Mrs. Gore's Cecil; or, The Adventures of a Coxcomb and its sequel Cecil, a Peer, both published anonymously in 1841, came toward the end of the long run of the socalled silver fork or fashionable novels, which capitalized on middle-class fascination with the aristocratic Regency. Under cover of a masculine first-person narrator Gore was able to give free rein to the whole complex of attitudes and values associated with the by now discredited Regency and its ascendent ruling class. Although she satirizes high society, she shows good-humored indulgence toward her unregenerate dandy as well as misgivings about the emerging middle-class Victorian cult of seriousness and sincerity. Gore's ambivalent thematic burden-her portrayal of the dandy's allure and degeneration-exerts tremendous pressure on her narrative form. Like most of the silver fork writers, Gore sidesteps the conventional novelistic patterns of social and economic rise as irrelevant to her aristocratic hero, while she self-cousciously attempts to evade plot altogether, particularly closure. Early Victorian critics and readers appear to have been considerably less receptive to Gore's themes and techniques than the popular audience of a decade earlier.
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