Twin strangleholds of style: The blathering Irishman, the Simpering Miss, and the invisible Irish woman

Date of Completion

January 2004


Theater|Literature, English




This dissertation examines the intersection of gender and nationality in the fiction and drama of the long eighteenth century. While the Restoration of Charles II on the English throne in 1660 reestablishes a fairly stable center of English government after half a century of regicide, civil war and Irish rebellion, the complicated power struggles in English society do not end; they merely become streamlined, and the subtlest weapon against potential insurgents in the eighteenth century is style. While the true English gentleman uses the plain style, Irish men and English women are rhetorically stereotyped in the same way: both the blathering Stage Irishman, with his brogue and his penchant for verbal blunders called Irish bulls, and the Simpering Miss, with her conduct-book-style equivocations and exaggerations, speak the same kind of indirect, imprecise, comic language. A diverse group of canonical and non-canonical writers attacks these insipid ideals: Jonathan Swift, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charles Macklin, Jane Austen, Thomas Sheridan, Frances Sheridan, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Maria Edgeworth. While the female stereotype appears most prominently in fiction, the national stereotype usually appears in drama. No writer deconstructs both stereotypes in the same work. The separate spheres of the Stage Irishman and the Simpering Miss suggest the cultural power of the stereotype. ^