Memoirs of a Coxcomb
Published in 1751, John Cleland’s second novel (after the notorious Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) is a witty and complex portrait of aristocratic British society in the mid-eighteenth century. Its young protagonist, Sir William Delamore, meets, falls in love with, and pursues the mysterious heiress Lydia. Rather than a conventional romance, however, the novel is an acerbic social satire, and Sir William an unreliable narrator and incomplete hero. In its experiments with narrative form and its sophisticated examination of masculine identity, Memoirs of a Coxcomb is an important marker in the development of the eighteenth-century novel.
This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction that places Memoirs in the context of Cleland’s life and literary career. Also included is a broad selection of appendices, including Tobias Smollett’s review of the novel, selections from Cleland’s criticism, three texts by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and contemporary documents on masculinity (particularly the figures of the coxcomb and the fop) and prostitution.