Frances Brooke 1724-1789
(Also wrote under the pseudonym of Mary Singleton) English novelist, playwright, librettist, translator, and essayist.
Known during her lifetime as a translator, novelist, essayist, and playwright, Brooke is chiefly remembered as the author of the first Canadian novel, The History of Emily Montague (1769). In both her fiction and nonfiction works, Brooke addressed social issues, particularly women's right to education and choice in marriage partners. She is also credited with helping to shape the epistolary novel into a vehicle for social criticism.
Brooke was born in 1724 to Reverend Thomas Moore and his wife, Mary (Knowles) Moore, in Claypole, Lincolnshire. After the death of her father in 1727 and her mother in 1737, she was raised by relatives. At about age twenty-four, she was drawn to the theatrical and literary life of London, where she supported herself through translations and journalism while writing novels and dramas. In 1756, she married a clergyman, John Brooke. They had a son in 1757. In that year her husband was sent to British North America as an army chaplain, first at Louisbourg and then at Quebec. In 1763, Brooke joined him. While there she wrote The History of Emily Montague. This novel, published a year after the Brookes returned to England in 1768, is believed to be the first extended work of fiction with a Canadian setting.
In 1773 Brooke and the actress Mary Ann Yates become joint managers of King's Theatre in the London theater district. Unable to abtain a patent to produce plays, they staged ballets and operas for the next four years. In 1777 she published The Excursion. This novel attracted attention for its insider view of the theater scene and its criticism of the renowned actor-manager David Garrick. Late in life, Brooke achieved theatrical success with her historical tragedy The Siege of Sinope (1781). Rosina, a comic opera, was a popular and critical success when it was finally performed in 1782, some ten years after it was written. Marian (1788), another copmic opera, also did well. A year after Brooke's death in 1789, The History of Charles Mandeville, a sequel to The History of Lady Julia Mandeville, was published.
Brooke published thirty-seven issues of a periodical called The Old Maid (1755-56), writing most of the content herself. Modeled after the popular magazine The Spectator, The Old Maid featured a mixture of fictional dialogues and critical reviews in which Brooke addressed contemporary social topics, including marriage, female education, and the morals and manners of the theater. Brooke wrote several plays that she was unable to have produced before she began writing novels. Her first, The History of Lady Julia Mandeville (1863) established Brooke as an author and showed the influence of the French epistolary romance novels, some examples of which she had translated into English. The History of Lady Julia Mandeville was widely popular in England and translated into French, earning the praise of Voltaire, who called it the best English novel since Samuel Richardon's Clarissa (1747-48) and Sir Charles Grandison (1753-54). In Emily Montague, Brooke turned her familiarity with the Canadian landscape to advantage. Her description of Niagara Falls in winter, for example, was much admired. Emily Montague infused the epistolary novel with the growing vogue of travel literature: the narrative consists of letters between English immigrants living in Quebec and their correspondents in England, and addresses such issues as the most effective way to colonize Quebec, perceived racial differences between the English, the French Canadians, and the native North Americans, the Church of England and Catholicism, the nature of a happy marriage, and the differences between men and women. The book was a critical and popular success, running to at least six editions in Brooke's lifetime and receiving favorable reviews in both English and French journals. The Excursion received some good reviews, but was never as popular as the previous works It departs from the epistolary format to introduce an ironic, detached narrator, who relates the trials of the novel's heroine with sympathy tempered by worldly wisdom. The novel is a satirical examination of what happens to a bold young woman who dreams of becoming a writer in London. It is thought to contain autobiographical elements. The History of Charles Mandeville, published posthumously, provided a happy resolution to the tragedy of her first novel. It features a character from The History of Lady Julia Mandeville and ends with his marriage to the best friend of the earlier novel's deceased heroine. The fact that Brooke did not attempt to publish the novel during her life may indicates that she was not satisfied with it. It received little critical or popular notice.
Neglected for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Brooke has been reclaimed by feminist critics seeking women's literary traditions, and by Canadian critics tracing the origins of their national literature. Although the accuracy of the Canadian content of Emily Montague is open to debate, critics have noted its status as a New World novel, particularly in its stress on the disjunction between English and British North American landscape and social conventions. Recent criticism informed by post-colonial theory tends to be overtly political, examining this novel's treatment of imperialism, racial issues, and the exploitation of natural resources. Feminist critics have stressed Brooke's use of the sentimental novel to explore the limited scope of women's personal and professional lives during her era.
The Old Maid [editor; as Mary Singleton] (essays, fictional letters, and criticism) 1755-56
Virginia: A Tragedy, with Odes, Pastorals, and Translations (drama) [first publication] 1756
The History of Lady Julia Mandeville (novel) 1763
The History of Emily Montague (novel) 1769
The Excursion (novel) 1777
The Siege of Sinope: A Tragedy (drama) 1781
Rosina; or, Love in a Cottage: A Comic Opera, in Two Acts (libretto) 1782
Marian: A Comic Opera, in Two Acts (libretto) 1788
The History of Charles Mandeville (novel) 1790
(The entire section is 74 words.)
SOURCE: "All's Right at Last: An Eighteenth-Century Canadian Novel," in Journal of Canadian Fiction, Vol. 21, 1977-78, pp. 95-104.
[In the following essay, McMullen outlines the authorship controversy concerning All's Right at Last, and argues for the text's significance as the second Canadian novel; in theme and setting, the novel suggests Brooke's hand, though the work is of inferior quality to her earlier novels.]
Could you believe that this divine girl should make me prefer the cold frost and snow of Canada to the mild winter of my native country; and that I would rather gaze on her bright eyes than partake of your most brilliant amusements?1
In 1774, five years after the publication of The History of Emily Montague, the circulating library of Frances and John Noble in London published All's Right At Last; or, The History of Frances West. The style is epistolary, the setting for the most part Canada, the plot improbable. Although published anonymously (no reputable writer would admit to an association with circulating libraries and their flimsy formula novels),2 there is reason to believe that Frances Brooke is the author of this work. Whoever the author, All's Right At Last can lay claim to being Canada's second novel. As such, it merits our attention.
(The entire section is 4929 words.)
SOURCE: "Frances Brooke's Early Fiction," in Canadian Literature, Vol. 86, Autumn, 1980, pp. 31-40.
[In the following essay, McMullen stresses the importance of Brooke's early writing, noting that her translations of French epistolary novels helped her develop her own novel-writing techniques. McMullen demonstrates that The History of Lady Julia Mandeville anticipates many of the themes and formal techniques employed in Emily Montague.]
Finding herself at Quebec in 1763, Frances Brooke (1723-1789) made the most of the opportunity to transmute some of her experiences and observations into fiction. The result, The History of Emily Montague (1769), is well known in Canada. Yet criticism of this work has rarely, and then only briefly, alluded to Brooke's earlier writing which prepared her to make such effective use of her Canadian experiences.1 Her earlier novel, The History of Lady Julia Mandeville (1763) was, in fact, more popular in its day than Emily Montague and deserves consideration in its own right.2 Also ignored has been a consideration of influences on Mrs. Brooke's writing, with the one exception of Samuel Richardson, father of all eighteenth-century epistolary novelists. A study of Mrs. Brooke's translation of Madame Marie Jeanne Riccoboni's Lettres de Milady Juliette Catesby t Milady Henriette Campley, son Amie (1759) provides us with an...
(The entire section is 5015 words.)
SOURCE: "Frances Brooke's The History of Emily Montague: A Biographical Context," in English Studies in Canada, Vol. 7, No. 2, Summer, 1981, pp. 171-82.
[In the following essay, Edwards discusses the religious references in Emily Montague, noting that Brooke's father, maternal grandfather, and husband were Church of England clergymen and that Brooke herself had a keen interest in promoting the tenets of the church.]
Since its first publication by James Dodsley, the London bookseller, in April 1769, Frances Brooke's The History of Emily Montague has been considered in a variety of contexts.1 In English literature it has been discussed as an epistolary novel in the tradition of Richardson; as a novel of sensibility; as a popular novel of the late eighteenth century; as a pre-romantic novel; and as an early feminine—and feminist—novel.2 The influence of such French writers as Riccoboni and Rousseau on The History of Emily Montague, its position as one of the first English novels to deal with America, and its claim to be the first Canadian novel have also been debated.3 If, as well as the editions of the novel in English, one discusses its translations into Dutch and French, then its contexts become even more international.4 In this paper I propose to consider Frances Brooke's second novel in another context—that of her own...
(The entire section is 5431 words.)
SOURCE: Editor's Introduction, in The History of Emily Montague, edited by Mary Jane Edwards, CEECT edition, Carleton University Press, 1985, pp. xvii-lxxi.
[In the following excerpt, Edwards examines the literary, biographical, and historical contexts of The History of Emily Montague.]
[The History of Emily Montague] was typical of much eighteenth-century English literature. Its references to classical literature and mythology, and to the Chinese, Tartars, Turks, sultans, seraglios, and nabobs, and its quotations from the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, and more recent English and French writers placed it squarely in the context of the eighteenth-century literary tradition. Its title linked it to the eighteenth-century vogue for both history and biography, genres in which Mrs. Brooke herself also worked during the course of her career; its journey motifs, to much popular travel literature. Its pairing of such character opposites as the coquette and the woman of sensibility, the rake and the man of feeling, gave it a dramatic structure reminiscent of the comedy of manners that Mrs. Brooke with her love of the theatre had often seen on the London stage. Finally, the exploration of such themes as the advantages of country life over city living and the dangers of travel in France for young men connected it with a broad range of eighteenth-century writing.
The History of Emily...
(The entire section is 2614 words.)
SOURCE: "Frances Brooke's Emily Montague (1769): Canada and Woman's Rights," in Women's Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1986, pp. 7-16.
[In the following essay, Boutelle argues that Brooke's aim in The History of Emily Montague went beyond providing a colorful novel of Canadian frontier life, suggesting that she intended it to serve in part as a document in favor of women's rights and on the current unequal state of relations between men and women. Boutelle maintains that with this intent Brooke's novel foreshadows the overtly feminist work of Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft.]
Today we remember Frances Brooke, if we remember her at all, as the first Canadian novelist. As a result of her husband's 1763 appointment to the chaplaincy of the garrison at Quebec, Brooke spent several years in the newly British colony of Canada, and she used this experience as background in her second novel, The History of Emily Montague (published by Dodsley in 1769).1 Packed with lively details about the social life, agricultural practices, and cultural characteristics of the resident populations (British, Canadian, and Indian), the novel has long been hailed as the first Canadian novel. While Brooke herself would never have considered herself a Canadian, temporary residence in Canada has always provided good grounds for acceptance into the body of Canadian literature (witness Malcolm...
(The entire section is 3759 words.)
SOURCE: "The Politics of Romance in The History of Emily Montague," in Canadian Literature, Vol. 133, Summer, 1992, pp. 92-108.
[In the following essay, Merrett suggests that in The History of Emily Montague Brooke presented a negative view of British colonization of Canada.]
The most interesting, because most problematic, claim that Mary Jane Edwards makes in her fine edition of The History of Emily Montague is that Frances Brooke expresses in her novel an "essentially positive view of the potential of the new British colony."1 This claim is problematic for many contextual and textual reasons.
In the first place, although on March 22, 1769 Brooke dedicated her book to Guy Carleton, the recently appointed governor of Canada, and spoke glowingly of the country's prospects under his governance, her optimism is rendered questionable by her personal experience of the new province and by the frustration of her political wish to affirm the Conquest of Quebec. While the dedication praises Carleton's "enlightened attention" for bringing about a "spirit of loyalty and attachment to our excellent Sovereign" and a "chearful obedience" to British law (1), the text of her epistolary novel, in the course of plotting a retreat from Canada to England, necessarily embodies a much less positive attitude than announced by the dedication.
When Mr. Brooke...
(The entire section is 7738 words.)
SOURCE: "The Margins of Sentiment: Nature, Letter, and Law in Frances Brooke's Epistolary Novels," in Ariel, Vol. 23, No. 3, July, 1992, pp. 7-25.
[In the following essay, Benedict examines Brooke's use of the epistolary novel form to challenge the prevailing sentimental ideology of that genre.]
The most popular form of literary sentimentalism in the eighteenth century was the epistolary novel.1 The epistolary method aims to present human nature released from social convention, meditating on the faculty which sentimentalists saw as the spring of virtue: feeling. Through intimate letters describing characters' responses to emotions and events, these novels show sentiment even as it is being experienced, both to stir the reader's moral response and to demonstrate the sentimental thesis that moral virtue is natural instinct, not learned behaviour.2 In these novels, romantic love most often provides the plot to prove this thesis. The popular sentimental novelist Frances Brooke, however, challenges the assumptions of sentimental ideology even while exploiting its conventions. Indicting social hierarchy and political oppression, Brooke defends sentiment against the tyranny of custom, law, privilege, and patriarchy, but she also warns the reader against sentiment undisciplined by sense or unlicensed by society.3By structuring her epistolary novels dialectically to oppose...
(The entire section is 7136 words.)
SOURCE: "Dialogism in Canada's First Novel: The History of Emily Montague," in Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, Vol. 20, Nos. 3-4, September-December, 1993, pp. 437-50.
[In the following essay, Howells argues for the literary as well as the historical and documentary value of The History of Emily Montague as the first Canadian novel.]
All utterance, says Bakhtin, is dialogic. Any given utterance occurs in relation to context: time, place, interlocutionary situation. It is implicitly engaged with all other utterance—reworking, replying, anticipating—and with the reality that it seeks to attain. Insofar as it incorporates multiple discourses, it is a dialogue with itself. The condition of all language is that of interaction and change: open, dynamic, ever-renewed. As such, it mimes the condition of the world. ("Monologic" utterance is the authoritarian attempt to close the dialogue, to have the final and self-consistent word, to fix the world.) Literature organises and structures the multivoiced character of language. It orchestrates, as Bakhtin would say, the polyphony. Thus he has a special interest in quotation, direct or indirect, as speech engaged with and framed by speech. He places particular value on the introduction of orality, and popular or paraliterary genres, within the received literary orders. (The dialogic overlaps with the carnivalesque and implies a politics.)...
(The entire section is 6648 words.)
SOURCE: "Sisters Under the Mink: The Correspondent Fear in The History of Emily Montague," in Essays on Canadian Writing, Vols. 51-52, Winter 1993-Spring 1994, pp. 340-57.
[In the following essay, McCarthy characterizes The History of Emily Montague as an essentially racist and bigoted narrative with a pro-colonialist point of view.]
According to Frances Brooke's biographer, Lorraine McMullen, The History of Emily Montague (1769) was "required reading for early British travellers to Canada" (115), and the novel's most recent editor, Mary Jane Edwards, writes that it served as "a kind of guidebook" for tourists and emigrants (Introduction li). But what sort of "guidebook" is Brooke's novel two centuries later, and should it still be "required reading"? I think so, but not for the reasons offered by the historical, thematic, formalist, and, most recently, feminist critics who have kept it, in Carl F. Klinck's words, "long… in the canon of Canadian literature" (v).
Literary historians and critics have converged on Brooke's novel from four directions, seeing it as an originary object in Canadian literary history; as a discussion of European themes that employs the epistolary form and capitalizes on the exotic vehicle of a North American setting; as a sociocultural document and "celebration" of the unique Canadian space; and, finally, as a significant proto-feminist...
(The entire section is 7007 words.)
SOURCE: "Signs of Nationalism in The History of Emily Montague; Canadians of the Old and The Imperialist: Cultural Displacement and the Semiotics of Wine," in Recherches Semiotiques-Semiotic Inquiry, Vol. 14, Nos. 1-2, 1994, pp. 235-50.
[In the following excerpt, Merrett discusses the cultural and symbolic meanings associated with wine in Emily Montague.]
Wine—the fermented juice of the grape—may be a natural phenomenon yet it is also the product of complex vinification processes involving traditional but disputed histories: its origin and production have always been subject to legal rules and political restrictions. Its consumption has served society in many but contentious ways: as water-purifier, as beverage, as pain-killer, as palliative drug as well as in a wide range of customary and ritual functions illustrated in the body of this article. In society, wine constitutes sets of signifiers and signifieds. Encoded in writing, these sets inform and motivate textual signification by operating in systematic tension. By treating wine as sets of signifiers and analyzing its diverse political referents, this article shows how literary texts necessarily embody plural and even contrary codes and maintains that tensions between signifiers and signifieds mark and verify the interrelations of cultural and literary history.2
By the turn of the nineteenth century, wine...
(The entire section is 1819 words.)
SOURCE: Introduction in, The Excursion, edited by Paula R. Backscheider and Hope D. Cotton, University Press of Kentucky, 1997, pp. ix-xxxviii.
[In the following excerpt, Backscheider and Cotton discus the literary context and form of The Excursion, including its critical reception and Brooke's later career; they argue for the novel's significance in the movement towards critical realism.]
The Excursion and Its Significance
Thomas Cadell … the publisher of David Hume's History of England, Hannah More's Percy and Fatal Falsehood, and Samuel Foote's last four plays brought out Brooke's The Excursion in early summer 1777. Her earlier novels had featured a witty, strong-minded heroine and a sentimental, romantic one. Anne Wilmot in Lady Julia Mandeville had been called "the true woman of fashion" by The Edinburgh Weekly Magazine (13 November 1783), and the heroine of The Excursion is a woman of fashion wanna-be. Maria Villiers, lively, spontaneous, restless, and naive, schemes and cajoles until she is allowed to take a £200 inheritance to London, where she intends to marry a "ducal coronet"—that is, to marry into the nobility. Her guardian, Colonel Dormer, the uncle who loves his country retirement and nurtures his gardens with more discernment than his nieces, warns her against "worthless acquaintance, unmerited...
(The entire section is 9080 words.)
McMullen, Lorraine. An Odd Attempt in a Woman: The Literary Life of Frances Brooke. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983, 237.
A detailed history of Brooke's life and writing, including summaries of works and their critical reception.
Foster, James R. "From Sidney Bidulph to the Placid Man." In History of the Pre-Romantic Novel in England, pp. 145-50. New York: Modem Language Association of America, 1949.
Discusses the literary influences on Brooke's major novels.
Green, Katherine Sobba. "Frances Moore Brooke: Emily Montague's Sanctum Sanctorum." In The Courtship Novel, 1740-1820: A Feminized Genre, pp. 62-66. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1991.
Examines the arguments for social reform that occur in The History of Emily Montague. The critic notes especially the effect that Brooke created by attributing ing feminist statements to male characters.
New, William H. "Frances Brooke's Chequered Gardens." Canadian Literature 52 (Spring 1972): 24-38.
Explores Brooke's imagery.
Rogers, Katharine M. "Sensibility and Feminism: The Novels of Frances Brooke." Genre II (Summer 1978): 159-71.
Addresses the balance of sentiment and realism in The...
(The entire section is 326 words.)