In Hannah Arendt’s view, an entirely private identity is inherently phantasmatic, lacking empirically veri able and tangible reality, without permanence and without a future. By the same token, a ‘life spent entirely in public, in the presence of others, becomes, as we should say, shallow. While it retains visibility, it loses the quality of rising into sight from some darker ground which must remain hidden if it is not to lose its depth in a very real, non-subjective sense’.2 For Arendt, both the public and the private are indispensable aspects of the human condition; while the public is arti cial and constructed, it is nonetheless the arena in which one emerges fully realized as a citizen, with all the rights and responsibilities integral to this identity.3 e eighteenth century, described by Adam Ferguson in his History of Civil Society (1767) as ‘the age of separations’,4 saw a sharpening of the division with the formation of a public sphere,5 although as Michael McKeon writes, this distinction clearly ‘antedate[s] Ferguson’s age by many centuries’.6 Witnessing the emergence of two major cultural constructs – the nation and the novel – the eighteenth century brought the public and the private into productive tension with each other, raising new questions concerning gender identity in the process.