Things that Didn’t Happen
Title Details

295 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

6 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Studies in the Eighteenth Century

Imprint: Boydell Press

Things that Didn't Happen

Writing, Politics and the Counterhistorical, 1678-1743

by John McTague

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
An innovative exploration of fake news and alternative reality in late Stuart and early Hanoverian political and literary culture, from the Popish Plot and the South Sea Bubble to the Dunciad.
James Francis Edward Stuart, the Prince of Wales born in 1688, was not a commoner's child smuggled into the queen's birthing chamber in a warming pan, but many people said he was. In 1708, the same prince did not quite land in Scotland with a force of 5,000 men in order to claim the Scottish crown, but writers busied themselves with exploring what would have happened if he had succeeded. These fictions had as potent an effect on the political culture of late Stuart and early Hanoverian Britain as many events that really did happen.

From the alleged "Popish Plot" of Titus Oates to the South Sea Bubble, John McTague draws on a rich variety of sources - popular, archival and literary - to investigate the propagandic and literary exploitation of three kinds of things that did not occur at this time: failures which inspired "what if" narratives, speculative futures which failed to come to pass and "pure" fictions created and disseminated for political gain. Finally, a ground-breaking reading of the various versions of Pope's Dunciad reveals a work that in its exploration of historic causation and agency and its repurposing o fthe material of contemporary political and literary culture deploys many of the strategies explored in earlier chapters to present Hanoverian reality as if it were counterhistory.

JOHN MCTAGUE is Lecturer in English Literature at Bristol University.
Introduction
Incorrigibility: The Warming Pan Scandal of 1688-89
'Working in th'immediate power to be': The Popish and Protestant Plots
Travesties: The Assassination and Insurrection Plots of 1683
Contingency and Incontinence: The Jacobite Invasion of 1708
The Indifference of Number: The South Sea Bubble, 1720-21
'Some Convenient Order': Mandeville, Berkeley, and the Narration of Ethical Exchange
Living in Counterhistory: The Dunciads as Mock-Prophecy
The Indifference of the Dunces: Agency in the Dunciads
Gravitation, Providence, and Theories of History in the Dunciads
Conclusion: Events that Didn't Happen
Bibliography
"Although rich in information about and insights into historical writing, the major contributions of Things that Didn't Happen are to literary criticism, through its reliance on close textual analysis. McTague is an excellent, often brilliant, close reader of texts and groups of texts." Martine W. Brownley, Journal of British Studies
"[L]ively and intelligent . . . adventurous in both its argument and its archival range; and it is
also unexpectedly topical in our time of fake news and post truth politics. One of the very refreshing things about this book is the way it puts the canonical and the overlooked or ephemeral into sparkling dialogue with one another." Studies in English Literature

Hardcover

9781783274093

September 2019

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9781787445192

September 2019

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Title Details

295 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

6 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Studies in the Eighteenth Century

Imprint: Boydell Press