Feelings and Emotions


Female friendship in eighteenth-century English literature


The English literature of the long eighteenth century offers abundant portraits of female friendship as a frequent form of sociability among women – sometimes sentimentalised as true spiritual companionship between pure and innocent souls, sometimes demonised as a devious façade for unnatural sexual desire. As opposed to men’s friendships, which centred on socialising in the public sphere, forms of attachment among women were associated with the intimate and the private.

Temple Friendship


This entry explores the diverse uses of the language and concept of friendship in eighteenth-century Britain. Though obviously central to sociable thought and practice, friendship was also caught up in philosophical debates about the instrumentality of feeling and the nature of social obligation.


While melancholy was essentially a solitary affliction, one that traditionally shunned society and regarded its activities as sham and a waste of time, or else sought out seclusion in order to indulge in self-pleasing fantasy, sociability was widely seen as a potential cure.
Four Indian Kings

Mohock scare

Falling into a long tradition of violent gatherings such as the Tityre Tu, the Bugles, or the Damned Crew, a group of ‘gentlemen’ called the Mohocks was rumored to have terrorized London’s streets in the Spring of 1712. While little evidence exists for the Mohocks being an organized group with a shared motif of mischief-making, rumors nevertheless put the violent outbursts attributed to them into the context of a club-like structure, thereby creating a curious case of asocial sociability.
Politics & Sociability


Sociability was intrinsic to British politics in the eighteenth-century. For Members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords, politics was face-to-face and personal, operating through social networks, personal connexions and extended family interests. Much political networking, solicitation, manoeuvring, and negotiation took place in mixed-sex social arenas that included women, or were hosted by women.



How individuals managed solitude, used their time alone productively, and made the transition between solitude and sociability in their daily lives were topics continuously addressed in writings from the long-eighteenth century. There was no vocabulary for loneliness in this period, but solitude was a state often associated with melancholy and thus frequently employed in a negative sense. A range of eighteenth-century writers warned about the effects of social isolation on spiritual, physical, and mental wellbeing.