act of 1737

Appendix F: Elizabeth Cooper’s Preface to The Muses Library (1737)

Bibliography

Index

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