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Abstract

The number of studies in sentiment and sensibility in the eighteenth century has increased dramatically in recent years. This expansion in studies tracking the development of sentiment relates to commerce, empire, rhetoric, physiology, ethics, slavery, philosophy and gender, amongst other subjects. It is important that the influence and significance of eighteenth-century sentiment, for so long viewed solely as a literary device and associated primarily with fiction and poetry, is fully explored and that scholars look beyond the literary to see the social and political effects of the original theories of moral sentiment and physiological sensibility. This article suggests that it is also necessary to reconsider sentimentalism in 1790s radical literature in the light of recent cultural studies, which can be used to illuminate the extent of the relation between sentiment and 1790s radical novels and their manipulation of the rhetoric and politics of sensibility to achieve their aims.