Supergroup 4 & 5: The History of Pompey the Little

by Christina Damon, David Deneroff, Sammy Draper, Sierra Mitchell, Chris Rocco, and Daniel Seo

ImageFrancis Coventry’s The History of Pompey the Little

pgs. 105-159

Pompey is a witness to society, and he lacks emotional ties to his owners and the people he encounters. In Coventry’s text. there is a distinct lack of sympathy, contrary to Richardson’s Pamela and Hays’ Victim of Prejudice.

Lack of Sympathy/Alienation

“As I am alive, I ordered him to be hanged, not once dreaming he was such a Beauty; for indeed he was quite covered over with Mire and Nastiness, as to be sure he could not be otherwise, after leading the old blind Man so long a Journey; but a Maid servant of mine took a Fancy to the little Wretch, and begged his Life; and would you think it Ladies? I am now grown as fond of the little Fool, as if he was my own Child” (Coventry 138).

Questions

1) How would the narrative change it was written in the first person versus the third person? Why has the writer chosen to write in this perspective?

2) How are relationships interchangeable in the narrative?

3) Does internality and externality play a role in eliciting sympathy? How does this compare to other texts we have read so far?

“Some few people, afflicted with very ill health, were generous enough to throw him down a few sixpences; others only commended the beauty of his pretty dog; and the far greater number walked on without casting their eyes upon him” (Coventry 123)

Questions

1) What is the writer trying to say about the role of money and human interactions?

2) How is beauty portrayed differently than it is in Richardson’s Pamela?

3) Is the author attempting to portray a sense of alienation? If so, why?

Inconclusiveness of Different Narratives

“Her Ladyship’s great Toe engrossed the Conversation for the first Hour, whose Misfortune was lamented in very pathetic Terms by all the Company, and many wise Reflexions were made upon the Accident which had happened; some condemning the Ignorance, and others the Carelessness of the Surgeon, who had been guilty of such a Trespass on her Ladyship’s Flash. Some advised her to be very careful how she walked upon it; others recommended a larger Shoe to her Ladyship, and Lady Frippery, in particular, continued the whole Evening to protest the vast Obligations she had to her, for favouring her with her Company under such an Affliction. But had I an hundred Hands, and as many Pens, it would be impossible to describe the Folly of that Night: Wherefore, begging the Reader to supply it by the Help of his own Imagination, I proceed to other Parts of this History” (Coventry 174)

Questions

1) In many parts of the text, characters are introduced, but oftentimes their conclusions or what happens to them remains elusive. Why do you think this is and how does it contribute to the it-narrative? How is this different from a text like Victim of Prejudice, or Pamela where the ending is vital for the message?

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3 thoughts on “Supergroup 4 & 5: The History of Pompey the Little

  1. “How would the narrative change it was written in the first person versus the third person? Why has the writer chosen to write in this perspective?”

    We also might consider how the first person operates within the epistleatory novel. We have had a third person narrator intercede in other novels, as an editor for instance. _Anti-Pamela_ employed a fairly equal mix of the two and _Victim of Prejudice_ is also in the third person.

    I’m curious: do you view to the relationship between narrator and protagonists in _Victim_ and _Pompey_ as being similiar?

  2. I have a few thoughts regarding two of the questions comparing beauty in Pompey versus Pamela, and the narration of Victim of Prejudice and Pompey.

    In response to the question about beauty, I think that beauty is portrayed very similarly in both Pamela and Pompey. More broadly, I think a general pattern has evolved in all of the novels we’ve read regarding beauty and other worthy attributes. As discussed in class, it seems that the general requirements for the protagonist (virtuous ones that is – sorry Syrena but you don’t count), are beauty and brains. The idea of exceptionalism is just as true for Miss Pamela Andrews (I prefer her unmarried self) as it is for little Pompey: both of these characters are beautiful, in limbo, and highly educated. I have to wonder if people would be as sympathetic, possessive, and materialistic towards Pompey if he were not a beautiful “pure-bred.” Richardson insists on Pamela’s inner and outer beauty equaling each other, which adds to her virtue even more. Like Pompey, would Pamela transcend and fluctuate between classes and be offered so many opportunities if she was “ugly?” Not educated? In this way, notions of beauty in both of these novels is very similar.

    We also discussed the role of narration in Pompey and other novels. The third-person narration of Mary in Victim of Prejudice focuses on her emotional response to the effect that it has nearly the same intimate effect of first-person narration. On the other hand, Pompey himself drifts in and out of my mind when reading. This makes sense, for as the protagonist of the “it” novel, he is used as a commodity and vehicle for societal critique, in addition to revealing his own flaws too.

  3. I would like to comment in order to answer the question, “Is the author attempting to portray a sense of alienation?” This, to me, is quite clear. That is because I think it is the whole purpose of the “It” narrative. This type of narrative takes a non-human object (in this case a dog) and throws it into a society. Here, this main character has episodic encounters with various characters, which I believe is to give the reader a broader interpretation of the society that is being portrayed. In Pompey’s case, he encounters a beggar, lords, ladies, politicians, philosophers, and milliners, just to name a few. With these many different characters, the reader can gauge all different aspects of the society that it is currently looking at. Since Pompey is the general observer, this may constitute him as being somewhat “alienated” because he isn’t the main part of the interactions with the novel. This to me, actually makes me lose focus on the main character. Only when Coventry throws in little quips about what Pompey is doing did I remember that little Pompey was in fact our main character. This is why when Pompey died at the end of the novel, I didn’t really feel that bad. I know that is harsh, but to me, Pompey didn’t really evoke any sympathy from me because he rarely was talked about in the book. With this said, I don’t think Conventry should have written this novel any differently because the novel did exactly what it was supposed to do. It took a non-human observer and threw it in many different scenarios in order to serve as a satirical social critique of 18th century Europe. This is why I think the author alienated Pompey. I also think it was also necessary in accomplishing the “It” narrative’s main goal.

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