Why Did Steele’s The Lying Lover Fail? Or, The Dangers of Sentimentalism in the Comic Reform Scene


The essay uses the failure of Richard Steele’s The Lying Lover to argue that the common practice of subsuming reform comedy under the aegis of early-eighteenth century sentimentalism needs to be reviewed and revised. Focusing on The Lying Lover’slast act in the context of The Conscious Lovers’ use of sentiment and The Tender Husband’s representation of reform reveals that the means and ends of dramatic sentimentalism are not only distinct from the purposes of reform comedy, but can be downright detrimental to its effectiveness on the stage. Steele’s early comedy fails because, along with its other flaws, it welds together two emergent but not always compatible comic modes – the sentimental and the reform mode.

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