In the eighteenth century, “toadeaters” referred to dependents who flattered superiors; however, the term’s connotation fluctuates between an insult of the dependent for servility and a critique of the superior for abusive behavior. Viewing this relationship through the lens of hospitality, this article contends that the term raises concerns about the ethical obligations of hosts and guests and the role reputation played in building social hierarchy. Simple satires of the toadeater as dependent guest reveal a fear over social mobility while novels present a sentimental exposé of cruel hosts. The article argues that women novelists popularized toadeaters as a sympathetic character to push back against the satire of the dependent guest, draw attention to women’s precarious social standing, and seek improvements through more ethical hospitality exchanges.
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Teresa Saxton; Revising Hospitality: Class, Ethics, and the Toadeater Guest. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 January 2018; 42 (1): 58–83. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-4261265
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