The Little Everyman

Stature and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century English Literature

Deborah Needleman Armintor

  • Published: 2011
  • Subject Listing: Literary Studies; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 256 pp., 17 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Literary Conjugations
  • Contents

Eighteenth-century English literature, art, science, and popular culture exhibited an unprecedented fascination with small male bodies of various kinds. Henry Fielding's Tom Thumb plays drew packed crowds, while public exhibitions advertised male dwarfs as paragons of English masculinity. Bawdy popular poems featured diminutive men paired with enormous women, and amateur scientists anthropomorphized and gendered the "minute bodies" they observed under their fashionable new pocket microscopes. Little men, both real and imagined, embodied the anxieties of a newly bourgeois English culture and were transformed to suit changing concerns about the status of English masculinity in the modern era.

The Little Everyman explores this strange trend by tracing the historical trajectory of the supplanting of the premodern court dwarf by a more metaphorical and quintessentially modern "little man" who came to represent in miniature the historical shift in literary production from aristocratic patronage to the bourgeois fantasy of freelance authorship. Armintor's close readings of Pope, Fielding, Swift, and Sterne highlight little recognized aspects of classic works while demonstrating how the little man became an "everyman."
Deborah Needleman Armintor is associate professor of English at the University of North Texas and the co-editor of Eighteenth-Century British Erotica, Vol. 2.

"Armintor teases out the rich and ambiguous reciprocity between morality and physicality, between power and febrility, between the big and the small, between sexuality and mentality."
-Barbara Benedict, Trinity College

1. A Visual Prehistory
2. The Dwarfing of Little-Man Pope
3. The Little Man-Microscope in Brobdingnag
4. The Labor of Little Men
5. The Little Man of Feeling
6. Josef Boruwlaski's Memoirs of the Celebrated Dwarf


". . . original, enlightening, and clearly written. Summing Up: Recommended."
-Choice, February 2012

"The Little Everyman offers a chronologically ordered, wide-ranging discussion of the depiction of little men that extends from seventeenth-century ....any reader, from senior undergraduate to scholar of the period, will find much here to think about-little men but big ideas."
-Cameron McFarlane, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, July 2013

". . . a spirited short book, dealing with a pictorial tradition of dwarfs, big men, and little men in caricature . . ."
-Claude Rawson, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Summer 2012