“Provide your self of an Aesop”: Mary Davys’s The Fugitive as Fable Collection

Martha F. BowdenKennesaw State University
Vol. 39, No. 2 (Fall 2020), 217-236

This article challenges the usual categorization of Mary Davys’s narra- tive The Fugitive (1705) as a novel, arguing that the description is insufficient to cover its generic variety. Instead, the narrative can be considered a fabular hybrid, a text that contains the characteristics of the classical fable submerged in other genres. Using modern writing about fables, the terminology of Caroline Levine’s Forms, and examples from sev- enteenth- and eighteenth-century fable collections and other texts, this article argues that Davys set in motion a collision of forms—the picaresque, the fable, travel narratives, life writing, and the novel—to create a hybrid that contains the affordances of all these forms. She sets up the narrator as an Aesop figure, whose nomadic status and wit give her the moral authority to act as arbiter in other people’s domestic situations. The revisions that transformed the 1705 text into The Merry Wanderer in the 1725 Works of Mrs. Davys erase many of the fable characteristics, especially the poetic moral tags or epimythiums, whose presence in the original are an important component of its fabular construction. These erasures, which make the narrative both more novelistic and more conservative, soften the power of the fable but do not succeed in wholly eliminating the moral authority that the narrator claims.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]