It seems quite likely that the emergence of the public post in the late seventeenth century had as profound an effect upon the media culture of the eighteenth century as the emergence of the networked computer has had in our own day. The post is a public system, through which you can openly address anyone, at periodic intervals, with dispatch and presumptive privacy. This new technology for ordinary communication at a distance influenced the novel in many ways. Novels were cast in the form of correspondence by letter; the post facilitated the dissemination of physical novels as well as news about novels; among familiar correspondents, the post increased the buzz about novels. Through a reading of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, this article shows how the writing, posting, arrival, and overseeing of letters in this novel unfolds in ways the characters cannot control. However, it is precisely this adventitious circulation of letters that breaks the information blockage of the novel and opens a pathway to erotic resolution of the love lives of the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.