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Alethea Lewis

The Corvey Project at
Sheffield Hallam University

by Helen Cope May, May 2006

Marriage à la mode: Unromantic partnerships in Plain Sense and Things by Their Right Names by Alethea Lewis.

Alethea Lewis was one of the many female authors of moral and aspirational novels in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Lewis’s work has a strong Christian, moral theme within it; it can also be regarded as improving literature for young women. This essay will look at two of Lewis’s novels, the first is Plain Sense which was publishedin 1799 and the second, Things By Their Right Names published in 1814. Lewis is not stated as the author of either of these works within the novels themselves.

However Things by Their Right Names is cited as being written “by the author of Plain Sense’ and ‘Disobedience.’”1 Lewis, as a female writer in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries would have been frowned upon for being part of an unrespectable profession. Indeed, Dorothy Blakey states that “in the minor fiction of the eighteenth century anonymity was the rule.”2 This need for anonymity as a female writer is highlighted by Fanny Burney, as she asserts the reason for so many unnamed authors of novels in the eighteenth century to be “the utter discredit of being known as a female writer of novels.”3

The primary focus of this work will be the emphasis on relationships within both of Lewis’s novels. Lewis has a talent for staging her characters to be in direct contradiction or harmony with each other, therefore creating both tension and tranquillity simultaneously. We will assess how and why these contrasts and friendships are required within the text, and what affect they have on the novel as a whole. Marriage is one of the key relationships Lewis uses to show how individuals interact and what the consequences of their actions may be. The social conventions connected to marriage are another area the essay will explore, including how and why marriages were arranged or forced. The role power, wealth and status play in the interactions of her characters is a theme of Lewis’s work. We will look at how wealth and status affect the characters, in both positive and negative ways and what points Lewis is raising by highlighting these issues. Finally the roles religion and virtue play within the society of the novels and the readership of Lewis novels will be assessed. Religion is a key theme of both Plain Sense and Things by their Right Names, showing not only that religion was integral to Lewis novels but also important for the transference of her moral message to the readership.

Wealth and status are paramount in the novel Plain Sense by Alethea Lewis and indeed to the eighteenth century society she was writing for. At a time when books were expensive, most literature was read by the upper classes or distributed by the circulating libraries. The type of aristocratic Romance Lewis was writing was aimed directly at the upper class book buying market. This market is clearly shown by the lack of lower class characters in both of her texts and the use of French names such as Mordaunt and Fortescue. Both Plain Sense and Things by their right names are aspirational novels, read by readers who wanted to feel better about their own life and status, but also gain an insight into other people’s lives. The novels serve to both reinforce and underline existing power structures and hierarchies within English society of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The very rigid, structured nature of the novel itself also serves to mirror the strict class system in England.

Marriage is highlighted by Lewis as one of the key themes of Plain Sense from the outset. It is used not only as a social convention but also as a device for highlighting the personality of a character and what their ultimate motivations will be. Even before the birth of the heroine of the novel Ellen, there is tension over the marriage of her parents. When Maria Villars wishes to marry Mr Mordaunt, it is not his lack of manner which mark him out as a possible bad choice rather his lack of wealth and status.
            “he was without rank, and almost without fortune: as to his understanding, or his moral character, she had never heard either of them mentioned.”4

Lewis shows here, that without knowing the character of a man a daughter could be married to him, purely for money. However, the moral implications of Maria’s impetuous decision to marry Mordaunt are never broached. She has in fact decided to marry him purely on the grounds that a friend also liked him. Maria is therefore characterised as shallow and selfish. Lewis uses this characterisation to give an observational, lifelike tone to her characters but also as a device to set the characters of Maria and Mordaunt at odds with each other from the outset. Throughout Lewis’s novels we see her setting up characters in direct opposition to each other to aid complicated interactions. Setting characters up and manoeuvring them akin to a game of chess has the affect of making the plot all the more real and believable. As people are brought into the text we can see immediately who they will run parallel with and who their opposites will be. Lewis skilfully sets oppositions to highlight the differences within characters and the trials they face due to these differences.

            The level of wealth required to survive within society is brought into question in Plain sense. Ten years after marriage Mordaunt has to face the fact that through the appeasement of his wife and her indulgence his finances have dwindled. Town living and Maria’s expensive taste in fashion and entertaining have meant ruin for the family. The Villars family are described thus

            “sold all his property, in or near town, and packing up… in the only carriage they   had left, this ruined family.”5

The family still had the Mordaunt estate in the shape of Groby Manor, Northumberland. The question raised here is how many houses and possessions do you need to be wealthy? The answer which Lewis provides is that a country estate is not sufficient for a family to stay in the company of aristocrats in town. Lewis stresses the need to stay rich in the minds of others; ruin only comes when others believe you to be poor. It is shame which ruins the family, they still have a good income and a country estate but by selling their town property they have acknowledged a need for frugality. The upper class readership of Lewis would have understood this dilemma perfectly. They would have understood the implications of rich connections turning their backs on you and the shame caused by having a lesser income.

Henry is used to show the need for money felt by the Villars in Plain Sense, his marriage to the wealthy Lady Almeria is the climax of this need and shows the lengths the family will go to. There is a socially acceptable amount which is necessary for the retention and status of the family title. The readership would know well the amount required, however Lewis never ventures to speak figuratively of this amount. Maria Edgeworth in her 1814 novel Patronage is more to the point on the subject. Edgeworth is very blunt as her Lady Jane Granville states

            “Pretty well married you know implies £2,000. a year, and very well           married, nothing under £10,000.”6

It is the money issue which dictates that the older Villars son should marry Lady Almeria. She has a very wealthy family and is desirable to the Villars for this reason. Lewis has set up in Plain sense two opposing motives for marriage, in Maria she shows a woman marrying for power over her rival. Yet with Henry’s marriage she shows a family marrying their son for wealth and business reasons only. Neither of these motives for marriage are openly criticised, however the tone of the text and downfall of both marriages, suggest that these foundations for marriage are shaky at best. Lewis is making a point here that marriage has to be on a more stable moral grounding like Henry and Ellen’s love rather than the pure desire for wealth or power.

Lower class characters are very scarce in both Plain Sense and Things by their right names.The only lower class characters we see in Plain Sense come in the form of Theresa, her family and the unnamed peasants’ who give Ellen shelter on her journey home. Theresa is a poor peasant girl who befriends Ellen, shortly after which her family’s cottage is destroyed by a fire.7 Ellen returns the friendship the family have shown her by giving them all the money she has. Theresa is seen later in Plain Sense as Ellen’s new gaoler during her German confinement. Theresa is presented as a peasant in her first sequence in the text, however to then return as a servant girl in a Nobleman’s house requires a standard of character. This raises some questions as to how poor Theresa is in the first instance and how lower class she is. The only indisputably poor characters in the novel remain nameless and invisible to the reader, in the form of the villagers’ who Ellen passes on her return home. Furthermore, they are the most generous and good natured of all the characters. Sir William has no time for the poor, he asserts that any money spent in luxury is markedly better spent than any in charity. Lewis is here repeating the belief of the period that some luxury was a good thing. Not only did it indulge the receiver but it ensured profit for the manufacturer of such a luxury, therefore helping the economy. The idea that the poor should help themselves was also a common one in the eighteenth century.8 Mr Fitzosborn is Sir Williams’ counterpart in Things by their right names, he is equally critical of charity and believes his money is best spent by him alone.9 Indeed his embezzlement of Caroline’s money suggest he believes everyone’s money is best spent by him. Lewis never gives Fitzosborn an acknowledged level of wealth, he is dictated by the notion that everyone must believe him rich at any cost. Lewis chooses to show the poor peasants who Ellen meets on her journey home as her strength and sustenance wherever and whenever she needs it. These peasants become the life that keeps Ellen alive and positive on her journey, they are in direct opposition to the self centred socialites Ellen knows in London. There is no such thought given to the English peasants though, Lewis highlights the German peasants as noble and hardworking but glosses over their English counterparts. This can be seen as a device to win readers by not championing peasants’ rights at home or indeed an ingrained class prejudice on Lewis’s behalf.

The Thorntons in Plain Sense are of a lower class than the Mordaunts, but on the scale of wealth and poverty are securely in the middle class. Mr Thornton’s status as a clergyman makes him worthy of a mention in the text. He and his family are both hardworking and religious. Wealth and status are most important to shallow self absorbed characters such as Maria and Almeria, however Lewis shows success shines on those who have courage and moral fibre. Even on Ellen’s poverty stricken journey home she never wants for anything, favour is shining on the virtuous. Ellen is clearly shown as a true Heroine by overcoming all social and monetary constraints to survive untainted. It is paramount that Ellen would not have been content living as a peasant in the German countryside. Lewis is showing that true ladies overcome trials but ultimately belong in high society away from the poor. It is home that Ellen is always aiming for, for her money and status back in England.

The amount of characterisation Lewis uses in her work adds to the reality of the individuals. This has the affect of making the reader feel more of an affinity with the characters and therefore, Lewis’s moralistic message is more easily received and finds deeper acceptance. Maria Villars is shown as a child of impulse in her upbringing; she is given free rein to please herself. Maria learns to relish attention and becomes addicted to the adoration she receives for her beauty and status. Lewis represents her as one who finds it difficult to distinguish between true friends and sycophants. With Maria becoming vindictive and selfish in later life and living in search of comfort and wealth. Lewis sets up contrasting characters here because Maria is the antithesis of Ellen throughout Plain Sense.  Maria doesn’t rush into marriage, she needs to survey her options and find the best offer. This could be understood as Lewis giving Maria a more human side showing coyness, wishing for love to grow between her and Mordaunt. However, equally stressed is her selfish nature and wish to exercise power over her rival for Mordaunt’s heart. It is this exercise of power over her rival for Mordaunt which marks Maria out as a flawed character from the outset. Lewis has skilfully linked a traditional wish for love in a marriage, and the pure lust for power over a love rival, to show the vindictive power hungry character we will see in the novel.

Lady Almeria, although not related to Maria is shown to be an exact replica of her in the next generation. Lady Almeria does not love her husband Henry yet has married him, for prestige and power, in the same way Maria married Mordaunt to exercise power over a love rival. Both women married into families which would raise or improve their status. Lewis shows these women did not marry for love but for calculated success. Equally by doing this Lewis is acknowledging that a good marriage is all the success some women could hope for. In the eighteenth century society this novel was written, women did not carve their own success rather they enjoyed the success of their husbands. Indeed, in the period aristocrats were losing the power they once held, a marriage to someone from the growing ‘Nouveau Riche’ generation was a way of securing status. The daughters of rich mill owners for example, would be married to old families to combine money and status and achieve the ultimate success for the young woman in question.10 Lewis highlights that through calculation and feminine charms women could achieve their highest success and marry into a good family.

Lewis sets up an interesting juxtaposition in Plain Sense as Lady Almeria and Maria share a hatred of the natural, countryside and nature. This hatred of the country underlines a turning away from nature, in opposition to the natural beauty and talents of Ellen. Town represents outward wealth and status as the country represents inward depth and appreciation of nature. Lady Almeria and Maria with their love of society and materialistic attitudes are the image of the post lapsarian female. Lewis characterises them as women who are egotistical and calculating with too much intelligence. They are far removed from ‘Plain Sense’ personified in the naive Ellen. Lewis is here bolstering the romantic notion of nature representing purity and innocence. She shows clearly that nature and innocence directly link to the Garden of Eden, were the path of ambition and inquisitiveness can only lead to evil.

Ellen in Plain Sense is represented as virtue personified; this characterisation is continued by Lewis into the character of Caroline in Things by Their Right Names. Ellen is presented as the exact opposite of Almeria and Maria.Lewis has set the characters up in direct opposition to create a tension between virtue and egotism. Both Caroline and Ellen love their fathers and are typical children of nature. Lewis characterisation of Ellen as an innocent naive girl was a very powerful trope within Lewis’s style and genre of writing. The religious, moralistic theme of the novel can only be portrayed through such a protagonist. The majority of pivotal events for Ellen happen in the open air or rural settings. When she tells Henry they can never be together without their families’ consent they are in a wood.11 Again when she escapes from Sir William’s foreign prison she is in the garden. The most emotional journey of her life as she walks back to England takes place in the countryside. This walking in the country is shown to be better for her and safer than the town. Lewis shows that Ellen dreads the city as she approaches cologne.12 Equally in Things by Their Right Names Lewis places Caroline in natural surroundings for emotional events. When she discovers Miss Evelyn with the baby she believes to be Edwards, she is in a garden. Furthermore when Edward is cleared of suspicion of impropriety and is offered in marriage to Caroline they are in the grounds at Henhurst.13

The protagonists in both novels are religious and easily taught and influenced, everyone genuinely loves their virtue and honesty. Lewis does not represent either women as beautiful or intellectual, but is attentive and feminine. She also shows that beauty and intellect are detrimental to women in both novels. Ellen takes up and becomes accomplished in the feminine persuits of dancing and singing, this is what attracts Henry to her. Lewis, by highlighting these pursuits and qualities suggests to the reader that true love recognises only true virtue and femininity. Similarly Caroline in Things By Their Right Names begins the novel in a position of economic power and status. However through strict adherence to moral and social codes Lewis is able to reduce her power dramatically. At the end of the novel Caroline has had her money stolen by her father and been disinherited by her uncle. All of these events highlight the need for restoration of male power in society, as Caroline becomes the submissive dependant of her soon to be husband.

Love and devotion are key themes used by Lewis, through these themes the reader is able to explore the effects such emotions have on relationships. Lewis demonstrates familial love and devotion through the character of Mordaunt in Plain Sense. Mr Mordaunt had an older sister named Nelly who raised him. Lewis exhibits his love for her, whilst he remains masculine and independent. After Maria has given birth to a baby girl she from first sight resents the child, as it is not the boy she wished for. Lewis shows the feelings which swell in Maria were akin to the jealousy she felt for Nelly, hence the child was named Ellen. The representation of Ellen as her aunt Nelly is actually helpful to the child. Lewis highlights the complex emotional interactions within a family with the birth of Ellen. As Maria resents the child and pushes Ellen away from her. So Mordaunt becomes more susceptible to Ellen’s charms as he sees his older sister in her. He becomes closer to Ellen through her alienation from Maria. Through the father daughter relationship Lewis presents between Ellen and Mordaunt in Plain Sense, we see both the endearing and corrupting influence of love. As much as Lewis shows Mordaunts’ devotion to his daughter, she also highlights the detrimental affect this love has on Ellen’s actions. It is the love and devotion to her father that persuades her to marry William Ackland, her father’s choice would become her choice. Through the pairing Lewis shows that marriage to please or repay a devoted parent does not form a stable future. The theme of destructive familial love is continued by Lewis into Things by Their Right Names. In the novel the relationship between Caroline and her father Augustus is ultimately to blame for the near ruination of Caroline, and the reduction of her inheritance. As her father embezzles her money Caroline is shown to be powerless to stop him or tell anyone of the events due to the close family connection. Lewis states that Caroline had “a doubt of the integrity of her father.”14 However her downfall continues until her name is cleared by a third party. In the characters of Ellen and Caroline Lewis shows that both the devoted love between father and daughter and a socially forced regard for family can be equally as destructive to relationships.

Caroline, Ellen and Maria have a link between them; they were all raised by adoptive parents. Through this lack of oppressive parenting we see that the true characters of children are nurtured. Lewis is quite contemporary for the period by showing that some children are naturally good natured like Ellen and Caroline. Whilst others need a firm hand to curtail their natural instincts, as we see with Maria. Ellen was taken away from Groby Manor and placed in the care of the Thorntons. Here she received more love and care than was imaginable, she was tutored and educated. Caroline is similarly brought up in a loving, religious and rural environment. Maria, on the other hand was left under the weak control of her aunt Mrs Fortescue. Living in town Maria was a rich girl with all the pleasures of life to seek and little restraint from her guardian. However with the death of Mrs Fortescue Lewis is able to show an emotional side to Maria. Maria is inconsolable and the reader is shown a woman in mourning. This adds a sympathetic element to the character of Maria, which would have been missing without the inclusion of the guardian figure. Lewis takes advantage of the situation to show that Maria is not a purely evil, vindictive character. After this event it becomes clear that Maria is merely an average person, she is unfortunate enough to be placed in a novel with such a high number of overtly moralistic others. We see that Lewis is not showing the lack of a biological mother as the reason for Maria’s character. Ellen coped with the same circumstance in a much more acceptable way. Therefore Lewis shows that the way we deal with circumstances defines the character we have, rather than the actual circumstance defining us. With the use of guardianship Lewis gives more depth to her characters. The use of a third person narrative is coupled with an emotional and psychological insight into the guardianship and childhood issues of the characters. This allows the reader the omniscient stance of the third person with all the background knowledge of a first person narrator. We see that the children have individual personalities and these are shown by Lewis as inherent as a posed to formed through parenting.
Lewis uses true gentlemen to be the loves and rescuers of both Ellen and Caroline. The characteristics of such men are in no uncertain terms outlined by Lewis in her novels. Edward is the gentleman in Things by Their Right Names, he is intelligent, engaging and constant. He is also a dedicated religious man who is not rich initially but through hard work and approval wins a large inheritance. Henry is used by Lewis in Plain Sense as her gentlemanly rescuer.He isa very intellectual, rich and sensitive character. He too is constant, hardworking and religious. Both men are characterised as loving and emotional towards their families and loved ones, they are equally critical of self love and false emotion. In both Plain Sense and Things by Their Right Names Lewis shows the men as interested and aware of their companion’s changing situations. Lewis uses Edward as a single man to show direct correspondence between him and Caroline, Edward is openly concerned and protective. However, after Henry has married Lady Almeria in Plain Sense he continues to look out for Ellen and to be aware of any danger which may befall her. With both men Lewis is showing that care and respect can be shown in a gentlemanly fashion regardless of personal circumstance. Lewis uses the situation of Henry’s rise from second son to heir to depict the control an aristocratic family has over their oldest son and the correct way to cope with such an event. Henry’s primary concerns change to the welfare of his family and new wife. When Lewis places him at the head of the family she shows the upright character of Henry, he is willing to put his life aside for the good of his family. In Things by Their Right Names Lewis employs a similar technique with Edward. As the society he lives in believes he has run away with a young lady who is now pregnant he remains defiant. Lewis shows the masculine way to handle such an event, he stays positive and believes in his own truth. Through this representation of what a gentleman is Lewis is able to show that masculinity is not linked to power or status. She shows through the contrasting yet equally masculine and gentlemanly characters of Edward and Henry, that background does not define what you become. That good gentleman will retain their own beliefs but also perform their duties whatever they may be.

Lewis’ use of Virtue and religion in the novel is paramount to the readers’ understanding of the text. Lewis uses such themes to further underline her moral message to the young lady readers of her work. She shows them how to act through the actions of her heroines and the joy and triumphs which befall them for their virtue. At once Ellen in Plain Sense and Caroline in Things by Their Right Names are virtue personified. Through these characters and their actions Lewis is presenting the reader with the perfect blueprint for a virtuous woman. The challenges each face and their reactions to the situations are what makes them virtuous. As Ellen is increasingly unhappy in her marriage she stays with Sir William Ackland to keep social face. In this time period it was virtually impossible to divorce.15 The belief Ellen had in her marriage meant she tried to keep the relationship together. Less moralistic, virtuous women would have been content to effectually live separate lives and yet remain married. This idea of a less stable relationship held together by the social convention of marriage is shown through the characters of Mr and Mrs Augustus Fitzosborn in Things by Their Right Names. Prior to Augustus’ death it is made clear by Lewis that the two partners think and act independently and are merely united by name. Here we see Lewis highlighting that not all marriages are perfect. This is recognition that some of her readership will experience bad relationships but the actions of the heroines aim to show young women how to deal with any situation virtuously.

Both Ellen and Caroline grow up with loving guardians in the country. In both novels the backgrounds of the heroines contrast strikingly with the urbanised anonymity of childhood the less moralistic characters experienced. Lewis does show that a more puritan approach to life is the most rewarding in the long run. Both the girls grow into well rounded loving and affectionate adults. However in the case of Caroline in Things by their right names we see a child who is loving and trusting in an acceptable feminine way. Furthermore, she has a very shrewd business head and is able to spot a bad enterprise when she sees one. For example in the first volume of Things by their right names her father pledges money into an enterprise on the premise his daughter will give him the pledged amount. Caroline sees that the money is for no good and would rather give her money to more charitable quarters. However it is her father and all she can do is give him the money. Through this sequence Lewis shows that social convention can sometimes be contrary to your wishes but by following your conscience you will be rewarded. The sequence in which Mr Fitzosborn takes his daughters money also has more sinister connotations. Through this transaction Lewis is showing that even girls of such shrewd wits as Caroline must ultimately give in to convention even if it means she will lose out in the long run. The undertone of this piece is that she has to be submissive in this life to reap the rewards in the next. Just as Ellen endured an 800 mile walk home from Germany she had to battle everything that was thrown at her in order to become virtuous and morally worthy.

Religion is as integral to Lewis’ novels as the theme of virtue. Religion is shown as the cornerstone of any virtuous behaviour in both Plain Sense and Things by Their Right Names. Both Caroline and Ellen have a religious background and are seen to call on God in any times of trouble. The virtue Caroline and Ellen share grows out of their religion and adherence to social expectations. In Plain Sense religion is personified in the Thorntons, their parsonage is the symbol of the protection and comfort which religion and family bestowed upon Ellen in her early life. Religion then becomes paramount in the upbringing of Ellen it regulates how and what she is taught and to an extent how she behaves. Similarly Caroline is brought up within a religious family. Although her guardian was not a parson she was very religious. Caroline was schooled in the right and proper way to act and treat others as becomes the Bible. In later life after the death of her guardian Caroline finds religious piety in her uncle Mr Fitzosborn the elder. As with the retreat Ellen finds in the Thornton’s parsonage so Caroline finds a similar place in her uncles’ Henhurst. The detachment both these properties have from social life and town living highlight the incompatibility of the two lifestyles. It highlights the difficulty of transferring a religious upbringing into town living. Indeed Mr Fitzosborn (the elder) says of Caroline that he
            “would as soon have exposed her to the breath of the most contagious        pestilence, as he would again have hazarded her morals in the society of             London.”16

This statement shows the absolute contrast of religious and society. Lewis makes no secret of the idea that one is either a socialite or a religious stalwart.

Equal to the habitations they possess the actual residents of the religious strongholds are shown to be alienated. Both Mr Thornton and Mr Fit Osborn (the elder) are never seen to have any visitors, accepting the very few invited guests. Indeed Mr Fitzosborn is a figure of terror for the family members he does not favour. As the novels progress both the men become all the more attractive due to their reclusive stance. Both shun the world of sycophants and socialites in search of a purer, more rewarding life. Lewis shows that in the end it is these men and the people they influence who have the most rewarding and fulfilled lives leaving the pleasure seekers by the wayside.

Sexuality is not a common theme in the aspirational literature Lewis is writing in Plain sense and Things by their right names. However Lewis does make good use of sexuality with regard to power struggles in both novels. In the characters of Maria Villars and Lady Almeria in Plain Sense we see two women who know very well how to use their sexuality and female status to achieve their own ends. We see immediately in Plain Sense that Maria is a spoilt woman and that she gets angry and emotional if she is not appeased and pandered to. Likewise Lady Almeria is able to manipulate Henry into being her perfect submissive husband. Lewis is showing the reader that women are capable of such abuses of situation in the quest for power. Ultimately, however it is the women who use their sexuality to gain power that lose out in the long term. They do not live the long and satisfying lives we see the more virtuous characters enjoying. With the ruined Mordaunts retreating to Groby Manor in Plain Sense, the later ruination of Lady Almeria and her consequent exclusion from the end of the novel. We see Lewis affinity remains with the heroines. By editing out the lives of less moral characters and killing those off we see that the focus of Lewis’s writing remains strongly on the lives of religious, deserving people.

Another example of how sexuality and power are linked in Lewis work is the constant emphasis on marriage. Within the marriages of Henry and Almeria, Ellen and Sir William and Caroline and Edward we see that the traditional sexual roles are united to form the basis of a happy marriage. Henry and Almeria marry to unite the money of the bride with the power or the groom. This unity shows the ultimate union of the power and sexuality of husband and wife. We see in all the marriages that the power of the man and submission of the wife is paramount to the longevity of the relationship. In those marriages which divert this social order, Almeria and Henry and Maria and Mordaunt for example. We see the failure of marriages and the unhappiness of the parties involved. Therefore through the characterisation of domineering females and submissive males Lewis is highlighting that the struggle for power within a marriage is destructive. By accepting your sexuality and the roles that presupposes, you can stabilise the future and guarantee happiness. It is in such marriages as Mordaunt and Maria where the traditional gender roles are subverted that the destruction of relationships occurs. The message Lewis is giving to the reader is to be a submissive wife or a domineering husband from the outset and the marriage will be stable and no power struggles will arise.  

In conclusion, we have seen a range of techniques, themes and emotions employed by Lewis in Plain Sense and Things by Their Right Names. Marriage is presented by Lewis as a loving union of two souls not to be undertaken for any monetary or business concerns. Equally we only see marriages between the middle and upper classes, the comfort they live in and their lifestyles allows them a level of choice in love over business. The exclusion of the lower classes marks these novels as moral tales of how to behave like a young lady of breeding should. The lack of lower class characters could be due to the lack of respect Lewis had for them, or more simply the lack of status they demanded in the society of the period. The social conventions of gender roles are paramount in both novels, within Henry and Edward gentlemen are characterised. Lewis is able to show her readership how a true gentleman should act and what characterises them in the first instance. Through her characterisation Lewis is also able to highlight the evils of greed and the pitfalls of selfishness. In the characters of Maria Villars and Augustus Fitzosborn we see the antithesis of the values Lewis is trying to promote in her work. The undignified endings less virtuous characters receive shows to the reader how taking the wrong path will end in ruin. Lewis makes no secret of the true moral messages in both novels. The heroines of both novels are children of nature; Lewis highlights the importance of purity through her emphasis on the close links between virtue and the natural. Religion is another mainstay for the two heroines, both Ellen and Caroline have strong religious beliefs and it is this religion which helps them, and is a comfort in times of trouble. Lewis is suggesting a pious life as the correct one to her readership. Plain Sense and Things by Their Right Names are blueprints of how Lewis believes young men and women should behave. They are at once romanticised utopias full of virtuous young women and chivalrous gentlemen, incorporating a realistic amount of imperfect yet not evil characters. Lewis therefore shows in a positive way how to behave without resorting to shock tactics of what could befall the immoral. This attempt to persuade young women into a virtuous life rather than force them away from the immoral has a more successful tone than the mere shock of ruin. Although these texts remain romantic there is a lack of the expected euphoric courtship. Both Caroline and Ellen learn to love their respective partners rather than being immediately seized by an all encompassing emotion which I would have expected. The lack of such an emotional love allows Lewis to exploit the relationships and the emotional sequences which relate to the growing love between the protagonists. Lewis has also used a distinct lack of emotion within primary events in both novels. In Plain Sense Ellenaccepts Henry will marry Lady Almeria without question. This could be seen as subservience to social conventions or merely as a distancing technique used by Lewis to show that young ladies should not become too involved with their prospective partners prior to marriage. Equally, in Things by Their Right Names Caroline is very little affected by Edwards’ supposed immoral elopement with Miss Evelyn. She remains a supporter of his morals but is not emotional about the circumstance.

Lewis therefore is presenting a contemporary view of unemotional rational women, yet set in the surroundings of a socially acceptable novel with moral code. There is a distinct lack of direct quotations in this essay due to the writing style Lewis uses. Unlike more populist, flippant works Lewis wishes the lasting massage from her novels to be the moral theme, rather than numerous instantly quotable couplets. The focus Lewis has on the moral then is highlighted even in the lack of memorable phrases. Lewis novels first and foremost include a moral message to help young men and women on the path of virtue, highlighting the importance of religion and constancy. Furthermore, Lewis incorporates some more contemporary themes such as the use of feminine sexuality in the pursuit of power and the intelligence and independence women are capable of controlling, prior to their submission to a husband.

  1. Lewis, A. Things by Their Right Names: A Novel. (G. and S. Robinson, Gale, Curtis and Fenner, London, 1814) The cover  vol. 1.
  2. Blakey, D. The Minerva Press 1790- 1820. (University Press, Oxford, 1939) Page 48.
  3. Fanny Burney in Blakey, D op. cit. Page 49.
  4. Lewis, A. Plain Sense:A Novel (Minerva, London, 1799) Vol. 1, Page 6.
  5. Lewis, A. Plain Sense op. cit. Vol. 1, page 15.
  6. Edgeworth, M. Patronage. (Pandora, London, 1986) Page 154.
  7. Lewis, A. Plain Sense op. cit. vol. 2, Page 235.
  8. Hitchcock, T. Down and out in eighteenth-century London. (Hambledon and London, London, 2004) Page 49.
  9. Lewis, A. Things by Their Right Names. Op. cit. vol. 2,  Page 258.
  10. Baugh, D, A. (ed.) Aristocratic Government and Society in Eighteenth-Century England. (New Viewpoints, New York, 1975) Page 13.
  11. Lewis, A. Plain Sense op. cit. Vol. 1, Page 249.
  12. ibid. Vol. 3, Page 192.
  13. Lewis, A. Things by Their Right Names. Op. cit. Vol. 2, Page 291.
  14. Lewis, A. Things by Their Right Names. Op. cit. Vol. 1, Page 270.
  15. Baugh, D, A. op. cit. Page 51.
  16. between 280 and 297!