Manley, Rivella (1714):Introduction

From Marteau

Note on the Text

Text and page reproductions of the Marteau edition of Delarivier Manley's The Adventures of Rivella follow the first edition as published by Edmund Curll, London, 1714, copy of the British Library, shelf-mark: L: 1419.f.23, ESTC: t065369.


Publication history

The following history of the publication of Delarivier Manley’s Adventures of Rivella (1714) was offered in 1725, a couple of months after her death, by Edmund Curll, her publisher – as a preface to his new, posthumous edition:

Edmund Curll's preface to the posthumous edition, 1725

To the Reader

It must be confessed, That these Memoirs have been written above Ten Years; and likewise, That they have been published as long, though under a different Title. The Reason of which, as well as to prove them Genuine, I shall lay before the Reader with as much Brevity, as the Fact will admit of.

In the Year 1714. Mr. Gildon, upon a Pique, the Cause of which I cannot assign wrote some account of Mrs. Manley’s Life, under the Title of, The History of Rivella, Author of the Atalantis. Of this Piece, Two Sheets only were printed, when Mrs. Manley hearing it was in the Press, and sus-|<iv>pecting it to be, what it really was, A severe Invective upon some Part of her Conduct, she sent me the following Letter;

As I have never, Personally, disobliged, I have no Reason to fear your being inexorable as to any Point of Friendship, or Civility, which I shall require of you, provided I make it your own Interest to oblige me. If the Pamphlet you have advertised be not already published I beg the Favour of you to defer it ’till I have spoken to you: Please to send me Word what Hour after Four o’Clock, this Day, you will be at Home when this Note comes, pray send me a Line or Two when I shall wait on you, which will very much oblige,
your humble Servant
Tues. Mar. 1714.
past 12 a Clock|<v>

I returned for Answer to this Letter, That I should be proud of such a Visitant. Acordingly, Mrs. Manley, and her sister, come to my House in Fleet-Street, whom, before that Time I had never seen, and requested a Sight of Mr. Gildon’s Papers. Such a Request, I told her, I could not by any Means, grant, without asking Mr. Gildon’s Consent; But, upon hearing her own Story, which no Pen, but her own, can relate in the agreeable Manner wherein she delivered it. I promised to write to Mr. Gildon the next Day; and not only obtained his Consent to let Mrs. Manley see what Sheets were printed, but also brought them to an Interview, by which Means, all Resentments between them were thoroughly reconciled, Mr. Gildon was, likewise, so generous, as to order a Total Suppression of all his Papers; and Mrs. Manley, as generously resolved to write The History of her own Life, and Times, under the same Title which Mr. Gildon had made Choice of. The Truth of which will appear by this Letter.

I Am to thank you for your honourable Treatment, which I shall never forget: In Two or Three Days, I hope to begin the Work.|<vi>
I like your Design of continuing the same Title: I am resolved to have it out as soon as possible: I believe you will agree to print it as it is writ: When you have a Mind to see me, send me Word, and I will come to your House; for if you come upon this Hill, B. will find it out; for God’s sake let us try if this Affair can be kept a Secret. I am, with all Respects,
Your most obliged humble
Wednesday Noon.
15 Mar.
P. S. I have Company, and Time to tell you only, That your Services are such to me, that can never be enough valued. My Pen, my Purse, my Interest, are all at your Service: I shall never be easy, ’till I am grateful.|<vii>

About a Week after, I received the greatest Part of the Manuscript, with the following Letter.

JUDGE that I have not been idle, when I just have sent you so much Copy. How can I deserve all this Friendship from you? I must ask you to pity me; for I am plagued to Death for want of Time, and forced to write by Stealth. I beg the Printer may not have any other to interfere with him, especially because I shall want Time to finish it with that Eclat I intend. I dread the Noise ’twill make when it comes out; it concerns us all to keep the Secret. I design to wait on you, to tell you part of that extream Acknowledgment, which, my Heart tells me, is due to so sincere a Friend.
Yours, &c.

While these Memoirs were in the Press, I had the Favour of several other obliging Letters from Mrs. MANLEY, in one of which she says, “Though the World may like what I write of others, they despise whatever an Author is thought to say of themselves.

This being the sole Reason of her throwing it into the Disguise of a Translation, and insisting, that it should be kept a Secret during her Life-time; I hope what is now produced, will be allowed to be a sufficient Proof of her being the Genuine Author.

19. Sept. 1724.


London, Curll and his two authors - observations

“I am plagued to Death for want of Time, and forced to write by Stealth...” Those who check their e-mails automatically every 15 minutes will nourish the notion that ours is a fast age. Time has speeded up, so the frequent observation. DeFoe's, Newton's, Handel's and Delarivier Manley's London had its own speed. Messengers passed through the streets. Those who had servants would send them through the city to deliver their mails. A quarter of an hour, half an hour later the addressee would be located. The usual question was: shall the messenger wait for the reply. A swift commerce of mails is documented in novels such as Aphra Behn’s Love-Letters (1684-87) and in texts like the preceding with its mails ending with notes such as: “Tues. Mar. 1714, past 12 a Clock” or “Wednesday Noon. 15 Mar.” containing arrangements for later that afternoon or the next day.

London was a metropolis, Edmund Curll a notorious publisher and Delarivier Manley an even more notorious author – yet the city was big enough to make it possible that both never met in person. Paris, Amsterdam, Venice and Hamburg were with 180,000 to 400,000 inhabitants cities of comparable potentials when it came to the creation of an anonymous urban space. Most of the other major European cities did not count more than 40,000 inhabitants. They did not develop comparable modes of writing before the 19th century.

Delarivier Manley was 51 in 1714, Charles Gildon was two years younger – both died in 1724. Edmund Curll was 39 and was to die aged 72 in 1747. Manley had become famous with the publication of her Atalantis in 1709. The book had claimed to be translated from the Italian. It contained, however, most obviously a sequel of scandalous histories which did one by one portray the ruling Whigs as amorous and thoroughly corrupt heroes. Manley was interrogated on the publication and she was released when she claimed the fictional status of her production. It was clear she had brought real people under “Romantick Names” in a “feign’d Scene of Action” yet it was not to be expected that anyone would prove these stories to be true portraits. Those affected would hardly want to concede the truth of the allegations Manley had in stock. The author was released and continued her work with three further volumes of the Atalantis published in intervals of six months. London spent two years on the who is who? Keys were published and facilitated the exchange. The Adventures of Rivella offer the whole story of the publication of the Atalantis p.108 ff. Manley's account of these events is by far the most interesting part of her Rivella and hence carefully spared for the last pages.

The publication of the Adventures of Rivella was a farce and so was the insinuation of a French source. Delarivier Manley was most obviously the author of her own memoirs - she celebrated and whitewashed herself excessively. The fictional guise would none the less save her in case of upcoming of legal charges. No one would prove the truth of her stories in an exchange in which he had to admit certain unpleasant pieces of information about his or her person - so the strategy Manley had not invented and hardly perfected.

Charles Gildon was the less successful author. Daniel DeFoe would ultimately outpace Manley as a writer of fiction. With the publication of his Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe in 1719 he became the author whom Gildon would finally attack with all the intended satire and less hesitation. The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Mr. D---- De F-- appeared right after the publication of the Robinson Crusoe, it might give an indication of what Delarivier Manley had to fear with Gildon's - never published - Adventures of Rivella.

The questionable achievement

The Adventures of Rivella; or, the History of the Author of the Atalantis with Secret Memoirs and Characters of several considerable Persons her Cotemporaries came out in 1714. A second edition followed in 1715. The book's status was in a first step considerably modified in 1717 when two rivalling editions appeared as the so called “third” – one published by J. Roberts and the other one by Edmund Curll. Did Roberts steal the unclaimed title? The Adventures of Rivella turned with both editions into the Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Manley. (Author of the Atalantis.) containing not only the History of Her Adventures, but likewise an Account of the most considerable Amours in the Court of King Charles the IId. Delarivier Manley stepped into the footprints of Aphra Behn. She would from now onwards immortalise her family name, and Aphra Behn presented the motto to this decisive step towards literary fame: “The Gods of Love and Wit inspire her Pen, and Love and Beauty is her constant Theme” as if she could still make Delarivier Manley her legitimate successor. The “fourth” edition appeared late in 1724 with 1725 as the date of publication and the background story out of Curll’s Hand.

Though the The Adventures of Rivella came out with a subtitle promising new political revelations, the book remained from the first to the last line in the shadow of her Atalantis. The Atalantis had worked on a carefully crafted rhythm of longer stories and short bombardments of the political enemy. The author herself played a marginal yet attractive role in her her own story, published whithin the Atalantis as Delia’s history. The Adventures of Rivella focussed solely on the author and turned into a deliberate case of personal whitewashing - embedded, however, into the most promising framework: The author at the age of 51 and reputedly quite corpulent, poses as the object of male phantasies. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, yet the French chevalier D’Aumont who has already fallen in love with her, before the novel begins is past that wisdom. He is ready to dream of Rivella’s bed on no other grounds than his reading her love scenes. Madame Dacier – the famous and no longer young translator of Homer – becomes Delarivier Manley’s only rival as a woman author of wit and understanding.

The other man on the frontispiece is Sir Charles Lovemore, an old friend and admirer whose love Rivella has always rejected. D’Aumont has read the Atalantis in France; French translations had spread all over Europe. He asks Sir Charles to give him a full account of the Rivella’s life – a picture designed to heighten his love for her before he might finally try to get a chance to see her in person and, so he hopes, to share the bed with her.

Yet the old lover’s discourse is hardly fit for the sensual arousal D'Aumont asked for. The further Sir Charles Lovemore gets into Rivella’s story the more he feels obliged to come to her defence on a series of accusations of which D’Aumont has never heard a word before. Delia’s role in the Atalantis had been comparably attractive: Delarivier Manley had acted there the innocent young girl, seduced and betrayed by her foster father. The incidents related now are less apt to arouse “warm” feelings and desires. Money is a constant theme in the conflicts Sir Charles has to recapitulate. An ever growing amount of details is heaped up to determine who was guilty and who not without creating a drama or an intrigue which could set the audience – or for that purpose – D’Aumont into suspense. Sir Charles does ultimately reflect the failings of his account directly addressing the listener:

THUS my dear D’Aumont, continued Sir Charles, I have finish’d the Secret History of that tedious Law Suit, which I justly fear has likewise tir’d your Patience. My Business was to give you Rivella’s History on those Occasions that have to her Prejudice, made most Noise in the World; since she has writ for the Tories, the Whigs have heighten’d this Story, and too severely reflected upon her for Bella’s Misfortunes, tho’ they were all occasion’d by her own Viciousness, Forwardness and Treachery, in which Rivella had not any Par...

a reflection which does immediately lead back into the long winded account. Manley utilises the interest the “author of the Atalantis” can expect to deal with accusations and to blame her private and public friends and enemies with the outcome of her unhappy affairs.

And yet a novel of immense historical interest


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