“A Mighty Glitter”: Seeing through the Veil

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Critics have long noted the connection between Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia and Richardson’s Pamela; 1 however, a connection also exists between Arcadia and Grandison, through Harriet’s masquerade costume. Jocelyn Harris identifies Harriet’s costume of “Arcadian Princess” as “a favourite masquerade habit, in imitation of the princesses in Sidney’s Arcadia who disguised themselves as shepherdesses.”2 Yet Harriet’s costume is highly unlike the rustic garb of Sidney’s Arcadian princess/shepherdess, Pamela, or even the rustic garb of Richardson’s own Pamela. Instead, Harriet’s masquerade outfit shows marked similarities to the attire worn by Sidney’s Amazonian princess, Zelmane, the cross-dressing disguise of the beautiful young prince, Pyrocles, as well as to the “Amazonian Hunting-Habit for Ladies,” a form of feminine dress deemed “masculine” in nature.3 The swapping of costumes—Amazonian drag instead of Arcadian rusticity—articulates several interrelated themes important to Grandison: That masquerade, disguise, and unsuitable dress of any sort are symptomatic of irrationality and unreason; that vice and moral laxity must be cloaked and concealed by dress; and that dress unsuitable to one’s sex, specifically, the respective attire of “a masculine woman, and an effeminate man” (3:247), is not only a form of disguise, but an indication of a topsy-turvy world, a masquerade world, wherein “the distinguishing characteristics of the two Sexes” (3:247) are reversed or inverted.

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