By B. Carey

Carey argues that contributors within the overdue eighteenth-century slavery debate built a special sentimental rhetoric, utilizing the language of the center to robust impression. interpreting poetry, novels, journalism, and political writing, Carey exhibits that slave-owners and abolitionists alike made strategic use of the rhetoric of sensibility within the wish of influencing a studying public completely immersed within the "cult of feeling."

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Additional info for British Abolitionism and the Rhetoric of Sensibility: Writing, Sentiment and Slavery, 1760-1807

Example text

In the final analysis, however, the good act on their sympathies while the bad suppress them. A related and widespread sentimental argument maintains as a basic tenet that all human beings experience pain and misery in the same way. Sentimental and philanthropic writers and orators (and in later periods, radicals and socialists) used this axiom to develop the argument that equality of feeling proves the equal status of all human beings, although this argument was not new in the eighteenth century.

35 He concludes the lecture with an overtly sentimentalist statement. ’ In sentimental fiction, this is indeed what happens. In Smith’s lectures we have, almost fully developed, a sentimental rhetoric with a central man of feeling who is capable of strongly sympathising with the grief of others and of passing on, also by means of sympathy, that grief to an audience of sympathising and sympathetic listeners. While the essence of Smith’s theory of communication is sympathy, the essence of a good orator appears to be the ability to sympathise.

He is kind, generous, in touch with his feelings and, like many sentimental heroes, he comes with a dash of the natural state in him. Yet, although he is ‘given to admiration and pity, joy g〈r〉ief and compassion’, he is not entirely a weeping man of feeling. Nevertheless, sentimental fiction focuses on suffering and invites our sympathy for the suffering of others. In a later lecture, the sixteenth, Smith explains why suffering will always form the best subject for rhetoric and belles lettres and, in effect, for literature in general: It is an undoubted fact that those actions affect us in the most sensible manner, and make the deepest impression, which give us a considerable degree of Pain and uneasiness.

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