Manley, Delariviere

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Manley, Delariviere (1672-1724): English Writer.

Delariviere Manley was the second professional woman writer in England (Aphra Behn being the first), an important woman political journalist, a playwright, and a popular novelist.

Orphaned before she was sixteen, Manley was left in the custody of a cousin who lured her into a bigamous marriage, took her to London, squandered her small inheritance, and abandoned her and their infant son in the early 1690s. During the next ten years, Manley sought refuge in a variety of situations: the gambling house of the Duchess of Cleveland, a former mistress of Charles II; the house of Sir Thomas Skipworth, a shareholder in Drury Lane Theater, where Manley's The Lost Lover; or, The Jealous Husband was staged in 1696; and the home of John Tilly, warden of Fleet Prison. From 1714 until her death, she lived with John Barber, a printer and alderman.

Manley supported herself through myriad literary activities. She wrote four plays; edited and wrote for two political journals, The Female Tatler (1709) and The Examiner (1711); published the autobiographical The Adventures of Rivella (1714); and published a collection of seven amatory novellas, The Power of Love (1720). Manley's most widely read works, then and now, are a series of scandal chronicles with keys that identify the (generally Whig) targets of her satire: The Secret History of Queen Zarah (1705), a satirical attack on the Duchess of Marlborough; The New Atalantis (1709), `which resulted in Manley's being arrested (and later acquitted) for libel; and Memoirs of Europe towards the Close of the Eighth Century (1710). Though critics often condemned her for scurrilous writing and an immoral lifestyle, Manley's reputation is currently being revised. Not only was she an important political satirist, but in producing sustained satiric parodies of then-popular romances, she ridiculed the patriarchal, bourgeois attitudes that underlay those romances. In pursuing a life free of bourgeois convention and articulating repeated, satirical attacks on the sentimentalized, domestic ideal of femininity that developed under the social and political dominance of the Whigs, Manley championed a rational, skeptical, egalitarian vision shared by many leaders of the Enlightenment and its revolutions.

Further Reading:

Fidelis Morgan, A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs. Manley, 1986.

Glen Colburn

Morehead State University