Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, Sarah Fielding, virture


Like many writers of the eighteenth century, Sarah Fielding frequently proclaims that the function of her narratives, and of fiction in general, is to inculcate virtue through entertaining storytelling; in her novels she forthrightly intends, as she says in the introduction to The Cry, to "entertain and instruct:' In her prefatory and other critical materials, she tends to draw from an arsenal of commonly referenced classical poets and early modern philosophers, essayists, and literary masters to illustrate and defend her moral purpose. Indeed, one might be led to believe, based solely on reading the ancillary, nonfiction expressions surrounding Fielding's fictional work, that her moral worldview is grounded in the wisdom of ancient poets, the tenuous grounds of literary precedent, and Enlightenment dialogues on the new "science" of moral philosophy ( drawn from some of her favorites-Locke, Shaftesbury, and La Bruyere). The body of Fielding's works, however, will likely surprise any reader guided by such expectations. Though her ancillary materials are markedly secular, relying on lay sources to explain and defend her moral positioning, her narratives undeniably and forcefully speak to her Protestant upbringing and