From “men of theory” to Theoretical Men: Smith, West, and Masculinity at War, 1793–1802
This chapter suggests that Charlotte Smith and Jane West particularly, as well as other women writers, had been pursuing a more domestic approach to the situation all along. At the outset of the French Revolutionary War, Edmund Burke's chivalric protectors of rank and sex were pitted against republican men of theory, raising questions about the qualities required of a nation's political leaders. Tom Paine suggests that republics are fundamentally peaceful polities and that animosity between nations is nothing more than what the policy of their governments excite to keep up the spirit of the system. Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government. The chapter suggests that the hero's novel circumstances reflect a larger shift in attitudes toward English masculinity that begins at the end of the revolutionary wars, continues through the Napoleonic wars, and is further developed in the works of Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen.