No, is a term very frequently employed by the fair, when they mean nothing less than a negative. Their yes is always yes, but their no is not always no. The air and tone of it determines the signification: Sometimes too the circumstances, a smile, or a look.
—The Dictionary of Love (1753)
Although the DOL claims in its preface to reveal the "just value" of the terms used in love, one may come away from reading it with more questions than answers. Paradoxically, this is an apt reaction, one that thoughtful readers will parlay into the realization that such words—and such circumstances—in fact defy definition. This wry perspective on love and courtship is the DOL's real contribution as a resource.
The following examples, drawn from Cleland's Fanny Hill, Congreve's The Way of the World, Richardson's Pamela, Fielding's Shamela, and Lillo's The London Merchant, will illustrate how the DOL's definitions expose rather than simplify the complexity of love and the tricks of lovers.
All of these novels and plays were published before the DOL, so my discussion is not meant to suggest that any of the authors were influenced by the latter work; rather, I hope to show that the DOL is a resource for studying the language of love as influenced by the sentimental and commercial milieus of eighteenth-century England.
In some cases, the works use the terms as they are defined in the DOL, reinforcing an obvious ideology or stereotype; in other cases, the DOL can inform a more elaborate analysis of the courtship conventions and gender constructions illustrated or implied in those works.
In the simplest case, a dictionary serves to assist readers in finding definitions of unfamiliar words. Since it is a novel both by the same author as the DOL and on roughly the same subject, Fanny Hill contains, as one would expect, many of the words and meanings found in the dictionary; however, there is certainly room for speculation about how Cleland adjusts his language based on genre and intended audience.
Fanny's first experience as a 'woman of pleasure' is hardly a pleasurable one, for her or her would-be seducer. The procuress, Mrs. Brown, arranges as Fanny's first customer an odious old man who shows no tenderness towards the young woman and who behaves like "a brute" (56). Frightened and inexperienced, Fanny fends off the man's violent advances, and he leaves in a huff, proclaiming "that [Mrs. Brown] might look out for another cully ... that he would not be fooled so by ever a country mock modesty in England..." (57). Cleland's DOL defines 'cully' as
one who gives much, and receives at most the appearances of love in return. Their tribe is very numerous; the chief divisions of them are, The marrying-cully, and the keeping-cully. The first is used as a cloak: the second, like an orange, squeezed of its juice, and thrown away.
The DOL and Fanny Hill frequently use an interchangeable vocabulary to describe emotional, monetary and sexual exchanges, revealing intriguing similarities between courtship and business. In applying the definition of 'cully' to Fanny's situation, and perhaps to the world of a woman of pleasure in general, the word 'virginity' might be substituted for 'love,' and the "much" that is given is more likely measured in guineas and shillings than in glances and sighs. Fanny's customer, in short, does not want to pay for a false maidenhead, as he believes Fanny's to be. Here we see the same words used in parallel situations involving love and money.
One of the more entertaining DOL entries, the definition for the word 'no,' which appears above, also appears in essence in Cleland's novel. Though she is still grieving for the loss of her true love, Charles, Fanny's protests to her new lover, Mr. H, are not wholehearted, and she notes that "he saw there was more form and ceremony in my resistance than good earnest..." (99). This behavior stands in stark contrast to that of characters such as Pamela, for whom 'no' really means 'no.' Fielding's Shamela, however, seems to follow Fanny's thinking a little more closely, as both women affect demureness and attempt to exploit the ambiguous nature of courtship, hoping to profit from their ostensible innocence and sense of propriety.
Congreve's comedy of manners, published in 1700, illustrates many of the same concepts that the DOL would address 53 years later. These similarities may prove useful for those studying the literary and cultural changes that occurred during the transition from the Restoration period to the more sentimental age that followed.
In Act I, Scene I of The Way of the World, Fainall questions Mirabell about his treatment of Lady Wishfort, who has recently become somewhat hostile toward the latter man:
What should provoke her to be your enemy, unless she has made you advances which you have slighted? Women do not easily forgive omissions of that nature. (1.1.76-78)
The DOL echoes this sentiment in the definition of the term 'advances:'
When these are made on the woman's side, they either suppose an excessive superiority, or an excessive love.
A woman who has made advances, never remembers them without rage, unless she has reason to remember them with pleasure.
Likewise, the following passage, spoken by Mirabell about Millamant, whom he loves, uses the term 'faults' just as it is described in the DOL:
Faults: The person one loves never has any. Either the lover does not see them, or is as much reconciled to them as to his own. If they offend him, he is so far from being a true lover, that he is scarce more than an acquaintance, and less than a friend.
Mirabell: And for a discerning man somewhat too passionate a lover, for I like her with all her faults; nay, like her for her faults. Her follies are so natural, or so artful, that they become her, and those affectations which in another woman would be odious serve but to make her more agreeable. I'll tell thee, Fainall, she once used me with that insolence that in revenge I took her to pieces, sifted her, and separated her failings: I studied 'em and got 'em by rote. The catalogue was so large that I was not without hopes, one day or other, to hate her heartily. To which end I so used myself to think of 'em, that at length, contrary to my design and expectation, they gave me every hour less and less disturbance, till in a few days it became habitual to me to remember 'em without being displeased. They are now grown as familiar to me as my own frailties, and in all probability in a little time longer I shall like 'em as well. (1.1.141-156)
As noted in the introduction, the DOL provides no definitive answers; however, it does give modern-day readers insight into words' connotations in eighteenth-century society. For example, the discussion of wit that occurs among Fainall, Mirabell, Witwould and Petulant in Act 1, Scene 1 ends with the couplet "Where modesty's ill manners, 'tis but fit / That impudence and malice pass for wit" (480-481). This final quotation, along with some of the characters' dialogue, agrees with or demonstrates the DOL's interpretation of 'wit':
The wit of these times consists in a defiance of common-sense, a licentious impertinence. Its chief employment is to put off false sentiments for true ones: to carry off the most worthless proceedings with an air of triumph in them: to ruin women, to debauch the wife or sister of a bosom friend: to feign a love one never felt. In short, it makes many comedians in love, and not one true lover.
The primitive acceptation of this term was an honourable one. A wit was formerly a character of worth and solidity. It supposed a refined, shining understanding: one who had the courage to think before he spoke or wrote: who stuck to the standard of reason and propriety. But this was too grave a character to maintain long its estimation. Such as yet adhere to it, are called, in derision, Philosophers, and are very little valued by the men, and not at all by the women, who look on them as odd, sober, insipid personages.
Opposed to these is another species of wits, who are now in high reign. Every thing with them is lively, sparkling and frothy. These are the idols of the women, and are by them preferred to all except the moneyed man, whose substantial eloquence out-buts even the powerful charms of their splendid nonsense.
Greek mythology tells of Argus (Argos) Panoptes, a hundred-eyed giant appointed by Hera to guard her husband Zeus's consort, Io. Argus was eventually killed by Hermes, at Zeus's behest, but Hera honored him by placing his eyes on the tail of the peacock. The DOL definition for Argus concludes that "his name has been since given to all who are set as spies over women," but then goes on to suggest that the presence of any Argus-like figure increases the likelihood of infidelity rather than discouraging it:
When a husband assumes that character [Argus], it is not only piquing his wife in honour to a trial of skill, but makes a sauce of the highest taste for a gallant, who might himself go to sleep over his intrigue, without such a difficulty to enliven it.
One of the gallantest poets of antiquity employs a whole elegy, to engage his mistress's husband to clap an Argus or two upon her, without which he declares to him plainly, that he will not do his drudgery for him; for that, as it was, he might as well be her husband, as to go to bed with her with so little let or impediment.
Your cautious mamma's are very often the dupes of Argusses in petticoats, they plant round their daughters dear, and who often call the enemy that would not perhaps think of them, instead of guarding their charges from him.
Richardson's allusion to the Greek giant may serve not only to highlight the extremity of Pamela's situation, but also to alert readers that the young heroine is more aware and discerning than her years and experience suggest. In response to Mrs. Jewkes's scrutiny of her correspondence, Pamela compares her unsympathetic guardian to the Greek giant saying,
Well, thinks I, I hope still, Argus, to be too hard for thee. Now Argus, the Poets say, had a hundred eyes, and was made to watch with them all, as she is. (113)
Obviously, this description deals with Mrs. Jewkes's incessant watchfulness over the captive Pamela; however, the DOL definition also applies, as the older woman not only monitors her charge closely but also functions as a co-conspirator with Mr. B, assisting him in his attempts to seduce his young servant.
The comparison is made relatively early in the novel, only a few days after Pamela has been kidnapped and taken to Mr. B's Lincolnshire house. Like Pamela's other characterizations of Mrs. Jewkes in these early sections, this one aids in coloring the housekeeper as the utterly heartless and depraved creature that she indeed proves to be. Pamela rightfully fears for her virtue, perceiving that not only will Mrs. Jewkes not protect her, but she will in fact actively clear the way for her master's schemes against the young woman.
In this case, knowledge of the DOL may aid readers in understanding the characters and in recognizing foreshadowing elements. However, the DOL definition assumes that daughters will disobey their parents and thwart their Arguses by rendezvousing with young men; Pamela's defiance, conversely, involves guarding her virtue more closely, adding an interesting twist to this application.
Fielding's parody of Richardson's tale of "virtue rewarded" and the DOL seem to be in the same mind, having a more cynical, or at least more pragmatic, view of love. Shamela announces that she
preferred [her] vartue to all rakes whatever—And for his promises, and his offers to me, I don't value them of a fig. (294)
If one considers the DOL definitions of the words 'offer' and 'promises,' Shamela is quite right to use the term 'value,' which can apply to material worth as well as to more abstract appreciation. Shamela reveals the mercenary side of love with her declaration; the DOL likewise exposes the dissembling nature of the language of courtship with entries like 'offer,' which compares the use of the term with two different direct objects, one related to emotion, the other to money:
I offer you a heart penetrated with the tenderest passion. Words of course that signify very little. I offer you my purse, not only sounds better, but expresses more sincerity.
Thus, her dismissal of her suitor's addresses works on two levels, as Shamela at least feigns indignation at his empty words and at his 'offers' to induce her to sleep with him. She should likewise be suspicious of his 'promises,' which the DOL defines as
Promises of Matrimony (See Matrimony): Without entering into a detail of signification of this terms, it will suffice to observe, that making them is one thing, and keeping them another.
Knowledge of the DOL reinforces the sense of parody in Fielding's work. Both Pamela and Shamela initially reject their seducers' 'offers' and 'promises;' however, the former does so because she is staunchly chaste and genuinely values her virtue above all things, no matter what their supposed value; the latter, considering the DOL interpretations, does so because she knows that such declarations have little to no value at all and she simply "prefer[s]" to keep her "vartue" until she receives a more attractive proposal.
Fielding and Cleland seem also to have been on the same page regarding the terms 'reconciliation' and 'old maid.' Fielding writes, "Nothing can be more prudent in a wife, than a sullen backwardness to reconciliation; it makes a husband fearful of offending by the length of his punishment" (299). The DOL acknowledges that "some reconciliations are attended with such pleasure, that it is almost worth making a quarrel on purpose, for the sake of the joy of reconcilement." However, it warns that "it is dangerous to risk this practice so often as to stale it: for it may happen that the reconciliation may never come." This, in a roundabout way, supports Fielding's assertion that withholding reconciliations is an effective means of controlling a husband.
Both men also note that 'old maids' often owe their spinsterhood to their own faults or failings; although Cleland seems to be a bit more sympathetic in his description. An epigraph to one of Shamela's letters comments, "What a foolish thing it is for a woman to dally too long with her lover's desires; how many have owed their being old maids to their holding out too long" (294). Cleland, similarly, defines the term as "an atrociously abusive expression, generally employed to signify one who could get no-body to make her otherwise; and always means a repenting one."
Unsurprisingly, these two works literally or implicatively define many terms in the same ways. While Fielding's novel focuses on the relationships of a single, burlesqued character, Shamela's duplicitous words and attitudes regarding courtship mirror Cleland's satirical treatment of the emotion in the DOL.
Issues of love and money—or more accurately, of marriage and money—went hand- in-hand in eighteenth-century society. The Marriage Act of 1753 (a bill whose appearance, incidentally, coincided with the publication of the DOL) illustrates one attempt by the government to regulate marriage for economic reasons. Although both supporters as well as opponents of the bill made emotional appeals in their arguments, David Lemmings shows that self-interest and commercial considerations were the driving forces behind the legislation. Simply put, the bill was designed "to prevent clandestine marriage and bigamy," both of which threatened "the marriage market for the male propertied elite," by giving parents and guardians (specifically fathers) more legal control over who their children (specifically daughters) married (Lemmings 339).
Given the interconnectedness of these two subjects, it is not surprising to find that relationships in these areas had a great deal in common. The DOL includes several entries, such as 'fortune,' 'gold,' 'offer,' 'presents' and 'interest,' that also show similar interests and attitudes in financial matters and matters of the heart. These specific definitions, as well as the general orientation of the DOL, suggests that both men and women were as concerned with making a financially advantageous match as they were with finding love. Moreover, throughout the DOL, there runs the theme of 'his and hers' currency: women's power and worth lay in their virtue; men's influence and desirability depended on their monetary assets. Interestingly, however, the entry for 'reputation' only concerns women:
One of the great centinels upon female virtue.
Think of what your love exposes me to: Consider what may be said of us; signifies, 'At least we must save appearances: cover our game and throw dust in the eyes of the world.'
Thus, in some women, reputation is but a crime, the more in them, since they owe it to the vice of hypocrisy.
Based on this treatment, one might assume that reputation, too, was primarily a woman's tool.
In George Lillo's The London Merchant, however, the tragic George Barnwell appears as ruined as any seduced maiden when his reputation is tainted, not by fornication, but by embezzlement and, later, murder. Barnwell's loyal friend Truman laments, "But few men recover reputation lost; a merchant, never" (3.3.37-38). Barnwell, as a merchant, is defined by money—even more so than other men, perhaps—and his misuse of it can be considered tantamount to a woman's disregard for her virtue. In this and other ways, Barnwell seems a stereotypically feminine character.
Again according to the DOL, 'favors' are defined as "All that a mistress grants to her lover...." Thus, when Millwood, Barnwell's seducer, angrily says, "But know that you are the only man that could be found who would let me sue twice for greater favors," (1.5.70-72) she is using a word with an erotic connotation that places her in the more dominant, and hence masculine, role.
Similarly, Lillo's use of the word 'vanity' contradicts traditional gender roles when it points to men, and not women, as being blinded by their conceit and pride. In "British Seduced Maidens," Susan Staves encapsulates the relationship between the seducer and (traditionally) his victim:
In the eighteenth century, the man's unfair advantage was usually underscored by differences of age, of education, of country versus town, and of social class, but there was also frequently the underlying idea that the natural mental resources of women are simply not equal to those of men. (116)
However, Lucy, Millwood's servant, wisely remarks of Barnwell,
To do him justice, notwithstanding his youth, he don't want understanding; but you men are much easier imposed on in these affairs than your vanity will allow you to believe. (3.4.8-10)
The DOL's somewhat playful, though still apt, definition of 'vanity' mirrors Barnwell's fate:
Vanity has brought more virtues to an untimely end, than any other vice. A woman, whose vanity is hurt by the apprehended desertion of a lover, to keep him, will very often take the very step which will bring on that desertion; and, in the loss of her virtue, rob her of all real foundation for vanity in the future.
Although it is arguably Barnwell's impetuous youth and love for Millwood, and not his vanity, that lead him to murder his uncle, Lucy's sentiment, when examined in the light of the DOL definition, once again suggests that Barnwell, in many ways, plays the feminine part in this tragic love affair.
Using the DOL in connection with Lillo's The London Merchant, one gets a broader view of the associations between sentimentality and commerce, two ostensibly dissimilar provinces, as well as a better understanding of relationship, including hierarchies and gender roles, within these worlds. One must remember that the DOL is, essentially, a satire, while Lillo's dedication to his patron Sir John Eyles indicates that his play was aimed at "the exciting of the passions in order to the correcting such of them as are criminal, either in their nature or through their excess" (3). However, this difference of genre may, in fact, make the conclusions drawn even more valuable, as they arise from a more comprehensive examination of language usage.