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Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness


  • 1 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 256 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.396 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521047388)

In Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness, Jenny Davidson considers the arguments that define hypocrisy as a moral and political virtue in its own right. She shows that these were arguments that thrived in the medium of eighteenth-century Britain's culture of politeness. In the debate about the balance between truthfulness and politeness, Davidson argues that eighteenth-century writers from Locke to Austen come down firmly on the side of politeness. This is the case even when it is associated with dissimulation or hypocrisy. These writers argue that the open profession of vice is far more dangerous for society than even the most glaring discrepancies between what people say in public and what they do in private. This book explores what happens when controversial arguments in favour of hypocrisy enter the mainstream, making it increasingly hard to tell the difference between hypocrisy and more obviously attractive qualities like modesty, self-control and tact.

• Offers fascinating insights into the politics of eighteenth-century manners • Sheds light on the writing of a wide range of authors, including Locke, Swift, Hume, Wollstonecraft and Godwin • Written in an accessible and lively style


Acknowledgements; Introduction: the revolution in manners in eighteenth-century prose; 1. Hypocrisy and the servant problem; 2. Gallantry, adultery and the principles of politeness; 3. Revolutions in female manners; 4. Hypocrisy and the novel I: Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded; 5. Hypocrisy and the novel II: a modest question about Mansfield Park; Coda: politeness and its costs; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


'… is a model of its type - a timely, tightly argued and restlessly provocative monograph.' The Times Literary Supplement

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