Essays in Romanticism

Precarious Correspondence in The Woman of Colour

Essays in Romanticism (2020), 27, (2), 135–151.

Abstract

This essay argues that the expansion of the transatlantic packet network in Napoleonic-era Britain informs the form, politics, and racial discourse of the 1808 epistolary novel, The Woman of Colour. My reading of this text demonstrates that it draws upon the political instability of the wartime packet network in order to underscore its heroine’s social and emotional precarity as a woman of color, forced into marriage abroad. Departing from readings that assert Olivia Fairfield’s ability to transcend her precarious situation and achieve autonomy, I demonstrate that the novel’s invocation of the transatlantic packet context in fact casts doubt on her ability to escape from or transcend her predicament. In refusing to provide a hopeful ending, the novel instead offers a powerful, pessimistic condemnation of racism and misogyny in England.

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Author details

Parker, Deven M.