Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America

David S. Shields
Paperback price: $47.50
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Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press
Imprint: OIEAHC
Cloth/Hardcover Publication Date: 05/1997
Pages: 382
Paperback ISBN: 9780807846568
Paperback Publication Date: 05/1997
Ebook ISBN: 9780807838341


In cities from Boston to Charleston, elite men and women of eighteenth-century British America came together in private venues to script a polite culture. By examining their various ‘texts’–conversations, letters, newspapers, and privately circulated manuscripts–David Shields reconstructs the discourse of civility that flourished in and further shaped elite society in British America.

About The Author

David S. Shields is professor of English at The Citadel.


“Examines the complexities of private society with detailed, lively accounts of the coffeehouses, clubs, salons, balls, and tea times of eighteenth-century America. Shields recreates an exuberant social exchange that provides a significant contribution for scholars, students, and general readers of British-American history and culture. . . . An invaluable source of archival writings, poetry, letters, gazettes, all meticulously gathered for this collection. . . . Not only testifies to women’s influence on public discourse but also suggests exciting directions for future scholarship in what is certainly a landmark study.”–Women’s Studies

“[An] intelligent, deeply researched and beautifully written book.”–American Studies

“Glittering descriptions and insightful analysis. . . . For the sheer pleasure of it, the reader should indulge.”–Epilogue

“Shields’s cultural and literary history of the institutions of civility and their belles lettres will . . . be of value to historians of eighteenth-century British polite society, as well as to American historians.”–English Historical Review

“Fresh and illuminating. . . . Should send historians back to the texts to see if they can reconstruct the interplay of literature and society as expertly as Shields has done.”–American Historical Review

“Poised as it is at the intersection of so many scholarly projects, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters should provide a resource and a model for early Americanists interested in a wide range of topics.”–Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Civil Tongues is not only indispensable study for any student of British America, it is also one of the most pleasurable reading events of the year.”–Over Here

“Shields’s learned book creates an archivally informed and balanced picture of eighteenth-century elite culture in Anglo-America. . . . [A] splendid book.”–American Literature

“A stunning portrait of the culture of the private literary societies and circles that sprouted up in the more cosmopolitan centers of the eighteenth-century British-American colonies.”–Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“Shields has constructed a most unusual book. . . . Seldom does a scholar come up with something so new.”–William and Mary Quarterly

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