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“So Shall She Now the Softest Coulours Chuse/To Paint thy Fate & Shadow out thy Woes”

Poetry and Emotion in the Abergavenny Scandal of 1729

Lucia Quinault    Queen Mary, University of London (UK)    



This article will explore the ways in which literary forms empower emotional response to public events, using as a case study the wide range of literary texts – published and circulated in manuscript – inspired by the notorious Abergavenny scandal of 1729. Lady Abergavenny’s beauty, adultery and death, followed by a trial in which her husband was awarded a staggering £10,000 in compensation, stimulated poetry, drama and opera, giving voice to desire, remorse, pity, despair and contempt. Drama and poetry intersect in their treatment of the scandal, and while poetry offers its writers and readers an opportunity to explore a single viewpoint, and to circulate it privately, drama re-imagines the causes and conversations, and exposes them to public judgment. The alternating prose and verse of opera thus offer us a self-contained sample of the uses of different literary genres in expressing emotion and presenting the social and moral debates provoked by the affair.

Dec. 18, 2017
Nov. 7, 2017
Oct. 10, 2017

Keywords: ScandalAbergavennyGenreEmotionPoetry

Copyright: © 2017 Lucia Quinault. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.