chapter  4
28 Pages

Hieroglyphics of Desire

As Astraea and Virtue approach the capital in the early pages of Delarivier Manley’s The New Atalantis, they catch their initial glimpse of the character who is to be their guide through the muck and mire of modern desire. Virtue is the first to remark Intelligence’s presence: “See, my dear Astrea, . . . how busy Intelligence appears, like a courtier new in office! She bustles up and down and has a world of business upon her hands; she is first lady of the bedchamber to the Princess Fame, her garments are all hieroglyphics” (13). Full of good, bad, and “medium” news, Intelligence is “rarely concerned with” the truth. But when she is arrested, “in the name of Jupiter” and ordered to serve Virtue and Justice, all that changes: “You are to inform us of all we shall demand,” Virtue tells her; and moreover, “Truth is summoned to attend you on this occasion” (13). Intelligence is captured and corralled, as it were, against her wayward will, her hieroglyphic secret knowledge made legible by the presence of Truth.