Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph is at the center of many important currents in the eighteenth-century novel. It is a sentimental classic, a love story of great moral complexity, and also a probing example of conduct-book fiction. Sidney's story takes the cult of female distress into the conjugal relationship, showing the tortures that the virtuous mid-eighteenth-century woman suffers when she tries to live her life according to the period's laws of proper conduct. This is the only fully annotated edition of the book available, and it offers an introduction that examines the literary and social climate in which it was written.
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The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph was hugely popular in circulating libraries in the years after its publication, and its emotional intensity was often remarked upon; Samuel Johnson wrote to Frances Sheridan, “I know not, Madam! that you have a right, upon moral principles, to make your readers suffer so much.” Sheridan traces Sidney Bidulph’s development in a complex epistolary novel spanning much of the protagonist’s life, and explores the tension between sexual desire and prescribed female conduct.
In addition to an introduction that places the novel in the context of Sheridan’s feminism and of the early novel, this edition provides material on discourses of female conduct, letters between Sheridan and Samuel Richardson, and contemporary reviews.About the Author:
Patricia Koster is Professor of English at the University of Columbia. Jean Coates Cleary is Tutor in English at Open University, British Columbia.
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