John Thelwall’s The Daughter of Adoption: A Tale of Modern Times is a witty and wide-ranging work in which the picaresque and sentimental novel of the eighteenth century confronts the revolutionary ideas and forms of the Romantic period. Thelwall puts his two main characters, the conflicted English gentleman Henry Montfort and the Creole Seraphina Parkinson, through their paces in a slave rebellion in Haiti, where they barely escape with their lives, and in London society, where Henry almost loses his soul. Combining political analysis with melodrama and flat-out farce, Daughter expands the scope of the abolitionist novel, pushing the argument beyond the slave trade to challenge empire and racial superiority.
Historical materials on Thelwall’s life, the abolitionist movement, and eighteenth-century educational theories provide a detailed context for the novel.
About the authors
Judith Thompson is a two-time winner of the Governor Generalâ??s Literary Award for White Biting Dog and The Other Side of the Dark. In 2006 she was invested as an Officer in the Order of Canada and in 2008 she was awarded the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play Palace of the End. Judith is a professor of drama at the University of Guelph and lives with her husband and five children in Toronto.
“This edition of The Daughter of Adoption at last makes this multifaceted work available for general readers and classroom use. The editors have done a terrific job of situating both Thelwall and his novel as central to a reconception of the literary—including fiction, drama, and poetry, but also political, philosophical, and educational writing. Even more critically, they highlight the link between the written and oral language arts in Thelwall’s radicalism. The introduction overflows with connections to key debates and events of the 1790s and gestures toward nearly every major literary thread and cultural concern of the turn between Enlightenment and Romanticism.” — Miriam Wallace, New College of Florida
“Eagerly read and distributed by his former associates in the radical movement of the 1790s, John Thelwall’s The Daughter of Adoption stands at the confluence of the many intellectual trends that fed into nineteenth-century literature. Recent scholarly work, to which the editors of this volume have made major contributions, has shown Thelwall’s importance to the emergent forms of Romantic poetry, not least via his personal and poetic dialogues with Wordsworth and Coleridge. Now this edition gives us the opportunity to see the themes of his radical prose and lectures of the 1790s being turned into a groundbreaking work of fiction. Exploring issues and techniques broached by novels such as Godwin’s Caleb Williams and Wollstonecraft’s Maria, it gives the question of freedom a global dimension via its depiction of a slave revolt in Haiti. The result is a complex but compelling work of fiction.” — Jon Mee, University of Warwick