Gossip; Gift and Commodity in Francis Coventry’s History of Pompey the Little; or; The Life and Adventures of a Lap-Dog (1751)
Keywords:eighteenth-century English fiction, novels with non-human characters, commercialism, sociability, gossip.
Francis Coventry’s History of Pompey the Little represents one of the better known examples of today otherwise neglected eighteenth-century English novels of non human-characters. By pointing at thus far unacknowledged dimensions of the text; the article challenges the established reading of the book as put forward by Liz Bellamy in the theory of the ‘novels of circulation’. According to Bellamy; the peregrinating animals and objects of these narratives represent circulating commodities and thus symbolize alienated commercial society. Demonstrating that Pompey the lapdog rather functions as a gift and a gossip; this essay offers an alternative interpretation which opens up a different perspective on Coventry’s representation of society. Following from this; the paper aims at situating Pompey the Little’ within broader socio-cultural context of eighteenth-century England; as well as reflects on its place in fiction of the period. As such it advocates socio-historical approaches to literature.
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