The Daughter of Adoption
A Tale of Modern Times
  • Publication Date: March 18, 2013
  • ISBN: 9781554810635 / 1554810639
  • 550 pages; 6" x 9"

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The Daughter of Adoption

A Tale of Modern Times

  • Publication Date: March 18, 2013
  • ISBN: 9781554810635 / 1554810639
  • 550 pages; 6" x 9"

John Thelwall’s The Daughter of Adoption: A Tale of Modern Times is a witty and wide-ranging work in which the picaresque and sentimental novel of the eighteenth century confronts the revolutionary ideas and forms of the Romantic period. Thelwall puts his two main characters, the conflicted English gentleman Henry Montfort and the Creole Seraphina Parkinson, through their paces in a slave rebellion in Haiti, where they barely escape with their lives, and in London society, where Henry almost loses his soul. Combining political analysis with melodrama and flat-out farce, Daughter expands the scope of the abolitionist novel, pushing the argument beyond the slave trade to challenge empire and racial superiority.

Historical materials on Thelwall’s life, the abolitionist movement, and eighteenth-century educational theories provide a detailed context for the novel.

Academics please note that this is a title classified as having a restricted allocation of complimentary copies. While the availability of bound complimentary copies is restricted to desk copies only, electronic complimentary copies are readily available for those professors wishing to consider this title for possible course adoption. Should you choose to adopt the book after viewing an electronic copy we will be happy to provide a bound desk copy.


“This edition of The Daughter of Adoption at last makes this multifaceted work available for general readers and classroom use. The editors have done a terrific job of situating both Thelwall and his novel as central to a reconception of the literary—including fiction, drama, and poetry, but also political, philosophical, and educational writing. Even more critically, they highlight the link between the written and oral language arts in Thelwall’s radicalism. The introduction overflows with connections to key debates and events of the 1790s and gestures toward nearly every major literary thread and cultural concern of the turn between Enlightenment and Romanticism.” — Miriam Wallace, New College of Florida

“Eagerly read and distributed by his former associates in the radical movement of the 1790s, John Thelwall’s The Daughter of Adoption stands at the confluence of the many intellectual trends that fed into nineteenth-century literature. Recent scholarly work, to which the editors of this volume have made major contributions, has shown Thelwall’s importance to the emergent forms of Romantic poetry, not least via his personal and poetic dialogues with Wordsworth and Coleridge. Now this edition gives us the opportunity to see the themes of his radical prose and lectures of the 1790s being turned into a groundbreaking work of fiction. Exploring issues and techniques broached by novels such as Godwin’s Caleb Williams and Wollstonecraft’s Maria, it gives the question of freedom a global dimension via its depiction of a slave revolt in Haiti. The result is a complex but compelling work of fiction.” — Jon Mee, University of Warwick

John Thelwall and His World: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Daughter of Adoption; A Tale of Modern Times

Appendix A: Biographical Documents

  1. From John Thelwall, “Prefatory Memoir,” Poems, Chiefly Written in Retirement (1801)
  2. From John Thelwall to Susan Thelwall (18 July 1797)
  3. From John Thelwall to Dr. Peter Crompton (3 March 1798)
  4. From John Thelwall, A Letter to Francis Jeffray [sic], Esq. (1804)
  5. From Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Specimens of the Table Talk of the Late Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1835)
  6. From William Wordsworth to Henrietta Cecil Thelwall (16 November 1838)
  7. From William Wordsworth, Notes Dictated to Isabella Fenwick, first published as Notes in the Poetical Works (1857)

Appendix B: Contextual Documents

  1. Literature and Education
    1. From Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749)
    2. From Thomas Day, The History of Sandford and Merton (1783-89)
    3. From John Thelwall, The Peripatetic (1793)
    4. From Richard and Maria Edgeworth, Practical Education (1801)
    5. From John Thelwall, Introductory Discourse on the Nature and Objects of Elocutionary Science (1805)
    6. From John Thelwall, “The Historical and Oratorical Society,” A Letter to Henry Cline (1810)
  2. The West Indies and the Abolition Debate
    1. From John Thelwall, “The Connection between the Calamities of the Present Reign, and the System of Borough-
      Mongering Corruption,” The Tribune (1795-96)
    2. From John Thelwall, Rights of Nature, against the Usurpations of Establishments (1796)
    3. From Baron de Wimpffen, A Voyage to Saint Domingo, in the Years 1788, 1789, and 1790 (1797)
    4. From Bryan Edwards, An Historical Survey of the French Colony in the Island of St. Domingo (1798)
    5. From John Thelwall, “The Negro’s Prayer,” Monthly Magazine (April 1807)
  3. The Revolution Debate
    1. From Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
    2. From William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness (1798)

Appendix C: Reviews of The Daughter of Adoption

  1. Critical Review (February 1801)
  2. Monthly Magazine (20 July 1801)
  3. Monthly Review (August 1801)
  4. Annals of Philosophy (1801)
  5. Thelwall’s Reply to the Reviews, from “Prefatory Memoir,” Poems, Chiefly Written in Retirement (1801)

Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Michael Scrivener is Professor of English at Wayne State University.

Yasmin Solomonescu is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame.

Judith Thompson is Professor of English at Dalhousie University.