In their recent research, literary historians have discovered new information about the popular success of British women novelists at the turn of the nineteenth century. Contrary to a canonical rendition of history, which argues that, Jane Austen aside, male writers dominated this period in British history, this new scholarship reveals that there were several women novelists of the late-Georgian era who were among the most widely read authors of their time. Many of these novelists chose the domestic realm as the setting for their stories. In particular, numerous female writers authored novels about courtship. Their works posed a new feminine archetype, which Anne Mellor has called the “new woman,” who valued intellect, self-confidence, and reason, bringing those qualities into marriage.
This article locates the “new woman” in music making of the early nineteenth century. Using recent work in the field of English literary history as a paradigm through which to approach music, it notes how accompanied sonatas of the late Georgian era, like novels, posed an alternative to the patriarchal norms of British culture. This study focuses on the work of two British women, the author Maria Edgeworth and the composer Maria Hester Park, juxtaposing two of their works that are stylistically representative of their respective genres: Edgeworth's Belinda, a novel of courtship, and Park's op. 13, no. 2, an accompanied sonata, both of which were published in 1801. These two works—and their genres—articulated a new feminine ideal for a new century; the widespread popularity of the genres helped to integrate this ideal into the very fabric of British society.