How did Mary Davys's novella The Reformed Coquet help to reform the novel?
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The mid-eighteenth century novels by women writers turned away from the Restoration idea of women as sexual objects, aware that the new middle class ideology of women as creatures solely of domestic accomplishment was as restricting and narrowly defining of womanhood as the Restoration ideology, though admittedly a much less violent assault on woman's psyche and personhood.
Mary Davys's novel The Reformed Coquet combines the established pleasurable qualities of the romance novel with a new instructional purpose, as was plainly stated in her introduction to The Reformed Coquet. Davys's escorted the novel away from the older romance model of a hero who was uninvolved emotionally and prone to mistreating women toward a new model in which the heroine was given opportunity to be autonomous while still adhering to society's mistakenly founded mores of submissive of females to males.
The Reformed Coquet went beyond good story telling by including liberal literary allusions to Edmund Spenser's epic moral tale The Faerie Queene, thus indicating that her Introduction was meant to be carried to good purpose and provide a new moral tale for women in England. This along with the new model of hero and the development of an autonomous, though social viable heroine, are some features of Mary Davys's The Reformed Coquet that helped reform the novel.
[For further information see Women and literature in Britain, 1700-1800, by Vivien Jones (pages 204-206)]
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