18th century monkeys

A return to the text chosen for last week’s book review.  In 2009, I went to the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies conference and attended a panel which included a paper on simian satire given by Ann Campbell of Boise St (if it sounds like I talk too much about conferences in this blog, I assure you it’s not because I’m attending one every other weekend.  I just like to get the most mileage I can out of the ones I’ve been to).  Anyway, her explored the ways Frances Burney uses monkeys to illustrate (or satirize) certain ridiculous aspects of human nature.

When I saw the cover of the Hartlepool Monkey, I was immediately drawn to its bold colors and silly monkey wearing British Royal regalia.  How preposterous!  Ok, maybe I was also rushing out the door and needed something awesomely eighteenth century to keep me company on the way to Boston.  Still, I think the subject of primate life in polite society pre-Darwin is a subject worth exploring a bit further.

What are we to make of the fact that men and women dressed monkeys in little pantaloons and ribbons like dolls?  Or of the fascination with figurines in the shape of monkeys?  With increased explorations to Africa and India, more and more people were bringing back “exotic” Flora and fauna with them.  Perhaps it was only natural that the British, with their obsession with empire and trade, would take these rarities and promote them to the level of spectacle.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on monkeys in the eighteenth century.  But when I wrote last week’s review, I commented that Jacques seemed like a real character to me (even though he’s a talking monkey).  I think my momentary confusion (delusion?) is a credit to Sean Longley, author, and the skill with which he uses the eighteenth century as a backdrop for his drama. 

I wish other historical fiction writers were as successful.  I’m running out of book ideas for the holidays and am open to suggestions. 

In response to yesterday’s post: I’m still working on formatting the comps list.  Call it procrastination or an overwhelming work load.  You will have it sooner rather than later.

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