Mary Davys: Self-Presentation and the Woman Writer's Reputation in the Early Eighteenth Century
Mary Davys, the Anglo-Irish writer who lived from 1674-1732, provides an interesting case-study on the pressures and expectations a woman writer experienced in the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Her period was transitional: while one can trace in it the beginnings of the acceptability of the professional woman writer, her role was still circumscribed by the professional/private dichotomy, in which the public role was tainted by its connection with Behn, Manley and Haywood. By examining Davys's writings, particularly her prefaces and dedications, I demonstrate the way in which she molds her self-presentation to present an acceptable persona: despite being a professional writer and an Irishwoman, she insists that she is a respectable member of society, loyal to the king and the Church of England; and although she is a woman, she represents herself as a competent and an adept writer. In the contradictions, as well as in the excessive flattery of the early dedications, she reveals the pressures of her situation.
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