Speech and Property in David Simple
ELH: English Literary History, Vol. 79, pp. 623-54 (2012)
47 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2012 Last revised: 1 Nov 2017
Date Written: July 6, 2012
Throughout Sarah Fielding's 1744 novel David Simple, conflicts over the citation, attribution, and withholding of others’ words are associated with property disputes and with acts of impersonation. The novel’s villains, driven by anxieties about scarcity, repeatedly seek to appropriate their victims’ material and verbal resources, reflexively categorizing them as a kind of property. These manipulative tactics — and the novel’s ambivalent attitude towards direct quotation — point to concerns implicit in contemporaneous thought about literary property, involving the problems associated with converting words into property and the difficulty of controlling what happens to them as a result.
Keywords: Sarah Fielding, David Simple, eightee-century novel, sentimental fiction, copyright law, legal history, literary history
JEL Classification: B11, K11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation